Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

My neighbor invited my husband and I over for Easter dinner with her family. There were nine adults eating dessert as evening drew near and daytime was beginning to slink off into the sunset. Filled with the energy several chocolate Easter bunnies provide, most of the younger children were screaming and chasing each other around the house.

Somehow, the conversation turned to Viet Nam, the War Between the States, and war in general. Very somberly, we talked about the horrible unintended consequences of war on civilians. I happened to glance at the two older girls, 11 and 13, who were hovering around their mother, listening to the conversation and looking equally somber, bordering on sad and filled with empathy for those hurt in such horrendous circumstances. From my perspective I could see this was not a good thing for them to be hearing, nor a good thing for us to be discussing on such a happy day.

Suddenly, the Spirit Himself filled my mouth with words He tossed out like the dice in Yatzee. I unexpectedly shouted, "Hey! It's EASTER! We're forgetting it's Easter! This is the day the Lord triumphed over all of this! Over sin and sadness, war and violence, jealousy, envy, disease, hatred and evil itself! Why are we sad today of all days? We should be rejoicing for death is dead and love has won!" Shocked, I sat back and watched the girls faces light up with relief and gratitude at the very idea Christ has the victory. Silently then, I praised the Lord for His perfect timing.

Earlier, I was visiting my own children in Portland, Oregon. It's a long way there from Ohio, so I was staying for the week thoroughly enjoying my 16 month old grandson who is delighted just to be! Anywhere! My children are not Christians. I know God has perfect timing so one day they will be when He is ready and they are too. From their point of view Easter is simply not celebrated in Portland. It's just not done. Restaurants do not close, malls and stores are open and except for family celebrations the day is pretty much like any other day. Easter is no longer a big deal.

My time with them came to an end on the Thursday before Easter. On Easter night they called to wish their dad and me a Happy Easter. Asking them about their day, my daughter-in-law told me she prepared dinner for her parents and they had a great time. More than that, her parents shooed them out the door right after dinner so they could do some shopping while Grandma and Grandpa watched the baby. This was their Easter treat! Key word: was. The stores were closed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Good News (by Judy)

There are two verses from the Bible that make me smile when I hear them, and they are almost identical in their wording. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" They take me back to the many hiking trips with my friends when we ascended the heights and paused to rest, taking a moment of contemplation. With the sweat drying on my face due to gentle breezes, and a rock behind my back, I looked around. The birds soaring, the hills in front, and the valleys below – all caused me to thank God for His bounty in creation.

But I knew that I could not stay on the mountaintop. My feet had to carry me back down. My job was not to rest in the blessings, but rather to share the good news, the peace, the good tidings of salvation, to proclaim the truth that My God reigns!

The second verse was penned by Paul to the Romans. "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" There it is again, the beautiful feet of those who preach the good news, and those of us who speak, preach.

What is the good news? The Good News? How can something good get distorted and create bad feelings in the hearts of listeners? How can good be accused of being judgmental, self-righteous and arrogant? It should be a message of perfect love offered to an imperfect world. Of mercy, service and the most beautiful word in the world – grace. A message of freedom, of thirst assuaged, of rest. It should bring a smile and a hug.

Where do we with the beautiful feet fail? I don’t know, but I do have a prayer in my heart tonight – Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. As I descend the mountain and re-enter this world, may people see You in me. May I speak these words, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” with joy and in love. If I can, I’ll never need a pedicure again!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thy Will be Done by Carolyn

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

This Easter season has caused me to reflect on what was important to Jesus. Upon whom did He fix his eyes? How did He know what to do? If Hebrews 11 is the Christian's Hall of Faith, and examples of how our forefathers lived by faith, then Hebrews 12:1-2 shows us Jesus as the supreme model for faith in His Father.

In John 6:38, Jesus says, "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent Me." Was the most important thing in the life of Christ to discern the will of God and do it? In John 4:34, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." It is safe to say the most important thing in the life of Christ was to discern the will of God and do it.

A most poignant scene in Jesus' life in which we see Him accepting God's will is in the Garden at Gethsemane. It was more important to Him to do the will of God than to have the cup of the Cross taken from Him. How could He accept this? Choice. He chose, He willed, He determined that nothing should take precedence over God's will for Him. He is our most significant example of doing God's will. And how hard it was. But we must remember, "...Who for the JOY set before Him... " What joy? The joy of the prospect of future glory with God the Father. The joy of knowing present suffering for the sake of the Gospel is far outweighed by seeing unbelieving people become committed followers of Jesus Christ.

"Yet, not My will, but Yours be done."

Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest" says we need spiritual grit. Jesus had spiritual grit. Do we? We had better be prepared for one day God may ask us to do a very hard thing. We may move into suffering we could never have imagined, but if it's God will for us, then we also know, according to Romans 8:28, it will work out for the good. We all know people, who having been through unimaginable suffering, emerge with a much deeper experience of God and are triumphant by grace through faith. And, we all know, others are watching.