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WHILE YOU ARE WAITING

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire.

Image of woman waiting

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Image of person in mudpit

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.

Image of Jesus walking alongside

He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 

Image of music

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.

Image of many worshipping

Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

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UNRAVELED

Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel.

Having lost my beloved job and all that went with it, my life – and I – fell apart. I experienced a four-year dark night of the soul.  My persona, the identity that I’d built to compensate for the inner sense of brokenness, crumbled. I began to look more deeply, mostly because there was no other option. I had to face the pain of my difficult and sometimes traumatic childhood. Whilst often desperate for some relief or solution, it became clear that this was a process of unbecoming, of unravelling.”  (shared by Fiona Robertson)

CHANGE IS PAINFUL

Have you ever felt that you are also becoming unraveled?  Maybe you knew that an upheaval process might eventually prove for the good, but in the back of your heart have you doubted? Change is painful. Maybe the worst type of change is when the rug is pulled out from under you and you didn’t even realize the rug was loose. In the process, we may actually need to be unraveled; to be taken apart at the seams.

THE “FEAR OF SCARCITY

I wondered why I become unusually upset during seasons of change. I came up with a term which seems to fit: “fear of scarcity”. When something is scarce, there is a shortage, a famine, a drought. In my life there are times when I have asked for help, resources, or even love from believers and the supplies offered (or not offered) have been scarce. I adapt to such a life by trying hard not to ask for “too much”.  This fear of scarcity in asking help from people can color how I also view God.  I believe that God loves the world, but hey, couldn’t He be just too busy or short-staffed to personally have time for me? 

LOSING RESILIENCE

Then begins my unravelling.  With the tumult of circumstances, I come to the end of my own resources.  Maybe because of age, maybe because of yet another major change, I lose my resilience.  Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel. I’m on the path to nowhere. I need God to unravel the knots I am in. Have I presumed that my God is too small?

GOD BREATHES TRUTH

Despite my fears of scarcity, God breathes truth into my soul. His perfect Word states: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:3-5) Regardless what my heart may feel, God sticks around for the hard work of reworking my life. He truly loves the unlovable and redeems the unredeemable. No matter what I think or how I feel, there is no scarcity with God. He has the strength, the love and the resources to unravel the largest knots which clutter my life.

HIS RESOURCES ARE ENDLESS

Do you also need to be unraveled? Are you tangled up in knots of fear? Please know that God has plans and knits together the most beautiful creations. You need not fear scarcity from the Father. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. Call on Him; His resources are endless. Allow Him to unravel at will – He can be trusted. Fear no more.

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MY WAR STORY

The rubber was about to meet the road, so to speak. No more “weekend warriors”, as the National Guard were often referred to. This was the real thing. We were advised to get our financial and legal matters in order.

Iraq invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990. I was seven months pregnant with my first child. My husband was serving in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at the time, so news such as that was more than just a front-page headline; it was cause to take notice. As the crisis unfolded, it became apparent that the question was not if my husband Mike would be activated to serve, but rather, when.

UNCERTAINTY LOOMING OVER US

The last months of my pregnancy were overshadowed by the uncertainty looming over us. The rubber was about to meet the road, so to speak. No more “weekend warriors”, as the National Guard were often referred to. This was the real thing. We were advised to get our financial and legal matters in order. I was barely holding it together. Praying that the situation would get resolved quickly; knowing that it was not as simple as that. I turned to God, knowing that I could not do this on my own. I did not have enough strength to get through it.

TURNING POINT IN MY LIFE

This was a turning point in my life, and in my faith in God and His provision. I leaned into God like never before, asking Him to give me the strength that I needed. With a great deal of hope and more than a little anxiety, I tried to keep my focus on managing one day at a time. As I did, I began to see God work.

I PRAYED

In the early months of the crisis, they called other military units. Mike’s unit didn’t receive the call. Home for the birth of our son in October, Mike was called to service late November. His preparation for deployment took place at Ft. Indiantown Gap, so he came home on the weekends leading up to his departure. We were blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas together. Shortly after New Year’s Day, Mike left for the Middle East. I prayed with confidence God would take care of him and all involved.

STRENGTH I DIDN’T KNOW WAS POSSIBLE

I knew that God had it all under control. God carried us through this, even though I couldn’t see the future. In ways I never experienced before, I saw God’s faithfulness and care for me. I developed a strength I didn’t believe was possible. God gifted me with visits, phone calls and offers of help from family, friends and neighbors. Admitted to the hospital for gall bladder surgery in April, God worked out everything for me and our newborn. My mom moved in and took care of the two of us. Through the times of loneliness and fear, I felt deeply loved and cared for.

HIS FAITHFULNESS IS A SHIELD

In the book of 2 Samuel, we read David’s story. Thought greatly blessed by God, David fell into grievous sin. Confessing those sins, David didn’t take God’s forgiveness lightly. Even as he experienced the consequences of his sin, David never lost his belief in God’s love and faithfulness. 2 Samuel 22, David writes, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior…. And in Psalm 91:4, He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

YOU NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH LIFE ALONE

God is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is working on your behalf in every situation you face. You never have to deal with anything in this life alone. God will be with you, always. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

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HOW TO LOVE YOUR BETRAYER

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there,  Will you forgive me?”

How does one forgive a betrayer? In 1947, just two years after her liberation from a concentration camp, Corrie Ten Boom recounts that she came from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.” And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward through the crowd. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp where my sister and I were sent.

WILL YOU FORGIVE ME?

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!” And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Will you forgive me?”

FORGIVENESS IS NOT AN EMOTION

I stood there with coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

THEY WERE ALL BETRAYERS

How does one love betrayer(s)? In John 13 we have more than the infamous and unrepentant betrayer (Judas). It is easy to forget the disciples who skedaddled off the Mount of Olives when the soldiers arrest Jesus. Then there is out-spoken Peter, who uses his oratorical skills this time to announce to everyone in earshot that he was not one of Jesus’ followers. All betrayers.

THE MOST DIFFICULT LAW

Jesus knew what was to come in the next few hours before the betrayals. After Judas leaves the room, Jesus gives His remaining disciples one of the most difficult laws in all Christianity: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

FAMILY TALK

This is family talk, a command from the Heavenly Father to His beloved children on how they are to relate to other believers.  How does one forgive their betrayer? Corrie recounted, “I forgive you, brother! With all my heart!” This type of love is the mark of the true believer that shouts louder to the world than any bumper stickers, t-shirts or emojis.

SINCE I HAVE LOVED YOU…

How do we love one another? Ray Stedman writes: “In this passage, the Greek, literally, says, ‘As I have loved you in order that you might love one another.’ One is the cause and the other is the effect. As in many places in Scripture, the word ‘as’ here can better be translated ‘since’: ‘Since I have loved you in order that you might love one another.’ Here our Lord is saying that his love for us will stimulate and awaken within us the ability to love other people.”

ONLY THROUGH CHRIST

This love was the cause and the identifying mark of Corrie Ten Boom’s love for Christ. Only through Christ could she stretch out her hand to her former enemy. Has Christ’s love stimulated and awakened within you the ability to love other believers, even your betrayer(s)?

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AN INCONVENIENT MEETING

The Savior Who could be anywhere else in the world, sought to be with the broken.

Jesus meets the serial adulteress in John 4:1-42. If there was TikTok in His time, this would be trending news. Jesus was exhausted and sitting on the edge of the village well. The sun was beating down. Often Jesus had dined with tax collectors and sinners, but here He extended Himself beyond the religious, social and economic barriers of the time. He befriended a woman, an outcast who repeatedly made wrong choices and had born the price.  Despite the opinions of His disciples, Jesus loved outcasts.

THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER

One commentator calls this event the Gospel of John’s version of the prodigal son, but this is with the prodigal daughter. Everything valued in this culture she had lost – her good name, reputation, stable home and loving family.  She received a flood of contempt from those who knew her.

NOT IN THE “GOOD PEOPLE” SECTION

I remember years ago traveling to the Deep South and saw 2 different signs over the water fountains at a garage.  One said “White” and the other said “Colored”. I had no clue what the 2nd sign meant, except that I did wonder what color the water was. In John 4, we could group the individuals into the “Good People” and “People Who Can Only Obtain Their Water In the Middle of the Day So That They Won’t Contaminate the Good People”. This woman was not in the “Good People” section. In fact, because she was a woman, she was on a rung further down the social scale.

DROWNING WAS IMMINENT

Yet, Jesus specifically sought her out.  He went out of His way to have a conversation, just with her.  Why? Because the God of the Universe loved this woman deeply.  God wanted to have a relationship, despite all the barriers blocking such a possibility. It was no surprise to Jesus that this woman was unclean, impure and heretical. The Jews considered the Samaritans as half-breeds. Years previously, the Jews in this region had intermarried with the heathens and produced a religion which was a curious mix of paganism and Judaism.  Yet, God still sought out this Samaritan woman. She was “everyman” (her name is never mentioned).  She stands for each of us who have succeeded in getting deeply lost under the oceans of life; drowning is imminent. Jesus sought her.

HE SOUGHT TO BE WITH THE BROKEN

She was the most unlikely person for Jesus to seek out in a village of people who were all hated by the Jews. All her confusion about the encounter, all her attempts to divert the conversation elsewhere, all her sin, Jesus met head on.  He engaged in friendship with her. The Savior Who could be anywhere else in the world, sought to be with the broken. As a result, Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One truly is the Savior of the world.”

GOD WANTS TO TALK TO YOU

Jesus calls us to minister to the broken, the most hated, the unlikeliest people to receive the message.  So, whether you are a man, a woman, or a “half-breed”, the God of the Universe wants to talk to you. Sit down…this may take awhile.

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THROWING DOWN MY FEAR

When fear is taking a holiday in your life

I remember climbing the Zion National Park’s Angels Landing Trail (pictured above). The entire hike, I was terrified that my foot would slide on some gravel and take me over the edge. Possibly a wind gust would come and blow me over. During the climb, I hugged the wall and looked up. But, coming down, hugging the wall was of little comfort, as the whole panoply of cliff & valley almost sucked me over the edge. I’m sure I was feverishly praying the whole time but the fear was so great that I don’t remember what I was thinking. To this day, I have never fallen off a cliff (or even a ladder), but the fear of heights can immobilize me.

IMMOBILIZED BY FEAR

The Israelites were immobilized when they were caught between the Red Sea and Pharoah’s Army. Moses wrote, “They were terrified and cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 14:10 NIV).  They imagined the worst and assumed that God could not take care of them. They wanted to take the first bus back to slavery in Egypt. No way did they want to move forward, as God had planned. Their imaginations were in overdrive.  Fear (along with Satan) was having a holiday.

THINGS WE CAN BE AFRAID OF

What does God say about fear? The Bible certainly does not deny the existence of many things we can or will be afraid of. Jesus began his conversation with the disciples (as recorded in John 16:1-33), “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God… Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows.

FEARS APPROACHING

In this important last conversation with his students, Jesus had given them a litany of things that were approaching which would directly impact them. And then He comes to the grand conclusion: But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone… But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

IMAGINING THE WORST

When I was climbing Angels Landing Trail, I imagined the worst. I would fall to my death, my children would be fatherless, and my wife would be left a widow. None of those things had yet to happen as I began the climb, but I considered them as vivid possibilities. Maybe the wisdom of climbing the trail was debatable.

GOD IS WITH ME

However, no matter where I am, the Word of God commands: Cast all your cares upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will not let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22) God was there on the Angels Trail, in the midst of my worst nightmare. I still can’t believe I challenged that fear. Thank you, God that with every step into the unknown, You are with me.

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AN ABUNDANCE OF LOVE

It’s hard for me to believe that I don’t have to consider God as lacking anything in His toolbox of love and care.

I was blessed to grow up with food, clothing, education and housing.  Both my parents were exceptionally hard workers (I learned my work ethic from them).  However, over the years I have tried to make sense of the emotional silence which permeated our home. Love was hard to come by in our emotional desert.

LOSING A MOTHER

Recently I read John Eldredge’s book: Resilient: Restoring Your Weary Soul in These Turbulent Times.  A paragraph brought light on spot in my heart which I have always failed to understand: “Losing a mother, never having a mother, or living with a mother who in many ways could not offer the mothering we needed is simply devastating.” My mother fit that last category.  Emotionally damaged in many ways, it was not possible for her to offer the kind of love we children needed.  She didn’t purposely choose to be that way; it just was.

MOTHER DESOLATION

Thinking this through, I have begun to understand that as an adult very often my reactions to life has demonstrated I lacked the “assurance of abundance” as a child. Eldredge writes: “Are my actions and emotions proving that I received utter assurance that my needs matter, and that they will be met, and met joyfully? You could call this the category of “mother wounds,” but I think a far more accurate description is mother desolation. The soul is meant to receive profound nourishment from our mother—physically and emotionally, nourishment in absolute abundance. When it doesn’t, the soul experiences a famine of the most serious kind.”

THE FAMINE EXPERIENCE

That famine experience has carried over to my relationship with my heavenly Father. I ask Him: “Do my needs matter? Will You meet them joyfully?” I find that God’s love is far different than my famine experience. 

NEVER FORGOTTEN!

What does His love look like? God is unable to forget us. “Even if mothers were to forget, I could never forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15) Burn these words into your heart: “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close” (Psalm 27:10). Contrary to all those childhood experiences, God is NEVER going to forget me.  God will never push me away. 

GOD’S TOOLBOX

“Mother desolation” is part of my bio.  My mother died years ago and it took years for me to forgive her for lacking the qualities that were never in her toolbox as a parent.  It’s hard for me to believe that I don’t have to consider God as lacking anything in His toolbox of love and care. God WANTS to carry me in His arms, to hold me, to converse with me, to attach with me. 

A NEW ATTACHMENT

I don’t understand such attachment and have trouble trusting it.  God is working on that. He offers to mother us — to come and heal our souls here, in this essential place. Eldredge writes, “God yearns to bring us the assurance of abundance.” God wants to deeply attach to us. “Salvation is a new attachment, the soul’s loving bond to our loving God.”

ALWAYS ROOM FOR YOU

Maybe as you walk through 2024, you may want to rethink the quality of your attachment to God. Try attaching to God in 2024. He always has room for you. There is an abundance of love.

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GOD IS IN THE HOUSE!

This new inhabitant would send shock waves across the world that would exist for centuries.

At the end of our block is a sign which says, “Apartment for Rent”, advertising the unit below us.  The tenant moved away Thanksgiving weekend. In the entire year she lived under us, we never heard a peep.  She moved in a complete stranger and stayed a stranger.  One day I asked her name but she only told me her first name.  Our lives were not rocked by her entrance or exit.

What if instead she had been a co-tenant with us? Lived in our apartment, shared our furniture, our utilities, our conversations, our life.  Her arrival and departure would have affected our lives.  We may have either wept or rejoiced, but our lives would have shifted. 

THE NEW NEIGHBOR

John 1:1-14 describes someone whose entrance into the world rocked the existence of mankind. This new neighbor is referred to as The Word. If The Word had to fill out an application to live with us, John would write “The Word’s previous address was the universe, from eternity.” As for previous housemates, John would write, “The Word was with God.” He might also have written in parenthesis: (by the way, The Word was God).  This new neighbor, announced by John, was not going to be someone unseen, who would silently go about his business. This new inhabitant would send shock waves across the world that would exist for centuries. In other words, The Word is Immanuel, “God with us”.

HE’S NOT A LONG WAY OFF

The Old Testament tells us about another situation where God lived in the midst of people. The Tabernacle and Solomon’s temple both contained the “Holy of Holies” – the Glory of God. This was called by Jewish rabbis the “Shekhinah Glory”; “the visible presence of God among men”. God decided to room among a people who rarely loved Him or fully devoted themselves to Him.  In the Book of John, God is announced as again pitching His tent, but this time the Tent was in human form, “Immanuel”; God with us. Spurgeon warns us about our attitude about the new neighbor, Immanuel, “Do not let us live as if God were a long way off.” 

LIVED WITH US IN ORDER TO DIE

Immanuel did not come as judge and executioner. All of us already were guilty before Him and were doomed to everlasting punishment. John Piper writes: “The Word, the Son, who is God, became flesh to reveal a divine glory that is “full of grace and truth.” The Word of God became flesh to be gracious to us.” “Grace” is “God’s favor toward the unworthy”. In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. Piper continues, “The Word became flesh so that this graciousness to us would come in accord with God’s truthfulness. This is a righteous, God-exalting, costly grace. It led straight to Jesus’ death on the cross. In fact, this is why he became flesh. He had to have flesh in order to die.”

HE WILL LIVE WITH YOU

God has come close to you in Jesus Christ. He is Immanuel. You don’t have to struggle to make a connection with this new Neighbor, just invite Him in. He will come to you. God is in the House! This Neighbor has rocked my world.  I will never be the same.  He lives in my apartment, my heart, my soul.  He has promised to never leave me or forsake me.  I don’t have to go searching for someone else. That sign announcing room for rent has gone down, because God has made His Home with me for eternity.   

In case you want to read further about this New Neighbor, click Revelation 19:11-16

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GIVING GOD YOUR DREAMS

It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God? 

It was my first miscarriage.  We had been helping out at a summer camp and were hours away from home.  I ended up losing our baby in a strange hospital without any friends or family (other than Bill). The wounds were raw.  It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God?  We were faithful followers of Jesus. How could this be part of God’s plan? It was not my dream.

THEY WERE BOTH VERY OLD

Maybe this is also what Zechariah and Elizabeth wondered: how could they trust God?  When we are introduced to them in Luke 1:5-25: they were both very old. In other words, one foot in the grave.  Over the years how many births of friends and neighbors had they repeatedly participated in celebrating? Zech and Elizabeth would then return to their own home where their cradle just gathered dust, season after season. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive. When was the day they finally gave their unused cradle to another family? Or did they chop it up for firewood?  I think I may have done the latter.  It is hard to let go of dreams.

GOD WAS HEARING EVERYONE ELSE’S PRAYERS

It may have seemed God was hearing everyone else’s prayers except the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Yet they chose to trust God and maintain a spiritual life that was: righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They were not only outwardly good, but decided to continue to follow God with all their hearts. In spiritual terms, this is the season where the battle is either won or lost.  The victory is when genuine faith becomes a conscious decision to continue to cling to God, regardless of the circumstances. Zech and Elizabeth still clung to the goodness of God, whether or not their cradle was filled.

It is understandable that Zechariah had a problem comprehending the message from the angel. At his age, it’s a wonder he didn’t have a heart attack when the angel appeared to him with the message: God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. At the back of Zech’s mind, maybe he was saying, “Yeah, sure, it’s about time…”

THE TWILIGHT OF THEIR LIVES

In the twilight of their lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to experience great joy and gladness.  This long-awaited baby would be everything they had ever prayed for: filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.  Their son John’s mission would be the ultimate answer to the prayer that any believing parents ask for their children. John would not only give them great joy and gladness, but he would also be a godly man, great in the eyes of God, and he would prepare the hearts of his fellow countrymen for the coming of the Messiah.  What more could a parent ask for?

GOD HAD NEVER FORGOTTEN

God had never forgotten the prayer of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He felt their grief all those years, especially when the prayers of others were answered. He heard their laments. Psalm 5:1-3: Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help,  my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;   in the morning I lay my requests before you    and wait expectantly. It may have seemed that God’s timing was off regarding Zech and Elizabeth, but it fit perfectly into God’s perfect calendar for humanity.  God was with them even during the darkest times.  Our Father understands all about empty cradles. Are you waiting for the God Who can be trusted? He may not answer in the way you are expecting, but He is the God Who is good. How about giving Him your dreams?

For further encouragement, listen to the story of Loryn Smith

GOD & MY BUCKET LIST….

They had worked hard for years and deserved the fruits of their labors. What next delightful adventure could they check off?

It was the Saturday for me to attend a promo for a Christian travel agency. The room was packed with well-dressed people; there was standing room only. Cookies and coffee free for the taking were stacked on the long table in the back of the room. Oohs and aahs were heard from the audience as they viewed the promotional videos on the wide screens facing them.  Marianne gave a yelp of delight when she noticed a picture of herself on her trip to Montreal. Tom smiled as he appeared in the group posing on a glacier. 

Many had traveled together before, comfortable that they were making their journeys in a Christian environment. Excitement buzzed through the crowd.  All those new possibilities the crowd could add to their “bucket lists”.  Afterall, they had worked hard for years and deserved the fruits of their labors. What next delightful adventure could they check off?

THE GOAT QUESTION

Unlike my Saturday experience, the Bible notes in John 13:1-7 an event in which no promotional videos are playing on the walls. Only Jesus and 12 men occupy the room.  Unbeknownst to the disciples, it is only hours before the betrayal, trial and execution of Christ.  Quite a few of the guys engage in a dispute over which of them is Jesus’ greatest follower. They want to be the GOAT (“Greatest Of All Time”). Judas remains off to the side, burning with disappointment in the rabbi Who had no plans to free the country of Roman oppression.

JESUS’ BUCKET LIST

In the midst of the noise is Jesus. He knows what is to come, yet decides to show the disciples His personal “bucket list”: to demonstrate the full extent of His love. No exotic vacation for Jesus. No sitting by the pool. Just torture, blood and agony. He has worked three long hard years for this moment.

JESUS SMILES AND BEGINS

The day of the supper with Jesus was long, exhausting and dirty. When the group piled through the door of the meeting room, none of the disciples volunteered to help their friends clean up from their travels. Halfway through the meal, the Master stuns them. He stands and quietly fills a basin with water, removes his outer garment, ties a towel around His waist, and kneels in front of the first disciple.  Jesus smiles at the ones He loves dearly and begins to wash their feet, one by one. This is the Savior’s bucket list, to show them the full extent of His love. His love is the definition of complete humility: living the role of a servant and acceptance of execution as a criminal.

WILLING TO DO THE INSIGNIFICANT

As He washes their feet, His words whisper in the disciples’ minds: By this all men (and women) will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. What does such showing the full extent of His love mean? Craig Groeschel comments: “We have to be willing to do what may seem insignificant, what isn’t often visible to others. What you do may feel like it’s behind the scenes, but getting promoted in the kingdom of God is never by self-promotion, it’s always by serving. It’s not about what we do; it’s about who we are.” Another great observation by Dr. Keith Wagner: “You can wash the feet of anyone, but when you fail to love them, you might as well have walked with them through a car wash.”

LIVING OUT THE FULL EXTENT

All those people packed into the room with me on that Saturday afternoon had one thing in common, death eventually enters the picture. The question is, am I packing in my bucket list what matches up to Christ’s plans for me, regardless of how many days I have left on earth? Having loved His own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  How am I, and how are you, living out the full extent of His love? What’s on your bucket list?

WHAT’S NEEDED IN DESPERATE TIMES

Children of those murdered, were able to tell the shooter, “I forgive you; I condemn what you’ve done, but I forgive you.”

On July 17, 2015, a young man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina and joined a Bible Study group. The ten people in the room welcomed the young man, even though his presence was unusual. They offered him a Bible and proceeded with their study. At the end they sang a hymn and then had a closing prayer. At that point the man pulled out a gun and shot nine of the ten parishioners in the room, leaving one alive to tell the world what he had done.

SHOWING COMPASSION TO A MURDERER

Out of that horrific act, there was a glimpse of the presence of Jesus in the courtroom. At the arraignment, several of the children of those murdered, were able to tell the shooter, “I forgive you; I condemn what you’ve done, but I forgive you.” Some other family members, neighbors, and certainly the media, were bewildered by what was happening. How could anybody show that much compassion for an individual that murdered your mother, your grandmother, or your friend? The answer comes from the One who gives mercy to an undeserving people. His name is Jesus!

MERCY TO THOSE WHO DIDN’T LOVE HIM

In Matthew 15:29-39 we see Jesus healing many of the people who followed him. He extended His mercy and made them well. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking, and the blind seeing.  Once again, Jesus extended His mercy to individuals who probably had no love for him, beyond being glad He healed their broken bodies.  

MERCY AS GOD’S CHARACTER

As illustrated by Jesus, showing mercy is part of God’s character. We cannot show mercy to people begrudgingly or with ulterior motives if we are Christ followers. God displayed mercy to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. In the same manner, Jesus says in Luke 6:36, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO FORGIVE?

Having enough compassion in your heart to reach out to the sick is one thing, but to forgive a killer, someone who has taken away a part of your family, is that possible? Paul says in I Timothy 1:15-16, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst, but for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.

THE MERCY THAT DISPLAYS JESUS

God’s mercy is something which we must live out in our own lives to show what God is like. Are you merciful to just the nice people? The people who deserve it? Or do you show mercy to others, just as God has shown mercy to you? God’s mercy is a cup of cold water in our dry and desperate times. The character of Christ was demonstrated by those individuals in the courtroom towards the man who had pulled out a gun and shot nine of the ten parishioners in that Bible Study Group. That type of mercy displayed to the world Who Jesus Christ is. How is God asking you to display this kind of mercy in your own life to others? Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

NO LONGER ALONE

God stuck around for the hard work, of loving the unlovable and redeeming the unredeemable.

Age sixteen, a passenger on a train to nowhere. I immersed myself studying the philosophy of existentialism; concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. Quickly, I arrived at an end of myself.  It was all meaningless. Despite having been a believer for about 3 years, I knew few genuine Christians.  Our family’s church was Presbyterian: “God’s Frozen People”.  A popular song of the day was entitled, “Is That All There Is?” Caught in the throes of teenage angst, I pondered those lyrics.

GOD STEPPED IN

God stepped in.  A pastor invited me to go to a Missions Conference in western PA.  I don’t know why he extended the invitation.  Possibly out of the crowd of disinterested teens in our congregation, he saw in me a glimmer of hope.  For whatever reason, I packed my bags to travel to an event where I knew absolutely no one.

IN THE MIDST OF MY BROKENESS

Among a crowd of strangers, I do not remember any of the week’s speakers, musicians, or activities, except for one afternoon.  That message carried an arrow which shattered my cold heart. For years, I had been positive no one loved me; there was no purpose to my existence.  God spoke in the midst of my brokenness.  The first time in my life, I finally understood that with all my failings, God loved me desperately just as I was.  I already understood that Jesus died for my sins, but I had never comprehended the depth of my salvation. 

I WASN’T LEFT ALONE

Christ didn’t save me and then go on His merry way, wishing me a cheery, “Good luck!” over His shoulder. Jesus redeemed me “to bestow on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)

HIS BELOVED DAUGHTER

God stuck around for the hard work, of loving the unlovable and redeeming the unredeemable. I was His beloved daughter who would always be loved by her Heavenly Father. Of no consequence was my job performance and talents (or lack thereof).

MEANING DISCOVERED

Tears ran down my face. Pure joy and wonder now entered the equation. “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place, what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”  (Psalm 8:3-6) I knelt in awe, having realized I was not alone and life was not meaningless. My life finally had a destination as I discovered true eternity with Jesus Christ.

WHEN JUSTICE IS BLIND

Whether Jesus was sharing food or healing on the Sabbath, they always made the assumption that because Jesus was doing it, it must be sinful. Their judgments were equally rash, harsh, and unjust.

Due to various eye conditions, I have seen a number of ophthalmologists (specialists who diagnose and treat all eye diseases and perform eye surgery). In all my years of treatments, there is one thing I have never encountered – a blind ophthalmologist. During a surgery on the back of my retina, I would freak out if the doctor said, “You know, I can’t really see well today.  I’m just going to take a blind guess as to where to cut.”

THEIR JUDGMENTS WERE RASH, HARSH AND UNJUST

The religious leaders had a serious disability. In Luke 6 they already diagnosed & came up with a treatment for what they considered their greatest headache: Jesus. When scrutinizing Him, they came armed with a significant impairment: they were spiritually blind. Whether Jesus was sharing food or healing on the Sabbath, they always made the assumption that because Jesus was doing it, it must be sinful. Their judgments were equally rash, harsh, and unjust.

DON’T HEAL WITHOUT FIRST BEING HEALED

Our Savior wearily looked deep into the hearts of these “spiritual specialists” and asked them one question: Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice or consider the log that is in your own eye? (verse 41) The religious teachers disregarded the Holy Spirit’s guidance in studying the Word of God. They didn’t let the scalpel of God’s Word clean out the cancer in their own hearts (Heb. 4:12) They were the blind ophthalmologists who could never heal without first obtaining treatment for their own condition.

FALSE JUDGMENTS

How many times do we judge? Maybe we know little parts of a person’s story or have made observations, but we have not been able to see into their hearts. A perfect example of this is in the Book of Job. Job was a man in right standing with God, however through the acts of Satan Job suffered devastating losses.  This did not fit the theology of one of Job’s friends. Job’s “comforting” friend had a skewed vision of God in which nothing bad happens to people who are right with God. (Job 5:20-27) He assumed that Job’s children must have died because of Job’s sins. The friend declared false judgments which fit into the friend’s false view of God.  

THEY JUDGED AND POUNCED

Job’s friend shared the behaviors of the religious leaders who judged Jesus. Before they opened their mouths, they lacked the preparation of prayerfully and humbly bringing the object of their scrutiny before the Throne of God. They didn’t ask the Holy Spirit to open their eyes to Scripture. They never mercifully and lovingly engaged the person in conversation, giving them opportunity to explain what was observed. The encounter wasn’t made with grace and God’s wisdom.  They just judged and pounced.

JUDGMENT AND RESTORATION

This doesn’t mean that we are to become indifferent to evil, or not address it when we see it. In the case of believers, we are given the privilege of extending a hand in the restoration of a believer who has clearly fallen off course.

HOW TO RESTORE

Our goal in confronting a Christian caught in sin is to restore our brother or sister.” This comes only by prayer, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the truth of God’s Word and an abundance of mercy.  Otherwise, we are the blind ophthalmologists, the religious hypocrites of Jesus’ day and Job’s off course friend. Any necessary spiritual surgery is to be under the guidance and light of the Holy Spirit. Only He can direct the wandering one home.