He Calls Me By Name

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:11-16)

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She did not recognize him up to this point.  She was overwhelmed with sorrow at his death.  She didn’t even go into the tomb like Simon Peter and John had, she only looked in and saw the angels.  Her sorrow was so great that she was missing God’s miraculous signs.  She couldn’t see the miracle of the stone rolled away.  She couldn’t see the miracle of the linens.  She couldn’t see the miracle of the angels in the tomb.  She couldn’t even see the miracle of Jesus standing right in front of her!  When we are overwhelmed by despair because of the loss of a loved one, the pain of an illness, or the depths of depression it is the same for us.  We are so overcome by our sadness that we cannot see Jesus.  We cannot see the truth of His love because we cannot see beyond the pain.

In Jesus simply saying, “Mary,” we feel the depth of his compassion as he steps into the middle of her pain and calls her by name.  In his divine mercy he reaches her right where she is at.  He doesn’t get frustrated at her because she didn’t understand the signs she already witnessed.  He doesn’t get upset she doesn’t recognize him and just walk away from her.  He stops everything he is doing and tries to reach her again.  He calls to her in compassion, “Mary”.  Jesus has risen from the dead, he is preparing to ascend to the Father and he pauses to look her in the eyes and calls out to her by name.  She finally sees him and cries out in recognition “Teacher!”  He does not reach her in the same way he reaches Simon Peter and John.  They only needed to step into the tomb and see the linens before they believed.  Mary needed to be reached in a different way and he took the time to do that.

If you have yet to see God in the midst of your grief or depression, don’t give up.  He is reaching for you.  He is calling you by name.  If you haven’t seen the signs yet that are already there, don’t despair.  He is near and wants to help you and love you.  Call out to him, ask for him over and over again like Mary did.  Mathew 7:7-8 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Ask for his help and he will help you.  Psalm 30:8 says, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Do not give up, keep holding on, keep looking for him and you will find him.

After this revelation Jesus instructs Mary to go back and tell the others. If you have been brought through the depths of despair already, or if you have had a life changing experience with Jesus, go tell others about it.  In doing this you will be the sign along the road for many others that cannot see Jesus beside them yet.  You will be an instrument of his grace and love to them in their moment of need.

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Fighting Against Evil

Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?” Judges 19:30

A terrible crime had just been committed.  The men of the town of Gibeah, a town in the land of the tribe of Benjamin, had just raped a woman so repeatedly throughout the course of the night that she collapsed in death at daybreak.  The tribes of Israel met to discuss what had happened.  First they said, “Think about it!”.  They thought about it and knew it was horrible.  Then they said, “What are we going to do?” They stirred to action! They sought the Lord first and then did something about it!

How often do we hear about something terrible happening and we get busy with our own lives and try not to think about it?  It is easy to justify not taking any action against it because so many terrible things happen and it seems impossible to make a difference.  Yet, God may be calling us to take action against a specific evil.  There may be something He is prompting us to do if we will allow ourselves to think about it.

When they did decided to take action against the town, they asked God if they should go to battle.  When he told them yes, they inquired even further and asked which tribe should go first and He told them Judah.  During that first day of battle 22,000 of Judah’s men were killed.  It seemed they were sent to the slaughter even though they had chosen to take action against this terrible injustice.  They followed God’s direction and still they lost the battle that day.

I think at this point many of us would assume that we had not heard from God.  We might believe we had made a mistake and give up in defeat.  They did not give up though.  They weeped before God and asked Him if they should go to battle again.  After He told them to go they took the same positions as the previous day.  The word says they “encouraged each other” as they took their battle positions. That day 18,000 were lost.

After this loss they wept before the Lord and fasted. They brought burnt offerings and peace offerings.  They asked God if they should go or stop.  “The Lord said, ‘Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you!'” (Judges 20:28)  On that day they changed their tactics and set up an ambush.  They lost 30 more, but the enemy’s town was completely destroyed.  The tribe of Benjamin was full of very experienced warriors with incredible aim.  They were a strong enemy.  It took three days to defeat them. God ultimately had the victory, but the battle was not easy.

I believe that after seeking God and fasting on the third day He gave them the strategy to win.  It wouldn’t have happened without those two days of losses because the enemy was tricked into believing they were winning the battle again on the third day.  Those two days of victory for the enemy had to happen for their guard to be lowered, which ultimately made way for the victory against them.  Our own battles against the enemy are not always easy.  Just as their battle required seeking His daily direction, ours also does.  Just as their battle caused them to fast and weep before the Lord, ours may too.  It will require us to have an unwavering commitment to continue doing what is right, even when the enemy appears to be winning.

Following God and doing what is right does not always result in immediate victory.  Do not underestimate our enemy, he is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Do not make assumptions on what actions you should or should not take, seek God.  Most importantly, don’t give up before the war is won! When it gets difficult, press in and seek God!  Many times we don’t understand why things are happening the way they are, but we can trust that God has a plan.  We can trust that if we keep seeking Him, He will direct us.  Though it may be hard and the battle fierce, He has won the victory!

The Truth in Contentment

But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God]. 1 Tim 6:6

We know that we should be content in our circumstances and belongings, but we should also be content in who God made us.  As someone that struggled with depression for many years I know that deep sense of discontent that weighs heavily at all times.  There was no contentment in both my good and bad qualities.  I could not see the things that made me great, I could only see the things that made me terrible.  I did not realize that those were the very things that kept me dependent on Him on a daily basis.  When we have this type of contentment it is a great and abundant gain because the devil can no longer steal our joy.  He cannot steer us toward depression with harsh inward criticisms of ourselves any longer.   We are content in God and in his sovereignty.  We believe in His wisdom to make us exactly as He did.  We are no longer the clay arguing with the potter.

What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’  (Isaiah 45:9)

Those that have dealt with depression know well the sorrow that awaits them.  The truth is though that when we are not content with who God made us, we are arguing with the one who made the heavens and the earth.  The one who commands all the stars (v. 12)! So, lets be honest and asks ourselves, are we truly buying into this Christianity thing?  Do we truly believe that God loves us?  Do we believe that He sent His son Jesus down to the earth so that we might believe in Him and become sons and daughters of God?  If so, then why argue with Him?  He created you in full knowledge of who you are and still chose to create you because He wanted to spend eternity with you!

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. (Psalm 139:14)

You are God’s workmanship!  You are marvelous and wonderfully complex!  Believe that truth today and not the lies of the enemy.  He is your creator and your God, listen to His words about you today!

Fear Not

But the officials of Succoth replied, “Catch Zebah and Zalmunna first, and then we will feed your army.” (Judges 8:6)

Gideon and his army were very hungry.  They had been in a battle and they were chasing the enemy as they tried to flee through the countryside.  Succoth did not care what they were trying to accomplish or that they were hungry.  All they were worried about was themselves.  They wanted to make sure they were safe, so they tried to force what they wanted through their own methods.  What they did not realize was that the Lord had already given Gideon’s army victory.  They did not need to push their own agenda to protect themselves.  All they needed to do was line up with God’s plan and they would have been safe.  God’s purpose always involves compassion towards others.  It is not self-seeking.

The root of selfishness lies in the desire to protect ourselves.  We believe that if we always get what we want, nothing will ever happen to us that we don’t want.  We believe that we can protect ourselves in this way. Selfishness is in fact another form of fear.  Fear that we might feel something uncomfortable.

When Gideon’s army returned to the town, the elders were punished and all the men killed (Judges 8:14-17). Just as Succoth brought on their own destruction by their selfish fears, so we bring destruction in our lives and our families lives by selfishness.  Selfishness weaves a trail of destruction in the lives of all it touches.  Even though it is trying to make the opposite happen through it own methods.  In this way, it is something we are going to for help instead of God.  Selfishness becomes an idol against God in our lives.

We need to turn to God for help in these areas.  We cannot control everything that happens in our lives.  In fact, many times we cause exactly the opposite to happen as it did with the town of Succoth.  Selfishness is not just our human nature rearing its ugly head, it is a symptom of something far greater – lack of trust in God.  We cannot turn away from our selfish behaviors on our own.  We must instead replace them with trust in God.  We can only trust Him more through Him.  By time spent with Him in prayer and studying His word.  We can by His grace seek Him in times of fear and turn from our selfish ways.

Choosing Mercy and Sacrifice

25 That night the Lord said to Gideon, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one that is seven years old. Pull down your father’s altar to Baal, and cut down the Asherah pole standing beside it. 26Then build an altar to the Lord your God here on this hilltop sanctuary, laying the stones carefully. Sacrifice the bull as a burnt offering on the altar, using as fuel the wood of the Asherah pole you cut down.”

30“Bring out your son,” the men of the town demanded of Joash. “He must die for destroying the altar of Baal and for cutting down the Asherah pole.” 31But Joash shouted to the mob that confronted him, “Why are you defending Baal? Will you argue his case? Whoever pleads his case will be put to death by morning! If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!”  Judges 6:23, 30-31

 

You probably already know the story of Gideon and how he was the least of the least in his family.  Yet, God used him to bring their nation out of a terrible situation.  Let us take a minute to look at a few other things in this part of the story.

Even though he had stolen his father’s bull and destroyed his altar, his father defended him.  Gideon must have feared his father because he performed the sacrifice while he slept. Even though we might not think it out of the ordinary that a father defended his son, it is worth noting because it was a time of extreme desperation.  Not to mention they were all so sinful that God allowed their enemies to cause such devastation. Gideon’s one act of obedience was already having an impact on his father. Not only did he defend him, he put the false gods to the test because he knew in his heart they were not true gods.

As a parent I see this as one example of how we should parent.  Even when our child does something completely wrong in our sight, we need to have grace with them.  Sacrificing a bull in the middle of the night when they were all hungry probably seemed pretty stupid to his dad.  Tearing down something that had been very important to him probably made him angry, or even sad.  Yet he still came to his defense and had mercy on him, as we should do with our children when they make mistakes.  Though Gideon did no wrong because he was obeying God, his father may not have seen it that way.  There may be times in our children’s lives when they are following God and we don’t understand the path He is taking them down.  Still, we need to be supportive of their decisions and their defender in time of need.

As a nation and a family they were starving. It says the enemy had destroyed their crops and taken all their animals. It was a time when it was dangerous to thrash wheat in plain site. Whatever they had was of great significance to them.  So the food that Gideon brought as a sacrifice was not just a normal sacrifice from abundance, it was a sacrifice from lack. The bull given in a sacrifice was again another one of lack, not abundance.

So often we want to sacrifice out of abundance, to give when it is easy.  We say that when we have more money or more time we will give more.  We want our sacrifice to be easy.  We only want to give when is comfortable.  God is calling us to give even when it is not comfortable.  When it may feel painful to us.  When we have to go out of our way to do something that we really don’t want to do, or when we are struggling to pay the bills and he is asking us to give money.  Sacrifice is not easy, but we are called to live a life of sacrifice.  We are called to lay down our cross and follow Him.

 

God’s Daughters are Loved by Him

When Acsah married Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. As she got down off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What’s the matter?” She said, “Give me another gift. You have already given me land in the Negev; now please give me springs of water, too.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. (Joshua 15:18-19)

 

There is a pause in the details of the boundaries and this is mentioned because it was unusual for women to own land. It is significant because it shows that God cares for women. We saw this before when Moses gave the land to the daughters when there was no son as an heir (Numbers 27), which was also unheard of at the time. Even though the Bible marks the lineages through men and takes the headcount by men in both the Old and the New Testament, don’t believe for a minute that you aren’t important to Him because you are His daughter and not His son. He loves you extravagantly and has great plans for you. Plans that see no boundaries!

The Impossible Task and the New Year

ark-blue-sky

I was able to visit the new Ark Encounter in Kentucky recently.  If you get a chance to go I would highly recommend it.  Hours can easily be spent in it looking at all aspects of Noah’s ark.  From how the storage of the animals happened to any questions you might have had about the possibility of the flood.

They had this in one area and it really made me pause for a moment and think.calm before the storm ark encounter

I never thought about what a monumental undertaking this task must have been for Noah.

Sometimes the things God has called us to do may seem impossible. We can become overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task or the length of time it may take to complete it. When I think about raising my children well it can be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I am failing daily on this lifelong task. The faith it must have taken for Noah to start and complete his task is almost incomprehensible.

I know beyond a doubt that it would have taken a daily walk with God for Noah to see this through to completion. He had to spend daily time in prayer with his maker. He would have had to rely on Him completely. He must have done everything one step at a time and worked on it piece by piece until it was finally done.

This is something that God has shown me in my life. To take every task one step at a time and include Him in every part of it. To not get burdened down by everything it is going to take to get it done. To just take the next right step with everything, even if the last step was wrong. If I stay in constant contact with Him in prayer and reading the bible He is faithful to help me complete the tasks He has set before me.

As we start the New Year, let’s focus on the next right thing He has called us to do and not be overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of the task set before us. Without Him it is impossible but with Him all things are possible.