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Thursday, April 17, 2014

On The Road To Calvary - Betrayal

I think it is fair to say that if  we live long enough, we would be betrayed at some point in time. The dictionary gives the meaning of the word "betray" as
"to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty:"
"to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to: to betray one's friends."

Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem to the shouts and acclaim of the crowds, Jesus was betrayed, just as the dictionary defines it, by one of his friends. Judas was no ordinary disciple. He was not like Thaddeus or Andrew or Bartholomew, disciples we never hear anything about. 

"The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me" (Matthew 26: 23). One who had the trusted position of handling the funds for Jesus and His disciples. One who knew Jesus so well He knew where to find Him and could recognize Him even in the darkness of the garden of Gethsemane.
When Judas betrayed Jesus by kissing Him on His cheek, Jesus said,' "Friend, do what you came for." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him' (Matthew 26: 50).

Have you ever experienced the sting of betrayal? By a friend, spouse, child, parent, co-worker? The closer the relationship, the more painful the sting. As we meditate on Jesus this Holy Week, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus also suffered betrayal, therefore we can cry out to Him. Then, "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted" (Isaiah 30 : 26).

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

On The Road To Calvary

English: Palm Sunday in Sanok
English: Palm Sunday in Sanok (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last year I wrote a post on Palm Sunday titled, Will You Wave Palm Branches? If you didn't read it, or would like to read it again, here it is. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of what we as Christians call holy week - a time set aside to reflect on the sufferings of Jesus and what He did for us through His work on the cross. My posts this week will feature Our Lord's journey from the time He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the time He arose from the grave on Easter Sunday.

"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death" (Matthew 20: 18).

And so Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, riding on a young donkey, to the adoration of large crowds. They strewed palm branches and their clothes at His feet and cried "Hosanna in the highest!"

It was a wonderful time of acclaim for Jesus, but Luke tells us that He wept over Jerusalem because He knew what would befall it. Shortly thereafter, He went into the temple and drove out the money changers, saying, "It is written, 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.' " (v 46).

As you meditate on God's word this week and spend time with Him, consider what you want out of life. How much does the adoration of the crowd mean to you? Do you place it above obedience to God's word? Jesus was pleased with their adoration, but He didn't let that stop Him from doing what He knew was right.

We would do well to follow Jesus' example and not let people's adoration go to our head because it may not always be sincere or long-lasting. Jude warns, "These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage" (1 : 16).

This Easter season, let us determine to seek praise from God and not from man.

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

When You Can't Pray

Have you ever had one of those moments when you just couldn't pray? It may be that
you were so overwhelmed, tired or maybe just not feeling well. This happened to me a few mornings ago. I woke up, sat on the bed, wanting to pray, but I just didn't feel well. I had a migraine and there was a heaviness on me that prevented the words from coming. But I was determined to communicate with my God in some way.

After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I began to hum. I finished the first song, then went to another, then another and another. Before I knew it, I was singing, lifting my hands and praising God. By the time I'd finished praising, I was able to pray and read my Bible. I didn't realize when my headache and the feeling of heaviness left me. But when I got off my bed, I felt better, and I had not taken a pill.

The Psalms make numerous references to the importance of praise. I state just a few of them here:

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.22: 3

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear , and shall trust in the LORD. 40: 3

 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. 63: 3

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; 149: 6

Look at what David said in Psalm 42: 5. "Why art thou cast down , O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance."

The next time you feel "cast down", heavy, oppressed, try praising God. Praise changes the atmosphere, lifts your spirits and restores your ability to communicate with your Maker. In fact, Psalm 100: 4 says we are to "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."

Here are some of my favorite worship songs to get you started:
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stand Your Ground - Part III

The last woman I'm writing about who stood her ground is the "importunate widow" spoken of in Luke 18. Here's the parable Jesus told about this woman: "There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying , Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said , Hear what the unjust judge saith . 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?"

The NIV translates the word "importunate" as "persistent", a word we are more familiar with. This woman was persistent, even though this judge sounded like he was not an approachable person. He feared neither God nor man, yet this widow persisted in presenting her case before him. In other words, she stood her ground. If she could do that with an unrighteous judge, how much more should we keep on praying to our Righteous Judge?

Are you facing a formidable foe today? Notice this woman did not look for a male relative or friend or attorney to represent her. She went herself. Sometimes when we are faced with a difficult situation we may ask a friend or the pastor or even our church to pray for us. That is good. But we must also go before God ourselves. He wants to hear us. He wants us to show Him that we have the faith to come before Him "day and night" until we get our answer. 1 Peter 5: 7 says, " Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."

Stand your ground. Cast all your care upon Him today. God bless.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stand Your Ground - Part II

In this post, I focus on another woman in the Bible who stood her ground when the odds 
were against her. She is the woman with the issue of blood. If you are a Christian, you would have heard this story many times. Matthew recounts it in this way:

"And, behold , a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole . 22 But Jesus turned him about , and when he saw her, he said , Daughter, be of good comfort ; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour" (9 : 20 - 22).

This incident only takes up three verses, but every time I hear it, it makes an impact on me. This woman had no business being in that crowd. According to the law in those days, she was unclean and should have stayed at home. But she heard that Jesus was coming to town, and she knew if she could only "touch the hem of his garment", she would be healed. And that's exactly what happened.

When we have a problem that seems unending, the easiest thing to do is give up. It takes a lot of faith and perseverance to "press" through the crowd of doubt and despair when you keep praying and hoping and nothing seems to be changing. But the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5 : 17, we are to "Pray without ceasing." Paul, wrote to the Colossians, "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you ..." 1 : 9). 

Friends, God is looking for people who will "stand their ground" against the onslaught of the enemy and show him we will not give up, we will not give in, but we will keep on trusting God.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Stand Your Ground

Christ in the House of Simon by Dieric Bouts, ...
Christ in the House of Simon by Dieric Bouts, 1440s (Staatliche Museen, Berlin) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This expression has been much in the news lately here in Florida. But this blog post has nothing to do with the controversial law. It has to do with our obligation  to do what is right to defend our position as Christians.

In this Women's History Month, I would like to feature a woman of the Bible who stood her ground when those around her were criticizing her for her actions. I'm referring to Mary of Bethany. Jesus was invited to a dinner at her house. While her sister Martha served, Mary broke an alabaster box of perfume, poured it on our Lord's head and wiped His feet with her hair. See Matthew 26: 6; Mark 14: 3; Luke 7: 37 and John 12: 1.

The Bible goes on to say that His disciples were indignant, saying the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Mary paid them no heed. She continued to weep on Jesus' feet and dry them with her hair. This was a very bold action for a woman in those days, and Jesus commended her for it. He said, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.  When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her" (Matthew 26: 10 - 13).

Can you stand your ground when others criticize you or make fun of you for going to church instead of going to the club? For dressing modestly when they dress seductively? For not being afraid to speak of your love for Jesus in their presence? If you do, Jesus will commend you highly, and His commendation is worth much more than that of your friends. You can learn more about Mary of Bethany from the articles and resource below. 

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

American Negro Spirituals - A Christian Heritage

English: cropped version of Image:Harriet Tubm...
English: cropped version of Image:Harriet Tubman.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many of us have grown up hearing and singing the old African negro spirituals like Wade In The Water, Steal Away, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and many others. These songs were believed to send secret messages among the slaves to show them means of escape. While Wade In The Water is believed to contain explicit instructions to the slaves to escape by means of water in order to throw pursuing bloodhounds off their scent, the song does have its roots in Christianity. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses the blueprint for leading the Israelites out of captivity by means of the Red Sea. The song also borrows a phrase in the New Testament about an angel troubling the water to bring about healing to anyone who went into the pool in time. 

Swing Low Sweet Chariot is another popular negro spiritual that was believed to contain coded means of escape for the slaves. In fact, it was thought to be a favorite of Harriet Tubman, notable leader of the Underground Railroad. However, unlike Wade In The Water and other negro spirituals whose composers are largely unknown, most historians believe that Swing Low Sweet Chariot was composed by "Uncle Wallis", a slave of a Chocktaw Indian tribe who had been converted to Christianity.

At the time, the Chocktaws  were one of the five "civilized" Indian tribes who practiced a  form of slavery similar to that of the whites. Brit Willis, Uncle Wallis' owner, hired Wallis out to entertain the Chocktaw boys  at Spencer Academy, and the song became popular among them, not among African-American slaves. In fact, the song was not circulated among African-Americans until after the civil war.

As I researched the information for this post, I was reminded of the song, By The Rivers of Babylon, sung by the Israelites after they were taken captive to Babylon. That song is based on these words from Psalm 137: By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

Is it a lot different from African slaves holding their secret church meetings and singing and crying out to their God for spiritual as well as physical deliverance? I don't think so.  
Enjoy this moving video below.

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