Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter: I Want to See Jesus

I have a love/hate relationship with Bible based movies. I love that they help us picture the holy land and people and events of the Bible better. But I hate it when they mess with the stories in order to make them more “dramatic;” adding, deleting, or rewriting things to suit themselves. You have to laugh at The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and his steamy Hollywood scenes with Anne Baxter. His portrayal of Moses as a buff eighty year old rescuing the Israelites from slavery is a little farfetched.

However, very good things have come about through the biblical movies over the years. Like many of you, Kelly and I have been watching The Bible on television, leading up to the final installment on Easter tomorrow. He says I’m no fun to watch with, because I point out every detail that’s not correct. I’m trying to contain myself, really I am, but it’s just that the truth is so much better than some of the stuff they come up with.

I have to say, however, that so far I like this portrayal of Jesus better than any other I’ve seen. I feel like he captures the essence of Jesus’ character most completely. In Jesus of Nazareth, they did a fabulous job presenting the people’s reactions to Him, and what it must have been like to see Jesus in person. But Jesus himself looked wimpy and depressingly holy.

The Passion did a great job depicting the suffering Jesus endured in gory and graphic detail, but that Jesus also seemed distant and unreachable. Not what I picture when I read scripture.

Bruce Marchiano’s depiction of Jesus as a man of joy in the book of Matthew of the Visual Bible, is wonderful. He is winsome, happy, and tender. But is a little kissy and seems a little boyish to me.

So far, the Jesus in this newest movie comes across as strong, joyful, compassionate, and yet zealous for God’s will to be done. He reaches out to the desperate and needy, breaking down social and physical barriers and building connections between God and people. He doesn’t pander to those in power – spiritual or political. Yet, there are still details that will not be quite right.

I know I’m not the only one picking apart every new movie that comes out. Why then do we want them to keep trying to flesh this out for us? Because like so many who flocked to Him during His three years of earthly ministry, we want to see this Jesus. We want to look into His eyes and feel His love for us. We want to know Him in every intimate detail. And even if it’s not exactly right in every detail, we hold in our hearts every morsel that helps us know Him better.

The more I read the Bible, the more I feel like I can see Jesus with the eyes of my heart. I don’t know the color of His hair and eyes, or the smell of His skin, yet I know the sound of His voice when He speaks to me. I don’t know the feel of His touch on my skin, but I know the pull of His spirit when He directs me.

I pray that this Easter and every day after, that you will get a better and better picture of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. His story is true and because He lives we have reason to celebrate. Happy Easter everyone! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Easter: Does Worship Embarrass You?

There’s been a rash of worship going on at our church lately, and I for one am loving it. It inspires me. One man occasionally makes a lap around the pews as we sing; he just can’t stand still in his love for God. Another woman sways with raised hands, sometimes kneeling in place, lost in exultant praise. There’s an occasional “Woo!” here and there in the congregation and shouts of “Yes!” or “Go God!”

Not long ago I caught a smirk on his face as a man turned away from one such worshiper. I could easily picture him at a football game with his buddies, whooping and hollering for their team. Why is it that it’s perfectly normal in our society for someone to paint their body blue, wear outrageous outfits, or wave a giant finger to show team spirit, yet be embarrassed by the moving of the Spirit of the Lord?

I thought about King David’s wife Michal. She despised him for joining with the commoners in praising God as they brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city. But his response was, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Samuel 6:22). He didn’t care what anybody thought of him, his worship was for God alone.

I know I’ve been guilty of letting the world dictate to me what is and is not “politically correct” to get excited about. But why be self-conscious in my exuberance for what I know in my heart to be true and eternal? And why would I ever get embarrassed in front of other believers? Yet I have.

Years ago, my husband came home at a time I wasn’t expecting him. Praise music swelled through the house. In the middle of my cleaning spree I’d gotten so blessed that I simply lay on the floor with arms open wide to revel in the moment. That’s where my husband found me, with joyful tears streaming down my face. And it embarrassed me. The spell was broken and I quickly got up, wiped the tears from my eyes, and mumbled about getting carried away with an apologetic smile.

Another time in church I was lost in reverie - eyes closed, hands raised, when my daughter tugged at my sleeve. “What are you doing, Mommy? Why are you raising your hands?” I whispered that I was praising God and rather than introduce her to this joyous rapture, I let it squelch my praise.

photo by Selaphotography
By myself I’m uninhibited – shouting, dancing, singing, kneeling, occasionally on my face before God. Over the years I’ve become more open at expressing praise at church too, and braver about mentioning God in public. Especially this week as we approach our biggest Christian holiday.

I don’t want the world to water down this holiday with baby chicks, lambs, bunnies, spring flowers and new clothes. As much as I love all that. Jesus is the reason for the glory of this season. The empty tomb is why we celebrate new life. And our worship of Christ is not embarrassing, but a natural outflow of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice. Death has been conquered – Halleluia!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes… I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death…So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me…If anyone is ashamed of [Jesus] and [His] words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Romans 1:16; Philippians 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:8; Mark 8:38).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Easter: Meeting Our Deepest Need

I heard on the news the other day about Calvin McCraw, a homeless man in Oklahoma City, who will let people vent to him for fifty cents a minute (http://www.wbtv.com/story/21442174/homeless-man...). What an entrepreneur! They say the first rule of success is to look for a need that’s not being met and find a way to satisfy it. Calvin apparently noticed that friends who will listen without interrupting, tuning you out, or giving advice is a need that’s not being met in today’s world. So he’s filling the gap and making a profit.

Of course, what feels like a need isn’t always best for us. The other night I felt like I needed some homemade chocolate pudding with a vanilla wafer, dollop of peanut butter, and piece of dark chocolate melted into each bowl. I was tired at the end of a long day and struggling with unrelenting pain. The first bowl tasted so good, I felt I needed another.

However, once the taste wore off I felt worse than ever – overstuffed and disgusted with myself for going overboard. It wasn’t satisfying because chocolate wasn’t my deepest need. Do you do the same thing? Trying to meet your need with all kinds of things, but still feeling empty inside?

Easter is all about God’s answer to our deepest need. When Jesus came to earth, people thought they needed a king, a political hero to rescue them from the domination of the Romans, a miracle man, but He refused to give them what they thought they wanted. Jesus knew none of those things would satisfy. What they needed was a perfect lamb to provide forgiveness for their sins, once and for all.

After Jesus’ death, a couple of His followers met up with Him on the road to Emmaus, but didn’t recognize Him in His risen form. He asked what they were talking about and they revealed their disappointment and confusion about Jesus. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21). That’s when He filled them in, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (verse 27).

They had thought Jesus was what they needed, until things didn’t go their way. I find myself doing the same thing. So often I seek comfort and ease and happiness, but those are not my greatest needs. Jesus knows we most need an eternal relationship with Him. Time after time, He meets me on the road of life and explains it to me more fully - using His Word, people, even song lyrics, and situations – to help me recognize Him again as my Savior.

Have you had your own Emmaus Road experience? Have you recognized Jesus as your Savior? He is the answer to our greatest need, on Easter and every day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jesus Man of JOY: Easter

I’m pretty pumped my buddy Trish invited me to do a Kay Warren Bible study with her called: Choose Joy…Because Happiness Isn’t Enough. It’s exactly what I needed right now. I tend to get mired down in my own “stuff” forgetting the JOY that can be mine as a Christian. It encouraged me that Kay has struggled with depression and discouragement like I do

I’ve done numerous word studies on JOY, bravely underlining each verse in my Bible, writing copious notes in the margins. Yet still, the trouble persists. I’ve wondered why. Now, I finally feel like I’m starting to get some answers.

In our first lesson, Kay reminded us that Jesus was a man of JOY. JOY was the essence of His being – His nature. His role as the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world was one of pain and suffering, but that was not His character.

Perhaps at Easter, we focus too much on the sadness of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We repeatedly quote Isaiah’s prophecy that He would be, “Despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3-4, NKJV). All that is true, but it’s important to remember Jesus made that sacrifice because of JOY.

Last week, I watched the 2012 remake of the movie Steel Magnolias for the first time. One scene between the character M’Lynn, and her daughter Shelby, had a life-changing impact on me.

Shelby begins to break down at the thought of her mom sacrificing one of her kidneys in order to save her life, and begins to have second thoughts. But M’Lynn says, “You’re lookin at this all wrong. Most mothers only the get the chance to give their child life once. You’re givin me the opportunity to do it twice. I mean, I’m grateful I don’t have to just stand by helpless. It’s a blessin.”

I think that’s what Jesus would say. “Children, you’re looking at this all wrong. I gave you life once, but now because of my death on the cross, you have a second chance at life – eternal life. I didn’t have to stand by helplessly and watch you die in your sin. I had the power to do something about it.”

Jesus told Nicodemus in his nighttime visit that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3). “The Son of Man must be lifted up,He said, so “that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Jesus gladly gives us that chance.

That’s why it says, “For the JOY set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV, emphasis mine). Mission accomplished.

So this Easter, while I’m aware of the pain, misunderstanding, abandonment, and separation Jesus went through for our sake when He died on the cross, I’m concentrating more on His reason for going through with it. His motivation was to show us the extent of His love and He had the JOY of knowing that everyone who accepts His offer can also live a life of JOY.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Easter: While the Words are Still on Our Lips

My mom found me weeping and instantly guessed what was on my mind. It’s been the topic of many a prayer, conversation, and ache of my heart for some time. No matter what else I may be doing or who I'm with, this concern is never far from my thoughts.

I suspect many of you deal with something similar – a loved one, health problem, relationship, or circumstance that is constantly on your heart. Someone or something that needs the Lord’s touch; that you are passionate about. If so, it’s probably the frequent topic of conversation between you and others, you and the Lord, or the constant patter in your head.

This is what I thought of the other day when I read Luke 24:36: “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” In this context, the disciples were talking with two of Jesus’ followers who had just had an encounter with the risen Lord. They didn’t recognize Him as they walked together on the road to Emmaus until He ate with them. The eleven disciples were grappling with this possibility, in fact, right in the middle of talking about “this” when Jesus showed up.

What a comfort it is to realize He still does the same thing for us. Right in the middle of voicing our heartaches, passions, our questions – our “this” – Jesus shows up to reassure us and give us peace. Our “this” may still be unresolved. Things may not be moving forward like we think they should. It might even look like there’s no hope left. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection didn’t answer everything for these believers, but His appearance gave them what they needed to face the future, day by day.

While the words are still on our lips, as we mull over current events and personal tragedies, Jesus’ words still speak to our deepest need. He says, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see.” As a twenty-first century disciple of Jesus, I found four personal messages for my “this.”

·         Let go of your anxiety and doubts; I’m here
·         Look at what I’ve done for you; the work is finished
·         I have come in person to show you my love
·         Touch me, see me; experience and know me in your heart

My “this” is still unresolved, and the subject of constant prayer, but because Jesus has shown himself to me, my risen Savior, I can have peace. And you can too.

God says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).