Okay, this is really a reminder to me, but maybe someone out there is experiencing a similar bit of human weakness just now, so I’m sharing this with you and sending along with these words a caring hug. For you see, the last day or two has found me feeling a bit off, discouraged, sad. Nothing in my life has dramatically changed, mind you. Is that why I feel this way? It is hormones? Is it the weather? Who knows if these things are part of it or not, but as I sat and had some quiet time just now, it came to me that I’ve not had much “time” for that in the last couple of days . . . so I prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill me and guard and guide me and I found myself reading these words from the Gospel of Luke 18: 1 where I was reminded “I always pray. I don’t faint, quit, or give up.” Wow. So, did I mention what we all know but somehow need to be reminded of? He always answers prayer and that quote was proof of it! I asked and He answered IMMEDIATELY. Praise the name of the Lord! As I reflected on this, I realized that the tightness I’d felt off and on for a day or two was suddenly a bit less and then I found these words from John 16:24 “I ask and receive and my joy is made full.” Thank you, Lord.
Pleasure – I love that word. Just saying it brings a smile to my face. It can’t be helped. Seriously, stand in front of a mirror. Relax your facial muscles completely, then speak the word pleasure or the other form of the word, which is please. Did you notice? Your entire expression changes. A smile forms quite naturally. The smile, however, is just the external manifestation of the feeling within. Where do you seek pleasure? Where do you find it? Are the two answers the same or are they in contrast? Psalm 147 suggests where it is not likely found, telling us “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior . . . “ and that’s all well and good, but where do I find it? The dictionary defines pleasure as that in which I take my delight. When I get up in the morning, I can’t wait for a cup of coffee. I have friends who look forward to a glass of wine at the end of the day. There’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. The Bible is full of mention of wine and our Lord performed the well known miracle at the wedding changing water into wine, so surely a glass is not wrong. However pleasant these things may be though, they do not provide the lasting pleasure I seek. My delight is not truly found there. Nor are they that in which I can place my trust or seek refuge. Where then?
I looked for the answer to this question in Scripture and the answer started to come to me in the book of Daniel 4:2 “It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.” His words got my attention causing me to thirst for further wisdom on the source for these miraculous signs and wonders. I found my answer in Ephesians 1:8-10 when I read “He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” The answer I was searching for! I know that, for me, the only one in whom I can seek refuge, place my trust, and find true pleasure is in Christ. In giving my heart fully to Him, I found life! He is my Savior, the lover of my soul, and the source of such amazing, underserved and unconditional love and it is only in Him that I can ever find true and lasting pleasure! Amen! Come Lord Jesus!
Oh, it’s that time of year! Sports of various sorts can be found any time of day or night depending on your television reception. My television reception is pretty good . . . I’m working on my God reception. Baseball, now there’s something to consider just now. Think about it . . . as the title to this article reminds us, we swing, we miss, we strike – three times and we’re out. Wow. Glad I’m on God’s team and not the baseball team because the rules are pretty strict, I’ll grant you, but they are so reflective of His love for us. How fortunate are we that we’re not out after three strikes! He’s always willing to forgive and when He does – our sin is GONE. There is no “remember back when you did . . . “ In baseball, on the other hand, there’s always “gosh, remember that game back in ’98 when he left three men on base because he struck out?” We can’t strike out and lose God’s love for us. We can always repent and change our path to the right one. We can join the Kingdom team. We can change our life with His grace.
That’s what I’m doing. I’ve done the sensible things the world encourages and it doesn’t satisfy me. It provided shiny toys and jingly coins in my pocket, but oddly those things aren’t at the top of my list anymore and so there are many who say I’m crazy. I’m following the path that was made by God through His son who became flesh and died so that I might live. He even gave us His Holy Spirit so that when we drop the ball, we have a coach who loves us right there to help us change that play! So, in seeking a “new” team, I’ve thought of what I want to do. I picked up a book today at a church thrift shop. I paid 2.00 for it. It sums up what I want to do with my life and who’s team I want to be on, and it’s got a star player that I truly want to model in my own life.
The book was published in 1944 and when my mother was a small child, thus long before I was dreamed of. It’s all about that star player, my hero. The author is Mary Alice Jones and the book is called “Tell Me About Jesus.” Sure enough, that’s what I want to do; I want to tell folks about Jesus. I want them to join the Kingdom team and if they get to know Him, I’m sure they’ll want to be on it because they’ll just LOVE Him! Ms Jones wrote several small stories in this book and each one is for me a list of plays that the Kingdom team needs to focus on. He’s the star and we need to model our lives and our plays after His. Surely you will agree when I share some of them:
- Jesus loves children
- Jesus goes about doing good
- Jesus is glad
- Jesus helps people
- Jesus is brave
- Jesus trusts God
- Jesus helps people to be good
- Jesus asks God to help unfriendly people
- Jesus prays to God
So, that’s what my new life is going to be all about. I’m not that good at it yet, but He’ll coach me. I’m not sure what position I’ll hold on His team, but He’ll lead me and show me. I may not be the one who hits the home runs. I may be the one who brings them water to drink. It doesn’t matter. We’re a team and all the members of the team work together and we all need to do our best at the position our Lord chooses for us. I’m on a winning team. Come play with me! You won’t strike out! You have His promise!
We, indeed, are one body in Christ. Alone we can do nothing but together we can inspire each other, support each other, and share our talents which collectively and with His grace can bring His light to those in dark places. If you would like to be a part of a group of supportive loving Christians sharing the love of Jesus with your brothers and sisters in Christ and sharing the ups and downs of your life with other believers, I encourage you to come to my new Yahoo Group just set up today. All Christians welcome regardless of denomination. Together we can pool our talents and be His beacon! Check it out at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/christians_inspiring_sharing_together
Wow, our Lord’s amazing love for us never ceases to lift me up and just blow me away! No matter what life smacks me in the face with, when I actually turn it over to Him and ask Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit, to guard me and to guide me He never fails me. I don’t always ask and that’s when I fail, but even then He is there with His arms outstretched in love. The same arms that stretched on a cross to die for me are also stretching out to envelope me in a love like none I can feel from any other source. Today as I set off for church and found the bad attitudes of some in my path bringing me down, I felt cheated and thought “but it’s Easter!” only this time I didn’t fail. I invited Him in . . . and He came! Church at 9am, the contemporary service and my first of two contrasting services I attend on Sundays, was inspiring beyond belief. I got there early enough to sit in “my pew” but chose not to. I sat on the other side and toward the back rather than toward the front and on the right . . . didn’t think about why. A stranger sat next to me and other strangers were all around me and initially I found myself thinking “twice a year Christians” but my heart took over and I thought of different things. Initially I thought “I wish I had this much trouble parking every Sunday.” Then I found myself thinking that while these may be once or a twice a year Christians, how awesome that our Lord placed something in their hearts to come and maybe just one heart will be changed, but won’t that be worth the added noise, the trials in parking, the crowds, the longer service . . . the answer is yes and honestly aside from needing to go home and get Mom to bring her back to the 11:15 more traditional service, and thus leaving church early and missing the end of the service, I didn’t mind any of those things. I really didn’t want to leave that sanctified space. I also know now that one heart was changed at the 9am service. My own heart was changed.
One of the greatest blessings in my life is my hour long weekly meeting with some Christian friends who get together to encourage each other to stay on His path for our lives and at those meetings we are always asked the question “when did you feel closest to Christ this week?” I find myself noticing Him all the more as a result of that weekly question. There was a time before my heart was His that I was hard put to come up with a single blessing or joy filled moment in a typical week, and now I find the hour long meeting on Tuesday night far too short because He blesses me so abundantly that I just want to share it all and find it hard to hold it in! I know what my answer to that question will be this coming week. It happened during one of the praise songs at the 9am . . . I closed my eyes because I needed to be alone with the Lord in that crowded room. I had my hands raised. These things that used to seem odd and uncomfortable are as natural as breathing for me now and I find it hard to restrain myself at the more conservative 11:15 service. I hardly find myself aware of my body in the earlier service though these days. I am free to love and serve the Lord! So, as I sang and praised and was lost in love with the Lord something unexpected happened and it took a moment to come down to earth and realize what it was. Suddenly there was a hand in mine. No, it was not the cute and handsome stranger sitting next to me. A man I never got to introduce myself to as I missed my chance. It was the infant in her Mom’s arms in front of me. She was perhaps 16 months old if that – walking but not talking. Her Mom held her and she was watching me. During that praise song, she slipped her tiny hand in mine and raised her tiny arms too. I wondered if she knew she was praising Jesus? She was so tiny and so young, did she know Him yet? My answer came during the next song. I had my eyes open and as soon as the music played, she lifted up her tiny arms just as I’d done during the song before and while she doesn’t yet talk, I just knew that tiny babe knows Jesus and knows His love. It’s something we can never deserve and never outgrow. I hope receiving that love and giving it back is always so natural for her.
It is Good Friday. I’ve just come from church and as I write this I’m thinking about things and trying to keep things in perspective, but it’s a dark and rainy day and I’ve just returned from a service in a church that’s been stripped of all the trappings and left bare and plain. I know that Easter is soon to come and that beauty and joy will return SPLENDIDLY, but just now I find I’m focused on death on a rough wooden cross. I am wondering what they did with it after Jesus was placed in the tomb? Did they cast lots for it to recycle its wood as they did for His clothing? It was raw wood and surely stained with His blood . . . “it is finished.”
I’m also thinking of my dear friend and priest as he spoke at church of the death and passion of the Lord he loves so much, and recalling the tears running down his face as he tried to teach us about this God-man who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. I heard my priest cry as he spoke of this event that happened so long ago and yet to those of us who’ve entered into a personal relationship with the Lord know all too well, we are brought back to that event just now and to the knowledge that we are the reason he died . . . “it is finished.”
What do the words “it is finished” bring to mind? Well, as with most happenings, words, phrases, and life changing experiences, the words mean many things. When Jesus spoke those words that made my friend cry . . . that made me cry as well, I’m certain that Jesus’ mother and His dear friends watched and cried. He was gone. His blood dripping from his wounded flesh, running down His dead body, staining the wood of the cross on which He hung, puddle on the ground. “It is finished.”
There have been many times in my life when I made mistakes. Sometimes, I can or could make amends. Sometimes I am so grateful for a do over. Sometimes, I simply cannot. The damage has been done. I have, perhaps, been hurt, others may have been as well. It can’t be fixed. It can’t be made well. It’s too late. It is the way it is. Somehow life goes on anyway, but brokenness cannot be changed because “it is finished.”
On the other hand sometimes I get it right. I have a quilt to make for a friend. I will work hard on it. I love my friend and want to do the best I can on it. When all the fabric pieces have been cut and arranged in an artful pattern, and stitched and decoratively pieced into something new and beautiful, I will smile and hand it over saying “it is finished.” It will bring joy to my friend and to the granddaughter she will give it to – a new baby – a new life. “It is finished.”
A new life! Like my friend’s granddaughter, we too have a new life. We have a new life because God gave us His only son who became flesh and dwelt among us that we might have eternal life with Him. Eternal life. Not someday, not if I’m good enough . . . not “if I can only make it a little bit further I just might get there” as though it’s a destination we can through our own efforts reach. We cannot make it happen and we cannot be good enough, but by believing in Him we have eternal life because of what He did. His thirty-three years on this earth had a purpose and it was accomplished. His purpose was to die for our sin so that we might live with Him in His Kingdom forever. “It is finished” but that’s not an ending, but a new beginning! In the ultimate battle of life and death we have a choice to make . . . life or death. I choose Jesus and therefore I choose life!
What was it like in the garden that day? What was the weather? Was it seasonable? Were there people about Gethsemane? Did they have any idea of what was to come to pass? Were there dark clouds in the sky as though a storm was brewing? Was there an odd stillness in the air? Did they catch their breath in an uneasy sense of “something just doesn’t feel right?” Without radio, television, newspapers, computers and the like, how much was known of what was planned? There was no water cooler down the hallway where “everything important” was shared among those who clustered and whispered there . . . were there children wandering about happily playing? Was it a pretty day with blue skies and sunshine and a gentle breeze? What was in the minds of those who were there?
What was in the minds of Jesus sleepy companions that night? Were they confused? Did they anticipate that “something” was up? When Jesus awakened them and spoke to them “can you not watch and pray with me for an hour” did they have any inkling of something life changing that was to come in just a few short hours? Was it a dreadful night or a beautiful one? Did they sleep well or toss and turn, their souls in an uncertain and undefined distress? Did they think their world was coming to an end? Did they know their friend and Savior was about to die to save them and grant them eternal life with Him? Did they think it was “just another day?”