Honest Thomas

Ah. Thomas. The disciple. The loyal. The doubter. He and I have a lot in common.

I decided to take the time leading up to Resurrection Sunday, (or Easter if you prefer) to study some of the disciples that Jesus chose to walk alongside Him during His earthly ministry.  I have read about them before but I want to study them.   Some of them will be a short study, I suppose, others will take longer.  I decided to start with Thomas.  I think it is because I relate to Thomas.  Thomas, in his honesty,  gives us a beautiful picture of a Savior who understands.

I was thinking about where to take my personal bible study next and I just started to think about the cross, and then I started to think about the Gospels, and then I started to think about Thomas.  He gets a bad rap if you don’t really know anything else about him other than he did not believe that the other disciples had seen the resurrected Jesus.  I am not sure why, but I guess humans like to label people based on one moment where they spoke the truth in their heart, or were, you know, human.  I know in many instances, people just will not let people rise above a moment in their lives.  But I do not agree that this was a bad day, a bad moment, or that Thomas should be labeled a doubter.

If you have read the New Testament, then you know that there are only a few facts about his life.  Actually, it did not take all that long to freshen up on facts about Thomas.  I studied about him for a little while.  I made some notes and I thought I might write this post.  But as I began to write, I had to stop and study some more.  I have prayed and thought and been unable to return to writing it.  This entire week I could not focus.  I just kept thinking about Thomas.  I realized that Thomas was just like the rest of us.  In John Chapter 20, verse 25, the other disciples begin to tell Thomas that they have seen Jesus, the Resurrected Jesus.  Thomas tells them that he needs to see where the nails were,  where the spear pierced His side, or he will not believe.   The greek word used in this verse for believe is pisteuso, which is translated to believe or entrust, (Strong’s) , other translations say confident about, firmly persuaded.  So, essentially, Thomas is saying that in order to trust, or be persuaded to believe and be confident about, he needs to see  Jesus and touch the scars.

Isn’t this just like us?  We don’t ask to see the nail scarred hands, or even the pierced side of our risen Savior, but we ask for proof.  Maybe we don’t ask Him directly but if we are honest, sometimes, we wish we could have the assurance of having Jesus walk right into the room and say, “Here is where the nails were, and here is where the spear pierced my side”.

I know Jesus understands our struggles.  Haven’t you ever prayed, “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.”  Like the father of the boy in the book of Mark, haven’t you been there? Lord I am trying, I know you are able, I know you can, I am trying to have faith, help me. Jesus asked His Father in the garden if there was any other way, but there was not, He understands our struggles. Certainly, when something hard to understand happens, when people suffer, when people die, when life seems to crash a hundred miles an hour into a brick wall, don’t you have a Thomas moment?  I do.

When I was a young Christian, probably around sixteen or seventeen, I can remember hearing a message about Thomas and being so judgemental.  I remember thinking, “he was walking around watching Jesus perform miracles, he had a front row seat.  How could he have doubted that what Jesus said He was going to do, He would do?  I am pretty sure I remember being pretty vocal about that opinion.  Ah, so young, so naive.

Yes, Thomas was chosen and Thomas saw Jesus do amazing things.  Thomas was there when Jesus raised his friend, Lazarus,  from the dead.  Thomas saw it.  He heard with his own two ears, Jesus Christ of Nazareth speak to death and command it to leave.  In my opinion, Thomas did not doubt the power of Jesus.

But we also walk with Jesus, His Holy Spirit indwelling us.  We have seen Him do amazing things in our life, seen His hand of protection.  We know.  We don’t doubt the power of Jesus, but we still struggle at times.

While studying Thomas, I came across another interesting viewpoint. In Dru Johnson’s book, Scripture’s Knowing: A Comparison to Biblical Epistemology, he postulates that trust is the English word that should be used to translate here instead of believe.  What’s the difference? Believe is defined as to accept something as true, to feel sure that something is true.  Trust is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. Dr. Johnson’s writing states that the conflict in the “Doubting Thomas” narrative of John 20:25 is not about Thomas not trusting that Jesus has resurrected but that he does not trust the other disciples testimony or account of it.  He wants to see for himself. And then Jesus shows up to prove that the disciples testimony is true.

Don’t we too want to know and see Jesus for ourself.  I certainly do.  I love to hear about what God is doing in the lives of others.  But I want Him to show up in my life, too.

Sure, we want to walk around like we are certain God will move, or God will show up for us.  But when He seems to be taking a while, or it just looks like He might not come through, or that our ideal outcome and His ideal outcome look a little different, we are all Thomas.  Thomas wasn’t a doubter.  Thomas was honest.   He didn’t actually say, “I doubt Jesus defeated death”.  He basically said “I need to see and touch Jesus so I can know it.”    Don’t we all?  Thomas wanted to see and touch the Victory of Jesus.   And Jesus came and showed it to him.

Maybe you aren’t brave like Thomas, maybe you would never say it aloud, and certainly not to your friends, but sometimes, you need Jesus to show you who He is and what He can do.  And I think, instead of pretending like we don’t, we should just go ahead and say, “Jesus, show me who You are, and show me what You can do, in this situation, in my life, through me.  Jesus, show me your victory.”

Think about it for a moment.  You are Thomas.  Your friends come up and say, “We saw Him, He has resurrected from the dead!  He is Alive!  You, as Thomas, have followed Jesus and you believed everything He said, and you have seen Him do miraculous things already.  I have to believe, that part of you knows it is true, wants to believe that this thing He said he would accomplish, He did.  But, it seems overwhelming that it could be true.  Especially, if what Jesus has taught and called you to do depends on this moment in history and it has happened.  Then you have to move forward in obedience. Wow.  So, you need Him to show you.  You hear what everyone else says about Him.  But, you need to know for yourself.  So He shows you, and then he says “Because you have seen me, you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)

According to the Key-Word Study Bible, the Greek word translated blessed in this scripture from John 20:29 is makarioi, which means to be fully satisfied, receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances. I think this points to how Jesus understood how hard it is to believe, when you have not seen.  Those of us who cannot see and touch the evidence of our victorious Savior, with earthly eyes,  are to be fully satisfied, with the biblical knowledge that Jesus completed the task He was sent to accomplish.

It gives me great comfort to know that He showed up and helped His friend, Thomas.  Our Heavenly Father wants us to be fully satisfied in what His word tells us, and He sent the Holy Spirit to help us with that.  But friends, just like Jesus understood what Thomas was feeling, he also understands when we feel the same way.

So, if you need Jesus to show up and bring His Victory in to your life or circumstance today, ask Him to do just that.

 

 

 

Love Lifted Me

Love.  It is a powerful word.  We love different people and things with different kinds of love. We love our family. We love our friends. We love our new boots. We love our hobbies. And hopefully above all these things we love Jesus. 

But do we really love people?  You know, like Jesus wants us to?

On Valentine’s Day, we see love expressed everywhere in the form of balloons, flowers, chocolate. These things are given as a symbol of our love.

It’s easy to love people on Valentine’s Day. It’s easy to love people on a day devoted just to loving people. I mean, who can mess that up, right?

Thank goodness Jesus doesn’t just love us on Valentine’s Day.  His love shows up every day. His Mercy is anew every morning. Jesus loves us when we’re cranky and when we’re struggling.  As a matter of fact, He does his best work in our weakness.  Does it overwhelm you to think that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)  This scripture begins by letting us know that this was God demonstrating His own love for us.  Try to wrap your mind around that for just a minute.  Yes, I know, we all know that Jesus died for us.  But just for a minute, stop reading this blog post and quietly ponder the fact that the Creator of the universe used the ultimate sacrifice of His only son to extend an invitation to you.  There is no human being on the planet that can offer you this type of gift:  The gift of salvation.  Eternal life.

While we were in our sin and to most, seemingly unlovable,  Love nailed itself to a tree for us.   It’s hard to imagine giving your life for someone.  Especially, when you know they are just a wretched sinner.  We are all just that, and thankfully because of this love, we can choose to accept this gift.  Jesus sees something in hearts that we struggle to see.  He sees the real,  raw condition of all of our hearts.  I believe that deep within most everyone is something good.  I believe that deep down in the dark recesses of a broken person’s heart,  past the pain and all the junk- there is a place eager for redemption.  Sometimes, it takes them almost a lifetime to come to terms with it, but it’s there.

As Christians, we desperately need to remember that not everyone has walked the aisle, or prayed a silent prayer.  Everyone did not grow up in church.  I didn’t grow up in a home where my parents went to church. Neither of them came to know Christ until I was grown and married.  I went to church and sometimes my mom went.  I always went to church.  I always wanted to go to church and God always sent someone eager to take me. Sometimes, the sweet lady up the road took me.  Every summer, another sweet lady picked me up and took me to vacation bible school.  But no one spoke the love of Jesus into me every day.  No one prayed over me before I went to school everyday, like I do with my children.  But Jesus filled the gap in my life.  He sent the people to speak into my life.  He sent the people to lift me up.  But what if those people had not been so obedient to do what God calls us all to do? 

As Christians, we need to remember that Christ did not come for the perfect people.  He came for the broken.  Jesus does not need our perfection.  He does not need us to come to salvation and then keep it to ourselves.  We have to tell others about our failures, our scars, and our redemption. And if we are not sharing all He has done for us with those that really need to hear it, then, friends,  we have really missed the point. 

So, at the end of this day devoted to candy hearts and flowers take a moment and challenge yourself to try to love like Jesus, be bold like Jesus and pray for someone who desperately needs Him tonight.

As this day that is all about love draws to an end, take a minute to lift a heart to Jesus.

~Cassie

 

 

What Did You Learn?

It’s a new year. I have been praying about 2018 for months now. Asking God for the vision, the word, the rest of the plan, really just anything to help me gain insight for the path 2018 will take me through. He’s been pretty silent on that. I thought I would have it by News Years Eve. (I laugh in spite of myself. Does God shake His head when we give Him deadlines?) New Years Day came and went. Everyone is sharing their “word” for 2018. I am seeing them everywhere and feeling a little let down. So I prayed, and asked God for some direction. I feel stuck, Lord. I got no reply. So, on January 11th as I got up early for my quiet time I thought well…maybe I am distracted, unfocused. So that morning I spent some time with the Lord, and I realized I was distracted by my pursuit of this “vision”.

I didn’t really feel inadequate because I did not have some grand “motto” for 2018. Honestly, I just like to have direction. I have some goals for this year and I really want to make sure I stay on track. I flipped through my prayer journal and found a quote from St. Padre Pio I has jotted down quite a while back.

“The devil is like a rabid dog tied to a chain; beyond the length of the chain he cannot seize anyone. And you: Keep at a distance. If you approach too near, you let yourself be caught. Remember that the devil has only one door by which to enter the soul: the will.”

I read it about three times and then I realized that I had found what God was speaking to me months ago… again. Have you ever had to learn a lesson over again? This usually happens because we didn’t learn the first time, or the second, (and thank God He is long suffering) even the third time. God is patient, and gracious, and full of mercy. But the truth is when we get stuck, when we are like the Israelites, wandering, complaining, it is because we have our eyes on something besides the Lord. So, could it be that the reason I could not really get a clear vision for 2018 is because I have a few things I need to work on?

Most of us, given a choice would never get too close to a rabid dog. Most of us, don’t even like to think we would intentionally get too close to sin. But, let me tell you something, we get about as close as we possibly can without getting bit. Then, when sin snaps at us, perhaps even takes a bite, we stand wounded, bleeding, and blame the rabid dog. I think this happens a lot with invisible sin. The ugly things deep within that others cannot see, bitterness, envy, terrible attitudes and all those other icky things we can cover up. (most of the time)

When we began to justify these things we are getting way too close to the dog on the chain. We make excuses. We say it’s the dog’s fault.

I made this declaration almost 2 weeks ago that this year I would not be blaming things on the devil. I have almost done it 2 or 3 times, but I have stopped myself. Yes, I still pray against his interferences, but I refuse to acknowledge every setback and every little thing that goes wrong as an opportunity to blame the enemy. I have stepped back and I am closing the door on that for 2018. The truth is that I have the choice as to whether or not I “take the bait” every single time. I am trying to stay focused on the fact that anything that makes it to me needs divine permission from my Heavenly Father, so maybe, no definitely-if I find myself in the midst of something that is trying to hinder me; it might be a good idea to remember that fact. So, instead of blaming the enemy and using it as a crutch to not search my own heart, I am going to search my own heart first, and see, if there is something I need to learn.

When we continually shift blame for everything to the enemy of our soul, he wins. If you are blaming the devil you certainly are not being accountable for your own shortcomings and this is a very dangerous place to trod. No, I don’t always blame the enemy for everything. And yes, sometimes it is completely an attack from the enemy. But that is not always the case. I frequently ask God to help me “clean out my closet” of junk and shortcomings. But I believe that some of that stuff gets pushed way back in the back and we just don’t deal with some of the things we need to deal with. Maybe it’s your attitude, maybe it’s your circumstances, maybe it’s just easier to say, “it’s the devil”, than admit it is you.

And yes…I certainly have been through this before, but it would appear that I didn’t really learn everything He wanted me to learn. So here’s to 2018 and here’s to a 2019 post that doesn’t have me learning this lesson again. So, good Lord willing at the end of this year I can ask myself “What did you learn”? And the answer will be, “exactly what He needed me to learn”.

-Cassie

It Was For Me

It’s often said that God works in mysterious ways. I would say that this is a very true statement. More often than not, he does things in a way that surprises me and comes out of left field. Today, I witnessed God do His mysterious work, subtlety. So much so that had I not been really paying attention, it would have gone completely unnoticed. God does amazing things for me and my family everyday. Wakes us up, watches over us, provides good health, food, clothing, shelter, gifts us with sun rises, sunsets and everything in between. I am always grateful. I always notice. But today, this answer, I might have overlooked. This was unexpected. As I shared with a friend over lunch about a place God was walking me through, I was really seeking answers and clarity. She shed light and wisdom on it for me and encouraged me. Later as I walked to a co-workers office, someone had stopped by and placed a book in her door. The front of the book actually had my words right in the title. I had literally just spoke them at lunch. Intrigued, I turned it over and read the back cover…it was for me. It was in her door but it was for me. I asked her if I could read it after she finished and she said I could go ahead and borrow it she had already read it and done the study that goes with it. It was signed by the author with a note for her. But it was for me. I have had similar things happen and it never ceases to amaze me. I was looking for revelation. I was desperate. There it was…He listens, He knows, He is an amazing God. He does so much for me, for you. Do we always notice…maybe some things. But sometimes when I need an answer I want God to answer in a big, timely way. I know He often answers in a still, small voice in His time. But I still love when He shows up Big. Today He answered quietly but in His Big Way. And somehow I was so focused on needing to hear from Him that I almost completely missed it. Pay attention when you are seeking after God. Pay attention. Maybe he will drop the answer in your lap…or maybe He will stick it in your co-workers door and whisper into your spirit through encouragement and a lunchtime conversation with a friend. Listen…be still…and know He is God.

He is _______.

I used to blog a little years ago. But never really about things that were really personal to me. I am actually only sharing this now because God has weighed heavily on my heart to do so. I have been in much prayer and even now I hesitate. However, my heart wishes to be obedient to the God who has been so good to me.

Not too long ago, I was driving into town. I was listening to the radio and enjoying the bright, sunny day. There was a vehicle in front of me and another one following behind me. I drove on in between the two for several miles without noticing much about either of the two. As I continued on I realized that the vehicle in front of me was actually a hearse. I really do not care for the sight of these particular vehicles for obvious reasons along with several personal ones. However, I continued driving behind it and looked in my rearview just to check behind me. The car that was behind me was actually much closer than it had been earlier and I was able to see it well. It was a police car, but not just any police car, one of “those” police cars, from his department. I took a deep breath (I see these all the time and most of the time I just look away). But I actually thought to myself “Seriously, am I really driving down the road between these two?”. I tried to just focus on the road and think about something else, because truthfully, I don’t really like thinking about what happened. It was really such a nice day, just the right amount of blue sky and puffy clouds. The farther I drove the more I began to think about another sunny day. Except this day was hot and miserable.

On that day I was riding along behind a hearse. There was a procession of police cars escorting that hearse, though, with lights flashing. I couldn’t stop crying that day, as much as I tried. I began to think about the moment he died, the day we buried him, the 21 gun salute, and the Chief walking over and handing me a perfectly folded triangular American flag. I began to think about the uncertainty of what would lie ahead and if I would be able to ever feel okay about any of it. I remembered all of that like it was yesterday, except for one thing. It didn’t hurt like it was yesterday. It didn’t hurt the way I was afraid it would always hurt that day.

As I drove that day behind that hearse many years later, I realized that other than the few, tiny tears forming in my eyes and the lump in my throat. I was actually…okay. I couldn’t remember the last time I thought in detail about that day but I felt as if this was a perfect moment to once again glorify God for bringing me to this place. The truth is we are better than okay. I have watched and felt God do a miraculous work in my life since that sad day full of loss. He has carried me many steps and walked with me as well. I remember not long after that funeral telling Him I didn’t want to be sad and I didn’t see how I could do it on my own. I remember His still small voice within my spirit whisper “No, you can’t, but we can.” The fact that I am happy and peaceful says absolutely nothing about me. But it speaks volumes about the grandeur of the God I serve. I am able to overcome trials because He overcame the world. I can dwell in peace, joy, and hope because He is peace, joy, and hope. I enjoy a blessed life full of love, happiness, and a grateful heart because He is restoration. He is love. I can accept loss because with Jesus nothing is ever truly lost.

I realized as I drove on along and the hearse turned off onto another road that God was indeed winking at me that day. He was showing me yet again that as we journey through life sometimes those we love take another road. We don’t follow them and we don’t always like that their part in the journey leads them down another path. Especially when the path is one from which they don’t return. But He is enough to make things better than okay. He is enough. He is life. He understands that we will hurt, but He sees the value in hurting, even when we cannot. We never know what life will bring, but He does. He has written our story from beginning to end. He knows. He sees. He comforts. I am so thankful that He never leaves me and He will never leave you.

I am reminded often that God has a handle on everything that concerns His children. He will remind me gently whenever I get worried or stressed about something that seems big and even things that aren’t so big. His eye is on the sparrow.

No matter what we should never fret about anything because He is ____________. Just fill in the blank with whatever your heart needs.

Love in Christ, Cassie