Surely this is the hardest Christmas I can remember. I praise and thank God for his grace and love that have carried us through the troubles we have experienced with Joy from God.
It began about six weeks ago when our furnace broke down and we learned it would cost us more money than we had, to fix it. Next a cold snap brought out the worst in all my cars. I began to try to save money to fix the furnace while I spent money to fix the cars.
Just last week, on Wednesday night I loaded my family into the big van to go to Church. As I backed down the hill to the bottom of my drive way, the van spun sideways on the ice and slammed into the small van I had just spent four days trying to fix, knocking it off the jacks that held the front end off the ground and allowing it to fall onto the front axles and oil pan.
The next morning showed that the front right side panel was dented in, but, thank God the axles, bearings, and oil pan seemed O.K.
Early Christmas morning my wife and I woke to wrap the children's gifts. We had found no time to wrap them during the week. As we gathered together all the gifts we had purchased over that last three months, we found one package missing. It contained "the very special gift that one of my daughters hoped for more than anything", it wasn't expensive, but it was too late to replace. We still haven't been able to locate it.
At noon, my family visited my wife's family. A fist fight broke out between her family members. The house was filled with swearing, cursing, and threats. One family member left in hysterics and smashed their car into my big van, pushing it into the truck of another raging member. By evening, most of the anger turned to sorrow and , thank God, I was able to lead the family in solemn prayer.
The long drive home was exhausting, and the conversation centered around trying to understand all that took place during our visit.
We finally arrived home hoping to enjoy each others company and put the awful events of the day behind us. As we watched a Christmas video, the phone rang. It was my preacher. He was calling to tell us Tiny Grace Doggett had died.
Eighteen years ago, when I became a Christian and Joined North Town Church, I met the Doggetts. They were the only "old couple" in the Church. Ray and Tiny Grace were the most loving, kindest, most beautiful people I have ever known. They loved my wife and me through every crisis we faced. They became Mom and Dad not only to us, but to every one in the congregation. Ray and Tiny Grace lived the love of God all their long lives and showed us all, that by Christ we can live a righteous life and have victory over sin. They demonstrated that as we grow old, we can grow more and more Christ-like and know the Joy of God no matter what our circumstances.
I am still numb and shocked by the news. I can't grasp her death. What a tremendous lose to all who knew her, especially to Ray.
I am crushed, my heart is filled with sorrow, yet I know, that when I see Tiny Grace again, she will be smiling, her eyes will be filled with joy and her frail hands will no longer shake uncontrollably. She will be young and strong and filled with Life and we will never be parted again. Thank you Jesus, - AMEN!
Holy Father, Jesus is the answer to our sorrows and the
solution to our life's troubles. We offer ourselves to you by
His blood. Give us, Oh LORD, your Holy Spirit, and comfort us as
we struggle against the burdens of life, and Father, I lift up
before you, your child Ray Doggett, and pray that you would wash
away his sorrow with your love and your hope..... In Jesus Name
Open your Bible to Mark chapter 8, and read verses 22-26. Read it through several times to become familiar with the narrative.
Bethsaida: it was in this area that Jesus first sought rest with his Apostles when they returned from their missionary tour. The information we have on this village is alarming. Scripture shows us that the people of Bethsaida had rejected Jesus and had brought condemnation upon themselves.
"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you."
In light of this fact we can understand some of Jesus' actions and perhaps understand our own circumstances more clearly.
We see here that although most of the people of Bethsaida had rejected Jesus, still there were a few who believed. Those believers came to Jesus with their blind friend and Jesus consented to their request to heal him.
Jesus led the man outside of the village to perform this healing. The people of Bethsaida had already rejected Jesus and one more miracle would not change their minds. I am convinced that the blind man had little faith that Jesus could heal him, but As Jesus lead him by the hand, He compelled the man to leave his friends and totally focus on Jesus and depend on Him to safely guide his foot steps.
We all need each other's daily encouragement to remain faithful to Jesus, but there are some times when we need a "mountain top" kind of experience to bolster our faith and help us to focus on God's purpose for our lives. Jesus needed to get the blind man out of the faithless village and alone with Him to foster his trust.
When the two were alone, Jesus spit on the man's eyes. We know that this was not a necessary act to effect his healing, however it was necessary to help the blind man focus on what Jesus was doing.
Jesus' question "Do you see anything?", further lifted the man's hope to trust in Jesus power.
It is apparent that the man's blindness was not from birth, but caused by some disease. As he had not yet come to a complete trust in Jesus' ability to restore his sight, his healing was only partial. Yet this partial healing would serve to lift the man's faith to it's full measure.
Have you ever found yourself floundering in life? Feeling helpless and unable to break free? Have you ever been just plain scared of the future and unable to trust that God will see you through? If at these times you turn to Jesus with a will to trust Him, He will provide whatever is necessary to demonstrate His love and compassion to you.
Sometimes that means meeting your needs, sometimes it means giving you the grace and strength to do without, but what ever His response to your trust, understand that His way will not only see you through the crises, but it will also result in producing greater faith in you, which glorifies God.
Jesus was able to complete the healing as the blind man put his full trust in Him. God often works in our lives in this way, step by step guiding us to ever greater faith one day at a time. Our relationship with God isn't built on a single event, but on daily communion with Him.
Just as a marriage doesn't consist of a wedding ceremony or a honeymoon alone, but on a constantly growing relationship; so too after our conversion we must continually seek to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Christ, and daily involve Him in all that we experience.
Jesus' final words to the man were a warning, "Don't return to the village." But why? He has a great testimony and a great faith, wouldn't it be right for him to share his faith with his family and neighbors?
In this case the answer is no. It is often true that when a person becomes a child of God he is called away from family and friends into a new set of family and friends in Christ. This separation is never forced but arises from a natural desire to be in fellowship with God's people. To remain in old relationships can sometimes quench a new born faith, as it says in Scripture:
Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
As new creatures in Christ, we must be wise in choosing our relationships.
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
When God establishes our faith we are able to return to former relationships bringing Christ with us, in this way we can effectively call our loved ones to join us in Christ with the support of our Christian friends and our tried faith in Jesus.