Don’t Cry

By Ori~ – Own work, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7433051

Jesus, his disciples and a large crowd went to the village of Nain. A dead person was being carried out of the city gate–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. Jesus had compassion on her and said “Don’t cry.” He touched the bier and the men who carried it stood still. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother (Luke 7:11-15).

During the time Jesus walked this earth, a widow’s life was unfortunate, even dangerous. The widow of Nain lost her only son, and her situation did not escape the attention of Jesus. Amazed, the crowd with the widow said, “God has come to help His people” (Luke 7:16).

The church in the picture above is over the place of the resurrection of the widow’s son, and the concrete coffin outside represents the wooden one the son was carried in. Humbled to be in the place Jesus gave a son back to his mother, I sensed the meaning of the Bible story come to life–the compassion of the Lord was almost something I could touch.

Prayer: Thank you, O Lord, for your great love for all people. Thank you for your care of the widows and the fatherless. Thank you for loving even me. O Lord, hold me close. Never let me go. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Let the Son Shine In

Cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem through a hole in the fence and with the rays of the sun, Israel

The disciples fished all night and caught nothing. Early in the morning, a man stood on the shore and called out to them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish],” (John 21:6). When they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John identified the the man on shore as Jesus, and Peter jumped into the water to meet Him. The disciples followed in the boat and brought some of the fish to Jesus, which He cooked for their breakfast.The number of fish the men caught was 153. At this time in world history, there were 153 nations. This fact impacts Jesus’ last will and testament: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:16). The disciples watched Jesus ascend to Heaven from the Mount of Olives. “Two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into Heaven,” (Acts 1:10-11). For this reason, there is a cemetery on the Mount of Olives where people are buried, with the idea that they will be the first to see Jesus at the rapture.

“For the Lord himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first,” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). O beloved! It will not matter where you are buried when Jesus returns at the rapture–whether you are buried at the far ends of the earth, or in the sea or burned at the stake and your ashes left to blow in the wind. Our God has the power to join your glorified body to the your soul. He is everywhere at the same time–hard for us to understand, but true.

Let the picture of the light coming in the window above remind you that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12). My friend, let Jesus, the Son of God, shine His light into your world now and forever. He is always with you and will never leave you.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the hope we have in you. Your mercy and forgiveness made a way for us to be with you today and into eternity. We love you, in Your holy name we pray, Amen.

The First Home Church

Church Over Simon Peter’s Home in Capernaum, Israel

The two jewels found in Capernaum today are the synagogue and the church over Simon Peter’s house. The picture above is taken inside the church and the video below is an outside picture and story from Mark 1 and 2. Peter’s house is where Jesus stayed when He was in Capernaum and is next door to the synagogue.

“As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them” (Mark 1:29-31). Some have chuckled over these verses, saying Jesus healed her so she could get back to work. I see a little different scenario because in the next chapter of Mark, Simon Peter’s house was so crowded that four men could not get their friend to Jesus. They dug through the earth and straw in the roof to lower their paralyzed friend down in front of Jesus, who forgave him of his sins and healed him.These two stories make me think that Peter invited people into his home so they could be near Jesus and hear Him speak and see His miracles. When Jesus saw that Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, He healed her so she could participate in the ministry. This is the cry of my heart when I am sick–to get well so I can continue to lead women’s Bible studies in my home and write posts for this blog.

After Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, Peter was instrumental in developing the early church. Perhaps he started in his own home.

I invite you to view this short video to see the outside of the church as well as the grounds under and around it. The guide has an important lesson for you too.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for Jesus and His ministry in Capernaum. Thank you for Simon Peter’s commitment to the early church that, most likely, started in his home and involved his whole family. Help us to take these chapters in Mark to heart and learn how we might serve you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessed to be a Blessing

Mount of Beatitudes

The Mount of Beatitudes overlooks the Sea of Galilee. This area is where Jesus did most of His ministry–an area where life was challenging for its inhabitants. Today we see a lovely garden and an eight-sided chapel on this mountain where Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount. Eight monuments in the garden as well as eight stained glass windows in the chapel quote the verses in Matthew 5:3-11. What if greater blessings come in the sharing of the blessings:

Chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes
  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven–How could humility be a tool in building the kingdom?
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted–Since we have been comforted in our sorrow, how could we share the same comfort we have received from God?
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth–In a fast moving world of chaos and confusion, do you think people would be drawn to our gentleness and goodness so they might be blessed in the process?
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled–God loves to fill those who hunger for more of Him. Will we inspire others to want to know Jesus?
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy–Will we show mercy, which we received, to those who are rude or even mean to us?
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God–God purifies our hearts as we follow Him. Will our changed hearts and transformed lives minister to those around us?
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God–We think of our law enforcement as peace-keepers. What if ordinary people like you and me took peacekeeping a step further to help people make peace with God and others?
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven–What do you think it would be like to show gentleness instead of retaliation when we are persecuted?

What is your response when you are blessed? Do you take without thought of giving back? Or do you want to be a blessing to others when God blesses you?

Prayer: Holy Father, bless us abundantly so we will be blessings to others. Empower us with faith and love to reach a world that desperately needs you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Are You Living with Eternity in Mind?

The last Moses seat left in Israel is in the synagogue at Chorazin. It got its name from the time Moses led God’s people out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. He sat in this seat when he had to settle disputes among the people. It is also called the judgement seat.

One day believers will face our Lord who sits on the Judgement Seat of Christ. We will not be judged as righteous or sinful. No, but Christ will hand out rewards for what we have accomplished for the Kingdom.

God gave each of us abilities and talents to fulfill His plan and purpose for our lives. Do you know what your purpose is? If not, let me help you. Your purpose is to know God and make Him known. This is where your gifts and callings, abilities and talents come into focus. As believers, we develop the heart of God–not wanting anyone to perish but that all would be saved to live with God forever. We are a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6) prepared to give the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15). So our purpose is to be a witness of how God’s love and mercy changed our lives and the lives of many people in the Bible. God can change the mess of our pasts into messages for His glory. Are you vulnerable enough to speak to someone who is going through something you have? Your message might be just what that person needs to hear.

Prayer: O Lord, when I see your face, it is my desire to hear you say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Luke 19:17). While I am here on earth, I have more opportunities to give witness of your amazing love and mercy. Empower me with your compassion to reach a world in desperate need of your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lilies of the Field

Fields of blooming red anemones on a background of trees. Israel

A fire broke out in the house next door to us last week. I saw black billows of smoke coming out of my friend’s house and ran over to help. It was her husband that needed the most help. He seemed disoriented, fighting to go back into his house. “No, no,” I said. “You can’t go back. Your house is on fire.” Lovingly I walked him across the street and found a chair for him to sit in. Then I found a paramedic. “This man needs oxygen. He has pulmonary fibrosis.” The paramedic worked expediently to make my neighbor comfortable. Then a fireman went into the burning house to get his oxygen tank and supplies.

My neighbors got out of their burning house with the clothes they had on. Where would they find food and lodging and clothing? How could these elderly people start over? So many questions, but answers began to fall into place. They found a hotel to sleep in. The neighbors fed them, and the next day they were able to buy a few clothes.

I saw the fulfillment of Jesus’ Sermon on the mount in this situation. “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? . . . And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25-30).

Jesus referred to the fields of red anemones as “lilies of the field.” They are refreshingly everywhere in Israel. Whenever I see them, it’s as if I hear the Lord saying, “Don’t worry about anything.” I accept that on a day to day basis, but I saw first hand how God worked even through the shock of seeing a home on fire–how he brought comfort and peace in the place of shattered dreams. O friend, there is no God like our God, mighty to rescue us in times of sorrow and despair.

Prayer: Thank you, O Lord our God, for your comfort and peace in the storms of life. Thank you for your amazing love and compassion. Teach us to trust you more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jesus’ Mission Field

Hiking Jesus trail – beautiful view of Mt. Arbel in countryside of Galilee, Sea of Galilee

From Mount Arbel you can see the towns around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus preached and performed most of His miracles–Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin. He called Andrew, Peter, Philip, James and John from this area. Here He resurrected the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue leader in Capernaum. He healed a woman from twelve long years of bleeding and a Roman centurion’s servant. He healed a paralyzed man, made the blind to see and the mute to talk–all this from the area you can see from Mt. Arbel. Yet, the people kept asking Him for a sign. What did they expect?

Jesus said, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matthew 11:21-24).

Jesus’ mission field today is the whole world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life” (John 3:16). Are you aware of God’s presence in your life? If not, ask Him to open your eyes and your heart to see His wonderful works. Don’t take His love and mercy for granted as the people did in Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin.

Prayer: Holy Father, reveal Jesus’ love to the people in the world. They need you and do not know it. Forgive them of their sin against you because they do not know what they are doing. Send your Spirit on them to open their eyes and their hearts to the reality of You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Naaman’s Baptism

Jordan River, Israel

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, had leprosy. His wife’s servant girl said, “If my master would see the prophet in Samaria, he would cleanse him of his leprosy,” (2 Kings 5:3). Naaman went to Samaria and Elisha sent word for him to wash seven times in the Jordan and he would be healed. Naaman was insulted that the prophet didn’t come out and speak powerful words over him, touch him and make him well. Isn’t that what we want when we are sick–someone to show us compassion or prescribe a medicine that will make us well? Naaman went home that day thinking the waters of Damascus were better than the Jordan.

The Jordan takes on many characters. At the head waters near Dan the river rushes downstream 100 miles to the Dead Sea. They change from being white water to being a little creek to being murky. We can understand why Naaman didn’t want to get into the Jordan. His servants asked him, “If the prophet had asked you to do some great thing to be clean, wouldn’t you have done it? How much more so when he says, ‘Wash and be clean,'” (2 Kings 5:13). Humbled, Naaman washed seven times in the Jordan and was cleansed of his leprosy.

How gracious is our God to meet us at our greatest need, the need to know Him–even in the murkiness of life. Naaman accepted God as Lord of his life the day he was healed. He said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel,” (2 Kings 5:15). He is still the one true God in all the world today. You, too, can be washed in the River of Life that flows from the throne of God. If you haven’t yet, surrender your heart to Him, and ask Him to be Lord of your life.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for witnesses of your great love and power to save, found in your word. Thank you for your faithfulness to meet us at our point of need as you did Naaman. Wash us clean today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mary’s Home in Nazareth

Door of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth Israel

The Basilica of the Annunciation stands over the place where Mary grew up–where she learned cooking from her mother, where she learned about God and the coming Messiah. The stained glass above the door of the Basilica cast a rainbow of color on the inside floor. The windows tell a story of Mary and Jesus. The Bible comes to life.

Mary’s main activity, as was that of other young women, was to draw water from the well, filled by a spring that has flowed for thousands of years. Gathered around the well several times each day, the girls giggled and shared stories of things that happened in those days. It was the social event of the day. Today we turn the faucet, water flows and we miss the fun at the well.

One day when Mary was alone at the well, the angel Gabriel, met her. “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, and descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Th angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,'” (Luke 1:26). Some versions of this scripture say Gabriel said, “Hail Mary!” Gabriel unfolded God’s plan to Mary and she responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled,” (Luke 1:38).

Jesus changed Mary’s life forever. He changed mine too, with His forgiveness and eternal, abundant life. I have never been the same, and I never want to be as I once was.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for Jesus. Thank you for Mary. O Lord, let Jesus be born in us to shine His light into the darkness of this world and bring hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Three Basics for Your Personal Tabernacle

Model of Tabernacle, tent of meeting in Timna Park, Negev desert

Imagine, if you will, a desert valley floor filled with tents. This is what it looked like as Israel traveled for forty years in the desert to move from Egypt to the Promised Land, later to become Israel. While the Hebrew people were in Egypt they could not worship their God. That is why Moses pleaded with Pharaoh to let his people go into the desert so they could worship God.

The story of the Israelites leaving Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and moving across the desert to Mt. Sinai is captivating (Exodus). At Mt. Sinai God gave Moses plans to build a tabernacle, a place to meet with Him. The picture is a model of the mobile tabernacle that moved from place to place with the Hebrew people. It was the first tent to be set up when the people moved to a new place, and it set the positions for all the other thousands of tents.

Today we do not need a tabernacle, temple or church to worship God. We can set up our own tabernacle in the center of our lives. I have a special place in our home where I meet with God and I’d like to suggest how you can have the same. Here are a few basic elements:

  1. Time: Establish an appointed time to meet with God every day. This seemed hard for me in the beginning, but I reserved 15 minutes to spend with God. The time has grown into 30-40 minutes, sometimes an hour or two.
  2. Place: Find a quiet place, a place with little or no distractions or interruptions. I have a comfortable chair, a table and a lamp, because sometimes it is dark when I get up to be with the Lord. A cross on the table helps me focus on why I am there.
  3. Bible: Choose a Bible translation you like, several devotional books and possibly a hymn book. My time with God is spent reading His word, praising Him in song and prayer. My voice does not sound very good in the morning, but I turn to YouTube and find others who sing hymns and praise songs well. This is an important element I often leave out, but when I don’t, I am blessed beyond my imagination.

So what difference does all this make? First, it changed my life. By reading the Bible I learned the character and promises of God, His mercy and compassion. When I started, I didn’t really know how to pray so I prayed, “Thank you, Jesus” over and over again, so thankful that the God of creation loved even me. That prayer grew to “Help me, Jesus” and “I love you, Lord.” Now my prayer is more like talking to a real Friend about all that concerns me.

My time with God is too wonderful not to share with others. I have developed ministries and you can too. I’ve taught Sunday school, mentored women, led Bible studies, hosted high teas with a message and volunteered as a chaplain at a local hospital. The result is that my life is a living tabernacle, a place where people meet God. It is a fulfilled life. My prayer is that you are a living tabernacle too, and if not, that you will focus on Jesus, make Him the center of your life and inspire others to do the same.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the history of the tabernacle in the desert. Help us to set up our own tabernacles in the wilderness here on earth. Help us to love and show compassion as you do, that we might serve you by loving others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.