Okay?

“Maybe it’s okay if I’m not okay….”

‘We Are Messengers’ sing this fantastic song, and it is so relevant! How can we know how good we have it, if we haven’t had it bad? If I haven’t hurt, what do I have to compare to?

Do you remember the story of Lazarus? Beloved friend of Jesus, brother to Mary and Martha, they lived in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. I imagine Jesus stopped at their house whenever He was near. We (hopefully) all have a friend like that, a person who is family – even better than blood family. (Mary is the woman who annointed Jesus with a costly perfume while He was at their table, when Judas complained at the waste of such an expensive item.* – JOHN 12:3) She, her sister Martha, and her brother Lazarus made Jesus welcome. It happened that Lazarus became seriously ill, “So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” – JOHN 11:3‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

What?

He hears that His beloved friend is sick, maybe dying, and He hangs out for two days before He goes to see him? Who does that? I’m sure that Mary and Martha were not okay during this time! Torn up knowing that their brother is dying – who in fact dies after the message is sent – and wondering why their best friend delays coming. Not until the fourth day after Lazarus’ death does Jesus show up. The body is in the grave, beginning to deteriorate and decompose, and the mourning is at it’s peak. Martha met Jesus on the road, and said this:

“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” – JOHN 11:22 NASB

She knows that Jesus could have prevented his death, and she believes – she knows – that He can bring her brother back! What faith!

“Jesus said to her, “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. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” – JOHN 11:25‭-‬27 NASB

Martha wasn’t “okay” with her brother’s physical death, but she was confident in her Lord’s ability to take care of the situation. How many of us can confidently believe as Martha did? She had no doubt that Jesus would receive whatever He asked of God His Father. Do I believe that Jesus is taking care of my situation? I’m not okay with my financial situation. Frankly, it stinks. (That’s my opinion.) But I know that it’s okay if I’m not okay, because I know that my life – such as it is – is in my GOD’s control, not mine. I have hurt and been hurt; I have reached out and been reached out to in good and in bad. Whatever comes, LORD, may I learn to be content. Amen.

[*This perfume is estimated to be worth 11 months wages. According to CNBC.com, the median U.S, household wage for 11 months would be over $40,000.]

Leading to the Cross

On the Tuesday before Easter Sunday, “Good” Friday looms and our focus is on the suffering of Jesus and the Cross. He has just entered into Jerusalem in triumph; the people welcoming Him with jubilation and celebration, thinking that He is going to take over the government of Judea and become their new king on earth. Such excitement runs among them! What thoughts must have been running through Jesus’ mind? I hope He was able to soak up the adoration and love, in preparation of the ordeal He knew He was facing. He knew His central purpose was to die as the sacrifice for our sins. He didn’t deserve to die – unlike the rest of humankind, Jesus never once in His life on earth committed any sin. Never once; not one. His death on the cross is, without doubt, the worst injustice ever done or to be done in all of earth’s history. This passage describes Jesus’ life beautifully.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of GOD, for it is written, “vengeance is mine , I will repay,” says the LORD.” – ROMANS 12:17‭-‬19 NASB

Jesus could have easily retaliated against the soldiers who beat and mocked Him, and He could have punished the Jewish leaders for their unjust treatment of Him. Legions of angels – His Angel Army – were just waiting on a single word from Him to swoop in and rescue Him! Jesus knows His Father, and He trusted in GOD for ultimate justice and revenge. Peter reminds us of our calling as followers of Christ Jesus in this passage he wrote to followers living a far distance from Rome as they were being mocked and harassed for their faith (much as we are today).

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth ; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” – 1 PETER 2:21‭-‬25 NASB

By His woundsall of His suffering was inflicted on the Son of GOD, endured by the only perfect, sinless man for the sin and the sickness of our souls. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of GOD in Him.” – 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21 NASB Jesus is our Guardian, our Overseer; He is watching over us constantly from heaven, and He left us with His Holy Spirit so that we are never alone.

Do I resemble Christ when I am mistreated? Have you accepted what Jesus did for you – and me – on the cross?

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 CORINTHIANS 5:20‭ NASB

“My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I’m standing in Your Love!” Thank you, Bethel Music, for this fabulous song, and K-LOVE Radio for playing it!!

Lead Me

Lead me, for I can’t do this alone.

Sanctus Real sings this in the song, “Lead Me.” It’s something I say to God every day because life is hard, and I can’t do it alone. None of us can. We think we can; we can ‘shoulder through the pain’, we can ‘pull ourselves up by the bootstraps’, we can ‘think positive’ and adopt an ‘I can do it’ mentality, but how successful are we – really – when we are truly alone? Without family or friends, without any spiritual or emotional support, where would you be?

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd

A Psalm of David

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil or harm, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – PSALMS 23:1‭-‬6 NASB

There are many ‘successful’ people who are without a Saviour out in the world, but at what cost to themselves? Money and power on earth are only meaningful temporarily. They can’t buy us into eternity, and they can’t bring us any kind of lasting peace or companionship. The wealthiest people I’ve met in my life are also the most miserable people I have ever known. Having millions of dollars (and I am being literal here) didn’t provide them with the thing they truly craved: real love, and real friendships. What I saw was immense paranoia that someone would ‘take advantage of them’, and I saw it taking place with those people the wealthy had surrounded themselves with to ‘protect’ themselves. They were unable to accept that someone might care for them just for themselves, making themselves absolutely reject anyone reaching out to them in real friendship; lonely, isolated and alone, while surrounded by people. Immensely saddening situation, especially knowing that it is their choice to live that way. Immune to the Gospel, because that would require trusting someone outside of themselves. Keeping too busy in the whirlwind of social life to face reality.

Successful, rich, abjectly lonely, and miserable.

I won’t deny that it would feel so good not to wonder how to stretch a too limited income to cover expenses, and to be able to write a check (not a ‘rubber’ one!!) to pay bills as they come in…… but I have someone, my Saviour, Who loves me regardless of my socio-economic standing. He loves me no matter how I look, how I dress, or whether my address is trendy enough. He loves me through my down times and my up times. His Name is JESUS.

I am blessed to have a family and friends who love me, too. It’s something that many people don’t have, and I know what a blessing it is. That’s the thing about Jesus – He loves you and is reaching out for you, even now. He wants you to understand what it’s like to know you are loved and cared for! Do you know? Have you realized yet that what He is offering is total, absolute, and completely without any strings? Free, a gift for the taking, waiting for you to accept it?

Insulted, Gossiped About, Lied To

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11‭-‬12 NIV (Red Letters of JESUS!)

I want people to like me. My feelings are hurt when people gossip about me and spread lies about me. Sometimes the hurtful things said are true and many more times they are lies. Either way, words hurt. Does that mean it’s okay for others, and especially people who claim Christianity, to use the gossip for their own entertainment? When I am insulted, persecuted, and lied about, I’m just supposed to turn the other cheek? I’m supposed to Rejoice??? This is what JESUS says to us about it:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and Glorify your FATHER in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 NIV

Once we choose JESUS, we are no longer of this sinful, corrupt world. Why then do we continue to live as though we are still part of this world? As Christians we shouldn’t want to be a part of the gossiping and lying and back-biting, yet the people who have professed the CHRIST are often the worst about doing them. What’s up with that? Perhaps we need to pick up our Bibles and do some searching …..

There’s a song by David Crowder called Red Letters and it ends like this:
Thank You, God, for red letters
When the ground began to shake
The grace of God started falling
And I became a free man that day
The prison walls started falling
And I am a free man today

Have you read the Red Letters? Has your ground been shaken; have your prison walls fallen, have you received the Grace of the ALMIGHTY GOD and embraced your new freedom? It is an incomparable experience. It is truly the Peace that passes all understanding.

“He [King David] said: “The LORD is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer; my GOD is my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Horn of my Salvation. He is my Stronghold, my Refuge and my Savior— from violent people You save me. “I called to the LORD, Who is Worthy of Praise, and have been saved from my enemies.” ” – 2 Samuel 22:2‭-‬4 NIV

My Utmost…

Oswald Chambers writes in “My Utmost for His Highest,” Let Us Keep To The Point (and I fail miserably at this….)

My Utmost for His Highest

“. . . my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed . . . .” We will all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus the areas of our lives He has asked us to yield to Him. It’s as if Paul were saying, “My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest—my best for His glory.” To reach that level of determination is a matter of the will, not of debate or of reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue amount of thought and consideration for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision, although we cover it up with the pretense that it is others we are considering. When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn’t know what our obedience will mean. Keep to the point—He does know. Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only—my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

My Unstoppable Determination for His Holiness. “Whether it means life or death—it makes no difference!” (see Philippians 1:21). Paul was determined that nothing would stop him from doing exactly what God wanted. But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him and we begin to debate. He then providentially produces a crisis where we have to decide—for or against. That moment becomes a great crossroads in our lives. If a crisis has come to you on any front, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably.

Lord, the range of Your power, the touch of Your grace, the breathing of Your Spirit—how I long for these to bring me face to face with You. Forgive my tardiness; it takes me so long to awaken to some things.”

The Apostle Paul wrote “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” – Philippians 1:20 NLT

It’s very difficult to to add anything to these two men of God, Amen!

Remember the Sabbath and Keep It Holy

“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” – Luke 23:56 ESV (Exodus 20:8-10)

Keeping it honest: I am not very good at resting on the Sabbath, or Sunday, as we observe it. With jobs and the demands of family, laundry piling up and cleaning needing done; meals to cook or restaurants to go to – requiring others to work; pastors and staff at church, employees at the stores we shop at …. how many of us really are resting? My family has always had busy Sundays for as far back as I can remember, because even before my Dad surrendered to preach, he was very active in the church. My Mom had the task of preparing breakfast for (eventually) six kids, getting us all dressed, herself dressed and ready to go – without any of us getting dirty, and to the church on time for Sunday School and morning service. No drama or stress there! Then “the girls” preparing lunch – which often included unexpected guests, cleaning up, afternoon activities; repeat the morning with supper, Training Union, Sunday evening service … not very restful! Not that I would really change much, except to somehow make it easier on my Mom!

Even now in a household of one (plus animals!) I find myself busy busy busy on the day of rest. It seems to be ingrained into us and it’s difficult to slow down. Working retail for many years, I found myself working more Sunday’s than I was off. Now, more often than not I seem to be at restaurants with family on Sundays after church. Personally, I would love to see more and more businesses follow the examples of Hobby Lobby, Mardels, and Chick-fil-A and close on Sundays, giving their employees the chance to have a day with family. But that’s just me ….. or is it just GOD …..