Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Our Burden Bearer




Praise be to the Lord,
to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
Psalm 68:19 (NLT)


            I’m a packer and a stuffer. You know those people who carry half their household with them every time they travel? That’s me. So when I went to visit my parents in Indiana last week, I packed a satchel full of items that were heavy and cumbersome; my laptop, I-pad, two Bibles, reference materials, books, and my current writing project, just in case I had a free moment with nothing to do.
Seeing as my mother was in Intensive Care, I parked my car in the parking garage, hefted the satchel onto my shoulder, and trudged through the concrete structure to the hospital itself. Stooped like a Sherpa beneath his load, I hiked down long sterile corridors searching for the elevators to take me up to ICU. When I finally got to my mom's room, my shoulder was burning and my back was screaming in protest.
Imagine my relief when, as we prepared to leave, my father picked up my satchel and carted it back to my car for me. He took my load because he loves me and knew it was too heavy for me to carry.
            We all carry burdens; whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, they all have the potential to crush us beneath their weight. Some days I wake up and wonder how I can cope with the all struggles and challenges that life seems to be throwing my way. If I had to handle them alone, I would certainly fall. Thankfully, I have a Savior who wakes me with His love each morning and whispers, “Let me take that load today. It’s too heavy for you to carry. “
            So often, I think I have to shoulder the burden. I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to yield control for fear God might lead where I don’t want to follow. So I cling to my worries, hang on to my man-made plans, and maintain a firm grip on my burden instead of simply saying, “Thanks, Dad,” and handing it over to Him.

            God doesn’t promise there won’t be hard times. But He does promise He will walk beside us through those dark days and will shoulder our fears, our worries, and our cares. Because He’s our Abba. Because He wants to. Because He loves us. Because He cares.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, Same Struggles




God’s Unfailing Love

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Psalm 143:8 (NIV)


          New Year’s day. For some, this brings the promise of fresh opportunities, a chance to start over, a blank page just waiting to be filled in. For others, it’s just a roll-over from yesterday, waking to the same heartache, the same struggles, the same pain that’s been dogging us for a while.
          For me, this New Year begins with sorrow as I head out to visit my parents. A couple of days after Christmas, Mum fell and hit her head on a table, causing an intra-cranial bleed. Now she’s in the hospital, a shriveled and lethargic shadow of the smart, beautiful, vibrant woman she used to be. For several months now, we’ve slowly watched her disappear as she gradually fades into the thick fog of Dementia. Each day, we wonder what she will remember and who she will forget. Every morning brings new struggles, new challenges.
          Although we grieve, we do not despair because we’ve put our trust in God. Waking every morning to the certainty that He loves us brings some clarity to the kaleidoscope of struggles and emotions every day brings.

          God sees our struggles. He feels our pain. He hears our prayers. He will guide our path in the coming year, whatever may come. Because He loves us. Because He cares.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Perishable





For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NIV)


            One of the presents we gave our oldest son this Christmas is a box containing a variety of snack-sized sausages, cheeses, mixed nuts, and chocolates. The day it was delivered, I noticed the large label affixed to the box; “Perishable.” Immediately, I wrapped the box and put it in the fridge to await Christmas morning.
            In his Gospel, John relates a visit between Jesus and Nicodemus. During their conversation, Jesus reveals to Nicodemus that every man is born into this world perishable. Because of sin, we are separated from God and condemned to both physical death and spiritual death. But because of God’s great love, He did not leave us to wallow in sin. He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to save us. Knowing the price that needed to be paid in order to reconcile man with God, Jesus willing came and willingly paid that price.
            Through Jesus, we can find eternal life. When He died on the cross, He removed that perishable state for all those who receive Him as Lord and Savior. Through His death, whoever (that means you and me) believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Although mortal physically, our souls ascend to live in His presence for eternity.

Perishable becomes imperishable. Mortal changes into immortal. Ephemeral transforms into eternal. There is no greater gift than this.

Friday, December 21, 2018

God of the Unexpected




Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.
May everything you have said about me come true.”
Luke 1:37 (NLT)


         My to-do list suffered a major setback. Four days before Christmas and I’m running one son to the doctor because he injured his foot, then find myself driving another one to the tire store because he blew a tire and doesn’t have a spare. Those precious hours I’d planned to use baking cookies, wrapping presents, and cleaning the house were lost in the urgency of my sons’ unexpected needs.
          Most of us experience unexpected setbacks at some time or another. Whether it be our schedule, our health or a loved-one’s health, our finances, relationships, a personal loss, or raising a child with special-needs, they all affect us some way or another.
          Mary knew all about the unexpected; an unexpected visit from an angel, an unexpected and unusual pregnancy, an unexpected confrontation with the man she was engaged to, an unexpected reconciliation, an unexpected census, an unexpected ride to Bethlehem, an unexpected birthplace, unexpected shepherds coming to worship her newborn son, an unexpected visit from Wise Men, unexpected news from an angel that warned them to flee. From the moment Jesus’ coming was announced, her life suffered one surprise after another.
          Yet, through it all, her attitude was one of quiet obedience. Her response to the news that she would become pregnant with the Messiah was one of humble submission to God’s divine plan. I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.
          Oh, that we might have the same attitude when God’s plans capsize our own. May we face those unexpected events that disrupt our lives with quiet acceptance, knowing nothing happens outside of God’s will. May we say, I am the Lord’s servant, even when the road ahead takes an unexpected detour, certain that God’s unexpecteds are always far better than our own feeble plans.





         


Monday, December 17, 2018

The Light that Brings Hope





The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2


          The English Oxford Dictionary defines light as the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. Without light, we would not be able to see everything around us.
To fully appreciate light, one must experience darkness. To be truly thankful for the coming of dawn, one must endure the night.
          I think of those twelve boys trapped for nine days in that cave in Taiwan before they were found. Imagine total obscurity for days on end, when suddenly a light shines through the darkness. Anguish turns into elation. Despair transforms into hope. Help has finally arrived. The lost are found. Their story would have ended very differently had those rescuers not risked their own lives to save them.
          Our story would also end very differently had Christ, The Light of the world, not come to rescue us from spiritual darkness. Without Him, we would be lost forever. Light brings hope. Light always dispels darkness for light and obscurity cannot coexist. Where light enters, darkness must flee. There is no obscurity so deep light cannot conquer.
          Little did the people sleeping in Bethlehem that holy night understand that Jesus, The Light Isaiah had prophesied, The Light they had been waiting for, The Light they had been promised, had entered the world. Little did those who watched him grow up and live in their midst grasp that Hope walked among them. Little did those who saw his miracles, heard his message, then walked away, realize they were rejecting that life-saving Light.
Jesus is The Light that entered our world, dispelling the darkness of sin. In Him, we have guidance, hope, and salvation. Only He can rid us, once and for all, of the darkness of sin that resides in each human soul. Only He can offer the salvation we so desperately need.
I’m pretty sure none of those boys in that cave turned their backs on their rescuers. On the contrary, they knew those men were their only hope to come out of the darkness. They understood those rescuers were the only way they could be saved.
Have you accepted God’s gift of Light? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? If not, won’t you receive Him today?

Knowing God


            If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, I would encourage you to read the Scriptures below and pray the simple prayer of repentance at the end. The salvation God offers us is a gift. It’s simple, it’s permanent and it’s the result of God’s merciful grace. He offers it to you, the only condition being that you accept it.
1.     We have all sinned
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NIV)
2.     Because of our sin, we cannot live in communion with God
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 (NIV)
3.     God loved us so much, He sent his only son to die as the penalty for our sins.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV).
4.     We cannot gain our way into heaven. All God asks of us is that we accept his gift of grace.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9.
5.     Accept God’s gift of grace and ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.
The jailer… asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:19-31
Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved. Romans 10:13.
           
            Pray with me. “Jesus, I acknowledge I am a sinner. I know that my sins keep me from enjoying fellowship with you. Thank you for sending Jesus to die in my place. Please forgive my sins and help me live in a way that is pleasing to you. I accept your gift of grace and ask you to reign in my life as Lord and Savior from this day forward. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
            If you’ve prayed this prayer, then I welcome you into God’s family. You are now a child of God. I would encourage you to find a fellowship of believers where you can learn more about your wonderful heavenly Father and the grace he’s extended to you. Read your Bible and pray on a regular basis in order to grow in your faith and live a life that is pleasing to him.
            May God richly bless you as you begin a new life in Christ.
           



         
         


          

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Wonderful Counselor




For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called;
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)


          Good counselors can be difficult to come by. I learned this first-hand when I was exploring options for our son, Benjamin. Most of the psychologists and counselors our pediatrician referred us to had plenty of knowledge. The diplomas on the walls proved that. Yet their expertise was focused on treating neuro-typical children. Because they didn’t fully understand Benjamin’s challenges, sensory issues, and thought processes, their counsel was mostly useless.
          Then a friend told me about a counselor who has a family member with Autism Spectrum Disorder. From the moment we met, I knew we’d finally found the right counselor. Her first-hand experience with autism not only enabled her to empathize with our son, but also empowered her to provide him with helpful coping strategies.
           Isaiah reminds us that in Christ, we have a Wonderful Counselor. Not just a source of wisdom, but Wisdom Himself. Not just someone who will listen and sympathize, but a God who is all knowing and a Savior who understands because He dwelt among us in human flesh. Jesus endured pain, suffered anguish, felt sorrow, shed tears, and faced an excruciating death. He knows. He understands.
In our struggles, we are not alone. Jesus sees. He cares. He listens. And He intercedes for us before the throne of grace. We can bring our struggles to Him because He understands better than anyone else.


         



Monday, December 3, 2018

When God is Silent



So the Word became human and made his home among us.
John 1:14 (NLT)

Silence can be good. It can also be worrisome, especially if you have three rambunctious little boys in the house. I remember one particular incident when my sons were playing a game of cops and robbers. The noisy gang suddenly went very quiet. When I went to check on them, I discovered our oldest son was painting a black mask on his brother’s face with markers.
            Before Jesus came as a babe in a manger, the people of Israel experienced 400 years of silence. 400 years without any communication from God. 400 years of watching and waiting. Surely, they believed God had abandoned them.
            Yet, during those years of silence, God was at work, preparing the way for His one and only Son to enter a world filled with sin and darkness. It’s easy to mistake silence for inactivity. When we pray, yet fail to hear an answer, we are tempted to believe God doesn’t care. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though God be silent, He sees our sorrows, hears our prayers, and cares about our trials. Though God be silent, He’s still at work.
            400 years of silence leading up to God’s greatest gift to humankind – Jesus-Christ, God with us. God’s silence shattered with just one word; Jesus, The Word incarnate.