Category Archives: Christian Life

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 10

Highway to sunset Farm Road Springfield MO 5-2-15On the road to Emmaus, Jesus took the time to offer an explanation to his two questioning friends who were searching for an explanation, for a reason behind all the events they had experienced. He understood the sorrow and disappointment they felt, the loss that had blinded their eyes with tears and dampened their hearts with grief.

“Jesus quoted passages from the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining what all the Scriptures said about himself” (Luke 24:27, nlt).

Jesus is a gentleman. He patiently listened and explained. They had an engaging conversation. As they walked, they approached their destination. He did not invite himself in for dinner. He will not force himself on anyone. He will respond to an invitation, though. He waits patiently for each of us to invite him into our heart. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” (Revelation 3:20, nkjv).

Cleopas and his friend invited Jesus in and he joined them for a meal. Jesus wants fellowship with us. He wasn’t angry with them. He loved them and was concerned for them. As Jesus blessed the dinner bread, they suddenly understood. Their eyes were opened and they immediately knew who he was.

Along with that revelation came something unexpected. God is always doing things we don’t expect. He vanished out of their sight. But even though they couldn’t see him with their physical sight, their spiritual eyes were opened. That is what happens when we journey with Jesus; we walk by faith, not by sight.

An encounter with Jesus changes everything. They had seen the Lord and their emotions went from confused sadness to elated gladness. Excitedly, they told each other how their hearts had felt strangely warm as he explained the Scriptures to them as they walked down the road.

When we can’t clearly see the road ahead because our vision is blocked by tears or by the tangled web of weedy circumstances, we must focus on Jesus. Once we see him, he gives us vision for the road ahead and shows us the way. He can turn our “Why?” into “Why not!”

I don’t know which lonely Emmaus Road you may be traveling. But I am sure that Jesus is with you, even if you don’t see him or recognize his presence. And when Jesus accompanies us on the road less traveled, it makes all the difference.

 

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 8

Sunset rolling farm fields Portrait along Hwy 90 near Ritzville WA 4-29-15On the Emmaus Road, late afternoon shadows lengthened as Cleopas and his buddy were walking along and asking questions—probably rhetorical questions. They may or may not have expected answers, but they needed to ask the questions. Their questions represent the dilemmas many of us face in the journey of life:

  •  “What are we going to do now? What is going to happen to us?”
  • “If He did rise from the dead, how did he do it?”
  •  “Why did this happen to a good guy like Jesus? He didn’t deserve to suffer like that.”

The Bible says “they communed together and reasoned…” (Luke 24:15, kjv). The Greek word for “reasoned” is suzeteo and means “make a thorough investigation.” These guys wanted to know what was going on. They were posing the questions of suffering that everybody asks at one time or another.

First, we want to know “What happened?” or “How did this happen?” This is the quest for details. We want to understand fully the whole story. Like hearing the news of a friend’s sudden death, we want to understand how it happened. Was it an accident or a sudden illness? We want to know who, what, when, and where. Details of information will be passed back and forth to satisfy our need to know.

Second, “Why did this happen?” This is a more profound question, and one that consistently persists. Once we know how, we want to know why. The “why” questions are always the most difficult, indeed they are life’s most persistent questions. They often defy solution. We search for reasons. Like Cleopas and his buddy, we investigate and seek answers, even though they often can’t be found in the here and now.

  • “Why did Jesus return to Jerusalem if He knew people wanted to kill him?”
  • “Why did Peter deny Jesus?”
  • “Why did Judas betray Jesus and then kill himself?”
  • “Why didn’t Jesus stop the people who were killing him?”
  •  “Why didn’t we all stick together?”

When we are troubled, it is helpful to remember that Jesus walks with us on our journey of life. He is never distant or far away. While these disciples were walking along and trying to figure things out, Jesus drew near to them. During troubled times we may think God is a million miles away. Panic sets in when we feel abandoned. We don’t usually make good decisions when we are in a state of panic or fear. And fear makes a poor lens for viewing life. It distorts reality and magnifies problems. It makes God appear to be far away while trouble appears to be next door.

Jesus is as close as the mention of his name. The Bible is full of promises about God’s nearness and comfort during our times of sorrow and grief. The journey may get rough at times, but Jesus will strengthen our faith as we recognize his presence and trust the promises of Scripture:

  • God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  • God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)
  • For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, nkjv)
  • … surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
  • Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9, nkjv)

Never forget:  Jesus is bigger than your questions, and as close as the mention of his name.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 5

Seaside beach grassy sandy foreground 4-11-15When do most people buy a home or business security system? They do so after they or a neighbor have been robbed. The feeling of being violated breeds an environment of distrust and a sense of urgency. An event motivated us to ask questions and discover solutions so we can take action. Why?  Because something  happened to us that is out of our control. We believe we can get back in control and establish a sense of security by installing a security system.

Whenever something traumatic happens to us, we ask questions in our quest to regain some sense of meaning and security. And our biggest questions usually are God-sized questions that we would like Him to answer. And the biggest question of all is, “WHY?” The why questions always accompany challenges and remain the most lingering and persistent questions. It is a persistent question because it is a question about insecurity and angst – feelings we all experience. We long to make some sense out of events that shape our lives, and gain some sense of security in the process. So we long to know why.

John records a situation where Jesus and his disciples passed by a man who was born blind (John 9:1-7). This disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Their question revealed a common belief – almost like the idea of karma. If something bad happens, then it must be somebody’s fault. Jesus set the record straight – this man was born blind for God’s purposes, not because of something he or his parents had done.

While we are looking for somebody to blame, Jesus is looking for somebody to bless. But when something bad happens to us, long after we have answered the “who, what, when, where, and how” we still seek understanding, thus we ask “Why?” Our insecurity screams out for something secure to provide stability to calm our chaos of emotions.

After the death of their brother Lazarus, when Jesus did not arrive as requested and anticipated, Mary and Martha asked, “Why didn’t you come when we needed you?”

In the next post, I’ll explore how Jesus responded to their inquiry. He never did directly answer their question. What he did do turned their demand into delight and their grief into gratitude.

But until then, remember this:

Your best security system is Jesus! 

 

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 4

Sunset Snoqualmie River looking west from Meadowbrook Way SE BridgeJesus is the master teacher. He often taught by asking questions, and sometimes answered a question with a question. So what was Jesus teaching us when he asked the ultimate question of suffering?

Jesus’ final words on the cross reflect the over-arching question of the human race, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” If Jesus could ask God such a persistent question, I think we can honestly do so as well.

The answer may not be what we expect—but silence is an answer. Silence does not mean God is hard of hearing. It often does mean that we are not prepared to listen, or hear the real answer. Or it means that we will understand later.

Someone said, “Life must be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” So we search for answers and keep moving forward. Often, the understanding does come later as we gain more clarity to the sequence of events. As the picture becomes clearer, the meaning of our pain, suffering, or questions becomes evident. Or not–either way we must learn to wait and trust and learn.

In the 13th chapter of John, Jesus is in the process of washing the disciples feet. Peter does not understand why Jesus would do such an undignified and servile task. He asks, “Lord are you going to wash my feet?”

We can be sure Jesus was not just doing this because he didn’t like the disciples’ dirty, stinky feet and wanted them cleaned up. There was a deeper reason, and the Bible tells us the sequence of events, even details like the timing of the last supper, a basin of water, and a towel.

Peter’s question was a plea for understanding mixed with a bit of embarrassment and indignity that Jesus would do such a thing. This scenario remains a good reminder for us when we question God’s dealings in our lives, wonder if He cares, and ponder the big “Why?”

Jesus responded to Peter’s question with this very important principle – one that we would all do well to remember:  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 NIV)

Now. Do not understand. Later. Will understand. This sequence applies to learning about almost everything. Foreign concepts at first seem incomprehensible to us. Later they make perfect sense once we understand. Good teachers know there are no “dumb” questions, especially at first. And Jesus is the best teacher.

Jesus did not scold Peter, and he did not embarrass him. He also did not fully explain or answer all of Peter’s persistent questions. But Jesus did establish this principle that applies in so many situations of our lives:  Life can be understood backwards, but must be lived forward.”  In other words, our perplexing questions about today may well give way to understanding later when more of the picture is revealed to us.

Until later becomes now, we have to keep believing and exercise our faith when we do not see or understand, and wonder, “why?” After all, that is what faith consists of, “The substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 3

Eagle soaring closeup Skagit County 3-26-15“Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”       -Isaiah 40:31

Wait. How we hate to wait! The word may spark anxiety in your heart, but the grieving process takes time. And that flies in the face of our “why wait?” culture and personal orientation when it comes to relief from pressure, anxiety, or desire of any kind.

Whenever you suffer a significant loss, you grieve. And the loss may seem insignificant to others or inconsequential in the big scheme of things. But if it was a big deal to you, if it made your heart feel pain, if it left you anxious and afraid, then you are facing grief. And working through the stages of grief takes time. You will get better. I know, you’ve heard it before. But you will get better. YOU WILL GET BETTER!

Denial. Anger. Bargaining.  Depression. Acceptance. How this process of grief plays out, and the length of each stage differs from person to person. It takes time–you just don’t know how much time. But you will get better. YOU WILL GET BETTER!

If you have read this far, you might think I am over-simplifying things, and if you are grieving your mind may have already circled back to the “Why?” question again. Well, you’ve come this far.  Why stop now? There, I did it–found another use for that most persistent question. And how about another?  Why not? Why not, indeed?

Why not learn from a fellow traveler on the road of suffering who had his share of disappointment–both giving it and receiving it. His name was Peter – and yes he is the one who cursed and denied that he had ever heard of Jesus (after promising that he would never do such a thing) at the moment Jesus needed him the most. Ouch!  Like I said, he understood disappointment. The Bible tells us that following that stellar performance, Peter went out and “wept bitterly.” This was such a big deal that both Matthew and Luke reported his bitter tears in their Gospels (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62).

When Peter speaks about suffering and disappointment, perhaps we should listen. Many years past that painful event, Peter, who had been transformed by Pentecost and the working of the Spirit in his life over time, shares some advice for fellow pilgrims who wonder, “Why me?”

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.  (1 Peter 4:12-19 NIV)

So did you catch what Peter said? I understand that he was writing to first century Christians who may have been facing persecution and even martyrdom for their faith–unlike anything most westerners are likely to face today. However his words provide meaning to all people in all places for all time.

  • Don’t be surprised by suffering.
  • Rejoice in your relationship with Christ.
  • Don’t think you are suffering for Christ if you are just being a jerk.
  • You may be suffering, “according to God’s will” despite those who theorize that God always wants you to be happy.
  • Commit yourself to our Faithful God.
  • Continue to do good.

This begs the question, “Why is it so difficult to apply this to my life?” Let’s begin with baby steps:

  1. What surprises you about your situation? The word “incredulity” means, “I can’t believe this happened to me!” What would it take for you to get over your shock that it did happen?
  2. What blessing can you discover to rejoice about today?
  3. What can you do to commit your ways to God? I like to pray and personalize these verses from Psalm 37:3-5 “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.” (NIV)
  4. What is one good thing that you can do right now as a next step toward “continuing to do good”? Go for it. You can do this!

And always remember:  When you think you won’t, YOU WILL GET BETTER! Have a great weekend. After all, why not? More about life’s persistent question and another relevant story about Peter next week.

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 8 Easter Sunday

empty tomb easter = hopeEaster is all about hope. Hope when things seem hopeless. Hope when life’s challenges hit you like an avalanche of trouble that freezes your ability to move forward by its icy grip. Hope when your dreams are shattered. Hope when your confidence is shaken. Hope when your faith is hanging on by an invisible thread to the only life preserver keeping you from drowning in a sea of despair. Hope that does not deny reality, but sees beyond the current circumstances to a time when your shattered dreams and shaken confidence will be resurrected with fresh vision and vitality.

Hope will sustain you during moments of crisis and seasons of suffering. It will provide you with determination to overcome disappointment. It will instill courage to keep you talking that next step on your detoured pathway. And it will inspire perseverance to keep believing in your destiny despite the persistent questions that troubling circumstances throw your way.

Above all, hope in the resurrection of Christ provides a narrative and context for every situation of life. It provides an over-arching and eternal perspective on every puzzling picture we view and try to interpret this side of heaven.  Faith in a risen Savior makes all the difference. “Because I live, you shall live also” Jesus said (John 14:19).

Paul put it this way:  “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:18-19 NLT).

Maybe you have watched the television series, Resurrection. In it, people in a small Missouri town are amazed to discover people walking around who had died years ago, looking just like they did before they died. One of the main characters was a pastor, but there isn’t much theological or biblical truth in the show. In typical Hollywood fashion, the resurrected people will probably turn out to be aliens.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a fable about aliens, and it is not just a story that history forgot. It is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago because Jesus rose from the dead and lives today. Peter was an eyewitness to those events, and his testimony provides encouragement and hope to us, despite our circumstances, to keep believing:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV)

HAPPY EASTER!

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 6 – Good Friday

three crossesGood Friday. A good day for remembering Calvary and the events that happened there 2,000 years ago that changed the world forever. Three crosses for three men, all condemned to die. Two of them deservedly so, for their life of crime had paved the road to this place of execution. Along the way they had no doubt suffered many disappointments and disappointed many family and friends, yet had managed to escape the strong arm of the law thus far. Now their past caught up with them, taking them on an unexpected detour. A detour leading to their final destiny called Golgotha or Calvary, “the place of the skull.”

However, the third man had committed no crimes, had violated no laws.  Many were offended by Him, to be sure, otherwise He would not have been there.  But He was no sinner.  He was the Son of God, hung to die between the two criminals. He had no debt to pay to society, yet as God’s spotless lamb He willingly suffered and died, paying the penalty for the sins of the world (John 1:29), and thus changing society forever. Jesus suffered the ultimate injustice so we could obtain mercy.

One criminal was unrepentant, dying as he had lived—cynical, sneering—fearing neither God nor man.  The other, realizing the error of his ways and the reality of his mortality upbraided his comrade in crime and reminded him that this other man, Jesus, was no sinner. “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:41-42 NLT).

“Remember me.” I’m sure there were many episodes in his life he wanted to forget.  I’m sure he had accumulated numerous frequent flier miles in his flights from the scene of a crime.  These he wanted to forget, just as we do, for we are all sinners in God’s sight. In coming to Christ with his sin, Jesus saw beneath the outward appearance. Jesus saw a repentant heart, and did what He does best, He forgave.

Simple words: “Remember me.” They call to mind another biblical promise: “For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Jesus’ response?  “Today, you will be with me in paradise!”  Paradise, for a criminal, a sinner?  Paradise?  Isn’t that what the thief had longed for, plotted for and stolen for?  To get a piece of paradise for himself?  And now, in his final moments this detour on his road to hell has led unexpectedly to the One who could make his dream a reality.  And the best news of all, he did not need to plot, plead or connive. His humble request was all it took. “Remember me.”

Paradise, heaven, eternal life, however you wish to describe it—was offered to that first century sinner as a free gift, just as it is offered to twenty-first century sinners today of every description. Thinking about such a gracious offer from such a righteous God to such unrighteous people must have prompted the Apostle Paul to write:   “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV).

Prayer:  Lord, make us grateful for your wonderful and enduring promise of eternal life for us who deserve, like the thief on the cross only eternal damnation. Thank you for Good Friday and what you did on that day.

©2015 Don Detrick

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 5 Maundy Thursday

LastSupperRestored DaVinci“What would you like for your last supper?” Persons slated for execution are customarily asked this question, thus selecting the menu for their final meal.

Faced with that circumstance, I think I’d respond, “I really don’t have much of an appetite tonight, but how about how about another fifty years of meals, starting tomorrow morning?”

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day we remember Jesus’ last supper, although Maundy actually means, “washing of the feet”—another component of the last supper. “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  That is the question asked by the youngest son, or male, present during the Passover meal (or Seder, meaning an order of service). The events in the life of Christ and His disciples that night truly distinguish it from all other nights.

The Passover signified Israel’s redemption from Israel.  For New Testament believers in Jesus Christ, it signifies that we are redeemed from the bondage of slavery to sin through the sacrifice of Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  (John 1:29 NKJV)  More than 30 times Jesus is referred to as a lamb, or the “Lamb of God” in the New Testament. What can we learn about disappointments, detours, and destiny from the events that took place on that night 2,000 years ago?

  • Friends are important in times of celebration and times of suffering.

Passover was meant to be celebrated with friends and family.  If a person was too poor afford a Passover lamb, he was to join with friends.  If a family was too small to eat the entire meal, they were to invite friends or needy people to join with them.  It is significant that Jesus chose to be with His disciples during His last supper.

Not only do we need friends during times of celebration, but we especially need them during times of suffering.  By the time they were sitting down for the Passover meal, Jesus was already suffering.  He suffered when He revealed that Judas Iscariot would be the one to betray Him.  In ancient times, if you dipped your food along with a friend, you signified absolute allegiance to him.  Judas’s deceit and betrayal must have shocked the rest of the disciples.  But it didn’t shock Jesus, it merely hurt Him and further illustrated the beginning of the Passover meal, when a vegetable (often a piece of lettuce), is dipped into water mixed with bitter herbs.  This represented the bitterness of slavery – and no doubt it reminded Jesus and His disciples of the bitterness of unfaithfulness.

I’m sure Peter must have listened very carefully that night when Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer.  And I’m equally sure Peter had very good intentions to never do anything to betray the Lord.  But Peter underestimated the power of intimidation and overestimated the strength of his resolve.  Before the night was over, Peter abandoned the Lord Jesus and even swore that he didn’t know him.

Jesus Christ alone can promise to never leave us and fulfill that promise. He is a faithful and forgiving friend.  This is a remarkable fact when you consider that Jesus never made a mistake, committed a sin, or did anything to hurt another individual.  A real friend is one who is able to overlook the faults of another and can bring out the best in that person.

  • Jesus modeled servant leadership.

It is interesting that John (13:1-16) is the only Gospel writer that mentions how Jesus washed the disciple’s feet during the ceremonial meal.  This probably took place right after the Kiddush (blessing)  and the dipping of bitter herbs in salt water.  Jesus rose from the table and took a towel and began to wash the disciple’s feet, much to their absolute shock.  Traditionally, a master or rabbi would never do such a thing – it was work for a slave or servant.  In fact, during the first ceremonial washing of the Passover meal, the host washed first, to signify that he was the head of the house, the undisputed leader.  But Jesus insisted on showing that true leaders serve.

Matthew was Jewish and wrote to the Jews, so they would understand everything associated with the Passover meal.  Matthew presented Jesus Christ as the King.  His Gospel is known as the Gospel of the King.  Even though Jesus was the King of the Jews, He didn’t act like an earthly King.  He modeled servant leadership and encouraged us to follow His example.

John tells us that Jesus “laid aside His garments,” which symbolized the need to lay aside our own righteousness and pride before the Lord.  Jesus willingly bared Himself before His disciples in order to serve them, just as He would soon have His robes torn from Him in order to suffer for all mankind.

Matthew tells us that Jesus took the unleavened bread and broke it.  The bread is called matzo in Hebrew, and it means “unleavened, sweet without sourness.”  The unleavened bread symbolized the sweetness of life without sin. Every time we celebrate the last supper we remember that Jesus is the bread of life. He was willing to serve and give His life for others. The broken bread was also symbolic of humility as the poor could only afford a small amount of bread and Jesus identified with those who were unprivileged and underserved by others.

  • Jesus conveyed unconditional love.

Jesus methodically and systematically prepared Himself to be the Passover Lamb.  He was the spotless Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world.  And although He showed sorrow, He did not indicate anger, or frustration, or resentment, or any of the typical human responses to what He was facing. What He did show was unconditional love, in giving His life for all human beings.

Jesus faced absolute injustice, punishment for sins He did not commit.  The Bible tells us that we are to emulate Jesus in showing grace and mercy to others.  Jesus loved and loves unconditionally.  His blood covers our sins, just as the blood of the Passover Lamb protected the ancient Jewish people from death.

Because He gave His life for us, we can experience eternal life.  We should never forget.  That’s why Jesus said what He said and did what He did that night.  The Apostle Paul described it:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’   In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Some suggestions for application:

What if you really were planning your last supper?  What would you want for the meal?  Who would you want to be there?  What would you want to say and do?

Disappointments and detours come in many forms. Have you ever felt betrayed by a friend?  How did you respond?

Could Judas Iscariot have been forgiven if He had asked for it?  Is there any limit to God’s mercy and forgiveness?

How important are friendships to you?  Why do allow our busy schedules to interfere with building relationships?

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 4

 

Mt Si Meadowbrook Farm Path Double Rainbow Clouds 3-31-15What if God is using your disappointments and detours to help you discover your destiny? Like seeing a rainbow suddenly appear after being pelted by driving rain, we may discover our destiny after enduring a cloudburst or a seemingly endless season of life’s stormy weather. The rainbow was God’s symbol of hope to Noah following the storm to end all storms. Jesus and the cross become our symbols of hope during seasons of suffering.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Where are you looking for help? What symbolizes hope for you? Does your mind have a vision of hope to keep you secure when facing the tormenting passion of fear?  How do you deal with the fearful dread in your heart when the thunder roars, the rain pours, and your roof leaks?  What do you do when the worst-case scenario interrupts your plans with unemployment, cancer or broken relationships?  Do you start looking for people to blame, or do you start looking for hidden blessings, opportunities to receive God’s grace and opportunities for you to grow? What gives you hope and encouragement? The hopeful heart looks to Jesus. And the hopeful heart is not a trembling heart.

Think about how Jesus felt on Palm Sunday–His trust and obedience to His Father’s will was a stronghold for His mind and gave Him courage to act appropriately instead of jumping off the donkey and running to hide in some remote cave.  Facing the worst-case scenario of all time – agonizing death, cut off from His Father, bearing every horrible, disgusting sin the world has ever known – Jesus pressed on.  He rode into the city with a quiet confidence and dignity because He had knew that His destiny and hope for suffering mankind came by way of His suffering on the cross.  And the cross of Christ made all the difference for you and me:

The cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed forever to show us how God could become a man and a man could come to God.[1]  ~   Malcolm Muggeridge

Remember, as long as we live, the road to our destiny is always under construction. We should not be surprised when there are detours and delays along with disappointments. The key is staying with Jesus through those dark nights of the soul. It is easy to fall away and lose hope. It requires faith to hope for and receive what we do not see.

What have you hoped for? Have disappointment or discouragement kept you stuck in the waiting room of disappointment? What is the next step Jesus is leading you to take? That step may be marked, “Detour,” but it could you to from that waiting room to your destiny.

[1]Malcolm Muggeridge (1903–1990) Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992).

On the Verge: Finding Your Tipping Point – Part 4 “Suspense”

cliff-hangerCliffhanger—the word immediately conjures up an image of some sort in your mind, doesn’t it? When reading a good mystery, you can always skip ahead if the suspense is so great you can’t stand it. If you are watching a DVD, you can also run it forward. When it comes to your own life, you have to just live it out. You can’t fast forward time, regardless of the tension or pain of the moment.

Suspense and mystery are part of what makes a good story. Those elements of drama combine to draw in the reader or viewer, until you feel a part of the action. For a few moments, their story becomes your story. “This is killing me!” you exclaim as you virtually hang by your bleeding fingertips on the cliff of suspense.

If you were a Seattle Seahawks fan watching your team during Super Bowl XLIX it meant a roller coaster of emotions. Full of cliffhangers, the game was the most watched program in television history. Once again gaining and then losing the lead with two minutes to go, the Hawks gain possession again and a glimmer of hope emerges. Moving the ball down the field, with 26 seconds left on the clock, every Seahawks fan anticipated this would be the final play, only inches away from victory. The tension mounts as the ball is snapped when, surprise! Russell Wilson throws an unexpected pass that gets snatched away and with it our hopes are dashed. Game over, and not as we anticipated.

Not what we anticipated. Opportunity snatched away. Tension gives way to disappointment or disaster. The crash when we lose our grip on the cliff can paralyze us from making another attempt. “Never again” we may proclaim, robbing ourselves of even attempting to making it to the verge of success again.

But we don’t enjoy wallowing in self-pity or just playing it safe forever. Hope springs forth and we may find ourselves asking, “What if? Maybe it is possible to get up and try again.” Once more the suspense builds until we find a way to move on.

Clock Pendulum suspension spring diagramPendulum clocks generally attach the pendulum using a flexible piece of forged steel, called a suspension spring. It works along with the main time spring to create tension and keep the clock ticking through the back and forth motion of the pendulum. While the mainspring provides continuous power, the suspension spring does its job by simply being flexible enough to bend back and forth, time after time for days, weeks, months, and years at a time. Remember, the suspension spring is made of forged steel = it has been through the fire.

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken. So what is the catalyst in your life to spring you forward? How has the forge and fire of failure made you more flexible? How can you increase that flexibility and use the tension in your circumstances to bounce back?  How can you leverage the resources you do possess to your advantage? How long will you remain in suspension before you take action? Who could you talk to and explore these questions? Next post we’ll discover some options for the power to move forward.