I’m a Believer

…blessed is she that believed… -Luke 1:45

Father, Into Thy Hands (Surrender) April 11, 2009

(This is part of an Easter series: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross.  To view all posts in this series, click here.)

PRESENTATION OF HIS LIFE & SPIRIT – Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. ~Luke 23:46

Again, Jesus prays.  He began with a prayer, He prayed in the midst, and He ends with a prayer.  As He lived, so He died, in perfect communion with His Father.

At this point, Jesus has been brought through anguish, obedience, darkness, and recognition of the completion of God’s plan.  It has been a long, painful day.  And so at the end of this day He prays and addresses God again tenderly as Father. 

Again He prays scripture:

Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. ~Psalm 31:5

Psalm 31:5 was the “now I lay me down to sleep” type of prayer of the day.  Many Jewish mothers undoubtedly prayed this prayer at the end of long days with their children.  Perhaps even Jesus had done so throughout His life.  Now He prays it one last time, knowing that even though He had felt forsaken only hours before, His spirit will be safe in His Father’s hands.  These words speak the ultimate surrender to the will of the Father, and now the redemption spoken of in the psalm is completed.

There are several noteworthy things about this presentation of his spirit, but the main one is this:

IT IS LAST!

Many times we think that we can just skip to this step when trying to walk through something difficult, trying to crucify something about our flesh.  We yearn desperately to press the fast forward button to get to the finish line and run headlong into the arms of our Father who is waiting for us.  But can we really expect a heart of surrender toward Him if we aren’t willing to walk in forgiveness, mercy, grace, provision, spiritual dependence, obedience, knowledge of God’s plan, as Jesus did on the cross?

We must walk through what God has for us.  Jesus had to – what makes us think we are so special??  We ARE special though – God sends the Holy Ghost to empower us – to help us as we walk by faith seeking to do the will of the Father.  He is conforming us to the image of His son. 

To commend our spirit into God’s hands demonstrates complete and total trust in the nature of God and the plans of God, as shown in the Word of God. 

At death, after living a perfect life, as Jesus presented His body as a sacrifice for all believers, He commended His Spirit into the hands of His Father.  If you have accepted the sacrifice of Christ as atonement for your sins, when you come to the end of your life, you need not be afraid.    If you practice a daily life of surrender into the hands of God, how much more joyous will that day be when you confidently and with sweet surrender and relief run into the open arms of your loving Father who waits for you.  I’m looking forward to it! 

I’m A Believer!

Laura

 

I Thirst (Endurance) April 10, 2009

(This is part of an Easter series: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross.  To view all posts in this series, click here.)

PART OF THE PLANI thirst.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.  ~John 19:28

These words are not spoken as a prayer.  They are not spoken to God.  They are words from a thirsty man expressing a need.

I see several things about these words.

Jesus had a knowledge of everything that needed to be done.

We see the words “Jesus knowing“.  This verse tells us that before Jesus spoke these words, He knew “all things were now accomplished.”  He knew God’s plan, He knew His part, He knew it had to be done God’s way.

Jesus was willing to accept the suffering that was necessary, but discerned that which was not necessary.

Jesus at this point was beaten, bleeding, suffocating, hot.  He had been nailed through His hands and His feet, He was wearing a crown of thorns.  But yet He said “I THIRST.” 

He didn’t complain about anything else, but thirst. 

 Sometimes when we are in the middle of “dying” we lose track of what we do and don’t have to endure.  If we can discern what God has for us to endure, and what He has relief for, we can endure that which we must endure, for much longer!  There are some circumstances that God has ordained to make us stronger and some are just distractions that God has not ordained. 

 Additionally, God has placed people in our lives to help in some of these areas that aren’t necessary for us to endure.  The difficult part for us is KNOWING God’s plan.  To do this, we must seek Him seek to understand what is and what is not required of us.

 Jesus was willing to do everything required of Him.

 Not only did Jesus have a knowledge of what needed to be fulfilled, what his part was (and wasn’t) in it, He was WILLING TO DO EVERYTHING REQUIRED OF HIM.

 He knew exactly which scriptures must be fulfilled.  His death, burial, resurrection could not be allowed to be wasted by sloppy execution.  All scriptures must be fulfilled!

 He WAS thirsty!!  You would be, and He was too.  And being God, He knew that His thirst would not be quenched.  He knew he would endure more mocking, persecution, humiliation, as vinegar was offered to Him.  But yet He said “I THIRST”, so that scripture would be fulfilled.

His obedience to God’s plan & determination not to waste one bit His pain are what kept him on course.

ENDURANCE is often the most difficult part of dying to self.  It can seem sometimes that our circumstances have gone on far beyond what seems reasonable or fair.   But Jesus showed us the way to do it.  His endurance on the cross continues to bring life to believers today.  The offer is extended to all believers to be part of God’s plans.  It will take endurance, but knowing the plans God has for you, knowing what is not required of you, and being willing to do all that IS required, will help you to endure.

Endure and be part of God’s plan.

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.   ~2 Timothy 2:1-3

I’m a Believer!

Laura

 

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? (Endurance) April 9, 2009

(This is part of an Easter series: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross.  To view all posts in this series, click here.)

And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  ~Luke 9:23

Jesus gave us three ways that we are to follow Him  (deny, take up, and follow), and then demonstrated these ways as He bore His own cross.  In complete selflessness He denied Himself as He prayed for His persecutors, promised paradise to the thief on the cross, and provided for His motherSELFLESSNESS is first called for in following Jesus. 

In taking up our cross daily, we are called to ENDURANCE.  Once again, at His own crucifixion, Jesus demonstrates the kind of endurance that we are to have. 

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  ~Mark 15:34

 A PRAYER OF DESPAIR –  My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

The fourth thing that Jesus says on the cross is once again a prayer.  I find it interesting that the first, the middle, and the last statement of Jesus are all prayers.

He cries out with a loud voice…loud enough for all to hear.  At this point Jesus has been on the cross for about six hours.  The world has been in darkness for three hours.  And He makes this cry of “God-forsaken”ness.

Honestly, this portion of scripture has troubled me.  Here’s why – because I know that God promises to never leave us nor forsake us.  The 23rd psalm says “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” 

But there are times in our lives, dark times, when we feel forsaken.  God-forsaken even; as if God Himself has forgotten us.  This is where Jesus was.  It had been completely dark for three hours.  He had been on the cross for six hours.  It was a dark time.  It was during this time that the judgment of God for the sins of the world was being poured out onto Him.  Because of this, God will never have to forsake me – that price has already been paid.

And so He prays.

When we are in dark times, what should we do? 

Pray and seek the Word of God! 

Prayer will help you endure!  In this verse, Jesus does just that.  He is actually praying the 22nd psalm.  This was familiar to Him and the Jews of His time, just as perhaps the 23rd is familiar to us.  We can even just quote a couple of words from it, and it elicits a response from people who know it.  Simply say “The Lord is my shepherd…” and you will get heads nodding in recognition because they know the rest of it. 

I believe that is what Jesus is doing right here.  Let’s look at His words first, then at the actual psalm.

MY God

Again he is expressing his relationship – MY God.  This is not an “Oh, God if you are there” prayer.  This is a prayer to a God with whom He has a relationship.

He didn’t turn into one of those people who say, “That might be your God, I don’t want a God that allows this type of suffering.”

Even in the midst of this pain, God is still His God.  Jesus did not allow circumstances to override His faith and His relationship with God.

 My GOD

He acknowledges that God is still God.  In fact, this is one time where Jesus does not call Him “Father.”  God is still in control of this situation and worthy to be called on, even in the midst of allowing this to happen.

A God that still hears

The fact that Jesus calls out, and even asks a question, indicates that even in feeling forsaken, He knows God still hears.  And not only does God hear, He knows why the suffering is taking place.  God always knows why, even when no one else does.

Even when we feel forsaken, God still hears and knows the answers to all those tough questions.

Praying the Word of God

Jesus was the word made flesh that dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Why would the Word have to pray the Word?  Once again, I believe that Jesus is giving us the ultimate example of how to live while dying.  In the process of dying to ourselves, during the most painful dark times, we need to remember to pray the Word.  The Word will always assure us of who God is and who we are.

Take a look at Psalm 22.  Read it…

 In this psalm (a Messianic psalm) we see that the psalmist goes from desolation, to praise, to describing his situation then back to who God is, what God can do, what God has already done, what God will do, and what God will do through him.  The psalm ends in ultimate victory, wrought by the hand of God.

I believe that Jesus, in quoting this psalm, is reminding people that He is the fulfillment of this psalm (written 600 years prior to his crucifixion, when crucifixion was not even done).  By quoting this psalm, by praying this psalm, He claims victory in the midst of despair.  This allows him to ENDURE. 

Endurance begins with prayer to a God with whom we have a relationship, who is still God even in dark times, that still hears us, the God who gave us His precious Word, the God who delivers victory to His people.  Hallelujah!

I’m a Believer!

Laura

 

Today shalt thou be with me… (Selflessness) April 7, 2009

(This is part of an Easter series: The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross.  To view all posts in this series, click here.)

 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.   ~Luke 23:39-43

PROMISE TO A REPENTANT SINNER

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Jesus promises revival and resurrection

These words were spoken to one of the criminals beside Him on the cross.  Back up and you can see this criminal’s confession and repentance in the previous verses.

I believe here Jesus speaks as God and makes a promise to a repentant sinner.  Do you know any repentant sinners?  Have you been one?  This is a promise of revival and resurrection to this man because of his repentant heart, and acceptance of Jesus as savior.  Here Jesus speaks as God and forgives this man BECAUSE HE COULD!  When we come with repentant hearts, recognizing who He is and who we are, He offers us this same forgiveness.

When this criminal recognized Jesus was the merciful & gracious savior, he received both mercy (lack of eternal punishment) & grace (gift of eternal paradise).  He simply asked to be remembered, but he received the ultimate gift – salvation!

Jesus demonstrates His immediate acceptance of someone’s repentance

I believe in this respect Jesus is acting as a fellow man & showing us how we are to relate to others. 

How many times have we heard (or said) “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget”.  Or perhaps we decide that repentance must be proved by a change in attitude and actions.  Only then, after our conditions have been met will we consider forgiveness.

But Jesus DID NOT say “Ok, but first you have to prove yourself to me that you are truly rehabilitated, then I might think about paradise for you.”  No, it was urgent for this man that he receive immediate forgiveness.  Jesus said TODAY you will be with me!  Not only was it immediate, this criminal would get the ultimate reward – being with Jesus!

Jesus did not withhold forgiveness from this man, neither does He withhold forgiveness from us, and as such, neither should we withhold forgiveness.

Jesus did not forget his ultimate purpose in the midst of pain.

As Jesus is dying a very excruciating, completely 100% undeserved death, a “malefactor” – a criminal – asks Jesus to remember him.  Wow.

 Even if I am involved in a pleasant task, watching a movie, talking on the phone, reading a book, I don’t really like being interrupted by even my children to do something for them.  Now if they are behaving like a “malefactor” or criminal  you can believe that I am even less inclined to want to fulfill their request!

Now let’s say I’m doing something UNPLEASANT – cleaning the toilet, talking to the IRS on the telephone, or perhaps even vomiting.  Now my child asks me to do something for them…  Something that is my job to do, something that I am capable of doing.  What kind of attitude do I have then?  Sadly, I have to say that more times than not, my attitude is bad.  It is my job to help my children, I’m capable of it, yet often I let my circumstances keep me from doing so.

None of that even begins to compare to Jesus and his circumstances on the cross.  Jesus’s ultimate purpose on the cross was the redemption of mankind.  He did not become angry at one who asked Him for something which He was capable of giving.  He did not forget, in the midst of paying the price, what He was actually paying for!

Have you ever been in the middle of a serious situation (I mean a really bad time, horrible, maybe illness, death of a family member, divorce, financial ruin) when you run into someone who needs ministry?  The only way you would even have met this person is to be in this particular type of trouble.  The only way you would even know how to minister to this person is the fact that you are also in this trouble.  What then?  God is right in the middle of preparing your victory, of preparing your method of reaching people with His message of redemption.  He sends someone to you.  Are you too busy suffering to take time to minister? 

 If we are not careful, we will waste our pain because we forget our purpose.  Jesus remembered his purpose in the midst of pain and generously, selflessly, offered the gift for which He paid.  Not a drop of His pain was wasted in selfish suffering.

I’m a Believer!

Laura

 

Father, Forgive (Selflessness) April 6, 2009

(This is part of an Easter series The Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross.  To view all posts in this series, click here.)

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  ~Matthew 4:4

I want to look closely at the words Jesus spoke from the cross as He was dying – literally the words that proceeded out of the mouth of God.  As Christians, we are called to die to ourselves, and so I believe that if we look at our example, Jesus Christ, and study what He said and did as He was dying, it will bring abundant life, the kind of life that comes when we truly do live by God’s Word.  

As we look at his words from the cross,  I am going to consider them from several perspectives:

1) as coming from God
2) as pertaining to others
3) as an example for us to follow

As I studied these precious words, the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross, I found His words can be divided into three sections which directly parallel the call to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow.”  (see previous post)

His first three words express SELFLESSNESS – Denying ourselves.
The next two things he says express ENDURANCE – taking up the cross.
His final words express SURRENDER – following Him.

The first thing Jesus said from the cross is found in Luke 23:33-35

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.  Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.  And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. ~Luke 23:33-35

 

 A PRAYER FOR HIS PERSECUTORS – Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

 

 Jesus PRAYS

 The first thing I notice about this utterance is that Jesus PRAYS.  During the darkest day in His life and the darkest day in history He calls out to God as Father.  His relationship with God was of foremost importance. 

 

 Jesus Prays FOR THE PERSECUTORS

 The next thing I notice is that he prayed for THE PEOPLE– not for himself.  This is in the midst of torture that we cannot even begin to imagine.  We CAN imagine ourselves praying in really bad situations, but can we even consider praying for the VERY people who are inflicting pain on us at that moment?

 

 Jesus prays FOR FORGIVENESS for His persecutors

These were not people who have stopped and apologized, but people who are currently tormenting him, yet He didn’t pray that they might stop what they were doing, but prayed to God, the Father on their behalf, for their forgiveness!! 

His punishment & torture was 100% undeserved.  Even in any spat we’ve been in, we can never say we were 100% right and the others were 100% wrong.  But Jesus could, and yet He spent His breath to pray that God would forgive them.

Since Jesus prayed that God would forgive them, I believe this again shows His humanity at this point of His suffering.  There were numerous other places in the Bible where He, acting as God, directly forgave people of their sins.  But here, He is acting as our complete human propitiation, and thus must ask that the Father remit their sins.

The other thing that really stands out is the importance of forgiveness.  The FIRST word that Jesus spoke from the cross was a word of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is valuable to God!!  If unforgiveness becomes a stronghold in our lives, if we are unable to pray for others, if we always want to PROVE WE ARE RIGHT – then we are WRONG!

In the midst of dying, we must be willing to forgive and to pray for people NO MATTER WHAT.  And when they continue, we are not to lose our sense of mercy and forgiveness to them; we are to continue to pray and continue to forgive.

In total selflessness, in denying Himself, Jesus forgave.  In denying yourself, are you willing to forgive?

I’m a Believer!

Laura

 

From Battle Scars to Beauty Marks July 25, 2008

As I woke up on the morning of Sara’s surgery, she was on my heart.  I had seen her bravely preparing for this upcoming surgery, but I saw her smile and her courage falter a bit as she talked about the scars that would be left.  A double mastectomy would leave obvious scarring, and could require much reconstructive surgery.  I know that in her little-girl heart she was scared, felt a little silly, and wondered if she were being prideful in daring to consider Beauty at a time like this!

Mrs. Sara is one of the most beautiful women I know.  I don’t say that lightly or figuratively or just to be flattering.  She has a quiet peace and strength (although most wouldn’t describe her as “quiet”) in her that has come from perseverance in the things of God.  She has lived her life, made mistakes, had great triumphs, learned about God & herself and how it all fits together and she is simply BEAUTIFUL!  She has scars of life in her and on her.  BUT she only has scars where God has healed her.

You see, scars are proof of the healing power of a living God!  The only way I can figure to avoid scars is either to never get hurt or to never get healed.  We know that we will be hurt (These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  ~John 16:33)  so unless we choose to never get healed, it seems that we will have scars.

Mrs. Sara’s life scars have healed beautifully – so beautifully that when she tells of past hurts as a child, a teenager, a young wife, a single mom, a remarried mother and stepmother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, a sister, a daughter, a neighbor, a friend…when she tells of these hard times, her scars have healed so cleanly that no bitterness, anger, hatred nor anything else ugly can be seen!  What I do see is the awesome healing power of God Almighty!  Simply stunning…

Sara’s scars make her who she is.  They make her beautiful because the hand of God has touched those areas of her life and made them whole again.  (The only wounds that won’t heal are the ones we won’t allow the Master Healer to touch.)  I pray that Sara is allowing Him to touch these new scars, inside and out.  When He does, they will be another testimony to the healing grace of our Father and the beauty that His touch brings.

Scars are a sign of life because they are evidence of healing.  Scars prove who you are.  Even Jesus, when He appeared to Thomas, came back with scars in His hands – the scars of His crucifixion.  He wanted Thomas to KNOW and BELIEVE in the resurrection power of God!  He, in effect, said, “I am Jesus, the Son of God.  I was crucified, dead, and buried, but I was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit, AND I HAVE THE SCARS TO PROVE IT!”

My prayer for Mrs. Sara (and anyone else who has been scarred in this life) is that she seek diligently after the hand of her Maker and allow the Master to touch those scars and bring healing that only Jesus can bring.  I pray that she will allow God to turn her battle scars into beauty marks.  And when a hurting, scared woman is placed in her path and comes to her for encouragment, I pray that she can stand in great faith and say “I am Sara.  I am a daughter of the Most High God who has power to heal and bring life AND I HAVE THE SCARS TO PROVE IT!”

But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.  ~Matthew 9:22

I love Mrs. Sara.  She is a testimony to me that I can run this race as a daughter of the King.  I have been blessed to be in weekly Bible study with her for the past 5 years every Tuesday morning.  This year, she went through a very difficult time when she found out she had breast cancer and needed a double mastectomy.  She handled it with grace and faith.  She is currently cancer free with no need of chemotherapy or radiation treatment!!  To God be the glory!!

I’m a Believer!

Laura

 

Believing the Truth – Part 1 May 25, 2008

Filed under: Bible,Christian Living,Devotional,women's ministry — Laura @ 11:01 pm
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This is part of the first message I taught at our Ladies’ Beach Retreat during our first session. Sorry it took so long to get it posted – I know I’ve disappointed tens of loyal blog fans.  🙂   The notes I write for a preached message have to be changed quite a bit to turn them into something suitable for others to read, so that’s the reason for the delay. That, and the end of school! Happy summer!

I plan on adding all the sessions over the next week or two.

 

Believing the Truth – Part 1

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32

In this portion of scripture we have Jesus talking to the Pharisees regarding the truth of who He is, the truth of His message to the Jews, and the freedom-giving power (more…)