Looking forward to April 12th and the Study in 1 & 2 Peter. Taking some time off from writing until then.
Before I even opened IF:Equip for today I decided to watch Kara Tibbetts’ funeral video. I missed it when it was streamed live and I’ve been waiting for the email that said it had been posted online. Kindness and Grace were the mantras of her life.
The pastor clearly stated that death was not God’s original intent. It is a byproduct of the fall. When he told the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead he observed that death actually made Jesus angry.
It’s easy to buy the Lion King’s pitch that death is just part of the “circle of life”. It is a subtle way of cushioning ourselves from its ugliness because it’s hard to linger there.
Jesus, on the other hand, sat down in the dark with death for 3 days. Surely, being God, he did not have to wait…but he did. He let death take its best shot and then with fury in his fists, HE CRUSHED IT!
It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…
There are about 10 things that come to mind from these words but they are not fully formed enough that I can write them down. Let me just say some words have taken on new and deeper meanings to me of late.
“All nations” means foreign missions to me. My heart has long been thrilled by missionary stories…Jesus loves all the children of the world. Their red and yellow black and white faces in their own little countries posted on Sunday school walls like scenes from “It’s a Small World” just warm me. I even took my white face to Kenya just so it would create some celebrity attention and help draw a crowd. The real missionaries took over from there. I came home. I’m a cheerleader supporter for people who actually do missions.
Lately, I’ve felt a little guilty about this, but for years I’ve been more of an “in church” kinda girl. I’ve been part of that ilk who do church … cheering people on to be who they are in Jesus, giving them permission, teaching, offering support…disciple making. It was a season.
My new calling is to do this individual thing myself. This requires no organizational structure. The only hierarchy is Jesus and then, well, me. As one person who loves Jesus and wants to follow Him, just live and do what I think that means.
It’s been interesting because acting individually has not turned out to be acting alone. Every place I’ve stepped out, Jesus has sent a buddy or two who wanted to GO. Their showing up has been a gift of affirmation that God is in it but I feel strongly that it may not always be this way. My charge is “have no expectations, let the thing be whatever it is…just GO and see what happens.”
…he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen
Believing is hard. It’s hard to do and even more difficult to explain. Even when the audience should be the best prepared and most agreeable to the news, believing doesn’t come easily. Jericho has nothing on the walls of self-protection we live behind. Some things are just too good to be true and we will not be suckered – not again.
Believing the good news is the ultimate risk and if you think you can draw me in with a promise of joy…well, sista, I wasn’t born yesterday. Our hearts are not just hardened they are steel.
How then will God get in? He appears. He appeared to Mary Magdalene; he appears to the two travelers; he appeared to the eleven. Nobody wanted to believe just because someone else told them. I think of Thomas being labeled as the doubter when he was actually just like everyone else. He needed to see for himself.
To “taste and see that the Lord is good” is a personal experience. I can tell you about the creamy center but you are probably going to have to bite into that Whitman’s sample for yourself.
God knows this about humans.
Of course we who believe are supposed to tell – “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation…” is what Jesus said. That’s our part, we tell.
Everything else is God’s part.
And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
…they would not believe…
…they did not believe…
It’s interesting that the ones mentioned here, that didn’t believe, were the disciples and followers of Jesus. These were the ones who had been given the most information, who were the closest to Jesus, who knew Him best. To be fair they certainly were in shock and grieving. They were definitely living in fear, maybe for their lives. They were confused no doubt.
Whatever the reasons – even good and understandable reasons – they were not prepared to accept a miracle as the solution to the latest events.
It’s a challenge to me. Are my eyes and heart open to God’s miracle solutions or am I working on getting a contractor who can move the stone?
Then they (the soldiers) sat down and kept watch over him there. …those who passed by derided him…the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him,…The robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him…some of the bystanders heard him speak…many women there, looking on from a distance…
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
I’m just struck by how many people were keeping watch over Jesus for the six hours he hung on the across alive. Some of the onlookers came to be there because they loved Him (the women), some because it was their job (the soldiers), some who had something to prove (the priests, scribes and elders), some who were forced (the robbers) and some who were curious (the bystanders).
They seem to represent every mindset about God. No different from all of us today. Every person has an opportunity to decide who Jesus is to them. That decision will matter for all eternity.
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
I guess dying has been on my mind this week because of the death of Kara Tippetts. At the discovery of what would be terminal breast cancer she determined to live her life with the purpose of living well and dying well. I knew her not at all in her living but it is in her dying that she has come to my attention. Now, I am drawn to learn how she lived in detail and let her life and love for Jesus influence me.
I think of this centurion and how his life may have been changed by the way Jesus died. We talk a lot about living like Jesus – WWJD and all that. We acknowledge that to live like Him we must die to ourselves. But I wonder if we think that it is in the way we are choosing and experiencing and living this “daily dying” that may be the greater witness.
But Pilate answered, “You take him…”
The Jewish leaders insisted, “…he claimed to be the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid”…why won’t you speak to me?
“Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free…
On this day I image Pilate would have liked to have been somewhere or someone else. His power and position were nice perks to the job…until they weren’t.
It started as just a regular day of meting out Roman justice. The outcomes could be hard but they never touched him. Not personally. He was following rules…and Roman rules were fair. He might have a twinge of conscience on occasion but it was generally a “thumbs up thumbs down” sort of thing. It was a job – a well-paying job, but just a job – that was all.
He knew these Jews, the leaders who sucked up to him. He knew they too had comfy positions with perks they were not interested in losing. He let them have their little kingdoms – they were no threat to him. In fact, he saw this as delegating a little power to keep the Roman peace. They were fools he used.
Today they came shoving their complaint before them, looking to him for his keen judgement. He would do his due diligence. They would take his answer – be grateful – and go home.
Then the table turned upside down. The flogging didn’t satisfy. Pronouncing innocence didn’t cut it. He claims to be God, they said. What if he is? I’ve got to stop this!
I never expected my heart to ache for Pilate. His world went out of control. He tried but he couldn’t stop it.
In God’s plan, Jesus had to die. And he willingly suffered that death for each one of us, whom He loved and still loves beyond measure. And by God’s infinite grace, we were not allowed to interfere.
“…for he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.”
ENVY, I looked it up, is basically spite and resentment at the success of another together with a desire to possess what they have1. Unchecked ENVY “turns sour” into anger which leads to aggression. It didn’t take rocket science for Pilate to see what motivated the Jewish council to bring Jesus to him. Jesus had want they wanted to secure for themselves. It got ugly.
Thomas Aquinas said (in the vernacular of the 12th century) “Envy… is contrary to charity, whence the soul derives its spiritual life… Charity rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it.”2
I think charity means LOVE – ENVY is contrary to LOVE.
Interestingly, yesterday I spent a great deal of my day pondering “LOVE is kind.” I had been reading about Kara Tippetts and apparently this was a mantra of sorts for her life. Over burgers at S&S, I even had the great and rare privilege of visualizing Kara’s image of kindness with three amazing women who are artists (Aymi, Madi & Jessie). We thought about how we would draw it and the absolute power it would have if we just practiced kindness – even once a day.
It would change the world, right?
So, what troubles me is this. How often do I ENVY and what does ENVY look like “in me”? I know it might be ugly and painful to see, but if I’m taking on LOVE then ENVY has gotta go.
Holy Spirit – be the filter of my thoughts and feelings. Stop the weed of ENVY in its tracks! Gently if possible, but use Round-UP if necessary. Let there be fruit: LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness…
“And he broke down and wept.”
I have become so accustomed to writing first thing in the morning that my thoughts and feelings are likely to slip out on the written page before I can censor them. That happened this morning because I had to write Anne back before I could do anything else. We have been jotting short emails back and forth since Alain died and neither of us has heard anything from Ursula. It doesn’t seem to matter that Anne is actually in France and trying to reach her rather than me texting and emailing from here. So in Anne’s last message she asked about “how we were” and I put off answering. Today she asked if I had gotten her mail. It wasn’t fair to leave her hanging so I had to write her first.
It surprised me how raw my emotions were. Not just sadness but also love and appreciation and kick butt and joy and gratefulness. My heart is still full of all these feelings that I had no intention of noticing and much less intention of sharing.
Makes me think of Peter. He had plans to be the tough guy. And even though his adrenal glands were working overtime as he followed behind Jesus into enemy territory, he was still being brave, right? Until the horrible revelation crowed in his ears – “this is not bravery – this is betrayal.” “And he broke down and wept.”
Judas and Peter and I are all cut from the same fallen cloth. Because of sin we are betrayers… and not private betrayers either – because betrayal is not a secret sin. And when God allows us to see our weakness and frailty we are undone. Unraveled – but unraveled in a good way because while we were trying to “knit one and purl two” we slipped a stitch or two or four. And since we, who claim the name of Jesus, are being transformed into His image, there really can be no loose ends.
So, in mercy and with tender compassion, God undoes what we have built out of ego and bravado and stitches in a little more of Himself. Some days, when my heart is tender, it’s easier to let Him work.