Only One…

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I just read an article that sickened me… I had forgotten about some cultures that actually perform their own crucifixions on Good Friday… Good Lord, help them…

“Devotees undergo the crucifixions in the belief that such extreme sacrifices are a way to atone for their sins, attain miracle cures for illnesses or give thanks to God.”

They just don’t understand. Absolutely nothing they could ever do would cause atonement or cures.

How do humans, throughout the centuries, always manage to twist and mangle the Truth of Jesus’ sacrifice? One death, His death, was enough for all. For every person on the planet. For every culture. For every religion. Jesus was and is for everyone. The Son of God who chose to enter our world, with all its ugly, twisted, horrible conditions. He entered our world because He couldn’t stand to leave us in it, to leave us even in our present circumstances…of grief…of isolation…of failed marriages…of financial ruin…of starvation…of modern-day slavery…of bullying…of violence…of low self-worth…of emptiness…of shame…of abandonment…of anything and everything that has ever caused you pain… Jesus entered our world just for you.

Somehow, on that cross, alone, dying, feeling abandoned, feeling pain, He saw and felt each one of us in His heart and in His mind and in His soul and in His Spirit. And so He stayed right where He was. The Son of God. He could’ve called on His angels to rescue Him, as He said, but He didn’t. His Love for us kept Him right there in His place…in our place…where we should’ve been…

It’s said that the only way to offer people hope is go through hopeless situations yourself. Because if you don’t, your words will ring hollow. They’ll fall flat. They won’t be believed. Sure, your niceness and gestures of kindness will probably be appreciated. But the person on the receiving end could justifiably say, “You just don’t know… You could never truly understand…”

And so it is with Jesus. He knew we’d think that. Some high, lofty god trying to tell us he understands when we hurt. Yeah, right. Someone who owns the whole universe cares about your little corner of Earth, where the bills are due and the doctor just gave a bad report and the appliances died and family members are in trouble again and people are dying from not having clean water and not having food to eat on the other side of this planet, and on another side the drugs are so thick that the people can’t see through the lies. A god who cares? Where is he?

He is there. On that cross. A cross that transcends time. He sees you, He sees me. And He chooses to stay in His place. Not above us. Not yet. But right there with us. Hear Him shout, “IT IS FINISHED!” In Greek, in means, “Paid in full!” His shout to the Father that He accomplished His mission — and now all His babes were free of the mess — that all they had to do was accept His gift, His dying…just for them… That’s all…

Gracious Love.

Miraculous Love.

Lavish Love.

Love is a gift.

Those who would actually nail themselves to crosses on this holy day, saying they’re remembering the sacrifice of Jesus, saying that they’re trying to atone for their sins or hoping for miracles or giving thanks have absolutely no idea how insulting and tragic and utterly sad their displays are.

“And to love Him out of and with all the heart and with all the understanding [with the faculty of quick apprehension and intelligence and keenness of discernment] and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)

Yet still He loves us. Loves us to death and back. This wonderful Savior. The One who knows…and understands…from firsthand experience… He knows us…and loves us all the same…

“Now before the Passover Feast began, Jesus knew, was fully aware, that the time had come for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. And as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He loved them to the last and the highest degree.” (John 13:1)

“He loved them to the last and the highest degree.”

That’s the Savior I know. That’s the Savior each one of us can know. No need for our own crucifixions. He stayed in His place for us on Earth, and made a place for us in His Kingdom.

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away. And He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new. Also He said, Record this, for these sayings are faithful (accurate, incorruptible, and trustworthy) and true (genuine). And He [further] said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I [Myself] will give water without price from the fountain (springs) of the water of Life.” (Revelation 21:4-6)

An offer of abundant living from a lavish God, who’s desperately in love with us…

An offer from One who knows what it’s like to walk in our shoes…

An offer from Jesus, the only One whose sacrifice made all the difference, and who never intended for us to pay Him back… He just wanted our love in return…and for us to love others as He has loved us…

How could such a pure, simple, dynamic Love be so misconstrued by human beings?

Faith as Big as a … Carrot Seed?

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Tears are healthy… And it seems every day lately is a time for tears, especially when in prayer…

When talking to Jesus this morning and studying His Word during a light rain on this overcast day, I just sat in His Presence and felt ministered to.

“I don’t want to cry again, Jesus; let’s just make this a happy time…”

But the tears came anyway. He knew what was in my heart—what I needed to let go of, including a now-miniscule residue of unforgiveness, sadness over present and past circumstances… He let me cry and ministered to me… And then the tears shifted to family and friends dealing with heartbreaking times… And then they went to people struggling in Third World countries…

I could sense Jesus was right next to me, interceding…

“Lord, there’s so much sadness here on this ol’ Earth… Sometimes it feels overwhelming… But I know that in Heaven it’ll be so wonderful that we won’t even remember these days…”

And then I thought of this Scripture: “Your joy is my strength…” And that’s so true. Somehow, in the middle of immediate circumstances, there is that inner joy and peace that only He can provide…

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Yesterday I felt like a kid giddy with excitement, all in an instant. I went outside to feed the birds and squirrels, and while walking past last year’s garden, now dead, waiting for me to dig it up and start anew, I noticed a patch of green. This was no ordinary green though. It was carrot-green, the color of the stems of carrots.

“That can’t be…”

I looked closer, moving the greenery, and there they were! Beautiful orange carrots pushing up from out of the ground! But I hadn’t planted any new ones…

“How in the world???”

After doing some quick research, I found that if you leave some of the carrots in the ground (like I did last summer – and it was the first time I’d ever planted carrots), they will drop seed and come back in the spring! I find so much encouragement in this…

Even when you think all is dead, life happens… But you have to plant something first… You have to be active and actually do something first… I remember how small those carrot seeds were last summer, and how fantastic it was to watch the first growth appear… And that same feeling, but magnified, is how I felt yesterday.

And I remembered “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…” Or maybe even a carrot seed?

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Back to today…

After that sad-turned-good cry, I talked to Him about the “mountains” in my life, and asked His help to make those mountains “melt like wax before Him”…

And I thought about those carrots again, and looked up the rest of that Scripture about faith and the mustard seed, and read: “For truly I say to you, if you have faith that is living like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, Move from here to yonder place, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:20).

I like that a lot. I feel my faith being stirred and tried and strengthened these days… It doesn’t always feel good at the time, but neither does anything worthwhile when you’re in the middle of it. Writing a novel? Building your muscles? Fasting? Putting a production together? But push through to the other side, get past the “mountains” that stand in your way of achieving your goals, and what seems impossible becomes possible.

It’s just when you’re in the long phase of the journey — the part where you just seem to see a lot of desert instead of green fields, and when tears seem more plentiful than rain — that you long for inner refreshment, where you can dig deeply into the well of faith, splash some on your eyes, and then see with those eyes of faith…

Before getting along with the day, I asked Jesus if He had a psalm for me read. Immediately, I “heard” “Psalm 84” in my spirit. Not knowing what that one was about, I was thankful and in awe of Him yet again… Here are verses 6 and 7:

“Passing through the Valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills the pools with blessings. They go from strength to strength, increasing in victorious power…”

And then I heard a beautiful songbird singing in the rain outside the living-room window on this blessed and joyful new spring day…

I know the word “amazing” is overused a lot, but He really is amazing

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