Identity

It rained most of last night. Evidence of this showed when I opened the living room drapes. How fascinating to be greeted with sparkles of water drops caught on tree leaves. As the breeze moved them, the sun shone and twinkles of white, red, yellow and green glistened.

 What a brilliant display! Just like thousands of Swarovski figurines. All bouncing back the beauty they contained. Like a night sky with pinpoints of stars shining.

 I check out the lawn. Sure enough. Water resting on blades of grass joined the trees in the silent symphony of sight.

 Strange. I don’t remember seeing a display of color and sparkle in a puddle. Perhaps it has something to do with droplets losing their individual identity. Sort of like mobs.

 Who were the individuals that convinced Aaron to make a golden calf so they could have a visible god? (The miracles of Egypt’s plagues and the parting of the Red Sea were forgotten.) Who were the individuals in the group of people waving palm branches of welcome on the road to Jerusalem? Who were the individuals that cried out, “Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus”?

 Much has been reported in the media about “Identity Thief”. The emphasis is on the economic side. Devious characters watch and record numbers punched in ATM machines. Then they move in and clean out the bank accounts.

 But this also applies to other areas of life. Internet predators seek youngsters to rob them of their childhood. Politicians with hidden agendas seek unsuspecting voters. Spouses and parents degrade, molest and exploit family members in order to feel their own importance and power. Mean words and hateful attitudes whittle away another’s value, self-respect and dignity.

 Identity thief brings shame and disgrace. But, more than that, it attacks the One whose image we bear–God Almighty.

 How comforting and freeing to recognize that, if we reverence God, esteem His name and serve Him, the Lord of Hosts sees us as a treasured possession, a jewel (Mal. 3:16-17).

 Just as the angle of sunlight shows various colors in the water, so our circumstances reveal different qualities in us. Placed in the hands of our Image-Bearer, we, too, can sparkle like His diamonds, blessing the Artist, ourselves and others.

 Our identity is based on our heavenly Father. No one or nothing can change that except ignorance or forgetfulness.

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Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 2:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Freedom! What next?

“You’re free to go!” These words still echo in my ears–as if they were spoken yesterday.

I didn’t believe the guard until he loosed my chains, led me to the outside door, opened it and then shut it behind me.

That day I moved among the people as if cloaked with invisibility–an important requisite for my profession as thief. I listened to their comments about a man called Jesus, supposedly King of the Jews.

I thought that if I had to be captured, it was lucky for me that it was close to Passover. And, if I was going to be put to death, lucky for me that this man called Jesus came along.

As the guard led me through the prison halls, he answered my question of “Why?”. He explained that the mob had requested me to go free–a tradition at this time of year. In my place Jesus would be crucified.

Common sense told me to quickly leave the city and keep a low profile. I certainly did not want to be recaptured for another time of judgment.

Curiosity prompted me to hang around, to find out more about my replacement. Telling a fellow thief that he would be in paradise with Him was most confusing.

I was extremely grateful that He was on the cross and not me, but the sorrow of His mother and friends stirred up emotions within me that had been buried for many years.

Today, as I pass through these same streets, I hear the priests complaining about the significant drop in Passover offerings each year. They blamed it on the increase of Believers that Jesus was God’s Passover lamb.

I know from past experiences that people in the villages and cities around Jerusalem and beyond are celebrating the crucifixion and resurrection of their Messiah. Hearing them singing praises and lifting up prayers of thanksgiving, I feel like barging in and shouting,” You should thank me. Without me, Jesus wouldn’t have been put to death. I was the first to benefit from His substitution.” But I don’t. I just steal away.

It is true. I reaped from this man’s sacrifice. I gained freedom at the cost of His death. But the nagging question never leaves me. It robs me of my sleep, invades my work, and captures my leisure.

Freedom, Barabbas, to do what?

 

Based on John 18

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interruptions

 

What a day! What a crowd! It was clear and sunny. We were leaving Jericho when, over the noise of the crowd, we heard a desperate voice. “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.”

I turned around. We all did. I recognized the man who spoke. It was Bartimaeus. We all shushed him, but he would not be quiet. Jesus stopped. We were uneasy. Was Jesus offended that this beggar was bothering him? After all, Jesus had a schedule to keep. He was headed for Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This was an unexpected interruption. Would He speak harshly to Bartimaeus? Would He say, “I don’t have time to listen to you. I have more important and interesting business in Jerusalem.”?

No. Jesus showed the same compassion that He had always shown, the graciousness that had endeared us to Him. He called this lowly creature to come to Him.

Bartimaeus threw off his coat which made getting up off the ground easier. The next thought in my head was, “Doesn’t Jesus know that this man is blind? How can he walk to where Jesus is?” Bartimaeus knew what direction to go because he learned to follow the voice, but with so many people around he could easily miss the mark.

Then I saw something miraculous happen. People made a path and helped him, taking his hand or elbow or gently guiding him with their hand on his back. It was a beautiful sight to see.

I had a flashback to a story I had read in Tanakh (Old Testament). It was about a leper named Namaan. Elisha told him that he would be healed if he bathed seven times in the Jordan. Namaan was irate, but his servants reasoned with him. Their words helped him see that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. He listened to them and was indeed healed.

Now, we were acting as those servants with our words of encouragement and hands of help.

Finally, standing before Jesus, he asked for his eyesight, and his request was granted.

What a joyous time the rest of our journey was. Bartimaeus kept exclaiming about all the things that he could now see. All the things that we took for granted, we now saw new through the eyes of this healed beggar.

I could picture Bartimaeus sitting at the Seder. All the things on his plate that he could only feel and be told about would now be reality because he was no longer blind.

I also thought with sadness about the rich young ruler that asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Assuring Jesus that he kept all the commandments, he was told, “Sell all that you have, give it to the poor and follow Me.”

Greatly grieved he walked away. Where were his servants to reason with him that his desire for eternal life was far more valuable than his riches? That heavenly treasure should be more desirable. Where were caring people in the crowd to follow after him, to convince him that he would be happier if he did follow Jesus?

I still ponder these questions. I wonder how they relate to Jesus’ words: The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10:2 NKJ)

Am I a laborer and those along my path the harvest? Am I ready to reap interruptions?

 

Based on Mark 10:46-52; 2 Kings 5:1-15; Luke 18:18-23

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 4:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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