Anticipating a trip to a new locale can be exciting but uneasy at the same time. Being able to explore and experience new sites generates excitement. The unknown and questions cause uneasiness. What will it be like? How will I feel and respond? Am I properly prepared? The new often prompts these two reactions within us.
The psalmist speaks of a longing for the time when she/he is standing in the presence of the Lord. There is an anticipation of this coming time. As I read these verses today, I heard the words of a contemporary group of psalmists, Mercy Me.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
(Matthew 28:20b, NIV)
The writer of Matthew’s gospel account ends with the words above. It is part of the scene during Jesus’s physical leaving. Jesus has just given all his followers their marching orders and he tells t hem this. This was a comfort at that time. Thesewords can be a comfort to each of us as well.
The difficulty can be to remember this promise when life brings on challenges. We can feel alone as we try to navigate the brokenness of our world and our lives. It is in the brokenness where we will find Jesus.
There are times when facing tomorrow can seem like a daunting task for many people. We live in a world which has experienced over two years of change and uncertainty through a global pandemic. Many times there have been glimmers of hope only to experience setbacks when new strains of the virus emerge. Our world began to breathe a sigh of relief as it appeared vaccines were able to manage the effects of the virus. Then in the midst of our sigh, one large nation begins an unprovoked, aggressive attack upon a smaller, neighboring nation. Now it is not a virus in nature killing innocent men, women and children but the weapons and tactics of humans used on fellow humans. Tomorrow can easily look rather bleak.
Yet even in the midst of all of this, Easter still came. In Easter, and during this Easter season, we are reminded that death no longer has a final say. Viruses, diseases, bombs, weapons, aggression, and violence no longer stand in control of today or tomorrow. No, Easter tells us that Christ is risen and because he lives we can face all of our tomorrows.
Anyone who observes the situations in our world right now, comes to the realization that we are in a broken world. The world is broken because we, who live in the world, are broken. We search for answers, solutions and leaders who will cure the brokenness. However, the one who is capable of eliminating broken lives in a broken world has already come and is actively engaged in the work of healing.
Casting Crowns captured this sentiment in their song, Healer. Listen and ponder what this means for you and for our world.
There are times in the world when we are reminded about the importance of solidarity. During my lifetime I can name some specific times when national and world solidarity has shone forth. When I was still living at home, I experienced this when there was a profound famine in Africa and the farm economy crisis. As an adult, I witnessed this global unity with AIDS killing thousands, the events of 9/11/2001, and now the Ukrainian crisis. These are times when we realize how much we have in common and the power found in unity to make a meaningful, positive difference. We come to realize that in God we are one.
Here is an updated version of a song which came as a response to the African hunger crisis.
People come in and out of our lives regularly. There are some who make a significant impact while others quickly fade from our memory. Some individuals are a part of our lives for a long span of time, but some only interact with us briefly. There are the standouts and the unnoticed. We may view a person as having great value to us and another is seen as contributing little to our lives. The world teaches us how to value another human. We are also taught how we are, or are not, valued by others.
Unlike humans, the Lord places a high value on each one of us. Our value, and the value we have with others, is not dependent upon us. To the world we may look used up and have nothing to contribute. Yet it is the Lord who gives value to each person. By touching our lives, God makes us into the great masterpiece which we were created to be. The touch of the Lord transforms us from a broken, sinful person into a radiant child of the King. Whether our contribution to the world is brief or long, whether we are noticed or remain unnoticed, by God’s amazing power, we are a shining star of humanity.
Wayne Watson sings of this truth in a song, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” written by John Kramp based upon a poem by Myrna Brooks Welch. Enjoy listening to this song as you realize that you, and every person you encounter, are a masterpiece of great value when the Lord touches and beautifully plays your life.
There are times in life when one event, one action, or one experience can change the course of a person’s life. A change in perspective might occur. Priorities may be drastically altered. Decisions might be made in a changed understanding of what is important. Gene MacLellan thought that if a person simply placed their hand in the hand of Jesus, the course of their life would be deeply impacted. As you listen to the song which McLellan wrote, consider these questions:
1. Is your hand securely in the hand of Jesus or have you chosen to let go? (Jesus never lets go.)
2. When your hand is in the Lord’s, how do you see yourself; how do you see others?
3. Are you letting Jesus lead you by the hand or are you pulling back?
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b, NIV)
We never know when our situation in life will suddenly change. A car accident may occur and our life is altered in countless ways. Our routine check up at our doctor’s office may result in the discovery of an illness which will require us to battle immensely. We may be asked into our supervisor’s office to discover that our position is being eliminated. An alarm awakens us in the night and after exiting our home, we watch firefighters work hard to save the house but the wind fuels the flames. All of these life-changing experiences, and more of greater and lesser magnitude, create a time of storm in our lives.
In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel, a song which became a hit on its own was, You’ll Never Walk Alone. In the musical the song is sung twice. The first time is when the male lead, Billy Bigelow, dies and the female lead, Julie Jordan, sings it to comfort herself and cousin Nettie finishes it for her. The next time we experience the singing of the song is at the graduation of Billy and Julie’s daughter as the spirit of Billy encourages his daughter and Julie.
This song reminds us of Jesus’s words at the end of Matthew’s gospel. The resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples, commissions them, and then tells them he is always with them. These encouraging words have great value for us when we are facing life’s storms. The storm will not last forever. There is light at the end of the storm. We keep hope in our hearts for we have the promise that Jesus always walks through the storm with us.
There are times in a person’s life when memories from our childhood can come flooding back into the mind. Certain experiences or events can trigger those memories. Recently, some events in my life created one of those instances. I was reflecting upon how certain situations fell into place. I had a need for the Lord to intercede in my life and the lives of some individuals who I deeply love. Naturally, this prompted me to engage in a sustained period of frequent and diligent prayer. I turned to family and trusted prayer warriors in my life. While I firmly believe that the Lord always works faithfully in the lives of God’s children, I could have never foreseen the great show of faithfulness which I recently experienced. This led me to remember a song from my childhood.
Growing up in a small, rural community, I had the blessing of being nurtured into the Christian faith by loving people in a small church. Every Sunday morning, children, youth, teachers and the pastor would gather in a basement room for the Sunday School opening. We would sing songs, hear a passage from Scripture, and say a prayer before splitting into our classes by age. One song which we sang frequently is, God is So Good. I would also later sing this song at church camp.
As I considered the Lord’s recent guidance and blessings in my life, the words of this song flooded my mind.
God truly is good and has been extremely good to me. I love God so!