To Redeem Us from the Curse

SaturdayDecember 23, 2017Galatians 4:1-7

23Today I was thinking about words or phrases that I would like to see disappear from our common usage here in America. The first would probably be, “congrats” in place of congratulations – for some reason that really grates on me and speaks of laziness or maybe just flippancy. (My opinion only, for those who use it a lot.) Second on my list would have to be the phrase “broke his silence.” I think that should only be used, if ever, when speaking up about a matter long kept secret. Nowadays, after only one hour or one day, we hear that “so and23s so” has broken his/her silence on whatever the newest tragedy or indiscretion is in the news. I think a better term for these situations might be, “. . . is speaking out,” or “shares.”

But as I thought about breaking a silence, a positive example immediately came to mind – it is this: after 400 years of prophetic silence, God finally put into effect a plan that He had decided on long ago, when, (at just the right time) He sent his Son to be the Savior of the world and to show us the way to know Him personally. Now that is a meaningful use of the term, “broke his silence!” God has always had something meaningful to say, but the time had to be right for people to listen and to believe what He had to say. Think of this too:  Sometimes a period of “time out” works in disciplining children. God’s time-out apparently was not totally effective because “when Jesus came to His own, they received Him not” (see John 1:11). Now isn’t that just like “some people’s kids,” as we used to say?

Next, consider that when someone breaks his/her silence, we assume the news will be of some import – that it will shed some light on the matter at hand. Often this information comes at a real cost to the sharer, as in the case of family members of those who commit terrible deeds against innocent people. We all cry with the parents of these wayward children. God’s experience was somewhat similar yet opposite, in that He was sending His innocent, beloved Son to pay the price for sins committed by a rebellious world! His pain is not talked about, but when God “broke the silence” we heard about the future evil to be inflicted upon His only son. Can you imagine how that hurt?! Jesus left His Father and His glory in Heaven to come and pay a ransom He did not owe – He was totally sinless, yet He gave His life for a sinful world.

This year, be sure to send a thank-you note to God for His gift of His Son by accepting Him totally into your heart and life, and then rejoice in your new life with Him. If you have done this, then please “break your silence” and tell everyone what He has done for you. This will make the Father glad!

Dear Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus! Because You sent Him and He freely came, I can rejoice in Him as my Savior and Friend. Thank You for paying a debt I could never pay. Thank You for adopting me into Your forever family. Give me the fortitude to often tell others of what you have done for me. Amen.

 

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To Turn Us From Our Sins

SaturdayDecember 9, 2017Acts 3:24-26

9It intrigues me every time I think about the fact that from the beginning God had a plan for our redemption! He knew that sin would enter the world through the choices of Adam and Eve, and even  as he made clothes for them to wear and banished them from the Garden He was already forgiving them and had already made plans for the price to be paid for their awful sin! He looked ahead and knew about the downward spiral of His chosen people. He foresaw the exact right moment when his son would come to earth as a baby – come to set those people free! And He looked ahead as those who believed and accepted and began to follow Jesus would eventually take the same path to destruction that His chosen people had taken. He sent many prophets and intercessors to show the way and stop the rebellion – people like9s Luther, Wesley, D. L. Moody, Billy Graham, to “stem the tide.” But all along He knew! He knew that even in the 21st century there would be declining morals and so few would stay strong in the face of Satan’s attacks.

Even now, today, many are still finding Him for the first time or falling in love with Him all over again. He knew it all along. He knew about you, and He knew about me, and he knew that soon it would be time to send His son back again to wrap things up here and to take His children home to be with Him forever. And as I think about all this, it just excites me to realize that we were always on His mind. From before time, He loved us and planned to care for us and to draw us to Him. He is looking forward to the grand reunion as much as we are! I can hardly wait, can you!?

But even as we rejoice, we realize, that many will be unable to attend that Family Reunion in the Heavens because they have not yet made their reservation.. Oh, let’s pray that this will be the Christmas that their eyes will be drawn to the Christmas Star and they will hasten and find the Child born in Bethlehem! Maybe it will be because you, or I, have told it “on the mountains, over the hills and everywhere!”

Gracious heavenly Father, the time is coming when many on this earth will no longer have an opportunity to discover a relationship with You through Your son Jesus Christ. I pray that You will so fill us with Your Holy spirit that we cannot help but speak of You and your plan for the salvation of many souls. Help us to unmistakably point the way to You. Amen.

 

The Crucifixion – Wine, Part 2

April 13, 2017 – Maundy Thursday
crucifixion
Read: Mark 15:33 – 40
Focus: v. 36

One man ran and filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

We enter now into the final verses of Jesus’ life. No longer are we talking about a final chapter. Time is getting very short. Jesus is still on the cross at this point and it follows a very long time of Jesus being awake. Nowhere is there any indication that, from sometime Thursday morning (likely at sunrise near 6:00 AM when He would have risen for a day which included partaking  of a Passover Feast with His disciples and ended with His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane), Jesus had an opportunity to sleep. From then on He was in the hands of the Temple guards and dragged from place to place for His trials and beaten severely. This became so bad that he could not even carry his cross to the place of crucifixion. It is unlikely that all this time after the Passover Feast that Jesus has had anything to eat or drink. We wrote in an earlier devotional that he was offered wine mixed with myrrh to deaden the pain of crucifixion and enable Him to live longer and therefore suffer longer. Jesus, we are told, refused that wine so that He would experience the full impact of His act of redemption on behalf of all mankind.

The crucifixion was at 9:00 AM and in our scripture reading for today it has reached about 3:00 PM. Jesus has been on that cross for six hours of excruciating pain throughout His body. He has suffered from loss of sleep, beatings and the continued bleeding from the crucifixion wounds as well as the wounds from His beatings. All this means tremendous pain. He is thirsty but receives nothing, according to Mark, until after He makes His final cry from the cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”  (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) After this, to mock Him, those standing by offer him “sour wine” (nearly vinegar) so they can hear if He says anything else. They thought he was calling to Elijah and wanted to see if Elijah came to take Him from the cross. Did Jesus accept the “sour wine”? Once again He refuses. Why? Because it was His responsibility to bear the full amount of pain and suffering from the crucifixion so that our sins would be paid for in full. He took no shortcuts to accomplish our redemption! Shortly after being offered the “sour wine” Jesus calls out loudly once more and “breathed His last.”

Salvation was now accomplished and Jesus was freed from this earthly life. Never again would He be bound by earthly things but after His resurrection would be free to return to His Father. Twice wine was offered to give some succor to the Savior and twice he refused. No one would be able to say He took any shortcuts to do the work the Father sent Him to do. In this respect also He is our example as believers. Do we take shortcuts while doing the Lord’s bidding?

The Crucifixion – Wine, Part 1

April 12, 2017 – Wednesday
Myrrh
Read: Mark 15:21 – 32
Focus: v. 23

Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

There are two instances found in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus is offered wine to drink at the Crucifixion. This is the first instance and takes place at the beginning of the Crucifixion itself. It appears that nothing was offered to Jesus during the long night before the Crucifixion took place.  Why now? The soldiers in charge of the crucifixion of these unfortunates were not trying to be humane. Rather, they were endeavoring to make this hateful thing last as long as they could. Apparently to them and others watching, it was likened to a sport. We do know that certain things could be done to hasten the deaths of those being crucified. At the end of this long day for Jesus, and the two criminals, they decided to break their legs so the suffocation would take place faster since they could not support themselves and lift up to breathe when their legs were broken. This hastened their death.  This did take place for the two thieves but not for Jesus as He was already dead when they decided to do this at the request of the Jewish religious leaders. Those leaders did not want those men to be still hanging there when the Sabbath began.

Why give them wine mixed with myrrh? Because the myrrh added to the wine worked as a painkiller so they would last longer on the cross. It was not to be humane but rather so their agony could be dragged out as far as possible. Jesus had already been beaten so badly he could hardly stand and needed help carrying his cross to the place of crucifixion. Crucifixion was a very cruel Roman practice for executions and was well-known throughout the Roman Empire for its excruciating pain. I can well imagine the two thieves gratefully drinking this mixture since they knew what was ahead for them. We are told by Mark, however, that Jesus refused this elixir. Why would He do this? It seems Jesus was determined to drink this cup of bitterness to the full so that no one could say He took the easy road. Jesus bore ALL the pain with none of it deadened by any drug, neither the alcohol nor the myrrh. He bore it all! Jesus didn’t go halfway in any manner for our redemption!