Understanding the Pain

Throughout the generations, we have all read or heard some profound words from some amazing individuals…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“My story is a freedom song of struggle.  It is about finding one’s purpose, how to overcome fear and to stand up for causes bigger than one’s self.” – Coretta Scott King.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” – Henry Ford.

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

Each one of these quotes muster a sense of deep understanding, a sense that there is more to life than what exists in the realm of our eyes.  When we read these quotes, we begin to realize that life is more than what we live, it is who we impact, how we progress forward and ultimately, who or what we place our faith and trust in.

Many of us, for years, have placed our trust, our faith in things that don’t last.  We work hard at our careers only to find out that we have lost our family.  We hold onto our savings to the point of hording, only to succumb to a death, realizing we can’t take it with us.  We hold onto our children, so tightly, that they rebel and fight us because we suffocate them with pressures that do not exist in reality.  We identify ourselves with our spouses, only to lose ourselves when they leave us, whether by divorce or by death.  We hang onto our health, eating the right foods, exercising daily only to find out that cancer has overcome our bodies and we only have a short time to live.

But there is one passage I read that has a profound impact on my life.  It is not a quote from a famous individual or a passage from some scroll found in a cave.  It is a simple two word verse from one of the most famous stories in Scripture….

“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35

These seem like simple words, words without much impact, but I would argue that these two words show not just the humanity of Jesus Christ but also the deity of Jesus Christ as well.  Here is a bit of background that led up to these words…

Imagine for a moment, you were living in ancient Israel.  You had heard of this man called Jesus but were not sure what to make of him. The religious teachers called him a blasphemer and heretic, some called him a madman and yet some followed him, learning from his teaching.  You had heard that recently Jesus had healed a blind man, who was blind from birth.  It was said that as he looked toward the man, he had compassion on him.  You had also heard that his followers were asking, “Who sinned, him or his parents?”  Yet in all this, Jesus still had compassion on this man.  He had so much compassion; he healed the man and now that same man who had never seen anything but darkness, now could see the light surrounding him.  Yet even though this was the story, the religious leaders still called him names and wished him dead.  Something didn’t make sense.  How could a man heal so vibrantly, especially someone who appeared to have suffered from either his sin or his parents sin.

Then you heard that Jesus responded to his followers, “Neither this man, nor his parents.  But this was done to show the glory of God.”  How could this be?  We were taught from a very young age, that if someone was sick, born blind or had leprosy, there was apparent sin in their life or they were suffering from past sins.  Didn’t the Scriptures say, “I will repay the wicked to the third generation?”  So how could a man claim such a thing?  Maybe the religious leaders were right?  Maybe this Jesus was really a madman.  So what was the truth?

Just as you pondered these things, you way Him, Jesus.  He didn’t look any different than anyone else.  He wasn’t necessarily taller than anyone else, nor was he anymore good looking that all the others.  He looked ordinary.  He did not have the eyes of a madman, nor did he appear to be deity.  Still, there was something about Him that drew many.  Finally, you were going to hear the words of this controversial figure.  Just as you approached to hear his words, a woman rushes in.  She appears to be in tears.  She says to Jesus, “Your friend Lazarus is sick and needs you right away.”  His response was odd.  It was if he didn’t care.  He told the messenger, “The sickness will not end in death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Did you hear it right?  The messenger said, “Your friend is sick.”  It seemed like Jesus was just brushing off the fact his friend was sick, really sick.

Two days later, as you were listening to Jesus teach, you ask yourself, “I wonder what ever happened to Jesus’ friend?”  It is then you hear Jesus proclaim, “Lazarus is dead.”  He let His friend die?  You heard him say that his friend’s sickness would not end in death.  You think to yourself, “He must be a liar or a madman.”  But you decide to follow Him and listen to Him anyway.  Maybe there are some teachings you could benefit from.

As you follow Him, Jesus approaches the city of Bethany.  By this time, Lazarus is already dead four days.  To you, as a Jew, this means that Lazarus’ death is final.  He is truly gone.  As you approach the crowds, you notice the women consoling two other women.  They must have been Lazarus’ relatives.  They looked pretty young and you realize that Lazarus was also young.  You notice Jesus talks with one of the two women who were being consoled.  He appears as if He was consoling her as well.

Jesus is then led to the tomb where Lazarus’ body was laid.  At first, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”  At this point, you have determined this Jesus was a madman and a liar but now He is claiming to be God?  Only God could resurrect the dead.  But you notice something.  You notice Jesus’ voice isn’t as strong as it was before.  You then see him do something; men shouldn’t do in your culture.  Jesus weeps.  He just doesn’t cry.  He truly loved this man.  Jesus felt the pain of loss, the pain of suffering.  He reacts the same way you have.  Jesus weeps.  And in that weeping He staggers to say, “Roll away the stone.”

This Jesus really believes He can raise the dead?  Does this Jesus really believe that He is God?  The impact of watching Jesus weep for His friend brings you to a point of interest.  Now is the time for Jesus to prove who He claims to be.  Does He prove Himself to be a madman or a liar?  Lazarus is dead and Jesus claimed this wouldn’t end in death.  What will happen?

You notice a large stone you could pick up and hide, just in case Lazarus stays dead.  For if Lazarus stays dead and this man claimed to be God, you have the authority to stone him for blasphemy.  You hide the stone in your cloak and watch at a close distance.  After Jesus finishes weeping, you hear Him exclaim, “Lazarus!  Come out!”

Immediately, a rumbling happens inside the tomb.  Was it an animal that got in there?  Then you see what others said was impossible.  A figure of a man comes forth, waddling, trying to get the rags off of him?  Lazarus was alive!  How is that possible?  How is it that a dead man, who was dead for four days, whose soul left this place to enter eternity, is walking and breathing again?  At that moment, Jesus hugs his friend, turns around and looks at you with a smile.  It’s as if He can see to the very center of your being.  You have only one response.  The stone you held is dropped.  You rush to his feet, bow down and say, “Savior, forgive me.”

So what changed you?  What was it that brought you to this point?  The beginning of the journey seeing Jesus have compassion on someone, then it was His radical claims, leading up to this pivotal point.  Jesus wept for his friend.  He showed His humanity by allowing Himself to feel as we do when we lose someone.  He wept because He felt loss.

The last couple of weeks have been very tough.  The compassion I have felt for my wife’s friend as her husband was killed doing his job.  The remembering of my friend, who now is in glory, yet still hurting as I remember the suffering I witnessed.  Last evening, I witnessed my 90 year old neighbor slip away into eternity and even this morning, I was told of a friend of the family who lost their life to a possible heart attack.  Yet, I take hold of the two words John wrote – Jesus wept.

I now understand that Jesus felt the same things I do.  He felt loss just like me.  He felt compassion on others who are also mourning.  He wept just like I do.  But unlike Jesus, there are times I feel hopeless.  Hopeless because there is nothing I can do when I lose someone.  I can’t raise them from the dead.  I can’t talk with them anymore.  All I can do is weep, just like Jesus.  But even though Jesus wept like us, He never felt hopeless.  He knew what He was there for…to ensure God is glorified.  This is where His deity is displayed.

Jesus claimed that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death.  He also claimed to be God with the ability to resurrect the dead.  He claimed to be the holder of life.  And all of this was proven positive.  Lazarus was raised from the dead.  His sickness did not end in death.  In fact, Lazarus’ death was necessary.  It was Jesus who allowed Lazarus to die in order that He might glorify God and show who He really is.  As life and death are in the hands of God, the sheer fact that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead shows Jesus is God.  It was in this act that Jesus proved he was 100% man and yet 100% God.

I think we forget sometimes that Jesus felt what we felt.  He felt compassion, loss and pain.  He willingly suffered and died so that we might have a way back to God.  Yet in all this, Jesus again proved His deity by rising from the dead.  He did this for you and I because He has compassion and love for us.

I don’t’ know this for sure, but I would suspect that Jesus cries for those who don’t accept Him as Savior.  I’d like to think that he momentarily cries when His creation rejects Him and once they die, He has to send them to an eternal place without Him, hell.

However, for now as you are reading this, this means you are still alive and have a chance to cry out to Him.  If you cry out to Him, He will respond.  If you cry out to Him, He will save.  Jesus does not want any to suffer.  His desire is that everyone comes to know Him as Savior.  So why not?!  Just give your life to Jesus and He will prove to you not only does He have the ability to save, but that He rejoices in that same work.

What other proof do you require?  He showed his humanity by weeping and His deity by controlling life and death.  Call on Him and you will be saved.

God bless and encourage someone today.


If You Don’t Think Your Loved….Read This

Have you ever felt you weren’t loved?  Did you ever have the feeling that the world was against you?  Was there a time in your life you doubted anyone could understand what you were going through?

Many people go through life feeling like no one understands their problems or circumstances.  They think God has some sick plan to torture their life while blessing others.  Depending on our circumstances, maybe we feel lost, lonely and afraid.  Well in this blog, I will show you how much your loved.

The Bible starts out with a book called Genesis, which basically means “the beginning”.  It the start of a series of books that have stories spanning thousands of years.  What became interesting to me was that during the first chapter we see God not only creating the entire universe and life contained within that universe, but we also see God desiring to make human life.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

He had just created all the stars, planets, galaxies, birds, fish and beasts.  Instead of having his own little zoo, he creates people.  Why would He do that?  As we read we find out that God created a man He called Adam.  As God brings the animals to Adam to name, he also observes how Adam interacts with them.  This is when Scripture shows us some insight.

“But for Adam no suitable helper was found.” – Genesis 2:20b

God noted that Adam needed someone and not something.  He saw how Adam interacted with His creation but decided that Adam having no suitable helper was not a good thing.  So God puts Adam to sleep and creates a woman out of Adam’s rib.

Now we have all probably heard this story before, but you may be asking how this shows love toward you or how someone else understands your circumstances?  Well, God saw that Adam needed a helper, not wanted but needed.  There was an unmet need in Adam’s life, a need for a relationship.  Adam desired to be loved.  He desired to have someone else respond to his love toward them.  So the only suitable helper for him was a woman.

Why would God decide to go down this road, especially this way?  Later on, we find Adam and Eve being tempted by a serpent.  After both Adam and Eve sin they hide and cover their nakedness.  Then the Bible says this…

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” – Genesis 3:8

Did you see that?  Both Adam and Eve knew the sound of the Lord.  They knew what God sounded like.  Although not stated, it is a logical conclusion to understand that God, Adam and Eve must have spent some time together.  They knew what His steps sounded like.  For a short time, Adam, Eve and God had a relationship that was right and perfect.  Once Adam and Eve sinned, that relationship was tarnished.

We see more examples of this in Scripture.  We see God calling Abraham into a relationship with Him.  We see God calling a group of people as His own, the Israelites.  We see God spending time guiding His people for forty years in the desert.

In Ezekiel, God gives Ezekiel a mission, to be a watchman for Israel and Judah.  He was told to warn them about their sin.  He tells Ezekiel to be in a relationship with God’s people and take care of them.

Why would God want to create a universe, where one planet has creatures made in His image that rebelled against Him, yet at the same time seeks them out to have a relationship with Him?  Simply, because He loves YOU!

He loves us so much that He sends Jesus to live with us, eat with us and discover life with us.  He loves us so much that Jesus made a conscience decision to live a servants life knowing He would one day have to die a horrible death.  He loves us so much that on the cross, Jesus cries out to God and says, “Father forgive them, because  they don’t understand what they are doing.”  Jesus actually cries out to God to forgive those who tortured Him.

After Jesus died and rose again, he told His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit.  Once the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, they were commanded to leave and tell others about Jesus.  Jesus felt it was so important to have a relationship with us that He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us, teach us, discipline us and talk with us.

In fact, Scripture says that Jesus suffered all of what we experience so that we would not be alone in our suffering.  The New Testament commands Christians to be in a relationship with others, telling them about Jesus.

When we look at Scripture as a ‘one story at a time’ view, we miss the actual picture, God seeks to have a relationship with us.  When we look at our circumstances as “one story at a time”, we fail to see how those bad circumstances can be used for a much larger purpose than us.

This past year, I lost a close friend of mine to cancer.  Until his very last breath, he always smiled, praised God and asked everyone who saw him if they knew Jesus.  This was a testimony of God’s love toward mankind.

In the past month, another friend of mine ended up doing things that landed him in prison.  Time after time, people talked with him about the love of God, yet he chose the opposite path.  A day or so ago, his mother told me that he is now reading the Bible, seeking God and “testing the waters” to see how much God loves him.

Two very different stories, with different outcomes, yet one purpose.  To tell the love of God toward mankind.  No matter how bad things get in this world, whether sickness, poverty and even death, God loves us.  He allows each of us to suffer in unique ways for the purpose of sharing His love toward mankind.

Don’t ever give up!  Don’t ever think you are alone.  You are not alone.  Someone out there is going through the same type of suffering as you are.  Just ask God to bring them into your life and show you how much God loves you.

God Bless and encourage someone today.

The Ultimate “Daddy” Test (Continued)

Yesterday, I shared the first part of my experience with the “Ultimate ‘Daddy’ test”.  Not to keep the suspense to long, here is the rest of the story….

Nine months later, we brought my son back to the hospital.  While we were waiting, another boy was crying because he was going to have surgery for tubes.  His parents were also crying trying to reassure their son that everything would be okay.  My 6 year old, saw this and put his arm around the crying boy and said, “Don’t be sad.  Let’s play a game together.”  The boy immediately stopped crying.  A look of shock came over the parents, my wife and I and the boy’s parents asked, “What just happened?”  I said, “That was God working in your son’s life.”  We talked for a few minutes and told each other our son’s problems.

Shortly after, the doctor came and gave him the “sleepy medicine” once more.  After my son started to fall asleep, a nurse told me that I could not carry him.  I told her, “No one will stop me.  He is my son and I will place him on the table, no one else.”  She saw the determination in my eyes and led me down the terrible path.  Again, as we were waiting for the outcome, the same thought came as it did 9 months earlier, “Is he really mine?  Can I do with him as I please?”

This time, I knew it was God.  I prayed and said, “Yes.  It is very hard for me to give up my son, but yes.  Do with him as you see fit.  You know what I want but he is yours.”  It was then that the ultimate revelation came to mind.  I wonder if God felt the same way when Jesus hung on the cross?  Was He thinking, “This is hard, but it needs to be done.”  Was he crying the same way I cried?  Did He really feel the same way I do?

While the operation was proceeding, my friend, who I had called 9 months earlier, came to the hospital with his wife and we cried and explained that although I didn’t like what my son was going through, God was in control.  After 6 hours, the nurse came out and said, “The operation was a success, you can see you son now.”    A few days later, the doctor told us the tumor was not cancerous and we didn’t have to worry about it.  She was going to closely watch it but it shouldn’t grow back as they were able to remove the entire original tumor.  Unfortunately, what she predicted did not come true.

A few years later, we brought my son in for a routine check-up.  The doctor looked into his ear and said, “I am sorry to say this, but we are going to have to go back in and do a different surgery.  We have to eliminate the entire ear canal.  The tumor has grown back.”  The pressure of a thousand horses running over my body over and over again is the only description I can use that explains how I felt.  He was going to have to get yet another surgery.

He was scared, but he was also old enough to understand that this had to be done.  He didn’t like it but he knew what to expect.  This surgery took another 5 ½ hours.  After the surgery, the doctor said, “We will check the tumor again but because of this surgery, he should not need surgery again.  If it comes back, we will be able to remove it at my office.”

Needless to say, the third surgery was the final one.  Today, he is a teenager and loves sports.  He can’t hear out of his ear, but the tumor has not returned.  God taught me several lessons when it comes to life.  First, He truly is in control.  No matter what we go through, He is right there carrying us, crying with us, laughing with us and talking softly to us.  Second, when we make a serious commitment to God, He will test us.

In the Bible, Peter made a serious confession to follow Christ, but Christ stated, “Peter, Satan has asked to sift you.”  God allows us to go through trials to show others (including the angels) that our commitment is real.  When we decide to make that serious commitment to His Kingdom, we should not be shocked when trials come.

Lastly, God reminded me, He fully understands what we go through.  Just as I had to give up my son to Him, God gave His Son up for me first.  Jesus willing gave His life for my benefit to the glory of God.  Jesus was beaten and bled just to ensure that the Father could have a relationship with us.  How crazy is that thought?  Let it sink in.  Someone gave their life so that you could live eternally in paradise.  AMAZING!  Don’t let this opportunity go by.  God is calling you into a relationship with Him.  This two part blog is no accident and it is not by chance that you are reading this.  God wants you.  He love you.  He made you.  He desires to be with you.  As I took the “Ultimate ‘Daddy’ test” and realized what God was doing, so you to will go through some “Ultimate ‘[place your situation here]’ test”.  Just remember, whatever you give up to God, He will answer.  It may be uncomfortable, but He really is in control.

Be encouraged and make a positive difference in someone else’s life today with your story.  God Bless.

The Ultimate “Daddy” Test

“Daddy, why do I have to have surgery?”

This was the question my son asked me when he was 6 years old.  It was heartbreaking yet it was an opportunity to share what God was doing in his little life.  Here is the story as it played out in his little yet real life.

Have you ever gone against tradition?  I do.  As a matter of fact, I “buck” the societal norm when it comes to tradition.  In our church, it is tradition to have your children dedicated.  My wife and I understood why people liked this tradition, but I did not feel the need to go through with it.  My personal feeling was, when we have children, I will pray over them in the hospital, as I am priest of my home.

After my first son was born, I took hold of his little body, kissed him and prayed, “Lord, this child is yours.  I give him back to you to do with him as you please.  Use him for Your Kingdom.”  I based this prayer on the life of Samuel, when his mother gave him to Eli, the high priest.  Why did she do this?  She was very grateful that God granted her a son after pleading with God, so in return she ‘gifted’ her son to the work of the priesthood of Israel.  When my son was born, I felt the same level of gratitude, as until his birth, I was the last of my family to carry on the family name.  However, it wasn’t until 5 years later that the ultimate “daddy” test would occur.

One day, my wife received a phone call from the school nurse.  “Your son has failed several hearing tests in his right ear.  You may want to get it checked out.”  My first thought was “It probably is a wax problem or maybe tubes to clear any fluid.”  In the past, my son was very prone to ear infections so it was no surprise to us that he may have a problem.  What we didn’t expect was what happened when my wife took him to the doctors.

During the examination, the doctor said, “Oh boy.  We need to X-ray this”.  This obviously made my wife very nervous.  Immediately, the doctor stated, “Your son has a tumor in his ear called, ‘Cholesteatoma’.  We need to set up an appointment for an operation.”  WHAT?!  My 5yr old needs an operation?  Is it cancerous?  Will it kill him?  These were all the thoughts that came to my mind.  Was God going to take my son so soon?  Questions and anxiety raged internally.

We started to pray about the situation.  I pleaded, “Please God, heal my son.  Don’t take him.”  The doctor tried to reassure us that the tumor typically isn’t cancerous, but it was highly aggressive and could attack his brain.  (Even now, I am holding back tears as I think about it.)  A couple of days later, we received a phone call, “Bring your son for blood work now.  He will be going for the operation this week.”  The doctor had a surprise opening and placed my son on her ‘immediately operate’ list.

That week we brought in this bright, happy boy into the hospital.  He was given “sleepy medicine”.  This was what they told him.  He started to fall asleep in my arms and I proceeded to carry him into the operating room.  I had seen my wife a few minutes earlier crying her eyes out with her mother.  I went into “emergency firefighter’ mode.  (I was a trained volunteer firefighter at the time.)

After laying him on the operating table, the nurse escorted me out of the O.R. and proceeded to try and encourage me that everything would be alright.  Unfortunately, I did not show God’s love and grace to her.  I rudely told her to stop talking and walked out of the hospital doors after reassuring my wife.  I called a good friend and mentor of mine and started to explain what was happening.  He prayed with me as I cried feverishly.

It was during that short time a thought came to mind, “Is he really mine?”  What?  Where did that come from?  Again I heard, “Is your son really mine?  Can I do anything with him?”  God was reaching out to me.  He was comforting me asking me if what I had stated 5 years earlier was really true.  This was the start of my ultimate test.  Was I going to give him up completely, no matter the outcome?

I wrestled with this for some time.  After 5 ½ hours, we received word, the surgery was a success, but he was going to have to go through another surgery 9 months later to complete the installation of a prosthesis.  We took him home realizing that there was more to come.

During the “in between surgeries” time, my son came to me and asked, “Daddy, why do I have to have surgery?  Why is this happening to me?”  God revealed to me that this was the very complaint I give to Him every time a trial or problem occurs in my life.  I had to answer my son appropriately.  I said, “I don’t know why this is happening.  All I know is that God as His reasons and you will know them when He decides to reveal it to you.  Until then, remember, no matter where you are God is always with you.”  It was the only answer I could come up with.  I knew God said He would never leave us nor forsake us, so I had to reassure my son of this as I needed reassurance.

Nine months later……read tomorrow for the rest of the story.