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The daunting task of rebuilding the wall was ostensibly before the Israelites. The audacious opposition from neighboring enemies prevailed against the Israelites. God’s people, the ones called for His Name’s sake, faced an endeavor larger than their abilities, harder than their strength, more hopeless than their possibilities, more relentless than their energy, and more despairing than their will.

Does this new year find you with a new battle, or maybe one that has been tormenting you at your heels for months or years? Can you identify with the Israelites? Does it seem as if you do not have the capabilities, resources, help, willpower, guts, or right perspective to overcome? Does your courage seem lost in the rubble and destruction of your past?

HELP IS ON THE WAY!

Nehemiah (a Jew), while still in Babylon, heard of his people trying to survive in the aftermath of a burned down, broken down city: “‘[survivors]are in great trouble and disgrace'” (Nehemiah 1:3). With a broken and heavy heart, Nehemiah requested the king’s permission to help his own people through the dark time. The pagan king miraculously granted Nehemiah permission to leave his position of cupbearer and return temporarily to his hometown. King Artaxerxes not only let Nehemiah go, but sent him out in the most elite style! This is one of my favorite parts of the story! Just so we get the picture and profoundness and punch and phenomenal of this unprecedented moment, the following are different translations for Nehemiah 2:9:

“Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.” ESV
“The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.” NIV
“The king even sent along a cavalry escort.” The Message
“Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.” NASB
“Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.” KJV

Truly surreal. We hear the word “surreal” thrown around in the media especially during interviews where the interviewee just won a game, match, reality contest, or when something out of the ordinary occurs. It is a moment in time when what just happened or is happening seems unreal or dreamlike. For me, the time that captured the meaning of the word “surreal” was at my oldest daughter’s wedding. She was engaged to the man God ordained for her, and we were blessed beyond measure for the two of them to spend the rest of their lives together. We had planned every detail of the wedding months ahead of time, but when all the guests arrived and lavished the outdoor venue with their attention onto my daughter, the radiant bride, I felt as if I were in a dream. The reality or acceptance that we had the wedding of my firstborn literally took a year for me to comprehend. Makes me wonder what Nehemiah must have felt as he was traveling with the king’s cavalry as his escort, riding in pomp and splendor with the king’s stamp of authority! He brought with him the best the world could offer to the men, women, and families who fiercely needed a rescuer – someone who could see beyond their mess and do something about it. Just a few short months before his royal ride, he was at home in Babylon weeping, fasting, and begging God on behalf of his relatives. He prayed, “let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant…” (Neh. 1: 6). When the time was right for Nehemiah to inquire of the king about leaving and helping the remnant of Jews, he was just hoping to live through it! Now he sits atop the back of one of the king’s horses with the king’s military men surrounding him! God heard and answered Nehemiah’s humble prayers in only the way He can do. Reminds me of Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Sounds like a surreal experience to me! Don’t give up praying! Keep seeking God for yourself or for a loved one or friend. God hears your prayers and is “delighted” in you (Psalm 18:19).

So…without announcing in a grand way his arrival, Nehemiah instead quietly investigates Jerusalem, specifically the destruction of the wall which was in utter ruin and useless to protect. Then, he gathers a group of men and explains why he is there and how “the good hand of [his] God was upon [him]” (Neh. 2:8). It wasn’t about him. It never was. Nehemiah didn’t risk his life for anyone’s sake except the Lord’s. He gave glory to his God and proclaimed what God had done through the king. He had worldly authority and could have taken advantage of his luxuries, but he chose to represent his heavenly Authority and glorify the King of kings.

One by one the men worked under the leadership of Nehemiah to repair and rebuild the protecting wall around Jerusalem. They were working as fast as they could, and at the same time standing guard from the onslaughts and mockery of the nearby neighbors. The Jews hadn’t worked this hard or come together as one in a long time. This was a turning point for everyone. They had a bold leader, determination in their hearts, and able bodies to accomplish what would be a defining task that would mark the Israelites as once again a separate nation. The enemy then dug deep in his bag of tricks to do anything in his little power to emotionally defeat God’s people from prospering. Called them names. Mocked their obedience. Ridiculed their efforts. Belittled their supplies. Accused their abilities. Plotted against them. It almost worked. It almost worked. Satan’s name calling against you, Satan’s mockery, ridicule, belittling, accusations, and plotting are nothing but a bunch of lies. His work is meant to destroy you and keep you from fulfilling God’s purpose and plan for your very life and life of your family. Pray mighty warrior, pray! Enlist other close warriors to pray on your behalf. This is war.

This is the moment Nehemiah gave the pep talk of a lifetime. As the Israelites were at the point of giving up, not having the last bit of strength to keep going, Nehemiah gathered the men together and charged them with these words: “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (NLT).

Don’t be afraid!

Remember the Lord!

And fight!

Nehemiah’s testimony: “So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out” (Neh. 4:21).

May this too be your testimony, my testimony. That we will continue to do “good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do,” (Eph. 2 10) and that we will “hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:16) knowing that God “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:8).

Macbeth

Currently, in my senior English classes, we are studying Shakespeare’s tragedy  Macbeth. The play is so fascinating. We will end up spending around four weeks reading it along with assignments, activities, and assessments. But, I could easily spend double that time analyzing and enjoying the structure, language, plot, allusions, and characters.

The play opens with three witches who plan to meet up with the protagonist, Macbeth, that day. The first scene ends with the witches, also referred to as “Weird Sisters”, chanting in unison: “Fair is foul and foul in fair” (12). The phrase from the witches means that whatever is considered good or of virtue is actually bad, and whatever is considered evil is actually good. The second scene is of Macbeth and his warrior friend, Banquo, who are both coming off the battlefield victorious. Macbeth proclaims, “So fair and foul a day I have not seen” (39). Shakespeare has Macbeth’s words echo the witches words to show that Macbeth senses something is not right – a gut feeling – intuition – a feeling something “in the air” so to speak is evil.

Immediately the witches make themselves known to Macbeth and Banquo as they leave the battlefield. It is interesting because even though the witches are targeting Macbeth, they approached him not alone, but alongside his buddy Banquo. The witches greet Macbeth with three titles, only one of which is his at the time, therefore “prophesying” his future. They hail him as “Thane of Glamis”, “Thane of Cawdor”, and “King” (49-51). Their prophetic words planted a seed in Macbeth’s pride. The idea of him being king had never entered his mind until the witches hailed him as king. The reigning king, King Duncan, was highly respected and admired, so there had been no reason to dethrone him.

After prodding, the witches foretell that Banquo would not be king, but his sons would be kings. The two men actually joke about the witches until news was brought to Macbeth from noblemen that he has been given a new title – the title “Thane of Cawdor” which gives the appearance that what the witches had prophesied came true even though him being given that title was already in the making. Macbeth thinks what the witches have said is now no laughing matter. He begins to have inner conflict of wanting to be king at any cost  – a ruthless ambition – to be king even if it means to murder King Duncan.

Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in the early 1600’s, and yet it is quite mind-boggling how close to home it can hit in the 21st century. The characters really are timeless and universal. As we read Macbeth and see his inward struggle, we ask ourselves the same questions. The thing of it is, is that our humanity really is not different even though the times and setting is very different. Pride still is one of the greatest enemies of our souls. Shakespeare alludes to many biblical stories as well as referencing Scripture over a thousand times throughout all his writings. It is common knowledge that the Bible was a main source of education in the Elizabethan time, and Shakespeare had a knowledge and understanding of the Bible that was exemplified throughout his works. The play, Macbeth, was written for King James I – the king who commissioned The King James Bible. I would love to teach Macbeth to high school students at a Christian school!

Back to Macbeth…So, Macbeth is starting to believe that the “supernatural solicitors” words “cannot be ill and cannot be good” (135). Banquo observes that Macbeth is beginning to be tempted by the witches words, and has some words of his own for his good buddy! This is why I decided to blog today about Macbeth.  Banquo’s words are still so fitting for us! If only we had such a good friend as he! Banquo calls it as it is! Banquo takes the opportunity as Macbeth’s friend to tell Macbeth not to let his thoughts entertain any idea the witches have planted in his mind. Banquo boldly says, “That trusted home,/ Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,/ Besides the Thane of Cawdor. But ’tis strange./ And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,/ The instruments of darkness tell us truths,/ Win us honest trifles, to betray ‘s/ In deepest consequences” (121-127).

In other words, Banquo is explaining to Macbeth that the witches are of the demonic realm and cannot be trusted. And, secondly, they lie to us telling us what we want to hear only to seduce us then use the very thing we trusted in the witches against us with unimaginable consequences.  Shakespeare is using Banquo’s insight to teach his audience how harmful and deceptive witches and witchcraft really are. During the time of the writing of Macbeth, there had been plots on the assassination of King James I by witches.

We all need a friend like Banquo who can be honest even in personal, possibly uncomfortable areas of our lives; someone to speak the truth to spare us of regretful decisions. Adults too make bad decisions – we are not exempt from needing advice – good, solid, biblical counsel.

Proverbs 12: 15 tells us “the wise listen to advice.” Also in Proverbs 19:20 we are told, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

Unfortunately, Macbeth did not heed the honest and truthful words of Banquo. He decided to go against reason and truth, and instead to commit treason and murder. It didn’t end well for Macbeth or for his wife, Lady Macbeth.

When the lies of our enemy sound like something we want to believe, that is the exact moment to listen no more.

I came across a quote from Martin Luther I have been pondering. May his words serve today as coming from a friend:

“The preacher should not preach {the Messiah} as silver and gold, but as peace. This is the beautiful, magnificent sermon; that no one else but he himself has established peace between God and us – as well as all creatures! What is all the wisdom, knowledge and power on earth if we are not one with God? If this peace stands, I will not be pestered much by the devil, death, sin and hell. They can be as evil as they want; I have grasped hold of the Word and am at peace with God. But if the devil does not want to leave me in peace, what do I care? For my heart stands in the true assurance of God’s peace. The man named Jesus of Nazareth – Lord over everything – is my Lord, so you cannot devour me!” ( Martin Luther, Sermon on Easter Monday Afternoon, 1544).

 

 

I purchase a red geranium every spring in memory of my Granny, Frances David. She would buy several pots of red geraniums every spring, set them out on the back and front porch and water them faithfully. She was so proud of her geraniums; I can still hear her beckon for my approval of their beauty. She tended to the geraniums so meticulously – wish mine would be as pretty as hers. Recently God actually spoke to my heart through my red geranium on my back porch. It was a day of soaking in some needed back porch rest from what had been a very busy season for me physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. The geranium was fairly new; I was hoping my “not so much” green thumb would give me success with this geranium. That day as I basked in the spring rain, I saw the tiniest bloom, literally just a speck of red! I marveled at the whole planting process – the seed in the dirt to the expectation of a full bloom. It hit me that even the tiny speck of red at that moment didn’t even know its own potential. The patience, the process of maturing, the sun, the water, the soil, the nutrients – all work together so that at just the right moment – the glorious beauty is revealed to be marveled at and given praise to the One and Only God who is King of kings. What mystery, what surprise! I felt in my spirit God was wanting me to know that patience and pouring myself into prayer and allowing Him to work was my job especially during this season of my life. Sometimes my job was to “Be still” as God instructs in Psalm 46:10. He desired for me to be still in my soul, to not be anxious, to not be fearful, to not be the scared to death uneasiness that I cannot even sleep.

At this time, my heart goes out to those suffering from hurricane Harvey as well as those in Florida experiencing the turbulent hurricane Irma at this exact moment. What is there to say to console those going through such mess and loss and hurt and anxiety and fear?

Those moments when we at anticipating hope fulfilled, when we are supposed to let something run its course naturally, but we want to interfere. Those moments when things are working out in its own time, but we think we can’t wait anymore. Those moments when we honestly don’t want to be still, we want the whole world to know our mind, our situation, or circumstance. I think that is what God says and means when He tells us to “Be still and know that He is God…”. Trust that He is working, He is creating, He is orchestrating, He is intervening even when we can’t see it. The glimpses we do see of the red blossom slowly showing itself from the bud, know that there is more to come in God’s perfect timing. He is an on-time God. He knows your need before you even speak it (Ps. 139:1-6). He leads us to quiet waters (Ps. 23:2). He is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). He never sleeps nor slumbers (Ps. 121:4).

The familiar verse “Be still, and know that I am God..” (Ps. 46:10), is not to read in a gentle, monotone voice as if it were being whispered. No, actually it is a giant, loud, authoritative command! Listen for the words in its context of Psalm 46: “refuge”, “trouble”, “help”, “fear”, “earth give way”, “mountain fall into the heart of the sea”, “waters roar and foam”,”mountains quake with their surging”, “nations are in an uproar”, “kingdoms fall”, “fortress”, “desolations”, “wars”, “bow”, “spear”, “burns”, “shields”, “fire”. When life if turbulent and scary and lonely and out of control, God ushers in the holiest “Be quiet!”

The famous prophet Samuel uses the exact same Hebrew word “raphah” when he tells King Saul to “Stop!” (1 Samuel 15:16). Saul is caught in disobedience to God by not annihilating all of the enemy’s people, possessions, cattle, and plunder. Saul took some of the best for himself. Samuel approaches him after a very unrestful night and asks in a sarcastic but can’t believe it, like he can’t believe what his ears are actually hearing, authoritative, parental tone: “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14). Saul then tries to justify himself by saying that the soldiers brought these animals to sacrifice to the “LORD your God”…and “we totally destroyed the rest” (vs. 16). Samuel, amidst all of Saul’s rationalizations and lies, raises his voice (there is an exclamation point after his word) and commands “Stop!” In other words, stop talking! Stop lying to me and to yourself! Stop justifying yourself! Stop being self-righteous! Stop all this nonsense talk! Too much noise going on – the sheep are bleating, the cattle are lowing, your mouth disgusts me – just stop would you??
This same word “Stop!” is the same Hebrew word the psalmist states God says: “Be still”, “raphah”.

We can make this same kind of noise whether aloud or in our own thoughts. Maybe the doctor has given us a severe diagnosis and all we can replay in our minds is the bad news we heard from him and the nurse, and then the “what if” scenarios start rolling through our mind and heart. Maybe you or your spouse loses a job and the voices in your head tell you that you will lose everything, children will go without shoes, bills won’t get paid, house will be taken, reputation will be lost, and so on. Maybe it could even be a good thing like getting pregnant and yet all the voices in your head tell you that you will be terrible parent, that you won’t be able to love the baby, and that you aren’t worthy to have a child. “Fear usually comes and goes, leaving us in flight, ready to fight, or just temporarily frightened. But anxiety hangs in there. It grips the mind, paralyzing it for all but its own purposes – an endless rehearsing of the same useless thoughts. It is the fuel that propels us into controlling behaviors of all sorts. We can think of nothing but keeping a lid on things controlling the problem, and making it go away; it is the stuff codependency is made of” (Codependent No More, Beattie, 58). Stop! Stop it already! Enough! Be still!

During a life-threatening, turbulent time for the Israelites, God gives words through Moses to His people who have escaped the Egyptians only to find them on their heels with murder weapons: “The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14 KJV, italics mine). Another time, when the Israelites who had come home from the 70 years of captivity had found themselves in a very emotional time, was commanded by the Levites: “Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved” (Nehemiah 8:11, KJV, italics mine). This awesome phrase “hold your peace” in Hebrew means “to be quiet, rest, keep silent, be still, hold tongue, speak not a word, worker”. Love the last definition “worker”! You are doing something when you are holding your peace by holding your tongue!
A New Testament moment when “hold your peace” is seen is in Mark 4:39 when Jesus “got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” The word “Quiet” is the word for “hold your peace”.

When anxious thoughts disturbingly rise up within your heart and mind, don’t give in to the lies. Don’t let you mind wander to the “what if” scenarios. Max Lucado in his book Fearless writes, “Destructive anxiety subtracts God from the future, faces uncertainties with no faith, tallies up the challenges of the day without entering God into the equation” (Lucado 46).

For those of you in the midst of a real live hurricane, or those who are in the midst of a personal turbulent time:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress
.
Psalm 46

I have been co-teaching The Gospel Project on Sunday mornings during the Sunday school hour, and the subject for the past few months has been the exiles and return of the exiles. The whole time I had been preparing to help teach, I wanted to include the genealogy of Jesus recorded in Matthew 1. I never really got a chance to mention that particular genealogy, and as it turns out, it was for a good reason! We got a chance to camp out on the genealogy for a whole Sunday school class time.

It is so crazy how much this genealogy in Matthew one means to me. I am so moved by the simple inclusion of the deportation of the Israelites as they were taken captive by the Babylonians. When the exiles returned home, they were one people again. The exile is the only event recorded in the genealogy! Jeremiah predicted that the exile to Babylon would exceed/ out do/ be more significant than the deliverance of Egypt (Jeremiah 16:14; 23:7). It is a new spiritual marker.

I will never forget the moment I saw with my spiritual eyes this inclusion in Matthew. I was in the throes of writing Back From Captivity and somehow I came across it. It was one of those moments that time stopped for me. It was a moment between God and me where Scripture jumped off the page and catapulted supernaturally into the heavenlies to pierce my heart with a message of good news. I remember I stopped reading when I came to the phrase “After the exile to Babylon” (Matt. 1: 12) and looked around me as if Someone had written it just for me. It felt as if Someone was pointing at those Scriptures, highlighting them, then penetrating them in my heart and mind to reveal in my spirit that God, my Heavenly Father, knows where I have been and what I have been through. That it is all a part of my identity, but that none of it is in vain. It has served a purpose. The event – the exile – or whatever one may be experiencing – even the terribleness of it – has a divine place with divine plans and divine purposes. I suppose it validated for me that what Satan meant for harm, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

If you feel as if your future is wasted or lost or too messed up because of your track-record; that now your life is a mistake, a complete disaster because of what you have done, take in the words of the famous hymn Amazing Grace which so profoundly testifies, “I was lost but now I am found!” Child of God, you have a new beginning! Do you see that in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1? You have a new beginning!! You are found not to live in shame and embarrassment or humiliation, but to live nearer to the Father’s heart, to be close to Him, to look even more like Him, to be covered by His blood shed for you, to be redeemed, bought back, to be found in Him. It isn’t your story, but His story over your life. It isn’t about your mistakes. It is about you being found by God.

This is the message of the cross. This is the message from Genesis to Revelation. This is the message of salvation. This is the message of forgiveness. Jesus did not die only for the sins you committed before your time of salvation – the time before you accepted Jesus to be Lord over your life – He continues to offer His forgiveness for our sins committed overtly and covertly after salvation. This is an ongoing relationship. The Scripture, “Forgive us our sins” as recorded in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:4 is not to be a one-time prayer but a daily prayer. The books I, II, & III John were written for the early Christians, those belonging to the family of God. Jesus admonished the believers when He wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:8-9).

If you are not familiar with the account of the Babylonian exiles of when God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to take captive Israelites, who were living in the Promised Land, because of their continual rebellion against God and their idolatry, but after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God allowed King Cyrus to declare a decree issuing those captives to return home to Jerusalem to live again as one nation and people serving God together. Know that having to leave the Promised Land and being taken captive was the worst of the worst. For the Israelites it was corporately and individually the lowest time of their lives. Their identities were stripped. All that they knew of who they were as a people of God was ripped away – exposed for anyone and everyone to see their shame. It was a dark time of being isolated due to their own sins of ignoring of the prophets and believing lies. Their lives collapsed right before them as they hit rock bottom. God through Moses warned of what would happen to the Israelites if they were disobedient. This is the description of being sin-sick, of being in captivity:

“Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, “If only it were morning!” – because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.” Deuteronomy 28: 65-67

Michael Card in The Bible Speaks Today uses the word “nadir” to represent this point of Israel’s history. It was the all-time low.

Here in Matthew 1, the very first book of the New Testament, we find this genealogy, this list of men and women in the lineage of the only perfect person to ever walk this Earth – to find individuals who were far from perfect, but who also did not continue to live in sin, but at their low times, looked up to their Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior. Within this genealogy of the generations leading up to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, beginning with Abraham, tucked away among many names is the nadir of Israel’s history. It was the Lord’s will not to omit it, skip over it, ignore it, act as if it didn’t happen, choose that it didn’t happen, or replace it with a grand event. Including this event in the genealogy of Jesus Christ means something to you and me. This is quite significant. I believe we can apply this significance personally and/or corporately. Whatever it may be that is a part of your track-record that you consider to be your lowest point in life, the thing that has humbled you, and yet has also caused many grievances to the point of you coming to the end of yourself – may be or has been the very thing God uses as a testimony in your life of His goodness, grace, love, and faithfulness. Your past, your journey, even with the dark times marked with guilt, can be redeemed and used to manifest the glory of our God and Savior. Whatever you or your family has gone through or is going through – when you feel so alone and unusable – God is revealing to you that in Him there is hope. What the Israelites came through and overcame, so you too can live and survive through this time to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). Whatever your blot may be – divorce, bankruptcy, loss of job, prodigal child, infidelity, alcoholism, imprisonment – God is not finished with you; He has beautiful plans for you. Your calling is not null and void. God is great and awesome and will uphold you. Rest in Him and find your way in Him.

“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning, my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18: 28-29

From my own emptiness I sit down to write this blog. I am not empty in all areas of my life. I am quite full with the wealth of my time with my three daughters as they are all home from school for Christmas break. Their richness of life experiences as each one is in exciting times in their season of life, fills me as they retell, ask questions, and wonder over what the past semester brought them. The biggest news by far is that my eldest got engaged in September. My middle daughter finished her first semester at college, and by the way, has her first boyfriend. My youngest completed her first semester of  concurrent classes at TCC as a junior at Broken Arrow High School, wrapped up her volleyball and soccer season, and began her second year on the girls varsity tennis team.

I am also not empty in my career. My full-time job as a senior English teacher at Broken Arrow High School fills me on several levels. The students, as seniors getting ready to graduate high school, are embarking on their new life as a first time adult resembling  a new born baby entering  his new world outside the womb. They are antsy with anticipation, but also embody much anxiety as most truly cannot see themselves outside the walls of the security of mom and dad, school, church, work, and well-known friends. My career also fulfills me in the sense that as much as I have tried to run-away from my God-given talent of teaching (The teacher in me really is from God, I would never have chosen a career that puts me in front of a class – especially at the 12th grade level. I feel most comfortable as a behind-the-scenes type person), I am greatly awed at how much I absolutely love my job! Not only do I get to teach the neatest students on the planet, I get to coach girls junior varsity tennis which is a year round sport. I get to be on the tennis court everyday of the school year with players who love the sport as much as I do! The last thing I am responsible for at my job is the club Students for Christ which is getting revamped as the FISH club with help from a local youth pastor and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The club is praying for miracles as God uses His people to do His work on the campus of Broken Arrow High School.

The Lord has given me a new place to serve at my local church, Arrow Heights Baptist Church. I am co-teaching the co-ed young singles class. We are working through the curriculum The Gospel Project. I believe the Lord is using this class to fill some empty places in me. It isn’t the class or class time that fills me; it is the studying time in preparation of the class time. The hours spent in God’s Word of reading and research take me to a place I am most intimate with my Heavenly Father, my Teacher, my Love, my Light, my Life. He alone satisfies me with the richness of His presence. His invitation is for anyone who too feels a need for more: “‘Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters; and the  you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live'”(Isaiah 55:1-3a).

The part of my life I feel empty in is in the area of writing. Maybe it is because I do not write often enough. Maybe I have been avoiding it. Maybe I haven’t made it a priority. Maybe I put other things above this time.

This is exactly what I want to address in this post – emptiness that only the Lord Jesus can fill, fulfill, sustain, enlighten, engulf, satisfy, parch, or even indulge.

Isn’t this the real-life account of the mother of Jesus in John 2: 1-11?

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother  was there, and Jesus  and his disciples had also ben invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “everyone brings out the choice wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did her in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

What comes to me through this quiet, secret miracle is the faith of Jesus’ mother and the servants. The wine was gone, the jars were empty, then Jesus tells them to fill the jars with ordinary water, and yet, nothing ordinary happened – Jesus’ first miracle took place with only a handful knowing what happened (verse 9).

What sits to be filled in your life?

What has Jesus told you to do?

I am reminded of other biblical miracles. For starters, creation itself: “The earth was formless and empty…And God said, ‘Let their be light,’ and there was light (Genesis 1: 2,3).

Another time is when Abraham by faith went to a mountain God instructed him to sacrifice his son. “…As the two of them went on together, “Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father? ‘ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and the wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together” (Genesis 22: 6b-8).

A New Testament account is when a few of the disciples fished through the night with nothing to prove for it. John 21 reveals the miracle of nothing to indulgent. “‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said,’ We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”

One of my all-time favorite evidences of faith is in Mark 16. Jesus’ body had been laid in a tomb secured by a large tomb after His crucifixion. Three ladies who probably didn’t sleep a wink the night before, left early for the tomb in order to anoint His body. As they were walking to the tomb, the Bible records a portion of their conversation: “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” they asked one another (Mark 16:3). Even though they knew beyond a shadow of doubt they could not, even all three of them, begin to roll that stone away in order to anoint Jesus’ body – they went anyway! They did not have the strength to supply the duty, but by faith they did what was ceremonially required of them to do. “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away” (Mark 16:4).

What I believe God is calling you and I to do today is…to do something! Do something! Fill the pots with water, speak God’s Word, go where He has instructed, try again, or go in your little strength. What do you need, not want? What can you do to fill your emptiness with water as an act of faith? As God leads and guides you – do!

Even as I sat down this morning with really very little creativity or desire to write, I prayed as James directs us to do: I prayed for wisdom to the One who gives generously  (James 1:5).

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt…” (James 1:6).

 

 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12(NIV)

When you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the day seems as dark as the night. When you haven’t heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit in far too many days. When hope seems lost. When the answers don’t come. When the waters around you seem to engulf you.

“But God remembered Noah…” (Genesis 8:1).

Is the reader to infer that Noah had been forgotten by God? Maybe Noah and his family felt forgotten. Do you feel forgotten? Does your “new normal” seem unbearable? Are you sick and tired of suffering? Is there no relief? Is the same ‘ole same ‘ole depressing? Do you wander how much longer you are capable of continuing?

The real live story of Noah and his family, as told in Genesis 6-9, encourages me. Can you even imagine how ready Noah and his family were to get out of the ark? Talk about cabin fever! This ark by theologians has been described as being tomb-like, as well as like a prison. It was a dark place with no sunlight to warm their souls. We recall that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, but did you realize they were in the ark for more than a year? After it poured from the sky for more than a month, they were not able to leave the ark until the waters receded and the ground dried up. Noah had been warned by God that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights. But, did he expect to be in the ark for more than a year? Did he know to forewarn his family of the length of their stay in the boat? Did they trust Noah like God trusted Noah?

I wonder if Noah’s wife whispered ridicule in her husband’s ear, or if she yelled in front of the whole family her doubts about Noah’s faith? Did she criticize her husband and say God has left them to die? That God doesn’t really care. Did the wives of Noah’s sons question their father-in-law mocking the ark as being one of the largest coffins ever made? They all must have been so ready to get back to a normal life – to wash and bathe in private, to eat from the ground, to cook without holding on to everything. Ready to get a good nights rest on a bed that didn’t sway. Ready to feel the sunlight on their faces. How restless they all must have felt as they cautiously established a new normal on the ark. As days went on and on and so much rain – so much tossing and turning – and so many questions unanswered. When will they be released? Has God forgotten? How and where will they live after the flood? Will there be food? Would the sun shine again?

We, too, may feel forgotten by God. Noah knew about the timeframe of the rain; we don’t normally get the exact about of days a trial or tribulation may last. Our tribulation may have been forewarned by a doctor’s prognosis. It may also though have come completely out of the blue catching us in the most unexpected moment of our lives. We count the days. It’s been 3 days, then a week, then a month, then before we know it, its been hammering us for almost a year. Why doesn’t He do something for me? Where is He? Why can’t He just answer this one prayer of mine? How much longer do I have to wait? Does He even hear me? Maybe I should just take matters into my own hands.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Amid all the corruption on the earth, Noah had intimacy with God. Even though everywhere he turned wickedness prevailed, Noah walked with God. He sought the Lord, he heard from the Lord, he had a relationship with his Creator. Noah fellowshipped with His heavenly Father. He didn’t have a church family, accountability group, Christian radio, or Bible studies. He didn’t have access to Christian conferences, podcasts, retreats, devotionals, magazines, or books. And yet, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (Gen. 6:22). Don’t you love and admire that about Noah? God distinctly gave Noah instructions and he followed them unwaveringly. It took Noah 100 years to build the ark. I have no words to express a man like that’s patience, perseverance, faith, hope, and stability. Astounds me!

I think Noah lived like he wasn’t forgotten!

Oh, I am sure he wanted to escape the ark just as anyone would! He must have been craving for fresh air and open skies. He may have even felt sorry for the animals as they had no place to run free. But, he knew God had told him to build the ark. Then, God did just as He had said He would; God brought the rain and preserved he and his family from death. God had been faithful and would continue to be faithful. This is what it means to have hope.

Paul encourages Christians in their tribulations: “And we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us” (Romans 5:2b-5, NIV). The word “perseverance” is translated as “patience” in the KJV. The word in the Greek means to be “cheerful or hopeful.” It also means to endure and to wait. So, this word perseverance/patience basically means to not give up, to have hope, to keep on keeping on. In our suffering we stay hopeful because it builds our character, and then what is most interesting, is that the end result is where we find hope fulfilled. We begin in our sufferings with the mindset of having hope, knowing at one point, our hope will be experienced; what we expected will happen. We have confidence that God will come through for us!

I can’t help but think of a different mindset. During trials, tribulations, sufferings, we want to do the opposite. We want to give up. We begin to believe our situation is hopeless. We begin to listen to the critics who mock our faith. We doubt God. Some may even completely walk away from God and say He didn’t come through. That they gave this Christianity, this “God” a chance, but was abandoned by the One who said He would never leave us. Now being mad at God is all the relationship has come to. We live with a sick heart.

Did you know that one reason we as Christians have the Bible stories written down for us was to help us to keep the faith? “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Noah is one of so many in the Bible who teaches us to hope. I also recall Joseph who was sold into slavery, Jonah and the whale, Abraham and Sarah, and the list could go on and on. They teach us that just because we don’t feel like God is working or it seems we can’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t doing anything. “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you and the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night” (Psalm 121:4-5).

“But God remembered Noah and al the wild animals and all the livestock that were with him in the ark…(Gen. 8:1). No, we are not to infer that God forgot Noah. The Hebrew word for “remembered” means “to mark (so as to be recognized), to mention.” It simply means at this point God is choosing to act on behalf of Noah and his family and the animals. I love the part of the definition “to mark.” Makes me think of marking time, kind of like we do with calendars. We mark our calendars for upcoming events, or we mark our calendars for something that happened that may not have been planned so that we will always remember the exact day.

One of my new favorite things about this account of Noah is that Noah patiently waited for God to tell him they could leave the ark. “Then God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ark…'” (Gen. 8:15). Noah had sent a raven out of the window, then a dove 3 separate times in 3 weeks time. Noah was anxious to get off the ark! He knew it couldn’t be forced. Same for us. No use trying to force anything. Let’s use our time to enjoy God, to enjoy the life He has given and has planned. Trust that He sees us. He remembers you. Don’t be in a hurry to move toward the next thing. Be patient. God is working and has a plan. Even when frustration sets in and the thought of continuing is overwhelming, rest in God’s love and care and providence for you. Call upon Him to give you the strength and courage needed. Continue to wait with expectation.

“So Noah came out…then Noah built an altar to the LORD…” (Gen. 8: 18, 20).

Hope fulfilled! The rains stopped. The wind died down. The ark rested. The waters receded. The dove brought back an olive branch. The dove found a resting place. The Lord called he and his family out. They are saved. They are alive. They are free.

It wasn’t just a kissing the ground kind of moment and moving on with the rest of his life. This was the type of moment where it seems the heavens opened up, the type when you know God has outdone Himself. The kind of moment that out of sheer compulsion you are brought to your knees in awe of your Savior and Deliverer. Not to kiss the ground but to look up and give glory to the One who is faithful! You clap your hands when there is no music. You shout “hallelujah” at the top of your voice not caring who hears. You raise your arms in total surrender acknowledging you are not God and never will be. The moment you know in your heart you will never be the same.

“Then God blessed Noah…” (Gen. 9:1).

A blessing is coming. Believe it! Don’t forfeit what God has in store for you because of a lack of trust in God (Jonah 2:8).

I leave you with a prayer from Paul to the church in Rome.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

HOPE

Good Friday was yesterday. Jesus was in the grave three days. Friday is the first day. Today would be the second. Tomorrow we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. May this story never become dull to our ears or our hearts or to our eyes.

woman crying

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angles in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. John 20: 1-12

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early the morning of the third day, saw that Jesus’ body was gone and suspected that someone had “taken the Lord out of the tomb;” she ran to the disciples with this news. At this point, no one knew the real story. At this point, all they have to go on is an empty tomb. Even though Jesus had spoken to them about his death and being raised, their minds had not yet put it all together. The boys end up giving up and going back home to grieve (Mark 16:10). Not Mary Magdalene. She stayed at the tomb. Maybe to her going home was useless without her Lord, her Rescuer, her Deliverer, her Teacher. Why go home? Why go back to life without Jesus? Life was meaningless unless she had the Christ, the Son of God in her life.

She was the only one to stay at the tomb. She didn’t just stay there, but she wept. It wasn’t the silent kind of crying where tears stream from your eyes but no noise is heard. John records that she “wept” which means “to sob, wail aloud, bewail, weep” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). This same Greek word for “wept” appears a few other times in Gospels. In Mark 5:39 family and friends were “crying and wailing loudly” for a young girl who had died. Mark 14:72 states “And he [Peter] broke down and wept” over his denial of Jesus. Luke 19:41 records that “He [Jesus] wept over it [Jerusalem].” This expression of grief is when your whole body grieves. It is when one can’t help but to express it loudly. This isn’t your everyday run of the mill type of sorrow. This is the extreme type. Something so horrible has happened and it hits you like a ton of bricks and the only thing you know do to is to get loud!

As I think about Mary that day – “As she wept…” As she was bawling her eyes out, all alone, in complete confusion – she was doing the ugly kind of crying – the crying that has no answers, only grief. The crying that says “I don’t know what to do or even where to go.” I am sure the past came suddenly to her mind. Her times with Jesus. His words to her. How He taught her. How she was delivered of seven demons and was among several women who followed him along with the disciples and took care of His needs (Luke 8:2). How she was with Him when He was crucified (Mark 15:40). Now what would she do? How could He be gone? Did she begin to doubt? Did she wonder if all of it had been a mistake? Is He really gone forever?

Have you experienced this depth of grief? Have you given yourself permission to weep loudly? Do you need to be alone and pour your heart out to Jesus? Do you need to hash things out with Him? Do you feel helpless? Do you feel like your life isn’t worth living anymore? Do you feel lost and with no hope? Does your life suddenly not make sense? Do you wonder how anything good can come from the circumstances you are currently facing? Are your eyes swollen from crying so hard? Do you feel as if no one hears you?

“As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb…” (John 20:11). She bent over and looked one more time inside the tomb. What can you do again that before revealed only the bad news? For Mary, to look again into the tomb meant to see His absence. She didn’t avoid or deny the empty tomb. This was the last place she knew Him to be. Is He really not there? Why is He really not there? In her grief, she sought answers. She did something. She did something worthwhile. She didn’t crawl into bed and stay depressed. She didn’t run away from her life. She didn’t not grieve. She “bent over” and looked with her eyes into the tomb. Keep your eyes open dear one! Search for truth! Search for Jesus in your circumstances! Open His Word to find good things!

As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that is was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni?” (which means Teacher).

As Mary kept her eyes open and her heart soft, she experienced one of the greatest evidences of the glory of God ever witnessed! She was the first to see Jesus after His resurrection!

Dear one, weep and mourn and cry out loudly. But keep your eyes open to see the miracle God has for you!

As Paul expressed to the Ephesians, I leave his words with you this Easter weekend: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart maybe enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead…” (Ephesian 1:18-20a).

I watched a new classic, a “must see” dramatic movie last night in the comfort of my own home. The movie was Gladiator. Although it is based on historic events, it is not a non-fiction movie or even based on a true story. And yet, the fictitious character, Maximus, an ordinary, normal person, not one born of noble birth, was moved and infused with power to act on behalf of loyalty to the king and country, truth, honor, and of good conscience. If you have seen the movie you know how dramatic and life-like the swords are used in battle as well as in the entertainment arena of the coliseum. The swords within the hands of the warriors and conquerors sliced through victims as if the people were made from paper. The swords penetrated with the initial cut with no mercy. I have no idea how a movie like that could be made without really hurting anyone! Unbelievable. The sword in the hands of someone with a mission, someone with honor, someone with authority, someone with righteousness on his side knew only victory. If we only had a glimpse of the power of the Word of God unleashed before us! We, my friends, would be unstoppable!

The Word of God is not just a historical account. The Word of God is not just a textbook like in a school classroom where one opens the textbook to read of historic events and literary analysis of people and places who are now dead. Yes, those accounts matter and have effected us today and will continue to have an effect for future generations. The Word of God, the Bible, is not just a historical account; it is not just history. The author is not dead! Yes, the one who moved the pen may be dead, but the One who’s heart moved the pen is not dead. He is alive! His words are alive. His Word, His truth, is meant to change us. We are not to read His Word just intellectually. It isn’t just a lesson meant for moral reasons. The Word of God should resonate with His Spirit living inside of us moving us to repentance. Having been in the Word and receiving His Spirit, we exemplify our repentance with courage through the gifts of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22).

When you go to church, when I go to church, when you open your Bible in the quietness of your home, when I open my Bible in the quietness of my home, know and hear and feel and see the power of God through His fresh words revealed to you! Don’t just stop there – be moved. Moved to give the hungry something to eat, moved to give the thirsty something to drink, moved to invite in a stranger, moved to clothe the naked, moved to look after the sick, moved to visit prisoners (taken from Matthew 25:33-36).

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” Hebrews 4:12(ESV).

I am not one to spend time on YouTube, surf the Internet, watch videos when they appear on my Facebook feed, nor click on random clips just for fun. BUT, I will have to say that for whatever reason, I did hit “play” on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKejPcknbko

I am glad I did! The look on the homeless man’s face was perfection! I could tell he was uncomfortable at first surrendering his bucket to a stranger, then uncomfortable again when the guitarist sat on the other side of him, then again as the young man shook his hand. Or was it shock? Shocked that someone noticed him. Shocked that someone cared. Shocked that someone wanted to sit next to him and touch him.

The phrase the young man asked the homeless man, “May I borrow your bucket for a bit?”, has not left my mind since I saw that video two months ago.

The homeless man was in a big city on a crowded street. Some people’s reaction to the homeless man could have been: “Get off the sidewalk- go to a shelter or something!” or “You stink! Move away!” or “Get a job!” or “You’re just a beggar, no one cares about you!”.

And yet, this young Christian man sat down next to him and asked the homeless man if he could borrow his bucket. The young, Christian man gave him an invitation. Hesitantly, the homeless man accepted. “May I borrow your bucket for a bit?” was the invitation.

His bucket. Reminds me of a current trend: having a “bucket list”. I have always been anti-bucket list. Never could sit down and write a list of things “I want to do” or “I want to have” or “I want to meet” or “I want to go”. Too many “I’s” for me. Something I have learned in this 40 + years on this Earth is that God can and will “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20).

Back to the bucket in the video clip. The homeless man was asked to give up temporarily one of his only possessions. It held his sleeping mat. Maybe on good days, it held lots of coins. His bucket represented his homelessness. The bucket represented something shameful; he had no where to call home. He had no where to lay his head at night. He had no where to invite strangers over.

The bucket is symbolic for anything in anyone’s life that reflects emptiness, neediness, loneliness, hopelessness, and shamefulness.

The one object that symbolized the homeless man’s lack, his need, his inability to even care for himself, was the one object that the Christian asked to borrow. The Christian invited himself to borrow the one item that symbolized the man’s hopelessness. It was an invitation the homeless man could have refused for the sake of pride or fear. But, he didn’t. He humbly gave to the Christian his empty bucket.

Do you or I need to give someone or Someone, namely Jesus Christ, our pride, our fear? Do we need to hand over our empty wallet, empty home, empty talent, empty marriage, empty dream, empty stomach, empty soul, or empty heart?

The Christian, young man in the video literally turned the homeless man’s bucket upside down! He turned it upside down and made beautiful music with it! The bucket was revolutionized. The bucket was revived. The bucket was profitable. The bucket was filled. The bucket in another man’s hands became a miracle story.

What once was a symbol of shame could be turned into a symbol of grace.

Instead of being the generation of “My bucket list” takers, let’s be the generation of “Borrow your bucket” fillers.

What can you and I do to fill someone’s bucket? What can we do to turn someone’s life upside down? What can we do to share the hope of Jesus Christ? What can we do to invite someone in their worst to show them we care and so does Jesus? What can we do to find someone who feels shameful and offer grace?

It is by invitation. If the person refuses your help, move on. Just as Jesus invites us to accept Him as Lord and Savior, we either receive or refuse. He doesn’t force Himself on us.

“Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55: 1-3).

If/When God leads you to bless someone by filling his/her bucket, please feel free to share it in the comment section of this blog!

Are you in need of peace? Are you in need of hope? Are you in need of healing? Are you in need of purpose? Are you in need of protection? Are you in need of answers?

Have you been searching for help? Have you been searching for someone who cares? Have you been searching for relief? Have you been searching for significance?

Have you struggled with guilt? Have you struggled with shame? Have you struggled with addictions? Have you struggled with insecurity? Have you struggled with depression?

Where is one to go to get help, find answers, be safe, or live a life with purpose? Where can one go to be healed, to be cared for, or to feel important? Where can one go to be free? Where can one go to release burdens and baggage? Where can one go to know hope?

The world we live in today offers so many answers does it not?? Try this, do that, use this, go here, go there, search inside, think big, take this, join here, create happiness, be you, play this, embrace that, give this, give that, improve this, develop that, serve here, serve there, vote for him, vote for her, read this, read that… oh for goodness sake, the list is never ending!
One major problem to what the world offers is that it is just so convincing! How could we not try “it”?! “It” comes with a guarantee and with high ratings. “It” obviously worked for someone else, so “it” must be able to work for me, right??

The truth is – nothing the world has to offer could ever satisfy the deepest longings of the heart and soul. “It” may work temporarily, but never lasting.

“I’m convinced that human beings instinctively seek two things. We long for meaning, a sense that our life somehow matters to the world around us. And we long for community, a sense of being loved” (Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace, 32).

I need you to know that THERE IS A PLACE you can find peace, hope, healing, purpose, protection, answers, help, care, relief, significance, freedom, mercy, grace, freedom, love, and so much more!

All of these things and more can be found in Jesus Christ. He is the place you can run to! He is the place you can cry out for! He is the place you can search for! He is the place to find life!

In John 14 Jesus spoke to His disciples and told them to not let their hearts be troubled and to trust in God and in Himself. He also advised them that He was about to leave and prepare a place for them where He will be. Then He added: “You know the way to the place where I am going” (italics mine). Thomas replied honestly, seeking answers, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” (verse 5)? Just like Thomas, we, too, doubt the easiness of knowing God. We, too, doubt the simplicity of finding Him. We, too, doubt what we have already been taught. We, too, doubt what is directly in front of us.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
It is Him! It is Jesus Himself! He is near. He can hear your prayer. He can answer your prayer. He is with you!

Never forget what Paul wrote to remind the church in Philippi, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
In Christ Jesus all your needs will be met! Halleluiah!

I’m NOT suggesting you run to the nearest church or knock on the door of the nearest Christian or get baptized. Those are follow up activities.

Please do not mistake the church for God. Please do not mistake a Christian for Jesus. Please do not mistake an act of worship as salvation.

There is a place to find lasting good news – it is found in the One and Only Jesus Christ.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 1-4, 14).

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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