Friday’s List for Wisdom and Laughter

  1. Eternity is too long to be wrong
  2. Say “no” to sin and “yes” to God
  3. Make no “appeal” for God until you “kneel” to God
  4. God is not so much seeking those who can do everything as He is those who are willing to do anything.
  5. Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God no matter what the danger.
  6. We cannot look at the cross and still think our life is of no importance to God.
  7. The only part of the Bible you believe is the part you obey.
  8. Man sees your actions, but God sees your motives.
  9. Satan never fears the Christian whose Bible is covered with dust.
  10. Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God reaching down to man.

How Does Blood Make Me “White as Snow?”

The Christian religion puts a lot of emphasis on the blood of Jesus. Depending on what church you go to, you are asked to remember the death of Jesus by taking communion daily, weekly, monthly. Again, depending on what church you go to, you will told that this wine actually becomes the blood of Jesus – or is just a representation of the blood of Jesus.

Growing up in my church we often sang songs about the blood of Jesus.

What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

There is power in the blood of Jesus.

Oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus. It washes white as snow.

To be honest as a child I wondered how blood could make something white as snow. In our culture, we see blood as a stain. If we cut our finger and get blood on our clothes we immediately try to wash it out before it leaves a stain.

The Old Testament is full of the concept of using blood to cleanse. All the animal sacrifices were said to cover the people’s sins. Blood was to be sprinkled on a person with leprosy and on homes with mildew or mold. It was sprinkled on the priests as they began their ministry in the Temple.

The New Testament speaks often of the blood of Jesus making us clean and in the last book of the Bible we are told

they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

While I never understood how blood makes something white, I did believe that the death of Jesus somehow cleansed me from sin.

Recently I read a wonderful book called “In His Image.” The book is co-authored by two doctors who worked in India, one of them with the leprosy colony. Their description of the function of blood in our body is amazing.

When the writers of the Bible referred to the cleansing properties of blood, they had no knowledge of our body and how blood serves us. But, of course, God did.

Modern medical science has shown how using blood as a symbol of cleansing is so accurate when seen in our body.

The writers of the book suggest if you want to see the power of blood as a cleaning agent to put a blood pressure cuff on your arm, pump it up until it is as tight as possible and wait. After a few minutes of being uncomfortable, try to pick up a pencil or cut a piece of paper. They note that after a few minutes you not only will not be able to do those tasks, you will be in terrible pain. When you release the cuff and the blood comes rushing back in, you will find relief from the pain and you can function again.

The pain, they say, comes because you forced your muscles to keep working without any blood supply. As our muscles work, they produce waste products that are flushed away by the blood. When the blood was not allowed to flow through your arm, these waste products began to build up and you had pain from the toxins not removed by the blood.

The authors describe how our blood circulates through our body carrying toxins to our liver and kidneys to be removed and to our lungs so we can exhale the carbon dioxide and rid our body of this poison.

This example of how blood cleanses our body from toxins, is a great example of how the blood of Jesus does “wash us white as snow.” As we accept the forgiveness of Jesus, his sacrifice on Calvary cleanse us from the waste products we call sin. These sins are to our spirit like toxins to our body. If we do not get rid of them we will be poisoned spiritually just as our body would be if blood stopped flowing through our system.

The writers say:

Too often we tend to view sin as a private list of grievances that happen to irk God the Father, and in the Old Testament He seems easily irritated. But even a casual reading of the Old Testament shows that sin is a blockage, a paralyzing toxin that restricts our realization f our full humanity….Pride, egotism, lust and covetousness are simply poisons that interfere with our relationship to God and other people. Sin results in separation from God, other people, and our true selves.

I would encourage you to get this book “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. They share more insights into how marvelous our body is and how it points to the image of God.

Sorry We Didn’t Recognize You Jesus

Today the church remembers the death of Jesus on the cross. As we read the story we often denigrate the Roman soldiers, the Jewish religious leaders, Pilate and even the followers of Jesus.

How could they not know that this was the Son of God we ask? How could they mock Him as He hung on the cross and died?

I recently read an article by Steve Cordle in his book A Jesus-Shaped Life which I would like to share here.

A forty-year-old white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap found a spot next to a garbage can near the entrance of the Washington metro station. He pulled a violin from a small case and placed the open case at his feet. As most huskers do, he threw in a few dollars as seed money and began to play.

He spent the next forty-three minutes playing immortal classics by Mozart and Schubert as a parade of people streamed by. This violinist was no ordinary street musician, however, and he didn’t need the money. His name is Joshua Bell, and he is one of the finest concert violinists in the world. The violin he was playing was a Stradivarius made in 1713 and worth over $3.5 million.

The Washington Post newspaper had arranged for him to play at the metro as an experiment in whether people would recognize greatness and beauty in unlikely places. That day, 1097 people passed by Bells concert. Seven people stopped to listen to him play. Only one person recognized him.

That same week, Bell played to capacity concert hall crowds paying at least $100 per ticket. At the subway Bell collected a total of about $32 from the twenty-seven people who stopped long enough to donate.

It is understandable that most people did not recognize Bell. Even if they were classical music buffs, no one expects to come upon a world-renowned virtuoso playing in the subway.

No one expected that God would appear on earth in the form of a servant either.

But are we any different today? How often do we go about our busy lives – doing our own thing – and take little or no time to communicate with Jesus? How often do we make decisions without even bothering to seek His direction? How often do we fail to see His mercy, His love and His grace all about us? How much of our time is devoted to our own pursuits with little time left over for Him?

As we reflect on His death so long ago, help us to not be guilty of giving Him a few moments this weekend and then go back to our own routines with little or no acknowledgment of Him.

I Don’t Like Waiting

I hate waiting in line at the grocery store. I hate waiting in the doctor’s office. I hate waiting on my husband who is always talking to someone wherever we go. Did you notice? I don’t like waiting.

This Sunday marks the first Sunday of what the church calls Advent. Growing up in a non-liturgical church I never really celebrated Advent as it is done in main stream churches that follow a church calendar recognizing certain festivals and reading certain portions of Scripture. Only in the past few years have I come to appreciate this observance of “waiting.”

“Advent” literally means “coming” or “arrival.” It is a Latin term which was used when translating the Bible from Greek. In the Greek the word used is “parousia.” It meant “a coming” or “presence.” In the Early Church this term quickly became associated with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ disciples were waiting for His return – as the Christian church still is today.

This season of Advent is a time of waiting for the coming of Jesus. We celebrate it from three different views.

First, we remember His first coming to earth in Bethlehem. What a time to remember and celebrate. That the Creator of the universe was willing to become one of us is amazing! To subject Himself to human limitations was in itself quite a sacrifice. But He not only came to be one of us – but chose to be born to a poor, simple carpenter and his wife.

This is also a time to celebrate His coming into our own life. To reflect on what his birth, death and resurrection means to us personally. In all the busyness of the season, we need to schedule some time to examine our own heart and make sure we have really made room for Him in our own heart, our own mind, our own life. To remember the real reason for the season.

Finally it is a time to remember that Jesus has promised to return again. We can get so focused on the “here and now” that we lose sight of that hope of the Christian. In today’s world when so much is chaotic it is good to remember we have hope beyond this life.

I hope you will take time this month to “wait” and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Sad, Somber Saturday

First, the cross

We talk a lot about the cross and how terrible the death of Jesus was.  The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus and the rest of the disciples fleeing from the garden where he was arrested are familiar to us.  It is good that we take time to reflect on the agony, the pain, the shame that Jesus suffered for us on that Friday.

The Resurrection

Then we jump to Sunday morning and the wonderful fact of the resurrection!  The surprise, the doubt, the joy as they realized that Jesus was alive.  Again, it is good that we celebrate this tremendous event, this foundation stone of our faith.

But, what was that Saturday like?

Have you ever wondered what that Saturday was like for the followers of Jesus as they hid behind locked doors?  After the shock, the horror of his death, can you imagine the range of emotions they felt on Saturday?  Sad, somber Saturday!

Of course, there was the sorrow they experienced at the loss of their friend.  I cannot really begin to understand the pain his mother must have felt as she reflected on the suffering he had experienced.  Perhaps she could not even sleep, or fell asleep only to wake up from a nightmare seeing him once again being viciously beaten.

There must have been great confusion.  Questions as they remembered all the miracles he performed, all the parables he had told.  Wondering how he could have come to this end.  Had he not made tremendous promises?  Had he not proclaimed that he was the only way to God?  Had he not even raised a dead man after four days in the tomb?

There must have been great disappointment.  What were they to do now?  They had left their homes, their employment to follow him.  They had been so excited about the kingdom he would set up, even arguing over who would sit on his left and his right hand in that kingdom.

There must have been great fear.  Would the Romans come after them now?  How could they get out of Jerusalem and back to their villages and their old life safely?

Had they really heard Him?

We have the advantage of looking back on history, on knowing how the story turned out.  So it is easy for us to say, “Did they not really hear him?”  After all he had told them that he would be killed and would rise again on the third day.  Did any of them think about that and wonder if it could be true?

We have our Saturdays too

But before we berate them for not really hearing Jesus, not really understanding, not really believing what he said about his death and coming back to life, are we any different today?

When our Fridays of suffering and difficulty come and we face a sad, somber Saturday dealing with the problems we face, do we forget his promises?  He said he would never leave us.  He said we would have tribulation in this world, but to be of good cheer because in him we could overcome.  He said he gave us his peace, not the peace of the world, but that peace that comes from knowing who is in control.

Today, before I rejoice at the resurrection, I ask God to help me in my times of sorrow, confusion, disappointment and fear.  I ask him to remind me that Fridays come and we have sad, somber Saturdays dealing with the problems of Friday, but for the child of God, Sunday is always on the way!

The Complete Story of Christmas

Recently I posted about the “real” story of that first Christmas.  How different it was from the beautiful Christmas cards we see where everything is so neat and tidy and there are beams of light coming from Jesus and sometimes even from Mary and Joseph.

The “Real” Story of the First Christmas

Today I wonder if we truly understand the “complete” story of Christmas.

What is the complete story of Christmas?  Is it more than angels appearing to shepherds?  Is it more than wise men from the East bringing gifts?

We read in Philippians of the complete story of Christmas – what it is really all about.

Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God.  He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human by being born as a man.   After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross.   Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name.  So when the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow down before Him.  And every tongue will say Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone will give honor to God the Father.”

The complete Christmas story is summed up in John 3:16:

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

The complete story of Christmas is about you.  It’s about how much God loves you.

All about the cross

Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand.  But God keeps on reaching.  Today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us.  Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds.  He is reaching…longing to share with us…the very being of God.

It’s my prayer this Christmas that you see beyond the baby in the manager to the savior on the cross and the empty tomb.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Were the “Them” in Jesus’ Prayer for Forgiveness?

Final notes from my husband’s Good Friday sermons.

Luke tells us in his Gospel that Jesus prayed from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  These words were among some of the last brief statements He made before His death.

Who exactly was He speaking to?

  • The Roman soldiers.  They were standing there gambling for His clothes at the foot of the cross as they watched Him die.  It was probably not the first crucifixion detail they had been assigned.  But this one was different.  This man claimed to be the Son of God.
  • Maybe it was the Jewish crowd that had gathered there that day.  They had seen him heal their sick, fed them on occasion and told them all types of parables and stories of God and His kingdom.  Now they had shouted:  “Crucify Him.”
  • Perhaps it was His disciples, especially the ones who had fled and were in hiding.  Only John was present at the cross with Mary, Jesus’ mother.
  • Maybe He saw ahead in time and saw the crowd that stoned Stephen to death.  That crowd was full of hate for Stephen.
  • Perhaps he looked further down in time when the early Christians were martyred in the coliseum of Rome by wild animals.  Surely their persecutors were included in His statement from the cross.
  • What about all the wars that have been fought in the name of religion, the Crusades, the Protestants against Catholics and the Catholics against Protestants?
  • Maybe he saw the barbarians throughout the world who have committed wholesale slaughter of whole groups of people simply because they were different.
  • Or, maybe he looked out to 2019 and saw us when He was there on the cross.  Was he speaking of us as He hung there?  Was it our sin that we have committed day by day, year by year without regard to our own eternity?  Do we realize the total sacrifice that was made for us that day?

Surely He was speaking of me also from the cross that day.

Whatever Happened to Sin?

We seem to have done away with sin.  No one sins.  They make mistakes.  They “mess up.”

In “The Thirteen Clocks” author James Thurber has a character who states:

“We all have our weaknesses; mine just happens to be that I am evil.”

If there is no sin, only weaknesses, mistakes, character flaws, the whole point of Good Friday and Easter is meaningless.

“Why is sin sinful, not just a “little weakness”?  Who says sin is sin?  One of the words the Bible uses to refer to sin means “to miss the mark,” implying that there is a mark or target that has been missed, so the word sin itself implies a standard.  If a highway patrolman stops you for speeding, it implies that the official government has set a speed limit, and you violated it.  Similarly, the moral standard for all humanity comes right out of the holy character of God.  His glory, his holiness, is the standard we all fall short of.”

When we are enjoying our favorite foods and entertainments, it can be easy to forget the decay of sin and death all around us.  Lent helps us remember that there is only one who actually reverses decay – the God who raises the dead.”….Timothy G. Walton

For me I think I have heard the story of the cross and the resurrection so much that I just take it all for granted.  But this season of Lent, I am thankful for the price Jesus paid for us all.

 

 

Taking Three Views at Communion Time

communion

Christians around the world take communion.  Some take it every time they go to church (Catholics, Lutherans, Christian Church among others).  Others take it monthly and some just at Easter or Christmas.  Since Jesus said to observe communion as a remembrance of Him and what his death on the cross meant, I question why some churches only take communion occasionally.  Do we only need to remember that sacrifice for us from time to time?

Through communion we are celebrating the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the  Messiah.  That is why we need to realize that communion is not just a ritual we go through each week, but it is a reminder—and a celebration of all that the death and resurrection of Jesus really means.

As we take communion each week, we need to look three different ways:

past

We look back.

cross

When Jesus shared that Last Supper with His disciples He told them, “‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me”.  Luke 22:19.  This should not be a hurried “Oh yeah, Jesus died for me” kind of remembering.  We should take time to reflect on what that death on the cross cost Him.  The  agony in the garden as He asked if possible this death could be     avoided.  The human side of Him must have experienced such distress that we cannot imagine    because He knew the painful suffering that was ahead of Him.  We do not totally understand what He was feeling as He cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” but it indicates there was also a moment when God the Father turned His back on Jesus.  We cannot even begin to understand what that would have been like?

We look inside.

heartTaking communion is a sacred thing.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:28-29 tells us “that is why a man should examine himself carefully before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if he eats the bread and drinks from the cup unworthily, not  thinking about the body of Christ and what it means, he is eating and drinking God’s  judgment upon himself; for he is trifling with the death of Christ. ”  When we take communion we need to look inside, reflecting on the meaning of the ordinance and confessing personal sin.  Do we really understand what communion means, and are we taking it for that purpose? Are we actually walking out our faith and living in active relationship with God, allowing Him to do His sanctifying work in our lives? If so, communion is a sobering celebration of Christ and His church. If not, we make a mockery of the ordinance.

We look ahead.

returnJesus told His disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.  For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. “  The second return of Jesus—not as a suffering servant—but as victorious Lord of all is the hope of the Christian.  When we take communion we need to gain hope as we realize  that the death and resurrection of Jesus means ultimate victory for us—victory over sin in this life and victory over death in the life to come.  But more than that, it means that someday we will have the joy of seeing Jesus face to face.

“We shall behold Him!!!!”

 

Tradition in Religion – Good? Bad?

This past week I was at a women’s Bible study when our leader asked us:

What is today?

Everyone immediately called out:

It’s Valentine’s day!

valentine.png

She then asked us:

But what else is it?

Sadly, only a few realized it was the beginning of Lent, it was Ash Wednesday.

ash wed

For this week’s lesson we had been asked to read the first 15 chapters of Exodus.  Strange you might think to read in Exodus when you are studying in Mark.  Our leader used Exodus to point out to us the similarities between Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and our belief that Jesus came to lead us out of bondage to sin.

She shared with us the tradition of Passover and how the Jewish people at Passover reflect on their past deliverance from slavery and look forward to the coming of the Messiah.  She said, for the Jewish people, celebration of Passover allows them to:

experience what they do not remember and to remember what they have not experienced.

During the Passover time, the story of how God delivered the Jewish nation is recalled.  Though the present generation naturally cannot remember that event from thousands of years ago, through the special food and the retelling of the story, they take time to try to understand what their ancestors experienced that night.   They take time to remember what they did not experience and let it give them hope and encouragement as they look forward to the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy when he shared the word of God:

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

As Christians we celebrate our own time of deliverance from bondage and we look forward to the return of our Lord and Savior.  With His death and resurrection He gave us freedom from the bondage of sin.  We now celebrate this important event every year just as the Jews celebrate Passover.  We call it Easter but I think a better name would have been Resurrection Sunday.

Many churches at this time observe Lent.

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection…..from the United Methodist website

Coming from an evangelical background I never observed Ash Wednesday or Lent as a child.  To be honest (please forgive me my dear Catholic friends), my church thought the whole “ashes on the forehead” and giving up something for Lent was simply “tradition.”  And we all knew that Jesus condemned traditions of men.  Right?  We go to the Gospel of Mark and the encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees when they questioned why His disciples did not follow the traditional washing of hands before they ate.  We know Jesus said, in part,

And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered:

So we have taken pride in rejecting the “tradition” of the mainline denominations.  We have felt that we were somehow more “spiritual” because we, like Jesus, rejected religious tradition.

But, in rejecting many of the traditions of the other churches, have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?

This week I have continued to think of how the Jewish people still observe Passover.  It is not just a meal that they hurriedly consume and move on.  There are days of preparation as they remove all trace of yeast from their homes and prepare the special food they will eat at the Sedar.  They take time to really remember their past deliverance and look forward to their expected future.  There is a lot of thought and reflection in this time.

As I look at our evangelical Christian community, I see little time spend in real reflection on what Good Friday and Easter should mean to us.  We might attend a short Good Friday service, but for most of us Easter is one service on Sunday morning celebrating the resurrection.  Little or no time is spent reflecting on what Good Friday really meant.  We take no time to reflect on our own lives and as the Jews remove yeast from their homes, ask God to help us remove from our lives the things that hinder our walk with Him.

I feel I missed something growing up without observing Lent.  Without taking time from my busy schedule to take a closer look at my own life, to really remember the pain and suffering Jesus went through for me.

To take a long hard look at the cross

the cross

before I rush into celebrating the empty tomb.

tomb

The dictionary says a tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.  Perhaps some of the break down in our society today is the failure to pass on beliefs or behaviors that were the very foundation of our own lives.  The word is derived from the Latin tradere and literally means to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping.

So, I ask myself as I reflect on Lent this year:

  • Are we missing something in rejecting some of those traditions of the church?
  • Are our children really understanding the true meaning of  Easter or Christmas when we make it basically a one-service event at church and little more?
  • Should we not take more time in celebrating the events of Good Friday and Easter?

I’m not ready to put ashes on my forehead (again forgive me my dear Catholic friends), but I’m taking time this year to observe this season of Lent and do more serious reflection on what my Savior’s death really means.  Not just an empty tomb, but pain and suffering that He took on Himself for me.

Give me some tradition!