This morning I woke up way too early (4:30am!) and my mind was bombarded with several failures of my past. I had flashbacks of many moments that I wished could be erased or at least that I could go back and redo. Half asleep, I tried to rally my thoughts and gain proper footing. My heart was saddened with the memories. I think it will always be, for there was nothing good in these moments of selfishness and pride. But, and there is a but, these were not the end of the story!
Each moment of life can be separated out as a snapshot in time, an instagram post with no explanation of the why or the where of the image. Each moment though has another attached to it on either side and each of those do as well. If I were to take a few steps out I would find that the images connected like dominoes, creating a story board of motion and revealing a greater perspective than any one image could have on its own. That is the reality of life.
What I saw in my half comatose state, were up-close, snapshots without any context attached to them. They were flipping by so quickly, reminding me of the dark moments of much larger scenarios... reminding me of things that I could have done better!
Today is Good Friday. This has always been a sobering day for me, largely due to being raised in a home that was very careful to honour its memory of one of the most significant moments in history, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. As a moment in time, it was beyond sad, it was wrong, it was cruel and, it was a dark stain of injustice on humankind. This innocent man was unjustly tried and murdered.
These moments in time can give the great impression that somehow darkness had won and that the devil had gained prominent status. I suppose, as a snapshot, that is what seemed to be apparent in this case.
What one has to do though, is to stand back and observe the broader picture, the complete story as far as we have told us, viewing the history leading up to the event and the cascade of moments sprouting off of it. From that vantage point, even the darkest day can often find a greater purpose, even a victory. Think of all the sacrifices made over the years by valiant soldiers giving their lives to rid us of a pressing evil...
In this moment of history, Jesus Christ, the son of God, gave his life willingly as a sacrifice for humanity's selfish ways, gaining us eternal freedom. He was a sinless man who took on our sins, our moments of selfishness and pride and paid for them with his life. He was the perfect sacrifice, saving us from ourselves.
Now, I can soberly take my moments of sin (past or present) to this same Jesus and find that I am forgiven and released from the eternal offense of them. I can also find that my mind, though sad at memories of failure, does not feel guilty anymore. Jesus paid the price for them and there is nothing left for me to be condemned about.
Such news is good and brings my heart and head peace! Maybe that's why it wasn't long before I fell back to sleep again :)
This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
The Nativity Story
Luke 1:14 - You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
Matthew 1:18-25 - This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Isaiah 11:1 - Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
Matthew 2: 1-23 - Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Luke 2: 1-20 - At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Psalm 98:4 - Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!
Luke 2:10 - but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
John 3:16 - For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Isaiah 9:6 - For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
1 John 4: 7-14 - Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. NLT
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. (Isaiah 11:1)
Look for Christ and you will find Him.
And with Him, everything else.
“C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity”
You will find hope, peace, joy, family, eternal life, forgiveness, freedom. You will find love and life for what it was meant to be.
Invited? By God?
My head knows the facts. My heart knows this is truth. My humanity remains in wonder that the God of this universe would engage so personally with me.
Jesus came at Christmas to offer us partnership.
He came to call us in to his rich, blessed community.
He partnered with us by becoming a baby.
He offers us the opportunity to partner with him by becoming his child.
Amazing! Do you believe?
Christmas! What a profound opportunity to
highlight the love of God and the sheer grit of Jesus.
God gave us Jesus out of his vast supply of love.
And he still gives forever.
Jesus said 'yes' to his father's plan out of his immense love for us. He showed us what true humility and strength look like.
And he still says 'yes' forever.
May our hearts swell and beat fast for this God. May we be drawn deeper into his extravagant love... forever.
May we give the gift that is forever.
There is a scene in 'The Last Crusade - Indiana Jones', (come on, entertain me for a minute :) where Harrison Ford comes to an impasse; a chasm that must be crossed but he has no way of doing it. He cannot return until he completes this path so he takes a step of faith over the gorge, into the emptiness and with great relief, finds that his foot lands on a hidden, stone bridge. After crossing over, he stops and throws dirt on it so that it remains revealed for the return trip...
Have you ever had moments in life like that?
Some roads I've travelled have been ones that I would definitely not want repeated. These are the roads of intense pain and loss; the ones that blindsided me; the paths with deep chasms in front of them. Because they were nonnegotiable, my only foreseeable options were to either sink in the after-moments or bravely inch forward.
It takes great courage and faith to keep walking, especially when all you can see is that you are on the edge of a cliff. Typically, my heart would instruct me but in these kinds of moments it is the heart that experiences the chasm. The pain of it is overwhelming making you want to run but finding there is nowhere to go. The chasm is luring in its despair. It is then that the words of God embedded in life and the experiences of truth handed down through faithful generations kick in. It's as though I move by rote and habit, but mentally I choose what I will believe and do. I choose God.
Unlike this movie, God gives us dust to throw before we step out in faith. Faith is substance. Faith comes out of what we hope for. Hope comes from God. If we invite His presence and voice to give counsel, He will be like dirt thrown on the hidden path revealing the way forward. There is a bridge. Jesus gave us that many years ago when He came and took all hopelessness away by dying on a cross. He is the path, the truth and answer in seemingly hopeless situations. He is life and love giving healing to unanswered hurts, release from bondages formed in injustice, and incredible courage to hope again for something good in the future.
I guess what I am trying to get at is this; we cannot have answers to all of what happens in life but we can trust a loving God who promises to stand by His word. His word is His bond. When He says that He is love, we can trust that. When He says that He will never leave or forsake His kids (Psalms 94:14), we can trust that. That means He is there, at the cliff... and He will make good on His Word. He will make a way for you to cross over!
“For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.
Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.”
Psalm 94:14, 17-19, 22 NIV
Throw (apply) His Word on your scenario.
Invite His presence. Ask Him to speak. Let Him show you the bridge.
Let Him be the bridge.
Love is one of the greatest quests of humanity. That's why we never run out of songs to write. But, have we made love something other than what it is? Have we made love something that serves us rather than something that serves? Have we forgotten what love is or, that love is God?
Everything that God does is out of an extreme love for us. Forgiveness, grace, mercy and yes, even rules. His love is relentless and bold, kind and personal, holy and right, unswerving and pure. His love is full; full of life, joy, creativity, energy and adventure.
Let me come at this from a different angle. One of the greatest struggles in my life has been fear. It has not been intentional and certainly not my quest, but nevertheless it has been there ...a nagging voice always looking to have its way! Fear opposes love. It is vocal, demanding, analytical and protective. Fear never allows love to totally be all it is meant to be for love is too free and does not make sense. It will never give everything to another because it must hold something back for a rainy day. If that is my axis or plume-line of action, then I will certainly grow more like it over time. My dreams, talents and relationships will be compromised and I will not be all that I am made to be. Over time, in essence, I will die.
Jesus said that perfect love casts out fear. Love is free and does not operate on calculations or keep tabs. Love makes fear mad. Perfect love is not a thing. It is pure and free flowing, unconditional and forgiving. Love does not need to be repaid or acclaimed. It does not need honour for it is honour itself. Love does not need. Perfect love is the substance of life and is completely Jesus.
God is love and His desires for us are out of His perfect love.
Will you let Love be?
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:16-18 NIV
A friend put out a public prayer request asking for a non-believer's healing. It was given with her consent and with the assurance that God is a healer, has been doing some great things in people's lives lately, and that we will ask for a miracle to happen ... that she has a full recovery.
I found myself praying for the individual and then, I thought, "God, Your name is being put out on the line today." And just as quick as the thought was out, was this realization: God is His Name!
We serve a great God; One who actually personifies His name.
Healer Lover Provider Redeemer Faithful Friend Powerful Merciful Just Compassionate Forgiving
Let them know that You, whose name is the Lord —
that You alone are the Most High over all the earth.
Psalm 83:18 NIV
God stands by His Name.
Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”
Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5
“Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” Mark 5:19
And the prayer of faith will save the sick & the Lord will raise him up.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. We'll talk about that tomorrow.
These are excerpts from 'Just Jesus'. Lessons from the book of Mark.
Please inquire for the word of the LORD today. 1 Kings 22:5