All posts by jimesch

A LIFE TOO SHORT BUT WELL LIVED

David Marshall (1960-2017)

Grief is not only normal, it is healthy. It is God given . . . a process that He gives to help us through loss. He knows our needs as people because He created us. I grieve . . .

David has gained everything – more than any of us could ever think, imagine, or hope for. He is now experiencing all God intended for him since he was conceived; all that was planned for him since the creation of the world!

David lived a life to honor Jesus as his sovereign Lord – the Master and King of life who is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present God. It is that testimony which has infected and impacted countless others.

I am deeply disappointed I will not be able to attend the service to celebrate David’s life but I will celebrate nonetheless.

This is my prayer for Glenda and all the Marshall family:

Heavenly Father, we know You are always more ready to hear us than we are ready to pray. You know our needs before we ask – but You instruct us to come to You as a child would come to a father with a request. So we humbly ask  for the unequaled power of the resurrection to transform sorrow into hope, fear into confidence, pride into humility, greed into generosity, hate into love, jealousy into trust, bitterness into forgiveness, bondage into deliverance, and unbelief into faith. Give us grace. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. Enable us to live in such a way that all those around us will know that nothing in life or death will be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

My Brother, David

To Glenda and the Marshall Family:

I loved David like a brother. It didn’t start out that way, but God had different plans. Whenever we were together – no matter how long it might have been since we last talked – there was no “catching up.” We just picked up wherever we left off last time. We may have had different mothers but we had the same Father and that bond was anchored in His love which meant that our love for each other could not be shaken.

For 20 years I counted on David’s leadership at camp. If David was at the guy’s dorm, I knew whatever happened there would be handled with firmness wrapped in grace and compassion without concession. When he and I hugged just before he left camp this past summer, the last words both of us had for each other were, “love ya man.” That’s how I will remember him.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” Ps 116:15

“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  2Cor 5:8

CHOSEN

In 1 Samuel 16 we find Jesse and his sons in Bethlehem. They didn’t have any idea what was going on and it would be years before they recognized the significance of what took place that day. God sent Samuel to choose the next king for Israel and directed him to Jesse’s sons but none of the boys present had God’s approval. Samuel asked and found out there was one more son.  Jesse and the older sons referred to him as the “runt, the little one who is mostly unnoticed.”

When Samuel laid eyes on David he immediately knew: That’s the one!

I wonder how many times David recalled the moment when he was chosen.  How many times did he look back and find strength and courage? Was it the memory of that moment that gave him the character to respond in repentance? To face enemies? To deal with defeat and betrayal?

Being chosen, especially when we feel overlooked and unnoticed, makes us feel good. But more than that, being chosen boosts confidence and develops character. Those experiences become the foundation for even greater things in the future. God has chosen you, too.

As followers of Jesus we are “anointed” with the Holy Spirit – God is with us.

To borrow Eugene Peterson’s words, “Out of your insignificant, sheep-keeping obscurity, you are chosen.”*

Don’t ever forget.

*Peterson, Leap Over a Wall, p17

December 31 – “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.”

Read: Luke 2:39-40

God’s great work is hidden within the normal routine of life. If this was true of Jesus it is certainly true of us. There are ancient fairy-tale-like stories of what Jesus was like as a boy. In make-believe fashion they describe a precocious character who resorted to magic whenever it struck his fancy. Those who wrote and believed such stories are like Christians today who fantasize, sensationalize and spiritualize every aspect of life. They live in a spiritual disney-land of their own making. God lives and works in the real world. We should not forget that Jesus grew up in Nazareth.

Christian service makes sense. Real faith in God does not need promotional gimmicks or publicity. Authentic Christianity understands humble service, inner strength, quiet resolve, disciplined growth and the sacrifice of praise. Joy characterizes the life of the Christian who does not live from hype to hype but from grace to grace. It is in the routine of life with all of its tensions and tedium that we witness to the glorious grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us patience and endurance to serve You faithfully in our Nazareth. Help us to grow and become strong in You and in Your love. We want to be filled with Your wisdom. May Your grace be upon us. Amen.

December 30 – “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Read: Matthew 2:13-18

The Bible reports an atrocity. The Bethlehem massacre of innocent children burdens the Christmas story with pain. The good news of great joy becomes a loud wail from young mothers in Bethlehem. Historians estimate the number of actual victims to be around twenty-five. Bethlehem was a small town of perhaps two thousand inhabitants. There may have been fifty children under two years old only half of whom were boys. But who can estimate the pain and sorrow of one mother whose son was ripped from her arms and murdered?

Joseph and Mary were forewarned. They fled for Egypt. Other families were unaware of the pending doom. Suddenly a pounding on the door in the predawn hours and screams in the village meant terror and horror. This Bible reading does not encourage a devotional feeling and does not answer all of our questions. If we are at all sensitive we are left in pain. We cry out “Why! Why did you have to let this happen God!” And the only answer we are given is Jesus. He is already heading toward the cross. Evil must be overcome.

Prayer: Save us, Lord, from thinking that the Christian faith is anything but a life and death struggle. The power of evil threatens to overwhelm us. We know that ultimate victory is secure. You have conquered sin and death through the sacrifice of the cross and the power of the resurrection. But we struggle amidst atrocities of all kinds waiting for Your redemption. Amen.

December 29 – “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

Who would have thought that on the night that shepherds were startled by an angelic host, a group of sages, probably from Babylonia, were excitedly sighting a star. With their Ph.D’s in astrology and a keen sense of Jewish culture (Numbers 24:17) they examined the skies nightly in search of heaven and earth’s mysteries. Indeed, God’s grace connects with people in unusual ways.

This entourage of Eastern sages made their way to Jerusalem in the hope that they could link their astrological find with an historical person. They came prepared to pay homage to the new king of Israel. The masses of people in Jerusalem were apathetic, or as in the case of Herod, hostile to such a search for meaning.

From beginning to end the whole account of the magi and their homage to Jesus is extraordinary. Their insight and openness puts to shame those who should have known. They are a sign to us, as they were to Matthew, that Jesus is more than a Jewish King. He is the Savior of the world.

Prayer: O Father, You are sovereign over all the world. In You there is no East or West; no third world or first world; no closed country or open country. Your grace knows no limitations. We worship You, Lord of the Universe, Hope of the world. How Your creation cries out for release! Amen.

December 28 – “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Read: Luke 2:36-38

God’s timing through-out the biblical account of Christ’s birth is exceptional. From Zechariah to Anna the human drama is conducted by the Holy Spirit. Worship and wonder, understanding and assurance, comfort and confirmation pulsate through the human soul in rhythm with the will of God. Simeon’s downbeat is answered in Anna’s joyful note of praise and gratitude. It’s as if Annas whole life, her eighty-four years of life, has been waiting for this moment. The reward for years of spiritual discipline, worshiping night and day, fasting and praying, has been fulfilled.

Life cannot be measured primarily by getting things done. The value of Anna’s life is not calculated by totaling up the number of her grandchildren or the value of her estate. Efficiency was not a priority for Anna. She was not worn down by years of rushing here and there, putting in appearances, meeting everyone’s demands. At eighty-four she could still praise God and witness “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Prayer: Father, make us sensitive to the rhythm and pattern of holy living. Give us the discipline to center on Christ and the wisdom to measure our value by our devotion to You. Thank you for the example of Anna and the testimony of enduring praise. Amen.

December 27 – “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against…”

Read: Luke 2:21-35

The words of Simeon to Mary and Joseph reveal an important truth about the Christian life. Simeon suffers no illusion about the pain involved in following Christ. His words are far from polite or perfunctory. The silent night of peace and tranquility will be followed by the dark night of the soul. The path of this child leads to the cross. If you center your life in Jesus it will not be easy; “A sword will pierce your own soul.”

Simeon prepares us for the inevitable conflict between Christ and the world. Christ will be spoken against. Pharisees will curse him. Herod and Pilate will condemn him. People will turn away in mocking unbelief. Judas will betray him and a common criminal will scorn him. What was said to Mary and Joseph is true for us as well. Jesus continues to be a rock of offense even to those who call themselves Christians. There is no gospel of health and wealth in Jesus. Simeon would have no patience with the “take life easy, eat, drink and be merry” kind of Christian.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for Simeon’s up-front spiritual direction. Prepare us for the heartache involved in following You when those we love continue to reject You. May our devotion to You be honest and open enough that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. Amen.

December 26 – “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

Read: Luke 2:21-35

The worship and work of Christmas continues beyond a special day of gifts and food. The first Christmas was free of sentiment and nostalgia but filled with revelation and promise. There were no accumulated habits and traditions that distanced Mary and Joseph from the real world. They suffered no emotional hang-over after Christmas day. There were no huge credit card bills or overdrawn bank accounts. Christmas was the commencement of a life filled with challenge, heart-break and commitment.

Each day is now measured in reference to the reality of Christ. On the eighth day they fulfilled the angel’s command and named their newborn son, Jesus. Some forty days later they entered the temple with their sacrifice to consecrate Jesus. They followed the
rhythm and pattern laid down by the Law and God used their obedience as an occasion for revelation. Simeon was late for Christmas until he saw Jesus and took him up in his arms. He saw in him what only the Holy Spirit could have revealed. “Blessed are you, Simeon, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you.” In this little child Simeon saw by faith the fulfillment of God’s promise. “For my eyes have seen your salvation.”

Prayer: Father, teach us to number our days the way Simeon did that we may gain a heart of wisdom. May our plans and hopes revolve around You, O Lord. May we see Your light of revelation and behold Your glory. Help us not to fall back into an existence that lives without promise or hope. Amen.

December 25 – “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Read: Luke 2:8-20

The truth of Christmas is inexhaustible. We discover it not in the exchange of presents or elaborate meals but in quiet reflection on God’s great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. We have to step back from the struggle and strain of daily living and pause to reflect on what God is doing. God sends “shepherds” proclaiming and confirming His truth. It’s up to us to ponder the truth.

The real meaning of life is not self-evident. If we add up all the data we do not arrive at the truth. God’s commentary on life takes us beyond appearances and beneath the surface of things and reveals the meaning of life. The truth of Christ must be taken into our heart and allowed to permeate our life. If we do not internalize the truth we live shallow lives. We stay on the surface, fearful that any contemplation may make us too serious or too concerned about what concerns God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are like Mary – we can’t fully comprehend all that Your Son means to us. Your truth is greater than our capacity to take it in. We have nothing but our deepest devotion to give You in exchange for the gift of Salvation. Help us to honor You more and yet more. Amen.