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.

Silence of Saturday

Holy Saturday

Throughout the day I have thought often of what it must have been like on that Silent Saturday. The final week of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion had been more than full. The stress experienced by His followers during His arrest, trial, scourging, and death is unimaginable and frankly, did not come close to what Our Lord experienced. And yet, Jesus knew, that after than silent Saturday, He would rise from the dead. But His followers, those who loved Him and were in His inner circle, did not understand it. Oh, they had been taught that, but like us, they thought and reasoned as man thinks and reasons and hear as men hear. Oh to hear with God’s ears.

I am often frustrated at the arguments of Biblical (and not so Biblical) scholars concerning things like how long was Jesus really in the tomb? How did the calendar work then versus now? All of that. The point is Jesus died. His followers, though most hid or denied Him during the worst hours of His earth life, were hurting. Grieving. Lost. Separated. They did not understand the stillness was the waiting for His Resurrection.

On that morning of the first day of the week when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found it  empty, she was past consolation. Bad enough Jesus had died a criminal death and now, in her mind, His body had been taken away.

Look at John 20:11-16. Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

In her sorrow she just did not see. She was overwhelmed by the silence and stillness of Saturday added to the horror of the days before. And then He called her name.

Jesus called her name. Jesus calls our name. Our response to Him matters. Jesus paid it all – everything we owe. But we have to respond to Him when He calls our name.

Sunday is coming. Listen. Jesus is calling.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

A friend shared this quote with me earlier this week:

‎”Public Notice: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil, plus the current state of the economy, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off. Have a nice day.” 
 I laughed out loud – yes, it has been that sort of year. And certainly has been that for the friend who shared the quite with me.  As my FB post, there were many “likes” and comments but one from a childhood friend got my attention. The comment: “How encouraging.”
I started thinking about her response. For Christians, that “light at the end of the tunnel” is the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-5: And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.   
Vance Havner, the great preacher of the 20th century (and a Southern Baptist to boot), told us once that there are five words to never forget: “For this I have Jesus”. Romans 5:5 paraphrased says: “and Jesus does not disappoint.” 
Frankly Jesus is the light at the end of the tunnel. The light is still on. Regardless of the budget, the economy, the politics of the day, the hurricane, that whatever, for these things, and everything else, truly, Jesus in our hope – the only hope for us and for those around us. The “Public Notice” should be revised to say that and then to ask, “do you know Him?”

Fought the Good Fight – Finished the Race

Our friend Celeste Pickett is now a part of the great heavenly choir. The testimony of her faithfulness and genuine heart and love of the Father, of others, and of life lives on. Pray for her son, Kenneth, and her many friends in the days ahead.

Romans 5:3-5a reminds us ” Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us….

And always – Celeste represented hope to us all. May she rest in his arms in peace.

Still Choosing Joy

I was asked to write a short article about my testimony.  Funny how something you have lived blesses you when you revisit it.  As I write this, I know a faithful choir member is on the verge of being free from the earthly suffering of cancer (may already be free). Celeste – you lived this even more than me. Your glass was always full and you ministered to so many. You amazed me when you were first diagnosed with colon cancer. You amazed me the Carols after that when you were on the ladders hanging garland and in your place every time for rehearsal and concerts. You simply amazed me. And I will miss you as will many others.

I consider myself a “glass half full person”.  My tolerance for whiners or folks who persist in looking at the dark side of every event they encounter is very low.  I was very much of that “try to see the best in everything” mindset during 2003-2004 when I decided to focus on joy. I wanted to develop my understanding that experiencing joy was a choice, not a given and not dependent on circumstance. My personal verse for the year was Philippians 2:2 (NIV): then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  
I was busy. I served as Sanctuary Choir President for the third time. Work was busy and unsettling as election years often are (I work for the State of Mississippi). Yet, I was restless. God was working in me (and in Steve) and I was struggling. Verses like Malachi 3:3 (KJV) came alive for me:  And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. You have been there, I am sure. I laugh now, but I prayed for patience in the period of refinement.  Frankly, I am not sure I will ever do that again. And I wondered since my focus was joy why pain might accompany that.
On May 18, 2004, I received that confirmation dreaded by everyone. You have cancer. That spot you came to see me about is definitely malignant. Talk about a body blow.  Steve had really convinced himself nothing was there as I underwent the testing. I think I knew all along that this might be a part of that “refinement” thing and I was going to learn a lot about choices, including the choice to be joyful. That night, we called friends who came and prayed with us. When they left, I sat down at my desk and opened my Bible and the pages fell to Psalm 34:4 (NASB): “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  I honestly believe that God put my hand on that verse because it was not one I had marked before. And I remembered that as He delivered me from my fears, it would be up to me “choose joy”.
Cancer diagnosis and treatment is like drinking from a fire hose. You have the personal aspect – Steve could not get a grip initially; my parents were devastated – three girls out of three with cancer – why; well meaning folks offering everything from solid advice to horror stories – none of which you can process at the time; and decisions to be made. And then you have the aspect that your life for the period of treatment is very much lived in a fishbowl – especially if you chose to move forward with living in parallel to treatment.
I manage projects for a living, and this was how I approached cancer. I knew God was with me at every step – in the medical decisions, in the support structure, in teaching me I could not do this on my own.  And I was constantly reminded that people were watching me and would be impacted for Christ one way or another by how I handled myself during what I was going through. They would see my choice be it joy or be it anything else. His Word and His people sustained me. God opened so many doors through the experience for me to be a support and encourager to others who have walked that path since I did.
I would never wish breast cancer on anyone. I would also never give back that period in my life.  Jesus was, and still is, my strength. He did “calm all my fears” and still does. And because of Him, I am still choosing joy!