The Burden-Bearer

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When my son was little and we went somewhere that required a lot of walking, his little legs would tire very quickly.  He would slow down and stumble and cry.  That’s when his Daddy would pick him up and set him on top of his shoulders and carry him home.  The burden of his weight rested on his Dad’s shoulders.  Thankfully he didn’t weigh much then, but the idea of carrying another’s burden has its roots in Israel’s ancient worship traditions.

When God gave Moses instructions for the priests, He said, “Take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel . . . Aaron is to bear the names on his shoulders before the Lord” (Exodus 28:9,12).  Aaron, the high priest, would enter the holy of holies at the appointed time to make atonement for the sins of the children of Israel.  He would come before God with the names of each of the twelve sons of Jacob, the family tribes of the nation, engraved on the stones that made up part of his ritual garb.  He would literally bear the weight of the names of the sons of Israel while symbolically bearing the weight of their sin on his shoulders.

At Calvary Jesus bore the weight of every sin you and I have ever committed.  But it wasn’t a symbolic act like the priest bearing the names of the sons of Israel, and it wasn’t a gentle weight like my son perched on his Daddy’s shoulders.  The weight of all the sins of humanity – including your sin and mine – was a real, crushing burden heaped on the Son of God.

My husband bore the weight of our son because he loved him.  Jesus bore the weight of your sin because he loves you.  There came a point, though, when our little boy became too big of a burden for his Daddy to carry.  Here’s the good news: you will never be too big of a burden for Jesus.  Your sins will never out-weigh His love for you.  You can rest on this promise Beloved, Jesus will carry you – all the way home.

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I am Guilty – and I am Innocent

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“It is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8).

I caught the state trooper out of the corner of my eye and my heart sank.  I was busted.  I kept looking into my rear-view mirror, waiting for him to pull out after me with lights flashing.  But he never did.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I realized I had gotten away with breaking the law.

The news is filled with reports of innocent people who were imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.  They were denied the freedom they were due, cut off from their loved ones, and their reputations were ruined.  Innocent people should not be punished. It is a travesty of justice.

Yet there was one innocent man who bore an even greater punishment – Jesus.  He not only endured false imprisonment, but He was put to death for crimes He did not commit. The sin of all humanity was heaped upon Him.  My sin among them.  I am guilty.  God has every right to call me to justice for my sins.  But He doesn’t.  And it has nothing to do with me.  It has everything to do with grace.  It is not like the state trooper who let me get away with speeding.  The criminal has to be brought to justice; the penalty has to be paid.  Death.  But Jesus stood before God and said, “I will take her sin, I will pay for her crime.”  And miracle of miracles – I am not guilty anymore.  I didn’t just get away with my sin.  Jesus took my sin and my punishment.  I am declared innocent because of Christ.

Beloved, if you have trusted in Jesus, you are declared not guilty before God.  Your sins have been paid in full with the blood of the innocent Son of God.  You’re not just getting away with something, you are truly free of guilt.

If you have not trusted in Jesus, you are guilty before God.  But you don’t have to be.  Jesus died for your sins too.  He took your guilt and your punishment.  Grace is there for you.  More than getting away with sin, you can be declared innocent.  Friend, won’t you receive God’s gift today and be free?

How’s Your Vision?

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“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”  Hebrews 12:2

I’ve worn glasses since I was in the fifth grade.  I remember vividly the difference in my vision from the day before to the day after I got them.  The teacher’s handwriting on the board improved overnight! The power of vision – the ability to see clearly – was driven home to me recently when I got new glasses after 8 years.  The difference in my old prescription and the new one was so great I had a headache for a week trying to adjust.  It’s hard to see clearly when you’re looking through a weak lens.

Likewise our spiritual vision – how we see God – affects the way we see ourselves, our challenges, and our successes or failures.  Consider the Israelite spies in Numbers 13.  Upon returning from their mission, ten of the twelve spies advised against attempting to take the land the Lord had promised them.  They compared themselves to the Canaanites and saw themselves as “grasshoppers in our own eyes” (vv. 32-33).  They talked themselves out of the Promised Land because they were convinced that they were outmatched and too small.  Only Caleb and Joshua had a different vision, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. Do not be afraid of the people of the land . . . the Lord is with us” (Numbers 14:7-9).  They saw the same giants and the same challenges, but they saw them with faith.  They focused on the power and the promise of the Lord and knew that the giants were no match for their mighty God.

In contrast to the ten Israelite spies, consider how little David defeated the giant Goliath.  You know this story well – David heard Goliath’s disgraceful taunting of the Israelite army, and armed with a sling and a few stones he confronted the giant.  But his confidence wasn’t in his sling or the stones or his own ability—his confidence was in God.  He stood before Goliath and declared, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty . . . it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves:  for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you into our hands” (1Samuel 17:45, 47).  He knew God was mighty and He knew God was for Israel.  How could he lose?

We see the same confident thinking in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31, 38-39, emphasis added).  Where did Paul’s confidence come from?  The great vision he had of God through Jesus Christ.  He was so certain of God’s love because he had seen that love displayed on the cross.  Though his physical eyes were weak and failing, he had perfect 20-20 spiritual vision.

You and I need good vision to navigate life.  We need to view everything through the spiritual lens of truth.  Instead of focusing on the size of our challenges we need to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”  Rather than seeing ourselves as grasshoppers among giants, we need to see the bigness of our God, towering over everything that threatens us.  Beloved, how long have you struggled with weak spiritual eyes?  Is it time for some new lenses?  Maybe it’s time to have your eyes examined by the Holy Spirit so He can prescribe some divine glasses.  Oh Father, give us holy vision to see you like we’ve never seen you before!

Less is More

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The saying goes, “less is more,” meaning the less clutter you have in your home, life, etc. the more home, life, etc. you have.  It’s a lesson I’ve yet to learn as I look around my study, cluttered with books, studies, commentaries, resources, Bibles, files, sewing stuff, and tons of notebooks.  But, because of Jesus, there are some areas of my life where I am truly grateful that less really is more.

Because of Jesus, I am shameless – Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  I did not always live for God, and my sin caused me tremendous shame.  Even after I became a Christian I still stumbled in many ways, and the enemy heaped shame on me.   But Jesus took all my shame to the cross and the grave.  When He rose to life again, my shame stayed buried forever. Whatever you may have done, no matter how shameful it may be, Jesus can set you free.

Because of Jesus, I am guiltless – Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”  We’ve all had feelings of guilt—because we are all sinners.  Jesus’ blood fell from His head and hands and feet, and continues to sprinkle all who will come and kneel at the foot of the cross.  His blood washes away all our sin, and with it our guilt.  You can set down that heavy burden and run into your Father’s presence knowing that His arms are open wide to receive you.

Because of Jesus, I am fearless – 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”  God loves you and me perfectly with an everlasting love that will never fail, no matter what we may do.  Because of His perfect love, we no longer have to tip toe into God’s presence, fearing His anger and wrath.

Jesus took all our sin and with it all the consequences and the burdens that sin brings. Because of Him you and I can be shameless, guiltless and fearless.  Beloved, don’t let your life get clutter with all this stuff.  Grab hold of the “less is more” principle and walk in the freedom Christ won for you.

Yes, I am a Daughter of the King

 

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“Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).

(Grab your Bible and read Mark 5:25-34) 

I have long loved this story of the woman in Mark 5 – I think of her as a woman of great faith. She knew she was unclean, she knew she was an outcast, and she knew that she could be shamed, and possibly even worse, for being in a public place, bumping against “clean” people, and daring to touch a rabbi. But she also knew, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Not “Maybe” or “I might,” but “I will.” She was willing to risk public humiliation because her desperation caused her to have extraordinary faith. Are you desperate today?

I also love this story because I carried an “issue” of shame for a long time. One day I was reading Revelation 2, where the Lord declared to the church in Pergamum – “I will give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” The Sprit then sent me to this story in Mark 5 and He affirmed in my heart that He does not see me as a wounded, shame-filled woman. He calls me “Daughter.” That is my name. That is what is written on my stone.  I don’t claim that name as a “princess, daughter of the king,” as is so popular in Christian women’s circles these days. I receive it as one who was shamed and rejected, but is now – amazingly – adopted and loved by the King of the universe.  I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, some not so kind or loving.  To know that God – the perfect and holy One – not only saved me, but claimed me as His Daughter – well the thought absolutely stuns me.

Beloved, if you will come to Jesus – just as you are, with all your sin and shame and guilt and dirt – He will cleanse you and make you whole – forgiven, spotless, free.  He will take you to the Father who will claim you as His own – His beloved Daughter.  Maybe you, like me, didn’t have the best father-daughter relationship – or you didn’t have a father in your life much at all.  You can now.  

May you and I always be as bold as this woman to come to Jesus in all our uncleanness and reach for the hem of His garment in faith.  May we rise up and take our place as Daughters who are dearly loved and welcomed in the Father’s house.  And may we be always on the lookout for others who are longing for Father-love.  Let’s bring many daughters – and sons – into the family.

Home

4A76AECC-7D6E-48FA-91C3-6CB4150294A0.jpeg“I am going to prepare a place for you” John 14:3

Right now I’m sitting on my back porch swing, coffee by my side, Bible in my lap, listening to the falling rain. My hibiscus has a bright pink bloom and blue daze spills out over the sides of their pots. A pair of squirrels are chasing one another around a nearby tree, one loudly scolding the other. My cat Celina sits by my feet watching the show. Birds twitter their praises to the Creator. I am so blessed.
Just a few months ago I did not feel blessed at all. We were facing hard times – no jobs, no funds, no place to live, health struggles and battles with insurance companies. We were forced to pack up our lives, leaving dear loved ones behind. I was heart-broken. Actually I was broken. Period.
But God was at work. He was speaking to others on our behalf. He reminded a friend of a family member about a house for rent. Maybe it was available. And it was. Would the rent be reasonable? Yes it was. Could we move in right away? Yes we could. Would God provide the funds when we had no jobs? Yes He did. And it’s a great house, out in the country where it’s quiet. It’s a beautiful house. And it has this great back porch. I love this place and thank God for it every day.
But there is an even better place coming. A place that Jesus Himself is building for me. Did you ever wonder why He apprenticed on earth as a carpenter’s son? He is building a place for all His children – for me and for you. This house is rent-free and will be stunning and beautiful. It will be perfectly suited for each one of us. I’ll bet it will even have a great back porch – with a swing and lots of flowers. As much as I love the house God provided for me here, I cannot wait to move into my place in heaven.
Beloved, I’m sitting here on my back porch writing this to tell you that God knows your need. He knows your struggle. And He is working even now on your behalf. He is a good Father who cares for and about His children. He provided for your greatest need when He sent His Son to die for your sins. Will he do any less for these temporal needs you have now?
He is preparing good things for you today and He is building something wonderful for you for eternity. From my back porch and my heart: your Father loves you. You can trust Him.

Lord, Save Me!

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“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”” (Matthew 14:30)

Brave, confident Peter stood up and stepped out of the safety of the boat and onto the liquid surface of the lake – and the water held him up! Like any curious person would do, Peter looked around to see if what he thought was happening really was. And that’s when the laws of nature took over and Peter began to sink.

Peter knew Jesus – he had heard His authoritative teaching and had witnessed and participated in His miracles.  In fact, this incident comes “immediately” on the heels of Jesus feeding more than five thousand people (Matthew 14:22).  But in a moment, all he knew about Jesus sank into the waves with him.  He was overcome with fear.  Can you relate? Sometimes we seem to be doing good – walking along in our faith with our heads held high.  Then something happens – a crisis hits, the bottom falls out, and suddenly we are sinking and crying out for help.

I have walked with Jesus for some 40+ years and there have been many ups and downs, some pretty awesome highs and some very deep lows.  I wish I could say that I’ve always been a model of unwavering faith – but that would be a lie.  What I can say is that every trial has built my faith by degrees.  You may be familiar with the hard season we’ve experienced these past several months.  We were rocked harder than we’d ever been.  It all looked very dire, and we were sinking fast.  All I could do was cry out, “Lord save us!”  And He did.

Here’s what I know – and what I want you to know.  God’s hand was behind that stormy sea.  He stirred up the wind and the waves that rocked our boat and tossed us into the water. Why would He do that?  Because His was the hand that would reach out to save us.  Because I needed to know the power of His saving grace and the depth of His everlasting love.  And so do you.  You need to know that when all seems lost, God will rescue you.  When you think you’re about to drown, God will pull you up.  Your storm is real – but so is God.  Start looking for His hand over the waves.

Careless Sheep and the Good Shepherd

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“His eyes never slumber, and His hands never rest; His heart never ceases to beat with love, and His shoulders are never weary of carrying His people’s burdens.”
Charles Spurgeon on Christ Jesus our Shepherd
My favorite “I Am” statement of Jesus is “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).  It always reminds me of a painting depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd, that hung in the vestibule of a church I worked at years ago. He is reaching from the side of a cliff to rescue one of His little lambs.  Sheep are notoriously clueless and helpless.  They start grazing and fail to notice when they wander too far from the fold or too close to the edge of a cliff.  They love to graze at the edge of the water because the grass is abundant and lush.  But they step on the slippery rocks and tumble into the water. Their wool becomes so heavy they cannot right themselves or climb out.  If the shepherd doesn’t hear their bleating, they will soon drown.
Sound familiar?  It sure does to me.  I have often wandered from the safety of my shepherd’s side following the lush and tempting grass.  But Jesus never fails to rescue me when I cry out.
I love how, in this painting, Jesus has put Himself in a precarious position to bring His wandering one to safety.  What struck me the most about the painting though was the look on the little lamb’s face – absolute confidence in the Shepherd.  There is no worry or doubt that the Shepherd will rescue her.  She isn’t trying to pull herself up the rocky wall of the cliff, but waits for Him to reach her and bring her to safety.   There is no fear of anger from the Shepherd.  Just trust.   This little lamb knows the Shepherd, knows that He is able to rescue her ,and knows that He loves her.
I don’t know what danger you may have wandered into.  You may be trying to get yourself to safety, too ashamed to cry out for rescue. You wonder if Jesus will come and if He will be angry with you.  Beloved, stop trying to rescue yourself.  Cry out to Jesus – there’s no need to be ashamed. He will come and He is not angry.
The Lord is your Shepherd – whether you are safe in the fold or hanging on the side of a cliff. You are His beloved lamb.

I am a Child of God!

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.  At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:11-12).
The Father’s words over Jesus came at His baptism, when the Spirit descended on Him as He came up out of the water.  God confirmed that Jesus was His beloved Son, and that He pleased His Father greatly.  It was a tender and powerful moment – and it was a moment of preparation for what was to come.  Mark says that “at once” Jesus was led by the Spirit into the place of temptation.  Matthew fleshes out the account of Jesus fasting for 40 days and Satan throwing temptations at him, which Jesus deflected, shutting the enemy down.
What caught my attention this morning are the words of the Father just before the temptation. Jesus was able to resist and reject Satan because the Father’s words were still ringing in His ears.  “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Beloved, the Father speaks those same words over you and me.  “You are my son, you are my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  Because we are adopted into the family of God when we believe in Jesus, we become His sons and his daughters.  We are as loved by the Father as was Jesus (John 17:26).  Our faith is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Every day you and I enter a wilderness.  Every day Satan tries to drag us into sin.  He dangles temptation before us like a carrot on a stick.  What if, before your feet hit the floor every morning you remind yourself, “I am God’s son, I am God’s daughter, my Father loves me, and He is well pleased with me.”  Would that make a difference in how you respond to temptation?  I believe it would.  What if, when I sense the devil playing his old tricks again, I spoke those words out loud where he can hear me.  I expect he would tuck tail and run. I believe with that assurance in our hearts and on our lips, you and I will be empowered to stand firm against the enemy.
Beloved, if you are in Christ, you are a child of God – it’s not something you have to earn or measure up to – it is your place.  You have every benefit and blessing of being part of His family.  That includes the right to claim your Father’s love and His pleasure over you.  Don’t let the enemy shake you – stand firm in who you are and Whose you are.

For the Troubled Heart

 

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“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in Me.” John 14:1

The disciples were anxious because the Lord had told them, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. Where I am going you cannot come.” (John 13:33).  Peter, speaking what everyone was thinking, wanted to know where He was going and why they could not accompany Him (John 13:36, 37).

They were facing a bewildering, unknown future.  After having been with Jesus almost day and night for three years, now He was going away from them?  After all His teaching and all His training – after showing them His power, His miracles, and His authority – He was leaving them behind.  Why would he abandon them?  What would happen to them? What would become of this great movement they had begun?

Jesus understood their fears.  That is why He offered them words of comfort and assurance.  Notice, though, that He did not say, “Now don’t you worry, everything is going to work out – it’ll all be fine – just wait and see.”  He didn’t even tell them, “It’s okay – see this is all part of my plan.”  No, the answer Jesus gave them was:

“Trust in God.  Trust also in me” (John 14:1b).

In His words rested all the comfort they needed:  I am faithful.  I am trustworthy.  He did not soothe their frazzled minds with the common words of assurance.  He was their assurance.  They just needed to remember . . .

They had walked with Him and had participated in His mighty acts.  They had heard His words, experienced His love, seen His power over the storm and in the storm, felt His hands pouring water on their dusty feet.  They knew that He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  They knew He was their friend (John 15:15).

“Trust in me.”

Beloved, Jesus knows you are afraid and weary.  He knows that you can’t see past this moment – this grief, this shock, this heartache, this very hard season.  He knows you cannot envision the road ahead and you don’t know what will happen.  He knows your anxious heart and He says to you,

“Trust in me.”

Trust in the words He has said – “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you” (Isaiah 41:10).  “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Trust in His love.  Trust in His faithfulness.  Trust in His promise.  Trust in the One who gave His life to redeem you from your sins.  Trust in the One who rose from the dead to give you eternal life.

Trust in Jesus – there is no greater assurance.