THE CROSS – LOVE IN ACTION…

Love in action
The cross shows Jesus practiced what he preached (Image source: JahMarthepoet)

We sacrifice for those we love. We would go hungry so the loved one can eat; we would deny ourselves luxury, so as to meet the needs of the loved one; we would persevere pain so the loved one can have a better life – love is a great motivator.

Love is the motive that sent Jesus to the cross. Its not a complicated story – humanity chose independence from God; without this central guide, we have billions of people defining their purpose for living in billions of different ways. Every choice has consequences, the more the choice is based only on what I need without considering the needs of others, the more we fight and hurt one another.

Jesus says in Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV): “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

Jesus preached that love is the greatest commandment, and was severely tested if he practiced what he preached. He was full of compassion and love for the suffering masses he preached to; and when some opposed him because his light and honesty revealed their lies and greed, he did not lift up a finger to hurt them.

Jesus words while he was being tortured on the cross, included this prayer note in Luke 23:34 (NIV): “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” At the cross, Jesus continued to love everyone, including those who were torturing him. The cross is the great evidence that Jesus practiced what he preached.

Lord God, teach us to love in this difficult world, Amen!   

HEALING AT THE CROSS

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I have struggled with weight for decades. As a teenager, my first reason for getting involved in sports was not really for the fun of it but to lose weight – it was an obsessive concern always at the front of my mind. It was so unfair that some friends I had could eat as much as I did but did not get overweight.

Why would God create a world where some have to struggle with being fat, and the unwinnable battle of weight control? The Bible’s answer was that God created a perfect world under his guardianship, but humans made a choice to be independent, and this has led to a multitude of problems at the individual and societal level.

If this was the end of the Bible’s message, I would have been depressed for life. Happily the Bible states in Colossians 1:13-20 (shortened): “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of his Son, whom he loves… God was pleased to have all of himself live in Christ. God was also pleased to bring everything on earth and in heaven back to himself through Christ. He did this by making peace through Christ’s blood sacrificed on the cross.”

The cross on which Jesus died becomes the crossroad, for those who wish to return to a life lived in partnership with God, and those who wish to remain independent of God. How does a life with God solve my weight problem. It has taught me that a day is coming when my body will be healed of all its shortcomings.

The cross healed the separation between God and us, heaven and earth, and provides us a path back to a perfect humanity, praise God – Amen!   

THE CROSS – SYMBOL AND MESSAGE

 

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Unstoppable Jesus of the Cross (Image source: ChristUnstoppable

 

The cross is often viewed as a symbol of Christianity. The symbol represents our belief that Jesus died on a cross. The cross reminds us that Jesus died by crucifixion, a painful method of death used for criminals by the Roman government. To many Christians wearing the cross as jewelry is an expression of their faith.

We use symbols to represent things – a place, an idea, a command, and sometimes a person. A flag could represent an organization or a country; a red traffic light commands drivers to stop. The meaning of a symbol is determined by the designers and by those who have been given authority to protect the symbol.

Where do we go to understand the Christian cross? We go to the Bible, which says in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (GW Translation): “Jews ask for miraculous signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but our message is that Christ was crucified. This offends Jewish people and makes no sense to people who are not Jewish. But to those Jews and Greeks who are called, he is Christ, God’s power and God’s wisdom.”

Jesus was crucified on a cross, and this horrible event became an opportunity to observe God’s supreme power and wisdom. Those who opposed Jesus, tortured and killed him in the worst possible way. To their surprise, he rose from the dead, proving that he is unstoppable – one of the key messages of the Christian cross.

While the Christian cross might be a mere symbol or piece of jewelry to some, the Bible teaches that it provided the opportunity for us to witness the greatness of God’s power and wisdom. At the cross, those who opposed Jesus thought they had silenced him forever; Jesus instead proved at the cross that he is unstoppable.

Lord, help us to get to know this unstoppable Jesus of the cross, Amen!

THE JESUS TRUTH…

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Jesus is TRUTH (Image source: BayPresbyterianChurch)

 

As a child I often thought about the word ‘truth’. I asked myself what does the word ‘truth’ mean? My fascination was partly because at Church I would hear the preacher say “Jesus is the truth” and the sentence just did not make any sense to me. How can a person be ‘truth’? What is this ‘truth’ they are talking about?

When I was a little older, I found that John 14:6 (NIV) reads: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”. So, my question became – what does Jesus mean in claiming to be ‘truth’.

The most direct meaning of truth is to accurately report an event that has happened – no adding or removing of facts, tell the story correctly. Another meaning of truth is to see clearly, and to hear clearly. Was John wearing a red, blood red, or wine red shirt? Mary whispered she wants sugar, did she say two or three cubes?

Accurate reporting depends on accurate seeing and hearing, meaning that truth depends on accurate observation. Before Jesus, the people of Israel depended on prophets and priest to tell them about their God Yahweh. These prophets and priests had seen God in visions, in dreams, and through short visits from God.

On the other hand, Jesus claims to have been with God from the beginning; Jesus  claims to be God the Son; meaning whatever Jesus says about God Yahweh is perfectly accurate. If what the prophets and priests say is confusing, the people need to listen to Jesus, he has perfect understanding of God Yahweh, he is TRUTH.

Christianity is about worshiping God Yahweh, and Jesus is the messenger with accurate perfect knowledge of God Yahweh. So he is the way to understand the truth about God Yahweh. This is why Christians everywhere have to get to know Jesus – get to know the things he did, and said, and promised, he is TRUTH.

Lord Jesus, teach us about you as we read about you in our Bibles, Amen!       

MIRIAM’S SONG AND DANCES

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Miriam’s joy in the Lord (Image source: thoughtsofgrace)

 

No one doubts that air, food, and water are essential to life. However, not many look at singing and dancing in the same way. We sometimes think we sing and dance for fun and that is the end of it. In truth, we sing and dance for joy and if joy is essential to life, then singing and dancing are essential to life too.

There was an old woman who lived for 90 years in cruel slavery and bondage. She saw her parents suffer, she saw her uncles and aunts suffer, she lost a much loved brother, her years were filled with many tears and indescribable pain. Then one day, heaven came down in great power, and she was FREE at last!

That old woman, Miriam was her name, witnessed so much pain, she learnt to control her emotions with an iron will. When she was set free after 90 years, she decided to let the whole world know. The Living Bible says in Exodus 15:20-21:

“Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine and led the women in DANCES. And Miriam sang this song: Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously.  The horse and rider have been drowned in the sea.”

Yes, grandmother Miriam, iron lady Miriam, big sister to the great Aaron and the mighty Moses, let out her JOY with singing and DANCES. I bet there were many tears that day, tears of freedom, tears for those who died without tasting that freedom, tears of gratitude to almighty God that delivered them all from Pharaoh.

Heaven, please come down in power on our behalf; drown the horse and rider that is robbing us of sleep, of progress, of success, of joy; Lord, make us sing with DANCES like grandmother Miriam, in Jesus name, Amen!   

 

THE NECESSITY OF JOYFUL DANCE

Dance CS Lewis
Joyful Dance (Image source: biblestudytools.com)

 

King David was a deeply passionate man. We see this clearly from the Psalms he wrote. We find comfort, strength, and inspiration from the Psalms, partly because of the richness of emotions that come through David’s writing.

Psalm 30 celebrates God’s goodness and begins with: “I praise you, Lord, because you have saved me and kept my enemies from gloating over me. I cried to you for help, O Lord my God, and you healed me; you kept me from the grave. I was on my way to the depths below, but you restored my life.” (Psalm 30:1-3 Good News Translation)

It ends with these up lifting words: “You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. Lord, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:11-12 Good News Translation)

Like King David, we have all experienced, seasons of fear and sadness; but also seasons when we were ‘surrounded with joy‘. When we remember our seasons of joy, lets not forget to sing and dance – this helps us to heal, and to be strengthened to face tomorrow with fresh hope.

Lord, fill my life with singing and joyful dance, in Jesus name, Amen!  

 

A HUNGER FOR LASTING JOY

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Lasting Joy is in Jesus (Image source: gracecom.church)

 

I looked forward to turning 16, I was so happy on that day, and after that life returned to normal. I was full of excitement at getting my drivers license, after driving around for a few hours causing problems for other drivers, I came home exhausted and excitement gone. Happiness and excitement seem to last only for a short time.

If happiness and excitement fades, what about joy? Can I experience uplifting joy in my heart one moment and find that it is gone the next moment? Yes, when my joy is based on things that pass away like food, friends and family, romantic love. What will give me never ending joy must also have never ending power.

When Jesus was born thousands of years ago in Bethlehem, an angel appeared to shepherds protecting their sheep at night, and announced loudly: “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem!” (Luke 2:10-11 Living Bible). Why should this be joyful news to anyone?

Shepherds lived a difficult hard life like many people all over the world today; any leader who can make life better for the people, is a source of joy. A leader who can do this without end, is a source of lasting joy. Jesus came, did amazing things for people, and left – but the Bible teaches that Jesus WILL return.

Acts 1:9-11 (Living Bible) says:  “It was not long afterwards that he rose into the sky…  leaving them staring… suddenly two white-robed men were standing there… and said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has gone away to heaven, and some day, just as he went, he will return!” 

Dear God, Jesus WILL return is the source of lasting joy for Christians but this can be a hard thing to believe; help me in my unbelief to understand this, to accept it, and to experience the lasting joy it brings, Amen!