Thursday, April 17, 2014

Going Up to Lay It Down

By Brenda Black

In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of talk of God these days: Debate over His existence, creative license with His infallible Word, curiosity over His home in heaven. There are people irate about losing their God-given rights and folks who would hatefully blaspheme the Holy One without another thought. Why so divided, why so volatile? Quite frankly, the reason is because there is nothing new under the sun.

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When Christ walked the earth, the battles were the same. Power, prestige, tradition, land, money, and a man's reputation. The Pharisees rebuked Jesus for speaking the truth and fulfilling the prophesies they held most sacred because they were blinded by their self-importance. The Romans got nervous over crowds of commoners who might cause an uprising and challenge their dominance. At stake for both was control of the people.

Look at the subject matter of a thought-provoking movie “God's Not Dead” currently creating a stir. A professor of philosophy demands his humanistic authority and declares himself god of the classroom. Then search the news for updates from way out West and down South
, where landowners are in a showdown with the government over the right to free speech, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! Ponder the following thoughts extracted from a pompous online post: “Secularism is advancing, despite your attempts to stop it. The world is becoming safer, more peaceful, better educated, and kinder, despite your attempts to stop this advance.”

Wow! What kind of a rock does a person live under who thinks the world is “safer, more peaceful, better educated and kinder”?

People have not changed. The powerful wield their way over the perceived powerless. The arrogant demand their superiority...until the down-trodden have had enough. Then there is an uprising.
And that is precisely why Jesus came – to create an UPrising.

"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life' (Matthew 20:17-19)!"

He knew what lay ahead and yet He went up...up to Jerusalem, up to criticism, up to humiliation, up to crucifixion...and laid His body down for our sin. This sacrificial act flung open the door for division.
“'I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed (Luke 12:49-50)!'” Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit fire that cannot come until He departs and He symbolically speaks of His death as a “baptism” of sorts. The Christ already knows what His act of great love will do. It will make possible the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. It will also force each one to make a choice, to take a stand.
“'Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division (vs. 51).'”

Of course, the message of the gospel is God's love and mercy. But not everyone receives this good news that would bind us all together in blissful unity. There are many who will not receive it; moreover oppose it vehemently. The division Jesus speaks about is the result of their free will, not His causing havoc.

Still, He went up. He Laid His life down for those who would believe and those who would plot for His cruel elimination. Then He conquered death and hate and injustice by throwing off the grave's chains and living again!

Good Friday is a day to remember the beginning of an eternal UPrising. It's a time to decide whether you're willing to lay it down and stand up. And Resurrection Sunday...well it's just that. A day to look UP and believe in the One Who laid it down and then rose UP!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shakin' in Our Boots

Boot scoot boogie has a whole new meaning in the Missouri boot heel lately. The dirt beneath farmers' boots may seem a bit less steady with earthquakes rumbling below the surface. Sikeston, West Plains and Festus were all rocked this past month.

While Missouri trembles, so does another “M” state at the opposite end of the Missouri River where a 4.8 magnitude quake tickled Bozeman this week. Some will claim that an earthquake in Yellowstone National Park could awaken a volcano that could wipe out the planet. And a teeth-rattling tremor in the Midwest could take out bridges from K.C. to D.C.

Should all this news have us shaking in our boots?

Earthquakes are not rare in Missouri. In the past year, the earth moved 118 times in the Show Me State. I remember feeling my first rolling sensation about a year ago. The New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) is the culprit, but she hasn't really shifted significantly since the winter of 1811-12, when three earthquakes, estimated at magnitude 7.0 or greater occurred. Though the fault line has slumbered for a couple hundred years, there is no reason to think she could not rouse again. In fact, some predictions say it is bound to happen within the next 50 years.

The NMSZ, located in southeastern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, western Kentucky and southern Illinois, is the nation's most active seismic zone east of the Rocky Mountains. Over the entire course, nearly 200 earthquakes occur each year. Most go unnoticed, but should a big one rock the boot heel back on her spur, it could be felt half way across the nation. According to Central United States EarthquakeConsortium, “Earthquakes in the central or eastern United States effect much larger areas than earthquakes of similar magnitude in the western United States. For example, the San Francisco, California, earthquake of 1906 (magnitude 7.8) was felt 350 miles away in the middle of Nevada, whereas the New Madrid earthquake of December 1811 rang church bells in Boston, Massachusetts, 1,000 miles away. Differences in geology east and west of the Rocky Mountains cause this strong contrast.”

Just because we haven't felt the earth move under our feet, doesn't mean we won't. Just because the geysers in Wyoming haven't spewed hot lava, doesn't mean they can't. But just because disaster is always a shake away, doesn't mean we have to live in dread or fear.

"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will fain from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:25-28)."

The best advice I've ever received came from a very wise woman and seems most applicable here. “Be prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.” Isn't that the Christian's perfect plan? Know where you're going by knowing the Lord. And know that the destiny is perfectly unshakeable.

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8:22-24a)."

Be prepared. Be filled with peace. Be hopeful. "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our god is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29)."

That's all we can really do since we are not the center of the universe.