The Impact of Fear

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John 19:38-40

I imagine Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus’s hearts were filled with much sorrow on this night. The Scriptures make it clear both Joseph and Nicodemus were members of the Sanhedrin thus Pharisees. Here we find that they had not consented to the crucifixion and yet they hadn’t tried to stop it either. They both secretly followed Jesus and yet feared the Jews and being thrown out of the synagogue. Yet, here on preparation day Joseph,  the Scriptures tell us in Mark 15, had come boldly before Pilate asking for the body of Jesus. In John we find that Nicodemus was with him and that according to Jewish custom they had anointed and prepared Jesus body for burial and placed Him in the tomb. While He was alive they followed Him secretly and I imagine on this night, after they have witnessed first hand the crucifixion and seen the sky grow completely dark and experienced the earthquake as Jesus breathed His last. That like the Jewish guards, they realized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah as He had claimed. I imagine they regretted their fear in the past. I believe they were thinking if only we could do it all again, we would have served Him boldly and without fear. We would have followed Him no matter what.

However, it is here we find two secret disciples and are yet unaware of where the other 11 disciples of Jesus are. The last we have seen of them was on the night of Jesus arrest. The Bible tells us in Mathew 26 that all the disciple deserted Jesus and fled. Peter had followed at a distance but had also denied knowing Jesus and being one of his disciples three times. On preparation day, we don’t really know where the disciples are, but they are not the ones to come and get Jesus body, instead we find Joseph and Nicodemus. Fear had led them to flee for their own lives and I imagine even after the crucifixion, watching Jesus die, they feared for what might happen to them.

In both instances fear has led to regret. Fear has impacted how these men act, what they do or don’t do and what they say or don’t say. Fear is indeed a powerful emotion. It can paralyze us and keep us from doing the right thing. Fear can overwhelm us and control us. We all know it’s power, but how does this fear affect us as Christians? In the above Scriptures, fear had led Joseph and Nicodemus to be secret disciples, it had kept them from truly following Jesus. Fear had led to the rest of the disciples scattering and not remaining true to Jesus.

I can’t tell you the number of people I have met who are afraid to be sold out for Jesus because of fear of what He might ask them to do. Those who are afraid to tell others about Jesus for fear of being ridiculed. Fear of what others think if they really take a stand for Christ. I know personally how strong this fear can be. There was a time when I feared surrendering fully to Jesus for fear that He’d send me to Africa or somewhere like it. Times when I cared more for what others think than what the Lord thinks. Other times when instead of boldly sharing Jesus with people, I trembled in fear not knowing how they might respond.  I allowed fear to keep me from truly following Jesus and allowed fear to keep me from being true to Him. The truth is, I still struggle with such fears. Yet, I’m learning that He is and always will be faithful. I’m learning I can trust Him no matter what. He’s teaching me that fear is the opposite of faith and how displeasing to Him it truly is.

I challenge you to ask yourself how fear affects you personally as a disciple of Christ. Ask the Lord to examine your heart and to show you areas fear has consumed.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret for all the times I allowed fear to impact me. For all the times I missed out on truly serving, truly surrendering to Jesus. I want to look back and know I have served Him with all I have and that I have trusted Him. Do I have regrets now? Sure, but praise God tomorrow is a new day and great indeed is His faithfulness!

Whiter Than Snow

Today in a lot of churches, the blood of Jesus has been removed, because it is offensive. People don’t want to be reminded of their sin, they just want to hear about how much they are loved and the blessings of God. Yet, to me this is offensive, for if you remove the blood of Jesus, if Jesus didn’t die and rise again, if His blood wasn’t shed to pay for our sins, then like Paul said, we are the biggest fools their are.” If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19).”

Yet, the Bible paints an entirely different picture, a picture of the Lamb of God slain and the precious blood shed to cleanse and to make us whiter than snow. “”Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18).” 

In the Old Testament sacrifices of lamb and bulls had to be made each year in atonement for the sins of the people. I can’t imagine the amount of animals that were killed or all of the blood. Now, to me that is gruesome. And this sacrifice had to be made each year in accordance with the law and this blood could not cleanse the people of their sins. Hebrews 10 tell us, “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.  For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

The blood of animals was not enough, but the blood of Jesus was. How thankful I am for the blood of Jesus. For it is through the blood I am forgiven. It is through the blood I am made righteous. The blood cleanses me of all sins and makes me whiter than snow. I can enter into the presence of God in prayer because of the blood. I have been adopted into the family of God and made an heir of God because of the blood.

Oh, let us not get rid of the blood, for if we do, we are still in our sins, we are still guilty. Without the blood we are condemned. Let us then be ever thankful for the blood which Jesus shed at Calvary.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,  but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God (I Peter 1:18-221).”

Our Spotless Lamb

“For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. And you shall observe this event as an ordianace for you and your children forever. Exodus 12:23-24

According to Jewish custom, the Passover, was to be remembered each year. For on this day years before, the Lord had delivered His people from the hand of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God would strike the first-born of all homes, as His last plague, which would lead Pharaoh to let His people go. Specific detailed instructions were given to the Israelites. They were to select an unblemished lamb, one year old, they were to kill it and place the blood on the lintel and on the doorpost of their homes. They were to cook it and eat it in a specific way and they were to be ready to go, even to the point of eating the Passover with their sandals on their feet and staff in hand. For on this night, the Angel of the Lord would pass over every home in which the blood of the spotless lamb was applied. Yet, for every home where the blood was not seen the first-born died. On this night, there was not one home in Egypt where someone had not died. And the Israelites were set free, plundering the Egyptians and on their way to the promised land.

Fast forward hundreds of years and it is once again the time in which the Passover is to be remembered. Jesus has gathered in the Upper Room with His disciples for what we call the Last Supper. He knew His time had come and He gathers to eat one final meal and to set one final example before His disciples eyes. As He stoops down and washes His disciples feet, even the feet of the one who would betray Him,He teaches them to be servants. He then explains that one will betray Him and Judas departs, already having been filled with Satan, ready to betray the Son of God.

The time in which years before had been a time to remember what God had done, is now a time for the True Lamb to be sacrificed for all. The darkest day in History dawns as Jesus is mocked, beaten and nailed to the cross. The earth trembles and darkness covers the earth as God pours out His wrath upon the sinless Lamb of God. And then Jesus gives up His Spirit, crying out, It is finished!

Over 2000 years have passed and yet we still celebrate the Passover and remember how the Lord cares for and delivers His people and we celebrate the ultimate sacrifice and give thanks for the blood shed for us. For all who have received Jesus have been covered in His blood and are righteous,and Holy in His sight. The precious blood has covered our sins and Jesus has become our Passover Lamb.

Yet this is only the beginning of the story. For though they nailed Him to the cross, placed His body in the tomb, nothing could keep Him in the grave and He is alive today. And one day He will come again to gather His children, all in whom the blood has been applied to take us home. Oh what a wonderful day that will be.

We serve a risen Savior who took our place. May we live a life of gratitude for all He has done for us! May we share the love of Jesus with those who know Him not and may we seek to be made more and more like Christ, living for Him.

Sincere Faith

“You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18

All week I have heard (not audibly) but in that still small voice the Lord asking me, “You say you believe, do you really?” This past week has been a whirlwind and my head is still spinning trying to take it all in. It began on Monday with an interview with a mission agency, my family and I are working through to go to the mission field. This was an important interview that we were sure we had in the bag. However, after this interview we were left wondering how it really went. On Tuesday, the fear set in as I began to think ( I don’t know about you, but I get into much trouble when I began to do this). But, I began to think, WHAT IF???? This is a dangerous question to ask, one from Hell itself, but as my mind began to contemplate what if they say sorry, we are not going to send you? Panic began to fill my heart and to fear began to overwhelm me. I was a wreck. On Wednesday I woke up to that still small voice asking me, “You say you believe me, you say you trust Me, do you really?” Well, after much tear and much prayer the Lord carried me through and I said yes, Lord I do trust you. But for me, the Lord is teaching me that lip service is not enough, He wants evidence. Thursday began and I’ll tell you as I prayed and wept, the Lord brought me to the place where I was able to say, “Lord, if this isn’t it and they say no, I will still trust you, I will still serve you, I will still praise you.” This was no easy prayer to pray.

Well, I’m here to tell you only about an hour or so later, we received a phone call, a call from one of the leaders inviting my husband to travel with them on a trip to Africa next month to teach. A opprotunity for Eric to gain more experience teaching cross-culturally and them an opportunity to see that he can do this. Yes, you guessed it, panic. Africa, really, Lord. This is crazy, next month? Surely not! Yet again, that still small voice, “do you really trust me?” See, I have often said, sometimes the Lord ask us to do things that just don’t make sense, but if we trust Him and obey, He will bless us. If you have children, you know how sometimes your words come back to haunt you. Well, this was one of those times. “Do you really trust Me?” asked the Lord. Deep breath, okay Lord, its off to Africa Eric will go.

Friday morning I awake and my mind is in overdrive seeking to figure it all out. How will we pay for the trip, how will my husband get his lessons prepared, what about this, what about that? Again, the Lord broke into my thoughts and asked, “who is in control, you or Me?” I of course thought well you are Lord and He asked once more, Do you really trust Me?

I’m telling you it has been a doozy of a week, but the Lord is teaching Me that often times I’m a lot of hot air. I’m really good at telling someone else going through a hard time to just trust the Lord, that He will work everything out. Yet, when faced with trials of my own, my own advice is hard to swallow. I don’t believe for one minute the Lord is pleased with this. He’s teaching me it is not enough to talk it, I must live it.

One of the reasons I so admire David Platt, Francis Chan, Katie Davis and others like them is because they don’t just talk it, they truly live it. If they tell you to do something, you’d better believe they are doing it too. Now, I’m not saying they are perfect and I’m sure they struggle like the rest of us. Yet, their faith is sincere and they inspire others to have sincere faith. To have a faith that is proven by its works.

This is what I desire, to live a life by grace through faith, that is proven by my works. A life that inspires others to truly believe, to truly trust the Lord. Not a life filled with lip service, but a life of faith proven by my works.

The Rocks Will Cry Out

rocks“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40

It was the week before the darkest day in history. The day Jesus would take upon Himself the sins of the world. The day when the wrath of God would be poured out upon Him. Yet, on this day the picture is quite different.

We find Jesus and his disciples heading to Jerusalem and when they arrived at Bethany, Jesus sends his disciples ahead of Him into the village to find a colt. And not just any old colt, but a colt which had never been ridden, that will be tied up. He tells them if anyone ask why they are untying the colt, just to say, “The Lord has need of it.” So the disciples go and they find a colt just like Jesus said they would and while they untie it, someone ask what they are doing and they give them the exact reply Jesus had said. Apparently this was enough, for off they go with the colt for Jesus.

Each time I read this I am amazed at the disciples obedience to just do what Jesus said. What he asked didn’t necessarily make sense, but they obeyed and everything worked out just as Jesus said it would. I know for a fact sometimes what Jesus ask of us doesn’t make sense but I’m also a firm believer that when we just trust and obey, He blesses our socks off.

As Jesus rides the colt into Jerusalem, the people in the crowd begin throwing down their coats and waving palm branches shouting,Hosanna, blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” The same people who one week cry out His praises, a week later will shout crucify!

These were worshiping Jesus thinking He was their earthly King, that He would deliver them. They worshiped Him more for what He could do for them, than they worshiped Him for who He is. But before we cast stones, aren’t we too guilty of this. Worshiping and serving Jesus at times more for what He can do for us, than worshiping Him just because He is worthy.

Yet, as they shout His praises, the Pharisees who are jealous of the attention Jesus is receiving tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Jesus response is amazing, for He lets them know that if the crowds are quiet, even the rocks will cry out His praises. He is declaring Himself King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I heard tell of a guy one time who was arrested for telling others about Jesus. His response was quite similar. As the guards led him into the room, he brings in a large rock and places it upon the table. The officers are all quite confused and wonder why he has brought a rock. He quickly explains to them, that if they silence Him and keep him from telling others of Jesus, that the rock will cry out. The men in the room all thought he was crazy, and they let him go. Amazing!

Jesus is worthy of our praise. We are told countless times throughout God’s Word to praise Him. To declare His praises and His glory among the nations. The government can try to silence us, the schools can seek to take out prayer, our families and friends can ridicule us. Yet, regardless of what anyone else says or does, He is worthy of our praise. And as the Lord is teaching me, He is worthy of my praise and thanksgiving regardless of my circumstance or how I feel as well.

He is worthy and if we don’t declare His praise and give Him the praise He deserves, I do believe the rocks will cry out and the trees will clap their hands in praise.

Christ In ME

Cover of "Because He Loves Me: How Christ...
Cover via Amazon

 

 

As I continue to read Because He Loves Me, I again highly recommend this book. The first half of the book spoke of who we are in Christ and reminded us what salvation is and what it has accomplished for all who believe.

 

In chapter 7 the author begins to describe our responsibilities as well. Now, I am a pastors wife, have served on the mission field and have my master’s degree from seminary, but I have never so fully grasped and understood or seen it so easily explained as the author did in this chapter. In chapter 7 Elyse describes the indicative vs the imperatives of Scripture and why this is so important. As I began to grasp this and discuss this with my husband I got so excited and sat down immediately with my Bible and began to pick apart the book of Colossians looking for all the indicative and imperatives.

 

Now for those of you who are not reading this book, an indicative is the “actuality” of who we are in Christ. The indicative tell us what Jesus has done and accomplished. The imperatives are the “commands”. These tell us as Christians the things we are to do. Yet, as the author pointed out, we do the imperatives not to earn salvation or to add to. We do the imperatives because of the indicative. I’m sure I have lost many of you, but bare with me, because this is so good.

 

So in my study of Colossians, Paul begins the first 2 chapters focussing on the indicative, what Christ has done.

 

1:13-14 “For He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

1:19-20 “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross, through Him..

 

1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.

2:10-12 and in Him you have been made complete and His is the head over all rule and authority and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

 

2: 13-14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out-of-the-way, having nailed it to the cross.

 

Then in chapters 3 and 4 He lets us know because of what Christ has done, the imperatives or commands we are to do.

 

3:1-4 Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

 

3:8 Put aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech from your moth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices and put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according the the image of the One who created Him.

 

3:12-16 Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other………… Let the peace of Christ rule your hearts, be thankful, let the word of Christ richly dwell with in you, teaching and admonishing one another.

 

3:17 whatever you do, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

 

3:18-21 Wives be subject to your husband, Husbands love your wives, children obey your parents, Fathers don’t exasperate and slaves obey.

 

4:2-5 Devote yourself to prayer. Keep an attitude of thanks, pray for open doors for the spread of the Gospel, conduct yourselves with wisdom to outsiders, and let your speech always be with grace.

 

Now, I’m sure I missed some indicative statements and imperatives, but you get the point. The indicative tell us who we are in Christ, they tell us what we have been saved from, they let us know what Christ has accomplished. These fuel the imperatives. Paul begins the letter to the Ephesians in a similar way, the first few chapters full of the indicative, followed by the imperatives. Why? Because this is so very important. So often we seek to obey and fulfill the imperatives, the commands of God. We try in our strength and fail. We are motivated by self to be a good person and fail. We want to do whats right so we try and we fail. The imperatives can’t fully be realized apart from the indicative. Paul begins these and other letter telling us who we are in Christ. He does this first, hoping we will grasp the greatness of our God, praying we will understand what Christ has accomplished and how great a salvation we have. He wants us to understand the fathers great love and be motivated by this.

 

Paul got it, He understood who he was in Christ, he understood what he had been saved from and the great salvation he had received. Because of this, he lived a life motivated by these things which fueled his obedience to the imperative or the commands. He knew whatever the Lord asked was worth it. He recognized what Christ had already accomplished through him and that because of this, he could obey, he could count it joy, he could suffer and praise the Lord. He could do all this and more, because Christ was in Him.

 

Colossians 2:29 “For this purpose also I labor striving according to His power, which mightily works within me!!”

 

Paul knew the imperatives were attainable because the indicative were already accomplished. Oh if we could only like Paul grasp the great salvation. If we could fully understand the Fathers great love toward us. If we could fathom the reality of what we have truly been saved from. Then we would indeed be motivated to do whatever He asked of us. No longer would we have to beg people to step up and serve, no longer would we have to  guilt people into doing the things of God, no longer would we have such a small amount of people leaving houses and lands to go to the mission field. People would be lining up to go, lining up to serve.

 

I know I have not fully attained this and don’t want to pretend I have. Yet, I truly desire to grasp the deep, deep love of Jesus. I truly desire to understand who I am in Christ and what I have been saved for. For I truly believe when we understand this, our love for Him will grow and as it grows we will desire to live a life worthy of the Lord in all areas of our life.

 

 

 

 

 

Trusting God Honors God

I think if we are all honest, some days are easier than others to trust God. Of course we know in our heads we can trust Him and yet when the storms rage or we are left in a place of unknown, trusting isn’t so easy. We have all been guilty I’m sure of telling others “just trust the Lord, He will see you through.” Yet, I’m finding that when others say this to me in the midst of difficult times, quite honestly I just want to scream. Trusting God can indeed be difficult. So, I began to think, why is it so hard to trust God at times?

As I thought on this I was reminded of the familiar story of Peter wanting to walk on the water. He trusted and truly walked on water as long as His eyes were on Jesus, but the moment he began to look around and see the wind and the waves, he of course began to sink. The Lord gently reminded me of this the past few days. I’m finding that the times I lack faith and trust in God the most are the times when I am focusing on myself and my problems. We are told in Hebrews 12:2 to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” How important it is to do this. For as we fix our eyes and our thoughts upon Him and how great and awesome He is, we realize that we can trust Him. There is truly no problem too difficult or impossible for Him,

A  second reason I have found that makes it hard to trust the Lord, is when I began to believe lies. The enemy wants nothing more than to get us to doubt the Lord, to make us quit and to just give up. He will do whatever it takes to get us to waver in our faith. John 8 describes him like this, When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Therefore, when we began to recognize lies in our thinking we must as James tells us,  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. How desperately important this is. We must think upon truth, which means we must fill our minds with truth!

A third reason the Lord reminded me of is that often when we are going through trying times or times of waiting, we grow weary and tired. Which brought to mind the night Jesus was arrested. He left His disciples to go off and pray. He told them “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak (Ma. 26:41).” In difficult times we are tempted because we are weak. It is during such times we need to pray all the more. Yet this isn’t easy either. If you remember the disciples kept falling asleep. However, I have found prayer is a necessity during trials, for our strength is found in Him. I’m like the disciples, I tend to fall asleep when I pray, so instead of praying silently, I pray aloud or I write out my prayers in journals. Either way works to keep me focused. But prayer is a must!

I will close with this thought. In my reading yesterday I came upon the story of Moses when he struck the rock twice and the Lord told him because of this he would not enter the promised land. I have always found this story sad, but I noticed something yesterday I had never picked up on before.  In verse 12 the Lord says, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”  Did you catch it? God tells Moses he will not enter the promised land because he didn’t trust Him enough to honor Him as holy! As I read this I was so convicted, for each time I fail to trust Him, I also fail to honor Him as Holy. I fail to honor Him for who He is, God Almighty, whom the angels cry out all day, each day, HOLY, HOLY, HOLY! The Lord is holy and trusting Him honors Him for who He is.

I will be the first to say that trusting in the wilderness is flat hard. Trusting in the dark when you can’t see what will happen next is hard. Yet, as I was reminded of in this verse, God is Holy and He deserves my faith and my trust in Him. Yet, not only does He deserve it, it bring Him glory and honor. Moses failed to honor God as Holy in the sight of the Israelites by not trusting Him. Whether we like it or not, people are watching us as Christians during the difficult times. They want to see if we really believe all that we say. We like Moses can fail to honor God as Holy by not trusting or we can honor God as Holy in the sight of others, by truly trusting Him. I don’t know about you, but I truly do want to honor God as holy, honor God for who He is, the Lord Almighty. This happens when I trust Him.

How about you, are you struggling today to trust Him? I’d encourage you as I have to do myself to fix your eyes upon Him, think on Jesus and not yourself or your situation. Fill your mind with truth, whether this means reading Scripture or listening to sermons, let your mind be filled with the voices of truth. Third, pray, it is during the most difficult times we are at our weakest, prayer is a must. Finally, remember that when you trust Him, you honor Him as Holy in the sight of others. You proclaim Christ.