The cross!

I don’t want to seem to be undermining the resurrection.  As the Bible shows, Jesus raising from the death shows the power, the wisdom, the sovereignty of God, etc. (Acts 2:24; Romans 4:24, 6:4; Colossians 2:12, etc.). But today, I want to talk about the cross.

When praying today, it came to my mind that the cross of Christ was not a reason to cry. Sometimes, Good Friday, the death of Christ is seen as a moment of mourning, a reason to be sad while it is a reason to rejoice and praise God.  The cross is, among other things:

  • the power a God (For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18);
  • a reason to boast (But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14);
  • the mean of reconciliation with God (and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2: 16);
  • our redemption (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. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2: 13- 15);
  • God’s victory (Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2: 14-15).

The cross was not a weakness of God. It was a proof that He was God, the Author of life, the One who holds all things in His hands, the Master of everything. It was a demonstration of power, mercy, love and sovereignty. As Peter said, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28)

I don’t understand everything about predestination, but I know something for sure: Christ dying on the cross was not a failure, a defeat. God wasn’t sitting there, crying and waiting for Sunday morning to happen. He was reigning and victorious, totally sovereign and righteous, totally merciful and God. As the song says: “My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit praises His name for death could not hold Him captive; even in the grave Jesus is Lord; for death could not hold him captive, even in the grave Jesus is Lord”.

Yes, even on the cross, even in the grave, even dead and buried, even nailed, and mocked, even pierced, Jesus was Lord!

Embrace what your Father has given you

Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, the few people left of the nation of Israel. I’ve carried you since your birth. I’ve taken care of you from the time you were born. Even when you’re old, I’ll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I’ll support you. I made you and will continue to care for you. I’ll support you and save you. (Isaiah 46:3-4)

As I get older, I think more and more of what could have been. I had dreams, great dreams for my walk with God, for my life, for everything. And sometimes it just feels like I missed something somewhere. Sometimes, I just don’t understand what happened. Sometimes I feel it is too late, I am too old. And it is difficult to know what to do with the past, with the present and the future. Trust God, of course, but how, for what, when? And because God never changes and is always good, he hears and listens. Because He is the good Shepherd, He always leads to green pastures. Because He is light, He never leaves us in the dark. Because of Christ, because in Him we are reconciled with the Father, we will never be lost again. So, the Great Shepherd of the sheep saw me in my darkness and leads me toward the following words that John Piper said, which encouraged me and helped me to see what I could do:

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you.

The reason for that counsel is 1 Thessalonians 4:13, where Paul says, “We do not want you to be uninformed . . . about those who are asleep” — about those who have died — “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” So, there’s real grieving, which he expects, and there’s hope. Grieving is real, losses are real, pain is real — really felt, really expressed — and hope is real that changes it profoundly. I have in mind two kinds of losses: those who had something precious and lost it, and those who hoped for something precious and never had it. It works both ways. Sixty years go by, and forty years on you think, “I’ve come to terms with that,” and then one morning it breaks over you, and you weep about a 40-year old loss, or a 40-year “never have,” and my counsel is, yes, go ahead, embrace that moment. Weep. But then, say to your weeping after a season, “No. You will not define me, sorrow, because my God has said, ‘No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly’ (Psalm 84:11).

Therefore, even though it was good in one sense, and I miss it in one sense, I trust my God, and he has not withheld anything that is good for me.” Yes, let there be weeping in those seasons — feel the losses. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life he’s given you. “

Saul, from champion to bad example

What do you know about Saul? Yes, Saul the king, the one before David. What do you think about him? What comes to your mind when you hear his name?

Maybe like me, you think of those following verses: “And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORDhe has also rejected you from being king.” (1Samuel 15:22-23 ESV).

We remember Saul as the king who chose to please people rather than God, who disobeyed and refused to surrender until the end. We know him as the one who pursued David, trying to kill him again and again. But that is only who he became after taking pleasure in being king, after tasting power and fame, after forgetting who chose him, blessed him and used him. Before that, he was quite amazing, even admirable. He was strong, humble, gentle, courageous and didn’t care much about what people could think and say. Just read:

1 Samuel 10: 26-27 “Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched.But some worthless fellows said, “How can this man save us?” And they despised him and brought him no present. But he held his peace.

1 Samuel 11: 5-7 “Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen. And Saul said, “What is wrong with the people, that they are weeping?” So they told him the news of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hand of the messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!” Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one man.

1 Samuel 11: 12-15 “Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is it that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has worked salvation in Israel.” Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingdom.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed peace offerings before the LORD, and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

He was chosen and anointed and walked away from that. Before judging him and looking down at him, let check our hearts and see where we stand. Every time we avenge ourselves, take a decision without consulting the Lord, refuse to cut the hand that makes us sin, don’t share our faith or sin to please people or not to be rejected, we are just like Saul.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12,  God tells us: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” We are all in danger of becoming like Saul, of having our heart so hardened that we don’t see God anymore. Let take heed lest from champions for Christ, we become examples not to follow.

April 12 – God Doesn’t Fit In Your Box

I love this, so I am sharing it with you. Enjoy!

THE RIVER WALK

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” (Joshua 5:13-14)

Read: Joshua 5:1-7:15, Luke 15:1-32, Psalm 81:1-16, Proverbs 13:1

Relate: The Calvanist says, “God is sovereign. He is on my side.” The Arminianist replies, “No, He has given us free will. He is on my side.” The republican says, “God demands holiness, He is on my side.” The democrat says, “No, He loves the poor, He is on my side.” The Methodist and the Presbyterian argue their point. The Catholic and the protestant duke it…

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A just God

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV)

What do we need to do to be able to follow Christ’s steps and not retaliate nor threaten? We need to be still because God is God; because He judges justly.

The Bible is clear, God judges everyone according to their deeds. He punishes who needs to be punished and avenges who need to be avenged. He is just and fair. But what about all those situations where you were abused, wronged and nothing happened? The persons involved have just kept living their lives as if nothing ever happened. From injustices to abuses, we tend to take things into our own hands. We stop entrusting ourselves to the one who judges justly and start doing what Jesus didn’t do: we retaliate, avenge ourselves or threaten.

The NLT version says that Jesus “left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” But it is difficult to leave what matters to us into the hands of someone who seems at best indifferent and at worst unjust. So to follow Jesus’ step we need to believe, to trust God when He says that He is just, and this will motivate us to be still and wait on Him, instead of retaliating. Why? Because to believe that God is just is to believe that:

  1. He cannot tolerate wrongdoing  (Habakkuk 1:13).
  2. He will punish every wrongdoing in a way or other.
  3. He will judge our own wrongdoings, even if they are done in response to evil done to you.

Peter says it clearly: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” (1 Peter 1:17 ESV).

On one hand, entrusting ourselves to God, putting our cases into His care or protection, is a matter of trust (trust in His justice, and of course in His love and care), and on the other hand, it is a matter of fear of the Lord (because we were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ, 1 Peter 1:17-19). Sometimes, it is easy to think that to fear the Lord means only avoiding immorality or other ‘big’ sins. But to fear the Lord means also to trust Him, because not to trust him means questioning who He is, denying His divinity, what makes Him who He is.  So, if you fear God, you trust him; if you trust  Him, you fear Him (because you believe He is who He says He is), and you let Him take care of your case, even if it means waiting until the judgment day, or

Yes, it is difficult, but remember, He is:

The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32: 4)

 

 

Self- esteem (4)

Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him. (Isaiah 53: 1-3)

A few days ago, I was thinking of people who rejected and despised me, feeling the pain anew, when this scripture came to my mind. And it was good. Knowing that Jesus, the Author of life and faith, the One without sin, the perfect and holy One was despised and rejected comforts me, brings me some peace.

The past is the past. I cannot change it, but I can stop feeling guilty and trying to become that person who will never be rejected and despised again. And that is where what Jesus went through makes all the difference. What did He need to do to be accepted and respected, to have men’s esteem? Change? But changed what? Perfection? It helps to understand that when people reject and despise you, it is not because you don’t measure up, it is because they don’t measure up. Because like you, they are sinners in need of mercy.

Yes, I am not a beautiful soul every day. I am a miserable soul every day in a way or other. I sin more than I would like to. However, if someone rejects or despises me because I am a sinner, it is just that they have forgotten who they are. Just like I forget who I am when I reject or despise people because they are not who I think they should be. And I am not talking about someone refusing to repent. And even then, there is no place for reject and contempt. The goal is their repentance, not to act as if they were unworthy of us.

How many people have you cut off without taking the time to speak with about the sin that makes you distance yourself from them? How many people did you look down on because their sins were not the same as yours?

Thinking of Jesus being despised and rejected helps me understand I am not a problem even though I have issues. But it also helps me understand that others are not problems even if they have issues. And even when they treat me badly I should love them because that is what Jesus did for all who despised and betrayed Him, for you, for me, for all of us as the verses 4 to 6 of Isaiah 53 say: “Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

No, you are not the problem, but neither are others. We all have issues, problems, those things called sins, and Jesus took care of them in love, with kindness, compassion, mercy and patience.  So who are we? Needy and loved people whom the King of kings, the Holy One pursues with love and will never reject.

Remember what the Lord said: “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37.)

 

Without faith, we cannot please Him

 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 39-43 ESV)

This man was obviously an enemy of God and of men. We don’t know what he did to deserve that death, but we know he deserved it. He said it himself: they were receiving the due rewards of their deeds. So he is on the cross, receiving the due rewards for his sins and decided to ask for eternal life.

Did he think of it when beaten by soldiers? When did he start to be filled with remorse? When he saw Jesus enduring sufferings he did not deserve? We surely won’t know what happened and when it happened before reaching heaven, but one thing we know for sure is that somehow he got faith.

So Jesus was dying on the cross, being crucified unjustly, and he knew it. He was going through the same physical pain as Jesus so he knew better than to speak to Him at that moment, especially to ask for a favor. We don’t even like to be disturbed when we are simply busy, so to be disturbed when we are doing something important, especially something that costs us, would make most of us angry. Anyway, people won’t even try to speak to us in those circumstances, even less to ask for favors when we are in pain. But that criminal did it.

He understood and believed important things that made all the difference. First, he understood and believed that Jesus was King and had authority over everything, even over sins and hell, and eternity. He believed Jesus was the Christ. Secondly, he understood and believed that God was holy and righteous, which means there was nothing he could do to satisfy Him, nothing he could have done to save himself. Even without sin, he would only be a creature and to be with the Creator would mean a lot of grace and mercy given. So he understood and believed that all he needed was God’s mercy and grace, and asked for it. He boldly went before the throne of grace and asked for what he didn’t deserve: a place in Christ’s kingdom. But to be able to ask for mercy, he needed to repent. Which means he needed to acknowledge that he was a creature and Christ was the Creator; that Christ’s rules were the only ones to be followed; that he had broken those rules; and that only Christ could make things right.

His faith led him to Christ and Christ honored it by offering him salvation. So next time, you are trying to win God by being extremely spiritual, by doing many amazing deeds, think of this man and follow his example. Live to honor God not because you need to pay to be with Him, but because He deserved it and had proved Himself worthy of all honor and glory. And just go boldly before the throne of grace, as you are, at any time because you believe Him. Faith will always be the key.