A Time for Mourning





This year so far seems to be a year of many deaths. I know that we all face this eventually, losing loved ones, and even our own mortality, but I can’t help but feel like in the first four months I’ve witnessed so many of my friends go through this heartbreak; and it has me somewhat leery of what is yet to come with three quarters of the year to go.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and more aware of life than I used to be, but it just seems like more people I know are facing this grave consequence of sin.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not na├»ve to think we shouldn’t or won’t have to accept this; nor do I necessarily think death is all bad. (Though the death of someone not saved by Jesus grieves me deeply.) What I mean is, what if all that we have in this world really is just a taste of what’s to come? (1 Corinthians 2:7-9) All the good and bad that we have on this earth can’t compare to all the Good we will have there (not to mention there will be no bad)! (Philippians 3:20-21, Revelation 21:4) Truth be told, we mourn the death of those we love, not for them, but for those of us they left behind. Assuming the person is a believer of Christ, then what have we to be upset about? (1 Thessalonians 4:13) They are reunited with our Savior; and are much better off than we are! (John 11:26, Romans 10:9)

I read a line in a book the other day (Deadline, Randy Alcord (which I’ve finally finished reading and highly recommend it!)) “I’ve kept going back to think about wonderful days with [him] in the past. Now I find myself thinking that perhaps the best days with him may still be in the future. [I dared] hope [we’d] one day explore heaven together…” This gives me such hope. Not only that I’ll get to see and spend time with my loved ones again, but that the time there will be better than it ever was here! (As if I needed another reason to look forward to heaven!)

Let’s look at Lazarus briefly. (John 11:1-44) When he was dying, his family sent for Jesus, but He didn’t come in time, and death didn’t wait to claim Lazarus. We often cry out to Jesus, begging Him to heal our loved ones; to make them better and right. When Jesus heard of Lazarus’s illness, He said: “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” (John 11:4) Any trial a believer faces can ultimately bring glory to God because He can bring good from any situation. (Romans 8:28) Lest we forget that God’s timing is perfect; and times when we think He’s not answering us fast enough or the way we want, doesn’t mean He isn’t going to respond in a better way. He will take care of us in the best way, as only He knows how. (Proverbs 3:5-6, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Galatians 6:9, Philippians 4:19) Martha showed great faith by responding to Jesus the way she did: “Yes, Lord, I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God...” (John 11:27) Are we as faithful during our pain? When Jesus saw Mary and others grieving, He got angry and then wept. (John 11:33-35) This shows us that God cares about and for us, and feels what we feel (only more immensely). He understands our feelings and empathizes with us. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead showing that even the dead hear Jesus (hope for unbelievers); He has the power over life and death.

Mourning our loved ones that are gone is understandable. But, don’t waste too much time on our grief. There is far greater joy awaiting them, and us, after death. That is the time we will finally live.

Victory

 
Some days, things just seem too overwhelming. Anxieties creep into my head and doubt fills my mind. I often feel like my attempts will fail; that I will fail—not just whatever task is at hand, but also at being a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a coworker and a disciple of Christ. I wonder how I’m going to accomplish anything when my mind is already defeated…
And then I remember—God. It sounds trite, but think about it. The God of the Universe is in control. Have your doubts? Remember Genesis—He is Creator of all things. This world all started with God. And it will all end with Him as well. Remember Revelation—He will make all things new. (Revelation 21:1)
It is such a humbling reminder that all we have is because of God. And regardless of the stuff that goes on in this life, He will get us through. He will claim victory. He will take all of our overwhelming moments and cease them. The battles all end the same: God triumphs! Did you get that? Nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)
We know God can do it. But do we truly understand how easy it is for Him to? Just as simple as it was for Him to create earth; it will be just as simple for Him to defeat it. (Revelation 20:9-10) Two verses is all it took John to describe the ultimate battle—two verses! Why? Because it is as easy as that for Him. There’s no comparison in what the devil has to our Lord. Satan’s power is not eternal; our Savior’s is.
Just like at the end of times, the battles we face now are just as simple for Jesus. We just need to let Him have control. The Bible starts with His Creation, and ends with His second Creation—a new heaven and a new earth. God created each of us. And through multiple battles we face, He will make us new. He will use each conflict for His good. (Romans 8:28) Victory is ours through Jesus Christ! (Romans 8:37)
Nothing is too difficult for God to handle. And ultimately, we should be giving everything to Him to take care of—our fears, our excitement, our lives. We don’t have to face any battle alone; and we don’t have to wonder about Who will claim the ultimate Victory—it will always be Jesus. (Revelation 21:6-7)
Why don’t you admit defeat—but not to Satan’s attempts to fail you—to the One Who has succeeded you. Ask Jesus to be your Advocate in the battles on this earth. Then sit back and watch Him defeat the devil time and time again. It really is that simple.
 


Are you Anchored?


We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard,
so that we do not drift away.  ~Hebrews 2:1

 Some day it is easier than others to have faith.  Some days everything is coming up roses, you get all the green lights, and you get an unexpected check in the mail.  Others, it's a little harder.  You find out that doctors still haven't found an answer to a medical problem, discover that you need to replace a porch due to rotting support beams and the money isn't in the budget, and due to circumstances beyond your control your grand-daughter is coming to live with you while her mother deals with an addiction.  Those days it can be hard to hold on to faith and trust God is in control.

And then God prompts you to resume your chronological Bible study and you just happen to read Hebrews 2:1.  I love that we serve such a personal God; one that reaches out and reminds you that you are not alone.  You see, the Hebrews were wavering in their faith, wondering if their choice to follow Jesus was the right one.  And then God crafted a letter to them to encourage them, to strengthen them.

The author of Hebrews (possibly Paul) spent all of chapter 1 remind us who Jesus is - the heir of all things, the creator of the world, the radience of God's glory, the exact imprint of God's nature, the upholder of the universe, superior to angels, God's Son, God's firstborn who sits at His right hand.  What a mighty God we serve!  Yet we still forget.  

We let the drudgery of this life overshadow the Truth.  We let our momentary hardships rule our thoughts rather than the knowledge that the battle has already been won.  We forget the love Jesus has for us, the sacrifice He made for us.  And instead we focus on the lie of the world - we are unloved, we are unwanted, we are alone.

When we forget the truth of Jesus it causes us to drift away, we are in effect cutting our anchor, setting ourselves adrift to be tossed about by the world.  This leads to wavering, a loss of faith, and a divided loyalty.  That leads to destruction.  

And this, my friends, is why we are called to encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to gather together with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:24-25), to spend time with Jesus (Matthew 12:30) and to renew our mind daily (Romans 12:2).  Doing these things cause us to pay careful attention to the works of, and our relationship with, Jesus.  And when we are focused on Him, we can't drift away into confusion and despair.

What verse(s) brings you the most comfort when you find yourself wavering?

Abba, I thank you for the wisdom and forethought of including encouragement for every aspect of our lives in Your word.  I ask that you forgive me for my waverings, for weakening my bond to You, my anchor.  Help me to pay careful attention to Your word in the future so that I may stand strong.  Amen.

Quiet Time

Photographer: Katie Tegtmeyer,  Creative Commons 2.0 license

It is ironic that at this moment while I am attempting to write about the importance of quiet time with God, my 18-month-old granddaughter is having a fit because she can not exercise her newly acquired skill of climbing on chairs all by herself to reach the dining room table.  At the same time, my 7-year-old is serenading the entire house at the top of her lungs from her room.  While my teenager calmly slips her headphones over her ears and sinks into a music-induced coma.....sigh.  Some days quiet time is a bit hard to come by.

We all have "noise" in our lives.  Some may have children underfoot, while others have the chatter of co-workers.  You may encounter days where you are frazzled and hang from a string rather than a rope, but it is those days, especially, that it is all the more necessary to find some quiet time with God.

You see, quiet time equips us to face those moments of stress that life seems to throw at us.  It allows us to reconnect with our Creator, to renew our minds (Ephesians 4:23) and ensures that our will lines up with His (Psalm 143:10).  Quiet time is the sip of thirst quenching water given to a parched soul. (Revelation 21:6)  And yet so many of us (yep, me too at times!)are content to squeeze time with God into our lives, rather than make quiet time a priority. 

Today I challenge you to change this.  Stop trying to fit Him in, and instead, put Him at the center and fit everything else in.  We have a limited lifespan and every moment counts.  It may mean that you lose an hour of sleep as you get up earlier to start your day with God rather than rushing out the door.  It could mean that you schedule an appointment with Him on your calendar daily and don't break it.  Perhaps it means you set aside a place in your home just to meet with Him.  However, you chose to make time with God a priority the important thing is that you just do it.  And when you do, the rest will fall into place. 

For those of you that benefit from visual demonstrations, here is a short object lesson that illustrates the point:

How do you find quiet time with God?


Spring Cleaning

Ah, Spring. I love this time of year—the vegetation begins to bloom, the weather warms up, the days are longer… I tend to be motivated to get things done. You know, clean up my flower beds (and this year, since the winter wasn’t so bad, I seem to have an overabundance of weeds taking over the plants), fix up things outside (pressure wash the house, my deck and porch need re-stained, trim work needs painted), and I need to do the interior ‘Spring Cleaning’ (wash curtains, clean out closets)—the list seems endless.
Isn’t it amazing at the amount of ‘stuff’ we can add to our ‘to do list’? Mine never seems to diminish. The flower beds, once originally tended, will need to be kept up with for the next six months (though truthfully, by mid-July I pretty much give up); the home repairs and upkeep are endless (sometimes I wonder if buying a house really was the more economical way to go than renting); and the cleaning inside gets so overwhelming that I don’t end up finishing what I start (last year I quit before I made it to the living room—the room we spend most of our time in; the room that probably needed the furniture moved and curtains pulled down more than any other); and just how do I accumulate so much stuff that I could hold a yard sale every single year?
I wonder if Jesus feels the same about us at times. That His ‘to do list’ of repairs, upkeep, tending, cleaning for us never seems to diminish. How many times does He have to pull the weeds out of my head and heart? (Luke 12:34) Or tend to me like a delicate flower, providing the proper nourishment? And it sure seems like each time I manage to get my mouth under control, a new word flies out, forcing Him to be on the constant mend and upkeep there. Not to mention the constant cleaning of my mind! My head is so filled with trash at times it’s a wonder I can even get out of bed some days. He certainly has His work cut out for Him where I’m concerned…
Wouldn’t it be nice if, once ‘we’ fixed an internal ‘issue’ or cleaned out (and up) our heads from all the junk that clutters it, we could actually let it go and move on to something else? [Am I the only one that seems to have to revisit certain aspects of my Christian failures?] (Philippians 3:12) I mean, when I finish a task on my ‘to do list’, I feel accomplished when I can cross it off and tackle the next item. But can I also admit that I don’t think I’ve ever entirely completed one of my ‘to do lists’? I usually end up leaving a task or two that were added at the planning stage, when the motivation and determination were at a peak (before the irritation and anxiety and exhaustion set in). Here’s where the similarity ends though—Jesus will finish His ‘to do list’ in us—probably not until we meet Him again, but none-the-less, He will perfect us. (Philippians 1:6)
As you take time to do your Spring Cleaning, and write out your ‘to do lists’—may I suggest that you allow Jesus to help you tackle your own internal mess? He took our mess to the Cross with Him (1 Peter 2:24)—and said the words that I never seem to manage: “It Is Finished.” (John 19:30)

Clean Slate

Black Friday always causes me to take time for great reflection. I think about how Jesus died on the Cross for my sins; the sin of yelling at the driver in front of me (Matthew 5:22); the sin of losing my temper at my husband (Proverbs 29:11); the sin of my language (Ephesians 4:29)…and the list (unfortunately) goes on. Jesus died a horrific death, sacrificed His Life, for that? Talk about humbling and regret and remorse.
Then the Good News that comes to me on Sunday, Easter, Resurrection Day, that while Jesus died for my ridiculous, dumb little sins; He arose again. Another faithful, humbling reminder that because He overcame death, I can surely overcome calling the driver that cut me off an ‘idiot’, or cursing when I don’t get my way, or…
And I think about the three day wait between His death and Resurrection, and how hopeless that must have seemed to His disciples, especially since they didn’t know of the tremendous miracle that was going to take place on Sunday. It is another humbling reminder that no matter my sin that placed Him on that Cross; nothing will ever make Him stop loving me. Peter, Jesus’ best friend, the one who His foundation would rest on (Matthew 16:18), fell asleep when Jesus needed him most (Matthew 26:40, 44, Mark 14:37, 40, Luke 22:46)and denied Him three times before His death (Matthew 26:70, 72, 74, Mark 16:68, 70-71, Luke 22:57-58, 60, John 18:17, 25-27), was specifically called out when Jesus arose. The angel told the women at the empty tomb ‘Go tell Peter’ (Mark 16:7). Jesus appeared to Peter personally before the other disciples (Luke 24:33, 1 Corinthians 15:3-6). He wanted Peter, who had to be full of remorse, regret, sorrow, self-hatred…to know that he was forgiven; his sin had vanished. Jesus died on the Cross for Peter, and He died for you and me. Our sins are gone, just like Peter’s; and we are forgiven, just like Peter.
Maybe you don’t feel the same bond between you and Jesus, which He shared with Peter. But that same bond does exist; at least He wants it to (Romans 5:8, Hebrews 13:5, 1 John 4:10). The hope in Jesus’ Resurrection is that we are no longer hopeless. Jesus overcoming death means we, too can overcome—any of the sins that placed Him on that Cross. His ascension is our second chance, our clean slate (1 Corinthians 1:30). How we chalk up our slate now is up to us; He did His part, will we? (Colossians 2:13-14)
It's the end of a new week, and the beginning of a new you. It's your second chance, your clean slate to start over...