April 25, 2011

Nana, Can You See God?

“Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her.” John 20:18 (NASB)

Sometimes I believe there is nothing in the world more inquisitive than a child, or in my case a grandchild. Kylie and I sat at the dining room table before church a few weeks ago eating supper. Over her chicken nuggets, she asked me, “Nana, can you see God?”

With my best Nana game face on, I told her that was an easy question but a hard one too. I pointed to the large Crepe Myrtle tree outside the dining room window and said, “Ky – do you see that tree?” She shook her head up and down acknowledging she did.

“Well,” I continued, “I have never seen God like I am looking at you, but I see God when I look at that tree.” She immediately stopped chewing and her eyes became very large spheres of blue. Oh rats, I knew exactly what she was thinking! “NO! God isn’t THE tree!” I replied. Her face softened in visible relief as she thought I meant the tree was God. I went on to explain how I could see in God’s nature since that was the first thing that popped into my head.

The conversation continued with Nana explaining to an eight year old, that you can see God in His creation and in His Word. But it takes practice and growth. That’s why we go to church, read the Bible and pray so we can hear God and see God working in our lives.

Well, this started a barrage of questions like “Are there animals in heaven?” and “Is there food in heaven?” The questions came rapidly until our arrival at church. Ahh! The wonderful world of grandparenting, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

Today is the day after Resurrection Sunday. If it were raining cats and dogs, which it isn’t, it still would be a lovely day. Today is the day that God made, we’d be wise to rejoice and be glad, not to mention thankful for it!

Yesterday in Bible Study we talk about the fact that we serve a God who knows what it means to suffer. We reviewed with heavy hearts the things that created grief in God’s heart and of course, Jesus sacrifice counted heavy among them. But we also talked about the results of His suffering on Calvary. Results that could only occurred because of the third day resurrection.

How would I have answered my little Kylie without the knowledge of the Resurrection? Without the final piece of God’s amazing plan in place, there would be no answer.

I suppose we could all list various reasons about the Resurrection means to each of us personally. It could mean power or peace. But this year God gave me the same meaning it had for Mary Magdalene over 2000 years ago. It means I can live every day saying, “I have seen the Lord!”

What about you?

With Love, Barbara

April 19, 2011

Three Crosses, Two Criminals, One Christ

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:39-41 (NASB)

The Four Gospels of the New Testament never cease to amaze me. They are four accounts of the life of Christ, written by four different authors, from four different perspectives. I must admit sometimes, I wish they’d come out with a gospel that meshed all four together, in-sync, so to speak.

Now before I proceed on, I admit I have written this text before; however with Easter right at our doorstep, I felt this repeat publishing to be appropriate. I’ve reworded just a bit, but the message is the same.

Resurrection Sunday dawns this weekend. We celebrate it every year. I fear amidst the commercialism and “it’s the next holiday” on the calendar, we loose the significance of the day. I fear we mundanely move past the reverence due this holy Memorial Day for the believer. If we partake of the Lord’s Supper and do “this” in remembrance of Him, how much more should we remember the cross and of course, the following resurrection.

Today, let’s focus on the cross. Join me in ancient Jerusalem on that fateful day. Look toward the top of Mount Calvary. Gaze toward the silhouette of three crosses. There upon those three crosses hang two criminals and one Christ. Here is where our Four Gospels teach us some valuable information. All four mention Christ and his two companions. Matthew and Mark record both criminals hurling insults at Christ. John only mentions them in passing.

Ah, but Luke tell us the rest of the story! In the midst of angry men and violent actions, one criminal rises to defend the Messiah, confessing his own sin and acceptance of punishment. Do you understand the monumental significance of this passage? Can you grasp the question that looms in the air, waiting to be asked? What happened between the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and then Luke?

I had to wonder what occurred to make an insult-spewing criminal one minute, beg to be remembered in Paradise the next? Was it the look in Christ’s eyes? Was it the way Jesus pleaded with His Father to forgive those around Him? Why did one criminal recognize what the other refused to see?

There is only one answer. They both encountered Christ at the cross, but only one of them took the meeting to heart. Only one recognized his sin and bowed his head willingly before a crucified King. Only one placed his fate in the other’s nail-scarred hands. Only one.

I cannot explain the awesomeness I feel reading this turn of events. It tells me so much about a man and a Messiah. However, since time is short there is only one point I’ll leave with you. I offer you this, that each one of us is represented by one of those criminals, one of those thieves. We are either the thief on His right or the thief on His left.

We have placed our sinful life in the shadow of the cross and acknowledged the Lord of Lords or we have refused to see the truth that hangs before us.

On our best day, we are sinners, deserving of any punishment God cares to send our way. On His worst day, Jesus begged for our forgiveness and took our punishment on Himself. On that hill, one chose to believe, the other chose to belittle.

I cannot emphasize enough that Jesus offered Paradise on that very day to the one who chose wisely. But the other criminal suffered a different fate. The entire purpose of Calvary is for us to encounter Christ and realize we are loved, forgiven and desired by a Holy God. You may accept the love or not, the choice is yours.

So from one thief to another – which one are you?

Love, Barbara

April 11, 2011

I Didn’t Mean to be Guilty!

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NASB)

My name was called. I slowly rose and moved forward from my seat to the center of the room. “Young lady, how do you plead?” the judge asked. He asked loudly and in plain view of a full albeit silent audience. I was embarrassed beyond words, frightened to the point of extreme trembling and about to be violently ill. The day I dreaded was upon me. This was the moment I had to stand and publicly confess my sin. My heart pounded. My mouth went dry.

I wanted to run home and crawl into the darkest corner of the first closet I could find. Couldn’t they understand it wasn’t really my fault! It was an accident. One that I didn’t intend to happen, or ever dream would happen. Yet, by the letter of the law I was guilty.

How do you plead?” was the question that now echoed in my ears. My response came, slowly and sorrowfully, “Guilty.” I heard this word proceed from my mouth but my mind screamed, “But I didn’t mean to be guilty!”

This was my first experience in traffic court after running a stop sign and causing an accident. I was barely 21. I had just looked down for a split second and wasn’t going fast at all. In fact, I was slowing down to stop at that horrid sign. I knew it was there. But taking my eyes off it, even for a moment, caused me to misjudge my stopping time and WHAM! The next thing I heard was the sound of crunching metal.

I hit my head and was my car was ruined. The other guy’s car was ruined. They gave me a ticket for careless driving. Careless driving! That made me livid! Obviously I’d run a stop sign – that was the ticket I deserved even though I really didn’t mean too! But me - careless, not a chance! I’ll fight this in court. That’s how I felt then but now in court, nerves kicked in and guilty was all I could say. All the while thinking – it really was just an accident. I truly didn’t mean to be guilty.

Fast forward about 17 years. I was making a personal trip from Jacksonville to Panama City. I took a few back roads near Tallahassee where I pushed the speed limit and this time, I did it with full knowledge of my actions.

Note to self: never speed on the back roads near Tallahassee. Soon I discovered a FHP car coming toward me with lights on (I still haven’t figured that out) and announcing over a PA system for me to pull over. So I did. I was caught. I knew I was wrong. This time I meant to be guilty and so I was. With a teenage daughter in the car, I thought – I’d better be a good example of getting caught by ‘fessing up and accepting the consequences.

“Do you know how fast you were going? License and registration, please.” was what the officer said after I stopped and rolled down the window. He was not amused. Me neither, but I was wrong. With a deep breathe, I told him it was definitely my fault and I deserved the ticket. He was not deeply moved by my admission of wrongdoing. He sternly issued me a ticket for going 20 miles over the speed limit. Afterwards, I set the cruise control and humbly proceeded to my destination.

This time I escaped traffic court because now you can pay tickets by mail which is much less demeaning. But I had to attend the dreaded traffic school to keep the points off my record. After I was done, I wished I’d taken the points! It was a horrible class where the instructor wanted us to circle our chairs and talk about “our feelings.” Ugh!

Within this circle of shame, one by one, we had to confess the nature of our crime and profess our guilt. Well, this time I knew I was guilty. I deserved that ticket and I deserved the humiliation that came with it. And I said so. However, I found out that I was the minority in that category.

The class included multiple offenders who knew exactly how to work the system for insurance purposes and they proudly expounded on it. No remorse at all. The lady next to me was there because she tried to out run the police when they attempted to pull her over. Yet, she maintained her innocence boldly. In fact, I was the only person out of nearly 20 people that admitted to guilt and was rightfully there. Everyone else was a victim of another’s mistake. They were either being persecuted by the authorities, didn’t mean to be guilty or were forced into being guilty so it really wasn’t their fault. Can anyone relate?

My first experience was before I met Christ. My second story occurred when I was many years into my walk with the Lord. But in each instance I was guilty. Being a believer doesn’t mean you will never be guilty of sin ever again. But when you give your life to Christ, the Holy Spirit makes it really hard to deny the guilt. The Holy Spirit also gives you the desire and power to confess the guilt and then move on – free and clean.

Friends, we were born guilty. Romans 3:23 plainly tells us in biblical language that no one is perfect. There are no righteous persons among us – see Rom. 3:10. I guess no one means to be born guilty yet we are. Each of us will make mistakes on purpose and then sometimes not on purpose. But guilty is guilty regardless of how you color it. Yet, there is a hope.

Resurrection Sunday reminds us how our guilt was taken away by the shed blood of Jesus Himself. One day my life will end I will stand before The Judge of all creation. He will ask me how I plead. Against the backdrop of His holiness I believe I can only respond “guilty.” But I also believe that as those words come out of my mouth, Jesus Christ will rise and His word will drown out mine in the ears of the Father as He proclaims me INNOCENT. What about you?

Love, Barbara