God’s Greatest Friday–The Old Rugged Cross

It really all comes down to this–God became man and showed us how to live.  Then he showed us how to die.  His sacrifice changed the world–and it changed me.  No matter what I gain, what I lose or what circumstance may occur in my life, at the end of each day that old rugged cross still remains the emblem of victory for us in the amazing journey.  I am so grateful that God loved me and that he was willing to be that sacrifice for me ad for you.

 

On this weekend, when we celebrate the death burial and Resurrection of our Lord my prayer is that I cling to the old rugged cross and that I exchange it one day for that crown.

Old Rugged Cross—By George Bernard

 

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
    And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain.

    • Refrain:
      So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
      Till my trophies at last I lay down;
      I will cling to the old rugged cross,
      And exchange it some day for a crown.
  2. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    Has a wondrous attraction for me;
    For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
    To bear it to dark Calvary.
  3. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    A wondrous beauty I see,
    For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share. 

Matthew 15 part 1–Lip Service

How much of your faith is lip service and human rules? As Christians, when we evaluate our relationship with God, this is the tough question to ask.  It is so easy to begin to slip into a rule based walk with God. Don’t eat this, drink that, watch that or be seen there–causes such a stir among the family.  Clearly we have to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Truly when we walk, we need to do so in a way that honors him.  But when the things we do and don’t do become more important than simply walking with and following his lead—we struggle with selfish Pride and self righteousness.

Christians can  often represent a huge threat to bringing folk to Christ.  If they focus on their religious activity more than their relationship with God and others—like the Pharisees, they push folks from the God they serve.  This Easter, lets walk in a way that is substantive not based on lip service and human rules!!!

God Bless You

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[c

Matthew 14 Final–Which Miracle Convinced Them

Which miracle was the most amazing? I imagine his disciples really struggled with the concept.  What single act could Jesus perform that would finally convince his followers that he was God and they should follow. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the masses, walked on water and controlled the weather—Seems adequate!  The reality has been, is and will always be that man’s selfish nature will never be content apart from surrendering his Life to God.  The lame that were healed—walked away. The hungry that were fed soon became hungry again.  Whatever the problem—when fixed made Jesus obsolete.  EXCEPT FOR ONE

Jesus became a man and paid a price to bring us back into fellowship with God.  He lived perfectly, gave continuously and died humbly to do the greatest miracle—Set the captives free.  Even today, we see the amazing hand of God.  And while history is replete with his amazing acts—we still awaken with the question…”What have you done for me lately?” When we understand we need to submit to the Lord because of who he is and not because of what he has done; then we can enjoy the freedom of following him as Lord—not messianic miracle worker.  Philippians 4 says it best—“Ï have learned to be content whatever my circumstances—well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want I can do all things through Christ—who strengthens me.”

If we are looking for the one miracle that will convince us—we will never follow. They didn’t then and we won’t now.  If we look for the leadership of a God that always keeps his word, we will find him AND see some pretty amazing stuff to boot.

God Bless You

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

 

Matthew 14–Feeding the Crowd

It does not take much faith for God to do amazing things.  One need simply to be  available and believe.  Of all his miracles, Jesus feeding the huge crowd is a great picture of how he provides completely and through the most amazing means.  5 loaves, 2 fish and an expecting crowd allowed God to show that he owns the world and everything in it.  When the crowds were filled—there was still sufficient food remaining to fill 12 more baskets.  God always does exceedingly and amazingly more than we could ever expect.

In our lives, we too need to look for God’s provision.  We need to walk expecting for God to provide. We need not try to understand the why’s but simply expect God to always keep his word and execute the plan. We need to trust Him and follow him humbly and expectantly.  We need to live as a grateful servant and child.  We do not have a mentality that feel we deserve to be pampered, but we do walk believing God will meet ou needs as we follow him. We are not entitled—but we are loved.  Help me Lord to follow you humbly and trust you fully.

God Bless You

Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Matthew 13 part 2–Weed Whacking

Inevitably, there can be no separation between us and the world. No matter how careful we are to walk according to his teaching, the world ends up mixed in our lives. The parable speaks of how the enemy sprinkled weeds in the wheat. It threw the farm hands into a worried mess. How would the wheat ever grow and be harvestable with weds sprinkled in? The Farmer had a great answer—let them grow up together—then at harvest time, we will remove the weeds first and then harvest the wheat. What a novel approach—remove the hindrance and allow the wheat to continue to grow.
That is what God wants for our lives as well. He wants us to recognize we are growing in the midst of a culture of weeds. All through our lives, they attempt to squeeze and render us ineffective. As we grow and become ready for harvest and use, we also need to separate the weeds in our lives and enjoy the soil of his word and prayer. That separation also grants us the freedom to submit and follow him closely. As we do—he protects, provides and prepares us for an eternity of peace and joy. We would be unable to concentrate on that if we had to spend our energy fighting the weeds. Be patient and be ready to be separate from the world even while we are in its midst.
Help me Lord, to follow humbly and closely as you eliminate the weeds in my life.
God Bless You
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”

Matthew 13 part 1–The Message

the-harvest1In two thousand years little has changed.  The parable of the sower  reminds us that while the message does not change, the impact it has varies greatly depending on the person and the circumstance.  Some people hear the message and ignore it—the seed along the road, they are never impacted at all.  Some people hear the message it impacts them—the shallow soil, but because they have no depth of character or commitment, it soon fades away and they return to the former state.  Some hear the message and it takes root and they begin to grow, BUT—the thorny seed—they are among the folks that would lead them away from Christ and the association ultimately leaves them unusable and fruitless.  Finally, some hear the message and they are transformed—the good soil—and they spend the rest of their life growing, sharing and helping others to enjoy freedom.   The harvest varies among them, but, it is a life of joy and abundance.

Jesus wanted us to understand the message does not change—it is a message of hope and freedom.  Throughout history, it has impacted lives from every nation, class and life stage. Its impact has varied based on the heart of the person receiving it.  We as sowers, share the message with love and work to see it land among those with desire, depth and direction. The Holy Spirit does the work, we simply remain faithful and share often. Help me Lord, to share your message humbly and with the love you intended.

God Bless You

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

Mattehew 12 part 3–No Spectators

In spiritual warfare there are no spectators.  The culture, the enemy and the Lord require that each person choose whom they will serve. When claiming the promised Land, Joshua explained that to Israel—“Choose this day whom you will serve,… as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 In t, life of Jesus, for a period he was a rock star.  Thousands just came to see, eat and be healed.  But, he did make it clear that the people did have to make a choice.  Not a choice to follow him or to worship him, but a choice to Worship the father.

The choice remains today.  Each of us has to choose whom we will serve.  Sadly, no choice is itself a choice to serve the word and the enemy.  That is why, we as a people must choose to follow him each day.   We seek him , we pray and we humbly follow his leadership through the great and the struggle.  In the midst of it, however, we must keep focused on him—not our circumstance, not our selves but the author and finisher of our faith.   Help me, Lord to be a soldier and not a spectator in this battle.  Help me to humbly follow you

God Bless You

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”