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OUR SELFLESS SAVIOR (Part 2) [REPOST]

~This is the second part of the series on John 13 by Donna Baker~

 

Last Thursday we read how Jesus spent His last hours fulfilling the will of His Father in teaching and serving others.

God’s plan was in place.

Jesus was in lockstep with His Father in spite of what He knew He was facing.

The focus switches now to Judas.

During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him… —John 13:2

All sin begins in the heart. Only when it is acted upon does it become sin.

We can read about this downward slide in chapter 1 of James:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. —James: 1:13-16

If you look up the verses in the Bible where Judas is mentioned, you learn he was covetous. We know this because it tells us he was a thief. He didn’t need the money, he simply wanted the money. He had been with Jesus for three years. Did he think Jesus didn’t know he was stealing?

Our hearts deceive us too. We think God doesn’t see our secret sins but He does, just as Jesus knew Judas’ heart.

One of the most startling things to consider about Judas is that earlier in time, Jesus had also sent Judas to heal, cast out demons, etc.:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

—Matthew 10:1-8 (ESV)

Isn’t this astonishing? Judas was able to do all these things and saw these miracles and many more. He saw Lazarus and the others Jesus raised from the dead, and yet he still didn’t believe with his heart.

Sobering thoughts, aren’t they? Doesn’t it give this portion of Matthew 7 a whole new perspective to ponder?

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matt. 7:21-23

We all have preconceived ideas of what we expect of Jesus in our lives even if we are not aware of it. It is very likely that Judas had some preconceived ideas toohow he thought Jesus should be or doand it was not working out that way. From my point of view, this is probably part of why he was contemplating betraying Him.

Here is one of my thoughts [and remember, this is my opinion, not the Bible’s]: we know that two of the other disciples thought Jesus was going to set up His kingdom right away and free them from the Romans. We know this because their mother asked Jesus to give them the two highest political offices, on the right and the left of Him.

Maybe Judas expected, as they did, to have an important “cabinet” position such as Department of Treasury where he could have both prestige and siphon off a lot more money to help him grow rich and powerful.

Does that sound like some of today’s politicians?

When it became clear to Judas that Jesus had another plan, he was probably disillusioned and maybe even angry. He seemed to have forgotten all the miracles of the past.

Remember, it is only a few days before Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead! Judas was there!

How this applies to us.

Often when we pray, our preconceived or erroneous ideas expect God to answer in a specific way. Or maybe we wonder why He is sometimes silent. Perhaps there’s even some other way we are disappointed by the answer [or no answer] to our prayers.

We must guard our hearts so as not to let unbelief seep in and cause us to sin or to doubt that God always has our best interests at work in our lives.

When we are angry or fearful, or when things are not going well, we are vulnerable. But sometimes we are equally vulnerable when we are on the “mountaintop.”

Therefore, we must be like Jesus: keep focused on the mission.

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To be continued next Thursday…

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OUR SELFLESS SAVIOR [REPOST]

So far this summer—which actually felt like it began last April—has felt like a roller coaster ride. And I hate roller coasters! I unexpectedly have a good day so of course I do more than I probably should, and then spend several days to a week or more in recovery/payback mode.

As I’ve stated before, summer is the most difficult time of year for me. Although I cherish the rain we sorely need here in the northern Arizona desert, the monsoon weather taxes my body to the utmost. Last week I felt like I was about 95 as I S-L-O-W-L-Y pushed my shopping cart through the store. My migraine shrieked its presence as every single joint cried out in pain.

No worries though. God’s always got my back and I am forever thankful for that. He gives me just enough energy to do what He has planned for me, so I’ll ride out this monsoon season as best I can and thank Him for anything I can do to share His message of faith, love, joy and hope.

Life is full of challenges for all of us but my challenges are sometimes measured in minutes or hours. Instead of completely shutting down this blog, I have made the hard decision to prioritize rest by not writing as much as I would like to. Instead, I’ll be sharing more of my previous posts with you, along with posting some uplifting images from time to time. I pray you’ll understand and bear with me.

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As I wrote you last Thursday, today begins the series on John 13 by my friend and mentor, Donna Baker. Again, thank you, Donna, for allowing me to share your heart with my readers.

 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. –John 13:1

This was not only the last night of Jesus’ life, but He knew in mere hours He would be tortured and crucified: the most cruel form of death.

And yet He spent His last hours fulfilling the will of His Father, in teaching and serving others.

If we faced that, would we be fulfilling our religious obligations, teaching others—calm, methodical, focused on the goal—or would we be ricocheting off the walls, focused on the end? It’s quite unlikely we would be calm. Maybe we’d even be crying and praying. Jesus did that too in the Garden of Gethsemane later that night.

He was after all, human.

He was obeying God and His written Word in spite of what faced Him.

It was the Feast of the Passover when all Jewish males were to go to Jerusalem to attend the Feast:

The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD’S appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—

My appointed times are these:…

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover.’”

—Leviticus 23:1-2, 5

Jesus was not only to go to the Feast, He was to be the Passover Lamb, the sacrifice for all the sin of all mankind. There are so many Scriptures that say this, but I only want to dwell now on the one in John 1, where John the Baptist foretold of Him:

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! —John 1:29

The Jews had wanted to kill Him for years, but they didn’t want to do it during the Passover. However God had other plans and His plans are never thwarted:

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

The Jews thought they were in control but reading about the last night of Jesus’ life should put that idea to rest with anyone who reads it. God caused all things to be as they were foretold in the Old Testament. There are too many to list here.

Be an Acts 17:11 Christian and look them up and you will be amazed at Your God!!

Now these were more noble-minded that those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. —Acts 17:11

God’s plan was in place. Jesus was in lockstep with His Father in spite of what He knew He was facing.

Beloved, as you pray today, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I in lockstep with God’s plan for me today?
  • Am I spending enough time listening to Him through His Word and in prayer?
  • Am I trusting God for my future even if it is a harsh future, or even death?
  • Am I praying and caring only for myself or for others as Jesus did in His last hours?

To be continued next Thursday…

 

 

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I Choose to Believe [Repost from Teshuva]

I love it when I have the chance to share special posts from other blogs. Today’s offering is by my bloggy friend, Ugochi Jolomi. Her site, Teshuva … Inspirations for a Better Life, is wonderful.  

The other day I read a fantastic post at her site: I Choose to Believe. Ugochi, you must have been in my head when you wrote this! Thank you for allowing me to share it here.

I Choose to Believe

I Choose To BelieveI choose  to refuse fear and doubt as I journey through this world. Too many things are happening to suggest fear and doubt, too really scary incidents. The vicissitudes of life and some peregrine entries are causing the ugly spirit of fear and doubt may be hovering over my head, but by God, I will not let them perch.

Read the rest of this wonderful post here.

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Make Music in Your Heart

Eph5-19


Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Ephesians 5:19b-20

Have you ever heard the phrase attitude of gratitude? Ask yourself why it should be an attitude, rather than just good old gratitude. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well, but what about when they’re not? Is it possible to be thankful even then?

So many of us struggle with how to live joyfully with chronic illness or disability. The reality is that trying to find any kind of joy in such situations takes time. What can we do to live with pain and yet truly keep a positive outlook?

I’m sure you’ve met people who struggle with daily pain yet never fail to greet you with joy no matter how they feel. How do they maintain such a grateful attitude when they’re going through such tough times?

ChronicPainFor those of us who are chronically ill or disabled, it is natural to want things as they used to be. But not only is that a waste of precious time and emotions, allowing God to use us where we are now can help us focus on the good things in our lives. And that leads us to remember that God is working everything out for the best, even if it doesn’t seem that way to us.

Beloved, life is not easy for those of us struggling with daily pain issues. The simplest tasks can seem daunting when our bodies refuse to cooperate properly. However, we do have a choice: we can choose to be sad and angry about what is happening to us. Or we can nurture an attitude of gratitude, which usually results in a happy outlook and allows others to glimpse God’s love through us.

I often sing this song by Casting Crowns in my heart to God when I am at my lowest. It never fails to do two things:

  • I am filled with utter thankfulness that He is always, always, always holding me close to His side
  • my eyes start leaking

If you cannot view this video of Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in This Storm,” please click here to read the lyrics.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, sometimes it is so hard to sing through our pain, but we know You are always at our side to strengthen and hold us up when we are not able to on our own. Help us remember that giving thanks for everything means we can be thankful for what You are doing in our hearts through our pain. Thank You for always being our All in All. Blessed be Your holy Name!

 

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Memory Markers [Repost]

SWEET SATURDAY

On this Sweet Saturday, I want to encourage you if you’re going through a tough time. It is so easy to be thankful when things are going well and understandably much harder to think thankful thoughts when everything seems to be falling apart.

I know what I’m talking about here.

Earlier this week I was stuck in a very long CFIDS flare that involved daily unrelenting migraines. How and where could I find any … any … reason to be thankful? And how is that even possible?

I recently read a devotional that confirms what I have long suspected. We were encouraged to store up the memories of precious times when we felt God blessing us with something special, and slide those memories out during the tough times.

In other words, remember the good during the not-so-good.

In Old Testament times, God encouraged His people to pile up some stones in the places of special blessing as a remembrance for them to recall during difficult times. I use what I call “memory markers”—special times in my life when God has shown His faithfulness to me. I cling to these memory markers during the frustrating days of chronic illness when it often seems I will never climb out of the pit.

What this has done has been remarkable in my life. Where before I would mentally cry “I don’t understand,” now, even though I still don’t understand (because I’m not God), I find myself telling God, “I don’t get it, but I trust that You know what You’re doing and that’s good enough for me.”

You see, God has shown me over and over again that I can count on Him. And each of those times, I have made a new memory marker to be able to recall the event and the outcome when I need encouragement. A few examples from my own life:

  • Some years ago, I very reluctantly agreed to be a counselor at a camp for abused and abandoned children. Oh, I certainly felt God’s leading but I also felt totally unqualified for the task. God, however, had other ideas and provided the exact amount of strength and spiritual uplifting I needed to complete the week at camp—so much so that I went back the next year!
  • The small, family-owned business I worked for downsized and I was the only one let go. As my sole source of support, that should have really worried me but I trusted God to provide me with just the right job for me in a short time… and He did, in less than one week!
  • For years I struggled with a particular spiritual problem that finally left me once I completely—and I mean completely— gave it to the Lord to take care of.  [This is an example of my "palms down" visual method of handing problems to the Lord... more about this in a future blog post.]
  • Rick and I trusted God to show us the right time to sell our home in California and make the move to Arizona. We were delighted but not surprised when He provided just the right buyer for our California home while at the same time providing us the exact home we need here in Arizona.

Here is the crucial part of trusting God: each time I choose to trust God during a particularly puzzling and/or frustrating situation, He demonstrates His faithfulness to me. Sometimes that means He answers a particular prayer in a particular way; other times He simply wants me to trust Him while He works behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like He is hearing me.

During one of those examples I listed above, God gave me Isaiah 26:3 to remember:

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

 I’m very happy to report that this particular memory marker soothes and comforts me while it also reinforces my trust and faith in my Lord, Jesus Christ.

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He is Risen Indeed! [Repost]

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

This is what I posted last year on Easter.

psalm16_8

Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

—Psalm 16

This might seem like a strange way to say Halleluiah! on this Easter Sunday. I could have written about how Jesus’ resurrection from the grave paved the way for us to join Him in heaven when we die. Or maybe I should have spoken of the fact that Jesus completely obeyed his Father by taking on the penalty for our sins—not His sins, because He was born sinless and lived a sinless life. Perhaps I should concentrate on how trusting in Jesus for our salvation is the only way to heaven.

Hmm… I guess I just did all of the above!

Do you ever, like I often do, wonder what life will be like in heaven? I doubt that we’ll be forever lounging on clouds and eating bagels with cream cheese [like that old TV commercial], but my mind does conjure images of a place where there are no worries or anxieties, no sickness nor pain…and no death.

Everything and everyone will be focused on worshiping Jesus Christ, our Savior and LORD. We will not want for anything because we will have all we want and need in the LORD.

Wow!

Thoughts of the pleasures we’ll experience in our eternal home should help us see our difficulties in a different way. God completely understands our frustrations and sadness about things in our lives that seem beyond comprehension. The list is long and getting longer every day we live on this earth.

But… rest assured that our God understands all of it and simply asks us to trust Him enough [there's my word again!] to get us through it. In fact, it is only through Him that we can bear up under any of it.

Psalm 16 above is one of those defined as a Messianic psalm because it is quoted in the New Testament as predicting the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Just as God promised through David’s words that Jesus would be resurrected and not “see decay,” so we can be assured that He is by our side, guiding us in our “path of life.”

Beloved, as we struggle with our everyday burdens, let’s not forget that Jesus Christ suffered so much for so many. He shed His own blood to give us the opportunity to live with Him forever, free from the burdensome realities of life here on earth. When we seem to be at the end of our rope, let’s choose to rejoice with Him, that He has made a way for us to live with Him forever.

HeHasRisen

The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon! —Luke 24:34, ESV

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The Hope of Easter

Good-Friday-Wallpaper-08

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who according to His great mercy
has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
  

to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable
and undefiled and will not fade away,
reserved in heaven for you,
 

who are protected by the power of God
through faith for a salvation
ready to be revealed in the last time.
  

In this you greatly rejoice,
even though now for a little while, if necessary,
you have been distressed by various trials,
  

so that the proof of your faith,
being more precious than gold which is perishable,
even though tested by fire,
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
 

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him,
and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him,
you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
 

obtaining as the outcome of your faith
the salvation of your souls.
—1 Peter 1:3-9

 

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God Loves You This Much

GodLovesYouThisMuch

 

 

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The Lord’s Compassion

Ps145-9

 Psalm 145

A psalm of praise. Of David.

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.

10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

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Great is His Faithfulness

Great is His Faithfulness

Lam3-21-23VictoriaHarborSunset

 

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.
—Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices:
to dwell on our misery
or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.”

Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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