Story Time- A Surprise That Was Not a Surprise

In 2008, my birthday was on a Sunday. My Sunday group at that time had a young couple from Brazil, a young couple from Germany, a young couple from South Korea, a married couple of an American husband and his wife from Vietnam, a woman from Belgium, a businessman from Japan, two young men from Congo, a young woman from Ukraine, and three young people from India.

They were busy students that weekend preparing a surprise for me. Their plan was to be in the room with the lights off and yell surprise as soon as I walked in at 9am.

Only one problem- one of the young men from Congo, Olivier. I had a meeting at 8:25 at the church, so I asked Yoshio from Japan to pick up the two young men from Congo. When I arrived at the church at 8:20, Olivier came out to the parking lot, shook my hand, and took my book bag and carried it in for me.

As soon as I saw Olivier, my first thought was, “why is Olivier here at 8:20. He came with Yoshio. Yoshio is always about 5 minutes late.”

It did not take me long at all to figure out what was going on, but trying to be a good teacher when I walked in the door and they yelled surprised, I acted surprised. I did not want my friends to feel bad. One of them came up to me after class and whispered, “Were you really surprised?” I just smiled.

Memories like this one are ones we treasure for years. We remember the people, place, and everything that happened.

Do you know who remembers all of the things you have done for him? God. Hebrews 6:10 says:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them

God remembers everything little thing we did to love him by helping his people. He remembers things we have forgotten. Even something as little as helping someone with a ride. No action performed out of love for God and others is ever forgotten by God.

The following year, there was no attempt at a surprise. But we still had fun. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Wellness Wednesday- Waiting

Waiting is something that could be a bit frustrating at times. I am not talking about waiting in line at a check out at a supermarket or waiting for someone to get ready. The waiting I am talking about is waiting to go over test results with a specialist.

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Anyone who has seen a doctor specializing in any area of medicine knows what I am talking about. It can be stressful to wait.

I saw a specialist last Wednesday. He left me a voice message saying he wanted to discuss next steps with me. I had been waiting for a week to do so but wouldn’t you know it, I was teaching when he called. Hopefully we can connect today so I can get the next steps. I would much rather wait to get thorough results that have a quick answer.

Waiting on God is not the same. In Isaiah 40:31 says

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

The phrase ‘who hope’ is sometimes translated’ who wait’. Waiting on the Lord does not mean we nervously wait wondering what the answer or results will be. Waiting on the Lord in Isaiah means spending time in the Lord’s presence hoping in the Lord. If we do that, we will be refreshed and renewed.

So this afternoon I am enjoying time with Jesus while I wait for the doctor to contact me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Cares about Us in Our Difficulties- John 11

Any experience we have in this life can be an opportunity to learn from Jesus about himself, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and ourselves. John brings that to our attention in chapter 1:

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Jesus came to make God known to us. He did so through his teachings and miracles. Even in our worst of times, Jesus is at work. in our lives.

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Last week we explored Why Jesus Sometimes Delays while looking at the account of Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick, but Jesus waited two days before he left where he was to go to Lazarus. He told the disciples

“Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

After Jesus arrived in Bethany where Lazarus lived with his sisters Mary and Martha, Jesus not only comforted Mary and Martha, he taught and sought to build Martha’s faith through the ordeal and his interaction with Mary showed his great compassion..

We see Jesus teaching Martha even in her grief.

Martha came out to meet Jesus expressing some faith.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus responded knowing what he was about to do.

“Your brother will rise again.”

Martha thought of the resurrection on the last day.

“I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus revealed a truth about himself to her;

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

He called out the faith in her.

“Do you believe this?”

Martha responded with faith.

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Martha went and got Mary. Mary ran out to Jesus.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Then we see the compassion of Jesus. Jesus is not some detached unemotional guru like we see in movies. He deeply cares about what happens to us even though the hard times somehow fit into his big picture plans for us and others.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Where have you laid him?” he asked

and the shortest verse yet very powerful

Jesus wept.

When we go through difficult experiences, we need to trust Jesus. It helps to know that Jesus cares deeply about us. Yes he has the big picture of how everything fits into God’s plan, but do not mistake that for Jesus not caring. He has the eternal perspective. He knows this life is temporary for us.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- I’m Not Alone by Riley Clemmons

I thought my worth was lost but my worth was not lost on you

If we ever wonder if God thinks we are worthwhile, we only need to stop and think about Jesus. Jesus on the cross was God reaching out to show how much he loves us.

Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Out of all creation, we are what he values most. No matter what pit we are in, depression, divorce, family problems, health problems, financial problems, memories of past trauma or abuse, we are worth so much to God that he sent Jesus.

God loves you. That means you are worth so much to God.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Weekends with My Spanish Speaking Friends

It has been a wonderful blessing to have my weekend groups going again. I am starting small which is intentional on my part, so there is flexibility if the whole COVID situation changes. My groups have five friends who speak Spanish, two from Cuba and three from Mexico.

We have bonded quickly as a group. We have a lot of fun studying together and laughter fills in the room. They are people who normally would not be able to go to a class during the week due to work schedules, so being able to come Saturday and Sunday morning means a lot to them.

Yesterday we went out for lunch after our morning class. One would think it would have been at a Mexican restaurant, which would have been great for me, but they wanted burgers, so off we went to Red Robin and had burgers.

This morning after we practiced English for 45 minutes, I read a bible verse to them in English and then in Spanish. It is a verse from John 17 where Jesus tells God the Father that he wants us to be with him in heaven.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

“Padre, quiero que los que me has dado estén conmigo donde yo estoy. Que vean mi gloria, la gloria que me has dado porque me amaste desde antes de la creación del mundo”

Then I shared the music video What A Beautiful Name with them first in English and then in Spanish. They have asked me to remember to pray for them, which I happily do

I shared a closing thought with them that I want to share with you based on the verse in John 17. Jesus wants us, wants you in heaven with him for all eternity. It is the reason he came and died on the cross for us and defeated death for us. If we trust in him, have faith in him, he shares eternity with us.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

June Is Here-Now What?

Here we are in the month of June. June has been a month of new adventures for me. It has also been a month of God doing something new in my life. So each June I tend to have a sense of expectancy about what will happen.

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A few examples:

June 1997 I had my first trip to Romania.

June 2010 I had my one and only trip to Mexico which led me to study Spanish.

June 2013 I had my first trip to Brazil which led me to study Portuguese.

One change will happen today. I will go do my employment paperwork for the school system here. My morning class had been a collaboration between the community college here and the public school system. It will only be with the public school system and I have been hired. But I knew that was coming.

Either today or Monday I will find out about starting a new medication. But that does not seem so exciting to me.

So I thought I would share an idea and get feedback. I have written short stories in my other blog- encounterswiththeancients.com. My idea is to make short films from them and post them on YouTube. Let me know what you think.

So June is here. I have had 5 of my 11 international ministry trips in June. I wish I had one this year too but COVID is still an issue in many places. So it will be staying at home.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Why Jesus Sometimes Delays- John 11

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When we hear about a loved one being taken to the emergency room or being in the hospital our first impulse is to rush over. We want to be there for them and show our support.

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Jesus received word that his dear friend Lazarus was sick. Lazarus and his two sisters Mary and Martha were friends of Jesus. They sent word to Jesus:

“Lord, the one you love is sick.”

At this point any of us would have immediately gone to them, but Jesus did not.

So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days

Jesus had told his disciples

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Jesus waited two days until he started out to Judea where Lazarus and his sisters were. His disciples were concerned saying:

“a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus replied with an analogy.

“Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

Jesus was there to show the light of God, to show what God is like. Waiting two days to leave after hearing Lazarus was sick and returning to Judea were part of that. Things were being set up for the greatest miracle of Jesus before his resurrection.

Jesus had a teaching moment with his disciples.

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples did not get it.

“Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

Jesus then told them

“Lazarus is dead”

As we will see later in this chapter, if Jesus had left when he first received word, he might have made it there before Lazarus died. Also Jesus could have simply just said the word and Lazarus could have been healed without Jesus coming there. So why did Jesus delay?

“for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Jesus delayed because he knew he was about to perform his greatest miracle up to that point. The reason in doing so was for his disciples and others to believe.

When we suffer, Jesus might move right away, he might delay, he might let it get worse. Any way that Jesus responds is for others around us not only for ourselves. We do not see the big picture. Jesus does. It is for us to trust him while we suffer.

If God answering seems to be delayed, we need to be careful not to assume God is not with us and does not care. We need to trust God.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

When God Speaks to Us Through His People

Have you ever had one of those conversations that you realized God arranged for you? That happened for me this morning in church.

My Rheumatology appointment is this Wednesday. After having seen various specialists the past five years, I must admit in the back of my mind I have had doubts about my upcoming appointment.

This morning in church I was talking with a few women who asked me what my appointment is for. I briefly shared with them about my experiences trying to get a diagnosis. One of the women is a retired nurse. She shared with me about how her son has gone to the same clinic I will be going to and how great they have been.

As she shared with me, I realized I am going to the right place. When I walked to the worship center, I thanked God for that brief conversation.

If we are open to God’s leading, he will direct our paths even in little things like the conversation I had this morning,

Now I will go home and take a nap. 🙂

How is your Sunday?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Getting Back to the Old Normal?

The shutdown lasted long enough for life as it was during the shutdown to become my new normal. I led my Life Group through a study in John via Zoom, taught in Zoom, got used to staying home most of the time, and watching church online.

We had a plan for Life Group to study through Acts in the bible, but then there was a sudden change of interest to study Revelation. When it occurred, my response was let me think about it. As I thought about it, I shared a group study guide for Revelation suggesting we go back to taking turns. Why?

The past few weeks, God has been showing me it is time to return to my old normal, My old normal was coming to Life Group about 50% of the time because of ministry opportunities such as cultural celebrations, invitations to visit people from other countries in their homes etc.

My weekend groups have started and now it is time to begin visiting people again. This afternoon I will meet a new friend from Brazil at a coffee shop.

I am grateful for the different opportunities during the shutdown, but it is time to return to the ministry God has called me to.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.