Name Calling With a Purpose

In my last post, Silence of Saturday, we found Mary Magdalene distressed and grieving with unseeing eyes at the Empty Tomb, and Jesus called her name! Jesus did some other name calling that I had not really considered until yesterday when Dr. Frank Page preached from this text in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verses 1-8 (NIV, emphasis mine):

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”  But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”  Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.     

Dr. Page’s focus was on “leaving too soon”. Peter certainly missed out and left Jesus too soon when he denied Him that terrible evening in the courtyard of the high priest after he had denied Christ three times, just as Jesus predicted Peter would (Mark 14). Embarrassed, terrified, grief-stricken, Peter is out of the scene. My guess: at that moment when that cock crowed, Peter, burly, loud, braggart Peter, understood finally what sin really is. I also guess Peter sulked off into the night, not to lick his wounds, but to consider what he had done and what he (thought he) had lost.

At the empty tomb that Resurrection morning, Mary Magdalene was given a specific task by the angel at the tomb, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter” – Jesus knew Peter would have disassociated himself in his disobedience and denial. Jesus wanted to make sure that Peter knew he was still important to Jesus, that there was work still for Peter to do, and that Jesus expected Peter in Galilee with the disciples who remained.  Jesus called Peter’s name.

When Christ called Peter’s name, He was saying to Peter to stay with Him. As Dr. Page shared, if we stay with Him, our destiny can be rerouted for Jesus has a job for us to do, too. Our destiny can change just like Peter’s did (remember that Peter was the “rock” upon which Jesus built His church!). Even if we, too, leave Him too soon, we can come back and be changed in Him!

Do you know Jesus? He is calling your name! Have you left Jesus? Come back. He is calling your name!

 
Note: Dr. Frank S. Page is president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and Transitional Pastor of First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi.
 

Universal Offer

Your Grace Still Amazes Me

Easter is coming. Celebrated this year on the last Sunday in March, Christians around the world gather to praise and acknowledge our Risen Lord. Or do we? Are we a part of the CEO group (Christmas Easter Only) who literally choose those two holidays to show up at church? Or, in my book, worse, are we part of the group who shows up pretty much every Sunday but showing up is all we do?

Dr. Page has led us in an intensive study of Titus over the past several weeks. I confess, until now I have skimmed Titus but not much else. I had missed a significant point (in addition to the one that the books of the Bible are not there by chance). Add to that, in our Precepts study of Amos, Titus came up as reinforcing scripture! I must pay closer attention!

Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

Embedded in these two short verses are some really significant points. First, salvation is available to all men through God’s grace. It is God’s universal offer to us – to all of us! It is our choice to accept that offer or not. But it is a choice that God makes available to every person.  When we make the choice, we have other things we have to do – we are to deny the ways of the world and live in ways that honor God.

I believe in the precept of “once saved always saved”, but that does not free me to join again in the ways of the world. Everything around us has become so gray and we are so easily drawn into acceptance of those things which are disobedient to Him. We need to call on His grace daily to deny the things of the world and live today as God expects.

Long ago I realized that the only time someone may see Jesus is when they look at me. Grace teaches us to say YES to living sensibly, righteously, and godly and NO to the ways of the world.

As we prepare for Easter this year, His Grace Still Amazes Me. Let it amaze you, too.

Protection

American Cemetery at Normandy

In our travels, we ventured several times to the UK.  The best trip was a combined land and cruise tour to the British Isles in 2000. We saw Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bath, Stonehenge, the White Cliffs of Dover, Waterford and Dublin Ireland, Wales, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland (we attended the annual Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle)  and, just across the English Channel, made our first trip to Normandy. There is so much history and I just soaked it up.

My Favorite Cow – Orkney, Scotland

I loved everything we did and was emotionally slammed by everything we experienced, Why? In part, the impact of history and what men did so I could live freely. If you walk away from the American Cemetery at Normandy and are unaffected, you need to stop at the nearest ER for a pulse check because you are probably dead. You cannot go any distance at all without being touched by something from either the first or second world wars. All that stuff about “The Greatest Generation” – I believe it. 

Beyond that, honestly, I believe it was some historical, innate attachment to family from way way back. I was so at home, so at peace, so easy.  It goes without saying that my “bucket list” includes trips back to Scotland and Ireland and very specifically a trip to Northern Ireland (never visited) where my Dad’s family actually came from.  

You cannot travel in the UK without passing pastures filled with cows and sheep. I am certain that when the term “pastoral” was coined as a description for a peaceful place, the hills and valleys of Scotland, particularly, were the example.  When I think of flocks and herds, I think of “stupid sheep” (see and earlier blog entry on that topic) and Psalm 23 comes alive for me.

North Sea – Orkney Islands, Scotland

 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Cows and sheep grazing in Scotland

Last week, someone used Psalm 23 to paint a word picture I had never considered. It was a really terrible day. This person is a new friend and has an amazing witness and just “happened to be there” when I reached my limit to cope with a situation. 

He asked me, “In Psalm 23, what does God do for us?” I had to walk myself through the Psalm (out loud) and it hit me: “He preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”  Right there in the middle of the battle, God is there and providing for us beyond anything or any way we can imagine. He set the best possible white table cloth dinner table for us right in the middle of the battle and we can stop there, rest, be nourished, fully within His protection. He surrounds us with comfort – that hedge of protection we so need while we are fragile. That hedge is far stronger than the hedgerows that separate the pastures in the UK but serves the same purpose for us in that it keeps us from wandering away.

Cille at looking down the cliff at the North Sea

Here we go with another week tomorrow. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I know He does. My cup is full and running over. My joy will not be stolen.

He is Emmanuel, God with us.  I believe.

More Grace

Peaceful Creation of God

I shared with two friends at work this week that life happens when you are waiting on something else.  For me in 2004, I was looking for patience. I found it in my journey with cancer. 

These two are not facing their first challenges in life. This week it is a sister dying from cancer for one and an unhappy gall bladder for the other. Yet those are just steps in their journey. One served our country as a United States Marine and has a son following in her footsteps. She raised her two boys pretty much on her own into fine young men; cared for her Mom in her last days and attempts to keep up with her globe-trotting Dad. The other lost her Mom to cancer as a young adult and with her grandmother raised her sister and took care of her Dad (who is now gone, too). Both are great people with great inner strength, great hearts, strong work ethics, and absolute faith. How fortunate I am to work with folks like that and to call them my friends.

Often this week I have reflected on II Corinthians 12:9 (KJV) – And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Paul nailed it – to openly acknowledge that he would glory in his weakness so that the power of Christ would rest in him.  His grace is enough for every situation of life. 


Sometimes we are afraid and we lose sight of His grace. Not His fault – we are tossed out of focus by life but He remains there. Micah 5:5 (KJV) prophesied it: “And He will be our peace.” Jesus reminded us over and over but the verse that most often comes to mind is John 14:1: “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.” His grace is enough. He leaves us surrounded by His love – His peace – His grace. 

Toward the end of that chapter, we find this verse (John 14:27 NIV): “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

My prayers go with my friends tonight and in the days ahead but I know they are in His hands and that His grace will be more than enough. He is Emmanuel. God with us. I believe.



Grace

The month since Christmas has been long in many ways. Primarily work is the cause but time generally seems to drag in January regardless. It seems like Carols was 7 months ago rather than 7 weeks ago ( and before I know it, we will be counting down 7 weeks UNTIL Carols 2012!).

Honestly, I dreaded January for many reasons. Things I knew would happen, happened – new Governor elected; changes happening at work that go with a change in Administration; Legislature is b-a-c-k!  More changes at church (yep – LLG is really a college professor now). Whooboy.

But – God – Sovereign God – always brings exactly what you need at exactly the right moment. And what I needed – wanted – was starving for – was worship. All year, in choir we have emphasized “It all begins with worship.”  And I have honestly spent time thinking about this, praying about this, looking for this, while being all wrapped up in the “stuff” of church.  

I need to be quick to say that I did worship during the weeks leading up to Carols and during Carols.  For the first time in years during Carols By Candlelight , I knew I was in lockstep with God. So what happened and in fact “happened” almost immediately after Carols ended? I think today I really figured it out – I let myself once again get wrapped up in the “stuff” of church.

Before we sang “I Will Rise” this morning (which is one of my favorite Easter songs) and after we sang “The Majesty and Glory” which is the best anthem of our generation (literally Psalm 8),  Lavon shared a story of his participation in a conference this past week with Francis Chan. Chan, the founder of Cornerstone Church in California, left that ministry to take his family to visit different parts of the world and to better understand the persecuted church.  He visited Thailand, India, China. While in China, he met with a group of pastors who told about times they individually were persecuted – shot at – chased – beaten. These guys then wanted to know what it was like to be a pastor in America – Chan’s response was that American Christians dealt with parking and temp in the building and worship styles and s.t.u.f.f. (Cille’s interpretation). One of the older pastors stood angrily, picked up his Bible, and asked: “How do you get that from this (God’s Word)?” Whoa. It you want to see the picture of “perspective” in the dictionary, I think that will do it.

Dr. Paige then preached from II Corinthians 12. Verse 9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” His grace – more than sufficient for those Chinese pastors (who despite persecution are leading many to Christ). Guess what?  His grace is sufficient – way more than sufficient – for the “stuff of church” and in fact for whatever life brings your way including change that you might not like, challenges you may not want, plans that might not be your idea.


His grace is enough. He is, after all, Emmanuel, God with us. I believe.