Does Jesus really understand our trials?

“Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. He said to them, ‘I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert’”—Mark 14:32-34 (CEB).

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Distressed? Agitated? Afraid? Would you use these words to describe Jesus? Most of us would not. However, in Mark 14:32-34 above, we read that Jesus experienced emotions just like the rest of us.

I’m participating, along with other church members, in a 40-Day Lent study by Adam Hamilton. In Day 10 of Hamilton’s 24 Hours That Changed the World: 40 Days of Reflection, he reminds us that Jesus was feeling what any human should feel when facing what He was going to face. “In Jesus Christ, God experienced anguish, sorrow, and suffering as human beings do.”

In Hebrews 4:15-16, Paul wrote, “For we do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but, we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Have you ever been distressed, agitated or afraid? I have. I recall a time in February 2007 when I received a phone call from the wife of my oldest son. My son was being transported by Life Flight to a Tulsa hospital for an injury he’d sustained in an accident.

My son, who is what you would describe as a “horse whisperer,” had been picking up a horse from a client when the animal spooked. Whirling around, the horse kicked, striking my son in the side of the face and knocking him unconscious. Thank the Lord, my son was not alone. A friend called 911.

Are You Hiding Behind a Mask?

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).

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During Lent, many Christians choose to give up something. Chocolate, soft drinks, junk food, bread and red meat are just a few of the things given up during this time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter.

Recently, I learned a 13-year-old girl at our church has given up wearing make-up for Lent. Men, you may not be able to relate, but for women, especially a young teenager, this is a sacrifice.

Addie’s mother shared the following on the second day of Lent: “Feeling very blessed! Last night at our Ash Wednesday service, the girls were talking about what they were giving up for Lent. Addie said she was giving up make-up. ‘Wow,’ I said, ‘that is a big one.’ I then realized today they are taking wrestling pictures. (Note: Addie is a wrestling cheerleader) I told her it would be okay to wear make-up for the pictures. She looked at me and said, ‘Mom, if it is in God’s plan that I not have make-up on, then that is what I will do.’”

When I read this post on Facebook, I was not surprised. I know this family and their dedication to living a Godly life. However, I was amazed and touched by this 13-year-old girl’s willingness to give up wearing make-up, even for a yearbook photo, to honor her commitment to God.

Our true identity is found in a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

The next day, as I was getting ready for an appointment, I was watching a medical show. I was stunned when the doctors shared the story of a woman in her forties who had sought their help for her addiction to make-up. The woman admitted she had lost jobs and friendships because it takes her three to four hours to apply her make-up each morning.

Are You Ready to be Used by God?

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time”—2 Timothy1:9(NIV).

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“If you’re not ready to be criticized for your obedience to God, you’re not ready to be used by God.” When I shared this quote on Facebook from Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of LifeChurch.TV, I received quite a few comments. The response I found intriguing was the following: “Interesting: The whole object of it is to be ‘used.” The statement was followed by a frowning face emoticon.

For those who don’t use social media, an emoticon is short for “emotion icon” and is a pictorial representation of a facial expression. In absence of seeing someone face-to-face, it lets the recipient understand the individual’s feelings or mood.

Curious about the writer of the above comment, I went to his Facebook page. Although we are not friends on this social media site, he can see my posts. I was surprised to see he describes himself as an agnostic atheist. Looking up the definition of an agnostic atheist, I found the following: “They are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity and agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact.”

“Once the call of God comes to you, start going and never stop.”

I replied to the agnostic atheist by saying, “…that is our higher purpose. That is why we have been created…for HIS purposes.”

Only Love Can Crowd out the Evil in our World

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs”—Proverbs 10:12 (NIV).

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In a recent morning devotional, the writer shared about the loss of his 17-year-old grandson, the fatal victim of a robbery. Commenting on his grandson, the grandfather said, “We had recently attended his high school graduation, and he planned to enter college in the fall. He was a handsome, loving and talented young man. Now, suddenly, he was gone.”

As the writer continued to share his story, my heart went out to him and his family. I can’t imagine the pain they’ve experienced. The writer said, “The senseless murder of our grandson was not part of God’s plan. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘led the killers to tear a hole in the glory of God’s world?’ The only answer that came to me was that evil had taken root in their lives because love was not there to crowd it out.”

As I pondered this thought, I had to agree. If someone never experiences the love of a parent, a kind neighbor, a compassionate school teacher, a loving church family or even the kindness of a stranger, how do they understand the love of Christ? As the writer above said in his devotional, “Many people who commit crimes against their neighbors have not experienced God’s love through their interactions with others. Much of the violence in life can be prevented if we Christians extend love to all people.”

If God can love us, surely we can love those around us.

All people—even the ones whom we’d rather avoid? The ones that rub us the wrong way or slyly insult us…do we have to love them too? Yes, according to Jesus, even the ones who annoy us, step on our toes, invade our personal space or whose personal habits cause us to turn up our nose in disgust.

Are You Searching for Good or Evil?

“If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”—Proverbs 11:27 (NLT).

good-vs-evil-300x266We can read the Bible cover-to-cover many times but never recall every scripture. However, the Holy Spirit brings the perfect one to mind in His timing. That’s what happened to me when I recently attended LifeChurch.TV with a friend on a Saturday evening.

The first scripture Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel cited in his sermon was Proverbs 11:27: “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”

Using a real-life example, Pastor Groeschel used birds to demonstrate his message. A buzzard, he said, searches for dead things, like road kill, to feast on. However, the tiny hummingbird flits around looking for sweet things—the sweet nectar of a flower or that provided by a human in a feeder. “Both,” he said, “find what they’re looking for.”

As I thought about the scripture and the pastor’s example, I realized how true it is. If we don’t look for the good, then we will certainly see the evil in everything. I’m not saying we should look at the world through rose-colored glasses but neither should we be a “Negative Nancy” or a “Debbie Downer.” (Note: If your name is Nancy or Debbie, please do not be offended.)

How often we take offense, choosing not to seek the good in another person or a situation we cannot change. Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Clinging to what is good should be the choice each Christian makes.

 

Through the renewal of our mind, which can only happen through a transformational relationship with Jesus Christ, we can begin to see the good in the world. Some believe it’s difficult to see the good when we are blasted constantly with negative news, courtesy of the media. Maybe that’s because bad news travels faster than the good. There is a common saying in the journalism business which is, “If it bleeds it reads.”

How would you describe true love?

“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me”—Matthew 25:34-36 (MSG).

Dear God

If you were asked to describe true love, how would you answer? Look up the synonyms for love in a thesaurus and you’ll find the following words close in meaning: affection, appreciation, devotion, emotion, fondness and friendship, along with several others. But these are man’s words.

I like the definition for love found in God’s Holy Word: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

 If we don’t love, how can we, as Christians, be the light He calls us to be in the world?

From a secular viewpoint, love is often associated with the physical aspects of a relationship and the expression of that love through gifts such as candy, flowers and cards as seen on Valentine’s Day. While there’s nothing wrong with these things, from a Biblical perspective, true love is found in the spiritual. True love is not just between a man and a woman but is found in all of our relationships when we seek a higher calling.

Are You Letting the Lord Direct Your Steps?

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”— Proverbs 16:9 (RSV).

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Have you ever wondered why you’re at a specific job, living in a particular place, how you ended up married to a certain person or even why on Earth you’re here? If you’ve ever had questions like these and didn’t have the answer, maybe it’s because the Lord was directing your steps.

Sometimes, it’s only by looking back years later that the answer is revealed to us. Other times, we experience an “AHA” moment.

In 1971, when I enrolled in college, my plans were to pursue a degree in elementary education. When I sat down to discuss classes with my assigned advisor, he said, “You’re going to have a difficult time finding a job after graduation because there are too many elementary education majors.”

His statement led me to change my major to secondary education with an emphasis in English, my favorite high school class. While I’d never taken a journalism class, I decided to enroll in one the first semester as an elective. I loved it and eventually changed my major to journalism education with a minor in English. After teaching for several years at the high school level, I came to realize it was God’s plan all along. Although I’ve been retired from education for 10 years, I still stay in touch with, and am able to minister to, many of my former students.

If Jesus understood God’s plan for His life, shouldn’t it be your goal to let the Lord direct your steps also?

Recently, a friend shared with me about her sister’s “AHA” moment when God revealed to her why she was at a particular job. Webster’s dictionary defines an “AHA” moment as a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension. My friend’s sister had been questioning why she was there until she was led to minister to a fellow employee who was distressed about a family member’s pending incarceration. My friend’s sister could relate because she, too, has a family member who is incarcerated.