For the Love of Christ

I wish Judas hadn’t killed himself.

Judas Iscariot
Image from: http://ubdavid.org/bible/characters3/characters3-11.html

You know the Judas I am talking about. Judas Iscariot. The disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

The Bible tells us he killed himself. Every time I read through the accounts of Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection,  I always find myself wishing that Judas hadn’t made the choice to end his own life.

But he did … and it bothers me.

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Recently I read through Matthew 26 during my morning devotional.  This portion of Scripture gives quite a bit of insight into Judas.

For many years, I thought of Judas as some bumbling sort of soul, the kind of person who could easily be duped. In regards to his betrayal of Jesus, I assumed perhaps he was manipulated by the Jewish leaders for purposes much greater than anything he could aspire to do on his own.

Maybe he was a loser looking for friends in high places.

Perhaps he was a people-pleaser who couldn’t figure out a way to say no.

I wondered if he might be a young guy just looking for validation.

Whatever his personality type, I always figured Judas sort of just “fell” into an unintended role as part of the Pharisee’s plan to get rid of Jesus.

According to Matthew 26, nothing could be further from the truth.

Image found at Image Gallery: Miercoles Santo

Turns out, it was Judas who went to the chief priests.

Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you.” ~Matthew 26:14-15

It wasn’t the priests who were actively looking for an insider willing to betray Jesus. Rather, Judas was the one who took the first step. He set the betrayal in motion himself.

For the love of Christ, why did Judas do that?

Some people might use that phrase flippantly, but I’m serious.

Judas had just spent three years of his life walking all over Judea with Jesus. He had seen all of those miracles. He was there when the lame man walked, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, and when Jesus walked on the water. He had seen the miraculous healings. From the Sermon on the Mount to the feeding of the 5000, Judas heard and saw it all.

Didn’t he grow to love Jesus during that time? If so, then why would Judas betray Him?

Maybe it was …

For the love of money.

There’s no other reason that makes sense. Especially when you consider everything the Bible has to say about Judas and money.

You don’t have to dig around in the Gospels very far to figure out that money must have been extremely important to Judas. He was, after all, the treasurer for Jesus and the disciples, which meant he was in charge of the money bag.

We also know from Scripture that Judas was prone to helping himself to the money that was in that treasury. (John 12: 6) I can’t imagine that Jesus and his disciples had a lot of money to begin with, but Judas was sneaking out small amounts of it here and there for his own use. I’m sure he thought what he took would never be missed, but it appears that the others were aware of his tendency to take that which wasn’t rightfully his.

It seems that Judas had a problem money.

So money-loving Judas decided to go see the chief priests to barter for Jesus. The chief priests offered Judas 30 pieces of silver in exchange for Jesus’ betrayal. I have always assumed those coins must have been worth quite a large sum. But (as we have already seen), my assumptions aren’t always correct.

I did some research because I was curious just how much money Judas earned as Jesus’ betrayer.  And what I learned is that Judas was most likely paid with Tyrian shekels, which was the type of currency used to pay the Temple taxes. In those days, every Jewish male over the age of 20 paid a Temple tax, which was the equivalent of two days wages or 1/2 shekel.

So if 1/2 shekel was worth two days wages, then 1 shekel would be worth four days wages. Do the math and 30 shekels of silver would be worth 120 days wages. Therefore the coins Judas received in exchange for the betrayal of Christ would be worth approximately one third of a year’s salary.

Not too shabby.

Unless you read the previous passage in Matthew 26 … .

Start reading in Matthew 26:6 and you’ll come across the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with the fragrant oil. It’s another very familiar passage. According to the Gospels, Mary (sister of Lazarus and Martha) came into a dinner party and poured out an entire alabaster jar of oil on Jesus’ head.

This oil was very costly. In fact, in another Gospel’s version of this same event, Judas himself tells us exactly how much this oil was worth:

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarius, and given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” ~John 12:4-5

Later in the passage, we learn that Judas wasn’t known for being a man who cared about the poor and needy. His life of sneaking and stealing that which didn’t belong to him was known by those in Jesus’ inner circle. They recognized in this situation that Judas wasn’t concerned about money being used to help others.

So what was Judas concerned about? Why did he protest?

To Judas, anointing Jesus with an entire alabaster jar of fragrant oil was a nothing more than pointless extravagance. He didn’t see the oil being used in a sacrificial act of worship from a loving heart. When the precious oil was poured over Jesus, Judas could only see a frivolous waste of money. Money that could have lined the bag in which he freely dipped his hand.

It’s interesting to me that these two passages can be found side-by-side in the same chapter of Matthew.

Worship and betrayal.

Sacrifice and greed.

A humble heart seeking to worship the Messiah, and a prideful heart seeking after self-gain.

Mary anointed Jesus with oil. As she broke the bottle, out flowed the precious oil which could have been sold for an entire year’s salary. Yet, she knew the worth of the oil couldn’t begin to compare to the worth of Jesus Christ.

But to Judas, Jesus Himself was worth only about one third of a year’s salary.

Perhaps more accurately … a third of a year’s salary and his own soul.

Image result for judas betrays jesus
An illustration from a mid-19th century print showing Judas bestowing the betrayer’s kiss on Jesus while Roman soldiers look on.                             © STEFANO BIANCHETTI/CORBIS

Most Christians are familiar with how Jesus sent Judas away from the Passover table. Later, Judas led the Roman soldiers to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he betrayed Jesus with a kiss.  Jesus was bound by Roman guards and led away like a criminal.

I wonder what Judas was expecting as he stood in the garden and watched Jesus being led away. Did he have any idea that Jesus would be condemned to die?

The gospel of Matthew (chapter 27, verses 3-5) tells us the once Jesus was sentenced to crucify, Judas was “seized with remorse.” He actually went to the chief priests to return the money.

“I’ve have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” ~Matthew 27:4

The priests didn’t care about Judas’ admission of guilt or confession of Jesus’ innocence.

And Matthew’s gospels says that Judas threw the money into the temple and went away to hang himself.

And this is what boggles my mind … if Judas knew he had done something terribly wrong, why didn’t he confess it to Jesus? Why didn’t he seek forgiveness from the one he wronged? After three years, didn’t he know the heart of Jesus? Didn’t he know he could pray to God and receive mercy?

So what kept him from seeking out forgiveness?

Pride?

Probably. It’s what keeps most of us from going to God and seeking forgiveness. At least, pride is what most often keeps me from admitting my sin.

This is why I wish Judas didn’t hang himself, because feeling remorse for our sins doesn’t do us any good. It never has. Back in Genesis in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned. The very first thing they experienced was remorse for their actions.  They tried to hide their sin from God by sewing clothes from fig leaves.

Only their remorseful actions didn’t work then.

It didn’t work for Judas.

It doesn’t work for us now either.

So the lesson from Judas is to recognize that remorse for our wrongs doesn’t solve the problem. There needs to be more than just regret over our sins.

We need forgiveness, which comes through the confession of our sins to God.

We need repentance, which is simply the act of turning away from the wrongs we have done as we commit to live our life according to God’s way. It doesn’t mean we never sin again. Far from it! It just means we look to Jesus as our example as we strive to live our life according to God’s way.

I believe if Judas had confessed to Jesus and asked for it, he would have been forgiven. There would have been no need to hang himself in shame.  He would have received grace and mercy. He would have the promise of everlasting life.

Because that’s what the cross is all about.

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. ~Romans 6:7-11

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. ~John 8:36

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Julia and the Cadaver

One week ago today, Julia had knee surgery. 

knee-clipart-1208889-Clipart-Of-A-Vintage-Black-And-White-Bandaged-Knee-Royalty-Free-Vector-Illustration

Unfortunately, this wasn’t her first.

Julia had her first knee surgery at the tender age of 12, thanks to bad genetics and a knee injury that resulted from running in the house.  (There is a reason mothers tell their children not to run inside the house.)

Two years later, my daughter has gone through months of physical therapy, as well as acquired an extensive collection of knee braces. Some are full-leg braces; some simply support only the knee area. She has two different hinge braces that allow a range of motions. Her current brace has a steel rod in the back to completely immobilize the knee. (If you know of someone who needs a knee brace, give me a call. We probably have one in stock that will work!)

Julia and I have been through quite a bit with her right knee.

Still, being told she needed a second knee surgery wasn’t something I felt prepared for. I felt even less prepared when the doctor informed me that during this surgery, he would be giving my girl new tendons. Repairing an injured knee is totally different than reconstructing a knee.  Somehow it all felt so much more invasive.

Actually, the point I began to grow truly concerned happened at the very moment Julia’s orthopedic surgeon mentioned that the new tendons would come from a donor. Specifically a cadaver donor. At the word cadaver,  I stiffened (pun intended!) … not so much because the idea of using tendons from a cadaver bothered me, but rather because I feared what my teenage daughter’s reaction might be.

Julia either didn’t notice or didn’t care or just didn’t know what the word cadaver meant. She had no response or reaction whatsoever. Rather than try to figure out the reason behind her non-chalant attitude, I decided right then and there that I wasn’t going to risk drawing attention to it by asking her questions. And so for the next two months, no one said anything at all about the use of cadaver tendons in regards to Julia’s upcoming knee reconstruction.

In fact, nothing else was said about tendons at all until the very morning of the surgery when the doctor came by to see Julia right about the time she was getting ready to have her initial dose of “happy” meds.

“Looks like you are nearly ready to do this thing.  We’ll get those new tendons grafted on in no time, and…”

Wait!” Julia interrupted.  “What do you mean ‘graft on new tendons?’ Where are you getting them?”

The doctor paused and looked at Julia for several long seconds before answering, “Well, we have these tendon grafts that we will put in your knee. They will soon attach to the other muscles and ligaments and bones, so that your knee will be properly supported.  It’s really pretty simple and before long you’ll have a brand-new knee.”

“But where are you getting these grafts?”  Julia persisted.

“I ordered them from a medical supply company,”  he answered with a smile. And with that, Julia’s wise doctor quickly moved on to discussing her care after surgery.

I thought that would be the end of the discussion.

It wasn’t.

Within two hours of coming out of surgery, Julia was not only awake, but also asking questions. “Mom, where are my old tendons? Did he take them out of my body? And I still don’t know where the new ones came from.” Thankfully, she was still in a rather groggy state, so it was easy to distract her.

But soon the anesthesia wore off. As Julia’s mind grew more alert, she continued to pepper me with questions about her tendons, both the new ones and the old ones.  The more time passed by, the more intense her questioning became. My tactic of being vague wasn’t working as well, and yet I couldn’t imagine telling Julia the entire truth either.

After we got home from the hospital, I told Jon my fears of her reaction if she ever discovered exactly where those new tendons came from. “She might well cry for hours once she finds out! ” I fretted.

Jon reassured me. “Eventually, she will stop asking questions and life will move on. Until then, it’s okay to give her vague answers. I don’t think you should tell her lies, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to lay out the full truth about exactly where those tendons came from until you think she is ready to handle that information.”

I felt only slightly comforted at my husband’s words. The pressure continue to build. I knew my daughter well enough to know that as soon as she could, she would ask me about her new tendons again … and again and again.

Not very many hours passed until my prediction came true. As the rest of the family left for church and other Wednesday night activities, Julia was left alone with me. The door had barely shut behind the last person when the questions started.

“So mom … did I trade tendons with someone?”

I smiled (sort of a weak smile) and said, “You are really curious about your new tendons.”

“I guess. I just want to know about them.”

“Well, Julia … trading with someone wasn’t an option. The doctor said your tendons were in bad shape. They were stretched out and floppy. He even described them as being frayed. No one can use a tendon like that.”

“Yeah … I see your point. I figured that wasn’t right. But where did they come from? Tell me … please … come on.  I mean, they had to come from somewhere. You just can’t make a tendon out of plastic.”

“You are right about that. Tendons aren’t made from plastic.”

“So, did the doctor take my tendons out of someone’s leg who had an amputation?”

There was a long pause as I waited, unsure of what to say next.

Then, almost as if talking to herself, Julia continued. “No, that wouldn’t make sense. If their leg was amputated, then probably their tendons would be in bad shape too … maybe even in worse shape than my leg.”

Again, there was another long pause. I looked down, unable to watch Julia’s face for fear of giving something away. I could tell her mind was racing and whirring with ideas. Part of me was fearful she would figure out the answer, and yet I was fascinated to see how she worked through various ideas logically.

“Or maybe they took my new tendons out of a dead person … WAIT … that’s it, isn’t it? I must have dead person tendons! Oh, my gosh! I think I have figured it out! Mom, tell me! Am I right? Do I really have dead person tendons?”

I glanced up, still not able to really speak. But that’s all it took for Julia to know with 100% certainty that she had stumbled upon the truth.

“Oh, I am right! I figured it out all by myself!  Just think … I have dead body parts inside of me. That means … oh … oh … wait, this is almost too weird to think about, but you know what that means, Mom? It means I am both dead and alive at the same time! Now that’s crazy!” 

I watched as her shock turned to giggles and finally to full-blown laughter. This child wasn’t upset about having cadaver tendons; she was delighted about it!

It wasn’t long before her siblings came home, and Julia wasted no time letting them in on her amazing news.

“Nathan! Come here! I gotta tell you something you will never guess! Get this … I am DEAD on the inside! No … really, it’s true. The surgeon put dead person tendon’s in my legs, so while I am alive on the outside, part of me is dead too!  Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?!  It’s the weirdest thing to think that I have some random dead person’s tendons!”

Actually, that wasn’t the weirdest thing.  

The weirdest thing was the next question my daughter asked … 

“Hey mom … do you think you can find out the name of the dead person who gave me my tendons? I mean, if we found out, then I could go to their grave to say thank you. It’s the least I can do.”

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Julia isn’t the only one who is dead, and yet also alive.

You see, I am also dead in my sins, yet my spirit is alive in Christ.  Let me explain …

Over in the New Testament of the Bible, there is a verse that says the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

But actually, you can find that lesson right at the very beginning of the Bible … smack in the middle of the Garden of Eden, right about the time when Adam and Eve first sinned and brought forth a world filled with all sorts of woes.

Before sin, Eden was perfect. Not only was it a beautiful paradise, but there was no death, no animosity between creatures, no heartaches or sorrows or sickness. Life was perfect for Adam and Eve.

Perhaps best of all, there was but just one rule for them to keep:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ~Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)

But read Genesis chapter 3 and you discover that Adam and Eve didn’t obey God’s one simple rule. They allowed themselves to be tempted by the snake. The snake asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”  

Eve, who knew the truth, answered back that they indeed could eat freely from any tree in the Garden except for one. And she added, “God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it or you will die.'”

And the snake … oh that cunning snake … he replied, “No! You will not die. In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Pride. It’s the downfall of nearly every human on this planet. We think that we know as much or better than God Himself. We get ourselves into all sorts of trouble because we refuse to do what God has shown us is right, believing our own way to be better than His.

So Eve, wanting to be like God, ate the fruit. And death entered the world.

Or did it?

When I was a child, I used to think, “But Adam and Eve didn’t die! They just got kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and God made them some clothes to wear. The snake was right. They didn’t die!”

But they did die … eventually. And that’s the thing my childish brain didn’t grasp. The truth is that had Adam and Eve never sinned, then they would have never ever died physically. They would have lived right there in that garden paradise forever.

But they did sin, and death entered the world on that awful day.

In fact, even though the physical death didn’t come in that moment to Adam and Eve, the world’s first death actually did happen on that day.  God Himself killed animals in order to make clothes for Adam and Eve. In this way, the very first death was also an act of love.

Yet all of it happened because of the sin of human pride and willful disobedience.

The root of all sin is found in the very words of the serpent.  “You will be like God!” And right there is the core of it all … we humans think we should be like God.

The Bible tells us this can never be. We are unable to be like God.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)

God is God and we are not. How simple it sounds! Yet it is incredibly hard to lay down our arrogance and pride. We want more than anything to do things our way, to believe that our finite minds comprehend things better than God.

But the truth is, we have very little ability to keep ourselves from sinning, no matter how hard we might try. Have you tried not telling a lie? Not judging someone else? Not listening to gossip? Just as Adam and Eve managed to sin when there was only just one rule, we are prone to sinning too.

Unfortunately, all sin comes with a cost … death.

Remember Romans 8:10? For the wages of sin is death.

One sin. Not multiple sins repeated over and over. Not a lifetime of sinning. Not when your sins outweigh the good things you did during your life.

No, the Bible is clear. Sin (singular) brings about death. And not just physical death, but also a spiritual death.

God, who is holy and righteous and perfect, cannot be in the presence of sin. So, if you are a sinner (raise your hand here), then you are doomed to be separated from God eternally.

But God is not only a God of justice. He is also full of mercy.

Think back on Genesis and the Garden of Eden. Imagine those moments just after Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Emotions they didn’t know immediately flood their souls … recognition of their nakedness, shame, fear of God finding out, trying to find a way out of their current situation, the sting of failure.  None of these emotions had ever been felt in the perfect world of Eden before sin.

The Bible tells us that God finds Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes. He talks to them and they confess what they have done. God would have been completely right had he killed them on the spot. After all, He told them that eating the fruit would cause them to die.

Instead God clothes them. 

Love. Mercy. Compassion. It’s all there in that one moment.

The Bible tells us something else about God. He never changes. Ever.  (Don’t believe me? Read Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 13:8, and James 1:17.)  If God never changes, then just as He had love, mercy, and compassion for Adam and Eve, so He does for us.

Adam and Eve still had many consequences as a result of their sinful disobedience. There was a price to pay, as well as an eventual physical death that they should have never had to experience. But they also got to experience God’s mercy.

The good news is that there is still mercy for us today.

God doesn’t want any of us to die and be separated from Him and His love for eternity. So He sent His son Jesus to live a perfect life (in an imperfect world) without sinning a single time. And then Jesus took the punishment for our sins … and though he died on the cross, Jesus was not defeated by death. He conquered it by rising from the dead.  And because of that, all we have to do is surrender our pride and our hearts to Him. To admit our sin and our need for a perfect God. To lay down doing things our way (because we think our way is better), and live instead doing things God’s way.

And then, even though we all will eventually die physically, our souls will spend eternity in the presence of God. In other words, even though our bodies are dying day by day, our soul is full of the life found in the Holy Spirit of God.

So just like Julia said … I might be dead in my sins, but I am alive in Christ Jesus!

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. ~Romans 8:10 (ESV)

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My daughter Julia had some really bad knees, but thankfully she was able to get a new set of tendons that came from a cadaver donor. At the end of her recovery, she’ll have knees that work better than ever. That’s a wonderful gift, and we are so grateful!

I don’t need new tendons in my knees. Chances are, you don’t either. But every single one of us is dead on the inside, trapped in our sins, desperately in need of the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. The good news is that God is waiting to give you this amazing gift … and trust me,

It’s the best gift you could ever receive!

 

 

A Good Man

My father was a good man.

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Daddy and me, September 1972

But he wasn’t just a good man.

He was a good father.

But he wasn’t just a good father.

He was a good husband.

And he wasn’t just a good father and husband.

He was a good son, brother, and uncle, too

And he wasn’t only a good family member.

He was a good friend.

He was more than a good friend.

He was also a good teacher, principal, and real estate agent.

He wasn’t just a good, hard worker.

He was a good member of his church and community.

I could go on and on for my dad was strong and good in many, many ways.

Yet, as true as my words are and as proud as I am to be his daughter, my dad wasn’t perfect. He was just a regular man, complete with his own share of character flaws and personal failings.

And that’s important to know because last year, on this day, when my dad met Jesus face-to-face, it wasn’t all those good things about him that mattered.

The only thing that mattered was his personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

You see, my father understood his sins could not be made up with good deeds. He believed the words of the Bible, which clearly tell that the wages of sin is death, and no amount of human effort can pay that fine in full.

But the Bible is also clear that the fine has been waived and a way has been made through Jesus Christ.  All that a person must do is admit their sinful state, repent and seek after God, allowing Him to be Lord of their life.

My father believed those words too, He accepted that free offer and developed a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer and Bible reading.

This is the only thing that mattered on the morning of September 17, 2014.

Today, marks one year since my father’s death. And even though I am away on a vacation with my husband, I will miss my father. I will think about him and thank the Lord that He blessed me with a really good father.

But mostly, I will be taking comfort in knowing that my dad is in heaven … not because my father was a good man, but because my father knew Jesus.

In Memory of James Malcolm Terry

November 9, 1947 ~ September 17, 2014

The righteous man will be remembered forever. ~Psalm 112:6

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Last year my brother Reid preached a sermon at my father’s funeral based on the thoughts presented in this blog post. While I am not quoting him directly, I have written based on my brother’s original ideas. I appreciated his thoughts then, as I do now, for they bring me a measure of comfort as I recall the man my father was in this life and who he is in the light of eternity.

Airplane: a simple story that changed my life

Credit: printablecolouringpages.co.uk
Credit: printablecolouringpages.co.uk

 

One of the interesting problems of growing up in a devoutly Christian home is that I am unable to remember a time in my life when I didn’t know about Jesus and who He was. You might not think this is a bad problem to have, and I suppose in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t … but somehow it did end up causing me years of worry. In the end it was a simple story about an airplane that helped me figure things out and make sense of my relationship with Jesus.

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From a very young I knew all the Bible stories, from Daniel in the lions’ den and David fighting Goliath to Jesus being born in a stable and dying on the cross. Once my mother told me that my paternal grandmother enjoyed asking me show her friends how I could sing Jesus Loves Me. I wasn’t even two years old at the time.

Knowing who Jesus was and all about His life was not a problem.

But for a long time, I didn’t know if I was really saved from my sins.

And I knew enough to know this was a huge problem.

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You see, I could go back in my childhood and remember a couple of specific events that led to my salvation experience.

When I was six or seven, an elderly lady who lived across the street passed away in her sleep. I remember feeling greatly concerned over her death for she had seemed well enough when she rode to church with us on the previous Sunday. I was further shocked when my parents remarked about dying in one’s sleep was such a peaceful way to go to be with the Lord. After this, I began to have trouble sleeping because I feared I might not wake up. Although deep down I wanted to go to be with Jesus, I was afraid of dying. 

Several months later, I remember talking to my parents about what it meant to be “saved” and getting baptized. Later my father took me to the preacher’s house for another conversation. I was a little bit scared of that pastor. I recall sitting on a chair, nervously swinging my legs back and forth. I remember reciting John 3:16 for him. Afterwards, I remember feeling as though I had passed some sort of test, though what sort of test I couldn’t exactly tell you.

What I cannot recall is a particular conversation I had with my mother the summer before my 8th birthday. According to my mom, one afternoon in our little garden the two of us had a conversation which ended with me praying to receive Christ as my Savior.

As much as I’ve tried over the past 30-something years, I cannot remember as single detail about that afternoon. My mother is not a habitual liar. I truly believe her recollections of that day.

I just wish I could remember for myself.

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By the time I was 13 years old, my lack of memory over my own salvation experience became a huge problem for me.

I had heard preachers say that those who were truly saved would remember the very day and hour that they accepted Christ. I heard other pastors talk of being able to tell of a person’s salvation by the evidence of a completely turned around life.

What did that say about me? I couldn’t remember anything about that afternoon in the garden. And how had my life changed after Jesus? I felt pretty much the same way I always had felt since childhood … a love for Him and His people, a desire to please Him and walk in His truths. I had never been addicted to anything or prone to big and terrible sins.

So I worried silently about my own salvation, ashamed to let anyone know that I was uncertain about the one thing I should know beyond a shadow of a doubt. And as the years went by, the fears grew to plague me more and more.

Until I heard the airplane story.

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Fall 2003, Gum Branch Baptist Church near Hinesville, GA.

My family had moved there the previous spring as my husband had been stationed at Ft. Stewart. Over the summer, I had given birth to a baby girl, making me the mother of three children ages three and under. It’s a wonder I ever went to church. But I did, and quite faithfully. Always hoping that I would find some sort of peace with my regarding my relationship with God.

That fall, I signed up for a Sunday night Bible study. I remember thinking that I must be crazy to try to get out at night with three tiny children and go to church. And yet I felt compelled to be a part.

That very first night the small group that had gathered in the sanctuary watched a video of Dr. Adrien Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His topic: How to be Certain of Your Salvation.

 I don’t remember much of that particular sermon except for the airplane story … which goes like this:

Suppose you and I are both in Orlando, FL, and we are going to Atlanta, GA. You drive to Atlanta and I fly. I ask you to meet me in Atlanta and to pick me up at the airport. When you drive, you will know when you crossed the state line. It will be obvious because there will be a sign that says, Welcome to Georgia.  When I fly, I will cross the same state line, but I will not be aware of it. But I will land in Atlanta. We meet in the Atlanta airport, and we are both there. I came in an airplane and you came in an automobile. You give your testimony and say, “I remember exactly when I crossed the state line.” I give my testimony and say, “I don’t remember when I crossed the state line, but I know I did because I am in the Atlanta airport. The important thing is since I am in the Atlanta airport, I know I must be in Georgia and did cross that line.”

If you are trusting in Jesus, you did trust in Jesus. The real test is not whether you remember the time or the place, but that you are this moment putting your confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ.*

After the video ended, the pastor asked several people around the room if they would share their personal testimonies of salvation. Two or three people shared, and then the pastor said, “We have time for one more person. Paige … why don’t you share with us?”

With tears in my eyes and not a single doubt in my mind, I answered, “Pastor, I got there by airplane.”

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And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. ~1 John 5:11-13

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

*excerpt taken from What Every Christian Ought to Know: Essential Truths for Growing in Your Faith by Dr. Adrian Rogers