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She has done what she could and has anointed my body for burial ahead of time. Mark 14:8 (NLT)

A couple of years ago one of my best friends was critically injured in a car accident. The EMT’s did and amazing job extracting him from the mangled heap of metal that encased him. They did what they could.

At the hospital, the ER doctors worked frantically to save his life. They did what they could.

Sadly, for us, it was Jesus’ desire to bring him home, into his loving arms. He (my friend) had done what he could.

Jesus was well aware that his time for the cross was coming. He had seen the change in Judas and knew that soon he would be betrayed and handed over to his murderers. While he sat in the home of his dear friend Simon the leper, one of his very closest friends in the entire world poured an entire flask of perfume on his head and feet. She did this out of pure love and devotion for this great teacher and friend. She did it out of gratitude for the gift of life he’d given to her brother Lazarus.

She couldn’t possibly have known the events of the upcoming week. She couldn’t possibly have understood the huge meaning of her act of love. In the grand scheme of things, her insignificant act changed nothing, but she did what she could.

“She did what she could.” Gill writes, “She hath done what she could,…. What she had in her heart, and in the power of her hands to do; she hath done according to her ability, and her good will; and if she had not done it now, she could not have done it at all.”

There are so many times when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. For those devoted to ministry it may be the realization that our task is far greater than our resources.

Jesus says, “Just do what you can.”

As parents we see our children growing up in a world where evil seems rampant and hope seems dwindling.

Jesus says, “Just do what you can.”

As a business owner the red ink seems to be growing, the black in shrinking. It’s not just your business that is threatened; it’s the livelihood of your employees and their families.

Jesus says, “Just do what you can.”

To the person who watches a loved one on a path to sure destruction; who has tried everything to bring back the prodigal; who has sought every medical option to save a life; who has looked into every option to diminish the consequences of stupid choices.

Jesus says, “Just do what you can.”

God never calls us to do things he hasn’t given us the tools to accomplish. All he asks is for us to follow Mary’s lead. Our actions may seem insignificant at the time. But just do what you can.

PRAYER: Lord God. I look at the task before me and realize it is too great for me to accomplish. Remind me that the accomplishment is only in my willingness to ‘do what I can.’ Amen.

The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” John 11:36

We’ve all seen the pictures:

A young woman in a bridal gown laying across the grave of a fallen soldier, her husband.

A little boy in salute to the grave of his father.

The flowers, crosses and candles that materialize overnight after some horrific accident.

The heart wrenching cry of a mother, father, sister, brother, friend after a mass shooting.

We feel the agony. Some of us may even tear up ourselves. We know life will go on. We know death happens. We know…but that doesn’t stop the pain.

Jesus stood at the tomb of one of his closest friends and wept. Even though he was the Son of God…God himself in the flesh, God among us, Emmanuel … he wept at the thought of life without Lazarus.

As we approach Resurrection Sunday, as we mourn the death and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, let us never forget his love for mankind. Even as he mourned his friends death there were those who questioned his lateness. Today many malign him and question the scientific and historical facts of his existence. Few have ever questioned his love.

Fast forward a few days. Another crowd is gathered where Jesus is. This time, it is them that are crying as they watch their friend, brother, teacher suffering the most painful and cruel kinds of death – death on the cross.

It was the same love the brought tears to Jesus’ eyes that brought him to the cross. It was the same love that drove him to endure the pain of death so you could have victory over death. At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus hung his head and cried. On the cross, he hung his head and died. At the tomb Jesus held up his hands and ordered the dead to live again. On the cross he spread out his hands and gave eternal life to the living.

Never look at the cross of Christ without seeing the empty tomb. Regardless of where you are in life, or where you have been. No matter how you have been hurt, or how you have hurt others. Jesus cried for you and died for you.

The scene at Lazarus’ tomb reminds us of how much Jesus loved. Let the cross remind you of how much he loves you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, some things go beyond words. Help me today to see your love for me in a whole new way. Empower me to share that love with someone who needs your touch. I love you Jesus. Amen.

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 1 Chronicles 17:16 (NLT)

It had been a long trip. Over 40 years since that day when the young shepherd boy had been called from the fields to meet the prophet. He still got goose-bumps, after all these years, as he remembered returning to the field and having the prophets words sink in. He would be king of Israel. He! David son of Jesse!

He remembered the adrenaline that flowed through him as the giant fell at his feet. He could still hear the cheers of the army behind him, the slaps on the back from his brothers and the other soldiers who’d been cowering in faithless fear.

Then there was the complicated situation with his very best friend in the whole world, Jonathan. The adventures those two shared together were amazing, yet bittersweet as David’s relationship with Jonathan’s father, Saul, grew increasingly volatile. A knot formed in his throat as he remembered when he heard the news that Jonathan had been killed in battle.

Now, he sat in his palace. His position as King solidified. His nation was at peace. His family content. The most important symbol of his God, the Ark of the Covenant, secure in a tent within the city. Life was good. Very good. In spite of all the adversity, pain and frustration, David could look back and say “I’ve made it. I accomplished everything I could ever have imagined and more.”

That’s when it hit him. Maybe you’ve had the feeling, maybe not. That feeling that says, “I’m so blessed, and I’m so unworthy.” Maybe you look back at years of addictive behavior and realize you haven’t had an urge in years. Maybe years in an abusive relationship have brought you into a relationship where you finally feel secure, loved, valued. Maybe you’ve worked hard your entire life and have seen career goals come and go, and now you can relax as a result of your labors.

When David got to that point in life he realized two things. One is that he was totally unworthy of all the blessings he was enjoying. The other thing he realized is that it was only because of his God that he was able to endure the trials of life

On the other hand, maybe you are still waiting to be sitting in your palace; still waiting to have that feeling of success, safety, value, appreciation. Life is hard. One crisis follows another. Hope is nothing more than a four-letter word reserved for the haves, and you’ve long ago realized you are a have-not.

David would tell you, if he were here, to keep on. Keep on trusting God for the little things and the big things. Keep on trusting God when you fail because he’s promised to forgive you. Keep on enduring the attacks because they just make you stronger. Keep on, and never forget that it’s God that will see you through.

PRAYER: Father God. I don’t have a palace. I’m not the ruler of some empire. I’m not famous. Yet, when I look at where I am today and where I deserve to be I can only say Thank You. Thank you for bringing me this far. Amen.

Real love isn’t our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven. 1 John 4:10

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” Genesis 3:8-10 (NLT)

Our finite minds won’t allow us to come to a full understanding of what it was like in the Garden of Eden when the first man and the first woman walked with God. Scripture tells us that Adam and Eve walked with God as three friends, not as creator and creation. The only relationship they knew with Jehovah God was a face to face, arm in arm, friendship.

After the first couple ate from that dreaded tree, the relationship was severed, but the love was not. That’s important! It wasn’t the lack of God’s love that drove Adam and Eve into the trees; it was a misunderstanding of their relationship with the father.

In the years that followed, if we read the stories of the Old and New Testament carefully, we realize that from that point forward, the Heavenly Father’s purpose was not to punish mankind for their rebellion, but to gain back the relationship he so badly wanted. The very purpose of him creating mankind and the universe that surrounds us was so he could love us. God’s love was the motivation for all he did. Since then, everything he does is an effort to regain the love relationship he had with us in the beginning.

It wasn’t just physical nakedness that drove Adam and Eve (and us) away from a loving, merciful and graceful creator; it was the exposure of their own ability to live up to their part of the love relationship. Guilt and shame built a wall between the lovers. In the garden, God sought to cover that shame with the temporary clothing of an imperfect sacrifice; on the cross he destroyed the barrier once and for all through the Messiah, Jesus Christ!

The problem for us becomes the fact that we still are deceived into thinking that because we fail; because we are unable to fulfill our end of the love relationship we can have no part in the pure forgiveness of the perfect sacrifice. Nothing is further from the truth.

Our ability to love God has never been a prerequisite for living in a love relationship with the Father. Our only response is to accept his love freely based on our own repentance and confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, the enemy of my soul continually bombards me with the lie that I can never love you enough and therefore I can not love you. Based on your promise I realize that my love for you has never been a prerequisite for your loving me. Today, I claim your love for me based on the perfect sacrifice you gave on the cross. Amen.

After Martha said this, she went back and talked to her sister Mary alone. Martha said, “The Teacher is here and he is asking for you.” John 11:28

His final days were excruciatingly painful. She spent her time going from his bedside to looking down the street to see if they were coming. She had friends, fellow mourners, posted at the gate of the small town, ready to send word as soon as they could be seen along the dusty path.

Time was running out. Her brother, Lazarus, was weakening fast. Where was he? How could he delay at a time like this? She counted the days. She’d sent him word two days ago. There had been time for him to make the trip. He should have been here by now.

One last look down the street. Nothing. Her gaze and thoughts were interrupted by Martha’s touch on her shoulder.

“He’s gone.”

She ran to his side. His lifeless body still warm, but it was obvious he was no longer there. She wept. She lay across his body. This, her only brother, her friend. In the Jewish family system, when the father died, the oldest brother took his place. For the first time in her adult life she felt like an orphan. If only they’d come. If only they’d been the kind of friends they said they were. The teacher said he’d be with her always! Where was he now?

The days ahead were a blur of memories and mourning; of preparations and decisions; of greeting members of the community and family who’d come to comfort. She was gracious. She was always gracious. But she often cast an eye down the street to see if they had come.

She sat in her room a couple days after the funeral. “Strange,” She thought, “I’m not sure if I’m sad the Teacher didn’t come or angry; disgusted or disappointed; confused or…”

Her thoughts were interrupted by Martha’s touch, “The Teacher is here and he is asking for you.”

There was no hesitation. She ran to him and hugged him, held him as she sobbed into his arms. Once she composed herself in anguish she whispered, barely audibly, “If only you’d been here he wouldn’t have died.” There was anguish in her voice to be sure, but no doubt.

We often read the story of Lazarus and focus on the resurrection of this dearly loved man without considering the emotion of the other players in the story. Few, if any of us, will ever see someone rise from the dead, all of us have experienced the absence of God in the midst of troubling times.

God’s silence is not an indicator of his apathy to your pain. While Jesus didn’t appear when Mary and Martha hoped, his appearance fulfilled their need in His time, not theirs. What struggle are you going through? What event have you invited God to attend, but gotten no answer? We can’t understand his timing, but we should never doubt that he will come to us in his time.

He is risen. He is risen, indeed! Let the prayer below guide you in falling into the Saviors arms. He’s asking for you.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus. This turmoil I’m going through right now seems unbearable.  I’ve looked for your presence but can’t find it. I invite you to come now to comfort, strengthen and renew me. Amen.

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February 2013
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