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A “re”newed view

Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I teach the teenagers on Wednesday night at church. These last few weeks we have been going through the student version of “A Case for Christ”. And let me tell you, tonight’s lesson is going to be tough. I debated skipping it but I feel that as tough as it will be, my kids need to hear it. All of it. So instead of trying to determine a witty presentation of the subject matter, I’m just going to read it. 

I have to. There is nothing witty or clever about the transgressions committed against my Jesus. 

In our society, we are okay with watching movies that are gruesome and horrible. We read books that give us nightmares. We watch videos on social media that terrify us. But to careful consider the torment and brutality of what Jesus went through for us, well, that’s another story. We can’t take it. It hurts too much. 

I think that when we stop and look into history about the torture methods and ways  a death sentence was carried out in the Roman culture, we can’t help but feel burdened and grateful and incredibly sad. We hear periodically about Jesus being “wounded” for our transgressions. I don’t think that begins to scratch the surface. 

Jesus was brutally tortured for my sin. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition for my sin. Jesus was humiliated on the cross for my sin. Jesus felt the weight of His own body through the nails piercing His hands/wrists for my sin. Jesus endured what can only be described as suffocation and His organs shutting down very slowly for my sin. And I know that if I was the only person in history that would ever accept His sacrifice, He would still have done it – for me. 

And that is powerful. 

With each touch of the whip, He thought of all those through time that would choose Him as their Savior. With each agonizing moment on that cross, He thought about each life that would be drastically changed because of His act of selfless love. 

Do you think about that? Do you consider that when work piles up? Do you think about that while your folding laundry for the ump-teenth time this week? Do you consider His sacrifice and love for each and every one of us when that nut monkey cuts you off in traffic?

Probably not. I know I don’t. But I should. I believe that if we would live our life redeemed and grateful for His sacrifice, our world would change. Fear would leave. Doubt would run and hide. Compassion would be as common place as anything you can think of. 

But it’s so much easier to turn our thoughts away from Him. It’s so much easier to forget. 

I want to encourage you today to take a moment and read about His suffering. I want you to think about His sacrifice. I want you to say “thank you” and mean it from a place in your heart that is torn and burdened. 

Selfishness

Psalm 36:2 – “For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.”

I have been known to say, quite frequently actually, “It’s their world and your just living in it!” Selfishness is running rampant in our world today. Too many people would rather think of themselves than any other. There are children being abandoned by their parents because they don’t fit into the parents’ plans. Families are being torn apart because one spouse chooses to leave the relationship for one reason or another. People are getting in car accidents because the other driver thinks that their text message is way more important than the person they are meeting on the road.

Selfishness is everywhere. It’s an epidemic really. It is a seed that has always been there but in our current social climate, it flourishes.

So, what do we do about it? How do we live an unselfish life? How do we tolerate those who choose to think only of themselves? Well, I don’t have all the answers but I know Someone who does.
Philippians 2:3 – “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
It is hard, sometimes, to do this. You don’t want to be at the bottom of the thought process. You want to do what you want to do. You don’t want to have to think about others along the way. But Jesus commands us to do just that – think of others along the way. Can you imagine how different His ministry would have been if He had thought of Himself at any time?

You see, it’s a great way to show others His love when you think of others more than yourself. You choose the hard things instead of the easy way out. You sacrifice your time and your efforts for someone else’s gain – and you are okay with it. You don’t complain when things get hard, you face them and move through them. You don’t become bitter and nasty when asked to do something.

Princess, I just want to encourage you to be different. Choose to walk away from selfishness. Choose to be the kind of person that is ready to serve no matter the cost. Choose to be the kind driver out there on the crazy road. Choose to be the one who volunteers to do the task. And shine on, sister – let them see His light coming through you.

In the beginning…

Genesis 3:1-6 – “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”

My husband and I began listening to the audio Bible. We are attempting to get through the entire Bible in a year. We thought that if we listened to it, maybe we would be more successful.

Of course, you start in Genesis and it made me think about the first few sins. The first recorded sin in lying – by the serpent, aka the devil. (Side note: has anyone else ever wondered why Eve was not surprised that the snake was speaking? If a snake started speaking to me, I would freak out and then attack it with a sharp object!) Lying – not telling the truth or only telling part of a truth that is intertwined with non-truth – that’s my definition, by the way. Either way, lying is not good. I always tell my kids they will get into way less trouble if they tell the truth than if they lie to me. I detest lying. Makes me so very mad. Yet our society and culture is littered with it. People lie as well as they breathe. So sad.

The next sin we see is the first one recorded that a human committed -disobedience. The choice to do what you have been told not to do – my definition again. Notice I said “the choice”. See, disobedience is not something you are forced into doing. It is a choice that you make. You choose to eat that giant piece of cake when you know that it will pack on the pounds. You choose to drive 60 mph in a 45 mph zone. You choose to watch that movie or listen to that music that you know is not good. It is a choice.

Then we have number three – blame. Genesis 3:11-13 – “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Adam and Eve had messed up. God came to spend time with them and they were hidden. God called for them and they responded that they were afraid to talk to Him because they were naked. Adam first blamed God for giving him Eve and then he blamed Eve for making him eat. Eve blamed the serpent. None of the parties involved took responsibility for what they had done. It was much easier to blame someone else that to own up to their choices.

And thus began the vicious cycle of our world today. We lie. We disobey. We blame others for our choices. These three are the root of most of our problems in today’s world.

Lovely, right? Now what?

Jesus. Jesus is the answer to these problems. Because of humanity’s choices back in the garden, we required a sacrifice. Just as Adam and Eve needed a sacrifice to cover their nakedness, we need a sacrifice to cover our sin choices. And praise God, He supplied One.

Sometimes in our everyday walk we need to stop and remember all that was given for us and why. So today, Princess, take a moment to remember and celebrate by praising God for providing the Sacrifice so that one day we won’t have to deal with these three sins any more.

Burying Jesus

John 20:18 – “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.”

I know this is a weird question, but bear with me – Do you bury Jesus? Told you, weird question. But do you? Do you make an effort to keep Jesus out of your life or is He just not easily seen in all that you do?

Let me give you this excerpt from Ann Graham Lotz’s book, Just Give Me Jesus
Our modern-day culture tries to keep Him buried in the church.
The church keeps Him buried in traditions or rituals.
Churchgoers keep Him buried on the weekend like a holy hobby.
The religious masses keep Him buried as an icon of history.
The religious leaders keep Him buried in their programs.
The intellectuals keep Him buried in debate.
The agnostics keep Him buried in doubt.
Without consciously trying, have you been keeping Him buried yourself….in neglect? in excuses for sin? in unbelief? in selfishness and pride? in alcohol? in drugs? in unconfessed sin?

Convicting little group of sentences, right? When I read this the other day, I was taken aback. I never really thought that I “buried Jesus” but when I read this, I had to admit that sometimes, yes, I do bury Jesus. And that made me sad. And convicted. And thoughtful. I was sad that there are people who treat Jesus as a “holy hobby” for the weekend. I was convicted because I know that there are times in my life where the majesty of Jesus has gotten lost in ritual. And I was thoughtful in that yes, I see this type of behavior everywhere.

The same can be said of us putting Jesus in a box. We limit His limitless power by constraining Him to what we think. He knows no bounds or limits. Why do we think He can’t handle something in our life? What, do we not want to bother Him? For lands sake, when you think about it, do you think it bothered Him to come to this earth and die for you? If He is willing to do this for a bunch of people who, at the time, could care less, don’t you think He wants to help you through your decisions? Don’t you think that He cares that the baby won’t stop screaming? Don’t you think He wants to comfort you when you feel lonely in a crowd of people? Don’t you think that He wants to work a miracle in your life when there is too much month at the end of the money?

Don’t bury Jesus! Don’t put Him in a box!

Princess, He wants to be active in your life. He wants to show Himself through you each and every day. He wants to develop a relationship with you. But it takes two to tango. So, sister, get ready to dance!

Note: The above quote is found on page 248 of Anne Graham Lotz’s book Just Give Me Jesus, published by Thomas Nelson.

Don’t be afraid

Judges 6:12,14,15 – “And the angel of he LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have I note spent thee? And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

Here is Gideon. The “mighty man of valor”. Doesn’t look very mighty or valiant does he? He is afraid of the calling of God. He is scared to do what God is asking him to do. He is coming up with every excuse in the book. And he has a big book.

Have you ever been scared to do what God is calling you to do? I have and I think we all have at some point or another. For me, it is fear of the unknown. I like to know what is going to happen and when. I really like to know the how, but that is negotiable. ¬†When we follow God, sometimes we don’t get the answers to these questions. He just says “do this” and we are supposed to do it. No need to ask questions. He’s got it all under control. But if you are like me, that is way beyond your comfort zone. And that is a big step.

But God is able. And He is okay with you testing Him to know you are doing exactly what He wants you to do. Gideon was very proficient in that area. Check out some more of Judges and see how Gideon tested God. It’s kinda funny, actually. I’m surprised God didn’t get frustrated with him and thump him on the head. I know I would have. But this story is a great example of God’s long-suffering.

Anyway, today princess, don’t be afraid to ask God what he wants you to do. Then don’t be afraid to jump in with both feet. It will be scary. You may not have a clue how it will turn out. But go ahead and jump. It will totally be worth the initial discomfort.

Seeing the Nile

Isaiah 49:17,16a – “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”

It is test time in many schools. Time to see what the students have learned. Well, I’m sure there are some students who have not studied as they should and are trying to come up with creative ways to take the answers to the test into the room with them. Remember when you needed to remember something and you wrote it on your hand? If I had a nickel for every time I have done that very thing, especially for phone numbers, well, I could probably pay off my house!

Any way, we forget. We forget for many different reasons. Sometimes it is age induced – my mom says she is “seeing the Nile” (senile). Sometimes it is medically induced – some medications will make you forget and some illnesses will cause temporary memory loss. Sometimes we just aren’t paying attention when the information is given to us – hence the problem with multitasking mommas!

Whatever the reason, you are not alone. Not only do individuals have this problem, but whole nations do as well. How often did the children of Israel forget? Check out the Old Testament. It is full of instances of this happening. And to bring it closer to home, we, as the United States of America, have forgotten what and why we came here in the first place. Sometimes I think that is the devil trying to destroy us with that memory loss.

The engraving of names was established a long time ago. When the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God had given them the instructions for the Tabernacle, He also included a dress code for the High Priest. He was to have an ephod as one of his pieces of clothing. On this ephod was to be stones on the shoulder that had the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. An ephod is like a sleeveless vest. Fancy duds. Theses stones were to be a reminder of the importance of his position. He carried the responsibility of the twelve tribes on his shoulders.

Everything in the Old Testament was meant to point us to Christ. And this did just that. He carried the weight of the sin of man throughout all time on His shoulders. He took that sin to the cross and crucified it. It is a beautiful picture to remember that our names were written on His nail scarred hands. Not so that he wouldn’t forget but rather because He loves us that much.

Our hands are such an integral part of who we are. We have our wedding rings on our hands. Our hands serve others. Our hands hold our children. Our hands share the Word in blogs. Our hands open the Word. Our hands fold in prayer.

Today princess, I want you to remember that Jesus will never forget you. He has your name written on His hand. And though you may forget and fall, Jesus will always be there to pick you up. He never forgets His own.

Sacrifice

Romans 12:1,2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, (which is) your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what (is) that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (KJV)

Disclaimer: I looked at this Scripture in NIV and KJV. I found that the KJV was closest to the original language.

Sacrifice. What is sacrifice? You know that it isn’t always killing an animal for a blood atonement, right? In my good-old Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the third definition (the first two had to do with destroying something) is this: to devote with loss. Hmmm, I can see that in today’s world. We aren’t into destroying animals as an act of worship these days. PETA would have a fit!
But “to devote with loss”, that I can relate to.

So what does a “living sacrifice” mean? I think we find that answer in verse 2 of this Scripture. It is “not (being) conformed to this world”. It is being different. Don’t be fooled, being different is certainly a sacrifice. People may look at you funny. They don’t understand you. “Every one else watches that show. Why don’t you?” “What do you mean you like to spend time with your husband?” “Why don’t you just sleep in on Sunday morning? Everyone knows you are exhausted.” These are just some examples. I’m sure that you could name a hundred more. But we choose this non-conformity. We choose to transform our mind every day. And it has to be every day. You can’t skip one. If you do, you are conforming to the world. You make different choices. I know this from experience. Weekly experience. I have a hard time on Saturdays. It is my one day to sleep in. I have my family around and most days we have a full docket of things to do. No excuse, though. Think that one will fly at the judgment seat? Nope. It is a sacrifice to get up and make that choice in the morning, any morning. And there are times I choose not to sacrifice. Is that okay? No, not really. Not in the scope of eternity. Every day is important. Every day is an opportunity. Every day is the chance to share Christ with someone else. And I fail.

And being a “living sacrifice” shouldn’t be anything special. It is our “reasonable service”. It is the bare minimum. The least we can do for what Christ did for us. The least we can do is choose to be changed daily to be more like Him. The least we can do is choose to renew our minds so that we can know what God would have us to do. What are we “renewing” to? We are getting ourselves back to Him. Go back to the beginning – that moment when we really understood what Jesus had done for us and we were ready to do anything for Him. Do you remember that time?

Sacrifice is about devoting our self with some loss. It is about giving of yourself without thought of gain or loss. Sacrifice is a choice. It is something we decide to do. And it is something we are called to do on a daily basis. It can vary. It can change. You may be called to sacrifice a lot or a little. But you have been called to sacrifice nonetheless. When we made the choice of salvation, we made the choice to sacrifice.

So today, princess, I want to encourage you to sacrifice. Listen to God and what he has asked you to sacrifice. Search out His word and find out where you can improve and how you can sacrifice your time, your money and your love. It is tough. But God will provide you what you need to make it through.