Wednesday, December 31

Ponderings, Contemplations, and Queries: He is Risen!

He Is Risen!!!

Yesterday, I left Jesus dead in the tomb, preaching to the souls in prison. I couldn't very well leave Him there, because that's not where the story, or my questions, end.

Christ also suffered when he died for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners that he might bring us safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT)

…He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago…
1 Peter 3:18-20 (NIV)

He obviously was still “himself” in death because He never stopped preaching, even in the grave. His self (soul) did not sleep after physical death. That should put an end to my questions in that regard, hmmm?

He preached through the Spirit. So the Holy Spirit was with Him, even in Hell. Surely He prayed from Hell, too. He was still Jesus, after all. Was The Father’s face still turned away? Surely not, if the Sprit was with Him. When did God restore His favor?

What happened in / to His spirit/soul when He ascended from the grave? At the moment God restored Him to life?

What was his “state” while earthbound, before ascending to Heaven? Physically, spiritually, and soul-ly?
Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; John 20:17
What was going to happen when Jesus did ascend to His Father that would change the circumstances?
But it is actually best for you that I go away, because if I don't, the Counselor* won't come. If I do go away, he will come because I will send him to you. John 16:7 * Or Comforter, or Encourager, or Advocate. Greek Paraclete.)

The Comforter, the Holy Spirit could not come until He had ascended. Why?

Is He now in the same physical state as when He walked on the Earth after rising from the grave? Was that His glorified body?

Was He spirit before being born, like His Father?
For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:24

Just some things I’ve been pondering . . .

Tuesday, December 30

Ponderings, Contemplations, and Queries: He Became Sin

Now playing! in my head! Chris Tomlin!
The song playing in my head this week is “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin. The line “He became sin who knew no sin.” is on repeat.

I’ve learned to meditate on those earworms that won’t go away – well the ones worthy of my quiet time contemplation anyway. So this week I’ve been pondering the moment when “He became sin.” and what “becoming sin” was like for Jesus.

Jesus did not “know” sin on a personal level, because He never disobeyed. He never experienced the consequences of sin I'm on a first name basis with - the queasy, uneasy, anxiety that accompanies saying “no” to God, and the guilt, despair, and worthlessness that follow serious backsliding and willful sin.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21 NKJV
In a flash, this sinless Man was flooded with unfamiliar, alien emotional agitation. He must have suffered anguish as anxiety pounded on His heart and guilt rent his gut. Did the sin’s pain cripple His already beaten and bloody body?
Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"* Mark 13:54
He looked to His Father, as was His custom, but for the first time, God didn’t answer. At the moment of His deepest need, God wasn’t listening. His daddy had disowned Him.
And in that state of abandonment, He died.

My contemplations resulted in a revelation (yet to be fully accepted by me): Because Jesus died in that condition, separated from the Father, bearing the sins of the world IN Him, the Son of God descended into hell. (Is that different from the grave?) Because He was “uredeemed,” He experienced the death experience of an unbeliever.

Was He still fully God even when separated from the Godhead?

So many queries....

These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, "Not one of his bones will be broken," John 19:36

Was a broken heart was his final undoing? Did the emotional torture and the anguish of unforgiven sin strain His unblemished heart to the point of premature death, before those crucified with Him, resulting in His bones being left unbroken?

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Luke 23:46

And just what does “give up the ghost” mean? Three of the gospels use those words (or “spirit” in some translations.) The phrase is also used to describe the death of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob, and Job lamented that had not given up the ghost as he came from the womb. Was it just a figure of speech, or were those words used for a purpose?

Lord, may my hunger to know you through your word never end, but may I also be satisfied knowing I have hope of knowing all of the answers someday. Thank you for artists who drive home the truth of your gospel in amazing ways that make me stop and think of you in new light.. Thank you for giving us music for worshipping you,. Lord, help me to never take the sacrifice of your son, Jesus, lightly or for granted. In His Name I pray.

Monday, December 29

He will command His Angels!

I take this promise with me into the new year.
My Father's Right Hand is upon me.

Friday, December 26

Friday Fiction: A Time to Be Born, and a Time to Die

Today is ....The Best of Friday Fiction!!!

Ok, so this, only my 2nd entry in the FaithWriter's challenge
, might not be my best story, but it's one of my favorites for personal reasons.

A Time to be Born, and a Time to Die

Evie knew that he had lied. What he said didn’t even make sense. It WAS important what people thought about her. And she knew that people always look down on the rape victim. No matter what Evie said, no matter how loudly she proclaimed the truth, people would doubt her. “I wonder what she did to encourage him?” “How was she dressed, by the way?” “Was she maybe a bit too friendly?” Oh, yes, Evie knew – she herself had asked those same questions when reading the newspaper, or seeing a story just like hers on TV. No, the cop may have been a nice guy, but he didn’t tell her the truth.

The old Evie was just a memory now. Her life didn’t end during the ordeal, but she could feel the emptiness, the dead hole inside of her soul nonetheless. She had told him that, but the lying cop said that a NEW life can be born from this death. She didn’t want a NEW life; she just wanted her OLD life back. She wanted the smiling, friendly, trusting Evie back. But she couldn’t fathom ever seeing that Evie again, let alone some “new, better” Evie. “Unblemished?” “Clean?!?” Right! She bore a permanent Scarlet Letter worse than the classic “A”. Hers was a red, neon, flashing “R”, for Rape. It wasn’t embroidered onto her bodice, but branded on her heart.

Stifling a sob, she turned and stared once again out the windows of her sun room. She felt relatively safe curled up here on the loveseat; she could see in every direction. She would be able to see if someone snuck through the secluded back yard this time. She scanned the ground for what seemed like the millionth time, searching for the condom wrapper the cops didn’t find. She knew they didn’t believe her about the condom any more than they believed her about the knife. Yes, she could feel the shameful “R” burning, charring, scarring her. There could be no “cleaning” it away, no matter what the cop had said.

Evie’s neck began to ache. The last two weeks were a blur of not sleeping, sitting guard, and re-living over and over the eternal 30 minutes when she had died inside. Standing to stretch, still watching the windows, she idly put her hands in her pockets and felt paper. Numbly, she pulled out a folded little pamphlet – ah, yes, the “tract” that the nice cop had slipped into her hand as he lied to her. She rolled her eyes, and started to toss it in the trash, but something compelled her to look at it. After one more glance to the right, and to the left, to make sure no one was sneaking through the yard, she started skimming over the booklet. Certain words caught her attention.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean…” I know I’M certainly unclean now.

“…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us…” Ick! How can blood cleanse?

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Hmmm, good question!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Gift, huh? Nah, nothing is really “free”.

"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. What?!? Can it be THAT easy, just “believe”?

Her curiosity was spiked and her fixation forgotten. She had to know more about this stuff. She thought about calling that nice cop, but knew he’d be busy with more important things, like catching rapists. Instead, she dug in the back of the closet and pulled out the dusty Bible her Grandma had sent years ago. Settling once again into the refuge of the loveseat, she glanced at the pamphlet again, and then searched until she found the first verse she had read, then the second, and soon she was devouring entire Books at a time. Not noticing that the sunlight had grown dim, she was startled when she heard her husband’s key in the lock. Only then did she realize how long it must have been since she last checked her back yard. Glowing and confident, she rose to greet her love with a smile and a light in her eyes he hadn’t seen for a fortnight. “Honey! I’m so glad you’re home. There is something you’ve just GOT to hear…”

Scripture used, in order of appearance:

Ecclesiastes 3:2, NIV (Title)

Isaiah 64:6, NIV

1 John 1:7, NAS

Mark 8:36, NIV

Romans 6:23, NIV

John 3:16, NIV

Hop on over to Patty Wysong's blog, Patterings to read more short fiction, or to post your own!

Good News of Great Joy

- Act 2:38 -

Peter replied, "Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38

Baptism -- in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Jesus Christ. I finally got it - THIS is what Christmas all about: New life! The Word becoming flesh; God with us; Emmanuel.

When I was telling the family about our awesome Christmas Eve service at FBC, my mother in law commented that Christmas was a strange time for a baptism. I had to think about that. Hmmmm. Too bad the perfect answer didn't come to me until much later, after I was home. "What better time than Christmas to celebrate second birth? What an appropriate time to confess Christ in us, than the day we celebrate Christ WITH us?"

Behold: Madalyn Joy - born again. (With proud daddy - Pastor Charles)

Behold: Walker Hammond - born again.

I pray for these children that they will hold this day, and their confession, in their hearts, and that they will not take lightly the gift they have been given - eternal life, and the grace of God through faith in the Son, Jesus Christ.

For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Saturday, December 20

I'm a Winner!!

My dear friend, and sister in Christ, Joanne Sher, recently had a contest on her blog to celebrate her 100th post, and yours truly was selected as a co-winner! Ok, so there were only two entries, but still!

Joanne will be finishing her read through the Bible early this year, and asked for ideas to fill the 10 or so days she'd have left.

I won a copy of the book, It Happened by Design, an anthology of God-incidences that includes one of Joanne's stories!! in it.

Read all about the give-away, and my "winning" Bible-reading-quiet-time plan on Joanne's blog, An Open Book

I'm looking forward to reading some fantabulous God-incidence stories!

Friday, December 19

Friday Fiction: No Place Like Home

Welcome to Friday Fiction! Our host this week is Rhonda at Beach Reads. Stop on by for more good reading!

My story today is from the recent "Home for Christmas" Challenge at Enjoy!!

No Place Like Home

Irving was at it again. Frankly, I was over his whining. One more word about missing his precious Aunt Betty’s sweet potato soufflĂ© tomorrow and I was going to drop kick him to the curb. Besides, just the thought of sweet potato soufflĂ© makes me want to gag.

I shot him a look that could melt diamonds and put my nose back into Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas.” Boy could I relate to Mr. Krank; I was ready to skip the rest of December and move straight into January.

Irving was acting like it was my fault I had to work on Christmas this year. Maybe I could tell the patients they’d need to care for themselves tomorrow because the nurses had to go home to mommy. Wait, I’ve got it – we could just shut down the hospital tomorrow. I should ask Irving if he’d call the director and suggest it.

I gave up reading and closed my book none too quietly. “Let’s go. You’re taking me shopping. Bring the credit cards.”

Macy’s jewelry counter sparkled like Christmas morning. Rubies, emeralds, and diamonds reflected fluorescent light into shopper’s eyes, luring them like sheep to slaughter, blinding them to exorbitant price tags. I marched straight to the display where I had eyeballed a tennis bracelet last week.

The sales clerk wore so much mascara I wondered how she was able to lift her eyelids. “Happy holidays,” she crooned. “Is there something I can show you?” I wasn’t fooled by her faux festivity. Under all that mascara, her eyes brimmed with boredom.

“Merry CHRISTMAS.” I raised my nose a bit higher. “This bracelet, please …if it’s not too much trouble.” I tapped a red fingernail on the glass over my greed’s desire. Irving shuffled closer, and I glowered at him from the corner of narrowed eyes. He was squinting; I knew he was trying to peek at the tiny price tag dangling from the clasp.

“An exquisite choice. Perfect for your dainty wrist.” Luckily the clerk missed my unchecked eye-roll as she unlocked the glass case. With exaggerated flourish, she presented the glittering band of diamonds.

I stuck out my hand, and she fastened the bracelet around my wrist. “Stunning! And a perfect fit. You could take this home with you today. Shall I wrap it for you?”

“No, thank you. I shall wear it.” I left Irving to finalize the purchase while I had a look at a sale in the shoe department.

A dazzling sunrise on Christmas morning heralded promises of a splendid day. I emerged from the bedroom bathed and refreshed – body and soul. I had prayed away the hateful spite from the days before and pledged to make peace with Irving before I started my shift.

Wrapped in my trusty old bathrobe, I headed off to start coffee. The worn and frayed robe hugged me like an old friend. If we’d “gone home” for Christmas instead of staying home, I’d have worn the homely robe his Aunt Betty gave me last year, still stiff and scratchy from unuse.

Rounding the corner into the den, I got a surprise: my beloved Irving met me with a kiss and a steaming cup. The Christmas tree lights flashed and a fire crackled in the hearth. Irving had taken advantage of the homefield, too, and had donned his favorite faded sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants. We looked each other up and down and shared a laugh.

“Merry Christmas, Irving. I’m sorry for being a bit… grumpy lately.”

“No, I’m sorry. I made too much of going home for Christmas, when this IS my home. Right now, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. Got time to open a present before you get ready for work?”

“Are you kidding? At least one!” I reached for the biggest box under the tree, but Irving caught my arm. He pulled a long, blue velvet box from his pocket.

“This one.”

My trembling hands threatened to drop the box as I fumbled the lid open. I gasped at the diamond necklace glittering in the satin lining. It was perfect match to my new bracelet. The tears on my cheeks told Irving of my joy; I was speechless.

“The clerk with all the eye makeup said you’d like it.”

“Um…I’ll be late this afternoon. I need to stop at the grocers,” I stammered.

“But we got everything for Christmas dinner yesterday. What else…”

“Sweet potatoes,” I blurted. “Sweet potatoes and marshmallows.”

And I didn’t even want to gag.

Friday, December 12

Friday Fiction: Nobody's Fool

Welcome to Friday Fiction!! This week's host is Shirley over at
Sunny Glade. Pop on over to read more fiction, or join the fun and post your own short story!

In the spirit of the Christmas season, my story this week is from the recent "Christmas Carol" writing challenge. I hope you enjoy this fictional account of an historical event, told from the viewpoint of one of the participants.

Nobody's Fool

They called us fools for seeking a god who had no face, no image. Indeed, when we set out on this journey, this pilgrimage, we were elevated in the opinion of most in Persia to The Kings of All Fools.

We three “kings” of orient are.

But we knew the truth, and their taunts fazed us naught. We were convicted and would not be deterred. We set out upon a road uncertain for a destination unknown in search of a true King.

We procured riches from the land to offer Him, but what earthly gift could possibly be fit to lay before the One we seek? My offering is closely guarded – I’ll not divulge its hiding place, but suffice it to say it will be secure still when I reach the end of this trek.

Bearing gifts we traverse afar.

We have traveled a great distance, over lands as varied in their makeup as the people who populate them: from farmers eking an existence from the field, to fishermen plucking their livelihood from the earth’s generous fount; across barren moorland to the foot of a treacherous mountain range seemingly inhabited only by clouds.

Field and fountain; moor and mountain.

News of our journey precedes us; verily, wherever we travel, we are expected and welcomed, and encouraged. The one constant among the diversity--the yonder star that beckons. From the onset of this journey, none of us could deny its unspoken command – “Follow.”

Following yonder star.

Each of us is acclaimed in our field of reading the heavens and gleaning its mysteries, but this star is like nothing any of us has observed; still we know what it is, and we know of the wonder that awaits at the terminus of its course across the sky: the prophesied Messiah. The star’s night-brilliance rules the darkness, and lo, even at the height of day its divine light will not be denied prominence in the heavens, competing handily with the radiance of the sun. This star’s bright beauty heralds Royalty.

Oh, star of wonder; star of night. Star with royal beauty bright.

Westward it leads us; and westward we pursue it. Westward from our Persia, where Hebrews have settled bringing with them chronicles of their God and His promise of a Messiah. For years we poured over their holy writings; for years we scoured the sky for this sign.

Westward leading, still proceeding.

As astounded as I was to witness the birth of this supernatural star, it was surely affirmation of my growing trust in this unseen God of the Hebrews. My heart is barely contained in my chest, pounding as it is at the thought of being in His very presence.

Alas, here I must close; the candle burns precariously low and I must preserve the precious wax. If anyone should find and read this journal, may he be assured of the certainty I carry in my core of the divinity of the One I seek, whose perfect Light will outshine the brilliance of even this magnificent star that guides us to Him.

Guide us to thy perfect light.

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”
Words and Music By: Rev. John H. Hopkins, circa 1857.
Copyright Unknown