As we once again turn our attention to Luke 23 I would like to share with you what else I see when “I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” As Christ’s friends and family were watching Him die on Golgatha’s hill, they must have felt hopeless. However, we can look at the same horrific scene and realize that what happened that day brought the world HOPE!
Please take a moment to read Luke 23:38-43.
While hanging on the cross a conversation began between Jesus and the two criminals that had been crucified on either side of Him. It is obvious they had both heard of Jesus and had heard stories about who He claimed to be. We are not sure how they learned about Him, or even if what they heard was accurate. Some of the Gospel writers revealed that at the beginning, both of the criminals had mocked Jesus, but it is obvious that one of them had been touched by the Holy Spirit through something he had seen Jesus do, or perhaps he had heard Jesus say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Regardless of what transpired, these two criminals ended up with very different responses to the Christ they were dying beside. One wanted Jesus to set him free from his pain and agony by delivering him off the cross and the other wanted to be free by becoming a part of Christ’s kingdom. He came to the realization of WHO Jesus was and simply requested for Jesus to remember him when He entered into His kingdom. He understood that Jesus is the Messiah and he understood that He truly was the King and he wanted to be a part of Jesus’ kingdom.
While Jesus was dying for the sins of the world, he was also dying for the sins of this man—a guilty criminal. A man who knew he was guilty. A man who knew he was getting what he deserved. A man who did not have time to perform any good works. A man who did not have time to go to the temple and put in an offering. A man who did not have time to get baptized. He had wasted his life, he had hurt people, he had stolen from people . . . could there be, would there be any HOPE for him?
O yes, dear friend! There was HOPE for him and PLENTY of it! In simple faith, He called out to Jesus to remember him and Jesus made him this promise, “TODAY, you will be WITH ME in paradise!” There was no hesitation, they was no “maybe so” or “I’ll see what I can do.” No, Jesus said, “Today YOU WILL BE with me in paradise!”
This is a wonderful reminder that we are not rescued from the penalty of sin by what we have done, or haven’t done, by what we can do or cannot do, we are rescued from the penalty and power of sin, by what Jesus did and by what He purchased for us when He gave His life for us on the cross!
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross I am filled with HOPE! That dying man had HOPE that day because He trusted in the ONLY one who could give him real, lasting hope!
The year was 1707. Sir Isaac Watts published his first book of hymns. This was a bold move, because just about every Church of England congregation only sang out of Psalms. Watts felt like this practice limited the church from singing about all Christ had accomplished in the New Testament. He is credited with writing over 750 hymns. One of my personal favorites is the hymn he wrote entitled: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
Here are just a few of the words:
When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
As we turn our attention to Luke 23 I would like to share with you what I see when “I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Although this is the darkest day in human history, it is one of the greatest days in human history! It is the day that our forgiveness was purchased and hope was born! As we take this journey together my prayer and hope is that we will all realize how wondrous and amazing the cross really is.
Pilate has given in to the pressure from the Jews and has handed Jesus over to be crucified. The Jewish people had chosen Barabbas, who had been guilty of murder, to be released and demanded Jesus to be put to death. The guilty was set free and the innocent would be beaten, bloodied, bruised and marched up Golgotha’s hill to die.
As Jesus walked up this hill, after enduring a tortuous night, the soldiers demanded a man named Simon, from Cyrene, to assist Jesus in taking His crossbeam. As they approached Golgotha (also known as “the place of the skull”) there were two criminals who were crucified along with Jesus that day. Please take a moment to read Luke 23:33-37.
Imagine everything Jesus had been through up to this point. He had been up all night. He had agonized in prayer, to the extent that His sweat became like great drops of blood. He had been hit repeatedly in the face. He had been mocked. He had been whipped with a “cat of 9 tails.” He had a crown of thorns placed on His head and driven down into His scalp. He was walked uphill, with the crossbeam on his back part of the way. He had spikes driven through His wrists and His feet. He had been raised up on the cross, and his bones had probably come out of joint as the cross dropped into the hole with a thud. The linen garment that had been stripped from His body was gambled over by the soldiers . . . and what does He say? He didn’t curse them, but He cried out to His Heavenly Father and said, “Father, FORGIVE THEM for they know not what they do.”
Charles Swindoll noted in his book, “The Darkness and the Dawn”, the phrase “Father forgive them,” conveyed the idea of continued past action. In other words He did not just pray it one time, but rather prayed this prayer repeatedly throughout the ordeal. He prayed it over and over again.
Let me quote from his book:
“Perhaps when they drove the nails into His hands, He was praying, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ When they nailed His feet to the beam and lifted that timber high and dropped it in the hole, with a jolt that tore His flesh, He was praying, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”
The very first words that Jesus uttered from the cross, were the words of forgiveness. These words were directed toward the men who were guilty of literally picking up the hammer and the spikes and driving them through His flesh and raising that cross up to be suspended between Heaven and earth while the Son of God was left to die in the most agonizing manner ever invented! Yet He proclaimed, “Father forgive them.”
But I do not believe those words were just directed to the Roman soldiers doing their job that day. I believe those words were directed to you and I that day as well. Because we are just as guilty of Jesus’ death as they were. Jesus wasn’t just dying on the cross that day because of Pilate’s decision, He was dying on the cross that day because of the Father’s decision to pour out His wrath on Him instead of YOU and I!
Note the words of the Apostle Paul as he penned the book of Romans, 2 Corinthians and Colossians:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:6-10 ESV)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
(Colossians 2:13-14 ESV)
Forgiveness is made possible, not because of what we do, but because of what Christ has already done! We must simply trust what He has done on our behalf, and we can be reconciled to God through faith and receive the forgiveness of our sins!
I found a story sermonillustrations.com that I think illustrates this forgiveness well. The story is told about the first missionaries who came to Alberta, Canada. They were savagely opposed by a young chief of the Cree Indians named Maskepetoon. But he responded to the Gospel and accepted Christ.
Shortly after his conversion, a member of the Blackfoot tribe killed his father. Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, “You have killed my father, so now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes.” In utter amazement and remorse his enemy exclaimed, “My son, now you have killed me!” He meant, of course, that the hate in his own heart had been completely erased by the forgiveness and kindness of the Indian chief.
When I read this story I was reminded of the fact that I am guilty of killing God’s only Son. My sin is what brought God’s judgement upon Him. My sin brought His death. My rebellion, my lust, my guilt was placed upon Jesus and although He knew no sin, He became sin for me so that I might have His righteousness and His forgiveness! O what a glorious thought, when I survey the wondrous cross!
And then to think, God the Father comes to me and says, “Now YOU can be MY son! Now YOU can wear the robes of righteousness that belong to Christ who died in your place. The home that my Son is preparing can now be yours.”
O the forgiveness of God Almighty, what a wonderful thing it is, but what a HIGH cost it was for me to have it!
If God can forgive me for what my sins put Christ through, then who am I not to forgive others who have put me through far less? We have been forgiven of MUCH, therefore we must learn to forgive MUCH! That is one of the most important evidences of being a true Christ follower.
You cannot survey the wondrous cross without seeing the wonderful forgiveness of God!
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”~Psalm 103:13 ESV
Yesterday, I took my one year old son in for some routine blood work. What I thought would be a simple pinprick to the finger turned into to be something much more painful. In the waiting room, he sat quietly on my lap, giving me lots of extra snuggles, not knowing what would be coming in only a few moments. They directed us back to the lab, and I sat in “the chair” with my little boy in my lap, still unaware. They prepped him to draw blood from the small, baby-sized veins in his arms. Then they began the torture by sticking a tiny needle into his left side. When one arm wasn’t enough, they moved onto the other side and started poking again. It was awful! I held him tight as a he sat squirming, fighting and screaming. I questioned, why am I doing this? Immediately, the answer came: for his own good, to keep him healthy. I believed I was doing what was best for him. Another thought came to my mind—it must be the same with the God and us. He sees the bigger picture, and sometimes He has to hold us tight as we fight and struggle and cry through the pain. When my little boy strained his neck to turn and look at me, I saw big tears filling his eyes and spilling over his cheeks. “It’s almost over, baby. We’re almost done.”
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~Luke 11:13 ESV
Ask any of my children, I am a far cry from a perfect parent. I break my promises. I lose my temper. I don’t always give them my best. Still, I don’t think they would doubt how much I dearly love them. If I could keep them in a bubble to protect them from all harm, I might just do it! I want the very best for them, but in my limited view of things, sometimes I mess up. I don’t always see things clearly. Oh, but God does! Nothing comes as a surprise to Him! He never breaks His promises. He is always faithful. He knows without a doubt what is best for us, and He promises to give it to us, if we trust him with our lives. Sometimes what is best for us, will take us around a problem or God will give us the solution to the problem. But sometimes, God takes us into the heart of death’s valley. King David knew that valley well. It was the valley of consequences of his own sin. It was the valley of persecution. Job travelled the valley path as well. It was the valley of sickness and suffering, of poverty and death. God didn’t respond exactly how they wanted. Surely, their plan would have included avoiding the pain altogether. David lamented, “How long?” Job wished that he had never been born. God knew. God held them through it all.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” ~Romans 8:18 ESV
As a young girl, I can remember nights alone in my room crying out to God. I just wanted Him to send an angel to hug me, hold me. Looking back on those nights decades later, I know that I was not alone for a moment. He was holding me the whole time. He must have been whispering in my ear, Hold on just a little bit longer. It’s almost over. I’ve got you. This is for your own good. Although it may be hard for us to hear, the truth is that sometimes God holds us, keeps us right in the midst of the worst pain. He knows that we have to endure it to get to the blessings of the other side. I know it hurts, my child, but just stay right here. And when we strain to look at Him with tear filled eyes, oh, how His heart must break.
What is the good that we are waiting for? I wish I had the perfect, crystal clear answer. Recently, my friend miscarried and no words would come. I couldn’t even think what to pray. So I just repeated over and over “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” and I held tightly to the promise of Romans 8:26 which says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ~Romans 8:28 ESV
There are a few things I do know:
Nothing we experience on this Earth (good or bad) can even come close to comparing to the glory that Heaven holds for us who are believers.
God sees us. He sees us right where we are, where we have been and where we are going. He has promised to never leave us, and God cannot lie.
Whether we see the “good” in this present life or see it later in eternity, I know we can trust God.
He wants us to share the painful stories of our valley experiences so that we can comfort others with the same comfort offered to us (see 2 Corinthians 1:4).
The promise of Romans 8:28, and those like it, only apply to believers—the true followers of Christ who have accepted His sacrifice and forgiveness for their sins and put their faith in Him alone. If you are living a life apart from a relationship with Christ, then you are in a sinking ship. You are needlessly experiencing the pains of this life and walking through the dark valleys alone. Don’t go on one more day without Him! Romans 10:9 says, “ . . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”
Finally, if you are a believer, and you are in the valley today, cling to this truth:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” ~Psalm 23:4a ESV
No matter how deep, dark or long your valley is, God is there with you. He is faithful! He will not leave you or forsake you!
In 2 Kings 18-19 the King of Assyria is using psychological warfare against God’s people. He is reminding them how he has devastated nation after nation and how each nation’s “gods” have been insufficient to stop him. He warns King Hezekiah and God’s people not to be deceived into thinking that the God of Israel will protect them. The Assyrian king assumes that the God of Israel and His people will fall before him or be miserably defeated just like all the rest.
Well he assumed wrong! The Assyrian king and the Assyrian army never even stepped foot in Jerusalem. They paid a high price for underestimating the power of God and rebelling against His authority.
The enemy uses psychological warfare in your mind as well, doesn’t he? He whispers things like this: “The problems are just too big. The addiction is just too strong. The temptation is just too powerful. The struggle just isn’t worth it. Others have failed, so will you. Not even God can help you now.” The “father of lies” constantly and continually bombards your thinking and seeks to defeat you before the battle ever begins. However, take a moment and listen to God’s response to the King of Assyria:
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When YOU and I walk in obedience as a result of our faith in God and His Word, the enemy fails and falters each and every time. However, when we listen to his “psychological” warfare, filled with lies about God’s insufficiency and inability, we are “ripe for the picking.” If the enemy can defeat us in our minds then he has already won the battle.
We must know the Truth, believe the Truth and live out the Truth by faith. Satan is called the “father of lies” for a reason! Just remember, it is the truth that sets us free (see John 8:32)! Read, memorize, love, act upon and rest in the TRUTH and you can experience victory in every area of life.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
We all know someone who is broken, someone who is wounded and hurting. Truthfully, we are all broken people. We have been broken by grief, poverty, infertility, abuse, depression, torn families and marriages, and shame from past mistakes. For some of us, the wounds are raw and bleeding. The pain is real and fresh. It is a hurt so great that we feel like we might suffocate beneath the burden of it. For others, the pain is buried. It is carefully hidden and tucked away deep inside. Oh, but it is still there. Every day, every moment that we can’t escape it, we are reminded that we are broken. God sees our brokenness. God feels our brokenness, and He loves us in our brokenness.
Mary and Martha were broken. Their beloved brother had died, and their best friend, the Healer, wasn’t there. They must have felt abandoned. They were hurting, and when Jesus finally arrived, they cried out in despair. Why? They didn’t know or understand His ultimate plan. Even though Jesus knew that His friends would be reunited with their dearly departed brother, He was moved by their brokenness. John 11:35 says that “Jesus wept.” I’m here to tell you, Jesus weeps for you, too. He loves broken people.
There is a blessing in brokenness. When we find that there is nothing left of ourselves, nowhere else to turn, there is potential for something miraculous to happen. When we get out of the way, quit fighting, God has room to work in our lives. Often times, we don’t quit fighting until there is nothing left in us to fight. Our strength is gone. God is ready and willing to rescue us; He wants to save us—to reveal His glory in us.
“ ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. . . . For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’ ”
God Loves the Sick.
There is a story in the Gospel of Mark of a man named Legion. His name was a reference to the many demons that vexed him day and night. Legion was sick, very sick. Out of his mind, he lived in the tombs where they buried the dead. He couldn’t be contained—by clothes or by chains. No one liked Legion; no one went to see him. But one day, Someone came to see Legion. “And when [Legion] saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him” (Mark 5:6). The day had finally arrived. Legion was going to be sick no more. Jesus was moved by the sickness that plagued him. From that day forward, Legion was forever transformed by the miraculous mercy and healing power that Christ showed that day.
Have you ever met someone that is so deep in sin that they can’t even see their way out? Their lives are so consumed by addiction and destruction that disaster is left in the wake of every move they make. What is even more confusing, it seems that they are choosing to live that way. How desperate they must be; how empty inside they must feel. These are the people that destroy homes and families. Everything they touch turns to ash, and they are killing themselves with each new choice they take. They are the people we tell our children to avoid and the ones that fill our prisons. And God loves them. He loves them deeply, and He longs to heal them just as He did Legion. Satan has gained a foothold in their lives and will continue to destroy them until there is nothing left. God wants to bring them hope. He is offering them the gift of new life.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
~Romans 5:6, 8
God Loves the Ugly.
I heard of a man who sold out his best friend for mere chump change. Another guy I know abandoned his loved one in his darkest hour. Maybe worse than that is the story of a man who lost everything and then these three guys that were supposedly his friends told him it was his fault! You may have heard these stories, too. Judas, Peter, Job’s Friends—the Bible is full of stories of ugly people. We don’t have to look very far to find ugly people in our own lives. There is the person that cuts you off in traffic and then has the nerve to drive slowly. What about the person that gets angry with you because the store where you work ran out of their favorite item? Sometimes the ugliness hits closer to home. Maybe it is the person you share your life with, the person lying next to you in bed. When was the last time you felt they loved you, appreciated you? Maybe it is the person you sit next to every Sunday at church. You give and give and still they expect you to give more. They expect you to be perfect and condemn you when you are not. Maybe it is a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor. Ugly people can be found anywhere. They taunt us and know exactly just what buttons to press. Yet, God loves them. He sees them for what they really are—weak, alone and lost.
If you are a believer, the truth is you were once an ugly person as well. God didn’t wait for you to become good before He saved you. Romans reminds us that God reached down when we were utterly helpless (5:6). There was nothing good about us, certainly nothing to be worth the ultimate sacrifice. But He did. He gave His life for ugly people like you and me. Today, God is still saving ugly people. He is making something beautiful with their lives. One of my favorite choruses written by the Gaithers says “Something beautiful, something good / All my confusion He understood / All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife / But he made something beautiful of my life” (“Something Beautiful”).
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ ”
Whose heart doesn’t break when you see children who are being neglected physically or emotionally? Our hearts should be broken when the most vulnerable among us are ignored, mistreated, or neglected as a result of an addiction or even a parent’s hobby. Yet many of us who are horrified at this type of neglect, can be guilty of or apathetic toward a different, and potentially worse type of neglect . . . SPIRITUAL NEGLECT. It is our responsibility to take the initiative to train our children in the way they should go (Prov 22:6) and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Dads have been commanded by God to step up to the plate and teach their children God’s Word and we’ve all been called to be godly examples. No doubt the church has an important role to play in all of this, but the church can never take the place of a godly mom and dad who are madly in love with Jesus Christ.
What kind of Christian young man or young lady will your child be if they follow in your footsteps? Where will they spend eternity if they choose to do with Jesus, what YOU have done with Him? Men, if your daughters marry a man who is just like you and treats them the way you treat your wife, would you like your son-in-law? Ladies, if your boys married a wife who is just like you and treats them they way you treat your husband, would you like your daughter-in-law?
I don’t ask these questions because I’ve got it all together. I am FAR from being the model dad or husband. However, I think it’s time we begin to ask some hard questions and its time we quit playing Russian Roulette with our families.
Flagship Church is committed to helping equip parents with the information and tools from God’s Word to enable them to be successful in God’s eyes in regards to having a Christ-centered home and having marriages that thrive. Plan on joining us this Sunday, and determine through God’s grace that 2014 will be the year that you reclaim your home and family for the glory of God! Let’s work together to see this happen.
This may come as a surprise, but your marriage isn’t about you. It isn’t about your spouse or even your kids. Your marriage is about showing God’s glory. Paul writes in Ephesians, “. . . we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (5:30-33). Over and over again in the Scriptures, God uses marriage as an illustration of His loving and eternal covenant with His people. We are told that “whether [we] eat or drink [or marry], or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Here’s another shocker—it doesn’t take two committed Christians to show God’s glory. It only takes one. How can I say that? Take a look at 1 Peter 3:1-2: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” Again in 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.” Please do not misunderstand. If you are not yet married, I am not encouraging you to marry an unbeliever. The Bible is clear—Christians should be joined in marriage only with other Christians. Still, these verses remind us (and give us hope), that no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in presently, we can still bring glory to God in our marriage.
How did I come to this conclusion? I have been married for ten years, and for the first time, I myself am learning that my marriage isn’t about me. There are so many adjectives that I could use to describe our years of marriage. There have been times of joy, intimacy, love, friendship, forgiveness, trust and laughter. But not all of the adjectives would be so positive. There have been moments of anger, pain, tears, heartache, betrayal and loneliness. Truth be told, there were moments that I didn’t think we would make it. Some valleys were so dark that I couldn’t see the light at the end. Pain so real, I felt it might suffocate me. But God has never been more real to me than when I needed Him most.
I have a confession to make. I am a hopeless romantic. Yes, it is true. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books (and movies). However childish it may be, I still dream of being a Disney princess who is saved by Prince Charming. I long to be swept off my feet, protected and adored. My heart yearns to be his whole world. But can I tell you something else? My husband doesn’t share my same romantic imaginations. No doubt about it, he loves me, but he would rather take a nap than pry his eyes open to watch another one of my fairy tale movies. The two of us couldn’t be more different!
Over the years, our differences have produced many arguments and lead to countless tears. In my prayers, I have begged God just to help him see. Lord, help him see how much he loves me, needs me! Right God? He does love me? Or is there something wrong with me? Tell me what it is. I will change. I will do it. Whatever it is. But please, do something. Recently, I have felt that God has been gentling telling me “no.” My dear child, I love you. I’m hurting with you. Trust me. Let me work through you. I will show you what to do, one step at a time, but you have to trust me. I want to use your marriage to reveal my glory. It’s not about you. My eyes are drawn to the page in my Bible that reminds me “this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17).
I do not know exactly how God will use our marriage to bring Him glory, and I do not understand every step I need/should take. Yet, tonight I am trusting Him. I believe that if my marriage had always been easy, I would not have come to rely on the Lord as much as I do. If I would have been swept off my feet like some princess, I would have depended on my husband for that which I can only truly find in the Lord. As my husband has reminded me, God shines best through cracked pots, and well, we are certainly a couple of cracked pots! I have learned more about the character of God through my marriage than anywhere else. Every passing year of our marriage, I grow more in love with my beloved husband and my beloved heavenly Father. Through all the trials, I would not take anything back because He is working it for His greater good, for His glory. I am honored to be a part of that.
Let me reassure you. I love my husband. He is strong and not afraid to get his hands dirty. He is my best friend and knows me better than anyone else on earth. Even when I am angry, he can make me laugh. He is an amazing cook and can sweet talk his way right into my heart. He is a hard worker, a faithful provider, a committed father and husband. But he is not perfect. Neither am I. With all our quirks, our differences, our baggage and our brokenness, God made us for each other. My prayer for you and for me is that we would allow God to take the good, bad and the ugly in our marriages and use them for His glory. Right now in this moment, I hope I am!
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so thatthe power of Christ may rest upon me.”
“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that the words may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel”
~Ephesians 6:18-19 ESV
I love a good mystery! A book or movie that keeps you guessing and is full of twists and turns until the answer is finally revealed in the end! But what is this mystery of which Paul speaks? Why is it so important that others know it? Paul mentions the mystery several times in the New Testament and throughout the book of Ephesians. In chapter three he describes it as the mystery “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (verse 6). It is the same mystery that the angels proclaimed on the night of Jesus’ birth: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for allpeople” (Luke 2:10, emphasis added).
To answer the second question . . . If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, then you know the freedom that comes from having a relationship with Him. A popular song on the radio says, “I am redeemed/ You set me free/ So I’ll shake off these heavy chains . . .I am redeemed” (Big Daddy Weave “Redeemed”). The freedom and redemption we have in Christ is not for us alone. Jesus called us to proclaim the gospel, to make this great mystery known to all people! Paul reminds us that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). God wants to use us as vessels to bring a broken people to him to be restored and made whole.
Despite seeing the need people have for the Lord and undefined gratitude I have for the grace bestowed on my own life, I have a hard time with this. I don’t know what it is. Stick me in front of a crowd and give me a topic and I could lecture for hours, but send me to the next door to my neighbor’s house or in the living room of a family member and I freeze. I want so badly to see my loved ones in heaven. I want them to know in their heart the mystery that has been made known in my life. It is the mystery of God’s undying love for a fallen generation. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So what do I do? First, I am asking that God would give me a deep, inescapable burden for them. I want Him to help me see them as He does—as sheep without a Shepherd (see Mark 6:34). I want to pray and not give up. Second, I’m seeking to show love to them in practical ways—breakfast, a card, taking interest in their lives, etc. Lastly, and this is where I struggle, I want to make the most of the opportunities that God gives me. May I not shy away from proclaiming the truth. Sometimes, I am the most fearful with my family members. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it is because they know me, and they have seen me fall on my face so many times. Maybe it is because I am afraid of their rejection or coming across as pious and unloving. Or maybe it is because I am afraid their hearts are too hard and their rejection is imminent. Whatever the reason, I know the Lord is able to do the impossible, if only we are willing.
I recently spent a wonderful weekend with my family, including a dearly loved grandmother who was celebrating a very special birthday. My heart was burdened for her because I’m not sure where she stands with the Lord. I kept praying that God would give me opportunities and boldness to proclaim the gospel. The last day with her, I went for a walk early that fall morning. Looking around at God’s majestic beauty, I was praying, Lord, don’t let her miss this. Help her to see from where this beauty comes. Help her to know you have loved her all along. Lord, I want to see her in heaven one day. As I left that day, I told her I loved her and was praying for her. I still don’t have any definite answers, but I believe the mystery of the gospel is working on her heart.
Close your eyes and think of someone who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord. Who came to mind? Who do you need a burden for? Are you proclaiming the gospel with boldness? It is not just a job for your pastor. God called us, as His disciples, to take the message to the whole world (see Acts 1:8). Are you making the most of the opportunities that you have been given? Would you pray for me? Pray “that the words may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” Let’s go in the Lord’s strength and share the good news with those who have not yet experienced the glorious freedom in Christ!
“Look carefully then how you walk . . . making the best use of your time.”
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .”
~Matthew 28:18-19a (emphasis mine)
Something miraculous happened at my house this weekend. The Latte Ladies, our church’s women ministry, met at my house for breakfast and Bible study. You may think this sounds mundane, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, in between bites of pancake and sips of coffee, discipleship was happening.
In the little over a year since we began our ladies’ Bible study, I have come to love these women as my own family. They have been a blessing to me in so many ways—helping, praying, encouraging, laughing, relating, fellowshipping, sharing . . . the list goes on. Yet, possibly my favorite thing about this group of women is their willingness to be so brutally honest. They aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions, and they are truly seeking the answers. I often think of Phillip when he asked in Acts 8:30, “Do you understanding what you are reading?” Only, I feel so helpless sometimes to answer their questions. Sometimes, I have to honestly have to say, “I don’t know.” They challenge me to dig deeper into God’s word and seek His face. Their burdens have become my burdens, and these wonderful women are constantly on my heart.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:5). Although the Latte Ladies aren’t my children, I feel abundant joy in seeing them grow in grace. Just thinking about them and how they have grown brings a smile to my face. Nothing makes me happier than to see them experience Christ in a very real and personal way! I think of the grieving mother who is beginning to heal. I think of one who has served in the church for many years and is now seeing Christ move in new ways in her life. I think of a hurting mother who is learning to love her kids again. It doesn’t stop there. The light God is shining in these women’s lives is coming into their homes. God is using them to reach their families for His glory. So I rejoice in hearing that an unbelieving husband took his kids to church for the first time! I give praise to the Lord for the husband who has been saved and is now following in believer’s baptism! What amazing joy I have in seeing a stony heart become softened by the gospel—the gospel that is being lived in her life!
What a privilege it is to be a part of something so incredible! I am humbled in knowing that God chose me to lead them, to disciple them. At times, I feel inadequate. After all, I am far from perfect and my family has its own mess of problems. How could I possible help another when sometimes I don’t know how to help myself? I find hope and encouragement from Jesus’ words in the book of Luke, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (18:27). By becoming a vessel for God to use, He can work through me to do works greater than I. Last Saturday, that is exactly what He did. The Potter took this scarred, broken pot and used it for His glory. As I sat at the table with tears streaming down my face, I looked at each of the women and my heart was crushed with love for them. After a night of battling my own demons and fruitlessly arguing with God, He was bringing me my own healing. We didn’t end that day knowing the answers to our hardest questions, but I believe we grew one step closer to knowing the character of God, to grasping at His awesomeness.
As our time drew to a close that day, I challenged the ladies (myself included) to “be Jesus with skin on.” It is the same challenge I present to you today. Someone you know (or will soon meet) needs to see Jesus in your life. There may be a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a person in your church that is hurting and searching for some answers. Don’t expect to have the all the answers, but God can still and wants to use YOU in their life. He is calling you to surrender your will to His purposes. Sometimes He will call you to pray at an altar with someone or share God’s word with them, and other times God will call you to humbly serve them or to meet a need in their life. When you allow Him to take the brokenness of your own life into His capable hands, He can do something far greater than you can imagine! Discipleship is a beautiful thing! Christ set the example for us. He surrendered His rightful place on a heavenly throne and knelt before a fallen creation to serve and to save. God calls each of His followers to “go and make disciples.” No one is exempt from this calling. If you have been mercifully and wonderfully saved by the grace of Jesus than there is someone you can serve through discipleship. God can bring a miracle to your home, too!
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from the supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet . . .”
The truth is Jesus knows all about YOU! He knows your heart, your motives, your desires, your faults, your failures, your weaknesses, your struggles, your sincerity, your ____________________________________ (fill in the blank). He knows. The amazing thing is that even though He knows, He still loves us.
As I was reading in my devotions this morning I came across this Scripture:
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. John 2:24-25
There were many who “believed” in Jesus the “miracle man” (see John 2:23). According to the Amplified Bible they simply “identified themselves with His party” after seeing the signs and wonders He performed. However, we know that the new birth is more than verbal identification. We are to trust in, cling to and rely upon the risen Christ as our Lord and Savior. Faith in Christ leads to the New Birth (John 3:3) and a total transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
So as He looks deep into my soul and yours what does He see? Does He see a meaningless mental consent to Christianity or does He see a genuine faith in Him? We often talk about committing our lives to Christ, but we see from this passage that Christ commits Himself to those who truly believe.