Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Lesson From the Sisters

Entering the village of Bethany, Jesus stopped by the home of Martha and Mary, and their brother, Lazarus.   On what may have been His first visit in their home with them, Martha rushed off to the kitchen.  Suddenly, she realized that Mary had not offered to help in the cooking and serving of the meal.  The Scriptures are silent about who else accompanied Jesus, but it's pretty safe to assume that Lazarus and some of the disciples were there too.  Mary listened as Jesus spoke to someone besides her.

When Martha became overwhelmed with her preparations, she decided to discuss the situation with Jesus.  She pointed out her need for help and expected Jesus to tell her sister to help her.  However, Jesus rebuked Martha for her anxiety.  Her words bled with a "poor me" mentality  which showed her insecurity and possibly a struggle with her self-worth. She asked Jesus if He cared about the wrong treatment she felt she had received from her sister.  She might have wondered if Jesus even noticed the amount of work she put in trying to serve Him.  

She definitely felt slighted by Mary's lack of help, but her anxiety might have been caused by either her excessive preparations or the possibility from the number of guests present. (Luke 10).  Jesus ignored her question regarding His care for her and commended Mary's choice to listen.  He refused to deny her this opportunity. It's possible that Mary's faith actually needed strengthening at this point in order to best prepare her for what the future held.

Only Jesus would know what both sisters truly needed at this time in their lives.  Martha's encounter with Jesus apparently taught her the valuable lesson she needed to learn.  The next time we hear about Jesus dining with them, she prepared the meal alone again without any complaints.  

However, the one upset with Mary's choice on this occasion was Judas Iscariot.  He gave off what sounded like a righteous concern about a better use of the money Mary used to purchase pure nard to anoint Jesus' feet.  Jesus saw through his facade and once again praised Mary's choice.  (John 12). 

We too can get distracted by the wrong things and miss the true intentions of others.  We may fall prey to the selfish acts of others and even at times develop a victim mentality.  Martha first believed she was being mistreated by Mary's choice and not only wanted some help but probably some attention to what she was doing.  

We do know that money can absolutely be used wastefully at times.  Judas' downfall was money, and despite all the time he spent with Jesus, he never understood Him the way these two sisters did.

We need to guard our hearts or we can become blinded to the truth lived out in front of us.  Martha took heed to Jesus' rebuke, and we see the way her faith developed to the point of cheerfully serving a meal without help or complaints.  She no longer stressed over her sister's choices. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Deception of Pride

A walk through the gospel gives us a picture of the deception of pride.  The religious leaders in Jesus' days followed Him from impure motives.  They held on to their traditions like they were God's gift to them, and so whenever Jesus seemed to break their man-made laws it provided them with more evidence for their case against Him.

How often do we approach situations and people with our own preconceived ideas, too?  We question the heart and motives of those who use different methods then us.  We jump to conclusions and think the worse about what others are doing.  We don't understand or dislike something and therefore decide that it must be bad.

When we don't like what others are doing, we need to step back and examine our own hearts.  We need to carefully guard against the spirit of pride and judgment.  If not, we may become the Scribes and Pharisees dwelling in the church today.  Jesus looked into their hearts and called them hypocrites and white-washed tombs.

Father, open our eyes and  help us recognize areas in which pride has found a foothold in our hearts.  Give us the courage to face it and release it to You, so that deception will be lifted from us and we might walk in the truth toward others and ourself.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Cleansing of Captivity

The Lord warned the Israelites that sin gave their enemies opportunities to captivate them, but they took no heed to His Word.  Already a divided country, Israel had been led into captivity.  In Jeremiah we read how Babylon has now taken Judah captive.  

However, the Lord never leaves His people without a faithful witness, and Jeremiah speaks to the people about their freedom again.  He reminds them that the Lord's plans entail a future and a hope for them (Jer. 29:11-13).  During captivity, the Israelites need to focus on walking with the Lord once again.

Jeremiah continually reminded the people about the Lord's plan to return them to their promised land.  Just like in the days of Moses, the people experienced slavery for a time so they might truly understand freedom.  Once again, they needed to recognize the importance of relying on the Lord.

The Lord instructs Jeremiah to warn the people about false prophets, because the Lord knows how prone people are to deception in difficulties.  When life gets hard, people tend to look for the easiest solution out of it.  However, captivity helps dross to rise to the surface in order for a necessary cleansing to be revealed.  When the cleansing is complete, then freedom comes and can truly be enjoyed.

Where are we today?  The Lord wants us to recognize the truth about where we are, so that we might indeed be free!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Perfect Timing

The five thousand fully satisfied from being fed now begin to desire to make Jesus king (John 6).  When Jesus perceives their intention toward Him, He dismisses Himself from their presence.

Jesus knew His purpose. This time on earth served the purpose of providing salvation for us.  Jesus kept His sights on what He was called to do.  He knew in the right time, His day would come to rule as king, and that time had not yet arrived.   We still wait for that day.

Do we know our purpose?  Do we know how to keep our focus on what the Lord calls us to do today?  Let's guard against jumping ship to the next best thing and therefore miss out on God's perfect timing for all things right now.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Divine Appointment

They had made a long walk and while the disciples went in search for food, Jesus waited at Jacob's well outside the city of Samaria.  At the noon hour, when she knew no one else would be there she approached the well.  Unknown to her, Jesus waited there for her.  She had no clue that a Divine appointment had been set for her.

Jesus broke two traditional rules in His encounter with her.  He spoke to a woman in public and He was a Jew speaking with a Samaritan.  None of that mattered to Jesus, because He knew this woman needed truth and she was ready for it.  Her life and many others were changed that day.   When she was done speaking with Jesus, she testified about Him to others.

We never know what a day holds for us, but Divine appointments await us.  May we be open to them and allow ourselves to then be used to testify what the Lord has done for us in order to point others to or back to Jesus.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Prayer of Transformation

A true friend never gives up believing in who we are striving to be as a child of the King of Kings, even when we're stuck in a bad place longer then we should be there.

You are this kind of friend to us, Lord.  You made us.  You have a plan for us.   You never give up on us.  We're undeserving of your grace and kindness and yet you don't withhold it from us when we seek You with all our heart.

We need You.  We continually fall into the same traps in our minds in dealing with certain sins in our lives.   We need You to open the eyes of our hearts and strengthen us.  We need Your heart and Your perspective on life.  We need to rest in what You can do in us and through us each day.

Thank You that You hear the cry of our hearts and come to us, always.  We reach out for Your place of refuge.  You are our strong tower.  Amen.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Open Arms

Life happens.  At times we become overwhelmed and might find ourselves emotionally and spiritually spiraling out of control.  For those who struggle with depression, this might feel like being lost in a deep dark cavern.

Jesus is the Light we need and despite our over-reaction at times to the difficulties of life, He waits with open arms.  He wants us to lay it all out on the table before Him.

When Jesus says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden," He means it.  He knows we can lose perspective, become over-dramatic, and even sometimes make mountains out of molehills.  It doesn't change His commitment to us.  The invitation stands.  He wants to be near us when we get in our moods.

He also knows when the really hard happens and anger from our pain pours forth from our heart, we need a safe place to sound off.  He will journey with us through our valley and help us in time recognize His ability to make something beautiful from ashes.

We need to run to Jesus and not away from Him when we hit those low spots.  He's not waiting for us to get our act together before He loves and accepts us, we already have it.  We need to embrace what He freely offers to us.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Do We Really Know Him?

Judas walked with Jesus for three and a half years.  He witnessed first hand the amazing miracles Jesus performed.  He watched Jesus raise the dead, heal the sick, walk on water, and calm the seas.  He saw the way Jesus extend grace and forgiveness to those considered less than desirable by the religious leaders of the day, such as the Samaritan woman and Zacchaeus.

In the end, what difference did it make in the life and heart of Judas?  For thirty pieces of silver, Judas led a group to Jesus' prayer spot and with a kiss handed Him into the hands of His executioners.  Judas then watched Jesus tortured and eventually crucified.  When Judas came face-to-face with his betrayal of an innocent man,  he hung himself.  He didn't understand the One he served beside all those years, and so he didn't seek forgiveness.  The Father freely offers it to all who seek it in true repentance.

How often are we like Judas?  Do  we linger at the fringe of our relationships and at the first sign of trouble bail from the situation? Are we guarding our heart to prevent from being hurt, and as a result we truly love no one?

In Jesus we see another way of doing friendship.  Jesus selected Judas as one of his friends.  He gave Judas the opportunity to see firsthand what it meant to be loved and accepted.  Jesus knew what Judas was capable of doing, but He still spent three and half years investing His love into Judas' life.

Jesus lived out what it meant to be a loyal and faithful friend.  When push came to shove, Judas chose money over the One who had been his friend.  Even as the betrayal drew near,  Jesus washed Judas' feet along with the other disciples and served him the last supper.  His kindness made no difference to Judas' plot, but Jesus displayed unconditional love anyway.

Peter blew it, too.  He let Jesus down when he needed a friend beside Him most of all.  Even after seeing Jesus risen from the dead, Peter decided to return to his previous vocation, fishing.  He must have felt worthless for being brought to such fear by a young girl to have denied his Lord.   Jesus understood the hurt friends cause us, but he went to find Peter anyway. There beside the lake, Jesus reaffirmed Peter's value for kingdom work.

What kind of friend are we?  Do we really want to love like Jesus or do we prefer playing it safe in our relationships?  How much of an effort are we willing to risk to know the heart of others?

Will we risk loving others no matter where they are at in life or do we build walls too thick and high to allow ourselves to really get to know others?  When trouble comes and people behave in undesirable ways, how do we respond?   Jesus remained available even for those wounding others, are we?

Friday, March 1, 2013

All Is Not Well

The Israelites were a divided people, torn between two kings and dwelling in different parts of the land.  They comfortably settled in that place and believed all was well.  The prophet, Jeremiah, challenged the people of Judah to recognize that all was not well in paradise.  Beneath the surface, cracks existed that made them vulnerable to the enemies filtration among them.  

"All isn't well.  You are not a healed land," Jeremiah told them (Jeremiah 8:11).  Unfortunately, they closed their ears and eventually they were led away into captivity just like their sister, Israel.

The first time I sought healing over my past issues outside of a counseling  situation, I participated in Kay Arthur's study, Lord, Heal My Hurts.  During that time the Lord continually brought this verse in Jeremiah before me.  Deep down I knew I wanted a true healing and not just a temporary fix,  but my heart still drifted to a place it felt safer and therefore would buy into a false sense of peace for a while.

Eventually, the Lord rocked my boat to reveal the next new thing for me to face on my journey to healing, and that was that my anger covered up what I really felt.  He showed me that anger dominated my reactions as a cover-up to my fears.  I released some areas of my fears, but not like I truly needed and then settled into my false peace once again.

The Lord is so gracious and kind and though my progress came slowly, He's never let me go.  Every few years He prepared me for the next revelation.  

Most recently, I recognized the way my past trapped me into believing lies that not only defined me but ensnared me.  The lies I believed about myself caused me to make unhealthy decisions regarding my relationships in my life and my responses to life's difficulties.

Thankfully, the Lord never disregarded the deepest cry of my heart and that was to be truly healed and find the freedom that comes from walking with Him.  He knew I lived within the walls of a false peace but knew it wasn't my desire.  Slowly, but surely, He has bound up more of my wounds and has helped me find more of His peace that surpasses any understanding I could muster up on my own.

This is the Lord's desire for each one of His children.  I'm not where I want to be, but praise the Lord that I'm not where I was a year ago!

Memorial to Jasper and Schatzi

My heart felt light as I arose this particular chilly February morning to get ready for work. I  was still basking in thanksgiving from the news I received the night before and how the Lord used the kindness of others to lift my mother's spirits.  

I did what I did every work morning and slipped on my coat and shoes to take our dogs out for their morning routine before starting my pot of coffee.  On this particular morning when I opened the door, I was greeted to an empty porch.  I quickly discovered the door leading outside unlatched. I rushed outside, but there was no sign of my  little white Maltese and Joe's English creme Dachshund.

Unable to find the dogs in the immediate vicinity, I stopped at the two local gas stations giving them a description of our dogs and my husband's name and number.  With a heavy heart I drove on to work.  I worked until noon and before heading home I called Joe and received the news that both dogs had been killed between ten and eleven o'clock the evening of their escape.  When I got home I received the full story, and though heart-wrenching, I knew it was a story that needed to be shared with others.

Dachshunds are by nature scavengers and so probably after running around the yard near the house for a while, Schatzi's instinct took over and the two dogs headed down our driveway.   Only two houses down from our driveway a car rounded the corner and hit and killed Schatzi.  A women driving by not only noticed this little pup no longer alive but a white one near him.

We were told that she stopped and tried to lure Jasper to the safety of her car.  Frightened, he wouldn't come to her and the woman realized he had no intention of leaving Schatzi either.  She pushed Schatzi's body off the road and sought help in trying to rescue Jasper from his certain death.

This dear woman returned with the local police, Dennis, who tried unsuccessfully as well to catch Jasper.   He came close to catching him, but somehow Jasper slipped from his grip.  Dennis so wanted to rescue this frightened and heartbroken dog that he called a local man with a huge heart who had successfully rescued many dogs.

Lonnie informed us that several times he had Jasper in his hands, but uncharacteristic to Jasper, he growled, bite, and managed to escape Lonnie's grip, too.  Lonnie decided to go home to retrieve one of his small dogs, believing this other dog would ease Jasper's fear.  While he was gone Dennis lost sight of Jasper.  By the time Lonnie returned, Jasper had been killed by another driver at the end of our driveway.

The death of both of our dogs broke our hearts, but in the hours following the news of their death my heart swelled in what the Lord showed me.  The first thing was the immense kindness of these three strangers.  Being fairly new in town and the house we are renting up on a high hill, no one knew who owned these precious dogs.  Lonnie told us that they only knew they were well-loved and cared for pets.  Lonnie, Dennis, and the mysterious woman only had one thing on their agenda.  It was to do as much as possible to save the remaining little dog. My heart spills over with gratitude toward them for their efforts, even though it just wasn't meant to turn out that way.

The second thing that stood out to me was the personality of these dogs.  Schatzi was only a little over a year old, but he outweighed Jasper by at least five pounds.  He had the physical power to dominate Jasper and rule the roost as the head dog of the house, but he didn't.  He was a picture of true submission and displayed the fruit of gentleness as he bowed well to all. He had the energy of a pup and with it, the love for adventure, of course. Schatzi was a picture of his master.

Jasper died because he avoided those trying to save his life.  His fear and distress over the loss of his buddy caused him to distrust those trying to help him.  His loyalty toward Schatzi caused a blindness toward those reaching out to him.  It's a reminder of how often times we might miss something new the Lord has for us when our loyalty becomes misplaced  in times of stress.  Jasper was indeed a picture of his master, too.

The remaining lesson comes in the way the Lord created these wonderful creatures.  They provide a picture of the Heavenly Father's unconditional love, steadfast acceptance, and constant desire to be our companion and faithful friend.  When we call out to Him, He comes to us immediately.  He stands by us and defends us to the death.  He will never forsake us.

Despite the shortness of the  lives of Jasper and Schatzi, they were a blessing to us. They will never be forgotten and we're grateful for what we learned from their lives and through their deaths.