Christian Marriage: A Glimpse of Our Spouse's 'Glory-Self'

I absolutely love this Christian vision for marriage from Tim and Kathy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage.
Here is a longer quote:
What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.

. . . here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, "I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be a part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there I will look at your magnificence and say, "I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!"

Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse then should give him- or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory.

Randy Alcorn notes our marriage to Christ is the true marriage of the believer's life, "of which the best of earthly marriages was a symbol and shadow. ... One day all heaven will attend the ultimate wedding, and we will be His bride." (Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 19:7-9) But Alcorn also says he envisions people who've had important roles in our lives will continue to be friends... including a lot of people who have been married.

I can't say for sure that is true, but I do know my husband Bob is my best earthly friend, and the scriptures teach he is also my brother in Christ. We will serve and praise the Lord throughout eternity, along with all God's transformed creation!

I can't wait to look up my husband in heaven in his glorified state and say: 
"Look at you! I knew you'd be like this!"
Are you getting a glimpse of who your marriage partner will be in heaven? How can you encourage your spouse's growth into their "glory-self," all to the glory of God?

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Gabriel Ferraz at Pixabay.


What Does Your Photo Really Show?

I received a devotional from "Today's Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah" that was so timely for me. I had just put a new photo on Facebook to replace a rather "ancient" one I had at the top of my page.

I started thinking, "What does this photo show?"
  • Does it show my inner joy in knowing the Lord?
  • Does it show my struggle with a food addiction?
  • Does it show my desire to be used by Christ and make a difference in people's lives?
  • Does it show my love for my family?
In the end, I decided it really didn't matter what my Facebook Friends thought. All that matters is I'm living for the Lord, pursuing God with all my heart and loving any "neighbors" He brings across my path with His love (Mark 12:30-31).
  • I'm set apart for His glory.
  • I'm walking in the Spirit, keeping step with Him and bearing fruit.
  • I'm living for an audience of One.
It's really true, what I read in the devotional: "Those viewing your photos can't see your heart, but God can. Make sure He finds in you a heart that is pursuing Him."

God sees the heart, not what others may or may not see (1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 13:22). And that's a blessing to me today.

The Lord sees my struggles, but He also sees my desire to please Him—to do all His will

It's not about performance. It's about grace. 

His grace making me more grace-filled. His grace helping me not beat myself up with a club of self-condemnation (Romans 8:1). His grace transforms my heart and motivates me to greater love, obedience and service.

Look at your Facebook photo today. 
What do you think others see? 
What do you think God knows?


Be a Better Encourager

I truly believe encouragement plays a crucial part in our walk of faith (Hebrews 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

1. Encouragement from friends helps us live in a fallen world. 

Jesus warned we'd have struggles (Matthew 10:22-23; John 15:18-21); but He is the Overcomer (John 16:33b) and He can help us face our trials and troubles.

Our struggles are not simply against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness, the "spiritual forces of evil" (Ephesians 6:12). We need encouragement for the battle. We need encouragers who will remind us to wear our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) and stand strong against the wiles of the Devil. God will empower us to be faithful in the toughest battles.

2. Encouragement from wise counselors helps us see mistakes and make better choices. 
Barnabas, the "son of consolation," was a wise counselor/friend who came alongside to encourage the apostle Paul (Acts 9:27) after his conversion. We can be grateful for faithful servants of God - for teachers, preachers, counselors and mentors - who gift us with not only instruction, but also encouragement. 

My favorite encouraging counselors were those who sandwiched words of caution or correction between slices of praise

Encouragers help us see that, 
though we sometimes fail, 
in Christ we will never be failures!

3. Encouragement from the Word gives us the big picture. 

I cannot begin to list the times I've felt defeated, hopeless or anxious, and I found hope and encouragement in the scriptures. 

The Word teaches me how to have abundant life (John 10:10) and to see life from God's point of view. The Word of God brings healing to my soul (Proverbs 16:24).

In the Word I discover:

And because He encourages me, I can encourage others.

I want to be a better encourager, don't you?

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.


We Only See the Outer Fringe

This scripture really got me thinking this morning.

"...these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!" (Job 26:14a)

When I see the power of God at work, I am in awe of Him. 

And yet, Job says what we see is but the "outer fringe" and a "whisper" of His greatness. 

Think about that for a while.

God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8).

The Psalmist says,
"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You...." (Psalm 40:5a).

"How great are Your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep" (Psalm 92:5).

Though we can come to know the Lord more and more, we can never fully fathom His greatness--His wisdom, power, patience, love, kindness, holiness, and so much more.

Job continued, "Who then can understand the thunder of his power." (Job 25:14:b)

Paul encourages us to be strong in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10), but the power of God is much more than we can fully realize. He is simply beyond us.

That is why He is God. That's why He is the Sovereign Lord. 

And that is why He deserves our praise and worship.

"Lord, you are great. You are mighty. There is nothing you cannot do. I praise you today. I worship you and recognize Your control in my life. 

"Thank you for sharing just a glimpse... the outer fringe of your works and the whispers of your grace--so that we might learn to stand in awe of you, fear You and obey You. 

"Thank you for Jesus, who draws us to Your side because of His great sacrifice on the cross. I love you, Lord." Amen

Graphic adapted, courtesy of decorama at Morguefile.


How My Dog Reminded Me Not to Worship Idols

I love family, home, church, pet, writing, chocolate (and lots of other wonderful, good things), but I refuse to worship them.

It's hard sometimes. Especially when we're cuddling a pup we love so much. (But more about that later.)

I don't want to worship anything or anyone but the Lord God Almighty. It's a choice, sometimes a hard one, but a
choice nonetheless.

Worship of idols is excessive devotion to or reverence for something other than the one, true God.

The worship of "good things," not just things we know can get us into trouble, is a subtle snare of our enemy, Satan. He did, after all, offer the Jesus much in exchange for worship.

But Jesus' words were powerful:
"You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Matthew 4:10b).

We have so much in America. We are so blessed. But in our wealth, we forget God. We forget how completely and totally dependent we really are on Him. It is only by His favor that we are a "wealthy" nation.

The sad truth is, in our wealth we have become spiritually poor.

Jesus understands this temptation. That's why He left heaven to become poor for us, that we might become spiritually rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

I sincerely believe our "idol worship" is one of the reason our nation is in such trouble today.

Yes, I want America to be great again, but not without America becoming godly. Otherwise, in our covetousness, independence and self-sufficiency, we will never draw near to the Lord, repent and become holy before Him (James 4:8).

When we worship idols (when they are our focus), we become more like them and we lack understanding of the truth (Psalm 135:15-18). We exchange the glory of God for images (Romans 1:21-23), sad substitutes for Him. John Piper calls this the "dark exchange."

The Bible is clear about idolatry from beginning to end.
"...Do not turn to idols... I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:4). (See also Exodus 20:3.) "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:13-14). "... the idolaters... will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur..." (Revelation 21:8).

I'm not just spouting scriptures here. I'm taking the time to look at the things of love, and determine whether I love and even "worship" them more than the Lord.

My husband and I made an emergency trip to the veterinarian yesterday. We were not sure how serious our little furboy's condition was; and all the way there, I prayed.

During that time of prayer, God asked me, "Do you love little Roscoe more than you love Me, or my purposes?"

I felt that was a strange question at the time. But I pondered it the entire time Roscoe was at the vet. I knew the Lord had given us this sweet little creature to love and care for. But could I give him up if the Lord asked it of me?

I thought about other people and things I love, and I wept as I considered the cost my Lord might ask of me. I wept.

I surrendered again. I have to do this sometimes; I get so tied to this temporary world.

I reconfirmed my priorities: God first, family next, ministry and then all the other stuff.

And then I took time to worship the Lord with open hands. When we grasp our stuff, it's foolishness. Everything we are and have are really His, and open hands acknowledge an open heart to His will.

Tearing down the idols begins in our own hearts. Then in our families and churches. And then, hopefully, in our nation.


My One-Two Punch for Victory

Today had a tough start.

I forgot how Satan was out to defeat me, to use my weakness as a springboard to create a stronghold of failure.

But then, by God's grace, I remembered 2 Corinthians 12:9:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Yes. Satan tries to master my weaknesses, but I serve a powerful Master who manifests His own perfect strength in and through my weaknesses ... for His glory.

More strength for today:

"In the day when I cried out, you answered me, 
and made me bold with strength in my soul" (Psalm 138:3).

"I can do all things through Christ
who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

I've got a sure one-two punch for victory!


7 Ways to Honor Mom (or Dad)

I'm thinking about Mom today. I just saw her this past week, on the other side of the continent. It was hard to leave, never knowing if I'll see her again. But I rejoiced in the opportunity.

Although I'm focusing on my Mom todaysince Daddy is in heaventhe truth is, I'm really thinking

about parents in general.

Many years ago, I learned one way to honor God:  honoring my parents. Honoring the parents the Lord gave us is a sign of respect for them but also obedience to the Lord.

The honor of obedience as children (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2) should flow into mature respect as adults (Deuteronomy 5:16: Ephesians 6:2).

In some cases, it may be difficult to obey and tough to honor. Parents are human with their own set of weaknesses and strengths. There will always be hard cases and "impossible" people, and it's especially hard when that's in our own homes. Dealing with that could fill another post.

But in general, there are many ways to honor our parents, and I want to consider seven of them today.

1. Give Respect

Respect is a hard sell sometimes. Yet the scriptures show God expects us to respect all authorities (Romans 13:7b; Leviticus 19:32). We are to regard their God-given position.

Honoring parents is one of the most overlooked of the Ten Commandments, but Jesus repeated the Old Testament command to honor parents (Matthew 15:4a).

I learned about respect for authority as a young girl: to respect my teachers even if they were harsh, to respect the police officer even if he was foul-mouthed. Respect for position is not the same thing as admiration. It is simply giving honor where honor is due.

Part of that respect is speaking well of our parents both in private and publicly, rather than cursing themrunning them down (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9).

Even if we have a dysfunctional parent, we can still respect their authority and appeal to that authority for change (after much prayer and in a spirit of humility).

If your parent has passed on, consider if there is still some way to honor their memory.

Do you respect your mom (or dad)? If not, isn't that an issue to take up with the Lord?

2. Show Esteem

To esteem is to combine respect with admiration, to recognize and declare value.

We can respect a parent and still not admire them, but when we do find things to admire, we should express admiration.

I knew a woman whose dad was an alcoholic. She respected him, even though she didn't admire his lifestyle. But she prayed, asking God to show her some element in her dad's life that was praiseworthy.

God opened her eyes to her dad's tender heart of compassion. Because he so often felt out of control, he understood others caught in the trap of addiction. The woman was touched to watch her dad, in his sober moments, reaching out to encourage the down-and-out. She expressed high esteem for that quality in him. And he responded in brokenness and love.

Ask the Lord to help you "see" the qualities in your parent worth esteeming.

3. Express Kindness

Most parents experience the hard knocks of life and some develop a hard shell to protect themselves. One way to break through the shell and gain their trust is to express kindness.

Kindness is a given for the believer. God's children are to "put on" kindness regularly (Colossians 3:12), and the Spirit of God enables us to be kind (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul said, "Be kind to one another...." (Ephesians 4:32a), and there's no better proving ground for kindness than in the family.

How can you show your mom (or dad) kindness today in a way that will touch their heart? 

4. Practice Forgiveness

The other half of Ephesians 4:32 includes these words: "...forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

This is a tough one for many adult children. Parents fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and need the grace of God to transform their lives . . . just like their children. (Parents fall short of their own expectations, too, not just their offspring's' expectations.)

Deep wounds in the home linger like old, unsightly baggage. They threaten to destroy relationships.

But Christians are not left without hope. We learn forgiveness from the Savior who forgave us on the cross and continues to forgive (Luke 23:34a). He is our model of forgiving grace. We CAN forgive parents for hurting and wounding usin Christ. 

Forgiveness does not take hurts lightly or excuse them. Forgivenessyielding to the Lord our pain, bitterness and angerhands over hurts to the Lord, the righteous Judge, who handles all offenses in His own time and way.

Do you need to forgive your mom (or dad)? Can you trust the Lord to enable that?

5. Seek Wisdom

It's common today for grown children to proudly reject their parent's wisdom, but it's foolish when they do. Even the most ungodly of parents can teach their children practical wisdom in some area of life.

The Bible pairs youth with foolishness and age with wisdom (Job 12:12; Proverbs 20:29) for a good reason. They have walked the path and experienced many of the potholes! In general, parents have learned a thing or two, and a wise adult child will intentionally seek out this knowledge and apply it.

When facing a big decision, seek your mom (or dad's) wisdomeven if you decide, ultimately, not to "receive" it as your own wisdom.

Think about what your mom (or dad) has been through. Is there some question you might ask to gain wisdom for your own life? 

6. Offer Support

There are many ways to offer a parent support that have nothing to do with finances.

For one, we can let them know we still "see" them. They haven't become invisible. There's nothing more troubling to the elderly than being older and isolatedalone and lonely. The psalmist expressed this in terms of feeling "forsaken" (Psalm 71:9).

The adult child can assure parents of ongoing love, concern and emotional support. Healthy support includes encouraging words and actions. Perhaps an occasional note or letter. A phone call. An encouraging text message.

"Be there" for them as they become feeble. Understand how devastating their loss of independence can be and allow them to do as much as they are able to do. Be their "backup system."

Validate their emotions, even if you can't understand them. Listen with compassioneven if they tell the same story for the umpteenth time.

If parents are believers, encourage them to "bear fruit" in their old age (Psalm 92:14). One of the most godly women I know was a fervent prayer soldier. Another mentored younger women as long as she could. Consider if there's some way to help them be more "fruitful" in ministry.

Where does your mom (or dad) need your emotional support? How can you be creative and offer it in practical ways?

7. Provide Assistance

In 1 Timothy 5:3-8, Paul reminds Timothy to honor widows in the local church. He addresses two principles regarding provision. Children are to provide a "return" to parents and family members are to "provide" for members of the household.

The overarching principle is this: Don't let a family member struggle with needed provisions. That doesn't mean we cater to every want and whim, or indulge foolish appetites. We don't want to contribute to foolish choices. But we do come alongside to figure out how we might help with legitimate needs.

We may have limited resources ourselves, but there is always something we can share, some way we can assist in our loved one's care.

Think about your mom (or dad). Is there some way you can provide assistance today? Do you need to ask some questions to see where the real needs lie?

Honoring our parents is our duty, but it can also be our delight as we ask the Lord for His heart of compassion and begin to see Mom and Dad through His eyes.

If you are estranged from your parent, the Lord
 can change that in an instant, or over time. 
But in the meantime, is there another "mom" or "dad" 
who has influenced your life and nourished your growth? 
Don't forget to honor them too!


Trifling with Eternity

I had a great discussion with a friend after church about 1 John 3:2-3. 

Jesus will return...
 "and everyone who has this hope in Him 
purifies himself just as He is pure" (HCSB).

I grieved over a friend who is a believer who has absolutely no desire to break sinful habits and become more like Christ.
Shouldn't knowing Jesus will return motivate us to evaluate our hearts, root out sinful thoughts/habits, and desire to do (in the power of the Spirit) what He wants every day? 
I'm not talking about legalism, but rather grace-filled obedience.
None of us is perfect. 
We need God's mercy every day. 
But I can't fathom people calling Jesus "Lord" and then absolutely not caring about growing to be more like Him. 
We all are "prone to wander." 
That's why. . . 

My heart cry for myself, and for all my Christ-follower family and friends, is that we will truly live for Him and ENCOURAGE each other to live in light of His coming. (Titus 2:13)
The Bible teaches His return is imminent.... the time could be very short.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of trifling with eternity.
The same God who saved us wants to purify us. And I want to cooperate.
Don't you?
Graphic adapted courtesy of cohdra at Morguefile.


Building a "Zone" around Your Marriage

The media practically devoured Vice Present Mike Pence for his admission (in a 2002 piece for The Hill) that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and for other "boundary"-type choices.

Once again, the left was quick to criticize Pence and his wife Karen for their Christian choices.
Butfind this couple refreshing. In an anything-goes era, it is not so much their conservative, middle-America values that shine out, but rather their evangelical Christian discernment.

The Vice President is not a sexist, as the left claims. I'm sure he will deal with meetings with top female leaders (like England's Theresa May or Germany's Angela Merkel) in God-honoring ways.

He and his wife are not fools. They are concerned about integrity.

This power couple's overall commitment to each other and desire to protect that relationship should be applauded, not decried. 

Their "gut check" relationship protection is something to be admired, and it's not really that different from most conservative Christians who care about guarding their hearts and homes from harmful, even divisive distractions and temptation.

The scriptures are clear about the importance of "watching" out for temptation.
  • "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
  • "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).
  • "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
The heart connection between Mike and Karen Pence is genuine and exemplary. She is his subtle but influential partner, valued ally and consistent prayer warrior.

But back to their decision to not have Mike Pence meet alone with other womenI get that.

Pence, again in his interview with The Hill, said their decision is akin to "building a zone around your marriage." In this wicked culture, there are many opportunities for temptation to creep in, and appearances can be deadly as well. 

The practice of careful public boundaries has gone out of fashion with some, but it's still a valid choice.

My husband, a pastor for many years, would not counsel any female without his study door open and the church secretary at her desk in the adjacent room.

This was not only for his protection against possible false accusations, but also for the counselee's freedom. My husband did not want to give any "opportunity" for the enemy to destroy what was meant to be a positive counseling experience.

In reading about Karen Pence, I discovered she was married once, quite young. They grew apart, her former husband said, as he spent long hours at work. Perhaps this failed marriage is one reason Karen Pence is so committed to staying near the Vice President. Perhaps they know by building a "zone" around their marriage, they will actually experience greater freedom to serve others.

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a young bride came from a wise elderly woman in my husband's church:

"Guard your marriage," she said. 
"The enemy is real, and he would love to destroy your home."

For some people, that boundarythat zonemight be called a "hedge of protection." 
  • It presupposes there is something of value worth protecting. 
  • There's a desire to protect marriage from perceived or real threats--and that could take on many forms, like the "other woman/other man" or even pornography. 
  • Within this protection there is a greater sense of relational freedom centered in trust, not a lot of "what-ifs." 
  • It includes the concept of becoming accountability partners. (Even if both partners are not willing to build in protective boundaries, God can bless the efforts of the spouse who does.)
If you are married, recognize its value. Be sure to build strong boundarieshedges of protectionin your marriage. If you are not married, commit to protecting others' marriages. Don't allow yourself to become the "other."

Marriage is a portrait of Jesus' relationship with His church, 
and as such it is precious and valuable, well worth guarding.

I think it's up to Christians to determine what that "guarding" looks like as a couple. For the Vice President and his loyal wife, that means clear boundaries.

  - Graphic, adapted from Leylandii Hedge, Evergreen Hedging.


No Bunnies Died for Me

It's almost Easter (or what I prefer to call "Resurrection Day").

And everywhere I look, I see bunnies. Chicks. Chocolate eggs and jelly beans. 

But so few lambs. 

I enter into the secularized fun of the season. Pinterest is full of ideas for a colorful holiday. I color eggs and create lovely spring bouquets and wreaths.

But once you know the real story, everything else misses the mark.

This special week is all about a perfect Lamb.

It's about Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), the prophesied Savior, the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

The Old Testament prophesied the coming of this Messiah, the anointed One and our "guilt offering" (Isaiah 53:10). The perfect Savior would provide "atonement"--reconciliation between God and man (Romans 5:10-11; Hebrews 2:17; 1 Peter 2:24). He who knew no sin would "be sin" on our behalf to bring us to God (2 Corinthians 5:19, 21; Galatians 1:4).

I remember the first time I fully understood the significance of the Jewish Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:11-13) and the feast of the Passover. This Jewish celebration commemorated the Israelites' deliverance from bondage. The applying of the blood of the Passover lamb to the doorposts of the Israelites' houses, which was to protect them from destruction by the angel of death, was a meaningful picture of the coming Messiah's work as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7b).

Later, the Jewish priests sacrificed innocent lambs daily in the Temple in Jerusalem to cover the people's sins until the promised Lamb of God arrived on the scene (Exodus 29:38-42). That Lamb would be led to the slaughter to redeem or ransom His people (Isaiah 53:7; Jeremiah 11:19; 1 Timothy 2:6). In other words, the chosen Lamb would deliver His people from bondage to sin by paying the ultimate price, His own death for us.

When Jesus was ready to begin His ministry, John the Baptist declared Him the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When our Lord died, His blood "covered" those for whom He died--all who believe (John 3:16-17; Romans 3:23-25a). There is no more "spiritual death" for those who trust in His once-and-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 10:11-12).

I know this whole concept bothers some people.

As a child, I wanted nothing to do with this "bloody sacrifice." I thought God too cruel to demand it. I thought I should be able to somehow "earn" my way into acceptance with Him.

It took me many years to clearly see the ugliness of sin that separated me from a holy God (Romans 3:23; 6:23), that His perfect provision for my soul required a blood sacrifice (Leviticus 17:11). I had to understand the depths of my Father's love (1 John 4:10).

As the apostle Peter explained,
"...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 forefathers, 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" (1 Peter 1:18-21, NIV).
No bunnies died for me. Only the perfect Lamb.
No bunnies were buried in a borrowed tomb for three days, and then raised from the dead to release me from my darkness and bondage to sin. No bunnies ever gave me eternal life. Only Jesus did these things (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Only the perfect Lamb.

The Lamb who became my Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

He is our worthy Redeemer (Revelation 5:9), and I will thank and praise Him forever.

"Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us 
to share in the inheritance of the saints 
(God's people) in the Light. 
For He has rescued us and has drawn us to Himself 
from the dominion of darkness, 
and has transferred us 
to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 
in whom we have redemption 
[because of His sacrifice, resulting in]
the forgiveness of our sins
[and the cancellation of sins' penalty" 
(Colossians 1:12-14, Amplified).


Let's Not Sanitize the Cross

"A real Christian is known not by the cross he wears," Steve Lawson said, "but by the cross he bears."

I have three crosses in my jewelry box. My favorite is a black cross with a silver "X" across the cross bars. It reminds me Jesus cancelled out the ugliness of my sin, and I bear the consequences of my sin no more.

I don't wear my jewelry crosses often, but when I do, I always reflect on why the cross is so important. It's a reflection of the One who loved me enough to die for me, and also a reminder there is a "cross" Jesus expects me to carry as His disciple.

The world sees this "symbol" of Christianity without giving it much thoughtexcept for those in other religions who try to stamp out the "people of the cross."

But go back some 2,000 years ago and a cross made everyone shudder!

It was a means of execution, an ugly and repulsive symbol of death. Victims suffered during this method of capital punishment for days, eventually dying from exhaustion and asphyxiation. 

So why is the cross such a sign of faith today? 

Christ-followers understand the cross, which was so full of meaning for Christians, is the powerful first chapter of the story of what Jesus did and continues to do for us (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 10:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23Colossians 3:1-4).
  • Chapter 1: the CROSS; the death of Christ to atone for the sins of mankind
  • Chapter 2: the RESURRECTION; the empty tomb
  • Chapter 3: the RETURN. Jesus coming back for His own so they can live with Him in eternity.
Without the cross, there isn't a gospel story. 

All have sinned and the soul that sins, the Bible says, only deserves death; but God demonstrated His love toward us in the death of His Son on the cross as our holy substitute (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4b; Romans 5:8). 

Remove the message of the cross from Christian theology and you have nothing left but an empty shell. A joyless, powerless religion.

In today's culture, Christians often reject uncomfortable topics like the sacrifice of the cross, preferring to focus on the love of Jesus. But the cross is crucial to our faith. 

People might say, "Oh, I prayed the sinner's prayer." But the sinner's prayer isn't the true basis for our salvation. There will be many "professing" Christians who never actually trusted Christ for salvation (Matthew 7:21-23). They trusted works, good feelings about God, positive thinking and countless other substitutes for God's provision.

Salvation is not about our works or even our "Christianized thoughts." It's all about what Jesus accomplished for us in paying the penalty for sin. There is no forgiveness, the scriptures say, without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). 
Bloodless Christianity is fake Christianity.
Sadly, I've noticed Christians, in the busyness of ministry, sometimes forget the power of the cross and the efficacy of the blood of the spotless Lamb (1 Peter 1:18-19). 

If you are a Christ-follower:
  • Do you recognize how estranged from God and in rebellion to Him you were before He rescued you? 
  • Do you understand the power of the gospel, not just for salvation, but for victorious daily living?
I have to admit, sometimes I act just like those who never experienced the power of the cross. I resort to old "works living" and lose the joy of trusting the Lord moment-by-moment for His plans and His strength.

But, praise God, there is power in the blood of Jesus. Remember the old hymn?

Would you be free from your burden of sin? 
There's power in the blood, power in the blood. 
Would you o'er evil a victory win? 
There's wonderful power in the blood. *
It's almost Good Friday ... a time:
  • To pause and reflect,
  • To remember, and 
  • To praise God with gratitude.
"Every time you see a cross," Dr. Charles Stanley wrote, "remember what it really was."

Let's not "sanitize" the cross. 

And remember too: unlike others who were crucified, Jesus was not a "victim" of the cross. 

While we were "yet sinners," Jesus chose to die for us (Romans 5:8). Our Lord was willing to endure the horrors of the cross, despising (disregarding) the shame" for our salvation (Hebrews 12:2; John 15:13). Five times in John 10:10-18, we learn Jesus willingly gave Himself up to the cross for our salvation. In the prophecy of the Messiah in Psalm 40, we "hear" Christ saying He delighted to do His Father's will (Psalm 40:7-8).

Your redemption was birthed in His pain 
so your new birth could abide in His joy.

Oh, I have a "cross" to bear in this life, I need to put to death my own plans and desires and commit my life fully to my Lord (Luke 9:23; 14:27). 

But my "cross" is nothing compared to the cross my Savior bore. It had eternal consequences for all humanity.

"Thank Jesus that He was willing to be crucified," Stanley wrote, "so the Father could forgive you of sin." 

Let's do that right now:

Lord Jesus, give me a fresh vision of the cross. 
Help me see it from the Father's eyes. 
Thank you, Father God. 
Thank you, Jesus.

- Charles Stanley Quotes from 
* Hymn: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/1009 


Satan's False Premises and Promises

Like slick, conniving snake oil salesmen of days gone by, modern-day sales reps and advertisements
can also offer too-good-to-be-true promises.

Satan was the original snake oil salesman, promising Eve one thing, but giving her quite another (Genesis 3:1-6). 

Though his words were partially true, he meant something entirely different. His premise was selfish and a terrible reflection on God. And the devil's promise was false too.

Here are some EXAMPLES of how our enemy works:
  1. He uses lies to blind the spiritual eyes of people so they will not understand the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4), and he hinders our gospel witness to them (Matthew 13:19).
  2. He keeps people in bondage to sin (the "gods" we set up in our lives) so they will not respond to the Lord (Galatians 4:8).
  3. He lies about and slanders God, casting doubt on His words, and ultimately, His goodness (Genesis 3:4-5).
  4. He uses "sons of the evil one" (even "fake" Christians) to deceive people and create disunity in the Body of Christ (Matthew 13:38-39; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). 
  5. He encourages us to believe false doctrines (lies) and compromise biblical theology (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
  6. Our adversary prowls, cleverly using our weaknesses (and even strengths) to set us up for ultimate failure and destruction (1 Peter 5:6-8). 
  7. He tempts us to deceitfully impress people, rather than live authentically for the Lord (Acts 5:3; John 8:44).
  8. The evil one outright tempts us to do wicked things (Matthew 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), because he's a destroyer of all that is good and holy.
  9. He slanders Christians before the Lord (Revelation 12:10), especially after he "sifts" us to see how committed we are, and we give in to temptation (Luke 22:31).
  10. He uses emotional turmoilespecially discouragement, doubt, depression and despairto attempt to cripple us (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
  11. He instigates persecution for our faith and godliness (Revelation 2:10).
  12. He tries to confuse our minds and steer us away from the simplicity of Christ and power of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11;3).
  13. He subtly suggests we ignore (or even thwart) what God desires to do (Matthew 16:21-23).
  14. He promises thrills outside God-given boundaries for sexual intimacy (2 Timothy 2:20-211 Corinthians 7:5).
  15. Our enemy constantly fights our progress in Christ (Ephesians 6:12). He attempts to rob Christians of joy, peace, happiness, purpose and a host of other things the Lord wants to bless believers with in their walk with Christ. 
At the base of all his other agendas, Satan wants us to worship and serve anything and anyone other than our Father in heaven, and to believe anything other than the pure Word of God. 

He wants us to find satisfaction in things other than what God provides for us. He lures us to value anything or anyone more than Christ. 

When we succumb to our enemy's temptation to yield to misplacedeven addictivedesires, we will likely end up broken or damaged, maybe even destroyed.
Basically, the enemy uses false premises and promises to make us FUNCTIONING IDOLATERS.
Dr. Tim Keller wrote:

"Sin isn't only doing bad things, 
it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. 
Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, 
even a very good thing, more than on God. 
Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. 
Sin is primarily idolatry."

Beyond Satan's lies, he uses other means in his attempts to destroy us. He is a murderer (John 8:44). He uses fleshly afflictions and diseases to harass us and try to shut down our effectiveness (Job 2:7; 2 Corinthians 12:7). And Satan tempts believers to find quick fixesunbiblical answersfor their problems. Then he robs them of joy, peace, happiness, purpose and a host of other things God has for His children.

So how are we to deal with Satan's agenda to conquer us?

We must never take Satan or his agenda to destroy us lightly. 
What lies of the enemy are you believing today? What are the false premises and promises that may have ensnared you and hindered your worship and service for the Lord?