The Wonder Of It All

12417839_536619703172051_3533392532454891213_n (2) Have you ever stopped to think about the wonder of everything around you?   Have things including life itself become too ordinary — too mundane, too stale?

Jesus told His disciples that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3) . The immediate context is a lesson in humility. Children are not filled with pride and worldly ambition. C. S. Lewis saw even more here,  and I think he was right. He saw that children are willing to take risks, and explore. They wonder at things.  Christians must be willing to risk their lives serving God. Christians should look at the world with newness and freshness, to explore His world and wonder at all He has given us.

How do we get past the mundane to the wonder of it all — the wonder of it all is that the world doesn’t have to be the way it is — in fact, it doesn’t have to be. Life itself is a gratuitous gift from a loving Creator. Can we let our eyes  look beyond the mundane routine of life, the hurts inflicted by others, and the uncertainties of life and see some wonder in each day?

Truly there are no ordinary things. If we can only open our eyes wide enough, we can see –.the sun coming up in the morning, the beauty of the sky, the trees, the flowers, the smell of fresh rain, that fresh cup of coffee or glass of refreshing water, that delicious meal, your favorite dessert, the gift of electricity, a hot shower,  your home, the small child that waved at you in the grocery store, your own children or grandchildren,  singing,  the good book you are reading, the gift of laughter — and the list goes on and on. Pause throughout the day. Enjoy your food. Reread the paragraph that made you think or made you feel happy.  Be thankful to the loving Creator. Wonder at the things around you and let the wonder always point you to the gracious Creator.

And wonder at the greatest wonder of it all — the good news of Jesus Christ. All good news has the character of surprise. The good news of Jesus the Christ is no different. Aren’t we surprised each time we read the story or hear it told?  Surprised that the Creator came and rescued His creation from sin and death? That the Creator was willing to die on the cross for us?  Yes, the word gospel means good news, and it is indeed good news. It is the good news about Christ and His kingdom — about His coming again!  In a world of darkness the good news is Light.

Yes, the world is sinful. But Christ has the power to change everything. Isn’t that exciting? The gospel is good news. Good news. The majority may reject it. They may love darkness rather than the light. But the gospel is still the good news of King Jesus.

Christ has the power to change our mundane lives and give them meaning and excitement. The King is coming! Can there by anything more exciting than that truth?

He is the true wonder of it all and He is coming!

 

 

Be Patient. Who, Me?

th65KSFPQQ  How would you respond if a friend told you to “be patient” in the midst of a very trying situation?

That was the message that James sent to some Christians who were being mistreated by the rich (James 5:7-11). The rich were oppressing them. Wages were being withheld, and the text indicates that some were being oppressed to the point of death. Wealth and power are to be used to help others to the glory of God not for evil purposes as these rich men were doing.

By inspiration James writes “be patient” – to endure the trials without grumbling and without comparing their circumstances to those around them, especially their oppressors who seemed to be getting away with their wicked deeds.

However, James doesn’t just exhort them to be patient or long-suffering under their trials. He puts the exhortation in its proper context – be patient until the coming of the LORD; His coming is near. Everything finds its proper context in the LORD. The LORD will take care of the wicked when He comes. The LORD will put everything right at His coming.

Contextually, the coming of the LORD here finds an immediate application to His coming in judgment upon the Jewish nation that took place in A.D. 70. God used the Roman empire to bring judgment upon the Jews for their rejection of the Messiah. The Romans were merely an instrument in the hand of God. God’s judgment brought some relief to Christians from persecution and oppression by the Jews who rejected the Christ.

There is also a second application to His return to judge the world (Acts 17:31) and destroy every rule and authority, and to give immortality to those who belong to Him (I Cor. 15)

They did not know when the LORD’S final coming would take place, and we do not know the day. Therefore, His coming is near because it could be any time. It could be today or tomorrow or even in the next moment. We are eagerly looking for our Savior who is our hope. (Titus 2:13)

James exhorted them to remember Job whose faith remained strong in His God even during severe trials that God allowed Satan to inflict upon Job. Satan had thought Job only served God for the blessings. How very wrong he was!

Trials test our faithfulness to God. Are we seeking God or do we seek His gifts only? Yes, God rewards us. God Himself is our great reward. Job sought God. His faith in God was not destroyed when the blessings were taken away.

When Job’s friends came to visit him, they did not even recognize him. How much his appearance must have changed! The boils tormented his flesh and the sorrows marred his countenance! What misery they must have read in every line of his face – what depth of anguish and sorrow must have filled his eyes. They sat in silence for a whole week in the face of such pain and grief.

Job’s trials came to an end, and the LORD blessed him for his endurance. We read,

So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning…” (Job 42:2)

Job’s life teaches us that in the end all will be made well. God rewards endurance. It may not come in this life. But the reward will come. The curse will be fully removed with Christ’s coming. The latter end will be more glorious! We will gaze upon the King who died for us. All heartaches, all sorrows, and all cares will flee.

Problems come to all of us. But Christ gives purpose to our suffering. He is glorified through us when we endure trials with patience, looking to Him for the strength we need. He is glorified through us when we acknowledge His sovereignty in our life and serve Him with gladness amidst the trials of life. He is glorified through us when others see that nothing in this life can cause us to turn away from our LORD.

When trials come your way, focus on Him. Focus on bringing glory to Him through your suffering.

In those moments when life threatens to pull you down, look up to Him and look to Tomorrow. Tomorrow is coming – a tomorrow when all is made right.

There is not one sorrow, not one heartache, not one trial that we endure that the LORD doesn’t stand with us and for us. Not one. Burdens are not to be lightly brushed away as if they are nothing. We hurt. We cry out to God. But these trials become light when we use them to His glory and compare them to the eternal weight of glory in Christ that awaits us. The reward far, far, far outweighs the trials we are called to endure (2 Cor. 4:17-18). We must keep Christ before our eyes, and know that all trials here are brief and light compared to eternity with Him.

Whatever the trial, look up. Be patient. Who, me? Yes, me! Why? That He may be glorified through my life.

Remember – The LORD is coming! All will be made right in the end which is truly The Beginning. God will dwell with us forever. What immeasurable joy!

Our Brokenness

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Have you ever seen your own brokenness?  Dr. John Monroe writes:

“The less you see your own brokenness the more broken you are.”

There is great truth in those words. Look with me today at the account of a woman who vividly saw her own brokenness.  In Luke 7:36-50, we read of Jesus entering the house of a Pharisee and reclining at the table. A woman enters the house.  This woman is a sinner. She has learned that Jesus is in the house, and she wants to see Jesus.

She enters with an alabaster vial of perfume. The woman takes her place behind Jesus near His feet. See her humility. She is weeping.  Her tears fall from her eyes upon the feet of the Messiah. Not just a few tears but enough to wash His feet!  She dries His feet with her hair, and kisses His feet as she anoints them with the perfume she brought as an offering of her love for the Messiah. The gift is also an acknowledgement of His greatness,  an acknowledgement of her need for forgiveness and of her own brokenness.

What a marvelous picture of one who sees the brokenness of her own life due to sin! The Pharisee doesn’t get it. He is blind to his own brokenness. He has no needs. He is too full of himself. He is self-righteous and looks down upon this broken woman weeping at the feet of Jesus, and all he sees is someone who is a sinner…not at all like him…or so he thinks.

Jesus asks the Pharisee who loves the most, the one who is forgiven little or the one who is forgiven a huge debt. The Pharisee  answers that the one forgiven the most will love the most, and Jesus tells him that he has judged correctly. Does this imply that we should become great sinners so that we can receive more forgiveness in order to love God more?  No. That is not the lesson. The lesson is that we all — every single one of us — is broken and in need of great forgiveness. Some of us are totally blind to the need for forgiveness from sin.  Some of us believe our sins are “little” and we aren’t really “that bad” so we believe we have been forgiven little. We just barely need savng..so we think. Thus, we love little. Some of us see how truly broken and needy we are no matter the sins we have committed because we know the truth that sin brings death — even those sins we consider “little.”   The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Any sin. Let that sink deep into our hearts. Sin has destroyed our lives.  Sin has left us broken. We don’t need to go out and greatly sin in order to greatly love. We just need to come to the realization that all sin against God is a great debt…so when He graciously forgives us, we understand the greatness of that forgiveness.

When we see our great brokenness, come falling at His feet, confessing our sin,  and weeping at the feet of the Savior by being immersed into Him through faith in Who He IS (Colossians 2:11-12) , we are made whole by the Great Physician. You  can’t be made whole outside of Christ. You can’t get into Christ without being immersed into Him (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27).

When we submit to Him, we are no longer broken people. But we must continue  to  acknowledge our faith in the Christ of the cross every moment of our life, and continue to acknowledge that we are dependent creatures not independent ones. We must never become self-righteous. We are to live whole lives in order to glorify Him. He makes the difference in our brokenness!!!!   He can and He will  make the difference in our lives if we lean upon Him. We are whole when we look to Him for all our needs, when He truly becomes our everything. He is a God who does not simply mend us — He makes us new (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is more than a God of second chances. He gives us a new beginning in Him! Praise Him for the new life you have in Him!

Daily -moment by moment – acknowledge your dependence upon Him to remain whole in Him. We must admit we are broken in order to be whole. Never lose sight of this great truth.

Jesus spoke these words to the woman as she left, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

We come weeping to Jesus, all broken from sin, and we  can “go in peace”  because we no longer walk in the brokenness of sin but with The Great Physician. To go in peace is to continue to walk with the Master. Never leave the only ONE who makes you whole.

Graciously thank Him for taking you, broken from sin, and making you whole.

 

When You Think God is Silent

thOU9YWHRX   In 1997 a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. She had two young boys, and she wanted to live. The cancer was already very advanced when it was discovered. The doctors offered very little hope.

I remember taking food to her family, and sitting by her bedside just days before she died. My friend was a Christian. She looked at me. Her eyes locked with mine. I read not only sadness in them but I also saw the questions in her eyes and in her expression. She asked me why God was not saving her from death. My friend cried telling me that her sons needed their mother. She had questions. Prayers had been lifted to God for months. Why was God not healing her? Why was her life not being spared? Why was God silent?

My friend had questions. I felt helpless in the face of her pain and her desire to live so she could be a mother to her sons. What could I say?  Could I tell her that death is a wonderful friend when the Bible clearly teaches that death is an enemy — a defeated enemy but one that still operates until the return of The Conqueror (I Cor. 15:22-58). Yes, death’s days are numbered — Christ proved He can resurrect us by His own resurrection!  Death is conquered! There is full assurance in Him! There is the coming reality held in promise right now — a promise so sure it can be spoken about as if it were already here.

But my friend believed she would be resurrected one day. She wanted to make sense of today. What could I say to her?

I remember looking into her eyes and saying, “I don’t know all the answers to our whys. I know sin brought all the heartaches and death that we know here…and I know that time and chance happen to all men according to Solomon. I know God loves you,” and brokenly I said, “I don’t know the answer to all your whys.”

I thought she was looking for some deep theological answer to her question and I didn’t feel equipped to provide it. After more tears, hugs and reassurance of my love for her, I left her.  I may have failed her. I do not know. All I know is that night I had trouble sleeping. I kept thinking of my own five-year-old son, and my little girl who was just a few months old. I felt guilty. I had no cancer. I was not facing death at the moment — with the prospect of leaving my children.  Why her and not me?

It is now 2016 — almost two decades have passed. There have been others that I have prayed for, prayed that their lives would be spared but death claimed. I have a friend in my life right now who trusts God but doesn’t fully understand what appears to be His silence.  Some still ask me the “why” question. ” I know God has the power…why doesn’t He?”

My reply today? Even though I might could phrase my answer in more “theological” sounding words than in 1997, my reply is simply: I still know that sin is the reason for all the heartaches, sorrows, and death being in our world — all the bad in this world is here because of sin. I still know that time and chance happen to all of us (Ecc. 9:11).  I still know that being a faithful Christian does not mean that we do not face the same problems as the rest of humanity. But it does mean that we never face them alone. Never.  Never alone. And today I am even more convinced that all of our whys are silenced by the cross. The cross shouts above all the pain of our world — I love you!  The light of the cross shines into our darkest night — I love you!  In the cross all of our whys are met in the love of the God Who gave His all. In the cross, we see that God is not silent!

On the cross Christ cried out “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” Here was the One Who had lived a perfect life. Was He truly forsaken by God? I submit that Christ was not forsaken by God the Father. God in the flesh quoted Psalm 22 for the benefit of those who were near the cross, for those who looked upon Him and mocked His holy name — for those who said that God had forsaken Him. Pay close attention to verse 24:

“For he has not been unmoved by the pain of him who is troubled; or kept his face covered from him; but he has given an answer to his cry.” (BBE)

The Father did not turn away from Christ, the Righteous One, but was moved by His pain and answered His cry. Christ quoted Psalm 22 not only as a witness to the fact He was/is the Messiah but also for you and me who might at times wonder if God has forsaken us or is silent in our time of need. The cry from the cross points us to Psalm 22 which is a beautiful reminder that God is not unmoved by our pain, nor has He turned His face away but He gives help when we cry. He is not silent.The help might be the strength to endure our hour. He is not far from us. He is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)

When you think God is silent, look to the cross. The answer to all our whys is the Christ of the cross. He came to reverse the curse. All our enemies are defeated, and He will crush them under His feet at His return. And I am convinced that when we gaze upon the beauty of our LORD, all our whys will vanish in the light of His glorious face. Our eyes will behold the greatest treasure.

Never, never let go of the Christ of the cross. He is the answer.