The Dogwood Has Bloomed

The dogwood has bloomed. The tree sits on a corner along the street I  follow to get to my bank. Every year I anticipate the arrival of the flowers, waiting for the splash of white blossoms to stir my heart as I hurry down the thoroughfare.

Not only is the sight breathtaking, it reminds me of the season into which we are about to enter. The most important day in the earth’s history is about to be celebrated, the remembrance one that affects every person on the face of the planet.

Two thousand years ago, God had sent his son to earth. After thirty-three years here, Jesus was about to fulfill his destiny. He traveled much of Jerusalem with his band of followers, teaching people about the kingdom of heaven, healing their diseases, restoring their loved ones. He’d made enemies and gathered many friends.

The Sanhedrin feared him because he spoke against the false teachings for which they were known. He threatened to upset the delicate balance the Jews maintained in the presence of the Roman occupation. They looked for opportunities to remove him.

He knew their hearts. He understood their thoughts. He sensed them watching him. He ate with publicans and sinners. He healed on the Sabbath. They were waiting to accuse him when the time was right.

Passover was coming. Jesus would enter Jerusalem to celebrate with his disciples. No one but him can know this would be the last time he would enter the city. His enemies waited. They plotted. They watched. Soon they would act. God’s plan was about to be fulfilled.

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” In the violent acts that would follow, everyone would gain access to eternal life. The innocent would be slain, the guilty redeemed, the key to heaven placed within everyone’s grasp. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it would be only a matter of time.

 

This is the first installment in a three-part series leading up to the celebration of Easter.

 

Enduring Death’s Sting

bibleThe call came mid-morning. 

The male voice belonged to our nephew, the choked speech from his inner child. His mother, my husband’s sister, lay dying. She’d suffered a heart attack and collapsed. When the paramedics broke down the door, she’d lost consciousness. Now life support stood between her and eternity. 

After she’d estranged herself from the family more than fifteen years before, we had little contact—an occasional phone call or a request for money. She’d found drugs, alcohol, and other men a better lifestyle than the wife and mother she’d been. Her adult children abandoned her, raising their children without the influence of a grandmother who’d strayed.  

It hurt. My nephew’s sobs testified to that.

 In earlier years, we knew she’d heard the gospel message. We’d taken her children to church, she’d counseled with our pastor, and she’d lived where daily chapel services shared the good news. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) Did she ever accept that message?

 Anybody who seeks forgiveness will be given it. John 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Did she have regrets?

Eternal life is for all. John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” God still loved her.

Now as we stood by her bed, my husband shared those verses again. Reassured her that heaven was waiting. All she needed to do was say yes.

The nurse affirmed that those in a coma do hear. They’re aware of their surroundings even if they can’t respond. My sister-in-law’s pulse elevated when my husband spoke, her breathing became uneven. As though she were telling us she heard.

She hovered three days after life support was withdrawn. Her son and daughter stayed by her side, the time spent telling their mother they forgave her for what she’d done. Cleansing tears were shed and two broken children were released from the burden they’d carried too long.

We’ll not discover the end of this story until we stand in God’s presence. But we do know this woman had every opportunity to respond to God’s call. That will be our consolation.

It’s never too late to mend a fence or rebuild a bridge. Who is waiting to be forgiven in your life? Don’t put it off.

 

 

 

Renewal Awaits Us

peonies 2015 003

Not often do both Palm Sunday and the first day of spring arrive together, but this year they do. Both events represent renewal in God’s scheme of things.

Spring brings rebirth of the earth. Flowers awake from their slumber. Birds build nests for their young. Trees bud out, grass grows, the sun fills the sky more and more often. Rejuvenation is all around us as a sleeping world comes back to life.

Palm Sunday represents reawakening as well. God’s perfect plan would fall into place, the main players ready to act to redeem a world full of sin. One man would die, and thousands more would be transformed.

Rereading the biblical account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11: 1-19), I had to remind myself Jesus knew entering Jerusalem would be the end of his life here. To fulfill the scriptures and finish what he had come to do, he would be crucified. I can only imagine the thoughts going through his mind when he sent the disciples to fetch the young donkey colt waiting for him. Only kings rode animals into town. Just that act alone would raise the suspicions of the Pharisees and Sadducees toward him.

He had to know what conflict would arise when he entered the Temple and overturned tables, sending moneychangers scurrying for cover. He forbid anyone to carry wares through the building. “It is written,” he said, “that my house shall be called a house of prayer to all nations. You have made it a den of thieves.” Now the Sanhedrin plotted to destroy him.

All of the events led to God’s most sacrificial act—the death of his son on the Cross. We who believe have life eternal, all of us forgiven for our sinful natures because of Jesus’ blood shed at Calvary.

As you celebrate the coming of Spring this Sunday, and as you spend time in worship remembering the beginning of the events that led up to Christ’s resurrection on Easter, consider the meaning of renewal in your life. Let God’s miraculous act change you. For you He died.

Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

When the Creative Well Runs Dry

Edmund Burke, eighteenth century philosopher often credited with the beginnings of modern conservatism, said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. “

Shaken by recent world developments, I found my reservoirs of creative energy empty when this week’s blog loomed.  The reports of violence against children, the threat of a militant group determined to destroy Middle Eastern democracy, and the ongoing needling of Israel by its neighbors all hovered like a cloud of hurricane proportions. What could I possibly write to make a difference in the face of such evil?

Then someone asked, “Why doesn’t God speak anymore?”

The question jumpstarted my thinking. I knew the answer.

God did speak. Eloquently. He sent his only son Jesus to the earth to live among men and teach them about God’s kingdom. He watched those same men accuse his Son of blasphemy and send him to the cross at Calvary. Then our loving heavenly Father stood back while his Son bled to death. An earthquake shook the ground at his passing. The holy veil in the Jewish temple was torn in two.  Three days later Christ rose from the tomb. After forty days spending time with those who believed in Him, Jesus ascended into heaven with more than five hundred witnesses marveling at His transformation.

God had spoken. What more was there to say?

The choice is now ours to make—for the person who has spent their life warming a church pew to the man for whom the name Jesus is nothing more than a swear word. We can examine the claims Jesus made while he lived among us. We can explore his horrific death. We can look at how he changed history.   

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” Evil may torment us, destroy parts of our world. It may encroach upon our freedom—even our lives. But evil cannot separate us from the love of God if we place our trust and eternal future in Jesus’ care. He promises to walk with us through our challenges.

John 14:27 reads, “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.”

Heaven awaits. God is in control.

Evil—you will not triumph.