Mary Cantell

Finding one’s way

We all know someone who’s left for the far country. Seeking to find oneself, a wanderer will travel far and wide. Some may choose to travel even to the ends of the earth in search for what delights. The treks are as individual as each poor soul who wanders away… down the long, often tortuous, path. Searching and still not finding what’s being sought, the traveler desperately seeks to assuage his longings while inevitably missing the antidote.

In Luke 15, the Prodigal son yearns for such a life. He takes his portion of inheritance money from his father and heads out for the unpromised land of living a worldly life, high on the hog. One day, he’s literally face-to-face with swine and while hungry, laments over who’s got the better meal.

The son soon realizes his sad state and seeks to go back home. He sees the error of his ways and comes to understand his sin before his father. But even before the son travels back, while still on his way, the father sees him. The welcoming arms of the father are as wide as the east is from the west—the Lord’s measurement for how far he chooses not to remember our sins any longer.

How many of us have traveled the wrong paths seeking the tinsel instead of the gold? The word tells us we “reap what we sow.” Sow to the flesh, there is death and destruction; sow to the spirit, there is life. Abundant life.

By the grace of God, the spirit of the Prodigal son may not be in us, but for those who are wandering, please know that your journey will come to an end. What you’re looking for will never be found… unless, of course, you are looking for Jesus.

A mother’s love

There’s something special about a mother, and today, Mother’s Day, we lift up our mothers in praise and gratitude for all they are and do. As we grow by the hand of a loving mother, we don’t always appreciate or even see the extent of her love. Little things often go unnoticed until the day arrives when we look back and the picture comes clearly into focus.

A mother’s love extends far and wide, often exceeding her own needs or concerns. Sacrificially, she’ll hold back from herself even the last morsel if her child is still hungry, lend her only dollar, drive to the ends of the earth, or stay awake through the night, if necessary. She’ll do almost anything for the welfare of her offspring.

There are no heights or depths to a mother’s compassion; her generosity knows no bounds. Day in, day out, she’s there through every up or down, good or bad thing to encourage and advise. Being a mother is a volunteer job that doesn’t start at eight o’clock and end at five. No time clocks to punch or paychecks to receive. Her responsibilities are 24/7. She gives and gives until it’s time to give again.

Today, all mothers, including our grand, foster, and surrogate moms are being celebrated. You are a blessing to your children and they are blessed to call you Mother. You are God’s special gift to this world. Next to Jesus, there is no other love like a mother’s. Whether here on earth or at home with the Lord, we remember you today and every day with our love and utmost thanks.

My mother and grandmother.

Remembering His miracle

The miraculous story of the Exodus is close to the hearts of Jews and Gentiles alike as God demonstrates His unfettered grace toward His people.

In the reigning years before Christ, the Pharaoh of Egypt was a very proud and stubborn man. It took ten plagues sent from God to break him of his tyrannical hold upon the subjected Israelites of whom he was envious as well as fearful. At God’s final instruction, the blood of a slaughtered lamb was to be sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of every Jewish home. This was to guarantee that death should pass over these homes and they be preserved against the imminent death destined upon the first born of all of Egypt.

When Pharaoh eventually let the Israelites go after the tenth and final plague amid Moses’ continual pleading, the day of their departure still looked dicey when they came upon a roadblock in their path. The waters of the Red Sea stood before them with the Egyptian army hot on their heels. At God’s command, Moses raised his staff and the waters miraculously parted by the strong winds. In faith, the people stepped across on the dry sea bed and escaped the forces of their foes.

The Passover seder is a family dinner where the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt is remembered. The children of Israel are commanded to observe the anniversary of the exodus from Egypt by removing all leaven from their homes for seven days and sharing the story of their redemption to their children. The seder itself is based on the biblical verse, “You shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:8).

On the road through life…

Where did you first get to know the God of all creation?

The Almighty God spoke to Abram (a.k.a. Abraham) at the tree of Moreh in a little place called Shechem back in the day. That’s where God made a covenant with him that he would one day be a father to all nations-–Father Abraham–-and that through his seed, many nations would be blessed.

The journey began when Abram, at God’s leading and with a few historic sidesteps, ended up settling his tent in the land of Canaan between a city called Bethel (“house of God”) and the city of Ai (“ruin”).

This journey can be likened to a prototype of a believer’s time here on the earth. Today, like Abraham, we are also journeying. Our world is the new Canaan and our walk with God finds us traveling here until the day the Lord returns or takes us to our real home. As sojourners, the Lord instructs in his word through the Apostle Paul, that we shouldn’t become too comfortable here in the new Canaan, because it’s really not our permanent home. Although, we do have a clear purpose: to preach in love that God is real and to make Him known.

Along Abraham’s journey, we are reminded that he, like us, was not a perfect being. He made mistakes along the way that served him more trouble than necessary. However, the Lord used even those mistakes to bring about his plans and purposes. Though there is plenty that Abraham did to show his dependence and faithfulness to God, and his journey allowed the Lord to bring him to this place, it was not an overnight experience. Neither is ours. It will take not only a lifetime but most likely an eternity to even mine the depths of all that the Lord has planned for those who love him.

When Abraham stopped at the oak tree and rested is where God chose to reveal himself to Abraham.It was at Moreh (meaning “teacher”) where God first appeared to Abraham and gave him the declaration of His promises. His oracles. Abraham lingered there. He fellowshipped with God and erected the first of many alters to him. It is only by stopping and lingering with the Lord that we, too, will be able to abide in His grace.

May we not hasten past the oak tree of Moreh in our journey while here on earth so that through the storms of life we may hear His still, small yet mighty voice.

Where is your rudder pointed?

The human tongue is powerful. It’s likened metaphorically to several things including a sword or a ship’s rudder. Able to bless and curse at the same time. Even for the Christian, it’s sometimes difficult to curb what flows from this tiny appendage. If we could control our tongues, we’d be able to control our entire bodies according to the word in the book of James. Oftentimes, in the flesh, we fail.

Those who belong to God have been given another kind of strength that surpasses our flesh. It’s the Holy Spirit. We as believers should always remember we are standing upon a rock, and we need to abide in Him for our strength both in word and in deed.

To meet the hazards of our daily lives, we need to “put on Christ” daily. To love Christ is to emulate him through humility of thought, word, and deed as proof of our love. Sometimes it means sacrificing our own way in order to serve the Master.

His healing stripes…

Seven hundred years before Jesus endured his final hour, the divinely inspired prophet Isaiah wrote down in precise detail how he would die. Words like pierced, bruised, and crushed all describe the scene brought on by the Jews and Romans on that fateful day, Good Friday. Many would have passed out from only a portion of what Jesus endured. Amazingly, he hung in there through the suffering. All for you and me.

Taking a look at the sacrifice he made, the torture, the humiliation, and how he was mentally and emotionally brought down by the weight of humankind’s sin, it’s mind boggling. What the Lord went through is stirring in the deepest of ways because what he suffered was what we deserved, not him. An innocent lamb led to slaughter. The marvelous mystery of God’s plan to redeem man through the scourges of his son is unfathomable. Though because of this miraculous feat, we are now set free. Set free spiritually from everything that besets our souls forever.

The compassion of God is truly greater than anything we’ll ever come to know. The more we dwell upon the flogging he endured… the stripes upon his back… the nails in his wrists, and the crown of thorns on his head, we more fully can understand the magnitude of his suffering. The greater meaning of it all, we’ll understand in heaven, but for now, we can rest in the truth of God’s word that these things were designed from the beginning for good.

The only remedy for the world’s sickness and disease of sin with all of its manifestations is the Lord. Isaiah tells us: “By His stripes we are healed.” We take medicine for our physical ailments, but the only medicine to cure our souls is the blood of the perfect lamb.

No red carpet… though he’s a star above stars

At Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem days before his crucifixion, there was great excitement. He came down from the Mount of Olives on a donkey. The people were moved, though some wondered who he was. They laid down their cloaks and garments in his path and waved palm branches, signifying, to them, the liberation they thought was on the horizon. No pomp and circumstance, just the shouts and acclamation of the commoners, who sang and shouted, “Hosanna to God in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The chief priests and Pharisees were anything but pleased. They thought peoples’ exultation toward Jesus would be their loss.

As Jesus approached the city, he was disheartened to the point of weeping because he knew the imminent suffering that was to befall the people. This day was among the last before his crucifixion. Had the people of Jerusalem truly understood what Jesus was all about, he would have saved them all. Yet they chose their own way, which brought about their ruin. Sadly, even the apostles were not aware of the prophecies being fulfilled, nor did they understand that Jesus was approaching a heavenly rather than an earthly coronation.

Jesus, a living hope

What we may go through on earth–the struggles and trials in the storms of life–we’ve yet to suffer like Jesus. That God would send him to earth is beyond remarkable. For him to humble himself to the point of death for mankind, even death on a cross, is truly unfathomable. The mental, physical, and emotional agony endured is beyond comprehension. That he would even leave heaven to do so is superlative to anything we could even imagine.

On the day they cruelly hung Jesus on the Roman cross, his reaction to those who put him there was not spiteful but just the opposite. He asked his father to “forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Despite his agony, Jesus’ concern was not for himself but for the forgiveness of those who hated and despised Him. Even as they pounded nails into his flesh, his heart bled for them.

One can only imagine the surprise of Mary and Salome three days later when they went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. How vexing for Satan to know that his plan to thwart Jesus was in vain. The final enemy of death has been vanquished forever through our Lord.

He overcame death and through Jesus, we do also. Jesus is alive. We serve a risen savior. There is no longer any sting of death for those who believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

 

Just another holiday?

Holidays come and go. They’re just days, really. Though as a kid, we thought differently. At twelve-years-old, I was allowed to stay up to see the clock strike midnight on New Year’s eve. With all of the anticipation about the the new year, I was seriously disillusioned that there wasn’t more when the minute hand and the hour hand both hit twelve. Then at one minute after twelve, aside from a few pots and pans still banging outside, the dark hour became no more exciting than the fact that it was time to go to bed.

But not all holidays are alike.  Above and beyond, most people would probably say Christmas is their favorite holiday. Of course, this holiday is special because of Jesus’ miraculous incarnate birth. But there’s something to be said for Easter.

Of all the special holy days and traditions we ascribe to as part of our faith, there is none more significant to the Christian belief than Easter. Christ’s rising from the dead is significant in light of the fact that it is the fulcrum upon which our faith hinges. If he didn’t rise from the dead, to what purpose would our adherence to Jesus lie?

While honoring Christ would be a noble pursuit, even then, if he weren’t truly God in nature, then what has been proposed through the prophets and the Lord himself would be a lie. If Jesus didn’t die and rise to life again, then we who are believers in scripture are the most foolish. What’s more, we would still be dead in our sins.

Jesus’ death is significant for several reasons:  1) It defeats any and all of Satan’s arsenal to harm what is justified and protected by the Lord. 2) It demonstrates the power and glory of the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. 3) It shows the humility by which our God emptied himself in every conceivable way to prove to his creation how much he loves us.

While we celebrate our glorious Jesus every day in our hearts, soon we will commemorate his resurrection on Easter Sunday. His birth was miraculous, his rising from the dead, even more so.

 

So where is Jesus in all this?

A brother in Christ recently posted a link from a New York Times article about the apparent mass exodus of black people from white evangelical churches. In my opinion, the NYT is a purveyor of indoctrination more so over fact, but that did not stop me from reading the story. After reading it twice, I ventured to share my thoughts about the story.

My initial question was:  So where is Jesus in all of this?

The comebacks were kind and measured, with most in the conversation asking the same question. My thinking to leave the conversation with the question in the air would have been prudent. Though in the name of Christian apologetics, I felt there was more to say. After praying that God would be with my mouth I proceeded to ask a second question:  Is this a spiritual argument or a political one? 🙂

Things remained cordial until I defended the truth as I saw it by quoting scripture. Then came the attacks. It didn’t take long before someone’s ire rose and I was verbally shut down.

In the online discussion, I attempted to share my thoughts about the woman in the story and what may have caused her to want to leave her primarily white evangelical church. The fact that she suddenly didn’t feel welcome coincidentally after the 2016 election sent up a red flag for me. She did not undergo any overt ostracism or persecution.  She just did not want to stay there. I wonder if it’s because her candidate did not win the election? Our discussion swayed into politics–the politics of “social justice,” diversity, multiculturalism, and racism.

In my purview, I go to church to worship the Lord and not to have my ears tickled. It’s really not about me or what color the person next to me is; it’s about worship, evangelism, and encouraging others. It’s not about ourselves and how we feel when we walk out of there. Church is not about getting high on the entertaining music. That’s not church, that’s a party.

Unfortunately, Satan is alive and well in churches. He hates them and will use any means possible to disassemble and divide, cause friction and animosity–subtly or otherwise.

As the discussion continued, they didn’t see a kernel of truth to my assessments nor anything I said. They had no cogent reply than to espouse their viewpoints, shame and silence me before labeling me a racist.

So I believe I answered my own initial question. This wasn’t about Jesus at all.