Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Wedding

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I am a bit of a Disney Fanatic.  They also know that my favorite Disney movie is Cinderella.  The classic and beautiful story of the common girl who became a princess.  Today, a real life Cinderella story of sorts took place.  The wedding of Prince William, future king of England to the commoner, Kate Middleton captivated most of the world today.  It was a beautiful ceremony, and the love story most little girls dream about all their lives, the opportunity to become a real live princess.

It reminded me of another wedding that will happen one day when Christ will return for His Bride, the Church.  We are the Bride, not simply of the future king of an earthly nation, but the Bride of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who is over all the nations.  We will not be greeted by mere church bells, but by the singing of angels.  Today was a glorious day indeed for the British people.  That day will be glorious for all of us who are ready and waiting for the Lord's coming in glory.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Count the Cost

In the early church, faith in Christ came at a cost. The earliest Christians often lost family and friends because they gave up their religion. They may have even lost property and businesses because of persecutions at various times. Many were imprisoned and tortured for their faith. Many died as martyrs. After Constantine issued the “Edict of Milan” much of that changed. The threat of persecution ended and being a Christian no longer involved the threat of martyrdom. It was around this same time that the rise of a new movement in the Christian life began to emerge. That new movement would come to be known as Monasticism.

The father of this movement, an Egyptian named Anthony, died in 356. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote down Anthony’s story a year later. According to Athanasius, it was the Gospel account of Jesus telling the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor that compelled Anthony. He applied this statement directly to himself, gave up all his possessions, and went to the dessert to pursue a life wholly focused on God.

Monasticism has changed and developed over the centuries since Anthony was first compelled to go into the dessert. Monastics have found ways to separate themselves from the world in order to pursue holiness both individually, as anchorites, and in communities, like those who follow the rules of St. Basil or St. Benedict. Clearly, not everyone is called to the monastic life of course. However, as Ivan Kauffman states so beautifully in his book Follow Me, “The monks demonstrated, as the martyrs before them had, that Christian faith makes it possible for ordinary people to live in an entirely new way, but they did so in a new way – by their lives rather than their deaths.” Maybe this is what it means to daily take up our crosses and follow Him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

For Christians, Good Friday is a day of remembrance and reflection.  It is the day we look to the cross and the blood that was shed by the one who knew no sin so that we could be redeemed.  The events of this day allow us a personal relationship with God and teach us to love others with the love of Christ, by being willing to lay down our own lives for them.  I can not understand then why one Florida pastor wants to use it as a day of hate and protest.  In the Fox news article from this morning the same may whose act of burning a Koran sparked riots and even led to the death of Americans, is planning a protest for today outside of a Mosque in Detroit, MI.

The thought that anyone who claims Jesus as Savior could take this day to propose such an event is inconceivable.  Jesus said he did not come to condemn, but to give life.  He did not protest when they came to take Him away, but went willingly and peacefully to the cross.  Today, of all days on the Christian calendar, should be the day when we seek to spread Christ's peace, and love to a lost and dying world.  I hope that each of us will find a way to share with someone what is "Good" about today, the broken body and the shed blood of our Lord.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Already, but Not Yet

We live in an instant society.  We can have food cooked in minutes, have messages sent, received, and responded too in less than an hour, post writing and video with the click of a mouse for the whole world to see, and even send pictures instantly to friends and family no matter where they are through the touch of a button on our cell phones.  It isn't any wonder why the attention span of most of us is very short and why we grow impatient waiting for more than a couple of minutes for anything.  The concept of, "All things come to those who wait," seems ridiculous.  "Good things take time," is almost laughable in our society.  I think we have forgotten the joy and excitement of anticipation, of looking forward to something wonderful that we know is ready and waiting for us.

As a Christian, when I reflect on the story of that first Easter Sunday, I can't help but think about Mary as the story unfolds in the 20th chapter of John's gospel.  Undoubtedly she was weeping and heartbroken over the events of the days before, as she approached the tomb with Peter and John by her side. Finding it open and empty, the two disciples who had been so close to Jesus in his ministry gave up, abandoning her to return to their homes.  There Mary stood, abandoned, hurting, confused.  She had experienced what it was like to walk with Jesus.  She'd watched Him heal people with a word or a touch. When she turned and sought comfort from the gardener, a total stranger, she once again knew what it was like for pain to disappear with a single word.  "Mary," he said, and there was instant recognition, instant healing, and an instant response.  Then Jesus asked her to wait.  "Stop clinging to me," he said, then he instructed her, "go, tell my brothers."  Jesus was already there, in the flesh, before her eyes, but she could not yet celebrate the way she longed to.

So it is with the church.  The Kingdom of God is already here in our midst.  Jesus has made it possible for us to be a part of God's family and of God's perfect plan.  We celebrate it the best we know how and proclaim it from the nations, but we can not yet celebrate the way we long to, around His glorious throne.

What about in your individual lives?  Is there something that you can already see, and touch in your life, that you are waiting for?  Maybe you are expecting a baby or a grandchild and looking forward to the day you can finally hold him or her in your arms.  Maybe it's an opportunity that you can not tell anyone about yet, but you are certain it is there and you are waiting for the moment you can fully enjoy and celebrate.  I don't know what it is that you are looking forward to in your life, but I hope and pray that you learn to enjoy the anticipation as much as you enjoy the celebration.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What Will You Give?

Growing up in a rural Southern Baptist Church, I was never really exposed to the season of Lent.  I thought that it was something that Catholics and maybe Episcopals did and Protestants didn't do.  Now that I have been privileged  to attend Divinity School for several semesters where I have had a great deal of opportunity to study the history of many Christian traditions, I have a growing appreciation for the seasons of the church calendar, including the 40 days leading up to Easter known as the season of Lent.

When I came across this news story about a boy who really takes seriously this special time of year that Christians set aside to remember Christ's sacrifice, I could not help but be moved by it.  This teenager in Missouri gave up speaking for 40 days.  According to the article some of his friends didn't understand why he was doing this, and some even walked away, but that didn't matter to this young man.  He plans for his first words on Easter Sunday to be words of thanksgiving to God for the gift of His Son.

What about the rest of us?  What small sacrifice are we willing to give to show our thankfulness to God for His unspeakable gift?  Are you willing to possibly loose friends in the process?  Many in the early church gave everything, even their lives to follow Christ.  Every year they fasted for 40 days prior to Easter, ending in a celebration of the Resurrection.  I hope to challenge everyone who reads this, including myself, to find ways to give up something for the Glory of the One who gave us everything.

So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:29-31

Friday, April 8, 2011

Forever Families

International adoption is a subject that is very close to my heart.  My best friend works for an agency that helps children find their "forever families" and one day my husband and I hope to provide that permanent family to a child who is left without one.  So when I read about countries that work to slow down the process, forcing these children who have already been through so much to stay in orphanages longer, rather than getting them home more quickly, it saddens me.

Ethiopia has, up until recently, been a place where children had the opportunity to get to their new homes quickly.  As many as fifty cases were reviewed a day, allowing the adoption process to move smoothly and relatively quickly.  Recently however, they limited their case load to five cases a day.  This will potentially cut the number of adoptions up to 90%. That means children and parents are going to be forced to wait to be united.  Who can possibly benefit from such a delay, the children, the parents, the caregivers in the orphanage who are probably already overrun with children to care for?

Isn't it good to know that our Heavenly Father doesn't delay in hearing our case.  When we come to Him we don't have to wait for a government agency or any other third party to grant us permission to cry out, "Abba, Father."  Ephesians 1:4-6 says that he chose us "before the foundation of the world" and predestined us to adoption as His children, for His glory.  I pray, every day, for children around the world who are without a family to be allowed to join their "forever families," but more than that, I pray every day that those who are not part of God's Forever Family will come to Him in Faith and find in Him their "Abba."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Attention to Detail

Yesterday was the first day of games for our church's Upward Soccer league 2011 season.  As league directors we are responsible for making sure that games start on time, players and their families know which field to play on and which color jersey to wear, every game has a referee, concessions run smoothly, half-time devotions are covered, and that 150 children, their families, and coaches leave with smiling faces.  We don't do all these things alone, there is a great deal of help available to us, but ultimately it is our responsibility if a detail is overlooked.  After spending a great deal of time yesterday attempting to make sure all our bases were covered the best we possibly could, we left the field a little after three.  We were not the last to leave, and believed that the couple of people who were left would cover the last few clean up details.  We drove back by the church a couple hours later to discover we were very wrong.  No one had taken the two bags of trash to the dumpster and the wind had scattered it all across the soccer field!  Trash was everywhere, littering the field and the wooded area surrounding it.  The garbage we thought was taken care of had come back to haunt us.

How many times does this happen in our own lives?  We think we have something contained and it comes back even more fiercely than before.  Maybe it's unforgiveness or bitterness about something that we think we have locked away.  Maybe it's some bad habit that we think we have kicked and it comes back when we find ourselves in a stressful situation.  Whatever it is in our life that we believe we have under control may be just a good strong wind away from wreaking havoc all over again.  There is One who is able to help us overcome the garbage in our lives.  He will be our strength in time of weakness and stress, He is the one who is able to calm the winds in our lives or to help us find a place of peace and rest so that we can withstand the storms.  He is the Lord Jesus, who died and rose again so that He could remove all our garbage and replace it with "abundant life."

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB)

Friday, April 1, 2011

No Fear in Love

My family got our first family pet last week.  My four year old daughter has been wanting a four-legged creature pretty much since the day she could talk, and for her birthday we finally broke down and adopted a dog.  She is very sweet, completely house trained, but extremely shy and timid, especially around the kids.  Even though she runs almost every time they try to pet her, all three kids, especially my youngest, love her to pieces.  Yesterday, the dog must have finally had enough, because the moment she saw an opportunity, she ran.  After backing out of her collar when my husband was trying to get her to come in after her walk, we spent over an hour tracking down and then trying to catch the terrified and freezing  pup.  She has no idea how to be loved, and we are quite inexperienced in how to love an animal, but we are doing our best to show her that we love her very much.

Unlike our love, our Heavenly Father loves us with a perfect love, and yet we sometimes run from Him in fear.  Adam and Eve were afraid, so they hid from God.  Jonah tried to run from God and found himself in the belly of a fish. I would guess that nearly everyone has run from Him at some time in our lives because we fear punishment for something we've done or maybe because we fear the calling God has for our lives.  The only solution to running in fear is to simply trust His love.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 1 John 4:18