“Sacrifice,” Part 1

Since I’m out West with my Arizona sister on a road trip in her RV – our annual “sisterly adventure,” I’m scheduling one of my longer testimonies in three parts. Today, Part 1:

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

The doctor’s diagnosis and recommendation gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, the thought that a simple surgery could solve multiple minor physical nuisances was appealing; on the other hand, the site of the surgery was uncomfortably close to the voice box, and frankly I had grown kind of attached to my voice.

II had formed my identity largely based on my voice. Yes, I was a writer, but lately my business cards had been redesigned to include other things I did:

“Author/Speaker/Singer/Songwriter/Musician.” (Right after the cards were printed, I heard a sermon with the message: “Your identity is not found in what you do.” Oops.)

I loved serving the LORD with my voice. My personal devotions included singing to Him while playing my guitar or harp. I took my instruments to the local hospital to sing to the patients, and I had occasional speaking engagements to deliver messages to women, youth, or church congregations. And my two favorite things to do with my children, and now my grandchildren, were singing to them and reading to them. Always loving an excuse to reread The Chronicles of Narnia and other childhood favorites, I would tap into my theatrical training and play the part of each character, using different voices an dialects. In my interactions with people – those I knew as well as strangers – I seized every opportunity to tell about my latest answer to prayer … or for that matter, detailed stories of God’s grace in my life that I had repeated often over the years. (An instructor at a speaker’s conference once told me I was a born storyteller.)

Of course, I prayed that my voice would be OK through this surgery, and I trusted that if God wanted to use my voice, He’d certainly protect it. But I had also walked with Him long enough to know that His thoughts are not my thoughts; His plan for me might not line up with my own plans and preferences. While I personally enjoyed worshiping the Lord and glorifying Him with my voice, if He had other, better plans for me to serve Him, I certainly wanted to be open to them, and I told Him so. Inwardly, though, I did fervently hope that His plan would not include taking away the gift He had allowed me to use and enjoy for so long. So, I had to remind myself repeatedly that God knew best, and that I refused to give in to fear.

My doctor assured me there was little chance that I would lose my voice. She had even searched out a surgeon that used the latest cutting-edge equipment to protect the vocal cords; this surgeon had done the same operation on a backup singer for a big-name rock star. Still, there was no guarantee, and I didn’t want to be presumptuous. So I prayed, yielded my will to the Lord, and explored various other ways I could glorify Him without a voice. Of course, I could continue to write, I just wouldn’t be able to speak at any book signings, church services, or other gatherings. I supposed I could continue to play my instruments, but most of my music was purely to accompany my singing, so I considered going back to earlier interests in art, crafts, even gourmet cooking. These were pleasant thoughts, but deep down was a nagging, gnawing feeling of dread at the thought that I might be left with these only, voiceless.

The nagging imaginations of life as a mute were based on my experience of being unable to speak years ago in college. Persistent throat infections had taken their toll, and I’d been told by a specialist that I may or may not have permanently damaged my voice. He had told me that it was best for me not to speak for a month and not to sing for a year. As a theater major, this had been a major thing! I’d been forced to drop out of the singing groups I was in, and for my final performance in acting class, I’d done a mime, even though we had received no instruction in mime. (Please don’t ask how that went.) Probably the worst part of this ordeal had been living in the midst of other college students, who were having discussions of every topic under the sun, having so much to say, and having to write it all down. People had been patient and tolerant for a while, but eventually I’d begun to feel it was an imposition to expect people to wait for me to write everything down and try to decipher my handwriting, which had become steadily worse with my attempts to write at lightning speed with ever-growing writer’s cramp. Finally I would retreat to my room and do most of my talking to God, as the tears rolled down my face, accompanied by Simon and Garfunkle singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on my record player. (Record player? … Yes, that was a while ago.)

As I anticipated the possibility of being voiceless again, maybe permanently, the memory of the loneliness enveloped me in a cold darkness, and I couldn’t quite worship with the complete abandon that I wanted to.

… To be continued …

Prayer: LORD, my life is in Your hands. Whether I have everything I want, or things aren’t the way I’d like, or I’m anticipating losing something precious to me, I am utterly dependent on You every minute of every day. But I trust You, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

What Else Matters? Postscript and Update

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.                                                                                                                                                                                                               Romans 8:18

Last week I told the story of the day my daughter Kelly missed singing at the National Day of Prayer after missing just about everything else of significance her senior year, and how God interrupted my pity party via a purse-sized New Testament to remind me of His Resurrection, and to get me to ask myself, “What else matters?”

Recap: “Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to, what else mattered? …

Continuation: What doesn’t matter has a way of getting to us, though, and it was only a couple of days later that I was charging out of the house to escape the stress for a while. I figured pedaling my bike at top speed to the health club and working out with weights was better than screaming at people, but at the moment my pedaling was accompanied by angry muttering under my breath.

Along the way I noticed the grass in front of the high school was littered with small pieces of paper, but I was too preoccupied with my own frustration to think much about it. But after the workout had melted away some of the aggravation, I realized as I passed the school again on my way home that the Gideons must have been there handing out Bibles, and obviously someone had not appreciated the gesture. Dozens of pages torn out of a small New Testament had been strewn all over the lawn. I slowed my bike down and looked sadly at the precious scriptures fluttering in the wind. I could almost see the devil smiling.

Well, somebody‘s going to get something out of this Bible! I thought with righteous defiance. I stopped and picked up a couple of pages, and a sense of deja vu accompanied what I read on one:

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away … ”    Luke 24:1-2

My mouth dropped open, and tears filled my eyes as the words reverberated in my mind: What else matters?

OK, Lord, so my short-term memory needs some work …

[Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) c 2015 Ann Aschauer]

Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your patience with us. Thank You for not giving up on us, but reminding us time and again of what You have told us before, knowing that we are a forgetful bunch, who nevertheless want to follow You. Thanks for doing whatever it takes to keep us with You, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Update: Since I first posted “What Else Matters?” several readers have asked how Kelly is doing. First, thank you for asking. How kind of you to care for a young lady you have never met.

Since that National Day of Prayer I have had to be reminded repeatedly of where my priorities should be. I guess I am always “seeking divine perspective,” and God never tires of helping me. He is so good.

Kelly graduated on the honor roll, in spite of all the days missed. She had worked hard to beat the odds, but because she had missed so many days, she got none of the special awards given to individual students for outstanding work in specific subjects. Still, I was so proud of the way she sat with a smile on her face, clapping for her classmates as their names were called.

Kelly struggled in college, as the cycle of stress/migraine/missed classes/falling behind had started again, and now we (her parents) were a couple of states away, concerned for her emotional health as well as the physical. It was there that God provided a godly woman in her church who loved Kelly and was like another mom to her. Kate, her husband, and their three children became like a second family. The children looked up to Kelly and adored her. Kate would call occasionally and fill me in when Kelly was having a rough time, and we’d pray for “our girl.” There was at least one time when Kate took Kelly to the ER. She was truly a godsend.

Fast forward to today. Kelly has a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a godly, loving husband, and certification in massage therapy. (I name these in chronological order, not in order of importance!) She and her husband live just a few hours from us in a house they are remodeling, with their “baby” – a dog Kelly adores and posts way too many pictures of on Facebook.

Kelly still calls me “MamaBear,” and I still call her “BabyBear.” She sent me a text last week with a picture of her wearing a big smile and her official polo shirt embroidered with the name of her new employer. I congratulated her and asked if it was a good time to talk. It was only then that she told me she had a bad migraine and was going to lie down, but she had texted me because didn’t want me to miss seeing her “I-got-the-job!” smile.

Her new job pays well, and the hours are flexible, so if/when a migraine shows up it won’t present a huge problem. But I’m guessing that with the pressure off, fewer migraines will show up. Best of all, Kelly will be spending her days helping hurting people heal.

Bottom line: Yes, she still has migraines, but migraines don’t have her.

 

In Case You’re Wondering …

Dear readers,

I am heading out West tonight for another “adventure” with my sister, and so far we still don’t know where we’re going! :/  Since it’s likely I’ll be away from WiFi (and busy “adventuring”  anyway) I will not be blogging for the next couple of weeks. I have some pieces scheduled to be posted, but I will not be reading other blogs as I usually do. Please feel free to “like” or comment on my posts, and when I get back I will respond, and maybe read the suggested ones of yours. But since I usually get about 150 emails a day, I can’t promise that when I get home I’ll read everything that’s piled up since I left!

Just know that if you don’t get any comments or “likes” from me in the next couple of weeks, and if I don’t respond to your comments immediately, it’s not that I’m not interested, it’s that I am out of reach. I look forward to connecting with y’all when I get back.

Happy rest of May!

Annie

The Kentucky Derby and Judgment Day

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

                                                                               I Corinthians 9:24, 25

The Favorite

He seemed destined to win from the start. As the horses thundered (or splashed) around the track, every rider but one had to contend with the mud that was flung in his face with every hoof-beat. For all but a few tense seconds, it was clear who the front-runner was, and the moment “Maximum Security” crossed the finish line, his rider was approached for an interview before he had even dismounted. The reporter asked the predictable question: “You’ve won the Kentucky Derby! How does it feel?” The breathless jockey’s face was predictably beaming, as he spoke a few words about a “dream come true.”

BUT WAIT …

Moments later there came what was for many the unthinkable: a protest and a chance that Maximum Security would be disqualified – not just have to settle for second or third, but be disqualified. He had run a great race, but had he run a perfect race?

The joy on the faces of Maximum Security’s people turned to expressions of concern, as judges deliberated for what seemed like hours, repeating footage of the race from every possible angle to determine if there had been a foul. News cameras focused on the faces of the owners and jockeys as they waited for the verdict. The spotless face of Maximum Security’s rider was clearly worried. Meanwhile, the mud-covered face of the second-place rider looked (to this observer) like a mixture of hopeful and awkward as reporters threw questions at the young man. My heart went out to everyone involved, including the officials, who were stuck with the job no one would have wanted.

The Verdict

When the verdict was announced, the second-place horse with the modest name “Country House” was declared the winner. His jubilant owner embraced the mud-covered jockey, oblivious to the consequences for his suit. Meanwhile, those who had invested much of their lives in Maximum Security left that day with no mud stains, and no prize.

What About You?

So, what does this have to do with us?

EVERYTHING.

As we are all running our race on the same track, some seem to have a distinct advantage from the start, and inasmuch as they take advantage of every opportunity, they seem to stay ahead. Others start out not so advantaged, and yet they run anyway, sometimes getting mud kicked in their faces by those in front. The rich and famous (or whoever the world describes as “successful”) have their fifteen minutes of fame. They may have breathless reporters shoving microphones in their faces as long as they are on top, while onlookers may waste a good portion of their lives envying these people.

Those with a more spiritual perspective may look for different qualifications when determining who the “front-runners” are. Their “winners” would include the Billy Grahams and the Mother Teresa’s of the world – those who have spent their lives doing good. Surely, they must be God’s favorites because of all the work they have done for Him. The list may also include those who aren’t famous but nevertheless have spent their lives doing the right things, staying clean, and avoiding doing anything they might be sorry for later.

Surprise.

But someday that will all change, and for many it will be a rude awakening.

Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount with these words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4) The road to eternal life begins with recognizing one’s failure – one’s spiritual bankruptcy – and grieving over it. It begins with humility. (“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – verse 5) It’s like looking in a mirror and seeing yourself covered with mud – unacceptable to a holy God – and realizing there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. If perfection is required, we are all doomed to die in the dirt.

There’s so much more at stake here than in a horse-race. Titles fade, trophies gather dust, and roses wilt within days. But the race we’re running is about eternity – either in the glorious presence of God or away from Him in eternal darkness, from which there is no escape. (Talk about maximum security … !)

BUT GOD…

But our heavenly Father created us to be objects of love – He is love. (I John 4:8) He has made a way for us to become clean. Since perfection is required, atonement requires a perfect sacrifice (and that ain’t us, folks.). But God provided that perfect sacrifice – His sinless Son Jesus, who willingly died so we could be forgiven, clean, accepted by Him. When all is said and done, Billy Graham and Mother Teresa would be the first to tell you that they weren’t saved by anything they had done, but by the blood of Christ, shed for them.

The Prize

The winning horse at the Kentucky Derby was draped with a blanket of flawless red roses. And those of us who are covered with the blood of Jesus – those of us who have believed in His atoning death to save us – will be the winners, through no act of our own, other than placing our faith in the one Person who qualifies.

(He is the only One who ran a perfect race.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we acknowledge that we are helpless to save ourselves. Thank You for sacrificing Your own life to save us. Now that we are Yours, help us to run a good race, to live lives that represent You well, in Your name. Amen.

What Else Matters?

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.         Colossians 3:2

It was the morning of the National Day of Prayer. I was sitting in the auditorium at City Hall, listening to my daughter’s school choir singing a goosebump-raising rendition of “You Are God Alone.” They were warming up for the city-wide prayer meeting that was starting in half an hour. And I was crying.

My daughter Kelly had been having a rough time in high school. The migraines that had first appeared when she was four years old had continued to plague her through grade school and middle school and had caused her record absences through high school, in spite of years of prayers and attempts to find a solution through medicine, both traditional and “alternative.”

But in spite of enduring more pain than some people suffer in a lifetime, Kelly had found a few sources of pleasure in her life. By far her greatest joy was singing, and her favorite part of school was choir. When the students performed, Kelly’s face radiated with unmistakable joy. She had looked forward to the national Day of Prayer and taking part, and as I had said goodbye to her that morning and she left for school, I had whispered a special prayer of thanks to God for this special day.

My optimism was short-lived, however. Kelly had called me from the parking lot of a McDonald’s half a mile from school to tell me about the migraine that had assaulted her shortly after she had walked out the door. When I had suggested that she come home, take some medication, and rest until the assembly, she had sobbed that if she didn’t show up at 8:00 she wouldn’t be allowed to sing with the choir.

There are definite advantages to a small Christian school, one of them being teachers who know each student well and practice grace along with discipline. As I called the office to explain Kelly’s dilemma, the choir director, who “happened to be” right by the phone, responded with compassion. She said to let Kelly come home, take a pill and a nap, and meet the choir at City Hall at 11:30 if she was feeling better.

But the medication that knocked out the migraine had a way of knocking out the patient as well, and when I had tried to rouse Kelly for the prayer meeting, she had been hopelessly (and predictably) dead to the world. Now as the choir finished their warm-up and filed off the stage, there I sat, with nothing to do but feel sorry for Kelly, thinking of all the important high school events she had missed and would never again get a chance to do. And yes, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as well. (When “BabyBear” hurts, “MamaBear” hurts, too.) So in spite of my efforts to contain them, the tears flowed.

I was digging through my purse, looking for a tissue when I came across my small New Testament. Since the prayer meeting didn’t start until noon, I knew I had twenty minutes to kill, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend them in self-pity. So I pulled out the Bible and prayed.

Lord, Jesus, please encourage me. I don’t want to feel this way today!

I was not in the habit of looking for answers to problems by haphazardly opening the Bible; I hadn’t done that since college. But since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I opened the Book at random, planning just to read until I found something helpful, or until the prayer meeting started, whichever came first.

The scripture that first caught my eye was the last chapter of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”                    (Mark 16: 1-6)

Something told me I had seen enough, so I stopped reading.

OK, what does that have to do with Kelly’s migraines? I wondered. But then I pondered the significance of the passage.

Jesus is alive … JESUS IS ALIVE! That means that death is not the end … for Him or for us! And it certainly means this life isn’t the be-all and end-all for those who trust in the Lord. – It’s barely the beginning!

Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to … what else mattered?

What else matters? I asked myself, and I found that in spite of my pity-party, I was smiling. I decided that I would pour myself into the Day of Prayer and keep a better perspective on life from that day on, by remembering the one thing that really matters – Jesus is alive!

Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) c 2015 Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice that You are alive! Keep us mindful of what really matters. In Your name, amen

God’s Healing Balm

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”                           When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.                                                                                                          One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.           Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”                                                                                                                                                        Luke 17: 12-19

 

The blogger’s post was timely. She wrote about how we feel when we’ve worked hard, pouring ourselves into a thankless job that never gets recognized. I had had that experience numerous times, and yes, it’s disappointing. But I’ve learned that whatever pain I may be going through, if I think about it, I realize that Jesus has gone through the same thing in one way or another. When I’m having that “unappreciated” feeling, I always remind myself that after Jesus had healed ten lepers, only one came back to thank Him, so why would I expect a better return for my efforts? At least I know I’m in good Company.

This particular day had taken things a step further. After pouring my life into someone for over a year, it wasn’t just that this person was not thanking me. That day I had been verbally attacked, called a couple of names I had never been called before, and heard the door slam on our friendship. …wow.

This experience, along with the blog’s reference to the ten lepers and the ingratitude of the nine, made me wonder: When Pilate asked the crowds what he should do with Jesus, were any of those nine lepers among those who shouted, “Crucify him!” ? Again, I reminded myself that I was in good Company.

Initially there was a moment of unexpected relief. I had started to wonder (and pray about) whether I was getting involved in a type of ministry God was not calling me to. I didn’t want to jump ship, but I also didn’t want to waste time running around doing someone else’s ministry while mine was left undone. My heart told me that God was releasing me from a job that was never His plan for me, and that was a good thing. But the memory of the insulting words threatened to take up residence in my head and cloud my view of life, even my view of myself.

I decided to just let the matter drop and make my retreat in the form of a long walk with my little dog, “Mr. Hollywood.”

It was a gorgeous spring day, and our neighborhood had burst into bloom. As I walked, I thanked God for the beautiful colors, the songs of the birds, and sweet fragrances that overwhelmed my senses.

I saw a man working in a yard where the lawn was full of the little white flowers I loved but couldn’t identify. I stopped and asked him what they were. When he replied in the most delightful dialect that he hadn’t the foggiest, I had to ask where he was from. He told me he was from London, England. As we chatted about our families and how we each ended up in Louisville, he suddenly looked past me and announced, “Here comes Tchaikovsky!”

A beautiful woman was walking toward us with a big, adorable, sad-eyed Basset hound (“Tchaikovsky”). As she stopped to say hello, I introduced myself and Mr. Hollywood and learned her name. This lovely lady was from Russia. I suddenly felt that I was at the United Nations rather than our little Southern suburb. (Yes, this really happened. I couldn’t make up this stuff.) After a brief visit with my two new friends, I headed back home, smiling at the way the Lord had been smiling on me. He knew that I loved meeting all kinds of people. One thing I love about blogging is that it allows me to connect with people all over the world, but meeting these two, face to smiling face, was the highlight of my day.

Another timely blog that same day reminded the readers to share a smile with people, even strangers, because you may be the only source of sunshine they have. It was a delight meeting the English gentleman and the Russian lady, and remembering how many nice people God has put in the world, and that these two actually liked me. I chuckled as I felt the balm of their smiles soothing my soul. I’m sure they had no idea God was using them to heal a sad heart.

On the way home I was walking with a spring in my step, and as corny as it sounds, I was stopping to smell the spring flowers and enjoy all their sweetness. As I was taking in the fragrance of a blossoming tree, a gust of wind shook the branches, showering my head with pink petals; I laughed and thanked the Lord again for being there, for loving me, and for the joy of being His child.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for all the times You healed people – of physical diseases, emotional wounds, and broken relationships. Most of all, thank You for giving Your life so we could be healed of sin and of death itself. Help us to remember these things with gratitude daily, and to pass our blessings on to others who need Your healing touch. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

 

He Lives! (Really!)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.                                     1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)

        “He Lives! (I Serve a Risen Savior)” – chorus:     

    “He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
     He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
     He lives! He lives, salvation to impart.
     You ask me how I know He lives?…     [Crescendo … drum roll … ]                            He LIVES  …  [dramatic pause  …   within … my … heart!”

I know a lot of people love to sing that song at Easter, and I suppose I’m one of them, but that last line bothers me.

Yes, Jesus lives in my heart, and in the hearts of all who believe that He died for them, paying the price for their sins and rising again to life, just as He had promised He would.

Yes, we believe it, and we’d love for others to believe it.

But “He lives within my heart” is hardly a compelling argument for convincing the skeptics. I wouldn’t have a problem with the statement, except that there is such a huge amount of evidence for the Resurrection that is a lot more objective and logical, which could elicit more than an eye-roll from the as-yet unbelieving. (When my daughter was little she could just as easily have said that Santa, the Easter Bunny, or Barney lived within her heart.)

When the congregation is singing, “You ask me how … I know He lives …?” I want to jump in and shout: Look at the evidence!”

The resurrection of Jesus is the most well-documented event in ancient history! What millions celebrate today, 2000 years later, was written down by historians who interviewed eye witnesses, as well as writers who were eye witnesses themselves. With all the enemies the Christian movement had from the beginning, no one was able to refute what these witnesses said. After all, Jesus was seen by over 500 men (and probably some women and children, too, though in those days they weren’t counted.). If Jesus hadn’t been raised, all His enemies had to do was produce the body and they would have saved themselves the hassle of arresting, imprisoning, torturing, and killing those pesky people who insisted that He was alive.

The best news of all is that in 2019 we can still enjoy the benefits of the atoning death of Jesus. When He cried, “It is finished!” on the Cross, He was saying our sins were “paid in full!” To confirm His declaration, at the moment Jesus died, the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom. This was the curtain that sealed off the “Most Holy Place” from everyone except the High Priest, who could only enter once a year. The tearing of the curtain symbolized the opening up the way between God and Man. If we accept Jesus’ death as payment for our sins, we are declared innocent and can now approach our heavenly Father freely as his children.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, what did happen?

Here are some theories about what happened that day that turned the world upside down (or right side up, depending on your perspective): 

Theory 1: “The disciples stole the body and made up the story that Jesus had risen from the dead.” This was the original rumor, spread by the soldiers who had fainted upon seeing the Angel of the LORD at the Tomb. They could have paid with their lives for “falling asleep on duty,” but the chief priests, not wanting word of the Resurrection to get around, promised they’d keep the soldiers out of trouble if they would spread this lie. (Matthew 28: 11-15)

But when you think of it, who would have believed the soldiers’ story? Why in the world would a band of scared-to-death men, who the day before had been hiding from the Romans, want to stir up that much trouble? At Jesus’ arrest, all the disciples except Judas had fled, but then after that third day, they were willing to face persecution and death – for a hoax? You’d think at least one of them would have caved under torture. After all, who wants to be crucified upside down for the sake of a prank? 

Theory 2: “Jesus didn’t really die, He just swooned enough to fool the Romans … and the physician that signed His death certificate.” This is perhaps the most popular explanation among skeptics, though I can’t imagine why. The theory is that Jesus survived a Roman scourging (itself tantamount to a death sentence), hanging on the cross for hours, and being buried for three days without food, water, or medical attention, and then somehow healed up enough to roll away a two-ton stone, overcome the armed Roman guards, and declare Himself the risen Lord. okay … 

Theory 3: The women went to the wrong tomb. And that means so did Peter, John, and the others. In fact, the real tomb of Jesus has yet to be found, but when it is, we’ll find His body!  … Uh-huh … 

Theory 4: The 500-plus people who saw Him alive were all having identical hallucinations … for 40 days.  (Seriously?)

OR

“HE IS RISEN!”

Believe it!

Enjoy it!

And have a wonderful Resurrection Day!

 

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for sacrificing Your life as payment for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and have the life we didn’t deserve. We recognize Your sacrifice! We rejoice in Your Resurrection! We marvel at Your amazing love for us! May we live in celebration of You every day of our lives, in Your name, amen.