Redeemed

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Mark 15:34

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When Jesus was on the cross, He was mocked.  Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  The religious leaders joined in the ridicule as well, saying, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  It must have been painful for Jesus to hear them say those things.  These were the same people of whom Jesus asked of God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They had no idea of what was really at stake.  They were mocking Jesus about not saving Himself not realizing that wasn’t His purpose at all.  As He pointed out at the time of His arrest, if He wanted to spare Himself the agony of the Cross, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). 

Had Jesus come down from the cross to save Himself, we would all be lost and eternally separated from God.  Love for the Father and us kept Jesus on that cross.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was the Savior of the world.  God sent Him to die in our stead so that we could have everlasting life.  John 3:16 puts it so beautifully, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” When God sent Jesus into the world, it wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it through Him (Verse 17, NKJV).  The cross is our salvation and evidence of God’s incredible love for us. 

As much as it pains me to see Jesus hanging from the cross whenever I watch a biblical movie about His life, it reminds me of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Verses 14 & 15). 

Sin separates us from God.  When Jesus was on the cross, bearing our sins, He was separated from the Father.  That was why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus became the Sin-bearer and it was that sin that the Father condemned.  Jesus was forsaken for our sake so that we would be forgiven for our sins once we accept His atoning work on the cross.

How terrible it is to be separated from our heavenly Father.  This sobering thought should motivate us not to live any longer like other people in the world do but to live as Jesus did–in loving obedience to the Father.  He was obedient even on to death.

Jesus laid down His life for us to show His love.  How can we return this love?  We do so by obeying Him and having faith in Him.  Today and everyday, let us live our lives for the One who willingly went to and stayed on that cross so that He could redeem us to God by His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Our redemption came a great cost (1 peter 1:18-19).

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed thro’ His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am – Hymn #338

Parenting

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye – Psalm 32:8

From the time we are born, our parents are there to care for us.  We don’t have to worry about anything.  They provide for our basic needs.  As we get older, they offer us guidance and instructions.  We listen to them most of the time because we know that they want what is best for us.  There are times when we want to do things our way and soon learn that our way is not best and can lead us into trouble.

Our parents God’s stewards.  He entrusted them with the awesome responsibility of raising us to be godly examples to others.  It is no different from the parents we read of in the Bible like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jesse and his wife, Zechariah and Elizabeth and Joseph and Mary.  Some of them made mistakes but they trusted in God to help them to raise their children.

God is our Father and like our earthly parents, He takes care of us.  He provides for us, teaches and disciplines us.  Moses told the children of Israel, “You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you” (Deuteronomy 8:5).  When God does this, it isn’t pleasant, of course just like when our parents spank us or punish us, it feels terrible.  It’s painful but they do it because it’s necessary.  They want to do away with a behavior or habit that is problematic.  According to King Solomon, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).  Although it may be painful for us, God’s chastisement is motivated by love.  “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

Parents raise their children as best as they can.  They train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).   Some children turn out well while others don’t.  Don’t be discouraged when you’re having problems with your child.  Continue doing your best and pray.  I’ve been having issues with my son lately and this morning when I was worshipping, the Lord put it in my heart to sing, What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  These words spoke to me, giving me comfort and encouragement:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Discipline is also an expression of love, although, the child might not think so at the time but in retrospect, he or she will see that their parents acted out of love and for their best interest.  As parents, we are guides, teachers, disciplinarians, stewards and role models.  We have to reflect God’s character if we want our children to be like Him.  Parenting is a huge responsibility but it is also a blessing and a privilege.

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Hymnal Net

Christ’s Suffering

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man – Hebrews 2:9

Today is a very emotional day for me.  The waterworks began this morning soon after I got up.  I mentioned the suffering of Jesus to my husband and he said, “He suffered all the way to the cross and even while He was suffering He thought only about you and me.”  As I made up the bed, his words hit home and the tears flowed as the enormity of the suffering Jesus endured for our salvation dawned on me.

Yes, Jesus suffered that day.  He was beaten.  He was spat on. He was mocked.  He heard the religious leaders and some in the crowd call for Him to be crucified although Pilate wanted to release Him because he saw no reason for Him to be put to death.  He was treated like a common criminal.  He hung on the cross between two thieves and heard the people mock Him.  He witnessed His mother weeping uncontrollably at the foot of the cross and He felt forsaken by His Father.  That morning He was denied three times by Peter.  The night before He was betrayed by Judas and abandoned by the other disciples after they had all sworn that they would never leave Him.

He suffered indignity as He hung on the cross.  The Bible said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (Galatians 3:13).  Yet, He remained on the cross, even though passers-by called for Him to come down from the cross if He were the Son of God and the religious leaders told Him to do the same thing so that they would believe in Him (Matthew 27:39-43, Jesus remained where He was for our sake.  He wanted to accomplish what He said to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14, 15). 

Staying on that cross brought salvation into the world and eternal life to all who believe.  There was no other way for us to be saved except for Jesus to die on the cross.  He didn’t go through all that suffering just to abandon us to our fate.  A lot was at stake and hedged on Him.  He was sent into the world to save us and in spite of the agony He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked the Father if it were possible to take the cup away, He determined, nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).  He was obedient to the Father even unto death.

Even as He hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, Jesus didn’t think about Himself.  He looked down on the people who were mocking Him and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He promised one of the thieves on the cross who asked Him to remember him when He came into His kingdom, ““Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” He promised this repentant sinner that one day he will enter the kingdom. 

He looked upon His mother as she stood next to the disciple John and He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, He said, “Behold your mother!” He was placing Mary into John’s care.  He was looking out for her.  And it said that from that hour, John disciple took her to his own home.  Even in His suffering, Jesus was more concerned for the well being of others.

What can we learn from all of this?  No matter what we are going through, we must continue to remain faithful and obedient to God and to minister to others.  Jesus suffered but the story doesn’t end there.  He died on the cross, was buried but as He promised, on the third day He rose from the dead.  He ascended to His Father after spending time with his disciples and is now sitting at the right hand of God.  And one day, He will return to take us with Him.  As we go through trials, suffering, pain and difficulties, let us look “for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

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Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible

Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

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Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

At the Mountain

Imagine standing at the foot of Mount Sinai and there were thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain and the sound of the trumpet fills the air.  In fact, the trumpet was so loud that that you tremble.  You come out of the camp to meet with God at the foot of Mount Sinai which is completely in smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire.  The smoke is ascending like the smoke of a furnace and the mountain quakes.  The trumpet blast becomes louder and louder.

How would you feel?  What would be going through your mind?  Would you be terrified to see the Lord come down upon the top of the mountain?  Would you want to break through and gaze at the Lord at the risk of your life or would you stay as far away as possible, watching the manifestation from a safe distance?  This was the predicament of the Israelites when they camped before Mount Sinai.

Three months after the people left the land of Egypt, they entered the Wilderness of Sinai.  The Lord told Moses to tell them to consecrate themselves for two days, then on the third day, He would go down on Mount Sinai in their sight.  They were warned not to go up to the mountain or touch its base or they will be put to death. Boundaries were set around them which they could not step over.  When they hear the trumpet sound long, they were to go to near the mountain.  God explained to Moses why He was doing this.  “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak to you, and believe you forever.”  The people could not break through the barrier set for them to gaze at the Lord.  Only Moses was allowed to speak to God face to face.

The people were terrified when they saw the thunder and lightning, heard the sound of the trumpet and saw the mountain smoking.  They stood afar off, trembling.  They said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Moses reassured them, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”  The people continued to stand afar off while he drew near to where God was.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I were there but I am thankful that today, we can go near God without fear.  Thanks to Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, we can boldly approach the throne of grace.  Jesus made it possible for us to enjoy a loving relationship the same God who descended on the mountain in the wilderness.

God wants us to seek Him.  He promised, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Do we seek Him or do we stand afar, afraid to get too close?  Do we ask others to talk to Him on our behalf instead of talking to Him ourselves?

Today, I encourage you not to just stand at the foot of the mountain.  Climb it.  God has removed the boundaries that would keep you from Him because of His Son. Don’t let fear or sin or anything keep you from climbing up that mountain to meet your Lord.

Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out (Ezekiel 34:11).

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Sources:  Exodus 19, 20:18-20

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who became a leading abolitionist.  She led hundreds of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

Notes to Women salute this brave woman who suffered hardship and physical violence. When she crossed into the free state of Pennsylvania, she was overwhelmed with relief and awe.  Of this experience, she said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.  There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

This taste of freedom was something that she wanted others to experience.   So, instead of staying there in the North where it was safe, she made it her mission to rescue her family and others who were still living in slavery.  She earned the nickname “Moses” for leading others to freedom.

Harriet made history as the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.   She was named one of the most famous civilians in American History before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Today, she continues to be an inspiration to generations of Americans who are still struggling for civil rights.

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.

I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.

I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.

I grew up like a neglected weed – ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.

I said to de Lord, ‘I’m goin’ to hold steady on to you, an’ I know you’ll see me through.’

Twasn’t me, ’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ an’ He always did.

 

Sources:  Biography; Brainy Quote