Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dark, Darker, Darkest

The pastor at the church we're attending is preaching from Jesus'"I Am" statements in the Book of John. Sunday was "I am the light of the world." If Pastor Jason doesn't mind my putting words in his mouth, he highlighted several truths I'd like to explore with you.

First, light overcomes all darkness. In perfect darkness, even the light of a candle can be seen miles away. So distance from the light source gradually dims the light until utter darkness results. My master bedroom doesn't have an overhead light. I have to go several feet to reach a table lamp. Recently I stepped on one of my dog Lily's squeaky toys before I got to the table. Now that will get your attention!

Spiritually, when we move away from the Source of all Light, darkness will ultimately consume us. The Creator of the sun and the moon and the stars is also the initiator of the "light" in our lives. Isaiah prophesied that the Jewish people living in darkness would someday see a great light, the light of the world, fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 60:1-3). We cause our own spiritual darkness when we choose to live "a distance" from the Light.

Second, we darken the Light by focusing on the wrong things and making ourselves the judges of what are the right things. God has been pretty clear about what pleases Him. See 1 Samuel 15:22, for an example. Using God's Word as a weapon against others presumes God's judgment on their sins as being greater than His judgment on our sins.

Third, and even darker, is establishing structures that degrade other humans. Dehumanizing anyone diminishes the truth of his or her being made in the image of God. Setting ourselves up as "more worthy" than another flies in the face of Jesus' admonition to serve Him by serving "the least of these" (Matt. 25:45).

If we "walk in the light" (1 John 1:7), we have fellowship with one another. Humm ... maybe a little more Light would dispel a little more darkness that separates believers in today's world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From King to King—All in One Week

Palm Sunday reminded me that Holy Week began with “”Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 19:38) and ended with Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What a sad thought that because of my sin He had to endure the agony of the cross in between.

He also had to endure the agony of betrayal. Strangely, the disciples genuinely asked Jesus, “Lord, is it I?”—as though any of them could be the betrayer. Really? I mean, really? Wouldn’t Andrew or James or Matthew know his own heart well enough to say, “No way”? And yet, I have betrayed His Lordship in word, thought, and deed.

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper was probably the disciples’ most intimate time with Jesus; yet in the following hours, all but John would sin against Him, including Peter. I too have sinned in taking the Lord Supper in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:27-28).

The whole world grieved the injustice of Jesus’ death. The earth will continue to grieve until the wrong is righted when Jesus comes again with a new earth, free from sin and suffering—“when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Rom. 8:21, NLT).

Before we move from the crucifixion to the resurrection and the new earth, let’s pause to remember Jesus’ purpose in literally dying—not just playing dead. His blood was shed, his body tortured, to pay the price for our sins. For without the shedding of blood, forgiveness was not possible (Heb. 9:22).

And He chose to die, an act of mercy and grace in God’s eternal plan of redemption. Now Christ is risen! In the words of our church’s choral Easter music, “Open your heart to the music of grace.”

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:4-5, NKJV).

From King to King, all in one week. So what changed? An eternity for each of us who call Jesus Lord!

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Monday, March 3, 2014

A Safe Place

"When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by."Exodus 33:22

Recently my husband Sim and I were on our way to church dinner one Wednesday evening. I was supposed to “man” a display booth outside of fellowship hall. Our plan was for Sim to eat, then relieve me at the booth, and I would eat.

All’s well that goes well, right? Our car rounded a curve on the interstate and WHOP! Sim veered to the left but couldn’t avoid hitting a piece of metal in our lane. Not able to change lanes due to the traffic, he really had no choice but to run over the object.

Whatever it was got stuck under the car beneath the driver’s side. The left front tire would no longer turn, and we skidded to a stop just inches off the stripe at the edge of the road.

On the passenger’s side (that would be me), cars whizzed around the curve, having no warning that there we sat. On the driver’s side, a sixteen-foot wall of rock kept us from moving the car any further off the highway. Did I mention a similar rock wall was on the other side of the three lanes of traffic?

Sim yelled for me to get out of the car. What? Climb over the console in the middle of the front seat? Sheer terror helps one to overcome obstacles! Once outside, we had no protection. If a car rounded the corner with a distracted driver, we’d be squashed like the proverbial bug.

But Sim led me to a literal cleft in the rock, where we huddled until two road assistance vehicles appeared behind our car. One driver put up lane closure signs while the other jacked up the car and retrieved the metal object. “Drive off,” he shouted as he hurried back to his van. Did I mention the temperature was in the 20s?

We couldn’t wait to share with our Christian friends that God had provided a cleft in a rock and hidden us there in His hands. Moses found a similar cleft provided by the same God on Mt. Sinai. Moses feared for his life, lest he see the face of God as He passed by him. None of us can endure a complete dose of God’s glory!

The next time you need a safe place, hold out your hands to the one who knows where all the “clefts” are located in your stone walls.


Monday, January 27, 2014

To Mothers of Miscarriage and Stillbirth

A soon to be released movie, based on the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, is the remarkable story of a little boy who died and went to heaven—briefly. God sent him back to his family with an amazing story to tell.

This story is particularly griping to me because in heaven Colton meets a sister he never knew, a sibling his parents had never told him about. His mother had miscarried early enough in the pregnancy that they never knew her gender until Colton told them.

This incident encourages me because I’m reassured that my stillborn daughter is happy and whole in heaven, totally loved by her heavenly Father, and awaiting her parents and siblings in eager anticipation.

I am fortunate to have a grave and a marker to prove that Shera Lynn Hassler was stillborn on April 18, 1976. Most parents of miscarriage and stillbirth have nothing but painful memories. No visible reminders assure them that a little one lived for a few weeks or months in utero.

Parents are left to grieve pretty much on their own. Often family or friends don’t take the loss seriously because to them the baby was never real, almost as though he or she were an illusion. Not so to the mother whose pregnancy test was positive, who felt the nausea or the faint little flutterings beneath her belt.

This child of love is so real, will always be real, will always be missed. Even with the assurance of a heavenly reunion, the hole remains, unfilled by another subsequent child or children. This is as it should be. A child is irreplaceable.

I wrote this poem last week when I learned of a women who suffered several miscarriages. I hope it will convey to other mothers God’s perfect gift of Hope.

Little tiny feet and hands that will not run and play,
Trees unclimbed, blocks unstacked, a cheek unkissed today.
But in my dreams I see you still and frame your tender face.
And at my table, settings laid, I save you, dear, a place.

I know you’re just a blink away, a prayer, a loving thought.
In time I’ll join you up above, my home already bought.
I’ll praise and sing and joyfully tell to all both near and far,
Not who you were or could have been but who you really are.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ponder the Wonder

“Mary pondered all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:19, 2:51

Twice in the Book of Luke we’re told Mary pondered.

Both occurrences followed amazing, wondrous events—certainly worthy of intense mental scrutiny. But why did Luke record this observation about Mary not once, but twice? Seemingly, he wanted us to know Mary was a deep thinker, one given to introspection and analysis.

If we didn’t know this about Mary, we might think she was on autopilot when she accepted the angel’s revelation about the miraculous birth. No, she asked questions and considered the implications. Read Luke 1:34-38.

Afterward, she journeyed to visit Elizabeth and had many months to consider the approaching birth. I’m certain she often pondered the angel’s message, Joseph’s reaction, the townspeople’s gossip, and her engagement.

In Luke 2:19, following Jesus’ birth, Mary pondered the visit of the shepherds— God’s way of assuring her that this baby conceived by the Holy Spirit was indeed His Son, the promised Messiah. After all, angelic beings had made the announcement.

Then, in Luke 2:51, after Jesus had astonished the temple rabbis at age 12, Mary pondered once more her eyewitness seat to history. I feel sure Mary continued to ponder throughout His earthly ministry and as she stood before the cross and the empty grave. A lifetime would not have been long enough to search out the meaning of all she had seen and heard.

So, may I ask? Have you pondered recently? The reason I ask is that pondering is very time-consuming. It’s not a quick process or even an intriguing thought. Pondering takes contemplation. And who has time for that anymore? Especially during the Christmas season.

And yet, doesn’t the miracle of the Incarnation require us to ponder, to “wonder anew what the Almighty can do.” Without the wonder, Christmas would simply be another memorial to the life of a great person. Today, pause and ponder the wonder of all that was made possible for you simply because "God so loved the world."


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Learning from the Little Things

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25, NIV

This morning as I sat picking lint out of my hair dryer, I thought about retirement. I can never remember doing this during my years as a working wife and mother. Didn’t I just get a new dryer? And why am I bothering with it now? Don’t I have better things to do?

After all, wasn’t Jesus constantly about His Father’s business (Lk. 2:49)? What do the seemingly endless daily tasks of life have to do with the kingdom of God? I don’t think about Jesus taking time to eat or sleep. One day He prepared breakfast for His disciples (Jn. 21:9-12). Did He often take time to cook? Or bathe or wash His hair?

I spent my working years in “Christian service.” I tend to depreciate my current status as somehow less than what I should be accomplishing for Christ. Why? Because I still live in the misconception that doing counts for more than being.

Maybe you feel like I do. You may be swiping at little runny noses and changing diapers. Or sitting in your car while the soccer practice goes on and on. Perhaps you are caring for a relative’s illness, changing bed sheets and washing pj’s. Some of you are permanent caregivers for elderly parents or aunts or uncles. You wipe drool and repeat the answers to questions that have been asked only moments before.

God’s Word assures us that life’s main purpose is to develop Christ’s character and the mind of Christ. Our attitudes are to become more like His. (See Phil. 2:5, 1 Pet. 2:21.) The fruit of the spirit passage doesn’t imply a single action that wouldn’t first grow out of who we are (Gal. 5:22).

Maybe picking the lint in my dryer isn’t the most important thing in the world, but I did learn a little more patience.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Fellowship of the Unashamed


I am sharing the testimony of a black pastor in Africa, written during a time of persecution, which he titled "The Fellowship of the Unashamed." I found it in a magazine twenty years ago and read it occasionally when I need a dose of Christian courage.

"I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made; I'm a disciple of his. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.

"I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer and I labor with power.

"My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the poll of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

"I won't give up, shut up, let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go until He comes, give until I drop, preach until all know and work until He stops me. And, when He comes for his own, He will have no problem recognizing me ... my banner will be clear!"