Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Sorrow Bearer

5 "​​God thunders marvelously with His voice;He does great things which we cannot comprehend.6 ​​For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’;Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength.7 ​​He seals the hand of every man,That all men may know His work." Job 37: 5-7

Snow. Yes, we have seen much of it here in the last week. The flakes exquisitely meander toward the ground in the path God has chosen for each one. On a sunny day, the crystals in their brilliant sparkles remind we who have believed that our sins have been wiped away, washed as "white as snow." But not only did the Lord take away our sins, He also bore our griefs and sorrows.

The other morning I realized a solemn fact: if Christ bore all my grief and sorrow, then I do not need to walk around morose as if I must still bear them. In Matthew 8:16-17 it says:16 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

​​“He Himself took our infirmities ​​And bore our sicknesses.”

As I read in the notes of my study Bible, I found the word for "took" is lambano in the Greek. (#2983) which means: "to take in order to carry away, to remove." They are no longer mine to bear any more, for one day in human history, Jesus Christ actually took my infirmities, the weaknesses in His own precious body.

The word for "bore" is bastazo (#941) to bear or lift with the idea of removal

The meanings of these words are quite similar to the Hebrew word "nasa" which means: to bear, to take the debt of sickness and sin upon one's self and carry it as His own.

In the Dake Annotated Reference Bible marginal notes, (on page 8 of the New Testament) it says this of Matthew 8:17: "What was it He bore away by taking upon Himself? The case before us is not sins, but our griefs (sicknesses) and sorrows (pains). He did not bear them merely to enter into the fellowship of our sufferings, but to deliver us from them. It would be useless for Him to bear them in our stead if He still left us to bear them."

Knowing this fact, when I encounter difficult testings and trials, I can actually rest in the fact that these trials were known to my Savior at a definite moment of history when He bore them for me. That doesn't mean life is not hard at times, but to know that He bore in His body all of my sorrows, I can thank Him for His unique care for me.

I can say to Him, "I am glad that You knew this would happen to me and already suffered in Your body so I would not have to. Thank You for taking it from me and experiencing it fully in Your own body for me and as me."

Isaiah 53:3-6
3 ​​"He is despised and rejected by men,
​​A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
​​And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
​​He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 ​​Surely He has borne our griefs
​​And carried our sorrows;
​​Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
​​Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 ​​But He was wounded for our transgressions,
​​He was bruised for our iniquities;
​​The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
​​And by His stripes we are healed.
6 ​​All we like sheep have gone astray;
​​We have turned, every one, to his own way;
​​And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

The Apostle Peter, who denied the Lord, knew that Christ bore his sorrows, and even denying his Lord. He wrote in I Peter 2 21-24:

"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
“Who committed no sin,Nor was deceit found in His mouth”
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed."

In Christ, our sins and our guilt have been washed as white as snow. Our sorrows and griefs He carried for us, so that we won't have to.

"Cast your burden on the LORD,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

Truly, there is no other God like this One!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Has God forgotten?

Proverbs 19:3 "The foolishness of a man twists his way,
And his heart frets against the LORD."

I caught myself "fretting against the Lord" in the last couple of days. Actually, it's something I used to do a lot. When I found myself fretting this time, God showed me grace by reminding me that all the answers to the questions I seek are in His Word.There's no other place I can find them, but if I search for His wisdom like a treasure, He will reveal His answers to the questions in my heart. And so, in spite of despair that threatened to wash ashore like a great storm into my soul, I was reminded to look instead for God's,(not my) answers.

The question that bothered me was "Can God really be good when the suffering in this world is at an all time high?" Oh, perhaps I didn't think of it exactly in that way but that is what it boiled down to. I think of another being who questioned God in the Garden of Eden, whispering slyly to an unsuspecting woman, "Yea, hath God said?" (Genesis 3:1)

When I was a younger woman, this question nearly destroyed my faith. In one particular time of struggle before I was married, I carried index cards around with me, on which I wrote encouraging Bible verses and quotes about God's love. Whenever I felt an attack of doubt or panic coming on, I would rifle through the cards, reading them and encouraging myself in the Lord. I I probably looked like a spectacle, but then Peter did write that we were a "peculiar people" in I Peter 2:9!

I found other verses which correspond to this thought of fretting against the Lord, and some verses that tell us what the remedy is for this terrible problem. Years ago, the words of Matthew 25:24 haunted me: "The wicked servant said: ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed." I could have agreed with him. That would prove I was a wicked servant too! God seemed to ask an awful lot of us, and my failures shouted at me to just quit the Christian life already. Praise God, now when I find a thought has popped into my head and I know it is a lie, I try not to even let it germinate in my mind. I often turn to my Nelson's Cross Reference Guide to the Bible (edited by Jerome Smith to find other verses to support what I know to be true. In particular, this time I looked up verses stemming from Matthew 25:24 where the Lord is speaking to the wicked servant in the parable of the talents.

Job lost everything, and in contrast to the wicked servant,he did this:

Job 1:21 "Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
​​And naked shall I return there.
​​The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
​​Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong."

It is the way of the transgressor that is hard! "Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard." Proverbs 13:15

Matthew 11:28-30: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

God is good to all people, and He wants all men to be saved. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9

It is because I do not yet know Him as I ought that doubts about His goodness creep into my mind. Yes, there is a terrible amount of suffering going on in the world today, but that is not God's fault. He did everything He could to provide us with a great salvation. But He does not force men to accept it. Much of the suffering we see is the result of man choosing in His rebellion to go his own way, without God.

Here then lies the answer for me when I doubt God's Word, or think He has forgotten about us on this planet:

Psalm 77:9-12
9 "Has God forgotten to be gracious?
​​Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies?
10 ​​And I said, “This is my anguish;
​​But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 ​​I will remember the works of the LORD;
​​Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 ​​I will also meditate on all Your work,
​​And talk of Your deeds.
13 ​​Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
​​Who is so great a God as our God?
14 ​​You are the God who does wonders;
​​You have declared Your strength among the peoples."

Three answers to my question I see right here: remember the works of the Lord, meditate on all His work, and talk of His deeds. I do not yet know Him as I ought (I Corinthians 8:3) , but this one thing I do, I press on as Paul wrote in Philippians 3 verse 12: "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me."

Let us press on then to know Him, refuting the enemy's lies, as we see the day of His coming draw near!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Constant Friend

A man who has friends must
himself be friendly, but there is a friend
that sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

I read this verse today and all of a sudden it occurred to me that Jesus is the friend that always sticks closer than a brother.
He proved it by dying for us on the cross: by not stepping down from it when God the Father had to forsake Him. Nor did He when everyone surrounding Him told Him to come down to prove He was the Son of God. He could have done it, you know, and still been just. But He did not. Why? Because He was the friend that was sticking closer than a brother for us.

We used to have a saying on our Pennsylvania license plates: "You have a friend in Pennsylvania." But how could that really be said, factually? Did our state do something worthy of garnering the friendship of everyone who visited here? No, but in contrast consider the hymn, "What a Friend we have in Jesus." Because Jesus did not just say He wanted to be our friend. No, He proved it by staying on that cross, with "all our sins and griefs to bear."

I thought about all the interactions Jesus had with people during His ministry here on earth. There was never one time when He rejected someone who came to Him. He did get angry with the Pharisees, but that was because they misrepresented God to the people. Anyone who came to Him personally was never rejected by Him.

Let's look at some other verses where it talks about God being friends with people like us, who could not earn or deserve His friendship in a trillion years. Yet He longs to be our friend!

Exodus 33:11 "So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle."

II Chronicles 20:7 “Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?"

Psalm 41:9 "Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,Who ate my bread,Has lifted up his heel against me." (Jesus considered Judas His friend, even though He ultimately knew that Judas would betray Him.)

Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times,And a brother is born for adversity." (Can you think of any friend on earth who loves at all times like Jesus does?)

Proverbs 27:6 "Faithful are the wounds of a friend,But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." (Jesus always speaks the Truth to us, but He always does it in love.)

Song of Solomon 5:16 "His mouth is most sweet,Yes, he is altogether lovely.This is my beloved,And this is my friend,O daughters of Jerusalem!" (This is the Shulamite woman speaking of her Beloved in the Song of Solomon, but it also refers to Christ.)

Isaiah 41:8 "But you, Israel, are My servant,Jacob whom I have chosen, The descendants of Abraham My friend."

Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Matthew 26:50 "But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him." (Jesus in His humanity considered Judas His friend, even though as the Son of God He knew that Judas would be the one to betray Him.)

John 11:11 "These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

James 2:23 "And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God."

James 4:4 "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (We have to choose daily whether will be God's friend or the world's friend, there is no middle ground.)

This is just a smattering of verses that show that Jesus is the Ultimate Friend who sticks closer than a brother. Think just for a minute, He was God of very God, yet He reduced Himself to become a man so that He could identify with us fully, and ultimately call us His friends.

Oh, what a friend we really do have in Jesus!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Defying the Odds...

27 ​​“Here is what I have found,” says the Preacher,
​​“Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason,
28 ​​Which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: ​​One man among a thousand I have found,
But a woman among all these I have not found."
Ecclesiastes 7:27-28

Whoa Solomon, for laying a heavy indictment on us women!

Proverbs 14:1
"The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down." (ESV)

Proverbs 31: 10-12
10 "​​Who can find a virtuous wife?
​​For her worth is far above rubies.
11 ​​The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
​​So he will have no lack of gain.
12 ​​She does him good and not evil
​​All the days of her life."

Oh, how I long, rather, to be this kind of woman!

How could Solomon say that he could not find a virtuous woman among a thousand? Yet the wisest man on earth recorded these very words.I never realized the power we women have among our men, just by batting our eyelashes. Yet Solomon said he could not find one that used their power correctly.And no one can say that Solomon did not know a LOT of women.

And yet, like it or not, we wield power over our families. The commentator Barnes has this to say of Proverbs 14:1: Every wise woman - literally, Wise women. The fullest recognition that has as yet met us of the importance of woman, for good or evil, in all human society.

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world you know.

If only I realized that, back when I was raising my family, the power I held in my household. I could use it for good or evil, but many times, sadly, I used it wrongly. Of course I did not know it at the time. I thought I was doing what was right. How could I have been so misled?

I was misled because of my own emotions, letting them rule me instead of trusting God to guide and lead through my husband. My own tender heartstrings pulled at me (especially when it came to childrearing) and I did not trust that God was working through him, in spite of his mistakes, in spite of his own human frailty, in spite of how things might have looked "by sight."

In the Old Testament, we see King Ahab of Judah, who was a believer in Christ, yet he did great evil. His outcome could have been different if he may have chosen a different wife than the wicked Jezebel. It says this of Ahab in the Old Testament record,

"Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him.He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the sons of Israel." I Kings 21: 25-26

Or what about Herodias and her daughter in the New Testament, who asked King Herod to give her what she wished? That wish was to have the head of John the Baptist on a platter! Herod regretted making any promise to her, but ended up with the blood of John the Baptist on his hands because of a woman's sway and power over him.

6 "But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, 7 so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Having been prompted by her mother, she *said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” 9 Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother." Matthew 14:6-11

But ladies, what if we tried to beat the odds, so to speak, as women and wives? Do you think God would help us? Of course He would! I have often thought that if we have power over our families, we also have power in one another's lives as well. Women's friendships are so important. What if we tried to build each other up in our households and encourage other women to do the same? To do what Paul instructed Titus in chapter 2 verses 3 through 5:

3 "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored."

After thirty years of marriage, I can say that I see my husband differently now than during those early years. I can see that the story of his life has been working hard to take care of me and our children. He gave his life for us by getting up early each day and trudging off to work, getting beat up in the world so that we would have a roof over our heads, food, and clothes to wear. The last thing he needed was to feel discouragement at home too. He may have come home tired, but he certainly didn't need any more attitude coming from me. Just love and respect, and to show him that I was on his side. I failed many times at this, but I am thankful now that God has given us a second chance, and in retrospect I see that God's ways were the best ways all along. I am thankful that He works even my failures in the past for the good today.

I remember reading a book once called "All He Ever Wanted" by Anita Shreve. It was heartbreaking, because it depicted this man working so hard to earn this woman's love. I will not give away the ending, but it helped me to see how hard the male species really go to to please their women. I think of my own husband and how "all he ever wanted" was just to make me happy. We can make it easier for them and ourselves by doing things God's way instead of our own. If, as believing women, we simply trust that God will work through them as the designated heads of our homes, we will end up saving ourselves a lot of grief and heartache in the long run.

1Corinthians 11:3
"But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."
This is God's truth for us, and in it we can find peace and rest.

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