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Archive for the ‘Crisis: Between Good Friday and Easter’ Category

We all face crisis of belief…what will we do when we have those times?  How will we respond?  This week we have been looking at the crisis of belief that the disciples faced watching the One they served die on a cross and the emotional mayhem that must have existed for all of them.  But there are more than those types of crises.

There are those day-to-day, ordinary “means of grace” moments, when we must ask ourselves are we willing to step out and move beyond doubt and uncertainty to take those steps that seem as though we could be stepping off the cliff…to those moments when our actions seem insane or irrational to the world but we know they are entirely the right move because He holds our hands.   Will we move beyond doubt to experience the joy of unending trust in the Lord Jesus Christ with the confidence that He knows every purpose and every plan and our foot will not step where He doesn’t want us to go? (Jer 29:11)

Where is the Joy?

In praying to the Lord and being thrown into the lion’s den?

In serving the Lord and being cast into the fiery furnace?

In being persecuted on a cross upside down?

In being asked to place your son on the altar as a sacrifice?

In watching one of your sons take his inheritance and leave?

There is a call on our lives to live and walk in joy…the joy of the Lord will be our strength.  (Neh 8:10).  But life can make it a challenge to keep a smile on your face let alone joy bubbling forth from your eyes and through your words.

As with any relationship, the trust we need grows as we spend time with the Lord Jesus in prayer and in His Word.  But, it also grows as we associate with those who remind us of truth and support and encourage us with their friendship.  It comes through fellowship with those who can remind us of His promises when we are too embroiled in our crisis to remember.  The disciples too found strength through fellowship.  In fact, Jesus came to them as they were meeting behind locked doors (John 20:19-20).

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, For God can be trusted to keep his promise.  Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back is drawing near.  (Heb. 10:23-25)

Find a few people who will encourage and support you, but also hold you accountable to His truths in those moments of crisis of belief.  Mark Twain said, “to get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.”

Oh, Lord Jesus, today I am glad you are my best friend.  That I can associate with you whether to dance with joy or weep with sorrow.  Keep my feet on solid ground and open opportunities when I might offer Your love and friendship to others in the midst of their challenges. Help me to see the needs of others with Your compassionate heart and serve with Your patient mercy.  Amen

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I have reflected often on what Peter must have felt after his passionate vow that he would die with Christ and within hours denied Christ three times.  Oh, the anguish and horror of looking into Jesus’ eyes just as the rooster crowed (Luke 22:54-62).  Like Peter, I know I would have cried bitterly.  But what then?  How to live with oneself after such a public denial and mockery of his vow?

Peter saw the empty tomb.  (John 20:3-10).  We are told John “saw and believed” but we are not told that Peter did.

I suspect that even if Peter did believe, it would have still been a crisis of faith – after all, if Jesus was alive there was even more reason to regret his denial and even more reason to feel guilty about all that had transpired.  What do you say to Jesus after what must have seemed such a public betrayal?

Yet, even in the midst of that confusion and struggle that the disciples experienced following Resurrection morning, Jesus stepped into ordinary life and reminded them of His love and His call on their lives.  (John 21).  Jesus took Peter’s crisis and made His love clear.

God takes those moments of doubt, confusion and even our disbelief and turns them into our story to share of His love and grace.  Can you imagine the strength of Peter’s testimony for the rest of his life?  I can hear him sharing with others that they had nothing that was so shameful or sinful that it couldn’t be forgiven—after all, he had even disavowed knowing Jesus and yet Jesus still loved him.  Jesus took Peter’s crisis of belief and rather than allowing Peter to fade into oblivion, he turned that crisis into such a powerful message that 2000 years later it still resonates with wounded hearts.

This is Peter’s testimony that we can claim as a promise for our lives even today, “All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again.  Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.  For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. …And God, in his mighty power will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him….So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.”  (I Peter 1:3-6)

Be willing to share your story of crisis with others as God gives you the victory over the pain, shame, regret, heartache—whatever it is.  Your sharing may well help others through their crisis of belief.  We all face those times—whether with health issues, financial challenges, relationships that become strained or the death of a precious one.  But as we lean on Jesus and allow Him to use our story to minister to others, our own soul finds healing.  Recently, a woman was sharing all of her woes that made her feel lost and alone—very defeated.  She was certain no one could understand.

I agreed that I hadn’t those exact experiences, but just because my life looks calm and orderly didn’t mean I couldn’t relate to pain and despair.  As I started to share just a few of the detours and times of crises in my life, I literally was able to observe her countenance change as she realized her experiences weren’t unique.  It was a good reminder to me that God has allowed these crises in my life for His strength to be shown in my weaknesses (II Cor 12:9) and for Him to be glorified as I praise Him for carrying me through.

Peter could have allowed his denial to be used by the enemy to destroy him, but through opening himself to allow God to take that and use it in ministering to others, God was able to turn it into a blessing that continues even to this day.  Surrender your story of crisis into His capable hands and you too will minister to others in their time of need.

Lord God, take my story and make it a victory story of Your love and grace.  Use my story to help others find You.  As painful as it has been at times, thank You for the story that reminds me You are my ever-present help in trouble.  In You, I am enough.  In You, I am loved.  In You, I am victorious because Jesus went to the cross and rose from the grave defeating even the ultimate enemy—death.  I love you, Lord.  Amen

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As mentioned earlier this week, Job trusted even in the midst of hurricane of pain and shattering circumstances—his children had been killed, he had lost all of his wealth and his health.  Abraham also was a man who faced a life altering crisis.  God had told him that he would be the father of nations and yet, we read the story of Abraham following God’s instruction for him to take his son, Isaac, to the land of Moriah to sacrifice him on one of the mountains (Gen 22), and we have the end of the story with God providing a lamb in the thicket for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son.  But what happens in those times in our lives when we feel as though our faith is shattered and there is no lamb in the thicket?

Sometimes the journey is thrust on us and we are called to respond as Abraham when the Lord called him to sacrifice Isaac.  We may be called to sacrifice the object of our love, affection, time or energy on the altar even when our “Isaac” was given to us by the Lord in answer to prayer.  There was a time when I discovered that I was willing to lay my Isaac down, but I kept looking with expectation for a lamb in the thicket that would be the sacrifice instead.  It was a real crisis of belief for me to realize that sometimes there isn’t a lamb in the thicket.  Sometimes, the lamb isn’t provided at the time we are called to trust.  Other times, we are called to recognize the sacrifice as an opportunity to learn to say, “Even in this Lord, I will trust you.”

In the midst of those times of sorrow and doubt, I have had to learn to praise the Lord through my sorrow.  Reading the Psalms sustains me.  Equally, to reflect on the sorrows that Job, Abraham, David, Mary and other Biblical saints experienced and that they too had to learn to trust Him and turn their sorrow into praise and worship for the King of Kings.

Standing at the foot of the cross on Good Friday or discovering an empty tomb would have been filled with sorrow, but Resurrection morning came and so did the Joy we can experience with them—the Joy of meeting a Risen Savior who can be trusted to never leave us, just as He never left them.  Even the ultimate challenge of death could not stop our Lord Jesus Christ.  Stand on the promise that nothing in your life is beyond His love for you and His power is available to help you even when there seems to be no lamb in the thicket.  (Eph 1:18-20).

Oh, Lord Jesus, there are seasons in my life when everything that can go wrong will go wrong.  The very foundations of my faith as well as my world seem shaken beyond repair.  Keep the walls from closing in.  Keep me from trouble, but most of all keep me constantly in the palm of Your Hand that I might not waiver even when I discover there is no lamb in the thicket this time.  Amen

 

 

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On the night Jesus was betrayed, He went “as usual to the Mount of Olives” where he spent time in prayer.  He urged his disciples to pray and separated Himself from them, but upon His return, He found them sleeping.  At least twice Jesus urged His disciples to stay alert so they would not be overcome by temptation.  (Matt 26:41, Luke 22:39-46).  Much like this night for the disciples there may be times when we are about to face a crisis in our life of a proportion that is beyond our immediate ability to comprehend.  But, with the wisdom of this urging from Jesus Christ, we can be alert and prepared for what might be ahead.

We are important to God.  So important that God has provided a way for us to cope, as He has promised, “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it.  When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” (I Cor 10:13)

It may be only a nuisance temptation like a piece of chocolate, or it may be a full-blown life and death crisis, but through it all God is faithful and will make a way.  The book of Job challenges me to recognize that when I begin to question or doubt God I am calling my own integrity into question and why would I do that if I truly trust the Lord.  (Job 27:5).  Job certainly experienced circumstances that like the disciples would have been a life and death crisis of belief, yet even as his wife and friends challenged him, he stayed strong in his confidence in God because he was anchored in the One who is never surprised by the events in our life.  Clearly, that was because prior to the crisis he had stayed alert in his walk with the Lord God.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  I Peter 5:8

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.  I Thess 5:6

I stay alert by staying consistently in God’s Word—reading and praying.  Establish a pattern of resistance by protecting yourself with the Word of God (Eph 6:17, II Tim 3:16-17, Heb 4:12), and prepare yourself with prayer (Eph 6:18, Phil 4:6).  How do you stay alert?

Please won’t you share a comment today so that real women hear real answers for very real challenges?

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What must those early disciples have felt the morning after watching Jesus Christ die on a cross?  What must they have felt when the women came running to tell them the tomb was empty?  (John 20).

Despite the crowds, the soldiers, the shock, and the very real pain that would have been felt by those who loved Jesus Christ as they watched him on that cross, several of the observers carried on, putting one foot in front of the other.  Joseph of Arimathea, an honored member of the high council, “gathered his courage” and approached Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body.  (Mark 16:43-46).  Joseph then took the body and, with the help of Nicodemus (John 19:39), prepared the body for burial as was the custom for royalty.  Following the Sabbath, the women who had cared for Jesus during his ministry came to handle the preparation of the body as well.

These followers knew the customs for burial and proceeded to handle those customs in the usual manner.  Sometimes when we are in the midst of deep pain and a crisis, all we can do is gather our courage and continue with those tasks or activities that are routine.  Sometimes that is enough.  But we can do so with the promise and the assurance that our Lord God is not only there to carry us through but will give us the strength to even gather our courage in the midst of our deepest pain.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27). 

This week as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can also celebrate how some of the early disciples (Joseph, Nicodemus, the women) provided tangible examples to encourage us to  continue steadfast in our faith even in the middle of a crisis of belief.

We can gather our courage and remember that even in the midst of a crisis, Jesus is present and we don’t have to be afraid. We can still proceed with those routine daily activities knowing God will carry us through the day.

Thank you Jesus, for Your ever-present help.  Help me to gather my courage so I remain strong with my eyes on You and my heart open to Your healing balm.  Amen.  

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