Tag Archives: love

Scars

“Presumably [Jesus] could have had any resurrected body he wanted, and yet he chose one identifiable mainly by scars that could be seen and touched. Why? I believe the story of Easter would be incomplete without those scars on the hands, the feet, and the side of Jesus. When human beings fantasize, we dream of pearly straight teeth and wrinkle-free skin and sexy ideal shapes. We dream of an unnatural state: the perfect body. But for Jesus, being confined in a skeleton and human skin WAS the unnatural state. The scars are, to him, an emblem of life on our planet, a permanent reminder of those days of confinement and suffering. I take hope in Jesus’ scars. From the perspective of heaven, they represent the most horrible event that has ever happened in the history of the universe – the crucifixion – Easter turned into a memory. Because of Easter, I can hope that the tears we shed, the blows we receive, the emotional pain, the heartache over lost friends and loved ones, all these will become memories, like Jesus’ scars. Scars never completely go away, but neither do they hurt any longer. We will have re-created bodies, a re-created heaven and earth. We will have a new start, an Easter start.”                                                                                                                       Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew.

Friday comes before Sunday every week … just like the cross comes before the tomb. We cannot truly celebrate if we do not understand the cost of the victory Christ won for us. “Jesus fought the battle, but it would be against the forces of evil, corruption, and death itself. Jesus came to believe that the only way one could defeat death itself, and thereby launch the new creation was to take on death itself.”

He bore the wounds of the battle. He carried the scars. The cross is not a piece of jewelry; it is a stark reminder of a cosmic contest that used the most powerful weapon against our most powerful enemy. With His love, Jesus killed death, robbing it of its power.

Easter is about new beginnings, renewal of life, hope, and joy. But the scars … don’t forget the scars. His scars make ours bearable. He is risen! “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again” (John 11:25).

Justice

The observance of MLK weekend seems particularly poignant this year. The pulse of our country indicates an unhealthy nation with frightening and discouraging symptoms. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Currently, it seems that our steps are not toward the right goal. The divisive climate that fosters resentment, distrust, anger, and violence makes our land darker, not brighter. We could use a Jubilee. Jubilee was a year of emancipation and restoration provided by ancient Hebrew law to be kept every 50 years by the emancipation of Hebrew slaves, restoration of alienated lands to their former owners, and omission of all cultivation of the land.

It was a season of starting over, beginning again. It offered the oppressed hope. It restored social balance. It brought dignity to society as a whole and as individuals. In a world too often characterized by that which is damaging, destructive, and disheartening, people of faith must rise up to strive for that which is enlightening, hopeful, and constructive.

The life-changing power of the Gospel offers what human ingenuity and effort will  never accomplish. We are resurrection people, saved by grace. We are fueled by the greatest force the world has ever known. Dr. King claimed, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

Our God of love is also God of holiness and justice. The prophet Micah recorded the response required of us: “To live justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” No one said it was easy, just necessary.

 

We are family

The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates adopted the Sister Sledge song, We Are Family, for their title run that won their fifth World Series title. Willie Stargell led an all-star collection of players who demonstrated a fierce competitive spirit and a close-knit fraternity. The song rocked the stadium and the clubhouse through their historic season.

What does it mean to be family? It doesn’t mean everything is perfect. While winning 98 wins that year, the Pirates did lose 64 times. Their best hitter that year, Bill Madlock, hit .328 during the regular season. That means he failed to get a hit almost 7 out of 10 at bats.

I don’t know any perfect families. That is certainly true of church families. We all know that.

But families stick together, in good times and not-so-good. We find strength in each other. We celebrate the victories. We mourn the losses. We stand beside the faltering. We encourage the struggling. We depend on each other. We love, extend mercy, and offer grace because we need those things and we need to give those things.

Paul wrote to the Roman Christians: “Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection. Take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:9,10).

That’s what families do. I am glad to be a part of this one. We are Wieuca.

Watch out!

The pastor greeted one of his long-time members the week before Mother’s Day. She didn’t waste time with pleasantries, but just got to the point. “Preacher, I’m bringing my mother to church next week. If you are interested in your health, you’ll say something about mothers and it had better be good.” No pressure. I hope he survived.

We need to honor the women in our lives. We should be grateful for our mothers. We can agree that motherhood has been and will always be challenging. We can also understand that a day set aside to recognize those who brought us into this world or filled that role in our lives in other ways is a way to celebrate the gift of life.

Today’s moms face a balancing act most days. Research has determined that being the mother of preschoolers is one of the most stressful tasks anyone can attempt. A cartoon showed a woman in a counselor’s office. The counselor says to her: “Let’s see. You spend 50% of your energy on your children; 50% on your husband, and 50% on your career. I think I see your problem.”

Mother’s Day is not always easy. For some, biological motherhood isn’t possible. For others, motherhood is an unexpected experience, and not always a welcome one. For some, this is a day of grief over strained relationships. For some, sorrow is magnified as it accompanies the loss of loved ones.

I am grateful for the models I have witnessed, women who made and continue to make significant contributions in the lives of family, church, and community. We can be thankful that many of these women, in their roles as mothers, have enriched us.

An excerpt from John Killinger’s book, Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise:

“I believe in the love of all mothers, and its importance in the lives of the children they bear … I believe that this love, even at its best, is only a shadow of the love of God, a dark reflection of all that we can expect of Him, both in this life and the next. And I believe that one of the most beautiful sights in the world is a mother who lets this greater love flow through her to her child, blessing the world with the tenderness of her touch and the tears of her joy.”

I got nothin’

 

It was during a children’s sermon. Those things can be dangerous if you toss out an open-ended question to a bunch of kids. I did it anyway. I asked, “Can you tell me a favorite character from the Bible other than Jesus?” Pretty safe, right? A few hands were raised and names began to be mentioned:

Abraham – Moses – Mary – David – Goliath – Peter

I waited just a moment to see if any others would be named. I glanced down at the young lady sitting beside me. She looked up at me and said, “I got nothin.’”

Have you ever had one of those days? Of course, you have. Days or moments or seasons when you ‘got nothin’?

He may not have been the first to use the analogy, but Bill Hybels pictured a bucket to represent our lives (Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul). There are relationships and activities than can either fill or drain our lives. The danger of a depleted life can devastate our attitudes and behavior.

We can feel dry and empty because our resources and our energy have not been replenished. We are more susceptible to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, negativity, fatigue, even poor physical health. We are more easily distracted by lesser things. We can isolate ourselves. We can neglect spiritual disciplines. We can easily fall into the “woe is me” doldrums.

Sometimes we have to move past our feelings and cling to assurances, promises, and commitments. Have you ever felt like not going to work? Feel that way long enough and you won’t have to worry about work anymore.

Jesus quoted the Shema in Deuteronomy 6 with this important inclusion: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Matthew 22:37). Love is far more than a feeling; it requires intelligent commitment, an act of the will. Love gets us through when the bucket is draining.

When we ‘got nothin’, we need to remember that the day or the moment or even the season will pass. At the end of his life, Paul trumpeted: “And my God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus!”

We can live with that!

Rocking Our World

I hope you were prepared. A mountain-size asteroid zoomed by Earth last Monday. Affectionately known as Asteroid 2004 BL86, the hurtling mass is about 1800 feet wide. The massive rock is roughly twice the size of the Rose Bowl. Not until 2027 will something this large pass by our planet again. Flying by at 35,000 mph, it never got closer than 745,000 miles so we were never in any danger. You would have had to some significant equipment to see it last Monday night.

They tell us that all kind of stuff is flying at us from outer space. We have also learned that thousands of pieces of space junk orbit the planet. Most of it burns up when it enters the atmosphere, but it’s getting crowded up there.

If you listen to the dooms-day folks, sooner or later one of those big rocks won’t miss. It will come close enough to cause a cataclysmic event. It might be a direct hit, a global killer.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.

There is a great deal of things wrong in our world. Threats abound – terrorism, environmental disasters, epidemics, wars, and more. We can live in fear if we choose. A lot of things can rock our world.

An old hymn comes to mind – “This is My Father’s World.” The last verse seems particularly appropriate: “This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world, the battle is not done. Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.”

In 1 John 4:18, we find this encouragement: “Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear.”

What love? When the Bible defines love, it is profoundly simple: “God is love” (1 John 4:8)

I love the old saying: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.”

You’re not the one I wanted

From Max Lucado’s You’ll Get Through This:

“Once, just minutes before I officiated at a wedding, the groom leaned over to me and said, ‘You weren’t my first choice.’ Lucado responded, ‘I wasn’t?’ Here’s the rest of the conversation:

‘No, the preacher I wanted couldn’t make it. But thanks for filling in.’

‘Sure. Anytime.’”

Lucado said he considered signing the wedding license: “Substitute.”

Have you ever felt that way? Ever been someone’s second, third, or worse choice? Really builds your self-image, right? Who wants to be ‘settled for’ or not wanted at all? It reminds of the political candidate who asked a potential voter if he had made up his mind. The man said he was down to two choices – the politician’s main rival and another guy. The politician was a little miffed, “Well, who’s the other guy?” The voter replied, “Anybody else.”

If you have ever stood waiting and waiting to be chosen in a pick-up game or wondered why the gang went to lunch without asking you, you know the feeling. If you have ever had your heart broken by someone you cherished, you know the pain. “You’re not the one I wanted.”

There are times when we may feel that way about God. We may feel picked on or ignored. We may feel we don’t deserve His love or attention. We may feel unworthy.

You know what? I am unworthy. I don’t deserve His attention or favor. I have done nothing to earn anything from God. I might even think God could say to me, “You’re not the one I wanted.”

I would be wrong.

Lucado wrote: “You’ll never hear such words from God. He chose you. The choice wasn’t obligatory, required, compulsory, forced, or compelled. He selected you because He wanted to. You are His open, willful, voluntary choice. He walked onto the auction block where you stood, and He proclaimed, ‘This child is mine.’”

And He bought you with the precious blood of His Son. I cannot make Him love me more or less than He already does. I am, you are, the one He wanted.

He wants you on His team. He wants you to sit at the table with Him. He wants you to be His forever.

Perhaps this week, we need to be reminded how precious we are to Him. When you’re going through a tough time or having a bad day, remember Who loves you. You are the one He wanted.