Sunday, April 20, 2014

He is Risen, as He said.

Today is the most important day in Christendom.

For those of us who believe, it is the day of proof.  The day when Jesus took His life back and rose from the dead.  A day so incredible, so amazing and truly, unbelievable, unless they had seen it for themselves, they all would have been like Thomas, and demanded physical proof.

His death had been so grisly!  He had been bled, as is necessary for the Passover Lamb, by a spear thrust deep into His side..  No blood remained in a body so beaten, so crushed, so destroyed by Roman scourging and pinned to the cross for all the world to see, like an insect.  How is it possible that that beaten bloodied corpse could once again hold life?

I often meditate on those involved - we have heard the story so many times, it loses it's ability to stun or shock us, when  it should actually shake us to the core.

This year, I find myself pondering Peter's perspective.

Peter is the "everyman" who blunders and blesses his way thru the gospels, saint and sinner and bumblingly  lovable - don't you just know he was a hugger?  Grabbing his brothers in big bear hugs and laughing loud and deep in his chest?

And trying so very hard to be good.

And failing so miserably.

His first impulse is always to go for it.  To walk on water - to actually do it! - and then sink (But hey! Remember he is the only one with enough courage to even try!)  And if washing his feet was good, Lord wash all of me!  And even if the others all betray You, I never will.  Never!  Even if I die with You!

I believe that,  in preparation for His betrayal and death, His Father showed Him the details - Judas and his kiss of death, Peter and his 3 times of denial - the last with cursing to verify his lie.

So when He tried to warn them all that they would deny Him and Peter proclaimed his loyalty, thinking himself above the others in strength and love - Jesus told him how utterly he would fail.  And Peter, left open-mouthed in disbelief, had no comeback to that.

And then it happened.

Peter was carrying a sword that night - no doubt seeing himself guarding Jesus and slaying one and all to protect Him.

And once again, failing.

Instead of striking a blow fast and true and everyone drawing back in horror of the strong man, the adrenaline surging thru him made the stroke flail instead, and chopped off the ear of the poor high priest's servant.

And, in front of everybody, Jesus tells him he's missed the whole point - again - and telling him that those who live by the sword die by the sword, as He healed the man's ear.

Then he follows - Luke tells us "from a distance" - and slips into the courtyard of the high priest, hoping to blend in.  He warms himself at the fire and the denials begin.  He blusters out the first one - and then the second one comes because a servant girl recognizes the Galilean accent - so to make the third one really establish his innocence, he adds curses to it.  As he is speaking, he looks up  - and Luke tells us that at that moment, Jesus turns around and looks at Peter.

How that look must have burned itself into his memory!

He really did love Jesus.  He really had intended to stick up for Him and protect Him and die with Him - and can't quite figure out how he ended up cursing instead.  And he remembers that Jesus told him this would happen - and it pierces through to the very core of Peter's heart  - Luke says "...and going out, he wept bitterly."

What was the difference between Peter and Judas?  Both publicly betrayed Him.  Both would have given anything to undo what they had done.

One despaired, one repented.  One heart was mercenary and operated on a far different level - when he messed up, he gave up.  One bumbled a bit, but he tried - and when he failed, he tried again. Of the two, I think Judas used Jesus for what he could get - money, the prestige of hanging with the prophet, and hopefully a position in His government when He took over.  It is after Judas is rebuked publicly  for chastising Mary for anointing Jesus for His death that the betrayal comes.  Jesus said He would die - and Judas figured His ruling the empire was pretty much a wash.

So, he got a last little bit of money, and betrayed Him.

Simple economics.

And then comes Easter morn.

The sky is just starting to brighten.

His disciples have been hiding out in the upper room, the last place they were all together before the crucifixion.  They are heartbroken and wary, not knowing if the high priest is going to come after them, too.  They are still in that stunned state of shock that comes when someone dies suddenly, wondering how this could have happened?  How?  And the question the evil one whispers in the ear of everyone whose heart was broken by senseless loss: "Where was God?"  They knew He was Who He said He was.  They knew it!  Deep down in their souls they believed.  He couldn't have lied.  He just couldn't have - not that Man.  Maybe someone else, but not Him.
Not Him.

And among them, Peter grieved.  They all knew he had denied Him.  Perhaps they were trying to console him, telling him to remember that Jesus had prayed for him, that Jesus wasn't surprised by what happened.  We all ran away, Peter.  It happened the way Jesus said it would.  You're no worse off than any of us.

And into this room full of stupefying grief and loss comes Mary Magdalene, weeping, crying out that someone stole His body, the tomb is empty, we went to prepare Him properly for burial and the stone was rolled away!

John and Peter looked at each other.

Then they both took off running.

In my mind's eye, I can see it: a new day just beginning.  The birds starting to chirp and move about.  The air cool against their skin, rustling in the trees in short bursts.  Hardly anyone else is stirring.  All they hear is the sound of their sandalled feet, hitting the cobblestone streets as they run, the air rushing around them as they sprint for the tomb.

John, the younger man, reaches the tomb first.  He looks in, but hangs back for Peter.

John sees the linen He was in, still wrapped up, but no body in them.  They lie empty, like a cocoon - not strewn around the room as they would have been if the body had been stolen.  They lie where His body rose up through them, leaving them behind!

The tomb wasn't open because someone stole Him.  The tomb was open so they could look in and See!

Peter arrives then, rushing into the tomb.  He stands there, sides heaving, brow scrunched up, trying to figure it out.

He looks at John.

John looks at him.

And slowly he begins to understand.

I can only imagine the joy that lights their eyes - and the rest of the women begin to clamor that two angels were there, telling them that He is risen, as He said!  And Mark adds, the angels said to tell the disciples "...and Peter" that He goes before them to Galilee.

"...and Peter..."

How tender is the One Who died for us!

Those two words must have pierced Peter with hope and joy.  How he must have said them, over and over to himself..

He was forgiven!

Jesus still accepted him!  He wasn't to be an outcast among those who followed Him - Jesus still included him, still wanted him to come to Galilee with the others.

And all the pieces start to fit.

All the prophecies, all the stuff Jesus kept trying to tell them.  That Messiah wasn't only an earthly King - he was the Passover Lamb.  They remembered John the Baptist - how he'd said "Behold the Lamb of God - Who takes away the sin of the whole world" - it fits, it all fits!

I cannot imagine, as much as I try, the joy that would come with the realization.  These were men who'd been taught the Torah from the moment of birth - their mothers whispering the she'ma over and over into their ears:: "Hear O Israel, the LORD God, He is One."

And they now knew He was the One - it was all true.


He had risen, as He said!

Let that drum into your heart!  Let it throb in your soul! Let the reality begin to sink in deep - as new and fresh as that first Easter morning:



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Late night meanderings...

It's after 3 o'clock in the morning and I am awake, battling low blood sugar and pain.


Two weeks out of the hospital with a bowel obstruction and still feeling weak and useless.  This was the first time I actually thought I might die from this illness.  I felt sicker than ever I can remember feeling before.  Calvin Miller said he could hear the hooves of the black horse clicking in the night, and I now know what he meant.  There comes a moment, perhaps several in a lifetime, when you feel you could reach out and tear the gossamer veil that stands between life and Life.

I am still trying to regain some of the energy I lost, but so far have not.  My headaches have upped a notch or two.  My muscles and joints have joined in to keep the headaches company. And in the midst of all of this useless feeling and physical pain, an amazing thing is happening.

God is answering my prayers to know His heart.

In tiny increments, to be sure, but there is an opening where before there was none.  It came on my 3rd night without any sleep - having blood drawn or meds given or blood tested so frequently that any dozing was immediately interrupted.  I couldn't stand any light, so I couldn't read or use the computer or tv or radio (isn't it amazing what hospitals offer at the bedsides these days??) So I lay in the dark, praying, and praising, and singing in my heart or in sign language or whispering into the darkness.

And I felt an overwhelming tenderness fill my heart for my King.

It brought tears to my eyes.

And that night, everything changed.

Physically, the pain went away, the blockage cleared, the next day I had a hoot of a nurse that brought cheerfulness with her competence and made my day actually enjoyable.  I was never so grateful in my life to be allowed to shower.  To simply brush my teeth.  To enjoy a serving of sugar free strawberry jello. A warm blanket.  Ice chips.

Bodily functions began kicking to life. My stuffy nose cleared and I was able to breathe freely.  No more throwing up or severe nausea.  The nurse got me an air bed instead of the cement slab the hospital bed felt like.

And both of my doctors arrived at the same time to let me go home!!!.

Hallelujah!!!  It was like He was stuffing as many blessings into my day as possible.  Two different friends came in to pray with me.  Then the hospital chaplain came in, annointed me with frankincense from Jerusalem (his bro lives there) and prayed over me with strength and compassion.

And added to all that, I opened the Word and learned a new truth.  Reading in Joshua, I read about the Captain of the Host of the LORD - and suddenly the verse where Jesus tells Pilate that even now He could ask His Father for legions of angels and He would be given them - of course He would - for Jesus is the Captain of the Host of the LORD!  I have been reading thru the entire Bible every year for forty years - and until that moment, I had never seen the connection.

And that is one of the many reasons I continually journey from Genesis to Revelation, cover to cover, once every year.

Because it's not just "a book".  The Bible is a Living Book.  And every year I see new truths and learn some fascinating things, and find amazing facets of personalities I never saw  before.  And oh, how it delights my spirit and fills some empty, aching spot with tender wholeness.

so now I am home, I have passed the crisis - but I still hear the clicking of hooves in the stable next to mine - the black horse of death remains in the neighborhood, never far from my consciousness.  There are still things I would like to accomplish - I would love to write a book of devotionals, acquire some expertise at watercolor, publish some poetry, write an allegory that has been rattling around in my brain for 40 years - to which I recently lost     the outline and opening  chapters that I had written.  I open my Bible and the sands of the Negev spill out.  The people in the Book, they are alive to me - their relationships, their cultures, their bravery and absolutely unbelievable levels of occasional idiocy comfort me - because in spite of them, they are loved.  I see the hills and fields of Israel, the animals and birds, the foliage, the river, the Dead Sea - to visit Israel is to fall in love.  The land calls to you ever after - And once you have been there, reading the Bible goes from black and white to living color.

For this one tiny nation is the spot in all the earth where God chose to put His Name, and to provide for His people.  And the way each country treats this speck of land will determine its future as either a rewarded sheep or a condemned goat.

It has been said that  "modern" man  seeks to live a life with no consequences.  He thinks by passing laws to make sure his sins are not preached about and no matter how foul and harmful the sin, he shouldn't be made to pay for it. His lifestyle is his choice.

In that, he is correct.  It is his choice.  One of his choices leads to hell, and if that is what he chooses, that is what he will receive.  And whether he will accept it or not, choices do have consequences.

That is truth.

And saying, "I don't believe that way" doesn't make it any less true, or negate the consequences of his actions any more than standing in front of a speeding locomotive and saying "I don't believe this is harmful"  will prevent the locomotive from running him down and crushing the life out of him.

So in this time of enforced resting before enough strength is recouped to actually be of use to someone,  I am cultivating a grateful heart for all things great and small, and trying to ensure that my actions will bring with them loving consequences, careful choices, and blessings to those around me, and that I may never become a burden to those I love.

I am counting on the sound of those hooves clicking nearby to remind me that time is short, too short to be murmured  over.  The difficulties each day carries in its back pocket are simply disguised gifts, chances to see Him part my personal Red Sea and scatter the stones of Jericho's walls once again.

And until that day comes, I am praying to keep my eyes open and attentive , looking to see the blessings He has liberally sprinkled through each minute with great tenderness, and worshiping Him in return from a heart filled with joy.