Impending Death … and Hope (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 15, 2015)

I received some devastating news this week about an old mentor and kind friend. As things stand now, it looks like she has advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. I am terribly sad, and yet I feel a strong sense of peace for her. She loves the Lord, she adores her family, and she cares about her fellow man. She is passionate about justice, and not just the kind that penalizes criminals for wrongdoings, but the kind that rights the wrongs in the world. She is an advocate, a brilliant thinker, and a confidante.

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless Jesus returns to take us home before then, there is a 100% chance that you will die. How does that make you feel? Does the notion of dying fill you with dread or joy? Like it or not, as James 4:14 and Psalm 103:15-16 point out, our lives are like a mist puffed into the air or a dandelion blowing in the wind – only temporary.

 

While imprisoned for the gospel, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had a very matter-of-fact view about death: if he lived, then he had more opportunity to serve the Lord. If he died, then he got to be with Jesus. Win-win!

 

For a long while after my brother died, I had peculiar feelings that could only be described as jealousy. I hesitated to share it, because I didn’t want anyone mistakenly thinking that I was suicidal. It’s just that the more I thought about him being in the very presence of God in heaven, it felt like I got the short end of the stick. I/we were left behind to grieve and cope, to continue living in this broken world of sin and despair and problems, while he was free from such entanglements. How I long to be with Christ!

 

Easter is just around the corner, and it is my absolute favorite holiday. Sure, I love the festivities of Christmas, and I enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving, but wow – Easter! Easter is a reminder that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20). Easter is about the resurrection, newness, eternal life, victory, and HOPE.

 

It is with this everlasting hope in my heart that I can say to my sweet friend: Go in peace. Go to Jesus, relish in his presence, and enjoy the reward for your labors. I will always cherish having the opportunity to know you and call you my friend.

Do Difficult Things (Prayer Devotional for the week of October 26, 2014)

The Bible doesn’t give us much insight as to what went through the potential disciples’ minds when Jesus called them to put down their fishing nets and follow him. It simply said that they did. In fact, Matthew 4:12 and Mark 1:18 report that Simon [Peter] and Andrew left their things “at once.” A few verses later, we learn that not only did brothers James & John also leave “immediately” upon hearing Jesus’ call, but they even left their father Zebedee behind in the boat preparing the fishing nets. Luke 5 gives us a bit more insight into the four men, as we learn that they were fishing partners who witnessed Jesus bring in a catch so full that their nets began to break.

 

And yet, where were the disciples later on, when things looked uncertain? They were back in a boat, fishing. In John 20, we read that the risen Christ appeared to his disciples and others, and although they were thrilled to see him, I imagine it was a lot to take in, mentally and emotionally.

 

John 21 goes on to say that Simon [Peter] decided to go fishing. My hunch is that he needed to clear his head, so he went back to something that was familiar to him.

 

I feel validated when I read about the disciples going back to their fishing boats while waiting for Jesus to give them instructions, because it tells me that they didn’t always know what to do, either. Yet, they knew to wait. They knew Who was in charge, and they followed his call. Just look at our fishing pal, Peter. Jesus told him that he was the rock upon which the church would be built (Matthew 16), and Peter was later martyred for his faith (John 21:18-19).

 

I have often struggled with understanding my place within God’s bigger plan, and sometimes I feel a little jealous of the disciples for having the advantage of Jesus’ face-to-face instructions, because honestly, I frequently feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. We can learn a lot from the fishing disciples: Be willing to wait on the Lord, but also be willing to get up and go when he calls.