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FROM MOURNFUL TO HOPEFUL

 



FROM

MOURNFUL TO HOPEFUL


WAITING FOR YOU IN HEAVEN


Colton Burpo was only four years old when he survived an emergency appendectomy.

 

His parents were overjoyed athis survival. But they were stunned at his stories. Over the next few months, Colton talked of his visit to heaven. He described exactly what his parents were doing during the surgery and told stories of people he met in heaven—people he had never met on earth or been told about. In the book Heaven Is for Real, Colton’s father relates the moment that the four-year-old boy told his mom, “You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”

 

The parents had never mentioned the miscarriage to their son. He was too young to process it. Emotion filled his mother’s face: “Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?”

 

“She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.

“It’s okay, Mommy. She’s okay. God adopted her.”

“Don’t you mean Jesus adopted her?”

“No, Mommy. His Dad did.”

“What’s her name?” asked the mom. “What was

the little girl’s name?”

“She doesn’t have a name. You guys didn’t name her.”

 

The parents were stunned. There is no way Colton would have known this. He had one more memory. He shared it before he went out to play: “She said she can’t wait for you and

Daddy to get to heaven.”

 

Someone in heaven is saying the same words about you. Your grandpa? Aunt? Your child? They are looking toward the day when God’s family is back together. Shouldn’t we do the same?

 


[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more

death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.

REVELATION 21:4

God’s first action in heaven will be to rub a thumb across the cheek of every child as if to say, “There, there . . . no more tears.” This long journey will come to an end. You will see him.

 

 

And you will see them.

Our final home will hear no good-byes. We will speak of the Good Book and remember good faith, but good-bye? Gone forever.

 

Let the promise change you. From sagging to seeking, from mournful to hopeful. From dwellers in the land of good-bye to a heaven of hellos. The Prince has decreed a homecoming.




A FAMILY REUNION

Joseph provided [his brothers] with wagons . .

. and he gave them supplies for the journey.

And he gave each of them new clothes—but to

Benjamin he gave five changes of clothes and

300 pieces of silver. He also sent his father ten female donkeys loaded with the finest products of Egypt, and ten male donkeys loaded with

grain and bread and other supplies he would need on his journey. So Joseph sent his

brothers off, and as they left, he called after

them, “Don’t quarrel about all this along the

way!” And they left Egypt and returned to their father, Jacob, in the land of Canaan.

GENESIS 45:21–25 NLT

Jacob’s boys returned to Canaan in style. Gone were the shabby robes and emaciated donkeys. They drove brand-new pickup trucks packed with gifts. They wore leather jackets and alligator skin boots. Their wives and kids spotted them on the horizon. “You’re back! You’re back!” Hugs and backslaps all around.

 

Jacob emerged from a tent. A rush of hair, rangy and silver, reached his shoulders. Stooped back. Face leathery, like rawhide. He squinted at the sun-kissed sight of his sons and all the plunder. He was just about to ask where they stole the stuff when one of them blurted, “‘Joseph is still alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.’ And Jacob’s heart stood still, because he did not believe them” (Genesis 45:26 NKJV).

 

The old man grabbed his chest. He had to sit down. Sadness had sapped the last drop of joy out of Jacob. Yet when the sons told him what Joseph had said, how he had asked about Jacob, how he had called them to Egypt, Jacob’s spirit revived.

 

His eyes began to sparkle, and his shoulders straightened. “Then Israel said, ‘It is enough. Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die’” (v. 28).

Jacob was 130 years old by this point. Hardly a spring chicken. He had a hitch in his getalong, an ache in his joints. But nothing was going to keep him from his son. He took his staff in hand and issued the command: “Load ’em up! We are headed to Egypt.”

The whole gang of seventy made the trip.

 

And what a trip it was. Pyramids. Palaces. Irrigated farms. Silos. They had never seen such sights. Then the moment they’d been waiting for: a wide flank of royalty appeared on the horizon. Chariots, horses, and the Imperial Guard.

 

As the entourage drew near, Jacob leaned forward to get a better glimpse of the man in the center chariot. When he saw his face, Jacob whispered, “Joseph, my son.”

 

Across the distance, Joseph leaned forward in his chariot. He told his driver to slap the horse. When the two groups met on the flat of the plain, the prince didn’t hesitate. He bounded out of his chariot and ran in the direction of his father. “The moment Joseph saw him, he threw himself on his neck and wept” (Genesis 46:29 MSG).

 

Gone were the formalities. Forgotten were the proprieties. Joseph buried his face in the crook of his father’s shoulder. “He wept a long time” (v. 29). As tears moistened the robe of his father, both men resolved that they would never say goodbye to each other again.

Good-bye. For some of you this word is the challenge of your life. To get through this is to get through this raging loneliness, this strength-draining grief. You sleep alone in a double bed. You walk the hallways of a silent house. You catch yourself calling out his name or reaching for her hand. Like Jacob, the separation has exhausted your spirit. You feel quarantined, isolated. The rest of the world has moved on; you ache to do the same. But you can’t; you can’t say good-bye.

 

If you can’t, take heart. God has served notice. All farewells are on the clock. They are filtering like grains of sand through an hourglass. If heaven’s throne room has a calendar, one day is circled in red and highlighted in yellow. God has decreed a family reunion:

The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first.

 

Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 MSG)

 


LORD, God of Israel, . . . only you are God of all the kingdoms of the earth.

You made the heavens and the earth. I have no one in heaven but you; I want nothing on earth besides you. The

LORD has set his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over everything. * I heard a loud voice from the throne,

saying, “Now God’s presence is with

people, and he will live with them, and

they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God.”

2 KINGS 19:15; PSALM 73:25; PSALM 103:19; REVELATION 21:3

TRUST

GOD TO

TRIUMPH

GOD SEES YOUR TEARS


Acouple of days ago, twenty thousand of us ran through the streets of San Antonio raising money for breast cancer

research. Most of us ran out of kindness, happy to log three miles and donate a few dollars to the cause.

 

A few ran in memory of a loved one; others, in honor of a cancer survivor. We ran for different reasons. But no runner was more passionate than one I spotted. A bandanna covered her bald head, and dark circles shadowed her eyes. She had cancer. While we ran out of kindness, she ran out of conviction. She knows how cancer victims feel. She’s been there.

 

The phrase “I’ve been there” is in the chorus of Christ’s theme song. To the lonely, Jesus whispers, “I’ve been there.” To the discouraged, Christ nods his head and sighs, “I’ve been there.”

 

Jesus has been there. He experienced “all the pain, all the testing” (Hebrews 2:18, MSG). Jesus was angry enough to purge the temple, hungry enough to eat raw grain, and distraught enough to weep in public.

 

Whatever you are facing, he knows how you feel.11

You look at tomorrow’s demands, next week’s bills, next month’s silent calendar. Your future looks as barren as the

Sinai Desert. “How can I face my future?”

 

God knows what you need and where you’ll be. Trust him. Fretting over tomorrow’s problems today siphons the strength you need for now, leaving you anemic and weak.12

Can I share some suggestions to help you get through difficult days?

1. Meet your fears with faith.

Do what my father urged my brother and me to do.

 

Summertime for the Lucado family always involved a trip from West Texas to the Rocky Mountains. My dad loved to fish for trout on the edge of the white-water rivers. Yet he knew that the currents were dangerous and his sons could be careless. Upon arrival we’d scout out the safe places to cross the river. He’d walk us down the bank until we found a line of stable rocks. He was even known to add one or two to compensate for our short strides.

 

As we watched, he’d test the stones, knowing if they held him, they’d hold us. Once on the other side, he’d signal for us to follow.

“Don’t be afraid,” he could have said. “Trust me.”

Does a river of fear run between you and Jesus? Cross over to him.

Believe he can. Believe he cares.13

2.   Go back to the Bible stories.

Read them again and again. Be reminded that you aren’t the first person to weep. And you aren’t the first person to be helped.

Read the story and remember, their story is yours!

The challenge too great? Read the story. That’s you crossing the Red Sea with Moses.

Too many worries? Read the story. That’s you receiving heavenly food with the Israelites.

Your wounds too deep? Read the story. That’s you, Joseph, forgiving your brothers for betraying you.14

3.   Stir the pot of prayer.

Let’s say a stress stirrer comes your way. The doctor decides you need an operation. She detects a lump and thinks it best that you have it removed. So there you are, walking out of her office. You’ve just been handed this cup of anxiety. What are you going to do with it? You can place it in one of two pots.

You can dump your bad news in the vat of worry and pull out the spoon. Turn on the fire. Stew on it. Stir it. Mope for a while. Brood for a time. Won’t be long before you’ll have a delightful pot of pessimism.

How about a different idea? The pot of prayer. Before the door of the doctor’s office closes, give the problem to God. “I receive your lordship. Nothing comes to me that hasn’t passed through you.”

Your part is prayer and gratitude.

God’s part? Peace. “You will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians

4:7 NLT).15

Finally, I want to encourage you to remember that God is involved in your life. He will take care of you. Why is it important to remember this? Because knowing that God is in charge counterbalances the mystery of why and how.

God is plotting for our good. In all the setbacks and slipups, he is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our day is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny.

“[God] works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11 NIV). Everything means everything. No exceptions.

He will carry you through.

 


LORD my God, you have done many miracles. Your plans for us are many. If I tried to tell them all, there would be too many to count.

PSALM 40:5

Do you believe that no evil is beyond God’s reach? That he can redeem every pit, including this one in which you find yourself?

What if Joseph had given up on God? At any point along his broken road, he could have turned sour and walked away. “No more. No more. I’m out.”

You can give up on God as well. The cemetery of hope is overpopulated with sour souls who have settled for a small God. Don’t be among them.

In Her Own Words:

JULIE’S STORY


Igrew up in an ideal but not perfect home. My family loved and served God, but my heart was not in a right place. When

I was sixteen, my dad died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. My grief was so intense. God was faithful: he comforted and provided for my family in so many ways. Still, my heart was not his.

I became depressed, and that depression led to an eating disorder. My life was falling apart, and I felt like the only thing I could control was my weight. I became bulimic.

I thought I had my eating disorder under control—until I woke up one day and realized I couldn’t stop making myself throw up. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to stop. My mind became so dark, and I felt bad about myself. Yet God was there with me.

My heavenly Father called out to me in my darkness. I confessed my sin to him and to my mom. She became both my accountability partner and my prayer partner. God himself showed me that the only way I could get out of this pit was to let his truth clean out my mind. I was so desperate for his Word. I carried verses on note cards everywhere I went. When a destructive thought entered my mind, I pulled out a truth from God’s Word and spoke it out loud. With that initial step, I slowly began to see myself the way God sees me.

By God’s power at work in me, I learned that he delights in me. That he dances over me. That he is head over heels in love with me. I have also learned that Jesus took me by the hand and delivered me from the pit. God gave me so many chances that I didn’t deserve. He is always faithful, and he is always full of unfailing love and compassion. That was ten years ago. Praise God! I have never been freer than I am in him. He has my whole heart.

 


People, trust God all the time. Tell him all your problems, because God is our

protection. * “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to do what is good,

who leads you in the way you should

go.” * The LORD is good to everyone; he is merciful to all he has made. You

have recorded my troubles. You have

kept a list of my tears. “Don’t be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called

you by name, and you are mine.” You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.

Those who know the LORD trust him, because he will not leave those who come to him.

PSALM 62:8; ISAIAH 48:17; PSALM 145:9; PSALM 56:8; ISAIAH 43:1;

PSALM 139:5 NLT; PSALM 9:10




 


I don’t have an easy solution or a magic

wand. I have found

something—Someone

—far better. God himself.

 

ULTIMATE VICTORY

That you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the

exceeding greatness of His power toward us

who believe, according to the working of His

mighty power which He worked in Christ when

He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at

His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might

and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

EPHESIANS 1:18–21 NKJV

Life turns every person upside down. No one escapes unscathed. Not the woman who discovers her husband is having an affair. Not the businessman who has his investments embezzled by a crooked colleague. Not the teenager who discovers that a night of romance has resulted in a surprise pregnancy. Not the pastor who feels his faith shaken by questions of suffering and fear.

We’d be foolish to think we are invulnerable.

 

 

But we’d be just as foolish to think that evil wins the day.

 

The Bible vibrates with the steady drumbeat of faith: God recycles evil into righteousness. Perhaps you read this book in search of a quick fix for your challenges. “How to Overcome Obstacles in Five Easy Steps.” Sorry to disappoint. I don’t have an easy solution or a magic wand. I have found something—Someone—far better. God himself. When God gets in the middle of life, evil becomes good.

 

Haven’t we seen this discovery in the story of Joseph? Saddled with setbacks: family rejection, deportation, slavery, and imprisonment. Yet he emerged triumphant, a hero of his generation. Among his final recorded words are these comments to his brothers: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 NKJV).

 

This is the repeated pattern in Scripture. Evil. God. Good.

See the cross on the hill? Can you hear the soldiers pound the nails? Jesus’ enemies smirk. Satan’s demons lurk. All that is evil rubs its hands in glee. “This time,” Satan whispers. “This time I will win.”

 

For a silent Saturday it appeared he did. The final breath. The battered body. Mary wept. Blood seeped down the timber into the dirt. Followers lowered God’s Son as the sun set. Soldiers sealed the tomb, and night fell over the earth.

 

Yet what Satan intended as the ultimate evil, God used for the ultimate good. God rolled the rock away. Jesus walked out on Sunday morning, a smile on his face and a bounce to his step. And if you look closely, you see Satan scampering from the cemetery with his forked tail between his legs.

 

“Will I ever win?” he grumbles.

No. He won’t.


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