The Cross

 

Today I read a post on social media from a friend of mine. She and her husband, pastor a church in a suburb of a large city. Her post dealt with something God impressed upon her husband to do, carry the cross around the perimeter of the city in which he pastors. As he was walking with the cross upon his back, she was at home enjoying the day in her back yard. As she was sitting in her yard, she began to think about what it was her husband was doing and the reaction that others may have about him walking with a cross out in public. As he would check in with her by text, her thoughts began with wondering if the people of their church really wanted him to do this. What would people say? As she continued pondering this, she began to think of why churches now seem to diminish the meaning and significance of the cross. Then her thoughts turned to why the Cross is so important in the life of a Christian.

As I was reading, I began to think of things my pastor has said regarding certain denominations beginning to lessen the meaning of the cross in their services. Some not wanting to emphasize the blood, others seeing the Cross as a dirty, bloody instrument of torture and death upon which we should not put too much focus. Some have taken hymns about the Cross out of their line up of worship music, some have not spoken about how important the Cross is, from the pulpit.

My mind began to think about how the whole purpose of our faith is buried deep in the significance of the Cross. Yes, it’s a dirty, bloody instrument of death, and yes it was a tortuous way for Jesus to die, but it was so necessary! Without the Cross, our faith is meaningless! As I was thinking about this, God impressed upon me the need to do a Bible Journaling page with a page from a hymn book. As I was trying to choose the right song to use, I had a hard time deciding because there are so many songs that feature the Cross. I finally decided to use the song, “The Old Rugged Cross”, after my husband offered it as a suggestion.

As I was working on the page, I began to think about how in many churches today, the focus seems to be on aesthetics…music, lighting, sound, almost a theatrical appearance. The message from the pulpit is desensitized, if you will, so that no one will be offended by the gruesomeness of the Cross. Our churches have lost the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit today.

A friend of my first husband and mine used to say that where there is no peace, the Holy Spirit can not abide. People are in turmoil today, and pulpits are not giving them the answer to resolve that turmoil, hence, no peace. Churches do not focus on allowing God to work in their services because everything is a performance, not a worship service.

Back when I was a little girl, I remember going to church at my Grandparent’s church in the summer when we visited, and I heard plenty of Hell-fire and brimstone messages from the pulpit. Sin was a topic in almost every sermon. Now, pastors don’t mention sin so much for fear of insulting or offending someone in the congregation.

The Cross is the centerpiece of our faith because without it, we are lost in our sin. God provided a means for us to be forgiven, through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ gave up His life willingly so that we could escape the death penalty for sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (NLT) Notice, not one person is without sin. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NLT) Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because He was God and Man, lived on this earth, was tempted as we are, yet did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) Therefore, He was the Only One qualified to take the punishment for our sin.

John 3:16 says, “This is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT) Death on the Cross was the most horrendous means to die that was ever conceived. The Cross was not made of smoothed out wood. It was not something beautiful, as some cross jewelry is today. It was rough, and rugged. To add to that pain, nails were pounded into the hands and feet of the person being hung on it. It was the most excruciating, painful means of punishment that was given. As if that was not enough, Jesus was also beaten, almost to the point of death, with leather straps that had bits of bone and glass at the end of each strap, before He was hung on the Cross. The punishment of Jesus was so horrific, that the Bible says He was almost unrecognizable.

Jesus shed His blood on the Cross for us, so that we might be made free. He took our punishment upon Himself. Why? Because He loves us so much! II Peter 3:9 says that God “was not willing that any should perish”! (KJV) His love for us is so strong, that He had a plan set up from the very beginning of creation to save us from sin.

What is sin, you ask? Sin is anything that goes against God’s standard. A look at the Ten Commandments gives us a look at what God’s standard is. So, since no one is perfect, and all have sinned, no one has ever kept the Commandments perfectly. Jesus’ death on the Cross pays for our sins.

How? God made the process so simple even a small child can do it. We must surrender our hearts and our lives to Him. By admitting we are sinners, accepting His death on the cross as the punishment for our sin, promising to live in total obedience to Him and His will, and asking for His forgiveness, we can experience eternal life. We must make Him the Lord and Master of our lives. When we do that, we begin a relationship with Him that transcends any human bond we can experience.

My hope and prayer is that you, dear reader, come to know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, that you will accept His free gift of salvation, and that the Cross becomes the standard which you can cling to and be released from the punishment of sin. Then you can say with the old hymn, “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross.”

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Remember God

 

So many times, I think, we tend to forget that what we have achieved, be it wealth, position, material goods, whatever it is, is only because God has given us the power to accomplish these things. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

I’m sure we all know people who are so focused on obtaining the things of this world, and they work hard to get them, but they fail to realize that without God, none of it would have been possible. They think that the reason they are where they are, is because they did it all. They worked hard, they gained the knowledge to get where they are, they did this or that. The glory goes to them. They never once consider that without God allowing them to be successful, they wouldn’t be where they are at this time.

God is reminding the children of Israel that what they have is not because they did it on their own, but that God gave them the power to accomplish their goal. It is He who gives health to be able to work, it is He who gives the knowledge to learn skills, it is He who gives opportunities to develop their skills, God is the one to receive the glory for it all.

I had an uncle who did very well for himself. He was able to do so many things that my family were not able to do. However, what he failed to realize was that no matter what it was, he was not the reason he had acquired all he had, it was God’s goodness and graciousness that allowed him to have the wealth that he had. My uncle had the mindset that if he could buy his way into Heaven, he would be ok. I don’t know if he ever came to the point of turning his life over to Christ, only God knows that. But my heart is sad, because he never really understood that God was the reason he was so successful, and that he needed to change his focus from getting all he could get, to surrendering everything to Jesus. I loved my uncle very much, and I am glad he could enjoy things that I have never been able to, but I look at my uncle’s life, and what I see was a man, who deep down inside, was always searching, never fully happy or fulfilled, and was empty inside because He didn’t focus on God. He didn’t remember that God gave him the power to do what he was able to do. God was not part of the equation in his life.

As Believers, we also must remember that God is to be given the glory for all we have and are able to do. He gives us power, through the Holy Spirit, to witness, to live our lives as an acceptable offering to Him and be able to acquire wealth. He alone is to be given the glory for it all. He gives us the skills, the giftings, the talent, the knowledge, and the opportunities to be successful. Sometimes I think we get a little too full of ourselves and tend to forget that without Him, we can do nothing! (John 15:5)

We are blessed beyond measure, and God also gives us the hope we need to accomplish the dreams He has placed in us. Those dreams may include our part in spreading the Gospel to those who need to know who Jesus is, and to lead them into a relationship with Him. God gives us the avenues, be it speaking one on one with someone, broadcasting over radio and television, writing books, magazine articles, or blogs, or developing a website that draws people to further investigate God’s love and mercy to us, or through music, artwork, or dance. There are numerous ways to reach people with the love of Jesus, and He gives us the power and the wherewithal to accomplish those things.

So today, let us remind ourselves that what we are able to do, what we are able to gain, is only because God gives us the power! His Holy Spirit resides in us, helps us, guides and counsels us. Remember God.

You are my Shield

 

Last Sunday our church sang the song, “Shield about me”, and today it’s been running through my head. In my Bible Journaling today I looked for the Scripture that the song is based on, Psalm 3:3, “But thou O Lord, art my shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” (KJV) What a comfort to know that He is my shield! He is my protector, He encourages me, He plans good for me, He is my buckler and standard! How can I do nothing less than love Him!

As I write this, I have the song playing over and over, and my soul is at rest and in a place of peace. The words of the song follow:

Thou O Lord are a shield about me,
You’re my glory,
You’re the lifter of my head.
Thou O Lord are a shield about me,
You’re my glory,
You’re the lifter of my head.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
You’re the lifter of my head.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!
You’re the lifter of my head.

All glory and honor go to Him! Can you imagine what Heaven will be like, as we who are Born Again Believers all join together around His throne proclaiming, “Holy, Holy!” The idea is just more than I can even think of. I think of those in my family who have gone before me, and my heart is so full at the thought of me and my loved ones gathered together praising God and worshipping Him. How awesome is that!

I love the thought that He is my shield! He protects me from all kinds of things, but I think mostly He protects me from myself. I can get myself into so much trouble, but He is always there reminding me of the pathway I should take and not the one I’m determined to take. He leads me and guides my steps. He is the lifter of my head! I think that means that He encourages me to the point of letting me know how special I am to Him and that He loves me more than I could ever imagine. And so, I can do no more than praise Him! Hallelujah!

This is a proclamation of praise and adoration to the One who died for me, who loves me more than anyone else, who walks with me day by day, who rejoices with me when I am happy and cries with me when I am sad. He knows me intimately, every fiber of my being has been created by Him, and He is on my side! He watches over me and I am so amazed at what He has done and who He is!

Thank you, Jesus, for being my best friend, Savior, Lord, Master, and King. Thank you for your sacrifice on the cross for me, for loving me so much that you gave completely of yourself to save me. I love you and worship you.

How He Loves Us

This morning God woke me with a song, David Crowder’s song, “How He Loves Me.” As I began to do my Bible Journaling today I am finishing up a series called, “Rise Up” and today’s journaling is from Hebrews 9:27-28, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this then comes the judgement., so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”(NASB)

At first as I read this I was having a hard time finding where the idea of being risen, or we would rise up to something, was in the passages. As I was journaling, the song kept going over and over in my mind, and then I focused on verse 28, “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” I was thrown off a little in verse 27 where it talks about judgement. But then my husband reminded me that the visual of Jesus on the throne at the Judgement Seat of Christ, was not a judgement of our sinful deeds as we would normally think of judgement, but a rewarding of the Saints for their work while here on earth.

Then what popped out at me was that Christ was offered as a sacrifice for our sins, He bore them all on the Cross! Then the song and the verse tied in together! Jesus loved us, and still loves us, so much that He paid the penalty for our sins completely, and we never have to offer up a sacrifice for our sins as the priests did in the Old Testament. It is finished! That is the ultimate in love!

John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (KJV) Jesus could not show His love any better than to offer Himself as a perfect, living sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. In our church we sing a song that says, “He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand-new song, Amazing Grace! Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.” How awesome is that! He was the sacrificial lamb, the final sacrifice, for the redemption of sins for all mankind. I can do nothing more than praise Him and thank Him for such a great love!

Power


What do you think of when you hear the word, power? Do you see a strong man lifting heavy weights? Do you think of the overwhelming intensity of lightning, or of an engine equipped to do heavy work? The Bible says that we will receive power when we receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)

Some people talk as if the Holy Spirit is a thing. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and as such, is a living being, not an “it”. In my church we sing a song called, “Send it On Down”. It is a song asking for the Holy Spirit to come and inhabit our worship. However, my Pastor doesn’t like the idea of calling the Holy Spirit, “it”, and so we sing, “Send HIM on Down”. As such, we give the Spirit of God His rightful honor and ask for His presence to reveal Himself to us.

The book of Acts says the Holy Spirit will give us power. If the Holy Spirit was an “it”, I can’t imagine a thing being able to give us power. However, as a person in the God-head, He is able to endue us with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) So, what kind of power are we talking about? Let me give you a testimony from my own life.

I go to an Assemblies of God Church, and we believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. When I first went to that church, it was a foreign concept to me because I was not raised in a Pentecostal denomination, my background was Wesleyan Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Missionary Alliance, and Covenant. I often describe myself as a “Christian Mutt.” After being part of this church for a couple of years, the desire to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit became very strong. I wanted a deeper relationship with God. I began praying and asking God to fill me with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. One Sunday night I went forward for prayer as I had before. This Sunday night, He granted my request and I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. My Pastor at the time, told us that when we received the Holy Spirit, we had access to power given by Him. At the time, I didn’t know or really understand exactly what that meant, but a few months later my first husband had a stroke, and then a year later he had another, more devastating stroke. He was paralyzed on his right side, could only repeat things back to you, but not carry on a full conversation. However, God allowed him to retain the ability to sing, he even sang duets with me, which I found amazing and I am so grateful God didn’t allow that to leave him. My husband was sick for seven years and was in a nursing home until he went to the hospital with pneumonia and heart problems and died.

Those seven years were the most difficult I had ever experienced in my life. There were days that I felt that I had no strength to take care of my husband. But it was only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to do the things that needed to be done. I HAD to rely on God for EVERYTHING. I truly believe that I would not have been able to take care of my husband, work a full-time job at a Christian television network, be on the worship team at church, and try to keep my house together without the power of the Holy Spirit helping me along the way. There was a time of depression and despair, I’m not going to say that I didn’t go through that, but it was then that I realized that there was no where else to go but to God. My current husband says what I went through was a Job’s Trial, and I truly believe he is right. It certainly felt like a trial.

That is one way the Holy Spirit gives us power. He also can give us power in doing ministry work. Some are given the gift of healing and so, the Holy Spirit gives them power to perform their ministry of healing. Some are given the gift of preaching and the Holy Spirit gives them the power to preach messages that bring us into the presence of God and instruct us in righteous living. The Holy Spirit releases power in us for various giftings, circumstances, and situations.

Now, the last part of our verse gives us a mandate. We are to go and be witnesses! The Holy Spirit also gives us power to go and tell what God has done in our lives. That can be accomplished in words, but the most effective tool is to live out our lives in front of people, so that they see Jesus in us. When we let others see the impact He has on our lives, they will want what we have, and that is the person and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to utilize the power given to us from the Holy Spirit to be a witness to a lost world. That mandate, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Matthew 28:19), is our purpose as Believers. We are to tell people of the saving grace of Jesus through His death on the cross for our sins, His burial, and resurrection. We are to bring people to Heaven with us. Are there people in our sphere of influence who know that we belong to Jesus, or if asked, would say they don’t know? Are we speaking and living in a way that leaves no doubt in their minds that we are Born Again Believers? It is time we take stock of our lives and how we appear before others. If we aren’t living and speaking so that others see Jesus, then we need to repent and be intentional in our witness.

So, my final question to you, dear reader, is…. are you utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Lord, I’m Amazed by You!

Music has always had a prominent part of my life. I started singing in public when I was 3 years old, and since the 5th grade I’ve played flute. Music speaks to me when nothing else will. My heart instantly connects with the lyrics and the melodies of the song. This morning a song has been running through my mind over and over again. It is a comfort, it is a song of worship, it touches the very deepest part of my heart. The song is “Amazed.” The words have sunk deep into my very soul. “Lord, I’m amazed by You and how you love me!” I’ve been running the Phillips, Craig and Dean version over and over while I’ve done my Bible Journaling this morning. It has impacted me so much that I could do nothing else but journal how I am so in love with my Lord!

I almost instantly thought of Romans 8:35-39 (NLT), “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity; or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep,’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love, Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

My heart is so full just at the thought of how much He loves me! I can do nothing but praise Him! It is so wonderful to have such an assurance, that NOTHING can separate us from His love. That seems so inconceivable! As humans, we have conditional love toward one another, but His love is unconditional! We don’t have to be perfect to obtain His love. He knows we’re not perfect, and the thought is almost laughable…us puny humans trying to be perfect like Him just to gain His love! I love the part of the song that says, “You dance over me when I am unaware.” He dances over me! How amazing is that! He’s head over heels in love with me!

I love how this Scripture lists everything we could think of that could separate us from God’s love…trouble, calamity, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, angels, demons, fear, worry, not even hell itself, can separate us from God’s love! No power anywhere can separate us from His love!

Jesus proved His love for me by taking my sins on the Cross and dying for my sins. The Bible says, “No greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV) That’s the ultimate demonstration of love. He desires a relationship with us and He will do anything to show His love for us, even dying the most horrific death imaginable, just for us. Then He proved His love for us by conquering death, sin, and the grave. He lives now interceding for us with the Father. How amazing is that!

He cares about every detail of our lives, nothing is too insignificant to bring to Him. He hears the simple prayer of a child praying over a sick pet to our most devastatingly impossible situations, and each prayer is tenderly listened to and relayed to God, the Father, pleading for answers. Lord, You are so amazing! My heart is so full to think that You love me that much!

 

We Will Rise

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Acts 24:15, “having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” (NASB) The Apostle Paul was brought before Felix in Rome, and he gave his testimony after being accused of sedition. The high priest, Ananias, and the elders accused Paul of treason against Rome, religious heresy, and desecrating the temple. They said that he caused riots and spoke against the Law of Moses. They also accused him of bringing a Gentile into the temple, which was strictly forbidden.

Paul spoke in his own defense. Paul refuted the claims of which the high priest and elders accused him. Then he said, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” (NKJV) What stood out to me was the phrase, “I have a hope in God”! Our hope is in Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross, and His death, burial and resurrection, without which we have no reason to hope, believe, or be confident in our salvation.

Our hope as Believers is that we will be resurrected into a new body to live with Christ for eternity. I think sometimes we have a tendency to also remember that not just the Saved will be resurrected, but also the Lost! The Scripture says, “both the just and unjust” will be raised. The take away from this is, will we rise to everlasting life or everlasting death? That is all dependent on one vital decision we must all make, and that is, what will we do with Jesus? Do we believe His Word and accept His sacrifice for us on the Cross, or do we reject it? The answer to that question determines where we will spend eternity.

The Bible says we will all live after we die. We all will have a Spiritual body. How we have received Jesus and His Sacrifice determines our destiny. Some people do not believe that Hell exists, but I believe that if Heaven exists, there must also be a Hell. God is a God of order, there is evil and there is good, there is reward and there is punishment, there is a place for all who call Christ, Lord, and there is a place for those who reject Him.

The Bible says that God can not be in the presence of evil and wickedness, so therefore, He had to create a place for evil to reside. Satan is the ultimate rejecter of God and His infinite plan. He, from the very beginning, rebelled against God, tried to be like Him, to be worshipped like God, and became so full of pride and sin that God had to banish Him from Heaven. Satan began as an angel who became so full of himself, that there was no room for God. His chief desire is to cause men to turn their backs on God and, like himself, rebel against God. Hell was originally meant only for Satan and his demons. It was not created for man. But the Devil is crafty, and woos men astray into wickedness and sin, and God had no choice but to allow men to make their choice.

Those who accept God’s wonderful plan of salvation and accept the free gift secured for us through Jesus Christ will be raised into new life. I Thessalonians 4:15-17 says, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” We have a hope! We who believe in Christ will one day live with Him. How awesome is that!

I’ve heard some say they think that once we’re in Heaven we will just float on clouds, strumming harps, and do nothing. However, God has given each one of us talents that are to be used. We will have work to do, each one according to the gifts God has given us. God is a God of order, remember? During Jesus’ Millennial reign, He will govern the earth…and that also requires a governmental system. So, I’m sure we will have a part in that also. Our main focus will be, however; worshipping our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him belongs all honor and praise! We have a hope!