Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “Jesus”

WHEN THE STORMS OF THIS LIFE HIT

As I pulled onto my street and neared my driveway, I saw my neighbor backing into his drive to hook up his boat to his pickup truck. So, I pulled up right beside him, our windows side-by-side, to do a little catching up. Turns out he was soon headed to do a little fishing with his son at a local lake, then down to the Ozarks for the weekend. I reminded him that we were currently under a tornado watch until late that night, and the weekend looked like rain with the high temperature in the 40s one day and 30s the next. He’s a little on the crazy side, so my reminder of these things didn’t really faze him.

The cold temperatures are one thing. But a tornado watch? On a boat in the middle of a lake?

No thanks!

Oddly enough I’ve spent a lot of time marinating in the Gospels lately. Just a day or two prior I had read the all-too-familiar story of Jesus and His disciples on a boat, in a storm, in the middle of a lake. And had they had TV or radio back in the first century, perhaps they would have been alerted to a tornado watch as well.

I wonder if my neighbor knows this story?

The story goes something like this:

Jesus and His disciples were in a boat headed across the lake. It was smooth sailing for a while and Jesus—probably exhausted and in need of rest—fell asleep. Suddenly a huge storm came out of nowhere. The wind and waves caused the boat to take on a lot of water and the disciples were thinking the boat was gonna sink. They were freaking out. This was scary stuff. So, they went and woke up Jesus. (Because…what else are you gonna do when you’re on a boat, in a storm, in the middle of a lake?) Jesus awoke from His siesta and told the wind and waves to cut it out. And they did. Just like that, all was calm. (Can you imagine the dead silence as the disciples looked around, speechless, wondering what the heck just happened?) Then Jesus broke the silence with an interesting question. “Where’s your faith?” Or maybe it was more like, “Why don’t you trust Me?”

 

stormy sea

Ok, this is where we gotta step back and say, “hold up.” Why did Jesus ask this? What did He mean? Why did He ask about their faith or trust? There was a vicious storm out there. They literally thought they were gonna drown. What did He want them to do exactly? Sit back and ride it out? Bail water until it passed? Part of my thinking says they opted for the best alternative here. They could sit there freaking out in the midst of their storm, or they could invite God into it.

But…

I wonder…

Was the very presence of Jesus not enough for these guys? Was the company of God Himself not sufficient in their storm?

Then I wonder…Is it for us?

What would happen if instead of freaking out in the storms of this life, we stepped back and realized God is present? What would happen if in the midst of our own storm, we rested in the presence of the Almighty God? What would happen if we exercised our faith muscle? What would happen if we paused from fear and trusted Jesus?

I think maybe all too often, we just want God to act…to do something for us…to fix our problems…to come through in a big way…to take the storm away. It’s almost as if we’re saying His presence isn’t sufficient, it’s not good enough, or it’s not really what we had in mind. Like the company of the Almighty God runs a distant second to His fixing our problem.

Y’all, God may be trying to whisper to us, “I’m here. I’m present. Don’t freak out. Trust Me. My very presence is sufficient. I am greater than your storm…even if I don’t fix it.”

Maybe, just maybe this is what Jesus was hinting at with His question while on a boat, in a storm, in the middle of a lake.

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THE BEAUTIFUL FEET OF BILLY GRAHAM

Most people don’t like feet. They don’t like other peoples’ feet, nor do they like their own. They’re smelly. They’re gross. They’re funky looking. They’re misshapen and calloused. Hairy toes, bunions, athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, heel spurs, corns, warts, gout. See? The list goes on and on. Maybe God spent a little less time on feet than other parts of our body when He created us.

I’m not foot fan either. But one thing’s for sure…the late Reverend Billy Graham had beautiful feet. That’s right, I said beautiful. And I know this for a fact. How? Let me tell you…

The arena was packed. We were seated in the upper level. I had heard of Billy Graham as a kid growing up. My grandmother was a big fan, frequently sharing stories about him or his ministry that she heard or read. I reckon my parents were fans as well. And I suppose that’s why we went to hear him when he was in town about 40 years ago.

Since I grew up in a home where we went to church (a lot, because we were Baptists at the time), there was prayer, Bible studies, some type of ministry always being done. I knew who God was. I knew Jesus was God’s Son. I’d heard it all before.

But as I sat there in the arena that night (probably wishing I was anywhere else), the words of Billy Graham penetrated my heart. Somehow, someway, he connected all the dots I’d heard before. At the end of his preaching, he gave an invitation. It was an invitation to respond to the Good News he’d spent the last 30-45 minutes sharing. It was an invitation to have God be at the center of my life. It was an invitation to follow Jesus. It was an invitation to have a real, living, breathing relationship with the God who created me.

It was at that moment, I knew I wanted what he had. I knew I wanted to follow Jesus. I wasn’t exactly sure what that looked like going forward, but I knew I wanted to spend an eternity in the presence of the Creator of the universe.

As the choir sang the classic, timeless hymn Just As I Am, Billy invited everyone who wanted what I did to come down to the lower level and stand in front of him on the floor of the arena. As I felt the tug on my heart to do so, I also felt the awkward, and uncomfortable fact that if I did, people would stare. My parents would find out. All the other people in the arena would know that Beth Armstrong just admitted she was sinful. That Beth Armstrong just admitted she couldn’t live life on her own. That Beth Armstrong needed a Savior.

I couldn’t stand the thought. There would be endless questions and discussions to follow and I wanted no part of that. So, I stayed seated. When the masses of people finally arrived on the floor of the arena, Billy invited them all to pray simply, admitting their need, asking God to take over their lives. Though I didn’t join the crowd in proximity, I joined them in proclamation. I prayed that prayer. I said yes to Jesus. I responded to the Good News. And I began a spiritual journey that night while seated in the suddenly-near-empty upper level of the arena.

beautiful feetRomans 10:15 reads, “And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

Billy Graham preached.

Billy Graham was sent.

So you see…Billy Graham indeed had beautiful feet.

Though I have far less than perfect feet, I long for them to be even a smidgen as beautiful as Billy Graham’s.

THE COMMONPLACE OF COMMUNION

Grab the bread and dunk it in the juice as quickly as possible. There’s a line, ya know? And as the Kansas City Royals say, “Keep the line moving!”

This is what Communion looks like and feels like at my church. We form lines and head to the front of the Sanctuary or Ministry Center. The organist or worship team plays some Communion-related song as we “worshipfully” approach the serving Elders or Deacons at the front. It seems to be a relatively slow and reflective pace—some deep in thought or even prayerful as they make their way to receive the elements.

Or is it?

As soon as we saintly souls get to server #1 who has the plate of bread and says (as a holy reminder), “This is the body of Christ broken for you,” we’ve already moved to server #2 who has the juice and says (as a holy reminder), “This is the blood of Christ shed for you.” As a matter of fact, before server #1 is even through speaking, some have already dunked the bread into the juice and moved on.

And poor server #2 who holds the juice! They’re just holding a mess right there.

Here’s my observation: It’s a race. It’s a fast food drive through. It’s some sort of “Divine Dash.”

Somewhere along the way, we’ve confused scoring points for the Royals with taking holy Communion as quickly as you can. As I said, “Keep the line moving!”

I am an Elder who occasionally serves Communion at our church. I’ve witnessed this Divine Dash for years. There are some who grab the bread before I even get the chance to say anything. Of course, there are (very) few who actually wait, take a piece of bread, listen, and move on to the juice server, then wait, listen, and dunk the bread into the juice.

And the dunking of the bread is another thing. Trust me I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen big hunks of bread accidentally dropped into the chalice of juice, then grabbed right back out with germy hands. I’ve seen hunks of bread left in the chalice as nice little floaters to greet the next person in line. I’ve seen dunks so big and sloppy I feel like we need one of those “Caution—Wet Floor” signs to place in front of the juice server.

What is happening here? Seriously, I’d like to know!

Do you know what the word “commune” means? According to the Oxford dictionary, to commune means to “share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone), especially on a spiritual level.” It means to “feel in close spiritual contact with.”

In the Divine Dash to grab and dunk, are we “communing” at all with God? Are we having any “close spiritual contact” with Jesus—the One we are doing this in remembrance of?

Come on, church! Is this any way to approach Communion? Is this any way to approach Holy Communion?

Where’s the reverence? Where’s the reflection? Where’s the repentance?

Am I coming down on my church? Yes! Am I shaking my holy finger in their face? No! Because I’ve been equally as guilty as the rest.

But maybe my church isn’t that different than yours. Maybe your church has its own “Divine Dash” or seemingly apathetic approach to something set aside as a holy sacrament.

I would contend that perhaps Communion has become commonplace.

A lady in her 90’s recently shared a story with me. She and her husband used to lead the youth group at her church some 70 years ago. On a youth mission trip—in which they planned to offer Communion—something happened to the bread and the juice. The bread was moldy and the juice was spoiled because it got left in the hot car for days. So, they scrambled for a solution. Instead of serving bread and juice for Holy Communion, they served potato chips and Pepsi. (Yes, you read that right!) I laughed out loud when she told me that. And then she said, when all were served, they threw out the rest of the potato chips and Pepsi because they were used as holy elements. They were set aside and designated as a holy remembrance of Jesus’ body broken for them, and His blood shed for them. And because of that, they could not (in good conscience), have used the chips and soda pop as common food. She shared with me that they all had to move past the simple in order to arrive at the sacred. They had to step over the droll in order to embrace the Divine. She said it was one of the most meaningful and memorable Communions they had ever partaken of.

Friends, no matter how you receive Communion, remember it’s not a common occasion. It’s a holy experience. Pause…slow down…reflect. If the elements are passed down your row of chairs or pew, hold the elements before you gobble them up and slam them back. If you go forward to be served the elements, let the server actually serve you. Let the words of their mouths soak in. Infuse the words of institution. Refuse the temptation to allow Communion to become commonplace. It’s not a Divine Dash. It’s a moment. A moment to commune with our Heavenly Father. A moment to share and connect with the God of the Universe. A moment to reflect on His lavish love by way of sacrificing His Son Jesus.

A moment created for you…not about you.

Slow down…reflect…repent…embrace the Divine…welcome the privilege to commune. Move past the simple, and arrive at the sacred.

 

THE STARE DOWN

The stare down between us started at 9:15 Wednesday morning.

I was outside visiting with a gentleman who had his scooter parked alongside the handrail of the wide sidewalk from the front door to the parking lot. It’s about 30 feet from the door to the edge of the sidewalk where our company van picks up folks to transport them to various places.

In the middle of our conversation, I looked up and there he was, hunched over, unable to stand erect, using a cane instead of his normal walker, struggling to take his steps toward the van. Scruffy beard (which I’ve complimented by the way), bald head, glasses half way down his nose. Worn and weathered stern looking face. Headed my direction.

I heard him say something to me in his gruff voice…something that I couldn’t quite make out. So I asked him if he needed any help…if there was anything I could do for him.

He immediately bit my head off. I didn’t understand all of his rant, but what I could decipher was a few expletives shot right at me, stating his adamant independence and his desire for me to leave him the hell alone.

That’s when it happened. The stare down between him and me. I didn’t say a word and neither did he as he made his way right toward me. He stared at me with his devil face and I stared right back with my bitch eyes. As he passed by me we were only a few feet away from each other, deadlocked on each other’s faces. Eye to eye. I didn’t crack and neither did he.

Stare DownHe turned to get in the van as we gave each other one last, long, look. Then I turned and walked inside. Not a word was vocalized after his outburst. Well…perhaps many words were spoken, just not verbally. This is the same gentleman (if I can even call him that) I blogged about on June 28th. He’s crusty and very rough around the edges.

At the moment of his blasting, I wasn’t at all taken aback. I’ve gotten used to it from him. I wasn’t necessarily left speechless, because again, I’ve been on the receiving end of his chastising before. But at the same time I didn’t know what to say back. I’d had it. It hit a nerve this time. So I stared him down and quite likely in my mind spewed words so sharp it would have cut the scruff right off his beard.

I fully believe everything I shared in my previous blog about dealing with difficult people. I believe we are supposed to bless those who curse us and love our enemies. I believe we shouldn’t repay evil with evil or insult with insult. With regard to “Mr. Crusty Man” I’ve literally put those words into practice.

But after I got home, something (or perhaps someONE—who’s far greater than me) reminded me of the passage in Scripture where Jesus tells His disciples “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:14).

Could it be that this is what God is calling me to do with him? I wrestle with the thought. On one hand, I feel that I should love unconditionally. That I should continue to offer grace and mercy to a guy who certainly doesn’t deserve it, because isn’t that a picture of what God does for us daily?

On the other hand, there are Jesus’ words to His disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” which is a symbolic indication that they had done all they could do and no longer carried the responsibility of it. They were free to walk away with a clear conscience.

Is this God’s way of telling me to move on? To “shake the dust off my feet” with regard to this guy who I’ve poured into, prayed for, tried to encourage, helped in every way I can, planted seeds, and made an effort to take our conversations Godward when I could?

I’m stuck in the middle of these two teachings of Jesus. Both right. Both true. Both I believe firmly in.

I haven’t seen him since the stare down occurred. When I encounter him next, will there be the sweet fragrance of Jesus in the air…or just a cloud of dust?

DISHING ON DIFFICULT PEOPLE

I was being kind and compassionate and was prepared to go out of my way to be helpful. Then he bit my head off. I immediately thought, “Thanks for nothin’ there, bud!” I always go the extra mile in the respect, caring, and kindhearted department with this guy. And what I get in return is short, impatient, disrespectful responses. He grunts, he groans, or he growls at me nearly every time. He’s crusty. He’s rough around the edges to say the least. He once told me that when he dies he’s “going straight to hell because he’s one mean son of a bitch.” (Yep, that’s a direct quote from him.) Ever since he made that declaration, he’s been on my heart. For whatever reason, this week when I reached out to help out with my normal positive, considerate approach, and when he bit my head off, I thought to myself, “I’m done! I’m over you, dude! Game over!”

Later, another gentleman (not sure he really deserves that title if I’m being honest) told me he didn’t like me one bit at all. (What I really wanted to say was, “Yeah, the feeling is mutual!”) He let me know I was terrible at my job and that I needed to get with the program. He then stated that he didn’t like being around me and told me to go away. Apparently not long after we met I ticked him off. He doesn’t look at me, speak to me, or acknowledge me in any way. I say hello to him every time I see him. I ask him how his day is going. And he pretends that I don’t exist. Until this week. When I got an earful. And again, I thought to myself, “I’m done! I’m over you, dude! Game over!”

head buttWhen I deal with difficult people, my motto (and self-talk reminder) of the last several years has been, “Just kill ‘em with kindness.” But after this week, my new motto just might leave off the words “with kindness.”

“Bless those who curse you,” He said. I’d like to think Jesus was plum crazy or maybe on something when He challenged His listeners in this way. But that wasn’t the case at all. He was always taking what was right-side-up and turning it upside down. Or perhaps better to the point, He was always taking what was upside down, and turning it right-side-up. Paul reiterates Jesus’ words by adding, “Bless and do not curse.” Then Peter adds his two cents by saying, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing…”

I think Jesus initiated these words because He knew that life was a grander story than just mere moments of insults and ingrates. He knew that He was part of a bigger story than the one written in the heat of the moment of disgust or displeasure with an individual. Not only was His story bigger, but so was that of the insulter, the attacker, the persecutor, the difficult person. And if He could weave kindness, compassion, grace, and mercy into their story, maybe it would awaken them to the bigger story they were a part of but just didn’t know it.

“Love your enemies,” He said. Why would I want to love them when they don’t return the sentiment? Loving them is an investment that doesn’t produce any kind of return, other than frustration on the part of the one giving the love. But this is what we’re challenged to do. To participate in God’s story–one in which He is speaking and acting. A story of unconditional love. And grace. And mercy.

“Love, do good, help, and lend to those difficult people in your life,” He said. Those difficult people in our lives aren’t problems to fix. They’re people. Made in the image of God. People to love. People to serve.

Jesus also added these words, “…expecting nothing in return.” That’s where it gets real. That’s where it gets raw. I want progress in return. I want a glimpse of something positive in return. I want my effort to mean something, to make an impact, to influence…and see evidence of it.

God says to all of us, “It’s not about the return. It’s about the story. I am writing your story just as I am writing theirs.”

So…we gear up, we armor up, we fill up and prepare ourselves to spill out love and blessings to those who curse us, our enemies, the ungrateful, the selfish, the hateful, and the mean-spirited. And we know after all the spillage, our bucket will indeed be empty. (Jesus probably experienced this on a regular basis.) But we go straight back to the Source to refuel. The Author of our story. The One who invites us to participate in it as best we can. By loving…doing good…and blessing.

 

WHY JESUS DIDN’T HALF-ASS

“A job isn’t worth doing unless it’s done right the first time.” It was something like this that my grandmother embedded into us when we spent the summers with her. We “earned our keep,” so to speak. We had a list of chores to do each day. We memorized Bible verses at meal times, we were expected to treat each other with kindness and respect, and she set the bar high. We had to make our beds each morning…perfectly. We had to do the dishes…completely and thoroughly. We had to clean out the toy closets and ball closets…spotlessly. We had to sweep the garage…immaculately. She wasn’t being mean, or harsh, or a taskmaster. She just expected us to pitch in. She wanted us to learn the value of hard work. She wanted us to learn to do a job right…the first time. It’s a waste of time to do a job half-assed, then do it repeatedly until it’s done right, done well, and with care and excellence.

This is what my grandmother taught me. I didn’t care much for those lessons at the time. Matter of fact, I kinda thought it was a crock. Since when do kids go to their grandmother’s house to work? It’s supposed to be all about fun. And, truthfully, we had a lot of fun with her…after the work was done. She loved to play games…after the chores were complete. Part of her mission, I think, was to teach us grandkids to do a job right the first time around. And it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

I ran across a passage this week that made me think of this very thing. Some people brought a man to Jesus who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to heal him. Jesus took him aside, put His fingers in the man’s ears, and some of His spit on the man’s tongue. (Yes, this sounds disgusting!) Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Be opened!” In an instant, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue loosened, and he began to speak clearly. It was gross, crazy, strange, and miraculous all at the same time.

The people who witnessed this were absolutely blown away. And do you know what their response was? Here’s what they said about Jesus… “He has done everything well…” What they were indicating about Jesus was, “He does everything beautifully, commendably, and with excellence. Jesus does admirable things that are honorable, surpassing good and noble.”

He didn’t just do some things well. He did all things well. He didn’t choose to half-ass a few things now and then. He chose to do the job right (and with excellence) the first time. The Message Translation of Mark 7:37 records it this way, “He’s done it all and done it well.”

I wonder if Jesus grew up with a grandmother like mine?

Or maybe He just knew that it made perfect sense to do everything well. That doing things half-assed is a waste of time. Maybe He sensed that excellence and honor was the way God intended it to be. Maybe He figured out that if you’re gonna do a job, do it right the first time. Because in the end, this is the way, the effort, the attitude, and the character that pleases God…and my grandmother.

 

JESUS, WHERE’S WALDO, & PROBLEM SOLVING

About 15 years ago or so, the Kansas City Star used to put Where’s Waldo in the lineup of comic strips in their Sunday edition. Back in the day, we spent lots of Sundays with my folks who took the paper faithfully. I remember Sunday after Sunday, lying on the family room floor, poring over each comic strip with an occasional grin or chuckle. But one of my favorite parts of the funny papers was Where’s Waldo. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s one of those seek-and-find type things. Waldo is a kinda geeky looking guy with a red and white striped shirt, round glasses, wacky brown hair, and a red and white stocking cap. Where's WaldoEach cartoon features Waldo tucked away in some crazy, action-packed scene. And your job is to find him. I usually couldn’t. I’d spend a good 5-10 minutes searching for the guy, but wasn’t very successful. Then my oldest son, who was about 4 or 5 at the time, would come scrunch down beside me, and within 30 seconds would say, “There he is, momma!” I thought it was coincidence at first. But week after week, I’d search high and low, studying the scene with a careful eye, trying to find Waldo. I’d find someone who closely resembled Waldo, but not Waldo. Then like I said, Caleb would swoop in, and find him in a heartbeat without even trying.

Sometimes I think solutions to our problems are like this. We search high and low, in what feels like some crazy, action-packed scene. We look the scene (aka our problem) up one side and down the other and just can’t seem to find the solution. For us it’s sometimes grueling and clouded by seeing the same reality over and over again. Someone else, however, can take a look at the same reality and see the solution quickly. They can come in with a different perspective—one that’s not emotionally charged—and see the solution.

But here’s the thing…we don’t like those people. Even though they can see clearly what we should do, we don’t listen to their advice. We brush away their wisdom. It’s a pride thing in us. We have trouble admitting the fact that we have weaknesses and need help. There are times when we should seek out wisdom, help, advice, or counsel from others, but instead we just insist on trying harder ourselves.

You remember the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? When He stood at the entrance of the tomb and hollered for Lazarus to come out, scripture records that “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:44a).

Why did Jesus do that? Why didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus out all clean and fresh to put a further exclamation point on this miracle? Why did Jesus have Lazarus come out of the tomb all “mummified” like that?

The very next thing Jesus said to those close by was, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go (John 11:44b).” That’s why. Jesus asked whoever was near the tomb to help Lazarus take off what bound him. You see, Jesus knew we needed each other. Jesus knew the value of others stepping in to help, to unbind us, to be hands-on in setting us free from our problems.

If you can’t find Waldo, you might ask Caleb to help you.

If you can’t find the solution to your problem, however, you just might consider the Jesus method—of asking those nearby to help unbind you.

WHY?…OR WHY NOT? WHICH IS THE BETTER QUESTION?

A few years ago, a kid I knew went through a phase of answering every question you asked him with a question. He would ask you back the same question you asked him, only with a twist. For instance, if you’d ask him, “Why did you shorts on such a cold day?” He’d answer back, “Why not wear shorts on such a cold day?”

If you asked him, “Why did you leave the meeting early?” He’d respond, “Why not leave the meeting early?”

It was always kinda funny, always kinda unique. And when I considered his responses, I had to stop and think to myself, “Well I guess you have a point there! Why not? What would be a legitimate reason why not?” And usually I couldn’t come up with a viable, legitimate reason why not. So my questions (as to why)—which I originally thought were valid and reasonable—were actually not so much.

There’s an interesting story in three of the four gospels in which Jesus is found eating with some “tax collectors and sinners.” (That’s not my wording—that’s actually what the Bible says.)

“Tax collectors and sinners.” I wonder who all might have been lumped in this category back then? And who—what saintly person, group, or entity—got to label them as such?

So Jesus was hanging out with a group of sinners—criminals, reprobates, outlaws, degenerates, troublemakers, and whoever else. Next thing you know, some “high and mighties” come along and see Him doing this. (Gasp! Say it isn’t so!) Yep! There was Jesus (who was sinless) eating dinner and chillin’ with a house full of heathens. Appalled, I’m sure, they immediately ask some of Jesus’ close friends, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

I suppose from their perspective it’s a valid question, right? Why would Jesus—who was perfect, holy, and righteous—hang out with imperfect, unholy, and unrighteous folks? This was an important, legitimate question in their eyes. I mean, these “high and mighties” wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with anyone who might taint their lily white reputation. So they questioned why. But a more important question in my eyes is “Why not eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Why NotWhy did Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? Because He loved them. Jesus didn’t see their faults and flaws. He saw their faces. He didn’t let their immorality keep Him from seeing them as individuals. He saw past the sin, and saw a somebody.

Why did He hang out with sinners?

Why not?

Far too many of us are afraid to associate with the “tax collectors and sinners” in our world. We’re afraid we might be labeled. We’re too protective of our reputation. We fear we can’t relate. We somehow strangely believe “it’s not the Christian thing to do.”

You see, the skeptical eye, the critical heart, the judgmental perspective looks at Jesus and says “Why in the world are you hanging out with sinners?” But the grace-filled eye, the merciful heart, the open perspective says, “Why in the world wouldn’t you?”

Scripture says that Jesus was a “friend of tax collectors and sinners.” It also says that they were hanging around listening to what He had to say.

Why did Jesus hang out with sinners?

Why not?

Jesus chose to do life with the sinners, the outcasts, the heathens, and all kinds of disreputable folks. So why don’t we?

 

WHY I SHOT JESUS IN THE HEAD

I accidentally shot Jesus in the head with the hand sanitizer. I didn’t mean to do it. It just happened.

We have new hand sanitizers everywhere at work. The ones you mount on the wall. And they squirt out purifying, decontaminating foam. I don’t like the foam. I prefer the goo. In my expert hand sanitizing opinion, the goo does a better job of fully cleansing each and every part of my hands. The foam, on the other hand, seems like it evaporates into nothingness as I attempt to spread it around. To each her own, I suppose.

I digress…

Back to Jesus…

I didn’t want to get rid of the monster-sized goo pump sanitizer we previously had, so I moved it over on top of the piano. I don’t know if you have a gallon jug of hand sanitizer goo on top of your piano or not, but we do. Hand sanitizer on one end…Jesus bust on the other. The Jesus bust is a whole other issue, but for now I’ll let that one go.

Because I have quite a bit of physical contact with elderly people at my job, I feel the need to either wash my hands a lot or at least sanitize them. (I hope that doesn’t sound too weird or rude.) So I headed over to the piano, passing up not one but two foam sanitizers, so I could fill my hands with the goo. One pump usually does it for me, but if I’ve touched several “yucky” people—I’m just keeping it real, y’all—I’ll go for two.

So, one hand on the pump apparatus, one hand down below to catch all the disinfecting, sterilizing goo. Apparently because of the angle of the dried-on goo from its previous use, instead of squirting downward as gravity might have it, it shot out sideways…three feet to the left…right onto Jesus’ head. Bless Him!

For a hot second I was confused because my hand was not filled with the goo. But then I laughed. Out loud. Hard. Because I just shot Jesus in the head with the hand sanitizer. This was funny to me. And oh-so-ironic. Here I was, standing over the purifying goo and Jesus. Jesus now having cleansing goo running down from the crown of His head, over His face. Jesus being cleansed. Purified. Yeah…AS IF!

This is the irony.

Jesus isn’t in need of cleansing. I am. Jesus isn’t in need of purifying. I am. And it takes a whole lot more than a monster-sized jug of hand sanitizer to disinfect, and sterilize, and purify this sinful, unrighteous self of mine.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

I still chuckle each time I head over to the piano to get sanitized. I see the Jesus bust and am reminded that it’s all because of Him I can stand forgiven…cleansed…and purified.

Thanks be to God that He doesn’t get tired of me coming to Him for forgiveness. For a “do over.” For a clean, fresh start. That’s the kind of faithful God we have. And because He created humor, I’m sure He doesn’t mind that I shot Jesus in the head with the hand sanitizer.

 

A NEW YEAR’S INVITATION

I had the privilege of seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra perform in Kansas City the day after Christmas. This is a show I’ve been longing to see for many, many years but never wanted to spend the money to see it. But this year we were blessed by a connection of my husband’s at Time Warner Cable and got to enjoy the show for free in their executive suite at the Sprint Center. All I can say is “Wow!” If you ever get the chance to see them, go for it.

But the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, as talented as they are, is not the point of my blog today…

I was blown away and caught off guard by one of the numbers they performed. It was one of their more “quiet” songs—no laser lights, no pyrotechnics. Just a gal singing under one lone spotlight and someone else in the dimly lit background playing the keyboard. The song is called For the Sake of Our Brother, but in it contains the first verse and chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful. What I’m used to each year around Christmas is the traditional, almost boring rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful that we sing in church. Don’t misunderstand… I’ve always liked the song. But as most Christmas hymns do, they become routine, humdrum, and uninteresting at best. I hate that fact, but it’s a fact nonetheless. But as this gal sang the other night, she sang this particular song with such power and depth, yet with such vulnerability and purity. She sang as if she really meant the invitation she was singing about.

O come all ye faithful…
…Joyful and triumphant

Come and behold Him…

Come and adore Him…
…O come let us adore Him

I sat there speechless. Mesmerized. Sucked into the invitation. And personally challenged. I love Jesus. But adore Him? I adore cute little puppies, soft warm kittens, and huggable sweet babies. But adore Jesus? What?

If you look in the thesaurus, “adore” is associated with words like worship, esteem, revere, glorify, exalt, and honor. Somehow that no longer fits cute little puppies, soft warm kittens, and huggable sweet babies. It moves waaayyy beyond that.

The invitation in the song is for us not only to behold Jesus, but to adore Jesus. To come faithfully, with joy, and victoriously adore Him. And although we sing that song at Christmas time, I’m pretty sure the invitation extends beyond that hemmed-in, commercialized, two or three week time frame.

For the last week—since I left the concert—the idea of adoring Jesus hasn’t left my mind. In the things I read, in the experiences I’ve had, in the people I’ve encountered, the idea of adoring Jesus has come to the surface over and over again.

You see, I want my 2016 to be about adoring Jesus. I want to be faithful in doing that. I want to experience joy and triumph in 2016. And as much as I’d like that joy and triumph to be in things like my own personal happiness, my own career stability and advancement, deep down I’d rather that joy and triumph be in adoring Jesus. I want to faithfully, joyfully, and triumphantly adore Jesus—so much so that it affects the way I think, act, talk, relate to people, pray, react, read, give, and all that other stuff.

Jesus…

He’s the King. He’s the Christ. He’s the Rock. He’s the Redeemer.

2016 ChallengeHe’s the one who came to save the world. He’s the one who forgives us, loves us tenderly, gives us do-overs, never leaves us, treats us with grace, grabs us close when we’re hurt or afraid, leads us when we’re lost, and willingly doles out mercy. If you think about that…what’s not to adore?

So the invitation in the song is my challenge to myself for 2016. But the invitation in the song is for you as well. It’s a collective kind of thing.

So, are you willing to accept the invitation? Do you want in on the challenge? After all, it’s not about ME. It’s about US. It’s a New Year’s challenge for US.

“O COME…LET US ADORE HIM!”

(Note: If you’d like to watch a video of the song I’m referring to by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, click here.)

 

 

 

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