Lenten Thoughts – Mother

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)

I’ve often thought that this verse meant so much more than just respecting your parents.

To me, respecting your parents entails obeying them, listening to their advice, caring for them as they grow old…things of that sort.

But to honor someone just feels heftier to me. It means that you are taking it upon yourself to consider that person as deserving the absolute highest respect and admiration and sometimes even love.

Honor implies not only the greatest respect you can muster but also a mindfulness of that person’s importance in your life.

The other thing in this verse that stands out to me is the promise that comes along with honoring your parents – “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”

As is often the case, God doesn’t urge us to do something without reason.

In other words, honoring your father and mother is good for you.

Jesus, made sure to honor His mother. Though He was dying, He thought of her.

“Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” (John 19:27)

What strikes me about this is that, even at the worst time, Jesus was mindful of His mother, her needs, and her love for Him.

How often do you call to mind the woman who nurtured you, taught you, laughed and cried with you, maybe knew you better than you knew yourself? Do you think of her in the good times and the bad times?

Do you honor her in your thoughts? The lessons you learned from her, the love she poured into you…Or do you let it all go to waste?

What would you have done in Jesus’ situation? Mary had no one left (that we know of) and she most likely wouldn’t have been able to take care of herself. So Jesus made sure that sure would be looked after and supported.

If Jesus can do that from the cross (in extreme pain, I’m sure), then surely we can make the time and mental space to honor our own mothers to the best of our abilities.

 

*Written for Park Place Church of God

Lenten Thoughts – Paradise

Paradise…I don’t often think on this concept. I’ve heard some people say that paradise is another word for heaven or is the ultimate place to live. That all things will be good there. That maybe it was like the Garden of Eden before sin entered.

Can you imagine Paradise? Is it something that we’ll be able to see and care for, I wonder…or is it more of a state of being?

I haven’t decided myself if Paradise is a place, an idea, or a state of being. Perhaps it’s something so big that we can’t comprehend it. As I said, it’s not something I think about often.

When I do start pondering about paradise, I wonder if it is more than just a place, a physical place…perhaps it’s more of a spiritual place. Though for some reason, I can’t shake the hope that paradise is both.

Perhaps, if it is a physical place, we’ll get a sense like Frodo did upon nearing the Undying Lands.

“Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing…it seemed to him that…the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” (Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien)

It just sounds so beautiful and calming. It sounds like a place where there are no worries, no tears, no death, no pain…just beauty and the freedom to glorify God.

When I do think of paradise, I hope that it is something like that….in that it is a place that you can just sense that there is no evil there because you are in the presence of God.

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I guess that’s what it is to me…finally being in the presence of God and being at peace knowing that His word has accomplished what He pleased and that it prospered in you as He sent it to do. (Isaiah 55:11)

Jesus said, “today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Perhaps that’s why I think of Paradise in the two ways I’ve mentioned.

  1. Paradise means being able to be with God, completely.
  2. Paradise is a specific place where we can be in God’s presence.

It reminds me of a hymn we used to sing at my Southern Baptist church where I grew up.

“No more crying there, We are going to see the King (verse 2)…No more dying there, We are going to see the King (verse 3)” – Soon and Very Soon by Andrae Crouch (#247 in Park Place Hymnals)

I loved that song when I was younger. I loved the idea of a place where I wouldn’t cry anymore because that meant there wouldn’t be a reason for tears – no hurts, no anger, no jealousy, no death…I wanted a place like that because I shed tears for everyone that was hurting. I knew that when I reached that place, my heart wouldn’t be breaking because of the pain and evil in the world.

That is my hope still. So I sing with the saints:

“What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,

And I look upon His face – the One who saved me by His grace;

When He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day, that will be.”

-What a Day That Will Be, Jim Hill (#243 in Park Place Hymnal)

 

*Written for Park Place Church of God

 

Lenten Thoughts – Forgiven

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“Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48)

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be face-to-face with Jesus when He said those words? Your sins are forgiven.

These words provide freedom from the chains that bind us. Jesus said them to the woman who anointed Him with oil (Luke 7). He said them to the the paralytic lowered through the roof (Luke 5). And when we come to Him, He says those words to us too.

I like to imagine meeting Jesus and hearing those words. “Your sins are forgiven.”

I imagine that it is like a wild animal being returned to its natural state of being, free in its habitat.

I like to imagine that it’s like one of scenes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Specifically, the part where Eustace is desperately trying to return himself to human form. He longs to be how he’s supposed to be. But he can’t do it himself no matter how much he scratches and pulls at his skin and scales. He can’t free himself from the form of a dragon.

We cannot free ourselves from the chains of sin by our own power. This I believe with my whole heart. It takes the Great Lion coming and breaking those chains (or in Eustace’s case, stripping the layers of skin) to free us. It is how He shows us that we are forgiven.

When Aslan strips Eustace of his dragon form and returns him to his human state it’s like he’s saying “your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.”

When Eustace was freed from his dragon form, he was free to trust Aslan and do His work. When Jesus says that our sins are forgiven, we are free to return to our calling to glorify God.

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This is exactly what the paralytic man did. “Immediately he rose up…and departed to his own house glorifying God” (NKJV) or, as the amplified version reads, he “went away to his house, recognizing and praising and thanking God.” (Luke 5:25)

Being forgiven allows us to come alongside Paul in saying “forgetting what lies behind [all that has been forgiven] and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14)

Because Christ has forgiven me, I am free to forget the past and free to strive for the day when I get to meet Him. I am free to press on in the calling He has placed on my life. I am free to love and I am free to forgive.

*Written for Park Place Church of God