Gethsemane again

This morning as I spread jelly on a bagel, I heard stinging words that were hurled at me over a piece of toast years ago. Rather than launch me into anger,  those words – thank you, Jesus –  brought me back to a truth I realized many years ago, though it isn’t written into the Gospels. I’m not even sure this truth hit me at Easter, but when it  hit me, I fell to the floor in worship.

Think, Christian, of your Redeemer and Savior King kneeling in the dirt beneath the olive trees that night. Think of the lies, challenges to his identity, insults and slurs hurled against him by the “religious” power structure – just listen, and remember:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But  Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8: 3-11 NIV

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. Matthew 16: 1-4 NIV

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19: 3-9

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’[e]

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22: 15-46 NIV

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.  Luke 18: 31-34 NIV

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2: 23-25 NIV

Scripture enough, truth enough to remind us that throughout his ministry, Jesus was continually challenged, “traps”laid out to trip him up by the “religious” leaders who saw him as a  threat to their power base. Baseless,  senseless, unreasonable, self-centered, irrational, and yes, flat-out evil. These are the very ones Jesus came to save, to spill his blood for and redeem IF ONLY they  would recognize their sins and need of his atoning Blood, IF ONLY they would turn in true repentance and reverence to him, turn in true gratitude at least, if not in awe and wonder at such selfless, sacrificial, dauntless, courageous, relentless, passionate  love. What, if not this kind of love, would cause the ONE who knew HE WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB OF GOD to cry out FOR the people he would suffer and die for:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23: 37-39 NIV

So what thought came to me about  the thoughts of Jesus as he knelt there in Gethsemane? HE SAW YOU! HE SAW ME! HE KNEW OUR LOVE, HEARD OUR PRAYERS, HEARD OUR SONGS OF THANKS AND PRAISE! That’s what helped Jesus stay  the course and walk through the insults, the agony, the weight of OUR sin falling on HIM: that  we would see the truth,  embrace it  with joy and run to HIS forgiving, gracrious, merciful, true love!

And what was his grief? THAT SO MANY  WOULD NEVER SEE, NEVER RECOGNIZE, NEVER KNOW, NEVER UNDERSTAND, NEVER COME TO HIS LOVE FOR THEM! Oh, I feel that  same anguish! 

That’s the sole,  singular reason I write this blog: to tesitfy to GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS in fervent hope that some  who don’t know HIM may read this, see and  hear Him, and come to HIS passionate love for them. And so that those of us, you who read this and know HIM, may be encouraged to run with the great GOOD NEWS THAT JESUS SAVES! Don’t hide your lamp under a  bushel! Don’t say someone else will do it! Don’t say it isn’t your  calling, because IT IS YOUR CALLING! However you are grace-gifted, it is your calling! MAKE  JESUS KNOWN! MAKE  HIS LOVE AND TRUTH FAMOUS! DON’T STOP TILL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS – even your neighbor, even your brother-in-law, even your boss, even that person who hurls insults at you.

This is why about 25 of us ordinary  women gather every Monday morning to fervently sing and declare Scripture and passionately

pray for three hours for ALL THE WORLD TO KNOW THE AMAZING GRACE AND  SAVING  LOVE  OF GOD IN JESUS, OUR REDEEMER, SAVIOR, FRIEND, GOD AND KING!  Here’s  an ordinary  guy singing what we ordinary  girls  sing. Oh ordinary person, come to and lift up  your EXTRAORDINARY SAVIOR AND GOD!

Today, pray your own honest “…BUT GOD…” Lord, Jesus, Savior, I confess I’ve held back and not shared your love when I could, and I don’t know  why it scares me, unless I fear the rejection of people more than the approval of God. I’ve kept quiet, BUT NOW AS YOU HELP ME I WILL_______________________________________________________________, and Holy Spirit,  speak LOUD and CLEAR to me, in Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

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Don’t Bite the Bait of Offense! Stranger Danger! Grow Up, People!

 

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This black pot is key to a story of oppression, slavery, God’s providence, and miracle reconciliation! God wants to heal our land!

Satan peddles his baited hook of offense and self-righteousness, contempt and bitterness as “candy on a stick,” but IT IS POISON to your heart! Didn’t your parents tell you not to take candy from a stranger???!!! Satan is the Stranger Danger, the enemy of every one of us.! Wake up, wake up,to the true enemy of your soul!

The Armor of God
11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.…  Ephesians 6: 11-13

In the face of the insanity going on in Charlottesville, Virginia, I lift up The God of Providence, happening across the country, and if you want to be riveted and changed by a story of Almighty God bringing miraculous reconciliation after over a hundred years, go to the website of The God of Providence and by all means, invite Matt Lockett and Will Ford to your church! What happened in Cleveland, Ohio in this photo happened at Victory Worship Center in Tucson last year, and I testify to it because I was there in the throng that, after hearing this incredible story, rushed the altar, weeping, shoes thrown off, kneeling, hands raised, crying out for God’s Divine Intervention in our nation to bring true CLEANSING AND HEALING of these ancient wounds from the enemy of ALL of our souls! Lord God help us let God’s righteous, merciful, forgiving love overcome hate! “RED and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight!” Let’s grow up into Jesus who loves the WHOLE world!

Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a Great High Priest whose name is Love, who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is graven on his hand, my name is written on his heart; I know that while in Heaven he stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.

“I Know How Much It Costs”

There I was at six in the morning, our two dogs Jenga and Katie ahead of me tugging at their leashes, eager to blaze a trail down the neighborhood sidewalks. I used the otherwise mindless time for intercessory prayer for lots of people and nations on my heart list, but I wasn’t expecting God to speak over and into ME.

Two years earlier I’d said a hug-filled, tearful goodbye to my older son, daughter-in-love, and their two-year-old son, my only grandchild, as they left to follow their calling, at the end of eleven years of higher education, literally on the other side of the world. I was proud of them both,  but that didn’t make it any easier in knowing that it would be years before I’d see them again. Would my grandson even know me?

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, we were  able to video call them, but that wasn’tanywhere nearly the  same as holding my grandson in my arms or giving his mom and dad big hugs and sharing time with them in parks, at  the zoo, camping  together, or  baking  them cakes for their  birthdays. I had so many questions for God over those two years, but still  that morning I stopped in my tracks when in my spirit I heard the Holy Spirit quietly, simply say, “I know how much it costs you.”

The rush of love I felt lifted me and lifted at least a big part of the burden of loss I’d carried. After hearing those seven simple words, it was so much easier for me to live with the ongoing separation. God DID know and God DID care about how much it cost me, cost them,and cost my daughter-in-law’s family,too. Just knowing God valued our community sacrifice placed a  fresh peace in my heart.

Little did I know  that would be the easiest loss I’d have to bear in the next eleven years. Two even more painful,  permanent losses were ahead of me. NOTE:  I’m not writing today to gain anyone’s “sympathy,”  but to consider a question we don’t  generally hear God asking us: “Do you know how much it cost me to send my Son Jesus to die in your place on the cross?”

I think we skillfully skirt the question by thinking, “Well, God is God, after  all, and he doesn’t feel the  things I feel. Besides, he knew Jesus would be back in Heaven with him when it  was all over. And Jesus was God as  well as man, so it  didn’t hurt him like it  would have hurt a real human being ….”

Don’t kid yourself! Where do you think we get our capacity to love, to care, and  to feel emotional pain and loss, if not from the very core and nature and essence of God, placed  by God within us? I suspect our tendency when  life pierces us with grief, pain, disappointments and loss is to put the blame on God. Really? Does God make you choose your choices? If you freely make your  choices, then so does  every other  human being on the planet, including those people who through loss or wounding in their  own lives or, yes, through the influence of evil – which DOES  exist  and has a mindful, intentional source hell-bent on perverting God’s creation.

The two painful losses  I’ve  felt since then came through wounded people who sought some kind of balm for their pain apart from the  healing and deliverance and love God himself wanted and still wants to give them. Their projected pain  destroyed two marriages, one by divorce, and one by death. Neither loss was “easy”  to bear.so the  question to me became where I would  “lay blame” and what I would do with my grief  and pain. I’ve decided, and frankly, this has been an ongoing act of my will (okay, stubbornness, because I WILL choose love) and my hope in God’s transforming goodness, that  I WILL NOT swallow Satan’s baited hook of offense and let bitterness poison my heart toward those who made destructive  choices OR toward God.

Oh yes,  I’ve asked God WHY countless times, and he’s heard my cries of anguish. I go back again to those seven words I heard twelve years  ago, “I know how much it costs you.”I know this, too:  part of my pain from the first loss comes from my own human weakness in not being able to totally surrender the process and outcome to God much,much earlier in the journey.  And on God’s behalf, he has continually  told me what he told me on December 6, 2012,”You’re worth fighting for,” three months later”You are my chosen child,” and after that, “Do not fear what man tries to do to you,” and “I’m trying to bless you. You have to LET me,”  and God showed me through the many  “coincidences” I’ve written about on this blog, that he is  still with me, he still  loves me, and he has, somehow, redemptive transforming plans and redemptive purposes for goodness greater than I can see now. Satan does plan to kill,steal anddestroy, but Jesus more powerfully cameandcomes with abundant life. I remind myself that Satan has absolutely no reason to harrass and hassle people who already belong to/got hooked and deceived by him. He has plenty of reason to try to dislodge God’s  people who live out their God-given purposes  from believing that God truly  does love them and has plans to turn what Satan ploanned for evil for their good. (Romans 8:28) I personalize that – in all things God IS WORKING for my good as his child who loves him, is deeply loved by him and is  called by his purposes.

It often boils down to “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That and the knowledge that yes, it  cost God more than any of us can begin  to fathom or grasp to send Jesus  here, God in the flesh, to live out the healing, deliverance,  and life-infusing purpose and love  ABBA God wants to give to each person on Earth.

That, and the knowledge that it grieves God, wounds God, pains God when we  reject  his gift of transforming love and eternal life  and  forever  relationship with him through accepting Jesus’ sacrifice  in our place. Grace is free, but don’t ever think that it came cheap. It cost Almighty God more  than we can begin to fathom. And don’t think that you can  receive that gift  without a cost to you: recognizing, through genuine fact-facing surrender of your self-righteousness that yes, you are  sinful by nature,  then through repentance, that you could never be pure or righteous enough or do enough “good deeds” to EARN  relationship with an unimaginably holy, pure, righteous, powerful, just God,andthen receivingthe  gift of  salvation Jesus paid for FOR you. Oh,how that grates on  our American  “I can pull myself up by my bootstraps” self-sufficiency and self-determination. God is love, but/and/while he is all of that, he is likewise perfect, fiery holiness, purity, righteousness, authority, and justice as well. He satisfied all of his nature without compromise when Jesus  took the punishment andpaid the penalty  for our sins, and that means MINE as well as YOURS.

The justice I seek is against my real enemy, Satan, the abuser and wounder and liar of  all liars and  perverter of all that is  good and holy and kind and loving and true. For  that reason I have given up “seeking justice”  on my own. If you’ve seen the recent movie”The Shack,” you  heard this, and I echo the truth that I DON’T WANT TO BE ANYBODY’S JUDGE! I save that for God alone, and I pray for  the true revelation of the price of God’s love and for true repentance that will lead the people who’ve  hurt  me straight into the Cross and arms and transforming love of Jesus.

Yes, it cost me. It  costs the price of living  with injustice even as I try to live out of and live out the love that God has lavishly given me. Expanded hearts  can feel more pain, but they can also receive,contain, and pour out more love.  Jesus did it first,  for YOU and me!

I heard Jason Gray sing this song live seven years ago just two miles from my house, in, yes, FREE concert tickets God gave me. Do you think HE knew I’d need to remember and cling onto this truth? I know I need to fearlessly run into the loving arms of the ONE who knows how much it costs me, and run to him fearlessly because I know how much it costs HIM to love me.

And yeah, absolutely, if you’d like to pray for me today, go for it! I admittedly,honestly need to be able to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly and trust God more fervently than I  do, and joyfully love while I’m waiting on HIS outcomes, knowing his desire for me is  to live in joy and hope in him! He paid for this, and I want to receive it fully!