My thoughts are very much on Jesus, and all He faced on this week of His life, from crowds overjoyed to see Him, to a few days later, the same crowds who turned against Him and crucified Him.
This devotion arrived in my inbox, so I wanted to share it.
The Cross At Any Cost Bishop Vashti McKenzie
All of us have had our moments on a cross - the crucifying experiences in our lives that we do not ever wish to repeat in life. A horrifying moment when our enemies prevailed, the ground beneath us shook, and the sun refused to shine. The fact that we lived to tell the story is a story in itself. It is a story we wouldn’t volunteer to repeat.
It makes it all the more amazing that Jesus volunteered for the cross experience. It was not an accident, but a part of God’s plan of salvation. Cicero called the cross, a cruel and horrifying means of death. Kausner, a Jewish scholar, called it a most terrible death, which man has ever devised for taking vengeance on humankind. Tacitus said it was simply despicable.
The cross was the fundamental point of the ministry of Jesus Christ. He was born with a cross in his future. He came to be our Savior on a cross. He came to give his life‘s blood on a cross to settle a debt that we owed for sins that we committed.
The cross was the destiny of Jesus. It was the reason for his coming, the culmination of his earthly ministry. It was also the capstone of his mission where he would reconcile Creator with the created. It was for him, the cross at any cost.
Jesus took the worst that life had to offer and dealt with it on the cross. He didn’t condone it, nor did he compromise his standard. He didn’t ignore our rebellion, nor did he dismiss his demands. He, who knew no sin, became sin for our sakes.
Jesus became the sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He bore them boldly on the cross so that we could be redeemed. His blood covered our sins and God’s wrath was turned away.
Jesus took on death on the cross. The Bible declares that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Jesus would rather go to hell for us than to go to heaven without us having traveling options. He put heaven, eternal life, within our reach with his death and resurrection.
What a joy that Jesus was willing to go through hell, take what hell had to offer by defeating sin, death and hell just for us! God is so touched by what God sees in us that instead of turning away, God would pay any price to save his children.
It is like the old story often told about a mother in a war torn country. The insurgents were coming close to the house that served as a sanctuary for her children and herself. She knew that all of them could not be saved so she told her children at her signal they were to run out the back door. Don’t look back, she admonished them.
When the soldiers neared her house, she gave the signal. As her children ran out the back door, she ran out the front door to distract the soldiers. The mother died a horrible death at the hands of the enemy, but her children were able to run to safety. The mother sacrificed her life so that those whom she loved would live. She gave up her life so her children could be saved.
That’s what Jesus does for us on the cross. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died on a cross for us. He took the worst our enemies offered, turning something bad into something good.
We are all authors of a story. The story we write is our life story. Every moment of our life, every decision we make, every breath we breathe is part of our life story. Sometimes our life story is sad, and we have to find a way to deal with the sadness and make it through to the other side of the sorrow. Sometimes our life story if full of joy and happiness, and everything seems to be wonderful. Sometimes our life story so scary, and we wonder where to turn. Our life story can be full of victories, and occasionally, we face defeats. Our life story can be lonely, and we long for someone to walk beside us. Our life story can be a love story, not only with those we are surrounded by here on this earth, but the greatest love story we can experience is to walk with Jesus. Others let us down, but He is always there, helping us through each moment of our life, if we let Him.
No matter what your life story is right now, it IS your life story. You can change where it is headed, and make the story line different, either good or bad. You are the author, so what happens in this story is written by you. Every choice, every event, every moment writes our life story, the story we leave behind for others.
I have talked with a couple friends this week who have recently lost loved ones, and I listen as they talk about their loved ones life story. Stories of love, giving, faithfulness, sacrifice, sometimes struggles but with perseverance to not give up, and strength. Those stories also include times where there were struggles, sometimes bad decisions, but it's all part of their life story. What is the story you will be remembered for? What is the story others will tell of your life? How will you be remembered? Even now, what do your kids/grandkids/parents/friends/family know of your story and what is the life story you are passing along for them to hold as a memory? There's time today to change that story if you need to. Grab each moment of life! There's also time to read the greatest love story of all. I recommend opening your Bible and starting in the book of John. Jesus life story is all about sacrifice. Sacrifice for you, and for me. His legacy is love.
This quote spoke to me today. My heart is heavy for our country. My mind whirls with what is to come, and I cling to God, knowing He is in control. It's time to take a stand, and it's time to stop letting our rights and freedoms be taken from us. Which side do you choose? Do you choose Christ? I do. "Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won't last forever. We must take it or leave it." ~ C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity
I love to load up my dog and my camera, and on weekends, my hubby, and go for drives. I love to see what type of scenes, or creatures, are going to bless my day on those drives. I enjoy the adventure of discovery. These pictures are from an afternoon drive with my faithful backseat companion.
We are all unique to the world, to our world. No one can duplicate our life. There is not a replica of us anywhere in history. God made each of us tailor-made, one of a kind. Isaiah 43:7 says that He personally formed and created each of us. God does not have a back up of us somewhere. We are not one of many, like a pile of bricks or a bolt in a mechanics drawer. We are it! If we aren't who God created us to be, the world doesn't get us, and misses out on our uniqueness, our gifts, our abilities. We have one shot, this life, to let people see who we are, not who we think others want us to be. If we live like we think others want us to be, we rob the world of what we have to offer, of the gift of who we truly are, and what we were created to be and accomplish on this earth. We are all here for a purpose. We all have things that only we can accomplish and do in our world. Think about it. There are things you do well, and love to do. Those are the gifts God has put within you to bless others with. Will you step out today and be who God created you to be, to the fullest? Shine for those around you to see who you really are, who God created you to be, and live that life to the fullest, without regret.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! Psalm 139:13-18
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Spring seems to be springing up all around! My crocuses are up. Some of my neighbors have tulips and daffodils up as well. The birds are singing up beautiful melodies. The grass is beginning to turn green as well. Sure signs of Spring, of new life abounding from it's winter sleep.
He placed one scoop of clay upon another until a form lay lifeless on the ground.
All of the Garden’s inhabitants paused to witness the event. Hawks hovered. Giraffes stretched. Trees bowed. Butterflies paused on petals and watched.
“You will love me, nature,” God said. “I made you that way. You will obey me, universe. For you were designed to do so. You will reflect my glory, skies, for that is how you were created. But this one will be like me. This one will be able to choose.”
All were silent as the Creator reached into himself and removed something yet unseen. A seed. “It’s called ‘choice.’ The seed of choice.”
Creation stood in silence and gazed upon the lifeless form.
An angel spoke, “But what if he … ”
“What if he chooses not to love?” the Creator finished. “Come, I will show you.”
Unbound by today, God and the angel walked into the realm of tomorrow.
“There, see the fruit of the seed of choice, both the sweet and the bitter.”
The angel gasped at what he saw. Spontaneous love. Voluntary devotion. Chosen tenderness. Never had he seen anything like these. He felt the love of the Adams. He heard the joy of Eve and her daughters. He saw the food and the burdens shared. He absorbed the kindness and marveled at the warmth.
“Heaven has never seen such beauty, my Lord. Truly, this is your greatest creation.”
“Ah, but you’ve only seen the sweet. Now witness the bitter.”
A stench enveloped the pair. The angel turned in horror and proclaimed, “What is it?”
The Creator spoke only one word: “Selfishness.”
The angel stood speechless as they passed through centuries of repugnance. Never had he seen such filth. Rotten hearts. Ruptured promises. Forgotten loyalties. Children of the creation wandering blindly in lonely labyrinths.
“This is the result of choice?” the angel asked. “Yes.” “They will forget you?” “Yes.” “They will reject you?” “Yes.” “They will never come back?” “Some will. Most won’t.” “What will it take to make them listen?”
The Creator walked on in time, further and further into the future, until he stood by a tree. A tree that would be fashioned into a cradle. Even then he could smell the hay that would surround him.
With another step into the future, he paused before another tree. It stood alone, a stubborn ruler of a bald hill. The trunk was thick, and the wood was strong. Soon it would be cut. Soon it would be trimmed. Soon it would be mounted on the stony brow of another hill. And soon he would be hung on it.
He felt the wood rub against a back he did not yet wear.
“Will you go down there?” the angel asked.
“Is there no other way?”
“There is not.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to not plant the seed? Wouldn’t it be easier to not give the choice?”
“It would,” the Creator spoke slowly. “But to remove the choice is to remove the love.”
He looked around the hill and foresaw a scene. Three figures hung on three crosses. Arms spread. Heads fallen forward. They moaned with the wind.
Men clad in soldiers’ garb sat on the ground near the trio. They played games in the dirt and laughed.
Men clad in religion stood off to one side. They smiled. Arrogant, cocky. They had protected God, they thought, by killing this false one.
Women clad in sorrow huddled at the foot of the hill. Speechless. Faces tear streaked. Eyes downward. One put her arm around another and tried to lead her away. She wouldn’t leave. “I will stay,” she said softly. “I will stay.”
All heaven stood to fight. All nature rose to rescue. All eternity poised to protect. But the Creator gave no command.
“It must be done … ,” he said, and withdrew.
But as he stepped back in time, he heard the cry that he would someday scream: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) He wrenched at tomorrow’s agony.
The angel spoke again. “It would be less painful … ”
The Creator interrupted softly. “But it wouldn’t be love.”
They stepped into the Garden again. The Maker looked earnestly at the clay creation. A monsoon of love swelled up within him. He had died for the creation before he had made him. God’s form bent over the sculptured face and breathed. Dust stirred on the lips of the new one. The chest rose, cracking the red mud. The cheeks fleshened. A finger moved. And an eye opened.
But more incredible than the moving of the flesh was the stirring of the spirit. Those who could see the unseen gasped.
Perhaps it was the wind who said it first. Perhaps what the star saw that moment is what has made it blink ever since. Maybe it was left to an angel to whisper it:
“It looks like … it appears so much like … it is him!”
The angel wasn’t speaking of the face, the features, or the body. He was looking inside—at the soul.
“It’s eternal!” gasped another.
Within the man, God had placed a divine seed. A seed of his self. The God of might had created earth’s mightiest. The Creator had created, not a creature, but another creator. And the One who had chosen to love had created one who could love in return.
Now it’s our choice. From the book, In the Eye of the Storm
Life can be crazy, make us feel like the world is spinning out of control. We can easily get caught up in that feeling, the feeling like we cannot get a hold of our life and that if things don't stop, we may just lose it. According to 2 Timothy 1:7, God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. He has given us POWER, we need to grab it and leave the spirit of fear behind, because the spirit of fear is from satan, and the exact opposite of what God wants for us. Times, situations, events can be scary and make us want to live in, be stuck in fear, but God want us to leave that spirit of fear behind and grab onto HIS power. Isaiah 33:6 says He will be a sure foundation for your times in the NIV version, and the New English Translation says it like this: He is your constant source of stability. We have no idea what will happen each day when we wake up, but God knows. He knows everything we will face and go through. Life is a roller coaster, but God wants to be our stability, our strength. Today, as you face challenges, times that feel out of control, will you be stuck in fear & let things continue to spiral out of control, or will you grab God's power, cling to Him as your stability, your foundation, and know that your Creator loves you and wants to take care of you? The choice is ours, no matter what we face, no matter what we are going through, we have a choice how we react, how we will face the situation. Sometimes, we have to make a choice several times a day on how we will react, how we will live. I am working on grabbing what God offers and running with it. I hope you do as well.
You want to make a difference in your world? Live a holy life: Be faithful to your spouse. Be the one who refuses to cheat. Be the neighbor who acts neighborly. Be the employee who does the work and doesn’t complain. Pay your bills. Do your part and enjoy life. Don’t speak one message and live another. People are watching the way we act more than they are listening to what we say.
I hope you enjoy these insights from Rick Warren. He has some great points to think about our lives, and how we are living. Rick Warren, is the author of 'Purpose Driven Life ' and pastor of Saddleback Church in California.
In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said: People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.
One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me. I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity..
We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense. Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.
We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness. A couple years back, my wife, Kay, was diagnosed with cancer. I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.
Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems: If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.
We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her- It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.
You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life. Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, a couple years ago, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy. It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before. I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.
So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence. He gave me two different passages that helped me decide what to do, II Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72.
First, in spite of all the money coming in, we would not change our lifestyle one bit.. We made no major purchases. Second, about midway through that year, I stopped taking a salary from the church. Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to plant churches, equip leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation. Fourth, I added up all that the church had paid me in the 24 years since I started the church, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.
We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity? Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes (for my life)?
When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better. God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a to-do list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do. That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.
Happy moments, PRAISE GOD. Difficult moments, SEEK GOD. Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD. Painful moments, TRUST GOD. Every moment, THANK GOD.
It was a gorgeous weekend, with 50 degree weather both days! We went up north to enjoy my nieces last basketball game of the year. She did great! This is her first year to play ball, and she had a great time, plus learned how to play basketball.
Her sister isn't quite old enough to play ball yet, but she has informed all of us that she would rather be one of the cheerleaders. I asked her why on Saturday. She said, very point blank and serious, 'because I want to cheer for my sister!'
The afternoon was too beautiful to sit inside, even with the Olympics on, so it was time to venture out and enjoy. My dad got on his horse for the first time ever, the girls got on their bikes while mom, grandma, and aunt followed behind on a walk, and one even convinced grandpa to have a tractor ride!