Category Archives: the Cross

The Should’ve Beens That Weren’t

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The cross. I could rhapsodize on that one subject for the rest of eternity and still not have covered everything that could be said about it. The same holds true for the resurrection. Those two topics are a source of endless fascination for me, because Christ was willing to go through the agony and shame of the cross, regardless of the pain and suffering that it meant for Him, because He knew what was coming. And I’m thinking that Satan didn’t know what was coming, because of what it says in 1 Corinthians 2,

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, KJV.

I love this passage. For one thing it tells me that the devil is not omniscient. So while he is powerful, he’s not all-powerful, and he’s certainly not as powerful as God is. And this passage also says pretty specifically that it was Satan, through evil man, that crucified Jesus Christ, just in case there was any doubt.

Because of the cross there are all kinds of should’ve beens that didn’t happen. Like I should’ve gone to Hell, but I won’t, thank God. Like one of my nine suicide attempts should’ve worked, but they didn’t, praise God. Like one of my mother’s attempts to kill me should’ve succeeded, but didn’t, thank God. Like I could’ve been abandoned by God, but wasn’t, amazingly. Like I should’ve been the one who was crucified instead of Jesus Christ, but wasn’t, incredibly.

That last one, that I should’ve been the one who was crucified instead of Jesus Christ, gives me pause when I consider it. I don’t like to admit that I’m a sinful person. No one does. But I am. I’m full of pride. I play online games more than I should, and I’ve refused to stop playing them when I’ve sensed that my playing them isn’t pleasing to God. I don’t read my Bible nearly enough, nor do I spend enough time fellowshipping with God. I also watch far too much TV, to the exclusion of doing other things that need to be done, like cleaning my apartment, and washing the dishes.

It was my sin, and the sin of the rest of humanity that put Christ on that cross, and it was His love for me and everyone else that kept Him there. I find that kind of love incredibly difficult to understand. That someone would be willing to go through that kind of hellish agony for me, so I wouldn’t have to, is unfathomable to me, and there’s only one possible response I can make to such a gift. I could reject it, but I’d be a fool to do so. So I choose to receive it, and praise and thank God for it.

Hallelujah!!

It’s All About Gratitude, Difficulties Notwithstanding

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I did it. I finally took a shower.

I’m very grateful to God for helping me to finally get it done. I played worship music the whole time, and doing that made it so much easier.

I find that an attitude of gratitude makes things so much easier, especially the really hard things. Over the years, being grateful to God for all that He’s done for me has helped me to put my life into perspective in so many ways.

Anything bad that happens to me now, regardless of how bad it is, doesn’t hold a candle to the bad stuff that I had to endure when I was little, because now I’m old enough and strong enough to be able to handle it. When I was a child I didn’t have the resources, physically or emotionally, to be able to deal with the onslaught of terror and horror that constantly overwhelmed me. Sometimes I feel like I can’t handle it now, but if I think about it logically, I know I can, especially if I keep my eyes on the LORD, my God, my Jesus.

As long as I don’t take my eyes off Jesus, and keep on listening to that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Kings 19:12), and keep on trusting in God and leaning on His strength and not my own, I know I’ll be alright.

And most of all, I thank God for the Cross!

The Gospel Without Jargon

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Jargon is defined as special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand. This phenomenon is common in Christian circles, and is known as Christianese (in legal circles it’s called legalese, for example).

One of the common Christianese phrases I’ve heard, but never understood, is, “more of Him, and less of me.” What does that mean? The picture that comes to mind when I think about it is one of me turning into a round mass of jello on the floor when I become less and Jesus becomes more, kind of like someone who has no muscles, so they turn into a ball of flesh and become completely ineffectual.

I can’t figure out if it means I’m supposed to become invisible, or just what it means. If I’m invisible, then how can I, or God for that matter, anything get done ~ like witnessing, for example? Jesus isn’t going to come and do it Himself. He told us to do it. It’s called the Great Commission,

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:18-20, NLT.

It doesn’t say that Jesus will go out and make disciples, and take us with Him as He does it. It says that we are to go out and make disciples, and He will go with us. And if I’m invisible, I doubt that anyone will want to listen to anything I have to say, because they’ll be too busy running from me in terror because they’ll think I’m a ghost.

Then recently, one of my favorite Christian artists, Casting Crowns, came out with a new song, called Only Jesus, that showed me the answer to my problem. Below is one of the verses from the song that sorts it out for me:

Did I live the truth to the ones I love? // Was my life the proof that there is only one? // Whose name will last forever // Only Jesus.

And the chorus from the song reminds me of what’s most important:

And I, I don’t want to leave a legacy // I don’t care if they remember me // Only Jesus.

In other words, and this is where less of me and more of Him comes in, I want people to remember Jesus when they think of me now, and after I’m gone, as well. I can’t save anyone, or heal anyone, but Jesus can, and His name will last forever, while nothing I say or do will last beyond the minute I’ve said or done it. Jesus is the One to remember, not me.

ONLY JESUS!!

 

The Face of My Beloved

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There is nothing I desire more than meeting Jesus face to face. For me Philippians 1 and Philippians 3 say it best,

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. ~ Philippians 1:21, NIV.

All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of His resurrection, to share in His sufferings and become like Him in his death… ~ Philippians 3:10, GNT.

To stay here is to glorify God, and give witness to the saving grace and healing power of Jesus Christ. To die is far better, because then I would be where I most desire to be: in the presence of Jesus, meeting Him face to face.

There is nothing better!

 

As Far As the East Is From the West

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I was driving to a friend’s house the other night (about 3 a.m. on May 28th), and listening to the radio as I was driving. I forget if it was a song, or something the DJ said, but whatever it was, it got me thinking about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west”, which is a phrase used in Psalm 103,

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12, NKJV.

So then I started thinking of all these questions: can you reach the east if you start in the west? Can you reach the west if you start in the east? I mean, you can reach the North Pole if you start from the South Pole, and vice versa, so why can’t you reach the east from the west? The problem is, there is no East Pole, nor is there a West Pole to use as starting points, as there is with the North and the South Poles.

So maybe being able to physically travel from west to east, or from east to west, isn’t the point of the idea.

What is the point, then?

When I asked myself that question, I started thinking about the images that come to mind when I think about the phrase, “as far as the east is from the west…”. Things like the infinitude of God’s love, and the limitless quality of His mercy. Most particularly, however, the image that comes to mind is that of Christ on the cross with His arms stretched out from east to west. It says in the Book of John,

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. ~ John 15:13, NKJV.

Jesus Christ’s whole purpose for stepping down from the Majesty on High and coming to earth was to go to the cross and take humanity’s place, to take the punishment for our sin. That’s how much God loved us, that He would plan, with His Son and the Holy Spirit, from the foundation of the world, to deal with the problem of sin by sending Jesus to earth to take our place and assume our punishment. And a terrible punishment it was, because our sin was terrible. It still is, but Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to take care of all of it for all time.

To me, this is beauty personified.

Oh my! When I think of that I’m left speechless! I am a sinful person. I’m full of pride, and I make mistakes all the time, every day. One of my many favorite verses in the Bible is from Romans 7,

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~ Romans 7:24, NKJV.

I can so well relate to the Apostle Paul here! The preceding verses describe my day-to-day, sometimes minute-to-minute existence. Romans 7 portrays it so well,

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. ~ Romans 7:19, NLT.

It’s almost as if God was watching me when He told Paul to write that passage of Scripture! And yet, He loves me and wants me, regardless of my sinfulness.

I thank God for that everyday and in every way.

New Mercies Every Morning

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One of my favorite passages of scripture is from the Book of Lamentations (a short little five chapter book in the Old Testament right after the Book of Jeremiah),

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:21-23, NIV.

I love knowing that God has new mercies and fresh compassion for me every single day. It’s wonderful to know that His faithfulness towards me is such that I never have to worry that I might wake up one morning and find out that God is having a bad day. God isn’t capricious like my father was. I could never tell from one minute to the next how my father would be feeling, and therefore how he would treat me.

My father was diametrically opposite from, and opposed to, everything about God. The most dependable thing about my father was that you couldn’t depend on him for anything.

But God is everything my father wasn’t, and He never changes. It says this in a number of different ways throughout the Bible, and I am so very grateful and thankful to God for His constancy and faithfulness. The Book of Hebrews says,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8, ESV.

It says in the Book of Numbers,

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? ~ Numbers 23:19, NLT.

And one of my all-time favorites,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. ~ James 1:17, KJV.

Last, but certainly not least,

35, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36, As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37, No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:35-39, NIV.

The Old Testament verse referenced in Verse 36 comes from the Book of Psalms,

Yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. ~ Psalm 44:22, NIV.

It’s extremely comforting to me to know that it’s impossible to separate me from Christ’s love, that God won’t let anything, ANYTHING, come between me and Him, and He’s proven that to me too many times to count. The most obvious confirmation, of course, is the cross, but just the fact that He’s been with me and kept me alive all my life ~ even when I didn’t know Him ~ is all the evidence I need, even if I didn’t have the cross. But I thank God for the cross!

 

Author and Finisher

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I love the phrase, “…the author and finisher of our faith…” in Hebrews 12:2. It’s talking about Jesus, of course. I like the way the NIV puts it,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of [our] faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV.

It’s like my faith ~ my story ~ is a book, and Jesus is its author. He’s the One who began my story, and He’s the One who will finish it, as it says in Philippians,

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. ~ Philippians 1:6, NLT.

I love the Bible. It always tells the truth. The verses I quoted above tell the truth about God’s activity in my life. And the cardinal truth can be found in this verse in Hebrews,

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5, NLT.

Throughout my life ~ through all the abuse, all the times my mother tried to kill me, all the horrendous and terrible things my father did to me, all my suicide attempts, even during the period where I was enraged at God ~ through all of it, God was there, keeping me alive, shielding me from the worst of the abuse, and even protecting me from myself.

He’s never failed me, He’s never forsaken me, He’s never abandoned me, plus He’s given me beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, as it says in Isaiah,

To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. ~ Isaiah 61:3, NKJV.

God has given me so much beauty in my life! He’s been so incredibly good to me, and He continues to be so on a daily, minute-by-minute basis. The cross is the best, most beautiful gift He could ever give me. It’s the best demonstration of true love anyone could ever give to another person, as it says in the Gospel of John,

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. ~ John 15:13, NLT.