Monthly Archives: April 2017

“It’s the Lord!”

Do we recognize the risen Jesus when we see him? 

On the days following Jesus’ resurrection, most of his closest followers did not recognize him in their first encounter. 

Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus until he said her name, “Mary.”  The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus even after he spent considerable time with them explaining what all of the scriptures had to say about him.  It was only at his breaking of the bread while dining with them that they recognized him.

The Gospel of John reports that seven of the disciples while fishing on the Sea of Galilee, did not recognize Jesus about a hundred yards away on shore until after he suggested they cast their nets on the right side of the boat where they caught 153 large fish.  Then John said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!

How often do we fail to see the risen Lord in our lives?  Like Mary Magdalene, he may be calling us by name.  Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he may be opening our minds to the meaning of some scripture.  Like the seven disciples fishing, he may be suggesting we take an action that will have a surprising (miraculous) result.

Today, as I am writing this blog, we are celebrating the 31st birthday of our daughter Emily who was born with Down syndrome.  At the time of her birth I did not recognize the presence of the risen Lord in our midst.  Later I came to see Jesus in her big beautiful smile, her purity of heart, and her natural inclination to love and hug the people she meets.

While we may not always recognize Jesus in the people or circumstances of our lives, the apostle John in his first letter says that “God is love.”  Wherever there is love, Jesus is present. Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Mt. 25:35-36)  Jesus is telling us that when we love others through our actions, we love him.  

In the musical Les Miserables, ValJean’s closing words are:

“And remember

The truth that once was spoken.

To love another person

Is to see the face of God.”

Let us offer love and receive love, so someone can say, “It’s the Lord.”

Advertisements

“It is finished”

These were the last words of Jesus from the cross according to John.  He had done all that the Father had asked.  He submitted fully to the Father’s will.  Now there was nothing more for him to do in his human state.  Whatever was to follow was in God’s hands.  Jesus was showing his complete trust in the Father.

In the end he submitted to the Father’s will to endure the suffering of the cross even though he asked three times that he might be spared.  Whatever his divine nature was, it did not relieve him of the agony of the garden, the reality of physical suffering and the realization that he was about to carry the weight of all mankind’s sin.  I am not sure we can begin to comprehend what he was feeling.

Jesus introduced the kingdom of God on earth through his teaching, example and miracles.  He fulfilled all the prophesies about him as the anointed one, the Messiah.  He said he was the way, the truth and the life.  He said anyone who has seen him has seen the Father.  He was not only created in God’s image, he was God in human form.   He showed all the rest us what is possible if we are totally human and lay down our will to God’s.   

Like Jesus, God has a specific purpose for each of us.  We are an unrepeatable creation of God with specific attributes designated to do only what we can do with the people and circumstances God places in our lives.

Like Jesus, we need to grow in wisdom and seek God’s will in all that we do.  As Jesus told the disciples to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit so that they would be equipped to fulfill their call, he offers us a similar path with the same Holy Spirit.

As I look back on my life, that includes my wife of almost 54 years, my five children, their spouses and our thirteen grandchildren, a business career, a Christian ministry ,etc., I am still not able to say, “It is finished.”  For as long as we have breath, we have purpose.  There are still people and circumstances to serve in line with God’s will.

Jesus knew when he completed his work for the Father.  We may not be as certain.  But when it is finished, may we hear the words of Jesus, “Well done good and faithful servant!”  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Mt. 25:21, 34)

A Story of Divine Presence and Cancer’s Limited Reach

Have you ever experienced a feeling of God’s presence such as a moment of special peace or a revelation of truth?

John’s Gospel reports that when Jesus asked the detachment of soldiers at his arrest who they were looking for, they said “Jesus of Nazareth.”  When Jesus responded, “‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6)   

One biblical commentary says that John’s interpretation of Jesus’ enemies drawing back and falling to the ground was their unconscious recognition of his divine presence. 

Though they came to arrest him and eventually do him harm, they were apparently awed by his calm demeanor and presence.  They had heard of his miracles.  Some of them who had heard him teach in the temple courts said he spoke like no other. Now they were struck by his divine presence.

Sensing moments of God’s presence and grace in our lives may not be subject to objective observation, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen and are not real.  Let me share one example.

A number of years ago a secretary with whom I worked died of colon cancer.  Her name was Rita.  She was not only a highly competent secretary, but a lovely, gracious person.   She was always kind and fair with the other secretaries she supervised.  I watched her decline through two surgeries and multiple regimens of chemo therapy.  On my last visit with her before she died I was shocked by her physical condition – how she went from a vibrant woman in her mid-40s, so full of life, to a near skeleton of a person ravaged by cancer and chemo therapy.

That evening I was thinking about her condition, and I believe God gave me a special understanding of who we are that I had never thought about before.  Most of the aspects that determine who a person is, other than maybe athletic ability, cannot be attributed to their physical bodies.  Whether a person is kind, loving, truthful, and gracious comes not from a person’s physical presence, but from the inner person, the soul, and what we often describe as the heart.

Cancer can kill the physical body, but it can’t kill the inner person or the soul that lives on.  The soul is eternal just as the Bible says.  The next day I wrote Rita a letter sharing these same thoughts, which her family read to her.  I was told that a knowing smile came across her face, and the next day she died.

I believe I experienced a moment of God’s divine presence.  He shared a bit of His truth about life for both my benefit and Rita’s.  It is a moment I will always remember, and one that has re-enforced my Christian faith and changed my outlook on life.

 

 

Matchless Wisdom

thNo one ever spoke the way this man does.”  (John 7:46)

This was the response of the temple guards to the Pharisees after being sent to arrest Jesus while he was teaching in the temple.  Apparently the guards were so struck by what Jesus had to say they decided not to arrest him.

All of the gospel writers report various incidents in which the crowds were “amazed” at the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching.  The conventional wisdom of Jesus’ day was strict adherence to the Ten Commandments and the hundreds of sub-requirements that appeared to govern every area of personal conduct.

Jesus turned the conventional wisdom on its head.  He simplified the commandments and the many detailed regulations of conduct by declaring that love of God and neighbor was the most important requirement.  He expanded the definition of love by equating being angry with a brother with the prohibition against murder. He said that any man who looked at a woman lustfully had already committed adultery in his heart.

Instead of a system prescribing punishment for violation of the Jewish law, Jesus offered promises of happiness for those who are humble in spirit, mourn for their sins, hunger for righteousness, show mercy, serve as peacemakers, and are pure in heart and persecuted for righteousness.

What makes a person wise?

Both Isaiah and St. Paul put wisdom as the first of several gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 11:2; 1 Co. 12:8)

As a young lawyer for a large international oil company in the late 60’s, our company and several others were sued by a plaintiff in southeast Missouri for price manipulation in the sale of gasoline.  I retained an experienced antitrust trial lawyer out of St. Louis to represent our company in the local court where the case was filed.

Because there were so many defendants, we had to have meetings of defense counsel to develop our strategy in handling the case.  These meetings would be attended by more than twenty lawyers, all competing to advance what they considered to be the best defense strategy in the case.  Some of the lawyers could become a bit arrogant and aggressive in our discussions.  In contrast, I noticed that our lawyer would always wait until the other lawyers had their say, and then humbly offer suggestions that would totally alter the prior discussions and end up being the strategy that the group adopted. 

As a young lawyer just a couple of years out of law school, I learned a lot about wisdom from our trial counsel who went on to be appointed to the U. S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the only person ever to serve as Director of both the FBI and CIA.    

Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find.”