How Does the Lord Respond to Doubt?

Jesus responds with grace and compassion.

Experiencing doubts in one’s faith journey can seem lonely. The one having doubts may feel he or she is the only one having questions. However, approximately 2/3 of Christians experience doubts at some point. And, this is not a new experience in the 21st Century. It has been occurring since the 1st Century; Jesus’ first followers had doubts.

The Bible records John the Baptist experiencing doubts. On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, many of his disciples had doubts, and Jesus responded with grace and compassion.

He responded the same way to Thomas, who can be classified as the most famous of doubters. John 20:24-29 tells us Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appears to the disciples, and when they report the news to him, Thomas just cannot wrap his mind around it.

Verse 25 says, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail scars in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Thomas is like most Christians. He experienced a season of doubt, and Jesus responded with grace and compassion.

John’s Gospel goes on in verse 26: “A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

It is as if Jesus was in the room a week earlier when Thomas expressed his doubt, and Jesus responds compassionately and graciously.

The final statement Jesus makes to Thomas in this moment is, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:26). The IVP Commentary Series states another way to think of Jesus’ words is, “Stop becoming unbelieving and become believing again.” Our Christian life is a journey of faith and seasons of doubt come, but when they do, Jesus responds with compassion and grace.

If you are going through a season of doubt, you are not alone. Many Christians have asked questions and sought answers. Most respondents stated their faith was stronger after going through a season of doubt.

The Lord knows seasons of doubt come in life, and he responds with grace and compassion. Challenge your doubts by asking questions and seeking answers.

 

The Days After the Resurrection

Jesus gives a starting point for sharing hope.

The time from Jesus’ resurrection to his ascension was eventful for his disciples. He appeared to them numerous times, and they never knew when or where he would show up. They needed to be ready to learn from Jesus at any time.

John 21 records Jesus appearing to some of his disciples as they were fishing. It was the early morning hours, and the men had been fishing all night. They caught nothing though until Jesus guided them. While the disciples were about 100 yards from shore, Jesus appeared on the shore. He suggested throwing the net on the right side of the boat. They did, and it was filled with fish.

They came ashore, and Jesus was waiting with a hot breakfast. Jesus needed to have a conversation with the disciples concerning the future, but first, he wanted to make sure their needs were met. If they were struggling and hungry, they would not be focused on what Jesus had to say.

The Bible encourages Christians to share our hope, and I believe we find a starting point in this post-resurrection appearance.

We need to help a person meet his or her physical needs before we can have an open door to discuss spiritual matters.

If a person is struggling and hungry today, he or she is not concerned about tomorrow. A starting point for sharing hope is helping meet physical needs.

  • It may be helping the person look for work.
  • It may be helping the individual identify ways to advance his or her skills to improve financial stability.
  • It may be helping a person navigate resources to find help.
  • Mostly, it is investing in the person’s life to earn the right to share our hope.

People are more content to discuss tomorrow when today’s needs are met.

 

 

a high angled shot of a neighborhood

Neighbors First

Neighbors first mindset is modeled by Jesus.

Thursday of Passion Week has two events where we see Jesus placing others first amid much tension.

First, Jesus and his disciples are in the upper room partaking in the Passover meal. They are about to eat, but no one has washed feet. This was a dirty job reserved for the lowest servant in the household, but none of the disciples bothered to do it. Perhaps because they were too busy arguing about being the greatest. It could have been the disciples were so involved in themselves they forgot about washing feet. Jesus, on the other hand, did not.

He wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciple’s feet. This would have been upside down logic in the disciples’ minds. They should have been the ones washing Jesus’ feet. Nevertheless, Jesus serves them. He places their needs above his own.

Jesus would have had a lot on his mind in the upper room. He knew what was getting ready to take place. He knew of his betrayal, his arrest, and his crucifixion, yet he served his disciples. Though carrying a heavy load, himself, Jesus was concerned about the needs of his disciples. Jesus had a neighbors first mindset.

Second, Jesus was praying in the garden. He requested some of his disciples keep watch, but they kept falling asleep. In his anguish, Jesus could have scolded the disciples, but he didn’t. He told them to pray for themselves. Jesus had a neighbors first mindset.

We know this was an excruciating time for Jesus. The Bible records Jesus sweating drops of blood as he was agonizing over the cross; however, his mindset remained neighbors first.

You and I find a challenge in these events. We should strive to have a neighbors first mindset. This Easter season may be different than any other in our lifetime. Many of us our carrying heavy loads as we navigate through an uncommon time. This is more reason to have a neighbors first mindset.

By having a neighbors first mindset, you and I can help one another get through this historical time. We can check on one another, pick up supplies for one another, and encourage one another. All this can be done while maintaining social distance, and a neighbors first mindset does make a difference.

Just ask Amy McDonald. Amy was headed to the store a few days ago, and she stopped to check on an elderly neighbor. The neighbor needed groceries, so Amy obtained the list. She stopped at two stores and returned with the requested items, but something seemed wrong.

Amy spent some time with her neighbor, and it turns out the lady was having a heart attack. She was having what is known as the “Widow Maker.” Amy was able to call EMS and the neighbor’s daughter. A life was saved because Amy had a neighbors first mindset.

Here’s more folks with a neighbors first mindset.

We find in the events of Passion Week’s Thursday a challenge to adopt a neighbors first mindset. This mindset makes a difference. Amy’s neighbors first mindset saved a life. What will your neighbors first mindset do today?

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Back on Track

The 3 Rs put Peter back on track.

The week had been action packed. Peter and the other disciples watched Jesus enter Jerusalem to cheering crowds. They witnessed a temple cleansing and a fig tree withering. Passover was being celebrated and it was only midweek. Peter and his companions still had much to witness.

As they are having the Passover meal, Jesus delivered shocking news to Peter. Jesus told the disciples before the night ended; they would all desert him.

“Peter declared, ‘Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth. Peter, this very night before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ ‘No,’ Peter insisted, ‘even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you,’ and all the other disciples vowed the same,” records Matthew 26:33-35.

Peter didn’t understand the intensity of pressure was ramping up, and under pressure, he would live out the words Jesus said.

Luke 22 records, “So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home, and Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sit around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally, she said, ‘This man was one of Jesus’ followers.’ But Peter denied it. ‘Woman,’ he said, ‘I don’t even know him.’

After a while, someone else looked at him and said, ‘You must be one of them.’ ‘No, man, I’m not,’ Peter retorted.

About an hour later, someone insisted, ‘This must be one of them because he is a Galilean too.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ and immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

At that moment, the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind, ‘Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And, Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”

Have you ever had this moment? You realize a mistake has been made, and now it is time to fix it. We find in Peter’s story a pattern to follow.

Remember

As Jesus looked at Peter, Luke says Jesus’ words came back to Peter. Suddenly, he remembered the earlier conversation. He remembered his own words. He remembered Jesus’ words, and he realized he was in error.

When we are in error, our memory triggers our conscience. We remember the conversation, the words, the Lord. Suddenly, we are struck with the reality of a mistake. We remember, and what we do in this moment is up to us.

Repent

Peter left the courtyard weeping bitterly, and we know from the Gospel writers Peter repented. His sorrow turned him from the direction he was going back in the direction of the Lord. Peter allowed his sorrow to put him back on track with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow, but worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

We too can allow our sorrow to turn us in the direction of the Lord. This is not a sorrow we got caught in an error, but a sorrow that drives us to make things right. It creates action, alarm, and zeal in us to do the next right thing. How you and I handle sorrow in an error is up to us.

Reconcile

Peter remembered, he repented, and he was reconciled.

In one of his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus has an honest conversation with Peter.

“After breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘You know I love you.’

‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him.

Jesus repeated the question, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I love you.’

“Then take care of my sheep,’ Jesus said.

A third time he asked him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord you know everything. You know that I love you.’

Jesus said, ‘Then feed my sheep.”

When you and I turn in the direction of the Lord, he will reconcile with us. He will not leave us but run to us. Jesus’ work on the cross made it possible to reconcile with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Acting

It is not that we make mistakes but how we handle the mistakes that makes the difference. Peter gives us a pattern to get on track, but how we handle things is up to us. How are you handling mistakes?

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Hope in Heartache

Psalm 22 presents hope for the future.

The time had come. Jesus was on the cross, and the Gospel writers record…

“Then at three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘…My God, my God, why have you abandoned me,” writes Mark in 15:34.

While we do not completely understand or fully comprehend Jesus’ experience in that moment, his words go back to Psalm 22.

David wrote this psalm in a season of suffering. Nothing was going well, so he pinned these words.

David writes in verses 1-2, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer. By night, but I find no rest.”

Can you relate? It seems as if nothing is going well. Everyone has abandoned you and life is a disaster. You are not alone. David felt that way, and even Jesus experienced abandonment for a period.

It was not the end of the story for David or Jesus, and it will not be the end of your story.

Psalm 22 goes on to speak of better times for David, a resurrection for Jesus, and hope for you and me.

Verse 24 says, “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one. He has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

David’s suffering was only for a season which passed. The abandonment of Jesus was only for a period, which ended in an exciting fashion. As David proclaimed, God did not hide. He heard the cry, and he was faithful to deliver.

God is not hiding. He hears your cries, and he will deliver. Meanwhile, Psalm 22 suggests praising the Lord faithfully knowing he will deliver.

 

A Way to Greatness

Who is the greatest?

This was the question on the disciples’ minds, and two of them had the audacity to approach Jesus. James and John wanted to be the greatest, so they requested positions of honor. Jesus’ answer may have confused them, and it was certainly contrary to their thinking.

Jesus gives them the formula to greatness, but when compared to the world’s, it’s upside down.

According to Mark 10:42-44, “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

“Greatness is found in serving,” Jesus says. If we want to be great, we must serve. Great leaders serve the individuals being led. Great bosses serve their employees. Being great is being a servant.

Greatness is not yielding authority, or having people jump at one’s every command. It is working from the bottom up. It is making the least the most. Jesus shows us an illustration of greatness.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Jesus says in Mark 10:45.

Jesus became the least to serve everyone. In humility, he met the need of the world. As Passion Week begins, we remember the extent of his service. This is a picture of greatness.

Acting

Identify ways to be a servant. Perhaps it is checking on a neighbor, being generous to someone in need, or calling someone who may be lonely. How can you be a servant today?

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a stack of folded newspapers

The Constant in an Ever-Changing Crisis

Everything around us may be swirling and tossing, but the Lord is staying.

The current landscape is ever-changing. Society is amid a health crisis, which is rapidly evolving. Information is changing daily, perhaps even every few hours, and we must adjust our approach at a breakneck speed. It can certainly be overwhelming as everything is changing around us, but there is one constant.

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

The Lord is our constant in an evolving time. Everything around us may be swirling and tossing, but the Lord is staying. He is the same today as he was yesterday, and he will be the same tomorrow as he is today. And, the Lord has already displayed his power over everything.

He calmed a storm and overpowered demons in an evening’s work. Mark’s Gospel records this eventful night.

Power on display.

Power to calm the storm.

After Jesus wrapped up a day of preaching, he and the disciples were crossing a large lake, and a fierce storm developed. The Bible says the wind was howling and waves were crashing over the boat filling it with water, but Jesus was asleep.

The panicked disciples woke him, but Jesus didn’t panic. He calmly rebuked the storm and it obeyed. The disciples were amazed and pointed out even the wind and the waves obey the Lord.

What caused the disciples to panic, Jesus calmly controlled? He was their constant in a storm, and he was constantly in control.

Power to free the man.

The excitement continued across the lake. A man, who was possessed by demons, ran to meet Jesus. He was screaming. Jesus overpowered the demons. He freed the man from their bondage and sent them over the cliff into the water. All were amazed at Jesus’ power.

What caused everyone difficulty and stress, Jesus calmly controlled. The demons were no match for Jesus.

The evening from the disciple’s perspective.

What a night the disciples experienced. Their trip across the lake was interrupted by a strong storm. They were panicked and anxious. They finally get across the lake, but their hopes of having a calm moment are interrupted by a screaming man in the dark.

Either of these events would be enough to unnerve the disciples, but they experienced both in one night. Panic, uncertainty, and anxiety may describe the disciple’s emotions that night, but Jesus met the night with calmness and constant control.

Relating to the disciples.

Right now, you and I may feel like the disciples felt on that night. Panic, anxiety, and uncertainty may be emotions we are feeling today. The days and weeks ahead have us in suspense. Everything is rapidly evolving around us, but we can take courage in the fact the Lord is constant. In an ever-changing world, the Lord is never changing.

“So, we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear…,” says Hebrews 13:6.

aerial photo of world map

Recalculating

Recalculating is a word many of us hear as we use Google Maps, Apple Maps, or any of the GPS guidance products. We miss a turn so the app must find a new way to our destination. Missing a turn doesn’t result in being lost forever; it just means it may take a little longer to get there and it may be a little harder route.

Grace can work the same way. It can recalculate the direction our life is going. If you do not like the direction your life is going, the Lord’s grace can recalculate you to a path of hope and peace. Many people have allowed grace to change the direction they were headed.

Grace has recalculated many lives.

Here are some examples of recalculated lives.

Peter

We don’t have to look far past Jesus to see one such story. Peter was called to be one of Jesus’ disciples. He has a reputation for being spontaneous and sticking his foot in his mouth. He denied knowing Jesus three times on the night Jesus was betrayed. John tells us Jesus visited one-on-one with Peter after his resurrection, and Peter was forgiven of his mistake.

Peter was going in the right direction until he made a wrong turn, but he was not lost forever. The Lord’s grace allowed Peter to recalculate his direction, and he became instrumental in spreading the Good News.

Paul

Paul is an example of grace changing a person’s life. He spent time persecuting, even killing, Christians. In his resume of sins, Paul calls himself the chief sinner. However, in Acts 9, the Lord uses grace to recalculate Paul’s life. Paul was appointed as an Apostle and became influential in the growth of the church. It has been said Paul had to be blinded in order to see the light.

Two Anonymous Ladies

A couple of unnamed women serve as examples of life-changing grace. First, Luke 7 records Jesus having dinner at a Pharisee’s house when a woman from that town began anointing Jesus. She was so grateful for his grace she could not contain her emotions. She wept on his feet, then dried them with her hair. All we know is that she lived a sinful life. To what extent of sinfulness, we are not told. She may have made a few mistakes, or she may have been a seasoned prostitute. Either way, she was forgiven, and her life was changed.

Second, John 8 tells of a woman supposedly caught in adultery. Adultery was punishable by stoning; however, Jesus gives a classic answer, “The one without sin can throw the first stone.” The crowd slowly leaves until only the woman and Jesus are remaining. Jesus grants her grace and sends her on her way to live a new life. Scripture speaks of many lives being changed because of grace, and we find the same to be true in more recent history.

John Newton

Perhaps one of the most famous illustrations of a life being recalculated by grace is that of John Newton. Newton is the writer of Amazing Grace.

After becoming established as a seaman, Newton entered the slave trade. He made many voyages with people as his cargo. Somewhere along the way, he heard of Christ and His offer of forgiveness. He became a Christian, but it took ten years for him to completely realize the horridness of human trafficking. We like to think his transformation happened overnight, but it took a few years for the Lord to form Newton’s heart. Keep in mind Christians in Newton’s day did not believe there was anything wrong with slavery. The Lord changed John Newton’s heart, his life, and used him to pin a familiar hymn.

Recalculating can take time.

Like Newton, it may take you and me a little time to get back on track. We start going in the right direction only to make another wrong turn. It happens, so don’t give up. Grace will recalculate your life once more.

It doesn’t matter how many wrong turns we’ve taken. What matters is going in the right direction now. The wrong turns are in the past, and we must leave them there. Our attention needs to be given to following the right directions when we are on the right path.

Acting

Remember to allow grace to change your direction the next time you make a wrong turn.

 

 

A Hopeful Promise

Feeling trapped in a hopeless situation? Please know there is always hope in this promise the Lord makes us.

The Promise

John 14:2-3 says, “My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you. And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

“I’m coming back for you,” Jesus promises. In a world filled with broken hearts and unkept promises, these words of Jesus give us a promise in which we can fully trust. The promise is coming from a trustworthy source.

Jesus and his disciples are having an intense conversation. Jesus is preparing the disciples for events which will soon take place. The news is unsettling. It is perplexing and frightening to the disciples, so Jesus requests their trust and assures them of his return. Jesus’ words were a familiar comfort to the disciples.

A Familiar Promise

Jesus made his promise of returning in an everyday way to his disciples. An engagement would have immediately come to mind.

Weddings were done differently in the first century as the marriage was arranged. When it was decided a bride and groom would be married, the groom would make a promise to his bride.

He would say something like, “In my father’s house are many rooms, and I’m going to prepare a place for you. When I have finished preparing the place, I will come back to get you. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Newly married couples would live in the groom’s father’s house. If there were several generations living there, it could be a large structure. Upon their engagement, the groom would return to his father’s house to prepare the necessary addition to the home. The only hitch was he did not know when the addition would be completed. His promise did not include date and time. He just promised he would return to get the bride.

While she was anticipating her groom’s return, the bride learned how to have a successful household from her mother, and at night, she would place a lamp in her window so the groom could find her if he returned. The couple would have a beautiful wedding ceremony when the groom returned.

A Hopeful Promise

Think again of Jesus’ words. “My Father’s house has many rooms….” Jesus is giving us the promise of a groom. He has gone to prepare a place for us.

Like a first century bride, our job is to prepare for his return, and just like the bride, we don’t know a date or time.

Jesus is off preparing a place for us, and he has promised us he will return. He has promised you and I he will return, and if we trust him, we can find much hope in this promise.

If you are feeling hopeless, cling to this promise. For there is always hope in Christ.

Acting

How do you find hope in this promise? Share in the comments below.

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Jumping in Trust

Zack and his dad were hiking in the mountains of Tennessee on a sunny afternoon. Zack’s dad hears from above, “Hey dad! Catch me!”

Horrified to see Zack falling from an above cliff, the dad quickly put himself into position and successfully caught Zack. A moment passed while the dad calmed his nerves. Then he asked, “What happened?”

“I jumped,” the boy replied.

Why on earth did you jump,” the dad inquired.

Zack answered, “Because I know you are my dad and I knew you would catch me.”

Zack had complete trust in his dad because he was Zack’s father.

Trust is Foundational

Trust is the foundation for any relationship. Friends must trust each other. Parents and children must trust each other. Husbands and wives must trust each other. Our relationship with Jesus requires we trust him.

Jesus Requests Our Trust

Jesus requests in John 14:1 we trust him.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”

Jesus is having a conversation with his disciples, and he is giving them much to consider. He’s telling the disciples what is going to happen soon, but from their vantage point, there is still a great deal unknown. Jesus knows it is perplexing, maybe even frightening, for the disciples, so he makes a request that they trust him. The same request Jesus makes of us.

What’s going to happen in the future? If you could know the answer, would you want it? I wouldn’t, but the unknown is nerve-racking too. We dislike the unknown. We find it perplexing and frightening just like the disciples, so Jesus says, “Trust me.”

Jesus asks that we trust him. Trust him with our jobs and careers, our families and relationships, our money and financial health, and our lives. Jesus asks that we trust him with everything.

Why can we trust the Lord?

Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all. How will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

The Lord has proven himself trustworthy by giving us his son. So, the question you and I need to answer is do we trust him? Do we trust him with our jobs and careers, our families and relationships, and money and financial health, and our lives? Do we trust him with everything?

Do we have the complete trust Zack did?

Acting

Make a list of the areas of your life where you may need to trust the Lord more. Ask him to help you build that trust. Share your experience in the comments below.

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