I encourage you to break away for 10 or 15 minutes to read this blog. It's a little long but full of things to ponder as we approach Easter. I think you will be blessed if you remove yourself from your ordinary ritual and relocate today's reading in a setting of candlelit serenity and with an attitude of devoted contemplation. Be blessed.
I had the most amazing weekend on the little mini-retreat that Kathy and I took to break away and pray over RESTORE and the direction He is guiding us. Thank you for praying for us as we prayed, planned, dreamed and fellowshipped together. It was a sweet and precious time with my friend. I had no idea how incredible this time would be for me personally and on an individual level. As the early morning approached…before dawn, I spent some time alone on the balcony of our room reading through select chapters in John and praying for spiritual insight and wisdom. I have felt as though I have been walking through a desert in my spiritual journey. Although I still found a little strength and Living water to pour out and into others, I believed my reserve was growing far to low and I was getting to a dangerous place of depletion. God proved faithful yet again as He began to pour into my thirsty soul and fill me.
The scriptures that spoke to me the most were just prior to His crucifixion. I marvel of its “specialness” to me and that it is during this time of year and near my “spiritual” birthday. I often reflect on the amazing love that saved my soul from eternal separation from God and the agony He must have experienced as He offered His only begotten Son. As I remember the events leading up to me accepting Christ as Lord of my life, I recall the vivid picture in my mind of His great sacrifice for me. My imagination is pretty dramatic, graphic, and can be intense with detail. Seeing Christ on the cross, paying for my sin, because of His love for me, leaves me speechless. My heart is ……well…….there are no words to describe! I’m sure you cannot understand unless you have experience the same sacrificial love for you. These thoughts have led me to re-read the blog I wrote last year during this season. As I read through what God gave me during that season, I felt impressed to share them once again. Perhaps it is your first time to read this…maybe your second. Whatever the case, stop right now and invite the Holy Spirit to saturate you with His presence as you read.
The picture to the left is of shadows that dance in the corner of my living room wall many mornings as I light a candle and curl up onto the sofa to sip coffee. It's 5:30 am; too early and dark to sit on the porch! The house is quiet...calm...it's my time to visit with my Savior. This is my morning ritual when I'm up early. I first noticed the shadows about a month ago. If you look closely, you will see the cross on the right and the shadow of the lamp on the left. It was then that God whispered into my ear. "See the cross? I suffered there for you! My hands and feet were nailed to a cross." "Look closer at the shadows," He said. "Do you see the challis?" (the shadow of the lamp) "It is much bigger, Lord!" I exclaimed. "Why do you want me to notice that it is larger than the cross? What do you want to show me?" Then my spiritual eyes and heart was opened to think and go deeper! Jesus prayed in the Garden that this cup would pass from Him, praying not His will be done but the Father's. Jesus, in the upper room, broke the bread and shared the wine. Take, eat, this is my body given for you. Take, drink, this is the new covenant in my blood. Do this in remembrance of me! It wasn't the cross or His suffering that saved me (though that played a huge part), it was His blood and His sacrificial death - the cup! God wanted to get my attention. "Think about all that I sacrificed" He seemed to say.
I've had the cross on my mind for weeks now, and about the Savior's love. Then I heard another whisper from Him, "Go deeper!...I want to show you more!" So what you are about to read is what He has been showing me. Really, it's simple and perhaps you have already had many of these thoughts and insights. I had not thought about the sacrifice of Jesus, God's only Son in this way. It was a paradigm shift for me! I hope it is fresh and new for you. Stop and take a moment to pray before you read any further. Ask Him to speak to your heart, see through a Holy lens, and go deeper still...with Him.
I closed my eyes and imagined Jesus, my Lord, God's only begotten Son, on the old rugged cross. I began to see Him from head to toe, front to back, His middle, side to side, inside and out. Then, deeper I saw: His dignity, His authority, His will, His emotions, His appearance, and His clothes.
Head, Will, and Authority:
On His head was a crown of thorns. We know according to scripture that the crown of thorns was a mockery from the soldiers (Matt. 27: 27-32). Jesus had submitted and turned Himself over to earthly authority of government and to the will of His Father in heaven. He sacrificed His head, and His will (Matt. 26:42). In comparison, we must die daily, also sacrificing and submitting our head and mind to God. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" and "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God..." James1:8, 5 How is your thought life? Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. (Phil.4:8) We also should submit to authority 1 Peter 2:13 "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority..." But more importantly, to God (James 4:7)
I then thought about His hands that were nailed; sacrificed. Both the right hand and the left hand. He used those hands to serve. He washed the feet of the disciples. He cooked on the beach. He lifted Peter up from the raging sea. He touched eyes and ears, and healed with His hands. He served bread, wine, and fish. I imagine Him helping Zacchaeus out of the tree, lifting the chin as she washes His feet with perfume, knocking on his friends’ door and putting a small child on His knee. All acts of service! From the right hand to the left hand and as far as the east is from the west, our hands should also serve one another. (Gal. 5:13) "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." (Ecc. 9:12a)
I thought of His feet and where they had traveled. They walked with the 2 on the road to Emmaus, his feet walked on water, climbed into a boat, walked down a dusty and rocky road, they were anointed by one who loved him greatly, they spent 40 days walking in the desert, they stood teaching in the temple, they shared steps with His friends on the path to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. Lastly, they took that weary walk up the hill to Galgotha. Jesus sacrificed His feet to perform His Father's will. Think about the paths that you walk. Do you sacrifice your steps by walking in the Spirit? (Gal 5:16) How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news (Rom. 10:15). Do you go out of the way to help a brother or sister in need? Do you walk along side of someone who is weary and troubled, encouraging them in their journey? Sacrifice your feet in service to the Lord and for others. It is Christian love.
The soldier pierced Jesus' side. He was sacrificed from the bloody, matted hair on the top of His head to the bottom soles of His feet. Then, His side, the very middle of his frame. I think of it as the very center or the depth of who He was, all around the vital organs; close to His heart, His lungs and taking his very breath. Do we give our all, our very being? Jesus did! For Me to live is Christ, to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)
Back and shoulders:
Jesus was scourged. Beaten and whipped. His back was covered with blood and his muscles exposed. By his stripes we are healed. His flesh was ripped and torn. Yet, He carried the heavy burden of the cross and the weight of mans sin on His shoulders. Are we willing to sacrifice our back and shoulders to help carry someone’s cross or burden? (Gal. 6:2) Be a friend to someone. That’s sacrificial love.
Jesus sacrificed His whole body, including His appearance. His face was spat upon. His brow was bruised and bleeding. He was completely exposed on the cross. Nothing hidden from anyone. How often we have let our appearance or identify get in the way of Christ’s work in us or through us? It's called pride. Will you sacrifice it for the cause of Christ? Are you willing to be transparent? It’s called intimacy.
Even His clothes were taken, along with His dignity as the soldiers cast lots. (Matt. 27:35) Give what you have (Luke 6:38 Matt. 5:40)
Jesus even sacrificed His emotions. Can you imagine watching your family go through such grief? (Jn. 19:26,27) How about the disappointment of His friends when they couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him or fully understand His Lordship and the coming Kingdom, or His great love for them? What about the emotions He felt as the Father turned His Face away? Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice by taking on the sin of man and paying the penalty for us. In Jn.19:28 we read, "After this Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst." I can't help but think that now he thirsted not only for drink, but for the Living Water that He freely gave.
Jesus Christ sacrificed everything! From within and out. Why? Because of His deep love for us. For you. For me. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Heb. 9:22 Prophecy was fulfilled, payment was made, and now the free gift of eternal life is yours by receiving God's son, the Savior and Lover of your soul.
" Love so amazing,
so divine, demands my soul,
my life, my all!" ~ I. Watts
Over the last week, I have replayed a special moment that Kathy and I shared as time was consecrated and prayers were lifted - bathing from head to foot over ministry and direction. My desire is to be like Jesus, devoting my all and sharing His love with others. I give my head (mind/thoughts), my heart (passions/desires/soul), my hands and feet (tools for service), my side/center (inmost being/depth of all I am). It will take great sacrifice on my part.
I am willing. Will you join me?
Love is a sacrifice.
How deep is the Father's love for us! Won't you go deeper still...with Him? Play Kathy & Ken's recording below. Listen closely to the words and let the Holy Spirit minister to your soul. Then read the scripture. It will help you know how to live a sacrificial life. One that is pleasing to God.
A Living Sacrifice
Romans 12: 1-21
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Humble Service in the Body of Christ
3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your a faith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in Action
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I do have glorious news! After Jesus made such a beautiful, terrible sacrifice and died, He rose again and lives today! That same resurrection power is alive in those who believe in the Son of God!
Remembering His Ultimate Sacrifice for me,
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