When You Are Powerless, Jesus Is Not

I just took all my financial information to my accountant who does my taxes. A few weeks ago I took my car to my mechanic to get it fixed. A couple of months ago, when my furnace went out, I called a heating and cooling company that sent out a tech to get it working again.

We’re used to having professionals take care of stuff that we can’t. But this Coronavirus is different. There is no medical researcher with a cure for this virus. There is no doctor we can go to get an immunization vaccine. The best the government can do is to recommend we limit contact with each other. We’re feeling very vulnerable because we are feeling very helpless, and that is scary.

Jesus’ disciples felt like that one day on the sea of Galilee when a furious storm came up so quickly the disciples had no time to make it to shore. Before they knew it, the rain was blowing sideways, the waves were crashing into and over their boat, threatening to sink it. They were helpless.

But Jesus was also on that boat. And standing up, he addressed the storm as if it was an unruly child, and said, “Quiet! Be Still!” Suddenly, the wind stopped blowing, the rain stopped falling, the waves stopped churning, and the once wildly rocking boat now glided calmly along the glassy surface of the sea.

Jesus has the power you and I do not have. He has the almighty power of God. And in this present health crisis which makes us feel so small and weak and helpless, he is with us. He promised that when he said, “I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

So Jesus—who is your almighty God and your loving Savior—will get you through this crisis. He will end this threat at the right time. And until then he will make sure you have what you need each day. No matter how helpless you may feel, you are never helpless with him by your side.

What Do We Pray In Times Like This?

So, what are you praying for these days? For God to keep you and your loved ones from getting the coronavirus? For God to end the threat of this virus, so people don’t get sick or die from it anymore, and so you can stop losing income and pay your bills?

Those prayers are appropriate because God invites us to pray, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you,” he says in Psalm 50.

But, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus also taught us to pray, “Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) Why would you pray, “Your will be done” in these days when you are stressed about your future or that of those you love? Because God has promised to bring good out of your suffering. The apostle Paul reminds us of this in Romans 8:28 when he says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

What good could God bring out of the uncertainty and anxiety caused by this virus? He could be reminding you that you need him so that you rely more on him and less on yourself or the things of this world. That would be good. He could be showing you that things you assume will always be there—your health, your job, your income, your lifestyle—can be gone in a flash so you don’t build your life on such unreliable things but instead on him. That would also be good. He could be helping you rethink your priorities, so you think more about what matters—your relationship with God, being there for your loved ones, helping the needy, and hurting. That would be good too.

Maybe it would be good to pray for God to open your eyes to all the good that he can work through these present hardships and the suffering they may bring you. Because that is his specialty. Through the worst suffering possible—his Son’s suffering at the cross for your sins, he achieved your greatest good- your eternal salvation. So, keep praying “Your will be done,” with confidence that he will keep working well for you in these difficult times.

Lord, even as I ask you to protect my loved ones and me during this difficult time, I also pray that your will be done. Help me to trust that your will is always best for me. Amen.

Life Never Seems To Be What We Want It To Be

Do you remember the name of Michael Jackson’s estate? He called it, “Neverland,” after the fictional island in “Peter Pan.” It included a lavish home with a huge theater, gardens, fountains, a four-acre pool, and a private amusement park and zoo.

But did it make him happy? A lot of people who knew him described him as troubled. Michael’s dream estate never gave him true peace and contentment. Sadly, the name “Neverland” was fitting.

“Neverland” is a fitting name for the world we live in. It never seems to give us the peace and contentment we are looking for. Things might be going great and then a pandemic turns our lives upside down. But even before the coronavirus brought upheaval and anxiety into your life, you probably had financial pressures, relationship problems, work stress, illness in your body, or sadness in your heart. Because this life is “Neverland”—never able to give us the life we long for.

But even as we are keenly aware of how this life fails us, here’s what does not fail: God’s love for you. The Bible describes God’s love as “unfailing” no less than 32 times. He loves you so much that he sent his Son to undo the mess you have made in your relationship with him and the mess that human sin has made of life. He sent his Son into our world to suffer on a cross for our sins as if HE was the one who had messed things up. Through that sacrifice, you are forgiven.

Now there is nothing to keep you from going to heaven, a very different kind of “Neverland.” In heaven, there will NEVER be and sin. There will NEVER be any suffering. There will NEVER be any disappointment. There will NEVER be any death.

So expect this world to be “Neverland” when it comes to being what you long for it to be. But be content and at peace anyway. Because God’s love in Jesus Christ will never fail you. In that love, God will give keep forgiving you and giving you what you need until that day when he brings you to perfectly restored life in the “Foreverland” of heaven.

Jesus is Your Certainty in Uncertain Times

I recently checked out some survey data for a community here in my hometown. At number five on the list of life concerns were “Fear of the future and fear of the unknown.” If you were to survey that same community today I am sure that “fear of the future and fear of the unknown” would be a clear number one with all the questions about the future on our minds these days as we face the threat of the coronavirus.

Two thousand years ago, the apostle John was also feeling uncertainty and anxiety about the future. In a vision God gave him, he saw a scroll with the future recorded on it. But it was rolled up and sealed. The uncertainty of the future reduced John to fearful tears. He said, “I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside” (Revelation 5:4).

But when John finally wiped away his tears, he saw a Lamb which appeared to have been sacrificed but was alive and standing near the throne of God in heaven. And as the Lamb picked up the scroll, all of heaven broke into a joyful song with lyrics that went like this: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

The sacrificial Lamb next to God’s throne was Jesus whom the Bible calls “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). At the cross, Jesus took your place and died for all of your sins. It’s a great comfort to know that the one who holds the future in his hands is the God who loves you so much he suffered and died and rose again for you!

But it gets better. The Lamb in John’s vision opened the scroll. He revealed the future! And it is good news. Life will not be easy. But through it all the Lamb will be with you. Whatever comes, he will give you strength and comfort to get through it. And when death comes, he will share his victory over death with you and bring you to a life free of all danger and uncertainty forever in heaven.

Lamb of God, comfort me in these uncertain times by reminding me that my future is in your loving hands. Amen.

Harmony Accomplished By Humility

What does it look like when two people live in harmony? They might smile at each other. They might laugh a lot. If two people are in harmony with one another, you would never see them fighting. They would never avoid eye contact with one another. They would never use cutting sarcasm with, or say anything mean about, the other person. Harmonious relationships are good relationships. They can be a great source of joy, encouragement, and strength.

Relationships in which there is some hostility or friction, however, can be quite the opposite. And what are you supposed to do if you have a relationship like that, one that frequently fills you with discouragement or pain? Well, there’s one thing you should not do. You should not wait for the other person to make the first move.

God’s Word in Romans 12:16 gives you godly goal for all your relationships: “Live in harmony with one another.” And the instructions as to how you should carry that out all have one thing in common. They all focus your attention on your own heart and actions—not the other person’s. “Do not be proud.” “Be willing to associate with people of low position.” “Do not be conceited.” In other words, use your time and energy to love and to serve the other person. Or, to say it another way, do what Jesus did.

When God’s relationship with us became broken with sin, the Son of God didn’t sit in heaven waiting for us to love him. He came as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus lowered himself into the humblest of situations, associating himself at birth with the lowliest of families, associating himself throughout his ministry with the most recognizable sinners, and eventually taking the lowest position of all on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Why? Because he desired a harmonious relationship with us. And he knew that harmony could only be accomplished by humility.

True Contentment

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

Our voices of thankfulness are closely connected to the contentment in our hearts. If we are content with our situation in life, then it’s easy to give thanks. When we are content with our job, we are thankful for it. When we are content with the way other people treat us, we give thanks for our favorable relationships. If we have good health, we may often pray to God and thank him for this blessing. When our heart’s desires are fulfilled, thankfulness is easier to express.

However, when there is discontent, then thankfulness is harder to put into words. How can I be thankful when my job is a hassle, or I can’t seem to earn enough, or other people treat me badly? How can I be thankful for that accident I had, or the surgery I need to have, or many other circumstances which disturb me or adversely affect me?

There is a way to be truly content no matter what’s going on. The apostle Paul declared, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” The source of his contentment did not come from within himself or depend on life’s situations. The apostle found contentment in the fact that he was forgiven by God because of Jesus Christ who died on the cross to give him eternal life. Paul’s contentment was based on his confidence in the eternal, loving-kindness of God.

True contentment is not attained by the quantity of things or the quality of life. True contentment is the result of the glorious status that we have with God through Jesus. Our outlook on life changes significantly when we learn to say with Paul, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Cherishing our Savior’s loving will for our lives and trusting in his almighty power, we have the satisfaction that he will always sustain us. In all situations—in plenty or want, in sadness or joy, in success or failure, in hardship or blessing—God does not fail to be our refuge and strength.

Real Meaning To Life

“So you’re just going through the motions again, eh?  I know what you mean.  You hear people talk about wanting to have some routine in their life, but this is over-kill!”

Your alarm interrupts perfectly good sleep marking the start of your day. Same ol’ tooth brush, same ol’ cereal, and the same ol’ clothes.  Same ol’ school, same ol’ friends, same ol’ job, and same ol’ family.

“Doesn’t God want me to be happy? How can I be happy when every day seems so routine, so meaningless?  I really do need a change.”

“Maybe one of those electric toothbrushes to remove the left-over new cereal from between my front teeth—which I’ll whiten up with some new brightener product.  Time to hit the mall and find some new outfits and add some spice to life.  Maybe I’ll meet some really neat new friends while I’m there.  And there’s got to be some better jobs out there, for someone once told me that if you find a job you like, you won’t have to “work” another day in your life!

But do you really think all these changes in your life will really bring meaning to your life?  Oh, they might for a day or two, but they’ll soon become routine.  And then what—more money spent on more changes?  You’ll go broke!

Wouldn’t it be just great to enjoy the life God has given to me right now and know it has real meaning!

There is.  It starts at the cross of Jesus.  Really!  At the cross we learn how much God loves us—SO much to send his Son to pay the penalty of our sins and give us the righteousness we need to get into heaven.  When God’s people start their day remembering God’s love for them, then life takes on a whole new meaning.

Life isn’t about me, or how much I can get out life now.  Living is about Jesus and how much he loves me.

When Jesus lives in my heart, then toothbrush, cereal, school, job, friends and family are seen in a whole new light.  Jesus puts the bounce in my step and gives me the joy of thankfully serving him because of all he did for me.  Then my life has meaning. I get to do everything for a reason—to thank and praise Jesus who loves me so much.

No wonder the apostle Paul had a life full of meaning.  He got it!  He wrote, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

What greater meaning to life can there be than knowing all I do as God’s child, I do to give God glory!  Thank you Jesus, for giving real meaning to my life!

What More Could We Want?

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”Psalm 23:1

John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men in the world. An interviewer once asked him, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more.”

How many times have we told ourselves that if we had “just a little bit more” we would be happy? A higher paying job. A larger home. An earlier retirement. Better health. Successful children.

But what happens when those wants are met? Are people truly happy? And what happens when those wants aren’t met? When you find yourself unemployed. When in rough times your savings are depleted. When plans for better housing or earlier retirement have to be put on hold. When your health takes a turn for the worse or your children struggle in school. Where do you turn? Turn to Jesus and remember, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

We might not have everything we want in life, but Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has truly given us everything we need. He’s given us his word. He’s given us his promises. He assures us that our sins are forgiven and eternal life in heaven is ours through his death and resurrection.

He promises to provide for all of our physical and spiritual needs richly and abundantly here on earth until he takes us to the glorious home that he has prepared for us in heaven. There through our Savior, you and I will experience the fulfillment of his promise, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

Not long after his death, someone came up to the accountant of John D. Rockefeller and said, “We know Rockefeller was a very wealthy man. How much did he leave?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the accountant answered, “Everything!” A man who seemed to have it all was forced to leave it all behind in the end. The only things that will go with us from this life to the next are the spiritual treasures that belong to us through faith in Jesus.

What do we want out of life? What we need the most has already been fully and freely supplied by Jesus, our Good Shepherd. So, what more could we want? What more could we need?

Why does bad stuff happen?

Have you ever:

  • Been gossiped about…
  • Been injured in a freak accident…
  • Been dumped in a relationship…
  • Contracted a disease…
  • Lost a loved one…
  • Lost a job…
  • Just “lost it”…

If so, what is the common denominator in all these situations? Isn’t it that they hurt? When bad stuff happens, it hurts, and because we don’t like to hurt we ask why bad stuff happens.

The answer, in a single word, is “sin.” You won’t read that word on the op-ed page of your favorite newspaper or on a CNN newscast. Scientists won’t use that word. Philosophers won’t use that word. Politicians won’t use that word. But God does!

In the book of Romans, we read, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). God is willing to identify the source of suffering and pain. It is sin. That’s why bad things happen.

But just knowing why is not really helpful. What we really want to know is what we are to do about the bad stuff that happens.

In that regard, CNN, the scientists, the philosophers, and politicians will have something to say. They will offer a theory, a medicine, or a philosophy by which to live. Those answers to life’s problems, however, only create another problem. What do we do when the solution doesn’t work?

That’s when it is wise to turn again to God. He has something to say about the bad stuff. He is willing and able to do more than identify the source, he has provided the solution. God has a plan for health and healing. God deals with sin–the source of hurt and pain–by removing it.

Romans 5:20-21: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If scientists could wipe out diseases, they would…
If politicians could end war, they would…
If philosophers could create bliss, they would…

But they can’t, so they don’t, and we keep asking why bad stuff happens.

If God could wipe out sin, he would…

And he has. Where sin increased, his grace–the love he has for undeserving sinners–increased all the more. That grace came to all in the perfect life of Jesus, in the sacrificial death of Jesus, and in the resurrection to life of Jesus. Jesus brings us God’s grace, and with grace come spiritual peace and health and joy that last forever. That’s God’s good answer to all the bad stuff.

 

Quality Time

A few years ago there was a statistic which claimed that the average American dad spent five minutes a day with his children. If that’s true, I sure hope those are five really good minutes!

I’m sure we can debate the validity of the statistic, but it does raise a question: How much time are you spending with your children and grandchildren? Perhaps the better question is: How are you spending that time? We certainly do lots of good things with the children in our life. We cheer for them as they run the bases in a little league game. We take them to the lake, to the movies and to the county fair. We read to them, laugh with them and wrap them up in great big hugs. Those are the good times.

What about the other times? Much of the time we spend with them is filled with impatience and frustration. We use harsh words and unloving actions. We fail to discipline and instruct with love and patience and compassion. Sometimes we are too busy for them. Sometimes we are too preoccupied to answer their many questions.

If we are honest with ourselves, too often even our “quality” time with our children is missing something. God reminds us of what we too often leave out of our time with the children who are important to us: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). Do the children in your life get to hear from you about the love their Savior has for them? Do they get to hear on a regular basis about the God who has created them and saved them and given them so many wonderful promises? If we don’t take the time to teach them, who will?

Thankfully we have a Father who gave us more than five minutes. Actually, our heavenly Father gave us much more than that: he gave us an eternity in heaven through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be with our Father in heaven forever. That same Father is with us every minute of every day in his Word. Get together with the children in your life and spend some quality time with God’s Word.