“God is Working it Out!”

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Here’s a little bit of encouragement for you to start your day: “God is working it out!”

Reading in the book of Ruth, I couldn’t help but rejoice with happy crying in my heart. When I see her story I can’t help but be encouraged by what God did for her.

Let’s face it. She, according to those in the land, was really a nobody.  She was a woman of sorrow having lost her husband, her support, and now she has walked away from her homeland to follow Naomi.  Living in a strange place as a foreigner to all around she tried to acclimate to her new surroundings and help Naomi the best she could.

What the story doesn’t tell us is all the emotions that must have been going on with Ruth. Did she question her life?  Her decisions?  Did she feel lost sometimes as she sought to do the right thing out of love?  Did she ever pray in her heart for an understanding of all the why’s that was going on in her life at that moment?  Did she look at her adversity and think there was nobody to care; nobody who really pays attention to little old me?

She had a rough go at it but her story is so encouraging to me. As I look through the pages that tell the events of her life I can’t help but see God in the midst of it all.  It may not have been immediately prevalent to her at the moment, but for us who read her story, we can see Him at work orchestrating the events until they come to the fruition of a blessed end.

The whole time – through all her sadness, doubt, discouragements, and feelings of hopelessness, God was there working it out.

This leads me to question our life today. What is it that we are going through?  What is attacking us today with doubt and questioning?  What sadness are we battling with?  It’s so hard to think with a clear mind sometimes when we are in midst of our own struggles, but after reading her story I can’t help but believe that God is standing in heaven, looking down, and working it out for us as well.

We may not see it immediately, but like Ruth, during the time of harvest our Boaz (which stands for our blessing – not necessarily the man himself) will appear and we will reap the promises of God. We just have to hold out for the harvest, and keep being faithful, keep working, and keep gleaning the fields until our time of blessings comes to pass.

God is putting all the pieces together.  He is working it out!

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“Jesus Loves You To The End!”

“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end,” John 13:1

Eventually, the love of friends fades.  As years go by we grow up and move on with our lives.  Even some familial relationships can wane with the passing of time.  But, there is one love that never quits on you.  His promise was to never leave you nor forsake you, Heb. 13:5.  He showed His devotion to His disciple right up to the end.  And daily, He shows His devotion to each and every one of us by continually being there for us, loving us, interceding for us and hearing us when we call.

I am personally amazed at His undying devotion to us.  Through all of our faults, shortcomings, and mess, He still stays committed to us even “to the end.”  This is a source of comfort and reassurance for them that are His.  Despite the tragedies of life or how much we feel like we are not measuring up, we have a Savior, nay a friend that sticks closer than a brother, Pro. 18:24.

The times and tides of life may ebb and flow, come and go, but Jesus is a solid source never to be moved.  Somebody said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!”  And, since we are here today alive and with breath in our bodies, guess what, it’s not the end.  Bolster your faith today in this great truth that no matter what it may look like right now, Jesus loves you to the end!  God bless you!

“Singing in the Rain!”

Image by Fer Galindo from Pixabay

Today, like most days here lately, it’s rainy, dreary and of the dismal sort.  It’s the kind of cold, wet rain that settles down in your bones which you can’t seem to warm up from.  It makes you want to crawl back under the covers and wait for a better day.

But real life is here with a call each and every day that must be answered, compelling us to rise and get going no matter what the weather is outside.  Answering that call on a  morning such as this, I remember one day when I drove across the highway to take my daughter to her college campus.  On the way home I saw something that put a smile on my face.  A man was walking in the rain with a bright orange raincoat.  He was literally bouncing along with happiness in his steps.  His mouth was moving and he appeared to be singing.  It was as if he was dictating his day; as if he was telling the rain he was not going to let the dreariness get him down.

Oh, how true does that ring out in life?  How many dreary situations have kept us from enjoying the day; from enjoying each and every moment God has given us above ground?  Unfortunately, as life goes on we find that every day is not peaches and cream.  Times of trouble and hardship can arouse the rainy day blues in anybody.

Psalm 137:4 asks, “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?”  How many times have we felt it hard to work up the happiness inside when going through difficult times?  But Psalm 43:5 declares, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”

In other words, Sing in the Rain!  

I feel like getting on board with the attitude of the guy in the orange raincoat.  There you can catch me Singing in the Rain today, too.  After all, we still have a reason to praise God no matter what.  My hope for this day and every day is in Him.  

God Bless!

A Word for Today: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Photo by Gabriel Silvério on Unsplash

Dealing with defeat is more than just being discouraged.  Defeat has a way of getting deep down within the spirit of man and making them feel crushed beyond measure.  It’s more than a heavy load.  It’s carrying the weight of disappointment, hopelessness, and pain without seeing any real way of being able to experience the least bit of victory in the end.  Therefore, the shoulders slump forward without the strength to be lifted up.

How does one go one when they think they have no more power for the press of this life?  There is nothing you and I can do to overcome on our own.  A humanistic way of thinking will formulate plans over and over again but they come to nought.  Or, any measure of peace we think to feel becomes fleeting and never lasting.

In Jesus Christ, we have our ultimate source of victory.  He said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  HE IS THE DEFEATER OF DEFEAT.  He is the power that stands aright with no competition to put Him down.  He is our way when there seems to be no way.  Our comfort when the love of people is few and far between.

There is NOBODY like my JESUS!  Ain’t that the truth!  He’s my comfort when I am comfortless.  He’s my fortress when I am surrounded by enemies.  He’s my strength when everything within me feels weak.  He has overcome anything and everything this world has thrown at Him and He stands ready to overcome for you, too.

We are far from defeated.  We are more than conquerors.  Everything that tries to convince us otherwise is a bald-faced lie from the enemy.  We are secured in Christ.  Christ has already won all the competitions of this life.  He has already overwhelmed the enemy.  He has taken this world by storm and we rest in the realm of His power, strength, and love.

To say that Christ has won is an understatement.  He has literally crushed, obliterated, and stands on the head of every adversary we may face today.  The world may think they have won but Jesus will flip the script on them every time and show who He really is.  He has “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” (Col. 2:15; NIV).  His enemies are being made a footstool at His feet (Hebrews 10:13; NIV).  He is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords and will conquer everything and everybody that tries to war against Him (Revelation 17:14).

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, WE ARE ON THE WINNING SIDE!  There is no defeat for a child of God.  We have too much victory available to us through the name and the blood of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Victor.

He has already overcome and we will overcome with Him!  Be of good cheer.

“You Are Loved by the King!”


Text Free Image by chiplanay from Pixabay

You, my friends, are so very much and incredibly loved by the King of all the universe.  There is so much that we face on a daily basis that tries to speak contrary to the blessedness we have in Him.  But, my God loves you with an undying love.  His heart is tied to His people.  His people need only to rest in the promises of His mercy, grace, power, and authority that makes their hearts soar on the wings of the hope we have in Him.

Today doesn’t have to be ordinary.  Today doesn’t have to control you.  Today doesn’t have the final say about your destiny in life.  When it all boils down to it, you have a reason to rejoice because your heavenly Father’s eye is on you.  He has marked you for greatness in Him.  You are covered and shielded by His love.  Therefore, let your heart be glad in the majesty of your Savior.  Let your soul celebrate because no matter what it looks like, you are a cherished vessel and you are loved by the King of all!

“We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Children of God, by Faith” Galatians 3:26-4:7

Photo from Pixabay by geralt

VERSE DISCOVERY: Galatians 3:26-4:7 (KJV, Public Domain)

The book of Galatians has long been a favorite of mine.  In it, we see the freedom Christ secured for us really come to the forefront.  We see within its pages grace winning out over laws and rituals.  Held in the words thereof is the promise that no matter our background, race, sex, or whatever – if we are in Christ, then we are members of the family of God by faith and heirs according to the promise.

The Apostle Paul was taken aback at how soon those in the church of Galatia had allowed others in the form of false teachers infect the faith they had in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 1:6) and he testified before them that the gospel he preached; those blessed words of faith he delivered unto them was not because they were taught to him or received from man, but it was by an actual revelation of Jesus Christ (see Galatians 1:11-12).

After giving a brief testimony of his own previous dealings regarding his former religion which he was so zealous for and how he persecuted the church, he stated that he too was called by grace (see Galatians 1:13-14).  Paul then went on to teach that even though he and his fellow countrymen may be Jews by nature, they too have to believe in Jesus Christ “that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:15-16).

The prevailing issue coming from these false teachers which Paul wrote to instruct of revolved around the idea of circumcision.  In the Old Testament, we read that God entered a covenant relationship with Abraham.  One of the particulars of that relationship was that all males be circumcised on the eighth day (see Genesis 17:9-14).  This was under their old order of rule keeping and rituals that are not found in an active relationship through Jesus Christ.

Some men called Judaizers (false teachers) attempted to add works of the flesh and law (such as the issue of circumcision and other like measures) to the finished work of the Spirit performed through Christ.  These men argued that grace was not enough in order for a Greek (Gentile) to be saved.   They must first follow all the steps of protocol that Moses laid out in his law, including circumcision, in order to be a true Christian.

That, my friends, is a total contradiction of the very word of grace itself which speaks of God’s unmerited favor. When something is “unmerited” it is, by definition, undeserved, meaning there is nothing one can do to gain the favor of it or earn it themselves.

Paul taught at one point in the book of Acts saying, “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses,” (13:39).  If the law and adherence to those rituals could have saved mankind once and for all, then Jesus Christ would have never needed to come to this earth, be born a babe in a manger just to die on that old rugged cross bearing the sins of the world.  Earlier in Galatians, we read that Christ already did the work that redeemed us and freed us from the curse: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law…” (Galatians 3:13).  Therefore, Paul is writing this letter to set the record straight.

Lesson Summary

Galatians 3:26-29 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

The disputes that came by way of those Judaizers left confusion in the Galatian’s spiritual pathway of faith.  In the verse just prior to these above Paul states, “But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” (Galatians 3:25) giving a final answer to his telling of the purpose of the law before moving to today’s subject.

Faith is the key.  Coming to Jesus with all our wrongs and trusting Him to heal and forgive is a walk of faith no matter where you or your family hails from.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8).  Now, that one has received that gift of God, that gift of salvation, they are “all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” 

When Jesus transformed their lives with His saving blood they have been renewed, changed, and adopted into the family of God.  They have shed off the old garments of self, sin, and following the course of the world and the dictates of evil and the flesh and have “put on Christ.”  A great exchange took place then and takes place now in the individual that turns to Jesus in faith.

Please note: It is noted, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”   Baptism symbolized the shedding off of the old life and the taking on of the new; it stood for the remission of their sins (see Acts 2:38). In it, they were identifying with Christ.

Thus, through their faith, they aligned themselves with Christ.  Why now do they wish to add unprofitable rituals such as circumcision in the mix?  Although they may be “Greek” (Gentile) by birth, they are Christians by rebirth.  To be a Christian is to be of Christ with no added ingredients to the mix.

Paul recognized this and earlier taught, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Galatians 3:14). Freedom came by way of the promise that was laid out before the law (read Galatians 3:14-18).  This was now a faith walk and there is no difference in God’s eyes who gets to walk it. To Him “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

God does not focus on one’s ethnic background to decide if they are right to be called His.  He doesn’t let their social status, gender, or anything that man may try to discriminate against or use as a counterbalance of some pre-prescribed acceptance.  In a culture where most were judged on these divisive measures, this was good news indeed.

Since God doesn’t make a difference between the two, there is no need to make the Gentiles adhere to traditions that would make them Jews first. They didn’t need to become Jewish for God to save them.  God was saving them right where they are through faith in Jesus Christ.

And, because of that, they are now “one in Christ Jesus.”  There is no delineation in God’s family.  They are a unified people under Him, secured in their relationship in Christ.  Everyone who believes in Him and has accepted Him as their Savior is now participants in His promise.  We read, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

An heir, by nature, is one who receives an inheritance or entitlement.  Notice the word “seed” does not have an “s” on it.  There is one seed identified with Abraham to whom the promise comes through and that is Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:16).  In Galatians 3:19 we see the law being in effect until the “seed should come to whom the promise was made.”  Those who come under that seed, who come through “Christ” are now privileged to be considered also as “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  Other portions of Scripture support this by saying, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” (John 1:12; see also Ephesians 3:6 and 1 John 3:1).

Therefore, the need for circumcision in order to become a member of the family of God is not an issue and one is not to predicate their salvation on it or any other measures of the law.  As a matter of fact, to set the record straight Paul taught in Romans 4:11 of Abraham regarding the covenant of circumcision that, “He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.”  In other words, circumcision was just a sign of the relationship of faith that Abraham already had with God before he was circumcised thereby making him “the father of all them that believe.”

God is looking for a faith relationship found only in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as a marker of who is and is not a child of God.  The Galatians need not worry about adhering to or adding stipulations of the law (such as circumcision) to declare they are His children.

Galatians 4:1-5 “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

To further delve into his “heir” description, Paul takes a scenario from life they would see play out around them and connects it to the spiritual truth we have in Him.

A young “child” does not possess the knowledge and the wherewithal to control and make impactful decisions regarding an estate that would be laid up for his future.  As a member of the family and inheritor of all, he still had to wait until he was of proper age and understanding before the keys, so to speak, of all could be placed solely in his hands.

While he was still growing in understanding during his upbringing he would be placed “under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.”  Until his father saw that the mature and complete time that his son would be able to take on the responsibility of the upkeep of all he had come, the son was placed under these individuals, similar to that of a “servant,” to teach him the ins and outs, the rights and wrongs of everything.

The law acted the same way.  “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” (Galatians 3:24).  And, when God deemed the time to be right, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman…” 

For centuries the children of Israel waited for the appearing of the Messiah.  At the perfect point in history God sent Jesus Christ just as He had promised (see Gen. 3:15, 12:3; 2 Sam. 12-13; Is. 7:14 – just to name a few).  Tracked down the path of forty-two generation (Matthew 1:1-17), He came to be the Savior of the world.  God’s timing for everything is perfect and the events that ushered Jesus into the world to bring us to this life of faith were and are fully supported by Him.

God left no stone unturned about how the ins and outs of this plan of His coming would come into effect.  God takes eternity seriously.  His goal is to see that as many spiritual children are made heirs of that promise as possible which is fulfilled through our Savior Jesus Christ.

When Jesus was born physically on this earth He was “made of a woman, made under the law.”  Jesus came into this world fully human and fully divine.  As a human, although He was the Son of God, He willingly put Himself under the same constraints of the law as any other Jewish human (see Matthew 5:17).

“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”  But unlike other humans, Jesus’ purpose on earth for being under the law was to “redeem them that were under the law.”  “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,” (8:3; see also John 1:14).  Through His death on the cross, He overcame sin, which the law was unable to permanently do, and for those who believe in Him they are now justified (see Acts 13:39 and Galatians 2:16).   They have been redeemed and made heirs of the promise, “adoption of sons,” without those previously discussed works of the law such as circumcision.

Galatians 4:6-7 “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

Because of what Jesus did, and because those who made that decision that they needed Christ as their Savior accepted Him as their own, their status in this world has changed from being mere men and woman to being considered as “sons” of God, or children of God.  They have received of His “Spirit” by faith. 

The Bible supports this in other verses telling us, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory,” (Ephesians 1:13-14).  The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance in Him.  Not circumcision or other outwardly rituals.  As a child of God, we are covered and endowed by His Spirit.  His Spirit didn’t come because of circumcision but because the gospel was heard and responded to through belief.

Thus, our relationship with God blesses us to be able to cry out to Him, “Abba, Father.”  As carriers of the Spirit of His Son in our hearts we are now a child of God, not a “servant,” and as such we are able to call out to our heavenly Father because we are in Him (see also Romans 8:15); because there is a heavenly bond between God and those that are His.  And, since we are now considered “a son” we are “then an heir of God through Christ”; children of God, by faith! 

Conclusion

Everybody has the same opportunity to be saved. There are no barriers. There are no walls except the ones we build ourselves. His gift of salvation is available to all. You just have to accept it for yourself.

Remember, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” (Galatians 3:13-14).  Therefore, making us children of God, by faith.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes):  Sunday School Lesson – Children of God by Faith

Suggested Activities:

“Child of God Object Lesson” from Preaching.com

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Child of God

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Child of God

Draw the Scene: Children of God by Faith Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Children of God by Faith Memory Verse

How Many Words: Children of God by Faith How Many Words

Playing Dough People: Supply assorted colors of moldable dough for students to make different people showing there is diversity in the children of God. (Many other resources can be found by doing an online search). 

Word Search: Children of God by Faith Word Search Answers: Children of God by Faith Word Search Answers

 

Crossword: Children of God by Faith Crossword Answers: Children of God by Faith Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Children of God by Faith Word Scramble Answers: Children of God by Faith Word Scramble Answers

“The Family of God”  from Sermons4Kids.com (Printable activities, coloring page, and group activities including “Child of God Headband” and “Faith Envelope.”)

“One in Christ Coloring Page for Older Students” from AbdaActs

“Galatians Coloring Page” from Ministry-To-Children

“Adopted into God’s Family Lesson and Ideas” from Ministry-To-Children

“Child of God Printable Activities” from DLTK

“God’s Adopted Children” from Sermons4kids.com (Printable activities, coloring page, and group activities including “Family Collage 4 Heaven” and “Adoption Papers.”  Enjoy!)

“All the Children of the World” from Sermons4kids.com (A great object lesson using eggs, not to mention printables, coloring, and group activities that really engage students in this lesson.  Enjoy!)

 

“Honor God!”

Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

“For those who honor Me I will honor,” 1 Samuel 2:30

One day, some years ago, I remember when my son accompanied me to the grocery store to do some shopping. He was wearing his military uniform at that time and when people saw him they kept stopping him to shake his hand, to talk to him, or to tell him to keep up the good work. They were proud of him. They honored him for his service.

You know, as a mom, how I felt. I really thought it was something special for people to recognize him and his service to our country in that way. As much as I love the many fields in which one can be honored (military, teachers, firefighters, police officers, and many, many others), no one deserves our respect and adoration more than God. It is customary to stand to our feet when a judge enters a courtroom and there is a hush in the crowd when they bang that gavel. What about God?

Too many go through their day without ever considering the fact that hey, He is God, and He should be before all others. With that realization in hand, I want my life to reflect that great truth. I want every word, every action and every thought to magnify the greatness of who He is and all of His glory. When I go about my day I want people to see Him in me. Do I make mistakes? Oh, yeah! But, I have a goal. I aspire to do better and to be better every day. God has been so good and wonderful to me, and I feel that as His child the least I can do is showing Him the honor due Him.

“Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” (Ps. 29:1-2). These two verses have been among favorites of mine for many years now. When you think of “giving to the Lord” one realizes just how futile our efforts can be because of His vast greatness. But, something that each of us can give is honor. Not only can we gift it to Him, but it is a gift that He in turns honors.

“For those who honor Me I will honor.” Our God is an appreciative God and He believes in rewarding them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). If you don’t like the returns you have been getting in life examine what you have given. And let me make myself really clear at this point. I DO NOT want you to see the above statement as to how you can get something from God. These things will happen because it’s what the Bible promises.  It’s a residual effect of obedience.  Instead, I want you to just focus on God because He is God and not what you can get from Him.  Just honor God because He is WORTHY!

The Process of a Champion

Text Free Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

You could’ve taken off like a rocket ship with tanks of fuel lighting your tail, sending you fast to reach the stars. Yet, God chose a different journey; one with a paced climb, step by step, your path ascending a little higher each day.

Sometimes it seems slow. Painfully so.  But, have you ever considered it just means the potential on the inside is powerful.  Therefore, great care has to be taken in developing, caring, and raising your growth inch by inch.

Shooting high and shooting fast – the world has enough of that. Superstars with no substance are all they are.  But, God made you to be a champion.

So what’s the big deal?

Champions create change. Champions endure – they tough it out.  They fight the cause with the very last breath, staking their all to see victory come to its best.  They are a peculiar creature not willing to forgo the promise or give up too quickly on the process.  There’s a hope and a knowing that if they just stay on the wheel a little while longer the Master will develop a treasure from this little lump of clay.

Your value is too precious to be rushed. Let those who will zoom if they please.  But you, my friend, take joy in knowing there is great care being taken in making you who He wants you to be.  So, let Him have His way and perfect the precious in you.

Spotlight creepers. Thrill seekers.  This course is not for you.  Only champions, whose heart will bend to His molding; who will ride the wheel to impact lives will understand this can’t be rushed. They are created for more and with that, embrace the process of being shaped, knowing dear champion, that’s who God wants you to be.

“. . . Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand . . .” Jeremiah 18:6

“Reap Rejoicing!”

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bring his sheaves with him,” Psalm 126:5-6, NKJV

Good Friday or Holy Friday, no matter which name you call it by, it was a day of great tears and sorrow that ushered in a day of rejoicing.

From the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed earnestly until His sweat became as great drops of blood (Luke 22:44), to the illegal trials at night that stripped away any rights He may have had in the human form, Jesus knew anguish.  He knew more than just heaviness of heart.  He experienced deep, physical pain – yet, the night was not over.

Had it stopped at the trials and mockery, some would say it was tolerable (though I wouldn’t).  Let us not take lightly all that Christ endured on that night.  For He not only bore the pain of stripes and nails, but He carried the weight of the world.  He carried the soul’s destiny for every human that ever walked the face of this earth.

It was a time of great sadness.  As a parent mourns over a wayward child, Jesus carried the burden of people in His bosom.  Earlier He said, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37, KJV).

Now, on this night of sorrow, spiritually He is doing just that.  No one could ever put into words the pain of what it felt like to hang on that cross and bear the sins of the world.  But, as He hung there, with blood pouring down, He was in the gathering process.  That’s why He couldn’t come down because even as He was nailed and left to die, He with great sorrow and tears, was working at gathering that would eventually lead to rejoicing.

What a clear head and frame of mind our Lord kept through it all.  Most of us would have gone into survival mode under such duress, thinking of self.  Jesus went to survival mode, too.  Not for Himself rather, “To seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10, KJV).

As He hung there, He thought about all those that are captive by sin and needed a great deliverance.  These people staring at Him as He bled knew a little something about being a people held captive.  Their history repeats over and over again of how they were forced out of their promised land due to sin and negligence.

But God didn’t leave them like that.  In each instance, He brought a plan of deliverance and salvation into the mix.  When they cried out, He saved them and brought them back to their homeland.  They shed many tears as the farmer scatters seed.  Just like the seed, there comes a time where sowing stops and gathering begins and “shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.”

As He hung there, Jesus was doing both.  Sowing: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” (John 12:24, KJV).  He was also gathering:  “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.  This He said, signifying by what death He would die,” (John 12:32-33, NKJV).

Jesus was sowing the seed in tears and at the same time reaping with rejoicing.  On this Good Friday; this Holy Friday, we are now the benefactors of that great work done on the cross.  When God brought the children of Israel back from captivity, the nations said, “The LORD has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2, NKJV).  Their response was, “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad,” (Psalm 126:3, NKJV).

Jesus brought us out of captivity on that Friday.  Through our life of sinfulness, we have experienced many tears.  Through the sins of others, we will sow many tears.  Now, because of Christ, we can also “Reap Rejoicing.”  “And, we are glad!”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

“There is power in prayer!”

Photo: Pixabay/jaefrench

“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” Acts 12:5 (read Acts 12:1-11)

Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Why is that? Because as breath is with the body, with each inhale and exhale one’s life is sustained; so is the prayer line that fosters that interpersonal relationship between God and man. It is not only life-sustaining, but it’s soul-sustaining keeping that glorious love connection betwixt the two opened and flowing.

Prayer is and of itself a discipline where one places themselves at the feet of the Almighty; to draw near to Him; to get to know Him more. Yet, prayer is often as well a plea of desperation when the times and trials of this life are too hard to bear. When we are at the end of our rope; or, when we just don’t understand what is happening or the road we should take – we pray.

We pray because deep within ourselves we know that try as we might, we can find no better help. Nor, is there any higher intervention than that which comes from God. Therefore, through prayer, we seek the release of His help and power into our problems, our lives, and the lives of those whom we intercede for.

Prayer is, and becomes, that connective key where God and man meet to converse on an intimate level, recognizing His greatness and sovereignty in the midst of our humanness and weaknesses.

And, this is what the church was hoping for when they offered up prayers on behalf of Peter who was now in prison. By this time persecution was not a new thing to the church. Throughout the Book of Acts, there are uprisings against the faith. The idea of the church enduring hardship was not going away anytime soon.

As a matter of fact, James, one of Jesus’s original disciples, was killed in the process by the sword (beheading, some say). Then, seeking, even more, favor among men, Herod proceeded further in attacking the church and imprisoning Peter also.

The Bible tells us, “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him,” (Acts 12:5). This is the epitome of what it means when the Psalmist declared, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD. . .” (Psalm 121:1-2a).

Pain and suffering were taking place in the church but hope was not lost because their hope was not in the circumstances that surrounded them – their hope was in God who reigned above them.

Therefore, they prayed!

Don’t tell me prayer doesn’t matter; that it doesn’t make a difference. Yes, it does! God will literally make chains fall off and set captives free through the power of prayer (as He does for Peter here).

Unbeknownst to Peter, God heard their prayers and He was working on his case. Peter, shackled and asleep between two soldiers, was about to experience a miraculous breakthrough of a lifetime. He may have been appointed to be kept under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each; but, Peter had just one God that would step in and free him from their midst.

See, it doesn’t matter how bad they have you wrapped up, God can break through it all. It doesn’t matter how many chains and shackles the enemy will try to place on you, prayer to the right Source; to God alone, will free you from their hold.

Peter was getting an up close and personal lesson in this area. God sent an angel to come to Peter in the night. With light filling the prison house the angel stood before Peter and aroused him from his sleep by hitting him on his side.  He spoke, “Arise up quickly,” (Acts 12:7). And, immediately his chains fell off.

Through the initial intervention of prayer, God was literally breaking chains off of Peter to set him free! You have to get happy about that and feel it in your spirit what God wants to do for His people. God will move and instruct His heavenly hosts to work on your behalf as He did for Peter through the power of prayer.  Never underestimate the power of God. He can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20).

The church was praying corporately and God was listening attentively, and He was working it out. When the shackles fell from his hands, the angel then instructed Peter to get himself together and put his shoes on and to follow him (Acts 12:8).

Acts 12:10 tells us, “When they were past the first, and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.” Amazing!  You have to admire the beauty of it all coming together. God not only freed him, but took him past one enemy, and then another enemy. He took him through the prison and out the huge iron gate unknown to anyone. This blew my mind. None of the enemies had a clue to what God was up to in freeing Peter. I don’t know if they were all in a heavy sleep or not, but God did it. He freed Peter.

Peter’s freedom was spawned through the prayers of the church. Yes, God could most certainly move without the intervention of anyone. But, here in these verses, a special note was made to stand out that when they prayed; when they got together collectively and on one accord to seek for Peter’s freedom, that’s when the miracle happened. God wants us to know the importance and the power of prayer. He said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me,” (Psalms 50:15).

Prayer was a huge key at work in the moving and miracles of the first-century church and it should be a huge key at work in our current lives and ministries as well. Paul later teaches, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting,” (1 Timothy 2:8). There is never a wrong time or place to pray. And, when you pray – BELIEVE! Believe that He hears, and believe that He will answer as He sees fit.

Your prayers DO make a difference. There is power in prayer! “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).

God made the impossible happen for Peter and He can do so in the church today. People can be freed. Chains can be broken. Ministries can flourish through the power of prayer. Prayer never hurts anyone, but it can always help everyone.  We are told, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit,” (James 5:16-18).

What can you do through your prayer life?

Trust and believe that your prayers are never wasted; that there is power in prayer. Prayer can reach where physically we cannot. Prayer can go behind the veil into the throne room of God. Think about that for a second and let it sink in. Didn’t the book of Hebrews tell us, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)? This is done through prayer.

We are not alone in this life. Our way of viewing things and situations can become impaired in our day to day struggles. We may feel like we don’t have power to do anything; as if we are in the dark, but prayer offers a light of hope.

Whether falling on our knees or reverently and silently offering up with heart pleas and thanksgivings to God, your prayers matter.

We serve a God who wants to hear from us and invites us to pray.  We will never know all the ins and outs of why God answers some prayers immediately, and why with some He chooses a different course. But, I do know this; prayer is never wasted, nor is it a waste of time. God hears each and every petition. He’s paying attention to the cause of His people. Don’t be discouraged if it seems like it’s not coming through for you like you want it to. God may have a greater course of destination in mind. Just hold on, keep the faith, and never stop praying. There is power in prayer!