Backflipping Free!

The Resurrection is synonymous with new life, but this year, it has taken on a special poignancy. New life paid a glorious visit to our family the other night as our oldest daughter committed her life to Christ.

I truly believe this is a decision her heart has been set on for a while. The work of the Spirit is beautiful to observe in any life, but it is unutterably precious to watch faith bloom in your own child. I look back and see this steady journey from tiny sprout to full flower. I remember the sweet surprise of its beginning. I was driving down the road with the radio on when suddenly her tiny 2-year-old voice erupted, “My God’s not dead, He’s surely alive, He’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion!” I recall her 3-year-old rendition of Easter. “Mama, Jesus was bleeding. He was bleeding! For sins. He had boo-boos. And then on Easter, He wasn’t bleeding any more and no more boo-boos.” I could never forget the anxious questions of her 4-year-old heart, wrestling with the fearful reality of hell. And then came a season where her inquisitive 5-year-old mind kicked in full steam. She became a churning mill of questions about all things theological. Toward the end of that year, I saw her desire for Jesus ignite. There were still questions, but trust in this incredible God was taking root. And perhaps the most wonderful thing of all has been listening to her 6-year-old lips labor in prayer over people and places who don’t know Jesus. Her list is quite long and gets longer every week, but her faithfulness is dogged and lovely.

In the last few months, her readiness for this decision has been increasingly evident. She frequently brought up the subject in conversations, talking about what it means to follow Jesus and expressing that she had decided she would follow Him. But the other morning, God so amazingly confirmed that her heart was indeed fixed on Him. She and I always pray together in the mornings before my younger daughter awakes. She went through her typical litany of people and places for whom she prays, and then it came:

“Lord, I accept your sacrifice. I want to follow You. I love you very much. I want to follow You. I will sacrifice myself for You. I will.”

I held my breath hearing that sweet surrender spill from her lips. As soon as she said “amen,” I rushed to write down her words, wanting to capture the moment.

That evening, my husband and I sat down with her and walked through the Gospel once again. The Bible on her lap, our daughter wonderingly read aloud each successive verse. I believe her heart had already made the decision, but her little-girl voice confidently confessed her faith in prayer. Holy hush met exploding joy. We have prayed that she would make this decision, but that moment was inexplicably delightful in a way I never imagined. To be there as this precious child of mine ran into the arms of the One who made her…it was sacred, sacred beyond words.

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Our newest Christ-follower

She ended her prayer by telling God she would do whatever He wanted, be a missionary wherever He wanted. I don’t know what God’s plans are for this little one He has entrusted to us, but hearing her offer herself so unreservedly…that kind of faith is arresting and it’s a gift from the God of the universe.

Her own joy went off like fireworks:

“I can’t wait to see heaven! I just can’t wait to see heaven!”

“Can you believe a 6-year-old can follow Jesus?!?!”

“It’s too late for Satan to tell me not to follow Jesus because I’ve already done it!”

“The angels are saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest! There’s a new follower of Jesus tonight!'”

Her joy gloriously showered our little corner of the world. She shouted “I’m free from my sins!” over and over as she jumped on her bed and pulled off one backflip after another. You can say, that’s a 6-year-old kid for you. But I say, we should all be that overcome with the wonderful truth that in Jesus, we are free!

“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” — John 8:36

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The Jesus Question

The Passion. What just happened inside as you read those words? Did your heart dip in solemn worship of the Christ? Were you washed in a wave of sad, beautiful joy? Did you pause, stilled by the bigness of God’s love and the extravagance of Christ’s sacrifice? Or did you zoom on by, wondering what I’d say next? Perhaps, you started tuning out, thinking just another Easter post. Maybe you even tripped over those words, stumbled because they don’t mean much to you and you’re not even really sure you want them to. Wherever they find you, I hope you keep reading.

We can spend a month or more preparing for Christmas, but how much time do we spend welcoming Easter? And yet, Christmas is the seed of something wonderful, while Easter is the bloom in all its bright glory, its sweet fragrance suffusing eternity. This is a time our hearts should make much of. All history, all eternity turns on these few days.

I purposed this year that I would live this Easter season more mindfully, both in my own heart and in how my family honored this time. And while I’m sure God would say there is still much room for improvement in how mindful I have been of Him, how He has blessed me as I have deliberately turned my heart and and the hearts of my family toward Him! No matter what’s gone on this week, there’s been a holy hush in my soul, a sweet perfume of His Presence in our home. As we washed each other’s feet on a blanket in the backyard, pored over the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ suffering, crunched on homemade latkes, smiled over bowls of matzo ball soup, and reflected on the rich symbolism of Passover–God was there in the sweet, the funny, the solemn. My heart has lingered over Jesus–who He is to me and who I want Him to be to my children.

There is this striking passage in Mark 8 where Jesus is talking with His disciples. He’s just miraculously fed several thousand people, ticked off the religious leaders, and healed a blind man. People are talking about Him. He’s causing a stir. And Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say I am?” They start rattling off everyone else’s opinions until Jesus stops them with an arresting question, “But who do you say I am?”

That cuts to the heart of things, doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about who Jesus is, we have to come before Him and answer that question for ourselves. And we are accountable for what we decide. Our eternity hangs in the balance. We can’t come to God based on who we are or what we’ve done. The only way to God is through Jesus and what He’s done. The world calls it His Passion, and it is. But I’m praying this Easter season that you will know it as your Salvation.

This isn’t something I’ve done before on the blog, but I’ve decided to share an original story if you’re of the mind to read it. I love to write fictional short stories that are blended into real Biblical narratives. I wrote this particular story several years ago around Easter time. The idea came while reading Matthew 21:14. It’s just after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in what would be the final week before His crucifixion. With His greatest suffering bearing down, Jesus is in the temple, healing the blind and the lame. Reading this verse, I began to wonder, What would it have been like to be a person He healed just days before He died? What would go through your mind, his violent death coming on the heels of your miracle?  And the seed of a story was born. While Amasai is not real, he represents people who very much were. People who Jesus healed, people who saw Him die, people who had to decide just like you and me, Who is Jesus?

I hope you enjoy the story, and I wish you the happiest of Easters!

The Burden Bearer

 

Eternity Is Just Around the Corner

I’m not much for television or movies. We live in a rural area where there is no cable service, and we don’t subscribe to satellite. Our television is mostly a delivery mechanism for the occasional rental from Redbox or Netflix. My husband and I have been to the theater three times in the last 5 years, and one of those trips was taking our daughters to see Frozen. Our choice of entertainment runs more toward the literary spectrum–there’s nothing better than settling in with a good book on a quiet evening at home.

But I am a child of the ’80s, and I still remember with great fondness many of the shows I grew up watching–some as first runs and some in reruns. I cheered every time Laura Ingalls bested Nellie Olsen. I wished for a brother like John-Boy Walton. The Fonz was alright, but I had a major crush on Chachi, although no one held a candle to Bo Duke. Wonder Woman was my girl, although I didn’t envy her the outfit. And I used to jump off anything I could find while imitating the Bionic Woman sound effects. They are running through my head right now as I write.

The fabric of all that ’80s nostalgia includes a goofball in rainbow suspenders doing headstands on a couch. Back then, he was just Mork from Ork. But Mork became more than just a kooky, offbeat alien. He was the character that introduced the world to the incredible talent of Robin Williams. Given Robin Williams’ subsequent success, even someone like me, whose forays into pop culture are few and far between, would have to live on another planet to not have experienced at least one of his many memorable movie roles.

In the wake of his death, I have read lots of articles about his success, his warmth and likeability, and his struggles with addictions and depression. Clearly, Robin Williams was loved and admired by those who knew him personally, and his passing will rend more than a few hearts. However, as is often the case when someone dies in such a tragic way, people’s thoughts immediately turn to asking why and trying to find meaning in the heartbreak. To that end, many people are using his death as an opportunity to speak out about mental illness and suicide prevention. While these are certainly worthy messages to take from his tragic death, there is a much greater message for those of us who are Christ-followers.

Since I heard of Robin Willliams’ death, I haven’t found myself wondering so much why he chose to take his own life as I have wondering where he is spending eternity. I don’t know where Robin Williams was at with the Lord or what decision he made about Christ. Only God knows. But we all make a decision about Jesus, and what we decide matters forever.

I’m not thinking these thoughts because Robin Williams was a celebrity. I ponder these same things any time I hear of someone dying. And it’s not because I’m morbid or bothered by the idea of mortality. It’s because in the last few years, God has been awakening in my heart an urgency for the Gospel. I can no longer look at people and see them only in the here and now. I look at them and wonder about the eternity that lies ahead. I look at them and feel desperate for their salvation.

Evangelism. Too often as Christ-followers, we like to talk about it, but we don’t like to do it. Awkward, nervous, pushy, crazy, weird. Those are all words that come to mind when most of us think about sharing our faith in Christ with those who are not believers. Yes, it feels like all of those things at times, but what is that to the fate of someone’s soul? I mean, do we get this or not? Do we really get that the Great Commission is the reason Christ has left us in this world? Can we surrender to being briefly uncomfortable so that another person has the chance to escape eternal torment?

Would we still hold onto our discomfort as an excuse if we knew we were someone’s last chance to hear of Christ’s salvation before they died? When we fail to share Christ, we tend to think, “Well, God will give me another opportunity.” But the urgency isn’t about us. It’s about the lost. What if they don’t get another opportunity to respond to the message of Jesus?

Recently, I was reading a book with my oldest daughter that talked about the great diversity among people in this world–the places we live, the way we dress, the languages we speak, the religions we practice, the homes we build, and the holidays we celebrate. This was not a book by a Christian publisher, so I was completely struck as I turned to a page near the end and saw an illustration of a lonely hilltop, gravestones scattered across its rounded hump and a lone shovel planted in the ground. The book pointed out that even though we are so very different as people, there is one way in which we are all alike–we all die. Mortality unites us all. Some people die after long bouts with horrific illnesses, some drift away in a gradual decline, some people pass abruptly in tragic accidents, some fall prey to criminal violence, and some people die by their own hand. But we all die. And no matter how good or bad we are, no matter how much we are loved or hated, no matter what we have done on this earth or failed to do–none of us are prepared for what waits on the other side without Christ. The Gospel matters desperately.

In Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams’ character John Keating says, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” That’s a true enough statement–words and ideas do have the power to change things in this world. But there is only One whose words and ideas have the power to change things for eternity.
And He is Jesus, the Living Word of God to man. And we, His followers, are the way He has chosen to reveal Himself to a world in need of eternal change. Christ has not made evangelism an option. It is the heartbeat, the very breath of His plan for rescuing lost people.

Our duty to the Gospel matters, and it matters now. Eternity is just around the corner.

And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. — II Corinthians 5:18b-21