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Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews 13’

It’s very gray this morning… and windy and cool.  It should be gray on Good Friday.

All creatures should walk solemnly today as we contemplate the Savior of the world.

This Jesus, whose sinless life fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law which we were helpless to do.

This Jesus, who on this day of all dreadful days cannot restrain his love.  He gives a Gentile governor numerous opportunities to follow conscience and to know the Truth which sets men free (John 18-19).  He warns the mourners who follow him on his road to the cross – “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:27-31).  He prays from the cross for his accusers – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He bestows forgiveness and gives eternal hope to the believing criminal crucified next to him (Luke 23:39-43) and He cares for his mother (John 19:26-27).

This Jesus, will willingly suffer torture and humiliation on this day at the hands of his creatures.  He asked, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  Yet, He submitted to the will of the Father to proceed with their plan crafted before the foundations of the world were laid (Luke 22:42).

Pilate’s weakness will not only lead to Jesus’ crucifixion, but add to his sufferings as he tries to appease the blood-thirsty crowd by having Jesus tortured.  He orders Jesus flogged, whipped with leather straps studded with bits of lead and pieces of bone.  Jesus is then led back before the angry crowd in this bloodied state clothed in a purple robe and crowned with thorns, the result of cruel bullying by Pilate’s soldiers.  He is cast out of the Jews’ beloved Jerusalem, bearing the disgrace of an execution “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:13).  At the cross, He is stripped down his chiton, the garment worn next to his skin.  The attending soldiers throw lots for his clothes, judging the clothing to be of more value than its owner, the God-man who hangs nearly naked before them.

Then, of course, there comes the greatest transaction in the history of the world.  By the end of this day, all of Christ’s righteousness will appear as available credit in the accounts of sinful men.  Before this though, Jesus will become sin – my sin, your sin, the sin of all mankind.  He will absorb all the punishment for it in wave after wave as He hangs on the tree and turns away God’s wrath from rebellious mankind to himself.  By the end of this day there will remain for God’s people not a single drop of wrath left toward us, all of it spent on his Son.  There is only goodness and love left toward me, his child.

Hmmm…
ah me…

Oh look!  I see the sun has broken through!

It should be sunny on this day.

“And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I have is grace!”

– – – – –

Illustration by Christopher Powers, Full of Eyes, for his music video set to Sovereign Grace’s song, “All I Have is Christ.”

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“The Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
“Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

(John 4)

Fields White with Harvest

If you live in the upper Midwest as we do, you can’t help but accept the coming and going of the four seasons.  This is not the same as welcoming each season (although that would be a good discipline to work on), but we look around us and must accept, like it or not, that a new season is on our door step and will be fully upon us very soon.  We may not always like that by the end of July/first of August the grains have turned golden in the summer sun and are ready for harvest.  If we have trained ourselves, we may recognize God’s grace to mankind in the season’s altering.

Our dear Pastor Scott led us through some surprisingly uncharted territory this past Sunday morning as he taught through the familiar story of the woman at the well from John 4 and challenged us to see it anew.  Thus, we entered the church service which followed with such meditations as v.23 “the Father is seeking such people” and v. 35 “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

Then, who should be filling pulpit today but one of the many home-grown missionaries our church supports, Aaron Robinson.  He and his wife were working in campus ministry in Toulouse, France, but Aaron has recently been named the Director of Cru’s France ministry, Agape France.  It was one of those Sundays when God seemingly shouts through all voices, “Don’t miss this; sit up and take notice!”

For his text, Aaron used a passage in Luke where Jesus is sending his disciples out to minister in the neighboring towns and cities.  If Pastor Scott’s discussion caused us to consider the who and when of kingdom harvesting, Aaron’s message caused us understand better the how of harvesting.

But first, Aaron began with a challenge to complacency:

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).  We have this small thing called “our life” which will be gone before we know it; yet, what are we told will endure?  God, his Word, and the souls of men.  Aaron addressed his message to all, no matter where our fields might be – in long-term foreign missions or nearer home.  In a sort of Don’t Waste Your Life perspective, Aaron offered the following.

“Six Principles for Harvesting as Lambs Among Wolves”

Luke 10:1-12, 16

Harvesting Principle #1 – Jesus sends his disciples to where He himself is going.

v. 1 “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”

In his modern classic, Experiencing God 1, Henry Blackaby looks to such passages as Romans 3:10-11 (“… there is no who one seeks God”) and John 6:44 (“No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him’) to impress on the reader that “no one is going to seek God on his own initiative.  No one will ask after spiritual matters unless God is at work in his life.”  He advises, “When you see someone seeking God or asking about spiritual matters, you are seeing God at work” (p.26).  The theme of his book is: Watch to see where God is working and join him there.

Harvesting Principle #2 – There’s a big harvest, but the laborers are few.

v. 2a  “And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Sometimes, we mistakenly believe that the world will remain ripe until we’re ready.  But our own lives are a mist, vanishing after a little time as, too, are the lives of those of the harvest.  What’s more, there is most certainly a day appointed by the Father when history will be rolled up and after that, the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Harvesting Principle #3 – Pray!

v. 2b “Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

This God-sized mission pushes us to pray; in fact, no great work of God is done without prayer.  “When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.”  In the process of praying, our hearts begin to change.

Harvesting Principle #4 – You may be the answer to your own prayers.

v. 3 “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

Jesus knows the battle is fierce.  Notice he does not say, “I’m sending you like bears before wolves.”  Instead he declares, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  This is a difficult charge, but consider that, just maybe, God would have his sheep call upon their Shepherd for their daily strength.

Harvesting Principle #5 – God will direct you and provide what you need.

vv. 4-12 “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

What God calls you to, he equips you for.  May “our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep… equip you with everything good that you may do his will…”  (Heb. 13:20-21)

Harvesting Principle #6 – Expect mixed reactions.

v. 16 – “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

It is easy to believe that people are reacting to us personally.  It is a discipline to remind ourselves that they are reacting to God and his message.  We cannot control the response of others; we can only control our obedience to God’s call.

In closing, it is helpful as we go out into our world, our spheres of influence, that the Father is seeking people to worship him – it is his will to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).  Pastor John Piper puts it this way: Missions exist because worship doesn’t.  Wherever worship of the one true, triune God is lacking (whether it be a whole nation or people group or in your neighbor or co-worker’s home), we are called to missions.

“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see
that the fields are white for harvest.”

– – – – –

1Blackaby Henry, &. King Claude. Experiencing God. USA: Southern Baptist Convention, 1990. Print.

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Artist, Christopher Powers, attends Bethlehem Baptist Church and Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, MN, both of which have become very dear to Dana and I over the last several years through our children’s involvement in the same.  He has an unexpected and insightful, philosophy of art that declares the glory of God (Psalm 96:1-4).  View Powers’ other works on his website.  (Feel free to contribute if led.)

All I Have is Christ

v. 1
I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

v. 2
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Chorus
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

v.3
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
O Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

All I Have Is Christwritten by Jordan Kauflin; sung by Devon Kauflin.
Copyright 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Song used by Christopher Powers with permission.

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As best as we can figure it my husband was about 4 or 5 years old when his family went to listen to a Jewish Christian pastor who had recently been released from prison.  He had been arrested for refusing to swear loyalty to the new communist government in Romania.  He would spend a total of 14 years in prison, three in a cell below ground in solitary confinement.  His wife, Sabina, served three years of hard labor digging a canal, leaving their nine year old son alone and homeless.

According to Persecution.com, when Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was ransomed from prison, he and his wife were urged to become a voice to the outside world and to spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in the underground church around the world.  In a three day period, he penned the flood of memories of his experiences in prison.  The book that resulted is called Tortured for Christ.  In 1966, Pastor Wurmbrand appeared before a U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, where he stripped to the waist and revealed 18 deep torture wounds on his body. His story spread rapidly and led to more and more speaking engagements.  The Wurmbrands traveled the free world sharing stories of Christians suffering for their faith.

At one such Midwestern appearance, my husband was in the audience.  To hear Pastor Wurmbrand speak, one cannot miss the thick Romanian accent.  Yet the Holy Spirit overcame this barrier and unstopped the ears of this young preschooler to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.  When an altar call was given, his heart burned to go forward, but he did not.  He knew enough though of the workings of the Holy Spirit to recognize His call.  Later that evening or soon after, Dana remembers praying in his room, confessing the sins he knew of, and asking Jesus to be his Savior.  He then remembers a rush of love and well-being that flooded his little self.  He forever associates his salvation with the message preached that night by Pastor Wurmbrand.

Since that time, Dana and I have come to embrace the organization that Pastor Wurmbrand and his wife, Sabina, founded, a ministry committed to serving the persecuted church, called “Voice of the Martyrs” (originally “Jesus to the Communist World.”)   According to the influential work of David Barrett and Todd Johnson, from 30 A.D. to 2000 A.D., history has produced 70 million Christian martyrs, over half of which (45 million) were concentrated in the 20th century.  According to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, the top eleven persecuting countries (designated as “extreme persecution”) are:  North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea, and Syria.  If you would like to receive Pastor Wurmbrand’s book Tortured for Christ or receive the Voice of the Martyrs monthly magazine, you may do so at VOM’s website.

Here is a nine and a half minute clip of Pastor Wurmbrand made in the 1960’s as he discusses his experiences not only of man’s cruelty toward mankind, but also the very real presence and comfort of Jesus in the midst of such horrors.  It’s a long clip (~9:30″) in this fast-paced insta-everything day in which we live, but it is well worth your time.  If you’re a follower of Isus (Romanian for Jesus), it will leave you with comfort for the days of tribulation as well as a heart for those Christians who are currently sharing in the sufferings of Christ in restricted nations around the world. Isus is Lord!

 

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).

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