Tag Archive | The Cross

Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan, Week 5

Spring is now here, with the natural beauty that is a part of this season beginning to brighten our world. As March comes to an end, and we bring this Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan to a close, let’s focus on preparing our hearts for the most important celebration of the Christian year, Easter.

Day 25: 1 Samuel 16:1-7

The same year I was born, the movie Easter Parade, starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, came to the big screen. As a child, I recall, my focus at Easter had nothing to do with the true reason we celebrate this holiday. My focus was on outward appearance – usually on the frilly new dress and shiny dress shoes my mother bought for me to wear to church on Easter Sunday.

Today’s Scripture opens our eyes to the truth that people look at the outward appearance. As this was my focus on Easter as a child, it is a trait common to mankind. But our God is different. He looks at the heart. As we prepare for this week’s Easter celebration, let’s turn our focus onto what God is looking at, our hearts. Take time today to ask yourself, “What does God see when He looks at my heart?”

Day 26: Matthew 23:27-39

Am I more concerned with how I appear to people than I am with how I appear to God? People are easy to deceive. They believe what they see outwardly is a reflection of what is within the heart. Our good deeds look great on the outside. But God can see through our outward veneer into our hearts. And He is the One we are called to please.

Romans 2:13 tells us, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Okay, we are to obey God’s law. There’s only one problem with that. As men and women with a sin nature, perfect obedience to God’s law is beyond our ability. Isaiah 64:6 says of our best attempts as living righteously: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

‭‭But our loving and gracious God provided a way for this requirement to be met. He did so by sending His perfect Son to earth, to live as a man and to pay the penalty for our sin. Through Jesus’ life and death, He fulfilled God’s law. When we come to Him as our sin-bearer, accepting His sacrifice as our own and surrendering our lives to Him, He clothes us with the robe of righteousness – His own righteousness, which is now counted as ours. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”‭‭

Day 27: Psalm 72:12-18

As we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the resurrected Lord this Easter, let’s also remember Jesus will one day soon return for His own. Then He will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. And all nations will be blessed through Him.

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Day 28: Job 12:7-13

On Good Friday, we remember the day Jesus became our Passover Lamb. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. He is the One Who by taking the punishment for our sin brought us peace (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV). He is Immanuel, God with us, and we are safe in His hands.

Day 29: Psalm 145:1-9

One of my favorite ways to start my daily quiet time is to focus on some of the character qualities of the great God we serve. It’s helps me to shift my focus off of the circumstances I’m walking through and enables me to see them from a new perspective.

Psalm 145 reveals that the Lord is great, that His greatness is beyond what our limited minds can comprehend. He is our majestic King. And perhaps my favorite, He is filled with unwavering love and compassion toward His people.

Day 30: Psalm 119:12-18

Lord, Your Word is my delight. Neglecting Your Word is like neglecting to eat, because it is the spiritual food that sustains me. My prayer each morning is that You will show me truth as I open my Bible my eyes will be opened to the exact things I need for this day. And I know of no thing more beautiful than God’s Holy Word. As our pastor said in a recent sermon, “Scripture is beautiful – and it is true.”

Day 31: Isaiah 60:1-9

Light – one of the themes of my blog and what our Lord Jesus Christ came to bring – is a beautiful way to close this month’s focus on beauty. Darkness hides beauty, while light exposes it. Let’s learn to walk in the light, as He is in the light.

And this brings this month’s study of Everything Beautiful to a close. On this Easter Sunday, I want to end with a song about our beautiful God, who gave His life for us and is now our resurrected Lord! Because He lives, we can live also.

 

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“Walking and Leaping and Praising God”

For the last couple months, I’ve been using Rachel Wojo’s monthly Bible Reading Challenges to put together a weekly blog post, daily adding a brief reflection and graphic on that day’s passage. I still plan to continue doing this, but as I was reading today’s passage from the Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge, God opened my eyes to some encouraging truths and I felt compelled to go beyond my short entry for the weekly post and do a separate blog post.

Today’s Everything Beautiful passage is found in Acts 3:1-10 and tells of one of the miracles during the early years of the church. It took place at the gate of the temple that was called the Beautiful Gate, probably so named because of it’s ornate decorations, but commentators are divided about the actual location of the gate. It was apparently one of the gates or doors through which the Jewish men who came to worship entered, but it’s exact identity is of little importance. The emphasis in this passage is on what happened here.

It was the hour of prayer, and Peter and John were on their way into the temple when they saw a man who was lame from birth being carried to the entrance where he habitually spent his days asking alms of those who were entering the holy place.

Doubtless, Peter and John had seen him many times before, but this day was different. At the man’s request for alms, Peter stopped and spoke with him. The man was hoping for silver or gold to meet his material needs, and he probably had a sense of disappointment at Peter’s first words, “I have no silver and gold.” But Peter’s next words changed his life. “But what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

If you’ve been a Christian for many years, this is probably a familiar passage. But the Holy Spirit loves to give us new insights as we spend time daily in God’s Word. This morning, the words following the actual miracle stood out to me, “and (he) entered the temple with them (Peter and John).”

As I read these words, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that this was of great significance to this newly-healed lame man. So I did some research to confirm what I was sensing. If the lame man had never before been allowed to enter the temple, was this somehow a case of looking down on those who had less than perfect bodies? As a woman with a long list of chronic illnesses and disability as a result of an automobile accident and actively involved in ministry to others with chronic illness, this definitely had my attention.

Were the blind and lame restricted by God from entering the temple, forced to stay outside the temple gates because of their infirmities? Scripture does tell us (in Leviticus 21:16-23) that the blind and lame were excluded from serving as altar priests, presenting sacrifices and food offerings to God. But there are no specific verses that teach the physically disabled were to be banned from the tabernacle or temple. So we know this was not God’s plan.

Yet there are extra-biblical sources that seem to indicate this was common practice by the time of Jesus. The fact that the man was at the gate, which Peter and John were about to enter, and not inside the temple, seems to confirm this. If so, it came about either through Jewish tradition or the misreading of Scriptures such as Leviticus 21 and 2 Samuel 5:8, where David is quoted as saying on the day he was anointed as king, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the house.” But this could not refer to the temple, since it had not been built at that time, and in context doesn’t even appear to refer to the physically blind and lame.

We do know, according to Matthew 21:14 and other passages, that Jesus healed the lame and blind in the temple. This shows they were at least able to go into the court of the Gentiles, and it along with the many healings during His earthly ministry show us Jesus’ heart was to include those who were afflicted or disabled.

If the lame and otherwise afflicted were actually banned from the temple, as many believe, when the previously lame man who had been healed entered the temple with Peter and John he was probably as excited about this as he was about being able to walk. No wonder he was “walking and leaping and praising God!

Today, regardless of what was true at the time this miracle took place, we can be confident that chronic illness neither separates us from God’s presence not makes us unqualified for ministry. Jesus’ death and resurrection instituted a new way of life, a life described in Hebrews 10:19-20 as “the new and living way.”

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,”

We are no longer under the law. We now live by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Romans 6:14 clearly states that we are not under the law but under grace. Why is this true? Because one of the things Jesus came to do was to fulfill the law (see Matthew 5:17).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ESV)‬‬

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

And that’s such good news that we, like the once-lame man of Acts 3, should be “walking and leaping and praising God!”

Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Plan: Week 2

“Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.” – Augustine

As we move through this Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge during this month of March, let’s keep this quote from one of the early fathers of the Christian church in mind. True beauty has it’s source in God! And because He is a gracious and loving God, He “dispenses” this gift to all mankind, even the wicked.

As His beloved children, let us look beyond the outward beauty surrounding us as tender green shoots begin emerging from the ground, as trees begin to bud and flowers start blooming, to see the Giver of these beautiful gifts.

Day 4: Psalm 98:1-9

The God we serve is a God of steadfast love and faithfulness to His people. From Creation to the present day, He has done marvelous things. I’m so grateful He made known His salvation to me when I was a young woman. Life hasn’t always been easy, but throughout the forty-six years since I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, He has been a constant Light in my life. And when I reflect on all He has done in my life, my heart overflows with joy.

Day 5: Isaiah 52:1-7

Wake up! Clothe yourself with strength! We live in a world where God’s good name is constantly being blasphemed, a world in desperate need of an answer. We have that answer, the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The truth that our God reigns even today. Are you doing your part in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Day 6: Psalm 105:1-7

As I’m attentive to sources of beauty this month, I was especially touched today by a translation of Psalms of which I had never previously heard. Enjoy these verses in their unique presentation in the Scottish Psalter, a translation that is metrical in nature and accurate to the original Hebrew, written in 1650 and still in use by the Church of Scotland today.

Day 7: Psalm 19:1-6

Thank You, Father, that the heavens display the beauty of Your craftsmanship. Day after day, without uttering a word, they proclaim Your glory to all the world.

Day 8: Psalm 111:1-10

This Psalm speaks of the works of the Lord, described as great, full of splendor and majesty, wondrous, powerful, faithful and just. These gifts include provision for our needs (food specifically mentioned), redemption from the slave market of sin, and the inheritance of the nations. The God of these works is righteous, gracious and merciful, faithful and upright, holy and awesome. And our right response to this God above all gods: praise, gratefulness, and a righteous fear of God was we recognize who He truly is.

All of that is found in one short chapter of Scripture, just a snapshot of our amazing God and His work in our lives! Spend time today in God’s “photo album” to get to know Him a little better. And take some time today to praise God for who He is and thank Him for His gracious works that have changed your life. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to thank Him for the richness of his Word.

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Day 9: Hosea 14:1-9

After recently completing a study of 1 John, the promise of 1 John 1:9 that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from the effects when we come to Him in honest confession immediately came to mind as I read today’s passage. These verses from the prophet Hosea are a reminder that this was always a part of God’s plan, even before Jesus came to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. This morning, I give God thanks for His love that knows no bounds, for making a way that our sins may be forgiven, and for healing our faithlessness and graciously receiving us as His own children. Today, if you are a reborn child of God by having placed your faith in Jesus Christ, a way has been made for you to flourish with healthy new growth.

‭Day 10: James 1:11-17

Spring is a time of new growth, as the days become warmer and the beauty of nature surrounds us. As we close week 2 of our Everything Beautiful Bible Reading Challenge lets go back to where I began this week’s post: True beauty has it’s source in God!

Beauty is one of the good and perfect gifts God has abundantly provided for those on earth. Yet when our focus turns on the outward beauty, which the first verse in today’s passage reminds us will fade quickly, instead of on its source, even the beauty of God’s Creation can usurp His rightful place in our lives. Beauty can become an idol, or it can be simply a reminder of the One who made it. Join me in turning your eyes on the source of beauty and giving Him thanks for this gift.

True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week 4 Summary

February, a month when my thoughts have been focused on love with both this True Love Bible Reading Challenge and the Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book I Am Loved, is drawing to a close. But first, seven more passages to reflect upon God’s love for us and our appropriate response to that love.

Day 22 – Philippians. 2:1-11

Reflecting upon the love of God has brought encouragement, comfort and joy to our lives during this month. Today’s passage focuses on the ultimate picture of God’s love for us, as seen by Jesus’ willingness to empty Himself, take on the form of a servant, and become obedient to the point of death on a cross. God’s call to us in response is to have the same mind as Christ had, in humility loving others as He loves us.

Day 23 – Colossians 3:8-15

Acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is the first step in the process of our lives being transformed into the image of Christ. With the Holy Spirit within to empower us, we are then equipped for the disciplines of putting off the old self of our former manner of life, renewing our minds through the Word of God, and putting on the new self made in the image of God. We must put off (or put away) the practices that are rooted in sin, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to them. But to put off without putting on leaves a void. Replacement is a necessary part of transformation. Put off. Put on. Both are essential for us to be changed into the likeness of Christ. And the most important thing for us to put on is love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Day 24 – John 14:21-27

Loving God is closely linked with obedience to His Word. In these verses, Jesus made this truth clear to His disciples. And He also reminded them that the words they heard Him speak are not just His words, they were also the words of the Father who sent Jesus. Just as Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19), this passage tells us He only said what He heard the Father saying. Therefore there is no separating God’s Words – which we often think of as the Old Testament Scriptures – and the Words of Jesus which we read in the New Testament. If we truly love Jesus, our desire will be to obey all of God’s Word, both the Old and New Testament. But we also need to balance this truth with the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness, with the fact that our obedience during our days on earth will never be perfect. As Beth Moore says, “Obedient lives are not perfect lives. Obedience does not mean sinlessness but confession and repentance when we sin.”

Day 25 – John 15:9-13

How does Jesus love us? The same way the Father has loved Him. The Father’s love for Jesus is deep, tender, sacrificial, eternal and unchanging. Jesus’ love for us is a clear reflection, a mirror image, of the Father’s love for His own perfect Son. What an amazing thought! The Father loves the Son so much that He “has given all things into his hand” (John‬ ‭3:35‬).‬‬ The Father loves the Son so much that He “shows him all that he himself is doing” (John 5:20). The Father’s love for Jesus is perfect love. And this is the same way Jesus loves us.

And the response Jesus asks of us? We are to abide in His love, having an intimate, close relationship, not just a superficial acquaintance. When we do this, two things happen. We find delight in keeping His commandments and His joy fills our lives. And as we are filled to overflowing with the love of Christ, we love others in the same way He has loved us, even to the point of laying down our lives for them.

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Day 26 – John 15:14-21

In this next section of John 15, Jesus says to those who abide in His love, as seen by laying down their own will and walking in obedience to God’s will and ways, “You are my friends.” What is the difference between a servant and a friend? A servant doesn’t know his master’s business. He simply does what he is told. But to His friends, Jesus says, “everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” One of the ways the Father loves the Son that I listed above is by showing Jesus all He is doing. And if we are His friends, Jesus passes this information on to us.

So how do we know if we are living as a friend of Jesus? If we belong to Jesus, if we are His friends, there will be lasting spiritual fruit in our lives. And the primary fruit will be our love for one another. Plus an added benefit of this lifestyle: answered prayer.

Day 27 – 1 John 3:1-5

Sometimes I think we miss the fullness of all Jesus accomplished on the cross. Derek Prince has identified ten things from Scripture that Jesus achieved by His suffering and death on the cross. Today I’m just going to share three of those.

  • Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.
  • He tasted death for us that we might share His life.
  • He endured rejection (because of our sins being laid upon Him) that we might have His acceptance with the Father.

When we think of Jesus’ death on the cross, we usually focus on Him paying the penalty for our sin that we might be forgiven. That is a major truth, one I am eternally thankful for. But I’m equally grateful that His death made the way for me to share His life. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, I am a new creation. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Now I am one of God’s beloved children, fully accepted into the family of God. And that is good news today and for eternity.

Day 28 – 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Love is Who God is! God is the heart of true love. The characteristics of love are the characteristics of God. By knowing the heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the Son, we learn what love is all about. The characteristics of love are also the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us expressed to others. As this “Love Month” of February comes to an end, this is my take-away from this month’s study of LOVE. It’s what I want to remember when circumstances feel overwhelming, when I’m tempted to lose heart. God is Love, and because this is true I have hope for the future!

Why, Lord?

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday, where we write spontaneously for five minutes on a one-word prompt.  The prompt this week is “why.”

Oh, how many times I’ve asked this question! Why, Lord, did you allow the accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter Teresa and left me in a wheelchair?

Why, Lord, was our son David born with so many health problems? Why did You allow him to have such bad seizures as an infant that they left him with profound mental retardation and multiply health problems?

And more recently, why, Lord, did you allow David to get pneumonia during Hurricane Harvey, when getting the medication he desperately needed took days? Why did he end up in the hospital for almost a month and come home with even greater health problems than before?

Over the years, I’ve learned that these questions seldom receive an answer – other than, “trust Me.” God has taught me to stop asking why and instead come to Him in surrender, asking Him what He wants me to learn from the current circumstances.

This week, I found myself watching the news out of Florida and again asking why. But this week, different answers came. Why, Lord, did You allow this to happen? My child, I have no place in the public schools of America. You are seeing the results of this.

When I see events such as the murder of seventeen people this week by a young man who had made his desire to become the biggest mass murderer in a school known to many, even the FBI, and was ignored, I see a nation in desperate need of repentance. I hear God’s cry loud and clear to pray for our nation. I hope you will join me in this commitment.

Jesus Christ, Risen Lord

During the Advent season, our focus as Christians is usually on the birth of Jesus Christ. But the Good News of Christmas is about more than His birth. Jesus came for a purpose, and that purpose can’t be separated from His coming. He came to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Because of His sacrificial death on the Cross, we can be forgiven.

But if we stop here when sharing the Gospel, we are missing the equally important second fact that is also a part of the Good News. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not still on the Cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, but His body is not still in the tomb. He arose from the dead. He is alive forevermore!

So why is it so important that we believe Jesus is the Risen Lord? The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He is who He claimed to be and that He accomplished what He came to accomplish. ‬‬

Some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important:

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a declaration that Jesus is the Son of God, as He claimed to be.

“(Jesus Christ) was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,”  Romans‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we are justified or declared righteous before God.

It will be counted (as righteousness) to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans‬ ‭4:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that our sins have been forgiven.

For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15:16-17‬ ‭NKJV

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that He defeated death.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” Romans‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our promise that those who know Him as Savior and Lord will also be raised from the dead.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:20-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our assurance that we who have placed our faith in Him will one day stand in His presence.

knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am eternally grateful thank Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sins through His sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross. But I am also grateful that He is no longer dead. He is my RISEN LORD, and I hope He is your RISEN LORD also.

Jesus Christ Our Savior

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Savior as “one who saves from any form or degree of evil.” In the sense we are using Savior as a name of Jesus, it refers to the good news of salvation and forgiveness of sin available to us by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. Easton explains, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ secures to the sinner a personal interest in the work of redemption. Salvation is redemption made effectual to the individual by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The idea of a Savior isn’t unique to the New Testament. From the Garden of Eden and the fall into sin, God has spoken of Himself being our Savior. One of many verses from the Old Testament calling God our Savior is Isaiah 43:3, which begins with these word, “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”  

Throughout the Old Testament, God delivered His people from perils when they walked in obedience to Him. But the promise of theSavior, of the One who would come to bring salvation from sin and restoration of relationship with God was still future.

From His birth, Jesus was identified as this promised Savior. When an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field watching their sheep, this announcement was made.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke‬ ‭2:11-12‬ ‭ESV

After His resurrection and ascension to heaven, Jesus was recognized by the early church as the ONLY source of salvation.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Both Paul and Peter acknowledged Him as Savior.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus‬ ‭3:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter‬ ‭1:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While the price for our salvation has been paid, a response is required from us for Him to be our personal Savior.

It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John‬ ‭4:42‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I made the decision to accept Jesus as my personal Savior in 1971, when my eyes were opened to the truth that growing up in the church didn’t mean I knew Jesus as my personal Savior. If you haven’t made this decision, today can be your day of salvation. Listen to the following song, and then make wherever you are your altar of surrender to Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.