In GO DEEPER you will find articles based on portions of scripture or biblical topics. Because stories are so popular, and because my experiences lend themselves to great stories, most of what I share in blog posts is story telling. However, the ‘greatest story ever told’ is still the story of Jesus. Some of the most fascinating stories in all literature are in God’s Word. Just reading God’s love story is the basic requirement of spiritual growth.
Some of us like to dig deeper. We even like to read sermons, and the writings of the ancient, the old, and the new spiritual giants. We are looking deeper to discover who God wants us to be. We realize that human wisdom is insufficient to deal with problems that have plagued humanity since the fall. Self-help leaves us joyless. The close to home difficulties in relationships and raising a family wear us down. Navigating the dangerous white water of our changing culture takes our breath away.
Jesus is the anchor that holds us, and quiets us, through our personal storms. Joy will find you as you venture into the deep water.
Week of May 6-12
A Mother’s Bill of Rights
God explained his will about parenthood through the prophet Malachi: Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one thing God is seeking? Godly offspring. Malachi 2:15
Every mother’s job is unique to her own situation, and her own family. Of course, it includes caring for basic needs of children. Other than generalities, with God’s help, we meet the needs of our children in the way those children need, in order to guide them to be godly men and women. Sometimes we work through perplexing and frustrating times with fear and trepidation. Many women become so demoralized as they battle the ‘terrible twos’, the ‘terrible teens’, or the difficulties of life, that they lose their sense of direction. The following principles helped me go through times of struggle; I pray that they help you too.
- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1)
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A PARTNERSHIP WITH YOUR HUSBAND AND WITH GOD IN THE UPBRINGING OF YOUR CHILD.
You have the right to seek your husband’s support and the responsibility to allow his input and leadership.. Whether he takes an active role in training your children or not, his right as the father in this partnership is to receive respect as a father. Speaking of the relationship between husband and wife, Malachi revealed God’s greatest desire as he chastised husbands for leaving their wives. If you are a single mom, remember that God is more faithful than even a great husband is, and God knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows your needs and he will not desert you. He will be with you as you seek to help your children to follow him.
You, with or without your husband, are to seek God’s guidance as the ultimate authority and resource for the upbringing of your child. He wants to be in the family partnership. He will guide you and strengthen you both as you allow Him to. He will bear the responsibility of that guidance as long as you are willing to follow it. You are not alone. The total responsibility is not on your shoulders. No matter what your marital situation, you are not alone.
- “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO OWN YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS THE MOTHER OF YOUR CHILDREN.
Friends and family may advise or interfere, support or criticize. You may gain valuable assistance by reading and studying the subject of parenting. Observing how others deal with their children may be an inspiration…or a frustration. You must claim the responsibility for the decisions you make. However, you may also claim the right to freedom from concern about what others think. What someone else thinks about your efforts with your child is up to them. How you let it affect you is up to you. Decide to claim your freedom to be the mother you think you should be within the will of the Lord.
- “Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:2
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO RESPECT AS A MOTHER.
You have the right to respect even if your child does not give you that respect. You cannot control what your child thinks, but you must decide what your own thoughts and attitudes will be. You must respond to your child from a position of respect. Your role was not assigned by your child, but by God. Your responsibilities and privileges as a mother are not doled out at the whim of a child. God alone has that power; live up to His expectations, not your children’s expectations.
- “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.” Deuteronomy 24:16
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEAVE THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR CHILDREN’S CHOICES TO THEM.
Part of the responsibilities of motherhood is to give the child tools to survive in this world. It is up to the child to use them. The world does not often give second chances to cover for wrong choices. The inherent responsibility to this right is to teach the child while he or she is young, that bad choices will hurt. We cannot command thinking; we can only feed it. We cannot make their decisions; we can guide. We cannot make them learn; we can only teach. This is between them and God, just as our obedience is between us and God. Our children are free to make their own choices.
- “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 5:27-28
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE A PERSON NOT JUST A ROLE
The sum total of your experience in this life is not “motherhood”, but “personhood”. While God allows us this privilege and responsibility, it is up to us to accept the role of motherhood. Mothering is just one aspect of our being. It may take a priority of time and energy during a period of our lives, and will naturally influence our total being. But God expressed His value on our “being” through the sacrifice of His Son. That value is real and apart from the experiences in this life. We belong to Christ Jesus and he is to be glorified…not motherhood.
- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO FORGIVENESS FOR THE SINS YOU COMMIT, EVEN THOSE YOU COMMIT AGAINST YOUR CHILDREN.
We find it possible to seek forgiveness for many kinds of sin. We can also be forgiving toward others for many things. However, for some reason it is almost impossible to seek forgiveness from the Lord, or to forgive ourselves, for the mistakes we make in dealing with our children. It is not the unforgivable sin to lose your temper and yell at your child. It is not unforgivable to choose the wrong method of handling a situation. It is not unforgivable to be selfish or unresponsive to the needs of our child at times. It is not unforgivable to be too lenient or too strict. It is not unforgivable if we do not allow the Lord His rightful place in our parenting partnership. IT IS SIN. But the Lord has instructed us to allow His input in every aspect of our lives—including the sins we commit as we care for our children. This “input” is forgiveness, which he promises to give if we admit our sins, repent, and seek his forgiveness.
- “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM WORRYING ABOUT TOMORROW BECAUSE GOD SAID SO!
We should not carelessly live our days, ignoring the future. God tells us not to worry about the future because we cannot bear that burden, and at the same time, live productively in the present. The energy we have must be invested in making sure that we use this day—this moment—the way God wants us to. That is the only way we can trust that the future will be bearable. Likewise, we cannot waste our energy on the past. Only God is big enough to bear the past, the present and the future. Let him!
Happy Mother’s Day and God bless you.
Week of April 22-28
After Easter—Bought and Paid For
The first five chapters of Luke’s history of the church, the book of Acts, reveal what can happen when the Holy Spirit works through believers. Powerful preaching, amazing acts, and explosive growth impact the Jewish worshipers from Jerusalem and those who had come for all around the known world for Pentecost (Acts 2:8).
When we think about how God’s love motivated his work to save us by paying the price to free us from sin, we should not get the idea that this miraculous work of God falls on passive listeners who just get caught in a shower of spiritual blessings. It is interesting to note how God called out the church through Peter’s preaching. We can read the main message of Peter’s first three sermons and there was no hint of sparing the feelings of the listeners, nor were they carefully chosen words to attract the ‘seekers’ without shaking their world too much with graphic images or pointed accusations. Paul spoke boldly.
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” Acts 2:36
The result? They were cut to the heart and 3000 souls accepted Christ were baptized on the spot.
We read in Acts 3 how Peter healed a lame man and then boldly preached to the crowd that gathered to see what caused such a commotion. Again, Peter used the opportunity to make a pointed accusation of the crowd and to speak plainly, when he proclaimed the way of salvation. Note his forceful words in the following selections:
God “glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over”…. “and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” Acts 3:13b, 15a.
“Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” Acts 3:19a
“Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people” Acts 3:22-23.
The result? Peter’s words attracted the captain of the temple and the Sadducees who were greatly annoyed because Peter proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection—so annoyed that they arrested and jailed Peter and his companions. “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of men came to about 5000” Acts 4:4.
The next day, the rulers, elders and scribes, as well as the corrupt high priest Annas, and some of his family grilled Peter. “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:5). The Holy Spirit, through Peter spoke directly to the question of power and name, which were so important to these rulers and in a few blunt sentences, set them straight about the most powerful name under heaven.
“Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:11-12
The result? They were shocked at Peter’ boldness and delivery, and they realized he knew what he was talking about. They had also backed themselves into a corner since the man Peter had healed was with them and the crowd was watching. The best they could do was order them to stop preaching Jesus, which gave Peter the opportunity to defy them and verify that he answered to a higher power.
Peter then met with the believers and prayed about these things. Two interesting observations might guide us even today when we face opposition or even persecution: The believers prayed scripture (Psalm 2:1-2), and they prayed for more boldness in the face of the threats.
The result? …“the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness”. Rather than pray for protection, or for God to take away the threat, they prayed for boldness to stand up to it, ignore it and continue to carry out the mission that Jesus had given them on the mountaintop. (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 2:9)
Could it be that the stagnant faith we often feel in our own lives comes from seeking to avoid any confrontation, any controversy, any situation that demands we look evil in the eye and dare to rebuke it? What keeps us from praying for the kind of boldness that will not make life easier, but will in fact make life very difficult and even hazardous? Perhaps we need to reconsider God’s call and claim on our lives. He owns us; he has clearly called us. There is no doubt that he loves us. Perhaps we need to revisit the good news that Jesus died, was buried and rose again.
The same evil leaders who had condemned Jesus observed that Peter and the others “recognized that they had been with Jesus” Acts 4:13. Are we with Jesus? Will anyone notice? We want Jesus to be with us, but our challenge today is to be with Jesus 100%. Be ‘all in’—as the early believers were—so devoted that our lives are completely changed, and continually shaped by Jesus presence in us, dedicated to speak, and live, the word of God with boldness.
Week of April 8-13
A sense of belonging is the natural result of coming to Christ because our salvation and becoming a part of the church cannot be separated, as much as some would disagree. The church is a family, a body, the body of Christ. One of the distinctive aspects of the church is this fellowship of the spirit and the bond of love. We are to be “one in Christ”. Consider the focus on our unity in Christ from Paul’s beautiful description of the church.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:12-21 (ESV)
The unity we have in Christ is both visible and invisible. We receive the gift of His Spirit at our baptism. This is the very Spirit of Christ, the tie that makes our unity possible, as explained in the Ephesians passage above. As we respond to the working of his Spirit in our hearts and minds, through our study of The Word and prayer, He becomes visible in our daily lives as well. His love in our hearts translates into our care and support for each other. God calls us to live together in harmony, although Paul expresses the reality of this struggle in his prayer for our endurance and encouragement, unity is a divine quality, worthy of every effort to maintain it. Unity and harmony are possible when we keep our focus on Jesus instead of our own selfish desires.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. Romans 15:5
Our unity is local and worldwide.
The blessing of harmony and unity is not only for our friends with whom we fellowship, but for our worldwide family—brothers and sisters who are in Christ around the world. The church has no geographic boundaries; every race, tribe, or people group included. Ours is a universal fellowship. This worldwide identity is what sends our enemy into a frenzy. There can never be a true worldwide human government, but through the Spirit and the power we have in Christ, we can accomplish a worldwide kingdom of love. Paul’s greeting in 1 Corinthians 1:2, makes it clear that our family is not made up of just those we see on Sunday, but with all who claim Christ as their savior:
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours… 1 Corinthians 1:2
Our unity is among diverse peoples but we do not hold diverse beliefs.
The particular doctrine of the Christian faith is one of its most fundamental realities. No human philosophy, no charismatic leader, no powerful world organization can accomplish what the Apostles’ teaching accomplished. Although members come to the church voluntarily, it is not a human organization where members come to agreement on a man-made code. The first Christians held firmly to the gospel message found in the Bible; the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the foundational teaching. Luke’s writings in Acts describe how that teaching even reached the hearts of those who had murdered Christ, and later, those who were murdering Christians. Acts reveals the beginning of the church and how nonbelievers come to Christ. Luke also describes how the church grew from 3000 people in Jerusalem to a dynamic movement that reached Rome during Paul’s lifetime. The authentic letters, written by first century apostles, church leaders, ministers, and even one of Jesus’ brothers, explain the doctrine and as well as the code of conduct for Christian life. John’s Revelation ends with the stern warning against changing a single word of the God-given message. It is God’s church; God himself dwells among us, and his word is our only standard.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
We belong to a family that is still growing. Despite Satan’s best (worst) efforts, the church of Christ is still strong and growing. In the early Church, persecution only served to spread the Gospel. Today the same thing is happening across the Mideast as Christians experience beheadings, poison gas, and persecution of unimaginable cruelty. However, the result is that thinking people from all walks of life are disgusted and horrified by these actions. They begin to doubt the very belief systems that promote such cruelty. The underground church is steadily growing, strong and courageous. Those who attack the “Rock of Ages” will only crush themselves.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
We are united in our human weaknesses and we are all covered by God’s grace. Some may question this description of the church. Sadly, many have not experienced harmonious love in their local congregations. Some have experienced weak and even false teaching. Prejudices, selfishness, and lack of faith stunt the growth of many churches. God, in his graciousness, has established a church for real people, who have to deal with real sin. As we work out our personal relationship with Christ, and with the church, our humanity often gets in the way. But God’s grace is not only sufficient, it is glorious! God is not surprised that the church has problems. In fact, almost all of the letters in the New Testament deal with “family problems” within the churches. Christians still repent and seek forgiveness for their shortcomings. If we are honest about our personal struggles, we will not only find help and encouragement, we will encourage others to persevere. Together we will grow spiritually and we will help one another until Jesus comes again.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
- Abraham and Isaac- Genesis 22:10-14
Some experiences are brutal. Maybe a test, maybe a consequence, maybe a steep climb on the learning curve. Whatever the reason, God knows how much we can handle, and He will reveal it to us in various ways. If you think God may be asking too much of you, consider what he asked of Abraham. As you do, consider what God asked of Himself.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Genesis 22:10-14ESV
What God understood: “That you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
What Abraham understood: So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”
What Isaac understood: How much his father, Abraham, feared God…that he would obey anything God asked of Him. Isaac also saw that God provides.
What we must understand: God has the right to ask anything of us, and he will never ask anything he would not be willing to do himself. Not only that, he will provide what we need for everything he asks of us. God has the right to test us, to see if we “fear” (respect) him. Not because He does not know, but because we need to know how much we trust God. Moreover, maybe someone else needs to know.
The three characters in this true story were very different. God is—well—God! He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present. He is not limited in any way, unless He chooses to limit himself.
Abraham learned a lesson that held him through the rest of his life. He participated with God in an amazing partnership through which the messiah would come into the world. Abraham’s faith walk was not a walk in the park. He navigated through rough crags and around a few pits of quicksand. Yet Paul honored Abraham’s, and Sarah’s, faith walk in Hebrews 11, where they do not just receive a mention, but he tells their story.
It was not just their faith that mattered; Isaac participated and observed his father’s obedience. Abraham and Sarah’s faith influenced first, their own family, and then down through the generations even until today. Our faith walk may have more than one danger pit in the road or a few mountains to climb as well. The point is that God will use us along the way to draw people to himself, or to encourage them to stay the course.
Trust in His provision.
Let your faith shine.
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?
Proverbs 20:5-6 ESV
2. Week of March 4-10
Planting Joy for Easter—Something New
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 11:1-2 ESV
Isaiah lived and prophesied 700 years before Christ. For more than 400 years, he gave advice to three different kings in Judah. They sought a word from God, but they consistently ignored it, and Isaiah had to live through the fall of Judah. He was probably killed because of his prophesies. But, many of Isaiah’s prophesies offered help, hope, and a promise of joy. Take the passage above for instance.
These words follow a horrifying description of the fate of Judah; in graphic terms, he describes how Assyria will conquer them, cut them down to the stump. There will be nothing left of them, and they will never be the same again. Let’s just say it would be a very bad winter. Desolate as they are, God does not leave them without hope. There is some life left in that stump, in fact God made sure there was life there, because his plan from the beginning of time was to guard life and bring life to all people.
When have you felt beaten down to a stump? Would it help you to know that God has made a way to bring new energy—even new life—to you? Would it be a seed of hope in your heart?
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious. Isaiah 11:10
God, through Isaiah, wanted his people to know that he was in control of their sad situation, and he wanted them to know that when he was ready, their situation would change. A big change is revealed in Isaiah 11:10; “all nations” would attend to the One he would send. This means you, and me! Isaiah’s prophesies of the messiah are a rich promise to all people. God intended to plant a seed of hope that would spring to new life as surely as the daffodils and tulips come to life in the spring.
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:2
What an interesting description of the Messiah! When we think of hope and spring, we think of the beauty that will soon surround us. But God firmly declares there will be no physical beauty about this “hope”, no “form”, or “majesty” that would distract us from His true essence.
We will recognize Jesus through other ways than our earthly senses. There is beauty there, but a different kind of beauty, a higher beauty that he describes as “wisdom and understanding”, “counsel and might”, “knowledge and fear (respect) of the Lord”? These words describe a relationship with none other than God Himself. Although the Jews to whom Jesus appeared first completely missed him, God walked among them. Even though God had clearly told them not to look for an earthly king, they still expected to recognize the messiah through their senses, through their preconceived notions of how God would answer their prayers.
How often do we also completely miss how God is working in our lives? We too, look for answers that we can see, touch, hear, taste, smell. And God sometimes answers us through the natural world. But our deepest needs are met in the spirit, where God’s spirit touches our spirit. This Easter, think about the hope and promise we have in Jesus. Look for higher, stronger, finer solutions to your problems. Look for the things God sends into your life that might actually change you. If we are open to God’s eternal solutions, we will find that glorious resting place with Him. So, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope, Romans 15:13.
3. Week of March 11-17
Planting Joy for Easter—Wake-Up Call
This week, as we prepare our minds and hearts for Easter, we will consider Isaiah, chapters 52 and 53, which include the most popular words in Isaiah, and one of the most read and appreciated passages in the Bible. In Isaiah 52:13 we read the beautiful introduction of his Servant; wise, high and lifted up, exalted. This is the way God sees his Servant. It stands out in sharp contrast to the descriptions that will follow. Keep in mind the love and esteem God has for the Messiah as we continue our study.
Throughout the book of Isaiah, God repeats his basic message several times: Judah is doomed because they have rejected Him, and they have sold their soul. But He promises to rescue them and bring them back to life. Throughout the book God tells us more about the servant he will send to accomplish that mission.
In Isaiah 52:1, God proclaims salvation and he tells them to “Wake up!” In verse 13, God says “Behold”. In other words, “Wake up and pay attention.” When God speaks, everybody had better listen! The word for behold implies more than just hearing; they are to pay close attention. Listen with the intention to understand and obey. When God says “awake awake” and repeats words such as behold and listen several times in a passage He is not giving a suggestion, he is giving an order. We would be wise to heed this advice as well.
God wants them to pay attention because he has some very good news for them; strength will cover them as a beautiful garment. His beaten and broken people will be made new, better than new. We are reminded of the beautiful Psalm, which includes these words:
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84: 5, 7
And Paul surely remembered how God clothes His people with His spirit when he wrote to the Ephesians: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
He goes on to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives in terms that encourage and comfort the believer. No earthly coat of armor could be stronger than the spiritual protection and power that God provides through the spirit of Jesus, living in us and working through us.
God accomplished many things through His son, but two of his heart’s desires spring from Isaiah’s teachings. He desires righteousness. (See Isaiah 62:1:11; 62:2). Jesus will accomplish what the law and the sacrifices could not. His righteousness will cover us, and he will take us into God’s presence. And, God wants all nations and tribes to be saved. (See Isaiah 61:10-11b; 66:18).
If we are awake, and if we are paying attention, we will make God’s priorities our priorities. There is no greater purpose than to live in righteousness through faith, and to take the good news of salvation to the whole world. And that purpose in life, that partnership with Christ, gives us reason to celebrate this Easter.
4. Week of March 18-24
Planting Joy for Easter—Death Before Life
The prophet Isaiah told how Jesus would be disparaged in life, unjustly condemned, and brutalized in death (Isaiah 53). Even though he could have vaporized his enemies with a single word, he silently endured the worst they could do to him.
The scene at Gethsemane shows that Jesus knew exactly how he would be tortured. Not only the physical death but he may have been more troubled by the separation from God he would suffer as he took on my sin, and yours. You and I have experienced that separation; we do not have full and free communion with God. Our sins cloud our spirit, our emotions and our conscience. Jesus was fully human but he did not have sin to scar his soul, and his relationship with the Father was not inhibited the way ours is.
Isaiah 55 reveals the depth of Jesus’ suffering. Several phrases will help us understand the high price Jesus paid for our salvation.
“a man of sorrows”- 55:3-4. The sorrows Jesus bore were our sorrows. Our sin caused us to be lost. Yet those whom He came to save rejected and despised their own savior. Every day, millions of people repudiate Jesus, defile his name, and reject his gift…“we esteemed him not”. Yet, of those who crucified him, Jesus said, ““Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
“…he was crushed for our iniquities” 55:5b; “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” 55:10a. Jesus submitted to the crushing that God willed. Such graphic terms must keep us from diminishing what Jesus, the man, experienced. He was tortured and his death was not merciful. It was slow and agonizing. When we come to the table of the Lord’s Supper, we consider the blood he shed and the body that was broken. This can become a meaningless tradition if we do not allow Isaiah’s description to penetrate our hearts. The reality of what Jesus suffered should crush us; the depth of his suffering should strengthen our love and loyalty for the one who was pierced for our sake.
“…he opened not his mouth’ like a lamb that is led to its slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” 55:7. Jesus’ obedience to the Father is breathtaking. He knew what was going to happen, and he allowed it without a word of protest. Jesus voluntarily went to the cross. No one took him; they could not have forced him if he had resisted. He chose to endure the worst—which he did not deserve, to save us from the worst—which we do deserve.
Meditate on Jesus sorrow and his sacrifice this week. Imagine how much the audacious contempt many have for the Savior must offend the Father. May the death that Jesus endured inspire us to lifelong thanksgiving and devotion.
5. Week of March 26-31
Planting Joy for Easter—The Victory
During these weeks we have looked at the work of Jesus through the eyes of Isaiah, a prophet who lived 700 years before Christ! He announced that God would accomplish something new and unheard of. Even though this is called a mystery in Ephesians 1, it was not really a complete mystery. Those who wanted to understand could have gotten a good idea of what God would do, if they had looked through eyes of love, and faith in their God. Isaiah told them to “wake up” and to “listen” to God’s message, and he even described the life and death of a man so astonishing that he could not be ignored. As horrible as his description was—of a man who was disfigurement itself—he also described a servant who was a “beautiful and glorious branch, the fruit of the land…” (Isaiah 4:2).
Christians alone celebrate the resurrection of their leader. We remember the sacrificial death every Sunday, but we do not leave Jesus on the cross, nor buried in the tomb. No, every Sunday, the first day of the week, we celebrate his resurrection. You will not be surprised that many scoff at the whole idea. It’s nothing new, Jesus’ enemies not only denied the possibility, they “covered their bases” by sealing the tomb and putting a guard around it—a pointless effort at best. Even his disciples refused to believe the women when they told them the Lord had risen, and Jesus “rebuked them for their stubborn refusal to believe (Mark 16:14).
Isaiah predicted that that Jesus would fulfill all his predictions, and in fact, would be exalted to the highest. He claimed that Jesus would be wounded, bruised, and chastised, but in the end not only would he be healed, we would be healed by his wounds, so that we could be at peace with God (Isaiah 53:1-5, Romans 5:1).
Death was Satan’s tool of destruction, and it still is. But Jesus did away with death through his resurrection. When I say, “death is done away with”, you might raise your eyebrows in doubt. Death and destruction are all around us, we still experience death, and unless Jesus comes before we draw our last breath, we too will die. However, what Jesus did opens a door to a completely different existence than what we know here. Life as we know it, as a human being on this earth, will end. Jesus claims there is another life, an eternal life, and all who follow him will live forever with him. Whether or not we experience physical death before Jesus comes again, Christians will “come back alive”, and this will be the real life, the face to face with Jesus life.
This would be impossible for us because of sin. His own righteousness is what paves our way to eternal life (1 John 2:1; John 14:1-25). What Jesus began on the cross he continues in heaven. (Isaiah 59:16; Hebrews 9:24). God’s unfailing love will not be shaken, and we can rest assured in the victory Jesus won. We should not wait to celebrate until we see heaven’s door before us; we should live in a spiritual atmosphere of celebration now. The prophet describes it this way:
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Salvation is ours and the effects of sin (death) have been destroyed; now we walk with inner joy and peace, no matter what the outer situation of this earthly life can bring. This, is really good news. Celebrate it this week, and always.
6. Week of April 1-7
Planting Joy for Easter—The Beginning,
Resurrection Sunday must go beyond the “Easter trappings” — a new dress, a big dinner, an egg hunt. Although a celebration is certainly in order, the event we celebrate is a chain-breaking, life-shaping, world-changing event!
Jesus’ resurrection marked the beginning of the work the Father had announced to Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter two. Jesus ended Satan’s death grip on the world through his death, burial and resurrection. Although Satan remains the “prince of this world”, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Jesus declared to his disciples after his death and resurrection that he has all authority. This includes authority over life and death, and he still exercises his authority on earth. However, rather than impose his authority, Jesus invites us to make him the Lord of our lives.
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 27:17
The resurrection also extended Jesus work on earth. As a man, Jesus chose the twelve followers whom he taught, and later inspired, to establish his kingdom, the church. In his Gospel, John repeats Jesus’ last teaching in which he announces that although he will go away, he will leave his spirit as a comforter and a guide. That same helper, he proclaimed, “will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). At that same time Jesus prayed for those “who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). It is God’s word, planted in a human heart that leads one to salvation.
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Joy and peace are the result of Jesus’ resurrection. We know the women who found the empty tomb were filled with joy when Jesus revealed himself to them. We can imagine how Mary, the mother of Jesus would have found a new reason to live after the devastating experience of witnessing her son’s crucifixion. Moreover, we know that Jesus shares in the joy every believer experiences when he or she repents and accepts him as Savior and Lord.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
The resurrection expanded Jesus’ power on earth as his spirit began his work through the church. The world has long trusted in the “big lie”—that through laws or other human endeavors, evil can be done away with and justice will prevail. But without the power of the Holy Spirit, these efforts are in vain. The world seeks what is only available in Jesus. Outside of Christ we are helpless to break the eternal chains of sin, as well as the earthly consequences of sin. However, once we accept him, his power is not only available to break the chains that bind us, through his power we can share that same good news and set other captives free. Jesus’ power is multiplied through you and me when we give him our voice, our hands, and our feet.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31