Tag Archive | Victory over death

A Different Kind of Gratitude

As I shared last Thursday, at the beginning of this year I felt the Lord prompting me personally to do a study of Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Since that time, several ladies in God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness which I help lead have decided to join me in this study. I will also be doing a weekly post on this personal blog based on the chapter we are currently studying from the book.

Nancy DeMoss calls gratitude “a vital transformational life preserver amidst the turbulent waters of runaway emotions,” and because that’s where I’m frequently walking during this season of my life it seems like the perfect time to do this study. As we begin our study, this has for me personally been a week of battling runaway emotions. Between the skin rash I first noticed on December 4th (the day of our son David’s memorial service) that has not responded to treatment, a long list of tasks that needed to be done following David’s death that is taking much longer than we expected to complete, and the adjustments to all of the recent changes in our lives, this has been a challenging and emotional week.

Christ-centered and grace-motivated gratitude is the focus of the teaching in this book. The world acknowledges the importance of gratitude, but without a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, this gratitude usually lacks an object of gratefulness or becomes people-based. The kind of gratitude we need to enter the joy-filled Christian life is different. It is an expression of gratefulness to God that is both a byproduct of and a response to the redeeming grace of God.

A call to this type of intentional gratitude is a call to transformation through God’s grace and spiritual discipline. Change is a process that takes time and ceaseless vigilance. In this area, it will require both confronting the “stubborn weeds of ingratitude” – which manifest themselves in fretting, complaining, and resenting – and choosing gratitude in every situation until a grateful spirit becomes our reflexive response to all of life.

Nancy DeMoss says eventually choosing gratitude results in choosing joy, a quality we all desire to experience in our lives. But getting there will require each of us to constantly renew our mind with the truth of God’s Word, set our heart to savor God’s good gifts above all the world has to offer, and discipline our tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace.

Choosing gratitude involves elevating it to a place of priority in our lives. Nancy DeMoss talks about how Christians tend to view gratitude as an inferior Christian virtue – one near the bottom of the long list of “important” qualities such as faith and love. There is one major problem with that reasoning. A grateful heart is a major key to effectively living out these virtues. Without gratitude, faith eventually deteriorates into a practice of religion that’s hollow and ineffective. Love without gratitude will over time “crash hard on the sharp rocks of disappointment and disillusionment.” Nancy adds,

“True gratitude is not an incidental ingredient. Nor is it a stand-alone product, something that never actually intersects with life… It is one of the chief ways that God infuses joy and resilience into the daily struggle of life.”

Christ-centered, grace-infused gratitude has the power to change lives – our lives and also the lives of those who observe and receive the benefits of our expressions of gratefulness. It is fitting in every situation and all the time, even in life’s most desperate moments and difficult situations. It gives hope and has the power to transform overwhelmed strugglers to triumphant conquerors. Nancy DeMoss says it has the “effervescent power… to freshen the stale air of everyday life.”

Walking By Faith into an Unknown Future

This Christmas, our family is preparing to enter a new phase of life. As a new year approaches, we are adjusting to no longer being caregivers for our special needs son David, who is spending this Christmas whole and in the presence of Jesus, and looking ahead to a much different year.

To prepare my heart for what lies ahead in 2019, I decided to end 2018 by doing a devotional study called Life Journey, aimed at those who are facing major changes in life, written by two of my favorite writers, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of the Boundaries series of books.

Today’s devotion focused on the life of Joseph. If you aren’t familiar with the story of Joseph, Genesis 37 tells of his jealous brothers selling him in slavery, and the story picks up in Genesis 39, which begins with these words: “Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭39:1‬) From there things went downhill, as a series of difficult circumstances begin to change Joseph into the man God was calling him to be, second in charge over the land of Egypt and a key character in the preserving of God’s chosen people through a worldwide famine.

The following quote stood out to me from this devotional reading.

“Joseph’s fruitfulness, or success, came from putting his faith into action. He trusted God to do the divine part, then invested himself fully to do his human part.

Joseph didn’t try to manipulate the pieces of his life that were out of his control. He entrusted those to God. Note what Joseph didn’t do: try to escape slavery or prison; despair and forfeit his identity and integrity; resent and hate the ungrateful cupbearer; or develop a victim mentality. Knowing what circumstances were out of his control, Joseph handed them over to God and focused on his responsibilities.

Joseph embraced the tasks he could do: He waited patiently on God for his vindication and reward (see Psalm 37:6–7); worked hard for his master, Potiphar; resisted Potiphar’s wife; managed the prison for the warden; interpreted dreams for his fellow prisoners; respected God’s warning of famine; stockpiled food and grain for the lean years; married and raised two sons.

Joseph couldn’t possibly have foreseen how God would orchestrate the pieces of a worldwide famine to reunite him with his family. He simply did what was in front of him at that moment and trusted God with the big picture of his life. And God made him fruitful (see Genesis 41:52).”

Good advice for how to walk into an unknown future!

The Discipline of Memorizing Scripture

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Isaiah‬ ‭61:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I began a study earlier this year of Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, one of the first assignments was to memorize the above passage. As I struggled phrase by phrase to learn this rather long portion of Scripture, I had no idea of what our family would be facing a few months later – or of how God would use several of the truths in these verses to bring comfort in the midst of sorrow. This whole situation with the sudden loss of our son has given me fresh understanding of the importance of memorizing Scripture so it will be available for God to bring to mind in our times of need.

This passage written by the prophet Isaiah describes some of the reasons Almighty God sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to the earth. Beth Moore wrote: “One of the primary reasons God sent His Son to this earth was to bring tender salve and relief to those whose hearts have been broken.”

As I’ve walked through many of the practical aspects of dealing with the death of our special-needs son David this week and of making preparations for his memorial service next Tuesday, this passage has taken on special meaning. I’ve experienced the Lord’s comfort in the midst of mourning, joy and a garment of praise instead of the deep despair I had always thought would be a part of this event which I have dreaded since David’s initial diagnosis as a three-month old. In those early days, we were told it was unlikely that David would live beyond early childhood, yet God graciously gave us thirty-four years with our precious son before He took him home to be with Him and to restore him to complete health.

So during this tough week of dealing with many of the practical aspects concerning David’s death, I’m grateful for the truths of Scripture that God has brought to mind and used to strengthen and comfort me. And I’m thankful that I didn’t give up when I was struggling a few months ago to commit these verses to memory.

Have you made memorizing Scripture a part of your daily walk with God? If not, I highly recommend making this discipline a part of your daily quiet time. I’ve personally found the Scripture Typer Bible Memory app to be a helpful tool for committing Scripture to memory and regularly reviewing those verses I’ve memorized. Our God can use many methods to speak truth to our hearts in our time of need, but as I’ve grown as a Christian I’ve learned that one method He uses repeatedly in my life is that of bringing to my mind a truth that I have already made the effort to memorize.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

 

During the Christmas season, our focus is usually on the manger not the cross, but it’s important that we not lose sight of why Jesus came. Today’s name of Jesus reminds us of the fact that He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. But He is no longer on the cross – or even in the tomb. He is alive!

Let’s take a look at the setting where Jesus spoke these words about Himself. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we learn of the special relationship Jesus had with Mary and Martha. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and had stayed in their home in the village of Bethany. The passage in John 11 that includes this name of Jesus tells us Lazarus was also a friend of Jesus and His disciples.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’…  ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep’”  John‬ ‭11:3, 11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But in spite of receiving word from Mary and Martha about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus did not immediately go to him. Since Jesus always did what He knew to be the will of the Father, this was apparently by God’s leading. Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 11:14-15 explain at least one purpose behind the delay.

So then he told them plainly, ‘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.‘”

‭Verse 17 tells us what happened during the purposeful delay.

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.”

When Martha hears Jesus has arrived, she greets Him with some solemn words (verses 21-22).

“’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.’”

This is the setting in which these well known words were spoken.

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said 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. Do you believe this?‘”John‬ ‭11:23-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When Jesus spoke to Martha that day, He was telling her that a miracle was about to take place. Her beloved brother would be raised from the dead. But the meaning of these words goes beyond that. In essence, Jesus was saying, “The whole power to restore, impart and maintain life resides in Me.”

Today, I am grateful that Jesus died for my sins. But I’m also grateful that He is my Resurrected Lord. If you don’t know Him as your sin-bearer and Living Lord, don’t let Christmas pass without coming to Him for salvation. Confess you are a sinner, believe in His finished work on the cross, receive His forgiveness, and surrender your life to Him as Lord. Your eternity depends on this decision, and Christmas is the perfect time to make it.

The Significance of the Empty Tomb

I love the view near the main entrance to the sanctuary of our church. Two symbols stand out: the cross and the empty tomb. A quick reminder of the two central truths of our faith to everyone who enters!


As we celebrate Easter, and especially on this Good Friday, the emphais is on the cross. As Christians, we understand the importance of the cross; without it, we would still be lost in our sins. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, the penalty for our sin was paid in full, and a way was made for us to receive forgiveness and a relationship with our Creator God. 

But how many of us really understand the significance of the empty tomb? Sure, we know it proves that Jesus is no longer dead,  We serve a resurrected Lord! But why is that important?

The empty tomb:

  • Proves that Jesus’ death on the cross was enough, that the penalty of our sins has been paid in full.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬)
  • Rendered Satan powerless. “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Hebrews‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Sets those who believe in Jesus Christ free from the fear of death. “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭2:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬)
  • Gives us hope for the final victory over sin, death and Satan.  “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 (NASB); “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

The cross and the empty tomb are the foundation of the Christian life.  As the recently released Christian movie The Case for Christ so clearly communicates, our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of primary importance. The cross and the empty tomb together show that Jesus’ suffering was was not in vain.  Or in the words of Bible teacher Kay Arthur: