Good Friday

Good Friday is at the heart of Christianity, but we don’t talk about it nearly as much as we should. As a society we tend to be more excited for Christmas than for lent. We seem to look ahead to Easter Sunday, not taking the time to pause and be thankful. Jesus’s resurrection would have been impossible without the crucifixion.

It is important for us to reflect on the gift of the crucifixion asking God to open our eyes so that we may gain a deeper understanding. We cannot fully comprehend the pain Jesus endured for us or the love He has for us. He endured being whipped to the point the flesh was coming off of Him, carried an enormous cross for miles, nailed onto it, and than suffocated slowly. This horrific death brings wholeness and beauty into our lives. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we have received much to be thankful for.

He has given us many gifts freely. Jesus lavishes grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, and love on His beloved children. Due to all He endured we have hope that sustains us in the hardest struggles of life, we are able to spend eternity with the Father.

Most of us are addicted to hurry. One task after another, reciting a to do list. Overwhelmed, sorrowful, and anxious because we were not created to operate this way. Regardless of what you are doing today I want to challenge You to take some simple steps as an act of thankfulness for all Christ has done for You and to grow closer to Him. Slowly read the crucifixion, no hurrying allowed. Take time to think about all Jesus endured. Than write out a few things from the crucifixion that you are thankful for. Lastly, write a prayer to draw closer to the Lord.

 

” They spat on Him and whipped Him on the head with His scepter ofreeds, and when they had their fill, they pulled off the bold scarlet cloak, dressed Him in His own simple clothes, and led Him off to be crucified.

As they were walking, they found a man called Simon of Cyrene and forced him to carry the cross. Eventually they came to a place called Golgotha, which means “Place of the Skull.”  There they gave Him a drink—wine mixed with bitter herbs. He tasted it but refused to drink it.

 And so they had Him crucified. They divided the clothes off His back by drawing lots,and they sat on the ground and watched Him hang They placed a sign over His head: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.”  And then they crucified two thieves next to Him, one at His right hand and one at His left hand.

Passersby shouted curses and blasphemies at Jesus. They wagged their heads at Him and hissed.

Passersby:  You’re going to destroy the temple and then rebuild it in three days? Why don’t You start with saving Yourself? Come down from the cross if You can, if You’re God’s Son.

Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders (mocking Him): He saved others, but He can’t save Himself. If He’s really the King of Israel, then let Him climb down from the cross—then we’ll believe Him. He claimed communion with God—well, let God save Him, if He’s God’s beloved Son.

 Even the thieves hanging to His right and left poured insults upon Him.  And then, starting at noon, the entire land became dark. It was dark for three hours. In the middle of the dark afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice.

Jesus: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Bystanders:  He’s calling on Elijah.

 One bystander grabbed a sponge, steeped it in vinegar, stuck it on a reed, and gave Jesus the vinegar to drink.

Others:  We’ll see—we’ll see if Elijah is going to come and rescue Him.

And then Jesus cried out once more, loudly, and then He breathed His last breath. At that instant, the temple curtain was torn in half, from top to bottom. The earth shook; rocks split in two.” Matthew 27:30-51 The Voice Translation. 

 

Lord Jesus,

You are king above all kings. Wonderful and sovereign. I want to take time today to worship You and to thank You from the depths of my soul. I tend to rush through life and do not spend enough time with You. I don’t cherish Your Word as I should. I am undeserving of love and forgiveness yet You have chosen to lavish both on me. Thank You for all You have done for me so that I may spend eternity with You. I praise You for the blessings in my life. Give me a deeper understanding of all You have done for me. Let me crave time with You more. Cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in me. Let me love as You love.

Amen

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Praise God for His Faithfulness

 

“How enduring is God’s loyal love; the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion. Here they are, every morning, new! Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Yahweh,

You are faithful even when I don’t feel You near. You are always with me. You are faithful even when my body or mind betrays me. When those I love reject me. You provide strength. Teaching me to be dependent on You. You are faithful, as the emotions run wild. Faithful even when the doctors fail. When isolation traps me. When my world is falling apart.

Lord Jesus, You are faithful in the smaller and bigger ways than I can imagine. Your faithfulness surpasses all understanding. Great and beautiful is Your unending faithfulness. You are my hope. Comfort. Provider.

Elohim God my creator knit my heart to Your. Guide me on the path You designed especially for you before air kissed my lungs. I am Depend fully on You. The storm will rage, but I have a secure and faithful anchor. Fear has no place. In You, I have sweet victory. Your faithfulness remains the same.

Amen

Introducing my invisible companion – pain

A sweet member of Chronically Hopeful, Angela, is sharing a beautiful post with us today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time and spoons to be here with us today.

Bio from Angela,

I am a christian and lay-preacher. I worked in finance for 25 years but I am currently unemployed and looking for a new opportunity when my pain is managed effectively. I enjoy writing, public speaking, mentoring young people and spending time with family and friends.IMG-20170818-WA0004

 

When you meet someone for the first time, what do you think that they see or observe about you? Maybe the color of your eyes? Your radiant smile? Your height? Weight? Or whether or not you wear spectacles, walk with a cane or use a wheel chair? It is possible that a person may see and notice all of these outward features but for me, there is one thing that whilst all-encompassing to me, it is something that no one sees. I consider that it is significant but it is also invisible (at least to the untrained eye), and that is my pain!

Pain, caused initially by an injury and then by disease. Pain that wakes me up and often prevents me from sleeping. Pain that dictates my activities or lack of them. Pain that varies, but is my closest companion. I have never asked for its presence, but daily I am forced to contend with this intrusion, this reality, something that cannot be explained and that has a devastating effect on the quality of my life.

 

My “relationship” with pain, for want of a better word, began in the autumn of 1989 following a serious road traffic accident. For about six months I was unable to leave the house alone and needed help with every aspect of my life. Over the months that followed, my father and the physiotherapy team at my local hospital helped me to recover my strength thereby allowing me to return to work.

It was my dream to return to the relatively pain free life with the energy and freedom that many of my peers in their mid 20’s enjoyed. Sadly this was not to be and I had to find and accept a new and unwanted reality. Even though I was a Christian, this was still a challenge.

I was truly grateful for life, after all, how many people do you know that have been knocked over by a fire engine on call and have lived to share their testimony? I knew that I was blessed, but somehow at the back of my mind, there were some nagging questions: Why did this happen to me? Did I do something wrong? Suppose I had taken another route home or left work on time would things have been different?

 

As I battled with questions that I could not answer, I had further complications as I encountered a modern-day equivalent of Job’s comforters. People came to pray, give thanks, and to comfort me but sadly a few came to discover what “secret sins” I had committed that had led to this terrible accident.

Over the next few years as I grappled with the effects of widespread chronic pain, I found myself dealing with people who demonstrated a lack of understanding about chronic conditions and whether or not my pain was real or imagined. I asked God for healing, friends and family came for special prayer sessions, but when healing did not come, my faith was questioned.

 

What do you do when the promises of God don’t seem to apply to you or when you look around and hear stories of miraculous healings? When people question your desire to be healed, to be whole, to once again contribute to your church, your community, your family or even take care of yourself?

 

I didn’t have the answers or the strength to cope with them alongside the fatigue, nerve pain and all the challenges that both fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome, brought to my life.

 

Moving forward however, I try to encourage myself and others by what God shows me through His Word. No matter how hard it is, I still have HOPE! Why? Well after nearly 20 years in chronic pain, I had another life-changing accident, one that left me unable to work and crippled by excruciating pain. Yet in all of this time I have been able to eat, have a roof over my head and I have my basic needs met. Has it been easy? Absolutely not! I lost some things that were important to me but I held on to that all-important, life-saving ingredient, Hope! Here’s how the Apostle Paul describes it in Romans 5: 3-5 ESV:

“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Hope as described here keeps us from being disappointed. Life is difficult for those who are suffering, but believing that a better day is coming, gives us hope. The Apostle Paul also has a disability, we are not told exactly what it is, but we know that he prayed three times for it to be removed.  When God chose not to, Paul accepted that God’s strength would be revealed in Paul’s weakness:

2 Corinthians 9: 7-10 Message

7-10 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, my grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

When I feel weak I go to God to receive strength from Him so that I am able to continue with the life that God has given me. I have lived with chronic pain for 28 years now and some days I am unhappy about the pain that I feel, that no one appears to understand and that no one sees. When my invisible companion tries to control my life, I try to reflect on better days and lift my heart to God who gives me hope.

Joy of the Lord

“To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!
    And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!” Luke 2:14

Jesus talks about live abundantly for the believer. However, this does not mean life will be without trials it is the contrary. This promise does not mean that the believer lives in a bubble of good things, worldly wealth, things always go smoothly, or laughter. Countless trails challenge the believer, at times these trails plague the believer with no break.

The joy of the Lord is the anchor of the believer’s soul. It is intertwined with thanksgiving, hope, and peace. This joy more than an emotion and it is unwavering. Though the work of the Holy Spirit and a willing heart on our part we are able to have a perspective from Christ that allows us to rejoice in His name no matter what. We are able to be confident that everything will bring glory to His mighty name. Pausing throughout the day to praise His name and to give Him thanks enables us to live out the joy of the Lord. Living out the joy of the Lord in the midst of tragedy takes courage and it must be intentional.

How can you live out the joy of the Lord this Christmas season?

Lord Jesus,

You are awe-inspiring. Words cannot accurately describe Your infinite beauty. The earth is filled with Your glory and righteousness. One day everyone and everything will bow at the sound of Your great name.

Almighty.. My intercessor. You poured out forgiveness despite my unworthiness. Daily, You extend mercy and grace. I can never thank You enough for the gifts You have freely given me. I worship You with all I am. Lifting Your name on high.

I love to learn more about You each day. As I understand You more I grow closer to You and my love for You increases. Fan the flame of my desire for You so that it would increase. As I come to know You more enable me to teach others about Your character. Allow Your kingdom to grow. I desire to serve You, Master.

Allow me to live out the joy that You have given me. Let me experience abundant life even when I am in the midst of trials. Cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in me. Bless me with a perspective that comes from You. Let me remain anchored in You hope and daily experience Your peace.

Amen

 

 

Oppression is Dead; Embracing Peace This Christmas

Tragedies unfold each year pausing for nothing. Heartless shootings that result in lives lost with no cause. The Las Vegas Massacre. The Texas Chruch shooting.Those left behind consumed with grief which feels as if their hearts are being ripped out, no words can describe its depth.

Natural disasters devasting countless people. Leaving communities once thriving fighting to stay alive. Desperately trying to rebuild. Each natural disaster claiming lives. Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Wildfires in California.

Then the issue of human sin within the truth of Hashtag Me Too. Ugly, heartless sin which begs to be hidden. Revealing the horror humans are capable of. 

Of course, these few things are only the surface of the devastation surrounding us. Financial difficulties, abuse, and relationship issues add to the impact. Additionally, much devastation consumes us. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, panic attack, grief, and personality disorders. Physical pain with relentless symptoms. Chronic illness which seems to never let up dictating life. 

The hardships are unending. The news reminds us of this often. Is there meaning in life? Any purpose in all the pain? One can even question if there is anywhere safe anymore. It is draining; sucking the joy from us. At times, we feel dead inside, nearly falling apart as the world caves in burying us. 

Where is the peace in all of this devasting chaos? 

The Christmas story is rooted in hardship and in devastating pain. It is not the simple nativity we see so often in our childrens Bible. None of it was easy emotionally or physically for the family of Jesus. It was a difficult journey of fear, anxiety, sadness, and confusion. God came as a helpless baby turning the world upside down. Ultimately, He overcame death by the work of the cross. We celebrate Christmas because of Easter. “Christmas is more than a story about sleigh bells jing-jing-jingling — Christmas is the beginning of the story where death itself gets killed.” God desperately wanted us to encounter true peace rooted in His love. 

_Merry Christmas in it_s original language means all oppression is dead._1

Christmas is the perfect reminder that we are all equal no matter the background, color, or education level we all have a sinful nature in desperate of a Savior. There is peace in the midst of the Christmas season, but it is not found in the lights or getting everything just right. Joy is not found in the decorations or the gifts. 

“God is so moved by our being entangled in suffering — that He moved Himself into our world and entangled Himself in the suffering with us. God with us”.  Peace begins with Christ in the middle of the devastation. It begins with pouring out your heart to Him in a lament. 

It’s not about reciting movie lines but being intertwined with the lines within the Holy Word. Being immersed and consumed by those living Words. “His glory in the highest runs down to meet us who are at our lowest, those left out in the field, those who’ve lost our flock, lost our way, lost our hope, His glory in the highest always runs down to meet us who are at our lowest.”

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We have peace in the anticipation of the work Christ is doing in our hearts this Advent season. Furthermore, it is rooted in the anticipation of Christ return. This peace consumes us when we intently make space for Christ in the midst of the hurry and allows us to put to death our worry. In doing so we cherish each moment and live an abundant life.

Living out peace this Christmas season requires us to extend compassion and grace to one another. “Let us listen to one another in the depths of our suffering and sadness — and  only speak words that make souls stronger.” Living each moment with a thankful heart. Living loved and loving others. 

 

*All Quotes By Ann Voskamp 

 

Hope

The pain intensifies as the minute’s drag by. There is an indescribable ache and stabbing pain nearly with each breath.  A sickening feeling overwhelms my body along with waves of nausea from the pain. As quick as possible I unsteadily get up as the urgency increases to get to the bathroom and on my way, I partly dislocate a knee.  Weakness consumes my body from lack of nutrition and hydration. Anxiety plagues the mind as I come up with theories of what is occurring.

Moments like these it is impossible to read or to focus for more than five seconds to pray. Moments like these are when I need hope instinctively. “Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty.” He promises no matter how dark, painful, and hopeless things feel that joy comes in the morning.

There are times when all looks hopeless to others that Christ fills me with His hope beyond explanation. On the contrary, I am sad to admit, there are too many times that my heart aches with sorrow and hopeless tears spill out.

There have been times friends feel so hopeless they have walked out of my life never to return. Countless times, doctors tell me things are hopeless that they are stumped. Thankfully, my Savior has never felt that my health is hopeless.

What are the things which leave you feeling hopeless?

Look! The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days, when the time is right, I will cause a righteous Branch to sprout from the old stump of David’s linea.png

 

Hopelessness seems to fill this fallen world. Maintaining the hope that Christ calls us to have can seem like an impossible task. Hope is not a feeling. It is so much more to the believer. It is an anchor to our soul that connects us to Christ.

Advent is a time to rekindle our hope. The story of the birth of Jesus bursts with hope.  Jesus is the source of hope and furthermore our ultimate example of remaining hopeful.  The Lord is renewing our hope today through the first Sunday of Advent.

 

Look! The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days, when the time is right, I will cause a righteous Branch to sprout from the old stump of David’s linea (1).png

Lord,

I am amazed at the way the whole Bible is connected to the birth of Jesus. I am amazed at the way that you are always at work mighty ways. Thank you for providing hope when all seems lost. Thank You for the joy You provide. Thank You for who You are. Thank You for the grace You provide.

I praise You for the hope found in Your Son, Jesus, Christ. Thank you for the renewed hope of Advent. Allow me to read the Advent story with an open heart and new eyes. I surrender this Christmas season to You knowing that You will do a new awe-inspiring work in me. Fill me up with You, Lord Jesus. Allow me to be a blessing to others.

Amen

Thankfulness in Advent

We are encouraged to write wish lists. The media hypes up the season with empty feel good out of reach promises. Such as promises of “true” love, materialistic gifts., and the picture-perfect Christmas day with family.  People strive for perfect.

Days that are nearly bursting at the seams with activities become more hurried so that more activities can be intertwined. There is no time to breathe in this season. In the blink of an eye, Christmas day has come and gone, leaving a sobering tragedy that we missed the opportunity to cherish moments and grow closer to Christ.

People become so busy that cannot hear the whisper of Christ. It is funny that the one thing we need most is the first thing we normally cut out, which is, our time with God. We might have a sing that says keep Christ in Christmas yet we neglect doing so.

Keeping Christ in Chrismas is more than using the phrase Merry Christmas. Keeping Christ in Christmas is slowing down and cherishing the gift of time. Keeping Christ in Christmas seeking Him with your whole heart and spending extra time in His presence. Additionally, allow Him to speak to You and transform You. Keeping Christ in Christmas is loving, praying for, and caring for all those around you.

Christ should be at the center of our excitement and focus. Jesus whispers gentle reminders to us. His name is whispered in the Old Testament. Jesus whispers to us in the chaos. He whispers in moments of silence in front of awe-inspiring lights. He whispers to us in the Christmas songs and through the texture of garland. He even whispers to us through the aromas of Christmas. Jesus whispers to us in Christmas, can you hear Him?

What if instead of wish lists we kept a gratitude list, how would this transform our Christmas season? Slowing down in gratitude, as mentioned in a previous blog post, enables us to enter fully into each moment. Advent overflows with gifts from the creation story up until our present day. These gifts are waiting to be acknowledged all we must do is pay attention.

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Christmas Gratitude Challenge

Jesus,

I am amazed at how you, my Sovereign God, parted with heaven for a season. You entered in a womb through a miracle utilizing uninvited women. Entering into the beauty of You creation and navigating this fallen world. You became a helpless infant.

I praise You with all my heart for the hope found in Advent. Help me to slow down, to cherish each moment, and to hear Your loving voice whispering to me. I surrender this Advent season to You knowing You will do a work beyond my dreams. Cultivate in me a Christmas heart of gratitude.

Amen