Follow or Retreat

Follow or Retreat

By Patricia Knight

Flanked by His disciples during His three-year ministry on earth, Jesus traveled incalculable miles by foot and by boat. Wherever they went, curious crowds followed. Some people were sincerely interested in the Messiah’s message, but others were enamored with His miracles and wanted to see more. News of Jesus’ next destination spread quickly; multitudes were often waiting at a future site to meet Him. Though admirers and detractors alike surrounded Jesus, there were two places where throngs did not follow Him. For one, they were disinterested in pursuing Jesus to a secluded spot to pray.

Christ had just fed five hundred listeners by miraculously multiplying one boy’s small lunch. As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus instructed His disciples to go on ahead of Him by boat to the other side of the lake while He dismissed the crowd (Matthew 14:22-23). Jesus then walked up a mountainside to pray alone throughout the evening. He gained refreshment and renewal of body and soul for the challenging days ahead by communicating with His heavenly Father. Though we are provided no direct insight into His dialogue, we know from His instructions to His disciples, the prominence Jesus assigned to prayer.

Perhaps the crowds instinctively left Jesus by Himself during His quiet time because for them personal prayer was a foreign concept. Priests in the temple interceded for the people, but few individuals engaged in private prayer. The Lord’s messages were delivered through prophets. God created and called the nation of Israel. Laws were designated for the entire nation and the population was punished collectively for disobedience. There was little personal communication between individuals and God. By His death and resurrection, Jesus opened the way for intimate contact between believers and God the Father, the same fellowship the Son of God enjoyed. 

Calvary was the other area of Jesus’ experience where people didn’t follow. Only the Son of God could die a redemptive death on the cross for our sins. Jesus suffered loneliness and agony mankind will never comprehend. It was even necessary for His heavenly Father to forsake His Son for a period as Christ hung on the cross. Only a few of Jesus’ close friends and His mother witnessed His crucifixion. All of His disciples but John abandoned their Master, fearing retribution by association.

Prior to His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus agonized in prayer. “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled, saying, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:33b-34).Prayer to His Father was His only available source of peace and strength. The soldiers would soon arrive to arrest Him by force. It was not death Jesus feared, but the hour of crucifixion when the weight of the sins of the world—past, present, and future—would transfer to His soul. Jesus bore the unparalleled burden alone.

Crucifixion was a heinous, brutal, ruthless form of torture, reserved for slaves and the worst Roman criminals. Jesus, the Son of God, the only perfect man to walk this planet, was hanged as a common criminal. Though His enemies intended crucifixion as the ultimate means of persecution to silence Jesus forever, the cross of Calvary became a symbol of Jesus’ willing sacrifice, God’s ability to save mankind, and the believer’s commitment to follow only Christ, who willingly sacrificed His holy life for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus has redeemed us; believers now live for Him, infused with His characteristics and identified exclusively with Him. The cross of Calvary was the vehicle that created access to prayer. Jesus’ death and resurrection purchased eternity in heaven for every believer.

“The cross is a place where one dies to self,
enjoys no rights, and grovels in humility.
How odd for our Lord to invite us
to be crucified with Him;
but God knows the cross is a place of grace,
and the nearer one draws to Calvary,
the more abundant the peace and power” (Joni Eareckson Tada).

Imagine the colossal amount of sovereign power essential for the resurrection and ascension of our Savior. The same dynamic power is promised to believers. “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19-20, NLT).

Jesus’ pattern throughout his demanding ministry emphasized His discipline to focus on solitary time with His heavenly Father. Quality time spent with God provided Jesus with a boost of power and joy, reinforcing Jesus’ priorities and purposes on earth. God responded by empowering His Son with love, leadership, and strength. If Jesus required frequent refills of God’s gifts, how much more often we must request our hearts be filled to the brim with all the gifts God promises. If Christ, the perfect Son of God, could not operate independently on earth as a man without perpetual refills of God’s gifts, why do we arrogantly claim self-sufficiency apart from our heavenly Father? We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Let us evaluate our position in prayer and our trek to the cross, where there is power in the victory our Savior attained for us. Jesus assures us of blessings aplenty, including life with Him eternally. If we occasionally withdraw from Jesus, as His disciples were so quick to do at the cross, let us then emulate their future commitment displayed at Pentecost: they prayed for courage to endure, power to carry on their Master’s work, and boldness to speak for their Lord.

I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central…Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, The Msg.).

It is no longer necessary to be jostled by crowds to ensure an audience with Jesus. He is listening this moment, waiting patiently to hear from you. Follow His directions for silent, sincere, steadfast, submissive supplication (Matthew 6:5-8). Jesus encourages us to leave our sins at the cross for forgiveness and to cast our cares at Him in prayer.

Let us not retreat from the two important journeys Jesus traveled on earth, but boldly seek His presence in prayer and the power of salvation He victoriously secured for us on the cross of Calvary.

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Divine Protector

If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
—Psalm 37:23-24

Divine Protector

By Patricia Knight

Following our son’s tonsil and adenoid surgery at age seven, one of his young friends presented him with a spider plant as a get-well gift. On the upper window frame above our son’s bed, a bracket was mounted from which to suspend the plant. It flourished in the sunshine and within months required transplanting into a larger pot.  

One night before his dad and I retired, we entered our son’s room to check on him. What a terrifying sight met us! Our son was sleeping peacefully on his back, buried in dirt. Wet, clumpy potting soil was scattered over his body. What dirty chaos!

It appeared our son sustained no bodily damage, but we awakened him to check his mental alertness. One of us gave him a midnight bath while the other vacuumed his bed and floor and changed his bed sheets. Piecing together the events, it was apparent the plant had grown too heavy for its support system. After pulling away from the wall, the heavy pot then dropped, careened off the upper shelf of the bookcase headboard, smashed the pot, and disgorged its contents directly onto our son. We gently brushed the clinging soil away from our child’s face and eyes, impressing upon us just how tragic the accident could have been. A concussion or a skull fracture may have resulted had the plant pot crashed into his head instead of the shelf, only inches away.

Once we determined our son was unhurt and alert, we viewed the scene with far less panic and much more gratitude. Decades later, whenever that memory flashes onto our mental screens, we are grateful for our son’s divine protection from injury. We thank God profusely for His miraculous deliverance.

Imagine how many times each day God oversees and protects our lives. There are instances when we are fully aware of God’s actions to shield us from catastrophes. But what of the times when we are oblivious to God’s interventions to protect us?  Often we are divinely deterred from potentially perilous scenarios before they impact our lives. “If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

Pharaoh refused to emancipate the Israelite slaves. After Moses’ repeated negotiations failed, God inflicted all of Egypt with ten increasingly horrendous plagues, while safeguarding His own people from collateral damage. God then freed the Israelites to walk away from their captors. When Pharaoh realized the ramifications of losing his entire slave workforce, he and his army pursued them. “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching toward them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 14:10).The marchers were trapped between the expanse of the Red Sea in front and the Egyptian chariots behind. 

Only a few hours before, the Israelites had witnessed God’s mighty hand creating disaster among the Egyptians while preserving their own lives. In spite of their disbelief, God was faithful. A million or more people walked on a dry path as God divided the sea, forcing walls of water up each side of the walkway. The Egyptian army followed directly behind them on the dry Red Sea bed. Precisely when the last Hebrew reached the far shore, God returned the Red Sea to its normal configuration. The walls of water crashed down, sweeping Egyptian horses, chariots and their riders beneath the sea forever. “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” ( Exodus 14:31). They sang and praised God for His great love and mighty power, vowing to follow and fear Him in the future.

The Israelites were suddenly free of servitude for the first time in four hundred years. God had heard their cries of oppression and He responded with miraculous deliveries that only He could orchestrate. One month had passed since their exodus from Egypt and the nations’ walk through the Red Sea. Then, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt’” (Exodus 16:2-3). They reflected on the good food available in Egypt, accusing Moses of leading them into the desert to starve.

Although God had shielded and delivered His people, as soon as the immediate danger had passed, doubt and fear transformed their attitudes to bitterness. How quickly they forgot the miracles and blessings of God! Their faith was shallow; their motives selfish. How fickle we humans are! We are inclined to forsake God due to fear and complain to Him when faced with challenges. Yet, God is always faithful, protecting us and advocating for us.

Many of the trials the Israelites endured during their wilderness walk were tests God used to determine their faith. His purpose was to strengthen their trust and to draw them close to Him through unquestionable submission and obedience. But the Israelites usually opted for the path of least resistance. They found it easier to complain than obey; grumbling was effortless. Obedience requires energy and discipline. The Apostle Paul admonishes us, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). Being discontent with God’s will leads to unbelief.

We may resemble the ungrateful Israelites more than we care to admit. When was the last time we glorified God for specific and constant protection? When we narrowly avoid an accident, is one of our first responses to thank God for shielding us from danger? Let us praise Him for our lives of spiritual prosperity and protection!

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1). David sought safety in a cave when King Saul relentlessly pursued him. We know David wrote Psalm 57 while sequestered in a cave, but we don’t know if he viewed avian life in a nest tucked into the crevice of the rock. Perhaps as David observed a mother bird’s protective instincts shielding her offspring beneath her wings, he was inspired to write the metaphor of God’s great protection and power when He shelters us, unencumbered from the perils of this world. The bird and her hatchlings may have provided the object lesson, illustrating God’s protective character.

God grants strength during trials,
not immunity that spares them from happening,
so that His glory and splendor are exalted by our worship.
In His shielding sanctuary, our Lord is our refuge and fortress.
Snuggle beneath God’s protective wings in your time of need.
What a privilege, to be sheltered by the sovereign hand of God!

Pearl of Great Price

Pearl of Great Price

by Joni Eareckson Tada

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
When he found one of great value,
he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46

One day my father-in-law, Dad Tada, presented me with a family heirloom, a string of genuine pearls.  He told me they had been harvested in Japan, not far from where he lived much of his life.  I was captivated by the milky, soft glow of each perfect pearl.  Ken draped the pearls around my neck, and I wheeled to a mirror.

As I admired them, Dad Tada explained how a pearl is produced.  A tiny bit of sand lodges in the flesh of an oyster and becomes an irritating intrusion.  Unable to expel it, the oyster covers the particle with layer after layer of a milky secretion until the irritation has become smooth, round, and acceptable.  It also, inadvertently, becomes a precious gem.

A pastor once wrote, “Pearls, unlike other jewels, are drawn from the animate creation.  (Other jewels are made from rocks and crystals and are mined out of the earth…)  Pearls are produced by life — a life which has overcome the working of death.”

Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price, is unlike any other.  He is the precious gem set apart from the rest.  He lived in such a way that He overcame the working of death.  He is superior because His love poured forth from a life wounded by pain.  He has become our example.  We experience irritants in our lives, but God gives layer after layer of grace until the irritation becomes smooth and acceptable.  What was an intrusion becomes a precious gem for all to admire… and for God to receive glory.

Pull your string of pearls (imitation or not) from your jewelry box and hang them over the mirror above your dresser for a few days.  They will brighten your bedroom and your appreciation for Jesus, the One and Only Pearl.

My wounded Savior, teach me through Your example to let intrusions in my life become pearls.  Remind me how You transform pain into beauty.

Joni and Friends


Copyright © 1998. More Precious Than Silver, Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

#Resurrection HOPE in Jesus

Happy Resurrection Day! What a HOPE we have in Jesus Christ our Savior, who rose from the dead so that those who trust in His saving grace can enjoy life everlasting in heaven with Him. Hallelujah!

This was originally published at Today in the Word.

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HOPE in Jesus

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2–10

  His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—
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).


All emphasis on the word HOPE is mine.

What is propitiation?

From GotQuestions?

Question: “What is propitiation?”

Answer: The word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.

The necessity of appeasing God is something many religions have in common. In ancient pagan religions, as well as in many religions today, the idea is taught that man appeases God by offering various gifts or sacrifices. However, the Bible teaches that God Himself has provided the only means through which His wrath can be appeased and sinful man can be reconciled to Him.

Read the rest here.

What Christianity Offers that World Religions Don’t

Shared from the Radical.net blog.

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What Christianity Offers
that World Religions Don’t

By Patrick T. Dolan

Standing behind a row of worshipers in Kolkata, I saw the blackened figure of Kali. Around the idol’s neck lay a garland of skulls. Hanging from her earlobes were earrings draped with dead infants. Her dead eyes stared transfixed and her lolling red tongue revealed her vicious appetite for destruction and blood. At her feet, a man laid the severed head of a goat which was decapitated for ritual sacrifice. As people squeezed into the narrow passageway in front of the idol, their moans and prayers created a cacophony of desperation, but Kali was unable to answer.

Reaching Up in Vain

Almost every major world religion shares a similar story. The details are different, but each tells a tale of human beings attempting to reach up to the divine for purpose, blessing, and hope. Hindus yearn for the gods and goddesses’ blessing, so they offer daily sacrifice at their preferred shrine. Jains aim at perfection through non-violence, but no matter how diligent, negative karma floods their lives like water rushing in a boat with a cracked hull. Sikhs worship the one divine light, but their acceptance is based upon their dedication to a specific code of conduct and diet; however, moral effort cannot heal the corruption of a soul. Islam teaches that people must submit to Allah and perform five religious acts in order to please him, but even then, there is no guarantee of salvation. Buddhists renounce desire thinking they will eliminate personal suffering. They live within rigid guidelines hoping to achieve divinity or nirvana. Orthodox Jews wait for messiah and perform, as much as possible, the religious requirements of the law in hopes of gaining God’s favor.

Read the rest here.

The Limitless Compassion of Divine Grace

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Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
—Luke 23:34

Forgiveness is a hard thing to give and oftentimes even harder to accept. When Jesus spoke these words on the cross, the two thieves on either side of Him and those looking on couldn’t believe what He was saying. He had undergone so much even before He was nailed to the cross to die, and yet this Man could forgive His torturers? How was that possible?

While their ignorance of divine truth did not mean they deserved forgiveness, Christ’s prayer in the midst of their mocking Him is an expression of the limitless compassion of divine grace. (GotQuestions.org)

Beloved, if Jesus could forgive His persecutors, He will forgive you too! Every single day, we stumble in our Christian walk because we are not perfect. But God always loves to hear us say, Father, please forgive me for what I just said (or did or thought) and He is quick to forgive us. Unlike us, who sometimes hold grudges against people who do us wrong even after they ask for our forgiveness, God does not. And why not? Because Jesus already took upon Himself the full penalty for our sins on that cross. He paid the price for our sins—past, present and future.

If we say that we have no sin,
we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous
to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say that we have not sinned,
we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
—1 John 1:8-10

The song Drops in the Ocean by Hawk Nelson speaks to this so well. Two lines in the chorus always resonate with me:

If you could count the times I’d say you are forgiven
It’s more than the drops in the ocean

If for any reason you cannot view this video, you can read the lyrics here.

If you want to know how to receive the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, please visit my A..B…C… page to find out more. Or you can email me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com.