Monday, March 30, 2009

Hebrews 5:7-9 "During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and was heard because of his reverent submission.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him..."

  I feel that the Lord has given me a perfect picture this weekend of what a map of life here on earth might look like.  Friday night a good friend of mine shared some heartbreaking news with me.  That someone I love dearly hasn't been honest with me, that this person I care so much about is on a road leading to brokenness.  That same night I received a text from one of my best friend's in college letting me know that she and her husband have been blessed with their 1st child a healthy and beautiful baby girl, Emme, entrusted to them as a gift from God.  I spent all afternoon Sat. surrounded by my girls from college staring at Emme, Joel, & Lauren and marveling at the miracle of life.  Sunday came with another dose of hard news keeping me up in prayer, teary-eyed and in deep thought.  

This is life.  Valleys that lead to victorious mountain tops and then back to another valley that we might again gain even more strength to conquer the next obstacle ahead.  It's funny how the Lord prepares your heart.  All weekend I was reading short segments out of a sermon by John MacArthur that spoke about why trials happen.  Yesterday I finished the sermon and the one thing that pierced my heart the most was the verse above.  

We will face trials, hardship, & heartache.  And God does not allow us to go through these trials b/c He is testing us to find out the strength our faith.  He ALREADY KNOWS the strength of our faith.  He allows us to face trials so that WE can see the strength of our faith.  As we face the valleys of life's journey we will see for ourselves the strength of our faith, what we trust in most, whether we react in pride or humility, the things of this world we treasure above the Lord, and we will receive 3 gifts 1) The ability to recognize the status of our faith 2) The ability to rely on God to increase our faith 3) The ability to comfort others around us with the comfort that he has given to us.

If your facing a trial a season of a valley that seems to have no sight of a mountain ahead remember the verse above.  Jesus offered up prayers & petitions to God who he knew would deliver him.  He cried and trembled at the thought of the cross but with reverent submission to God's will for He knew that God would keep his promise to work everything together for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose.   He saw the cross in the distance standing at the foot of the mountain top experience He knew would come and he learned obedience by suffering.  And after he suffered he was made perfect.  Jesus understands what it is to suffer, he knows the pain we feel as we enter these times of hardship.  He came here and experienced all of life and overcame sin and death & by Him we to shall overcome and be perfected through our suffering to be more like Jesus. 

After all falls Apart
He Repairs, He Repairs

Oh, the Glory of it all is:
He came here
for the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all
the glory of it all......

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Luke 9:3-4 "He told them: take nothing for the journey- no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic."

Jesus sends his disciples out to preach about the kingdom of God and to heal the sick with the power & authority He has given to them (v.1). And these are the instructions he gives them... "take nothing for the journey-no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic."  "Take nothing."  Notice Jesus doesn't only tell them to take nothing, he's specific.  He Jesus covers any future questions they might have had about these instructions. For example, maybe Matthew could have said, "but we have to eat so we can have energy to serve shouldn't we at least bring some food?"  or say Andrew was thinking, "shouldn't we bring an extra tunic so we don't offend people with the smell of our dirty one?"  No, no, no.  He answered every possible question.  

What was the journey they were on?  Their journey was to do the work of evangelists.  Their journey was to be Christ to others, to teach others the truth Christ had taught to them, to give others the hope Christ gave them, to love others with the patient and accepting love of Christ. To live our lives like Jesus we don't need the material things of this world.  To live like Jesus we just need Jesus.  

Monday, March 23, 2009

Faith through the Storm

Luke 8:24-25 "The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master we're going to drown!"  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples.  In fear and amazement they asked one another, Who is this?  He commands even the winds and the water and they obey him."

I can't help but think that this was a test.  Jesus proposes that the group go to the other side of the lake and then as he rests his head a storm comes.  Jesus wasn't surprised by the squall that came about them, in fact, He was sleeping through it!!! Notice how our Saviour is afraid of nothing.  I think that is one of the things I love most about him.  When I am afraid what I desire most is to be with someone who is calm.  Someone who comforts me.  Jesus is never fearful and is indeed THE comforter of us all...especially when we're afraid.

Last spring, I was driving home from the school I was working at on a day they were calling for strong storms.  I'm not from the VA area so I wasn't sure what this meant.  I hopped in my car and tried to get home before the storm hit.  Too late... as I drove the sky started to get gradually darker and darker.  I picked up the phone and called my mom who lives in NJ and as the wind picked up and the sky got dark I began to scream to her, "What should I do?  What should I do?"  Then my phone disconnected.   Now here I am fearful and irrational screaming out "Jesus, please don't let me die."  I began to speed down the shoulder of 28 trying desperately to take cover.  The Lord did get me to an exit and safely into the Wegman's grocery store (and kept other safe from my terrible example on the road...with a Messiah College sticker and Jesus fish on the back of my car...don't you love those!) where my husband was able to meet me.  There I stood shaking with much so that one of the Wegman's employees actually came up to me to check if I was okay.  I stood around the quiet grocery store as people crowded around to look outside and to watch NBC 4 broadcast a tornado warning for our area.  TORNADO warning! What was that?  I had never heard of one of those!  

  Notice while I was driving I immediately called my mom for help.  My mom who lives 5 hours away.  This experience led me through a season of learning to turn to the Lord for help; learning to trust Him.  I was brought low before the throne of God spending my summer going to counseling for a tornado phobia, dealing with panic attacks, and days locked inside b/c I was afraid of the clouds or drizzle and this all b/c I was choosing to trust in myself and not my God.  

The Spring is coming and although the Lord has been working in my heart and no doubt has increased my faith I still get anxious thinking about what my 1st time in a storm will be like. But here is my comfort... my Saviour is not afraid and is indeed in control of the storm.  Not only the literal storms of life but also those seasons of hardship/trial that come and go.  

So here is the question for us all to remember, "Where is your faith?"  My faith used to be in myself and others and the Lord had to take me through a storm and counseling to discover my own self-reliance and fear of accepting his will for my life.  

I hope that today you will ask yourself that question; choosing to humble yourself before God instead of waiting for Him to humble you.  Where is your faith today?  Is it in God or someone or something else?

Remember:"He commands even the winds and the water and they obey Him."  Thank you Jesus!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Luke 7:41-43,47 -48 "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender.  One owed him five hundred denarii {or a day's wages}, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both.  Now which of them will love him more?  Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled."  "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.  
.... Therefore, I tell you, her many sins are forgiven - for she has loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little loves little.  Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

A woman walks into Simon the Leper's house with an alabaster jar in hand weeping at the sight of Jesus.  She approaches him ready to pour out possibly her most valuable possession at his feet.  The account of Christ's anointing in Mark 14 tells us that the perfume the woman poured on Jesus was worth a year's wages!  Clearly, this expensive perfume poured out for Jesus displays a sacrificial love.  
While all of this is taking place Simon says (v.39) "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner."  
I have to say that Simon the Leper was clearly not the most humble man on earth.  This woman comes into his home displaying her love for Christ and she is mocked for it.  She after all is a sinner.  But isn't that the most beautiful part of this story?  A sinner at the feet of Jesus pouring her most valuable possession at his feet.  And to her Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven."  
I wish we could see what happened after Jesus dismissed her that night...(v.50) "Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace."  Where did she go?  What was she thinking?  To whom did she share what had happened?  How did her life change?  
One day she was lost in her sin, the next she was freed from it.  And this all at the feet of Jesus where she poured out her life to him and received it back a new...forgiven...set free...loved by the Saviour.  
Do you remember the first time you bowed at the feet of Jesus and knew in your heart that he had forgiven you?  Remember what that was like today.  Pour out this season of life and all its ups and downs at the feet of Savior and know that Jesus hasn't only saved us from sin and death but saves us everyday as he sanctifies us by His truth.  His love for us abounds in every season...through every change."And to her he said, "Your sins are forgiven."  

At the feet of Jesus


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Luke 7:12-13 "As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out - the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."
One of the hardest days of my life was when my grandmother passed away. I remember kissing her goodbye the day before I left for a missions trip in Peru doing a double take as I walked away from her bedside. In that moment I tried hard to take a mental photograph of her smiling at my farwell cropping out the IVs and hospital bed around her. A week later I returned to kiss her cold hand as she lay in the funeral home on the same block where she lived, the same block we use to walk hand in hand through the streets of downtown Oradell. How I would have loved for Jesus to walk into the funeral home that day as I knelt by her casket my warm tears falling upon her hand. Oh to hear him say, "I say to you, get up!" what a glorious moment that would have been!

Jesus didn't raise my grandmother from her coffin like the boy in Luke 7 but he was with me and in my heart I felt the peace and comfort that could come only from him... I heard in the deep of my heart his voice saying, "Don't cry." Why would it be comforting, you might ask, for Jesus to say don't cry in a time when it is natural to grieve? It's comforting because unlike us, in our human nature, Jesus sees the supernatural. He knows the life after this one. He is the only one who has the authority to say, "Don't cry." Because in Him there is joy even in the depths of sorrow. In Him there is life that lasts eternally. Someday he will say to those who have passed "I say to you, get up!" and their bodies will rise up from the grave (not only their souls) and all the world will behold Jesus who's very heart goes out to sinners so much that He gave his life for their, for my ransom.

Monday, March 16, 2009

*Surprised By Change*

Luke 1:30-33 "But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Can you imagine what Mary must have felt like in that moment? She's about 13 years at the onset of puberty filled with thoughts about what to make of having a period, desiring to kiss the boy taking care of the goats for her family, and what to do about that pimple on her nose! She's just existing childhood heading into one of life's toughest transitions; adolescence, AND now an Angel tells her that she is going to have a baby! Whoa! It's fun to think about what it would have been like to be in Mary's mind during that moment. I think maybe we would have heard something like this:

Am I seeing things? Am I dreaming? Is that really an angel speaking to me? Keep breathing Mary. An angel is telling me that I am going to have... a baby. I'm trying to get used to new body parts and having to deal with new body functions and now I am going to be pregnant? How can this be since I'm a virgin? The Son of the Most High. What does that mean? Me, Mary I am going to give birth to God's son who will reign over the house of Jacob? What will my friends think?

For Mary, this would be the beginning of one of the most life changing transitions of her life. The transition from adolescence to motherhood, from single to married, from poor to rich in Christ, from Mary to the virgin Mary, common to extradordinary and this all by the hand and heart of God.

I'm sure this transition wasn't easy. There's a lot missing in our account of the 9 months Mary carried Jesus in her womb. We don't know what people said as she grew round with child. We don't know how her friendships changed or what her parents prayed for her during those months. What I love about this piece of Scripture is the way it captures the reality of how life's transitions surprise us. We must remember God designed change. Everyday we change through the circumstances we experience, through the number of days we lives.

Mary is a great example for us as we face the transitions of life. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."

May we face the transitions of each season of life with this prayer in our hearts... Lord, I am your servant, may it be to me as you wish during this season. As I struggle through accepting and adjusting to the decisions I will have to make and the circumstance I will face help me to remember that through this time you will mold me more into your likeness. Your ways are not my ways, help me to see the beauty of your Sovreign control over my life. Amen.