Staring at hope

I sat across the table from my friend; it was my turn to catch her up on my life. The last few months have been months that I wouldn’t change for anything because my God has been refining me. I said with ease, “These last few months have been interesting.”  She replied with, “I know.”  She then said two words that brought me to tears because those two words were the two that the Lord had been laying on my heart.  I quickly asked her, “How did you know?  Did you read something or hear me speak?”  She said, “No, I’ve been praying for you.”  We sat silent and I marveled at the moment.

 

There is nothing like an honest, life-giving conversation with someone that you respect and trust.  One conversation that has intrigued me for weeks in the resurrection story is the story about the two men that encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus. I have been puzzled, angry, and encouraged by it all at the same time.

 

The story is found in Luke 24:13-35. I’m gonna sum it up for you and I’m gonna preach, so hang with me!

 

Two disciples of Jesus were traveling on the road leading to the city of Emmaus on the day of the resurrection.  We know that their journey was about seven miles, which may have taken them about two hours.  While they were walking, they were talking really intensely about their dear Leader, Jesus, and His crucifixion.  Luke tells us that Jesus appeared to them and prevented them from recognizing Him, then asked them what they were talking about.  In my study, I discovered that Scripture tells us that one of these men was actually Joseph’s (the earthly father of Jesus) brother and he was married to one of the Marys.  The two men were shocked that Jesus (who they didn’t recognize) asked them about the events that they were talking about.  Surely, they thought everyone knew in the area what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth.

As they told Jesus about the crucifixion, Luke says that their demeanor was sad. (Note that Jesus was talking to His earthly uncle).

 

Take a look at the dialogue:

Luke 24:19-21

19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.

They continued telling Jesus that some women went to the tomb and Jesus’s body was not there.

This is the part that is frustrating to me.  These two men had eyewitnessed EXACTLY what Jesus had told them was going to happen. They saw the crucifixion and the empty tomb. Yet, they sadly thought all hope was lost.  Even though they walked with Jesus, they didn’t believe that He would do exactly what He said He was going to do.

Jesus response was priceless.

Luke 24:25-26 says that Jesus said, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”

The prophets Jesus was referring to may have been Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15:  “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to Him.”  Or, Jesus may have been referencing the great Isaiah and the chapter about the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.

The line that gets me about this passage in Luke is 24:21, “But we were hoping that this was He Who was going to redeem Israel.”  I shudder just reading that.  There they were talking to the risen KING OF KINGS and their weak faith said, “but we were hoping.”

I shudder because I’m convicted and challenged.  Sweet readers, OUR GOD ALWAYS DOES WHAT HE SAYS HE WILL DO.  I have heard people say things like, “I prayed about it, but God doesn’t answer my prayers.” Or, “The Bible is irrelevant.”  Some people have just given up hope that God even cares about their situation. I know I am writing to someone today who feels just like these men.  You believed that something would happen and hoped it would and then it appears all hope is lost!  You may be in despair wondering where God is in your situation.  You may be so destitute in spirit to the point you can’t pray. My challenge to you today is that our God always stands in VICTORY. He is not weak or defeated.  He is the Warrior Who fights on your behalf continually. He is just as available to you as these men. Don’t miss Him.  One of Jesus’s last words on the cross was to His mother in John 19:26-27.  He said, “Woman, behold your son,” then looked at John and said, “Behold your mother.”  Even in death, He cared for His mother. He also cares for you.  Your pain.  Your wait.  Your anger.  Your frustration. Your hurt. He is waiting for you, and get this, HE IS ALIVE.

Let me pray for you today.

Lord, Almighty, Father, God.  I come before you today on behalf of my sisters and brothers that are facing insurmountable odds.  I ask you in the name of Jesus to give them a season of rejoicing.  I ask you to show them that you are the Risen King and are knocking at the door of their heart with a specific message for them.  Refresh them this weekend with the remembrance of your Son’s sacrifice and glorious resurrection.  Lord, we need you.  We are a needy people with needy lives.  Please move in the readers of this blog today and refresh them with your power. In the Name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Simple Surrender.

Luke 5:11

 

When they brought their boats to land, they left everything they had and followed Him.

 

I am sitting on the balcony of my three-bedroom condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  I am looking at the calm water of the Gulf as it hugs the white sugar sand of the beach.  My spirit has been expectant for this trip for weeks. The last two days have been chilly with the brisk northern breeze whirling relentlessly in an attempt to steal the joy that a trip to the beach would bring. In the midst of it all, I feel God renewing my strength and I see God revealing His will.

 

I feel like God also has a love for the beach.  Much of His ministry was performed around and on water; this word picture writes itself and calls us to greater acts of faith.  God woke me early this morning; I know the beckoning of my Savior because that beckoning keeps me on track and serves as my Guide.  I got out of bed and walked to the beach to walk and pray.  I began my walk searching for seashells; many were doing the same and we greeted each other in a nice Southern way.  I prayed and scoured the sand for a whole, un-cracked, un-tarnished shell to bring back to my kids.  When my quest was unsuccessful, I turned my attention to seek the Lord.

 

I have felt God trying to work something out in me over the last couple of months with the kind of refining He knows that I need to purify my heart.  I could feel in my spirit where my will and His will collided and knew He wanted to speak to me about the issue this morning. So I walked…and was quiet.  I felt like one of the broken shells on which I was stepping.  I felt like a shell that had been tossed and beaten by the waves and desperately needed to find refuge in the sand. When I became quiet, the whispering of God’s Spirit to mine became undeniable.  He spoke a message of surrender to my broken spirit.  In almost an instant, He gave me clarity and the His relentless pursuit over the last few months became apparent.  After dealing with the issue in my heart, I felt whole again.

 

Surrender.  This issue is not an option for the Christian walk.  The first disciples had to literally surrender their livelihood to follow Jesus.  Your desire and His desire for you is never the same because He wants to take you deeper than you are willing to go in your humanness. We are a nation that finds comfort in our routine and crutches of control while desperately desiring to be a part of something greater. Sex, gossip, money, comfort, depression, jealousy, bickering, judgment, and perfectionism are just a few obsessions that hinder our lives as vessels to be used.  God wants all of you so that He can make you whole in Him.  He is jealous for you and He will pursue you relentlessly until His will becomes your desire.

 

I wonder if you have felt the way.  Maybe you feel that the Lord is a loving God that is seeking after you quietly, and you are feeling the pull but can’t account for the reason.  Try one simple word — Surrender.

The dismissal of God? HA!

It amazes me that in our humanity some think that God actually abides by our laws.  We believe that God was dismissed from our schools and social events just because we say that He is not welcome. Some believe that just because we have a judicial negative stance on religion or Jesus that God in His might politely submits to the created as the wimpy Creator.

After the events of last week, I to stand and mourn with our nation. A nation that has excused God from almost every outlet looks to Him now.  Of course we do, because even in our self-sufficiency when the despicable happens we are desperate for Him.  We are desperate for the God of our origin.  You cannot usher Him out of the very soul He created.   You cannot set enough barriers to contend with His intelligence. If you think you can, it’s laughable.

The laws that outlaw God and religious things from courthouses and churches just represent the desperate need for Him in our culture.  When He says He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5) it is not circumstantial!  He knows that we are but flesh (Psalm 78:39) and that we will forsake Him, but His presence is in no way contingent on our actions.  He loves us unconditionally.

Here is a powerful depiction of Gods absolute power in Job 38.

God Speaks Now to Job

38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,

“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?

“Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you [a]have understanding,

Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?

“On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,

When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;

When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,

10 

And I [b]placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,

11 

And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?

God’s Mighty Power

12 

“Have you [c]ever in your life commanded the morning,
And caused the dawn to know its place,

13 

That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?

14 

“It is changed like clay under the seal;
And they stand forth like a garment.

15 

“From the wicked their light is withheld,
And the uplifted arm is broken.

16 

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea
Or walked [d]in the recesses of the deep?

17 

“Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?

18 

“Have you understood the [e]expanse of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.

19 

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,

20 

That you may take it to its territory
And that you may discern the paths to its [f]home?

21 

“You know, for you were born then,
And the number of your days is great!

22 

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,

23 

Which I have reserved for the time of distress,
For the day of war and battle?

24 

“Where is the way that the light is divided,
Or the east wind scattered on the earth?

25 

“Who has cleft a channel for the flood,
Or a way for the thunderbolt,

26 

To bring rain on a land without [g]people,
On a desert without a man in it,

27 

To satisfy the waste and desolate land
And to make the [h]seeds of grass to sprout?

28 

“Has the rain a father?
Or who has begotten the drops of dew?

29 

“From whose womb has come the ice?
And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?

30 

“Water [i]becomes hard like stone,
And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.

31 

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades,
Or loose the cords of Orion?

32 

“Can you lead forth a [j]constellation in its season,
And guide the Bear with her [k]satellites?

33 

“Do you know the ordinances of the heavens,
Or fix their rule over the earth?

34 

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
So that an abundance of water will cover you?

35 

“Can you send forth lightnings that they may go
And say to you, ‘Here we are’?

36 

“Who has put wisdom in the innermost being
Or given understanding to the [l]mind?

37 

“Who can count the clouds by wisdom,
Or tip the water jars of the heavens,

38 

When the dust hardens into a mass
And the clods stick together?

39 

“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,

40 

When they crouch in their dens
And lie in wait in their lair?

41 

“Who prepares for the raven its nourishment
When its young cry to God
And wander about without food?

 

I drove my 1st grader to school today and prayed with her harder than normal days kissed her more times than usual and left her in the hands of the God that loves her more than I do.  Of course as she walked into school, I couldn’t help but tear up knowing the wonderful families that wouldn’t get that chance today.

We, as the church must be called to action, not passively sit by and watch the decline of God being socially accepted.  We must engage in our culture as citizens that care enough about our peers that no amount of rejection from them will stop our mission to show them Christ.  What these families need right now is our great Comforter.

Church will you rise up or hide your face?

I’m thankful for healing.

I woke up this morning so expectant during my time with the Lord.  I regularly sit with Bible open studying the priceless pages of scripture begging God to speak to me. I need Him. This morning He spoke as usual a word that blew me away.

These past few years have been trying. I am not just speaking personally, but for the countless that have lost jobs, lost loved ones, dealt with sickness, are wondering how to put Christmas presents under the tree, felt the sting of sin, and felt the desertion of those that presented as friends.  We are a wounded generation.  The spiritually tried and wounded lay on this battleground we call faith waiting for a medic. Our souls are searching for salve to calm our anxious spirits and our bleeding emotions.

I know the pain that runs so deep emotionally your body aches. In my history, I have laid limp on the floor of my love-extinct house destitute of strength.  However, that is when I found Strength….the Strength that is eternal, the strength that is never weak. The word tired is NOT ONE of God’s attributes.  Some of you have been searching for hope.  You present as strong on the outside, you look good, but when you get in your car or are alone in your dorm or house, tears flow.

Today–I am thankful for healing.

Psalm 71 was the passage of scripture God brought me back to today.  This passage of scripture I clung to more than a decade ago.  Specifically, Psalm 71:20-21, You who have shown me many troubles and distresses WILL REVIVE ME AGAIN, and you will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. May you increase my greatness and turn to comfort me.

I read this passage this morning recounting the past decade of my life.  Abuse, rejection, isolation, divorce, court battles, layoffs, being broke, sickness, have been just a few things that have plagued my decade, BUT HE HAS REVIVED ME AGAIN.

As I studied this passage God brought me to Hosea 6:1

Come, let us return to the Lord. FOR HE HAS TORN US, but HE WILL HEAL US, HE HAS WOUNDED US, BUT HE WILL BANDAGE US.

He is the Bandage.  His bandage not only covers the wound, but it renews the soul.

Here me, He desperately loves you.  I sat in tears this morning reading the tear stained Bible I cannot live without and looked up at my husband and said, “God loves me.”  Your  wound is never too deep or never too secret.

Many of you may be asking, “I know I need God healing from my past, but how do I do that?”  Luke 8:50b, Do not be afraid any longer, ONLY BELIEVE, and she will be made well.  The answer is not some super deep secret that no one can understand but pastors and theologians, the answer is simple.  God loves us so much that He made His way so simple.  We think His way is so difficult and we have to have a degree in ministry to know spiritual truths.  For someone that has been to bible college, let me say this, that is a lie.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE BIBLE COLLEGE!!!!  However, you don’t need a degree to experience God’s truth.  You need a willing and surrendered spirit.

Practically, get alone with God and ask Him to speak.  Even if you have never tried it, tell Him your hurts, open the Bible and ask Him to begin the healing process through His word.  That’s how I started and it has changed my life.  Just one verse of practical truth that is personal to you will change your thought processes.

If God has healed you today from your history, take some time to thank Him. In this week where we focus on thankfulness and what God has given us thank Him for the tangible gift of healing. I never want to be like the leper that didn’t return to Jesus to thank Him for His healing power. His healing power for my past sin drives me every day to reach someone that needs it. I cannot live my life without be intentional about sharing the hope found in Jesus.  It would be tragic if I was healed and didn’t share with someone else where the healing came from.  I have been asked several times, “Where does your passion come from?”  My answer, if you have truly experienced a touch from the Savior YOU CAN NEVER BE THE SAME.

 

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