March 27, 2011

John Testifies Again About Jesus

John 3:22-36

"After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” NIV


I’ve tried to watch a few times but invariably have to back away. Even terminal boredom from an empty docket fails to provide enough oomph to goad me through an entire episode. From the snippets I have endured, however, Bridezilla is a reality show about brides adamant that all wedding plans concentrate on her. Everyone else, family, friends, hired wedding personnel, and even the groom himself, are second to her and at her beckon call, no questions asked. Whenever the spotlight drifts away, she pitches a fit until she’s once again the center of attention. It’s a distressing commentary that’s much too sad for me to watch. (If you watch it don't feel bad, you're just stronger for the topic.)

My husband, a professional photographer, says his most miserable bride was one insatiably consumed with how she looked. Unable to meet her own impossible standards, this treasured time was polluted with her dismal self-centered attitude. While he nearly always comes home with amusing stories of each marriage celebration, this event was most glum as he helplessly watched her sabotage the day.

Brides aren’t the only ones temped to miss the heart of a matter. We, as the bride of Christ, can stray from focus as well. Take Simon the Sorcerer for example. “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money saying, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:18-19

Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Verse 13 tells us that Simon of Samaria believed and was baptized. For all we know his confession of faith was genuine at the time, but being a bit of a Bridezilla himself, giving up the spotlight proved more than he could handle. He wasn't totally off the wall either because according to verses 9-11 he had a lot to give up,

“Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery.”

Simon had a corner office in the highest building in the city and wasn’t open for a downgrade. Using money to motivate the duo, he proposed a two-fold option to Peter and John designed to grant him a godly gift that would make him even more rich and popular. As a third party reader it all sounds too awful to comprehend, but how many times have we, the bride of Christ, attempt to embezzle honor that is rightfully God's? I don't know how many times the Lord has convicted my heart as I marvel at the talent of a Christian teacher or musician rather than the message He was conveying through them. Yes, they are great but He is the focus, never the talent in which He bestows. Then there are the legions of times I’ve attempted to pilfer a few kudos off work I’ve done for Him, failing to discern the Christian Brizedilla stirring in my own heart. Oh the shameful truth of it all. Please tell me you can relate.

The more I learn about John the Baptist the more I admire this last great Old Testament prophet. Paving the way for a new era in God's kingdom, he is truly one of a kind and as much as I've pondered all the men and women of the Bible, I still cannot come up with one more humble than this great forerunner. Many were humbled, but John was genuine from his inception. Having every reason to be seriously puffed with pride, he became less so that Christ could become greater. It convicts and comforts me all in one swoop and I can't wait to meet John in heaven one day. I don't know what he looks like but I'm pretty sure I know where to find him, at the foot of the throne where he's no doubt most comfortable.


As a member of the bride of Christ, do you suffer from any Bridezillian tendencies?

Name one area in your life where Christ must become greater and you must become smaller.

Like Simon the Sorcerer, have you ever attempted to bribe God for a personal gift or ability? What has been His response to your request?

Take a moment to thank God for our privileged position as His beautiful bride! May we live up to the position each day and in every way.

March 21, 2011

Simple Things

Living with Dani's Autism is like a strip of velcro, soft smooth loops on one side and contrasting prickly spurs on the other. With odd, freakish, and rather effortless skill, her disability manages to evoke a perplexing mix of frustration and fascination in her father and me even still today.

As an example, she is in essence a geographical savant with regards to knowing her way around the Kansas City area. It takes but one visit to any spot in town to burn a permanent memory into her mind, lending her precise recall of what transpired at that particular location. At 22 years old she still points out places I took her when she was only five. It's utterly amazing but only the smooth loops of her sticky Velcro life. There's a knottier and much more complex side.

Like the time Jimmy took her to the grocery store she's frequented with us nearly every week of her life. Thinking he'd kill two birds with one stone, he assigned her a job to do while he finished up at the check out counter. Her task was simple, return the cart to its corral that was within eye shot, no more than 20 feet away. It was a no-brainer for a geographic guru, or so you'd think. Seems after releasing the cart to its pen, the trek back was more than she could handle. With a surge of panic washing over her like a tidal wave, she franticly began searching for the one counter that lodged her dad, which had mysteriously dissolved into a sea of checkouts. Putting his exchange on hold, he ran to her aid, thus rescuing her from thorny side of Autism.

The human race is both complex and amazing as a general rule, while those with developmental disabilities are a more advanced race you might say. Possessing clear deficiencies on one hand, they can display unmistakeable intelligence just as easily on the other. Many are as complex as they are simple, and for me, Dani's simplicity is her most fascinating feature. She can watch a favorite children's video hundreds of times, with each session bewitchingly newer than the one before. While she has the capacity to suffer boredom like anyone else, she never seems to tire of her videos.

Her simplicity used to bug the tar out of me back in the days when developmental delay poked at my hidden fear she'd never be normal. Every time she'd burst into tears because I asked her to do something as simple as hand me the remote that was less than 12" from her hand, I'd want to bellow "why can't you do the simplest thing!" Her increasingly palpable impairment was scaring me to death as it aimed me toward a future I surely dreaded. Through the years, however, I've grown accustom to her elementary ways and find they bring a strange peace into my own rather tricky life.

This picture of her on Saint Patrick's day, for example,refreshes my soul as I survey the joy this green flower lei and shamrock bedazzled tiara brings to her. Truth is they won't last long and she most likely did not construct the accessories herself, but these fine details don't dampen her delight. No gift of gold could bring her greater joy because God has entitled her with an ability to see the world with a heart that understands less is genuinely more. Mercy sakes alive. How I need this precious daily reminder.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~ Leonardo DaVinci

March 14, 2011

If Ever a Time to Pray

Nearly everywhere we turn media greets us with violence, corruption, and tragedy. With society no longer consisting primarily of a local community, television and Internet swallows the span of miles, bringing all of humanity to our own back yard.

When the disciples asked Jesus what the sign of His coming and the end of the age would be He replied, “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:4-8

While the world has entertained earthquakes, famines, tyrannical leaders, and wars since the beginning of time, our modern one-world civilization not only brings these sobering realities into our homes, but now directly into the palm of our hands. Straight as a crow flies, catastrophe and misfortune no sooner happen before transmitted into presence. If we're not careful it can breed great anxiety and distress, which is why prayer is so important in these last days.

Without hiding our heads in the sand, prayer provides the strength needed to be aware of what's going on in the world without becoming overwhelmed. It offers great power during otherwise helpless times and enables us to accomplish in the spiritual realm things we could never achieve in the physical. I love how it equips me to rise above the frailty of my weak and limited flesh. When I can do nothing physically to help another in need, I can tap into the power of our eternal God through prayer, an honor and privilege bestowed to children of the Lord.

As I watch footage from Japan's recent earthquake and tsunami, while my heart aches for their pain and loss, I hold true to my personal decree to never remain stagnate in grief. After all, what good does my mourning do for those in need if it fails to propel me toward prayer? I've long since learned that pain is in fact a vital nutrient for powerful prayer. Perhaps this is why God does not always spare us from distress but chooses to walk with us amidst our sorry so we may commune with Him on a level deeper than possible in seasons of ease and comfort.

Times are becoming increasing tougher as the coming of Jesus approaches. Like a woman in labor, the earth groans for His return and with wars, famines, and persecution on the rise, maintaining an inner balance will only become a greater challenge. If you feel overwhelmed when turning on the news, instead of turning it off (even though there is a time to do just that) or helpless and hopeless, turn your heart toward God. Cling to the truth that He is in control and nothing catches Him by surprise. He hears your prayers and grants great peace to those who medicate on Him.

Take heart in knowing that even though heaven and earth will one day pass away, the word of God lives for ever. He is our solid foundation and when we stand on Him, we will not be shaken. Current events of today must come to pass for our Savior's return. In the meantime, He promises to provide all our needs. What a refreshing breath of air!

Dear Father bless those who are suffering in the tragedy of this day. Move your Spirit in a mighty way and show your great power. Strengthen those who are weak and guide the lost. Watch over those tending to rescue efforts and guard their hearts and minds of the horror that lies ahead. Use this time to bring about your kingdom's come and grant us increased faith so we may shine your light in this ever-so-dark world. Keep the eyes of our heart on you in both the good and bad times for we love you Lord, Savior, and King!

Feel free to write a prayer of your own on behalf of those in need.

March 6, 2011

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

John 3: 1-21 (NIV)

“1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”


In my early teens I worked in a hospital with my mother. We worked together in the Recovery Room (the place patients wake up after surgery), which proved to be a great foundation for my career. The nurses and physicians were not only great people, but a wealth of knowledge during my years in nursing school. Several have turned into life-long friends whom I keep in contact with still today.

I smile as I ponder fond memories of one anesthesiologist in particular. A short older man with more salt than peppered hair, Dr. Melgard was the Alex Trebek of our post anesthesia unit. Not every time but at his random choosing, he'd accompany a patient into the unit, hand the patient over to the nurse, and meander over to the nurses desk. Reserved and unassuming, he'd capture our attention by quizzing us for a definition of some odd and obscure word. He'd choose words no average person ever heard let alone be able to define and I don't recall our ever knowing any of his words right off the bat, which is what made it so fun. We were all on the same playing field as we'd each pitch forth a hypothetical definition that seemed to fit by saying something like, "That sounds like a new fangled thing you'd wash your face with" or "That sounds like an exotic animal that lives in a tree along the Nile River." It was hilarious to hear all the descriptions our ignorant but well meaning minds would concoct. No one but Dr. Melgard knew the real answer and he never let on. Once we were done guessing he'd reveal the word's true definition, which invariably made our bizarre answers all the more comical. Dr. M was a warm, humble, and approachable man. He taught me no question was silly or stupid if I didn't know the answer, making me all the more likely to pick his brain for information. I love and miss Dr. Melgard. He was my personal Jeopardy host.

As Dr. Melgard made me feel welcome to approach, Jesus seemed to have the same affect on Nicodemus. I used to think Nicodemus' "Nic at Night" approach was more cowardly than courageous, but have since changed my mind. Yes, it's possible he was a coward, but it's also entirely plausible curiosity and conviction drew him to his long awaited Messiah. After all, he was a high ranking ruler of the Jews and coming to Jesus in broad day light could have sparked serious turmoil, whereas a nightly visit offered more privacy and less opposition from his fellow Jewish leaders. He sought truth over drama and I admire his gutsy wisdom to seek light in the midst of great darkness.

Nicodemus' few questions were met with a holy discourse and I suspect he left Jesus that night with his mind a whirl, faced with the daunting notion of a Spirit that is like a wind and the mind scorching vision of rebirth. (That one seemed to blow his mind most of all bless his heart.) Imagine the expression on his face as he walked through the inky black night. My mind's eye sees him traversing the terrain with a slow jerky gait, much like a mummy, with eyes wide as an owl's and jaw slightly ajar. You can't tell me the cloak of darkness wasn't his ally at this point in time.

This particular story doesn't state how Nicodemus received these words from Jesus this fateful night, but his later actions do. As a man of quiet power, he defended Jesus before the Jews as the Sanhedrin plotted to kill Him (John 7:25-52) and later teamed up with Joseph of Arimathea to provide 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes to prepare Jesus' body for burial. (John 19:38-42) He risked his life to defend Jesus in front of the Jewish leaders and later honor his Savior at His death and burial. This grants evidence that his stealthy visit did in fact change his heart forever. Choosing moonlight over the spot light, he followed Christ with exemplary faith, making me sorry I ever doubted this nocturnal scout.


What spiritual concept or life's circumstance perplexes your heart as much as Jesus's description of rebirth dumbfounded Nicodemus? Are you choosing to belief anyway?

Do you feel you can approach Jesus at any time and with any thing whether it's broad daylight or the middle of the night? If not, why not?

How do you defend and honor Christ in your life behind the scenes and out of the spotlight?