Category Archives: Who is Jesus

Studies and devotional thoughts about Jesus.

Cross Thoughts

Growing up, my family celebrated the secular and the religious aspects of the Easter holiday. It was a special time with new outfits, baskets of candy treats and a special meal. However, there was also much focus on the spiritual aspect of the holiday which is the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  Weeks prior to this holiday we spent much time in religious services reflecting on the crucifixion of Jesus.

It wasn’t until I started reading and studying the Bible that I began to understand the sacrifice of Jesus in a deeper way. The sacrifice of Jesus is not merely a series of events that happened to Jesus such as: Judas’ betrayal of Jesus; the trial before Pilate; the scourging: the carrying of the cross and so on, but it is the singular most powerful intervention of God in the history of mankind.

Presented in this blog are some thoughts about the sacrifice of Jesus for your reflection.

Jesus Tasted Death for Us
In the passage of Hebrews 2:9, an unusual expression is used in describing Jesus. The writer says, “he might taste death for everyone.”
“But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9

The expression taste death for everyone means Jesus “experienced” death; Jesus took it into himself on behalf of each of us.

Jesus “tasted death” in that His physical body died and was buried, but also, He died in a spiritual sense meaning Jesus experienced separation from God as he bore our sins on His body.

When dying on the cross Jesus is recorded to have said,” my God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) This statement is taken as an indication that Jesus was separated from the Father.

It Is a Personal Thing
I never realized that I was separated from God” because of my sin. After all, I went to church frequently and even participated in special services. I thought about God regularly, and tried to be good so I thought “God and me were OK.”  Then I read a few scriptures that got my attention:

  • Romans 3:23 – “all have sinned and fallen short of the standard of God;”
  • Romans 6:23 – “for the wages of sin is death,”
  • Isaiah 59:2 – “your sins have separated you from God,” and
  • 1 Peter 2:24 – “Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so that freed from our sins, we could live a life that has God’s approval. His wounds have healed you.”

I took these passages personally understanding that Jesus tasted death for me, that He experienced separation from God for me so that I did not have to be separated from Him.

This brought a whole new valuing of the cross of Jesus to me. The crucifixion of Jesus was no longer just a series of sad events that happened to Jesus, but it is a powerful act of God that impacts me. Through the sacrifice of Jesus my “religion” became a genuine “relationship” with God.

Take Time to Reflect
As you celebrate Easter this year take some time to think about what the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, means to you. Some other passages to enrich your meditation are:

Isaiah 53:5 – “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Romans 3:23-25 –  “… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”

2 Cor. 5:21 – “ God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Romans 4:25 – “He was delivered over to death for our trespasses and was raised to life for our justification.”

1 John 2:1-2 – “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

1 John 4:10 – “And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Make it personal. Get in touch with what separates you from God, and then look to the cross!

The God Who Prays

Here’s a thought: “Today, Jesus prays for you!” Wait a minute, what?
Yes, today, Jesus prays for you! It is true. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He (Jesus) always lives to make intercession for us.”

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25

So seriously, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords is praying for you. Yes, the same Jesus, who is described in Phil. 2:9-10 as “…being exalted on high by God so that at the name of Jesus every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow, and every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord…,” is interceding to the Father for you and me.

To make it even more incredible, Jesus’ intercession on our behalf seems to be part of His saving work on our behalf. Heb. 7:25 says, “He is able to save to the uttermost (completely; to the final end/ to the uttermost limit) those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us.”

Intercessor
Intercession is an act of love. It is, in a sense, an act of humility. Intercession can involve meeting with another person for the explicit purpose of a conversation which can consist of consultation and or supplication on behalf of another.

Actually, intercession involves words like: plead, beseech, entreat, implore and ask. The word intercession as used in scripture generally means to pray to God; to entreat God; to beseech God on behalf of another person.

Moses is an example of someone who interceded on behalf of others. Exodus 32:31-32 is an example of bold yet humble prayer of intercession.

So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” Exodus 32:31-32

Hebrews 7:25 provides this picture of Jesus interceding for us. Jesus is beside the throne of God and is pleading with the Father on our behalf. It seems this is a continual occurrence, as “He always lives to make intercession for us.”

Romans 8:34 repeats this very same truth, describing a similar scene: “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

Intercession as Advocacy
The scriptures reveal that Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us. 1 John 2:1-2 gives us a better understanding of Jesus intercessory work.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The term advocate adds to our understanding of intercessor.  In general, advocate means help, console, and intercede. More precisely in this verse the term advocate is used in a legal sense. It was used to indicate one who pleads a cause before a judge. Our equivalent today might be a “defense attorney.”

A defense attorney comes alongside a person to plead their cause, to intercede on their behalf before a judge.  Jesus is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God presenting evidence to God on my behalf. Again, we see that Jesus’ advocacy is not a one time thing, but rather it is a continuous process. The word “have” in the phrase “we have an advocate with the Father” is a present tense indicating a continuous action!

Intercession Brings Hope
Jesus’ intercession, advocacy or prayers on our behalf are based on His atoning work on the cross (1 John 2:2), and on His identity as the eternal High Priest (Hebrews 7:23-27).

What exactly is Jesus saying to the Father when He intercedes?  Is He providing His evidence on our side when Satan comes to accuse us? Is He praying a prayer for unity as He prayed in John 17? Is He praying for us to be daily sustained by the hand of God? I do not know, but I know it is revealed in the New Testament scriptures three times that Jesus intercedes and prays for us.

This truth brings me hope. It gives me hope for all those impossible situations I have in my life. It gives me hope for those I love who seem to be so far away from God. It gives me hope that I am not in this alone, and that there is a spiritual power greater than me involved in my life. It gives me hope that no matter how I have messed up – Jesus is speaking on my behalf before the throne of God.

You have heard the saying that it is good to have friends in high places. As believers in God and Jesus, we have a Friend in high places – Jesus. In fact, He is seated at the right hand of God. Let the truth of Jesus, who He is and what He has done and continues to do for us, give you hope.

                                                 **********************

“For if, while we were God’s enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so,
but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom
we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:10-11

What Child Is This – The Prince of Peace

What do you think of when you think of the word “peace?” I think of sitting in a comfy chair near a fireplace, in a quiet room with strains of classical music in the air, and an engaging book in my lap. It is calm, there is a sense of quiet, contentment, and all is well with me and those around me.

God has a slightly different definition of peace from mine.  A word most frequently used for peace in the language of the New Testament is eiréné.  Eiréné primarily means “one,” as in to join, to tie together into a whole. This definition makes sense, since a lack of peace is when there is disagreement, dissonance, and fighting.  

Peace – Oneness
We have seen the oneness that is implied in the word peace. We have seen it in the relationship of Jesus and Father God. Jesus describes this oneness in John 17:22 – 23:

  • “I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved Me.”

And prior to this prayer in John17, Jesus clearly stated that “I and the Father are one,” in John 10:31.  Jesus and the Father are in total harmony and peace; they are as one whole entity.

Peace can also mean a state of secure welfare, as in the promise of Philippians 4:6-7 that states when we give thanks to God and pour out our requests to Him, He will give us a peace, that is, a sense of security and well-being in the midst of trouble.

  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

Peace Implies War
If there is talk of peace then there has been enmity or war. In order to understand that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, we need to know that there was/is a war.

We see in scripture that there is a spiritual war going on of the Light versus the Dark. There is a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. This is clearly outlined in Ephesians 6:11-17.

We can trace this war as far back as the early chapters of the Bible. In Genesis 3 we see enmity between God and the Dark One:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He (Jesus) will crush your head, and you will strike His heel,” Genesis 3:15.

Also, there is an internal war of the flesh versus the spirit within each one of us. This is depicted in passages such as James 4:1; 1 Peter 2:11 and Galatians 5:17.

  • What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the passions at war within you? James 4:1
  • Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from the desires of the flesh, which war against your soul. 1Peter 2:11
  • For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want. Galatians 5:17

The Prince of Peace is Lord of the Battle!
In Is. 28:29, God is named “Lord Sabbaoth.”  Sabbaoth is translated Lord of Hosts. “Hosts” in the context of this verse refers to the angel armies.

  • “This also comes from the LORD of hosts, Who has made His counsel wonderful and His wisdom great.”

“Sabbaoth” can also mean battle; war; or a leader of the army. God is the leader of the heavenly army. He is the Lord of the battle.

Rev. 19:11-21, shows us Jesus as “Lord Sabbaoth.” Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is depicted as the Lord of the Battle. He is described as a fierce warrior king leading the heavenly hosts in battle against the dark enemy to procure peace.

  • And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelations 19:11-21

The Cross and the Prince of Peace
A horrific battle scene of the Prince of Peace – the Lord of the Battle, shows Jesus being flogged close to the point of death; nailed to a tree, hanging in shame and agony before a jeering, uncaring world. In this seeming act of total defeat and shame, Jesus is procuring peace for us with God. The Prince of Peace is the crucified Messiah. In His death and resurrection this mighty warrior achieved eternal victory for us.

We were enemies of God, hanging out in the darkness, but Jesus procured peace with God for us. Through our faith in Jesus we can be “one” with him and the Father. This oneness is true peace.

  • “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”  Romans 5:1-2

The blood from the battle scene at the crucifixion obtained peace for us with God through our faith in Jesus, our true Prince of Peace.

  • ”For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” Col. 1:19-20

What Child Is This?
This child is Immanuel, God in the flesh. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.  

As you start this “new year,” think about Jesus, and ask God to open the eyes of your heart that you may see Him for who He is, value Him, and live a life that honors Him.

What Child Is This: Everlasting Father

Jesus was born in a stable and slept his first night in a manger which is nothing more than an animal feed box! Yet, on this same night, a different and unusual star appeared over that stable, and in the field nearby, a host of angels proclaimed his birth, Luke 2:9-14.

700 years prior to Jesus birth, Isaiah defined who this “child” born in a stable was and is. Isaiah said He is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Is. 9:6

In two previous blogs entitled, “What Child Is This,” we learned that this child is our Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. In this blog we will look at the title given Him of “Everlasting Father.”

How Can It Be?
It is hard for me to grasp this thought that Jesus is both the Son of God and Everlasting Father. However, when I consider all the references to this truth in scripture I know that He is indeed both.

In John 8:57-58, Jesus declares this truth: “Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?” “Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

In John 10:30-33, Jesus boldly states this truth that He and the Father are One, and the response of the religious leaders’ was to stone Him because they knew exactly what He was saying about Himself, but they choose not believe.

“I and the Father are one.” At this, the Jews again picked up stones to stone Him. But Jesus responded, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?” We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God.”

Today as you read these passages, think deeply about what they reveal about Jesus, then look again at that baby in the manger, what do you see?

Always Was and Is and Ever Will Be!
Isaiah states that Jesus is the “Everlasting Father.” “Everlasting” comes from a Hebrew word that means: from ancient times past unto eternity. It signifies “continuous existence; existing forever.”

Paul reveals this truth about Jesus in Colossians 1:16b-17;
“… All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.…”

The expression,“from ancient times past and into eternity,” in the above definition reminds me of the description of Jesus in Daniel 7:9.

“As I continued to watch: thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.”

Jesus, the Ancient of Days, has always existed within the Father. He is the “Everlasting Father.”

Throughout the book of Revelation we see various images of Jesus similar to the description in Daniel’s vision. Each description emphasizes Jesus’ divinity and eternal existence.

” and among the lampstands was One like the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe, with a golden sash around His chest. The hair of His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like a blazing fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the roar of many waters…” Rev.1:13 -15

This Ancient of Days, this Lord of Lords – Jesus, is the child in the manger!

Forever Father
Jesus is our “Everlasting Father.” The term for “father” in Hebrew has several applications. It does refer to “father” as in being a parent. It also refers to a “father” in the sense of: author or maker; a great chief or leader; and a founder of a nation or household.

Let’s look further at Jesus as a father in the sense of “author and maker/giver of life.”

Father – Author and Maker
The scriptures clearly present Jesus, “Everlasting Father,” as the Author and Maker of life.

  • John 1:1-3,10 -“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being … He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize him.”
  • Colossians 1:15-16 – “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for Him.”
  • Acts 3:15 – “… and you killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead, and we are witnesses of the fact.”

With a True Father’s Love
I think a passage that brings home to me the truth of Jesus being our Everlasting Father is in Matthew 9:22.

In this touching passage, Jesus heals a woman who had an incurable flow of blood. In faith she reaches out and touches His garment, and she is healed. Jesus turns to speak to her and calls her “daughter.”

“Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.” (Mt. 9:22)

We could pass this off as a traditional saying of a Rabbi to a woman of Israel, but I do not read anywhere else in the gospels that Jesus referred to a woman as “daughter.”

When I hear the name “Everlasting Father” I think of someone great, powerful and distant. However, when reading this account in Matthew 9, I see Jesus, the Everlasting Father, who wants to make a deep personal connection with His children, with me.

Jesus cared enough to ask who touched Him. He deliberately stopped, turned to look at her, and spoke to her. Jesus addressed her specifically as “daughter.” I can just hear the tenderness and kindness in His voice. She went from an outcast to a daughter of the Everlasting Father.

Jesus is Immanuel, God in the flesh. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Take time to think of these names that Isaiah used to define Jesus. Allow the meanings of these names impact your heart. May you to stand in awe of Jesus, but also remember His tender love that calls us “daughter,” or “son.”

What Child Is This

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

God Has a Thing for Names 
Everyone wants to know the name of the new born child, even before the actual birth of the child we eagerly ask the parents, “What is his or her name?” That is because we know names hold out meaning and promise.

God was very specific about names. He used names in several significant ways:

  • to communicate messages (as in Isaiah 7 when God instructed the prophet to name his son Shear-jashub meaning a “remnant will return”);
  • to commemorate wondrous events  (as when God met with Jacob through the ladder to heaven and the place was named “Bethel”- the gate of heaven, Gen. 28:16-19);
  • to define Himself (YHVH Shalom-God of Peace, Judges 6:24; Elohay mikarov– God Who Is Near, Jer. 23:23; El Elyon-God Most High Gen.14:18).

Considering this, it is not strange that God would give His son a specific name(s) that would reveal Hus  nature, character and mission.

There IS Something in a Name
In this holiday season of Christmas when many Christians honor God becoming a man in the sending of His Son, Jesus, “Emmanuel,” God with us (Matthew 1:22-23),we look at the names given Him in Is. 9:6.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

These are amazing names. The more I learn about them the more I am filled with awe and wonder as to who Jesus is and what He does. For this season, in a series of articles, we will look into each name.

Wonderful Counselor
The name “Wonderful Counselor” is transliterated as pele yäats in the original language. Pele is translated wonderful and has several shades of meaning that enhance our understanding.

This term is usually used to refer to the deeds of God. Pele is translated as wonders of God in verses like:

  • Exodus  15:11- “Who among the gods is like you, LORD?Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”
  • Psalm 77:14 – “You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”
  • Isaiah 25:1 – “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”

Astounding-Miraculous!
Pele refers to the “miraculous,” that which is supernatural. It is that which is extraordinary, hard to be understood by the human mind. This word points to something beyond the realm of human understanding. It points to the supernatural, even miraculous, wisdom of God as described by Paul:  

“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor.1:23-25

In addition to the “Wonderful Counselor” bringing us understanding of the deep truths of God, Our “Wonderful Counselor” speaks words that have life changing and demolishing strongholds power (Heb.4:12) (Rom. 1:16-17).

If you want power to change, seek out the “Wonderful Counselor.”

A Trustworthy Counselor
The word translated counselor in most Bibles comes from the Hebrew word yäats. This word has shades of meaning that enhance our understanding.

It is translated: to advise; to consult, to counsel, to deliberate, to strategize, and to plan.  It is said that this word indicates the innate quality of the person and not simply their actions or words.  Again we see the connection to Jesus, literally, being the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-25).

Some students of scripture have suggested that the title “wonderful counselor” could be translated as “wonder knower” or “wonder genius.”

Who better than the One (Jesus) who resides in the bosom of the Father to reveal the wisdom of God, the character of God, the mysteries of God and the heart of God to us. The counsel of Jesus can be trusted because He is One with God.

  • “No one has ever yet seen God. The only begotten God, the One being in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known.” John 1:18 (Berean Literal Bible)
  • No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the One who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known.” John 1:18 (God’s Word Translation)

Jesus is able to “advise” us because His qualifications surpass all others.  In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul reminds us that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus.

  • “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Jesus has a deep understanding of our human nature. He, being God, knows us from near and afar; knows when we rise up and when we sit down; He perceives our thoughts and knows the very words that are on our tongues. Psalm 139 tells us that His knowledge is too “wonderful” for us to grasp.

Jesus, our counselor, can relate to us since He, who is “Emmanuel-God in the flesh”has endured troubles and trials the same as you and me. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

What Now?
I am just a woman of ordinary skill and average intellectual ability. On my own I cannot understand the deep truths of God and the salvation He offers. The truths and mysteries He reveals to us are extraordinary. They are astounding. They are pele– of a miraculous quality. But we have a “wonderful counselor” who advises us.

Jesus asked his disciples who do you say I am, Peter answered you are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God. Jesus said that Peter did not know this in and of himself, but that God revealed it to Him. In the birth of Jesus the marvelous wisdom revealed is that God became a man in order to become the sin offering for us!

As you move into this holiday season take time to read the words of Jesus. Ask Him to teach you how to live each truth of His wise counsel.

My Father’s Eyes

I am a visual freak, so to speak. I am not an artist, photographer or designer, but I love looking at color and light and how they play off one another, especially outside in nature. I can look out my window at the same scene in our yard anytime during the day, and I will see something different and uniquely beautiful depending on the angle of the sun light. The same leaves on a tree can appear golden at one point in the morning, while shimmery silver at another time, even the shadows create beauty.

I am on a journey of losing my eyesight through macular degeneration. This has caused me to focus more on what I see around me, and what I see spiritually.

My Eyesight Affects My Life
I strive for clarity in my physical eyesight as well as in the eyes of my heart. I need clear vision in my spiritual life, to find my way with God and man. The eyes through which I see other people, my relationships, events, trials/difficulties, achievements, etc., in my life will make a significant difference in my faith and how I live out that faith in my life.

When I am hurt by another person, do I see them as someone to avoid, and complain about; or, do I see them through God’s eyes of forgiveness and patient endurance?

When my children behave in ways that embarrass me, do I see them with eyes of condemnation, shame and despair; or, do I see them through God’s eyes of grace and persevering love?

When I am passed over for some position, promotion or honor, do I look at those who made the decision with bitterness and anger; or do I see it as God working out what is best for me, and do I look for His will and His timing?

When I struggle with physical illness or limitations, such as my weakening eyesight, do I look at God with accusing eyes, and charge Him with not loving me; or do I look to Him with faith and seek to surrender my will?

In 1979, Amy Grant released a song entitled, “My Father’s Eyes.” In the song, Amy Grant sings of how she wants to see people and life through the eyes of God so much so that when she dies, she will be recognized in eternity by the fact that she has “her Father’s eyes.”

Eyes of the Father: Compassion
Jesus reveals to us the eyes of the Father. In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus meets a leper on the road. Jesus looked at the leper through eyes of compassion and healed him. The scripture says; “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, v.31.

Leprosy was not pleasant to look at, smell or touch, but it moved Jesus to compassion and action.

Sin is like leprosy, it rots our heart. It distorts our character and disposition. It is not pleasant to be around a person ruled by a sin, such as anger, bitterness, addictions, pride, and so on. The question for me is: How do I look at someone who is struggling with sin? Do I have compassion and reach out or do I draw back?

Take it a step further, how do I look at someone who is different from me, or from societies “nice” norms? Someone who is homeless or very poor? How do I view someone who is uneducated; someone who dresses on a weird style; or someone who has a disability?  Do I avoid them or reach out to them?

Eyes of the Father: Grace
In John 8:1-11 Jesus meets an adulterous woman. She was, so to speak, thrown at Jesus’ feet. The men who brought her to Jesus expected Him to look on her with condemnation.

According to the Law, she was to be stoned, but Jesus looked at her through the Father’s eyes of mercy. In mercy He released her. He moved the men from condemnation to grace. Each man dropped his stone and turned away.

When someone has sinned, most especially when someone has personally sinned against me, am I willing to drop my stones; the stone of judgement; the stone of accusation; the stone of blame; the stone of condemnation or revenge?

Eyes of the Father: Love
In Mark 10:17-27, a young ruler talks to Jesus about eternal life. This young man seems to have it all: wealth, status, power and a relationship with God. Yet, when Jesus asked him to give up the one thing that he loved more than God, he couldn’t do it. He struggled and walked away sad.

Even though Jesus knew this man would reject Him, the scripture states, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” verse 21.

God looks at us in love even when we struggle to do what is right. When we fail, there is love. When we turn away from God, He watches for our return with eyes of love, Luke 15:11-32.

God does not overlook sin, but rather He chooses to look at us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.

What do I choose to see? Do I look at people who are struggling with eyes of love or frustration? Do I look at those who fail me with eyes of love or accusation? Do I look at people who turn away from God with mercy and perseverance, or do I write them off as lost causes?

Do You Have the Father’s Eyes?
As a disciple of Jesus, I would like to think I have my Father’s eyes, but after reviewing these passages I have had to examine my vision more deeply. So, today when I pray for my physical eyesight, I will more urgently pray for my spiritual eyesight, to have my Father’s eyes.
What about you dear Reader? Maybe, it is time for an eye exam?

The One and Only

My understanding of Jesus has been fashioned by things I have seen and been taught from birth. I believe this filter has hindered me in knowing Jesus in a more true sense, even as I have been searching the scriptures. I believe we need to pray and ask God for clear, untainted sight when we come to learn of Jesus.

Recently I read a beautiful description of Jesus in Colossians 1:15- 20.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the Head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”

In five verses Paul the apostle shows us that Jesus is God and that He has supremacy over everything. This is a powerful passage and has much to teach about Jesus, and is worthy of your own in-depth personal study.

Jesus Supremacy Looks Like…
Let’s look at some snapshots in Jesus’ life that give us a glimpse of the supremacy that Paul outlines in Col. 1:15-20.

Jesus Walking on Water
In Mt. 14:22-33, we see Jesus power and authority over what we call “natural laws.” Jesus, as the Author of the laws of nature governing water, has the authority to have those laws obey Him and in fact to supersede those laws and walk on top of the water. He did this in the midst of wind and waves.

Jesus walked on the water and He made Peter able through faith to walk on the water. When Peter went under Jesus brought Him up and walked with Him on the water back to the boat.

The Wind and Waves Obeying Him
In Mark 4:35-41, we see the apostles and Jesus in a boat on the Lake Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, when a significant squall arose. A squall involves violent winds and water turbulence. It must have been severe enough and life threatening for the apostles, some of whom were seasoned fisherman, to cry out to Jesus for help.

Jesus was quick to intervene on their behalf. He spoke to the wind one word, “Quiet!” and to the waves He said “Be still!” Immediately there was calm. Jesus has supremacy over all the elements of nature and the laws that sustain their existence.

Dark Powers Submitting
When we turn to this photo, we come to a scene that would be a dream come true for the Capernaum paparazzi. Picture this: the young Rabbi Jesus teaching in a synagogue in which there is a demon possessed man shouting out challenges at Jesus, Luke 4:31-44. We see Jesus turning to the man and commanding the demon to come out. It immediately obeyed, coming out, but first acknowledging that Jesus is God.

Sin Forgiven and a Man Healed
A highlight in these snapshots is seen in Mark 2:1-12 This is a clear picture of the authority of Jesus to forgive sins. Men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed. To the astonishment of everyone, Jesus forgives the man’s sins. Then to prove His authority and power over the spiritual bondage of sin, He heals the man’s paralysis.

What does this mean to me?
Each of these selections from the gospels show us several truths about Jesus that comfort our souls. For example. in the account of Jesus calming the storm I can take comfort and trust that Jesus will help me in the various storms of my life. We can find similar faith building and life assisting truths in the other accounts, also. I believe these passages show us more than faith affirming and comforting  truths.

The truth is they clearly define the supremacy of Jesus. I believe that is the main truth expressed in Colossians 1:15-20, as well as by the accounts in the gospels. Understanding and acknowledging that Jesus is pre-eminent and has supremacy over our “self” is greatest truth we must realize and respond to in our life.

For me, seeing this truth intellectually is easier than daily bringing myself under the supremacy of Jesus. I would like to encourage all of us to pray that God will help us know and understand the supremacy of Jesus, and help us to obey Him like the wind and the waves.

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“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Snapshots of Compassion

I have always loved pictures painted, drawn, or photos taken.  Currently, I am taking a photography course and it has opened my eyes even more to the beauty and the story (ies) within each picture. As I read the Bible I realize there are pictures of God, of man and even videos (so to speak) of God and man together. I would like to present some to you. In my photo album of God these are filed under compassion and love.

Snapshots of Compassion
Picture this: A man is dressed in dirty clothes with holes and shreds. As we approach we see he is disfigured and has scaly, crusty white patches on his arms. Some of his fingers are missing, People begin to move away from him and murmur sounds of disgust.

Then we see a young man and a small group of his friends nearing the man. The man calls out something. He is calling out for help. His friends shrink back, but the young man moves forward and reaches out and touches the man.  Almost instantly, we see the man’s flesh restored to normal. His fingers are whole. His skin is not scaly and crusty, but smooth and new. Onlookers, still at a cautious distance, gasp. The man in tatters praises God.

Maybe this is what it was like when Jesus looked on the leper with compassion.  This photo is found in the gospel of Mark in chapter 1, we read of the incident in which Jesus looked upon a leper with eyes of compassion and a will to help him.

“A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing,  you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.  Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Mark 1:40-42.

I love the part that says the Son of God was “moved with compassion,” and “I am willing.”  It is reassuring to know that God sees me with eyes of compassion, and that He is willing to help me. On the days when I feel like a leper on the sidelines of life, ignored, cast off, weighed down in my sin, or hurt by another’s sin; I pull out this picture and see God and His compassion. It reminds me of the truth about God and me. I return the photo to the album and move forward with new courage, faith and strength.

Snapshot: A Guilty Woman
There is a small crowd. Men’s angry voices can be heard. Wait! They have stones in their hands. Who is that in the middle of the circle? A women partially clothed is cowering in the dirt. A young rabbi looks on the scene with sadness and indignation. He enters the ring and scratches something in the dirt. Men drop stones and turn away. He turns to the woman, and speaks gentle words of forgiveness and direction. She rises and returns home. (See John 8:1-12).

When I am distraught about my sin, about wrestling with overcoming it, and failing; I pull out this snapshot of truth and am encouraged. Knowing that God views my distress through eyes of compassion helps me trust in Him, stand up, and move forward.

Snapshot: Men with Hard Hearts
The next picture was taken on the Sabbath in the synagogue. The synagogue was a great location for a picture. It was the focal point of the Jewish religious community. People went there to hear the law of God read and discussed.

In this picture we see men sitting, some are in the chief seats and there is a commoner seated on the floor. If we look closely at the expressions we see critical eyes and cold hard stares of the men in the “chief seats.” The man seated on the floor has a withered hand. Look closely at the picture and you will see sadness and fear in his eyes.

Also in the picture is a young rabbi who is looking with compassion on the man with the withered hand. He calls this man forward and heals him. In the next photo we see indignation and grief on the young rabbi’s face while we see anger and hatred on the faces of the men in the chief seats.

It is said that after this compassionate healing took place, the men of the chief seats met in a group and conspired to kill the young rabbi. (See Mark 3:1-6)

I love the fact that Jesus’ compassion for the man leads Him to act on his behalf even when it posed a danger to Himself.  While Jesus felt compassion for the man with the withered hand, He felt deep sadness at the hardness of heart of the other men. Seeing this picture of God helps me to trust Him. He is righteous and has a sense of justice. I can feel safe in confiding my hurts and problems to Him. He stands up to evil and champion my cause.

What’s in Your spiritual Wallet?
The compassion of God is well documented in the scriptures. Jesus manifests the character and nature of God to us (Col. 1:18; John 1:1-3). As we read the gospels we see pictures of God’s compassion.

When I was younger it was the custom for people to carry a wallet for their cash, but also most of these wallets had a section of plastic holders for pictures. Usually people put pictures of their family and close friends. It was a reminder to them of their loved ones and they could whip it out to give others a true description of their family and friends.

It is important to picture these truths about God in our minds and carry them with us in the wallet of our hearts.

In times when I am discouraged; feeling hurt and alone; misunderstood; let down by others; weary and tired of life, or guilty of sin, I pull out these truths of God. I look at them carefully. I put my faith in God anew and trust His compassion for me.  I am reminded I am not alone. I have a Father who understands, who cares and whose compassion is active in my life.

I urge you to read the Word of God, find and keep pictures of God in your spiritual wallet.

“I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction;
You have known the distress of my soul.”  Psalm. 31:7

Get a Lawyer – Second Look III

The idea that I would need an attorney is a scary thought to me, because it means I broke the law and am going to be liable for some type of punishment unless I can prove my innocence. The closest I ever came to this was when I was attending graduate school in Abilene, Texas. I hopped in my car to go to a friend’s house and forgot my purse, in which was my wallet, in which was my driver’s license. Wouldn’t you know that on that day as I approached the campus there was a police car in the middle of the road with a police officer stopping all cars and checking driver licenses!

I confidently reached for my purse, which was not there, and immediately was filled with fear. To my relief, I did not get hauled off to jail, but I did receive a citation stating that by such and such a date I had to show up at the police station and prove I had a current driver’s license. I went on my way, relieved.

However, about a month later, I received a notice saying there was a warrant out on me and that I could be picked up at any time because I did not show proof of a driver’s license. (Just another thing I forgot)! I was instructed to report to the courthouse on said date. I immediately was filled with panic, fear and dread. I wasted no time, called an older friend and asked for help.

We both went to the courthouse. It was comforting to have someone by my side as I faced the judge. The friend who stayed by my side was there for moral support, so to speak. He did not do any pleading on my behalf.  It turned out that I did not have to go to jail or even pay a fine. I simply had to show the judge my valid driver’s license. Nevertheless, it was a frightening experience, which if I had been found guilty would have had a penalty to pay.

I Need a Defender
When I studied the scriptures to learn about Jesus and the salvation He offers.  I understood that Jesus took my sins on Himself, and that He paid the penalty for my sins which was death and separation from God.

However, after I believed and was baptized into Jesus (Gal. 3:27), I thought I was done with sin and that I would be sinless from that point on. So, when I did sin, I became fearful and anxious forgetting what God did for me in Jesus. Obviously, I was very naïve about my fleshly nature.

Since I came to Jesus I have overcome some sin tendencies, but I still sin. Infact, I have been a disciple for many years and through the years God has helped me to see sins I had committed that I never realized. This became a new source of anxiety. Have you ever felt that way or wondered about these things?

The thought of sinning bothers me, because I thought I would no longer sin and the scripture calls us to stop sinning. There are many verses in the New Testament that call us to live a holy life, such as Col. 3:4-7.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” Col. 3:5-7

I have since come to realize that putting off my old self and putting on and growing in Godly character is a lifelong process. But the problem of sin remains. So, what do I do with the sins I commit after I have come to Jesus? In 1 John, a letter written to 1st century believers, the Spirit reveals the truth about this dilemma and provides God’s solution.

Jesus Our Defense Attorney
Jesus is not only our Savior, but also He is our advocate as stated in 1 John 2:1.

 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”1 John 2:1

The term in New Testament Greek for advocate is parakletos which is two words. Para means “alongside” and kaleo means “make a call”. It refers to coming alongside someone to give aid. This word is often used in the New Testament when the scripture refers to the Holy Spirit. However, in 1 John 2:1-2, it is specifically applied to Jesus.

In this verse the term advocate is used in a legal sense. It was used to indicate one who pleads a cause before a judge. Our equivalent today might be a “defense attorney.”

A defense attorney comes alongside a person to plead their cause before a judge. By using this word in describing Jesus, John paints a picture of Jesus as our legal representative coming along side us, in a spiritual sense, and pleading our case before the Father.

Jesus is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God presenting evidence to God on my behalf. The interesting thing is that Jesus’ advocacy is not a onetime thing, but rather it is a continuous process. The word “have” in the phrase “we have an advocate with the Father” is a present tense indicating a continuous action!

Jesus advocated for me on the cross and he continues to advocate for me. So, when I first came to believe in Him He presented my case to God, and He continues to advocate on my behalf as I walk along with Him. This is so reassuring to me, because I “mess up” a lot.

Jesus Is the Evidence
What evidence could Jesus possibly be presenting on my behalf since I know I am guilty of sinning, of going against the commands of Jesus? As a skilled defense attorney Jesus presents His evidence before God. The evidence that Jesus presents in not what I have done, but what He has done. All of His evidence on my behalf is based in His sacrifice, 1 john 2:1-2.

Article of Evidence#1: Jesus Became the Criminal
Jesus took my sins on Himself. In other words He became me and my sin. He gave up His status of being without blame, of being righteous or sinless. He took on my status as the transgressor, the law breaker, and He choose to give me His righteousness.

  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the      righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Article #2: Jesus Took My Punishment
He took my punishment of death on Himself and gave me life.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
  • “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9

Article of Evidence #3: Jesus Made Restitution for My Sin
Jesus made up for my transgression by offering His blood to the Father. He met the requirement of the law by doing this.

  • “… He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12

Article of Evidence #4: Jesus Wiped My Record Clean
Jesus cancelled out all the charges that were against me and He satisfied the requirement of the law in His sacrifice on the cross. So my “record,” so to speak, is clear and clean before God.

  • And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:13-14)

Yes, these are some of the pieces of evidence that Jesus presents to the Father on my behalf. Maybe He says to the Father, “Father, this woman is innocent. I carried her sins on me. Actually, Father, I am the sinner. I already took the punishment and I offered to You my blood to make up for her sins. She is righteous and blameless, free to live life with You, Father.” I don’t know, maybe that is carrying things too far. I am not sure how Jesus advocates for us, but I believe 1 John 2:1-2 is true and presents reassurance for me and you.

The purpose of this article is not to say we can sin and it is ok, but rather, it is to magnify God and Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross and what He continues to do for us.  When I take sin lightly, it dishonors Jesus and makes a mockery of His sacrificial death.

The truth that Jesus is my advocate reminds me of Jesus’ steadfast love for me. It is reassuring to know that when I do sin and have a repentant heart, Jesus is talking to the Father for me. He is presenting His evidence and interceding for me. I can be at peace and rest in the sacrifice of
Jesus.

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:33-34

 

A Second Look

In the early 1970’s, I remember driving around in my VW Beetle listening to a song by Johnny Cash in which were the words “I see men as trees walking.” This song told the story of the encounter of a blind man with Jesus in Mark 8:22-25. This passage relates how Jesus spit on the man’s eyes, put His hands on him and asked him what he saw. The man said,” I see people, they look like trees walking.”  Jesus touched the man a second time and the man saw clearly.

Do you ever feel that way, like you need a second touch? Like you need to read it again or take a second look at it? I do!

Routine Obscures the View
I think I can get busy with life and busy doing the activities associated with a “walk with God” that my sight of Jesus gets off. My sense of wonder and awe become veiled. Sometimes things begin to become more of a routine performance than heart relationship.

That is when I need a second touch, a second look into Jesus. The story in Mark 8:22-26 reminds us that true sight comes from God, so I start with prayer, asking God to show me Jesus, to take me deeper into knowing Him. As I progress in “knowing Jesus” I am sure I will need more of these second looks.

I started this quest by looking at what we have “in” Jesus and “through” Jesus. These are little words that open up another dimension to knowing Jesus.

Created In Jesus For
In the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 and verse 10, Paul reveals an eye opening truth about Jesus. It reads:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Three important truths come from this passage.  I am God’s handiwork. That word is also translated workmanship. I am His workmanship. When I think of “workmanship,” I think of a carpenter or a violin maker holding the wood,maybe even caressing it as he cuts, bends, shapes, shaves,  joins and engraves it. God enthroned above is actually involved in forming something in and through me and my life. This truth should dispel any doubt about my value or His love for me.

This working of God is happening in me as I am “in Jesus;” and this creative action is towards the purpose of my doing good works.

A Truth to Sustain
So in Jesus, I am given value and purpose for life. In the more mundane or ho-hum moments in life I can be tempted to think, “What am I doing here? What is my meaning or value here?”

This passage gives me meaning and purpose “in Christ Jesus.” I learn what the “works prepared in advance for me” are as I read more of His Word, and as I participate in the community of believers, the body of Christ, His church.

Encounter God Through Jesus
It is an amazing thought to think we can be near to the One who creates and sustains all life. Yet we can do this “through Jesus,” and only through Him. Salvation through Jesus brings us into the presence of God.

In the context of the letter of Hebrews to the Hebraic disciples the writer is explaining how Jesus is the true high priest and what He has done before God on our behalf. We read:

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25

This thought is associated with understanding of the system of priesthood and atonement recorded in the Old Testament. But, the truth remains that because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and His eternal priesthood, we can draw near to God through Jesus based on His merits, not ours. Through Jesus we can approach God, actually through Jesus we have consent to come near God.

This is an amazing thought to me, especially when I am plagued with self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough. The truth is that I, in and of myself, am not “good enough.” I cannot come into the presence of God, or achieve a close relationship with God through my performance and achievement.  Jesus, through His atoning blood and resurrections from the dead can bring me into the throne room of God.

Jesus Prays for Me
Another amazing truth in this passage in verse 25 is the fact that Jesus intercedes for me. He, so to speak, prays for me.  Jesus presents me and my case to God the Father.

Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:14) came to earth, showed us the character and heart of God, died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, was raised from death to live eternally, is seated at the right hand of God, and continually intercedes on our behalf. Amazing and true!

Jesus always lives to make intercession for me. His sacrifice on the cross was a one-time event, but Jesus continues to work on my behalf. His approaching the Father on my behalf is one such way I am blessed through Him.

There are times when darkness obscures light and truth in my life; when I am discouraged; confused, tempted or worn down. At times like these, I bring this truth to my mind, remembering that Jesus is bringing me before God and speaking on my behalf to our Father, gives me hope.

And There Is More
There are so many blessings that we have within our salvation in Jesus. Sometimes we just need to take a second look into Jesus. We have much in Him, with Him, by Him and through Him. He truly is our all in all.