Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

When folks found out where Jesus was they went to see him.

Guess I might have done the same thing.

After all, there were a lot of rumors going around about That Guy.

God's Word tells us that lots of people gathered not only to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus, "whom he had raised from the dead." This is the second reminder about the evidence that Jesus gives life. 

And that miracle not only drew crowds, it also caused the religious establishment of the day to add Lazarus to their list of murder victims. 

Pretty strong stuff.

What would lead the synagogue leaders to want to kill some poor guy who'd been granted a few more years of earthly life? 

John reports that the chief priests wanted to get rid of Lazarus because their expected followers were changing their allegiance to Jesus. 

Their dilemma was real. 

Jesus declared His mission as recorded in John 10:10, "I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  (KJV)

There was a living, breathing Lazarus who'd been dead and stinking in a tomb for everyone to see. The evidence that Jesus had the power and was actively engaged in fulfilling His assignment was undeniable. When people saw the confirmation and responded by becoming His disciples.

I haven't set my eyes on Lazarus, but I know that God's Word is Truth. Therefore reading John's testimony as directed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit provides the same assurance of the facts. Jesus said He came to bring life to His sheep. Lazarus is one example of His desire and ability to accomplish that task. I get it. I'm His. I've got life.

But Jesus doesn't stop there. 

The Christ finishes His promise by declaring that His sheep will have that life "more abundantly." 

It's one thing for me to accept the gift of eternal life from the hand of the Father through the work of His One and Only Son. It's an added step to comprehend that my redeemed life begins now and moves into eternity. 

Now I will meditate on that final detail. 

Christ died that I might have an abundant life. Hallelujah!

Are you embracing your abundant life in Christ today.

"Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him."  John 12:9-10

Monday, March 24, 2014

Looking for Support? ME TOO

Life is beautiful and rich, especially when we meditate on God and His blessings. 

Life is serious and hard, especially when we find ourselves in the furnace.

Both are true on any given day. It's a matter of how I choose to direct my brain.

Some days that's a whole lot easier than others. Know what I mean?

Let's take yesterday. The report from the surgeon about the cysts on Curt's kidney was a mixed bag. The growth is so involved that to remove it will necessitate taking the kidney as well. The drawback is that if the smaller cysts on his left kidney act up at any point, Curt will become kidney-less. The cystic structure doesn't appear to be cancerous though the only way to tell is to take it out and send it to pathology. It would be reasonable to leave them in place, but only with more detailed information that an MRI could provide. 

Nope, can't do that.

The US medical community won't perform an MRI unless it's clear what kind of stent was placed in Curt's heart. If it's the wrong kind of metal, the MRI machine will rip it out of his chest and he'll die. 

That means the next little detour will include communicating with the doctors at Motol Hospital in Prague to find out exactly what kind of stent Curt has. Thankfully we have dear Czech friends who will undoubtedly be pleased to pursue this task with alacrity. (go look it up) ;-)

And so . . . again . . . we wait.

Maybe the reason this is a particularly difficult delay is because I was convinced yesterday's appointment would result in a definitive answer about the future. Whatever the cause, I was assailed all over again with "if only" and "what if" thoughts. It didn't make for a restful night though I did sleep more than usual.

And this morning the battle continues to rage in my head. 

All of that is the backdrop for my time in John 12.

It's not really a surprise to me that someone spoke up about the extravagance of Mary using perfume to wash Jesus' feet. I might have been holding my breath. I think I'd at least have wondered how many other ways the perfume could have been used. That's just me.

In any event, there was a challenge to the choices Mary made about her energy, her time, her attention, her actions, and her resources all granted her by God. 

There she was doing exactly what she felt was appropriate and yet she found judgement. You know, I think I have an idea about how she might have felt. 

There seems to be a general idea that someone's behavior is open for evaluation and comment whether it's desired or not. And even if it's requested, there's some sort of undercurrent that says, "And you better follow my suggestion." 

What's that all about?

I understand that God puts His people in families and unites families in churches. I'm aware that there are many places where Scripture teaches the wisdom of gathering counsel from reliable brothers and sisters in Christ. And yet, the Word also describes God's work in our lives as intimate and personal. So how do we find our way; me, Curt, us, you, anyone?

I do not have a nice, pat, in-three-easy-lessons answer to that question. I do know that God directs the steps of those who love Him, using our obedience as well as our rebellion to accomplish His will and prepare us for heaven. I know His goodness abounds and that as much as I love Him, He loves me infinitely more. And I know that sometimes He takes me places other people don't understand or appreciate. 

Today, in this trying set of circumstances, the words that jump out to me are spoken by my Savior. He knows Mary's heart as fully as He knows His Father's will. He knows Mary's future as fully as He knows her present. I am blessed by Christ's coming along side Mary to support her in the midst of condemnation.

"Leave her alone." 

These are the words I want to hear when I am attacked by threatening thoughts, draining demands, terrible trials, a critical culture, and more. And so I turn my brain back toward heaven. I listen for the voice of the One who knows me . . . and all the interference turns to whispers. I have the support I need. Hallelujah and Amen

"But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 'Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.' He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

"'Leave her alone,' Jesus replied. 'It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.'"  John 12:4-8

How is Jesus supporting you today?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Feast or FEAST

I started reading John 12 this week and spent a fair amount of time meditating on the first three verses. 

Their content flowed into my mind and heart and carried me away from the merry-go-round to a place of peace and delight.  

Step with me into this dinner party atmosphere. 

The gathering is being held in Lazarus' hometown. He was an extra special friend of Jesus. Had to be. After all, Jesus brought him back from death - real, physical, stinky death - to life - real, physical, joyous life. Besides, it says in John 11:5 that "Jesus loved ... Lazarus."

I can almost sense the celebratory feeling in the room. Can't you?

I mean, after all, here sits a guy who should be six feet under . . . or more historically speaking . . . here reclines a man who should be inside a chamber for the dead.

The setting alone is enough to ponder for a day . . . or a week . . . or a . . . 

The One who returned Lazarus from the grave back to his loving sisters is sharing a meal with him. 

My mind's eye turns from one to the other. Jesus the miracle worker at the head of the table. Lazarus the recently raised among the dinner guests. Could the Father make it any more clear for those in attendance or for us who read the account? 

Here's the example before us, plain as day. Jesus gives life. And not just heart-beating, breath-taking life. Jesus gives relationship-rich, feast-enjoying life. The John 10:10 "abundantly" kind of life. Hallelujah!

Ah ha, and this time around I sense the meal is running smoothly. Evidently the distraction problem Jesus spoke about at the close of Luke 10 has been addressed. Martha seems to be serving the guests graciously with her mind and heart peacefully alert to the presence of her Lord. 

O that I might follow Martha's example. That I too might put my hands to work at the tasks set before me with the steady confidence that I am enveloped in the presence of my Savior. 

I've got growing to do, but back to the party.

Right there at the dinner table amidst the food and dishes and chatting, Mary attended the needs of the Savior. She didn't bring a basin of water and a towel to perform the cultural custom. She poured precious perfume and cleansed his feet with her own hair. It is the outcome of this tender interaction that caught my attention in the first place.

Mary knew her Lord. She was focused on Him personally. She forsook all that was going on around her and came to Him. She laid her offering literally at His feet. And the fragrance of her humble and sacrificial gift filled the house.

The text doesn't say there was a ceiling fan or that a diffuser was plugged into a socket nearby. Rather, the natural result of Mary's simple and honest act of worship spread its aroma throughout the entire area.

So now I pray and plead.

Lord God, thank you for the powerful richness of your Word that in three verses draws me so close to you. Please cause your Truth to triumph in and through me according to your gracious will. Amen

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."  John 12:1-3

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Roadway Insights

There we were traveling along Route 91 North when we saw a collection of tail lights.

We were already behind schedule and our friends were expecting us for lunch. 

I thought, "What now?"

We spent a few minutes of stop and go trying to figure out how serious the delay might be and whether or not we should try to find an alternate route. 

Some of the truckers seemed to be sticking with the slow flow while others were opting out and taking an exit. What should we do?

I finally called our friends to let them know we were stuck and would probably be late. Thankfully they knew right where we were and offered us some knowledgeable directions.


Once we had some relevant information and decided to stick with Route 91 North my mind began reviewing the event.

You know driving along a highway is a lot like life. 

I can be flying along in my day enjoying the scenery when all of a sudden the situation changes. It could be that there are obstacles in my path or that I'm not sure what I should do next.

     Do I wait out the interruption or delay?

     Should I look for a way around the roadblock?

     If I'm moving forward, am I going the right way?

     Am I pushing too hard or being lazy?

HAH  As far as the car ride went, we discovered the problem.

The poor circulation of traffic was caused only in part by a poorly laid out route interchange as our friends thought. There was an added bonus. A crew of workers was painting white lane markers on a section of roadway that was being resurfaced - big trucks, orange cones, lots of men in orange vests in all but one lane for each new route. 

I saw the whole experience as a real life illustration of how often outside circumstances are merely window dressing or distractions from what's really happening. 

No matter what the world around me is trying to get me to believe, the Truth is that the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth has me on the path He has laid out specifically for me. 

     Nothing . . . no thing . . . can interrupt or delay His will.

     If I need to take a detour, He'll show me and take me there.

     He always leads me in the way I should go.

     He regulates my progress according to His timetable.


The traffic backup eventually cleared out and we arrived only about 20 minutes later than planned. Our reunion over lunch with long-time, dear friends was rich in godly fellowship. We rejoiced together over our Father's goodness to us through the years, grateful for His faithfulness. 

Hmmmm, I'm thinking heaven will be a lot like that. 

I'm rejoicing that I'm on the path that leads in that direction.  How about you?

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze."  Isaiah 64:4

PS  Traffic jams are another reason we prefer our life in Prague. We never have to drive in them.   :-D

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sleepless in New Boston

I am relieved to report that I'm making progress in the mobility department. An interesting aspect of my recovery is something I hadn't even considered.

For more than six months I have closed my eyes for only a few short hours a night, often broken up by periods of wakefulness. 

While I knew that I was tired a lot of the time, I didn't think much beyond that vague awareness. Why would I? With everything going on around me it made sense that I would have some trouble sleeping.

As I discovered with a little bit of research, the negative results of sleep deprivation range from skin problems and weight gain to mental weakness and cardiac issues. 

WebMD says that "lack of proper sleep" can be the cause of back discomfort in some cases. 

The National Sleep Foundation defines a healthy night's sleep for an adult as seven to nine hours. Since I still can't claim anything close to that amount of sleep on a regular basis I guess I'm running some pretty serious risks. It's obviously a dynamic I need to address.

But that's not the whole story.

Sleep is valuable and all, but sleep is really only one small portion of the whole human need for rest. 

Rest is not just about sleep.

Rest is about being awake and peaceful.

Rest is about stepping back from the crush of life.

Rest is about letting go the reins of control we think we hold.

Rest is about being able to trust every detail of our existence to another, knowing they will oversee each breath for my benefit. 

I know only one place where true rest can be found.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28

I know only one way to enjoy true rest.

"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls."  Jeremiah 6:16

How are you doing today?

What's your sleep quotient?

More importantly, what's your rest level?