Not me! Not I…but Christ

One of the perks of studying abroad with a college theater group was free or cheap tickets to theatrical productions playing wherever we were. Actors like to play to full houses, so if there are spare tickets, they are happy to find worthy recipients. On one such occasion while I was studying in Italy, the British National Theatre was touring with their production of The Passion Play, and we somehow gleaned tickets for a performance in Rome. Because we had the “cheap seats” (the groundlings), we got to be very close to the action, sometimes part of the action, as we stood on the floor (for six hours with one dinner break). The first act told stories from the Old Testament, and the second act, the story of Christ from the gospels. Of course, during the Palm Sunday scene, everyone was excitedly cheering. Then during the Good Friday scenes, most of the audience was excitedly jeering. Except me. As one who seemed to be the “token Christian” in my group, I was not about to cry out, “Crucify Him!” I loved Jesus and wanted no part in demanding His crucifixion. And that’s what I shared when a couple of the others asked why I had been quiet. I thought of myself like one of the women who had followed Him and watched the crucifixion, devastated by His murder. I had even portrayed Mary Magdalene several times in an Easter monologue―but I had not considered why she followed Him even to death. (See Mark 16:9.) That kind of gratitude was not part of my response at the play, nor even part of my testimony....

Not me! Not I…but Christ2022-05-04T23:19:43+00:00

The Blood That Truly Saves

In 2010, my sister was diagnosed with MDS a “pre-cancer” where the bone marrow does not function properly. Without a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, it is highly likely a patient will develop an aggressive and terminal form of Leukemia (AML). My sister received medication that kept the MDS in remission for years, however, in May 2016 the same week in which my younger sister Cathy was diagnosed with a recurrence of Breast Cancer, Connie’s medication became ineffective. In the fall of 2016, Connie’s condition worsened, and it was determined without a stem cell transplant, she would not survive. My brothers and I were tested, (my older brother had died in 1988 and my sister Cathy died 6 weeks after her diagnosis). I was a 100% match, and I was overjoyed! The doctors began to prepare my sister for the transplant. She was placed in the transplant unit where she received harsh chemotherapy in an attempt to kill off the cancer cells without killing her. I also had to prepare by having several tests and blood tests (22 vials worth). A week prior to the transplant I received daily shots of Neupogen to stimulate neutrophil production. While the neutrophils are multiplying, my bone marrow worked overtime causing at times severe bone pain. This process was difficult in many ways, but the physical pain and isolation for me to remain healthy, paled in comparison to what was going on in my mind and heart. A Heavy Burden The thought that my sister’s life was in my hands was at times emotionally overwhelming. What if after being a match, I wasn’t healthy enough to donate? What if I didn’t produce enough cells? What if I needed a central line because my veins couldn’t handle the extraction (I had to get a central line). What if it doesn’t work? What if… what if… What if my blood couldn’t save her? And, why couldn’t I have done something to save my younger sister? Lord, why Connie and not Cathy? Why couldn’t I save both? At times my heart was broken and torn!...

The Blood That Truly Saves2022-05-04T23:12:38+00:00

Swimming in Grace

This is a fish story. This is not a grandiose tale of record-breaking sizes nor of hard-fought battles of rod and reel, waves and wrestling. The scale is smaller and the location is my daughter K.’s apartment, in an aquarium that is home to Bob, the longear sunfish. Bob’s home is lush with green plants, their leaves wave gently in the water. The rugged stones on the floor of the tank afford him places to hide, rest, and dart about. Floating through the water are smaller fish, the same kinds he was used to eating in the Tennessee waters from whence he came. All in all, a pretty good life for a fish. Except it wasn’t. In case you are wondering if maybe you’ve stumbled onto the wrong blog (fish?) let me assure you that I think I’m on pretty safe ground using a fish for an illustration. The world God made is rich with objects, analogies, comparisons, and every wonderful thing to use as a picture to help us know him better. Camels, sheep, lamps, and coins – when we have eyes to see – help us to understand abstract truths in a concrete way. Think back to your favorite Bible stories and I’ll bet you can think of a fish or two. A Certain Death This fish was dying. The problem seemed obvious. Bob suffered from an ailment called “popeye,” where a fluid build-up caused his eyes to bulge out wildly, marring the appearance of his beautiful turquoise and orange body. Blinded, he kept swimming straight into the glass walls of the aquarium, unable to eat, and slowly starving to death. My daughter tried to give him different food, improve the condition of the water, and even treat the water itself with medicine— all futile efforts. Bob’s blindness was due to an underlying infection, and without treating that, he would not make it. The problem was, how do you get medicine into a fish that won’t, or can’t, eat? K. sought a solution. Thanks to the Internet, You Tube, and a knowledgeable pet store owner, she found it. First she had to create a paste made of bloodworms (larvae that fish love to eat) and antibiotics. Next she put the medicated food into a syringe. Afterward she gently reached into the aquarium, took hold of the fish, and with her other hand used the syringe to squirt the food into its mouth. What a beautiful illustration of the gospel! Here are some truths I noticed. Perhaps you can find even more! An Illness A host of problems plagued this fish. He was blind, ill, and starving. Fixing the obvious problem— his blindness— wasn’t enough. The greater, underlying infection needed to be dealt with. What a picture of our hopeless, sinful selves! Remember what Jesus said to the paralytic, handed down through the roof by his caring friends? “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Paralysis was not the worst of his problems. And the problems that paralyze us are minor compared to our overarching problem. Our sins need to be forgiven. Friends, whatever problem or need initially drew us to Jesus, we needed to realize our real problem was our separation from God. We needed to be reconciled with him....

Swimming in Grace2022-05-05T00:32:15+00:00

Because Christ Sat Down

There’s a canvas hanging in my bedroom, one given to me by a friend. She allowed me to pick a verse, and I chose this passage: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins he sat down at the right hand of God…for by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:12-14). It never fails to amaze me when I consider the contrast of two types of priests. Old Testament Priesthood Old Testament priests had many duties including representing the people before God and offering the various sacrifices prescribed in the law. If you’ve ever done a study in Leviticus, you know that these sacrifices were many. They were also unending; the priests had to repeat them day after day. You and I can relate to unending jobs: unending laundry, unending meal prep and clean up, unending vacuuming. Priests also stood to indicate that their job was never finished. That’s because the people continued to sin, requiring repeated sacrifices. These sacrifices were earthly and temporal, and therefore not effective. The blood of bulls and goats could not satisfy the wrath of God; it could not fully pay the debt for sin. God used this sacrificial system to burn into his people’s hearts the reality of their fallenness, to show them that they needed not just a temporary sacrifice, but a perfect and forever sacrifice. They needed their sin covered once and for all. The book of Hebrews looks at the Old Testament sacrificial system and unpacks its limitations and flaws. It shows us how it was temporary—how it pointed to something greater.

Because Christ Sat Down2022-05-07T22:39:31+00:00
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