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Sunday, April 27, 2014

To Whom Shall We Go?

I've been having a tough time lately. One of those tooth-pulling, gotta force myself to do what I know is good for me type deals. I've been able to trace the root of the problem, which is good, because that's half the battle. Now I've got to just stay the course, make good small decisions on a daily basis, which past experience suggests will lead to good large decisions if I remain focused on my faith walk.

The discomfort began when I learned of upsetting happenings in the lives of several other Christians. I'm not just talking prayer being needed for a second cousin who's having a tooth extracted. The events related to me involved major backsliding and outright denial of the faith on the part of lifelong believers. Because the news came as a clump, it was hard to digest, just as it's galling to swallow a whole plate of a distasteful vegetable. It's much easier to choke down a nasty food if we limit the portion size and mix it with something more palatable; all at once is asking for trouble. But when what's served up is not to our liking and in abundance, we have to find some way to stomach it. 

True to form, I chose to resort to my old faithfuls: entertainment and food. They've never let me down (except for the fact that they mess with my physical, mental, emotional and - oh, yeah - spiritual health). They've been rock solid and trustworthy for me. I always know when I spend quality time with M&M's that I'm gonna feel good for a short while (never mind that I'll have to shoehorn myself into my clothes for the next week). It's a sure bet the perils of Star Trek Voyager's crew will numb my mind for a few hours (but that won't help me deal with a crisis that explodes without warning in my own life).

The good news is, these periods of oblivion are getting shorter. I'm learning to turn to the One from whom I'm turning, so these "vacations" from God are of briefer duration. I realized quickly that my earthly gods were only sinking me further faster, so I began rallying sooner. I felt a little better yesterday when I put in some decent time with the Almighty, and today I feel better still. Lord knows it's not all about feelings, but for us sense-bound creatures, in many ways it is. We are what we are, which is dust,  and our perceptions shape so much of how that dust operates.

Do I hear someone whispering that I'm hiding my head in the sand? Not getting any real answers? Just sticking it out with a God who isn't strong enough to keep His own followers from defecting? It's a fair question and deserves a thoughtful answer. I'm not bowing down to a caricature or cartoon character with the substance of onion skin.The God I serve has been tried and found worthy by the likes of Mother Teresa, Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King. I am proud and at the same time humbled to sit in their company, while engaging daily in the tasks my King sets before me. 

I can't be responsible for what others who wear His Name choose to do. The best I can offer - and all He asks for - is obedience, to the best of my flawed ability. 

For more like this, check out: Reflections by Thea: Awake!

Reflections by Thea: Complete the Work!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen, Indeed!

Our pastor, Jerry Iamurri, of Bethany Evangelical Presbyterian Church, knocked one out of the park again today. He described how Psalm 22, particularly the following verses (14-17), vividly describes the process of crucifixion, hundreds of years before this form of execution was being practiced:
I am poured out like water,
And all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It has melted within Me.
 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.
 For dogs have surrounded Me;
The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
 I can count all My bones.

How could the psalmist paint such a vivid picture of this horrible form of torture, which didn't even exist yet, if he weren't being guided by a divine hand?

Our pastor went on to say that the huge rock that sealed Jesus' tomb was rolled away, not so that Christ could emerge, but so that His followers could enter!There would have been no need for Him to have an "exit plan," as Scripture is clear that He could walk through walls and appear and reappear in His resurrected physical body:

"Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

Note how the resurrected Savior just bypassed the closed doors to make His unconventional entrance! And in the following passage, note how He appears out of thin air and departs the same way:

"Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, 'What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?' Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, 'Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days? And He said to them, 'What things?'

"So they said to Him, 'The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.'  Then He said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?' And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

"Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, 'Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.' And He went in to stay with them.

"Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight." (Luke 24:13-31)

Pastor Jerry also made the point that we don't have to worry about accomplishing all the goals on our "bucket lists" because what awaits us in heaven is far superior to anything we could experience on earth. Jerry stated that since Christ ate, walked and conversed with His disciples in His resurrected body, we can assume we will do those things in heaven as well. We can forego our bucket lists and even our rights because "no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11). Furthermore, Jerry stated that He has "paid off all our bills" in the sense that He took the punishment we deserved; it really is finished! When God applies Christ's righteousness to our account, our sin is paid for completely - just like if a millionaire paid off our credit card debt, wiping our slate clean.

Check out "Do It Anyway" 
(attributed to Mother Teresa)