Interesting Message

I came across an interesting sermon on the radio last night while driving in my car.  It was interesting enough that I sat there an extra five minutes to hear the end of it.  Michael Ramsden, part of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries team, was giving a message on the uniqueness of Christ in fulfilling many of the philosophical ideologies that are rooted in thinking, feeling, or doing.  Since I haven’t had a chance to write much lately, I decided to repurpose his content.  I couldn’t find a transcript of the broadcast, but truthfully, he had such an engaging presentation style that I’d recommend listening to it anyway.  If you are interested, you can listen to the message on the RZIM website.

God’s blessings on your week!

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Speed Reading

At any given moment, I have a stack of at least a dozen books that I am reading concurrently.  Some end up taking me months to read; others ensnare me and I finish them in days.  But always there is this stack, beckoning me.  I listen to books on CD in the car and around the house.  I set an open book before me while I eat; I have a pile by my bed for those moments right before sleep.  Even now, while I am typing this, I have a sandwich on my plate next to my laptop so that I can take a bite between words.  Reading them.  Writing them.  It’s almost a compulsion.

The other night I pulled from my stack One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp.  I set it on the table next to my dinner plate and proceeded to stumble through her opening text, tripping over her lyrical style in my rush to turn the page between forkfuls.  “This could have been written so much simpler,” I thought in frustration.  It was only the high acclaim of the book that kept me from relegating it to the bottom of my stack.  Yes, I admit it.  Sometime it takes me a long time to understand the obvious point.  And here is the obvious point: this is not a book that can be shoveled in alongside a plateful of spaghetti.

After dinner, I moved Ann’s book to my “quiet reading” stack, where it is much more at home.One Thousand Gifts Cover

Ann Voskamp’s style serves an interesting purpose for me.  It forces me to slow down.  It is this trait that initially frustrated me… and ultimately has endeared me.  I don’t like to slow down in anything, least of all my reading.  There is so much more to read!  But Ann’s style forces me to slow down.  To read deliberately.  To consider the words.  To taste the flavor of them.  To think.  When I let go of the clock, when I accept the fact that I will not “finish this one and start the next one” tonight, it becomes a richer experience.  This is not unintentional.

“Time is life,” Ann writes.  “And if I want the fullest life, I need to find the fullest time.”

She continues her story, standing at the sink, scrubbing dishes:

I wipe a water spot off the tap; there is a reflection of me.  Oh, yes, I know you, the busyness of your life leaving little room for the source of your life.  I’m the face grieving.

God gives us time.  And who has time for God?

Which makes no sense.

In Christ, don’t we have everlasting existence?  Don’t Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting?  If Christians run out of time – wouldn’t we lose our very own existence?  If anyone should have time, isn’t it the Christ-followers? (p. 64)

If anyone should have time, isn’t it the Christ-followers?

It is not a rhetorical question, and I consider my answer.  God gives us all things.  He gives us enough of all things.  Why, in this particular area, do I act as though He does not?  Why do I say, almost daily, “God, I do not have enough time!”

I do not learn quickly.  I still sit here, keyboard at one hand, sandwich at another.  Still trying to cram disparate activities into the same moment.  But later tonight, I will pause.  I will think “I do not have time for this,” but I will do it anyway.  I will curl up on my couch with my dog’s head resting on my knee.  I will take just one book from my quiet reading stack.  I will read just one chapter.  Slowly, deliberately, thoughtfully.  I will not speed read.

It will be enough.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”  My times are in your hand… (Psalm 31:14-15a).

The Ending of the Easter Story

Jesus the Christ was put to death on Good Friday, but that is not the end of the story.

Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb…And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back – it was very large.  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has risen; He is not here” (Mark 16:2,4-6).

That is the Easter story.  But that, too, is not the end of the story.

He [Jesus] appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul], as to one abnormally born (1 Corinthians 14-15).

Even after His death and resurrection, Jesus continued to teach his followers.  He ate with them, He met with them, and when he ascended into heaven, he promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide them (e.g., Luke 24:36-53).  For forty days after his death and resurrection, Jesus continued to lead His followers.  Then He ascended into heaven.

But even that is not the end of the story.  While they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

In other words, this story isn’t over yet.

Easter is not just an event we commemorate; it is an event we continue to live.  The miracles of Easter are as real and present today as they were 2000 years ago.  Jesus is as alive today as He was that first Easter morning.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” the angel asked the women at the tomb.  “He is not here, but has risen…” (Luke 24:5-6)

“Christ is risen!” We say on Easter morning.  “He is risen, indeed!”

Sometimes I hear people wonder what it would have been like to live during the time of Jesus.  Sometimes I even say it myself.  Perhaps we should stop wondering and look around.  Because this is still the time of Jesus.  True, we cannot see Jesus, but until His physical return, God is guiding us through the Holy Spirit. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus told His disciples.  “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth… (John 16:7,13).  Just because we do not see Him, does not mean He isn’t here.  We don’t exclaim on Easter morning that He was risen; we exclaim that He is risen.  He is risen, indeed.

Jesus’ commission to His followers is as applicable to us today as it was the day He ascended into heaven:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

This Easter season, are we merely celebrating a story we think is over?  Or have we considered the possibility that Christ is calling us to partner with Him (right now!) as He writes the rest of the story?

The Easter story, my friends, has not ended yet. 

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things (Luke 24:46-48).