Trust in Fact – Oswald Chambers

Another golden nugget from my dear friend who is enjoying the unspeakable joys of heaven!  Can’t wait to meet him!

220px-OswaldChambersIt is not easy to say that God is love when everything that happens actually gives the lie to it.  Everyone’s soul represents some kind of battlefield.  The point for each one is whether we will hang in , as Job did, and say “Though things look black, I will trust in God.”

It is very easy to trust in God when there is no difficulty, but that is not trust at all, it is simply letting the mind rest in a complacent mood; but when there is sickness in the house, when there is trouble, when there is death, where is our trust in God?

God has to deal with us on the death side as well as on the life side.  It is all very well to know in theory that there are things we must not trust in, but another thing to know it in fact.  When God deals with us on the Nathan's anniversary breakfastdeath side He puts the sentence of death on everything we should not trust in, and we have a miserable time until we learn never anymore to trust in it, never anymore to look anywhere else than to God.  It sometimes happens that hardly a day passes without God saying, “Don’t trust, there, that is dead.”

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Leaving the Comfort of the Womb

 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.John 3:3Samuel

As I held our newest grandchild in my arms, I was once again amazed at the creation of God!  One line from one of my favorite songs says, “Creator of the galaxies—You hear the baby cry…there is none like You.”

Little Samuel can see very little. He can’t bring his own hand to the place that itches.  He would starve without the wonder of his mother’s milk.  Each little finger and toe is perfectly formed, and I read someplace that his intestines are no bigger than the lead of a pencil.   His brain, which is soaking up an incredible amount of information, cannot tell his lips to form words.  His smile is just a reaction to a good feeling, like passing those little gas bubbles. And ye he has all the capacity to become all that God wants Him to be.

Until three days ago, his normal was complete darkness.  His home was a cozy, albeit cramped, cocoon floating in water.  He rode around on his head, but it didn’t matter, because that’s the way God designed it to be.

Then, within a matter of minutes, his entire world changed.  Now he must breathe air to live and his food must be digested and leave his body.  His skin is exposed to the elements and he MUST get used to wearing clothes. He can see and touch the one whose voice was as much a part of his live as life itself.

I’ve often thought that this life is just a longer version of pregnancy.  We are on this earth for seventy years, much like we’re in the womb for nine months: we “see through a glass darkly.”  (1 Corinthians 13:14) Then, through the sometimes painful event of death, we are thrust forth into a new and totally different world!

But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven!
Of touching a hand-And finding it God’s!
Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial!
Of waking up in glory-And finding it home!

And yet, the real reason for this post is another parallel: How much did your life change when you were born again?  Did you step out of the darkness and into light?  Did you begin to hunger for the milk of the Word?  Did you put on clothes, not only the clothes of righteousness given to you by your Savior, but the clothes of holiness as well?  And have you come to hear and see the One Who sustains your very life—the One whose voice was as much a part of your life as life itself, even though you didn’t know Him?

After just three days, I can’t even imagine Samuel back in the womb!  As I watch him flail his arms and stretch his little legs out straight, I doubt seriously that he would choose to reenter the womb.  ( I know his mother wouldn’t!)

Dear Christian, why do you long for this world?  Why would you ever go back it’s darkness when once you’ve walked in the light? Why do you starve yourself?  There is no direct pipeline from God to His creation except the Word of God. If you are a babe in Christ, allow other’s to feed you!  Learn from them and grow until you are able to feed yourself!

And dear older Christian, do remember that babies are messy!  All your shouting and looks of disapproval are completely lost on them! They cannot get it any more than Samuel would understand the admonition not to throw up on Mommy’s shoulder!  Just love them, and hold them, and care for them, and PRAY for them, and help them to grow in their timetable–not yours.

Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.John 3:7

Finally Home 

When engulfed by the terror of the tempestuous sea,
Unknown waves before you roll;
At the end of doubt and peril is eternity,
Though fear and conflict seize your soul.

But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven!
Of touching a hand-And finding it God’s!
Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial!
Of waking up in glory-And finding it home.

When surrounded by the blackness of the darkest night,
O how lonely death can be;
At the end of this long tunnel is a shining light,
For death is swallowed up in victory!

But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven!
Of touching a hand-And finding it God’s!
Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial!
Of waking up in glory-And finding it home!

~ Don Wyrtzen

 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God,
which liveth and abideth for ever.
1Peter 1:23

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Thank You, Lord

ID-100193008I came across this “poem”–it’s more of a prayer–the other day and thought I’d share it for Mother’s Day.  Our oldest turned thirty this year!  How did that happen?  As I read the poem, it seemed like yesterday that I was the one in the hospital giving birth.  Tommy arrived at 2:47 am after twenty-two hours of labor and a C-section.  I remember years later, talking to a woman who had had a similar situation, and she said she would never have any more children.  I’m so thankful the Lord gave me the grace to have two more C-sections.  And, as much as I would have loved to live in the colonial days, I probably would have died during childbirth!

Now, after seeing our three children happily married  and enjoying the role of grand-parenting five times over, I dedicate this poem to my daughter, who is ready to deliver our fourth grandson any day, and to our daughter-in-law, who recently gave us our first granddaughter.  What a joy to know that the souls of our grandchildren are in the hands of godly parents, who are determined to do their best to pass the baton of godliness.

 Thank you , Lord

Dear Lord, Heavenly Father

Thank you for Thomas James…

He’s beautiful, healthy and sweet, but Lord thank you too…

  • For the long labor – it taught me long-suffering
  • For the high fever – it taught me to trust You
  • For the sleepless times – it taught me Your ever presence.
  • For Tommy’s struggle to nurse – it taught me patience.
  • For the sins of the world all around me – it taught me to work on my testimony and gave me a passion for souls.
  • For the weakness, and soreness, and pain – it taught me to lean on Your arms.
  • For nine months of pregnancy – it taught me that this body is Yours, not mine.

Thank you, Lord; please keep me yielded to learn more.

January 18, 1985

 Happy Mother’s Day

May you allow the Lord to turn each trial into a classroom, and every difficult circumstance into an opportunity to learn more about your God.

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Our Amazing God or A Lesson from Cows

I suppose we all have our favorite Bible stories.  I seem to gravitate to the ones where God shows His might in everyday occurrences. For example:

Milk cows.  It’s probably because I grew up on a farm that this story strikes a chord in my heart.  It drums up memories of my father, taking the calves away from their mothers for the first time.  He would put the calves out to pasture and leave their mothers in the barn.  What a racket!  Those cows would bawl all day for their babies.

So, here’s the story:  Israel is at war with the Philistines.  There is no king yet.  Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phineas, are the priests at the time. Eli’s sons are wicked men, and it is into this situation that Hannah places her son, Samuel!  (That’s another story. Talk about trusting God!)

During the battle, the Philistines start to win, so the Israelites get the Ark of the Covenant–which they treat as a lucky charm–and bring it to the battle field.  They’re so excited that their shouting drives fear into the hearts of the Philistines.  They see the Ark and know that God is in the battle.  (Sadly, the Israelites forgot that God was with them without bringing the Ark to the battle.)  When the Philistines realize what it is, they fight with all their might, kill 30,000 Israelites, and take the Ark.

However, when they set up the Ark before their god Dagon, ( I love this part!) the next morning, he’s on the ground without his head and hands! God then strikes the Philistines with a plague: tumors and rats! (Some translate it as the Bubonic plague.)

So… they are told by their priests and wizards to put the Ark on a cart, take two milk cows that have never pulled a cart before,  yoke them to the cart, leave their calves in the barn,  and then send them in the opposite direction towards Israel.

They knew that if those cows took off for Israel, all their troubles were not just a chance happening but directed by the hand of God!  Those poor mammas took off mooing all the way and never looked back.  THAT was the hand of God!

Is there a lesson for us in this story?  Probably several, but the one that I love the most is this: Wow!  That’s MY God!!!  He is so powerful, and yet He works in ways that I can see, reassuring me that He is with me and caring for me.  It might not be as miraculous as the account above, but I’ll take it anyway!

For example: I am subbing today for a dear lady that really loves her job and is an awesome teacher!  The last time I subbed for her, the schedule went like this (she teaches elementary music):

8:20 – announcements
8:30 – 6th grade
9:00 – plan
9:30 – 5th grade
10:00 – 5th grade
10:30 – 4th grade
11:00 – 2nd grade
11:30 – lunch
12:00 – 6th grade
12:50 – 1st grade
1:20 – 3rd grade
2:20 – chorus
2:50 – die!

Now she knows all the songs and the kids, and she does it all the time, and she’s younger than I am.  I still don’t see how she does it EVERY day! But for me, I came home and died!

BUT, today, 1st, 4th, and Kindergarten are on field trips!  Jehovah-Jireh!!!  That gives me four open slots, and I’m praising God, BECAUSE, He know my schedule for the next four days and He knew that I needed those couple of breaks in the day!

Yesterday, as I studied for the Sunday school lesson on Rebekah, the commentator made the point that before Rebekah ever met Abraham’s servant, he was already on his way to meet her.  Before I even thought about this day, He had it planned and knew exactly what I needed!  We serve a GREAT God!  Why don’t you take a moment to praise Him, and then go and talk to someone about Our Amazing God!

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Room for the Impossible

It never ceases to amaze me how words written a hundred years ago can be so timely for us today!  Oswald Chambers died in 1917, at the age of forty-three, yet his words ring true in 2015!

Here is an excerpt from his Devotional Bible:

Jesus is not in the sitting by the tomb; He is not in the bitter tears; He is not in the sad communings.  The place where we will find Jesus is just where common sense says it is impossible to find Him.  It was no use for the disciples to imagine they were going to have a recurrence of those three years; it was impossible to recall the thrilling yesterdays; it was impossible for the two on the way to Emmaus to have a return of the fellowship they yearned for; but there was something infinitely better for them.  “For He is risen, as He said.” Impossibility had wedded itself to what Jesus had said.  The proclamation of the impossible springs from the supernatural, not from common sense.  The supernatural figures largely all through the life of our Lord.  At His birth the angels proclaimed that He should be called Jesus “for He will save His people from their sins.”  We shall not think of our Lord as a savior if we look at Him in the light of our own minds, because no natural man imagines he needs to be saved.  Do we make room in our faith for the impossible along the line of the supernatural?  Or have we reduced our religion to such common sense platitudes that there is no need for Jesus to have lived at all?

It’s deep, but it’s worth reading several times to get it!  Beyond Common Sense–this was one of the devotionals that prompted the new name.  Can we really live this way?  Can we expect God to do the impossible?  Jesus reminds his disciples in John 14:12 that their works would exceed His works in greatness: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

And Matthew Henry has this to say about the passage.  Again, it may be deep, but it’s worth the digging.!

That they should do greater works than these. In the kingdom of nature they should work greater miracles. No miracle is little, but some to our apprehension seem greater than others. Christ had healed with the hem of his garment, but Peter with his shadow (Acts 5:15), Paul by the handkerchief that had touched him, Acts 19:12. Christ wrought miracles for two or three years in one country, but his followers wrought miracles in his name for many ages in divers countries. You shall do greater works, if there be occasion, for the glory of God. Theprayer of faith, if at any time it had been necessary, would have removed mountains. [2.] In the kingdom of grace. They should obtain greater victories by the gospel than had been obtained while Christ was upon earth. The truth is, the captivating of so great a part of the world to Christ, under such outward disadvantages, was the miracle of all. I think this refers especially to the gift of tongues;this was the immediate effect of the pouring out of the Spirit, which was a constant miracle upon the mind, in which words are framed, and which was made to serve so glorious an intention as that of spreading the gospel to all nations in their own language. This was a greater sign to them that believed not (1 Co. 14:22), and more powerful for their conviction, than any other miracle whatever.

Show this world the impossible: a life totally committed to Jesus Christ!  You will shine brightly in this dark, sin-cursed world which seems to deny its Maker more and more every year!  And remember: God is just  as faithful in 2015 as He was in the 1600s and 1900s!

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What’s Missing?

I always loved these drawings that have subtle differences, and your task is to find them!  It reminds me of these two verses in Joshua, except the differences aren’t too subtle!

But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you,

  • to love the LORD your God,
  • and to walk in all his ways,
  • and to keep his commandments,
  • and to cleave unto him,
  • and to serve him

with all your heart and with all your soul.:

Joshua 22:5

And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God

  • will we serve,
  • and his voice will we obey.

Joshua 24: 24

Do you see what is missing and what is added?  In Joshua 23 and 24, Joshua is giving the Israelites his farewell speech. He’s old and he knows his time has ended.  We often quote Joshua 24:15 and hang on our walls:

…choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The question is not ARE we choosing to serve God, but HOW are we serving Him.  We want to be successful in our walk with the Lord.  We want to please Him, but so often, it just isn’t the case.  The world comes crashing in around us demanding our attention.  Good activities and programs seem impossible to ignore, even though we cringe and hate the fact that perfect attendance is required and their meetings push into Sunday and Wednesday night.

How can we do it?  How can we know that we are doing the right thing?  Well, I’m sharing this because it’s been so heavy on my heart, and the Lord has really been pounding me on it!

IT’S THE HEART! IT’S THE HEART! IT’S THE HEART!

Joshua is at the end of an incredible journey.  He knew slavery. He remembered the sting of the taskmaster’s whip! He SAW the Red Sea part and drank the sweetened waters of Marah.  He ate the manna and begged, cried, and wept when the other ten spies gave their evil report.  His heart ached for his leader as he watched him ascend Mt. Pisgah and gaze longingly into the Promised Land—a land he would never enter!

And now Joshua’s done.  Over and over, he urges the Israelites to do right, make right choices, have the right kind of heart.  And their response is this: We will serve. We will obey.  YIKES!  Something was missing!  Something very important: loving, walking, cleaving, and keeping!

Dear Christian, dear born-again believer, check your heart.  Without a whole-hearted love for God, service becomes drudgery and you may find yourself walking away from it.  Your walk becomes an uphill battle, and you don’t even understand cleaving.  Keeping the “law” becomes just that!  It turns into a bunch of “dos and don’ts” instead of a holy garment of praise.

Cleave – to cling closely, steadfastly, or faithfully to somebody or something.  If you have ever been a nursery worker, you understand cleaving, as you try to pry that child out of his mother’s arms!  He has a death grip on her clothing, and he’s not letting go—at least, not without a lot of kicking and crying!

How is my cleaving?  Am I holding on to God for dear life? It started with faith (Forsaking All I Trust Him). I may not have seen the yawning abyss at the edge of my cliff of pride or self-righteousness—the edge which dropped off into an eternal hell, but if I had, I would have clung or cleaved? or clove? or clave? to my precious Savior!

And am I still cleaving?  Is He so precious that I want Him more than anything else in this world?

Today, I offer you A Moment in Time for free.  What does that have to do with cleaving?  Well, I often shake my head in wonder and ask my daughter this question: Why did you and your brothers turn out?  Why do you love the Lord when so many pastors are losing their kids to the world?  She always says the same thing.  “Mom, you and Dad were genuine in your love for God and your service to Him.  It wasn’t just a show, but what Dad preached, you both lived at home.” Please know, it is not any credit to us, but all to the Lord!

The side-by-side drawings look so much alike, just like so many Christians.  They sit together in church, perhaps in the same class at the Christian school, but there’s something drastically different!  You may not be able to see the heart, but God does.

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out A Moment in Time is all about “What’s Missing.” In it, you’ll find an all too realistic side-by-side-drawing:  One pastor’s daughter, Carrie Spangler, who looked the part, and another, Esther Fleming, who lived it.

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We Need the Apocalypse!

 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing 2 Timothy 4:8

Well, I’m at it again—trying to take off those extra pounds that crept back on throughout the winter months; however, this time is different.  There’s no wedding or graduation on the horizon to motivate me to do this.  There’s no scheduled doctor’s appointment looming in the near future.  It’s just time to do it, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure that I will be successful without those deadlines!  I’m really a deadline person.

The Apocalypse—the word exudes doom and horror!  It means disaster, catastrophe, destruction.  To the world, it is Judgement Day or Armageddon.  The Book of Revelation often takes that name as well, and rightly so—Revelation 1: 1 begins with these words: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass…  And if you’ve have read any of the last book of the Bible, then you know that there’s a lot of doom and destruction written in its twenty-two chapters.

Does the knowledge of those prophecies help us to live a better Christian life? I mean, as Christians, the doom and gloom is not for us but for those who are left behind at Jesus’ Coming.  So, it’s not the doom that prods the born-again believer, but the thought of seeing our God and Savior face to face that prompts us to live a life that pleases Him.  You remember that feeling: Dad and Mom have gone out and left specific instructions for you—the list!  You look at the clock and figure how long it will take to get the jobs done, and then either choose to do the jobs first OR (most likely), you do what you want to do until the absolute least amount of time is left to finish the “to do” list!

The problem with Jesus’ return is that there’s no clock, not even a calendar.  Paul and the other apostles looked for Him to return in their lifetime, and here we are, over two thousand years later, doing the same thing!  Did God not disclose the time and date of His appearing because He wanted to keep us on our toes?  I think not.  He created us; He knows us; He is constantly doing what is best for us.  We walk by faith, and if He gave us the due date, that would take a huge part of our faith out of the equation.

BookCoverImage A MomentA Moment in Time will be FREE on Amazon as an ebook for five days (April 18-22).  So, here’s another reason why you might want to take a look:

Reading about the Rapture and what it may be like sharpens my desire to live for God, hones my desperation to parent godly children, and polishes my vision to reach the lost.

In A Moment in Time, Carrie Spangler, a pastor’s daughter, had heard all her life that Jesus was coming; she just didn’t think He would come when He did. What was she doing?  Was she looking for His return?  Not in the least.  She was busy living her life the way she wanted to live it.  She disregarded the years of Bible teaching which she had received at church and at her Christian school.  Notice, I didn’t say in her home.  The following is an excerpt from Chapter Five which gives us a glimpse into the Spangler household:

Betty turned to face him, propping herself on one elbow. “Charles, how do you think [Carrie’s] doing spiritually?”

               The question hung in the air for a moment before he found the answer, “I guess that’s your department.” He sighed deeply. “Betty, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I can successfully lead ten pastors in an area-wide revival, pastor a church of six hundred, and run a Christian school, but I can’t talk to my own daughter. I guess I just don’t understand girls.”

               “Don’t say that, Charles. I’m afraid for her. I’m not even sure that she’s saved.”

               “But she said she was, and every time it comes up, she’s defending her decision.”

               “That’s just it, that’s why I wonder if she really is. And we never talk about spiritual things with her.”

               “Yes we do,” he said defensively. “At dinner, we often talk about…”

               “…about church activities.”

               “Yes, but we talk about what God is doing.”

               “We talk, Charles, but does she?” Betty could hear the hall clock ticking as Charles mulled the words over in his mind.

               “Can’t you talk to her?” he asked.

               “I’ve tried. I think I was getting somewhere tonight until you walked in.”  It was a simple statement, but it charged the room with energy by all the messages it carried.

               “You always make it sound like it’s my fault.” The defenses were up.

               “Charles. You come floating into the room on your own pride and never even see…,” but she didn’t get to finish.  Betty knew she had said too much.

               “How dare you,” he shot back, getting off the bed and pacing the floor.

               Carrie heard the conversation escalating and went to her door, cracking it just enough to catch their voices.

               “Charles, I’m sorry; I’m just so worried. But I shouldn’t have said that.” She came around the bed to him, but he wasn’t ready to give in that easily.

               Carrie could see the scene in her mind, and it sickened her. Dad is huffing and puffing while Mom grovels at his feet.  I hate him!

               “Charles. Let’s not fight,” Betty whispered realizing how loud their voices had become. She reached up and ran her fingers down his arm, squeezing his hand. She knew how to melt him. He was a good man, and she loved him so!

A Moment in Time is fiction but it is not a fairytale in which everyone lived happily ever after.  This book was written with a heart and burden for Christian families.  It was written for us to take a good hard look at what is really going on in our homes and in our children’s hearts and minds.

Jesus is coming—we know that.  A Moment in Time just puts it into a realistic setting.  What if He did come back right now, today?  Where would our children and grandchildren be?  Would we be glad to see Him?  What will it be like?  Writing these books has sharpened my focus and understanding about the End Times; it also gave me a greater burden for the lost.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  My prayer is that the Strong Delusion trilogy will help my readers to see the End Times events just a bit clearer and perhaps encourage them to take a look inside themselves as well.  It’s an exciting book with an exciting plot and dynamic characters, but that’s not the point.  Reading even a Christian novel gains merit when we take the lessons sown into the fabric of its content and apply them to our hearts.

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Seeing Life Through the Eyes of a Troubled Girl

BookCoverImage A MomentFor the next few days, I will try to entice you to get your FREE Kindle copy of A Moment in Time, by giving you several reasons why A Moment in Time may be a good book for you to read.  Honesty may not be the best policy in advertising, but it is my policy!  On April 18-22, A Moment in Time will be available FREE in Kindle form. 

I consider it a great responsibility every time I sit at my computer and pound on the keys. Whether it is for a post or a book, I truly consider it a calling of God, or I would not do it!  So, why should you even consider getting your copy of A Moment in Time? Let me share a corner of my heart concerning these books.

Recently, I talked with someone who had read my book, and the comment was made that the book hit too close to home.  This book was not just written to entertain. I write with a purpose, an overwhelming desire to teach, stretch, urge, grow, challenge, convict . . .  Life isn’t just about entertainment and happiness, so, consider the following:

Reason Number One: See Life Through the Eyes of a Troubled Girl

Carrie Spangler is a pastor’s daughter, but she is troubled by two major thoughts:

  • I was a mistake.
  • Am I really saved.

Perhaps one or both of those thoughts give you panic attacks about yourself or someone you love.  Carrie was not a “planned” pregnancy.  Her two older brothers are out of the house by the time Carrie enters junior high, and she rightly senses that her life is interfering with Pastor Spangler’s ambitions. Unfortunately, Pastor Spangler doesn’t handle the situation well.  Instead of dealing with those thoughts, he tries to override them with activity, not willing to face the truth about his little girl.

Honesty in the home is such a vital aspect of parenting.  When we push our true feelings aside instead of dealing with them Biblically, we have no idea how big the problem will get or the fallout that may occur.  “My daughter would never . . .”  What is your guarantee? If you are basing your security on anything but an honest relationship with Jesus Christ, beware!  Do you know your heart?  Are you speaking the truth there? Is your son or daughter speaking the truth as well?  Notice, I did not ask about their appearance or their actions.  I’ve seen “good” kids cover their true feelings because that’s the example they were shown; and I’ve seen “bad” kids display their actions simply because they are trying to get someone’s–anyone’s attention!

Is A Moment in Time a “how to” book on building relationship?  No, but as you read it, may it challenge you to look inside and take a “truth-test” concerning your walk with Jesus!

What is truth? John 18:38

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  John 8:32

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The Great Divide

ID-100314857Jesus crucified is the true touchstone revealing what the world is: “The people stood beholding” in stolid indifference; the rulers, who wanted religion, but without a divine Christ crucified for their sins, “reviled”: the brutal amongst them mocked or railed; the conscious sinner prayed; the covetous sat down before the cross and played their sordid games.  The cross is the judgment of this world. (Rev. C. I. Scofield)

I’ve been reading the daily accounts of Jesus’ footsteps this week, following along as He rides triumphantly into the city, cleanses the temple, preaches, prays…  As I think of the disciples, I try to put myself in their place.  They saw so much: Jesus healing; Jesus stopping the Pharisees with his words of wisdom; Jesus, as he raised the dead!  And now this!  All their hopes and dreams are lying trampled in the dirt.  They thought He would usher them right into His kingdom; but instead, He was arrested, brutally beaten and whipped, mocked, and most humiliating of all: crucified like a common thief! 

Yesterday, I stopped to see my mom.  I knocked on the garage door.  No answer.  I looked in the window of the garage and saw her car, so I knew she was home.  I walked to the front door.  No answer.  Now I believe my mom will live to be a hundred (don’t we all!), but that moment, a horrible dread went through me.  Where was Mom!  What would I find when I got inside?  I stopped and thought how everything could change in that moment. Then I walked to the side porch thinking she might be working out back.  That’s when I heard the piano.  What a welcome beautiful sound!

For about thirty-six hours, the disciples experienced that dread of the unknown.  It was over.  What would happen next?  Would they all be arrested for treason against the temple?  What would become of them?  Then, early in the morning of the first day of the week, they heard the news.  Could it be true?  Many still doubted, but then He was there in their midst with those reassuring words:  “Peace be unto you.”  What a welcome beautiful sound!

Some may be indifferent to the greatest story ever told; others will count the revenue they can make on this holiday weekend like those who “sat down before the cross and played their sordid games”; some will gather in their places of worship like the rulers, having “religion, but without a divine Christ crucified for their sins”; some mock us, dear Christian and rail on our beliefs – we take the Bible too literally, they say; but the conscious sinner will pray at the cross and walk away rejoicing that his sins are gone because He is Risen!  Praise the Lord!!!  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!!!

…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John 20: 29a-31

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I Know Not the Man

easter5.jpg (344×221)Run!  Run!  The words shouted at him from within as the angry faces drew nearer.  Run—his fear told him.  Run—his anger screamed.  Run—his bitter disappointments cried; and he ran, never looking back.

As the voices from without grew dim, the voices within raged on!  He ran blindly as tears clouded his vision, stumbling down the steps, into the streets, and away from the circle of light that housed the angry mob.

His anguishing cry filled the air, piercing the darkness—a cry formed by all the voices within as they burst from his heart—and he ran and wept bitterly.

Every street, every corner seemed to shout accusations at him, but he just kept running.  He had to get away, for the hounds of hell had joined the mocking voices within, shouting their own words of disgust, jeering and taunting his soul:  You are not fit to live!  Go to the cliffs and throw yourself down!

His heart was pounding inside his chest, but he pushed himself to the darkest spot of the city: Golgotha.  He climbed the rocky trail, his pace slowing as his strength ebbed away.  The place smelled of death, and hell hounds nipped his heels.  As he neared the edge, his feet were like lead; each step pushed him closer to the precipice.  Dizzy from the exertion and weary from the heart-cries, he looked over the city.  He could see the lights of Caiaphas’ palace and wondered what was happening to his Lord.

Don’t call Him your Lord, the angry voice of shame shouted.  You have no right to call Him that, after what you did!  A sob caught in his throat, and his broad shoulders shook once again.  He fell to his knees and buried his face into his hands just as a cock crowed once more.

Three times!  Three times—just as Jesus had said—and then the cock crowed.  The face of the young servant girl flashed across his memory.  He was also with Jesus of Nazareth, she had said, but her voice was not mocking.  As he replayed the scene, her face became clearer—a face he had seen before.  She had been at one of the street meetings when one of the Sadducees had taunted Jesus, tempting Him, trying to trap Him with words.  Her face became clearer: a face that searched for the truth!  As he recalled the scene on Caiaphas’ porch, he realized that she was not speaking out of accusation, but out of incredulity, out of hope that perhaps he, the big fisherman, would do something to stop this insanity! He had failed not only Jesus, but this girl as well.

*   *   *   *   *

Anna watched as the big man’s face showed immeasurable fear.  She didn’t mean for her words to sound so accusatory, but they did. When she heard him, he looked around the circle of faces, illuminated by the fire where they stood warming themselves, and denied that he even knew Jesus.  His words shocked her.  How could he say such a thing?  Then the others also accused him, and he began to use words which so completely denied who he was, that a sob caught in Anna’s voice.  He looked at her as though startled.  At that moment, a procession of religious leaders passed by with Jesus in tow.  She watched as their eyes met—Peter and Jesus—and time stood still.  She saw a love and pity for the big fisherman exude from Jesus’ swollen face; but when she looked at Peter, she only read anguish.  He had denied his Lord.  Oh, what an awful night!  This couldn’t be happening! Anna tried to go to Peter, to say something that might help, but he had turned and fled.

“Back to your quarters and get ready for your day,” shouted her master.

“You others.  Go! Stop your staring and go home!”

Several wanted to argue, to ask questions and gain some answers for all that had happened, but one look into the master’s cold eyes, and they slithered away like serpents, hissing and grumbling as they went.

Anna slowly crossed the porch and looked out upon the city.  Where had he gone?  She prayed that he would do nothing foolish!  She had too many questions yet unanswered, and now they had taken Jesus. Oh, what would become of him? She shuddered as she recalled the sight of his face, swollen and bloodied, patches of his beard missing, his hands bound like a common thief!  Now, it was her turn to cry.  As she shuffled down the corridor, one desperate thought plagued her: I must find him!  I must talk to Peter!

*   *   *   *   *

Peter had not seen anyone throughout the whole ordeal.  He knew they were looking for him—the big leader! He had seen them in the garden, but he hid himself from their probing eyes.  How could he ever face them again? When the earth had quaked and the darkness fell—a darkness so much like the blackness within his soul: complete and condemning—Peter had hoped that the earth would swallow him up.  He knew that it was over. Jesus was dead.

He hadn’t had the courage to end his life.  How thankful he was that he hadn’t!  While buying his breakfast yesterday, he had overheard the news about Judas.  Serves him right, he had thought, but just as quickly a voice within rebuked him:  Are you any better?

The Sabbath day was now over and night fell as Peter once again entered the garden.  He walked past the place where Jesus had met them, asking them to pray, but instead they had slept. His face had been bloodied by sweat, and the torment of His soul was written plainly across his face.  Could you not watch with me for one hour? Peter hurried his steps past the spot and found a dark corner next to the garden wall, sinking down, down, down, and once again weeping.

“Peter?”

The voice startled him; a man stood so close!  He looked up as the form came closer and recognition dawned in his heart.

“Peter.  We’ve been looking all over for you,” John said.  His voice was gentle, full of concern with not a hint of accusation.

“Go away, John.  Leave me,” Peter muttered, his head drooping in despair.

“No, Peter.  I’ll not let you do this!”  John squatted down before him, his eyes full of pleading.

The silence was deafening before Peter’s voice whispered.  “How can I ever face any of them again, after what I did?”

John snorted.  “You only did what we all did, Peter.  We all ran.”

“Yes, but you didn’t deny Him,” he hissed, sighing and shaking his head.

John sat down beside Peter, pulling his knees up and crossing his arms over them.

“Peter, we all denied Him: maybe not in our words, but in our hearts and actions; and that’s what He sees and knows about all of us.”  John shook his head.  “We all deserted Him when He needed us the most.”  He groaned. “I never thought it would end this way.”

The two men sat in silence, mulling over the nightmare in which they were living. He sees and knows… The thought echoed in Peter’s mind.  He sees and knows… “and forgives,” he whispered.

John looked his way questioningly, noticing for the first time, a glimmer of the old Peter in his friend’s eyes.

Peter sat up straighter.  “He sees and knows everything, John.  How many times did He tell us that?” His voice grew in strength.  “He sees us right now, and He knows our hearts.”  He voice softened, “and He forgives.”

John shivered in the darkness and stood to his feet.  “Let’s go, Peter.”

Peter looked up at John, still not knowing how he would face the others, but he took the offered hand and rose to his feet.

As they neared the house, Peter hesitated.

“They’re all gone, Peter,” John whispered, opening the door. “Everyone is out looking for you.”

Although the comment was meant to comfort him, it only brought more heartache to the broken man. “I don’t deserve that,” he muttered dejectedly.

John made no comment, but led Peter to his bed.  Before Peter’s eyes closed, he looked at his friend, and whispered, “Thank you.”  He rolled over, and sighed once more before sleep overtook him, wondering if he had slept at all over the past forty-eight hours.

One by one, the others returned, speaking in hushed voices, relieved to have their leader back.  Peter heard nothing until rushing feet and excited voices entered the room.

“I tell you, He’s not there.”

“What do you mean?”

“We went to the tomb to anoint His body, but He’s gone.”

Peter came to his feet and rushed forward.  “What has happened?”

Once again the women told their unbelievable story.  All the men looked on, astonished and full of doubt. Without a word, John rushed from the house, and Peter followed.

*   *   *   *   *

It had been the longest Sabbath of Anna’s weary life, but now she was free, if only for a few moments.  She had listened to the others as they talked about all that had happened and had gleaned the information she wanted.  Now, she hurried towards the garden where Jesus’ disciples had taken Him.  Perhaps the disciples would be there.  As she approached the path to the tomb, she heard excited voices and someone running her way.  Quickly, she left the path and hid behind the bushes.

“What do you think it means?” one woman asked.  Anne could hear the mixture of fear and excitement in her voice.

“I don’t know,” the other woman panted as she ran, “but we must tell the others.”

Anna cautiously stepped back on to the path after the women were out of sight.  She stared down the way in which they had just run, wondering what had happened.  Quickly, she turned and headed to the tomb.  As she drew near, her pace slowed as she stared in awe and wonder.  The tombstone was rolled away, leaving the entrance gaping wide open!  Slowly, she stepped closer, afraid to look inside, yet anxious to see. The natural wall of stone had been carved out, making a place to lay the dead.  It bore a huge crack across its face, probably caused by the earthquake which had occurred during the crucifixion. Coming closer, she touched the giant stone and leaned in to look inside, amazed that she had enough courage to do so, and wondering what it would be like to look at a dead body. To her amazement, the tomb was completely empty, except for some cloth.  What did it all mean?tomb

As she gazed in wonder, she heard fast-approaching footsteps.  Once again, she hid herself, fretting that her time was short before she needed to return to her work.  She watched as the disciple, called John, came running to the tomb. He stopped, hesitating at the entrance, when Peter came running towards him.  He never stopped, but ran into the tomb, and John followed.  Their voices were low, and she couldn’t understand what they were saying.  A woman came slowly up the path, and Anna recognized her as one of the women who had left the tomb so quickly.  She was weeping as though her heart was broken, when the men hurriedly left the tomb, running past her as though she was not there.

Anna watched the woman stoop down and look into the sepulcher, and decided it was time for her to leave when she heard voices coming from the tomb. She looked on in wonder, as a man seemed to appear out of nowhere.  He spoke to the woman.

“Why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”

Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

The man said to her, “Mary.”

She turned herself, and said to him, “Master!”

He said to her, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”

Anna watched as the woman took one last look and ran.  When she turned back to look at Jesus, He was gone!  Anna hurried down the path and headed towards Caiaphas’ house as her mind traveled in a hundred different directions.  What did it all mean?  Was it really Jesus?  What had he said? …I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. She stopped as she came to the steps leading to the porch and stared into space, her heart aching to understand.

“Anna! Stop dawdling and get busy. You’re already late.”

She looked up to see the head maidservant shaking her finger at her, and then hurrying back inside. Anna ran up the steps and went straight to work.  As she busied herself with the tasks at hand, she listened, and thought, and wondered.

*   *   *   *   *

The table was abuzz with conversation when Anna finally finished her morning chores and gathered her bread for the noon meal.

“Have you heard?” one maid whispered as the others leaned closer.  She looked out across the room to the doorway, wanting to be certain that no one of any importance heard her words.

“They are saying that this Jesus is not in the tomb.”

Heads shook and tongues wagged at the same time.

“How can that be?”

“What does it mean?”

“I heard that the chief priests paid soldiers to keep watch at the tomb.  Surely they wouldn’t let this man’s followers take him!”

Anna held her tongue though she was bursting inside, wanting to shout, “He is risen, just as he said!”  But did she really believe that?

*   *   *   *   *

Every day more stories flooded the streets of Jerusalem concerning Jesus Christ.  Many went to the tomb—finding it empty—until more soldiers were posted to keep people away. Some concluded that his disciples had taken Him as the soldiers were saying; however, much to the Jewish leaders’ consternation, many believed that Jesus was alive.  And although the disciples had kept themselves hidden, their news that Jesus had appeared to them in several different places spread like wildfire! The ache in Anna’s heart grew stronger with every story.  She wanted to believe, but she needed to talk to Peter.  He would know, and she needed to tell him how sorry she was!

As she swept the floor in the main hallway, Rhoda, another servant girl, came to her, and whispered in her ear.  “The disciples are meeting Jesus tomorrow near Bethany.  Will you go with me?”

Anna’s eyes widened.  She could only nod, her voice was lost in her joy.

“Meet me by the giant olive tree at the end of our road tomorrow at the end of our work day.”  Rhoda looked anxious.  “I hope we will not be too late.”

“It can’t be helped.  I’ll be there,” Anna whispered, and once again she began to sweep.  Her heart raced at the thought of finally getting her answers.

“Anna, you are raising more dirt than you are sweeping,” chided the head maid as she came from one of the side rooms.  “Slow down!”

Anna only nodded, ducking her head to hide her smile.

*   *   *   *   *

Rhoda was waiting for Anna just as she had said, and together the girls hurried down the narrow streets of Jerusalem.  As they reached the Eastern Gate, the crowd thickened with laborers heading out of the city.

“How do you know that they are meeting?” Anna asked as they hurried down the road.

“I overheard some of the women talking in the marketplace the other day.  It’s only rumors, but it is the place where He had met them before, and supposedly, it is where the disciples have been hiding.”

Anna stopped.  “You mean this is all hearsay?” she asked doubtfully.

Rhoda was impatient to be on their way.  “Do you have anything else pressing on your schedule that you do not want to see the risen Messiah?”

“I…,” Anna began to speak, but changed her mind.  “Let’s go.”

As they neared the village of Bethany, many others seemed to be heading in the same direction, and the girls found themselves swallowed up in the crowd.  As a whole, they moved beyond the village wall, across the neighboring valley, and up the gradual hillside just east of the village.  And then He was there! He spoke, and everyone was silent.  His words were just as Anna remembered.  She could have listened to Him speak all day, and she knew that the others felt the same way. Hundreds of people stood gazing upon the One who had conquered death!  And then He was gone.

Slowly, the crescendo of voices rose and fell, and the crowd broke apart into smaller groups going in different directions.  Anna held Rhoda’s hands in hers. “Thank you, dear friend.”

Rhoda smiled sadly, “I long to know more.” As she spoke, they turned to see many of the disciples heading their way, led by Peter.

Anna gasped and watched as he drew closer.  He was talking with one of the other men, when he turned and looked her way.  His feet stopped, and a look of anguish came over his face.

Anna quickly came forward and fell at his feet.  “Please sir, forgive me,” she cried, as tears clogged her throat.  She wanted to speak to him, but fear stopped her words from coming.

Peter knelt down and touched her shoulder. “What is your name?” he asked, his voice gentle yet strong.

She looked up into his kind eyes and saw no rejection or anger. “My name is Anna.”

He smiled.  “Anna, I am the one who needs your forgiveness.  You only spoke the truth.

I’m sorry your heard my words.”

“But when you looked at me, it was as though my words were the final blow.”

Peter looked away, thinking back to that awful night.  He remembered her words, remembered the accusing faces, remembered his own words, and remembered the cock crowing.  Understanding dawned in his mind.  He turned to face her and smiled sadly.  “It wasn’t your words, but the words of our Lord.  He had told me that I would deny Him three times before the cock crowed in the morning. It was that awful sound piercing the night that also pierced my heart.”  He shook his head in wonder.  “Jesus knew even before it happened that I would deny Him, even though I vehemently argued that I would be true to the death.”

Anna could wait no longer.  She must know.  “I heard Him say that He was going to His Father.  He told the woman that His Father was her Father too.  Was that her promise alone?”

Peter’s smile grew wider.  “No, my child.  That promise is for anyone who will believe—believe that He truly is God!  He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness…even our doubts and denials.”  A shadow passed over Peter’s face, and Anna understood.  “Can you believe?”

Anna’s eyes glistened as her heart burst with joy.  “Yes,” she whispered, nodding her head.  “Yes, I believe!”  She looked back up the hill where Jesus had just stood—alive and speaking to them.  “How could I not believe?”

Peter nodded.  “And yet many will believe who have not seen, and great is their faith.”

He thought back to Thomas’ harsh statements and the Lord’s strong yet gentle rebuke.  Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.  His heart, so recently crushed and bruised, wanted to doubt, but he knew he would never doubt again!

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