Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hopelessness and the Resurrection

It's an odd title. For Easter.


For all my BJU friends and those in the surrounding area, you are familiar with Living Gallery. Every year, Bob Jones puts on this amazing production for Easter. They take paintings like:

and . . . 

and . . . 

Looking at these, you assume they are the original paintings. But because BJU goes beyond normal, they take these paintings and recreate them to be life-sized. Each of the people in these paintings are real people. They take out the paintings and put in real people. I could never do that. I'm ADD. Stand in a painting and look like a statue for long periods of time? No way. I just don't have the patience or skill. But people do it. And it's absolutly incredible. It's breath taking. If you have the chance, you should really go see it. 

Normally, there is a drama that accompanies the art.It highlights the gospel and usually involves a dramatic conversion on stage. This year, they did something different. They had monologues of people who "observed" the crucifixion. People who "knew" Christ. I wasn't sure how I felt about that before I saw it. I like the drama. It's always really cool, and I just like acting and all that. Monologues are cool, as long as they are part of the drama. But then I saw them, and my opinion totally changed. I was overwhelmed with the emotion conveyed on the screen. They portrayed the characters in a way I never would have thought. The actors made the person come alive. They seemed real. People like Peter, the Samaritan Woman, Pilate, the Pharisees, Nicodemus, Judas Iscariot, and others. They are a part of the story, but they were people. They had feelings and emotions. And they were going through something very few of us could imagine. There was one major feeling that most of the people on stage communicated. That I picked up on.


Absolute Despair.

All the characters on stage were totally lost. Well, most of them were. The Pharisees--not so much. But even Pilate felt lost and alone. Somewhat. And the audience, while watching, was supposed to feel that same overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Jesus was dead. He died. He was the promised Messiah. He was supposed to save us from sin. Give us eternal life. He was the Son of God. And now, all these people watched Him die. 

Treated like a common criminal. 

They watched His body come down from the cross and observed His hasty burial. Guards stood around the tomb in case someone would try to steal the body.

They wanted to believe. So much. But what could they believe in. In all practically, Jesus was dead. He had told them this would happen, but they had refused to believe it.

Probably the best and most compelling monologue was that of Peter's. One of Jesus' inner circle of friends. Known best for doing stuff without thinking. For being impetuous.

In His monologue, he looks up and screams, "WHY!?!?! I feel so guilty for betraying you. For denying you. But you betrayed us! You left us!" The audience was absolutely silent. I never pictured Peter as being angry with God. Weeping bitterly? Sure. The Bible says that. But screaming at God and accusing Him of leaving Peter alone? I had never thought of him as doing that. But don't we all?

We feel abandoned by God.



Even hopeless. No matter what happens, our life will never be the same. There is no point in going on. Of serving God. We feel that He has left us to fend for ourselves in this world. And we can't do it. We can't keep pushing forward.






Jesus is alive. He conquered death. Sure, He died. He had to die. But then, He rose again. He defeated death--it will not have dominion over us. Because of Christ's sacrifice, we can have Hope. Because of the resurrection, we don't need to live in a spirit of hopelessness.

Jesus understands our suffering. He suffered. More than we will ever go through or could ever imagine. 

When it feels like we are all alone, remember this:

Jesus was all alone. One of His closest friends sold Him. Another of His best friends denied that he even knew Jesus. All those that knew Him best fled in fear. Then the unthinkable:

God turned His back on His Son. His "Only Begotten Son" (John 3:16). Jesus cried out, in anguish,

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

So when you feel completely alone, remember 2 things.

1. Jesus knows how you fell--He was completely alone.

2. You aren't completely alone. He has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).





Because of Christ's sacrifice, we have hope. Hope of a home in heaven and eternal life.  Hope of forgiveness of sin. Hope in victory over death. Hope of so much more. And this isn't a casual hope, like "I hope it won't rain tomorrow". This is a sure hope. It's a promise from God. 

We don't need to live in a state of hopelessness. We CAN have victory.

Happy Easter! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don't waste your life

Rachel (name and unimportant details changed to provide privacy) left work on Friday. She waved and and said goodbye. Her smile brightened the day for many last Friday.
As it did every day.
She headed home to her family. She was 42, had 2 kids and a husband.
She worked at a Christian college--behind the scenes.
Helping families around the world.
Her co-workers wished her a happy weekend.
Sunday she worshipped God with her church family.
Monday, 2 departments gathered at her Christian college. They meet every week for a devotional and prayer time. They looked around.

No Rachel.

She was never late. She never skipped work. She viewed her job as her ministry.
The leader, the boss, got up.

"Pray for Rachel. She had a heart attack this morning while getting ready for work. The doctors are working hard, but they can't stabilize her."

We were all shocked. I don't know her very well. I remember seeing the faces of the people that morning. They were shocked. It's not exactly something you are expecting on a Monday morning. Your 42 co-worker just had a heart attack.
Less than 2 hours later, we got the email that said that Rachel had passed away.
Just like that,

She was gone.

In the presence of the Saviour for whom she lived and served.
I'm sure she wasn't expecting it. I know none of us were. The cries of alarm that floated around the office--I'll never forget them. We weren't sure how to respond. Was this some kind of sick joke? She was so . . . alive . . . . She was excited about serving the King of Kings. Day in and day out.

Now, as we look back on her testimony, we are still saddened. Obviously. She will be missed in the office. But she spent the time God gave her on this earth for His glory. She gave everything she had to serve Him. She didn't waste her time.

I know this blog was originally directed at my generation--teenagers. Since I'm no longer a teenager, I have to widen the audience. I still have a passion for teenagers. I want to help them. But no matter what age you are, you still can give God everything you have. Teenagers are notorious for wasting their lives.

Spending all their time, money, and effort on themselves.

You know I want to change that.

I want to see us give everything for God.

Rachel's testimony demonstrates that. We don't know how long we have. She was 42--a mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, servant. She used the time (even though she didn't know how much time she had) that God gave her for His glory.

I want to challenge MY generation to use the time God has given us for Him. I want us to give EVERYTHING we have--that may be money, energy, talents, or even life goals. Did you see that? LIFE GOALS. This is something I have struggled with.

Struggle with.

I have stuff I want to accomplish in my life. I have established 1 year, 5 year, 10 year goals for my life. If asked, I would say "yeah, I'm flexible--if God wants to change all that, I'm open to His leading". But am I? Are you? Have you thought about it? It's easy to say--quite another thing to step back, get rid of all your plans, hopes, and dreams, and let God direct.

James 4:14 says: "For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

It's short. It's unpredictable. We don't have long on this earth.

I was sitting in the Bible Conference sermon last night. Admittedly, a lot of what the pastor said ticked me off, but he made a lot of good applications. One thing he said in particular really stuck out to me.
He said:
"Where are all the Christians? Why aren't they out there evangelizing? We need to be sharing our faith boldly--with everyone!"
(Or something like that--it's not a direct quote)

My first response was: "We are sitting in Bible Conference. We can't go evangelize because we are listening to your sermon." OK, that was a wrong response. He had been preaching for an hour by that point, though.
My second response was: "Why aren't we Christians out there reaching the world? We have this amazing gift. We are hanging out, wasting our time, while the world goes to Hell. What is wrong with us?"

What have you been doing with your time. I know, most of you are in college--busy with homework, studying, requirements, etc. But you have some time. Go on an extension. Reach out to the world. Share what God has given you.

Don't waste your life. You don't know how long you have . . .