What Wondrous Love

Are you prepared to let God do as He likes with you?

I am prepared for God to:

Bless me,

Humble me,

Give me wisdom, and

Use me in His miracles.

However, I am not prepared to let God do as He likes with me.

Jesus was, I’m not!

Jesus prayed:

“Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (1)

Jesus may not have wanted to drink the cup God had prepared for Him, but He was willing to drink it.  His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was the final piece of His preparation.  It was His final prayer before His arrest and trial.

Death by crucifixion is one of the worst forms of dying.   It is a most dreadful instrument of torture and suffering. It was such a terrible form of dying that no Roman citizen was ever crucified; this horrible death was reserved only for Rome’s enemies. (2)

I have endured suffering as a servant of God.  I have been persecuted for righteousness sake.  But I have never said to God, “Bring it on!”

This is what humbles me when I remember Jesus’ crucifixion.  Jesus was willing to die for my sins.

Dying for my sins is an act of love which I can barely fathom.  Being willing to die for my sins remains unfathomable to me.

In response to such love I sing and pray the words of this American spiritual:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

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  1. Mark 14:36
  2. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 107.
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When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

I only remember what happened after worship on this particular Sunday.  

As I was greeting worshippers at the door after worship, a member said he wanted to see me in my office after I finished my farewells.  When I stepped into my office, he grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me towards him, anger was boiling out of his red face, flared nostrils, and bulging eyes. 

He was in a rage because he was tired of having Prayers of Confession during worship.  As his spittle flew into my face he said, “We are not bad people!  We do not need those prayers in OUR worship!”

A thousands thoughts flew from my heart to my head.  The first was, “And you consider this to be behavior which honors God and His will?”

While our sins are always original to us, there is nothing original about about sin.  It is the one aliment that plagues every man, woman, and child.

 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1)

Everyone has personal sins to confess.

Far too many Christians move from Palm Sunday’s Parade to Easter’s Resurrection Celebration without pausing to consider the events of mid-week – Jesus crucified for the forgiveness of OUR sins.

While it is impossible to confess all of our particular sins, the failure and refusal to confess that we are sinners in need of forgiveness, “Makes Jesus a liar, and proves God’s Word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10). 

While we tend to boast in our achievements and accomplishments, the Apostle Paul reminds us: “to boast only in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)

Aware of my own sins, original and unique to me, sins which cannot be assigned to another, I am grateful that God took them from me when Jesus died on the cross.  

Isaac Watts hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, reminds me of the greatness of God’s love:

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God; all the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down; did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small: Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. (2)

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 John 1:8.
  2. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 106.
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Do It Quickly

When it comes to forgiveness, I talk a good game, thanks to my selective memory.

Yesterday I shared with others the heroics of my forgiving spirit and how God honored my graciousness in His time.  While I was speaking about what God is able to do when we have a forgiving heart, I spoke too much about my graciousness in light of the hurt I endured.

There are other stories I could have told.

I could have rattled on about the times when I harbored deep grudges, nursed wounds beyond their expiration date, and gossiped about how I had been wronged.

Jesus handled the betrayals, denials, and physical blows against Him differently than me.  Except for telling Judas to “Do it quickly,” He received the betrayals, denials, and blows against Him in silence.

Jesus never threatened His executioners with impending judgment; instead He forgave them. He accepted His suffering without bitterness. (1)

When we chatter on about past hurts and wrongs against us, we cannot boast about having forgiven the offender.  As long we allow the hurt or offense to live in the present, we have not put it into the past.

Forgiveness involves the placing an offense against us into the past.

I remember the tenderness of being wounded by someone who refused to forgive me when I asked for forgiveness.  A close friend tried to console me by saying, “Do not worry, they will forgive you eventually!”

It was the eventually which crushed my spirit.

How long would I need to wait to be forgiven?  How long would I have to live on edge, teetering between the loving grasp of forgiveness and the rejection of un-forgiveness?  How long would I need to earn brownie points before I could step away from egg-shell living?

I expect others to forgive me now and to do so with a grace that does not humble me.

As I move closer to Easter I anticipate celebrating God’s amazing, life-giving, death defying grace.

God is anticipating the same from me.

Jesus taught me to pray, “Forgive my debts as I forgive the debts of others!” (Matthew 6:12).

You cannot grasp the joy of Easter while holding fast to an unforgiving spirit.

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  1. John MacArthur, Truth for Today : A Daily Touch of God’s Grace (Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2001), 107.
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The People Who Walk in Darkness

It is better to walk in the dark with God 

than to walk alone in the light. (1)

How can you be in the dark with God when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world and whoever follows with me walks in the light.”  (John 8:12)

God’s light dispels the darkness of the world!  The world’s light seems bright when it stands alone, yet it is a nothing more than a dim shadow at dusk when compared to God’s light.

Light and dark are antonymic symbols representative of goodness and evil, hope and despair, God and godlessness.

To walk in darkness means we are living in despair, trepidation, and fear in the presence of  evil.  We have all lived through seasons of darkness frightened and alone longing for God’s companionship.

To cope we often will flea the presence of God under the false impression that living in the dim light of the world’s way and wisdom if the better place to be.

The world’s wisdom is a false-positive.  It looks like the answer.  Others will tout its powers to us as the way of truth and light.  Yet, in time the world’s way only leas us into deeper darkness.

The world’s light is temporal and leads us downward into greater darkness, rather than upwards to Him who is the light of the world.

Children cling to parents when they are afraid.  They instinctively know that is is better to remain with the one who loves you when in difficulty.  The one who loves you will protect you from all evil.

It is only when we remain with God during difficulties that we realize the blessed truth of Psalm 23:4-5

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 

I will fear no evil, for God is with me; 

His rod and His staff, they comfort me. 

He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 

He anoints my head with oil; my cup overflows.

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 135). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
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A Halo of Thorns

The jewels of a Christian are his afflictions (1)

We tend to believe that the most Christ-like people are those who love others graciously and generously.  A Christian’s love for others, always receives the praise of the world.

However, the most Christ-like people are those who suffer unjustly because of the sins of others.  In the eyes of the world, we call these people fools, if they suffer quietly and do not seek revenge.

Jesus suffered unjustly because of our sins.  He died on the cross, not to get revenge, but to secure the forgiveness of our sins.  This is suffering love.

Most Christians refuse to suffer.  If suffering comes to us unjustly, we seek to throw it off and we whine to God about the injustice of it all.

Jesus suffered quietly because of our sins.

Jesus considered suffering unjustly and quietly for love’s sake to be the best:

Blessed are those who suffer for righteousness sake.  

Blessed are those who suffer when falsely persecuted.

There is no greater love than to lay down your life for others.

The glory of Jesus is revealed not in His resurrection, but in His crucifixion.

God proves Himself, not by flexing His muscles and revealing His death-defying powers, but in His willingness to suffer, to die, as an innocent man.

In his great hymn about Jesus, Paul writes:

Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him. (2)

As you move into Holy Week, remember that the most holy day is not Palm Sunday’s Parade, Passover’s Feast, or Easter’s Resurrection.

The crowning jewel, the most holy moment of Holy Week is on Good Friday when Jesus cries out, “It is finished!”

There is no greater … anything ….  than a crown of thorns.

The crown of thorns is a Christian’s halo.

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Philippians 2:8–9.
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A Mother’s Love

The Bride of Christ isn’t a very good mother!” (1)

This is one of those accusations that gets my attention and causes my hair to stand up on my neck.  The charge is clear, “The Church does not take care of her own!”

It is bad enough when the church does not take care of anyone in need, but to ignore her own is an abomination.

Too frequently the church, Christ’s bride, is guilty of withholding a helping hand.

A story remains impressed upon my heart.

One day after class when I was teaching in a Men’s Recovery Program at a local mission a student asked if he could talk with me briefly after class.  I had been teaching for 6 weeks wondering if anyone was listening to my lectures about Jesus and being faithful.

After everyone left, he closed the classroom door and told me about a burden on his heart.

One of the other men in the program who had overcome his addiction and committed his life to Christ had a problem.  The roof of his house was leaking and winter was coming.  A contractor had agreed to provide free labor if someone else would provide shingles.  They needed $3200 to purchase the shingles.  He wanted to know if the church I served would help.

When I told him I would ask the church board if they would help with the expense, this middle aged gentleman began to cry.

I quickly clarified that I would ask the board, but that did not mean they would agree to help.  He shook his head acknowledging what I said as tears continued to roll down his cheeks.

He then explained, ”Your willingness to ask has saved my faith in God!”

He went on to explain that the previous two Sundays, after the men in the recovery program had sung and testified to their faith in Christ at the two largest and wealthiest churches in town, he had approached the Pastors of those churches for help.  Both Pastors told him, “We do not do things like that.  It’s too much money for us!” Without another word they both turned and walked away from him.

Their responses crushed his heart and weakened his young faith.

He was grateful I was willing to ask the church I serve to help.  “This was all I needed to know, that a minister cared enough to ask.  I know it’s a lot of money.  I am not expecting you to provide all we need, anything will help!”

I was thankful when the board of the church I serve said “YES!”  Two weeks later, immediately prior to the first snow, the roof of his friend’s house was replaced.

How would Jesus answer you, if you asked Him this question?

“Lord, when did I see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” (2)

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  1. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Matthew 25:44.
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Faith in …?

God honors stubborn faith that looks to Him alone.

Faith which honors God is honored by God.

Faith is not intelligent understanding it is deliberate commitment to a Person! (1)

Everyone is a person of faith!  If someone tells you that they are a person of faith they have not told you anything about themselves which you did not already know about them.

The object of someone’s faith is what defines them.

I know people who can wax eloquently about the power of faith.  Faith in and of itself has no power.   It is the object of faith which has the power.

If someone has faith in evolution then he believes in the prevailing power of evolution and stakes every bit and portion of his life on evolution.

If someone has faith in an institution, then he believes in the prevailing power of the institution and stakes his life on the institution.

Christians have faith in Jesus, not in the church, not in the Bible, not in their pastor, and most importantly not in their own faith.

Christians received their name Christians because they believed in Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26), not because they had faith.

Christians were taught to honor Jesus, not faith, because it is Jesus who saves:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (2)

No matter how intense your faith is, it is no stronger than the object of your faith!

Who is the object of your faith?

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 10:9.
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