Moved by Tears

There is nothing so heart wrenching as a baby’s cry. Whenever my nieces or nephews begin to cry, I strive to respond immediately—like their parents.

As a hospice chaplain, I recently encountered a patient who taught me new lessons about the impact of tears.

Miss Ruth* always spoke with excitement about her upcoming 98th birthday celebration. After she celebrated with her family, she began to steadily decline. In her final stages of life, she would communicate through tears. We, her caregivers, would plead with her, “Miss Ruth, what’s wrong? What do you need?” Most of the time she answered, “Water . . . pain . . . I want to go home!”

But one day, Miss Ruth answered with amazing energy and clarity through her tears, “God has been so good to me! I want to praise my Savior!” She and I ended our visit by singing Hezekiah Walker’s song, “Grateful.” I am thankful that on this day Miss Ruth’s tears gave us the opportunity to celebrate together—even in the midst of her pain—the sweet reality of Jesus’ goodness.

The World Is Weeping

Many have been crying out over the painful realities exposed in recent months. We have witnessed unequal access to medical care during this global pandemic, multiple natural disasters, racial prejudice demonstrated by some in both policing and protests, and the destruction of peoples’ lives without consequence. Some in the evangelical church have asked, “What does this have to do with the gospel?” A study of Luke 3–4 answers this question.

During the years of Jesus’ ministry on earth, God’s people suffered under Roman oppression. They flocked to John, the Baptizer, hoping to jump-start a movement through repenting before Him for the sins of their people. Jesus, Emmanuel God, enters their world. Though Jesus was without sin, He took up the mantle of His calling by identifying with the sin-convicted crowd (see Luke 3) through also receiving baptism. This intimate act drew Jesus deeper into identifying with the experience of people living in a world full of troubles (John 16:33).

Next, Jesus entered more deeply into the life of those he came to liberate through fasting 40 days in the wilderness. He was tempted in every way, as we are, yet He was without sin. First, the enemy attacked Jesus’ humanity, tempting him to forfeit the eternal for the temporal. Then the enemy targeted his soul by manipulating the Word of God, in much the same way he tempted Eve. Finally, he attacked Jesus’ Spirit by offering a shortcut to bypass suffering and speed his earthly reign (see Luke 4:1–13).

Jesus won the battles against the enemy that we as humans tend to lose repeatedly.

A Kingdom Response

After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began ministry in His “Jerusalem.” He entered the synagogue in Nazareth, reading from Isaiah 61:1–2, declaring Himself the fulfillment of this Scripture.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, . . .”

His proclamation stung to the core those who realized they were not the victims but the oppressors. God revealed their hearts as they opposed Jesus, and He demonstrated His Kingdom power through a miracle—Jesus walked away unscathed from their assassination attempt (see Luke 4:14–30).

Jesus then moved into His “Judea” to advance God’s Kingdom. Spiritual prisoners were set free, the blind received their sight, and the brokenhearted were comforted. The results of a true Isaiah 58 fast broke out in power through Jesus’ ministry!

Jesus has entered our world and proclaimed, in word and deed, the good news of the Kingdom of God to set people free from oppression and make them whole (see Luke 4:31–44).

May we follow Jesus, identifying with the marginalized and oppressed as He does. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will align us with the Father, fulfilling His will on earth through us.

The world is crying out. Do you hear it? Will you respond and join God’s Kingdom movement?

*name changed

Crossing Borders

Citizenship Matters

When my daughter married a Canadian seven years ago, international borders suddenly became an integral part of my life. But because Canada and the United States are “first cousins,” other than a passport and a dose of patience, traveling between the two countries was a breeze—until Covid-19. Now the global pandemic has made the once-easy border crossing virtually impossible, except for a few.

Recently, as my husband and I drove over the eerily deserted bridge toward the Canadian border to visit our week-old granddaughter, I was hoping we would be among those few who qualified to cross under the strict rules of family reunification. I knew if we didn’t get across, we likely wouldn’t be able to see them for a year—because my daughter and son-in-law were preparing to move to the Canadian arctic.

I pulled out the Fed-Ex envelope with our paperwork in preparation for our turn with the border agent. I flipped through the packet: passports, quarantine plan, our daughter’s birth certificate, and a notarized copy of her Canadian permanent residency card. Surveying the documents, I realized how much was riding on their acceptance—they were our ticket to enter a country we had no right to access because we were not citizens.

Gaining Access

As I waited, I remembered the words of the apostle Paul to the church in Philippi reminding them that their citizenship – and that of all believers – was not on earth, but in heaven (see Philippians 3:20). And, when the ultimate border crossing is before us, the proof we need to enter will not be notarized documents but our individual allegiance to Jesus Christ. Our access to His Kingdom is not granted by a passport but by our names as recorded in the Book of Life.

Before our trip, we researched and complied with the requirements for entrance into Canada. In contrast, my heavenly citizenship was granted through no effort of my own—it was purchased at the highest cost, the King’s very life.

And as I recognized this gift, I also realized how easy it is to lose sight of its true value. In all the worry and preoccupation with the ongoing news of COVID-19 infection rates and riots, have I overlooked opportunities to boldly share where my ultimate allegiance is? Perhaps right now, amid the uncertainty and upheaval, my neighbors are more open to the truth—more willing to hear about a place where there will be no more tears, injustice, division, or pandemics.

But how will they hear unless someone tells them?

Thankfully, my preparation paid off and we made it across the Canadian border. I’m writing this with a newborn on my lap in a house looking increasingly bare— the movers come tomorrow! I’ve been privileged to immerse myself in precious family time and am grateful my credentials made that possible.

I’m also thankful for the reminder of my ultimate destination and feel freshly compelled to tell as many as will listen that they too can enter His eternal Kingdom.