Heaven Looked Away

There are moments when the realization of what was required of God the Son to redeem mankind touches your very soul.

It can happen as you reread the depth of Jesus’ anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It can happen as your pastor preaches an anointed message about His Crucifixion.  But it happened to me last Sunday in church, as we sang the worship song, “Forever”.

As stirring as the melody is, it was one line of the song that pushed away the familiarity of the Cross and replaced it with a fresh reality of the price Jesus paid to redeem me.

 “His body on the Cross,

 His blood poured out for us

The weight of every curse upon Him

One final breath He gave

As heaven looked away

The Son of God was laid in darkness” (Kari Jobe)

 As God the Father poured into Jesus the sin of humanity, as the weight of every curse was placed upon Him, heaven looked away.

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Kiss of Betrayal

Words of betrayal wound deeply.  Acts of betrayal are like a knife that cuts to our very soul.  They break our heart and fill us with hopelessness and despair.  They can rob us of our joy and deflate the delight in living.  Whether we have been betrayed by an unfaithful spouse, a rebellious child, a deceitful co-worker or business partner, a hypocritical pastor or priest, the wound of betrayal is devastating.  It can mark us and define us, relegating us to the status of victim. 

Yet we are not alone in this experience.

He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.  (Isa. 53:30)

I imagine one of the greatest moments of grief Jesus experienced was the kiss of betrayal that marked him for the Cross – a kiss of betrayal by one of his own disciples – Judas. 

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Only

Outside of a village called Bethsaida, on its gentle rolling hills, thousands gathered to listen to the profound teachings of Jesus.  The sick have come to be healed. 

Hours pass.  It is late in the afternoon, well past lunch time.  The people are hungry, but there isn’t a fast food restaurant in sight. 

No Wendy’s.

No McDonald’s.

No Panera.

So the disciples made this suggestion to Jesus:

“Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”  (Luke 9:12)

Jesus’ response startled them.  He didn’t dismiss the crowd and end the meeting.  Instead he turned to the disciples with this instruction:

          “You give them something to eat.” (Luke 9:13)

What!  There are thousands who needed to eat.  The disciples were incredulous.  Their reply to Jesus was meant to convince him that there was no way they could feed all these people.

           “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish . . .” (Luke 9:13)

Five loaves.

Two fish.

Over five thousand mouths to feed.

Jesus, this doesn’t add up.  It is impossible.  How can we feed so many people with ONLY a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish?

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“Be Still” doesn’t always mean “Stand Still”

Pharaoh had set them free.  The future looked bright.  They were on their way to the Promised Land.  Camped beside the Red Sea, spirits were high.  When suddenly some among them noticed a cloud of dust in the distance.  As the faint rumbling of chariot wheels could be heard, panic ran rampant through the camp.  Fear overwhelmed them as they realized that the Egyptians were in hot pursuit.  Pharaoh knew his devastated country could not recover without slave labor.  So with over 600 chariots, Pharaoh and his skilled army were determined to unleash their military might against these Israelites to enslave them once again.

Hemmed in on every side with no way of escape, they cried out:

Moses, we told you we didn’t want to come.  We told you we should have stayed in Egypt.  Now we are going to die.     (Ex. 14:12)

 Moses quickly countered with words of encouragement:

 “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring today. . . . The Lord will fight for you.  You need only to be still.”  (Ex. 14:13 -14 NIV)

 Moses was preaching to the Israelites. They needed to stop complaining; they needed to “be still.”  They needed to stand firm in their faith, believing that the One who delivered them from Egypt would once again intervene on their behalf and defeat the army of Pharaoh.  Then Moses must have begun to pray earnestly to the Lord to fulfill His promise of deliverance, because God interrupted Moses with this response:

  “Why are you crying out to me?  Tell the people to get moving!  Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea.” (Ex. 14:15-16 NLT)

 The miracle of the Red Sea required the Israelites to “be still,” but not to “stand still.”  They were to still their complaints, their fear, their doubts.  Even Moses was to still his words of faith and encouragement.  Certainly these words pleased the Lord.  But to sum up God’s response He was saying:  It isn’t the time to talk.  It is the time to move. Continue Reading

What’s Your Story?

The Psalmist wrote,

“Every day of my life was recorded in your book.”  (Ps. 139:16 Voice)

The Apostle John adds weight to this statement when he wrote in Revelation 20 that there are books that will be opened on the Day of Judgment – books that hold a record, an account of our lives.  There will be a day when the story of our life will be read.

A sobering thought.

So the question we must ask ourselves is this:  When stand before the Lord what will be the story that He reads to us?  Will it be . . .

a story of faith?

a story of obedience?

a story of prayer?

a story of sacrifice?

Will the story of our life delight the heart of Jesus and make Our heavenly Father rejoice?

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Rags for Ropes

Damp.

Dark.

Sinking into the mud of an empty cistern.

The adversaries of the prophet Jeremiah had persuaded the king to silence his voice.  The city of Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians.  False prophets were predicting victory and deliverance, but not Jeremiah.  The word of Lord that Jeremiah boldly proclaimed was an unpopular message – a word of impending disaster and defeat, not of victory and deliverance.

Furious, the court officials decided to silence Jeremiah’s voice by lowering him into a deep cistern without food or water.  Left in the sinking mud to die, their plan was to silence his voice forever.

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What are you doing here?

Fear.

It can knock us off center.

It can take us to a place of retreat.

And it can happen to the best of us.

It can happen to a pastor.  It can happen to a teacher.  It can happen to a great prophet.  In fact, it did.  Fear knocked one of God’s greatest prophets off balance.  His name?  Elijah.

Elijah had challenged 850 prophets of Baal to prove the power of their god by imploring Baal to send a fire to consume their sacrifice.  All day they cried out to Baal with no success.  Then Elijah stepped up to his sacrifice.  He called out to God, and He sent a mighty fire that not only consumed the sacrifice but also vapored the water that surrounded it.

It was miracle of power so dazzling that the Israelites in attendance fell on their faces and worshipped the Lord.  Then they joined Elijah in slaying these 850 prophets of Baal who had polluted their land with pagan worship.

What a day of victory!  What a time of rejoicing!  What a faith building experience!  Elijah must have had a smile on his face from ear to ear.  Yet something happened that radically changed Elijah’s demeanor.

The fury of Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife.

When she learned what Elijah had spearheaded, the slaying of her prophets and a revolt against Baal worship, she was furious and issued a death warrant.  Elijah, who had stood fearless before 850 prophets of Baal, was now consumed with a fear of Jezebel – a fear that drove him out of Israel, a fear that caused him to retreat to a wilderness cave at Mt. Horeb.

What is interesting about Mt. Horeb is that it was also known by another name – Mt. Sinai.  This is the same mountain where Elijah’s ancestors had first met God after being delivered from their Egyptian bondage.  This is where they heard the voice of God give them the Ten Commandments.

As Elijah’s ancestors stood at the foot of Mt. Horeb, they were at the right place, at the right time, centered in the will of the Lord.

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The Best Pathway

I am directionally challenged.  I know it.  My husband can confirm it.  My kids have experienced it.  When given directions, I wouldn’t want to be told to go north or south.  Knowing that my destination was east of Main Street or west of the river was not helpful.  I just needed to know when to turn left or right and, when possible, be provided with a landmark or two. 

But all that changed with my IPhone.  I now have a Map app.  Just give me the address and I have directions at my fingertips – in an organized list or on a map which tracks my progress.  This marvelous app provides me a choice of routes and even suggests the best one to take, but there is one thing that I have noticed.

The shortest route, the most direct route is not always the one selected as the best one to take.  Traffic and construction can make the most direct route the most difficult one.

Traffic

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Divine Delay

There is no hesitation in Jesus, but there are divine delays.   And, sometimes we get confused and fail to note the difference- which is exactly what happened to Mary and Martha. 

Their brother Lazarus was deathly ill.  The medicines weren’t working.  The doctors had no solution.  The sisters quickly sent a message to Jesus, “Come quickly.  Lazarus is deathly ill.  There is no hope unless you come immediately and heal him.”

How confident they must have been when they sent that message to Jesus.  After all, how many strangers had Jesus healed?  How many lepers had been made whole?  How many blind could now see?  How many deaf could now hear?  If Jesus gladly ministered for hours healing strangers, certainly he would rush to Bethany the minute he received that message.  Surely his response to heal his dear friend Lazarus would be immediate.  But Jesus didn’t come.  He received the message, and he stayed where he was for two more days.

Jesus deliberately waited two more days. 

Lazarus dies.  Mary and Martha bury him in the tomb.  And they weep.  They weep with grief burdened hearts.  But they also weep with deep disappointment. 

 Where was Jesus? 

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No Hesitation

They were doing exactly what he had instructed them to do.

 In a boat,

on the Sea of Galilee,

sailing to the opposite shore. 

When the wind came up and a storm blew in.  No problem – after all some among them were fishermen.  They had weathered many storms, but these winds grew fierce.  Far from shore, their boat was being battered by churning waves. 

Suddenly in the distance, something more terrifying than a fierce wind appeared.  A man walking on water.  Certain that they had seen a ghost, they cried out in fear. 

”But Jesus was quick to comfort them.  ‘Courage, it’s me.    Don’t be afraid.'”           (Matt. 14:27 Msg)

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