You killed the Christ

On a recent read through the book of Acts, I was startled by the apostles’ boldness. “You killed the Christ,” they told their audience more than once.

The varying responses to this claim are fascinating.

Peter gave his famous sermon at Pentecost which ended with “…this Jesus whom you crucified” (2:36). The response of his listeners? “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (2:37). They were cut to the heart. Convicted. And they wanted to know the steps to restoration.

Later, Peter and John made a similarly blunt claim (4:10). Their boldness astonished the religious leaders, who told them not to talk about Jesus anymore (4:18). Shhh. Now, just run along and don’t disturb the peace.

But the apostles didn’t stop being bold, which landed them in prison. “…you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us,” complained the high priest (5:28). But the apostles answered with yet another claim that the leaders had killed Jesus “by hanging on a tree” (5:30). When the council heard this, they were so angry that they wanted to kill the apostles (5:33).

Then courageous Stephen proclaimed before his accusers, “…the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered…” (7:52).

But by now, the religious leaders had had enough. “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him” (7:54). And then they stoned him to death.

Each time the apostles spoke these words, their hearers had the chance to respond to the burn of the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Some were cut to the heart. Some tried to quench the Spirit’s voice. Some were enraged, gnashed their teeth, and murdered.

What about me? What about you? How do we respond to conviction?


Photo by Henrique Jacob on Unsplash

Only God can redeem a broken life

Her tearless story was like too many stories I’ve heard. Another rocky marriage. And she barely in her twenties. She refused to tell her mother because it would make her worry. 

We munched on market olives, tossing the pits into the ravine over our shoulders. 

She shrugged. “What can I do? All marriages are like this.” 

“But they don’t have to be!” I protested. 

She agreed to let me pray for her. And we talked about making the first step to be the change.

I didn’t pretend to have the solution. “Only God can change hearts.”

“North Africans have black hearts!”

“Why? When you’re supposed to be good Muslims? Why do you say that Christians are the ones who do good and Muslims have black hearts?”

She was shaking her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know.” Some things just needed to be accepted. 

In the end, she went her way and I went mine. It ached to know that our lives had touched and she still walked away broken. But I am helpless to heal, to fix, or to fill. Her broken life is in God’s hands, awaiting joyful redemption. 

Skeletons in the Savior’s closet

If anyone would have a perfect family tree, it would be sweet baby Jesus, right? No one who wants to rule the earth can hide skeletons in their closet. Any politician can tell you that.

In the end of the Old Testament book of Ruth, the writer gives a summary of Jesus’ lineage up to King David. First mentioned is Perez, son of Judah. Instead of a squeaky clean Old Testament saint, we find that Perez was the result of Judah mistaking his daughter-in-law for a prostitute (Gen. 38). Any good journalist would have sniffed out that scandal in a heartbeat and plastered unflattering pictures on the front page of every newspaper.

But that’s not all. This genealogy also mentions Boaz’s father, Salmon. But who was Boaz’s mother? None other than the heathen prostitute, Rahab (Josh. 6). Shocking.

Boaz marries Ruth, a Moabitess. Where did the Moabites come from? Well, when Lot is told to flee the city of Sodom, he and his daughters escape to a cave. There, the daughters conspire to preserve their father’s line and the eldest gives birth to her father’s child, Moab (Gen. 19). A sensational story that only God had the guts to write.

The family tree leaves more scars as generations march into history. Why didn’t God hide these skeletons in His Son’s closet instead of recording them for all people for all time? He had set up His Son for political failure.

But Jesus wasn’t a politician. His goal was not to erase the past, but to redeem it. God could have chosen a purer heritage for His Son; instead, He painted a stunning picture of redemption. These broken relationships in Jesus’ lineage wounded the heart of God, but out of them came Jesus, Healer of broken relationships, Hope of the hurting world.

Merry Christmas!

Redeemed opportunities

Where do missed opportunities go? Are they gone forever or does God redeem them by giving us new opportunities?

Here in North Africa, where living intentionally should be as easy as breathing, I still miss opportunities. Why? Well, I’m busy; there is always language to study, classes to teach, emails to write, friends to visit, etc.

But those excuses aren’t good enough. Try telling a little boy that preparing lunch is more important than his soul. Maybe that’s not exactly what I said, but it is most likely what I communicated.

I was in the middle of a bad day when he followed me home from the store. People had been raining expectations down on me and I was exhausted although the day was only half finished. So when he jumped up and followed me, I rolled my eyes.

He only wanted one coin, he said. But to me, he was just one more beggar with just one more fabulous fable to accompany the outstretched palm. I tried to be pleasant, but my smile faded with his persistence. “Enough!” I said as he fell in step with me. “Be quiet!” I said. He didn’t. He followed me to my doorstep and only stopped when I closed the door behind me.

I had just started putting groceries away when my conscience awakened. What if I was the only person in that boy’s life who could have shared truth with him?

It took an hour or so before I was ready to face him again and apologize for my heartlessness. But when I went outside, he wasn’t there. Nor was he in front of the store. He had vanished.

So had my opportunity.

But my question is this: Has God redeemed my mistake by giving me another opportunity? Could it be having tea with that lonely widow? Or maybe taking time for a girl whose insecurity manifests itself in bullying?

God is a God of redemption. Because He has redeemed me, I know He is capable of redeeming my missed opportunities.


This post was first published on https://lucindajmiller.com

We are dust

Do you ever get tired of living by the expectations of the culture around you? I do. Expectations can be healthy, a type of accountability. In a way, expectations are what people give you when they can’t or chose not to give you rules.

Living in a different culture gives me two sets of cultural expectations to abide by. Suddenly, besides the way that I have been raised to behave, I am given a new set of standards from a very different culture. Sometimes I am stranded when the cultures clash: Is it better to be evasive and deceptive or offend someone by being truthful? Either way, someone is unhappy.

In short, I forget to focus on God’s expectations, which might mean disappointing both cultures. 

But are God’s expectations attainable? He was the one who placed me in this cultural conflict in the first place, so wouldn’t His expectations be the hardest to meet of all? And He does expect a lot:

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

2 Cor. 3:18

His expectation is that we become more like the Son, more challenging than any cultural demand!

But He also remembers something that cultures forget: we are dust. Living to please cultural expectations would drain every drop of our resources, and like Solomon’s leech (Prov. 30:15), the culture(s) would still cry for more.

But God sees our limitations and coordinates them with His great expectation:

“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Ps. 103:13-14

He doesn’t forget our frailty; he knows what it is like to be a human. His expectation for us doesn’t change, but as we learn, His grace abounds.

We miracles that don’t look like miracles

Not long ago, someone told me, “Every story is beautiful.” “Of course!” I probably responded. All stories were beautiful, but some stories were fascinating: dreams and visions, persecution, bold statements of faith, etc. Those were the stories that captivated me. They still do.

But that someone was right by putting all stories on the same level. Because, as he went on to say, “God loves you just as much as He loves anyone else.” Right. Of course, but–

But it’s true. My redemption story is just as miraculous and beautiful even though I haven’t “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword” (Heb. 11:33-34). In fact, many of the people who are in the Hebrews “Hall of Faith” lived lives of simple obedience rather than lives of excitement.

Those exciting stories are still fascinating. However, my challenge this week is to thank God for the redemption stories of the “normal” people around me.

Whether exciting or not, our stories are miraculous.