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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How Long O Lord?

 

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Psalm 13:1, How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” King David is questioning in the midst of a very difficult time in his life. He feels as if God has abandoned him. He doesn’t feel God’s presence, he prays and hears nothing. We’ve all been in that circumstance, haven’t we?

Life gets hard, God seems far away, our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back to the floor. “Where are You God?” I’ve certainly been there. I’ve recounted before the hardest time in my life when my first husband was so sick and eventually passed away. It took a long time for me to actually sense God’s presence and working in my life. But once I did, I was amazed at what He had been doing even though I, at the time, couldn’t see it.

David must have been very depressed, but despite his searching and feelings of being abandoned, if you read the rest of the chapter, David ends up rejoicing and worshipping God. The verses that really jumped out at me were verses 5 and 6. “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Even though he felt like God left him to fend for himself, he realizes that he must trust God and His plan.

I love this about David! He spends the majority of the chapter pleading and complaining and then it’s almost like he comes to himself and remembers that he must trust God no matter what he is going through. How like David we are, aren’t we? We gripe and complain that God isn’t doing anything, or He has abandoned us, or isn’t working in our time frame and then it’s like we need a good smack in the head to remind us that no matter the situation, the first thing is TRUST GOD!

We forget to pray, or if we are praying, our prayers can be full of impatience or sound like a 2-year old temper tantrum…” I want it my way, and I want it now!” Never remembering that all things are done in HIS timing, not ours. He sees the big picture, He has a plan for our lives and sees the end from the beginning. All we can see is what is just in front of us.

Trusting is sometimes so hard to do, especially if we have been in the position of trusting someone only to have them leave us standing on our own without what was promised. We tend to not want to trust them again. We can only get left hanging for so long before we realize it isn’t worth the hurt and pain to trust.

However, God is always faithful! He never goes back on His word. If He has promised it, He will do it, and we can rely on His word. Sometimes it seems like He has moved far away, but in reality, we are the ones who have moved. He is always right at our side, holding us, walking with us, guiding us in the right way to go. It is up to us to stay with Him, to follow His leading. And, in those times when we feel He has left continue to trust whatever He has planned for us. Resting in His arms is the best place to be.
Sometimes God allows the hard times to build our faith, to make us stronger, or to prepare us for something that is coming down the road. We can look back and say, “If God could bring me through that, He can bring me through this.” Our strength comes from trusting in His Divine Plan for our lives and allowing Him to work through us and in us.

So, if you are going through a difficult time, remember it’s ok to ask, “How long, O Lord?” Just remember, He hasn’t abandoned you, He is right with you. Trust in His plan for your life and walk the pathway He has laid out for you with patience. He will never fail you!

Do it Again!

During this morning’s service we sang the song, “Do it Again!” and it touched the very soul of our congregation! If you’ve never heard this song, I have attached a You Tube link for the song. Play it repeatedly and let it sink deep into your heart! The sermon this morning was based on Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

I’m on the Worship Team, and as I was playing my flute, my mind went back to all the times God came through when life seemed hopeless. Not once did He fail me! The congregation was looking back too, because somewhere in the congregation someone was wailing, not just crying, a heart-wrenching, loud, wail, as if in deep mourning, as they must have been recounting in their mind how faithful God had been in their life. The bridge to the song says, “I’ve seen you move, you move the mountains and I believe, I’ll see you do it again, you made a way, where there was no way and I believe, I’ll see you do it again.” The verses say, “You’ve never failed me yet.”

Although that is true, what we must realize is, God is incapable of failing us EVER! The song almost makes it sound like He hasn’t failed me in the past, but maybe He will in the future. However, Numbers 23:19 tells us that God is not man, He does not lie, and because He isn’t a human, He doesn’t change His mind. Then the verse questions, “Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He promised and not carried it through?” How could He? He’s God, and what He says He will do … He will do! He keeps His promises, unlike men.

Pastor asked for a show of hands, and asked, “How many have failed to do something you have promised to do?” and everyone raised their hand! Man can and does fail us, but God NEVER fails us. He is faithful to His word.

As we sang, the power of the song grabbed us! Later, someone said they wanted us to continue to sing it over and over. It reminded us of how much God cares for us. Pastor reminded us that no matter what Hell throws our way, we can stand on God’s promises. No matter the struggle, no matter the situation, no matter how people have treated us, no matter what …. HE NEVER FAILS! The song says, “Your promise still stands, Great is your faithfulness, faithfulness. I’m still in your hands, this is my confidence, you’ve never failed me yet.” We changed it to say, “You’ve never failed me!” There is no “yet” about it!

Because He has never failed us, we have confidence in what He promises. His word is true. I can do nothing but praise Him! My heart is so full just to think of how faithful He is to us and to His promises.

We can rely upon Him in every situation. Even when we think that He has abandoned us because we can’t feel His presence. He is right with us showing His strength, love, and power in our lives. In those times when we can’t see Him working, we must remember that every one of His promises is wrapped up in timing …. His timing! He cannot cancel His promise and man cannot cancel God’s promise! We must learn to wait on His timing. We can rejoice because He moves the mountains in our lives! Great is His faithfulness!

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.

Waymaker

 

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, and especially in Pentecostal churches, there is always a focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. Our First Lady (pastor’s wife for those not familiar with that term) is also our worship leader and she brought a new song to us. The song is called, Waymaker, and the congregation just soaked that song in! It has been running through my mind since yesterday, and I’m letting it sink deep into my soul.

I’ve included a link to a You Tube video on this song, and if you’re not used to Pentecostal services, it could be a little overwhelming, but don’t let it scare you because God will touch your soul deeply!  https://youtu.be/KeXcHAurv5A

Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” (NASB) God has promised to make a way for us in whatever situation we find ourselves. We can have confidence in knowing that whatever is going on in our lives is not unnoticed by God. He knows, and He cares. We have several people in our congregation that are currently going through some pretty devastating illnesses. Some are going through difficult circumstances in their lives, but all of these people have strong faith that God will see them through. One of my friend’s is right now battling leukemia and praising God for a Christian doctor who prays with her. God is working a miracle in her life. She has a form of leukemia that, as far as I know, has no cure, BUT GOD, is healing her! The last report she gave us was that the chemo is working and the tests on her blood shows great improvement. We all are believing God that she will beat the predictions of the doctors and that God will heal her completely!

Each of us has gone through some devastating things, financial crisis, marriage difficulties, loss of loved ones, horrible illnesses, situations that seem unsurmountable! But God has promised that He is doing a new thing in our lives, He’s making a way, a new path, creating circumstances to be placed in our lives to bring about a greater faith in Him and for our good! I love the part of the song that says, “Even when I don’t feel it, You’re still working! You never stop, never stop working!” That is such a powerful phrase that we can lean upon. We can trust that He will keep us in His hand, He will guide us, He will make new paths for us to travel and new ways for us to trust Him.

Pastor’s sermon was called, “Infusion”, and he talked about allowing the Holy Spirit to be infused into our hearts and into our lives so that others may see Jesus in us, and that we receive power from the Holy Spirit to reach others for Him. Our purpose as Believers is to witness. That can take various forms, one on one speaking to someone about God, living in a manner that reflects God in our lives, through music, through the spoken word on radio and television stations, and even in the written word through books, devotionals, websites, and blogs. Whatever way we witness, it is our “job” if you will, to reach others for Christ. Jesus’ last words to His disciples was to “Go into all the world and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19)

So, as I think about infusing the Holy Spirit into my life, I also am allowing the song to be infused into my heart. It’s a mantra of praise, worship, encouragement, and declaration that God is in control, He knows everything I’m going through, and I don’t have to worry or be afraid, because I know He is a Waymaker and He has me in the palm of His hand!

 

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!