I just wanted to let everyone know that we have landed in Ecuador well and we have a Newsletter awaiting delivery that will be posted here on our blog and mailed out to many of you as well very soon.
I needed to post an article today because something happened that has inspired me to write. When Allison and I became husband and wife 17 years ago, I joined a family that has been a blessing to our life together. Allison’s parents, her sister, her grandparents, aunts, and uncles, everyone has been been great encouragers, supporting our dreams, callings, and accomplishments. They have been a constant reminder of the rootedness that family establishes and the grace of God, which is the soil in which family grows best.
Allison’s uncle just experienced a horrible tragedy. His home burned to the ground along with most of his wildly possessions. In a post on social media we looked with shock and sadness at pictures of the fire and the ashes that were his home and, a place he loved. However, our sadness for him and for his loss quickly turned to admiration when we read his comments below. After counting his loss, continually he would write in big bold letter, “I AM A BLESED MAN!”
His perspective of this personal tragedy is of great importance. His rootedness in the soil of grace gives him a higher perspective. The hundreds of comments below his post proves the impact his testimony has created within his sphere of influence. All the way over here in Ecuador, we were also blessed by his testimony.
Two parts of scripture immediately came to mind when reflecting upon the ashes and the testimony we just witnessed.
In Genesis 18:26-33 we find the story of Abraham and his bartering process with God. This bartering session was not for Abraham’s benefit. This bartering with God was for the lives of perhaps thousands of people, all strangers to Abraham (accept for his nephew Lot’s family of course.)
God tells Abraham that He will destroy Sodom unless he can find 50 righteous men residing in the city. Abraham then says this, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord- even though I am dust and ashes- suppose the 50 righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” God then relents and says he would not destroy the city if He could find 45 righteous people there. But Abraham, knowing the Lord, continues to barter… and by verse 33 God had agreed not to destroy Sodom if He could find just 10 righteous men there.
Abraham was able to balance two very important parts of his identity and in doing so teaches us a lesson of great importance. Abraham knew that he was just “dust and ashes” compared to God, but he also knew that his value and position of favor in God’s eyes was much higher than his fleshly circumstances. As a result, his responsibility before God and others was also higher.
He could go to God boldly and ask for mercy precisely because he knew his Father, knew who he was from where he had come. He used to be called Abram, but now He was Abraham and his identity was firmly established in his relationship with the creator. The result was a humble boldness that moves the heart of God. A man who can sit in his ashes and yet boldly proclaim , “I AM A BLESSED MAN!” truly knows who he is and what his Father in Heaven sees when He looks at him!
A man who can sit in his ashes and yet boldly proclaim , “I AM A BLESSED MAN!” truly knows who he is and what his Father in Heaven sees when He looks at him!
Another piece of scripture that shouts off the page for me is Isaiah 61, especially verses 1-4.
The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal[a] the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.[b]
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations;they will renew the ruined cities,the devastations of many generations.
This is the set of verses Christ himself recites in His hometown in proclamation that their prophetic importance was about to be fulfilled in Him. Here we read that the Messiah has come to do many things, not the least of which is to comfort those who mourn and give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, oil instead of mourning, splendid clothes instead of despair, and a promise to name them “righteous trees” planted by the Lord to glorify Him.
Our testimony in the face of hardship and tragedy is very important. Those who believe in Christ are indeed blessed no matter what the circumstances look like. Our ashes are an opportunity for rejoicing, for refocus, for renewal, for the comfort of the Lord to have full effect, and the testimony of our faith to stand tall and righteous giving God glory!
Think about this for just one minute. We who believe in Christ will live forever in heaven with Him where there will be no suffering, no mourning, no death or sorrow. We will have Jesus with us at all time and we will love Him and worship Him without adversity or opposition forever. This is a wonderful thing to look forward to, but it also means that we have a very unique opportunity right now. In eternity we will never have the opportunity to love and worship God in the midst of personal suffering, tragedy and loss. Do not waste the trials of life. Your suffering is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You will never have the chance to love Him and praise him in the midst of this particular trial or loss again. Embrace it! Our love for God while in our most humble of circumstances has great value to Him and it glorifies Him in ways that human wisdom cannot fathom or explain.
In eternity we will never have the opportunity to love and worship God in the midst of personal suffering, tragedy and loss.
Do not waste the trials of life.
I am blessed to have married such a wonderful woman and to be accepted into her family. The recent testimony of her uncle is inspiring to us. He has encouraged us to embrace our trials and meet them with humble boldness seeing our sufferings as opportunities that can arise from the ashes of circumstance. I want to be prepared for the days of ashes by knowing who I am and from where I have come.
May all of us who believe in the resurrected life be prepared for the day of ashes with the sure knowledge that Christ loves us and died for us so that we can stand tall as righteous oaks that glorify His name!