Faith is a Choice

Musings on Easter Morning

This time we call EASTER, or PASQUE (Peace) in Latin countries, and in particular this day, is the main event Christianity hinges on: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Most anyone will say Jesus was a wonderful example by the way He lived, by the things He taught. Philosophers and holy men of all kinds, even atheists quote his words and cite his examples. His death was cruel and needless, the outcome of putrid jealousy. But it’s his rising from the grave that has become the cornerstone of Christianity. This belief/fact has changed the course of our world. Two thousand years later people are still talking about God’s plan and believing it.

I just listened to a church group singing the song,
“Have you found rest and peace within, rolled far away your load of sin?
Stepped from the old life to the new? Tell what the Lord has done for you.”

(From a poem by Lizzie DiArmond)
This is not ancient history. New life through Jesus is a constantly current thing. Today the Lord gives peace and rest within, or so believers claim.

I ponder the questions: Why did God enact such an odd plan to redeem man? Why does man need to be “saved”? Why did Jesus have to die as a sacrifice? Why must a price be paid? Why doesn’t God just take everyone to heaven – or at least the basically good people? “Grading on the curve,” some wise soul has called it. As a human being I’m okay with a few faults.

Why did the divine Creator and Father come up with a scheme human minds can barely grasp, a story people are constantly stumbling over? He could have chosen a simpler way than faith in Jesus? He could just appear to each one of us and set us straight. “Here I am; believe me or else.” As a human being I respect force. A little jolt from above when we say or do the wrong thing might make it easier to know and obey his wishes.

Yet the Eternal, all-wise God says people shall have a free choice; He won’t force us to believe him. He allows that, as we go through life, we’ll get enough prompts that we can each decide to believe or reject his plan. Jesus says, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find.” The choice is ours to seek, to ask, to believe, to reject.

I came across the following old poem by Dora Greenwell (1821-1882) that expresses my musings quite well:

I AM NOT SKILLED TO UNDERSTAND

I am not skilled to understand
what God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know at His right hand
stands One who is my Saviour.

I take Him at his word indeed:
“Christ died for sinners,” this I read
and in my heart I find a need
of Him to be my Saviour.

And was there then no other way
for God to take? I cannot say;
I only bless Him, day by day,
who saved me through my Saviour.

Yes, living, dying, let me bring
my strength, my solace from this spring:
that He who lives to be my King
once died to be my Saviour.

Good Friday Verse

He Signed His Name

By Michael D. Blythe

He signed His name in granite
as the mountains tall were formed;
He signed His name in sunlight
and the cold earth slowly warmed.

He signed His name in water
as He filled the seven seas;
He signed His name in fertile soil
where He placed the mighty trees.

He signed His name in clay made flesh
as He created man;
He signed His name on the earth He made
according to His plan.

He signed His name in wrath
as He destroyed the world by flood,
but to save us from our wicked ways,
He signed His name in blood.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is an old poem, I believe; I got a copy from Mom long ago.
However, I couldn’t find any trace of the verse or author in a Google search,
so if anyone knows more about it or him, please share the info in a comment below.

A Sad Day For Us

The loss of a small creature can leave a big hole.

Last Sunday our pastor mention at the start of his sermon that just about any verse of the Bible might generate a long and meaningful sermon. Which made me think of the shortest verse, “Jesus wept,” and how much ink has been expended on those two words.

“Why did Jesus weep,” scholars have asked. He knew He was going to raise Lazarus, so why did He join the mourners in their sorrow? Because that’s what He does, writers claim. He joins us in our sorrow.

There’s sorrow in our house today, as our beautiful, lovable kitten, Tuffy, was killed on the road last night. I’ve been weepy all morning, ever since our neighbour texted that they saw him lying there, because I know how much we will miss his lovable ways. I’m thankful for every day we were able to enjoy him.

About eight months old now, he came to us one night last November, a day after the big snowy weekend we’d had. When I let our other cat out early that morning, a little black nose and two black ears poked out of the cat shelter. Fearless and friendly, this small kitten scooted into the house and made himself to home. He’d obviously been someone’s loved pet, but he couldn’t have just wandered half a kilometer down a country road.

His lively antics and cuddle-ability made our COVID-restricted winter so much brighter. The grandchildren enjoyed his fun nature, too, whenever they came to visit. And once the weather turned warmer, he loved being outside. Though I worried about predators and wondered how much “street-smarts” he had, it would have been cruel to keep him in.

“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This was Job’s answer, after learning how he’d lost so much, including his ten children. He realized that he’d brought nothing into this world; everything he’d gained in life was a gift for him to enjoy while he was here but he could take nothing with him to the grave. Scripture tells us he never accused God or became bitter about his loss.

People do ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” Why COVID, why cancer, why this and why that? We’re so inclined to lament the bad and forget all the good. “Why?” is frequently asked, but no answer comes except that this is life on planet Earth. Life is a rainbow: there’s health and sickness, joy and sorrow, winning and losing, life and death. And we cry because we love.

I could ask why God let Tuffy get hit when he was so precious to us? Why did God allow that vehicle to come down our road? (Our gravel country road gets so little traffic, especially now with the restrictions, and Tuffy seemed wary of noisy vehicles. So I rarely worried about the road being a danger.) Why did God allow that driver to get behind the wheel last night?

I could even go back to, “Why did God allow people to invent motors? Just think how many people have lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents.” What with the climate and running out of oil, etc., surely our world would be a better place if we walked or used horses. But the next time I want to go grocery shopping in town, I want the car.

The only answer I get is to enjoy the life we have, the conveniences we have, and take the risks that go along with it. My own life was saved because modern medicine has come up with an effective cure for leukemia. I could – should – ask, “Why do I have it so good?” or “How did God manage to bring Tuffy into our lives so we could enjoy his unique personality during a season when we most needed him?”

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Just think how many sermons and funeral messages have been preached about those few words. And because we know “Jesus wept” together with Mary and Martha about the loss of their brother, we know He sympathizes with us in our sorrows and loss, the huge ones and the little ones. He understands why I’m sad today.

The Center Cross

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word for today is BACKBONE

I can think of various examples, but I’ll go with this one:

The cross is the BACKBONE of the Christian faith.

For those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and have accepted his gospel, the cross represents his dying to pay the price for our sins – a price we cannot pay no matter how good we try to be.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” Isaiah 64:6
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

The cross represents our “death” to the selfishness inherent in human nature. The selfishness that wants my own way no matter what it costs others, or how I would use them for my own ends.

“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:11

The cross is especially symbolic in that the central beam of the cross points us toward God, lifting us nearer to Him. The crossbeam points us toward our fellow man, encouraging us to reach out to others.

In all the years since Jesus died, the cross has stood and is as effective and liberating today. Those who have embraced it will tell you so.

Who’s Calling?

It was one of those intriguing calls. Do you ever get them?

One morning when we were living in Ontario the phone rang and I answered. “Hello?”

Hello. Guess who-o-o.”

The voice sounded familiar, though my friends don’t usually play guessing games. “Is this Dee?”

“No…”

“Anne?”

“No…”

I was stumped.

“This is the girl that gave your that terrific hairdo.”

I racked my brain. I wear my hair simple; it had been many a year– if ever – since anyone gave me a terrific hairdo. She must have known me in my teens. Was this one of my sisters calling me from the prairies? “Donna? Rose?”

“No.” Frustrated now, the caller abandoned her game. “This is Pat.”

“Pat who?”

My caller paused, then asked, “Isn’t this Sherrie?”

“No, I’m Christine.”

“Oh, I guess I must have the wrong number. Sorry.” She hung up.

Whoever she was, she gave me a surprise and later a story to tell. 🙂 I’m not sure if the same thing happens in these days of answering machines and Call Display, but I dialed wrong numbers myself.

A few years back, after an hour of shopping, I called my husband from the store. When he answered, sounding a bit gruff, I said, “I’m done. You can come and pick me up now.”

There was a pause at the end of the line and a man answered, “Okay. Uh… Who is this?”

BLUSH!

This morning I read the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Many church-going children know this story well, and sing about how “Zacchaeus was a wee little man…who climbed up into a sycamore tree, for he wanted the Lord to see.”

He’d heard that Jesus was coming to his town and wanted to see him. Being a short man behind a large crowd, he did the sensible thing and climbed a tree. When Jesus came past that tree, he stopped, looked up and called to him.“Zacchaeus, come down. Today I must stay at your house.”

No wrong number. No “Who are you?” Jesus knew exactly who Zacchaeus was – and what he was: a rich tax collector, despised by his fellow citizens. In fact, when they heard what Jesus was saying to Zacchaeus, people who would have welcomed Jesus into their own homes grumbled that he’d chosen to be the guest of “a man that is a sinner.”

But Jesus explains that, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” It’s evident from this account he knows exactly who they are and where to look for them.

Old Man Green

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is WHAT THE EYES DON’T SEE

As I considered a response, three different illustrations came to mind:

–Jesus describes the work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who would come from the Father and guide the disciples after He was gone. The Spirit is like the wind, He told them: you hear the sound, and see the effects of wind, but never SEE the wind. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is a gentle force or voice working to urge, guide, and reprove people. You will see the effects of his work, the changes in people’s lives, but the Holy Spirit itself is never visible.

–I also thought of a story I was working on a few days ago, a tale of political “sleight of hand.” How to manipulate evidence so as to make a dastardly deed look like the other guy’s fault. The Boston Tea Party, for example. Maybe I’ll finish it and post it later today.

And then I thought of some of the people Edgar Guest describes, folks who demonstrate the real values of life, like Old Man Green and old Blake here.

THE HOMELY MAN

 Looks as though a cyclone hit him — 
 can’t buy clothes that seem to fit him
 and his cheeks are rough like leather,
 made for standin’ any weather.
 Outwards he was fashioned plainly
 loose of joint and blamed ungainly,
 but I’d give a lot of I’d
 been built half as fine inside.
 
Best thing I can tell you of him
 is the way the children love him.
 Now and then I get to thinkin’
 that he’s much like old Abe Lincoln.
 Homely like a gargoyle graven —
 worse than that when he’s unshaven;
 but I’d take his ugly phiz
 just to have a heart like his.

 I ain’t over-sentimental,
 but old Blake is so blamed gentle
 and so thoughtful-like of others;
 he reminds us of our mothers.
 Rough roads he is always smoothin’
 and his way is, oh, so soothin’,
 that he takes away the sting
 when your heart is sorrowing.

 Children gather round about him
 like they can’t get on without him.
 And the old depend upon him 
 pilin’ on their burdens on him,
 like as though the thing that grieves ‘em
 has been lifted when he leaves ‘em.
 Homely? That can’t be denied —
 but he’s glorious inside.

 From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
 ©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co