2 of 3: The Savior Draws Near to You

When (Martha) had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him… Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. John 11:28-35

Are you currently asking God, “Why” right now? Why this problem? Why this tragedy? Why this illness?

Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, were asking Jesus why he had not come when he heard about their brother’s deathly illness. They both knew and stated individually to him when he finally did come, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They knew Jesus could have healed him, but he didn’t.

Why?

The answer is found when Jesus was speaking to his disciples earlier: “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:14)

Jesus said he was “glad” because he knew the bigger picture. He knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, which would cause many to believe in him as the Messiah, granting each of these individuals eternal life. However, its important to see that the joy Jesus had over knowing the future was also mixed with his sorrow in the present trial concerning the two sisters he loved. He did not wave aside the raw and real emotions of Mary or Martha; rather he entered into their grief with them. Scripture says, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled… Jesus wept. See again what scripture says: Jesus was deeply moved in his spirit. (He was not just slightly saddened). And, he wept. (He was not just misty-eyed).

Jesus does the same for you. Even though he knows the bigger picture which holds the greater outcome, he is compelled to kneel down beside you. His deep emotion and deeper love moves him to wrap his arms around you; he can’t help but weep with you. In his tears, there is healing. In his compassion, there is strength. In his present empathy, there is future hope.

Believe this truth: The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Trust the Lord with all your heart with your “why” questions. Feel his embrace, hear his cry, and believe what he says when he whispers in your ear, Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

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Friday, June 14, 2024
By Chris Baxter

1 of 3: The Savior Draws Near to You

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold there was a woman who had a disabling spirit for 18 years. She was bent over and could not straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her and immediately, she was made straight and she glorified God. Luke 13:10-13

Do you have something that is heavy on your heart right now? What is weighing you down?

The woman in this passage has something to teach us. We see that her physical body was bent over and that she could not straighten herself; but, we also see that she had come into the presence of the One who could help. Scripture says that Jesus saw her. She caught his eye while he was teaching and he had compassion on her. He knew all about the disabling spirit that caused her affliction for the past 18 years, so he stopped his teaching and he called her to come to him.

The crippled woman chose to respond to Jesus’ invitation. Her broken body stepped forward. Her eyes had been staring at her shuffling feet for 18 years, but in faith she moved closer to her Healer. The words he spoke to her were beautiful, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”

Do you believe that just as Jesus cared about this woman, he also cares about you? He sees you. He knows your burdens. He is intimately acquainted with all your ways (Psalm 139:3).  He also knows that you are “unable to straighten yourself.” No matter how hard you try, you can’t “fix it.” Just as he called this woman to himself, he is calling you. Hear him say these words to you personally, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

The Savior draws near to you. He has come to set your heart free from any and all burdens that you are carrying. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Will you respond to his call and approach him in your brokenness? Will you receive his promising words that bring hope within your trial? Will you allow his abiding Spirit to touch your heart with healing? If so, both peace and strength will hold you up as you steadily move forward, head lifted, eyes fixed on Christ.

The sweet ending of the woman’s story, or I should say, the sweet beginning, is that she was made straight and she glorified God.

This can be your story too.

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Thursday, June 13, 2024
By Chris Baxter

My Son, "Dream On"

I'm not a "glitter girl," but I was wearing a gown that shimmered.

I'm not a "look at me" personality, but it was my turn to be center-stage.

I'm not a "dancing queen," but my number was called.

The mother-son dance was here. My daughter Maggie whispered in my ear just before the dance,

"Mom, you can do this."

Then, Davis walked over, took my hand and led me to the spacious dance floor. With Ben Rector's lyrics in the background, the lights twinkling overhead, and the gentle breeze blowing around us, I looked up into my 6' 2" son's eyes, and savored my "little boy."

For 3 more minutes, he was all mine. I remembered my friend telling me earlier to pretend no one was watching, so at that moment, just he and I existed.

We slowly swayed to the lyrics:

"...Dream on,

Dream on,

Even when you're afraid all your dreams may be gone,

Just dream on,

Dream on..."

I took a moment to affirm Davis. I told him how he was like his daddy: tall, dark, handsome, a leader, and a "fisher of men."

I then told him how he was like me: a deep well, desiring others to go deep with him, kindhearted, and gospel driven.

The song kept playing; we kept swaying.

Words from the past: "Dream on."

Words for the future: "Dream on."

I told him I was so proud of him and that I loved him,

And, and...

Then--my cue; the song was nearing its end. The words came so quickly--

"Dream on,

Dream on,

To infinity and far beyond;

Maybe they'll take you fabulous places,

Maybe you'll wake up right where you belong."

With these words, I had one last twirl before I handed him over to Acacia his bride.

I wanted the last stanza of the song to be theirs.  

I stepped back to the edge of the dance floor, now empty-handed, but heart full of certainty.

He was right where he belonged.

She is now his number one.

Can a heart rejoice and weep at the same time?

My dress sparkled, my eyes glistened, and my hands folded in a prayer.

I watched the newlyweds gracefully move together, swaying to the first stanza of their life:

"Dream on,

Dream on,

When the world says you're crazy just tell them they're wrong;

When the wold says you're crazy just tell them they're wrong,

and dream on."

Yes, my son, with your beautiful bride in your arms...dream on.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023
By Chris Baxter

My Full-Circle God

After almost three years of waiting, wondering if I would be able to have more children, my son Davis was born. The experience of having two miscarriages had actually birthed within me a more grateful heart. God's goodness showed up as I held this tangible bundle of love. In fact, my "lullaby song" to him as an infant and toddler became "God is so Good." Each nap time and also when I put him down at night, I would hold Davis in my arms, and sing softly in his ear:

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He's so good to me.

Whenever I hear this song now, I can't help but think of God's faithfulness through this trial and the sweetness of his gift, in his choice time.

...Fast forward almost 28 years. Davis is "all grown up" now. Joys and trials are all mixed in his life journey, and of course, as his momma, I have experienced the emotion of it all. His story continues, as it does in each of our lives.

I'm thrilled to say he has found himself a Jesus-lovin' woman whom he will marry next month! Do you know how many years I've prayed for Acacia, not knowing her name?

Only a couple of weeks ago, I went to a bridal shower for her in Orlando, Florida. The weekend was jammed packed full of wedding planning, meeting her friends, seeing the venue, talking through the ceremony, and more! On Sunday morning of this fast-paced weekend, we paused for a bit and went to the church where she and Davis met.

There, after God's word was taught, it was time to worship. And as I stood by my future-daughter-in-law, with the music playing, her heart and hands in lifted high to our faithful God, a song began to play, none other than:

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He's so good to me.

Right there in the church row, I had a personal moment with my full-circle God. He took me back and he brought me forward. 28 years in one stanza.

God loves to do that, you know--to bring us back to a place of remembrance so that we can worship him in the present all the more.

This happens all through Scripture. We see it with Moses. The very mountain that he saw the burning bush is the very place where he brought the Israelites to worship after they crossed the Red Sea. Full Circle God.

And of course, we see it with Jesus. He left his rightful throne; he came to earth; he fulfilled his purpose; he gave us his Spirit; and he went back to his throne in heaven. Full Circle God.

So as I stood there by Acacia, I worshiped in the moment, while also seeing the little baby I once held, thanking the Lord for the small gift that grew, and then, my lullaby whisper became a shout of praise:

God is so good,

God is so good,

God is so good,

He's so good to me.

I love my Full Circle God.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023
By Chris Baxter

Back When I said "Yes" to my Man

It's been 34 years since I said "yes" to my man.

He had just pulled an all-nighter as a medical resident in a Memphis hospital. I had driven from Jackson, MS to visit him for the weekend in his home town, Hernando, where he was temporarily staying at his parents.

We were sitting on his grandmother's porch swing next door...

A small country town,

a white farm house,

a definite southern charm.

We were swinging slow; I was hoping much.

There were no hidden photographers, no cell phones in our hands, no thought of recording the event,

just him... and me...and a ring in his pocket.

After some small talk about nothing and then large talk about big things, he then quoted Proverbs 18:22: He who finds a wife finds a good thing...

Then, he got on one knee and told me something--I don't remember what it was, but it was sweet.

The next question was only 4 words, but at the same time, it was life-altering. After only 3 months of dating him, Mac asked, "Will you marry me?"

Wow, I had waited for this;

I had dreamt about this,

and here I was, living this!

Of course I said "yes," not in the least bit knowing what that meant other than a ring on my finger and an "I do" at the altar.

My dreams hadn't gone past my wedding day.

We got up from the porch swing and knocked on his Mimi's screen door. She was the first one to see the ring; the first to hug us; the first to congratulate us. It was a memorable celebration of three.

Shortly afterwards, I was met with an embrace from Mac's mama who was waiting at their house. I remember her saying, with her thick southern accent and deep rooted faith, that she had been praying for me, Mac's future wife, for years, and she was so thankful that God answered her prayer through me.

Those life-giving words filled my cup, and they didn't cost a dime.

The good news spread...by the house telephone that was attached to a wall. Excitement was in the air rather than on a feed.

Wedding plans were made, mostly by my task-oriented mama, some specifics by my dreamy self. Next came showers and gifts, southern style. (Anybody need a sliver tray, silver tea set, silver place settings?)

And so, just like that, we were married in my growin'-up-church in Jackson, MS, six months later to the day.

Mac and I have come a long way together these 34 years.

Lots of life. Lots of growth. Lots of change.

It's a different world than way back when I said "yes" to my man.

But if he were to ask me to marry him again now, I would hope he would do it the exact same way.

Just him...and me, and a ring in his pocket.

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Saturday, October 14, 2023
By Chris Baxter

What Do I Do When my Attitude Stinks?

Yesterday morning,I went on a brisk walk. I needed a slight attitude adjustment and I thought some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise would help me out. Interestingly, but not conveniently, while I was in my forward progression down the street, so was a neighborhood garbage truck. It was rather uncanny; my pace and the truck’s duties seemed to line up perfectly. The large truck would stop to collect garbage while I moved ahead; but then, it would invariably catch up with me, and we’d be side by side again. This systematic timing went on and on. I turned right, and to my disgruntlement, so did the garbage truck. I couldn’t seem to escape its route or the awful smell that went along with it.

 

While breathing in the not-so-fresh-air, my mind made a connection: What if our thoughts and emotions had smells attached to them? What if the age-old phrase, your attitude stinks, were actually true in the heavenly realm? What odor would worry put off? Or bitterness? Or unforgiveness? 2 Timothy 2:16-17 refers to empty chatter spreading like gangrene—now that’s stinky for sure!

 

How do we rid ourselves of the “stink?” Soon after my walk, the Lord directed me to these verses: O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! May my prayer be counted as incense before you; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering (Psalm 141:1-2). Can it be that our prayers “smell good” to God?

 

I looked further into “incense offerings” and found Exodus 30:7-8: And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on (the altar). Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. My bible’s commentary explained that the incense represented the prayers and praises of God’s people. Also, the incense helped extinguish the smell of the dead animals that had just been sacrificed. With the explanation of this ancient practice, here is my present-day thought: maybe when we lay down our worry, pride, bitterness, or you-name-it-stinky-sin, and change them into prayers instead, then these new words become the fragrance that rises to heaven.

 

Today, let’s rid ourselves of the garbage-truck-odors, and then replace them with a lovely aroma of prayer instead. For me:

I will lay down worrying about my children, and instead, pray for each one of them by name.

I will lay down resentment towards my coworker, and instead, ask God to bless him.

I will lay down negativity, and instead, lift up praises to the One who gives me breath.

 

It’s humbling to think that our words can be counted as incense before the Lord. Let’s trust that he not only enjoys the sound of our voices, but that he also delights in the sweet fragrance of our uplifted prayers.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2023
By Chris Baxter

Daily Prayer

Submissive hearts

But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."  Acts 5:29-31

Dear Lord,

You are our Leader and you are our Savior. Give us a heart to obey you. Help us to stand on your truths, follow in your footsteps, and live the way you taught us in your word.  We ask for your wisdom before we speak and act, and we ask for your blessing as we respond to those who are in opposition to you. Amen.