Jesus Knew What lay Ahead of Him, and He Knew the Reason!

Think of a time when a crisis arose, and you were unable to do anything or move. It may have felt like your only option was to sit back and do nothing. It’s a tough thing to be kept in the background at a time like that— You may recall a sense of helplessness and disappointment which pervaded the experience.

Some of us are sent to the frontline, some of us are sitting in the mid-way, while others are standing in the back. Indeed some of us totally miss the mark—and are clueless as to what’s happening. Whenever you are in a difficult season of life: sickness, financial difficulties, toxic relationships, death of loved ones, etc… You may be feeling hurt and crushed. Where do you go? And who is there to hear you?

In times of crisis, and distress, do you feel called to work even harder to find out how you can stop the ongoing suffering of a particular situation? What if you suddenly realize that the situation is completely out of your control? What if you have no other choice but to watch and wait?

A great example is when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane with his disciples the night before his crucifixion (an unjust punishment for the sin of others). And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Matt 26:36

Jesus knew what was going to happen on the next day, and he was in great distress. But he asked his disciples to “Sit here and wait”. Prior to that, all the disciples declared that they would die before disowning Jesus. A few hours later however, they all scattered. Talk is cheap, right? It is easy to say we are devoted to God, but our claims are meaningful only when they are tested in the crucible of affliction.

You may be wondering if your faith is strong enough to stand up under intense trials.

I have asked myself the question, “How strong is my faith? Would it be able to withstand extreme testing?” When suffering comes our way, there is often no way out except walking through it. In the valley of suffering, despair and bitterness are brewed. But there are characters also built and strengthened. The hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of our life, and we shouldn’t give up so easily on our destiny. The valley of suffering can be fertile ground for soul growth.

Jesus didn’t die for nothing. The Word of God teaches that he knew about the suffering that awaited him at the cross. 

His agony was worse than death because he was going to pay for the sins of all who are separated from God. The sinless Son of God took our sins upon himself to save us from suffering and separation from our God the Father. Everything happened according to God’s plan, and on that first Easter, Jesus rose again. Whoever believes in his death on the cross and his resurrection, will have lasting life.

His prayer in those hours reaffirmed his desire to do God’s Will by saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matt 26: 39

His prayer reveals to us his terrible suffering. In times of suffering people sometimes wish they knew the future, or they wish they could understand the reason for their anguish. Jesus knew what lay ahead of him, and he knew the reason for it. Even so, his struggle was intense— more wrenching than any struggle we will ever have to face.

The question is for us: What does it take to be able to say “As you will, Lord”? 

It takes firm trust in God‘s plan and purpose; it takes prayer and obedience each step of the way…

True Humility Stays Teachable….

I used to think I could handle anything, believing I was strong enough to take care of any hardships… yeah, right!

Oh boy, did God teach me some hard and painful lessons!

The Lord patiently worked in my life, training me to understand that my self-reliance cannot take me to the finish line.

Self-sufficiency is the enemy when it leads us to believe that we can always do what must be done in our own strength. To prevent this attitude, invite God to provide the power. At times, He may take something away from us to bring to our attention that he is the One who provides strength and direction. We must recognize the danger of fighting in our own strength. We can be confident of victory only if we put our confidence in God and not ourselves.

This is a crucial matter: spiritual blackout, spiritual fugue can be an ongoing problem for us. Sadly, we easily forget Who accomplishes good things on our behalf. Even though we know that God has strategically and divinely orchestrated rescue missions in our past, we tend to quickly forget His kindness and mercy.  

Yes, we do forget, don’t we? 

Why? 

Because sometimes, the size of our ego—our own self-reliance blocks our view, and ends up costing us tremendously. You probably agree with me on this one: Pride forgets, and humility remembers the goodness of God.

Sure, God knows His people and He has blessed us with great gifts and talents accordingly. If we are even reasonably positioned to succeed in a task, we tend to take the credit that rightfully belongs to God. We may even explain it by numbering our accomplishments and experiences, or crediting our genetics. Sadly, we will try to own what belongs to God.

I love how Priscilla Shirer sums it up like this: “While pride, arrogance, and self-reliance incur God’s opposition and will shut the door of His blessings. On the other hand, humility fosters a dependence upon Him, unleashing His power in our lives.”

This is such a great lesson to heed. I had to ask myself, “Is it pride that dims my sight, making me unaware of my weakness?”  I was definitely masking my weakness with self-sufficiency. I was focused on problems and resources, rather than looking at the Lord.

At other times, I am able to come to the place where I may say something like this, “I can’t do this. I’m too weak to do such a task. My resources are inadequate”. God often allows us to be limited and insufficient. Why? So we can lean on Him for understanding and provision. Furthermore, we can admit that we’re not perfect. He is perfect! God minimizes pride and shows His victory. 

Once I recognized that my weakness is the conduit to God’s power and is a Showcase for God’s strength, I dropped to my knees in prayer — repenting and thanking Him for being the source of all blessings in my life. Indeed, I realized that God’s power is perfectly in line with my weakness!

“Our weakness is the key God uses to unlock the door, but even an unlocked door must still be opened. Humility is the knob we grasp that causes the door of God‘s power to be opened wide in our lives.” — Priscilla Shirer 

A truly humble person does not deny the gifts God has given her/him, nor brag about them as if they’re a product of their own making.  Humility is a state of mind in which one puts the needs of others above their own, and never thinks of themselves as better than other people.

Having said that, we should be more vigilant about guarding our humility when we celebrate our strengths, regarding them as gifts from God. Moreover, we shouldn’t look at our weaknesses as repulsive, but as helpful in developing our continued dependence on God.

Keep in mind, pride willfully opposes God. It will result in judgement and will crush you.

Humility says, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9

Don’t make the mistake of being too proud to not depend on God.

Psalm 103:2 “I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me.”

Can You Find “Mount Sinai” in Your Desert of Life?

I recently completed a study written by Priscilla Shirer on the Old Testament Prophet Elijah [Elías/ Ilyās], and I must tell you how Elijah’s narrative and his bold prayers have moved me to the core of my being. I found it so relevant to our modern lives. I would like to share with you what I experienced during this study.

I thought everything in my life was set in order, yet I was unconsciously placing unreasonable expectations upon myself which derailed my emotional stability. I was beating myself up with self- condemnation, disappointment, and regret about my failure to achieve something that GOD NEVER EVEN EXPECTED OF ME.

In that critical moment—when I was most depleted, vulnerable, fatigue, depressed, exhausted, and disappointed, I called out to the Lord, “I have had enough, Lord”.

I was basically giving up. I wanted to stay silent and isolated in my own desert. Then God stepped in and spoke to me. What a moment that was!

It always happens unexpectedly!

I don’t often hear the Lord speaking to me, but when He does, I know with all my heart that it’s Him. Part of the study made references to the verses [Mark 14:3-9]; where Mary of Bethany, Lazarus’s sister took an expensive perfume and, as an act of worship and adoration poured it over Jesus. As it dripped down over His feet, she wiped his feet with her hair. I felt as if I was there, looking at this beautiful scene and marveling.

I found myself on “Mount Sinai” in my own desert, hearing the Lord, my Yahweh, whispering to me…

While I finished reading Mary’s story, I heard the Lord’s whisper in my heart. This is what He said, “Whenever you speak of Me to others, it is as though you are pouring an expensive perfume over Me.” I am unable to describe the extent to which I was overwhelmed by His love at that moment on a Sunday morning. I was in tears and full of admiration.

He  didn’t  rebuke  me,  nor  did  He  ignore  or  discard  me.  Instead,  He  refreshed  me  by  guiding  me  with  loving  steps  toward  the  LIGHT.

It’s a great reminder to me that God is always here—ready and waiting for us—even when circumstances have redirected us or we have foolishly run into a wilderness of our own making.

He simply requested of me not to isolate myself. My greatest gesture of devotion, and my sacrifice—my expensive perfume [Nard] is to tell others about the goodness of God and share His love and His glory.

My Yahweh gave me a sense of freedom regarding my own limitations and humanity.

I’ve realized that God is not mad at me because my body is tired or my mind is frayed or my soul is unusually heavy—not after what I’ve been through, or the difficulties I’ve endured, or when I’m emotionally running on empty.

Moreover, He is not agitated by the limitations of my flesh. Instead, He patiently stands ready to lift me up and teach me the next lesson in life. He nourishes me as I recover from the distress and tension that may be an ongoing part of my daily life.

Now I take a moment to breathe deeply. I’m enjoying the grace and heartfelt affection of my Heavenly Father, who sees all and knows all. Our Yahweh makes sure that even a trip through the wilderness will not be in vain.

So, look for the “Mount Sinai” in your own desert, where God wants to speak to you and refresh your tired soul.

God Has Given us the Law, But We Need Hope to Fulfill the Law!

Alright, we get it, we all know our struggles with keeping God’s law. But what are we going to do with this knowledge? How is it possible to fulfill His law and keep our promises to God? Most definitely, we need HOPE to keep ourselves pure.

Our roadmap to living a pure life is found in the Bible—The Ten Commandments. If the Ten Commandments were God’s final words, we would lift our hands and say: ”That’s my struggle…where is the help in that?” There is no one and no way we would be able to fulfill them. If you read the lives of the Prophets, you will find that not even they could fulfill The Ten Commandments—they all fell short of God’s Will, just as we do…

But thank God that He has sent His Son into the world, so that as we come to Him in faith and repentance, He sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts to enable us to live a new life. And what does this new life look like?

Our new life actually begins to fulfill the very law of God. The law of God gives us direction for our lives, and the Holy Spirit of God gives us power to move in that direction. The Ten Commitments highlights our struggles, providing a helpful and reliable guide – from the beginning of our earthly life to the end, and even beyond. It’s the power of the gospel “The Good News”, made possible because of the birth of Christ! In Him we find hope and the ability to move forward.

I remember when I was far from grasping the importance of God’s “truth.” Back then, I just couldn’t see it. I knew that I had no righteousness of my own to approach God’s throne, but didn’t yet understand that He, in His infinite love, had already prepared a way to communicate with me through my Savior, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As I studied His Word, I discovered that not only Christians but followers of other religions also agree that Jesus is the Messiah. If we believe that he is the Messiah, then he is the Word of God in human flesh. He is co-eternal and co-existent with God forever. He is the one who is coming again.

John 1:1 says; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

His birth was confirmation that He is who He claims to be.

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”— a complete life full of purpose (John 10:10).

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Part ll on “What exactly is God’s Will”?

Colin Smith’s teachings on this subject clarified some of my confusion. The previous post was about God’s ‘Secret Will’. Now, we’re looking at God’s ‘Discerned Will’ and ‘Revealed Will’.

It says in [Romans 12:2]

“Do 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.”

This tells us that there is the will of God that isn’t secret and it’s not revealed either; it’s somewhere in between, where we must use discernment. This happens when we wrestle with our decisions, struggling with what ‘God’s Will’ is.

How do we respond to God’s ‘Discerned Will’? We must pursue the path of wisdom to discover this facet of God’s will.

There is no specific answer for our questions in the Bible. But it says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. [Philippians 4:8-9]

The good news is that you’re not alone in the biggest decisions of your life. The Lord is your shepherd and He will lead you beside the still water.

To seek the path of wisdom and discern God’s plan: Go to Him, asking Him to reveal His will in prayer.

The third one is: God’s ‘Revealed Will’. 

His ‘Revealed Will’ is found in the scriptures. The things that are revealed in His word—the Bible belong to us.

Pastor Colin Smith continued: 

The ’Revealed Will’ includes the Ten Commandments. Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” [Matthew 22: 37-38]

And “ Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” [Romans 12:12]

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” [Romans 12: 17] 

THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD FOR OUR LIVES!

Of course, we all struggle on a daily basis. Though it doesn’t come easily, discovering God’s ‘Revealed Will’ should be always our first concern. God doesn’t hold us accountable for His ‘Secret Will’, but he will hold us accountable for His ‘Revealed Will’.

It doesn’t matter where you live and where you’re from; what matters is how you live.

Do you follow the great commandments?

John said in [1 John 2:17], “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. The world and the things in it will pass, but not the Will of God.”

Therefore, when we pray, “Help me to do your will”, we are asking for God to reveal what He has kept secret. We are also asking for wisdom regarding what God has asked us to discern. Finally we are asking for God’s help in being obedient to what He reveals to us in His word. This is the meaning of ‘God’s Will’ be done.

What exactly is “God’s Will”?

What exactly is “God’s Will”? This is one of the biggest questions with which we all struggle.

How do you know what ‘God’s Will’ for your life is? 

This question is asked often and is frequently on our hearts and minds.

I have most definitely learned ‘His Will’ from studying God’s word. ‘God’s Will’ is not that simple; being in His Will requires cooperation with the heavenly Father.

Pastor Colin Smith’s teachings on the subject “What is God’s Will for our Lives?” definitely shed some light into my confusion surrounding this topic… 

What are we praying when we say, ‘Your Will be done on earth as it’s in heaven’? [matthew 6:10]

Looking at the meaning of this prayer, there is a model in heaven and there is a model on earth. One of the reasons we find ourselves confused over this verse is that God’s word speaks to us at least three different ways:

— The first one is: God’s ‘Secret Will’

Deuteronomy 29:29 | NIV

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

What is God’s ‘Secret Will’?

God works all things according to His will, meaning God is sovereign and His plan prevails. 

You see this at the cross of Jesus Christ.  All kinds of things were happening around the cross. People were mocking and scheming. Satan was stirring up events that lead to the Crucifixion of Lord Jesus.

What was God the Father was doing in those moments? He was working all things according to his plan. What does this wonderful truth tell us? As you and I go through turmoil, asking, ‘Where are you, God?’, He is in the midst of all that’s going on in our lives. Nothing happens in our lives outside of God’s plan and purpose, or behind His control. God will weave a wonderful truth into the painful event that you’re going through.

Admittedly, we often find ourselves asking, “Lord, what are you doing here? Why did you allow this in my life? Why did you save her, and not him? What good could come from this?”

All these questions are about God’s ‘Secret Will’. And the secret things belong to the Lord.

How do we respond to His ‘Secret Will’? We must trust Him, learning to walk by faith and not by sight. We wait until the day that all secrets will be revealed in heaven. We will then see it with new eyes. 

What should be our response, when we are wondering about the mystery of God’s ‘Secret Will’? We can’t see what He is doing. This is where we must pray, “Lord, strengthen my faith to trust you, and let ‘Your Will’ be done”.

Stay Tuned for the second one ‘God’s Discerned Will’, and the third one ‘God’s Revealed Will’.

The Test of Time!

Every season of life has its own game, and testing. How we handle our “game of life” will tell a lot about our characters and willingness to become the best of ourselves.

Inevitably, we admire the things that stand the test of time and that become living examples of the absolute best.

But when it comes to our personal lives—when we go through a long and arduous journey, we may ponder on these questions:

Is this the time to pause and reflect?

Is this the test of this particular journey?

Where do we turn to?

Do we turn to God for understanding, endurance, and deliverance, or become hardened and reject God?

Are we open to being helped by others who obey God, or are we withdrawing guidance and help others may give?

Do we even acknowledge what Christ has done for humanity on the cross?

Or do we accuse God for being unjust?

Sometimes the answer to the questions unasked is to peep into the past and carry the lessons not learned earlier.

Without any doubts, the test of time helps us to grow and build our characters.

It’s written in James 1:2-3, “Consider  it  all  joy, when  you  encounter  various  trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

This brings us once again to ask ourselves: do we step out with acceptance of what the lessons we may learn and what the journey may prepare us for the future, or do we overlook the most important lesson we are taught?

What is the Most Exhilarating Path Possible?

Thankfully, we have the evidence within our reach—in His book, the Bible. It not only tells us that the world was created by God; more importantly, it tells us who God is. His words reveal how to discover the best and highest path possible for our life.

We must stop blaming God for what is wrong with the world. God, from the very beginning, never intended to burden us with sin—he didn’t burden Adam with sin. God made him upright!

“God gave Adam the freedom to forfeit his righteousness. If you’re a God follower and if the habit of your heart is to blame God, you must really question yourself. 

The Bible tells us: We need to start confessing that we are far from upright.”

—Pastor Colin Smith

The question one may ponder is: how did Adam know what was right and good? What I’ve learned over the years from great Bible teachers is simply this: God wrote what’s right and good on Adam’s heart.  Because he was made upright.

Thomas Boston wrote something helpful: “Adam did not have the law written on tablet stone. But it was written on his mind and the knowledge of it was created within him. God impressed upon his soul and made a law to himself.”

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, it is explained that God gave everything to Adam. God gave him Eve, and gave them marriage as a gift.  The perfection of their relationship was blessed by God but their continued union with God required obedience to His requests.  

The Ten Commandments were revealed much later. 

Adam didn’t need a law, he was a law unto himself. He didn’t need the Ten Commandments.  The knowledge of right and good was in him.  It was given to him, it was natural and changeable. He had the freedom to forfeit his righteousness.  

One of the questions we all ask is: Why did God allow sin? 

If Adam was upright and didn’t sin, the whole world would have been upright too, and the world would be a paradise. So why did God allow even the possibility of sin? 

The answer is: Freedom—because of his love for his children. God made Adam upright and also made him free. For Adam freedom meant choices with many consequences. 

God made man upright, but sadly man searches for many schemes. 

This is the view of some in the world that we are all righteous. We are not righteous! We fall short on a daily basis! As for me and you, we go to church not because we’re upright, but because our sin brings us to our knees with a humble heart, acknowledging that we’re in need of a Savior—whose way, truth, and love is the Most Exhilarating Path Possible!

Thank you, Father, the God of all creation! I’m standing before you with a humble and thankful heart as a justified sinner—reconciled through your son Jesus Christ, and all my good is in him. When he returns, I will be in him, for I stand on Christ’s rock. Amen!

Who is Your ‘High Rock’?

You may feel far from home right now—far from a safe place; a place of confidence, trust, peace, love, and warmth. You are disappointed, misunderstood, discouraged, confused; don’t know who to trust.

Don’t let your heart be troubled. God is not bound by time or space. You can put your confidence in Him who is always with you and never leaves you alone. Even when you are among unknown people and surroundings, or you are standing on unstable terrain and situation; God will never give up on you. Yahushua is the ‘Higher Rock’. The ‘High Rock’ is your place of refuge and safety.

In [Psalm 61:2-3] David must have been far from home somewhere in the battlefield when he wrote this Psalm.

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”

Since I have known my Yeshua, this verse along with other verses for protection has been my prayer in times of calamities.

In truth, that said, trusting God to be your rock, fortress and salvation, will change your whole outlook on life. You will no longer be captivated by resentment, confusion, discouragement or disappointment towards others or by any circumstances. When you rest in the power of God, nothing will shake you. His strength remains with you.

Pay Back Wrongs by Praying for the Offender!

You have heard the phrase ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’, which refers to the idea that people should be punished according to the way in which they have offended. For example, if they hurt someone, they should be hurt equally badly in return. But God’s word teaches us something quite different: Love those who wrong us. If someone hurts you with their actions or even their condescending comments, don’t get mad. Pray for them instead. 

Simply put, don’t make other people’s voices your concern. And do not even the score with more wrong. Keep in mind, you will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones right back at your offenders.

It’s easier said than done. We are no different from Jesus’s disciples. Our sinful nature encourages us to get angry and get even…

PETER, the apostle, developed the qualities of compassion in humility the hard way. In his early days with Christ, these attitudes did not come naturally to his impulsive, strong-willed personality. But the Holy Spirit changed PETER, molding his strong personality to God’s use, and teaching him tenderness and humility. In our fallen world, it is often deemed acceptable to retaliate by tearing people down verbally if we’ve been hurt. PETER, remembering the words of Jesus [If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also], encourages his readers to pay back wrongs by praying for the offenders. In God’s kingdom, revenge and hurling insults are unacceptable behavior, no matter how indirectly it is done. Rise above seeking revenge against those who hurt you. Instead of reacting angrily to these people, pray for them. 

Forging the qualities of compassion in humility is hard work. It may not come naturally to us, but if we ask the Holy Spirit to help us and mold our personality to more closely resemble His Son, He will begin to shape us, bringing us a life filled with peace.

I have learned some lessons the hard way on this topic:  First, remember God causes his sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous. A gentle reminder, instead of harsh words is usually the appropriate response when repetitive wrong behavior must be addressed.  Second, if it’s necessary, you may consider withdrawing from people and places from time to time. Give yourself some space from the world that is filled with millions of mouths that talk too much but never have anything to say. Do it for the sake of your sanity and theirs, and let it be done in love. 

Here is what the Lord Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?

[Matthew 5:43-46 | NIV]

Let’s cut each other some slack. Don’t let the behavior of others stress you out. You have no control over someone else’s thoughts or their actions. Make patience and love be your daily aims.

Stay blessed my friends.