Those of us blessed with gray hair will really appreciate this wonderful devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada. Please visit her great site, Joni and Friends.
Gray hair is the splendor of the old. —Proverbs 20:29
Ernest Barkaway, a 90-year old Englishman, looked bright, sprightly and dapper in his woolen vest and British tam. He told me that when one of his kidneys was removed, he received a blood transfusion: “I watched the drops trickle through the tube, and I thought of all the people–male and female, English and foreign, black and white–who had given freely of their life blood for my need.” After a pause he wistfully added, “How much more Jesus gave freely of His life blood for my deepest need!” I could tell he had garnered much godly wisdom in his 90 years. He proved it with a poem he gave me…
They say that I am growing old; I’ve heard them say times untold,
In language plain and bold–but I am not growing old.
This frail old shell in which I dwell is growing old, I know full well!
But I am not the shell.
What if my hair is turning gray; gray hairs are honorable they say.
What if my eyesight’s growing dim; I still can see to follow Him
Who sacrificed His life for me–upon the Cross at Calvary!
Why should I care if time’s old plough has left its furrows on my brow?
Another house, not made with hands awaits me in the Glory Land.
What though I falter in my walk and though my tongue refuse to talk?
I still can tread the narrow way; I still can watch and praise and pray!
The robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise to seize the everlasting prize
I’ll meet you on the streets of gold and prove I am NOT growing old.
As I wrote the above, I learned Ernest Barkaway went home to be with Jesus. Write a note of encouragement or call an elderly friend today. Share Mr. Barkaway’s poem.
Father, reveal to me ways I can ascribe dignity and show respect to the elderly people in my life. May I never take lightly their struggles and trials.
Joni and Friends
Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan
A couple of months ago I decided to try posting more often than I had been doing. What I discovered is that I’ve been putting so much work into these almost-daily posts that I’ve been neglecting my other writing responsibilities. Since I believe that the Lord has provided these writing opportunities for me, I need to use my limited time and energy more wisely.
Starting this week, I’ll be posting three times per week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I’m very thankful for my contributing writers, which alleviates some of the time I dedicate to this blog. I come across many great blog posts from other sources and I’ll continue to share those with you too. God is doing some great things in my writing life this year and I’ll be doing my best to honor what He has given me to do for His glory.
Beloved, thank you all for sticking with me and being a part of my bloggy world! I appreciate each and every one of you!
A FEAST OF JOY
“The cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15). Joy is a perpetual, delicious smorgasbord of delight, an avalanche of dazzling power that encompasses the heart and soul. Joy is exhilarating, lavishing our lives with zeal. Joy captivates behavior, illuminating a smile or a deep sustained laugh. Body language conveys our emotions with a sparkle in our eyes, spontaneous hand-clapping, or a little jumping up-and-down.
The exchange of wedding vows amplifies hearts with love, flooding them with joy. In such instances, joy owns the gamut of our emotions, rendering us incapable of passively managing surges of jubilation. Because the occasion is so anticipated and celebrated, our hearts stagger under the load, making us feel as if our epicenter of joy will actually implode. The Psalmist expresses it well: “My heart leaps for joy” (Psalm 28:7).
God’s Word is replete with examples of people whose joy knew no bounds even under the most profoundly challenging circumstances. Miriam, sister of Moses, unabashedly rallied the Israeli women to sing, using tambourines and dance to exuberantly express joy and gratitude to the Lord following His miraculous delivery of the Israelites from generations of slavery in Egypt. The women converted their sorrow and mourning into enthusiastic singing to God for His spectacular victory over the pharaoh and the Egyptian army.
David, King of Israel, was ecstatic that the ark of the covenant, the representation of God’s throne on earth, was returned to Israeli’s possession after many decades of absence following its seizure by the Philistines, who considered it no more than a lucky talisman. Rallying the people in a Jerusalem street parade, “David danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sounds of trumpets” (2 Samuel 6:14-15). It was a time of tremendous rejoicing of national impact. David’s dance was one of true worship, explicitly demonstrating extraordinary love for his Lord.
Job, an Old Testament character, was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job’s dilemma still raises the quintessential question of why the righteous suffer. Job was steadfast regarding his innocence, though his friends accused him of liability for his suffering, determined that Job had caused his own demise by sinning. Job’s wife was so repulsed and discouraged with Job’s all-encompassing body sores, she advised Job to curse God and die. Having little hope for a cure and grieving the loss of his ten children and all of his possessions in one day, Job knew his joy could be deferred as he anticipated eternal life in heaven. Thus he admitted, “Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain” (Job 6:10). In light of heaven, Job could readily rejoice, knowing he had remained true to God throughout his long ordeal on earth.
Paul and Silas were captured by the Roman authorities, then stripped and beaten with a whip made of several strips of leather into which were embedded bone and lead at the end. Once severely flogged with the whip, they were thrown into an inner cell in the dark, dank, malodorous prison with their feet fastened in stocks. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the prison, opening the cell doors and loosening prisoners’ chains. The jailer, responsible for all prisoners, was startled from sleep and assumed the prisoners had escaped. Paul and Silas intervened before the jailer committed suicide with his sword, and presented the Gospel to the jailer and his family. The jailer was then “filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). What unusual events were set in motion by a God who was honored and worshipped in spite of life-threatening conditions! When we trust in God, joy reigns supreme, regardless of adverse situations!
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the epitome of joy. He who was sinless during his entire life on earth, acknowledged His ultimate goal was to glorify His Father by offering His life as a perfect sacrifice, to redeem sinners of this world. When the soldiers burst into Jesus’ reverie of quiet prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to take Him by force, Jesus succumbed to the Roman authorities, willingly complying with their orders. “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Jesus obediently chose to die; otherwise no one would have had the power to kill Him.
The peace Jesus exhibited during his brutal trial and agonizing crucifixion ordeal is beyond our finite understanding. Though Jesus was exhausted and hurting on all levels, He rejoiced spiritually because He was accomplishing the goal for which He had given up His glory in heaven for a season to live on earth—that of becoming the perfect sacrificial Lamb to atone for sin. Jesus’ joy was powerful and zealous; the bounds of Christ’s joy were immeasurable.
If the man, Jesus, could prompt any amount of joy while confronting a terrifying, heinous crucifixion, it was only because He spent quality time with His heavenly Father in prayer, who strengthened Jesus’ commitment to His life’s goal. Utter joy is only possible for us because through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He guarantees our inheritance, providing hope for a life of joy on earth and a glorious eternity in heaven.
When Jesus appeared to His followers after his resurrection, He revealed to them the crucifixion wounds in His hands and His side. The disciples were so ecstatic to actually see Jesus alive, their joy was contagious, extending throughout the centuries to our current generation: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Indeed, we are commanded to rejoice. The Apostle Paul, himself frequently plagued with hostility and extreme suffering, taught: “‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’” (Philippians 4:4). Christ was the source and secret of Paul’s joy.
One of our life’s objectives is irrefutable: we are to be defined by worshipful joy in which God’s entire creation participates. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” (Psalm 96; 11-12). Since all of nature responds to His authority, God accepts joyful worship from everything He creates. On that premise, let us assess the amount of joyous adoration our Redeemer receives from us. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:1-2).
Joy is not passive, but animated, manifesting praise and thanksgiving. Miriam and David unapologetically sang and danced before God Almighty. Like them, we eagerly worship our Savior, passionately reflecting His character with effervescent expressions of joy. It is God’s desire that we live triumphant lives, for which joy is one of the important components. Jesus said, “‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’” (John 10-10, KJV). Let our words and actions be saturated with bountiful joy!
Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
—1 Thessalonians 1:9–10
One biblical scholar describes hope this way: “From a biblical perspective, hope may be best imaged as a line suspended between past experience of God’s reliability and a future that is still open, a line stretched taut between the reliability and the freedom of Israel’s God.” The greatest demonstration of God’s reliability is Jesus: the Son of God who willingly became fully man, who suffered an unjust death by crucifixion, and who was vindicated by God in the resurrection. What a wonderful example for our own hope!
Our reading today is from the introduction of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. Throughout these verses Paul unpacks the multiplying nature of hope in Jesus. The Thessalonians had been persecuted since they had accepted Jesus (v. 6). But despite their suffering, they were enduring “inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). When the Thessalonians looked at Jesus, they saw that He had suffered and been resurrected, and with Him as their model they too could continue to hope.
The hope of the Thessalonians was inspired by the example of Jesus, and then their own lives and hope became encouraging examples for others (v. 7). This is the power of hope in Jesus: not only does it strengthen our own endurance in the spiritual life, it also provides a witness of God’s power for others to see.
Finally, notice the specific hope in Jesus that produced faithful obedience. The Thessalonians had embraced faith in the living God, and the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of His return and ultimate deliverance to live with Him kept them motivated to love and serve the Lord. Jesus endured suffering—and so did they. Jesus had been resurrected to eternal life—and so would they. What a basis for hope!
Apply the Word
The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for our hope—not just the theology we believe but also the hope that inspires our daily lives and sustains us in difficult days. Without the resurrection of Jesus, we Christians should be pitied (see 1 Cor. 15:19). But because our hope is in Jesus’ victory over death, we know that our work for God is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. —Deuteronomy 6:4
The four letters of YHWH are often referred to as the Tetragrammaton, which literally means “four lettered name.” Vowels were later added to the Tetragrammaton to make the name YAHWEH, which is most commonly transliterated as JEHOVAH. When a Bible translation has LORD in all caps (actually capital L and small capital letters), it signifies JEHOVAH. 1
“One of the oddities of history is the loss of the proper pronunciation of the Hebrew word YHWH, the personal and covenant name of God in the Old Testament. ‘Jehovah’ is a spelling that developed from combining the consonants of the name with the vowels of a word for ‘Lord’ (Adonai). ‘Yahweh’ is probably the original pronunciation. The name eventually ceased to be pronounced because later Jews thought it too holy to be uttered and feared violating it. It is translated ‘LORD’ in this version.” 2
Recently I saw a video titled YHWH. It is a powerful presentation of what our YHWH should mean to us, especially during this time of year when we contemplate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This video was a project started by Dan Stevens in which many people worked to put together an awesome video. The final product—the video below—will cause you to praise God, our LORD, for His many attributes. He is indeed our great I AM.
2 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks,
He broke it and gave it to them, saying,
“This is My body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of Me.”
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying,
“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
The Lord took two of the most frail elements in the world as symbols of His body and blood. Bread and wine—both will spoil in a few days. When He raised a monument, it was not made of brass or marble, but of two frail elements that perish.
He declared that the bread spoke of His body and the wine spoke of His blood. The bread speaks of His body broken—not a bone broken but a broken body because He was made sin for us (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).
I do not believe He even looked human when He was taken down from that cross. Isaiah had said of Him, “…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 523:14); and “…there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).
For centuries the Passover feast had looked forward to the Lord’s coming and His death. Now He is in the shadow of the cross, and this is the last Passover. The Passover feast has now been fulfilled.
We gather about the Lord’s Table and search our hearts. What we do at this Table is in remembrance of Him. We look back to what He did for us on the cross, and we look forward to His coming again. “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Recently we sang “Above All” at church. This song never fails to make my eyes leak, especially when I try to sing the chorus:
Crucified, laid behind a stone
You lived to die, rejected and alone
Like a rose, trampled on the ground
You took the fall and thought of me
How can we possibly view the agony Jesus went through during all those beatings and His crucifixion—just for us sinners—without being impacted by it? And how can we not be utterly thankful for all that He went through—just for us sinners—and not be thankful beyond words?
Beloved, we should be spending the rest of our earthly lives thanking Jesus for His great sacrifice on our behalf, and looking for ways to share the truth of His mercy and grace with others. Telling people about the Reason for our faith, hope and joy may seem scary but it is not difficult. Simply tell them where you came from and how Jesus transformed your life into where you are today!
To help you walk someone through the process of asking Jesus into their hearts as their Savior and Lord, go to my A…B…C… post to help you with the steps.
Please enjoy this video is of Michael W. Smith singing “Above All” with lyrics.
If for any reason you are unable to view this video, you can read the lyrics here.
What if you woke up one morning knowing it was your last day on earth? That’s what happened to the thief on the cross, who died a few feet from Jesus. Heaven, How I Got Here is his story, told in his own words, as he looks back from Heaven on the day that changed his eternity, and the faith that can change yours.
If you haven’t yet read Pastor Colin S. Smith’s short book, Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross , it is a very easy read. It is a story unlike any you’ve read. It was inspired by the story of the thief on the cross, found in chapter 23 of Luke’s Gospel. In writing the book, Pastor Colin tried to imagine the thief looking back on the last day of his life on earth from the perspective of his new life in heaven.
The story weaves together what we know from the Bible about the events of that day and views them through the eyes of the thief as he would have experienced them at the time, and as he can understand them now. If Jesus could save the thief a few hours before he died, there is lasting hope in Jesus, even for a person coming to the end of his or her life.
But think about his position on the day that he finds himself on a cross next to Jesus. He is at the end of his life (and he has not lived a good life), and there’s nothing he can do to improve it!
A lot of people have the idea that we get into heaven by living a good life, a religious life. They may believe that Jesus forgives, but deep down they feel that their progress in the Christian life is the key that will open the door of heaven. So, what is the thief to do on that basis?
- With his hands fixed to the cross, he can’t do any good works.
- With his feet nailed to a wooden beam, he can’t walk in paths of righteousness.
- With death only a few hours away, there was no time for him to turn over a new leaf.
What can he do? Religion cannot help him at this point in his life.
But Jesus can! This is the great importance of him turning to Jesus, a few feet away, and saying, “Jesus, would you remember me when you come into your kingdom?” And Jesus says to this man, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” So, Jesus is able to do for a person what religion cannot do. He is able to bring hope in a situation that would otherwise be utterly hopeless.
The story of the thief not only sheds light on the limits of religion, it is also a marvelous sample of what Christ is able to do for a person.
Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross is available from these retailers:
- Unlocking the Bible: paperback, audio
- Christian Focus Publications: paperback
- Amazon: paperback, audio, Kindle
- Christianbook.com: paperback
Colin Smith is Senior Pastor of The Orchard in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. His preaching ministry is shared through his daily radio program, Unlocking the Bible, and through his website, unlockingthebible.org. Colin recently authored the book Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross (Christian Focus). Connect with Colin on Twitter @PastorColinS.