Archive | February 2014

Where is hope?

When your heart is breaking, you can place your hope and trust in the Lord. Though it seems impossible to do and hope seems intangible, there is Someone we can lean on.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24).

Anne Graham Lotz defines hope: “Biblical hope is absolute confidence in something you haven’t seen or received yet, but you’re absolutely confident that whatever God has said is going to come to pass.”

She also declares that “Jesus is your hope for the future. One day Jesus Christ will come back, and He will set all of the wrong right. Good will triumph over the bad. Love will triumph over hate. Righteousness will triumph over evil. He’s going to make it all right, and you can have absolute confidence that that’s going to take place. That’s your hope.”

Sovereign God, I choose hope. I choose faith. I choose life. Give me an unshakable faith in You. Amen.

~shared from “A Season of Grief”

This entry was posted on February 22, 2014. 2 Comments

Back in Nain . . .

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Jesus wept.  John 11:35

These two words are familiar to many. We recognize them as the shortest verse in the Bible. It is short, but meaningful. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. I wonder why he bothered with tears when he knew he was about to wake up his friend and restore him to his family. I picture this scene in my mind and I can’t help but wish my family could be restored. You too? I “see” you nodding in agreement, for there are many of us who mourn.

If your heart cries out in longing and screams against the injustice that death brings . . . I’m with you. I get it. I understand your pain and I am so sorry for your suffering. Like me, if you have outlived one of your offspring, we know the deep, insatiable pain that has taken up residence in our hearts. We long for life to be put in reverse and take us back to a time when our family was complete, But it doesn’t work that way. . . or did it? The Author of life, who brought Lazarus back to life, was about to do it again. Please read on . . .

The next day, Jesus made His way to the little city of Nain, accompanied by His followers and many other people. As He approached the city gate, a funeral procession was on its way out.

Hit the pause button.

In my collection of  life experiences, more than once I have stopped, while traveling somewhere on any normal day, to let a stream of cars out of the driveway of a funeral home. The lead car, a limo. Each car following behind had a flag fluttering on its antenna. Count the cars. They are many. I let my mind tiptoe . . . for just a moment . . . into what it must be like for the grieving family and friends about now, but soon impatience takes over and I’m eager to be on my way. But let’s linger for just a moment longer. What if you were in one of those vehicles? What if you were in the first one right behind the hearse? Many of us have been and it’s awful. It’s numbing. We aren’t even aware of other cars traveling in the same direction . . . unless we hear a radio blaring in the next lane and its jarring base reminds us that life is running on normal for others. Maybe it’s a beautiful, sunny day, but you don’t notice. Maybe it’s raining buckets, but you’re unaware that you’re getting drenched.Your heart is crushed. Someone you love is taking their final ride to their place of rest and you want to scream in protest!

Maybe that’s how this widow felt. Let’s continue the story. . .

A widow’s only son had died and a large crowd made up of relatives, friends and sympathetic townspeople was following the men carrying the body. Jesus stepped aside to let them by, and as the weeping mother passed, His heart went out in compassion for her.  

Hit the pause button again.

Perhaps you understand what this mother was feeling? Perhaps you’ve been there . . . but she had the advantage, although she didn’t know it yet. Her heart is broken. Her eyes are so full of tears she can hardly make out the face of the man standing right beside her. Let’s read on.

As she looked up at Him, He said, “Don’t cry.” Then He stopped the procession, walked over to the litter on which the body lay, touched it and said, “Young man, I am telling you, Get up!” The young man opened his eyes, sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus presented him to his mother. 

Hit the pause button again.

Sometimes powerful stories, such as this one, are covered so quickly in just a few sentences that they barely have time to sink into our pores. There had to have been many emotions tumbling over one another in this mother’s mind as she stood transfixed, looking into the face of her very-much-alive boy! How could this be? She knew he had died; she felt his cold, lifeless body. She agonized over his death and shuttered against the loneliness that would stalk her remaining days . . . but he’s alive! Can you imagine her joy? Maybe she did cartwheels she was so happy . . . or not, but read on.

The people were dumb with amazement. When they found their tongues, they praised God, saying, ‘”A great prophet has come to visit us. God has not forgotten His people.” The news of what Jesus had done spread throughout Judea and all the regions of Israel.  Luke 7:11-17, The Clear Word

God had not forgotten. Oh how I would have loved to trade places! How I would have loved for Jesus to be in my town and stop my funeral procession and wake up my son! But it was her son. Her joy. Jesus’ joy too. Can you picture his face as he watches the two of them embrace? How wonderful to be Jesus and witness joy between two of his created and reunited children. How wonderful to be Jesus with His power over death!

Some may scoff at this story, but I choose to believe that all Bible stories are true and though from very long ago, still today help to grow our faith. Jesus did heal. He did breathe life back into death. In his presence, death has no power, not then or now. But we can’t reach out and touch Jesus today; not like people could then. As much as I longed for my son’s chest to fill with air and he sit up in his coffin, it didn’t happen. I must wait. I’m impatient, probably like you, but we must wait.

We won’t always be in sorrow. The grief journey is hard and seemingly endless, but it won’t always be so. Just as I believe this story to be true, I also believe that our children will be raised up again with brand new, immortal life and death will be burned up, never to hurt us again. God will swallow up death forever.  The Lord, the Eternal, will wipe away the tears from each and every face and deflect the scorn and shame His people endure from the whole world, for the Eternal determined that it should be so.  Isaiah 25:8, The Voice

Until then, friend, we hope.

Through Him, you’ve been brought to trust in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him for the very reason that your faith and hope are in Him.  1 Peter 1:21, The Voice

Tears are God’s jewels – 100 verses

Jesus Wept

Jesus Wept (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tears are God’s jewels. Read on and you will see why. Sometimes I fret over how to pull words from my heart that will touch someone who has “jewels on their cheeks” at this very moment. I know the pain that often put them there as do you. Sometimes our journeys take us to the same park bench where we can sit and talk and share our stories. Sometimes we must be content with cyber benches and cyber hugs and cyber conversation.

From time to time I share pages from the devotional book, “100 Favorite Bible Verses”. When I picked it up today, I read one that was just what I needed at that moment. Timing is God’s job, so maybe it will be just what you needed to read too.

From 100 Favorite Bible Verses

Jesus wept.  John 11:35

I did not realize that out of all the creatures in God’s creation, only people cry. Tears are a language all their own and often say what words cannot. When Jesus cried outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Jesus’ humanity cried out as loudly as his divinity would moments later when Jesus raised his friend from the dead.

Jesus’ tears were different from those of many of the mourners surrounding him. Those people were wailing in accordance with Jewish custom. This tradition allowed the community to fulfill a duty to publicly and loudly lament personal tragedy more so than it allowed those who were grieving a personal a personal release of emotion. The Greek word used here for wept is found nowhere else in  Scripture. It means “to cry silently.” Jesus didn’t cry for the benefit of others. He didn’t cry to make a point or to teach a lesson. He cried because his heart was broken. Sound familiar? Not unlike us today?

God’s heart breaks because he has compassion for those he has created. That means he does not take your pain, sorrow, grief, disappointment, or even physical death lightly. God knows he can bring good out of tragedy just as Jesus knew he could raise Lazarus from the dead. That doesn’t stop God from entering into your present sorrow with you, from reaching out in compassion to bring comfort when you need it most. This says, when we cry, we can cry out to him. He cares about our tears so much that he saves them. Perhaps they are like jewels to him.

We need not feel ashamed of our tears. Jesus was not ashamed to express his emotions and let others see him cry. So we can follow his example of honest emotional vulnerability and cry when we feel the need . . . and then invite him to help dry our tears . . . from the inside out.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.  Psalm 56:8″

No ordinary tea party

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that he had tied around his waist.  John 5:13  At first Peter wanted nothing to do with his Lord and a basin of water. He resisted and told Jesus, “You will never wash my [dirty] feet, to which Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you don’t belong to me.” John 13:7-8

English: Tea in a Meißen pink-rose teacup 日本語:...

English Tea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be completely honest, I have to admit that this conversation between Jesus and Peter doesn’t sound all that bad at first. In fact, it reads like a conversation I might have had with Jesus. Imagine coming to the table sorely in need of a pedicure. Embarrassed? A resounding “yes!” from this corner. The same kind of feelings might run through me if I suddenly found myself in need of emergency medical attention and remembering too late that all my decent underwear were back home in the drawer. . .

In this story, more than likely I would have been as unprepared as Peter, for this was no ordinary tea party. Let me explain. For months, a group of women had been meeting for Bible study and prayer. Over time they become close enough to comfortably share with one another the deep concerns Jesus laid on their hearts. One cannot be in such a group for long without feeling the Holy Spirit‘s nudging to “get real” and these women responded and bonded in their love for Jesus and each other. But as what often happens in life, the group meetings succumbed to hectic schedules and the women disappear back into the rat race of living.

But when you have had something so good and so meaningful, how do you let it go? There were heart longings ~ and one participant took it upon herself to extend an invitation to the other women to come to her home for tea. Sidebar: if I had been the one extending an invitation for tea in my relatively unexplored territory of hospitality, it would likely have just been tea. You know what I mean? You take a mug from the cabinet, heat water in the microwave, toss in a tea bag and you’re done. There might be some thought as to what to serve with it, but nah . . . just tea and a friend for starters . . . but never mind the sidebar. I’d be painting the wrong picture in your head.

So back to the real story. Each friend received a personal, hand written invitation to come over for tea. Perhaps the hostess baked a loaf of pumpkin dessert bread or stopped by the local deli for something delectable, I don’t know. At least  she was prepared to serve tea. Since I  know few details, I will embellish with a sprinkle of ideas from my imagination to keep it interesting. Let’s say she covered the table with a crisp linen tablecloth and washed and dried the delicate china teacups and plates saved for special occasions until they sparkled, and maybe she made a pitcher of lemonade for those who preferred their beverage chilled.

The doorbell chimes. The women have all arrived. The first lady steps over the threshold with her hands wrapped around an exquisite vase of fresh blooms for the table. Another comes in bearing a lovely tray of warm-out-of-the-oven scones just itching to be filled with strawberry jam from a crystal bowl, a third comes in carrying a basin, a towel and lavender bath salts. Huh? Somehow this doesn’t fit the picture I have in my mind of a tea party.

Oh, but it does. In the same spirit as the Lord girded Himself so many years ago, this dear lady knelt before each friend and gently washed her feet with  aromatic warm water and patted them dry with a soft towel all the while humming a favorite song of personal worship giving glory to God. How humbling. How tender. How so like Jesus!

From a Bible commentary, I gleaned these insights as to what likely happened on Passover night in Jesus’ day. According to Jewish custom, washing the feet of the head of the household was one of the duties of a foreign slave, but never expected of a Jewish slave. However, it was a service a wife owed her husband, and children their father.  Since there was no servant present on the night of the Last Supper, one of the disciples should have undertaken the menial task, but none volunteered. Jesus hoped His practical demonstration would give the disciples a picture lesson which would remain with them longer than words alone.

In the symbolic act Jesus was performing, only in submission could Peter have part with Christ. Furthermore, Peter’s independent spirit and haughty attitude were inconsistent with the character of those who enjoy sweet spiritual fellowship with their Lord in this life and who entertain the hope of enjoying eternal fellowship with Him in the world to come. Therefore, in the act of washing someone’s feet; both parties are in the perfect position to receive a blessing. 

Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, [wash] not only my feet, but my hands and my head too! ” John 13:9

Let’s not glance over these words lightly and thus miss the spiritual significance. There is something special about the experience of having someone kneel before you to wash your feet . . . and further, if the washing is symbolically allowed to reach your heart . . . the heart gets bathed too and thus you have been renewed by the Holy Spirit and a little bit of heaven lingers on earth, just for you.                                                                                                                                  

I would loved to have joined these ladies in their sweet fellowship.No doubt they had an unseen Guest present. No doubt His sweet Spirit permeated the hearts of all who gathered and remained with them long after the last sip of tea.

This entry was posted on February 1, 2014. 2 Comments