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I stood at a grave alone. This death made absolutely no sense. I had more questions than answers. How could a life end like this? Jesus, why? 

2,000 + years ago a woman stood at an open grave, a tomb carved into solid rock.  The huge stone that covered the opening was moved away. It made no sense.  She ran back to the disciples and told them that someone had removed His body.  Peter and John ran to see and found the linen grave clothes laying there. They did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. The disciples left but Mary couldn’t leave. This was the last place she’d seen his lifeless body. She was overcome with uncontrollable grief. She saw two angels and they asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She told them,” They’ve taken my Lord away,” and I don’t know where they have put him.”

How could this be? Just days before the crowds welcomed Him as a King with loud praises. But the fickle crowd spurred on by the religious leaders had turned on Him and with blood thirsty hatred, shouting, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Didn’t they know who He was? Didn’t they recognize who He was and that He was the Son of God? Why, did it all end this way? 

Blinded by her tears, Mary turned and she saw a man. “Was this the gardener?” He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” She asked, “Where have you taken Him?” Then He spoke her name, “Mary.”  Her eyes were opened and she saw Him for who He was! It was Jesus – Alive, in front of her. She talked with Him and ran to the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Jesus had told his disciples that He would rise again but they hadn’t understood. What must it have been like to see Jesus alive after His terrible death on the cross? What joy she must have felt! He is alive just as He promised and the scriptures are true! He overcame death, Hell and the grave! 

Like Mary, I stood at a grave weeping. Then I did something that I believe Mary Magdalene did, as well.  Although I couldn’t see Him I knew He was with me, I know He is alive! I praised Him that He is Lord over the grave and Lord over death. I thanked God for the life that was now gone. I worshipped Him for who He is! He is the Risen Lord! I worshiped Him because He is the Resurrection and the Life. I worshiped Him even though the death of my loved one made no sense. 

Mary Magdalene saw Jesus in His resurrected body, I have not. But I felt His presence and His comfort. He is our hope and our assurance of eternal life if we believe that He is the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. Jesus told us in John 11: 25 of our sure hope, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” And the scriptures tell us why He came – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

I look forward to that day when I see my loved ones again. On this Easter, this Resurrection Sunday I hope that you will place your full faith in the Resurrected One, Jesus! He is our only hope!

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It’s strange how a scent, a sound or a momentary glimpse can cause memories to flood back into our minds. In the last few months, the sight of a small hospital chapel took me back to the first time I visited a hospital chapel. Nearly 38 years ago I sat in a similar hospital chapel waiting for the report on my newborn son’s surgery. His very premature birth necessitated a surgery on the thin thread like duct above his tiny beating heart. His birth weight was just 1 lb. 15 ½ oz.. At 8 days old he had lost ½ lb. and he now weighed 1 lb. 8 oz..  After countless tests, it was determined that this surgery was the only option to close the duct above his heart and save his life. It was the only way to strengthen his tiny heart and help him grow and thrive. 

I remember talking to the surgeon and anesthesiologist. Funny how I remember the anesthesiologist’s Australian accent. He said the surgery would only take 15 minutes, recovery would be longer. And he reassured us that they never had lost a child during the surgery but complications were always a concern. 

As I sat with my husband, my mom and a dear friend our nerves were on edge. We prayed together asking for God’s mercy, wisdom and skill for the doctors and God’s healing power. We had many people praying for us. The Neonatologist and nurses had told us all the terrible hard facts. We learned things that no new parent even wants to know. Still, I felt God’s comforting presence that day, just as I had the night of his birth. The quiet in this small chapel was calming. This was our only option and he had no more weight to lose. He was literally skin and bones. I picked up the Bible from the back of the pew and opened it to the Psalms. It has always spoken to me when I had no words to pray. I turned to Psalm 23 – I read it then turned to Psalm 27. It was my prayer. At the very end of Psalm 27 I read these words- This is what it says

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” 

God has the ability to bring the words to life through His Word as you see an answer to your prayers confirming what you’re asking. Those words gave me hope and assurance that God knew my circumstances and God, the author of all Life, had our tiny son in His hands. Handing your child over to a skilled surgeon is extremely hard. I had given God this child before he was born and the night of his birth we did even as they told me he wouldn’t survive.  I’d trusted God, and I know the circumstances don’t always turn out with positive results.  My mother’s heart grieves with those who lose their little one.  God was gracious to us and the surgery was a success.  On the day we left the hospital after 87 days, the Head Neonatologist told us our son was a miracle baby, that she hadn’t expected to see him go home. We’ll celebrate my oldest son’s 38th birthday the end of this month. 

What I can tell you is to trust God, trust His word. The scriptures speak to our hearts when words just won’t come. Psalms 27 is my favorite psalm. I hope you’ll read Psalm 27 and find comfort. 

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A few years ago, I stumbled and fell over my own two feet. Both of my flip-flops caught under the soaker hose that ran across the sidewalk and I was falling head-first right into an 8 ft. x 4 ft. glass window. I just kept stumbling and couldn’t get my feet under me. It usually feels like things go in slow motion but this happened in a blink. Next, I found myself in a sitting position with my back against a 15” wide area of wood siding next to the glass window. I have no memory of turning myself around. The only thing that I can think of is that my forearm (it had a bruise) hit the nearby heavy lawn chair as I grabbed at thin air. I was grateful I hit just the wood edge with my back. I sat there a few minutes to take inventory of the physical damage. My shoulder was okay (I didn’t hit it straight on). I ended up with some bruises, skinned areas and a bleeding toe and feeling rather foolish. I pulled myself together and got up.

Have you ever stumbled? I’ve done it more times than I’d care to admit. In this case, I was distracted by something and my mind was far away when I lost my footing. And that’s usually the case when we stumble and fall. I certainly think God intervened on my behalf or I might not be writing this.  

This made me think of the things that trip us up spiritually. Misunderstandings and hurt feelings may foster bitter feelings against others.  Sometimes, our own selfishness creates trouble. Other times, our perspective may be wrong and needs to change. Most often, it all starts between our ears, in our thoughts.  We may even question God’s love, God’s word, and God’s forgiveness for us. We may think we’ve gone too far for God’s forgiveness.  Often, these wrong thoughts, attitudes or subsequent actions lead us down a wrong path and at the very least, they may render us feeling ineffective for God.

If you find yourself falling for old lies, repeating sinful habitual actions – tripping yourself up, don’t stop there. If you can’t, figuratively, get up, ask for help. Don’t let guilt or regret paralyze you, confess and ask God to help you. Ask a wise, trusted friend for help. James 5:16 says, “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 tells us God will help us with temptation. 

Then turn around and get back on track where you got off. Ask for forgiveness. Go to God and allow Him to renew your mind. Romans 12:1-2 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

 Your fall may be more serious than a one-time stumble or a temporary fall and require more intensive care. Confide in a trusted, wise friend or counselor and ask for help to take steps toward forgiveness and restoration.  In the meantime, don’t just sit there, dust yourself off and get back up! God has great things for you if you’ll trust Him, turn around and turn back to Him.

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A thin curtain separated us. We weren’t eavesdropping but the soft sobs from the young man behind the curtain made us fall silent. The young lady with him recounted the details that led to the ER visit. Our health concerns were very real, but they paled in comparison. We couldn’t speak.  It broke our hearts to hear his story and his suffering. I began to pray for him and I couldn’t stop my silent tears as his weeping continued. “Dear Lord, he’s so young, younger than my sons.” I wanted to reach out to comfort him but I felt helpless to do more than pray and weep. 

I couldn’t reach this young man, but God could through my prayers. I thank God for the wisdom and skill of doctors and nurses knowing I’d just be a blubbering mess. The whole ER floor was quiet. Everyone was aware of his pain.  

Everything comes into perspective in those moments.  An ER experience will make you think about the frailty of life. It’s as though there exists a thin veil between life and death. We are a few breaths, a few heartbeats from eternity. I’m not being morbid or dark, it is reality. We can’t bridge the gap between life and death, but there is Someone who has; His name is Jesus. His death for us bridged the gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Jesus removed the barrier of sin that separated us from Holy God. Jesus opened Heaven and eternity to all who believe and receive Him as Savior and Lord.  Death was defeated at Jesus’ resurrection but death like a snake with its head cut off, still bites and writhes.  

I’m comforted by the fact that we do not walk alone.  Romans 8:35-39 tells us that nothing can separate a believer from God. Nothing! And God so loves that young man. Jesus was acquainted with our grief, suffering and the frailty of our human bodies. He willingly became human, suffered and overcame death and the grave. He has the ability to heal and He may, but if he doesn’t, He walks through it all with us. He never leaves us. He promises! That is my hope as a believer. And one day He will make all things new and whole! Our Spirit was made for eternity, our bodies are not. Believers will receive immortal, imperishable bodies (1 Cor. 15-50-55). We will be transformed into His perfect image. We will exchange flawed imperfection for perfection and we will see our maker face to face. No more death, no pain, no grief! No weeping! Nothing, nothing now or in eternity can ever separate us as believers in Jesus from God’s love. Not death, nothing! And it is this hope we hold onto as we live this life He’s given us.

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We worry, will I have enough? We worry about our health, our loved ones and our future. We worry about what will happen next, what will happen if, and rob today of the peace and joy we could have in the very present now. But God says, “Do not worry, I am your source.” He says, “Depend on me!” 

In Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus tells us, 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?” 

And He tells us in Matthew 6: 33-34, 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

Unfortunately, simply hearing do not worry doesn’t make us worry less when they hang over us like a gray storm clouds. However, there are some verses that help refocus our thoughts on how wonderful and great our God is. These verses give us direction and help dispel the dark clouds of worry. 

Philippians 4: 4-6  describes the best way to handle worry and anxiety:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And I need the peace He gives.

Redirecting my thoughts by renewing my mind helps me combat worry. 

  • I ask God to open my eyes as I read the Bible. Personally, reading the Psalms, like Psalm 18, 27 or 37 helps me.  
  • I’m reminded He is Almighty God and recalling all He’s done for me in the past encourages me to trust Him now.  
  • I praise Him for who He is, that He is greater than any problem I have now or will have. Praise lifts the weight of worry as I’m assured He’s working on my behalf.
  • I ask for forgiveness by agreeing with God that worry is a sin, it is unbelief. 
  • I ask for what I need, for wisdom and for direction.
  • I thank Him for His faithfulness and ask for His peace.  

If Jesus is our Savior, we don’t need to worry, we can trust Him. I love the saying by Bill Keane that puts it all in a proper perspective, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”  Today is God’s gift to us. If we seek God’s kingdom first, He says He’ll take care of the rest. Don’t worry, He’s got this! How big is your God?

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As a church, we took up a special offering with the plan to give it all away. Part of what we did is give families, who were part of our gathering one Sunday, an envelope with $50 with the instructions to:

  1. Accept the money.
  2. Decide who to give the money to.
  3. Give the money.
  4. Briefly tell us the STORY.

Over the course of the next number of weeks we’ll use this blog to tell some of those stories. Most are brief but each one reflects a heart to give. We did this as part of our annual Be Rich Campaign (Rich in good deeds, that is). Each story is kept anonymous.

______ and I decided to help a random person at Walmart and pay towards their layaway. I went yesterday, and was just going to do it randomly but God had other plans. A lady was standing there with cash and I asked her if she was paying on her layaway and she said yes. I said “well, I’m going to help you with that.” She just looked at me, and I told her about our church and what we were doing.

She immediately started bawling. She said that on her way up there she had been praying because she only had so much money and needed an extension on the layaway.  She hugged me and thanked me over and over. We exchanged names, and I gave her a card from our church.

The story doesnt end there though…

She had $64 left on it that she would pay this Saturday and then get her stuff. I told my Mom about what happened and what the church was doing. Today, we went back up there and my Mom paid the woman’s layaway off! The woman will get an email saying it’s paid for. The lady said that me helping her was so God…and I believe that too!

 

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Isn’t it funny how a phrase suddenly comes back from long ago and you experience the same warm feelings when you first heard it? I can almost hear our former pastor say, “Ain’t God good!”  In Texas, just know, we often use “Ain’t”, for emphasis, like an exclamation point! My first pastor and his wife were missionaries in the Philippines for many years before he became my pastor. He made such a wonderful impact on my family.  Today, God used a different kind of missionary. He changed a lightbulb and reminded me of that phrase!

It all began this last week when my husband’s persistent infection required IV antibiotics and a hospital stay. A hospital stay is grueling, no rest, lots of pokes and waiting, waiting, waiting! We’d gotten the good news – no MRSA nor Sepsis.  Not so good news-he had a local, stubborn infection and we’d be guests in this austere, expensive room for a few more days. Two nights with very little sleep had begun to wear on me. Worry seems to seep into the cracks and crevices of my mind when I’m tired. Lots of prayers were being said and I know God’s answering them. It’s the waiting for healing and improvement that wears on you. 

It so happens that the bathroom lightbulb burned out and we’d reported it.  Matthew from building maintenance brought a light bulb and changed it out. Before he left he stood at the foot of the bed and told us his story. It was an amazing story. He was from India, had lived in Iraq, and in Saudi Arabia. He had escaped death more than a few times and wondered why he’d been spared. He had tried to drown out the questions, worries and misery with alcohol. He questioned why, and then God showed him in John 14 about Jesus and the Heavenly Father’s love. He told us about his father, his Heavenly Father. He talked to us about how Jesus tells us over and over not to worry, that He’s got this. He reminded us of how our Father has it all in His loving hands. He reminded us that Jesus said, “I am with you always.” I have never heard a better testimony or sermon preached at the foot of a hospital bed. And he prayed with us.  God brought the light of His truth and sent His message of love in the form of a man who changed a lightbulb. He told us that the hospital is his mission field and has been for 29 years. In the course of his everyday work, God sends him to hospital rooms and he brings light. He also goes back to India and spreads the light of God’s love there. When he left our room that old sweet, familiar phrase from the first missionary I’d known came to mind.  We thanked God for sending Matthew and marveled how God so faithfully sends his messengers just when we need them.

It reminded me that we are all on a mission as believers. We’re missionaries -bearers of the light of God’s truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We simply need to tell someone what God has done for us, that He’s a good, good Father and of His passionate, everlasting love expressed through Jesus Christ. It only takes one shining light bulb to dispel the darkness! And doesn’t God have a sense of humor? It almost escaped my notice, our Dr. was named Dr. Emanuels – like Emmanuel – God with us. “Ain’t God good!” Can I get an Amen?