When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
I had to memorize parts of Isaiah 53 when I was in Christian School and have always loved it. As I read it now, in preparation for a series of pre-Easter lessons, I am struck by the horror of this chapter. I was young when I first put these verses to memory, I was probably about 13. What does a 13 year old know about such gore? For that matter, what does a 40 something woman in America know of these things? I watch scenes from The Passion movie and cry at a harsh reality I can scarcely understand.
But the purpose of this savagery is glorious. He was pierced (John 19:34) for our transgressions so I am innocent before God. He was crushed or bruised as the King James says (John 19:1) for my iniquities so I can be free from my sin. And by his wounds/stripes (John 19:3) we are healed, at peace with God and healed from all our sin. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. This man Jesus is not some man of privilege who is unable to understand our deepest darkest moments. He is not some weak willed sap who is unable to bear the weight of our grief and doubt. Unanswered prayer, job loss, divorce, sickness and even death itself are no match for my Jesus. He is the God of the universe who laid down his God power to suffer the abomination of the cross in full humanity just so that one day I (or you) might decide to believe in Him and find our way to God. Incredible! “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Father, the immense barbarity of the cross is impossible to imagine. The truth of what was accomplished on the cross is also hard to wrap my head around. But thank you for what was endured by my Jesus. Thank you that in the end he said “not my will but yours be done.” Help me faithfully remain in the shadow of the cross. Help me grasp the hand that was offered and never let it go.
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
It is human nature, I think, to focus on the wrongs others do. At least I know I feel better about myself a bit when someone else reveals a weakness. So it is the very weakest human part of me that reads these 10 verses and is relieved by the fall from grace of Peter. Peter goes from being the blessed rock upon which Christ will build his church to being a hindrance and Satan himself. For a cracked pot like me, that is some very real hope.
On my best days, I take some thoughts captive. On a great day I share some of the hope that is in me. It is a somewhat successful day, if I don’t kill, hurt, or talk down another person. On my worst days, well, I am not at all like Christ and you would think I was not a Christ follower at all. These verses along with many others throughout scripture remind us that we are all fallen, we all make mistakes, and we are all capable of the best and worst of thoughts, words, and deeds. But blessed are we, that through the blood of Christ, we are all forgiven completely. His blood covers me, washes me white as snow, and allows God to see me through the sparkling clean image of Christ.
Nobody’s perfect. The disciples missed much, your pastor doesn’t have all the answers, we all fall short all the time. Praise God he sent us a savior to cover it all!
Father thank you for the cross. Thank you for sending your perfect son to become all my sin so that you and I can walk in communion and in relationship. Help me be as much like Christ as I possibly can today and keep me from evil.
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
As someone called to a ministry to speak, I don’t read these words lightly this morning. In fact, I was in tears as I choked over verse 8 above. It is my sincerest hope that I not just talk about Jesus, but that I consistently demonstrate my love for Him with my thoughts, words and actions. I pray with all my heart that I will be able today to take every thought captive and kill the ones that are not good and let through only those which can be used to help, encourage and strengthen those I come in contact with, not to tear down, but to lift up. I fail at least hourly, but often every minute. I need to stay in almost constant prayer in order to speak and think lovingly. Shouldn’t this be easier after 20+ years of trying? How are you doing?? Got any tips?
Father God, forgive my hateful heart. Holy Spirit fill me, change me, remake me into the image of Jesus. Help me take each thought captive, and change my heart till it is like that of my savior. May I not just honor you with my lips but with my mind, heart and life as well.
I didn’t attend church in a traditional way yesterday, but I experienced one of the most inspirational services in the past few months right in my car with my two children on our way to the ski hill. We listened to some great worship music and then listened to this amazing sermon by a man I have never heard of before. I will talk about Levi Lusko, the lead pastor of Fresh Life Church later this week when I do a book review, as I expected to hear a word from him when I downloaded the podcast message from last Sunday to listen to in my car. We heard from another incredibly blessed man of God, however, John Gray of Lakewood Church. I share it here in hopes that this message will speak to you as it did my kids and me. God clearly called to us, spoke to us, and changed our hearts while we drove. He used that time to come near.
Membership in a local church and being part of the body of Christ is important, but worship, fellowship, and being in the presence of God can happen anywhere! Bring him everywhere and watch how he grows you! Look for ways to add more of God to your life and see how he blesses you with more peace, more grace, more love, but most importantly, with more of Him!
Luke 12:45-48 (ESV)
45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
God has been calling me once again back to this site, back to posting, and back to Him. I feel Him calling me to do more, to say more, to share more. This life of following Christ is hard, but He has given us many resources to help us along this path. We must share. We must give. We must encourage, and we must love. They will truly know us only by our love. Much has been given to me, therefore, much is required. I need to work harder at sharing him with anyone who will listen.
I intend over the next few months to acknowledge all God has blessed me with and share it here with you. I will try to post more regularly, both Bible Studies I am doing and music I am listening to and sermons I have heard and books that have inspired me. From this point on I want to share with you “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise.” Life is hard, but God is good and He has blessings for us everywhere if we will but seek Him.
Watch next week for the new changes to begin. I will highlight sermons, music, books and share Bible readings that are speaking to me. May God bless your weekend with things that will bring you closer to Him.
6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah
5 words can make all the difference. I have heard the story of King David and Uriah’s wife a few times this week in random sermons and blog posts. When I was lead to start reading through the Gospels again yesterday, I stopped and cried just a little as I read these 5 words, “by the wife of Uriah.”
David has an incredible story and was without a doubt a great king and one of God’s favorites; but David had some issues. His lust for another man’s wife lead him to not only commit adultery with her, but to also kill that man when he couldn’t hide the affair from him. David should have fallen from grace right then and there. He should have put his head down, resigned from the king business and moved to a far mountain by himself, never to be heard from again. Isn’t that what we do? We fail miserably and usually very publicly and then we accept defeat, give up our ministry, and hide. God however, moves on. These 5 words in Matthew remind me that God never gives up on us. We may fail, but God does not. After much grief and many consequences, God sees fit to bless David and Uriah’s wife with a child who is an ancestor to Jesus! Solomon, that great and wise king, was the product of that deeply damaged union. Out of David’s worst season comes his greatest legacy. Not only that, Matthew names them in his genealogy here forever linking their failings with the birth of Christ! Stop here, please and drink that truth in. Adultery, murder, NOTHING can keep God from using you.
God’s message for those of us who fail right here is shocking, and it changes the game forever. We may be devastated by our failings and our sin, but God can and will use that for His glory. He will use your story for His purpose. You are going to sin, you are going to fail, but God has a plan and it keeps moving even while you are down on your knees still begging for forgiveness. He heard that first turn of your heart back to him and has already moved on. . .he has forgiven you, he has begun the work of restoration and has a plan and a purpose. Repent, stop doing that, but then get yourself up and realize that God has moved on, and so should you! You are still here so keep growing, keep reading, keep praying and keep looking for those opportunities to serve God and use that experience to help someone else.
Father God, your grace overwhelms me. It still amazes me. I am a lost and deeply damaged sheep, yet you continue to shepherd, you continue to encourage, and forgive, and love. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your love. Show me how to serve you, love you and extend your grace to others.
1 John 1:1-4
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
I’ve been flying by this particular chunk of scripture for years, but only this weekend really read it. I am teaching on it tonight, so I have spent some time breaking it down a bit. Do you realize what these verses say? The Word (both the Bible and Jesus) have been made manifest. Do you see that, hear that, feel that? It has been made manifest to a bunch of guys who soon after their experiences wrote everything down.
Let’s pull on this a bit. I love reading historical novels and biographies. Do you realize that is exactly what the Bible, and all of the New Testament is? First hand accounts of events that were seen, heard, felt and touched. When was the last time you read about the Holocaust, or about Rosa Parks and MLK Jr? These are stories written by and about some people who are alive or had first hand knowledge of their subject. Have you ever thought about how John points out here in 1 John that he too had first hand knowledge of his subject?
I think of one of the most popular biographies in recent years, John Adams by David McCullough. John Adams was dead many years before David was born, yet his book has endured none of the scorn and questioning the New Testament has. Why is that? The Bible is unique for so many reasons, but one of those is that the first hand knowledge of its writers is unique for a history book.
The Word was made manifest, and it was the same yesterday, today and forever. 66 books by 40 some authors in three languages over about 1600 years and the continuity of its central message is amazing. God created us to be with him and when our sin separated us from him he immediately put into action a plan to restore us to himself through the work of Christ on the Cross. The Word become flesh. The story came to life. It is a better mystery, sci-fi, horror and magical story than any other ever told, and it is all true. AMAZING!
Father God, help me see your word in new and amazing ways every day. Help me never get over the magic of you love, grace and mercy. Help me approach your word with the correct reverence and love for a work so profound.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
Nike might be on to something with their famous “Just Do It” slogan. I used to think it was dumb, but I am starting to see the wisdom in repeating this, just do it.
I stopped eating sugar during the week. I am working out (hard) 6 days a week. I am eating vegetables I don’t love, and I am pushing myself daily to just do the hard things. It started with pursuing a passion I have toyed with for years but that challenges me. I decided that this was the year to just do it and go after it with all I have; put in the hard work, and see where it takes me. That one decision led me to several others that are good for me. Hard to do, but good. And the thing about hard work it that it is its own reward. After I have accomplished a hard task, I am elated. I may be tired, sweating, and stinky, but I am HAPPY!
I think Paul is telling us here in Romans this same thing, to just do it. Obedience to God is not always easy. It is far easier to be mad, not love, and disobey than it is to practice joy, forgiveness and obedience. We want to give in to the quick anger. We want to hold a grudge for those words that cut us and leave scars. We want to do what we want and not give to that charity or volunteer for that committee, but that is not what God calls us to. He calls us to account and “will render to every man according to his works.” I sure hope my works render me rewards and not wrath and fury.
How are your works? Are you working hard and constantly expanding the bounds of your love and obedience, or are you too often taking the easy road with your time and emotions? I know I have much work to do today, not just in my physical actions, but mostly in my thinking and in my responses. Every thought needs to be taken captive, every word needs to be well thought out, and I must work hard to always be obedient.
Father God, thank you that my works have nothing to do with my salvation. Thank you for your grace that saves me. Help me now to put my faith in action and with my obedience convey my love and gratitude for all you’ve done.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
I started reading Romans again today in preparation for a Bible study I’m leading later this year. I am reading slowly, mining for gold nuggets that I can share with my students. We studied the person of Christ in the Gospel of John last year. Now that they know who Christ is, I want to move into Romans for purpose, application, and practical living advice. I felt called to Romans, and it was confirmed almost immediately by revelation from God.
In Romans 1 I was reminded again that God’s mission for me this year is thankfulness. He has blessed me much, and I need to focus on Him, the giver of all gifts and remember to be thankful and content. There are tons of Christian bloggers out there talking about thankfulness, and with good reason. Paul starts off one of his most profound letters by saying that he first thanks God. Clearly thankfulness is the most important thing I can do to keep my mind right and focused on God.
Thankfulness is key to keeping our hearts and minds healthy and focused on God. In verses 18-32, Paul indicates that those who fall away from God take four steps on their road to Hell. First, they stop honoring God (vs 21). Second, they do not give thanks to Him for all things (vs 21). Next, they start to worship the created instead of the Almighty Creator God (vs 25). Finally, by no longer acknowledging God, they seal their fate and God gives them up (vs 28) to their own evil minds. (Father, help me to always honor, thank, worship and acknowledge you!)
Romans 1 to me is a fantastic reminder to start each morning, and each prayer, thanking God for who He is, what He’s done, and all He’s provided. I can’t wait to see how this one small change will impact me now that i plan to be more purposeful in starting every day honoring, thanking, worshiping and acknowledging Him.
Father God, thank you for who you are. Thank you for sending your son to take my guilt and wash me clean. Thank you for allowing his perfection to reflect on me, making me appear holy before you. Thank you for all you have provided for my family and me. Your blessings really are new and wonderful every single morning. Help me love, honor and thank you appropriately every day, every hour. Change my heart, help me look for thanksgiving in every moment you have given me.