Counsel for your season in the tomb.

21 02 2016

feel buriedWhen God has asked you to surrender to His will, and when you have sacrificed at the foot of the cross, you will come to places on the trail where you feel buried. Perhaps you there now.

Burial experiences are opportunities to draw near to Jesus and abide with Him in a way that only the Spirit can show you. You may be sad as a direct result of that which you sacrificed at the cross. In that case, your sadness is a natural and good outcome of that which pleases God. Try to see it from that perspective. You have had to give up something you cherished, and now you feel the sadness of loss.

You did not invent your emotions. God made you an emotional being when He formed you in your mother’s womb. Just as it is healthy for you to care for your body, it is healthy for you to acknowledge your God-given emotions. Grieve your losses. Articulate your frustrations to yourself, to close friends, and to God. Recognize and feel your anger, loneliness, impatience, and discouragement.

If you sacrificed something that was not pleasing to God but was very gratifying to you, there may be a strong pull to “uncrucify” it. You may need to reinforce the sacrifice for awhile. Bury what is dead, and keep it buried. Enlist friends to help you. Fill your time and life with other wholesome things. Ask God to draw you back into His Word, even though you may not feel up to it. Pray for God to confirm the sacrifice you have made. Keep praying your “nevertheless” prayer. Reiterate “into your hands I commit my spirit” – again.

I believe God uses delay in every disciple. We in the West need this because we are generally in a hurry. Rather than resist delay, try to enter into it as a time to intentionally experience abiding in Christ. Take time away to be with Jesus in solitude. Sit with Him in silence, mull over His words, enter into His experience in the tomb. Place yourself in stories where He came alongside people to sit with them, to touch them, or to cry with them. Prayerfully ask Him to show you how He wants to dwell more closely with you in this special time.

Resist the temptation to compare your experience with others. This is your unique journey. Your feelings of grief and loss will not be the same as others. You don’t know what others are experiencing privately.

This is not a time to accomplish very much, or even to learn a lot. Be still. Be present where you are. The Spirit of God will bring to mind what you need to consider. You don’t need to work hard in burial. Don’t squirm. Stay. Abide.


After seminary, vocationally stuck and tuckered out

21 02 2016

Doc - Jan 30, 2016, 2-11 PM - p1

A personal burial-like experience:

My career change from architecture to vocational ministry definitely went through a burial season. I can describe it on two levels: situational and spiritual. The situational level involved persevering through nine years of education. Concurrently, I was adjusting to being newly married and a drawn out trial that emerged from that (which I will share with you below). And after graduating from seminary I could not find a combination of (a) a church that wanted me, and (b) a church I felt I was supposed to serve as their pastor. It was depressing to be held at a standstill after such a long wait.

That leads me to the fact that the deeper work of those nine years at the marker of abiding was of a spiritual sort. Ironically, during my years of preparation for ministry I lost a lot of confidence in myself. Early on I thought I had the capacity to be pretty awesome in ministry, but by the time I graduated I was worn out mentally and spiritually. The Bible had been a text book for me for so long that I rarely enjoyed it as spiritual food. Consequently, I felt less secure in myself and more desperate for God to help me make it. My brain was crammed with more head knowledge than I could use, but my heart needed to be restored back to a first love for Christ. Was I abiding in Christ? I was immersed in facts about Him, but not doing a very good job of staying with Him. Christ was with me, abiding in me, holding on to me, even though I needed to come back to Him in my spirit.

Have you been through a kind of spiritual desert?

Doubt can test the best of us

21 02 2016

Everyone wrestles with doubt.

The journey of John the Baptist along the Jesus way illustrates the power of doubt. Recall John’s confident announcement of his calling.

“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).

John experienced widespread ministry success. But not long afterwards, John entered a harsh burial-like experience — Herod’s prison. Doubt reared up within him. John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another” (Matt. 11:3)? What John formerly knew for certain had begun to sink in the quagmire of doubt.

Seasons in the tomb test the best of us. We may even be tempted to question the very One to whom we surrendered. In such times, let the words of Paul be our food, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). Sometimes you may wonder if God has forgotten about you and your situation, that He does not care about your pain, and that God is being cruel to make you grieve and wait.

One thing you must grasp. Jesus’ story did not end in the tomb, and neither will yours. If He had stayed in the tomb, His message would not have been good news. Abide in Him, and stay expectant. When the time is right, he will take you by the hand and lead you out.

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Possible experiences at the tomb of abiding

21 02 2016

tomb in rockHere are some of the ways we may encounter in our burial-like experiences. What would you add?

  • Confirm its dead
  • Grief
  • Brokenness
  • Lament
  • Loss
  • Guilt (false)
  • Wait
  • Hope
  • Endurance
  • Confined
  • Less of me
  • Transition
  • Doubt
  • Confusion
  • Silence
  • Darkness
  • Alone
  • Discouragement
  • Depression
  • Barren
  • How long?
  • Taking forever
  • No purpose
  • Sabbath
  • Solitude
  • Listening
  • Standstill
  • (what would you add?)

The gift of fragrance that lingers

15 10 2015

In my daily reading of the Bible, I came unsuspectingly upon the story of the woman and her perfume. I say unsuspectingly because I did not foresee the depth which her example would carve out in my soul.

anointing oilYou recall the incident. Jesus was in the village of Bethany staying in the home of a man named Simon who had contracted leprosy. That’s a significant side story in and of itself. Anyway, the woman (Mary, according to John 12:3) came to Jesus holding a flask made of alabaster stone, opened it up and respectfully anointed Jesus’ head and feet with very costly ointment (spikenard). At the time Jesus was sitting at the table, and He clearly understood what and why the woman was doing this.

She was already mourning His death.

But the disciples didn’t get it. They calculated the monetary value of the perfume, and were indignant at such a waste. Their idea was that poor people would have appreciated a donation of food and clothing — a much more useful purpose than perfuming a man, even their Master.

It is an understatement to say that Jesus had the gift of discernment. He knew what His disciples were reasoning, and gave them another perspective. Bear in mind, this incident happened on the eve of the crucifixion. So Jesus gave His guys a bit of a lecture, and you know the woman was standing right there wondering if she had done the wrong thing. Jesus said that helping the poor was noble, but that the poor would always be there to receive help. Different, though, was the opportunity to do something kind for Jesus the Christ. Then came the clincher,

“For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Matt. 26:12-13).

I was never able to buy really expensive perfume for my wife, but I do know that the fragrance of expensive perfume lasts much longer than cheaper varieties. With that in mind, consider that the rich fragrance on Jesus’ head and feet must have lingered throughout the night, into the next horrible day, even into the tomb. As He sat with His disciples in the upper room and celebrated His final meal with them, He filled the room with His fragrance. The Lord’s table carried the aroma of burial.

When Jesus led them in a melodic psalm and took them to Gethsemane, the sweat of blood intermingled on His skin with the woman’s ointment. The high priest who judged Him, Pilate who condemned Him, Peter who denied Him, Judas who betrayed Him, the soldiers who pierced Him — all caught the scent of one woman’s worship.

I do not know exactly how to bring the import of all of this over to you. It is a profound and chaotic picture. Jesus and His band of followers having their meal in the home of an untouchable man. The practical ministry need of poverty clashing with the impractical “waste” of a worshipper. And the contrast between Jesus’ awareness of His impending ordeal and the significance of the woman’s kindness — perhaps her sacrificial spirit reminding Him of the sacrifice required of Him — contrasted with the disciple’s ignorance (which we often share) of death, burial and resurrection happening in our very own experience.

My daughters and I received an unexpected package one day. Opening it we discovered an array of tiny bottles containing different essential oils, sent us by my niece, Alison. I had not known about these fragrant oils before, nor of their expense and usefulness. I was intrigued that one of them was frankincense. So we began exploring the world of essential oils.

This is very poignant to me because the reason Alison so kindly shared these oils with us is because my two daughters, my son, and I were providing hospice care for my wife who lay in the next room of our home with terminal cancer. It was an unexpected treat to be able to apply those healing fragrances on my wife’s wrist or back. We ministered comfort to her. She felt special. Pampered.

A few days later Lyn died in our home and went to be with Jesus. We washed her body and again applied fragrance to her skin, and dressed her in clean clothes. We said goodbye. We wept.

As you follow Jesus, you answer His call to deny yourself and take up His cross. You surrender to God’s will. You endure times of loss, grief, and waiting — all reminiscent of burial. I wonder, in going through these renditions of Jesus’ life and death, could we bring His fragrance with us? Could we become purveyors of the essence of Jesus — an aroma of life to life, or death to death (2 Cor. 2:14-16)?

There is a need for practical frugality. Bless the disciples for their compassion. But deeper still is that whisper of the Father, into our souls, to lavish what is costly on the Son He loves so dearly.

I must pause today and reflect on what I may offer Him. I must slow down, sit in silence for awhile, and let the Holy Spirit show me how extravagant worship must linger in the air no matter where Jesus leads me.