Posted in Courage, Cross, Endurance, Faith, Perspective, Regret, Resurrection

Unlikely Candidates

When I held my firstborn for the first time, I was overwhelmed. I was afraid to lift him for fear of doing something wrong but after the nurse deposited him in my room she was gone and he began to cry. What else to do? I lifted him into my arms and began to learn how to comfort a crying baby, it had to be done.

Things changed quickly that day; before having children I really didn’t know what it meant to take charge and do what was needed at any given moment. When diapers needed changing, baths needed taking, and crying needed soothing, I was there and did what I had to do. In the years that followed I had 3 more children and each time the ability to do what had to be done was there. It didn’t matter how messy or how late I had to stay up, I just did it because it had to be done.

All these years later as my youngest is now 11 and has outgrown many of those younger-years issues, I am still amazed at what I was able to do, for in reality I am far from brave or strong.

I wonder about Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus. He was a family man, a father of 2 young sons (Mark 15:21) on a journey but was caught in the middle of the mess in Jerusalem at the crucifixion of Jesus.

Luke 23:26 NASB “When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.”

Under the circumstances, Simon did what he had to do. I imagine in retrospect, when he learned of the resurrection of Jesus, his feelings of being chosen to carry the cross were much different than they were when he had the cross placed on him in the first place. Like many of us when we face the unexpected, he may have thought it unfair that he had to bear the burden, he was only on a trip, this wasn’t part of the plan!

Relationships, jobs, volunteering, ministry, and just about everything we do in life will be full of unexpected, unfair, and seemingly impossible complications that will arise and need tending to. Many times, at this juncture, unlike Simon of Cyrene who had no choice but to take the cross as he was forced to, we choose to back away from the challenge because it wasn’t part of the original plan. How much have we deprived ourselves from? Could it be possible that we were chosen in that difficult situation to carry something for Jesus?

After Jesus was crucified, His body needed to be buried. I doubt anyone made plans for it as his 12 disciples abandoned Him. There remained a task that needed to be done and the most unlikely of candidates chose to muster his courage: Joseph of Arimathea. The Bible says in John 19:38, 39 that he was a disciple “in secret” for fear of the Jews. We always equate secrecy with weakness. This apparently wasn’t so in this Joseph’s case for at the moment when someone was needed, he did what had to be done.

Imagine if Jesus’ body hadn’t been buried in a tomb. In that time when someone was crucified in this situation, unless there was someone willing to bury the body, the dead were thrown onto garbage heaps outside the city where wild animals swiftly disposed of them. If this would have happened to Jesus, there would’ve been no empty tomb to testify of His resurrection, but Joseph of Arimathea did what needed to be done and in the scripture this “secret disciple” is called “righteous.”

Luke 28:50,51 NASB “…Joseph of Arimathea…a good and righteous man…who was waiting for the Kingdom of God.”

I wonder if the key to gathering the courage to do what we need to do at any given moment is found in the character of Joseph: being someone who is waiting for the Kingdom of God. I imagine Joseph followed the ministry of Christ and being a learned man knew the Scripture. As his heart was right in waiting for the Kingdom, he understood to some degree that Jesus was special and part of the plan of the Kingdom he was anxiously waiting for.

Whatever you’re facing today, you can do it, you have the strength in you to get the job done as you focus on God and putting His Kingdom first. You may not understand what is happening but God is with you to complete the task. At the end of the day you’ll be able to look back without regret knowing you did what you had to do. You carried the cross.

1 Samuel 10:7b NLT “…do what must be done, for God is with you.”

Posted in Regret, Time, Unexplained

Time Waits For No One

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Time waits for no one.

I sighed, deep in thought, as I looked in the mirror and noticed yet another line forming around the corners of my eyes. No amount of “age defying” cream or facial treatment can turn the clock back; time waits for no one. Trying to overcome the odds, I follow my self-prescribed morning routine. I dutifully apply the obligatory daily sunscreen, and then I attempt to conceal the dark circles that have been forming under my eyes with a product advertized (of course) to “diminish” those dark circles that greet me in the mirror every morning, and finally, I put on some lip-gloss. It’s a simple routine but less is definitely more when living overseas where such “unnecessary” necessities are not easy to come by.

As many before me, I have tried numerous face creams, eye creams, and fads that are supposed to “decrease the signs of aging,” holding out hope for the perfect solution each time. The two common denominators for all of these quick fixes for “fine lines” (let’s just establish that they’re wrinkles, OK?) are: the $19.99 I’ve shelled out and the disappointment I feel when I reach the bottom of the jar and see no change. Those wrinkles are still there in the mirror, mocking me!

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Time is so very precious and the mirror I look into every morning only testifies to the passage of time. Internally, I feel much the same as I did 35 years ago when life was just beginning to dawn on the horizon of my young life – but the mirror rudely reminds me that while I may feel that way internally, time is still passing. Time doesn’t wait and for most, time cannot be redeemed. Once it is lived, it can’t be lived over.

 On the surface, when we first come to the Lord, restoring the years that were lost before we knew Him is apparently impossible. The regret we feel for what seemed to be wasted years almost overwhelms us as we consider “what could have been” had we invested more of the limited years we have, to serve Him. It seems we are looking in the mirror of our spirits, much like we look in the mirror in the morning, and hope for a miracle product to help ease those signs of aging!

Joel 2:25 ESV I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”

How can years be restored when they have been lost? I’m really not sure how God manages to perform such miracles, but He is God, after all, and everything is possible with Him.

Mark 10:27 ESV “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’ ”

The currency of God’s Kingdom is faith (see Mark 9:23) and when faith is added to the mixture of our lives we can, and do, see miracles. The miracle of adding time to time lost is one of the greatest miracles God works in us over all. Since God lives outside of time (see 2 Peter 3:8) and isn’t pressured by time, when we are born again, our eternal life begins, the pressure to “get the most out of life” ends. Time no longer has a hold over us because we understand that when this life ends, another waits for us – there are ages to come where we will be in God’s presence, living with Him.

Ephesians 2:5-8 NKJ  “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

God saved us for the sole purpose of showing His grace and kindness to us. In spite of the fact that we rejected Him, possibly for years before coming to Him, we come to understand that time is irrelevant because God’s life is outside of time. In this way, He redeems our time – life becomes sweeter, God fits more into our days than we could imagine, and our futures with Him are assured.

Are you looking for the fountain of youth? Don’t look any further because God’s promise to us in the ages to come exceed the limitations that time put on us. There’s more yet ahead than what lies in the wasteland of the past.