What’s your Excuse?

Easter Sunday, my friend leans over the church pew and says,  “I notice you’re alone. Do you have plans today?”

I shake my head.

“Then come to our home for ham dinner.” Her smile is warm like fresh-baked Hot Cross Buns.

“Thank you for the invite. Very thoughtful of you, but….”

“Come. You don’t need to bring a thing.”

“I’ll think about it.”

But a dozen excuses prevents me from accepting her kind invitation.

No doubt….my loss.

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What excuses did people make when Jesus invited them to,“Follow me.”

  • “Permit me to say goodbye to those at home.” Luke 9:61
  • “He became very sad; for he was extremely rich.” Luke 18:23
  • “This is a diffcult statement; who can listen to it.” John 6:60
  • “They loved the approval of men….” John 12:43
  • “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to him?” John 10:20

Pride, unbelief, lovers of money, other people’s opinion, personal safety.

Are the excuses any different today?

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What about when bad things happen to good people?

Is that a valid excuse to not follow Jesus?

Remember Job? God described Job as a “blameless, upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” And yet, Job suffered the loss of his children, property, health. What made it worse…

God Allowed it

Even so, Job didn’t use his miserable circumstances as an excuse to take his wife’s advice, “Curse God, and die.”

Instead he said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?

Then he later added, “I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” Job 19:25

I know my Redeemer lives.”

Do you know Job’s Redeemer? Do you know this Man, Jesus who was …

  • Delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.
  • Nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put to death.”

Do you know that…

  • God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death.
  • Since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:23, 24)

Jesus, our Redeemer lives. He’s seated in heaven at the right hand of God.

Some people will hear the Resurrection message on Easter and respond exactly like the men in Athens when they heard Paul declare that God raised Jesus from the dead.  (Acts 17:30-32)

They will sneer!

They will find an excuse to turn down the invitation to believe in the name of Jesus, and follow Him.

But Praise God’s Holy name, there will be others who will hear the same message and say….

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We shall hear you again concerning this.” 

Which person are you?

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster

Want Some Gum?

crossOn April 1st, April Fool’s Day, a fellow jail chaplain passed away. Harry was 92 years old, but he was no fool.

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  (Psalm 14:1)

I attended Harry’s memorial service this past weekend. I went, not to weep, but to celebrate a life that belonged to Jesus. To honor a man whose earthly fruit glorified God.

Folks called Harry the “juicy fruit man” because he always …and I mean always…carried sticks of gum. That’s how I met him one night, many moons ago, while I waited to go into jail.

Smiling, he offered me a stick of gum. The yellow wrapper said Juicy Fruit, but it was Harry’s “Gospel Gum.” Whether it was a jail guard or a stranger sitting in the lobby, Harry used gum to break the ice, to part the Red Sea.

You know, GUM stands for God, U, and Me.” Then he’d share the gospel or pray for the person, whatever the moment called for, while I watched dumbfounded that he made Christian ministry look so easy.

Before we’d enter jail, the guard would examine our Bibles to ensure we weren’t carrying illegal contraband. Harry would grin and say, I’m armed with the Word of God, which is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Many evenings, the spiritual warfare we faced in jail was darker than the night time sky. I’d arrive fearful as though I were going into the lion’s den. Harry would pray as we walked down the long, concrete corridor. So by the time we parted, each entering a separate tank, my courage was mustered.

At Harry’s memorial service, I learned that years earlier, before he was a chaplain, prisoners escaped from jail and held him and his wife hostage in their home. They stole his car.

His response? Become a jail chaplain.

Listening to testimonies about Harry’s love affair with God and His people inspired me. But Harry’s death encouraged me to….

Cling like sticky GUM to the Easter message of hope I’d celebrated a week earlier.

Cling to Jesus, my sweet Savior, and His promise:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies,

and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

(John 11:25, 26)