Tag Archives: Jesus

A Stranger in the World

5 Dec

There’s something about over-the-top gaudiness that humors me.  Whether it’s an inappropriately huge Christmas tree decked out so many ornaments it leans to one side or a neighbor’s lawn covered in inflatables, I just have to laugh.  Christmas seems to bring out the glitter, the glam, the glitz, and the gluttony we’ve been hiding all year long.

I’m not sure Jesus’ birth was ever intended to cause so much “celebration.” It was a quiet affair—father, mother, and child, a heavenly host, and some of the lowliest shepherds.  A year later, the wise men appeared bearing three gifts.  All in all, it was not a very grand affair for the Lord of Heaven and Earth—at least to the naked eye.  The birth of William and Kate’s little prince garnished more notice.

It’s just a story we tell, isn’t it?  Right along with The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Polar Express.  We live in a world where Jesus birth is as much a fable as the story of St. Nick—more legend than actual Bible truth.  So, then, why does it surprise us when we see the world expressing itself as only the world can?

For example, earlier this week on Facebook I posted a picture of a nativity (see about) composed of Star Wars and Star Trek characters, other alien entities, and a gallantly posed Batman figurine flexing atop the crèche.  It drew some chuckles, likes, and cries of sacrilege.

But, to me, it perfectly illustrated Jesus’ birth, whether or not the creator of this particular nativity intended it to be.  John 1: 10 came to mind, “He [Jesus] came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him.” We didn’t recognize Him.  The world had no idea who He was, and it’s still missing Him!

To many, Jesus’ birth seems that alien, that inexplicable, and that ridiculous.  The story of Immanuel (God -With-Us) is so insane that it might as well be added in the madness of the holiday season.  A nativity scene nestled between Elf on a Shelf and a pink glitter reindeer—it just seems to make sense.

And yet it makes no sense at all.

On the holiest of nights, Heaven kissed Earth producing a small, helpless baby who would save us all.  Heroes usually have an epic birth story and the gospels tell the story of Jesus.  An otherworldly humanoid sent by His Father.

It’s almost like Superman’s backstory.  His home planet was being destroyed, so Superman’s mother and father packed their baby boy into a capsule, which crash landed in middle of nowhere America.  Taken in by a farmer and his wife, Superman’s humble origins didn’t hold him back from becoming a shy, big city reporter named Clark Kent who moonlighted as Superman.  With one exception, Superman came to earth to save his life, but Jesus came to give His life away.

That’s a nice story, isn’t it?  But how could it possibly be true?  It seems unbelievable.  So replacing Jesus with a screaming alien baby and the wise men with three Darth Vader’s, well, that’s just as ludicrous because it’s not true.

Unless it is.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are full of true stories of people who missed who Jesus is and what He came to do.  Even Jesus’ most faithful followers didn’t understand His purpose, until they came face to face with their Risen Savior on a Sunday long ago.  If we who have been with Jesus face to face miss Him in our daily lives between soccer practice and Bible study and grocery shopping, then how can we ever expect a world that didn’t recognize Him to understand Him?  It’s nearly impossible to recognize someone you have never met.

Play “Jingle Bells,” drink egg nog, and wrap your gifts in lovely paper.  There’s nothing wrong with celebrating peace on earth and goodwill to mankind (Luke2:14).  Just remember, the world won’t always recognize Him; they won’t know Him.  But you can and you do.  Help others to look beyond snow globes, ugly sweater contests, and Secret Santa’s.

Celebrate His Birth. And laugh at the joy in the world, for it is about Him, even if the world forgets about the little alien stranger who came to dwell among us.

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A Deafening Silence

13 Aug

Silence can be deafening.

It can fill a whole room, a whole body, a whole heart.

It’s a lonely, depressing ache that goes on and on.  How I wish for the breath to say something, to find words, to hear my voice.

The silence is emptiness and emptiness is deadly, dark and meaningless.

Silence, for me, was a way of coping.  As long as I remained quiet, as long as I pretended I had it all together, then maybe I would be OK.  Or at least people would think I was OK.

But I wasn’t OK.  I was falling apart.

My secrets ripped me apart, caused me to hide in the shadows, and question my existence.  Did I deserve to take up space, resources, air?  The thoughts were loud and angry.  The train whistle cut through the silence several times a day.  There was life somewhere outside of my apartment.

It’s hard to imagine someone like Robin Williams, who has the resources to access the best doctors, best medicines, and best therapy could fall into the deafening silence.  There’s a cruel irony in entertaining the masses, yet dying inside.  Tears of a clown or something like that.

Those of us who have been there or are there or live with constant battle against the darkness know what it’s like.  The silence only makes the illness more pronounced because the angry thoughts swirl around, the clichés become tormenting (“Why don’t you…?” “Someone has it worse.” “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” “Trust in the Lord”), and it’s a sad, lonely place.

If someone like Robin Williams couldn’t make it through the pestilence of mental illness, specifically depression, what hope is there for the rest of us?  We swallow our pills, see our therapists, practice using our coping skills, and hope against hope we’ll make it.

We hope and pray that we won’t end up like Robin Williams all the while wondering if we will.

There’s a choice in suicide.  There’s always a choice.  It’s just hard to make sense of what’s up and what’s down in mental illness, which doesn’t make sense at all.  Yet everyone seems to have an opinion on depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so forth.  Just like week someone told me I couldn’t possibly have PTSD because I’ve never been in combat.  Oh, yes, I’ve seen combat, just not in the military.  The world is its own battlefield.

The reason why I’m alive, the reason why I didn’t tighten the noose around my neck or jump in front of that train was this—hope.  No matter how small, God placed that hope in my heart when I was a little girl.  Though I had run away, battered and bruised from the Church, His hope kept me alive.

It may sound overly simplistic, but maybe it is that simple.  Maybe hope really is an anchor to my soul—an anchor firmly rooted in Christ Himself.  Christ died every possible death so that I could live.  Through the brokenness of my life, He shines forth.  Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks.

Into the deafening silence, His voice speaks the words of hope I desperately need to hear.  His soft whisper drowns out the angry thoughts.  His truth slices through well-intentioned, but ill-timed clichés.

In a world that judges, God accepts me just as I am and uses me despite my weakness.  Because of God, I have meaning and I don’t have to be silent anymore.  I can speak out of my weakness because He has made me a display of splendor.

In the deafening silence, His sure whisper can be heard.  Perhaps it’s in silence, God can be best heard.

Love in the Time of Vomit

17 Sep

Yesterday I had the chance to spend some time with my long-time friend, Beth.  We reconnected after a God-given encounter at my church.  It was reunion that has led to deeper ministry opportunities for both of us, which is why I cannot call this a “chance encounter.”  It was truly a God-appointed meeting.

I walked into Beth’s house and found toys scattered about, her two of her three kids enthusiastically bouncing about, and a baking project that was started, but not finished on the kitchen counter.  “We were going to make you caramel apple brownies,” said Beth with a playful giggle.  She shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “This is my life, every bit of it…and I love it. Welcome to Mommyhood!”

Mommyhood seems tough.  I am fully convinced stay-at-home mom’s are warriors.

As the kids warmed up to me, Beth and I began talking about what we’ve been doing since we last talk, really talked.  She had three kids (a couple born with challenging medical conditions), wrote a book, and a few Bible studies.  And I graduated from seminary, got sick, walked away from church, came back to church, and am involved in full-time volunteer ministry.  We talked about some of the heartaches spelling out “adult” words to protect innocent little ears.  We shared from our hearts, the way only two old friends can do.  There’s something in my soul said, “Where were you?  I needed to have this conversation.  Today.  With you.”

Beth explained how mommyhood has changed her and made her a much less selfish person as we watch her son jump from a chair into a pile of pillows.  “There’s no point in having new furniture with small children,” she told me as she instructed her son to use a sofa cushion to create a softer, safer landing spot.  “Boys are just going to jump off things, so I try to find ways to make it safer.” And jump he did.

She learned about mothering early in her marriage to my dear friend, Chris.  Inheriting a daughter from a previous marriage, Chris and Beth had visitation with “Emily” every other weekend.  During one meeting, Emily’s mom said that Emily wasn’t feeling well and sure enough, Emily soon vomited all over herself and started crying.  Beth tried to comfort Emily without getting puke on her expensive leather jacket.  Realizing how ridiculous she was being, Beth threw her leather jacket in the back of the car, gathered the crying, pukey girl in her arms, and comforted her getting vomit all over herself in the process. 

The story struck me, not only because I hate vomit, but because that’s what ministry is like.  Oh, we think of all the great things that will happen, the souls that will be saved, the Bible studies we’ll lead, the conference speakers we’ll get.  At the end of the day, ministry is standing in the church parking lot until 11 PM with a crying woman who doesn’t know if her husband loves her or praying with a distraught church member in the middle of Wal-mart.  Sometimes ministry is getting the vomit of someone else’s life all over you because they need a comforting hug of encouragement.

As I’m writing, I can’t help but think of Jesus, who came to earth to clean up the vomitous mess we made.  Hanging on a cross for my sin—my vomit—so that I could go free.  What love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!  What love, indeed! 

I wonder what God thinks when we jump off chairs onto pillows—does He make the landing safer for us?  When our big brother steals our stuffed unicorn, does He hold us when we cry?  Does He laugh when we toddle around the room trying to dance to a Newsboys song?  Does God, our Father, treasure us as much as Beth treasures her precious children?  I believe so. 

Adventures in Mommyhood are as much a lesson in cleaning up kid vomit as they are in ministering to our children (or our friends’ children), to those around us, and a startling revelation in how our Perfect Father deals with His very imperfect children.  Because He first loved us, we can extravagantly love others, mess and all.  In fact, it’s those who are crying, covered in sickness that most need our comfort, even if it means throwing our leather jacket of ministry expectations in the trunk of our “rescue vehicle”.  Let’s take a lesson from the One who put aside His glory to be born as a baby so He could take our sickening vomit away forever. 

Really God

24 Aug

This morning I was checking out my women’s ministry’s private Facebook group and one prayer request stuck out.  After a long time of waiting, a friend’s family hit a snafu.  Just when it seemed like God had finally responded, that the trial was finally over, there came to a bump in the road.  Normally, it would be a minor-to-somewhat major inconvenience, but after what this family has endured, it seems like one more detour, one more thing to offer up to God’s throne with shaking hands.

And, yes, it will be OK.  God will work all this out in His timing.  Everyone knows this and finds great comfort in the all-embracing loving arms of God.

Yet there’s this part of me that just says, “But really, God?!  Are you kidding me with this?”  Because I’ve been there, done that, and know the frustration these “minor” things can bring.

Just when it seems like you’re leaving Egypt after generations of slavery, there’s a snag—oh, it’s the Red Sea!  I guess we Israelites, God’s chosen people, are going to be slaughtered right here by the Egyptian army, even though Pharoah pinky swore with Moses to let us go.

But really, God?!

Or you FINALLY get that son that God promised you, even though you’re 100 and your wife is 80!  It’s about time You made good on that promise God, because Sarah and I aren’t getting any younger.  Now You want me to sacrifice my only son?!  The one you blessed me with in my old age? 

Are you kidding me, God?

Maybe you’ve been bleeding for a dozen years, which is, well, embarrassing to say the least.  Thank goodness for those BOGO 50% off female product sales at CVS because you’ve spent all your money seeing one specialist after another.  Your family is tired of hearing about it, and frankly, you smell.  So you take a chance, just one chance, to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment because you’re desperate.  To be found “unclean” among this crowd of religious folks could mean death, but you need healing…and you get it.  You hear a voice rise above the others, “Who touched me?  I know someone touched me.  Who was it?”

Umm, it was me? (All the while giving yourself a mental beating; you’ve been found out and you will probably die.)

Jesus seemed like a safe choice, until now.  But then He looks at you with those eyes of compassion and He listens to your story, which you tell through sobs.  Jesus takes His own hand and wipes the tears from your eyes.  Then He does something you didn’t expect; He forgives your sins, too. 

Really God. 

You’re a little more quiet this time.  Your voice takes on a sense of awe.  Because the Red Sea has parted, so you cross on dry ground (you didn’t even have to muddy up your sandals).  There’s a ram in the bushes to offer as a sacrifice to the Lord, instead of your precious baby boy, for He always provides.  You feel silly, foolish, and relieved that this wasn’t the one thing that broke your faith.  He’s been good, very good, but sometimes you forget because it’s hard to remember what He’s done when you’re in the midst of chaos, or even at the tail end of a long trial.

This is a lesson for me today, for my heart, which is weary and trampled upon from a week of “Really, God’s?!”  I know in this, as in all things, I’ll have that jaw-dropping moment of realization when I see how He uses these bad circumstances for the greater good.   He’s really God and He is in control of all things, including the “little” moments that splinter my resolve.

He is fully, divinely, amazingly, always and forever really God.

What’s your “But really, God?!” moment?  How did you come to see God as really God?  How can I pray for you in the midst of these momentary troubles? (I am not making light of your plight, just trying to look at things with the view of eternity in mind.)

Prone to Wander

15 May

When I first learned that I broke my foot, I comforted myself with the thought of lying about my apartment—in bed, on the couch—reading, watching documentaries on NetFlix, catching up on my mental to-do list, and writing my little heart out.  I haven’t finished one book, watched one documentary, written a to-do list, yet I have been writing…in my journal.  While these conversations with God are precious and private, I feel that my silence has added to my struggle with identity.  Oh, I know my identity is in God alone!  I know He created me and He defines me and He tells me who I am!  I know this!

But…sometimes it’s difficult to explain that to others when they ask me what I do.  It’s a long story.  A really long story.  Fortunately, my faithful family (which includes dear friends) knows my story as do you, my loving readers, because you’ve been on this journey with me for years.  Even though I’ve spent so much of the past year in silence, even though some of you have wandered to other blogs, know I appreciate you, pray for you, and cherish you.

Writing for you to make my joy complete (see post) has fallen by the wayside.  And part of that is my fault, for chasing after things that don’t add life.  Things which, in fact, break my heart.  God says, “No.”  Quietly, patiently, lovingly He says, “No, this is not my best.  You can have this thing you so desire, but I have something even better in mind.  Just you wait and see what I will do!”  I imagine a glimmer in His eye; I hear a hint of it in His voice.  And even though I don’t like surprises, I know whatever He’s planning, working, creating is good because God is good.

So I will wait.

Still, I really hate waiting.  My anxiety fights for control.  I understand matriarch Sarah’s confusion as she waited for her promised son, Isaac.  I imagine her wringing her hands, noticing the wrinkles, new age spots.  She stood up and her knees cracked and ached with each step she took. The laugh lines around her eyes—ha, what did she have to laugh about?!  Yes, God, You have promised something good…but is there something I’m supposed to be doing?  I mean, should I be vigilant about the process?  Maybe help You out a little?  What if I miss it?  As if Sarah could miss pregnancy!  As if I could miss my blessing from God!  (Side note: This blessing, though a mystery to me, will probably not result in immaculate conception and/or marriage.  I just know it’s something, and it may not even seem like a gift from God to anyone else…but I will know it’s from Him.)

As I wait for this good thing, I know I’ve missed the blessing of writing and the joy it brings—the complete joy.  Because I’ve been so busy “making it happen,” I didn’t factor in the time it cost me—time that could have been more effectively used to do things like read, watch documentaries, or even write for others!  Not that my free time has been a complete waste either.  I just know that I might have been blessed and been a blessing.  Oh, distraction will get us every time when we take our eyes off the prize! (God used Sara Groves’ song “Eyes on the Prize” from Invisible Empires to help me realize this.)

I’m sorry for not being there for you, for chasing after that which does not satisfy, for that which leaves me longing for more.  I told you I would write to make my joy complete, that I would let the Holy Spirit fill me with all joy…and I meant it then and I mean it now.  Sometimes I get distracted by the scenery on the side of the road; it comes when you write from the backseat, I guess.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…” I’ll try to keep the wandering to a minimum…as long as I’m wandering towards God, towards His joy, and towards the better, make that best, choices.

Let’s chat.  Like me, are you prone to wander?  What do you do when you realize you’re still on God’s path, but you’ve stopped to smell the roses for a bit too long?  Will you pray for me?  How can I pray for you?

An Open Letter to Satan

12 Mar

Because why wouldn’t Satan and [hot] Jesus arm wrestle?  Seems perfectly weird natural to me.

I was starting to feel glum about recent events taking place in my life.  Instead of lashing out at God, which is my former way of doing things, I decided to write an open letter to Satan instead so that I could remind myself and others of God’s promises to His people.  Am I still sad?  Yes.  But I also know that this is temporary in light of eternity…and eternity is an awfully long time. (Feel free to leave comments, if you’d like. Oh, and don’t steal this without permission because that would be mean and very Satan-like.)

An Open Letter to Satan

Satan,

I am writing you this letter to inform you that your rebellion against God and His people isn’t going so well.  Granted, it looks like you’re winning, and I admit there are casualties in our camp.  However, God is guaranteed the final victory, and until then, I suppose you’re going to keep on causing misery and pain in your kingdom here on earth.

Therefore, if you must continue on with this rampage against God’s image bearers, I’d like to give you a few insights on how this all works.

First, you can maim, torture, denounce, martyr, and rip apart our earthly bodies, but you can never touch our souls, though they may experience the darkest of nights.  Even when God seems so far away that we ache and we doubt, our allegiance will never be swayed, for our King will come through in the end.  When we are at our weakest, God is at His very strongest.  If you want to test us, go ahead, because we will only be made stronger.

Second, though I am forced to live in your kingdom temporarily, I won’t be here forever.  My loyalty is to a King with a heavenly kingdom that will not pass away.  The more I learn about my kingdom of eternal residence, the less satisfied I am with earth.  Oh, there are beautiful sunsets, soaring hawks, and wonders that take my breath away, but these things only prove that there is a Creator.  My soul was made for eternity, and I can’t wait to see creation in its glorified, original state.  See, spring is coming here on earth, and you can’t stop it or the fact that it reminds us of the eternal Spring that will one day come and make everything new.

Third, the Bible says that you masquerade as an angel of light, that you were once the most beautiful in all of creation.  Of course, you rebelled against God, took one-third of the angels with you, and now you’re here on earth.  Then Eve (formerly known as “woman”) came, the signature of divine, and you deceived her.  Tragically, the earth and all that is in it because cursed.  I don’t need to tell you the story.  After all, you were there. 

I suppose that some are still deceived by your “beauty,” but I only see you as ugly, twisted, and disgusting.  While some horrible events are the result of living in a fallen world (aka your temporary kingdom), others are the result of the work of you and your counterparts—wars, broken families, corruption, violence, murder, divorce, abuse, and so on.  When lives are devastated, some question God and doubt His existence, but real Christians turn to God with our heartache.  (For reference, see above paragraph on “when we are weak, God is strong.”)

While you do hurt us, injure us, ruin our days, and even destroy lives, you cannot fool us into thinking that you are beautiful, lovely, or “light.”  You gave that all up when you wanted to be God, when you fell from beauty.  I almost pity you.  Almost.   But you made your choice, took humanity down with you, and caused so much suffering, death, and destruction, I cannot pity you.  Once you were breathtakingly gorgeous, and now you’re this—an ugly, imitation of what you were created to be.  We are not fooled.

Fourth, I am personally affronted by all the pain and heartache you’ve caused in my life…and the pain and heartache I’ve caused others.  To the end of my days, I will never stop giving God the glory, which I know also means doing battle with you and your demons.  While I am not thrilled about the prospect of dealing with you and your kind, the Bible assures me that I am fully equipped for this war.  I know I’m not as intelligent as you, so no doubt you will trip me up.  I may even be a P.O.W. in your camp from time to time.  Know this, Satan, my God will always come for me.  He will never leave me or forsake me. 

In summation, you may be winning a few battles here and there.  You may even claim victory from time to time.  Know this, you will lose the war.  God’s people will always rise up, be made strong in our weakness, and be defended by a Warrior, who rejoices over us with singing.  We will sing, dance, and praise God in our suffering; we will take this heartache and turn it into thankfulness, and these ashes will be traded for crowns of beauty.  In the end, it’s not about what we will do, but what God has already done.

Sincerely,

An unsatisfied temporary resident of earth

They Don’t Know Why We Celebrate

23 Dec

A Christmas photo in which the dogs started play fighting. Sigh.

Every year, my best friend and I buy our two dogs Christmas presents.  As we unwrap candy cane-shaped bones and Pupperoni packages, my dogs’ excitement builds.  Relatives visit and sneak little tidbits of food to the dogs.  They have no idea why they’re getting all these extra treats or visitors, but for them, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…I guess.

Unfortunately, my dogs have no idea why or what we’re celebrating.

My dogs greet the holiday with the same enthusiasm as they do a daily walk, a game of fetch, or a visit to my mom’s apartment.  Dogs simply do not have the intellectual capacity to understand Christmas, but they sure do get excited about it.

Don’t we all get excited about Christmas?  The songs surrounding the holiday season, lights and tacky decorations adoring houses, and that ol’ feeling of Christmas in the air.  While Santa Claus, Rudolph, and Frosty are fun; they aren’t the real stars of the holidays.  Moralistic values teach us that Christmas is a spirit and goodness that seems to saturate our society, yet hearts still get broken, people murdered, and loved ones die, even on Christmas day.

Somewhere between presents piled high beneath the Christmas tree, watching Elf for the 1000th time, and drinking egg nog, we miss the real meaning of Christmas.  I know I’m not saying anything new.  What concerns me though is that we, as Christians, have no idea why we celebrate.  Wrapping presents, baking cookies, hopping from holiday party to holiday party, we become busy, miserable, and just wish we could forget the whole thing.

We have no idea why we celebrate either.

The tiny infant and his virgin mother are sometimes lost behind Santa’s sleigh and our shopping list.  We still find him nestled in a plastic manger in light-up (sometime blow-up) nativities.  He adorns our Christmas cards and is celebrated in our songs.  But our hearts are far from Him.

He was born to die.

For us.

To undo the curse as far as it is found.

And, oh, that mean old curse ravages our lives—tears our families apart with drug addiction and divorce, scars us with dark pasts, and obscures our view of the future.  Watching a loved one die a slow and painful death one year made me realize how far this curse is truly found and why we needed Jesus to come to save us.  We are helpless and without hope.  Yet over 2000 years ago, Hope for the human race came to earth, and what’s why we celebrate.

Though my dogs can’t possibly understand the depth of the Gospel—the beginning of the story—you can!  So instead of being caught up in squeaking toys and Snausages like my dogs, remember God’s true gift, which is too big and too wonderful to fit under any tree.  And it is too marvelous to keep to your self.  This Christmas be sure to tell a world looking for a true Savior why you celebrate.

I Still Believe in Love

24 Aug

Before you write me off as a 30 year-old spinster with slight feminist sympathies, I want you to know that I still believe in love.  I believe in romance and my little girl heart longs for it—just not with a man.  I mean, it does, but at the same time I’m still shattered from my mom’s two divorces (read post).  I know that godly men exist, love their wives, teach their children about God, and desperately seek to live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.  I am fortunate to be acquainted with such men.  However, I am not intimately involved with any as either a daughter or a lover.

Oh, but how I enjoy a good romantic novel (I recently discovered romance novels with Christian characters have come a looooooong way since) or a chick flick!  I feel happy (and slightly jealous) when a husband professes his love for his wife or vice versa.  I do want to know that kind of love, even if my hard heart is fighting tooth and nail against it.

And, love, oh love—what shall I do with you?  I mean, I love my parents, my friends, my pets, and of course, God.  But those are different kinds of love than loving a man, than giving my self wholly to a man in the holy mystery of sex.  (Yes, I’m saving my stuff for the altar, if I ever reach it!)  For those of you who have been fortunate to find love, hold it close, even when the feelings fade and the commitment is what counts.  Be committed to being committed. Singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson compares marriage to “dancing in a minefield” in his latest album, Counting Stars.  Sounds scary to me.

There’s another reason I believe in love…and that’s because God is love.  God cannot separate Himself from love because that is what He is.  Love is His nature, His character, and His totality.  In fact, when I consider it, how can I know love at all?  God is so vast, deep, wide, and unfathomable—so love must be the same. We mere mortals try to tie it up with ribbons, flowers, cards, and boxes of candy.  But have you ever stopped to consider that simple expression we’ve seen a million times above the Salvation Army or slapped on the bumper of a car?  God is love.  If we take time to really let that sink in, it should change our entire view of God…and love.

And Love came down in the form of a helpless babe and Love lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose again.  Love truly conquers all—it just depends on your definition of Love.  My definition of love is high because it is God.  I even believe in the clumsy kind that we humans mirror because we are made in the image of God.  I have to believe in Love, because I believe in God.

The Women of the Resurrection

7 Apr

In this pic, Jesus looks like He’s playing hide-and-seek with the women.

I wanted to prepare this blog post sooner, but time is not on my side lately.  My family could definitely use your prayer.  Gosh, I could use your prayers.  However, better late than never, here’s the follow up to “The Women of the Cross“.

But I thought both my male and female readers might like a peek at the lesson, which I’m adapting into a post. If you would like a copy of the short study for personal or group use, just hit me up at amy@backseatwriter.com

The Women of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a crucial cornerstone of the Christian faith, and also what separates Christianity from other major religions that follow His teachings.  Jesus’ resurrection proves that He was not only the Son of God, but the victor over death.  And who were the first to encounter the Risen Lord?  The women who followed Jesus!

The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection can be found in Matthew 28: 1-10; Mark 16: 1-11; Luke 24: 1-12; and John 20: 1-18.

Who are the women of the resurrection?

Interestingly, many of the women present at Jesus’ crucifixion were also the women who awoke early Sunday morning after Sabbath had passed to care for Jesus’ body.  According to Old Testament law, if someone touched a dead body, then he or she was considered unclean, so care of bodies was considered a woman’s work (of course).

However, these women did not care about clean or unclean.  They simply wanted to show their love for this man, who had treated them with respect and kindness, who had allowed them to sit at His feet—they had never met a man like Jesus.

Each Gospel has a different account of what women were present, what happened, and what was said.  It is important to note that ancient scribes were not obsessed with details like we are today.  They were more concerned with telling the story, so we definitely have to approach Scripture with our eyes on the culture.   Here’s a rundown of each Gospel.

Matthew: Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” find empty tomb and angel, also Jesus appears to these women.

Mark: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome encounter an angel and Mary Magdalene first sees Jesus.

Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and others see angels and report to disciples.

John: Mary Magdalene (and possibly other women because she says “we”).  But in this gospel, Mary Magdalene is the first to encounter the risen Jesus.

If you read The Women of the Cross, then you’ve already “met” most of these women.  But just in case you haven’t had the chance to read that incredibly compelling post, let me introduce you to the women of the resurrection.  Meet Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most devoted followers after He drove seven demons from her body.  And, no, they were not married or sexually involved.  That’s just gross.

Curiously, Mary mother of Jesus isn’t mention in any of these accounts…or is she?  Out of respect, Mary was probably referred to as “Mary mother of James” (Note:  It was this James, Jesus’ half-brother, who went on to write the book of James in the New Testament).  It was a cultural practice not to indicate Mary as Jesus’ mother due to His crucifixion.  Remember that at the cross, she is called “Mary Mother of James and Joses” and only directly addressed in John.  Also, since the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) mention Mary mother of James or “the other Mary,” it is assumed that both refer to Mary mother of Jesus.  She was His earthly mother—how could she stay away?

Mark mentions Salome, who was the mother of disciples James and John while Luke also adds Joanna, a woman who worked to financially support and care for Jesus and the gang while they traveled.  Since it was early the day after Sabbath and Jews were not permitted to work or travel on Sabbath, we can assume that Joanna was in town for the crucifixion, and I’m fairly certain she was one of the “other women” who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.   If so, then all the women of the resurrection were also all women who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.  They were a devoted lot.

Mary Magdalene Sees Him First

Each Gospel says that Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Savior.  Why, out of all the people who followed Jesus, did she see Him first?  Really, we can only guess.  Perhaps she was the one who needed Him most.  When she learned Jesus’ body was missing, she was ready to go to the ends of the earth to retrieve it.  She was distraught and crying when she encounters Jesus, who she mistakes for the gardener.

“They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put Him,” she weeps.  But when that “gardener” says her name, she immediately knows it is Jesus (John 20:16).

“Rabboni!” Mary exclaims, which is a very personal greeting meaning “my teacher.”  Most people would have nothing to do with a former demoniac, much less teach one.  But Jesus changed Mary’s life, and now He had changed her eternity.

Why did Jesus appear to women first?

The simple and obvious explanation is this—because they were there. But didn’t Peter and John also run out to the empty tomb?  Why didn’t Jesus appear to them?  Hmm…interesting.

My theory (and this is my theory) is that Jesus is making good on God’s promise all the way back in Genesis 3:15.  After Adam and Eve do the Big No-No, God pronounces judgment on them.  Yet in His judgment, there’s a promise of salvation.  In Genesis 3:15 God says to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  On Calvary, the ancient serpent that is Satan struck Christ’s heel, but in the resurrection (and the yet-to-come Battle of Armageddon), Jesus will crush that serpent’s head.

So, with that information, it would seem that Jesus is “redeeming Eve.”  It’s as if He is saying, “Remember that promise in Genesis?  Well, here I am!  You are redeemed, daughter of Eve, you are redeemed because of Me.”  Since Eve was the first to partake of the apple, perhaps in a subtle way, her daughters are first to know of the redemption.

Then again, there’s the small problem that the disciples who say the empty tomb didn’t believe…but the women did.  Before you go off and tell me it’s because they saw Jesus, let me point you to Mark 24:7-8.  The women remembered His words and believe!  However, the disciples don’t believe their stories (Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11).

Still, in the end, everyone believes and the Gospel message goes forward.  And those women, well, as first witnesses their testimony wouldn’t really matter in a court of law.  Unless there were three women, which is interesting, because the Mark and Luke mention at least three women in their Gospels, making the women viable first witnesses to the resurrection.

These women never met a man like Jesus, who tore the veil, so their shame would be lifted.  Finally, Eve’s sin no longer held them captive, though they still faced the consequences of her choice.  But now they could find wholeness and redemption through God’s promise of Jesus Christ.

I love comments, so here are some questions you can answer–why do you think Jesus first appeared to women?  Why didn’t the men believe but the women did?

WHAT?! Hitler’s Meim Kampf for Inspiration & Jimi Hendrix a Child’s Role Model?!

11 May

This is ridiculous!  First, business student in India are buying  Adolf Hitler’s autobiography for inspiration and now educators in San Francisco are hailing Jimi Hendrix as a great role model.  Is it me or has the world gone completely mad?

To the students in India, Meim Kampf is not a book on business organization strategies, but rather a hate-filled memoir of insanity.  In Meim Kampf, Hitler lays out his anti-semitism and his plans to eradicate the Jews and others who he feels are “inferior.”  This is not good business.  In fact, it didn’t even work because bigger “businesses” ended his nefarious practices.

To the educators in San Francisco, I know you do things a little differently in San Francisco.  But just because Jimi Hendrix was arguably one of the best guitar players that ever lived doesn’t make him a good role model…for the education system.  Hendrix never graduated from high school, was known for his drug use, and died choking on his own vomit after a drug binge.  This isn’t “hip,” it’s crazy.  Not only that, but it’s a waste of the taxpayers money.

Travel with me to a place called it’s-never-gonna-happen and imagine that students in India bought the Bible and studied the book of Proverbs for insight on business and the educators hailed a Jewish teacher named Jesus as a role model for students.  Of course, that would be completely ridiculous, right?  Especially the Jesus part, since he is a religious figure and all.  I would have to argue that the Son of God has been a pretty good role model for me and that the Bible has helped me through all sorts of decisions, including ones that break the heart and wound the spirit.

It’s sad to live in a world that hails Hitler’s manifesto as good literature and Jimi Hendrix as a childhood hero.  Yet it’s a world longing for inspiration and heroism—something we Christians have to offer through the gospel, in our lives and dealings with others, and our study of Scripture.  Never has it been clearer to me than now.

Offer the world the hope you have and give them a reason to ask you about that faith you have.  Be visible.  Be active.  And do it now.  The world is dying to know Truth.

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