Running Out of the Cage – Video

 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:43-44 ESV

Last week I posted the message, “running out of the cage” which I then gave at one of the nursing homes which I visit. If you missed it, I tell the story of a groundhog I had trapped in our garden and was trying to release him in the woods. It took quite a while, because the animal was so angry at me that he never turned around to see that I had opened his cage door. After giving the message on Friday I asked if anyone needed to run out of the cage of regret, unforgiveness or bitterness, and then we prayed. Then, while visiting with the residents, one man began to share some of the things that kept him in a cage. First, his wife and two daughters had been killed in an automobile accident. Then years later after remarrying, his second wife left him and now with his health deteriorating, he was left with nowhere to live but in a long-term care facility.

Often people who are not involved in nursing home ministry think that everyone there is either a sweet old lady or that they are too far gone to be worth our time. But the truth is that many of our friends in nursing homes are just like us. That unfortunate mindset reminds me of a time I visited a friend who was in jail. While we were just getting ready to end the visit, he said something like, “You know Pete, the only difference between us and the guards, is which side of the bars we are on.” The very same is true in long term care, it is just that their bars look a lot different. They are trapped behind bars of disability, age, neglect and discouragement. They may be invisible, but they can hold a person just as well as any maximum-security prison. The good news is that Jesus still visits graves and prisons. He is well known in hospital corridors and deeply loved nursing homes. But He doesn’t walk in on His own like He did when He was on earth. Are you trapped in a cage today? Jesus gave His life to unlock the door and it is standing wide open. Whenever we just stop biting at the bars and turn around then, just like Lazarus and my groundhog friend we run straight out to Jesus right now!

Hope For Answered Prayer

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

In spite of my wife and I being both vaccinated and careful, this most recent strain of Covid finally caught up with us and for the last two weeks, our lives came to a screeching halt. From doctor’s appointments to church, almost everything we had planned was put on hold and that experience gave us a tiny insight to what life is like for our friends who live in long-term care. But whether we are facing life from inside the four walls of a nursing home or the four walls of our own home, our need for God’s help doesn’t change. There are hours we all pass through when we lose patience, tears of frustration fall, and hope seems far away. But God’s presence and His promise to take care of us and provide for our needs has not changed.

At that very moment when we can feel the dark shadows closing in around our world God stands close, waiting for us to leave our anxieties and needs at His feet. He will not force us to release our worries or pry our fingers loose from what is troubling our hearts. But He also does not stop caring for us when the cares of life press in. He will not abandon us when we feel alone. He is listening to our prayers, ready to come to our aid. He has not failed, forgotten us or written us off. His promise remains, that when we give our cares to Him, His peace will guard our minds and give hope to our hearts no matter what lies ahead!

A Road To Hope

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? Romans 8:24 ESV

In the town where I spent my teen-aged years there is a hill we called Mount Pleasant. On most days it was just another rolling green hill. But on rare mornings on perfectly sunny days, you sometimes found yourself surrounded by deep impenetrable fog. Though the fog bank usually extended no more than the short half mile over the crest of the hill, the only safe way through was to slow to a crawl, while keeping your eyes on the yellow center line. If you just kept going before long you would break back out into the sunshine.

Fog banks come to all our lives. A single phone call, one visit to the doctor or a short screech of tires on pavement and the familiar landmarks of our world quickly disappear under dark foreboding clouds. God’s promise for us at that moment is that He will still guide us. He gives us His hope to light the way even if just one inch at a time. God will stay with us and carry us all the way through. When dense clouds close us in, we need to remind ourselves that on God’s mountain road, the brightest hope is just over the top of the hill!

Though I wrote this devotional several years ago, I found myself in need of it this morning. Our last couple of weeks have been a difficult time. My wife and I have lost a dear friend and we are now are in our second week of tag-teaming the virus. Besides the physical battles we also had to cancel all the visiting of the nursing homes scheduled for this week. But in this fogbank of my own, I found I was encouraged this morning by a verse in my daily reading. It reminds me that hope doesn’t come from the situation getting better, but from the mercy of God and that is a hope that can never fail!

Psalm 13:5 But I have trusted in your mercy. My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

I love the Mullett Family and their newest release will lift you this morning as they remind us all, that in the midst of the trials we are going through, that God is sovereign over Us!

Christ Our Hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13 ESV

After thirty years of nursing home ministry, I have learned that the heart of our message is the hope of Jesus Christ. Today’s verse clearly points us to God as our great source of hope. We must always communicate that if we want to give real people, real hope. They are walking their final mile here on earth and are struggling with physical weakness, discomfort and loneliness. When they think about eternity, they ask questions like “Does God really love me and care about what I am going through? Is He listening to my prayers? How can I be sure that He will accept me?” Of course, these are questions everyone thinks about, but in long term care, those whispered doubts become fearsome shouts that will drown out all but true hope. Before stepping into a facility to sing, or going into someone’s room to visit, we must ask God to fill us with the hope He gives through our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our hope, our future and our eternal salvation are found in Him alone! We cannot give to someone else what we have not already received from God. Do you carry that hope in your heart this morning? If not, then turn to Jesus in humble faith. He is listening and willing to fill you with His hope forever. That is the gospel and the message for which Christ died. When we receive that hope, then we will have a treasure we can lavishly give away to others! I love this song by Keith and Kristen Getty who are accompanied by Michael W. Smith. I pray you will find in Christ alone all the hope that He has for you today!