“Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard…
Opossums are funny little creatures. Partly because their name is spelled funny – what is with the ‘o’ at the beginning!? They have a reputation for playing dead when they are scared. At least that is what I have always believed about them, until I cornered one. It was dark and my dogs were barking like crazy. When I went to see what was going on I found an opossum cornered under the stairs of our deck near a corner of our house. It did not play dead, that ugly little creature was ready to fight. Growling, teeth showing, I mean he was ready to attack. There was no playing dead! Have you ever found yourself backed into a corner and not sure what to do about?
In Isaiah 37 we read about a man named Hezekiah who found himself backed into such a corner and people on every side telling him what to do about it. None of them were very positive and some basically telling him it’s over, you’re finished, just give up. What a tough spot to be in, when we want out, but don’t know how to get out, and it seems like there are not very many people willing to help us get out.
It was in that moment Isaiah sent him a message, it was a simple one. He said, don’t be afraid, you are going to be ok. God has heard you and He will be with you. That is a pretty encouraging word when you find yourself stuck in battle you see no way out of. With that, Hezekiah went to God in prayer and basically laid his entire situation at God’s feet and said here you go. This is it, my problem is yours, lead me through. Hezekiah was lead to victory.
You might find yourself in a corner today and I want to say the same thing to you that Isaiah said to Hezekiah – do not be afraid, God has heard you, and God is with you. Surrender your situation to Him and watch Him be glorified in the midst of it. Victory is yours today in Jesus. Trust Him and pray to Him, He will be with you.
Luke 8:43-44 (NIV): And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.”
Are you at the end of your resources? Do your problems seem beyond solutions? There
is a person who knows how you feel. The bleeding that has plagued her for 12 years has left her weak and exhausted. This causes her to be an outcast to her family and place of worship. Each trip to doctors who have no answers fills her heart with hope, but empties her wallet. Now, she is propelled forward by miraculous reports of the blind seeing, the lame walking, and the deaf hearing. A spark rises within her as she braves the crowds following Jesus. At the risk of making this man unclean, she quickly touches the hem of his robe, believing she will be healed.
Her touch of the garment of God is the act of faith that Jesus recognized. Jesus rewarded her risk, and acknowledged her faith with complete healing. She could now return to her family and place of worship with the assurance that she was truly clean. A step of faith always changes us and brings us closer to God.
You can come boldly at your hour of need.
Expect what you are seeking.
I can tell “the” story, but what about “my” story, or “your” story? The hymn writer speaks of Jesus and His love in this well-loved hymn. If it’s just “the” story and not “my” story, it can be just an idea removed from me in history. However, if it’s my own personal story of Jesus and His Love—that’s where heaven meets my heart and a testimony is shared.
From a tiny baby with little hope to live, Jesus’ love saved me so that I can live for Him. My mother’s desperate sacrifice that offered me to Jesus allowed me to live. That love of Christ found me as a six-year-old girl whose heart was stirred to receive Him. That same love protected me on the streets of Portland in broad daylight when a man had an idea to pull me into his car—but stopped short. That same love protected me through travels, school, work, relationships, grief, unemployment, and fulfilling careers. And, it still protects and guards my heart today as I am in relationship with Him.
How has Jesus’ love drawn, guarded, and protected you? Can you encourage someone today with your own story? It may just be what they need to hear so that you are the Light of the world.
Matthew 18:12: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?”
A lifeboat can only hold four people, but five need to be rescued: a young child, a doctor, an engineer, a housewife and an elderly man. The young child has a future. The housewife can have more children. The doctor and engineer have valuable knowledge. Though the elder has wisdom, his time is short. It is a hopeless cause—of who to keep and who to let go.
In this world, we are defined by so many things: Status, education, position, money …. None of this matters when we meet with eternity. The One who died to save us doesn’t rule us in or out. He pursues us all as lost sheep because he values us equally. Jesus sees a sheep, wandering and weary. That is why He searches for it, lifting it onto his shoulders to be carried back to the safety of his flock and care.
Are you that weary sheep, tired of what is not working in your life? Do you long to be carried to a better place on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd? Ask Jesus to carry you back to His flock. Recognize the One who gives you that salvation and claim his gift of forgiveness.
A well-worn staff is in the shepherd’s hand. It fits so comfortably in his hand because it always goes with him. Once a young sapling, many years ago, it was hewn from an oak tree. Allow to dry and mature in the elements, it seasoned into a rough staff, fit for use.
Since it travels with him everywhere, it is happy to serve its function as defender. Defender from the quick assaults of life. Defender from the side-swiping perils that come charging from the shadows. Defender from those who would seek to harm him. He knows its protection is with him because it is firm and seasoned. It is also his support. When he is weary, he leans on it and looks out over his flock. His staff aids him as he travels the rough ground, looking for one who is lost. When he finds the lost one, he gently draws the little one close to him and makes his way back down the path to safety.
What is this staff that aids, guides and defends? It is his faith. Seasoned faith like well worn oak, tried by seasons of summer and winter. Tried by seasons of storms and winds. Tried by tumult, but proven in confidence, the confidence of faith in his savior. May you trust your faith as an oaken staff.
“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”—Genesis
The One who knows all and sees all asks the question: “Where are you?” God placed Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden, in a perfect life. They had unbroken fellowship with Him and His creation as long as they did not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They wanted what they could not have—the forbidden fruit. They were lured by the prospect of having all knowledge. Shame and blame have now entered the world. Now realizing he was naked, he hid. The man answered God’s question with blame. The man blamed God for putting the woman in the garden to tempt him. The woman blamed the serpent for making her eat it.
Beyond this question in the garden: The “Where are you?” is the question at the center of the cross. We were meant to live forever. Without a plan, the sin in the garden banished us from perfect harmony with God. We were meant to have unbroken fellowship but that was shattered by the desire to do what was forbidden. However, the Where are you? Prompts the Here I AM to come to our rescue. God needed a plan and Jesus is the answer to our plight.
Even though there are consequences for disobedience God still has a plan to restore that which was lost. We can answer: “Here I am, I am yours.” Then we can have unbroken fellowship with Him.
Come boldly and answer the “Where are you” with the “Here I am, Lord.” Take me, cleanse me, and restore me—in Your name, Amen.
Thanksgiving is more than just a list of God’s blessings. It is more than a recounting of answered requests. More than just holiday with family, too much food and time off. It is not a list, a litany we say, or a meal to attend. Thankfulness is a way of being. Jesus
asks us to “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:18.)
I was often confused by this Scripture. How could I give thanks when my parent’s body was wracked with illness, when employment did not come easily, or when my faith faltered? It is easy to be thankful when all is going smoothly, but what about those other unexpected bumps in the road? I missed the significance of a little word “in.” I do not have to be thankful “for” all things, but “in” all things. My mother’s health problems were a consequence of illness and this fallen world. I could be thankful “in” this situation where I found I drew closer to my Savior, where relationships had a chance to heal, and where God’s love and care could be expressed to our family through His beloved children.
Corrie Ten Boom, while in the concentration camp, was reminded of 1 Thes. 5:18. There was an infestation of fleas where they were holding Bible study. She was confronted with the fact that she needed to be thankful in all things. How was it possible to be thankful where she was, and with a flea infestation. She began Bible study and soon realized that the fleas were truly a God-send. The guards would not enter to punish these prisoners because they were disgusted by the fleas. God allowed himself to be glorified and His word to be shared in this situation, and for that, they could be thankful.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chron. 16:34. Whether you are on the mountaintop thanking Him for His blessings, or searching for something to praise Him for in the valley, He is there. Thanking Him for His love and goodness is possible in all things.
Balance is tricky. Whether it’s work/life, spending/saving, it’s easy to tip the scales in either direction. When and now is another tipping-point, and the scale is often tipped in favor of “when.” When I get another job… When I move … When I have enough money… This means that now is not of the essence, not on the front burner, and not the
focus. Is it OK to think of Whens’?
The hymn writer knows that this world is not her home. She will shout victory, the ultimate victory over death, pain and sin! We’ll look forward to all that our Savior has promised and prepared for us. But, when can uproot ‘now and “in this moment” thinking. It can hijack being thankful and rejoicing in the moments that we now have to praise God for his goodness, his provision, and the chances we have to make a difference.
While it’s OK to tip the scale to When and look forward to our heavenly home, it’s also vital to live in the moment and make the most of every opportunity. Paul encourages us: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”--NIV Eph. 5:15-16 Living in the “now” calls for us to live in, and be the light of the world.
Matt. 7:9 (NIV): “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?”
A tiny girl came into the world, too early to a single mother. The mother was told this baby was her cross to bear for wrong choices. This mother, with three mouths to feed, cried out to God. As the infant’s life hung by a thread, she said, “She is yours, Lord.” That surrender—that gift to God—gave a gift back to her. The little girl became a great blessing and great joy to her mother.
That little girl was me. God is faithful. Even when we stray, make wrong choices or falter, He is faithful. He is there, waiting for us to ask for His good gifts—good gifts from a Good Father. As Romans 8:28 (NIV) 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.” Call on Him today for the good gifts He has for you as you keep in step with Him. What seems to be a trial may be a gift, in disguise, that draws you closer to Him. There’s no other place I’d rather be.
Proverbs 29:18, (MSG):
If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.
Place yourself in the midst of the darkest day--Easter Friday. Are you among the scattered disciples, afraid and confused? Are you John, the only one to stay at the foot of the cross? Are you one of the women, with an aching heart, who stood near Him?
Those who loved Jesus most watch as He suffers a merciless death. At the last supper, He promised He would be raised to life (John 14:20). Though He promised they could go with Him, now, even He is gone. The fog of despair is a shroud that hides the promise of Easter Sunday. Their vision is now clouded by their own grief. Caught up in circumstances, they stumble and are filled with questions.
When life turns upside down and you experience loss and betrayal, Jesus is with you because He’s been there, too. When you cannot see beyond the next step, you can walk in the footprints of the One who sees clearly. When you are caught between Friday’s despair and Sunday’s joy, You can receive assurance that His victory and answer are just ahead.
Pray to have His vision.
Walk with the One who sees clearly.
Experience victory by the power of the empty tomb!
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.