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.

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“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

The God Who Groans for You

What an encouraging and supportive truth to know that the Spirit of God prays for us. That thought, in and of itself, encourages my soul and gives me hope. No matter what burden I am carrying, or agonizing problem I am facing, the Spirit of God intercedes on my behalf.

Romans 8:26 reveals this truth;
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” 

Say What?!
This is a wondrous truth. Just what is the Spirit doing? One would think that the Spirit might reveal to us what to pray for, or help us get a better grasp on what is happening and why.

However, the breath taking truth is “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Spirit of God constantly intercedes for us even in times when we are not desperately seeking God, or thinking we need help.

Groanings from the Gut of God
The Spirit does help us pray in a more effective way, but that is not what this verse is saying. The impact of this truth is this: “the Spirit of God intercedes for us.” Let that sink into your mind and heart. It is a powerful truth.

“To Intercede” means to petition on behalf of another.  The term in the original language implies a meeting with another so as to converse on behalf of a person. So the Spirit meets with God to have a personal conversation with Him about you or me.

The Spirit seeks the presence and hearing of God on our behalf, unsolicited by us. It is a part of His heart of love and care for us.

Romans 8:26 states that the Spirit intercedes in a unique way, “with groanings too deep for words,” so that the Spirit gives voice to our inarticulate thoughts and feelings.

The Spirit groans on our behalf. “Groan in this passage means: groan, deep sigh; internal unexpressed feelings; powerful gut wrenching sighs exerted as from a pressure within similar to labor pains. These guttural groans come from a pressure from within, the pressure of the Spirit’s love for us and His desire to help us in our weakness.

The Spirit of God knows our minds, our hearts, our feelings completely, and He knows the mind and the will of God, so He is able to expertly translate our needs to God.

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

Groans Give Hope
I always associated groaning with deep pain, frustration, or longing. These groans from the Spirit come from the Spirit feeling pain on our behalf and yearning for our good.

This truth increases my hope, my faith and gives me a sense of security. I am not in this alone. No matter how low I feel or how complex my circumstances, the Spirit are constantly interceding on my behalf. He groans for me when I am thinking of this truth and when I am not.

His continual groaning on my behalf is not dependent on my performance just on my connection with God through Jesus. This is a powerful thought.

What does this mean to you?
I encourage you to meditate on this passage and think about how you have seen the Spirit work on your behalf in the past, and how does the truth of Romans 8:26 encourage your faith and hope for the future?

A Dare!

Many years of my life were spent working in public schools as a teacher and evaluation team leader.  I especially treasured the days that I taught 3rd grade in Salisbury, Maryland. Each day I woke up eager to be in school. I loved working with these children, beautiful human beings, precious, full of life, sparkle, intelligence  and with a genuine joy for life. They were ever eager to learn. They refreshed my soul. I learned more from them than I think I taught them, and as I reflect back on those days I am still learning.

God, Our Teacher
As people who claim to believe in God, trust is a hallmark of our relationship with God. We communicate our love for Him and our need for Him, by asking for His help, and by asking Him to teach us what we need to know.

I often call out to God to strengthen me or deliver me from a particular difficulty, but, how often do I call out, yes, even “cry out” for God to teach me of Him, and to teach me the strength, character and spiritual skills I need to live in this world.

What about you, when was the last time you asked God to teach you anything?

Humble Hearts Ask
Teach Me about You, God
In Exodus 33: 13, Moses, a most humble man, asks God to teach him more about God!
“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” Ex. 33:13

Moses had a close relationship with God. He personally met with and communed with God. God gave Moses the words of the law and let Moses into His presence, so much so that Moses’ face radiated the light of the glory of God after their meetings.

One would think Moses would be content, that he would feel what he had was enough. Yet, Moses hungered to know God more, so that he could find favor with God, be in His grace and please God.

David, who the scripture describes as a man after God’s own heart, asks God to teach him God’s ways. David wants to know truths about God, His character and His will (way), so that David will apply God’s truth to his life, and by so doing will fear God and honor Him.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.Ps. 86:11

Teach Me to Do Your Will, God
In Psalm 143:10, David asks God to teach him about God’s will and how to do God’s will. David also asks to learn how to be led by God’s Spirit.
Teach me to do your will, for You are my God! Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”

This is a prayer I need to pray. I read the scriptures a lot, but just because I read the scriptures and even agree with them does not mean I am doing the will of God. Teach us to do your will God.

Teach Me to be Led by Your Spirit
In this same passage Ps. 143:10, David is asking God to teach Him to follow the lead of God’s Spirit. In this day and age when many are talking about the Spirit of God and purporting all manner of ideas about what the Spirit does and does not do, we can become confused. We should not get discouraged, but instead, like David, ask God to teach us how to walk according to God’s Spirit. God will teach us.

Teach Me Good Judgment
In Psalm 119, the psalmist asks God to teach him knowledge and good judgment. Take note that this request comes from faith. God has proven to the psalmist that His commands are reliable guides in life. The psalmist trusts God, so he seeks to know more about God, the ways of God and how he, personally, can exercise good judgment.

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.”  Psalm 119:66

I have often relied on my own judgement and wisdom, and made unwise choices that have carried consequences to me and others.  God is all wise. He is filled with good will towards me. Why would I not ask God to teach me to have discernment and make good decisions?

Teach Me Integrity in My Inmost Being
David in Psalm 51:6 after an unwise decision that lead David to sin grievously against God, in repentance David asks God to teach him wisdom down deep in his soul.

Indeed,You are pleased with truth in the inner person, and you will teach me wisdom in my innermost parts.” Psalm 51:6

David is asking God to teach him the truths of God down deep in his soul. David is asking God to teach him to have a pure heart, so that in the future it will bring out words, thoughts and actions that will honor God.

The Truth and A Challenge
I have wrestled often with my faith and my character. I have come to know that I cannot change myself. I need God to change me. I need to be humble and ask God to teach me. Here are some of the things I am asking God to teach me:

  • “Teach me Oh God, to fear You.” What does that look like for me in the 21st century and on a daily basis?
  • “Teach me Oh, God, to be humble before God and man.”
  • “Teach me Oh, God, to seek your approval and not man’s.” What does that look like on a day to day basis, especially as I attempt to serve God and others?
  • “Teach me Oh, God, to love You with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength.” Just because I know this command and agree with it does not mean I know how to do this in all the areas of my life.
  • “Teach me Oh. Go, how to have a pure heart, how to be honest and not hypocritical.”

How about you? Has God been showing you something(s) in your life that you need to learn, maybe about: traits in your character, attitudes in your relationships, and /or weaknesses in your faith and relationship with God?

Take some time to reflect on your relationship with God. Ask God to show you your need, and  then ask God to teach you about these things. Go ahead, I dare you! Ask God to teach you! You might be surprised at how God answers.

Patterns of Love

A friend of mine was praying and in that prayer she asked to be able to love other people. She boldly went on to specify that she wanted to love others like Jesus loved. Immediately, all sorts of pictures of Jesus loving people flashed through my mind.

Suddenly I saw my own weakness in this area. It is easy for me to love people who show love, or even “like” to me. I usually feel good in their presence. They, in fact, are the people I tend to hang with and seek time in their presence.

But what do I do with those who do not readily show appreciation of me, my ideas, my style, etc.? What about those who do not voice their approval or value of me? What about those who may look at me, my actions, my words, or my family with a shade of criticism? What about those who seem to interact with me in a way that demonstrates their superiority?

My pattern is to gently withdraw myself from these people. When hostility is shown by those beyond my immediate circle, I create an even safer distance.

So my love for people is not like that of Jesus. Those two sentences in my friend’s prayer challenged my heart. I want to grow in this area, so I am looking at some of those pictures of Jesus that flashed through my mind. I see one in Mark 3:1-6. 

Jesus Loves Hard People in Hard Times –
Love that Makes People Whole
In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus goes against tradition and heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. He took a stand and loved a man by restoring the use of his hand. Jesus is in the business of helping people to become whole. It took courage to stand before the critical religious leaders and love this man.

“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

Love in the Face of Hostility
This passage notes that Jesus was grieved in His heart about the hardness  of heart and lack of love these leaders had for their fellow man.  Jesus had a righteous anger about their lack of love.  They stood watching and waiting for Jesus to show his love for this man and in so doing violate their law, their standard. The hearts of these religious leaders were hard – filled with envy, criticisms and wrong judgment. Yet, Jesus loved them.

Love Is Grief at a Hard Heart
You may think, “How did He love them?” Jesus’ love for them is noted by the fact that He felt sadness towards them and the condition of their heart. This so to speak softness of heart towards their hardness of heart demonstrates God’s overall heart of mercy towards man. Jesus did not condemn them but instead was grieved at the condition of their heart.

Love Asks Poignant Questions
Jesus did not speak harsh words to them, but rather, asked a gentle but poignant question that would lead them to reflect on what is right, just, equitable and good. See Mark 3:4.

“And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.” Mk. 3:4

Love Is Vulnerable
Jesus did not withdraw himself from this circle of hostility, but He made himself vulnerable to their hostility. Jesus shows these leaders what love really looks like by taking a stand and publicly healing this man. Jesus could have followed this man out; pulled him aside privately and healed him, if the healing was all He was about.

In this act of love towards the man with the withered hand in the company of hostile men, Jesus deliberately and vulnerably loved these men by very clearly revealing to them that He was the Son of God. He was vulnerable, opening Himself to their conspiracy of hate, and loved them enough to show them God in the flesh.

What about Me? What about You?
I tend to withdraw from those who are critical, those who seem disapproving of me; those who are jealous; those who act superior, and definitely those who are hostile.

Jesus looks beyond the hard exterior of people, and He has compassion for their heart. He sets about to restore the physical being and the inner heart. That is love.

Lord, teach us to love others like you do!

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“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9

Faithful

Just when things seemed to be turning around in her life, she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It was aggressive! The outlook was bleak. I had an underlying fear that she would be despaired and or blame God. We talked about the difficulty of trusting God when it seemed like life was composed of a series of harder and harder trials.

We asked ourselves, “What does faithfulness look like and sound like, especially in times of significant difficulty? What are some examples in the scriptures?” We came up with numerous examples, but were significantly impressed by one in the book of Daniel.

Jaw-dropping Faithfulness
Three young Hebrew men demonstrate “jaw-dropping faithfulness” in the book of Daniel in chapter 3. These Hebrew men who worshiped God were commanded to bow down to an idol representing the king and his power.

Such bowing proclaimed that they honored this image, the sovereignty of this king, above all. It proclaimed that they gave him ultimate value in their life and pledged their allegiance and obedience to him above all others. The king boldly challenged the God of these men when he said, “what god can deliver you from my hand, Dan. 3:15.” The consequence for refusing to bow was to be thrown into a fiery furnace.

When confronted by the king their response was a declaration of their faithfulness, their loyalty and their value of the living God. They said:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:16-18

Such a response is amazing! They had no foreknowledge that God would actually save them from being burned alive! These men believed in the power of God to miraculously save them, but more importantly, they knew the wonder and of the living God through their covenant relationship with Him.  As a result, honoring their God was of greater value than any suffering or even loss of life. That is faithfulness to God.

Faithfulness Is
Faithfulness is loving God with your whole heart, soul, mind and body even when God does not make everything “better” in your life. In the account in Daniel 3, faithfulness sounded like proclaiming that the God who created the heavens and earth is the only God, and it looked like stepping forward into the fire with a heart filled with faith in God.

Faithfulness is steadfast faith in the power of God to do anything; to change a situation, a heart, a mind or an outcome; to heal; to mend; to restore/to resurrect a life, a spirit or a heart. Faith is belief in the supreme power of God and the absolute love of God.

Faithfulness Comes From…
Faithfulness is trust and loyalty that comes from knowing the truth about God’s character, and from having experienced the presence of His character, love and power in your life.

Such faith enables one to see beyond the current situation and its consequences, and trust God in them, as these three young men did. They had no definitive guarantee that they would be delivered from being burned alive, yet they knew God deeply enough to take a stand and be faithfully devoted to Him.

After the fact, we know God delivered them, but also that He walked in the fire with them. The king was amazed!
“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God,” (or a son of the gods) Dan. 3:25.

It is an important fact that before their deliverance was a reality, these three young men choose to be faithful to God. They made a faith filled declaration about the character and nature of their God and acted on it.

What Does Your Faith Say About God?
After reflecting on this account of faithfulness in Daniel with my friend, I needed to ask myself some questions. Perhaps you will find these questions helpful to you, also.

  • What does my faith say about my relationship with God?
  • Do my words and actions proclaim that I personally know God’s character?
  • Do I believe God will help me, that He will deliver me, that He will change my circumstances, or that He will “presto chango” change my character?
  • What do I proclaim about God when He does not answer me the way I think He should? Do I fault Him? Do I no longer trust in His goodness and His righteous character? Do I accuse Him of a lack of love?
  • Do I stomp my foot and say “No” and miss seeing Him in the fire with me?
  • Am I genuinely faithful, or do I merely “wear my faith on the surface”?

These three young men showed me and my friend how do go deeper with God. Sometimes it takes the fire to help me see God.

Dear Reader,
I encourage you to pause and reflect on the depth and veracity of your faith in God in times when things are “going your way,” and in times when your character, your pride, your security, your well- being are challenged.

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: Mighty God

“What child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?”

 These words to a popular Christmas song ask an important question: Who is this child, this babe, who reportedly spent his new born hours in a manger?

Words proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah many years ago, approximately around 700BC, provide defining details about this child. Isaiah reveals the names of this child, and these names tell it all.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah9:6

The Mighty God – Warrior
Here is a name that makes us pause and think deeply. Who is this Child, the mighty God? The Hebrew word in this name is translated as “mighty” in most translations of scripture. It carries with it a history of meanings: strong; mightywith reference to a warrior, a hero, a champion, and a mighty king.

The second word in this name is “êlwhich is a Hebrew word for God.  It means strength, might or power. “El” is used in the Old Testament to refer to the one true God. We see the term “êlpreceding other words to reveal more of God’s names, such as: El Echad-the One True God ( Mal. 2:10); El Hanne’eman –the Faithful God (Deut. 7:9): and, El Emet – the God of truth (Ps. 31:5). These are but a few of  êls” names.

Scripture bears witness to God as “the Mighty Warrior.”

  • “Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” Ps. 24:8

We see this name and description of God in the song of Miriam and Moses in Exodus 15.

  • “The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God,and I will exalt Him.The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.” Ex. 15:2-3
  • “The LORD will go forth like a warrior; He will stir up His zeal like a soldier. He will shout; yes, He will roar. He will prevail against His enemies.” Isaiah 42:7

Jesus – the Mighty God Warrior
Picture this: Jesus stands toe to toe and face to face with Satan, locked in spiritual combat. This is the picture of the Light standing up to darkness – Jesus, our mighty warrior,with no sword or spear, but in weakness and humility He becomes the sin offering for us.  Other images of Him flash through our minds: Jesus, babe in the manger; 12 year old boy learning and teaching; itinerant rabbi working the wonders of God freeing men from Satan’s enslavement. We see Him crucified as a law breaker and raised as the victorious Lord, Creator of all life, King of kings seated at the right hand of the throne of God – El Gibbowr – God almighty-Mighty Warrior.

Snapshots of Jesus as the Conquering Warrior
This child that we sing of as sleeping on Mary’s lap became the Mighty Warrior God who broke the power of our enemy Satan, who held the power of death.

If I could draw a picture for the message of each of these passages it would be of Jesus – “The Mighty Warrior God.”

  •  “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15
  • “And now He has revealed this grace through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the gospel…”  2 Timothy 1:10

The most powerful picture of “this child” turned “Mighty God-Warrior King” is in Rev. 19:11-16.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

If you choose to celebrate Christmas as remembering “God becoming man” reflect on that babe in the manger as êl Gibbowr – Mighty Warrior God,” sovereign overall and the mighty warrior who has done battle for us.

When I feel defeated by circumstances in life, by difficult relationships, by my weaknesses and sin, I turn to this picture of Jesus as my Champion, my Mighty Warrior-God, and my faith is strengthened.

File this picture in your truths about God, and then put a copy of in your album of God.  As you set your “faith pictures” in your album, put this picture of Jesus, the Mighty God – Warrior King, next to the babe in the manger in Bethlehem so that you will remember who this Child is!

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.