The first time I encountered the need to respond to Jesus was in the summer of 1971. I was at a family reunion with my parents and younger sister in Colorado. Maybe there were other siblings there too – I don’t remember.
At the reunion, my parents shared an A-frame cabin with my mom’s cousin and her husband. We took the upstairs with Mom and Dad in the bed and my sister and I on the floor. My sister and I had matching sleeping bags. They were red nylon on the outside and plaid flannel on the inside. They felt luxurious.
Mom had also made us new pajamas. They were the palest yellow you can imagine with white lace around the yoke, sleeves and leg openings. I remember it so well – snuggling down in my new sleeping bag with my new pajamas on, waiting. Waiting for the talk and laughter that would soon start.
After we were all in bed, Mom and Dad would talk and laugh with Thelma and Larry downstairs. I remember enjoying those moments, listening to adult conversation and Mom and Thelma laughing. It was music as I drifted off to sleep every evening.
One night as I laying there waiting for sleep to overtake me, I felt Jesus ask me if he could live in my heart. I was only six at the time, so I don’t remember the weight of sin heavy upon me. I just know that, at that moment, I knew I needed Jesus and so I said yes!
It was probably ten years later that I answered the question again. My sister and I were pretty good doing what siblings do – fight. It wasn’t constant and for the most part, we were good friends. But we didn’t always agree. I have a strong sense of justice; I don’t think my sister does. When things didn’t go well, I wanted to let someone know things weren’t fair. That rarely turned out well for me. As a parent, I think I understand my mother better now than I did then, but this opened the way for my second encounter with Jesus.
After a particularly disappointing confrontation with Mom, I sat on the picnic table, licking my wounds and feeling unjustifiably scolded. I picked up my Bible and read Philippians 4. As I read, I felt the same voice inviting me to open my life to his love and control in a deeper way. It was an invitation to surrender. Again, I agreed. I was tired of the fighting, name calling, tension. I turned it over to him. Peace filled me as never before and I knew I was different. And things were different after that, at least for me.
Life hasn’t always moved along in a linear fashion. As for everyone, there have been ups and downs, twists and turns. Some days I feel like giving up. Some days I have more questions than answers. In the midst of it all, in the darkest moments, I remember those two encounters. If I close my eyes, I can feel the loving embrace of Jesus. I sense his nearness and the depth of his love for me.
A few years ago I had a particularly difficult time. It lasted far longer than I wanted it to, and more than once I cried out to Jesus to open the heavens, to write on the wall, anything! To be completely honest, I didn’t know if I believed anything. Many days I didn’t feel like I heard him and I had no idea what he wanted from me. I wasn’t sure he was the only way. At the same time, he was the only way that made sense to me. So in the end, I remember telling him that I may not get it, I may not be able to hear him, but I’m not going anywhere. And I chose Jesus.
This week I want to look at what Jesus offers. I wonder what makes his offer less compelling in our culture than it was in the first century. Are we too affluent, too smart, too self-sufficient? Jesus said that others would know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another. Is that missing? Too many of us have become enamored with rules to guard our faith – don’t do this, do that, avoid this, embrace that. Is that what makes faith in Jesus something to resist?
Some way, some how – we all have to decide what we are going to do with Jesus? C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says it this way:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
What will you do with Jesus? Do you dismiss him as a madman? Is he just a great man who lived once upon a time? Or will you receive him as he is – the Son of God?
Until next time…
May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.Numbers 6:24-26