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.
Freedom comes in many forms
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.
Are You a Wave Watcher?
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.
Love is the answer for fear
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.
In 2010, I was stripped of who I was through a brain illness called Encephalitis. I lost all physical abilities, much of my memory as well as some of my cognitive function – and was given no hope of recovery. All of this began while I was working as a teacher in the war zone known as the Gaza Strip. After waking from an almost 30 day coma, and discovering the extent of my setback, I realized that I had 2 choices – resign or rebuild. I chose to rebuild.
In rebuilding, I had the gift of being able to do so with intention. It included relearning to do things I had previously taken for granted but now learned to do so with gratitude; starting with brushing my teeth, sitting up, taking a shower, walking, talking and even thinking.
Through that process, I learned what a magnificent and uncharted territory our brain is with its immense yet untapped potential and how vital it is to access my brain’s remarkable ability to restructure, reconnect and rebuild.
My mission is to educate people so they too can believe in the immense capacity of the brain-mind conspiracy to create the life they envision!
A person does not need a near death experience to learn how to transform their life. What they need is an understanding of the miraculous potential and scientific reality of the brain’s neuroplasticity, its ability to create new pathways that can, indeed, revolutionize their everyday lives.
I will forever be grateful that I was stripped of my old ways of thinking and being, and was forced to find a way to rebuild, creating a new identity, and in doing so, discovered immeasurably more than I ever thought possible!
“You don’t have it get it perfect, you just have to get it going” Several people, including Jack Canfield, have said this, or some version of it.
So many times we hesitate in taking the next step because we worry that we won’t do it perfectly. Here’s the good news – WE DON’T HAVE TO! In fact, I would be so bold as to say that it’s better if we don’t! Why!? Because then we have to try harder – and it’s through that sustained effort that real breakthroughs are accomplished!
So often our perception is that we need “more” (more skills, more money, more support, etc) in order to take the next steps. When we learn to see progress as a series of baby-steps rather than one big leap, it is easier to muster the courage to take the next step, realizing that I CAN DO THIS with the skill, money, support, etc that I CURRENTLY HAVE.
After I had finally come out of my almost 30 day coma, I realized that I had extremely limited physical abilities. I couldn’t walk or even sit up, I couldn’t raise my hands very high at all, I couldn’t stand unassisted, so I needed help for everything. One of those things I got help with was to take a shower. For some reason, the nurse who helped me take my first shower seemed to have it in for me. She place my wheelchair in the shower stall so I was facing her and turned on the water. She pointed the water nozzle at me and sprayed me full in the face. Because I was unable to lift my arms and so couldn’t get my hand any higher than my shoulders, I could only flail helplessly while I sputtered on coughed as the water sprayed into my face. I felt humiliated as I sat there, trying and failing to protect myself, while the nurse stood holding the water nozzle on me.
Finally she sprayed me all over, finished my shower and rolled me back to my room. I struggled to get from my wheelchair to my bed and lay down, defeated. As I lay there I reflected on what had just happened. I was determined that the next time I needed a shower, I would do it myself….. but how?
There was no way at all that I could get my hands up far enough to enable me to wash my own hair or body, so I devised a plan. I sat on the edge of my bed and slowly and painfully bent my head towards my right shoulder while raising my right hand as far up as I could and then repeating the process on my left side. When I started, my hands couldn’t even reach my head at all, but I kept trying, day after excruciating day. I had decided that all I needed to do was to be able to reach the tips of my fingers across the centre of the top of my head, as this would enable me to wash and rinse my hair. I wasn’t looking for perfection right away, I just needed to get the job done.
By the time I needed a shower again, however, I still couldn’t reach the top of my head so I asked a kind Turkish nurse if she would please help me. I don’t speak Turkish and she didn’t speak much English but we managed to understand each other and so she helped me. I was grateful but still determined to be able to shower myself.
I continued my practice of sitting on the edge of my bed, bending my head over as far as I could to the right and the left while forcing my arms to lift my hands a little higher each time. Finally, after a few days, I was able to feel my fingertips cross the middle of the top of my head! SUCCESS! I knew I’d finally be able to give myself a shower.
The next day I wheeled myself down to the shower room and backed into a shower stall. I still had great difficulty with my strength and mobility but I finally got everything set up for me to take my own shower.
I turned on the water and wet down my hair, carefully bending my head from side to side so I could make sure my head was properly soaked. I poured shampoo into my hand and carefully rubbed that through, one side at a time, until I could feel that I had washed all my hair. Next came the moment I had been preparing for! Slowly, carefully and painstakingly, I rinsed my hair, bending my head as far as I could, first to the right, then to the left, while bringing my hands up on either side as far as I could. I rinsed thoroughly, making sure I couldn’t feel any shampoo in my hair. I had difficulty washing my body too due to my limited and painful mobility but I did my best before shutting the water off and wheeling myself back to my room.
I checked the time. That shower had taken almost an hour and a half – but I had done it myself! After days of preparing, I had reached my goal! Never again would I need help to take a shower!
But I was completely exhausted and needed to sleep for the rest of the day. I slept with the pride and satisfaction of knowing I had won the day!
Was my life perfect? It depends on who you ask. Compared to the life I had before the coma, maybe things still weren’t looking very good, but compared to the life I had a few days before, I had made incredible progress! For me, that was the perfect end to the day, and indeed, to that week.
You don’t have to get it perfect, just get it going. I had definitely gotten it going!
Our perception can be “I need more before I can start” but reality says, “start now, and you’ll get more”
Don’t let your perception hold you back from pushing forward. Push, and watch the doors open for you, because you don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.
God is our shame lifter
Haunting shame holds us back from joyful communion with God and with others
Jesus defends us from those lies
God is the Potter
God is the Potter - taken from Romans 9:21 as well as looking at what happened to Job in the context of God being the Potter.
This message was shared with Redemption Church on Friday, Oct. 4. 2019 in Abbotsford, BC
Exciting things on the way!
As I have been praying for "immeasurably more" that we're told about in Ephesians 3:20-21, doors have been opening!
I was invited to speak to a beautiful group of survivors in my church's Friday night ministry called Redemption Church.
After that, I was invited to practice a 30 minute version of this message to an advanced Toastmasters group. God is faithful and has said that his message never comes back void - and so I am excited for these "practice" opportunities to share His message with audiences who might not otherwise sit to listen to a message about the grace and power and love of God!
I had another opportunity to share this message with my own Toastmasters group. Again, there are people who may not otherwise be interested in hearing about what God has done and yet, there they were, listening and taking in this message of LIFE and HOPE.
Then (and this is the big one!!) through a brief conversation with my friend, Dr. Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, suddenly we were talking about Missions Fest 2020 and how I could help him with his booth for the ministry he founded called Christian Mission to Gaza http://cm2g.org
That discussion quickly led to talk of doing seminar, which he had not thought of doing. I offered to look into it and discovered that we still have 2 weeks until the submission deadline!! All we need for that deadline is the outline of the seminar and not the completed project!
I was a seminar presenter at Missions Fest in 2012 and so told Pastor Hanna that I would be happy to put together an outline, submit it, and then put together and present a seminar on God's work in the Gaza Strip and the Christians there!
If you would like your church to hear a first hand account of the church in the Gaza Strip, I am happy to come and share with you. I lived and worked there in 2010, got sick there, wasn't expected to live to tell the story and was miraculously restored by God's healing power.
Does God actually do immeasurably more than we ask or even imagine? Oh yes He does!! I am living proof of that!!
This is a 10 minute presentation of Immeasurably More!
God is really speaking to me as I share this message. He is reminding me to bring all my concerns to Him because He really can and does do immeasurably more than I can ask or even imagine.
My friend is very sick and so I've been praying for him, non stop. I am encouraged to keep praying and believing that God can do so much more for him that I can even think or dare to pray for. God proved this to me years ago when He restored my health after I was ravaged by both encephalitis and sepsis while working in the Gaza Strip.
If God can do that, I know he can heal my friend who is being cared for in a Canadian hospital. Nothing is too hard for him. And so I keep praying, believing and knowing that God gives us miracles all the time, not because we deserve them but because of His grace and mercy. I pray that my friend's healing will be so obviously a miracle of God, so unmistakable, that his friends and family will see and know and believe!
Linda blends warmth, wisdom and humour into every presentation. Enjoy the ride!