Whiter Than Snow: Psalm 51:7

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Celebrations Amidst Suffering: Following Jesus In All Circumstances

As Easter this year is still quite a ways off, may we begin NOW to prepare our hearts and minds for the victory celebration of Jesus conquering the grave. Death could not hold Him; it had no claim on Him (Romans 6:9). He was perfect in every way (Hebrews 7:26-28). Tempted as we each are, yet He never once gave into it (Hebrews 4:15). Thus, when He took the punishment of all humanity upon His shoulders as He was nailed to the cross—for my shame, for your shame—He endured it out of His loyal love for all (Matthew 27:33-56). As Jesus explained to Peter just hours previous in the Garden of Gethsemane as Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, brought the religious leaders and temple guards to arrest Jesus:

 

51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53“Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?54“How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

55At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. 56“But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled.”

Matthew 26:51-56 (NASB)

 

In a Christian culture that is beginning to find very little, if any, room for suffering in the modern age—may we look to the example of our Risen Lord Jesus. In a day and age where it is more common to look for ways to receive blessing, rather than give it away—may we look to the example of our Risen Lord Jesus. For a Christian by name means “little Christ”. May we remember the words of Jesus:

 

20“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23“He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24“If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25“But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’

      26“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:20-27 (NASB)

 

Christian church, may we be bold in our witness for Jesus Christ, regardless of our life circumstances. Why? Because Jesus Christ assures us confidently in John 16:33 that sufferings and troubles in this life WILL COME, but to take heart seeing as He has in fact overcome the world. Thank Jesus for His love, His grace and His direction over your life as a believer today. And if you have never actually placed your eternal salvation into the saving reality of Jesus, this is your moment.

You simply pray, LORD JESUS I am a sinner. I have screwed up in this life and have come to find that I cannot be perfect on my own. But, I believe that You are. And that You paid the price of death on a cross for me. Please forgive me of my wrong doings, my offenses and my rebellion against You. I turn away from any other way that I have been relying upon for eternal life. I’m all in, Jesus. I want to only follow You. Please come into my heart and take over my life. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for Your grace. Help me to live for You each day, MY LORD JESUS CHRIST. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” 2 Timothy 1:7-10 (NASB)

 

 

Preparing for Victory Day

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33 (HCSB)

 

Once at the Place of the Skull, large nails were then driven into Jesus’ hands and feet. This was the most brutal and barbaric killing instrument of that day. And it was reserved for only the worst of criminals. Yet, here was Jesus the Christ, proven to be innocent by even Pilate and Herod, and he was experiencing a criminal’s death. It could not have even been carried out upon a Roman citizen. Thus Jesus, as an innocent substitute for each and every one of the human race, bore the brutal punishment of death upon a cross (Romans 8:28). To speed up the process, at the urging of the Jews, the Roman soldiers were instructed by Pilate to break the legs of those upon the cross to cause the arms to stretch higher above the head, ushering the arrival of death quicker—seeing as the following day was the Sabbath (John 19:31-32). Yet, this was not done to the Lord Jesus Christ as He was not a victim of His circumstances, but rather He had willfully determined to go through with the brutal death of humanity in order to ransom His creations (Isaiah 53:9-11, Romans 5:18, Philippians 2:8 & 1 Peter 2:24).

 

“This is why the Father loves Me, because I am laying down My life so I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again. I have received this command from My Father.” John 10:17-18 (HCSB)

 

While enduring the cross and continued atmosphere of satanic celebration, the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothing by casting lots (Psalm 22:18 & Matthew 5:44). Jesus had publicly cried out to His Father in heaven to “forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He had also assured the repentant thief on the cross next to Him that “today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). When all had been accomplished to fulfill the prophesies of the Old Testament of the Lord Jesus, He cried out in a loud voice “It is finished!” and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).

 

The crowd gathered below was a mixture of demonic taunting and agonizing screams of horror and pain. When it came time to break the legs of Jesus, there was no need–He had in fact already died (John 19:33). This fulfilled the prophesy of the Psalms and the prophets (Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12 & Psalm 34:20). The rocks split and the veil within the Holy of Holies of the Temple split from top to bottom as a result of Jesus giving up His spirit (Matthew 27:51). The punishment for the depravity of all humanity had in fact been paid in full (Matthew 27:45-53, Mark 15:33-38, John 3:16, Galatians 3:13-14 & Titus 2:14).

 

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  1 John 4:9-10 (HCSB)

 

Because you are loved by the God who made you, Hope took on flesh (John 3:16).

Because you hold eternal significance, Redemption bore our punishment (Isaiah 53:5).

Because you are worth it to the Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ victoriously rose from the dead on the third day (Romans 10:9-10)—so that all who trust in Him will also one day rise again (Hebrews 9:27-28 & 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)!

 

Regardless of the struggles this life holds, as believers in Jesus Christ, we have the VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:33).

 

Whatever you struggle with from day to day, know that our Lord can deliver you from your hardships just as He did with Mary Magdalene and countless others! Those closest to Jesus, His twelve disciples struggled with the same temptations that we face today in 2019: a love of money (Judas Iscariot), doubt (Thomas), disbelief (Philip) and among other things, an inability to stick it out in hard times (all of the twelve). So, why would Jesus choose people who would show off such poor aspects of our human nature? Simply put, because we can all relate to times of failure…and a need for a Savior.

 

And, praise God, He loved them to the end (John 13:1). God is glorified in our weakness; for when we are weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)! In closing, no matter the mountain ranges, no matter the unspeakable odds, no matter the loneliness, realize that you are not sealed into your grief—your worry—your pain.

 

Why? Because just as the stone was rolled away to reveal the EMPTY TOMB of our eternally victorious Savior, Jesus Christ, we too will be delivered out of our deepest places of despair and utter need. Ladies, may we be filled with praise that rises far above our circumstances to declare that there is indeed VICTORY in the name of Jesus Christ alone (Psalm 121).

 

1I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
            From where shall my help come?

      2My help comes from the LORD,
            Who made heaven and earth.

      3He will not allow your foot to slip;
            He who keeps you will not slumber.

      4Behold, He who keeps Israel
            Will neither slumber nor sleep.

      5The LORD is your keeper;
            The LORD is your shade on your right hand.

      6The sun will not smite you by day,
            Nor the moon by night.

      7The LORD will protect you from all evil;
            He will keep your soul.

      8The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
            From this time forth and forever.”

Psalm 121:1-8 (NASB)

The Squirrels and Birds of life: Some Take A Little More

Have you ever been ticked off about something that you know really isn’t a big deal? I mean, it’s really gotten under your skin, but to even acknowledge it out loud would show just how ridiculous it really is…well, you’re not alone! Allow me to share my ridiculousness! Hahah!

 

While playing in the backyard with our children one day, the bird feeder that my husband had filled the night before was being burglarized by two fury tailed thieves! Yes, they were grey and cute, but the point was, they were taking the birdseed of the gorgeous red cardinals! I grew up in California and did not see cardinals—ever. So, when I would gasp out loud and call my husband to the window to see them in one of our first moves to the southern parts of America, he would just chuckle under his breath each time he would hurry to see the familiar southern sight. He had grown up in the deep south of America and cardinals were a very common sight there—like doves, pheasants and magpies in Northern California. But for me, it was something truly special to see such bright red plumage contrasted by a mighty oak. Anyway…back to the bird feeder! 

 

While getting very ticked off that these squirrels were taking the food of the cardinals in our tree, the Lord taught me a lesson about the people in my life and the need to “share the seed”. Allow me to explain.

 

Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated at the squirrels for repeatedly taking the birdseed from the feeder and not leaving much of any for the colorful birds. Yet, may we remember, there is enough for all. And there will be people in our lives (like squirrels) who require a “little bit more” from us—more time, more effort and more energy than say…the “birds” in our lives.

 

Yet, rather than getting frustrated with those who need more attention, more instruction and take more “seed” of encouragement and resources than the average seed consumer…pray for God to open your eyes to see things as He does (Ephesians 3:16).

 

Jesus told a parable about how each bird of the field is taken care of by God and they do not store up for themselves what is needed for tomorrow—rather, they trust in God to provide for their needs each day. Not a single bird falls from the sky without the careful notice of the Lord. Jesus then added that if God takes such detailed care of the birds, how much MORE does He take care of our needs? (Matthew 10:29-31).

 

We will all experience times of “needing a little extra” in our lives—more time, more encouragement, more guidance…you get the point. But the reality is, regardless of the season we are in, God will supply our needs over and above our expectations.

 

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. “Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NASB)

 

When you don’t know how you will have the strength to do another sleepless night with your little one, or another heavy flu season, or another long series of “but why?” questions…may you be encouraged to DIG DEEP into the promises of God.

 

Before we come to a close, may I encourage you to whip out a good old fashion piece of paper and a trusty pen…and actually look up these following verses. If you do not have a Bible, no sweat. I love and highly recommend Biblehub.com as a fantastic online resource that is great for quick access to multiple Bible translations, commentaries and even Hebrew and Greek! So, with that said, allow us to actually pause (contrary to the pace of our modern culture) and actually STEEP OUR MINDS in the beautiful truths of God’s Word regarding those moments when you just need a serious reminder that you are not in this alone:

 

  • Deuteronomy 31:6_________________________________________________________________

  • Deuteronomy 31:8_________________________________________________________________

  • Isaiah 41:10_________________________________________________________________________

  • Isaiah 43:2___________________________________________________________________________

  • Isaiah 52:12__________________________________________________________________________

 

I am convinced that parenthood was created to bring us to the end of ourselves—in order to realize, that in our great love for our children, we MUST reach out to the Lord for daily guidance, moment by moment instruction and wisdom that only can be supplied by the Almighty God who loves us with an unyielding zeal—and whose compassion, mercy and grace are endless (Hebrews 4:16). Be encouraged that you are not on this journey called motherhood alone—I’m also asking the Lord Jesus Christ for daily guidance! And if I could give a praise to wrap this up, He is faithful to address each and every one of my husband and I’s questions, concerns and need for guidance both in parenting as well as within married life—because the Lord Jesus is just THAT good (Nahum 1:7).

 

If you do not already believe on the perfect life, innocent death and resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ to have eternal right standing before Almighty God, this is your moment to add the greatest asset to your family life—as well as your eternal life—being the one and only Son of the Living God, Jesus Christ.

 

[a]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [b]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [c]resulting in salvation.”

Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)

Ḥesed: Loyal Love

From deep within the underwater hotel of the fish’s belly, Jonah cried out to the LORD to save him after three days and three nights. Jonah (meaning “dove” in the original Hebrew) confessed that he was wrong to have not taken the message to the people of Nineveh as God had instructed and was now ready to make the journey to give God’s message to these brutal people. God was pleased and caused the giant fish to spit Jonah onto dry land and the message of urgency for repentance and turning from the evil practices they were engaging in to receive God’s forgiveness was in fact preached by Jonah—and received gladly and with gratitude by the Ninevites!

 

This story is familiar for a lot of us, but confusing for most of us. Why would God tell one of his prophets to go to a land where the people (of the Assyrian empire) were committing such wicked acts (e.g. chopping people’s head off and stacking them in pile, hanging people naked on poles, sodomizing pretty little boys and pretty little girls from conquered lands, etc.) when God stated that He was going to destroy them if they did not stop acting in such wicked ways and repent to God? The answer goes back to a Hebrew word; esed. According to Dr. Ron Allen of Dallas Theological Seminary, “Next to the actual name of God in the Bible, esed is the second most important word in all the Bible.”

 

Well, seeing as it is super important, allow us to define the term. esed as defined by Dr. Ron Allen is loyal love. The very things that God had revealed about Himself to Moses many years previous, were now the very things Jonah was struggling with as he had debated whether or not to deliver God’s message to the barbaric people of Nineveh. God described His own nature to Moses in Exodus 37:5-7 in three main ways:

  1. God is compassionate beyond imagination
  2. God is patient beyond expectation
  3. God is filled with grace and truth

 

It is because of God’s esed that anyone is able to be forgiven by God for all the wicked, crazy and shameful things that we do. It is because of God’s esed that John 3:16 is at play for any and all who call upon His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. It is because of God’s loyal love (ḥesed) that the people of Nineveh were told to turn from wickedness or God would destroy them; by stating destruction, God was displaying His ḥesed in the fact that He was delaying the punishment for sin by giving them the ability to repent to God and turn from their evil ways. It is because of the ḥesed of God that Jonah was shown mercy to be swallowed by a great fish, rather than simply drowning in the ocean after being thrown overboard by sailors for running away from God. The LOYAL LOVE (ḥesed) of God is all over the book of Jonah! And if we are honest, it is all over our own lives, too.

 

You see, the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all centered upon this beautiful fact: Jesus paid the price of death for you, for me and for any and all who would believe it through offering up His (literally) perfect and sinless life to die upon a Roman cross, to be buried in a tomb and to raise from the dead on the third day so that in exchange, we would receive what we do not deserve nor merit—the imputed righteousness of God (Romans 3:23). Now, does that mean that now I am perfect and I am so much better than everybody else? Nope. It means that I did not have a righteousness of my own (and am aware of my own deficiencies); only filthy rags of futile attempts to “be good enough” on my own is all I –or any human for that matter—can bring to the table when approaching God. What it does mean is that when God looks at me, He no longer sees my shame, my guilt and my rebellion—He sees the punishment that Jesus Christ took for me—paid with His own blood (Isaiah 53:5)—and I am seen as pure and clean before Almighty God (Psalm 51:7). Imputed righteousness means that I did not earn right standing before God, but by believing that I need someone to deal with my sin problem and that Jesus Christ did in fact die on a cross to pay from the rebellion of each person of every country and culture around the globe—including me—including you—(Romans 5:8, Romans 8:1-2, 1 John 4:9-10), each believing soul will in fact be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

 

9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.11For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;13for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” -Romans 10:9-13 (NASB)

 

“ 8If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” -1 John 1:8-10 (NASB)

 

As we close our brief study on the gloriously eternal implications of the esed of God in the Holy Bible, may we savor and truly rejoice in the reality of God’s LOYAL LOVE, through Jesus Christ, offered freely to any and all who would choose to place their eternal hope and security in His hands as we read Romans 8:33-39:

 

“ 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36Just as it is written,
            “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG;
            WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”

37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:33-39 (NASB)