The New Clothes

My clothes were tattered and torn.
My shoes were beaten and worn;
And my hair was always one big mess.

Then, one day I saw Your store.
The bright colors made me want more;
I just knew your clothes held happiness.Phil413

You gave me everything I tried on
And said they were paid for by Your Son
I wondered how to thank that Man so nice.

You said my words would never be enough,
That thanking Your Son is something tough;
I’d have to give myself as a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1, 2; 13:14
©1985 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell

When My Troubles Mount

When my troubles mount
and seem to weigh me down
it’s so easy to whine
and to long for my heavenly home

But, it’s in those trying timesNotquit-small
when my eyes should look to You
through the struggles You are working
to mold me into a precious stone

Give me Your strength and power
when I feel like quitting
instead of throwing in the towel
I must lift up my arms to You

Romans 5:3-5
©1985 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell

Dear Healer

Father, You know her pain
You know just how she hurts
Take Your hand
And touch her soul
Drive the ache awayArtPrint-Heart4Him

You are the Healer
You make our lives anew
Searching inside us
All of our hurts show through
Thank You, dear Healer,
For all that You do.

Oh Lord, I run to You
When I am hurt inside
Help me know
You’re there with me
Listening to my cry

You are the Healer
You make our lives anew
Searching inside us
All of our hurts show through
Thank You, dear Healer,
For all that You do.

You lift me up above my pain
And make me soar with You
Leaving my hurts and sorrows
Way below me on the ground

You are the Healer
You make our lives anew
Searching inside us
All of our hurts show through
Thank You, dear Healer,
For all that You do.

©1984 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell

These lyrics were written back when I think I was praying for someone who was going through something tough.

If You Remain in Him (Don’t Worry)

Don’t worry about tomorrow
For it’s just another day
Don’t worry about your sorrow

grapes-wtrmrk

For He will send it away
Don’t worry about loneliness
For the Lord will stay with you
Don’t worry about being best
If you just try, that will do
 
If you remain in Him
And His words remain in you
And you believe in what you ask
It will all be given to you
 
Don’t worry about the darkness
For He’ll turn your night to day
Don’t worry about happiness
For you’ll have it if you pray
Don’t worry about eating well
For the Lord will fill your need
Don’t worry about seeing hell
If you the Lord’s words do heed.
 
If you remain in Him
And His words remain in you
And you believe in what you ask
It will all be given to you

©1981 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell

These lyrics were set to music by two different musicians I’ve known.  One was one of my music teachers in school, who played it on a piano. Another was a friend from high school who composed and sang it with a guitar.  I have no recordings of either version and only the hand-written sheet music of the version composed by my former music teacher.  See the image below.)  Bummer 😦

If You Remain in Him-Isbell-Wright

Greiner at Bat

It was during an afternoon ball game,
The sun was a bright yellow flame;
When “mighty” Steve Greiner stepped up to bat,
The crowd looked on from where they satlong-hair-baseball-player
The ball he tossed like a shiny new dime
And swung his bat at the right time.
He hit the softball with so much power
It seemed to fly for nearly an hour.
Directly to Kathi the softball flew;
But the bright shining sun blinded her view.
So now it’s known that “mighty” Greiner
Gave Isbell a left-eye shiner.

©1980 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell

This piece as written at the start of a summer after a week of church camp during which I received a black eye during a softball game.  ‘Reached up to catch a pop fly just as the sun shone over the top of my mitt, right into my eyes.  I missed catching the ball in the mitt and caught it in my left eye!  LAST time I’ve ever played right field!

(No, the photo is not of Greiner really … but those of you who know him or have ever met him know it could pass fairly closely!)  😉

What’s Really Important to You?

It’s your first month at your new school.  You’ve finally found some friends to hang out with.  All of you eat lunch together almost every day.  You have a lot of classes together.  One week everybody ends up having a free Friday night.  So, you asked your parents and they agreed that you could have your friends over for the night.

Each person shows up at your house and your first place to hang is your room.  Your friends think your room’s an awesome place.  “Look at this clock! Now THAT rocks!” shouts one friend.  “Guys, check out these posters!” says another.  “Aw! You’ve got that awesome new game for your Play Station!”  “Where’d you get that cool jacket?!”  “What’s this? A Bible? Whoa. Alright.  What’s over there?  What are all the trophies from?”  Your friends spend what seems like forever checking out the stuff in your room.  But that’s the really cool part: It’s YOUR room and you’re the one who gets to decide what stays and what goes.  And you really like all the stuff you’ve collected, earned, or been given.  It feels really good to know that your newest friends like your stuff too.

Read the Book:  Philipians 3:7-14.  (Suggestion: The group leader sets the stage for the group members: Help them to imagine receiving a letter from a mature Christian who cares about the growth of your group.  If your Bible’s not too huge or heavy, try holding a piece of paper behind it while you read the passage to the group, as though you’re actually reading a letter to them…or, if you’ve got extra time, write out the passage like a letter would be and hand it to a group member to read to the group.)

Suppose, during the night your friends stayed over, while you were telling stories by flashlight on the floor in the middle of your room, a scent began coming into the room.  Right in the midst of a huge laugh, one friend nearly chokes while taking in a big breath.  “AAACK! That’s smoke!” You shine the light at the bottom of the door and can see the smoke.  When you touch the door, it’s not yet warm, so you open it.  “Oh no! Your house is on fire!  Let’s get out of here!” yells a friend.

You look at your friends.  You look around your room—YOUR room, your stuff…It could all be gone that night!  You have only moments to get out.  You decide to take something with you.  You consider all the things, trying to choose what’s most important to you…Finally, you choose _____________.  (What would you choose?)

Lots of things in our lives can become special to us, even really valuable.  What three things would you consider most important to you right now?  (Suggestion: The leader could ask group members to turn to a neighbor and share responses to this question.  Allow two minutes—one minute per person.)

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he tells exactly what is most important to him.  He basically says that everything else that he ever considered important was like the scum you’d scrape off the bottom of a dumpster.  Why? Because he had learned and had chosen that knowing Jesus Christ and choosing to follow Him was (or is) the thing that NOTHING else could compare to.

Paul knew that he wasn’t anywhere near being like Jesus…yet!  But he chose to make that his life’s motivation and goal.  He was determined to let go of whatever he had and whoever he’d been in the past.  He chose to do whatever it would take to reach the goal: knowing Jesus and becoming like Him.

You have lots of things that you could consider important to you.  Each one of us, however, ultimately must decide what place Jesus will have in our lives.  What will it be for you? Some variety of dumpster scum or knowing Jesus as your Lord and first priority?

Prayer Activity

Checking Your Stats

Ask group members to sit or stand with a partner (perhaps someone he or she has previously shared with).  Have pairs respond to the following questions with one another:

1.   Right now in your life, if you were to say what percentage of importance Jesus has in your life, what would you say? Explain why. (Example: 50%–sometimes I care, sometimes I don’t; 85%–I’m trying to make Him an important part, but admit that other things get in the way sometimes.)

2.  How would you like this percentage to be different?  Explain (Even if you’re not concerned about its change, share why you’re not.)

Ask partners to pray for one another, focusing on each other’s relationship with Christ and guidance in choosing what’s most important.  Depending on the level of openness within the group, the Leader may want to gather the group as a whole and allow for sharing and praying aloud together.

©1998 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell for Jr. High Connection ’98 – Friday Night Devo

History in the Making

You’ve been there—history class.  The teacher has the class open its books to page “whatever” and begins an overview of history, going on about how this one guy did all this stuff…and how that affected some other people …and then in another sort of related setting, the same dude made something happen that set the stage for a major world change.  And of course, by now, you’re looking around the room, drawing on your shoe, searching for that piece of gum you had in your pocket, wondering how long until the end of class…

After what seems like forever, you hear bits and pieces of what your teacher is saying.  Now some of the names and events are starting to sound familiar.  You think you’ve heard something about a few of them on T.V. or on those short news blips on your favorite radio station (which usually makes you punch up a different station with music playing!).  You decide to listen a little more.

Your teacher keeps describing people and events that have shaped history.  Soon you hear the name of somebody you actually know.  The next one noted is a lady in your neighborhood, your good friend’s aunt.  Then, you’re completely blown away!  People you’re related to are mentioned!  You look around the room—not noticing it before, but everybody’s got that same “What’s going on?!” look.

Your teacher steps to the center front of the classroom and looks right at you…looks directly at the girl next to you…Makes eye contact with every single person in the room.  And then, your teacher, seeming to drill right into you with some sort of x-ray vision, asks, “What difference are YOU going to make?”

Read the Book:  Joshua 24:1-15.  (Suggestion: A group member reads 24:1-2a, and then has four group members each read a paragraph or 2-3 verses in 24:2b-13.  The group leader finishes the passage by reading 24:14-15.  Oh, when you read it, put some life into it.  Treat the account as more than a reading in history class.)

Every choice we make is significant in some way and has an effect on our future, either immediately or after some time.  But the choice that Joshua asked his people to make impacts every moment of the rest of life here and all of life beyond this world forever.

Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard that you even have this choice to consider.  Maybe you’ve heard it, made it, but never followed through with it.  Or, you may have made it and been doing your best with God’s help to live it.  Wherever you are, listen again to that choice you have and the challenge to live it out:

“Now fear, honor and completely respect the Lord.  Be completely faithful in serving Him.  Those things that have been like idols or gods to you, that you worship, throw them out with the garbage and serve the Lord.  But if that’s not what you’d like to do, then choose for yourself today: Who will you serve? Will it be the gods that you and everybody else have served?  Will it be the things or people that society idolizes and says is most important?  Or can you say and live the same statement Joshua made back then: ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’?  What’s YOUR choice?

Prayer Activity

Have YOU Got a Story?

Have group members gather in a circle.  Ask everyone to think of at least one way that God obviously did something in his or her life and/or his or her family’s life over the past ten years or more.  Allow 1-2 minutes for group members to think.  Then, the leader models by briefly (one sentence or phrase) sharing one way he or she has seen God at work.  Encourage group members to speak out at any time a thought comes to their minds, letting each other hear how God has been a part of their own history.

Voicing My Choice

Ask each group member to choose a partner then stand or sit with that partner.  Tell pairs they will have 5 minutes to tell each other how they choose to response to the challenge: “Choose for yourself today: who will you serve?”  Encourage them to be raw and honest with one another, then to pray for one another.  Perhaps, you’ll want to have the partners hold one another accountable even beyond this time together.

 ©1998 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell for Jr. High Connection ’98 – Friday Night Devo

Luke 1 – 19 Leading toward Easter: The Determination of Jesus

Based on Luke 1-19

While looking through the first nineteen chapters of the gospel of Luke, I recorded that which stood out …

We see Jesus announced (Lk 1:26-56); born (2:1-20); dedicated, and blessed (2:21-39); growing up (2:40-52); heralded (3:1-20); baptized (3:21-22); tempted yet victorious (4:1-13); ministering (3:23; 4:14ff);  teaching, rejected, driving out evil spirits, healing, calling followers, praying (with others and alone), blessing and cursing (6:17-26); exhorting, encouraging, loving, anointed, supported by some, sleeping during a storm, silencing a storm, deploying apostles, meeting physical needs, and then . . .

The Twelve returned from their trip of preaching and healing–expecting to rest, recuperate and fill Jesus in on the experience.  This seemed like Jesus’ intentions too; however, the crowds found Him and them.  Jesus welcomed them, spoke to them, healed them and then miraculously fed them. Then, they all finally got their leisure time.

Once, Jesus asked the disciples who they believed He was.  When Peter proclaimed, “The Christ of God,” Jesus dropped “the bomb” that He must suffer much and be killed.  Then He pointed out the cost of choosing to follow Him: The degree of difficulty of following Christ depends on how closely one wants to follow.

Eight days later, Jesus headed up a mountain to pray.  He took Peter, James, and John.  Something spectacular happened up there which conveyed the glory of Jesus ever so brightly.  His Father, himself spoke, identifying Jesus as His Son, who was to be listened to.

The next day it was business-as-usual:  crowds coming up; people being healed and freed from demons; Jesus teaching; people being amazed–and then Jesus states that someone’s going to betray Him. But His followers didn’t understand. Instead, “the boys” argued about who’s the greatest and who can and can’t drive out demons.

Meanwhile, Jesus knew the time was drawing close.  He knew the day was coming when He’d be taken up to heaven, yet He also knew that He must suffer tremendously before that day arrived.  So, He mustered up the “guts” of His humanity and His intense, undying love as deity, and it is stated, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (9:51).

For Him, there was no turning back.  He made up His mind and set His life’s direction toward Jerusalem.  It wasn’t a popular destination for His followers and He knew what awaited Him if He went.  But greater than that expectation, He knew what awaited all of God’s children if He did not go.  His love for us was the deciding factor and the determining glue which fixed His mind on reaching Jerusalem.

Jesus set His course and continued His ministry “as He made His way to Jerusalem” (13:22).  He held much compassion and sorrow for that city.  He knew of the treatment given prophets and others sent to her.  He had longed to draw her near to His heart, but she was unwilling.

Some Pharisees (not the typical self-righteous, plotting ones of that time it seems) came to warn Jesus that King Herod wanted Him dead.  They strongly suggested He leave and go somewhere else.  But Jesus had a plan and a goal to reach, and He was intent on reaching it.  He kept on going.  He told them that the next time they saw Him they’d be saying blessings to Him (13:35).

Jesus continued on with His traveling as well as teaching, healing, and encouraging. He taught and taught, just like a man who knows He’s going to die and still has much to say. All the while, the self-righteous Pharisees were muttering about Him and sneering at Him.

“On His way to Jerusalem” (17:11), He continued His ministry.  Over and over He did what He came to do among people, as He kept His focus on what He primarily came to do for people.  He mentioned the rewards and celebration for those who follow in His footsteps:  “many times as much” as what one surrenders “in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (18:29-30).

He pulled the Twelve aside to restate the plan, “We are going up to Jerusalem” (18:31).  He told of the fulfillment of prophecy that would take place there.  He told of His betrayal, the mocking, insulting, spitting and flogging He must face.  He told them of His death and He gave a burst of hope in saying He would not remain dead, but would rise from the dead on the third day after they kill Him!  All this news and the disciples still didn’t understand.  At least they’d heard it all.

While in Jericho, He healed a blind man’s eyes.  He changed a tax collector’s heart.  He cleared up some misconceptions about the kingdom of God.  (“He was near Jerusalem” at this point –19:11.)

Moving closer, “going up to Jerusalem” (19:28), He paused at the Mount of Olives to have the disciples go acquire some transportation.  They brought a colt to Jesus.  He mounted it and rode into Jerusalem with “the whole crowd of disciples joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:  `Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord'” (19:37-38).

As Jesus “approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it” (19:41).  If only she’d known what would bring the time of God’s coming to her. And so, Jesus began the last week of His life, having met His goal of going to Jerusalem.

He arrived seated on a colt;

He’d depart nailed to a cross —

all because of His deep and undying love

for you and me!

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®.  Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

Traces of Our Father’s Handiwork

It had been an extremely rough summer. If there were a way to stretch me or mold me, God found it and did it!!  Finally, it was cool to see that autumn had brought some welcome changes within me.  Daddy is just SO faithful… He does such wonderful work, and it’s much easier to accept when I choose to welcome His “chiseling” and “molding.”  I had been growing utterly dependent upon Him to provide my basic needs, and He continued to be more than faithful to do so.  Eventually, I could recognize that I was growing stronger in the area of depending on Him to be sufficient for all things.  What a hard thing to learn and what a mass of things to have to let go of in my mind in order to embrace such a notion.

Enjoy these ramblings of something that He did to brand into my soul just how interested He is in my knowing, beyond any hint of doubt, that He is continually working for my good, working to make me just like Jesus. . .

On Saturday night, 10/3/98, I went with a couple of friends northward to Berne, IN. We went for a $5.00 Kathy Troccoli (KT) concert that was being hosted by the home church of one of those friends on the trip.   Of course, we were bugging him on the way up about whether or not he’d arranged for us to meet Kathy…  That night with KT turned out to be phenomenal for me!!  Daddy did something that could only be from His hand…. one small, yet huge, act for which only He could orchestrate the sequence of details to be just right.

During the concert a few house lights had been left on and couldn’t be turned off, even though Kathy asked a couple of times.  So, that meant she could see practically everyone… and she was “harassing” some folks in the audience all night or coming down to walk among us and standing on a chair to sing, just being a part of us.

In the middle of the concert or so, she did a few songs from her new cd called Corner of Eden.  One’s called “Take Me With You”…. asking Jesus to take me with Him wherever that may be.  I listened for the words while she sang and “quietly” signed it to myself, “speaking” the words to Him with my hands  (sign language)–something I often do in worship or just to more deeply enjoy or ingrain a song.  The next one was “A Different Road,” about recognizing the past and firmly determining to walk a different road with Him, for things to be different from this day forward.  Again, my heart said, “Oh yes! That’s me too” and I signed with it as well.

Toward the end of the concert, Kathy said, “I want to do one more song for you all” as she walked toward the stairs for the stage and came down to our left.  As she walked along, she said, “I’ve been watching this girl all night…”  She got to our row, looked over at me, and, pointing toward me, said, “You sign, don’t you? …like on `Take Me with You’ ”  I nodded and she asked, “Would you come do this last song with me?”  I went out to meet her in the aisle.  She took my hand as we walked toward the stage.  She paused in her talking to everyone to ask “Do you sign much?” I said (into the mike held toward me) “when I worship.”  She continued to speak to the audience, leading up to the song.

As we climbed the stairs behind the speakers, she was continuing to describe the song to everyone … and she then said the title: “My Life Is In Your Hands”…. I just “looked” at God and said, “YOU want me to say this, don’t YOU?  You want me to believe this! (And boy! do You EVER want me to say it in a big way!)”  And He knows that when I sign a song, it’s not a performance with my hands; but that a song signed comes from all of me, my entire person expresses the song along with my hands, face, and such… and He knows that for me to do that, I have to believe what I’m signing!  He knew…

She asked my name (that was fun). “Kathi,” I said.  She had that look on her face that went with “cool name,” since it was hers too and she chuckled a bit.  She held to my hand behind her back as she continued to introduce the song.  I don’t remember her words.  If I’d listened, I’d probably been a crying basket case.  Then she said, “You stand there, front and center” and she stepped to the side to sing, saying “I’ll feed you the words.” At that, I thought, “Hey, there’s NO need to do that for this one!”  I knew God had THAT under control.  (I was familiar with the song, although the copies of her CDs with that on it I’d given away twice.  So, I hadn’t heard the song for a while, except on the radio.  But I was confident that if He’d gotten me up there, He’d move my hands as they needed to go.)

We did the song together.  Usually when I’m doing something in front of people like singing, signing, or speaking and I can tell it’s really, really ordained by Him, my mouth goes bone dry and my leg shakes.  This time the mouth did its thing, but my hands were what shook.  Yet He carried me through the song, helping me to believe, know, feel and mean each concept signed.

There was an interlude near the end in which Kathy stepped over beside me, gave me a side hug, and then stood beside me to do the chorus again.  As we did, I thought I could see some movement out there (later one of my friends confirmed it)—the people were standing to their feet… (Go, God!)  We finished.  She hugged me hugely and I said in her ear, “Thank you SO much.”  She did that motion toward me for the audience saying “Kathi…” and I don’t remember hearing the hands clapping.  All I could honestly hear was my Father’s confirmation to me that indeed, my life IS in HIS hands!

I left the stage in a bewildered awe and went back to our row… where my friend greeted me with, “Was that not the biggest answer to what you’ve been seeking?!”  As she hugged me tears flowed.  I’m still in awe when I think of that night or testify to what HE did!

It was also wonderful, later, after a long-line wait to get to chat with Kathy and share briefly the impact of that invitation and the encouragement her ministry has had on my life since her early days in ’82-83.  In fact, she’d shared that she accepted Christ in ’78, and that was the year that I became His too.  Over the course of those past two decades, it’s been kind of cool that one of the sources He’s used to bolster and enhance my faith has been Kathy’s music….  wow! just, wow!

Our Daddy loves me so much! And I know that He is at work to take care of me through any and all rough days. HE is the strength of my heart (Ps 73) and I wouldn’t want it any other way. He’s becoming the One that I think of most often. I said “becoming” because I still struggle with other pursuits, probably my “thorn” that will keep me humble until I get to go “home free” and be with Him.

Somewhere along the way, I read Max Lucado’s book Just Like Jesus.  Oh! it’s SO good!!!  When we accept Jesus, we get His heart not just His name (Gal 2:20).  He’s made your heart and my heart His home.  Max writes, “He has moved in and unpacked His bags and is ready to change you ‘into His likeness from one degree of glory to another’ (2 Cor 3:18 RSV).  Paul explains it with these words: `Strange as it seems, we Christians actually do have within us a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16 TLB).”

Of course, His heart may be in us, but we still have all our hang-ups and we still think so much like us.  That’s what the rest of the book is about… looking at how God sets about to shape our hearts to be like His.  He loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to let us stay that way.  It’s like a dad getting some yummy ice cream for his little girl, only to find when he gets to her that she’s playing in the yard and has dirt in her mouth.  He doesn’t leave her that way; he cleans her up, has her spit out her choice of snack and then gives her the yummy stuff.

Our Daddy’s plan is “nothing short of total transformation: He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son.” (Rom 8:29 MSG)  “You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you.  This new life brings you the true knowledge of God” (Col 3:10 MSG).

He’s been giving me tastes of a life consumed by Him… the reality of Him, not some human make-shift image or costume.  I desire my heart to reflect His.  He promises that when we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart (Ps 37:4), most often by making His desires our own.  He shapes ours into a forgiving heart, a compassionate heart, a listening heart, a God-intoxicated heart, a worship-hungry heart, a focused heart, an honest heart, a pure heart, a hope-filled heart, a rejoicing heart, and an enduring heart… as our Daddy makes us more like Him!

Visit Kathy Troccoli’s website at http://www.kathytroccoli.com/ and/or follow her on Facebook and Twitter

 

Faithful Sustainer

Your Word You have kept throughout the ages of time
and throughout the decades of my life.
From day to day You sustain me,
You fashion my heart into one
which will resemble Your own when completed.
You provide for my every need.
You awaken me in the morning,
walk with me throughout the day,
and tuck me into bed at night.
You listen to my cry;
You enjoy my praise.
You answer my requests;
You direct my ways.
I lay into Your hands all that I am;
All that I am becoming, I place at Your feet.
Though my humanity impedes my progress
toward the waterfall of Your holiness,
You make a way; You are the Way:
Your life for my life
to give me life with You eternally
–Thank You, Lord!

©1995 Kat Kreations; written by Kathi Isbell

Our Father’s Love Letter to You and Me

 

I’M YOUR FATHER & I accept you as My unique creation.

Genesis 1:27

I’M YOUR FATHER & I have no intention of leaving or rejecting you.

Joshua 1:5

I’M YOUR FATHER & I walk through the dark times.

Psalm 23:4

I’M YOUR FATHER & I establish this promise:

Psalm 37: 23-24

I’M YOUR FATHER & I see every moment of your life.

Psalm 139:1-4

I’M YOUR FATHER & I praise your achievements both small and great.

Proverbs 27:2

I’M YOUR FATHER & I desire only what is best for you.

Jeremiah 29:11

I’M YOUR FATHER & I just want you to know that I love you.

Zephaniah 3:17

I’M YOUR FATHER & I keep a protective eye on you.

Zechariah 2:8

I’M YOUR FATHER & I believe you are precious and valuable.

Matthew 10:30

I’M YOUR FATHER & I forgive all your sins, even future ones yet uncommitted.

John 1:29

I’M YOUR FATHER & I offered My Son so that we could be together forever.

John 3:16

I’M YOUR FATHER & I zealously look to the day that you come Home to be with Me.

John 14:3

I’M YOUR FATHER & I rejoice over our friendship.

John 15:13

I’M YOUR FATHER & I give you the Holy Spirit to assist you with your prayers.

Romans 8:26

I’M YOUR FATHER & I love you.

Ephesians 5:2

I’M YOUR FATHER & I understand your weaknesses.

Hebrews 4:15

I’M YOUR FATHER & I quickly run to your aid anytime, anywhere.

1 Peter 2:25

I’M YOUR FATHER & I care about your hurts, tears, and all that touches you.

1 Peter 5:7

I’M YOUR FATHER & I marvel at how you have grown and changed.

2 Peter 3:18

I’M YOUR FATHER & I yearn to have fellowship with you.

1 John 1:3

I’M YOUR FATHER & I invite you to let Me into your heart.

Revelation 3:20

(Source unknown)Jesus Loves Me mural on walls in 3 Indiana churches

Her Eyes I Remember Best

[with so many folks i know having some sort of encounter or dealings w/cancer, i was reminded of this story the Lord led me to write about a wonderful lady i knew for a short while during my second ministry]

When embarking on a new ministry venture, one is often met with a barrage of names to remember and family connections to discover. Sometimes, some names catch one’s attention and invite a heart into a new friendship, filled with inspiration and blessing. This special kind of journey, obviously guided by the Lord, became a portion of my history when He called me to serve Him in a small, south-central Illinois town of approximately one thousand people.

Nearly every Sunday of that first month in November of 1991, a particular name was mentioned among the prayer requests. “Pray for Olive.” “Let’s remember our Olive.” “Olive’s going back to Zion tomorrow. Pray for her.” Her name was voiced with such warmth, almost a sigh, as if whoever said it was reflecting on a wonderful blessing. Esteem, respect, gratitude, and love were conveyed by the ones who just spoke her name, whether in conversation or in prayer. Several described Olive as a mighty “prayer warrior” herself, her deep faith in the Lord being known and called upon by folks in the church family and community.

Though having repeatedly heard her name, I had not met Olive. I was told that I “must meet this lady.” On a couple of Sunday mornings, I caught a glimpse of someone that I guessed was Olive; but when I’d try to catch up to her after the service, she would already be out the door. (I was told that she was trying to avoid catching any illness that might be in the air.) Eventually, an opportunity came for me to visit Olive at her home in January. A friend and I called ahead to “okay” the visit. Finally, a face came together with a name! What I had sensed when others said her name became vivid as we fellowshiped together–what a wonderful visit!

Yet, it’s her eyes I remember best…

That first conversation included the two of us who had stopped in, Olive’s daughter, and Olive. Occasionally, Olive would turn in my direction, and while gazing directly at me would speak about her Lord. A fire seemed to burn inside her, compelling her to exhort and spur others on toward a closer walk with Christ. Her love for Him was clearly and boldly exhibited. She’d learned that another dear friend of hers and I had, just the week prior to this visit, begun to meet weekly to pray and share scripture together. Olive stressed to me how important it is for us who are young to develop the discipline of prayer now and never to forsake it. She spoke further on prayer and humbly described her own conversations with our Father. Before we could depart from her home, she asked that we join hands and pray together. . . . What a wonderful visit to God’s throne room as we stood there with His daughter Olive that day!

Eyes–intense, full of determination and amazement…
The next time I saw Olive was one Sunday evening when she’d been strong enough to come worship with the church family. (Olive was about a year and a half into a battle with a rare form of breast cancer. The chemotherapy treatments she received at the American International Hospital in Zion, Illinois, left her tired and weak much of the time.) This may have been late January or early February. I had been hoping to see her because the Lord had given me a passage of scripture to share with her. He’d helped me to illustrate Isaiah 43:1-5 as something to encourage her with assurance of His presence with her through whatever fire or flood she faced. Following our brief visit that evening, she made a return trip to the hospital in Zion. Another servant of God visited her there and wanted to share a few verses from the Bible with her. They were the very words which hung by her bed on a homemade poster! What evidence of how God tends to His lambs!

Eyes–alert, interested, caring…
Early in March, while Olive lay in bed at the American International Hospital, she and I conversed on the telephone. We were discussing my doctor’s most recent diagnosis of a lump in my right breast that had been discovered in November. Because it had slightly grown, my doctor wanted to go ahead and remove it. Olive strongly urged me to consult with a surgeon to whom she had first gone. She said that I would probably like him and would even want him to do the biopsy. She fervently prayed for me…. And God heard, as He always does when His children speak to Him. He answered her prayers with a removal of the lump and no trace of malignancy. I realize now that for those five months, from detection to removal, God allowed me to identify with Olive a little, to help me understand the faith needed when the unexpected and beyond-our-control things enter our bodies and lives.

Eyes–closed in prayers of intercession…
The day of a vocabulary exam in my seminary Greek class in April brought forth a busy morning. I had gotten up very early in order to meet a teenage friend, from a former youth ministry, at a hospital nearby where she was to have inner ear surgery. As I returned to school, I felt led to stop in for a visit with Olive at her parent’s home along the way. This was when I first met her mother and father. Olive was awake, sitting up, waiting for the nurse to come unhook her from the machine she needed overnight. After a few moments of visiting, in which she also encouraged me concerning the exam I was soon to take, she requested that we pray together. We went hand-in-hand before our Father’s throne to express our thanks, then our needs, hopes, and desires we poured out into His awaiting hands. When we had finished, she walked me to the door, where she could see the new car with which the Lord had recently blessed me. She adamantly encouraged me to drive carefully; and she assured me that her prayers would include me as I took the Greek exam.

Eyes–joyful, hopeful, expectant…
June was the next time I saw Olive, while she was in the hospital and I was on vacation in Zion, Illinois. Saturday night’s visit was short because she was very tired. She wanted us to pray together. During the prayer her weariness drew her into a peaceful nap. After saying “Amen,” I continued to hold her hand as I looked upon her closed eyes, reflecting back on the months which had passed since we’d first met. During this recollection, Olive’s husband returned to the room and we enjoyed a visit for the first time.

Eyes–sleepy, tired, yet piercing…
Sunday’s visit included Olive’s mother. Strength and movement had returned to Olive’s right hand after a period of loss. Therapy had assisted this. We chatted about her grandson, about a special stranger I’d met that morning, and about many other topics. Olive was tired from the effects of the chemotherapy she was receiving regularly. I said that I needed to leave and began to stand when Olive stated, “–not without prayer.” So, the three of us in the room joined hands and conversed with our Father together.

On Monday I arrived just as her supper did. Our prayer that evening included thanksgiving for the food as well as for Olive. Because of the renewed strength in her right hand and arm, Olive was able to hold and drink of her favorite milkshake (strawberry) without assistance. Watching her mother carefully feed Olive revealed to me a picture of what Jesus meant when He said, “When I was sick, you visited Me. When I was hungry, you gave Me food.” Being there with Olive was, in reality, being there with our Lord Jesus. That night when I departed, my eyes met Olive’s eyes. They seemed to silently reach out.

Eyes–reaching, longing, seeking…
Tuesday brought the long-awaited trip home for Olive. This was the first day I’d met her sister, who had driven Olive’s van to Zion. Since this was the day I had planned to return home, Olive’s mother had suggested that I follow them. That’s what I chose, and I arrived at the hospital just as Olive’s medicines and vitamins were being rounded up. A lunch of fruit and salad was delivered for Olive before she headed homeward. When everything was ready and her sister had driven the van to the front door, the hospital personnel wheeled Olive out and helped her into the back of her van. (Anyone could tell this was hers, because the personalized license plates read, “OLIVE W 1,” or “Olive won!” Indeed, she has won!)

Not far out of town, Olive’s sister pulled to the side of the road. Olive needed to be moved upward on her mattress so as to be more comfortable. The Lord gave me the privilege of ministering to Olive by lifting her body further up on her pillows where she’d be able to rest better. I climbed out of the van, was ready to shut the door, when I saw her eyes again. I felt them peer deeply into me. It was difficult to tell…Was it me her eyes were fixed upon, or was it the picture of Jesus upon my shirt? What were her eyes saying?

Eyes–mysterious, penetrating…
Once more, near home, we stopped. Olive needed some personal assistance, and then we were on our way again. Yet, before we had resumed our traveling, her eyes met mine once again–if only they could have spoken! Little did I know then, that that gaze was the last one Olive and I would share. Perhaps within her silent stare was a fervent prayer for this heart, for which she had often previously prayed.

Eyes–Oh! to have eyes which can see Jesus in others! to see in others the potential, yet undiscovered by themselves, but perceived by spirit-filled eyes and prayed for by a committed heart!

“Olive-eyes”–more than a color, rather, a character, a personality, an extension of the compassionate eyes of Christ….Jesus said, “When I was sick, you visited Me and looked after Me.” Perhaps, when looking into Olive’s eyes pierced my heart so deeply, I was seeing beyond human eyes and seeing those of my Lord and her Lord.

It’s her eyes I’ll remember best!

[On July 6, 1992, Olive Willis received ultimate healing from her Lord in answer to many prayers on her behalf and of her own. After two struggling years of refining, Olive received the goal of her faith. Now she is home free! Olive won!]

Perhaps, when looking into Olive’s eyes pierced my heart so deeply, I was seeing beyond human eyes and seeing those of my Lord and her Lord.

The Call of the River

Flowing majestically through the countryside was a beautiful, life-giving river. The course of this vein wound throughout all levels of society. This river was actually a source river, from which flowed numerous tributaries that watered many lands. Even its unseen waters moistening the ground near its banks, trickled throughout the surrounding soil to add to below-ground water tables or to flow from small springs. Everywhere one looked, creatures great and small found nutrients for life from some portion of the River. They found nourishing water, and it strengthened them, that is, if they partook of it.

Once there was a man from a large family who lived somewhat near the River. His family saw the majesty and awe of the River, and in some ways feared it. Out of respect for the River, the family had a strict routine that it carried out in order to respect the River and only take from it what it absolutely needed. In this manner, the man didn’t learn to enjoy the River, but just that it was there.

Since the River was not as important to him as it was to his parents, he moved away from it for a time. He carried on his life, not even missing the nearness of the River, even if it was only something to revere in this way or that way, as he’d been taught growing up.

As he was out and about, he met a woman who caught his interest. They spent more and more time together, getting to know each other. After some time they decided to spend their lives together and chose to marry.

Having grown up near the River–at a different bend than the man–the woman desired to build their home near the River. Her husband consented, though not perceiving the River in the way his wife did.

They found a beautiful clearing that was seated in a place where the River made a fork and flowed in two slightly different directions for a long distance. One side of the River was wide, with lush foliage and wild flowers decorating its banks. The other fork wound through a rocky area and became quite narrow. At one point, a person could leap across that portion of the River. Eventually, the forks came together and the River continued on in its journey abroad.

The man and woman built their home near the fork in the River. The woman enjoyed the location. She knew the River was there, calling her to come play and frolic in its waters; but her life had become so busy.

The man tried to forget the River was there. In fact, in trying to forget it, he came up with an idea. He thought that he would place a dam on the narrow side of the River, since it could still flow in the other direction. In this way, he could avoid the River on one side; yet his wife could enjoy it on the other side whenever she wanted.

As their life continued together, the woman became ill with an extremely painful disease. The doctors tried so many ways to rid her of the pain. Her husband took such good care of her, hating to see her hurt.

Throughout her pain, she could hear the River calling to her. What a silly, yet familiar thing! The River wanted her to come visit, to sit and watch its calm, to come in for a refreshing swim. The woman chose to go for a visit, though her husband seldom would go along. When he did go, he stayed several yards away from the banks.

One evening when her pain was so intense, she went to the River. The doctors had tried a major surgical technique which had left her in extreme pain . . . “The River,” she thought, “I must visit the River.”

During their visit the evening sky lost the glimmer of its stars. A dark, ominous storm-front had moved in quickly. Torrents of rain, hail, and lightning were crashing all around before the woman could head home.

While trying to get away from the bank, a large tree fell. Frightened by the falling trunk and limbs, the woman slipped on the increasingly muddy bank. She slid into the River as it churned from the gusts of the storm.

Up and down, up and down . . . thunder clapping loudly overhead . . . her body fiercely in pain . . . the storm raging . . . the woman fought to keep her head above the water.

Through the splashing of the water and the thrashing of her arms, a voice was trying to penetrate the din of noise. Having become nearly exhausted from her struggle, and becoming plagued by a hopelessness, the woman paused in her wrestling with the waves being made by the wind. The sound of the waters and rains were still loud; yet without her own splashing, she could now hear the voice just over the other noise.

Listening closely, she heard surprising words, yet words that brought a sweetness and a refreshing calm to her spirit. “Cease striving, My child. Be still . . . and trust Me.” An overwhelming peace came upon the woman. She found herself relaxing into the surging of the waters. Concentrating on the voice, believing in the words, she relaxed her body. The River carried her along safely until the storm had subsided.

The River’s current was a tender means of transport for the woman. Carefully, she was guided to the shallow waters near the shore. The storm was diminishing as she exited the water and began the walk home.

As she traversed the distance to the house, the sun came up to awaken creation to a new day. Yet already, in one heart, a newness and rejuvenation had sweetly begun. The light of the dawn served as an amplifier for the enlightenment of the soul embodied in the woman, who had listened to the call of the River and had entrusted herself to its care.

By the time she arrived home, her clothes and hair were mostly dry. One could hardly tell she’d been drenched only hours earlier.

Just before entering her house, she greeted a neighbor. “Some storm last night, wasn’t it?” the woman said. To her surprise, the neighbor replied, “Storm? No storm in these parts for a week or more. Nothing was even forecasted.” Shrugging a non-verbal “oh well,” the woman waved and entered her house . . . a bit puzzled and quite a lot in awe.

Reflecting on her experience that night and savoring the peace she now felt deep within, the woman was beginning to see the River in a new light. Her heart desired to be near the River more often, so she could learn about it and know it well.

Several times a week the woman would visit the River. She would take photos of is, write about it in her journal, think about it while at home. She would read about this particular River in an old, old history book she’d had in her library for many years. On her visits to the River, she’d even talk to the River, sharing her inner thoughts and feelings. Then, she’d listen to its ripple, or gurgle, or small splashing and watch its calm and serene flow. How she had grown to love the River!

As her husband observed his wife’s increased attention to the River, he became bothered. He saw her love for the River and felt a jealousy growing within him, even though she continued to also affirm her love for him.

To deal with his jealousy, the man would go to the dam he’d built on the other fork of the River and fortify the dam even more. He didn’t understand what she saw in the River. He expressed no interest in finding out what was so special either. . . . What he didn’t know, however, was that his wife was persistently praying for a desire to grow in him, a small seed of curiosity that would sprout into interest, then desire, then to a yearning or hunger (like her own) for the River’s riches to be a part of his life.

And so, the woman continued her visits with the River. Occasionally, very seldom that is, her husband would go with her part of the way. There was alwayssomething, however, that distracted him or called him back to the house. Sometimes he would even return to his dam to check on its stability.

Oh, there have been seasons when the woman has allowed the worries of the world to keep her from the River; but she’s never forgotten or forsaken her watery Friend. She knows He will always be there, waiting, calling and watching for her return. And she does go back finally, feeling somewhat ashamed for staying away for so long.

Seeing her guilt and shame, the River gently suggests she kick off her shoes, come sit on its shore and dangle her feet in its cool, cleansing waters. The woman follows the calling. Removing her shoes, as though on holy ground, she finds a rock or log to sit upon. Her Friend expresses His genuine love for her by washing her feet. Her heart becomes humble and broken, while the soul-healing waters bring times of refreshing and renewed joy to her heart. Her mind remembers the night the River saved her . . . and she determines again not to forsake the One which sustains her life and spirit, giving her hope for each new day . . . her majestic Friend . . . the River.

“There is a river
whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her. . .”

Psalm 46:4-5 (NIV)

A Tale of Tires and Trust

At the intersection of our needs and our plenty stands our heavenly Father, meeting the former while supplying the latter.

In mid-October, while having another nail or something removed from a tire, the owner of the service station informed me that I needed new tires.  He also handed me a quote of $401 for those he recommended.  I put the paper with the tire estimate on a bulletin board at home.

Shortly after that day, I saw my dad and asked his opinion of the tires.  He took a brief look and concurred right away.

As I visited with the Lord soon after the news, I put into my prayer journal, “Father, the car You’ve provided for me to drive needs tires.”  I told no one else of the need; ‘just knew that I needed to start with the Lord and see what He would do or would lead me to do.

Over the next few months, I’d mention the tire need to the Lord.  As the winter weather picked up its intensity and frequency for snow and ice, I continued to pray about the need.  In the midst of that period, at the start of February, the Spirit prompted me to begin to set aside funds toward what would be needed, so I did.  I just simply wrote checks to myself in each pay period and tucked them away.

Finally, I found time during business hours to call for a second estimate through someone I knew at a different tire place.  That quote was $315 and went on the bulletin board with the other one.  And I continued to pray.

Near the end of February, I had a few moments to check with different banks about their savings account features.  At the beginning of March, right after receiving some monetary birthday gifts, I opened a savings account at a bank with the best features for my situation.  I banked away what I’d tucked away.

In that same week, I also emailed my uncle, who used to own a service station and has connections with tire dealers.  He emailed two quotes–$255 and $235.  Those went on the bulletin board and my prayers continued.

In late February and early March, I also felt a “green light” to enlist others to pray about the tire need.  On a couple different weekends during worship, I wrote on a prayer request card “—for tires for the car I drive.”  During that time, I also mentioned it to the small group Bible study I attend on Tuesday evenings.

So, there was praying, seeking, saving, interceding, and waiting going on.  The “saving” was getting closer to the lowest quote and seemed feasible and reachable.  Then, the pace of things changed!

On March 12th, a Wednesday, I spoke at a conference held at a YWCA camp in a neighboring country.  After leaving, I made a stop in the nearby town.  When returning to the car, I noticed the rear tire on the driver’s side was REALLY low.  Checking it with a tire gauge showed only ten pounds of air pressure!  At the closest air hose, I added more to get it to what the tire says it can hold.

Needing to find the problem, I contacted tire repair places in that town and found one that was reasonably priced.  However, when I got there, it would’ve been a 30-minute wait before work could be done.  That wasn’t going to work, since I had an hour to cover a 30-40-minute drive and to fulfill another commitment.  So, I just chose to trust the Lord to deal with the tire pressure and got on the road.

After returning to the city where I work, meeting appointments, getting back to the office and handling another commitment after work, I headed for a place that services vehicles and was open after 5:00 p.m.  Before going inside, I checked the tire pressure.  It had dropped by about 20 pounds.

The repair shop was short-staffed.  A manager listened to my need and situation, but said, “We’re not doing tire tickets now.  We don’t have enough techs.”  A few feet away, one of the staff who works on cars overheard.  She said, “I’ll do it.”

There were a few cars ahead of mine, so the wait allowed me to do some reading I’d wanted to do.  Every so often, I’d look out to see the progress in the work area.  They’d brought the Sonfire inside.  (Sure, it’s really spelled “Sunfire,” but I like to give credit to the One who provides for me.)  The wheel was off, and I could see the gal wrestling to get something out of it.

Well over an hour after they were to close, the persistent tech came into the waiting room to show me two “prizes” she’d dug out of that tire.  One was a tiny, shiny carpet-nail-looking thing, no longer than an fourth of an inch.  The other was a two-inch long nail with no head that she could only see from the inside, once the tire was off the wheel.

The tire received two plugs.  However, she had discovered another plug after putting in the two that night.  She was very clear that the tire needed replaced.  Of course, I totally agreed on that and knew I was working toward that—yet, the timetable had moved up on the need!

The next morning, after I’d loaded the car with things to take to work, I noticed the tire had gone flat!  After changing into some old jeans, I removed the tire and put on the little spare.  The need for tires was quite present, no longer a recommendation!

Since my uncle had gotten the best quotes, I called him to set up the deal.  The plan was to get them put on Thursday afternoon (the day of the flat) at the place that quoted $235.

Next, I needed all the funds.  I’d not saved up quite that much yet.  On the way to work the Lord reminded me that I hadn’t turned in mileage for reimbursement for a few weeks.  I calculated the amount and turned in the request, but later learned I’d used an old mileage figure and was pleasantly surprised to receive a check for a bit more than I’d expected.  A lady at work was willing to loan me the final $40. to finish off the amount needed.

When I called about getting the tires that Thursday afternoon, the place had only one in stock and couldn’t get anymore until the next day between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon.  The guy on the phone also said they operate as “first-come, first-served.”

Friday would pose some timing challenges due to needing to get to meetings.  After getting home on Thursday evening, the Spirit plopped an idea in my mind of contacting a couple ladies whose workplaces are on the same side of town as the tire place and who would be going to the same noon meeting I was attending.  The idea was to drop the car off ahead of the delivery for it to be in line for the tires and be ready after the meeting.  I emailed the request to the ladies but knew I’d not be able to see replies until after getting to the office mid-morning after an earlier meeting.

As I left for work on Friday, I noticed Doubt and Worry trying to join me for the ride.  But, I had trusted the Lord with the need for tires since the day I got the news and I chose to believe in His ability to handle the details of the matter.  So, I “locked the door” on the would-be mind-jackers and rode with Jesus alone.

Needing to move funds from savings to checking, I did that after the first meeting.  (Plus, an additional blessing came: While in the bank I use, I learned their current giveaways for new accounts were backpacks—something quite helpful to our clients.  So I was able to pass that on to our staff to look into any donations possible.  The same bank had given sleeping bags the previous year after that promotion ended.)

Before I could get back to the office, my cell phone rang.  The man on the phone was from the congregation where I worship most regularly.  He said, “I’ve been praying about your need for tires.”  He continued to ask about the situation.  I told him of the saving, the moved-up timeline due to the week’s happenings, and of the plan to get over to the place with tires for $235.  He had an idea and ended the call so he could look into it.

Ten minutes later, the brother in Christ called again.  He had contacted an owner of a tire dealer (a place from which the second quote had come) and had arranged for me to get four tires after 1:00 p.m. that Friday afternoon at only $120 cost to me.  Someone else was picking up the rest of the cost.

“Thank you!” and “Go, God!” both came out of my mouth as we rounded out the phone conversation.  As I continued on to the office, Jesus and I had a little celebration on the way.  Then, He reminded me of how much I’d been able to save up to the point the need became imminent: $122.

He had whittled the price down to what He had helped me to save back at the time of the greatest need!

(With the price of gas, I’m sure the $2. was used up in getting to and from the tire dealer!)

When I realized this, I pulled in to an ATM to get cash.  Upon arriving at work, I returned the $40 loaned by the lady there.  She was the first to get to hear me brag on what the Lord had orchestrated.

The evening after God’s day of provision, I learned even more of how He had worked in those involved: When the man from the church called the tire dealer to settle the account, the tire dealer told the man that nothing was owed, to consider it his donation to the need.

This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve had a very practical need and have seen the Lord meet it.  Sometimes He’s done it by leading my decisions.  Sometimes He’s had me wait for a seeming eternity.  Sometimes He’s surprised the socks off me with how He’s met the needs.  At all times, He’s been faithful to take care of me, just like His words through Paul say He’ll do: “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV).

Let’s see … what’s next on the needs list to chat about with Him?

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©2008 Kat Kreations/Kathi Isbell, author

Leading toward Easter: The Determination of Jesus

Based on Luke 1-19

While looking through the first nineteen chapters of the gospel of Luke, I recorded that which stood out . . . .

We see Jesus announced (Lk 1:26-56); born (2:1-20); dedicated, and blessed (2:21-39); growing up (2:40-52); heralded (3:1-20); baptized (3:21-22); tempted yet victorious (4:1-13); ministering (3:23; 4:14ff);  teaching, rejected, driving out evil spirits, healing, calling followers, praying (with others and alone), blessing and cursing (6:17-26); exhorting, encouraging, loving, anointed, supported by some, sleeping during a storm, silencing a storm, deploying apostles, meeting physical needs, and then . . .

The Twelve returned from their trip of preaching and healing–expecting to rest, recuperate and fill Jesus in on the experience.  This seemed like Jesus’ intentions too; however, the crowds found Him and them.  Jesus welcomed them, spoke to them, healed them and then miraculously fed them. Then, they all finally got their leisure time.

Once, Jesus asked the disciples who they believed He was.  When Peter proclaimed, “The Christ of God,” Jesus dropped “the bomb” that He must suffer much and be killed.  Then He pointed out the cost of choosing to follow Him: The degree of difficulty of following Christ depends on how closely one wants to follow.

Eight days later, Jesus headed up a mountain to pray.  He took Peter, James, and John.  Something spectacular happened up there which conveyed the glory of Jesus ever so brightly.  His Father, himself spoke, identifying Jesus as His Son, who was to be listened to.

The next day it was business-as-usual:  crowds coming up; people being healed and freed from demons; Jesus teaching; people being amazed–and then Jesus states that someone’s going to betray Him. But His followers didn’t understand. Instead, “the boys” argued about who’s the greatest and who can and can’t drive out demons.

Meanwhile, Jesus knew the time was drawing close.  He knew the day was coming when He’d be taken up to heaven, yet He also knew that He must suffer tremendously before that day arrived.  So, He mustered up the “guts” of His humanity and His intense, undying love as deity, and it is stated, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (9:51).

For Him, there was no turning back.  He made up His mind and set His life’s direction toward Jerusalem.  It wasn’t a popular destination for His followers and He knew what awaited Him if He went.  But greater than that expectation, He knew what awaited all of God’s children if He did not go.  His love for us was the deciding factor and the determining glue which fixed His mind on reaching Jerusalem.

Jesus set His course and continued His ministry “as He made His way to Jerusalem” (13:22).  He held much compassion and sorrow for that city.  He knew of the treatment given prophets and others sent to her.  He had longed to draw her near to His heart, but she was unwilling.

Some Pharisees (not the typical self-righteous, plotting ones of that time it seems) came to warn Jesus that King Herod wanted Him dead.  They strongly suggested He leave and go somewhere else.  But Jesus had a plan and a goal to reach, and He was intent on reaching it.  He kept on going.  He told them that the next time they saw Him they’d be saying blessings to Him (13:35).

Jesus continued on with His traveling as well as teaching, healing, and encouraging. He taught and taught, just like a man who knows He’s going to die and still has much to say. All the while, the self-righteous Pharisees were muttering about Him and sneering at Him.

“On His way to Jerusalem” (17:11), He continued His ministry.  Over and over He did what He came to do among people, as He kept His focus on what He primarily came to do for people.  He mentioned the rewards and celebration for those who follow in His footsteps:  “many times as much” as what one surrenders “in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (18:29-30).

He pulled the Twelve aside to restate the plan, “We are going up to Jerusalem” (18:31).  He told of the fulfillment of prophecy that would take place there.  He told of His betrayal, the mocking, insulting, spitting and flogging He must face.  He told them of His death and He gave a burst of hope in saying He would not remain dead, but would rise from the dead on the third day after they kill Him!  All this news and the disciples still didn’t understand.  At least they’d heard it all.

While in Jericho, He healed a blind man’s eyes.  He changed a tax collector’s heart.  He cleared up some misconceptions about the kingdom of God.  (“He was near Jerusalem” at this point –19:11.)

Moving closer, “going up to Jerusalem” (19:28), He paused at the Mount of Olives to have the disciples go acquire some transportation.  They brought a colt to Jesus.  He mounted it and rode into Jerusalem with “the whole crowd of disciples joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:  `Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord'” (19:37-38).

As Jesus “approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it” (19:41).  If only she’d known what would bring the time of God’s coming to her. And so, Jesus began the last week of His life, having met His goal of going to Jerusalem.

He arrived seated on a colt;

He’d depart nailed to a cross —

all because of His deep and undying love

for you and me!

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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®.  Copyright©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.