Crucify Him

Crucify Him! Oil Painting by Ivan Ilyich (1969)

O Jesus, as You stood before Pilate and gazed out at the crowd, into the hundred hearts amassed before you, all thick with fear and fury. 

Was mine among them?... 

Yes.  Mine was among them. 

I have desired your death in order to preserve my life, my way of life, my fulfillments, and my own control. 

But You, like me, desired Your death too!

By a mercy I cannot comprehend, you accepted my evil intent even to save my life! 

I am therefore no more my own, but yours---no more an enemy, but a friend to you forever.   Amen.

(Prayer adapted from the devotional book "Reliving The Passion"  by Walter Wangerin Jr, a book I highly recommend. )

The Mercy Tree

"We lost ourselves at one tree. And only find ourselves at another." Ann Voskamp

  This past Sunday was the first day of Advent, and we lit the first Advent candle, the candle of hope. Today we hung a paper ornament upon the Advent tree, of an apple, signifying that day when the human race fell from grace, where we lost ourselves, at that first tree.

 That first tree, where we lost our innocence, where we found our death. That first tree, where we took up the shackles of sin and became slaves. Where the man and the woman saw that they were naked, and were now ashamed of that nakedness. Where the man and the woman, made for themselves coverings of leaves to hide their nakedness.......at that first tree, where God Himself walked in the garden, calling out "where are you?".

 "I heard You and I was afraid"

 "I knew that I was naked.......I hid from You."

"Who told you that you were naked?"

"the woman.....the serpent"

  Man and woman cast out from the garden.......yet in their rebellion, God still supplies grace, and the very first lesson... the lesson that sin has a price......that price is death..........only blood covers sin......and there in that garden, at that first tree, animals were slain by God to provide clothing for the man and the woman. To cover their shame the innocent died. 

            "And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them."

  There is a wonderful fictional book, called Havah, written by Tosca Lee, that describes the fall in vivid detail.  Havah (Eve)describes the wonder of the garden, the wonder of her relationship with the Adam, and their relationship with the creatures God has created. Everything is at peace. One of her favorite creatures is a tigeress that Adam named Adah, and Adah's mate, Havah loves these beautiful creatures and often naps with her head resting on Adah, listening to her purr. On the day that Adam and Eve fall from grace all this changes, and as she and he are fleeing the garden, she looks and sees two bodies on the ground, she is confused, the bodies are raw and red and wrong, and she sees one twitching, and she is shocked.......they flee the garden, the next day she awakes, confused, lost, everything has changed,  everything is wrong, and she feels the garment that lays upon her skin, she looks closely to examine it............and in shock she sees that it is Adah's coat that wraps around her body, the beautiful tigeress, her friend and companion..........

  God made garments of skins and clothed the nakedness of the man and the woman.........something died to provide those skins.

 So much lost at that first tree........but at that first tree comes grace, God clothes them, and God promises them a redeemer as he curses the serpent......."I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head,and you shall bruise his heel.”

 From that first tree to the last tree...........a multitude of promises

      • He will come through the seed of the woman
      • He will come through the line of Shem
      • He will come through the line of Abraham
      • He will come through the line of Judah
      • He will come through the line of Jesse
      • He will come through the line of David
      • He will come from the town of Bethlehem
      • He will come as a child and a son
      • He will be born of a virgin
      • He will be called “Immanuel”
      • He will be called “the Lord our righteousness”
      • He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace
      • He will come in humility
      • He will serve as a prophet in Israel
      • He will bring good news to the afflicted
      • He will crush the head of the Serpent
  •  And we come to the last tree, the Mercy Tree, where the King of Glory hung, battered and beaten, bruised and spit upon.....the God who long ago stood at the first tree, and slew two animals to cover the nakedness and shame of the man and the woman, becomes the perfect sacrifice for all sin. He gives up His life, to cover our sin and shame. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.He who knew no sin, He who lived a blameless life, the perfect unblemished Messiah, dies in our place.......and on the third day, defeated death and hell by rising from the grave, He ascended into power and glory, and one day, He will come again, to receive His own unto Himself, and He will make all things right again.....then it will be as it was before we met the first tree.
  • All was lost at the first tree..............have you come to the second tree?

     All was lost at that first tree..........all can be found at the last tree.......the Mercy Tree.......

    On a hill called Calvary
    Stands an endless mercy tree
    Every broken weary soul
    Find your rest and be made whole
    Stripes of blood that stain its frame
    Shed to wash away our shame
    From the scars pure love released
    Salvation by the mercy tree

    In the day between two thieves
    Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
    Bruised and battered, scarred and scorned
    Sacred head pieced by our thorns
    "It is finished" was His cry
    The perfect Lamb was crucified
    His sacrifice our victory
    Our Savior chose the mercy tree

    Hope went dark that violent day
    The whole earth quaked at Love's display
    Three days silent in the ground
    This body born for Heaven's crown
    On that bright and glorious day
    When Heaven opened up the grave
    He's alive and risen indeed
    Oh, praise Him for the mercy tree

    Death has died, love has won
    Hallelujah, hallelujah
    Jesus Christ has overcome
    He has risen from the dead

    One day soon we'll see His face
    Every tear, He'll wipe away
    No more pain or suffering
    Praise Him for the mercy tree

            Christmas is coming...........we await, in hope, the arrival of our messiah..........Christmas is coming!

     

     

    Ann Voskamp quote is from her new Christimas book, "The Greatest Gift".

    Story of Hanah is from Tosca Lee's book "Hanah", the fictional story of Eve.

     

     

     

  • In a Rough Year, Thanksgiving Looms and the Praise Goes On

     Thanksgiving is looming upon us. This year of 2013 is quickly drawing to a close and in two short weeks I will be preparing the Thanksgiving dinner for our family. Each year it is hosted by one of my husband's sisters or myself.

    (This painting hung in my home when I was growing up. I have always loved it. It reminds me of my dad, of my brother, of the countless meals around the table and the prayers my dad prayed)

     We volunteered this year. 

     So now the questions loom. How to give thanks when there are empty seats at the table? How to give thanks for the hard truths learned this year? How to give thanks for the long fight where heart and soul were poured into an all out effort to make things right and yet it turned out wrong?

     How to give thanks for the wounded hearts, the bruised and battered souls?

     How to give thanks when you have battled darkness for someone, only to have darkness seemingly win? How to give thanks when that darkness snatched yet another from us, two dear ones within a few months time? How to give thanks when that same darkness seems hellbent to consume yet a third?

     "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." He says.

     Three very key words there......"in"..........and........"everything".......

     Give thanks "in" all things. That means right there, in the thick of it, we are to lift our hands to the heavens and give thanks.

     In "everything".

    for this is the "will" of God.

    So we lift our hands to the heavens and we give thanks to the One who is the protector of our souls. 

    We thank Him for His deliverance.

    We thank Him for our trials.

    We thank Him for the circumstances.

    We thank Him for His promises.

    We thanks Him that His promises are true, even if we do not see them now, we affirm that we will see them.

    And in the act of giving these thanks we understand....

     The darkness did not win. Those we love reside apart from all darkness now. He is their light. They worship Him now in spirit and in truth, they revel in His glory, bask in His love.........darkness did not win. In truth, darkness was utterly defeated and forever dispelled.

     "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand."

      Loved ones can be snatched from us here, leaving us to go on without them. But they were not snatched from Him. Their time in this fight is over. We have simply been left to fight on for a time. We will see them again. They were both His. Until then we should fight on, looking back on that victory that was achieved at the cross, where the Seed of the woman, once and for all bruised and crushed the head of darkness.

     Like a snake when it's head is crushed, darkness writhes and twists and does all in it's remaining power to harm......but in truth it's time is swiftly approaching, and it is dead.

     As for the darkness that still seeks to destroy.........

     If there is one thing the darkness hates, it is to see those afflicted, raise their hands to the heavens and sing praises to the King of glory! Darkness much prefers you on the floor in a heap, weeping and sobbing and bemoaning your state. Darkness seeks to defeat you, to have you cast off your faith and wallow in despair.

    Darkness is the absence of light, and all that is needed to dispel it is flipping a switch. I stumble about in the darkness of my home, bumping into things like a fool when all I need do is flip the light switch. Just as I often stumble around in the trials and burdens of this life, bumping into things, crying out in despair, when all I need do is lift my hands to the heavens and praise God, and thank Him for His mercy and His grace, thank Him for salvation freely given to one who deserves it not, thanks Him for the trials and ask that He help me bring glory to Him in the midst of them......and the light pierces through the darkness and I can see again!

     So I raise my hands, I sing His praises! I believe! I am a child of the King! I rest on His promises! I give thanks!

    Thanksgiving is the key.

                        The key to hope, the key to faith, the key to strength.

     Give thanks, in everything. For it is His will. Trust Him, no matter what you are experiencing, for He has made us promises, and those promises are true and amen, and whatever happens to be going on will lead to victory.

     "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope. "

     So we look forward to the Thanksgiving celebration, where family will gather together. We will eat and drink and remember the many blessings He has given, He is giving and He will give. The greatest of these blessings is the forgiveness of sins, the assurance of salvation, and the hope of eternity with Him.

    "“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
    Nor have entered into the heart of man
    The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”





    The photo is called "Vengeance is Mine" and depicts a victorious Christ, stepping upon the head of Satan, the sword in His hand the Sword of the Word of God, and the robes in His other hand depict His stripping all authority and power from the enemy.
    The artist is Chris Higham.

    His website can be found here: http://www.christian-art.org.uk/cgi-bin/ca.cgi?page=home.html


    The Great and Heavy Weight of the Poppy

     

    This morning as I walked into my local Walmart a woman handed me a tiny red poppy on a little metal stem.

    I stopped, and took it from her hand, and just looked at it. I had to reach down deep, real deep, to find the strength not to simply burst into tears. This little tiny flower, made of cheap fabric and wire, yet it weighs like a stone in my hand, like a thousand pound rock pressing into my very soul. The weight of it threatens to push me to my knees……

      I have always honored our veterans and the poppy has always been meaningful to me. It represented my dad and his service during WWII, it represented my own service during peace time, and it represented the countless ones who fought and died for my freedom. It represented all the patriotic flag waving parades attended across the years.............each year it has come to mean a little more to me as my own son deployed with the Army Infantry, first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.

    But today, I think I finally understand, I think I get it, this little red poppy means so very much more than all I had previously thought. I am unable to express in full detail what it means…but in the words that follow I will attempt as best I can.

     The poppy stands for Kalin Johnson,  Rudy Acosta, Michael Anaya, Kris Lorenzo, Vincent Ashlock, Frank World, David Todd, Patrick Carroll, Stephen Koch, Adam McSween, Seth Blevins, Andy Krippner, Kevin Balduf, Jamie Jarboe, Dustin Lee, Derek McConnell, Juan Navarro, Michael Demarsico…….and ………so very many more, all lives, all leaving behind lives forever scarred by their absence.

    The poppy stands for Leah and her beautiful boys and the birthday they just celebrated, he would have been 36 years old this year. Deployed to heaven, gone too soon, killed in action in Afghanistan.

    It stands for Cheryl, Chipster,Florence,Walline and Mary…………godly loving people, who show love and mercy to all they see, who pray so for my son, theirs gone too soon, theirs deployed to heaven.

    It stands for Lisa, we agreed together on so many prayer posts, lifted up our sons and all those with them....mine came home, hers deployed to heaven.

    It stands for the little blond boy, sitting in a heart shaped wave on a beach, who will never feel the arms of his father about him as he grows.

     It stands for  a young man named Michael as he lay burned and wounded in that hospital bed in Germany, his beautiful young wife beside him bending low to hear his whisper…”you have to let me go”…..and she did, with tears and sorrow.

     It stand for a leader named John, who promised families he would bring their men home, and who now sits in prison till the end of his days for doing so.

     It stands for Siobhan who laid everything down and rushed to the side of her wounded son, she and he fought like lions, through the constant threat of death, each time pushed back, each time defeated, and then one night he simply went to sleep and never woke up…deployed to heaven, we know not why.

     It stands for Jamie Jarboe, as we watched from afar, the desperate fight to live, he fought long, he fought hard, but in the end, he went home, leaving behind a young wife who tries her best to honor his wishes and his memory by assisting veterans and their families.

     It stands for Chaz, as he picks himself up off the ground at an airport, and his beautiful wife  who feels the eyes of condemnation upon her by some stranger who knows nothing at all of the story she is witnessing.

     It stands for young Mark, who graced our home with his presence, as he slyly twists his foot in a full circle and shows us his prosthetic leg.

     It stands for Harry. It stands for Anthony. It stands for all our wounded and all those who love them.

      The poppy stands for Trevor, Jon, Joe, Allen, Artie …and all of of those who fell to suicide. Behind them stand more wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children all asking why.

      It stands for Tammy, who buried her son Jon too soon, one who lost his fight against PTSD. She often sings various lyrics from numerous old songs, and she reaches out to veterans and survivors of suicide to lend a helping hand.

     The poppy stands for a host of young men and women still out there fighting, still paying the price, still bleeding blood wounds and soul wounds the likes of which you cannot comprehend. For Francis, for Stuart and a host of others.

     The poppy stands for all those who wait, for all those who struggle, for all those lives affected by all these wars, from the one that first began this country to the one we fight right now, to the ones we will most likely fight again in the future. The fallen, the wounded, the maimed…..and every single soul that loves them.

     The poppy stands for those who have come home, and yet remain there, who battle against PTSD, the ones enduring the nightmares, the anxiety, the anger, the depression, the hopelessness. For Andrew who once sat in a closet, gun to his head and who now writes books and poetry and strengthens his brothers and sisters. For Boone who uses the demon of PTSD against itself and directs his rage towards helping his brothers and sisters come together and stand together and fight PTSD. All the way Boone! It stands for Joe Dyer whose photo carrying an Iraqi boy to safety touched the heart of America but who died battling the demons of PTSD.

    It stands for Bill, still battling the memories of Vietnam.

      Behind each warrior who battles PTSD stand more mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands and children, watching their loved ones struggle against darkness, doing all that they can to help, fearing the dark, raging at the dark, and lighting candles against it.

     And now the poppy begins to become very personal to me……the poppy stands for Allen, and for Mandy, and Luke and Reddik, for Steve and Judy, for all the blood, the tears the sacrifice, the loss and the sorrow.

     It stands for the flag passed to two little boys, and the looks on their faces as they accepted it. It stands for the young woman who is burying the love of her life.

     The poppy stands for my son Joshua, who never served a day and yet has served every day for many years. He bore the burden of an older brother fighting, he bore the fear of loss, he bore the worry and the stress and now he bears his brothers wounds, now home, the physical war behind him, but the mental one rages on.

     The poppy stands for my family, for the nights on our knees, on our faces, for the fear, for the worry, for the pride, for the sacrifice, for the nights without sleep, for all the cries sent up to heaven, for all the pleas for prayers, for the days spend hovering by the phone, for the sorrow and pain felt at each loss, each wound. For the loss, for Mel who could not endure it all……

     The poppy stands for Adam, my oldest son, for his service and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, for his actions, for the good and the bad, for his fighting with all of his heart and soul, for his wounds received, the physical and the mental, for the innocence lost, for his guts and his bravery and his willingness to do whatever it takes to bring his guys home, for the price he has paid for that, for the lives he saved and the lives he took. For the fight he is engaged in now, a fight for life and soul. For the great love we his family have for him, for the pride we have in him. He is a man. He has stared into the face of fear and hate, death and evil. He bears the scars of those encounters, and fights still to overcome wounds received to his soul.

     This then is why, when that woman passed me that poppy this morning, it near took me to my knees, right there at Walmart, it stole the breathe from my lungs, brought the tears to my eyes, and I took it from her, and I nodded, for I could not speak, and I looked at it, and I pinned it to my chest.

      So I ask you, regardless of what the poppy might mean to you………pin it to your chest, it is heavy this tiny flower, this lite as air piece of fabric and wire, it weighs the soul, weighs down deep……..weighed down with the terrible cost of war, the blood, the wounds, the death, the destruction, the hate, the pain, the loss, the fear….it is heavy but nonetheless, carry it and remember.

     There is one more thing……..the poppy in all its heaviness, all that it represents of pain and loss and sorrow and sacrifice, also reminds me of my Lord. He too understood death and blood and pain and sorrow. He was whipped near to death, a crown of thorns pressed into his brow, he carried a heavy wooden instrument of torture to a high hill, whereby he was nailed to it, and lifted up, naked and laid bare to the world, to be mocked and scorned, his side pierced with a spear…..the sinless Lamb of God willingly took all this upon him, all the sin and death and horror and ugliness of this world, that we might be set free from the price of all our sins.

    The blood that ran down was red like a poppy, and it has the power to wash away all sin. And upon remembering this, the back became stronger, the weight of the tiny flower eased, and once again it was a flower of remembrance for all that has been sacrificed.

    I am so very honored to wear it.


     If you are willing, and if there is someone for you, that gives that poppy weight, please leave their name in the comments so we can honor their memory. God bless you all, and God keep our veterans.

    In the Furnace With God

    “And he (Nebuchadnezzar) ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

    Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.””

    Most people know the story of the three Hebrew men, tossed into the furnace for their refusal to bow down and worship a false god; it has always been one of my favorite ones. I cannot count the times I have read this out loud to my sons when they were growing up, or the times I have gone back to it myself for comfort.

    This morning was one of those days, and I sat and read this story and something that I had not considered before came to my mind.

    Nothing is said about whether or not the three Hebrews also saw the fourth man, the one who was like a son of the gods, and nothing is even said about whether the persons watching saw him or not, the only certain thing is that King Nebuchadnezzar saw him.

    Life is like a fiery furnace sometimes. We are bombarded with trials, painful trials, trials that can suck away our strength and our joy. Often in these trials we cannot see clearly. One could assume that these three young men were afraid, sure they spoke with faith and confidence when they refused the kings request to bow to the idol, but they were human, just like us, they had to be fear, and dread, and maybe even some doubt. They did not doubt God, they simply could not have known for certain if God would deliver them this side of life, or on the other. It is also possible that they walked about this fiery furnace with no knowledge of the One who walked with them, the text is not clear on what they saw, only what the king saw. They walked in faith, in the midst of flames, unaware that God Himself walked with them, for the One for appeared like “a son of the gods” was no less than our Lord Jesus Christ. (Look up Christophany.)

    When life is hard, when the fires burn high, we can remember our Lord. We are not alone in the furnace. He walks with us, and He will bring us through. I may not be able to see Him, but it is certain that the enemy of my soul sees Him…………and that is enough for me.

    We as believers do not walk alone, we are never alone, there is no place and no circumstanced where we should be afraid. We should face adversity, sorrow and even death with the sure knowledge that we are not alone……He walks with us. He has promised that He will never leave us, He will never forsake us and that nothing can separate us from His love and care.

    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
    when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.”

     So let us then be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Let us stand fast and face whatever He allows in our life, face it with faith and courage.

    Fight the good fight

     

    Let go…..and Trust the Belayer.

      Picture a dear one, someone so dear that you would willingly die for them; you would not even have to pause to consider it. Picture them struggling, hanging on to a sheer cliff, jagged rocks and darkness and raging waters below them. You claw your way to them, leaning down, desperately trying to reach them, desperately trying to pull them up to safety. You move huge boulders out of the way, you search with eagle eyes for the straightest path, and shout at the top of your lungs, go here, go there. You spend all that you have purchasing ropes, with special ties, with strong anchors, tossing them down, but none reaches them….some seem to come close, but your loved one will not reach out for them, they cling to the wall, sometimes they make a tiny bit of progress up, sometimes they slip and fall back, losing all ground they have achieved. You watch them beat against the rock; you see the blood on them, the wounds caused by the jagged edges of the sheer rock face they fight against. Others gather with you at the top of the cliff, shouting down words of encouragement, bits of advice, and pieces of rope……to no avail.

      You are willing to fling yourself right off this cliff, and die on the rocks below in order to save the struggling one….but you cannot….you are willing to take their place upon this sheer and brutal rock face, despite your desperate fear of heights…….but you cannot. You are willing to spend all that you own and be with nothing at all, to save them from this desperate perch…….but you cannot.

      A grim word picture, so far it is a desperate place to be, an uncomfortable place to be, but there is the unseen, that we must consider. The unseen, which we so often fail to consider. We in our desperation move heaven and earth in our efforts to change things, to save things, to save people we love, to make things right again, to redeem that which is lost, to give life to the dead and lifeless…….we beat our hands and our heads against the rocks in our attempts to do that which we are unable to do. It is not our place to be the change, to be the redeemer, to be the life giver, to be the restorer.  We (and I am speaking to Christians here) are to be people of faith, we are to live our lives in a manner that shows Christ and we are to depend upon Him utterly for everything. He is the Change, He is the Redeemer, He is the Life Giver, and He is the Restorer.

      As we open our eyes to these truths, we once again gaze down upon our word picture. We see the dear one hanging still upon the jagged rock face, their hands and face still bloody and sweaty from their efforts, their fingers clinched tightly to the rock, their limbs trembling from the weight of it all and from their efforts as they labor up an inch and fall back three………we see these things, but we also now see the harness wrapped about our dear one.  And as we gaze through the darkness that engulfs them, we see One standing upon the rocks, the Belayer, He holds the rope, the unseen rope, and we are now able to stand, to drop the many ropes we carry upon the ground, to cease from our efforts to clear a path, to stop shouting out words of advice unheeded……..we are able to let go, our love no less fierce than it was, but our faith renewed. It was never our task to save, it was never our task to heal, and it was never our task to restore…..it was always His.

      This dear one we watch struggle might be for some an actual person, it might be for others a life situation, a job, possession or situation that you are working with all your might to save or change. The principle is the same regardless of what your “dear one” is. Let go, unclasp your hand, loosen your grip, let it slide into the hands of the only One able to do anything of value with it. He will either deliver it safely to the top, to the place where you want it, or He will let it fall into His arms, either way, He is the Belayer, He holds the rope, the only rope……stop trying to take His place when you have not the strength nor the wisdom to see the big picture. He knows best and whatever He brings about, regardless of whether it is your will or not, will be that which is best.

     Belayer:

    1) Someone who provides a belay

      Belay:

    1) To secure (as a rope)

    2) To make fast

    3) To secure (a person) at the end of a rope

    4) To secure (a rope) to a person or object

    5) To be made fast

     

     

     

     

    Standing at a Distance

     "On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”" Luke 17:11-19

      They stood at a distance!

     Leprosy required one to always stand at a distance from "normal" folks. As a leper, when you traveled you and came near people you were required to shout out 'UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!" so that people could avoid you. You were an outcast.  A victim of leprosy was even excluded from God, he or she could not enter the temple, could not offer a sacrifice....for they were UNCLEAN!

       If a normal person touched a leper they would also be UNCLEAN! Leprosy stole everything from a person, absolutely everything, it took their bodies and their flesh, leaving them looking like monsters, it stole their dignity, it stole their humanity. It took EVERYTHING and was the most feared disease of that time. Better to just lay down and die than to be a leper.

     "And a lepercame to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean." Mark 1: 40

     He stretched out His hand and TOUCHED him!
     
      Do you realize how profound that was! No one touched a leper! They were unclean! Their touch made you unclean! But our Lord, moved with compassion, not only healed this man, but He touched him.

     I see myself in all these lepers

     Sometimes I see myself in the one leper, who returned to give thanks, these are the best of days, when my eyes and heart are open to his gifts and filled with gratitude. On these days I revel in falling at His feet and praising Him for all that He is and all that He has done. Oh that I could live every day like this.
     
      Often I see myself in the nine who did not return. My Lord heaps blessings  upon me, and so many of them I do not even take notice of. I fail, time and again I fail, to return to His feet and give thanks for all that He has done, is doing and will do for me. These are the days I stumble about in the dark, eyes tightly shut, gaze on self instead of on Him. Oh that I would have no more days like this.

     I am always the leper he touched. I was unclean, I wallow in uncleanness, even as His child, touched by His grace, I return to the mud and dirt to wallow. I am not fit for His touch, not fit for His gaze, in all truth and honesty He should cast me aside and scream UNCLEAN! But He does not. Instead, each and every time I fall, He reaches down and touches me and says "I am willing...be clean".

     
     Because of Him, and His great mercy, because He, the glorius God-Man, chose willingly to be born of a woman, to walk about this filthy unclean world, to live a life of grace and perfection in the midst of all the sin and darkness, because He willingly gave himself up, and was delivered to the cross, where He hung in agony, because He willingly at the appointed time declared IT IS FINISHED and gave up the life in His body, because He conquered death and sin, because He stomped the head of the devil into the ground, because He by His power as Almighty God, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to take His place at the right hand of God the Father, because of all this, I am declared CLEAN. My sins, all of them are cast as far as the east is from the west, and though I remember them, He remembers them no more. I stand here dressed in filthy dirty leper rags, but when He gazes upon me he sees me clothed in the purest white.

     Every morning I arise from my bed and He gives me a new white robe to wear, and although I drag it through mud and filth, He renews it, it is ever white to Him. My friends that is profound, that is wondrous, that is marvelous, that is outrageous grace!

     I no longer have to stand at a distance, I no longer am barred from His presence, instead I am whole, I am clean, I am His child. He has granted me the right to come close, to sit with Him, to converse with Him, He has made me His........and I am grateful.

     Today I will live as the one who returned, to fall at His feet, to give Him all praise and worship. Lord I praise You for your outrageous grace!

    Outrageous Grace, sung by Godfrey Birtill



    There’s a lot of pain but a lot more healing
    There’s a lot of trouble but a lot more peace
    There’s a lot of hate but a lot more loving
    There’s a lot of sin but a lot more grace


    Oh outrageous grace oh outrageous grace
    Love unfurled by heaven’s hand
    Oh outrageous grace oh outrageous grace
    Through my Jesus I can stand

    There’s a lot of fear but a lot more freedom
    There’s a lot of darkness but a lot more light
    There’s a lot of cloud but a lot more vision
    There’s a lot of perishing but a lot more life


    There’s an enemy
    That seeks to kill what it can’t control
    It twists and turns
    Making mountains out of molehills
    But I will call on my Lord
    Who is worthy of praise
    I run to Him and I am saved


     


     








    Darkness into Grace

     " God, all the world is an opportunity to behold more of your transfiguring darkness into grace. I won't ever get over it. I'm beholden to it all my life, now and forever. I want to accept all You give and learn to see into the darkness as You do, as a place to fill with Your light. Help me Father. Help me to see in the dark." One Thousand Gifts Devotional.

    And I will lead the blind
        in a way that they do not know,
    in paths that they have not known
        I will guide them.
    I will turn the darkness before them into light,
        the rough places into level ground.
    These are the things I do,
        and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16

      If there is one thing I have learned over the course of the past few years, hard years, painful years, it is that God is faithful, even in the darkness.

      In all things and no matter the circumstances we must remember that nothing, not one thing that happens to us is a surprise to God. He knows these things, He has allowed these things, dark as they may seem to you, senseless to you, unfair to you, He has allowed them. This might seem like something a harsh and unloving God would do, but in those thoughts we must remember all that He has told us, about who He is, about what His purpose is.

    He is:

    All Powerful

    He is everywhere present.

     He is all knowing.

    He is sovereign.

    He is holy.

    He is absolute truth.

    He is righteous.

    He is just.

    He is love.

    He is merciful.

    He is faithful.

    He never changes.

      All that He does, all that He allows, all that He brings about in our lives will and does serve His purposes, and His purposes are always for our benefit. Always.

      His grace is always available, a full measure, all that you need, for each day. Open your eyes. Ask Him to show you all the ways he blesses You, ask Him to show you how to see Him at work in what you perceive to be total darkness. From every single thing comes grace and blessing.

      I learned long ago that sometimes word pictures assist us in understanding something. I have always thought of my children and my great love for them in defining how God allows bad things, hurtful things, to occur in our lives. I look back to when one of my boys was very sick. I took him to the doctor, and they informed me that he would have to receive two shots, they would inject them into his legs, and that the shots were extremely painful. They informed me that they would burn like fire. I helped to hold him down while they injected him. I will never forget his eyes, they burned into me, eyes that screamed betrayal, how could I, his mother, the one who always defended, always comforted, always gave anything and everything on his behalf, allow this to be done? He was too young to understand why, too young to know that the reason I held him down, the reason I allowed them to hurt him, was because of my love for him, my desire to save him, to preserve his life. It was not for harm, although in his eyes great harm was done.

     Now I am an imperfect created being, and I have made, do make and will continue to make mistakes. My word picture therefore is inadequate in it's representation of God, but it at least helps to form a picture that might aid somewhat in our understanding of why bad things happen. Just like my son, laying on that table, screaming his outrage and his pain at the top of his lungs, did not understand, did not have all the pieces to the puzzle, could not comprehend at that time that what was taking place was for good in the end, sometimes we also cannot see. There will be times of great sorrow where we will live to actually see with our own eyes the reasons, and the good that came from them, there will be other times where we may not see it, we may have to wait until we stand before Him, and He shows us all that He did, all that He brought about, all that He prevented, by allowing the pain in our lives. What He asks us to do right now is to trust Him. His love for His children makes my love for my own children pale in comparison, for He is God, perfect in His love, while I am human and created and always imperfect in mine.

      May God, today and in days to come, help us to see in the darkness, to open our eyes fully, to open our clenched fists completely and receive the abundant grace that He freely gives.

    GRACE: unmerited, undeserved favor.

     

    More information on the attributes of God:

    http://www.josh.org/video-2/attributes-of-god/



    On Wings of Eagles

    "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
     
     What is it to wait upon the Lord?
    What are you waiting for? Think deeply on this? What are you really waiting for? Are you waiting for the next bad thing to happen? Are you waiting on life to give you a break? .........What are you really waiting for?
     
     When we pray what are we praying for? For an end to trials? For an end to pain? What is our agenda? I have discovered that I often have an agenda when I pray. And more importantly I have sadly discovered that often my prayers do not reveal a satisfaction in God, nor a trust in His character, but a dissatisfaction with Him and a fear of what might happen next.

     When I give in to fear, or to anger, I am crying out with a loud voice that His grace is not sufficient, that His purposes in my life are not right. When I pray for things to change, plead for Him to do what I want done right now, I am saying that the place where He has me is not the right place.

     As Christians we were made to soar like eagles. Above the fear, above the worry, above the sorrow and sin and destruction. Regardless of what may be going on, we are to know our God and to trust that all that He brings into our life is right and is as it should be. It has a purpose. He has not promised us an easy life here on this earth, but if we pray to really know Him, pray to really trust Him, pray to be more like Him, we will soar above it all. Even our tears, and our suffering will not drag us down.

     He lives brothers and sisters!

    "“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord”.   Psalm 27:14

    “Be of good courage.”  Alas, how can one be so when all sense and feeling dishearten the mind and deject the soul?  Lively frames in duty, sweet enlargements of heart, heavenly transports of joy, delightful ecstasies of faith, rapturous tastes of love, all, all  like Noah’s dove have taken their flight; and I fear says the drooping soul, never, never more to return.  Truly like Hezekiah, “I mourn as a dove, mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord I am oppressed, undertake for me,” Isaiah 38:14. 

    Still, saith the Comforter by his word, “Be of good courage”.  Remember thy calling.  It is to live by faith, honour thy Lord, and be obedient to his word.  Thou hast the sentence of death in thyself that thou should not trust in thyself lest thy heart depart from thy Lord.  Not frames and feelings, but God’s love and promises in Christ to sinners are the foundation of hope.  These are abundantly sufficient to inspire the soul with courage, yea, with good courage to go on in the ways of the Lord. 

    Steadfast faith cleaves to Jesus, abides by the truth, and perseveres in dutiful obedience.  Shall these ever be suspended for want of lively frames and joyful feelings?  How would this prove that we walk by faith and that our eye is single to Christ’s glory?    Nay, we should then only serve him according to the changes of sense and passion rather than by the uniform, consistent obedience of faith. 

    The Lord’s word is our rule of duty; his promises are our support.  His grace is sufficient for us; his strength is made perfect in our weakness.  If our hearts are weak that we cannot run with eagerness the ways of God’s commandments as we desire, so much more reason have we to wait on the Lord for “the times of refreshing from his presence”.  For “he giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” Isaiah 40:29.

    “Wait I say on the Lord.”  David repeats the command with a holy fervour to his own soul and others.  God has promised: expect fulfillment. Here is the exercise of faith: trust in the Lord Christ for what we stand in need of; of hope, expecting to receive all from him; of patience, waiting continually upon him. 

    Most precious promise! “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40: 31."

    by William Mason

    http://www.rcnz.org/meditation.html
     
    How do we wait upon the Lord?

     In this busy world we are conditioned to believe that doing nothing is a bad thing. To sit quietly and simply listen, to simply be, is not encouraged in our society and yet it is a wonderful method of learning to wait upon the Lord.
     Our spirits today are loud, they shout and scream a lot. This often hinders our prayers. We stop for brief moments and pour out our request, our petitions, we beg God to change our situations and then we jump up and do everything in our power to fix whatever situation we are in. We do not do a lot of waiting. I am very guilty of this.
     
     Let us sit before Him, be silent before Him, He knows our situations, He knows the desires of our heart, He knows our suffering. Let us focus on who He is, let our fervent work be spent in knowing Him more, in seeing Him more clearly, in being more like Him. That is where we will find the miracles we seek.





    Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
    Psalms 27:14


    Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see [it].
    Psalms 37:34


    Say not thou, I will recompense evil; [but] wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.
    Proverbs 20:22




    Compassion for Others....a gift or a curse?

    Of late there has been an abundance of occurrences whereby the opportunity to extend mercy and compassion has been made available. Currently my family has endured two suicides in a three month period, over the past few years I have come to know many people who have suffered the loss of a son in combat, and it seems that all my friends are struggling with various heartaches, from deaths in their family to very ill family members, lost jobs, and just all around hard times.

    Being merciful and having compassion on others can consume you if you are not careful, it can lead to depression, to despair, to hopelessness, as God brings one person after another into your life that is hurting. In most cases you are powerless to do much about the situation, you may offer comfort, you try and console, you try to bring hope, you try to show love, in other words…you extend to the hurting the gift of mercy and compassion.


    The situations my family have endured and many of my friends has led me to reflect upon this gift I have….is it a gift or is it a curse? There are some days when I feel so burdened, so weighed down with the sorrow of others that I can hardly focus on the mundane tasks at hand, and I feel discouraged, and very sad. Today was such a day. When I arose this morning I felt discouraged. Various trials being experienced by persons that I love very much were heavy on my heart, and I cried out to God…”how much longer Lord?”..” I cannot stand feeling like this, I cannot stand this constant burden, I cannot stand this constant worry for those I love…..how wonderful it must be to be able to simply live life without so much concern for the welfare of others.”


    And then it came to me….how the gift of mercy is truly a gift. It is a small and tiny piece of God’ own heart….He is burdened for the sorrows of His children…..He hurts for them…and He desires me to pray for them, he desires me to offer words of comfort…He desires me to stand beside them……and in so doing He is standing with them, He is offering comfort, He is praying….What a wonderful thing to be used by God in such a way!


    We are His hands here on earth! We are His voice! We are His arms! We are His legs! We must embrace all that He places on us, and do His work!


    Romans12: 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

    17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”[a] says the Lord. 20 Therefore

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
    For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.
    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.



    “Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
    no hands but yours,
    no feet but yours,
    Yours are the eyes through which to look out
    Christ's compassion to the world
    Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
    doing good;
    Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”
    Teresa of Ávila
     
    Originally published on Blogger June 26th, 1013