July 11, 2017
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come with singing; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
“Beyond the river of sorrow there is a promised land. No grief for the present seems joyous, yet afterward it leads to blessing. There is a rich possible good beyond every pain and trial. There are green fields beyond sorrow’s Jordan’s. God never means harm to our lives when He sends afflictions to us. Our disappointments are God’s appointments, and bring rich compensation. Our losses are designed to become gains to us as God plans for us.”
In Green Pastures
“Never a heartache,
and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and
never a moan;
Never a danger but there
on the throne,
Moment by moment,
He thinks of his own.”
Daniel W. Whittle
Today’s Study Text:
“Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, ‘But Lord, by this time he is decaying and throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days.’”
“The Fragrance of His Presence” Part 35
“Just Pinch Me”
“I have had prayers answered – most strangely so sometimes – but I think our heavenly Father’s loving-kindness has been even more evident in what He has refused me.”
Is there a challenge so large in my life at this particular moment and if Jesus stepped in to solve this challenge in a very unusual way, would I like Martha say, “You can’t do that?”
Am I ready for Jesus to do the surprising - even shocking – in my life?
“Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are wiser than your prayers!”
“Surprise endings may be difficult for us to imagine as we (suffer) in an apparently hopeless present. We must remember, however, that God ‘is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3: 20). Probabilities aside, there may yet be a day when people look at us and say, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ There may yet be a day when we look at each other in wonder and say, ‘Pinch me, I must be dreaming.’”
Carol M. Bechtel
Glimpses of Glory
The more I study and learn about Martha of Bethany, the more I love this lady. Way too often, she has been characterized as a frantically over-worked woman who took on too much and fell flat on her face in front of Jesus no less. While Martha did have a lesson to learn about balance and boundaries in her life, it would do us well to remember that it was Martha who repeatedly was focused on the care and comfort of her Friend and Master – Jesus. With all the traveling by foot and sleepless nights praying, having even one home as His refuge must have been such a balm to Jesus’ life. Furthermore, having someone who wanted to make certain He had good meals to eat and a restful environment where He could relax had to have touched our compassionate Lord in ways we can hardly understand.
This is why I was personally enlightened by the words of Matthew Henry who offers several different lines of thought regarding Martha’s response when Jesus instructed those at the grave of Lazarus to “remove the stone.”
First, Martha may have been thinking about the comfort of her Master, wishing to shield Him from the altered state and potentially offensive odor of her brother. Henry also suggest that Martha may have responded as she did because according to Jewish thought at the time, after four days, the body was in such a condition as to be unrecognizable. Martha witnessed Jesus’ weeping and I imagine she didn’t want Him upset even more.
Whatever the reason for her immediate response which was basically, “You can’t do that,” Martha’s longing to put a stop to something that appeared to be so out of the norm should grab our immediate attention.
To say that Jesus was behaving in a strange way would be an understatement. There’s no other record in the New Testament of Jesus intentionally exposing a decomposing corpse. Face it, if you and I had been there on that day, I believe we may well have gasped in horror when that stone was rolled away. But just because of everybody’s discomfort, Jesus didn’t stop what He was doing. He didn’t put a halt to the unexpected!
There’s also one other important point which I want to make and it is this: after four days in a tomb, believe me when I say, all hope was gone. As long as Lazarus was breathing, there was definitely a lingering anticipation that Jesus would make it to Bethany in time. Why wouldn’t He – Lazarus was His beloved friend. But as Lazarus took his last breath, hope went out of his room as well. And so, to have Jesus uncover His friend’s grave after four long days wasn’t just unconventional, it was inconceivable. You just didn’t do things that way.
And here’s where this particular event in the lives of the family in Bethany touches your life and mine several thousand years later. Those sisters had a desperate need and they had trusted Jesus would intervene on their behalf. Has that ever happened to you? Have you or are you facing a health diagnosis or a marital problem or a financial disaster that is so threatening that you are right on the brink of losing hope that Jesus can or will do something to help you? I love the words shared several years ago by Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Evangelist Billy Graham. She honestly reported that, “God has not always answered my prayers. If He had, I would have married the wrong man – several times!” Her words gave me pause as I reviewed the fact that there have been more than a few times in my own life when like Martha I said to Jesus, “Stop, You Can’t Do That!” And why did I react in such a way? It was because what Jesus was doing didn’t match my prevailing idea of what He needed to do. I repeat: no one at Lazarus’ tomb had “resurrection” on their minds. In fact, in their world, Jesus hadn’t answered their prayers. He had let them down – especially Martha and Mary who trusted Him with all their hearts. They believed in His power. They believed He was the Messiah.
But as J.R. Macduff points out, when our “sense and sight may stagger, and stumble, and fall; we may be able to see no break in the clouds; ‘deep may be calling to deep,’ and ‘wave responding to wave’ ‘yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me.’ If we keep ‘believing,’ in spite; hoping on, and praying on, and trusting on; in the midst of adverse providences, strong in faith, giving glory to God, He will yet cause the day – spring from on high to visit us.”
Whatever you face today, the Friend of Lazarus stands beside you. He’s still the God of surprises. The Lord of the unexpected. I believe He will give each one of us just what we need. What’s more, it will come to us on the timeline set up by His gracious hand. And we’ll be standing there looking at each other saying, “Just pinch me. I think I’m dreaming.”
“Be content, poor heart;
God’s plans, like lilies pure and white, unfold;
We must not tear the close-shut leaves apart,
Time will reveal the chalices of gold.
And when, through patient toil, we reach the land
Where tired feet, with sandals loosed, may rest,
When we shall clearly see and understand,
I think that we will say,
‘God knew the best!’”
May Riley Smith
God of the Unexpected
“God of the unexpected,
You take us by surprise.
For though we’re full of knowledge
And feel so worldly – wise,
We sometimes miss Your pattern
We’re so set in our ways
We need Your clear directions
To guide us through our maze.
Direct us, Lord, help us
To see our way ahead.
Sometimes when You are calling
We cannot hear Your voice,
For some work that You give us
We would not do by choice.
Yet when we take Your challenge
And cautiously move out,
We find You there before us
To help us through the doubt.
Lord, lead us to the future,
Whatever it may be.
We trust You completely,
For only You can see.
Lord, You have led so many
Who put their trust in You,
Teach us by their example
To welcome what is new.
God of the unexpected,
You break into our time
To help us take our places
In faith’s unending line.
We’re part of Your great pattern
Of witness, love and praise.
Renew us, Lord, and fit us
To serve these coming days.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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