God recently allowed me to see Jesus through the eyes of someone seeing Him for the first time. Having the advantage of knowing how the story ends, we can easily forget the cost of our redemption and the love of our Savior.
Every year we attend a local church pageant at Christmas time, which tells the story of Jesus from His birth through His resurrection. It is a spectacular event, with live animals and hundreds of cast members in realistic costumes. The magi enter the huge auditorium on llamas from the rear, descending the steps in pomp and majesty. Roman soldiers look huge and menacing in their costumes and makeup.
Of all the years we have attended, one stands out indelibly in my heart. It was the year we took our then three-year-old granddaughter, Bailey, who loves Jesus. She was mesmerized throughout the entire play, not just watching, but involved as if she were a player. She watches as Joseph and Mary travel to the Inn and is thrilled when she sees the baby Jesus in His mother's arms.
When Jesus, on a young donkey, descends the steps from the back of the auditorium, depicting His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Bailey was ecstatic. As he neared our aisle, Bailey began jumping up and down, screaming,
"Jesus, Jesus! There's Jesus!"
Not just saying the words but exclaiming them with every fiber of her being. She alternated between screaming his name and hugging us.
"It's Jesus. Look!"
I thought she might actually pass out.
Tears filled my eyes as I looked at Jesus through the eyes of a child in love with Him, seeing Him for the first time. How like the blind beggar screaming out in reckless abandon, "Jesus, Jesus!" afraid he might miss Him, not caring what others thought. This was so much fun.
Then came the arrest scene. On stage, the soldiers shoved and slapped Jesus as they moved Him from the Garden of Gethsemane to Pilate. Bailey responded as if she were in the crowd of women, with terror and anger.
"Stop it!" she screamed. "Bad soldiers, stop it!"
As I watched her reaction, I wished we had talked to her before the play. "Bailey it's OK. They are just pretending."
"They are hurting Jesus! Stop it!" She stood in her seat reacting to each and every move. People around us at first smiled at her reaction, thinking "How cute!" Then they quit smiling and began watching her watch Him. In a most powerful scene, the soldiers lead Jesus carrying the cross down the steps of the auditorium from the back. They were yelling, whipping, and cursing at Jesus, who was bloodied and beaten. Bailey was now hysterical.
"Stop it! Soldiers! Stop it," she screamed. She must have been wondering why all these people did nothing. She then began to cry instead of scream.
"Jesus; oh, Jesus!"
People all around us began to weep as we all watch this devoted little disciple see her Jesus beaten and killed as those first century disciples had.
Going back and forth between her mother's lap and mine for comfort, she was distraught. I kept saying,
"Bailey, it's OK. Jesus is going to be OK. These are just people pretending to be soldiers."
She looked at me like I was crazy. In my lap, we talked through the cross and burial. "Watch, Bailey, watch for Jesus!"
The tomb began to tremble and lightening flashed as the stone rolled away. A super bowl touchdown cheer couldn't come close to matching this little one's reaction to the resurrection.
"Jesus! He's OK. Mommy, it's Jesus!"
I prayed that she wasn't going to be traumatized by this event, but that she would remember it. I shall never forget it. I shall never forget seeing Jesus' suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection through the eyes of an innocent child.
Following the pageant the actors all assembled in the foyer to be greeted by the audience. As we passed by some of the soldiers Bailey screamed out,
"Bad soldier, don't you hurt Jesus."
The actor who portrayed Jesus was some distance away surrounded by well-wishers and friends. Bailey broke away from us and ran toward Him, wrapping herself around His legs, holding on for dear life. He hugged her and said, "Jesus loves you." He patted her to go away. She wouldn't let go. She kept clinging to Him, laughing and calling His name. She wasn't about to let go of her Jesus.
I think God in heaven stopped what ever was going on that day and made all the angels watch Bailey.
"Now, look there! You see what I meant when I said, 'Of such is the kingdom of heaven?'"
Tuesday: December 6, 2005
"A Prized Possession"
My wife Sharon (I call her Sas - short for Sassy) is my best friend (and my biggest critic).If she approves one of my devotionals, I know it's a good one.However, I'm not going to ask her to proof this one because... it's about her.
We have frequently discussed hearing from God.I don't mean the random feelings or "hunches" that He sometimes sends to tweak us back on the path. And I'm not talking about the "signs" he puts in front of us like the songs on the radio or the pictures in a magazine that "just happen" to arrive at precisely the right time to send us a needed message.I'm talking about actual, audible words, spoken by our Father, directly to us.
Many people have told us that they have heard God speak.I have heard Him speak a few times - and it's a breathtaking, terrifying, humbling, wonderful, never-to-be-forgotten experience.Whether His words are actually audible (came to us through our ears) or are placed directly into our mind has not been the topic of our discussions.Sas wants to know why she has never heard Him.
Sharon tells me she's had many experiences where she knows it's God placing thoughts in her mind.She knows He directs her and helps her make decisions every day.But, He's never spoken directly to her.He's never said,
"Hi Sharon.This is God.I have a word for you"...until today.
Sharon is a Social Worker and a Family Therapist.This morning, she had to pick up one of her clients (from jail) and take her to a half-way house where she can get the help she needs.Sas has been working with this girl for almost two years and is trying to help her not only straighten out her life, but to also accept Jesus into her heart.When she left the house this morning, she took several things to give her client - a winter coat, some gloves, a Bible and other items.A few minutes after she left, my phone rang.It was Sas - in tears.
My first reaction was almost panic.
"What's wrong?What's happened?"
Finally, through her sobs, she told me.She heard the voice of God.
Sas wears a gold cross that I gave her many years ago.It's very expensive and one of her most prized possessions - She wears it constantly.God told her to give it to her client.
I'm not sure what shook her more; the fact that God told her to give away a prized possession; or, that He actually spoke to her.My first reaction was from the flesh.
"No!Do you know how much that cost?"
Then God touched my heart and it melted.With tears in my eyes I said,
"Sas, if God told you to give her your cross, do as He directs.We may not understand, but He does."
She stopped crying (mostly), thanked me for understanding, told me she loved me and hung up.I won't know her final decision until this afternoon; but, I believe she'll follow God's call.
When He calls us, either directly or through His written Word, what do we do?When He asks us to give up a prized possession, how do we choose?He gave up His Son for us.What will we give up for Him?
Last Minute Update:
I just spoke to Sas.She did as God directed and gave up her cross.But that's Ok, Jesus gave her His...
TJ Conwell is my friend and brother in Christ.We have known each other for several years through the GospeLines ministry, but I have never met him in person, and until today had never seen a picture of him.
When I became acquainted with TJ through the internet, he was stationed in Wichita Falls, TX, while serving in the Air Force.On Sundays he was the Minister of Youth at a local church and served God with enthusiasm alongside his wife, Lisa.It was there that he was licensed to preach in the Gospel Ministry and I called him on the day before his licensing ceremony.What a joyous day that was for this young man!
TJ was on fire for the Lord (as he is today!), and wanted nothing more than to follow God's will for his life.Once a year he would go with a group to New Orleans during Mardi Gras and witness/preach on the street corners during the festivities.A man of God with this type of determination and passion is a rare find.This weekend, I learned why TJ has been able to remain stable in his calling to the ministry.
On Sunday, he was ordained into the Ministry by his church where he is now a pastor in Alabama.On Saturday, Sherry and I called him to pray with him, add our blessings upon his Ordination Ceremony, and to encourage him in preparation for the big day on Sunday.Instead, he encouraged us!
"I start my day out reading GospeLines devotionals every day," he said."There are usually scripture references in them and I use that as my study guide for my morning devotionals.I really enjoy reading the articles from you and Ron and the other writers."
He spoke about his favorite Bible which he had marked and underlined through the years.Like most favorite things, it had become worn with time and usage.On the last page he had written the names of people he prays for consistently, which included my name and Sherry's name.When he took the Bible to have it re-covered, he told the man that he HAD to be sure and include that page which had the list on it.Pastor TJ said the Bible was so worn that the section from the Book of James to the maps had come out completely!We laughed together, shed a few tears of joy, and concluded our conversation with prayer.He took time out of the festivities to write to us these words:
What a blessed day today was! The power of the Holy Spirit was just so awesome in our church!!! I am just in awe (again) at how God stays in total control over all situations!!!
Now I know why God has blessed Pastor TJ so much, and will continue to do so.And I know from his testimony that you, too, can be similarly blessed by following this simple prescription.
First, Pastor TJ stays committed to reading God's precious Word; second, he is a dynamic prayer warrior; and third, he knows the importance of having godly friends!Please share in his joy and ministry by logging onto his webpage:
One Christmas Eve, when my children were younger, I was the last shopper in a toy store at the mall.There were broken parts and pieces of toys scattered on the floor... dolls with hair missing, battered soldiers and smashed plastic cars!Have you ever wondered what they do with all those broken toys after Christmas?They weren't chosen by anyone because of their imperfect condition.
Maybe you feel like that sometimes when you become aware of reasons why you think people might not want to choose you.Like the broken toy, we are afraid that we will end up on the floor to be walked on and kicked aside.We know our imperfections all too well.
If God chose only perfect people His Kingdom would be empty!
God has a message for us this Christmas.No matter how bad life gets, no matter how many divorces, deaths, disillusionments we face…nothing is going to change the fact that God made us just like we are, and He made us really good!We can never become so damaged that He will disown us, uncreate and unredeem us as His children.Never forget!God knows more about you than you do.You've got to believe it even though it seems impossible at times.You and others see some of your weaknesses, but God knows ALL of your unseen strengths.
You are not too young, not too old, not too sick, not too guilty, not too alone, not too broken.Jehovah says to us from the lips of Isaiah, the prophet to Judah during the Babylonian captivity, "You are precious and honored… I love you… Do not be afraid, for I am with you."Isa. 43:4-5
GospeLines Prayer:Jehovah, when I am suffering in my own personal captivity, lost from everyone and everything I hold dear, I beseech you to raise my valleys and lower the insurmountable mountains; make the rough ground level, and I will give you glory forevermore.
Did you ever have a God moment?That's one of those times when nothing could explain what happened except God intervened.A very dear friend sent me an e-mail recently and asked me to go to the Website shown below.
I didn't know what to expect; but, knowing my friend, I knew it would be a blessing.When I clicked on the site, I heard a song by Kenny Rogers and Wynona.I had heard it before, but at this moment it really got my attention.
This had been a particularly difficult day.We found out this morning that my wife's uncle passed away overnight and her Dad is taking it very hard.I've been a bit "stressed" lately over several issues and have been having a difficult time following the words of Philippians 4:6... Until this song began to play.
I heard the words and said to myself, "Ok, Jesus is in charge and I should chill out." I clicked the "close" button to stop the song and close the Website; but, THE SONG CONTINUED TO PLAY.
I'm a computer geek, so immediately I started looking for the problem.This music should have stopped.No program was running.There shouldn't have been any sound; but, I was still hearing theses words: "The sleeping child you're holding is the great I Am!"
After a few minutes, the truth of the moment hit me.God wanted me to listen to the words... really listen.I did, and my attitude and mood changed.
Please read the words (below) or go the Website shown above.Either way, try to catch the fact that the Lord of all creation is having a birthday and you are invited to the celebration.