Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Can I Get a Witness?

On July 23, 1999, my family witnessed the take-off of the Space Shuttle Columbia from its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.  Up to that point I had watched shuttle launches on television, and even seen the exhaust trail through the Florida sky from over 100 miles away, but nothing could compare to witnessing it first-hand from the visitor’s area, just 6 miles away.  The rockets illuminated the midnight sky, and the sound, which took a few seconds to reach us, pounded against my chest like the grand finale of a giant firework display.  We cheered with the crowd. Some folks were friends of the pilot, others had come from around the world. It was a truly spectacular and unforgettable experience.

Court systems around the world value the testimony of a person who has been at the scene and witnessed an event in person.  The followers of Jesus understood this fact when, after the death of Judas, they decided to elect a replacement to complete the twelve disciples.  Their reasoning?  “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of the resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22 (NIV – emphasis mine)

This last phrase has stuck with me since I read it.  Why?

First, the word must.  This was strong language, a command, something iron-clad, not an option.  The disciples meant business.  It had to happen.  What was so important?  This chosen individual must become a witness to the resurrection.

Notice that they weren’t looking for someone who heard Jesus teach, or who saw him feed the multitudes.  It wasn’t the healings he performed, or miracles or even his death on the cross that they needed to validate.  They were standing in witness of the resurrection.  This was an event the Roman soldiers had been paid to lie about.   Jewish religious leaders dismissed it as a rumor or exaggeration.  But the early disciples understood that without the resurrection, the other events of Jesus’ life did not hold the same meaning.

The lives of these men would be changed forever by standing in witness of the resurrection. This was not just an invitation to ‘like’ Jesus on Facebook. They remind me of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred trust. Remember Saul before he became Paul?  He was basically the bounty hunter for the Jewish religious leaders who were trying to snuff out the resurrection conspiracy. These folks meant business. This new Christianity could change the world as the religious leaders knew it, and they didn’t like it a bit. And according to history, these witnesses faced torture and death for their testimony, which stood unchanged to the end.

So when I read these words I had to ask myself,  what have I witnessed that could change my world? I wonder if I would be ready to take a stand for truth, a stand that could actually endanger my life. While I did not witness the bodily resurrection of Christ, I know the change he has made it my life — about my own resurrection, if you will.  I’ve seen Him at work in the lives of those who were dead in sin and corruption and raised to life and restored by his miraculous healing power.

I can’t stand by and let the resurrection truth and the authority of God’s Word get watered down by a society that wants to choose its own truth like a Sunday buffet.  If I do, Jesus becomes just a good teacher, and is, along with all the other religions, one of the many so-called paths to God.

The disciples thought it was important enough to keep this critical truth intact.  They paid for that commitment with their lives.  How can I do anything less?

Copyright 2011 by Mary Egidio  – permission is granted to copy this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

P.S.  Lest you think my pen, er, keyboard has been silent, please check out http://mapstories.wordpress.com to see what God has allowed me to write lately.  Each story made me step back and say, “Wow!”  I hope they do the same for you.

Taste and See

In his book, What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell tells about Howard Moskowitz, a flavor guru who helped develop such tastes as Diet Pepsi (R) and Prego (R) spaghetti sauce. Moskowitz is fond of a yiddish expression, “To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish” or, as he explains it, “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.”  According to him, taste-testers didn’t know they liked chunky spaghetti sauce until they sampled Prego.

I was reminded of this idea recently when I heard an evangelist make a similar comment, but he wasn’t referring to soda or spaghetti sauce. He was talking about the idea of sharing the good news of salvation with our neighbors. They know their hearts are breaking and their lives are a mess, but they don’t know what they need to cure their sin problem. They try to mask the pain, but nothing can fill the God-shaped void. To paraphrase Moskowitz, ‘The mind knows not what the soul needs.”

The evangelist and the psalmist had the solution: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8 (NIV)   Once they “taste” the Lord, they will realize what they’re missing.

My husband had a friend in college who lived his Christian life in such a way that others found it irresistible.   He made friends easily and attracted other students to his faith, which he lived out publicly and without reservation.  His witness touched lives across a variety of social groups.  Everyone loved Tim — and Tim used that opportunity to point everyone to the Savior.  They tasted the Lord through Tim, and wanted more.

God wants to use us to bring His “flavor” to a world that has been spoiled and rotted by sin. When others are attracted to taste Him, they will see that the Lord is good. Once that happens, I believe the Holy Spirit will start working on their hearts.

There’s plenty of Him to go around — let’s share!

(Diet Pepsi and Prego are registered trademarks)

Copyright 2011 – Mary E. Egidio – permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes

The Best Gift

My friends George, Sally and I had jumped into George’s truck to drive over to the next town to look at the Christmas lights.  Anticipating the holiday, we were in a jovial mood.  When we pulled up to an intersection beside another car, I noticed that the other driver was eating a frozen ice cream treat, so I caught her attention and mouthed the words, “That looks good!”

At that point, the light changed, and we all proceeded to the next intersection, where we found ourselves beside each other again.  This time, she reached out her window, offering me a wrapped frozen treat.

“Sorry, I only have one.” she explained, smiling.  “You’ll have to share.”

As the light changed and she made her turn, we laughed in amazement.  “Only at Christmas!” George commented.

Indeed, Christmas is the time of year when people seem to be more willing to perform acts of kindness and generosity with no thought of reward.  Compassionate ministry organizations all testify that donations and volunteers increase during the Christmas season.  Churches conduct distributions of food and gifts to families that need extra assistance. Many families include in their Christmas traditions an anonymous gift to a specific individual or family in financial need.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the sheer joy of giving my time and resources to someone who has no possible way of returning the favor.  After all, isn’t that what God gave the world through the gift of His Son?  In Jesus, He poured out His Gift to the hopeless and lost — those who have no possible way to return the favor — just because of His great love for us!  The only thing we can give Him in return is ourselves.

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David…because of the tender mercy of our God”  (Luke 1:68-69, 78)

Copyright 2010 — Mary E. Egidio   Permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

The Second Most Important Decision

It was an exciting evening.  Every seat was filled.  Shouts, cheers, and air-horns were everywhere. We saw fist-pumps and even victory dances.  No, it wasn’t a football game… it was a college graduation!  You can’t blame them, really, either the students or the parents, given the years of hard work and sacrifice, not to mention the thousands of dollars spent and/or borrowed to get to this momentous milestone.

The commencement speaker, the pastor of a large church in Hawaii, made an interesting point.  He told the graduates he was going to talk about the ‘second most important decision’ of their lives.  The first most important, of course, was the decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.  So, I thought, the second most important decision would be the choice of one’s spouse, wouldn’t you?  Nope. Not according to him.

The second most important decision of a person’s life, according to him, was the attitude with which one lives out the first decision.  Wow!  Great advice!  We’ve all known folks who are wonderful Christians, but their attitude… yikes!  The he said this… “Over the years, I’ve hired lots of people because of their skills and education,  but I’ve also fired lots of people…because of their attitude.”

Paul encourages the Ephesian church in this same thought…”You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’  (Ephesians 4:22-24)  If you continue reading, he gives some very specific examples, then sums it all up at the beginning of the next chapter, urging the early Christians to “be imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1)

What an impact we as Christians could have on the world if we were truly made new in the attitude of our minds, and spent our days being imitators of God!   I think we’d try to look for the good and positive in the people whose lives intersect with ours.  I think we’d look for ways to be an encouragement to those around us.  I think we’d try to focus on the positive rather than the negative.  I think we’d think a whole lot less about ourselves and a whole lot more about other people.  I think our words would be sweeter, our smile would be brighter, our touch would be gentler.

And here’s the best part… we don’t have to just try to do it on our own.  (I don’t know about you, but I run across some pretty unlovely people from time to time.)  God’s Holy Spirit, living in us, can enable us to live this life with a holy attitude.

That’s something to celebrate!   Now where did I put my air-horn?

P.S.  Congratulations, Lindsay.  We’re proud of you.

Copyright 2010 – Mary Egidio – Permission is granted to copy this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Love’s Pure Light

In order to save my ceramic nativity set when my daughter was small, I crafted a play nativity set out of plastic canvas and yarn.  Elizabeth would spend hours rearranging the pieces and acting out the Christmas story.  I would laugh to myself when I would inevitably hear her say, “Hey Mary, can I hold your baby?”

I just couldn’t picture the work-roughened hands of a shepherd cuddling an infant, or a royal king stooping down to embrace a poor child in a manger.  It made perfect sense to her, however, that if these people were going to make a trip to see a baby, they wouldn’t want to leave without holding it.

She wasn’t really so far off.  When you see a young baby, it’s only natural to admire them and comment about how cute he or she is.  But if you actually pick up that baby, a whole other phenomenon takes place.  Somehow, holding that child, gazing into his or her eyes, connecting with that uniquely God-given personality — that baby just gets into your heart!  Perhaps the shepherds and wise men were drawn in the same way to embrace the infant of Bethlehem and experience the miracle of His love in their hearts that first Christmas.

As we make the journey to the stable in Bethlehem again this year, let’s not just gaze on the Child in the manger and turn away unchanged.  Let’s embrace the Child of Bethlehem — the pure light of God’s love — and let Him shine into our hearts and make us new.

Don’t leave without holding the baby.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

Copyright 1999 – Mary E. Egidio — (Originally published in “A Christmas to Remember — Advent Devotionals“) Permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Creeping Away

So I parked my car at the office the other morning and went inside.  My co-worker was already there, and I had brought her a birthday present.  I gave her the gift and we chatted briefly, then I remembered that I hadn’t unlocked the office door. When I grabbed my keys and headed in that direction, I was shocked to discover that my car had backed nearly all the way out of it’s parking spot!  It was creeping — so slowly I almost couldn’t detect the motion.  It’s a manual transmission, and obviously, I’d forgotten to pull the hand brake.

“And where do you think you’re going?” I asked, as I opened the door and jumped in.  (Now you KNOW it was moving slowly)  Fortunately for me, the smaller size and weight of the car and the slant of the parking lot kept it from really taking off or causing any damage to itself or anything else. (it was actually turning parallel to the building)  I know my physics-minded friends could explain that, given time and the proper circumstances, it could have developed enough momentum to make it to Orlando, but I was spared having to chase it down the interstate, thank you very much.

Sometimes my life creeps away from me like that car.  I get distracted.  I get too busy.  I over-commit myself.  I get lazy.  I procrastinate.  And slowly, without realizing it, and without meaning to, I can get off-course.  I know what is really important, what I need to be doing, but I find myself doing something else instead.

My car got the creeps that day because I was distracted from my normal routine. Okay, I confess… I was signing the birthday card to go with my friend’s present.  This was not a bad thing… it just distracted me from the better thing… setting the parking brake.

It’s no wonder that Paul, throughout his letters to the early churches, repeatedly warns the new believers to be alert, self-controlled, and strong.   He tells the Ephesians,  “Be very careful, then, how you life — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)   He warns Timothy to ‘guard what has been entrusted to your care.’  1 Timothy 6:20  (NIV)  We generally believe he was referring to spiritual battles against sin and temptation.  He could just as easily have been referring to those seemingly ‘good’ things that distract us from doing what is best.

Maybe I need to check to see if any areas of my life might be slowly creeping in the wrong direction… what about you?

Copyright 2010 – Mary E. Egidio  Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Marathoners

I have several friends and acquaintances who run in marathons.  For some unknown reason, they feel inspired, even driven, to train and compete in a 26.2 mile test of endurance.  One friend recently ran the Marine Corps Marathon, through Washington, D.C., and placed first in her division – of women age 60-65!  Her next goal is to run the New York City Marathon in 2011.  I tell her I want to be like her when I grow up… but realistically, a 5K or 10K would be a far more reasonable goal for this body.  She claims I could be a marathoner.  I choose not to.

Training to run a marathon requires a long-term commitment of time and physical energy.   The runner spends months conditioning his body, building up to the race with longer and longer runs, cross-training to strengthen muscles and prevent injury.  When they say yes to the training, they must necessarily say no to other things, at least temporarily.  It becomes a lifestyle choice.

It’s true of any momentous undertaking.  Whether running a race, writing a book, starting a business, fighting cancer, earning a degree, or raising a family – success involves a long-term commitment, sacrifice, and understanding that sometimes we have to say no to other activities, at least for a season.  My husband likes to say that when he said I do to me at our wedding, he said I don’t to every other woman in the world.  And I like to hear him say it!  But he’s right.  It’s a choice on his part (and mine).

Eugene Peterson describes the Christian life as ‘a long obedience in the same direction’, quoting Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s not unlike a marathon – calling upon our deepest reserves of faith and spiritual strength at times.  We must commit ourselves to training, preparation, discipline, and sacrifice, in order to endure.  Saying yes to the Christian life necessitates saying no to things that would hinder or distract us from the goal.  The benefits far outweigh the sacrifices.  It means making a choice.

Paul reminds the Corinthians, “Run to win. All good athletes train hard.  They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.  I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line.  I’m giving it everything I’ve got.  No sloppy living for me!  I’m staying alert and in top condition.  I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (MSG)

Lace up those sneakers, my friend!  Let’s keep running.  Together, we can make it across the finish line.

Copyright 2010 – Mary E. Egidio – permission is granted to share this content, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.