Thursday, April 28, 2011

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort...

...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

Life has been especially tricky the past few weeks. We are smack in the middle of cleaning up after a 600 gallon flood in our house that basically took out everything it touched. We are essentially living in a construction zone, trying to get by as best we can – keeping schedules, doing homework, attempting to eat dinner together – all challenging given the chaos in the house.

But somehow, this has been a blessing. We have spent more time together because there are fewer rooms to disappear into. We are pulling together tighter because we have to lean on each other. And, our friends and family have prayed, helped and been there for encouragement. I have been overwhelmed by the love and support I have received.

In the past several days, the weather across much of our nation has resulted in devastation that is hard to comprehend. When I see coverage of towns that were essentially wiped off the map, my heart breaks. It fills my heart with prayers for those affected.

It also makes me walk through my own house with a fresh set of eyes. My loved ones are safe and unhurt. I cannot complain when I still have a roof over my head, clothes to put on and food in the kitchen. There is so much to be thankful for. So much that others do not have right now.

My prayer is that those impacted will feel the love of their Savior. That they will know He is with them and see that love demonstrated through the actions of others. I believe our struggles are, in part, a preparation to step in and help others when their troubles are much greater.

God has comforted me and kept me going through many trials. I know that He is with me now. I also know that He is with every single suffering person whose life was turned inside out this week. He is there to comfort. We need to hang on and let Him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:41

Hanging on a cross. Dying a slow, agonizing death. A death he actually deserved. A criminal. He knew his punishment was just. But also, this man realized who was next to him. He knew not only was Jesus being crucified without just cause, but He was who He said He was, the Son of God. In that moment, he repented, asking Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. He knew the only way he had any hope was complete belief and trust in Jesus.

In every way, that criminal is me. A life that is sinful and wicked. Condemned to a death I fully deserve. A death leaving me separate and apart from God. Knowing that nothing in my own doing will save me from my fate.

But Jesus.

On that day, next to that criminal was the Son of God. The perfect and living sacrifice for my sins, and yours. He took upon the punishment and separation that every one of us deserves. He died a death that was unfathomable. The physical brutality of it was bad enough. But the anguish of being separated from our Heavenly Father was even more painful. And yet, He willingly accepted it as full and complete payment for the sins of those who would believe in Him.

This Good Friday, I am reflecting. I am pausing to concentrate on Jesus’ death because I need to remember just how enormous His sacrifice was. And, I need to remain thankful that He took my place. It is only by His grace and mercy that I am not condemned to the fate I deserve.

My response? Sheer awe and amazement. And obedience to Him. I pray that I submit to His will every day. In the same manner that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, I pray. “…yet not my will be done, but yours.” (Luke 22:42)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

The other day, a friend texted me this verse, condensed to say “I (God) will carry you.” Oh, how I needed to be reminded of that. This has been one of the most circumstantially trying weeks of our lives. Our house flooded last weekend and for six straight days, we’ve been entrenched in the cleanup process. Nearly 90% of our home was impacted.

Our basement
When you’re in the middle of a crisis, sometimes it’s hard to stop and rest in His peace. I’m seeing that and I’m sensing the devil is dancing around with a big smile on his face, thinking he’s going to cause us to slip and fall away from Jesus. Well, I have news for him. That ain’t happening! He can pack up his bag of junk and get out of our way.

What I’ve learned this week is that I may have gotten a little too comfortable with my routine, possibly even prideful, thinking I could handle some things on my own. Perhaps, I was holding back, not living fully surrendered to His will. He’s using this life event to remind me that I need Him for everything.

Since this happened, I’m starting my mornings a new way. I’m praying something like this: “Lord, thank you for this day. I don’t know what lies ahead, but you do. I know that only by trusting you and living in your will can I make it through this. Please help me. Please keep me centered on you, when the challenges come and the stress is high, bring me back to you.”

I’m trying to take in every chance I have to sneak in a moment of His presence. I’m looking up to the heavens when I am outside, whether it’s to let the dogs out or to haul yet another load to the dumpster. I’m trying to breathe in deeply and thank Him along the moments of the day.

Really, I’m doing what I should have been doing all along. It shouldn’t have taken a crisis for me to figure that out, but in a way, I’m glad it happened so I could. Are you with me?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” Psalm 68:3

As I lay awake in bed last night, this was the picture. In the midst of a tremendous storm of life, I need to choose to praise my Lord and lift my hands up to the One who can calm me, reassure me and remind me that none of the things of this life are either permanent or worth putting all my effort into.

Yesterday morning, our house flooded thanks to an overactive toilet. In 90 minutes, nearly 90% of our house was extensively damaged. The repair and recovery efforts will take months. It is a shock and stress that none of us would choose. But...

I know that my God is in control. I know that He works all things for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) I know that there is something to be gleaned from this experience. I pray that as a family, we come through this closer to each other and closer to our Heavenly Father.

Last week, I went to a night of incredible worship. One of my favorite songs right now is “I Lift My Hands,” by Chris Tomlin. At that event, Louie Giglio talked about the writing of that song and how he spent nights literally lifting his hands to our Father to help him through a tremendously difficult time.

While my situation is completely different, my response is the same. I am lifting my hands to my God who loves me and knows me and knew this would happen and why. And, I trust His plan that in all things, good and seemingly bad, that He will be glorified.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

For as long as I can remember, I have really disliked talking about death and dying. As a small child, I had a pretty unpleasant experience with it and it took years to get to a point where I could even begin to understand it in a way that I could process without falling completely apart.

When I became a Christian, one of the things that gave me the most comfort was learning what a simple choice it was to ensure you would live with Jesus when you died. Before that, I really had no clue where I would go. I wanted to believe I was going to heaven and I knew that lots of people found comfort in dealing with death by assuring one another that their loved one is in “a better place.” But frankly, back then, I didn’t know that for sure. I kind of prefer sure things.

Recently, I was reading an article and it asked the question, if you died tomorrow, do you know where you’d go. I was happy that I could say “yes.” I am 100% certain that I will be in Heaven when I die. Can you say the same thing? I’m deeply concerned for people who may not have their eternal destination with Jesus. I am especially concerned for even people who think they can “earn” their way into heaven by being a “good enough” person and doing “the right things.” But, the Bible doesn’t say that is the way to Heaven. In fact, it says in Romans 3: 23 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The Bible – JESUS - clearly states that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It seems pretty clear to me that one is not going to Heaven unless they are right with God and the only way to do that is with Jesus.

Let me beg you that if you haven’t reconciled with Jesus, please pray and do it! He loves you and wants a relationship with you forever. It is as simple as this: confessing to him that you are a sinner in need of a savior; that you believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God who came to Earth to live a perfect life and die the antoning death for your sins – choosing to take your place on the cross for those sins, once and for all; that you invite Him into your heart as the Lord of your life, ask Him to send His Holy Spirit into your heart and begin a relationship with Him by turning from your sins and living by grace in Him.

From there, if you truly commit to Him, begin to spend time with Him and reading the Bible, your life will change and change for the better. I promise. If you are already living with Him, perhaps you know someone who might benefit from hearing this message. Please pass it along – it could mean the difference between life and death.