Tag Archives: the Cross

Ezekiel 34-36; Psalm 86; John 12

My husband and I were having a discussion the other day about the state of our nation. Perhaps most aging generations reflect similarly in comparing what once was with what is now, and pondering what will come. Our ruminations based on opinions and media hype invariably give way to God’s word, for He alone has authority over nations. In Him are truths, promises, and enlightenment that supersede the norms, deceit, and smokescreens of man.

Because my husband and I believe in both God’s judgment and His mercy, we wondered what our nation may become in the near future. Of course, we are talking American politics and culture. Being unsure, we sought (and continue to seek) answers from God.

Ezekiel, who was an Old Testament prophet sent by God, had much to say about God’s involvement in building up and tearing down nations. In Ezekiel 34:25-31, God assured His exiled people, “I will make a covenant of peace…” with them. “…they shall know that I am the Lord.” The people were promised security from foreign aggressor, prosperity and productivity, and His lasting relationship with them. Does God consider America as His chosen or are Christians in America becoming the remnant of an exiled people?

On the other hand, Ezekiel said that God would “stretch out His hand” against those who had taken advantage of His people, all “who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with wholehearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country.” By their destruction, God said, they “will know that I am the Lord.” (35:3-4).

At this point in reading Scripture, my husband and I were nodding in agreement with God’s judgments, but before we could say, “Yes, Lord, go get’em!” we read further. For in Ezekiel 36, God provided an explanation for intervening on behalf of His people. God did not save them because of their piety or righteousness; in fact, He said, “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.” Ouch! Like Israel, can it be that our complacency, complicity, and crumbling beneath pressure contributed to the problems we now see in our nation? Thankfully, in spite of disobedience by His people, and through God’s desire for all to know Him, He sanctified His great name. God said, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes…the nations shall know that I am the Lord…”

Hallowed in them – in us. What a privilege to be the undeserved object of His affection! Now because of Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross, God will cleanse us. He “will give [us] a new heart and put a new spirit within [us].” By His Holy Spirit we are helped to walk in His statutes, keep His judgments, and do them. In John 12:27-28, Jesus, talking about His agony over impending death said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” When our souls are troubled by what we see happening in our nation, can we become the instrument of change? Can we say, “Father, glorify Your name.”

We can start by praying Psalm 86: “For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul…teach me Your ways,” (for Your ways are not like mine). “Unite my heart to fear Your name,” (so that I may not be double-minded).  Help us by Your Holy Spirit to stand up against “the proud and the mob of violent men who have not set You before them.” Then we can be confident that, “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.”

Amen!

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ezekiel, John, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Proverbs 11-12; I Corinthians 15:33-58

A cemetery parallels the hill on which this house was built – separated by what at first appears to be a forest but is instead a thin band of wild hickories, spiked grasses, and deceptive blooms – mustard yellow, cornflower blue, and clinging purple morning glories that wilt nightly.

To enter is not far.

From the entrance below is the fixed view of a bricked and glassed, untroubled house of stillness, chandelier lit inside, regally beckoning us all.  Left of the perpetually broadening expanse of ancestral proof are the three, expected wooden beams aesthetically posted and crossed.

While walking once more the path paved for the living, for the first time in all those others spent contemplating the sting of death, came this thought – since Christ and only one of two other men who hung on the infamous trees of ancient history were resurrected to eternal life, why do we insist on symbolizing three deaths instead of two? Especially at the cemetery where my sympathies rest on every family’s upright stone or lone individual’s carved name will I find it difficult to imagine the eternal damnation met by many here .

I Corinthians 15:42-44 says, “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” So something happened to those whose bodies were laid in these graves, something after they were living, breathing, beings that was unavoidable, maybe unexpected, definitely supernaturally appointed. Only I don’t want to believe that like the extra cross carrying one man away from life in paradise, many of these souls below my feet waited too long and time cheated them of one last chance to die to self in the natural.

The truth which cannot be changed is that Christ took one, not both criminals to Paradise that day of His resurrection. In Proverbs 11:18-19, God reminds us that “The wicked man does deceptive work, but he who sows righteousness will have a sure reward. As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.”  And again in Proverbs 12:28, the emphasis is unmistaken, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”

What would happen if we were to begin using two, not three crosses to represent the resurrected Christ?  Would anyone think to ask what happened to the third dying man? Just one cross – we see the resurrected Christ; two crosses – resurrected life and salvation. It would seem the focus would be on Christ’s redemptive work.  Yet, dug and cemented deeply in this world in miniature of pasts and futures are three crosses – resurrection and redemption but also tragic loss of life and soul separated from all that is love and beauty.

If I think rightly, I will remember that to enter that world may be soon. Yes, I will be there, too. If only I had to think about my own redemptive story, how complacent I might become.  So I guess that third cross is to remind me that I have a duty to warn and woo every soon-to-be-changed body among the living.  A reminder to say today, believe and be changed from the natural to the spiritual.

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Deuteronomy 26, 27; Mark 15:1-26

And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. Mark 15:12-15; 25

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And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you. Deuteronomy 26:10-11

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And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.” Deuteronomy 27:5-8

An altar. The Cross.

Was, and is, and always will be…

The greatest sacrifice…made by God…made for me.

Extraordinary silence against accusations spat in His face.

A broken body swathed in purple; a barbed circlet on His bloodied head.

The weight of my sin on His shoulders.

A heavy burden to carry.

The King brought low, brought to death. Perfection crucified.

Giving everything of Himself. Always willing. Always loving.

His death, His life, a gift of grace, a first fruit offering.

Redemption. Restoration. Relationship.

He gives all, and all He asks of me is all of myself.

A living sacrifice, prepared to worship, ready to rejoice.

Remembering His goodness. Recalling His faithfulness.

No longer bruised and battered. No longer a slave.

Suddenly, His reaffirmed treasure.

Suddenly, holy unto Him.

Walk into the land of milk and honey.

Enter into God’s promises. Enter into His peace.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Leviticus 4-6; Matthew 25:1-30

“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering. (verses 2-3)

“If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally …when the sin which they have committed becomes known, the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sin offering and bring it in front of the tent of meeting. (verses 13-14)

“When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish, and shall lay his hand on the head of the goat and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the Lord; it is a sin offering. (verses 22-25)

“If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally…and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. (verses 27-28)

Leviticus 4

As I am reading these Old Testament chapters on sin, I am reminded that God gave Moses the law for a reason. God wanted Israel to be set apart for Him; they are His chosen people, a small nation who would be used throughout time to demonstrate God’s goodness. The law is important to help this nation of people strive for righteousness. The law offers the knowledge of sin and helps give understanding of the work required to keep the path between man and God clean and uncluttered.

However, I think that Mosaic law serves an even greater purpose. The law of works demonstrates the futility of attempting to overcome sin without grace and mercy from God. It shows the value of the gift given by Christ when He took the place of the bull, the goat, the ram, etc. as the blood sacrifice for sin forever.

As a human, I have the tendency to look at the weights of sin, to compare big sin versus small sin. But, the Bible reminds me that sin is sin; simply being angry with someone is the same as murder, and lust of the eye is equal to adultery. Even unintentional sin, mistakes made unwittingly, is sin and requires atonement and restitution.

“If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven. Leviticus 5:15-16

I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I sin every day. I struggle with discontentedness and with anger. I often catch myself being snarky, bad attitude and bad words oozing from my mouth. I get offended by my husband and seeds of bitterness start to sprout. I grow impatient with my kids, lose control and yell at them out of frustration. I could go on…

…And he shall bring to the priest as his compensation to the Lord a ram without blemish out of the flock, or its equivalent for a guilt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord, and he shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and thereby become guilty.” Leviticus 6:6-7

In Old Testament times, when I realized my sin, I would need to perform guilt rituals to be cleansed of my sin. If I had been born a Jew, I may have gone to the temple, bringing an offering to the priests to receive forgiveness. If I had been born a Muslim, I may have repented by fasting, giving charity, sacrificing an animal, or freeing a slave, my good deeds, hopefully, outweighing my evil deeds. If I had been born a Hindu, I may have sought redemption by carrying a tenderly cared for potted plant on my head, by running through hot coals with bare feet, or by carrying my god through the village on a chariot attached to my back with metal hooks.

Today, as a believer in Christ, I only need ask for forgiveness and my transgressions are washed away. My repentance is sufficient to restore righteousness because I am covered by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross at Calvary. Though I aspire to be Christ-like, I am unable to accomplish it without His help, without His sacrifice and payment, without His everlasting love.

Yessappa, Thank You for loving me, for extending me Your grace and Your mercy. Thank You for becoming the sacrificial Lamb, the blood offering for my sins yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thank You for doing the work so that I can ‘rest’ in You. Thank You for being pierced so that I don’t have to be. Thank You for dying and being raised up, so that I can live forever in You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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1 Samuel 27; 1 Corinthians 8; Ezekiel 6; Psalm 44

…We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all. (MSG)

…Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. (NLT)

…We know that “we all have knowledge.” Knowledge puffs you up with pride, but love builds up. If you think you know something, you do not yet know anything as you should. But if any person loves God, that person is known by God. (NCV)

1 Corinthians 8:1b-3

Right now God is working on my heart in the area of “love”; not in the romantic sense (eros), not even in the brotherly sense (philos), but in the agape, unconditional, freely given, never changing sense.

What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to love my husband? My children? My friends? My enemies?…

I am learning that it is vital for ALL of my relationships for me to focus on love. Loving with intention. Loving without reservation. Loving whole-heartedly. My goal must be to always seek to ‘keep my love on’.

I am learning that love is transformative. That when I love without inhibition, real freedom is established and my relationships flourish – I am free to be who I am. You are free to be who you are. Even when we don’t see eye to eye. Even when we have different opinions, different revelations, different ways of living life.

But be careful that your freedom does not cause those who are weak in faith to fall into sin. (NCV)

Only be careful that this power of choice (this permission and liberty to do as you please) which is yours, does not [somehow] become a hindrance (cause of stumbling) to the weak or overscrupulous [giving them an impulse to sin]. (AMP)

But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track. (MSG)

1 Corinthians 8:9

I am learning that when I make the conscious choice to love above all else, the enemy tempts me to fall into old patterns of pride, anger, fear, and lack of self-control, perverting liberty with bad attitude, with a ‘holier than thou’ outlook.

I easily fall back into believing that I am right, believing that my way is the only way. I substitute true freedom given by God, for captivity. I forfeit true love for my ‘right’ to live in the distorted ‘freedoms’ of my own understanding. My ‘entitlement’ to do what I want to do, how I want to do it, becomes a hindrance for others. My sin causes others to sin. Not only did I get off the path of love, I also risk pulling others off with me. I withdraw into my own little world, separating myself from the things I most desire.

I am learning that breaking those old molds means going back to the Cross. It means putting my focus back on God’s love (John 3:16). It means obeying His commands – to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind; to love my husband, children, friends, and enemies as I love myself (Matthew 22:35-40). It means to love on purpose, to abide in a culture of honor.

I am learning that living IN love is a process. And, some days it is easy…

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, 1 Samuel, 66 Books, Ezekiel, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms

1 Samuel 19; 1 Corinthians 1; Lamentations 4; Luke 24

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and he chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose what the world thinks is unimportant and what the world looks down on and thinks is nothing in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. God did this so that no one can brag in his presence. Because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God. In Christ we are put right with God, and have been made holy, and have been set free from sin. So, as the Scripture says, “If people want to brag, they should brag only about the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 (NCV)

As a teenager and young adult, I realized that I did not have any one skill that I highly excelled in; I was never going to be an extraordinary talent. I was never going to be a Charlotte Church or an Andrea Bocelli, though I love to sing. I was never going to be a Beethoven or a YoYo Ma, though I love music. I was never going to be a Picasso, a Shakespeare, or a Meryl Streep, though I love the arts. I was never going to be a Dominique Moceanu, a Dorothy Hamill or a Ray Lewis, though I love athletics. Though I love all things culinary, I was never going to be a Jacques Pépin or a Julia Childs (my personal hero – and yes, I will admit, I grew up pretending I was her when I took my turn to help out in the kitchen).

So my goal was to become a jack-of-all-trades. I wanted to be full of knowledge, to know enough about as much as possible. I wanted to be like Benjamin Franklin who had so much information, so many facts to share with the world. I wanted book smarts, and I wanted ‘street’ smarts as well. I wanted to learn from other people’s proficiencies and I wanted to learn through experiential knowledge too. I wanted wisdom.

I took pleasure in learning, whether from reading a nonfiction book, from watching an educational T.V. program, or from studying someone while they plied their trade, and even from jumping in with both feet to attempt something I had never tried before. I had satisfaction in knowing more than the next person. I took pride in being ‘right’ (even when I was wrong).

Even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25 (NCV)

When I began following Christ, He revealed my arrogance and my outlook on wisdom changed. I recognized that my attitude was in the wrong place. My drive for knowledge had stemmed from self-importance, from a desire to be better than other people, to ‘prove’ myself to the world. I had taken a bite of ‘knowledge of good and evil’ fruit, rather than walking with God each day in the cool and quiet of our secret place, trusting Him to reveal true wisdom. I boasted in myself, rather than singing the praises of my Creator, the Author of everything, the Designer who has all knowledge because He is ALL knowledge.

The teaching about the cross is foolishness to those who are being lost, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God to those people God has called—Jews and Greeks. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 24 (NCV)

I continue to this day to love to learn as much as I can, and I believe that my Father takes enjoyment in my search for understanding. My quest is set right at the Cross at Calvary, an exploration aligned with His Kingdom. My pursuit is now grounded in Him. He has given me spectacles covered in the blood of Christ, to help me see things through His eyes, giving me new awareness, giving me new insight. He cleanses my heart daily, bathing it in love, changing my perception and allowing for godly discernment.

Christ did not send me to baptize people but to preach the Good News. And he sent me to preach the Good News without using words of human wisdom so that the cross of Christ would not lose its power. 1 Corinthians 1:17 (NCV)

My objective is to investigate and embrace the awesome ‘foolishness’ of the Cross, the breathtaking gift of grace. My intention is to share with everyone I meet the tremendous power of the sacrifice Jesus became at Calvary, offering comprehension of the Truth, the only Truth that sets captives free. My aim is to proclaim His Glory. My purpose is His mission.

Yesappa, I want to be a fool for You, steeped not in worldly intelligence, but drenched in Truth. Help me walk daily in Your wisdom. Help me live immersed in Your understanding. Help me boldly brag about the power of the Cross, Your Good News, Your Gift of Grace with courage no matter how stupid another may think I am. Help me Holy Ghost! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Judges 6; Acts 10; Jeremiah 19; Mark 5

But Peter said, “No, Lord! I have never eaten food that is unholy or unclean.”

But the voice said to him again, “God has made these things clean, so don’t call them unholy!” Acts 10:14-15 (NCV)

He said, “You people understand that it is against our law for Jewish people to associate with or visit anyone who is not Jewish. But God has shown me that I should not call any person ‘unholy’ or ‘unclean.’ Acts 10:28 (NCV)

Peter began to speak: “I really understand now that to God every person is the same. In every country God accepts anyone who worships him and does what is right. You know the message that God has sent to the people of Israel is the Good News that peace has come through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lord of all people! Acts 10:34-36 (NCV)

Interestingly enough, my husband and I were recently discussing whether or not God redeems what is considered ‘unholy’ by man.

Our oldest daughter was given kolusu, sterling silver anklets with little bells on them, by her uncle according to Indian custom. Though she didn’t wear them much in the US, she has been wearing them non-stop since we arrived back in India, which is great because I can locate her much easier when she is playing. I mentioned today that I would like to also get a pair for our younger daughter, to help stimulate her desire for walking, and maybe even a simpler pair for myself (I always loved the idea of wearing anklets).

My husband continued the conversation by saying that these anklets are not only an Indian custom, but also a Hindu tradition, allowing one of the gods to enjoy the sounds of the bells and to also keep the devils away. I countered by expressing my belief that God is the creator of bells and what the enemy may try to steal for his purposes is redeemed again by God. Our exchange ended with a “to be continued.”

I was impressed today by Peter’s understanding of the redemption in Christ in regards to people, concerning the laws of Moses. It is so easy for me to judge someone based on external appearances, customs, behaviors or choices that differ from my own. It is easy for me to deem something ‘unclean’ or ‘unholy’ because my opinion differs; and it is easy for me to throw random, out of context Bible verses at the ‘problems’ to try and make them go away or change. But my judgments of things is not God’s judgment of things; and it is not even my role to make judgment in the first place (James 4:11-12; Romans 2:1-4).

Jesus exemplified this revolution by consistently associating with those that the people and the law considered ‘unholy’ and ‘unclean’-tax collectors, homosexuals, lepers, prostitutes…the demon possessed, diseased individuals like the woman with the issue of blood, and those who had died-all those walking in sin, no matter how big or how small the sin.

He wasn’t concerned with their current state of uncleanness. He knew that their personal experiences of His Agape love would change their hearts forever. He knew that He was planting seeds in their hearts for the future. He knew they were simply diamonds in the rough. He knew that they were children of God who had not yet realized their true identity, and therefore had not yet been ‘cleansed’.

Christ’s sacrifice on the cross changed everything. He brought redemption and restoration of hearts into countless lives. His resurrection, His gift of grace fulfilled the law and made holy what was once unholy through belief in Him. What an amazing inheritance, what an incredible birthright for God’s sons and daughters, those who know Him personally, and those whose eyes have yet to be opened.

Yesappa, Open the eyes of my heart and allow Your love to enter in a deeper way, Your agape love for Your people, the redeemed and those who have yet to give themselves to You. Help me walk in love and not judgment. Give me Your compassion for Your children and help me bring Your Light into their lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Jeremiah, Judges, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Mark, New Testament, Old Testament