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Hope in Times like These

I don’t know about you, but I’m weary this week. Where do I even begin sharing some of the sorrows weighing me down? Well, here’s a few – some of which you might be able to relate to:

*Killer tornadoes that have devastated whole areas – like Joplin, Missouri.

*Daily news reports about disappointing public figures who were supposed to be our role-models but decided to live selfishly instead.

*The sixty-year-old I talked to this week who can’t retire because she’s the bread-winner – with an elderly husband and a handicapped adult child at home to care for.

*The family with a girl in kindergarten who has some kind of kidney problem that doctors now say is causing hardening to a wall in her heart.

*Six grieving children of a godly man who just had to plan his funeral days after a beautiful birthday celebration because he fell ill right after the party.

*A sick family member, a wayward relative, and far too many people we know who are moving further and further away from the Lord who loves them!

And the list could go on and on. How about you? What kind of things are you burdened down by right now? How are you handling them? Are you trying to bear up the best you can – or do you have trust that Someone has everything – yes even the chaos – totally in His control?

These are the times that I have absolutely no idea how people make it through life without the Lord. He is the only One who offers hope – hope for today, and an even greater hope for tomorrow. Listen to what Jesus told His disciples when He was here on Earth, dealing with many similar dilemmas like you and I must face day-in and day-out:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (New Living Translation)

In this chapter of John, Jesus gives His followers a glimpse of some of the problems they would face – including losing Him for a season, being scattered, and even being persecuted and killed because of their faith. Yet what was the hope He was leaving behind for all of us? HE HAD OVERCOME! Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the penalty for sin was paid – and all who believe in Him have the free gift of eternal life!

Just a few chapters earlier, Jesus spent time describing what the future holds for those who chose to put their hope in Him. Let’s see what we have to look forward to:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1-3

Yes, even though there is pain and suffering here, someday soon we will see our Lord and Savior face to face! He’s got a special place prepared – just for you and just for me. Notice that He also said we will ALWAYS BE with Him! Jesus – the One who keeps His promises – said He’d be back, ready to escort us to our heavenly reward!

This is the kind of hope our world needs in times like these! This is the exact type of hope you and I need too! So let’s stay strong in our faith – no matter what family, friends, or other fellow humans around us do, think or say. May our witness be more than words: let’s show others that, despite all of our troubles, we trust in the promise given by the Lord Himself that our simple faith in Jesus holds the key to a brighter future than we could ever imagine!

Thought of the Month

So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.

John 16:22

The Treasure of a Mother’s Heart

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:16-19

I recently watched the movie The Passion of The Christ again, and I found myself moved by so many aspects of what the Lord did for us when He gave His life so we could receive the gift of salvation. I was also touched by the portrayal of Mary, Jesus’ mother, who had to witness the brutal abuse and then crucifixion of her beautiful firstborn son.

From the time of His conception, Mary was fully aware of Jesus’ Deity. After the angel Gabriel told her about God’s special plan for her as the mother of Jesus, she burst into song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Luke 1:47-48

Her recognition of the uniqueness of the baby Jesus continued after His birth and the arrival of the shepherds, who explained the divine message they had received from an angel and the “heavenly host.” This was their long-awaited Messiah, the Lord who would save them! She’d received another glimpse of the plan God had for this special child, the One who she had been called to care for and raise to adulthood.

I can only imagine the years of joy Mary must have had with Jesus. When did she first notice His unique relationship to His Heavenly Father? How did she play with Him, pray with Him, and teach Him knowing that her boy was fully human but also fully God? And what other insights into Jesus’ position, power, and ultimate purpose here on Earth did she receive along life’s journey?

There were times when Mary didn’t always comprehend all that her child was called to accomplish. When he was twelve, Jesus couldn’t be found in the group of family and friends returning from Passover in Jerusalem. So Mary and Joseph returned, searching for their young son for three days. When they found Him and asked Jesus how He could have caused them so much worry, He replied:

Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:49-52

It seems as if, little by little, Mary was learning too. She tucked away these Truths about her Son and Savior until that day when she had to watch this blessed gift God had shared with her offer His life so everyone could have the opportunity of being saved from their sins. Yet even in His pain, we see how much the Lord loved and treasured His mother too:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” John 19:24-26

In the midst of His agony, Jesus asked John to care for His mother once He was gone. He provided a source of earthly protection and provision for her, and, in doing so, expressed His deep appreciation and affection for her. Oh how she must have treasured these final words spoken in her behalf in the days, weeks, and months to come!

There’s no better time than this month that commemorates mothers to consider what kind of things we are treasuring up in our hearts too. Sure, we’ve got a lot on our plates these days: high taxes, evil people, split families, government problems, and worldwide calamities. Yet has much really changed since the days of Jesus? I don’t know about you, but I want to be much more like Mary – treasuring those things in my heart that really matter for eternity.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms – and may the Lord bless you in ways that you’ll always treasure!

Thought of the Month

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Can I get a Witness?

The words on the front screen at church were reiterated in our pastor’s message a few minutes later. What intrigued me most was the expression “witnesses.” Who were these people? Why had they chosen to be present when Paul preached? And what prompted the Apostle Paul to even use this term in his letter to Timothy in the first place?

According to scholars, the witnesses were men, women, and children who had gathered throughout Paul’s ministry to discover for themselves what this man had to say. Whether they had believed Jesus was Messiah and accepted God’s free gift of salvation wasn’t Paul’s point. He had shared the Word, and people had been present – watching, listening, and, for some, taking action based on the Gospel message.

Witness is an interesting word. It infers the ability to provide a testimony based on some experience or observation. While it often relates to legal or official proceedings, it also is connected to faith – but not just any faith. In fact, one of Microsoft’s dictionary definitions is “somebody who publically states his or her strong Christian beliefs.” So the assembly mentioned in the Scripture above would have included those who had been onlookers as the apostle shared about Jesus, and some of them would certainly became true witnesses for their Lord and Savior after they believed.

There are many places in God’s Word that talk about this topic, and one of the most famous is that “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith . . . (verses 1-2a).

So this group not only includes earthly observers but also those standard bearers of our faith who have gone before us (as mentioned in Hebrews 11). Basically God gently reminds us that we’ve got a bigger audience than we ever imagined! Those faithful onlookers – including Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and David – surround us! Along with mere mortals in our world, these heroes in the Lord’s kingdom are also our witnesses – watching and waiting to see what we will do with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but this concept alone urges me to strive harder as I serve my Savior! Champions of our faith are cheering us on – like a crowd gathered to witness an event here on earth might do! And, just like the Apostle Paul encouraged, we need to be passing on to others who we truly are and what we really believe. Each and every day people should be able to observe our commitment to Christ – for this is the best testimony we can offer.

Oh may our witness grow stronger and stronger in the days ahead! Let’s remain firm in our faith, fervently serving our Savior as we finish the race He already has planned – with His grace and for His glory!

Thought of the Week

You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.

Isaiah 43:10


A Saint in the Making

March often seems like an idle month . . . a bit of a boring season tucked between the end of football and the start of baseball. Sometimes Easter arrives early, but otherwise we’ve only Saint Patrick’s Day to celebrate – that holiday when even non-Irish men and women wear green garb and eat corned beef and cabbage

Who was that fellow Patrick, anyway? Like another famous figure, Saint Nicholas, Patrick was also a real person – and he lived 385-461 A.D. He belonged to a Christian family of Roman citizenship in Britain, but he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and shipped to Ireland as a slave. After six years of hard labor, Patrick had a dream that urged him to return to Britain – so he escaped, but ended up in Gaul.

After wandering for some time, the young man eventually ended up in a monastery to study God’s Word. He then received another somewhat shocking vision – God wanted Him to return to Ireland! His love for the Lord led him back to the very people who had enslaved him . . . and Patrick’s desire was to help the Irish find freedom in Christ. In fact, one of his first acts was to defy pagan priests by putting out a fire they had set for the false gods worshipped in those days.

In his book, Confessions, Saint Patrick summed up his mission this way:

“I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others . . . If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ’s name. I want to spend myself for that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor.”

Patrick’s dedication to those who had hurt him is amazing, and it was only with Christ’s transformational power that he was able to not only forgive them but also want to fight for their salvation. This is what God’s grace can do in us. It can change our hearts and help us show compassion to others who desperately need to know the love of the Lord!

Another lesson we can learn from Patrick is that we don’t have to go on a special pilgrimage to become saints. The word saint literally means “holy one” . . . someone who is set apart for the Lord. God actually begins this transformation from sinner to saint when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Here are a few verses to remind us of who we are in God’s sight:

” So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.”

Ephesians 2:19

“. . . to the church of God, which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified to Christ Jesus, saints by calling . . .”

I Corinthians 1:2

So, dear Saints, may you find meaning this month in the special calling you have from the Lord. Look for ways you can reach out into your world to share about the Savior. Walk closely with Christ so that nothing gets you off track from doing God’s will. And pray for wisdom and strength as you continue this journey, living up to your status of saint no matter where life takes you.

Thought of the Month

As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

Psalm 16:3

Love – the Lord’s Way

St. Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Some people ask me why – after all, it’s really a relatively minor holiday that allows stores to sell cards and candy to the masses.

While that may be the commercialized side of February 14th, I prefer to look at the heart of the celebration. Valentine’s Day is about love – and that is the Lord’s message to us each and every day of our lives.

Look at this verse from one of the first books of the Bible:

“. . . for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . . showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”Exodus 20:5b, 6a

In this section of Scripture detailing the 10 Commandments, God explains how He detests sin – but He also describes His love that extends to generations of people who love Him. And part of the Lord’s lovingkindness includes Him clearly pointing out how He wants us to live and interact with one another.

In fact, if we go to one of the final books of the Bible, we find these words:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:7-8

Since we don’t really know how much time we have on this earth, God gently reminds us that “above all” we are to love others. Why? Because love helps put a lid on our selfishness and sinfulness. And when we show love for each other, we are really revealing what the Lord is all about to everyone watching us!

So even if you aren’t overly sentimental – or don’t have a soft spot for cuddly stuffed animals and cream-centered chocolates, you can still experience an overwhelming rush of emotions this month when you think about the way the Lord cares for you. He has loved you from the beginning – and He longs to share that compassion with you all the way through eternity. His love is unselfish, unbridled – unending. Most of all, He desperately wants all of us to love more and more like He does in the days ahead!

May the Lord of Love bless you and keep you this month -and always!

Thought of the Month

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”

John 3:16-17