Mary and Martha’s trust

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photo credit: Big Grey Mare Tree Planted By The Water via photopin (license)

In John 11 we read the famous text where Mary and Martha face the death of their brother Lazarus. While he is ill and dying, the first thing they’re reported doing is sending for Jesus. In this passage, they trust Jesus completely–they are sure even after their brother’s passing, that if Christ had been there, he would have saved Lazarus from dying. Some may be tempted to fault Christ for not being there, and accuse him of waiting on purpose until he had created an opportunity for an even flashier miracle. However, reading the text, a lot of people in this family’s area were bent on killing Jesus. He had a legit cause to decline to go. From the disciples’ reaction, it still wasn’t safe for him to be there when he did risk going down there for the funeral. How many of us today wait until the funeral to show up when we have far less at risk than our lives?

Now, depending on who is preaching this text, and what point they’re trying to make, often, Martha either has total trust in Jesus or expresses continual doubt. In reality, she has total trust in Jesus and is struggling to believe he’ll do the impossible for her. For real, how many Christians today would have cremated their brother Lazarus by day four? How many of us, knowing Christ is with us always, so much as ask him to raise the dead? Don’t we have faith? So does Martha. It’s not her faith that is limiting her, it’s her expectations. I.E. we have faith that God can. But we still struggle to believe he will.

What Christ offers her–a brother risen again not in a distant future, but right now–it’s everything she hopes and longs for and her grieving heart is instinctively guarded against disappointment. Since reason tells us even today the dead don’t normally get up again after the doctors have given up on reviving them. Does it happen? Yes, but it’s rare.

The remarkable thing here is nowhere does Christ chide them for their battle between faith and fear and doubt. At the height of it, in fact, seeing their need to grieve, he weeps with them. Knowing what he is going to do, he takes time to emphasize with them and feel with them the painful loss they’re already enduring. Just in case we all think he is instead throwing himself a sinful pity party about their “sinful” grief, the Jews’ reaction to his expression makes it clear he is stopping in the middle of his plans to resurrect Lazarus to grieve the death of his friend.

In doing so, he gives a precious gift to all of us, especially anyone exposed to the false teachings that condemn grief. Christ, who knew no sin, who had absolute faith in the Father and knew what he was himself going to do beyond all doubt, took time to process his grief at the loss of his friend to the grave before calling him out of it. He knows your need to process your pain, grieving heart, he has experienced it, too, and he was without sin.

And Martha, despite her hostess concerns about exposing her guests to the stench of a corpse, did believe in what the Lord could do enough to go along with opening the tomb. So, yes, Martha and her sister Mary trusted in and had faith in Christ even in the dark turmoil of their grief, and no less so for their grief or their battles with fear and doubt.

One last note on trust. According to the Bible, who should we trust? Answer: God alone. While we often believe it is wrong to distrust humans, we have good company in it. During his earthly ministry, Jesus didn’t entrust himself to humans. And John means what he says, that was Christ obeying scripture. (See John 2:23-25) I did a keyword search for “trust and man” on Biblegateway, it pulled up seventeen verses, and the general gist of virtually all of them is to command us to NOT trust humans, especially not yourself, the proud, strong men, military leaders, and politicians, and especially not for salvation.

Now, we should still love them, respect them, pray for them, etc. But not trust them. Our trust is to be in God alone. This can be of great comfort, looked at rightly. Can I trust this person? The Bible says no, they are fallen, they will let you down sooner or later. But God never will. He is with you, he loves you, and he will help you. Go forth in what God has called you to do, not because you can count on the people around you to always be there for you, but because God is always there for you.

 

[tweetthis]Mary and Martha’s trust[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]According to the Bible, who should we trust? Answer: God alone[/tweetthis]

 

Feeling less than someone else? Good news!

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You aren’t less than, inferior to, or worth less than anyone you have ever met face to face. The truth is, all have sinned. All are not good enough. All do not deserve their blessings. All deserve to die for our sins and to burn in Hell for eternity. All can escape God’s wrath only by the blood of the Lamb who took the punishment we deserved.

And on top of that, if we accept Christ, God adopts us as his own beloved children and makes us citizens of Heaven. That is amazing grace, and a secure promise to stand on. Nonetheless, let’s remain humbly aware we have not earned what we have freely received, lest we fall into prideful self-righteousness and withhold grace from others who need it.

We ourselves can stand by grace alone, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. And that goes for everyone else. I sense so many of us are hurting while blaming others for our own heart’s self-condemnation. Our feelings are our property and our responsibility. No one else is to blame for how we feel about ourselves. (Dr. Henry Cloud, Boundaries)

Let’s stop trying to justify ourselves, stop trying to prove ourselves, stop trying to earn blessings, accept we never can, and rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross, by which God’s children all freely receive God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

[tweetthis]Feeling less than someone else? Good news![/tweetthis]

Feeling Defeated? Rest in the Conquering King

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“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Troubled? Christ tells us we can turn to his speech in John 14-16 any time and receive comfort and peace from knowing the Father himself loves us and that someday he will bring us out of our present sorrow and deliver us to joy. He promises us hardship and trouble and travail in this life and that the unbelieving world will hate us if we are truly walking with Him, and has indeed often killed the saints, and many do so thinking they do God service as Jesus said.

But we are to take heart: he has overcome the world. Victory is secured for us. Keep holding the line, keep walking the walk. Stay the course. The battle rages on, but no matter what its outcome, the war is already won.  Let us abide in Christ and rest in Him. Let him fight the battle. Trust and obey him. He’s the conquering king and his enemies are defeated and routed, including the sin or the fallen condition you are struggling with, and even the great enemy, death itself, has been mortally wounded and will be only a distant memory sooner than it seems as we struggle in this life.

Turn your eyes to Christ’s cross and His empty grave and be encouraged, brothers and sisters. It is finished. God has prevailed and He will prevail in your life if you do not lose heart and desert him for his already defeated foe. So put away doubting, put away your own understanding, and trust in Him today.  Give to him any weight that hinders you from trusting him, be it sorrow, be it hurt, be it anger, be it the trust others have broken, and any nay-saying voice, be it real or imagined.  Confess it, express it, but release it into His victorious hands.

 

Longing for your Heavenly Home or Fearing its Loss?

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“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

This is my favorite verse to turn to in times of trial and distress of any sort. Here the Lord reassures us that though he has returned to the Father and we cannot see him face to face and feel his physical touch of comfort, he is preparing a place for us, his bride, to dwell in, and he will return again and receive us as his own forever. No matter how hard and dark and cold and lonely the night is here on Earth, in Heaven, we have a warm place called home and we can always call home and talk to our Father and our Brother and be loved and welcomed and encouraged and strengthened and made whole where it matters most.

Older translations of this text render “rooms” as “mansions” while we can dispute which is more accurate and which is more desirable, the epistles suggest God is preparing not merely a literal dwelling place for us in Heaven, but a brand new body as well. God’s standards are strict, and we cannot hope to obtain to them on our own, but he is making preparations to transfer us from our old broken bodies of sin (spiritual corruption) and physical corruption to pure, spotless, incorruptible bodies, to transform us from sinners into saints.

Let us not lose heart then as we battle against sin within ourselves and to resist the external pressures of the corrupt world around us. No matter how many times we stumble and fall, so long as we continue to choose Jesus and trust him as both our Savior and our Lord, we stand secure, because He will never change His unfailing love for us. He will never abandon us nor forsake us, nor will he ask from us more than we are capable of or more than he is willing to equip us to do.

So many of us when our hearts are troubled turn to our friends and family. Some of us are fortunate enough to have strong loved ones who are full to overflowing and have plenty to give us and meet our needs. Others among us are surrounded by friends and family as every bit as troubled as we are and often are also running on empty. For those in this situation, leaning upon one another spreads the pain around like a game of hot potato being played with toxic waste.

Christ urges us this day to stop a cycle that tends to compound and multiply our troubles and bring our broken hearts to Him. The Lord is the ultimate source of the spiritual and emotional fuel we require to live and thrive, and He is the only true source of healing, and only He can take the toxic waste, nail it to His cross, and truly remove it from us and those around us once and for all.

Lord, open our eyes. Draw our attention to the times when our hearts are troubled. When we are tempted to unload the toxic waste building up in our fallen hearts on our loved ones, remind us to stop and pray and surrender it to you instead. Show us also when our loved ones are seeking from us what comes from you and handing to us burdens that only you can carry. Give us the strength to refuse to participate in what amounts to idolatry and the courage to gently, respectfully, and lovingly, yet firmly point them to you and offer to pray with them instead. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

 

Slipping in the mud? God has his hand out. Grab it.

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“When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94:18-19)

Is your foot slipping, stumbling and falling flat into sin’s mud? Trust in the steadfast love of the Lord–not to make the mud less muddy and falling acceptable–but to catch you by the hand and hold you up from doing a face dive into the mud.  His blood washes us clean, and his love can keep us clean. In the hour of temptation, take your eyes off the mud of this earth and look up to Heaven’s righteous king. He will give you the strength to safely walk around it and keep going on, hand in hand with him.

Burdened with a huge pile of debt? Medical problems? Marriage difficulties? Work politics ? Family drama? Afraid of natural disasters? What the government might do? What  your neighbor might think? If you’re drowning in a sea of fears and worries today, again cry out to Jesus. Let him take your hand and lift you up. It may not happen right away.  We often have to confess it all to the Lord, name what we’re afraid of (gasp!) and then loose it from our hearts, releasing that concern to him. Only when we’ve gotten it out of us do we often have room to listen to his voice in our hearts, receive his words of comfort and peace, to alleviate our grief, to soothe our distress, lift the heavy burden from our hearts, and give us joy and satisfy our need. Gratitude is our best response in that hour.

Lord, thank you for hearing our prayers. Thank you for consoling us and giving us peace and joy. Thank you for holding our hands. We pray in the hour of temptation, we would be reminded in our hearts to look up to you, and we ask you to strengthen us in our hearts to have the spiritual discipline to obey and meditate on your love, to hide in it from sin, rather than using your steadfast love as an excuse to roll in the mud like pigs. Forgive us for the times we’ve done that, wash us clean, and polish us until you see your son’s face reflected in us. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.