Jesus, Too, Was Touched With Sorrow

On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
‭‭Mark‬ ‭6:29‬

Jesus was familiar with losing friends and family members.

We assume he lost his step-father, Joseph, sometime in adolescences or early adulthood. The Gospels make no mention of Joseph beyond when Jesus was 12 years old.

And then there is Lazarus. Jesus was so touched by Lazarus’s passing that he wept publically. Weeping, though, isn’t the only thing Jesus did. Going to the tomb, He called the dead man’s name and Lazarus walked out of the tomb that contained him.

But then there was John the Baptist. Jesus and John shared a special connection while they were still in the womb. They shared a special connection to the ministry that God planned for both of them. And they were enduring the common misery their calling would demand of them.

In Mark 6, the evangelist tells the sordid story of how John the Baptist came to be beheaded. It had to do with lustful dancing and political intrigue. It’s not a PG rated story.

How did Jesus feel about John’s execution? He doesn’t tell us, but His actions speak louder than words. After a day of ministry and miracles, Jesus seeks solitude. He gathers His disciples into a boat so that they could leave the crowd behind and find comfort in each other and with God.

When we hurt, we need to grab our closest friends and pour our hearts out to them. We don’t know what Jesus said to the disciples about His personal feelings, but we know that Jesus loved John, and that John’s and Jesus’ ministry were intricately tied together.

When you have suffered the loss of someone close to you, who do you go to for comfort? Even Jesus had a group of friends whom He could take a boat excursion with for a break from the work of ministry and the pain of loss.

Be thankful for all of the people God puts in your life.

Be the kind of friend who finds themselves often in the boat of those who are mourning. Perhaps you will be the mourner someday as well, and you will be blessed by the presence of others who are gathered to share your sorrow.

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https://youtu.be/0_hV8L65Rqo

Be Holy, Not Lowly

I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
Leviticus 11:45

We become like that which we worship.

Nike knows this. They pay professional athletes millions of dollars to wear their sneakers and endorse their t-shirts. And what happens because these popular athletes wear Nike shoes? People all over the world dip deep into their pockets to purchase Nike shoes and other apparel because it provides a connection between themselves and their favorite athletes. Whether or not buying Nike shirts and shoes gives the purchaser a competitive advantage…I really doubt it.

I don’t have a favorite athlete so I guess I can go on wearing whatever kind of shoe is on the clearance aisle!

God is jealous for our worship.

His jealousy is not because HE is needy. It’s because WE are needy.

We gravitate toward what is familiar, common, and easily accessible. We are drawn to what is lowly rather than the One who is holy.

Have you ever wondered why the 2nd Commandment is against making images of God to worship?

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Exodus 20:4-6

The Israelites tried many times to CREATE gods for themselves that reeked of things that were familiar. The first such god they tried to create was a golden calf. At other times, especially after they entered the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they set up altars to the god Baal and erected Asherah poles; gods carved of wood and stone worshipped in Canaan. The Lord warned them in the 10 Commandments not to even attempt to make an image of Him.

God does not give himself to being defined by our limited abilities or confined to our small imaginations. He is infinite. The creator of all things cannot be summarized by the shaping of things that we might worship Him.

God declares His holiness. To be holy is to be separate. God is not like any of the animals. He is greater than all of the celestial lights. He fills the universe, yet is mindful of every atom He spoke into being.

God calls His people to be holy because He is holy.

Rather than gravitating toward what we know we can control, that which is lowly, God calls us to reach toward Him, the One who is holy. We can’t control Him or define Him, but we know He’s good. We know He is gracious. We know He is forgiving. We know He loves.

God is love.
1 John 4:8

When we worship God, we allow Him to cultivate us so we can bear the resemblance of our Heavenly Father.

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Don’t You Care?

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:37-38‬

Jesus and the disciples endured some long days. Sometimes the only way for them to get out from among the crowd was to get in a boat and row towards the next destination. An excursion on the lake can be a peaceful conclusion to a restless day of teaching, preaching and healing.

On this particular day the escape to the water was unsettling. Many of the disciples were experienced sailors, but not all of them. The Gospel of Mark describes a “furious squall” besieging the disciples’ boat.

The disciples, including the sailors I assume, panicked. Jesus, undisturbed, slept.

“Don’t you care if we drown?” The disciples asked Him as they woke Him.

Jesus woke up, but He wasn’t worried. He didn’t address His bewildered companions. He addressed the storm.

“Quiet! Be Still!”

Thats it. No explanation about how changing barometric pressures lead to high winds and extreme weather events. No discourse on how God organized the water cycle to keep rivers flowing, grass growing and fish swimming. Just a display of absolute authority over the natural order.

When we get panicked, regardless of the nature of the storm that rocks our boat, it may seem like Jesus is sleeping, but He still in control. He reserves the power to speak a word and change the elements around us.

After Jesus stilled the squall, he turned to the disciples and asked: Why are you so afraid?

They didn’t realize that the one who slept in their boat was present when creation was spoken into existence.

Here’s the good news, Jesus is in your boat, too. He’s there because He cares! Have faith and wait on Him to calm the storm.

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Delight yourself in the LORD

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

I’ve said a lot of things that have been cringe-worthy, but there is one phrase that I’ve landed on (a phrase I’ve not been able to attribute to anyone else, yet) that I think is quote-worthy. See if this phrase doesn’t fit that description: People Find ONLY What They Are Looking For.

I’ve seen this maxim lived out over and over and over again in my life, and in the lives of the people I’m connected to.

When we set our hearts on something, it seems that everything in life is filtered through that desire.

If we want more money, we tailor our existence to gain more money.

If it’s a job promotion or career advancement we desire, then we put the entirety of our existence into the service of that promotion or career step.

If we are seeking greater comfort, we go to great lengths to achieve that level of comfort our hearts desire.

But what are those kinds of desires God is eager to grant us? Is there a key here to satisfying the insatiable desires of the heart?

King David gives us a key insight into this mystery: Delight Yourself In The Lord.

When we make the Lord our first priority, then the desires of His heart become the desires of our heart.

I’ve often said in prayer meetings, if you want to pray prayers that God answers, ask for those things that God is eager to give.

The same holds true for what we seek in life. When we are looking for MORE of God in our existence, God shows Himself to us. When we are looking to fill our lives with the things of God, God readily supplies our lives with those things that honor Him. When we look for God’s grace in its myriad forms, we find such an abundance that we are able to share in the grace we’ve received with others!

What are you looking for today? As you walk through the pages of Scripture, what stands out to you that God would have you search for? Seek those things as the desire of your heart and God will bless you with those things in abundance!

Remember Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33

If He is our delight, then our heart will always be satisfied. We find only what we are looking for, so let’s make sure what we are looking for is that which ultimately matters.

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Come And See

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
John 1:46

Evangelism takes on many forms.

One of the first evangelists in the Gospel of John is the disciple Philip.

Philip was an INVITER.

After Philip’s first encounter with Jesus he knew there was something to share. He went to a friend, Nathanael, who received Philip’s word about Jesus with skepticism.

But Nathanael’s skepticism didn’t deter Philip from offering a life changing invitation.

“Come and See.”

Philip did not know all of the answers about Jesus, but he knew enough to know Jesus was worth sharing.

“Come and See.”

We find ourselves in the same place Philip was in. Our enthusiasm for Jesus outstrips the information we know about Him. Lack of information wasn’t an excuse for Philip, and neither should it be for us. We can always say, “Come and See.

I’ve heard it said many times that our church is a welcoming and friendly place. That’s a mark of pride for our congregation. And to build on that reputation, we need to add to it that we are an INVITING church. We need to follow in the footsteps of Philip and encourage those who are close to us to “Come and See” the Jesus who saves us.

The result of Philip’s invitation to Nathanael was a face to face meeting between Nathanael and Jesus. Here’s proof of the fruit of the invitation from the Gospel of John:

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

John 1:47-51

Nathaniel came to faith in Christ because someone gave him and invitation to “Come and See.”

Think of the people who invited you to church, VBS, a revival service or a conference, where you had the opportunity to “Come and See.” Be thankful for their invitation and look forward to an opportunity to invite someone in your live to “Come and See” the one who can offer them eternal life.

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The Texas Department of Public Safety recently learned a valuable lesson about asking. The state formerly had the nation’s lowest percentage of registered organ and tissue donors. On January 1, 2010 a new state law went into effect that requires clerks to ask all applicants for a driver’s license or ID card if they would like to register as an organ donor. Participation has more than doubled simply because people are being asked. Imagine what might happen if Christians, like these clerks, were required to ask every person encountered if they want to have a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Many would still say no, but the number who favorably respond might literally double. Houston Chronicle, 7/28/10

Go To Your Solitary Place

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
‭‭Mark‬ ‭1:35‬

If Jesus needed solitude, then we need solitude.

The previous day, according to the Gospel of Mark, had been full of teaching and healing and crowds and activity.

Rather than coasting into a late breakfast in bed, Jesus chose to rise before sunrise to commune with the Father.

The disciples were a little stunned. By the time they rubbed the sleep out of their eyes, and noticed Jesus was missing, Jesus had already completed the most important part of His day.

Waking up a little extra early to tend to you alone-time with God might seem like too great a cost, but it’s the best investment we can make toward having a meaningful day!

I think it’s needless to say that Jesus was “self-directed.” But He was giving us a pattern for how to have a “God-directed” life.

When we chose to meet with God before they distractions of the day encroach, we find that we have a greater capacity to encounter God throughout the day. We have deeper spiritual resources to draw from. We start the day with an abundance of hope rather than desperation.

How does being alone with God at the start of your day make a difference in your life?

How does it affect you when you miss your time with God?

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Moving Mountains to Bring People to Jesus

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.
Mark 2:3

When it comes to bringing people to church, and more importantly to Christ, what is our attitude?

Enthusiastic? Hesitant? Reluctant?

There 4 men in the town of Capernaum who were so eager to bring their friend, who was paralized, to Jesus even when doing so required the destruction of property!

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.
Mark 2:1-4

Regardless of the cost, these for men completed their mission for their friend. Even better, their friend had a life changing experience!

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Mark 2:5-12

Who are you willing to move mountains for to see them transformed by the Lord?

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During the ministry of D.L. Moody (1837-1899), a young orphan came to hear the great evangelist preach in London. His presence at church was the result of enormous effort. He had walked across the large city to be there and was thrilled to have finally found the church. As he approached the main door, a man seized him by the collar and gruffly asked, “Where do you think you’re going?” His reply was simple, “I’m going inside to hear Mr. Moody preach.” The doorman reprimanded the boy for his dirty, shabby attire and refused to let him in. Devastated by what had just happened, he sat down on the church steps and began to cry. While he was sitting there, a coach pulled up and a large man stepped out. He immediately noticed the disappointed boy and asked him why he was crying. The orphan explained how he had made a long trek across the city to hear Moody’s sermon but was denied entrance because of his filth. Moved by what he heard, the man took the boy by his hand and escorted him not only through the front door, but down to the front of the church. He stopped at the front pew and motioned for the boy to be seated. The large man then walked up to the platform and prepared to deliver his sermon. This gracious man was none other than D.L. Moody, a true evangelist.
Pulpit Helps, March 2002

Where is God When I’m Hurting

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:18‬

We all want to know where a God is when out world devolves into pain and heartache. We ask, “Why would God allow this to happen?”

Pain, in whatever form it comes to us, makes our field of vision small. We can’t see 100 feet in front of us when we are being attacked from 3 feet away. We can’t see the blessings tomorrow holds when we are bombarded with heartache today.

Pain, heartache, and suffering do not mean that God has left us. In a very real way, God comes close to us when we experience brokenness.

That was King David’s experience in Psalm 34.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:15‬ ‭‬‬

This isn’t just an Old Testament truth. We see it loved out in the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus had a friend named Lazarus. Jesus dined with Lazarus, knew his family, and was even sent word when Lazarus fell ill.

But rather than rushing to Lazarus’ sickbed, Jesus tarried. By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, where Lazarus lived, He received the news that Lazarus passed away.

“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked them when He arrived.

Lazarus’ sisters, and the other mourner, took Jesus to the grave. In this context, the Bible recorded the shortest verse in Scripture:

“Jesus Wept.”
John 11:35

Jesus is present to His followers when they hurt. His heart breaks for His loved ones when they suffer.

The weeping Jesus does is different than our weeping. Though He feels the fullness of the sadness of the situation, He also sees past the pain of today, and is able to bring about the blessings of tomorrow.

Read the full account of the power of the presence of Christ among the broken-hearted in John 11.

When we are in the hospital, or at the cemetery, we can trust that God is with us, God is for us, and God in His great grace, is holding us up.

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬

Serving God in the Least Likely Places

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Matthew 25:45

Somewhere, in those places that still use VHS tapes, there is a video going around about a guy who preached a sermon on Matthew 25. He preached it, not so much because he knew the weight of the text, or had much experience in its content, but because the text spoke to him in a special way.

Ok, it was me.

I don’t even know where that tape would be at this point. And if I thought it was being circulated I would surely try to find it and lock it up. I wrote, and delivered, my first sermon from that Matthew 25 with an abundance of naivete.

I poured everything I knew into that one sermon. Sadly, that only consisted of about 4 pages of double spaced texts in a large font. The delivery of the sermon lasted about 7 minutes, including a long prayer at the beginning.

20+ years later, I have a greater appreciation for not only the text but for those who I’ve seen living out this passage.

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
Matthew 25:44

I’ve been with ministers in the prison who have served Jesus for decades by visiting the incarcerated.

I’ve learned the power of visiting the sick in the hospital, and at home, in the presence of compassionate people who show great care for those who are hurting.

I’ve been with missionaries as they dug wells for thirsty people in the hardest to reach villages in Africa.

I’ve been with those who rose before the break of dawn to prepare food for the hungry.

And I’ve been with friends who have NEVER met a stranger, who show Christlike love to everyone they meet.

And when there were people who needed clothes, the church filled to the brim with generous donations, of all shapes and sizes.

When we serve out of love, we not only meet the needs, but we delight the Lord!

When you come across the hungry, feed them.

When someone is thirsty, offer them a cool cup of water.

Offer your coat to the cold this winter.

Pay a call on the sick and the homebound. You’ll appreciate those who call on you when you’re down.

Visit, and pray for the prisoner. There are steel bars, and there are spiritual bars. They need prayer for both.

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Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people…
Ephesians 6:7

We Draw Strength to Serve from the Springs of Silence

No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.
Exodus 34:3

We draw strength to serve from the springs of silence.

The Hebrew Children sinned greatly. The first time Moses went up the mountain to receive the Law of the Lord, they rebelled against just about every Law God gave to Moses. Rather than being grateful for their redemption from slavery, the people indulged themselves in idolatry. You can read all about it in Exodus 32.

I can’t help but think, at this point, of Charlton Heston playing Moses in The Ten Commandments!

After God dealt with His people, he summoned Moses back up the mountain a second time. This time around the people were well behaved.

God gave Moses a specific command NOT to let anyone come with him, or even let the animals of the flocks or the herds graze on the mountain at this time.

I think this is largely due to the Holiness of God. The Lord was infinitely irritated with His people for their rebellion and was showing them reasons why they shouldn’t tread lightly on His instructions.

Perhaps there was an additional purpose for this specific command that had something to do with the quality of the time that God wanted have with Moses.

Moses needed to give God his undivided attention. It’s hard to focus on God when you’re in a crowd. God wanted Moses to focus both of his ears, and both of his eyes, and all of his heart, on what God was about to tell him. God wanted enough SILENCE in Moses’ life to drown out the distraction of the crowd and to escape the distractions of life.

Also, God didn’t want Moses’ imagination to wander. Moses had been a shepherd for many years. The bleating of lambs and the braying of donkeys would have caused his mind to return to the busyness of the world. God deserves the kind of time and space we can carve out for Him where we are fully present to what He wants, rather than what we want.

God speaks loudly in the SILENCE and in the solidite; when we escape from the hustle and bustle of life in order to gain strength from His presence.

Every servant needs to recharge their spiritual batteries.

God called Moses to the mountain alone so He could have complete access to Moses’ life. God had BIG plans for Moses, and Moses needed all of the power God would make available to him.

For the plans God has for us, where do we find time to listen, be still and quiet, and draw strength from God in silence?

If we NEVER stop to rest in the Lord, we are like a babbling brook, full of foam and froth. But still waters run DEEP. And in the depth of our relationship with God we find space to recharge our batteries for the tasks at hand.

Draw deeply today, this week, this season of your life, from the well of silence, and use what God gives you in the solitude to serve those He sends you to bless.

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Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7