Lost and Found

This post would be it. The grand finale, that is, the third part of an online blogging assignment involving the lost and found theme. I knew it would, indeed, be grand the moment the following sentences lit the writer portion of my mind, giving foundation to the first and second installments.

Philippians 3:7-9a (Amp) But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him . . .

Something happened between the first and third assignments to change this post’s thrust, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. What I had planned from the beginning had lost its luster, though I tried to continue unwavering. The truth it elucidated needed a different delivery vehicle. No grand finale, after all. The Lord wanted, instead, to use the pain of loss I desperately desired to avoid.

The first assignment challenged us to write about loss, instantly reminding me of the recent deaths of an elderly friend and my 14-year-old dog. Besides the lingering sadness and pain associated with those, I faced the imminent death of another elderly friend. Deciding I’d had enough of all this death and sadness, and having written about it once, I decided on a different object of loss. I’ll add my own twist, I thought, and use, “counting all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ,” as the springboard.

Installments one and two were published, so I had begun jotting down notes in anticipation of the finale. The sense of victory I’d experienced at the beginning of the project was waning, though, not building. Glimmers of understanding touched my heart as I read of a family who left the comfort of England for Uganda to share Jesus’ life and love with those who had no hope – untold poverty found in the slums where sewage ran down every street and into the homes, rampant treatable illness untreated, leaving children and adults dying before their time. Yet this family and others with them continued to serve, continued to love, continued to share life in Christ Jesus.

despairWith every story, the struggle in my heart intensified, as I related it to my world. These elderly became friends because I deliver meals to their homes. A few minutes of weekly interaction led to blossoming friendships – ones that continued even when they moved into assisted living, no longer needing our meals. They shared their lives with me as I did with them, each of us gaining from the other.   One-by-one, they have left me behind, multiplying the pain in each loss.

Self-preservation said I should distance myself emotionally from those who remain, to avoid further pain. It went on to suggest getting involved with children’s groups on some level (totally out of my calling,) because they won’t likely die before me. That way, I could greatly reduce additional pain, I deduced. Those were Kay’s thoughts, not Daddy’s. When I read the challenging words of Nicola Neal, the clarity of His heartbeat took my breath away:

What would you be prepared to give for love’s sake? . . . Would you love knowing that pain will inevitably come? Will you love even when it hurts? 1

Shaken to my core, my mind erupted in a certain, “Yes!” as more rhetorical questions arose.

“Would you rather not have known these precious women, these sisters in Christ, to avoid the pain of losing them?”

“Would you prefer to miss the personal enrichment gained from those you may not have begun to serve, again as self-effort to avoid future pain?”

“Is it possible you are the vessel through whom I share parts of Myself and My love in the latter days of their lives? That you could be helping prepare them for the day when they see Me face-to-face?”

I am undone. The loss remains, but I have ceased the fight against the pain. It is a reality of this life, no less so when living in Christ. My greater loss – temporarily – has been focus on Jesus Christ, the only One Who comforts, encourages, and is my Hope. What I’ve needed all along has been in those quoted words, but I was too focused on my hurt to see. The pain of loss I have felt is as nothing compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. In Christ is the strength and joy of continuing to love even when it hurts.

spring hope

1 Nicola Neal, Journey Into Love: The Unfailing Power that Restores Lives (Shippensburg, PA Destiny Image Publishers, 2014), Ch. 18, location 2304 (e-book)


What Do You Know?

Matthew 27:51  NIV  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. . .

As I listened to the minister describing this amazing proof that Jesus was Who He said He was, my memory transported me back to a large sanctuary on a Wednesday morning many years ago.  I sat among many women from all walks of life with whom I gathered weekly for Bible Study Fellowship.   Our focus that year was the book of Matthew, and we were nearing the end of the study.  On this particular morning, we had already met in small groups for discussion of our individual lessons, and were now assembled corporately for a summary lesson the overall leader would deliver.

Somewhere in the lecture, the speaker addressed the above verse, noting that the curtain was torn from top to bottom – not bottom to top – indicating it had to have been done by God.  What?!  I never noticed that detail in my Bible reading, nor had I ever heard anyone mention it.  I was amazed, surprised, and excited, all at the same time!  This revelation was probably new and exciting for a few others in the auditorium that day, as well.  At the same time, it was possibly a repeat for the majority.  The leader may have hesitated to mention it, for fear of boring her listeners.

But everyone didn’t know.  I didn’t know, until she pointed it out.  I needed to hear what she knew of our Jesus!  Though it was in black and white on the pages of my Bible, and I had read it many times without really seeing it, I needed it specifically pointed out to me by someone else who already knew it.

As I thought back on that event, I saw it clearly for today – others (even brothers and sisters in Christ) need to hear of the Jesus I know, all of the Jesus I know.  The leader at that Bible study wasn’t sharing her superior knowledge.  She was revealing Jesus.  That’s what we do in Christ.  We simply live and share Jesus Christ revealed to us – me to you and you to me.  Knowing Christ and making Him known – one to another.

So, please tell me what you know . . . of Jesus?

Israel 2012 271

It’s Empty, but I’m Not!

Here is a Wow! thought I’m still pondering.  I think of this earth as being so big – and it is.  I think of the billions of people on this earth as being so many – and we are.  Then I think of the world – the entire cosmos – with all its planets, stars, constellations, and galaxies, and realize just how small is the earth, and how miniscule the inhabitants in comparison to the vast sum of the universe.

Yet, Creator God, our heavenly Father, chose earth for humanity.  He chose earth for relationship.  He chose earth for His Son to be born, live, and die on.  And, out of the entire universe – before He ever created any of it – He saw me living on planet earth in 2011, and knew I would need Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Compared to the vastness of all He created, this one human being isn’t even a speck.  But Daddy doesn’t compare me to anyone or anything.  He sees me, Kay Stocking, and He loves me – fully, unconditionally, and eternally.  For God so loved Kay . . .1 Wow!

That place of the skull, Golgotha, is but the end of a street outside Jerusalem now.  That nearby garden tomb is empty now.  This life that was empty and meaningless before, though, is now full and overflowing forever – because of the finished work of my Jesus Christ!  Glory be to my God!  Glory be to my Savior!

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”  Mark 16:6 NIV

1 John 3:16

Going Up?

I am a very logical thinker, which affects everything I see and do.  For instance, when in a new place, if I have access to a map as we travel, I am able to lock that logical and organized information into my memory bank.  It becomes my reference when remembering various places I’ve been, and I “see” places as being up or down, to the right or left on that two-dimensional mind-map.  Thus, if I am in the north of a country, I talk about going down to something that is farther south (on the map).  Likewise, I would only speak of going up when heading north.  Why am I telling you all this?  To explain my confusion as I read about going up to Jerusalem in the Bible after I had been there in person.

I never noticed this phrase so much before, though I’d read the passages many times.  The ones of particular interest were of Jesus in Capernaum or Nazareth speaking of going up to Jerusalem.  These places are north of Jerusalem, so why would He say go up when He’d be going down?  Immediately around Jerusalem, it is true that you have to go up to get there, due to the hilly terrain and Jerusalem being on one of those hills.  Perhaps the people had all been there for the annual sacrifices, and would relate to climbing the hills and steps to enter the gates.  Also, Jerusalem is higher than many of the other places of the Bible in altitude above sea level, but, did they use that information then???

All this makes me wonder if it the statements might be more of a spiritual declaration, one that most people living then would have had no trouble grasping.  They understood Jerusalem was the place of the temple, with the Holy of holies, where the Messiah was to be, and where the ark of the Presence of God was currently housed.  For them, maybe it was a place to which they had to ascend, spiritually, no matter where they were, physically.

I’m sure there’s something more to know of Jesus Christ in this.   Below are a few references from both the Old and New Testament that speak of going up to or down from Jerusalem to help us all understand and know Christ more.

Old Testament Selections:

  • 2 Chronicles 36:23
  • Ezra 1:11
  • Zechariah 14:17-18

New Testament Selections:

  • Matthew 20:17-18
  • Luke 2:41-42
  • John 2:12-13, 5:1, 11:55
  • Acts 15:1-2, 21:12, 24:1, 25:1-9
  • Galatians 1:17-18

I Thought I Knew

It was a surprise when I recently grasped how much I really didn’t know about intercession.  It’s not that I thought so highly of myself, but I had a fair amount of instruction, time, and experience with the Lord in prayer and intercession.  I know quite a bit more now than I used to, but in a head-on collision of my knowledge with God’s, guess whose fell dramatically short – basically to the measure of infinitesimal?

The early ’97 journal entry I read while working on my book indicated that the Lord was preparing me for a time of intense intercession.  That was His phrase, not mine.  I thought, then, that I knew what He meant by it.  Now, reading it 13 years later, I know what He meant.  It was not total lack of knowledge that was my problem then, but not even knowing I lacked the knowledge I needed – that there was so much more to know – so I didn’t ask the Lord for further direction or clarification.  Even the increased knowledge I have now, which helps me understand what He was saying then, is minuscule in comparison with His eternally infinite knowledge.

Equally amazing is this same truth at work in every other part of my walk with Christ.  No matter how long I walk with Him, and no matter how many hours I spend in study, regardless of the topic, His wisdom and knowledge is profoundly beyond what I can ever know about anything!  (The word omniscient comes to mind.)

I find this absolutely freeing!  Don’t we talk about relying on Christ alone?  About having the mind of Christ?  About trusting Christ?  My reliance and trust are not to be in what I know, for it will always be lacking.  It’s His knowledge I need, and He is willing to give it, if I will only ask, whatever the issue: prayer, the love walk, healing, etc.

1 Corinthians 8:2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. NIV

Now I know what I need to know for any situation: I simply need to know and rest in the One Who knows all, the One Who lives in me – Jesus Christ.