Excerpt by Jane Verm: “Arms outstretched in huge hugs, all the Operacion San Andres children welcomed our team with a song about the joy of belonging to a family – a family in Christ! What joy we feel to return to this family in Christ in Peru we come to serve twice a year. Everyone in Collique seems much happier and healthier now than they were at the beginning of our ministry here five years ago. Eight-year-old Nataly, whose birth defects had condemned her to a life as a cripple, walks very well after two surgeries. Many other children….” READ MORE AT http://www.smbc.org/NEWSITE/missionsblogperu_Spring09.html
An Act Unrivaled
I will take you as my own people, and I will be your Lord. Exodus 6:7
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. John 3:16
The crucifixion and the resurrection that we celebrate on Easter are the culmination of the covenant that God made with the people of Israel and by proxy with us. Since the exile from Eden, God has been working to reconcile his creation, and he sent his Son to do so. The method used to accomplish this reconciliation was barbaric, painful and well worthy of us. The victim was guiltless, and he submitted–an act unrivaled.
Growing up we would sing of washing our sins in the blood of the lamb, but, I confess, that I did not give it the attention I should have. As I age, I become increasingly and painfully aware of the length to which God has gone, and the sacrifice he has provided for my redemption. Given the grace, the love, and the price that the cross shows me, the question that Steve Wells ends his sermons with becomes an invitation to reply to this act of love from God and Jesus: “Well?”
It is not an easy reply. How does one reply to the ultimate sacrifice? To the love shown? To the grace given? I conclude that the answer is LOVE. It can be no other. All encompassing, and all enduring, no other act is worthy of God’s gift. After all, the grace God gave was never earned, it was freely given. I should freely give my own.
Dear Lord, The cross that Jesus came to bear for us confronts us today as it did your beloved Son so long ago. He transformed that instrument of pain, shame and guilt into one of grace, love and faith. Grant us the strength to be equally transformed. Give us courage; bless us with love. May we always worship you as you so richly deserve, always discover the depth of your love for your creation. Amen.
Ruben A. Jarrin is a deacon, Student of Youth-Seeker, and an architect.
Freedom to Choose
Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. Matthew 6:39
When Luke tells us that Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood, we get a glimpse into the agony with which Jesus wrestled with His personal life and death decisions, knowing both the outcome and the costs. The fact that He understood the effect of His decision did not make the choices easy. If He chose the path of the cross, the Passover lamb would be sacrificed one last time, and, for the first time, it would be a willing sacrifice. With the right choice, the Son of Man could finally bruise the head of the serpent, healing the schism between God and His creation. By enduring crucifixion, His separation would be substituted in place of mine. But no one could force Jesus to make the decision to keep His face pointed resolutely toward Calvary. The choice was His alone – and He knew what was ahead – He knew the price.
Was there a different “next step” for His life and ministry? Could a different path bring in the Kingdom without pain and separation? Would careful changes in the plan relieve human suffering and redirect history? Might some other sacrifice demonstrate God’s love and reconcile humankind to Him? Or was that Roman cross the best and only way by which His life-purpose could be accomplished? With one step, He could have melted into the darkness and left Jerusalem and its death sentence behind.
With absolute freedom to choose, Jesus recognized that God’s love “Demands my soul, my life, my all.” In response to those demands, He chose to cry, “Father, if there is any other option . . . “, and still finish with, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done.”
May our Easter faith respond in the same way to the demands of His love.
Father, forgive me when I take lightly the amazing love that guided Jesus’ decisions in Gethsemane. Open my eyes to your love, my ears to your voice, and my heart to your demands. Remove every obstacle I would raise, and let me pray with Jesus, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” Amen.
Fred Sellers, Jr.
The Cross of Hope
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. Hebrews 10:22
Henri Nouwen in “Show Me the Way” says Good Friday is the: “day of the cross, day of suffering, day of hope, day of abandonment, day of victory, day of mourning, day of joy, day of endings, day of beginnings.” He calls the Cross the Cross of Hope!
Jesus is asking us, and I’m asking myself and you: What is God demanding in this passage and what prevents us from giving God the best within us?
The emotions and the spirit God gave us when He made us from clay then added the Soul of his Breath were given to help us be fully human and occasionally divine. We are meant to be the vessels of his grace and forgiveness. We are in many ways the mind, heart, body and soul of the One who gave His life so that we might have Eternal Life. The inspiration of this powerful thought and feeling can be a great healing and comfort to those of us who spend too much time boxed in by anger, fear and sadness or some memory and event we can’t forgive or let go of. Jesus says let it go!
So what is the spiritual gift for us on Good Friday? That as we carry a loved one to the gravesite, we are sending them both into the good earth and on to an incredible journey? That when we celebrate the birth of our child or grandchild, God is celebrating as well? When we get it how much Jesus loves us, and we learn to like and to love ourselves fully, then we are in a great life that gives us many opportunities. What a Savior! What a friend! Father, Son and Holy Ghost. What a great family we come from!
Father God, let Good Friday be the day we take fully into our minds, hearts, bodies and souls the hope, love and faith the Savior was willing to give us by letting them nail Him to the Cross-the Cross of Hope. Amen
Barry McCarty has been back at South Main since 1979. He is a member of the Discipleship Committee and is a member of the Power & Light Sunday School community. Barry was ordained by South Main Baptist in 1973. Barry is married to Beth and they have three adult children.
My Gift to God
What can I give back to the Lord for all He requited to me? The cup of rescue I lift and in the name of the Lord I call. Psalms 116:12-13
The psalmist called to the Lord to save him from death. Possibly the speaker had recently recovered from a near-fatal illness or some other danger. His love for the Lord is being proclaimed to celebrate this recovery from near death.
Most of us have not had a recovery from a near death experience, but we have experienced times of deep trouble that have seemed insurmountable at the moment. The Lord is always there to walk with us in times of trouble. All that we have to do is open our hearts to him and call for his help. As I think about this Psalm, the familiar poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson comes to mind. The poet asks God where He has been when she has seen only one set of footprints in the sand. The Lord replies, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.” God is with us even when we are not aware of His carrying us.
The psalmist asks “What can I give back to the Lord?” Robert Alter’s commentary suggests that there is no adequate return that the Psalmist can offer God, but at least he can participate in the celebration of thanksgiving. Just as the Psalmist gives thanks to the Lord for his salvation and deliverance, I give thanks to the Lord for traveling with me on my life’s journey and for the gift of grace from Jesus. The gift that I can give to God is the way that I live my life. Jesus said that we should love the Lord with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This gift to God truly “demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Lord, give me the wisdom and patience to live my life in a way that will be a gift to you. Amen.
Hart Brupbacher is a member of the Fellowship Sunday School Class and sings in the choir. He is married to Linda, and they are active in two South Main at Home groups.
Coming to See Jesus
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked for us. Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus. Hebrews 12: 1-2
I’ve read that many of the soldiers who are awarded medals for their acts of valor in the battlefield actually do not consider themselves to be brave. They say, “I was just doing my job,” or “I did it because it was expected of me.” Studies reveal that it is not the swashbuckling, charismatic, adventuresome soldier who is most likely to be a hero; rather, it is the soldier who values loyalty and duty. Most of them are reluctant heroes. They are uncomfortable with the label, and they did not set out to become a hero, only to do the job they were called upon to do.
We, too, find ourselves in the midst of a war–an internal war. We battle against our fears and failures at trying to live lives worthy of our calling. The writer of Hebrews offers a word of encouragement to us as we march into the field of conflict. A great cloud of witnesses, a battalion of believers, surrounds us. Women and men who have run the race found God to be faithful, even when they were not. We are invited to look not only around, but to peer deeply ahead, behind, and within at the author and perfecter of our faith who endured the cross, scorned its shame, and who now sits at the right hand of God. Jesus is here, through the smoke and explosions of life’s chaos, in the midst of the shrapnel of new diagnosis and disease. With peril all around us and plenty within us, Jesus is here! He is here not only as a starched, victorious admiral, but also as a battle-scarred, bloodied, and crucified fellow soldier—one who knows the pain of this war and the power of his victory. Let us consider the One who endured so much for us and get to work in the heroic ordinary of our daily lives as we continue to follow Him.
God, help us in our weariness and our lost ways to see Jesus in the midst of the struggle and come to know more deeply the love you have for us and the light in which you call us to walk Amen.
Erin Conaway is the Associate Pastor of South Main. He is married to Carmen Brassfield Conaway and together they are watching Alexandra Julie and Samuel Eric grow up and discover life in all its wonder and joy.
Living like Jesus is All We Have
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Our theme for Lent this year is “demands my all.” Those words are from the last verse of the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” from which we sing “…love so amazing, so divine; demands my soul, my life, my all.” That love of Jesus dying on the cross for us “demands our all.” What does that mean? That we should give our all to God?
I fall short. Sometimes I feel as if I’m taking one step forward and two steps back! Thankfully life is a daily journey to reach out to be closer to Christ and to be more like Him and to give our all.
God deeply desires a personal relationship with each of us and wants us to give our lives to Him and live our lives for Him. He wants us to pray, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, speak kindly, preach the Gospel, praise Him, trust in Him, and have faith in Him, among other things. That’s what giving our all means to me. Thankfully we don’t have to do all of these things today. But maybe we should start trying to do them or do more of them tomorrow.
Trusting in God and having faith in God, depending on Him solely and entirely is challenging! But there are times when there is nothing else we can do, but “give it to God” and pray in faith that He will answer our prayers. We have to trust that he will work everything out for the best and for his glory and kingdom, even though it doesn’t always seem like it at the time. A wise person once said “you don’t know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” Maybe it’s a good idea to try to live our lives more like Jesus is all we have.
God, please help us to give our all to you and show us what that means. Thank you for giving your only Son to die on the cross for us so that we might be saved. Amen.
Angie Fox is a member of the Discipleship committee and the blessed wife of Stephen Fox.
Scheduling God Time
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3
What does God want from me? In John 12:1-11, Mary pours out a year’s worth of wages in the form of expensive perfume onto the feet of Jesus, and he accepts it. In modern society, it sometimes seems like the only requirements in place are to attend church and give regularly. But, in Luke 21:1-4, a widow’s two cents is worth more than the vast sums of the rich because she gave all she had. The question is: which side of that story do we fall on? I strive to give a tithe of my income weekly to God. But Mary just delivered up what may have been her entire life savings. So, can’t I just hand over my 401k and call it even with God? What does God expect of me? What does God demand?
To be sure, Jesus makes it clear to me. I just might not want to hear it. I can’t buy off God. I can’t just make a weekly appearance at church, smile, wave, throw some money in the plate as it passes by, then go home and feel free to do what I want for another week. God wants everything. He demands my all. The important thing about the tithe isn’t that I slipped a check into the plate; it’s that I remember that “it is he who gives me the ability to produce wealth” (Deut. 8:18), so that I give Him the nod by placing the check in the plate.
Oh, but, while I’m at it, He also gave me life. So I should give Him another nod and donate some of my time? And while we’re at it, Easter is another one of those ways where God is giving to me again, this time by saving me from myself. Maybe Sunday morning isn’t good enough. So I’ll be looking for opportunities to throw some extra God-time into my schedule during the year. What about you?
Holy Jesus, save us from ourselves and help us to find time in our busy schedules to pencil in a little God-time to spend with you. Amen
Stephen Fox is a member of Chafin’s New Beginnings Sunday School class. He is married to Angie Fox.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self? Luke 9:29
Going into the mission field, we knew that we would face spiritual warfare. Where we didn’t expect it to come from was in a connection to our lives in the U.S. Watching an English speaking sitcom or movie is a release and an escape for us. What in the U.S. was just another talking head became a connection to home. This worldly desire for mindless entertainment became a tool of Satan to charm us and pull us away from communion with God. The more we gave ourselves to worldly pleasures, the more we took away from our relationship with Him. We realized that this was one stronghold that was preventing us from giving our all to God.
We were the biggest stumbling block to ourselves. Our worldly needs consumed the free moments we had that could have been for our Lord. The Lord made this day, why don’t I rejoice in it and be glad that I have an opportunity to be in communion with Him? His love endures forever, but it seems I casually crucify His love on my bulletin board of activities until it’s convenient for me to respond.
Today we reflect upon Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. We recall the joy with which he was received and the way he would quickly be crucified by the same population that welcomed him. Are we going to quickly turn him away as he lovingly and triumphantly enters our lives?
O Lord, our God, you have revealed a love to us that surpasses knowledge, an enduring love that demands our soul, our life, our all. Father God, we pray that you would help us to recognize and tear down the strongholds Satan has built to prevent us from giving you our all. Forgive us, renew us and lead us in the way everlasting. Amen.
–Chris and Jessica Rose are CBF missionaries in Collique, Peru with Operacion San Andres.