The Only Question That Matters

In 100 years, you and I will both be dead.

And the only thing that’ll matter is our answer to this question:

Who do you say that I am?

(Jesus asking.)

He really wants to know what you think of him. (Well, technically, he already knows. But maybe you aren’t really sure?) Now before you quit reading because I’m getting all Jesus-freaky again… let’s switch places.

What are your big questions? Do you ever wonder…

Who am I?

What is the meaning of life? 

How did I get here? (And the followup: How do I get outta this mess?)

Where can I find a little peace?

Good questions. Hard questions. (Trick questions?)

Any idea where to get an answer key? Amazon sells some, but I’m not sure they’re what you’re looking for. If however, you like to do algebra in your free time, you’re all set.

Many years ago, I had the enormous joy (and occasional splitting headache) of teaching Sunday School to a giggly gaggle of first- and second-graders. Early on, I noticed they were eager to answer questions. I’d ask for responses, and a bunch of waving, wiggly hands would fly into the air. At my invitation, they’d gleefully pronounce their answers.

Love!

Jesus!

The Bible!

God/The Guy Upstairs/Art! (Slight misinterpretation of Our Father – who’s Art – in heaven.)

Me, me, me!

No matter my question, most of the time I got one of the above answers. I heard other guesses too:

The Bible!

A prince(ss)!

Pastor Clem!

Pray, pray, pray!

Every once in a while, a “creative problem-solver” would offer an alternative answer:

Holy buckets!

Grape juice and crackers! 

This little light of mine!

The zombie apocalypse!

And you know what? Most of those kiddos’ answers were. Spot. On. (Minus the zombies.)

Who am I?

A prince(ss)!

What are human beings that you think about them; what are human beings that you pay attention to them? You’ve made them only slightly less than divine, crowning them with glory and grandeur. ~ Psalm 8:4-5 (CEB)

What is the meaning of life?

Love.

…And [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]. ~ Ephesians 3:19 (AMP)

How did I get here?

Me, me, me!

We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. ~ Isaiah 53:6a (MSG)

How do I get outta this mess?

Jesus.

The payment for sin is death. But God gives us the free gift of life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23 (NCV)

Where can I find a little peace?

Pray, pray, pray.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7 (TLB)

Turns out the Bible is the answer key for…. well… pretty much everything.

Don’t believe me? Open it up and read it for yourself. (#justdoit)

Now, back to the original question…

Who do you say that he is?

(One of these days, you’re gonna have to answer that one.)

If it’s multiple-choice, you’ve got plenty of answers to choose from:

A. Brilliant teacher.

B. Religious zealot.

C. Obscure Jewish carpenter who happened to gain a lasting and faithful following. (Pretty impressive sans social media and cable news.)

D. None of the above.

E. All of the above.

Some people simply say he was a preacher or prophet. Some say a pretender… or pariah.

I’ve noticed that most people (including myself) tend to define him based on what they’ve heard about him rather than what he’s revealed – in scripture, in nature, in love.

Jesus is who he says he is:

The Way.

The Truth.

The Life.

(And no one comes to the Father except through him.)

He told people straight up that he’s the Son of God and the Son of man. The Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God. The bread of life and the light of the world. The Savior, Healer and Messiah.

He’s all that. (For real.)

And if you don’t believe him, you must think he’s a brazen liar or a total loon.

As I’ve gotten to know him better, finding him in the pages of scripture and talking to him in prayer and inviting him into my everyday, I’ve discovered he’s also…

My rescuer.

My confidante.

My favorite artist.

My freedom fighter.

My solace.

My trail guide.

My fallout shelter.

My lighthouse.

My life coach.

My joy bomb.

My hidden treasure.

Jesus is the brilliant writer who’s woven together hiStory and mine.

He’s the One who sees my every failure, flaw and frailty… and adores me still.

He’s the One who gave me life… and laid his down. (Not only for me, but you too.) He endured betrayal, wrongful conviction, taunting, torture. He suffered the worst imaginable death penalty surrounded by mockers and murderers. He bore the weight of every last sin, unbound hatred, darkest despair…

Bloody hell.

But perhaps the worst anguish was caused by the One he trusted most. Forsaken by his own Father, Jesus died utterly, excruciatingly alone.

Because love will sacrifice everything for its beloved.

And that’s who you are.

You know why there’s an epidemic of identity crises in our culture? Because we haven’t discovered our own backstory.

Who am I?

Here’s a clue: “I Am” shows me who I am.

And he explains everything else too.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else. ~ C.S. Lewis

Without God, things are pretty tough to explain.

Why is the earth’s orbit precisely timed and mapped to sustain life? Who thought up the Leafy Seadragon and Magnificent Frigatebird? How does the human eye work? What prevents all the clouds in the atmosphere from breaking open at once and flooding the entire planet? If there was a big bang, who triggered it?

How could mere mortals account for all the inexplicable coincidences and rapturous wonders of life? How could human beings possibly pull off all the death-defying rescues, stunning mercies, miraculous recoveries? How is it we get glimpses of amazing grace and transcendent glory and true love? Do we really think we can take credit for all that?

If we’re going to take credit for anything, we should probably start with our mistakes. And we’d do well to remember that there are villains in this story too. (Which is why God really shouldn’t get blamed for all that’s hateful/horrifying/heinous/hellish.)

Not interested in a theological debate here… I know I’m not smart enough to outwit the shrewd intellect of someone determined to disbelieve. In fact, I’m often surprised when people expect me to be able to articulate the marvelous mysteries of the Christian faith or the unfathomable wisdom of my God. If I – with my feeble mind and limited vocabulary – were able to oblige, my God would not be worthy of my awe, wonder and worship, would He?

I can’t explain him. I can’t even wrap my mind around a fragment of who he is. I just know… he is.

Savior. Son of God. Creator. King.

The one who loves me most and best.

It’s the one-question final exam of life. And your answer will resound for all eternity.

Who do you say that he is?

As for me, I have no doubt.

He is…

RISEN.

Wendy

P.S. Please don’t judge Jesus based on the people who claim to follow him… including me.  We fall (woefully) short. If you want to get to know the real Jesus, you can read a firsthand account of his life written by one of his closest friends here.

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Dirty Soles

My dear reader,

When I was in college, my friend Melissa washed my feet. It was one of the most unexpected and strangely lovely things that’s ever happened to me.

I was studying journalism (with minors in psychology, film, and frozen yogurt) and while I had plenty of reading assignments to keep me busy, I always circled back to my favorite book. Which also happens to be the best-seller of all time. (According to HuffPost. So it must be true.)

A gaggle of girls – all wildly different but drawn together by divine happenstance – gathered each week to talk, laugh, cry, pray, read and study that bestseller. Since Melissa only had a couple chairs in her sorority room, we typically sat on the floor, shoes off, guards down, Bibles and hearts wide open.

Why?

Because we didn’t just want to know about God.

We wanted to know Him.

We asked questions – hard questions – of God. We wondered and wrestled and pondered and prayed. We pressed for answers. And He spoke to us in the pages of that bestseller, time and again.

So we kept coming back to that room and that rug. It wasn’t long before it dawned on us that Melissa’s floor was… holy ground. We sat in a little circle, roaming back and forth in the scriptures, our discussions ranging far and wide, our souls laid bare in that place.

We were young and eager, bursting with passion and potential. Yet, painfully aware of our insecurities too. Deep down we knew the fancy degrees we were earning weren’t going to dispel our fears or reverse our failures. Not in the least.

We were what we were:

Unsure of ourselves. Anxious about our futures. Ashamed of our shortcomings.

Mine were plentiful. (And maddeningly persistent.)

My insecurities stalked me. My worries tossed me in the spin cycle and wrung me out. My secret sins kept rising to the surface and erupting like untimely blemishes. No amount of salicylic acid or makeup could cure or cover them up.

Dirt and dead stuff have a way of doing that. Things that were once clean and clear get clogged/infected/inflamed.

And it’s ugly.

But I digress…

One lovely spring afternoon in 1986, we were sitting around on Melissa’s floor reading from the Book of John:

It was almost time for the Jewish Passover festival. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus had always loved the people in the world who were his. Now was the time he showed them his love the most.

Jesus and his followers were at the evening meal. The devil had already persuaded Judas Iscariot to hand Jesus over to his enemies. (Judas was the son of Simon.) The Father had given Jesus power over everything. Jesus knew this. He also knew that he had come from God. And he knew that he was going back to God.  So while they were eating, Jesus stood up and took off his robe. He got a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet. He dried their feet with the towel that was wrapped around his waist. 

He came to Simon Peter. But Peter said to him, “Lord, you should not wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “You don’t know what I am doing now. But later you will understand.”

Peter said, “No! You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “If I don’t wash your feet, you are not one of my people.”

Simon Peter said, “Lord, after you wash my feet, wash my hands and my head too!”

Jesus said, “After a person has a bath, his whole body is clean. He needs only to wash his feet. And you are clean, but not all of you.” Jesus knew who would hand him over to his enemies. That is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and went back to the table. He asked, “Do you understand what I did for you? You call me ‘Teacher.’ And you call me ‘Lord.’ And this is right, because that is what I am.  I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So you also should wash each other’s feet.  I did this as an example for you. So you should serve each other just as I served you. Believe me, servants are not greater than their master. Those who are sent to do something are not greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, great blessings will be yours if you do them. (John 13:1-17, ERV)

Melissa closed her Bible, pulled up a chair, and told me to have a seat. Then she carried in a basin filled with warm, sudsy water and a big bath towel and knelt right in front of me. And she washed my feet. From the flip-flop-tan-lined tops to the unpolished toes… right down to my dirty, stinky soles.

She washed, dried, and blew me away that day. She knelt and served and blessed me. More than words can say. It was humbling and heart-searing. An object lesson – and precious memory – I’ll never forget.

Melissa washed my dirty soles.

Like Jesus washed my dirty soul.

The Master laid down His privilege… and picked up a servant’s towel… and washed away all my dirt and dead stuff.

The King of Kings wore a crown of thorns… and bore a cross.

For me and for you. (Two of billions – all – with blood on our hands.)

Staggering humility. Scandalous love. Outlandish grace.

That’s why Jesus came.

That’s who Jesus is.

His compassion is our invitation. His mercy, our gift.

His kindness beckons us away from the mud and muck, the dirt and the dead stuff.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4, NLT)

I turned. And He knelt and washed and blessed.

But invariably, sadly, I keep turning back.

Soiled again.

But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure. (1 John 1:9, NIRV)

The same night that Jesus washed the feet of His friends, He was betrayed by one of them. And then abandoned by the rest.

But His love didn’t flinch. (It never does.)

That’s the Good News.

The best news.

PLEASE SHARE.

Wendy

P.S. This Holy Week, let’s learn what the Teacher taught us to do: Forgive. Love. Serve. (Repeat.)

 

 

 

 

This Cup

My dear reader ~
I have a question for you today. Bold… and uncensored.
A somber, blunt, bare-your-soul kind of question.
What do you dread?
What’s that one vexing thing that looms low and dark, ominous and unsettling? The thought that instantly evokes a twinge of panic. A sense of foreboding. Searing fear.
What’s the unrelenting angst that crouches near, no matter which way you turn. The threat that slinks and slithers into every quiet moment and leaves you rattled, reeling. An inescapable adversary or festering wound, maybe. Imminent tests or an inevitable divorce. A grim diagnosis or gut-wrenching depression.
Or maybe it’s worse. Watching someone you love… leave.
Or slowly self-destruct.
Or die.
Whatever it is, I’m guessing it’s heavy. And hard. And hurts like hell.
Dread drags us to the shadowlands and abandons us there. It makes us scowl and scorn and scratch and claw. It predicts defeat and suggests surrender. Or it lays blame and offers ammo.
It whispers doom.
So we seek scapegoats and stockpile munitions… and sometimes we make human shields of the people we hold dearest. (At least I do. Because they’re near.)
It convinces us that we are utterly alone. That we have to walk the proverbial plank unaccompanied and unprotected, bound and bare.
Dread persuades us that no one has the faintest clue what we’re going through… or what peril possibly lies ahead.
No one.
Not a single soul.
But it isn’t true.  
Because…
Jesus.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)
Jesus was no stranger to dread.
He felt its stranglehold. Knew its tendency to devour.
He begged release. But it was denied him.
So He bore its anguish through tears… and beads of sweat… and drops of blood.
He faced the dread, knowing full well what heinous injustice and vicious brutality and unbridled evil would be unleashed against him.
He was not spared the full brunt of the real Avenger’s wrath. He wasn’t delivered from one millisecond of the merciless mockery or bloody torture or wrongful conviction. Nor the spitting or scourging or suffocating. Nor the spikes.
Jesus drank the cup of suffering… and poured out his lifeblood.
Alone.
His followers distanced themselves.
His friends freaked… and fled. In fact, one of his closest companions outright denied even knowing him. (Not once or twice. Three times.) Another turned traitor.
Even his own Father turned away in his darkest hour.
And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” … And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-34, 37-39)                      
Jesus – the Son of Almighty God – despaired… and died. Unaccompanied and unprotected, bound and bare.
Utterly, indecently, disgracefully – and yes, dreadfully – alone.
Why? So we never have to be.
He bore it all because…
Love.
Oh how he loves us.   
Crazy as it may sound, his love was deeper and wider and higher than his sweating-blood dread. Braver than the savagery inflicted on him. More ferocious than all the foes and forces amassed against him. His love fueled him through forsakenness.
Jesus’ steadfast, staggering love compelled him – and held him – to the cross.
He suffered alone, so we could come near.
Near to the holy.
Near to the heavenly.
Near to hope.
He drank the cup of crucifixion, so we could could come close – commune – with him.
Our Helper, our Healer, our High Priest.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)   
Whatever it is that you dread… draw near to the throne of grace.
Receive mercy.
Find grace.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
The One ~ the pristinely perfect Lamb of God ~ who faced the dread, drank the cup, spilled his blood and bore the cross…
He won.
He rose.
He forgives.
He lives!    
He defeated sin and darkness and death. Once and for all.
For all.  
Believe and receive.
~ Wendy
P.S. If you’ve tasted God’s goodness and grace through faith in Jesus, please share. (By all means.)  If someone you love is consumed with dread or facing dire circumstances all alone, please pass along this message of hope. Introduce them to our Helper, Healer, Comforter, Counselor, and Savior. Make a (very) Good Friday even better.