Turn on the television or pick up a newspaper and the headlines scream with the negative, evil and dark happenings in our world today. It can be depressing.
Recently, the author of a daily devotional said, “Sometimes we see the evil in this world and wonder how a loving God could let it go unchecked. Perhaps we should be asking a different question. Aren’t goodness, love, and care evidence of the presence of God in our midst?”
The writer went on to relate the goodness he experienced firsthand while recovering from knee-replacement surgery in a rehab clinic. His recovery team and the staff members he met were from Russia, India, the Philippines, Albania and Romania. He writes, “These caregivers from all over the world were like ministers to me. They all had one purpose in mind: to provide for my recovery needs with compassion. I experienced God’s presence in every caring act.”His words reminded me of a contemporary Christian song titled “Mighty to Save,” sung by Hillsong United. Part of the lyrics follow:
Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me.
Everyone needs forgiveness
A kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations…
Jesus is our hope in a world filled with darkness. We can lament the evil around us or we can do as He says in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells His disciples, along with the crowds that had gathered: “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.”
Rain pelted the windshield decreasing visibility. Strong winds forced me to keep both hands on the wheel. It was almost dark, and I was still 20 minutes from home. It’s where I really wanted to be, not returning from setting up my book table for the next day’s women’s event.
In desperation, I cried out to God, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m tired. I want to quit.”
What was wrong with me? I love writing, especially using my God-given gifts for His glory. I’ve been at it for over 10 years without a break. When you commit your plans to the Lord and He opens those doors, it’s difficult to walk away, even when the flesh wants to give up.
If you’ve lost your joy, turn to Jesus, the giver of joy.
God knew I needed to be there that Saturday, although I didn’t—until later. My flesh was still rebelling the next morning when I reluctantly climbed out of bed, dragging myself through the routine of making myself presentable.
Arriving at the event venue, I learned the air conditioners weren’t working properly. Oh great, I thought. It was going to climb into the 90s that day. We’d be baked alive inside the metal building.
Five speakers of various ages were on the agenda, along with a day set aside to worship the Lord in music. The conference opened with songs of praise and my heart responded to the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit. As each speaker shared her testimony, I was amazed, once again, to be renewed by the graciousness of our Creator God.
While the final book of the Bible can be challenging to read and study, for those who place their hope in Jesus, it’s an affirmation of an eternal future. For me, one verse in Revelation paints a vivid picture of Jesus’ invitation for each of us.
When I first read Revelation 3:20, I could picture Jesus knocking on my door. I’d already opened the door of my heart to Him. However, when I first viewed English artist’s William Holman Hunt’s painting, “The Light of the World,” this scripture came alive. In the painting, a figure representing Jesus is preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door.
What does an open, vibrant relationship with our Lord look like?
According to Hunt, “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good subject.”
The door Jesus is preparing to knock on in Hunt’s painting has no handle. It can only be opened from the inside. Explaining the symbolism, Hunt said that this represented “the obstinately shut mind.”
The painting is rife with symbolism. The door’s iron work reveals rust representing a door unused for some time. Hunt’s brush also captured a door overgrown with dead weeds and trailing ivy representing a deserted place. Even if we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior, our relationship with Him can stagnate, rust and become overgrown with the cares of our earthly life.
In the past, I led an active lifestyle, running and exercising to stay fit. Next month, I’m facing knee replacement surgery.
I can’t experience the thrill of a runner’s high anymore. When my running days were over, I was forced to race walk. Now, I walk with a sturdy stick to help me navigate through my neighborhood. Osteoarthritis has set in because of the breakdown of joint cartilage, limiting my movements and causing pain.
When you’re used to being physically active and can no longer enjoy those things you have in the past, you have to adapt. There are days when I climb stiffly out of bed. I find the aging of my temporal body hard to accept.
After all, age is just a number.
One recent morning, I felt sorry for myself, silently lamenting my limitations. Then, I opened the shades covering the back door to my deck where I spied four squirrels chasing each other on the railing. Watching their playful antics, I was filled with joy. After a good laugh, I realized how blessed I am.
The three of us clasped hands and bowed our heads. We were standing in the middle of a discount department store aisle, praying for an employee who was battling brain cancer. Covering the lower half of her face was a protective mask to ward off the threat of germs.
My friend, Sonya, knew the employee and introduced us. As the woman’s story unfolded, I learned it wasn’t her first battle with cancer. Her fighting spirit drew me in as did her positive attitude.
The best growth comes through persevering through trials.
As we continued shopping, we struck up a conversation with another store employee who had beat cancer. She shared her amazing story of healing. Placed on hospice, her only hope was divine intervention. Prayers were answered and this amazing woman is, indeed, a walking miracle.
Both women have placed their hope in God. Hope. What does it look like? For me, hope shines brightest when I’m at my lowest.
Hope is the word I recently chose to study in the scriptures. Each morning, after I read my daily devotional, I turn to the concordance in the back of my Women of Faith Bible and look up verses referencing hope. One of my favorites is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Many families have been destroyed after a loved one passes on, leaving a material inheritance behind. A better legacy to leave behind is a spiritual one. While we usually associate the word “inheritance” with material possessions, a spiritual legacy cannot be measured.
A spiritual inheritance is passed on during our lifetime through godly words, actions and prayers. However, as stewards of a spiritual legacy, we have to develop our own spiritual lives first.
If we have a desire for the Lord, it becomes contagious.
As a mother and grandmother, I’m seeing the fruits of my own spiritual growth and prayers. Recently, I drove over four hours one way to experience the joy of my two oldest grandchildren’s decision to follow Christ. Although they received the Christian sacrament of baptism when they were younger, they didn’t fully understand the implication. Cheyenne, 12, and Brennan, 11, chose to celebrate their decision to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord once again by being baptized through full immersion.
For too many years, I lived a “take no-risks” life. I was living what most would call the American Dream with a nice house, a husband and two children in rural Oklahoma. Life, although not always easy, was comfortable and predictable.
Although I knew of God, I wasn’t intimately acquainted with Him. I’d attended church and Sunday school off and on throughout my lifetime. My relationship with the church was on-again/off-again, sitting in a cushion-lined pew. I volunteered to help with children’s ministries but that was the extent of my commitment.
I wasn’t expecting to see so much human suffering.
It wasn’t until my 28-year marriage ended 15 years ago that I began searching for something—someone—to fill the void. Since that October afternoon in 2001 when I asked God for direction in my life, my journey has led me back to the body of Christ and on adventures I never dreamed of: mission trips outside this country and a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. More importantly, it led me into the arms of Jesus, the One who loves me more than life itself.
Kristin Welch, author and Pastor’s wife, also lived a comfortable life in a Houston suburb. In her book, “Rhinestone Jesus,” she writes, “…for most of my pew sitting years, I ignored something very important. I was full of faith, but I wasn’t obedient. I could quote scripture and talk about all my blessings, but I couldn’t show you my faith in action.”