Friday, April 10, 2020

The Last Supper And Jesus’ Quandary


Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in history. 

Why did this scene captivate da Vinci, along with untold numbers of other folks over the last few centuries? The story behind the Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples is compelling on so many levels.

For Christians, it symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the atonement of our sins. For centuries, we have commemorated it with communion in our churches.

The Bible records the Last Supper of Christ and His disciples during Passover in the four gospels. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke give a snapshot of the evening, John gives a more detailed, personal account of Jesus’ purpose for the evening in chapters 13-17.

Jesus’ life and ministry culminated on the night of the Last Supper. Jews all over Israel celebrated the Passover Feast, but Jesus had a much higher agenda for His “family” of three years. He was there to say good-bye and give final instructions to prepare His disciples for ministry. With the Holy Spirit’s help, they would pick up the torch and carry Jesus’ ministry forward. Luke 22:15 records that Jesus “eagerly desired” to share the Passover meal with them. Yet, from their words and Jesus’ admonitions, we see there was still much for them to learn.

Like most families during the holidays, Jesus’ inner circle wasn’t without its foibles.
Foibles = Weaknesses
Even after Jesus washes their feet in a lesson about servanthood, Luke 22:24 shows the disciples still squabbling over their places in His kingdom. One brooded about his perceived notion of Jesus’ earthly kingdom, and Jesus called him out on his plan of betrayal in John 13:18-27.

Was Jesus disappointed, with so much at stake, that His followers still behaved in a very human fashion? After all, He had spent three years trying to mold them into men capable of carrying His ministry into the future.

We don’t see the frustration Jesus displayed in other places in the Gospels, such as Mark 9:14-29. We see patience in our Lord at the Last Supper, even though He corrected the men. This was to be the last time before his death that they sat together, sharing a meal, receiving instructions, and praying. Jesus was in His brother mode as well as His father mode.

It’s easy for us to believe we would’ve behaved differently than the disciples. If Jesus were here today in the flesh, teaching us, surely it wouldn’t have taken three years for us to comprehend that He is the Messiah and to overcome our human nature. Yet, as we look at our own lives and Christ’s hand in our trials and triumphs, we are capable of being just as whiny, divisive, and self-promoting as the twelve disciples.

We can all think of occasions where a situation didn’t work out the way we envisioned, and we took matters into our own hands to make it work. Maybe not to the extent Judas did, but nevertheless we tried to give God the agenda we wanted Him to work by. And if we’re honest, we’ll admit we’ve argued our point of view, much like Peter, even when through God’s Word or prayer we’re being told something different.

Jesus’ quandary wasn’t so much that He had to go to the cross, although that was a dire situation to be in. Rather, the intensity and depth of His words in John 13 through 17 show us that like all teachers, His concern was whether His pupils were ready for graduation. He gave them final instructions and then handed them over to the Holy Spirit, who would take them into the future. He ended the supper by praying for Himself, His disciples, and all believers (John 17).

Then He went on to fulfill God’s plan for His own life.


When I look back over my life, the lessons I tried to teach my children, the plans I’ve tried to fulfill, whether career or ministry-wise, and every decision I’ve made—I realize after I’ve done my best; what happens next often isn’t up to me. Daily, I must choose to hand the reins to God, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. I believe that, above all else, this was what Jesus tried so hard to instill in His disciples. It’s a lesson He ultimately modeled by going to the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, and then yielding to His Father’s will. It’s a lesson I'm still learning to put into practice.

As we enter the final Holy days before celebrating Resurrection Sunday, what problem are you wrestling with that you simply need to hand over to the Lord and instead take up your cross and follow Him?

Are you willing to let Him lead—no matter where it takes you?

Friday, May 11, 2018

God’s Solution For Worrying Mothers


Motherhood is one of the toughest challenges women face, whether we're raising a gentle soul or a tantrum-throwing type A personality. Part of the challenge of motherhood is worry.
Jesus cautioned His followers not to worry about tomorrow because today has worry enough, but mothers spend many sleepless nights worrying about their children, whether they’re safe, and what their future will be. Add to this the many stages a child goes through, and you find yourself wondering why God thought you were up to the task of motherhood.

Speak God’s Truth
In 1 Samuel 1:10-18, we see Hannah pouring out her heart to God. Her biggest desire was to have a child. We see no emotion in Abraham in Genesis 22 when he takes Isaac up onto the mountain to sacrifice him as God commanded. However, in Genesis 22:5 we get a glimpse into Abraham’s thinking when he tells his servants they will be back. So whatever emotion he felt, he countered it with the truth God had spoken to him in Genesis 17 when He promised to make Abraham a father of many nations, establishing a covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
Maybe that’s where the answer to the challenges of motherhood lies. Instead of worrying, the best thing we can do for our children and ourselves is speak God’s truth over them and to them.
How do we do this? It starts with being saturated in God’s Word and staying on our knees in prayer. The best guidance we’ll get is while being in tune with God’s directives.
His Promise
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is one of the best templates for teaching our children about God. If God is truly everything to us, then it’s not difficult to incorporate that love into our daily lives when sitting, walking by the way, lying down, or when we get up.
If we don’t impress anything else upon our children, God's love is most important. It will undergird them in all of life’s challenges and decisions. Is this a guarantee that their life will turn out perfect—that no harm will ever come to them?
No. God doesn’t promise that.
He only promises to walk with us through life’s trials. And absolutely nothing is averted or solved by worrying. Even when the worst happens, if we keep our eyes fixed on eternity and the promise that one day there will be no more suffering, no more pain, no more tears (Revelation 21), then no matter what comes our way on this earth, God will provide a way to get through it.
Cover your children in prayer. Psalm 139:13-16 tells us that God knew them before they were even knit together in your womb. As much as we love our children, He loves them even more. What a comforting thought to deflate worry when it attacks!
His Love Sustains 
This year, as I mark my second Mother’s Day after my daughter’s passing, God’s love sustains me. The Biblical promises I have stored in my heart and soul for decades, some of which my mother instilled in me early in life, will help carry me through Mother's Day and again later in the week on Lindsay's birthday. His love will sustain you on tough days, also.
What difficulty are you facing with your children? Do you have a Bible verse or passage that gives you comfort and strength as you walk through this trial? Join the conversation below and be an encouragement to other mothers.
If you have a prayer request, please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I've love to pray for you!

Have a blessed Mother's Day.
In Christ,

Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Jesus' Destiny, The Empty Tomb, and Our Free Will

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

I love Easter, even more than Christmas. Perhaps it has something to do with the purity in celebrating the resurrection versus the almost total commercialism Christmas has become. Maybe it’s because I feel the renewing of my spirit as I celebrate Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, much like nature when it's reborn each spring.

Easter is a time for Christians to explore whether their lives conform to the image of Christ. How do we do that? By embracing the fact that it’s our destiny.

If you've chosen to be a Christian, then God has predestined you to fellowship with Him and do His Kingdom work. But how is this possible, when sin and our own self-focus often interfere? There’s only one way—through the cross.

Jesus’ earthly life and ministry culminated on the cross for our salvation. This was the central focus of everything He did. He loves us that much! (John 15:13). One could say His destiny was the cross. Yet, in order for His death to mean anything, He had to choose it.

God created us with free will to choose our own path. Once we encountered the cross and became Christians, we were no longer our own. Because of this, every decision we make reflects Christ to the world.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 

Christianity means living much deeper and broader than ourselves. We must never forget what an awesome and enormous responsibility it is to carry the name of Jesus.

The cross was costly. When Jesus was resurrected, an enormous price had been exacted on Him. He bore the wages for our sin. This Sunday, when we celebrate His resurrection, take a moment to consider that cost. It’s easy to become complacent in the politically correct society we live in, when faced with moral and social issues, and forget the price of our redemption. We have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Are we willing to take up the cross of Christ and the cost it encompasses? Consider these thoughts from Jim Elliot, a martyred missionary:

“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the twentieth century does not reckon with. But we are "harmless," and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are "sideliners"coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh, that God would make us dangerous!”

Amen!

When you analyze your life, does it resemble the world or the cross? For Jesus, it was all about the cross. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior on Easter morning, can we say the same?

If you have a prayer request, leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you.

Have a beautiful Resurrection Sunday!

Shalom,
Laura 


“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

©Laura Hodges Poole

“Golgota” image courtesy of bela_kiefer/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
“Sunrise and Misty at Mountain” courtesy of Photokanok/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

God Speaks Even In Silence

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen… Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:37-40

Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem before the Passover brought cheers from the crowd. Their response infuriated the Pharisees. Given all the evidence of Jesus being the Messiah, it’s hard to fathom that religious leaders would rebuke him. Yet, there it was. And the Pharisees carried their hatred all the way to Golgotha. 

Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees sends chills up my spine. Imagine stones crying out about our Savior. This shows the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. He can’t not speak about Christ! And if He can’t do it through a person, He’ll find another way. 
I became even more aware of that within the last month as we celebrated the life of one of the most impactful pastors that our country, and possibly the world, has ever seen. Reverend Billy Graham passed away in February at the age of 99. I respected and loved Billy Graham. I grew up watching his crusades in the 1970s, and they had a huge impact on me. 
As many other folks did after Graham’s death, I watched videos of his life, including one about his crusades to London, England. In 1954, at his first big international crusade, over 2 million people attended with 40,000 professions of faith. He returned in 1955 and again in 1966.

As stadiums packed out for the crusades, the British media began writing scathing reviews of his ministry. They claimed Billy Graham whipped his audiences into an emotional frenzy with the playing of Just As I Am for the altar call. They credited that with the mass number of conversions—not a genuine call of Christ.

So in 1966, when Billy Graham returned to England and held services at Earl Gray’s Court and Wembly Stadium, he ended the services differently. Cliff Barrows, Graham’s music director, recounted the story here:

That first night at Earl’s Court, Billy preached his heart out. There was a real sense of the presence of God. When he finished he said, “We are not going to have any music tonight. There’ll be no singing. But if the Spirit of God is speaking to your heart, then right where you are, just stand in your place, and make your way out to the aisle. Come down to the center through the side aisles and stand here in front of the platform.” He stood back and said, “Now, you come.”

For about fifteen seconds nobody moved. And that’s a long time. Then all of a sudden a seat squeaked, and then another, and another. Then hundreds of people began to stand. They walked to the aisle, shuffled down the long wooden floor that had been put down to cover the turf, and stood at the front.

We went thirty nights without a single note of the hymn, “Just as I Am,” which has been the signature tune of our Crusades through the years. We had never done that before.

When the reporters began to write about the invitation at Earl’s Court, they said that all they heard was a shuffling of feet on the floor. “Bring back ‘Just as I Am!’ The silence is killing us!” they wrote.
I’m pretty sure the reporters didn’t realize what an amazing testimony they were giving—not for Graham but for Christ. 
“The silence is killing us”—or as Jesus put it, “Even the stones will cry out.” Even in the silence, the Holy Spirit was speaking. The Pharisees couldn’t silence the Holy Spirit, and the reporters couldn’t either.

Hearing this story of Graham’s crusade confirmed for me that—even in what we perceive as our weak, human attempts to share the gospel—the Holy Spirit shines through our words, and often in our silence.  

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

I’ll take it even one step further. Our testimony is more than what we tell people about our salvation experience. It’s also lived out in our actions. That’s when God’s spirit is most evident.

And then when we do speak, people will listen.

Have you ever felt inadequate when telling people about Christ? Perhaps you have a Bible verse that’s encouraged you when you felt weak. I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

If you need prayer today, please feel free to leave a comment or email me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you!
God Bless,
Laura
©Laura Hodges Poole
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Happy Friday! (Book Winner announcement)

…do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; Do not be afraid, for I am with you… Isaiah 43:1-3, 5

Happy Friday! We made it through another work week. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot to be thankful for. Sure, each day is filled with difficulty. I wake up to the reality that my daughter is gone and then have to figure out how to live despite that reality. But God is so good and faithful to walk with me in my grief.

This Bible verse from Isaiah encourages me that no matter how difficult life is, I can always count on God. I know that promise intimately. When you’re tempted to be discouraged or be afraid, remember this verse from Joshua 1:9:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

My prayer for you today is that God will strengthen you and fill you with courage. May His comfort surround you, especially those struggling with chronic illnesses, grief, or facing family crisis. May you sense His presence in all that you do.

God bless,
Laura

**The book giveaway winner from last week is Charlene Canfield. Congratulations on winning a copy of "My Journey Through Fibromyalgia: Rumors, Ravages & The Rescue." Please send me your contact information and address at laurapoole565@gmail.com.**

For twenty-five years, Nancy Alexander battled a mysterious illness without a diagnosis. Despite spells of total debilitation and hospitalizations with no answers, she managed to fight through and raise two sons and create a successful business. Like many marriages where chronic illnesses are at the forefront, Nancy’s suffered. This is her story of fighting the medical system to receive a diagnosis and to not only save her marriage to Steve but restore it to a place of joy. Years of rumors from doctors and friends, the ravages on her body from disease, and the rescue in the form of a doctor and nutritionist culminated into a place of wellness that Nancy now shares with her readers. Though she didn’t always know it during her journey, God’s hand guided and protected her and Steve. Nancy’s story will uplift and encourage those with chronic illness that answers are worth fighting for, and God’s strength is sufficient on even the worse days. (Available for purchase on Amazon.com.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Journey Through Chronic Illness – *Book Giveaway*

Six years ago, I met Nancy Alexander, owner of Ladybug Wreaths. We sat down to chat about her life and the possibility of writing a book. I didn’t know anything about her but soon learned she’s a successful entrepreneur, master wreath-maker, and fibromyalgia champion.

You don’t typically associate the word champion with fibromyalgia, but it didn’t take me long to realize that’s what Nancy is.

As we collaborated on writing her book, I also learned she has a big heart. Nancy possesses a special kind of strength, one that could only come from the Holy Spirit working through her. Despite the obstacles she’s had to overcome, and maybe because of them, she has a determination to succeed on all levels, but particularly as a wife, mother, and grandmother.

Her heart for others, like the women suffering from chronic illness who’ve emailed her over the years, is what drove her to finally share her personal and painful story.

Nancy is an overcomer and a champion. I hope in reading her story that readers, like yourself, will become inspired to defeat your Goliath and let God use the adversity to shape you to become more like Christ.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

Are you fighting a chronic illness or walking through a valley in your life? We’d love to pray for you.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse that’s helped you in times of despair? Or maybe a quote that’s inspired you? Please feel free to share to encourage others.

Leave a comment to be entered in the contest to win a copy of "My Journey Through Fibromyalgia" (Deadline to enter is October 11, 2017). Winner will be announced next week.

For twenty-five years, Nancy Alexander battled a mysterious illness without a diagnosis. Despite spells of total debilitation and hospitalizations with no answers, she managed to fight through and raise two sons and create a successful business. Like many marriages where chronic illnesses are at the forefront, Nancy’s suffered. This is her story of fighting the medical system to receive a diagnosis and to not only save her marriage to Steve but restore it to a place of joy. Years of rumors from doctors and friends, the ravages on her body from disease, and the rescue in the form of a doctor and nutritionist culminated into a place of wellness that Nancy now shares with her readers. Though she didn’t always know it during her journey, God’s hand guided and protected her and Steve. Nancy’s story will uplift and encourage those with chronic illness that answers are worth fighting for, and God’s strength is sufficient on even the worse days.

Available for purchase on Amazon.com.

Follow Nancy:
Twitter: @LadyBugWreaths

Mountain photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

© Laura Hodges Poole


Thursday, September 7, 2017

I'm Not Really Angry At God

In the agonizing days after Lindsay’s death last August, our feelings were raw and battered. Somehow James, Josh, and I functioned well enough to plan her funeral and deal with issues surrounding her death while welcoming friends and loved ones into our home bearing food, hugs, and tears. Maybe that’s what’s referred to as “being in shock” after a traumatic event.

There were questions and comments—and a theme began to emerge: Why did God allow Lindsay to die? The anger expressed was a normal, necessary grief reaction—one I’ve felt many times.

Regardless of how devastated I was, I discovered it is possible to have a crushed heart and still be able to state what I firmly believe: Everyone suffers this side of heaven. Parents sometimes have to bury their children. While the incredible pain of losing our daughter is unique to us, death is not unique in this fallen world. As awful as Lindsay's death was, God is faithful and would carry us.

Even so, I questioned God, cried out to Him, disagreed with His decision to take Lindsay, and begged Him to undo this nightmare. Resentful and hurt? I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t.

And even now, I get angry about the whole situation.

But angry at God? Not really.

I’ve thought about how I was able to separate the awfulness of what happened from the goodness and sovereignty of God in the middle of a crisis. The short answer is I was on auto pilot, rotely moving through time and space, and clinging to the faith that had carried me through every valley I'd ever walked through. The underlying truth: It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

In a crisis, the totality of a Christian’s life carries them. Your basic instincts while in shock override everything else. If your mind, heart, and soul are filled with God’s Word, and you’ve experienced His presence in your life, intuitively you reach for Him in a storm. His truth comes out of your mouth. Even when the waves crash around you, you know He’s holding you up.

The other part of this assurance comes through prayer.

 “… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18), and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

In other words, stay in God’s presence.

In 1 Peter 5:8, we again see the instruction to be alert. Why? Because our enemy, the devil, seeks ways to destroy us. He is proficient in crippling us emotionally and spiritually through our children and loved ones. Being alert means being aware, but it also means being prepared for the battle.

In addition to being equipped for earthly trials through Bible study and prayer, I’m also able to rest in God’s promises. Believe me, physical and emotional rest did not come easy, still doesn’t some days, but that’s when spiritual rest provides respite.

Christ said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest(Matthew 11:28)

and…

 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

Isn’t it a comfort to know we’re not walking this road alone? Christ is yoked beside us, sharing our burdens, and carrying us through the valleys and over rough, rocky roads.

Every night, I step outside with Lindsay’s dog Sugar before we go to bed. Stars blanket the night sky, and the vastness of the universe envelops me. Lindsay loved star gazing, and in those quiet moments I feel close to her—almost like I could reach out and touch her.

That vast blanket of stars also paints a vivid picture that God’s thinking is higher than mine. I cling to the verse in Genesis 50:20 that what man meant for evil, God will use for good. Because make no mistake about it, Lindsay’s death was the enemy’s evil doing, not God’s. And the day of reckoning will come.

I also must daily choose to “take hold of the hope set before us” so I “may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:18-20). 

You may not ever face the loss of a child, but you will suffer loss, disappointment, pain, and heartache. You have the choice to face it alone or face it with God.

Pontius Pilate asked a very insightful question on the night Jesus was crucified, “What shall I do then with Jesus, who is called the Messiah?” We all have to answer that at some point.

As for me, I know I’ve faced the worst year of my life, and yet somehow I’ve survived. That “somehow” was Jesus walking with me, at times carrying me, and at other times allowing me to rest while he took my broken heart in his tender hands and held it close. He’s never left my side.

Christ has been my anchor. I can say unequivocally that God’s grace was the only way we got through this year—and it’s His grace that will carry us into the future.

Perhaps you are facing a crisis—something that has altered your world. I’d love to pray for you. Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests. Thank you for lifting my family and me up in prayer through this difficult time. 

Resting in His Grace,
Laura

©Laura Hodges Poole


Photo credits:
Cemetery ©Laura Poole
Other three photos courtesy of Pixabay.com