Sleepy Graves: Talitha Cumi

Sometimes, I read the red words in my Bible out loud. I picture Jesus saying them, the words on his lips, and they begin to come alive. He was kind, inclusive, and bold. Most importantly, he was loving – and he is life.

There’s a story in Mark that I find compelling.

A woman had just touched Jesus’s robe and was healed. In the midst of this, the news came to a man named Jairus that his daughter had died. Jairus had come to Jesus to ask for healing; instead, he received something bigger, something deeper, and something more glorious. He received resurrection.

The messengers told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”

But Jesus was listening. He responded, “Don’t be afraid, just have faith.”

Jesus approached the home of Jairus. The people there wept and mourned for the little girl, but Jesus knew better.

He said, “The child isn’t dead, she’s only asleep.”

What did the people do when he said this? They laughed.

But Jesus took dismissed the haters and took the mother and father into the room where the little girl was lying. He took her twelve-year-old hand into his. I imagine him pressing his fingers on her palm when he whispered to her, “Talitha cumi.”

Talitha cumi.

Talitha cumi.

Talitha cumi.

It means, “Little girl, arise!”

She stood up, walked around, and he made her eat.

Even when someone says, “It’s no use” – just have faith. Every single one of us is that little girl. We fall asleep in our graves of comfort. Every morning and every day Jesus says to us, “Talitha cumi.” He calls us from our sleepy graves, and charges us with resurrection. Out of death, he charges us with new life. We are marked by empty graves.

So get up, and get something to eat.

Mark 5:35-43

SKS

The South Oval Preacher

As many college students have noticed, maybe while walking somewhere similar to the University of Oklahoma’s South Oval, preachers love to preach. Today, I saw a sign that caused quite a ruckus.

With large, bright red letters emphasizing the first and last words, a sign read this:

You deserve Hell.”

Those passing by were offended. “How rude!” they said. “How can someone judge someone else so harshly? How insensitive can someone be?”

Their comments were right. The preacher was rude, harsh, and insensitive. His message didn’t come with love, which is quite different than the way Jesus did things. None of these qualities exemplified Jesus – the rudeness, harshness, or insensitivity. Jesus is the kindest, gentlest, and most sincere human to ever walk the earth.

But, lost in translation, the preacher was right too. At least, he sort of was.

The preachers are wrong about so many things.They go about it the wrong way. I’ve heard some of them say some pretty absurd things like, “You’re going to hell for drinking!” and “You’re a slut if you’re in a sorority.” In no way am I condoning the South Oval preachers, what they say, or what they do. But sometimes, truth gets twisted up in a bad interpretation and bad communication.

Often, the most dangerous lies we can fall for are things very close to the truth. The preacher has good intentions, but his methods are nothing like Jesus’s. He speaks parcels of truth, but because he speaks with such hate, the message is lost in his fallacies.

Instead of chasing down people to listen to his message, Jesus’s love was so compelling that people chased him. Sometimes, they’d even follow him when he just wanted to be alone. But his relationship with God was so intimate and so deep that they came to him.

In our culture, we focus very much on the sweetness of Jesus. This is good, for He is very sweet. Sometimes, though, we forget his justice. Justice is giving someone what he or she is due. The price of sin is death. I am due death. We are due death. Hell is the absence of God. If God cannot be in the presence of sin, then we are due hell as well. We deserve hell.  It isn’t a scare tactic. It’s the truth.

Without understanding what we deserve, we cannot fully understand what we do not deserve. It is only once we begin to wrap our minds around the depth of our sin and brokenness that we begin to understand the absolute magnitude of grace.

Without Jesus, we are dead men walking. Our culture gets something wrong with the “Jesus story.” I’ve heard it described as this: “We fell off of the boat! We couldn’t swim! Then, God threw us ‘Jesus the life vest’ and reeled us in and we lived happily ever after.”

I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the case.

We fell off the boat. We couldn’t swim. We began to sink. We were drowning, and we suffocated at the bottom of the ocean of our own sin. We were corpses. We were dead. There was no hope. It was dark and it was cold at the bottom of the ocean, and most of all, we deserved to stay there.

I dislike when people complain, saying,  “Life isn’t fair.” You’re damn right life isn’t fair. If life were fair, we’d still be corpses at the bottom of the ocean. That is the beauty of grace: life isn’t fair. God is merciful. If we have a relationship with him, he doesn’t give us what we deserve. Instead, he gracefully gives us what we don’t deserve: life. 

He has given us an opportunity to live forever with Him. I’m not sure what Heaven is like, but I do know this: if Heaven is with God, I don’t care about the details.

So instead of condemning someone for their inability to deserve anything but hell, we should love them. We should seek Jesus so deeply, so intimately, that those who don’t know Him find us compelling because of Him.

Like Lazarus, Jesus awoke us from death. Let us love others with kindness, gentleness, and sincerity. Let’s help Jesus awake others from sleep.

 

 

 

 

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

 

The Morning Is Coming

The morning is coming.

These words are some of the most beautiful to be spoken by humans. They offer hope in the midst of night, and night is the devil’s favorite time. He loves the dark. Light exposes. Evil hates being exposed. As we go through life in a broken world, it is easy to get caught looking at our feet. It’s night, after all. One might stub a toe.

It is hard to make out the shapes in the night. Often, what we fearfully consider a boogieman is simply a coat on the back of a chair or a hat on a lampshade. Let me say, I believe there is much evil in the world. It is manifested in malnourished children. It is manifested in thirsty mothers. It is manifested in war, or in heartbreak, or in death.

But let me tell you. The morning is coming. The earth will be exposed in its light. It will be exposed for what it is. When the light hits, we will see the injustices of the world we live in. We will see what they were intended to be and how they have fallen short. We will see how sin has perverted what God made good. But most of all, we will see them restored to their former state.

“Behold, I am doing a new thing,” says Jesus.

So, cast your eyes to the horizon. The sun will light up your feet. A new day is coming. And to that, I say this: “Let your kingdom come.”

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, and serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Romans 12: 9-13

“For this commandment that I command today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it.”

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

Wild Heart

Adventure is not far off.

 

This week, I’m reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. He writes a series of letters written from a Demon to his nephew, in order to teach the young nephew how to sabotage human lives. I’ve thought of this concept often. Satan desires to sabotage you. Sometimes, I’ve been keenly aware of Satan’s existence. I’ve understood, at times, that he has made it his purpose to kill, steal, and destroy. His desire is to watch you suffer. I guess I’ve always assumed that once you learn something, you can’t unlearn it. However, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. No matter how aware I am of his plot, somehow my memory of it always slips away. 

 

Satan is the father of lies. He is clever. Cunning. Tricky. You can’t prepare for his attacks on your own. I’ve heard it said before that his most powerful asset is tricking humans into thinking that he doesn’t exist. I agree. No matter how aware I have been of his intent, somehow, I always tend to unlearn it. 

 

I’ve found my purpose embedded in the words of Jesus. I love picturing him whisper these words often, praying to his dad.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

And Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

for thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.”

In the Lord’s prayer there is one line specifically that speaks to me. I know that I was placed on this very earth – in this very moment – for the very purpose of these words. I think it is the purpose of all humankind. We begin to understand it the more we begin to know Jesus. He prays,

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

It is simple. Earth as it is in Heaven. Make Earth more like Heaven.  

 

Satan attempts to destroy your knowledge and understanding of this profound truth. You were made to change the world. You were put here to redeem it. You were put here to know Jesus, to be Jesus, and to make the world more like Jesus. In doing so, you make the world more like Heaven.

 

Yet somehow, so very often, we drift to sleep. I find myself trapped in routine. I’m imprisoned by comfort. I am a slave of sleep, and I am a lover of things that vanish. Instead of a keen awareness of what Satan is doing, I forget he even exists as I go about my day. I go to class, I study, I take exams. I have good intentions to make good grades and have a good time. But sometimes, I just don’t buy that this is all that life has to offer. That’s silly, because in this moment, I’m the happiest I have ever been.

 

I believe that we are imprisoned by our own selves. Likewise, we are the only ones that can choose freedom.  Jesus is freedom. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Don’t let the Truth be stolen from you. Don’t let Life be stolen from you. Don’t let Satan lull you to sleep.

 

“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:14

 

Life does not have to be monotonous. You don’t have to be a slave to comfort. Adventure awaits, and your heart was made for it. Not only that, adventure was made for your heart.

 

Do not settle for good. Great and wonderful things are just over the horizon. Jesus is waiting. His backpack is packed, and he can’t wait to go with you. Trust me, it will be wild. 

Just a Reminder

It is my observation that a relationship with Jesus is very natural – very cyclical – and very simple.

Jesus doesn’t look at us the way others do. People look at what they see – Jesus sees the heart of man.

A human tends to overthink a relationship with this Almighty King. We overanalyze Him. Not to take away from his complexity and depth, but he is much more simple than we realize.

Jesus desires to be with us – yes, he desires us to follow the commands of his Word – but I believe it is the heart of Jesus that we are to know, even more so than his rules.

I believe that the human cannot follow a command purely. No matter how hard he or she tries. I believe that any good work we do comes from becoming like Christ – which comes from simply being in his presence.

More than he desires to teach us something, more than he desires for us to become a better person, more than he desires for us to “do good”, he desires to be with us.

At Christmas, we celebrate the “Immanuel.” It means “God with us.” We celebrate not only the fact that he came, but we also celebrate the idea of his coming. Because for the first time since the Garden, God is with us. This should be celebrated every morning and every night. Every second of every day. Not just once a year. It is that big of a deal. We finally have the capacity to house his spirit inside of us.

 

I encourage you to think less of what good you can do and pray more that your heart will desire to be with the King – to spend time with him, seeking him through his word, learning his heart, and growing closer to him. This is where the transformation from the “old self” to “new creation” begins – at the heart of Jesus.

This is something I am learning. It is very natural and very simple.  Kindness, Wisdom, and Love are not characteristics that humans are able to obtain. They are characteristics of a heart that has been in the presence of Jesus.

So open the door. He is waiting to dine with you – to eat with you. He takes delight simply in being with you.

 

“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

-Zephaniah 3:17

 

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.”

-Acts 17:24-28

 

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

-Revelation 3:20

 

 

A Simple Jesus

Arguably the smartest man who ever lived said, “If you cannot explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein could speak on the theory of relativity for hours, but how did he explain it? E=mc2. There is a plethora of information, a sea of fact to explore buried beneath the equation. But its most basic explanation is “E=mc2”. He could explain it in its most simple terms.

It takes a lot to take something large and make it into something small. Something real. Something understandable.

That’s just what Jesus did. An entire theory of relativity became an equation. God became man.

“The tongue that called forth the dead was a human one. The hand that touched the leper had dirt under its nails. The feet upon which the woman wept were calloused and dusty. And his tears…they came from a heart as broken as yours or mine.”*

And just that-Jesus became man. He wasn’t always. Sometimes he’s found as an unexpected visitor, sometimes as a fourth in a party of three in a burning furnace… But finally, He who whispered the world into existence… Simplified himself. He simplified himself so that we, humans, could understand better the God that made us. His father. He became small. Real. Understandable. With us.

We cannot understand an immaterial God. We can understand a human Jesus.

This is why Jesus’s ways worked.

“So people came to him… They came at night; they touched him as he walked down the street; they followed him down the street; they followed him around the sea; they invited him into their homes and placed their children at his feet. Why? Because he refused to be a statue in a cathedral or a priest in an elevated pulpit. He chose instead to be Jesus.”*

He simplified religion. He fulfilled it. He simplified love.

Why would people invite a man to infiltrate the walls of their home? Why would mothers and fathers place their most prized possessions at the feet of a man with dirty nails and calloused feet?

Because Jesus did not stand behind a pulpit. He was not so disconnected from his fellow brother that he could not be reached.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Life isn’t religion. It isn’t rules to abide and to follow. It isn’t the approval of men. Jesus knew that life is to love and be loved; to love God and to love others. It is simple.

Jesus became simple so that the simple could become wise.

*Max Lucado

 

 

The Domain of Darkness

The Domain of Darkness

There is an analogy often used in reference to salvation. I’ve heard it many times; it seems to be a Bible Belt favorite. It goes like this:

Imagine yourself stranded in the ocean with no land in sight. You’ve been struggling to stay afloat, and just before you give in, a boat comes. The captain throws you a life vest; the life vest is Jesus. Without him, you couldn’t be brought aboard the boat.

But I’m here to tell you this is not nearly the picture that the Word creates for us. A picture is painted that is much more dramatic, much more true, and much more difficult to embrace.

Imagine yourself, not struggling to stay afloat, but already at the bottom of the dark ocean because you couldn’t swim. You are not alive, but encompassed by the darkness and depth of the ocean. Death surrounds you. You are dead, your body is decaying, and fish have taken it upon themselves to feed on your flesh. There is no life vest that can save you. In you, you have no breath. In you there is no life. Death has taken you as one of its own. There is no hope.

But hope is given.

No life vest comes, but someone does. His name is Jesus. He pulls your broken, lifeless body from the depths of the ocean. He breaths into you and heals you. His breath gives you life again. You are no longer dead, but rescued from the death, rescued from the darkness, and brought up to the light.

You were not saved from death; you were dead. Some of us still are.

Let me tell you how sweet life is when death has been defeated. For Jesus defeated death on the cross, but he defeats death in my life every day. When death is defeated, life abounds.

The great fisherman does not just catch in fish. He reaches into the water, grabs its skeleton, and breaths life into it

This is a picture of what salvation truly is.

Paul writes this in Romans 3:12,13 concerning humans before knowing Christ personally: “…throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”

Death is our only possession before trusting Christ.

Like Jesus says to the girl swallowed by death in Mark: “Talitha Cumi”, that is, “Little girl, I say to you, Arise.” The little girl, though very real, also represents every one of us as humans. Jesus beckons to us, even whispers to us… “Talitha Cumi”. He is looking at you and saying, “Arise.” Arise from death, from the depth of the ocean, from the domain of darkness that you are enveloped in.

Through his forgiving of our sins, we are redeemed. We are given life.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and he has transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Colossians 1:13,14

Man has only two choices: to remain a fool in the domain of darkness, or become wise in the Light.