Friday, April 1, 2011

Re-Re-Re-Redemption... That's How Jesus Rolls

I haven't been feeling well lately.  So, in my PJ's on the sofa, going stir crazy, I discovered the mind-numbing entertainment of television -- specifically, Stories of the ER, or some such dramatic nonsense.  In today's episode: even after numerous panicked trips to the ER (hence the name, I suppose) a pastor was having serious heart problems, for no apparent reason.  A member of his congregation approached him about doing a sleep study; long story short, the pastor's problems stemmed from sleep apnea.  The pastor credited his friend and congregant with "literally saving [his] life."

What tremendous gratitude this pastor and his wife must feel toward the other man.  Let's face it, this was huge -- a reprieve from certain, maybe even painful death, an escape from the clutches of mortal ends.  But now what?

Let's suppose next month the pastor is diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  Will his redeemer be able to offer another suggestion or service to save him from death?  Let's say he does.  Thirty years later, when the pastor is well into the end of his years, will that congregant be standing by to pull him from the fate that awaits all temporal beings?  Or maybe he could just stick around to make sure the pastor doesn't break a hip, or catch a cold.  Nope.  Let's face it.  The redemption is done, the deed is over.  For as much as we can do for one another, we can never accomplish what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  Nor, can we offer anyone the daily, hourly, moment-by-moment salvation that is part of a personal relationship with Jesus.  Knowing Jesus not only saves me from eternal death and separation, but if I am following Jesus, obeying Him, seeking to glorify Him -- well, perhaps I will never know exactly what I have been saved from, be it physical or moral, emotional or financial.  But I do know that, like no other, He is with me with every beat of my heart.

April 1

I don't want to be that girl that rubs it in when others are having a tough go of it, but...

A couple of years ago, we had over twenty inches of snow.  Where were Steven, Christine and I?  Standing on the sunny, seventy degree sidewalks of Fort Worth, TX!

So now, here it is, April and it is snowing in Delaware County, PA.  Where am I?  Oklahoma City -- where the high today is supposed to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 82!  Oh, and it's sunny!

I can dream, can't I?


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chasing Down Some Answers

I'm having an issue with Eli and Samuel.  I've heard this account since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.  However, for as long as I remember, I have been taught that when Samuel responded to the final summons, that which Eli had advised was the voice of Yaweh, he responded "exactly as Eli had instructed."  Read it:

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Exactly?  I don't think so.  Even commentaries state his response was verbatim.  I don't read that.  Semantics?  Maybe.  But is it possible there was more?

Scholars believe Samuel was about twelve at the time.  Now, obviously Samuel was not your typical twelve-year-old boy, but think about it.  Still a boy, but facing the impending demands of manhood; raised with the discipline and reverence of the priesthood, keenly aware of his responsibilities and the consequences of immaturity, but a youth, still visited and doted upon annually by his mother.  So I have to ask...

1.  Was it fear?  I've seen a lot more than Samuel had at that age, and I don't think I could keep my knees from knocking if I heard God's voice in the middle of the night.  Did Samuel not address God by name in hopes that maybe it was just his imagination?

2.  Had even a young boy, but one so highly favored, seen the chinks in Eli's armor? doubted Eli's insight? questioned the validity of Eli's faith?  We are told Samuel "did not yet know the Lord."  Was this all Samuel's immaturity, or due in part to observing Eli's waffling testimony.


3.  Was Samuel so assured it was Yaweh at that point, so overcome by the power and presence that is The One True God, that he had not the courage to address I AM by name?  Ancient Jewish law teaches the name of God is forbidden to be spoken by any other than the High Priest, and only on Yom Kippur; when translating sacred texts, before writing the name of God, scribes would take a bath, put on fresh clothes and make a new pen each time.  Was Samuel observing such a reverence?

4.  Could it be Samuel had been so absorbed by the familiarity of the very One who created and called him, now audibly speaking to him, he felt not the need to address Him by name?  My children know my voice on the phone or from another room.  I don't have to identify myself, nor do they call me by name when they answer.

Silly as it seems, I've prayed about this.  Not in a doubting-the-authenticity-of Scripture kind of way.  Nor am I making some sort of criticism of anything I've been taught or those that have taught me.  But it is our responsibility to read Scripture for ourselves, and prayerfully seek answers to these questions.  Is there a message in there for me?  Or is it a simple translation issue?  Looks like I will be launching a few emails to respected sources today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Call Me Anything You Like, but Don't Call Me Unloved

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
(Ruth 1:20,21)

Are you serious?  Mara?  Who does that?  Who goes around changing their name because they’ve hit a rough patch?  Who wants to be identified as bitter -- defined by events that you can’t control; defined by circumstances rather than character?  Just a little melodramatic, don’t you think?

Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh, after all, the woman lost her husband and her sons, but these sons were married – really no longer “hers.”  So what of Ruth and the other daugher-in-law?  How should they have felt?  Young, in love, looking forward to years of happiness, lots of children -- GAME OVER!  But Ruth sticks around and listens to that?  And did Naomi appreciate it?  “The Lord has turned against me”  I can just imagine Ruth (well, if I was Ruth, anyway) – “Well, thanks a lot!  I can hear you, you know?  I mean, it’s not like I lost my husband, or anything!"  But maybe not...

Christine's grandfather died only a month or so after her dad and I had separated.  My mother-in-law was devestated on both accounts; I wanted to do whatever I could to help.  I helped her pay her bills, fill out reems of paperwork for assistance and low-cost medicines, did her grocery shopping and took her to her appointments; I saw her several times a week.  If God rewards me based on how many times I heard "Why?" or "I just can't believe this," I will be more bedazzled than Liberace! 

I don't mean to brag, except in Jesus.  He gave me the love I had for my in-laws, even when others might think them unloveable.  He gave me the strength and the desire to "put up with that" even when others might cut and run.  He put the love in my heart and He gave me the oppurtunity to serve my mother-in-law as a vessel of Himself, to show her, through me, what His love looks like.  And True Love defies earthly explanation.  Just look at what Ruth did for a bitter, self-absorbed yente like Mara.  Just look at what Jesus did for us.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Secret of Success

Them that honor me I will honor. (I Samuel 2:30)

If I do not honor God, He will not honor me -- I get it.  But try this one on for size:

If I seek to honor others, God will not honor me.

When life is uncertain, or I become fearful of new undertakings, I turn to Jesus.  But what about when I'm on the other side of it?  When things begin to really take off?  Do I trust in Whom my victory lies, or do I claim it for myself, seeking out bigger and better success, feeding a voracious ego?  Does the approval of mankind eclipse my goal to glorify and honor God?  You cannot give Him all that you are, then take it back, and expect real blessing.  God is great, The Giver of good gifts, but He's not a doormat; He is righteous and just, and there's no fooling Him.  You can't say, "I'll trust Him with this until..."  He knows what's in our hearts; He knows when we relinquish some things and not others.  He'll allow you the fleeting accolades, the errant advice, the myopic perspective and the self-centered counsel of mankind.  But when we walk with Him and seek to glorify His name, He ensures success; we are partners and heirs, entitled to receive the limitless power, the faultless discretion, the perfect plan and direction of God Almighty!