Crown Of Thorns


I walked into our empty house yesterday morning after attending Bible study and saw this sight: Crown Of Thorns-0004 Apparently, my mom had placed this crown of thorns against the shades in our living room while I was gone.

My eyes immediately filled with tears.

On the  drive home, my thoughts had been filled with thoughts of so many earthly concerns that they had temporarily drowned out the knowledge that this is Holy Week. The week of Christ’s suffering and shame, betrayal, beating, crucifixion and ultimately His triumphant resurrection.

How easy it is to forget the eternal in the midst of the daily mundane.

The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They clothed Him in a purple robe and went up to Him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck Him in the face. (John 19:2-3).

This, of course, was done after Jesus had been beaten nearly to death by Roman soldiers with a flagrum whip. This whip consisted of multiple leather cords that were weighted with lead balls and pieces of sheep bone. The bone was designed to reach into the skin, latch onto it, and rip it out.

Jesus had been tied to a flogging post while the whip was used repeatedly (at least 40 times). This was an extremely bloody and painful process that was designed to humiliate and inflict maximum damage. Sometimes people would not survive this torture. They would often bleed to death as their arteries and veins were laid bare (sometimes their intestines would fall out, so severe was the beating) and the skin on the back would be left in ribbons.

Of course, Jesus did survive this brutality…only to have a painful crown of thorns pressed into his head. The Roman soldiers did not delicately place this monstrous crown on his head either. They would have pressed it deep into his skull so that it pierced and tore into his skin, causing blood to run down his face. After mocking Him and hitting Him some more,  they dragged him out in front of the crowd for all to see.

They did this to God in human form.

In his book A Violent Grace  (highly recommended), author Michael Card sets the scene: “Could that be Jesus?” one person whispers to another. Look! The hands that had healed them were bound. The head that bent over their children is pierced by spines. The face that lifted up thanks before feeding them by the thousands is streaked with blood. 

Jesus will carry that twisted crown of shame into the wasteland of our sin. He will become lost there and forsaken. 

Why?

To re-create and redeem this cursed world. Sinful man, who brought the kingdom of thorns down upon his own head, was helpless to save himself. But praise be to God! The One who wore those thorns like a crown DID conquer the curse. The writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus is now “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9). —pp 88,90

We all know the rest of the story.

Jesus wore that crown of thorns on the cross where He died the most horrific death known to man.  He died the death that you and I deserve because of our sin. He took our place. He paid our fine.  He wore our shame so that we could know dignity. He took every single drop of God’s wrath against sin so that terrifying wrath would never fall on us. He was deserted by the Father so that we would always know His Presence and His love.

He wore that crown of thorns for me.

He wore that crown of thorns for you.

Yet how often we forget.

How often I forget His awe-inspiring sacrifice, His fierce, eternal love that reaches beyond the grave.

I needed to see that crown of thorns.

It is a vivid reminder that out of the worst horror, the greatest beauty emerged and death was conquered forever.

I had to end up moving the crown because it was poking holes into the shades.

My husband suggested that I place it on the mantle, in the middle of our JOY sign. Crown Of Thorns-0006

I think that is the very best place for that crown of thorns.

If Jesus had not worn that crown on Good Friday, we could never have known the Author of true joy.

I am unspeakably grateful.

May we never lose sight of the beauty of the Cross.

On one hand, the cross is a mirror held up to my sin that shows me, through the price that was paid, just how thoroughly lost I am:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

On the other hand, the cross is a window held up to my Lord that shows how greatly loved I am:

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

The cross of Jesus gives the gift of that great love to you and to me.

And there is no greater love.” —Michael Card, A Violent Grace, p. 181

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Invincible


 

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This morning, I read this  in Oswald Chambers’ famous devotional, My Utmost For His Highest:

“NO power on earth or in hell can conquer the Spirit of God living within the human spirit; it creates an inner invincibility.”

The word invincible means:
 *incapable of being conquered, defeated or subdued in any manner
*unyielding
*a position that cannot be taken by assault or seige
*having an unyielding spirit or stubborn persistence in the face of opposition or difficulty

My human spirit is certainly not invincible…but the Spirit of Jesus who lives in my heart is ALWAYS invincible.

My choice is, which one will I allow to prevail?

On a rainy, stormy day that matches the storm swirling  around me right now, I CHOOSE to be invincible in Him.

In Him and His strength:

I am incapable of being conquered.
I am incapable of being defeated.
I will not be subdued in any manner.
I am unyielding.
My position in Christ cannot be shaken by any assault or seige that the enemy might try to bring against me.
I am fearless in the face of opposition and difficulty.

If I listen to my feelings, none of that is true. But I have learned (through painful experience) to ruthlessly relegate tyrannical, ever-changing feelings beneath the rock-solid truth of God’s Word.

And through His Word, Jesus tells me this:

I give power to you when you are faint and weary and when you have no might, I increase your strength, causing it to multiply and making it abound…My grace, loving-kindness and mercy is enough for you. It is sufficient for any danger and enables you to bear the trouble…for My strength and power  show themselves most effective in your weakness…when you are weak in human strength, then I make you truly strong, able, and powerful in My divine strength. (Isaiah 40:29; 2 Corinthians 2:9-10, Amplified version).

My circumstances will not defeat me. Questions will not deter me. Doubts will not stop me. I will not believe the lies of the enemy and I will not allow my fickle feelings to have the final say.

There comes a time in every Christian’s life when Jesus requires you to walk solely by faith in His Person and His promises. I am in such a place right now.

But rather than bemoan my fate and whine about how difficult life is, I will allow this season to be a platform in which I show the watching world around me that I treasure Christ above all things this world has to offer.

I will allow the winds of adversity to fan His flame inside my heart and burn brighter than it ever has.

The darker things get, the more I will praise Him.

I refuse to be defeated.

Jesus cannot be conquered and as long as I take refuge in Him, I can’t either.

If you are a Christ follower and are going through a rough time, what about you?

What choice will you make?

Dare to believe your good God.

You are invincible in Him.

 

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A Fresh Shot Of Faith and Courage!


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It is a gray, rainy day in my corner of the world today.

However, the Son is shining brightly as I spend time with Him in the pages of my open Bible.

I am currently doing a fabulous study called “Amazed and Confused: When God’s Actions Collide With Our Expectations by Heather Zempel. I would highly recommend it.

At one point, the author suggested we look up Hebrews 10: 35-39. These verses made my heart sing. They blaze with hope and joy and serve as a reminder that no matter what we are facing today on this earth, we really do fight from a place of victory! Nothing that is happening to us is random.Whatever Jesus has allowed to come into your life,  it comes with great  and divine purpose.

Even the hard stuff is part of the great story of redemption that He is writing into your life and in a way that we cannot always understand, it is necessary.

So, I invite you to read and meditate on these verses and remember to keep an eternal perspective today. This life isn’t all there is.

Hold on.

Believe your great God.

Be strong and courageous.

Endure with joy: no retreat, no surrender.

Delight the heart of your Savior by walking in fearless faith.

Know and rest in the fact that Jesus is faithful. Always.

And He is coming again.

Do not fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God and thus receive and carry away and enjoy to the full what is promised. For still a little while ( a very little while), and  the Coming One will come and He will not delay. But the just shall live by faith and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in Him. But our way is not that of those who draw back to eternal misery and are utterly destroyed, but we are of those who believe,(who cleave to and trust in and rely on God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah) and by faith preserve the soul. (Hebrews 10:35-39, Amplified version).

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Choose Life!


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This morning at 3 a.m., I was wide awake.

Did you ever notice that in the middle of the night, your thoughts rarely turn to happy, peaceful things? There is something about the darkness that makes it very easy to allow your thoughts to run wild and to give into every fearful thought that enters your mind.

I have lived long enough to know that if I am awake that early in the day, that Jesus has something He wants to share with me. So I got up, grabbed my Bible and my fuel (Pepsi), and sat down next to the fireplace to meet with my Savior, who never sleeps. Isn’t that a comfort? My husband was sound asleep, blissfully ignorant of my insomnia. But Jesus was right there, delighted to see my face and hear my voice. (Song of Songs 2:14).

My directed reading led me straight to what Jesus wanted to say to me: “I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore, choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

CHOOSE LIFE!!!

I have heard that verse a million times over the years, but this morning at 3:20 a.m., it filled me with fresh joy!

And the good news is that I don’t have to wait until everything in my life is perfect to choose life! Neither do you! (As if there is such a thing as a perfect life this side of heaven!).

I  could sense Jesus’ smile as He whispered to me over and over through His Word, “Choose life! Choose life! Choose life!”  He had asked me to meet with Him in the pages of His precious word to give me His prescription against the darkness!

There is this beautiful thing that we have been given called free will. We really do get to make a choice here. Victory or defeat? Life or death? Worry or faith? Trust or unbelief? Fear or peace? Darkness or light?

This day is a gift to me from Jesus.

He has entrusted me with the next 24 hours and I get to make the choice as to how I will live this never-to-be-repeated day.

The good news is that I don’t have to let fear win. I don’t have to allow my faith to falter by looking simply at my circumstances. I don’t have to worry about this or that.  I don’t have to continually ask ‘why?’ or ‘how?’

All of those things represent death.

Instead, I can choose to walk in His Light. I can choose those things that represent LIFE: faith, love, hope, peace, joy, courage, strength!

And so can you, regardless of your surroundings or circumstances!

In His presence is fullness of joy! (Ps. 16:11).

That is exactly where I will CHOOSE to spend this day!

What will your choice be?

“Peace I leave with you; My own peace I now give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled!…In the world, you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer! Take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted! For I have overcome the world! I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you!…The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that you may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance: to the full, til it overflows!”—(John 14:27; John 16:33; John 10:10).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Timely Message


Did you ever have one of those days?

Yesterday was one such day for me. If anything could go wrong, it did.

At one point, it all just became too much. Life has been difficult lately and while there have been many moments of grace and victory, there are also moments of frustration, heartache, and sadness.

I had to pick up my daughter at the high school, so I stormed out of the house and climbed into my car.

On the way to the high school, I had it out with Jesus. Loudly.

As I have said many times on this blog, it really is okay to do that. He can take it and He always encourages honest dialogue. If we don’t get all the ugly out, it seeps into our hearts and goes deeper and deeper until it poisons us and those around us. Bitterness kills.

“WHEN does this season end?” I asked Him, not in a disrespectful way, but with the honest questioning of one of His own who is wounded and hurt and bewildered.

When will You turn the page on this season and lead us into a new one?”

Just then, my car turned the corner.

Our local ice cream shop had one word on their sign and it said this:

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SOON. 

Not “Opening soon” or “Coming soon.”

Just… Soon.

I was speechless.

I had just been talking to a friend the day before about how Jesus is always speaking…it’s just that sometimes we miss it.

It was impossible to miss this message from Him though.

Jesus met me at the lowest point in my day and spoke a message of hope that filled me with fresh joy in His nearness, His faithfulness, and His total and complete knowledge of me and all that I am feeling and thinking.

Do you need to hear from Him today?

First and foremost, stay in his Word. The Bible is “alive and full of power, making it active, operative, energizing, and effective…penetrating to the deepest parts of our nature, exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very purposes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).

 Then  keep your eyes and ears open as you go throughout your day.

He may have a message waiting for you where you least expect it. :)

 

 

 

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Go For It!


My husband, son and I sat in the guidance counselor’s office  one sunny afternoon this past fall to discuss college planning.

“So what colleges are you thinking of applying to?” She asked Josh.

He rattled off five, including an Ivy League school and four top-tier universities.

Her smile faltered and she looked down at the clipboard on her lap for a moment. When she looked back up  at him, there was a look of concern in her eyes.

“Those are all very…ambitious goals,” She said carefully, looking him right in the eye. “You must know that these Y and Z universities are probably going to be reach schools for you.” To drive that point home, she pointedly informed us of the low percentage of people actually accepted to each.

Josh maintained eye contact with her,  smiling and unfazed.

“Have you considered applying to the state schools? They would be great safety schools for you.”

“I will not be applying to those schools,” Josh said pleasantly but firmly. Our son knows what he wants and he is fearless about going after his dreams.

He and his dad had thoroughly researched the schools to which he planned to apply and those five universities represented the only places he wanted to go. He wasn’t willing to settle for anything less. (Note: we have nothing against state schools. Both Doug and I went to state colleges and had perfectly delightful experiences).

Josh’s guidance counselor  is a lovely, well-meaning woman who really cares about the kids.  But I was a  little sad that she was so discouraging to Josh because he was reaching for the stars.

Doug and I are not the kind of parents who tell our kids that they can do anything they set their minds to. That sounds nice but it is simply not true. For example, neither of our kids are going to be mathematicians or physicists, no matter who hard they try. We would never set them up for failure. We—and Josh—believed that he had the grades, the extracurriculars, and the ambition to get accepted to those schools. If that had not been the case, we would have told him the truth.

As we left that day, I couldn’t help but wonder if a student less confident than my son might have been discouraged from setting such high goals after receiving such a less-than-enthusiastic reception from the guidance counselor.

As the months went by, I received similar responses when asked what colleges my son was applying to. Widened eyes, raised eyebrows, a look of surprise. I also received several inquires as to why he was not applying to the state schools. Apparently, “everybody” does that, just in case.

“Does he really have a shot at  Y and Z?” One person came right out and asked.

“Of course he does,” I replied..because I believed it to be so.

It can be dangerous to have a big dream and share that dream with others.

People can be so quick to throw water on the tiniest of flames. They can also make you feel like you are being just a little too big for your britches, having these giant dreams. The naysayers will take every opportunity to point out that after all, you really are quite ordinary and it would be best to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.

This past week, my son received two acceptances to his chosen top-tier schools. He was placed on the wait list for the one school he never visited. He will hear from the Ivy League university tomorrow afternoon and the other one any day now.

Regardless of what the other decisions are, we are so proud of Josh. He went for it. At the end of his life, he will not have to wonder, “What if?”

Be careful who you share your hopes and dreams with.

You have the freedom to dream the biggest dreams you can. What is your passion? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Dreams possess tremendous power. They energize us, give us a reason to get up in the morning,  and encourage us to be our best selves.

Don’t let the naysayers rob you of that precious gift. Nobody has the right to try to kill that part of you that comes fully alive.

The world needs you. The world needs your dream.

Go for it.

In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”—Anonymous

*Update: Our son was not accepted to the Ivy  League school. That was a rough couple of days while he processed the disappointment. We were disappointed for him. However, he worked through it with the help of his friends and is delighted to be attending the school where his father received his master’s degree. We are proud of him because he went for it! He will now never have to wonder, “What if I had tried?”

We will all be disappointed in this life. I choose to deal with it as Kay Arthur has suggested: “See disappointment as His Appointment.” 

There is always a  reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Beautiful Fight


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I was born a fighter.

From my earliest moments, I made my presence known and turned my parents’ world upside down.  I was strong-willed. I was loud. I was bold. I was a force to be reckoned with.

And I still am all those things…but as a result of walking with Jesus for many years, He has softened those hard edges, redeemed the ugly and replaced it with grace and beauty, and healed so many of my broken places.

I don’t have victory one hundred percent of the time, obviously, but I do walk as one who knows that I am deeply loved and completely forgiven  by the magnificent One who rescued me.

Just typing those words brings tears to my eyes. I was once told that I talk about Jesus too much. Well, I can’t talk about Him enough. He is everything to me. He is the very breath that I breathe and He has totally and completely captured my heart, soul, and mind.

I am a sinner saved by radical, earth-shattering  grace. I will never  get over that extraordinary truth for the rest of my days on this earth or on into eternity.

Last night, I watched a YouTube video of Beth’s Moore’s talk at Passion 2014 earlier this year. She quoted I Timothy 6:12, which encourages us to “fight the good fight of faith.”

Beth taught that in the original Greek, the word good also means “beautiful.” 

Fight the beautiful fight of faith.

The words beautiful and fight don’t really go together, do they? What is beautiful about a battle and a struggle?

It can only be a beautiful fight because it leads you deeper into the heart of the Beautiful One Himself, Jesus.

Is your life is hard right now? Are there things that Jesus has allowed that you do not understand? Are you left feeling confused, sad, discouraged, angry, hurt? Because after all, He could have stopped it, couldn’t He?

You, my friend, have a fight on your hands.

What are you going to do? How are you going to fight? Will you choose the ugly fight or the beautiful fight?

The ugly fight looks like this: You will complain to anyone within the sound of your voice at the unjust treatment you are receiving. You will live with a heaviness of heart as you contemplate how unfair God is being to you. You will constantly rehearse the problem in your mind. You will look at the lives of others who are in a seemingly happy season and allow envy and jealousy to darken your heart. You will seek escape  from your  reality through books, TV, movies, or games. You will host a lavish pity party for yourself every night.  You might stop going to church. Your Bible will remain unopened and begin collecting dust.  You hold onto unforgiveness like a drowning person would cling to a life preserver.  You grow very angry with God because you choose to believe the insidious and evil lies of the enemy that your God doesn’t care and has abandoned you.

Darkness wins.

How? Because you are fighting against Jesus rather than fighting alongside Him.

I have fought the ugly fight plenty of times. It never ends well. Trust me on this. Don’t start down that path. It can only end in defeat and misery and tremendous damage can be done.

On the other hand, the beautiful fight looks like this: Life gets hard. You do not retreat. You do not surrender. You do not live in denial. You determine at the outset that you will face this trial head on and you will walk straight through the middle of it until you reach the other side. You are undaunted and determined.

Yet, you are hurting. And that is normal. Never once does Jesus ask you to bury your feelings and pretend they don’t exist. He invites you to share them—no matter how ugly—with Him. He can take it. He cares. He listens. He understands. (After all, He endured everything we did and more when He walked this earth. He knows.).

So, wrestle it out with Him.  Take off the mask, lose the platitudes and the pretty prayers and get real. 

If this seems irreverent to you, begin to read the Psalms and you will see David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, openly expresses every emotion to his God. David was a man of tremendous passion. He never held anything back and we don’t have to either.

You have to put those emotions somewhere. So give them to your Savior, who can bear the full weight of them all. This is a process and one that you might have to keep going back to. That’s okay. This is how you drain the poison that, if allowed to fester, will destroy you.

This is where the beautiful fight really begins: Despite your feelings, you decide to walk in faith. Hebrews 11:1 declares faith to be “perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.” You make the decision to place the truth of God’s Word over what you see and what you feel. You choose forgiveness toward those who have hurt you, knowing that Jesus will deal with them on your behalf. You trust His loving heart and His kind intention, no matter what happens. You embrace gratitude and in so doing, realize that there is beauty and light and joy to be found even on the darkest of days. You refuse to give in to fear and self-pity. You will continue to do good and minister to others.  You trade your weakness for His strength. You step into your God-given role as more than a conqueror. You accept His gift of peace to quiet your troubled heart. You open His Word and you cling to His promises. Every single time you get knocked down, you get back up.  You develop an eternal perspective rather than a temporal one, knowing that you cannot yet see the big picture of God’s grand redemptive plan. You take comfort in the knowledge that His ways are not your ways…but His ways are good and right and perfect.  You keep a running dialogue with Jesus, who is with you always. When the enemy comes at you with his lies, you silence him by speaking God’s promises over your situation…thus making you his worst nightmare.

You are taking your place alongside Jesus and watching as He fights on your behalf.

The result of this beautiful fight? Light and love triumph.

When the season passes, you will still be standing. You will have  grown in intimacy with Jesus because you have experienced Him in ways you never have before. You will be transformed into His likeness. You will have seen firsthand how He gives beauty for ashes and is able to redeem even the worst situation for His glory.

And in His eyes, you will be a beautiful warrior.

The choice is yours. Make the right one. You will never regret it.

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