Shine

I’m super excited for the upcoming weekend. It’s Easter! Yay! But even though I love celebrating Jesus overcoming the grave every year, this year I’m especially excited.

The college/young professional ministry  that I’m a part of is going to make this weekend about serving the homeless.

Ever since we got the idea in our minds, I’ve kept thinking about the story of the Lost Son from Luke 15: 11-31.

Obviously the point that Jesus was trying to emphasize is that it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, the Father is always ready to welcome you back into His kingdom.

We can also learn from the brother who stayed, who had a bad attitude when he saw his father welcomed back his brother without hesitation. Sometimes our humanness shows through more than Jesus when we start looking at what God is doing in the lives of others, when we aren’t seeing much going on in our own lives.

But while these are probably the most obvious lessons Jesus was teaching us, this isn’t the part of the story that has been playing over in my mind these past few weeks.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

In the New King James Version, it says in verse 13 that he spent his money on “prodigal living.” That’s why some people call this the story of the prodigal son… but Jesus never called him that. Jesus has a way of separating our actions from who we are. He sees us as we were created to be, not the mistakes we make on the way to finding out who that is.

Why can’t we as humans separate someone’s bad choices from who they are? I mean, there’s total denial of someone’s issues… like the mother who doesn’t want to believe her child has an addiction, so she just overlooks it… but then there are those rare people who can see the person inside that doesn’t want to be stuck in a perpetual mess. They don’t want to keep doing the wrong thing, but they don’t know how to escape the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

That’s what I’ve been focusing on as I prepare to serve the homeless population this Easter weekend.

Did some of them make bad decisions to get in this situation? Yes.

But Jesus talks about how the man wasted his inheritance, but then a famine also hit the land. Maybe he would have been able to gain back some of what he lost, but then disaster struck, and he couldn’t get back on his feet.

How many times in our lives have we done something stupid, and then felt swallowed up by the waves that came as a result of that decision? I may not have made any mistakes that landed me on the streets, but I know what drowning feels like. I know what it  feels like to struggle against pride to solve a problem I’ve created myself…Don’t you?

And maybe I’m over-analyzing this portion of the story, but in verse 16, it seems like Jesus made it a point to mention that this man was hungry and no one did anything about it. Maybe the people in that country were just like us in their thinking:

It’s a recession, I can’t afford to spare anything.

They should’ve made better choices.

They could work or get another job, they just choose not to.

They’ll just waste what I give them on booze or drugs.

Not my problem…

We have so many reasons to remain indifferent to the suffering of those around us…To condemn them to remain in their situation.  But then should we really be surprised by the world around us growing darker? If we won’t be a light, who will?

So, this Easter, I hope you shine.

I hope you remember that Jesus died for you, not the “highlight reel you” that you show people on Facebook, but the real you. The one who struggles and falls short.

I hope you remember that He died for the people whose struggles and shortcomings are more public, and that right now they are just a little lost, but not beyond reach.

And I hope you remember that He overcame death so that we can overcome our sin.

Happy Easter!

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16: 33

 

 

 

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Scars.

For a girl who has had 8 surgeries in the past 9 years, I’ve accumulated a few scars.

I’m not  one of those people who are like “scars are beautiful and are the marks of survivors” blah…

They’re hideous and I wish I didn’t have them, but when I look at them, I am reminded that I’m not hurt or broken anymore. That pain is a part of my past that I no longer have to live with, and I’m thankful I get to just move on.

With Easter approaching, I started to think about Jesus’ scars. His scars mean more to me than any of the ones that mark my own body. The scars on Jesus’ body are kind of like a receipt of the transaction that occurred on the cross. His life paid for our sins. In an uneven exchange, we gave Him our worst, and God gave us His best.

As someone who is very logical, it was really hard for me to believe in Jesus… But then I encountered God in a way that left no room for a single doubt in my mind.

Kind of like Thomas… (some of  you may know him as “Doubting Thomas.”)

In John 20, he’s the one who was all “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Psh! Oh ye of little faith, Thomas! Shun the nonbeliever… shuuuuuunnnn

Oh… but that didn’t happen.  (Also, side note about Thomas: He might have doubted that Jesus was resurrected, but he was the first one to be ride or die for Jesus. Check out John 11:16 “Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” BOOM)

Instead, Jesus said, ““Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” So Thomas did and was all like “It really is You!”

First. Gross.

Second, Jesus didn’t want Thomas to remain unbelieving. He wasn’t offended by his skepticism. Jesus was happy to reveal Himself to Thomas, and gave him the proof he needed to believe. That’s what I love about God. He isn’t afraid of our questions or doubts, and He’s willing to reveal Himself to us when we need Him to.

One of my favorite Bethany Dillon songs is called “The Way I Come To You” and the bridge goes:

“You loved me when I was Your enemy, and You chose me when I didn’t believe.”

I love that line… because I wasn’t always so sure about Him, but God always knew and loved me.  And He has the scars to prove it.

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18