Yesterday, as I was sitting at home for my second week due to this coronavirus, I found myself wondering how I would make ends meet while I waited for the emergency benefit funds to be deposited. We have not been given any clear dates so there is no way to plan during this period. I was feeling unnerved and unsteady.
As I contemplated the uneasiness in my heart, I realized that this is not what God wants for me, this is not what God makes available for me every second of every day.
So I started praying, and my mind was flooded with the memory of when I was in a coma in 2010. I remember in one of my dreams (visions? hallucinations? I'll never know) I was in a room at the bottom of a staircase, like a vestibule.
I could hear voices upstairs and it sounded like there was a large committee having a meeting. I could hear the consistent voice of the chairman asking for reports from the committee members. Each member was evidently responsible for a different crisis point in the world.
Each member was asked what the need was in their area and they would give a report of the nature of the crisis, then end the report with the amount of funds that would be required to meet that need.
Without hesitation, the chairman would call out to the treasurer (apparently) to instruct the treasurer to forward the amount asked for to that member to address the need they were overseeing.
I remember listening in amazement. This committee had immeasurable wealth. There were no probing questions asked when the amount needed was presented. The only question was "How much?", never "Why so much?"
As I lay there listening to this intriguing meeting, I felt an overwhelming calm wash over me. I didn't know who was upstairs but I realized that I was in their care! My every need would be met. I had nothing to fear as I was in the best care possible.
Suddenly, a line from an old hymn popped into my head "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He will care for me"
Those were God's own agents meeting upstairs! And they were who was taking care of me!
I thanked God for this amazing miracle and the comfort I experienced as a result.
God, who has infinite resources was in charge of me, even as I lay in a coma, in a hospital bed. I breathed deep and relaxed. Everything would be okay.
As I contemplated my situation yesterday, I realized that all I was wondering about was money. I was not in a coma nor was I suffering from a deadly illness.
Once again, "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills" came, like a spring breeze, through my troubled thoughts and I smiled. My Lord owns everything and has everything. He knows my need and He has unlimited resources. Immeasurable resources.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
I suddenly found myself celebrating God's goodness. I am still in His care!
Then another verse shone through - Phil 4:19 - "For my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
I didn't have to hope or imagine just how amazing God is! I can remember specifically how He cared for me when I was completely helpless. He came through in a huge way and He can be trusted to come through again.
My prayers turned into joyful praise, thanking God for His goodness to me.
With my mind and heart at peace, I no longer carried that concern. I left it in the hands of my Heavenly Father.
Today, I unexpectedly received a letter from my employer, letting me know that I was dismissed without cause, effective immediately, and so, as provided by the law, he would give me 2 weeks' pay in lieu of notice.
God has, again, met my need! This money will hold me over while I am waiting for the emergency benefits to be rolled out.
Also, that letter frees me mentally to move forward, to make plans and to take action without wondering if I will be interrupted with a call back to work.
Below you will find the comforting words of the hymnist as inspired by Psalm 50:10. Sing along if you remember the tune and know that our God really does own the cattle on a thousand hills - and everything else. Put your trust in Him, for He, alone, never fails!
Oh, how I am comforted by these words! Jesus, who knows the end from the beginning, who knew that raising Lazarus from the dead was the plan all along, wept because he was so deeply moved by the grief of the people who were mourning their loss.
But let’s rewind…
Jesus had gotten word that Lazarus was sick but by the time he got to Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days.
Jesus intentionally delayed his arrival because he know what miraculous outcome was in store.
When Lazarus’ sister, Martha, heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him and, of course, the first thing she said was, “If you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died” Then she added, “but I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Wow – there it is. Martha expressed her pain to Jesus first. She even sounds like there was an edge to her voice, because she knows (and she knows that Jesus knows) that her brother’s death could have been prevented. Then she follows with a beautiful statement of faith, even in her grief. Martha declared that she knows that anything is still possible!
Her brother was dead and buried, and yet, she still had hope! How many of us look at the apparent finality of our situation and think it’s over? How many of us dare to hope?
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)
Martha’s statement of faith in the face of such finality is inspiring. “But I know”. That’s the key. Life brings us agonies, disappointments, losses and, sometimes, pandemics and we find our hearts crying out, “Lord, if you had been here…” When the situation looks bleak and final, my friends, that is the time to remember what we know, rather than to just think about how we feel.
“But I know that, even now, God will give you whatever you ask.” Whatever you ask! Nothing is so final that God doesn’t still have the last word. Herein lies our hope, our faith and our reason to rejoice.
Then it gets even better.
Jesus tells Martha that her brother will rise again and she, like many of us, accepts this to be a spiritual truth. (I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day) Yes, we have this glorious hope! For the follower of Jesus, death is not final. It is not the last chapter. We will rise again to be in Heaven eternally.
But that’s not what Jesus was referring to and his response is powerful.
Martha said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection” and Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection and the life”
WOW! I don’t know if those words made Martha confused as to their meaning or if she felt a bit faint as those words sunk in. I think it was the former.
Jesus went on to say, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Again – WOW! Powerful words to a woman whose brother lay dead in a tomb, but again, Martha replied with faith and hope.
“Yes Lord”, she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world”
Martha’s faith and hope in Jesus were sustaining her in her grief but she was still focused on the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ purpose. She didn’t seem to be catching the very practical application of what he was saying. How many of us do that?
We are unwavering in our faith in Jesus for our salvation and our hope of Heaven but don’t quite make the connection to Jesus’ work in the here and now.
Jesus tells us of miracles he is giving us in our lives today but we miss it because we think in terms of him being “out there” when he is actually “right here”.
We don’t see any evidence of further explanation to Martha regarding Lazarus because the next thing we know, Martha tells Mary that Jesus wants to speak to her. It is clear from Mary’s response that Martha did not understand that Jesus was about to bring her brother back to life because, when Mary approached Jesus, she also said, “If you’d been here, my brother would not have died.”
How often do we linger in our pain when Jesus has already revealed his miracle for us because we continue to focus on our feelings rather than on him?
Everyone was still in mourning. Keep in mind, Jesus had already told Martha that he would raise Lazarus (I am the resurrection). He was there and that’s all they needed, but Martha had not understood, or else I’m sure she would have told Mary. Instead, Mary expresses her pain and disappointment to Jesus, “If only you’d been here”.
And how does Jesus respond? He doesn’t get defensive (But I told Martha!) He doesn’t scold the sisters for their grief. He doesn’t suggest that their sorrow shows a lack of faith. What does he do? He looks around at all the heartbroken people and he is “moved deeply in his spirit and troubled”.
What a beautiful picture of Christ’s compassion! He knew (and had known all along) that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead but he did not let that disconnect him from the very real pain that Martha, Mary and their friends were feeling.
Jesus asked where they laid their brother BECAUSE HE WAS GOING TO RAISE HIM BACK TO LIFE, and yet, here we have the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. John 11:35. Two precious words that assure us that we are not alone in our sorrow, in our grief, in our losses and fears.
The God of Heaven, the Creator of the sun and moon and stars, of every living thing who ever was and ever will be, the God who created you and me, who knows the end from the beginning, was so deeply moved by the grief and pain of his friends and of their friends that he wept with them.
Even though he knew what he was about to do.
My friends, know that whatever is going on in your life right now, whatever is causing you sorrow or pain, fear or anxiety, the Almighty God, comes down and weeps with us. He does not belittle our tears. He shares in them. He participates fully with humanity while being fully God. And he weeps.
Take courage today. Jesus is here.
Shortly after arriving at work this morning, I received a message to say that, effective immediately, my office is closed down until further notice, due to this Covid-19, so now I’m off work.
I didn’t quit, although I’ve been thinking about doing so for months. I wasn’t fired either. My office had to close.
I have no idea how long I’ll be off but I would guess it will be at least 14 days. As soon as I got home, I counted my stock of cat food. 14 cans. Perfect.
I have been wanting to devote more time to writing and speaking but have felt trapped in the ongoing cycle of working at a full time job that pays enough to almost pay my bills, enough to make sure I keep showing up every Monday morning.
I have been spared that awkward conversation of giving my notice.
Now, I have the freedom I’ve been longing for and, in true Covid-19 protocol fashion, I have interests and activities that enable me to relish the chance to stay home for two weeks!
Now I have peace and quiet away from the rushing retail crowds that surround my workplace.
In the middle of the current public health crisis, I find myself being quietly handed a gift that I have been looking for for months.
God is good. Being sequestered from the rush and panic of the retail environment is exactly what I needed to regain my peace and balance.
Philippians 4:6-7 rings so very true.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Peace which transcends all understanding. Peace when peace doesn’t make sense. Peace in trying times. This peace that comes from God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus, the safest possible place to be. At any time!
So, as I sit at home, making good use of the first few hours of this break, I am grateful that God pulled me away from the crowds and set his peace around my heart and mind so I can focus my thoughts on him, and let him fill my thoughts with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
In Jesus, God made the way to push out all our fear and anxiety and fill our minds and hearts with peace and beauty instead.
If ever there was a time we need a peace that transcends all understanding, this is it.
For today, turn your focus to God and let him guard you with his wonderful peace.
One day at a time.
Vs 29-31 Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith”, he said, “why did you doubt?”
The world is in the middle of a storm right now. Fear is creeping in, as is confusion and uncertainty. I find myself struggling to know how to respond. I am someone who does not have the means to stock up on food and supplies. I am also someone who doesn’t need much. As I look around and read various reports on the severity of and best course of action for the pandemic, I find myself unsure of the right answer.
How are you doing with sorting through all the swirling information? Some people are stoic enough to ignore it. I am not. I am wondering so many things.
And then I thought of Peter. In a boat during a storm. I’m sure he was afraid that it would kill him. He could see Jesus out in the waves but he wasn’t exactly sure so he called out to Jesus and said that if it was really him, to call for Peter to come to him.
We want to check and be sure we are actually following Jesus before we step out from the familiar. (I didn’t say “step out from safety” because the boat was obviously not safe, but it was certainly more familiar than stepping out onto the waves!)
Jesus uttered a single word, “Come”. He didn’t try to cajole Peter, didn’t get offended by Peter’s question (What do you mean, “IF” it’s me???), didn’t offer more than Peter was asking. Peter said, “If it’s really you, tell me to come.” Jesus said, “Come.”
And with that, Peter stepped out of the boat.
How many times do we boldly step up, full of faith and enthusiasm, fulling intending to follow through? Then what happened? What changed?
Did the storm get worse? Did Jesus disappear? Did Peter suddenly realize he’d stepped out of the boat? Nope. To all three.
The only thing that changed was that Peter changed his focus. He focused on the storm rather than on Jesus. He focused on the problem rather than the solution.
(more on this another day)
Even so, as soon as Peter sank, (Oh boy! Do I ever know how that feels!) the text says that Jesus “reached out his hand.” It doesn’t say that Jesus “ quickly ran to where Peter was last seen”, “reached out his arm” or “his two hands” to grab Peter! Let that sink in.
Peter got distracted and afraid when he was close enough to Jesus that Jesus needed only to “reach out his hand” to rescue Peter. Jesus didn’t scold Peter for his lack of faith until AFTER he was safely back on his feet. And what had Peter prayed to summon such a hasty response? Was it a long, religious sounding prayer full of very righteous sounding phrases? Not even close! Peter was sinking in a storm! He cried out, “Lord, save me!” and IMMEDIATELY Jesus grabbed him!
My friends, when you feel afraid because the storm has distracted you, when you feel you are sinking beneath the waves of overwhelming information, there is no shame in crying out for help. Jesus is right there, no judgement, no hesitation, no distance. Words as simple as “Lord, save me” are all it takes and he will pull you back up from the turmoil and restore peace to your troubled mind.
Jesus is with us whether in calm or in storm and when you find yourself distracted and afraid, let him remind you that he continues to be right with you and will hold you throughout this storm.
Being a wave watcher will only lead to feeling overwhelmed and afraid. Keep your eyes on the one who can rescue us from the waves and find your peace in him.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
We do not need to look far, these days, to see the signs of fear and panic as we continue getting frequent news updates on Covid-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus.
I work in a medical office inside a major retail/warehouse chain and I have seen a daily increase in public fear and panic as evidenced in the growing crowds of shoppers rushing in to stock up on everything from toilet paper and cleaning supplies to frozen foods and everything in between.
If ever there was a time to remember to live the life God has called you to, to do what matters, and to spend time with your loved ones, it’s now.
Rather than succumbing to fear and worry, focus on the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galations 5:22-23
Again, the Spirit of God gives us the answer to uncertain times. He gives us self-discipline/self-control – and love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and power!
Now is the time for we who are followers of Jesus, we who share in the unity of Spirit with Jesus as He shares with God to live out that unity. When Jesus prayed in John 17:20-23 for complete unity among believers so that the world will believe that Jesus was sent by God and that God loves us just as he loves Jesus, it should be put into practice all the time and especially to bring calm at such a time as this.
In 1 John 4:18, we read that perfect love casts out all fear (18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.)
If we really knew how greatly God loves us, we would know not to be afraid.
Be an ambassador of God’s love wherever you are, to whomever you encounter.
People need to know God loves them and WE are the ones who have been tasked with showing them by standing together in unity in Jesus.
Choose to allow the fruit of the Spirit to emanate from you in every word, every action, every response, at work, at home, and at the grocery store.
Speak love and peace into every situation. Love your neighbours, have a kind word for the person who loads up their cart with the last 4 packages of toilet paper.
People are afraid because they don’t know that God loves them.
Love them. And remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Have a wonderful week and remember to wash your hands.
Linda blends warmth, wisdom and humour into every presentation. Enjoy the ride!