SEVEN LESSONS FROM THE CROSS (4)

Lesson 4: Direct the hard questions to God. At Calvary Jesus asks one of the most heart-wrenching questions ever recorded, “God, why have You forsaken Me?” These words are also found in Psalm 22: 1 ~3 (TM), where David poured out his soul in despair, asking God, “Why did you dump me … Are you indifferent?” Ever felt like that? The Bible says that at Calvary God made Jesus “who knew no sin to be sin … so … we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Co 5:21 NAS). In order to break sin’s hold on us and make salvation possible, Jesus underwent a temporary separation from His Father. At that moment He felt “Godforsaken.” If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed and abandoned, you know from

experience that there’s not another living soul who has a satisfactory answer to your “Why’?” With the best of intentions our loved ones can only go so far. God alone can pour His healing balm into your breaking heart and help you make sense of (or at least accept) what’s happening. That’s why you need to go to Him for your answers.

But here’s the flip side to directing the tough questions to God-you must be willing to accept His answer and do what He says. The Bible says, “God has given us … his promise and his oath” (Heb 6: 18 NLT), so even if you don’t get the answer you want, you can rest assured He hears you. You can also be certain of something else: the One Who makes “everything … work together for … good” (Ro 8:28 NLT) always sends the answer that’s in your best interests. So you can trust Him!
 

The daily devotionals so far this year have been taken from “The Best of The Word for Today” published in 2007.  This outstanding daily devotional has been a blessing to many.



SEVEN LESSONS FROM THE CROSS (3)

Woman, here is your son.   John 19:26·27 TM

Lesson 3.’ Take care of the people who depend on you. In addition to losing her son, Mary was also losing His protective “covering” in a society where women were often treated as second-class citizens after the family males died. So as well as coping with her grief as a mother, Mary may have been wondering what the future held for her. Jesus recognized that. In the midst of the chaos, when He saw her and “the disciple he loved standing near … He said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother,” When the other disciples fled in fear, John followed Jesus all the way to Calvary. Then he went even further. The Bible tells us (and history confirms it) that once Jesus committed Mary to his care, John fulfilled that charge, and “From that moment. .. accepted her as his own mother” (In 19:26-27 TM). Here’s what we learn from this. Never let your own suffering blind you to the needs of those who depend on you. When you’re enmeshed in your own problems it’s easy to assume that your loved ones automatically understand where you’re coming from. Not necessarily. While it’s okay to let them help, never “dump your stuff’ on them, or expect them to suffer because you’re suffering. The Bible says, “Do not let selfishness … be your guide … give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but .. .in the lives of others” (Php 2:3-4 NCV). Jesus was always more concerned with other people’s needs than His own-and we should take our cue from Him.

 

The daily devotionals so far this year have been taken from “The Best of The Word for Today” published in 2007.  This outstanding daily devotional has been a blessing to many.



SEVEN LESSONS PROM THE CROSS (2)

Assuredly … today you will be with Me in Paradise. Luke 23:43 NKJV

Lesson 2: Reach out to others. When Jesus was hanging on the cross the Bible says, “One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him … But the other … made him shut up: ‘Have you no fear of God … We deserve this … he did nothing.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.’ [Jesus] said … ‘Today you will join me in paradise’? (Lk 23:39-43 TM). While one man mocked, the other

acknowledged his sins and received mercy. The truth is, as much as it galls judgmental people, God said, “If you confess and reject [your sin], you will receive mercy” (Pr 28:13 NCV). And that promise is for the lost, the least, and the lowest among us.

Jesus could have been so focused on His own pain that He failed to see the suffering of those around Him. But instead He reached out in love as a fellow-sufferer. In the depth of His own agony He not only promised the thief on the cross eternal life, He comforted him with these amazing words; “Today you will be with Me in Paradise!” There’s a lesson here for you-one that Job the patriarch learned. Job lost all his children and his fortune in a single day; how did he stay sane? Yet he found healing and went on to greater things. How? “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and

gave him twice as much as he had before … After this, Job … saw his children and their children to the fourth generation” (Job 42:10 &16 NIV). It’s in reaching out to others that we ourselves are restored again.



SEVEN LESSONS FROM THE CROSS (l)

Father,forgive them,’ they don’t know what they’re doing. Luke 23 :34 TM

Lesson 1: Forgive those who hurt you. Two kids were playing when one accidentally hit the other with a stick. That night the injured boy’s Mom said, “Son, you must forgive Harry before you go to sleep.” Grudgingly he replied, “Okay, but unless I die before I wake up, he’d better watch out tomorrow morning!” Hello! When people hurt us it’s hard to believe it could’ve been unintentional or done in ignorance. Yet amazingly, after being flogged, humiliated and nailed to the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Forgiving means refusing to remain a victim. By not holding grudges or retaliating you free yourself from the control of those who offend you. Jesus said, “Pray for anyone who mistreats you” (Mt 5:44 CEV). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was persecuted by the Nazis, said, “God doesn’t promise that when we bless our enemies they’ll not despitefully use us. They

will. But that can’t hurt or overcome us, so long as we pray for them. By praying for them, we are doing for them what they can’t do for themselves.” Professor Tony Campolo routinely asks his secular college

students what they know about the teachings of Jesus. The response is always the same: “Love your enemies.” More than anything else this command stands out as the thing that differentiates Christians from non-Christians. Jesus said, “Give as freely as you have received!” (Mt 10:8 NLT). Practicing forgiveness stems from a deep gratitude to God for wiping out a debt so great, we could never have repaid it.



BUY A TENT!

 

Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent.  Exodus 33:7 NIV

Moses did something we need to do: “Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting.’ Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent” (Ex 33:7 NIV). And what would happen in that tent? “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex 33: 11 NIV). Face time with God! That’s what you need. Turn off your mobile

phone. Sell your TV and buy a tent. God has your answer. And what did they talk about in that tent? Moses prayed: (a) “Let me know whom you will send with me” (Ex 33:12NIV). Some of the problems you’re experiencing m’e because of the people who are influencing you. (b) “Teach me your ways”

(Ex 33:13 NIV). You say your way of doing things doesn’t seem to be working too well. Get God’s input! (c) “So I may know you” (Ex 33:13 NIV). This word “know” is not a casual acquaintance; it’s intimacy between two people. How well do you know God? (d) “So I may … continue to find favor with you” (Ex 3:13 NIV). God’s favor-you’ve got to have it! It opens doors, gives you the advantage, and influences people before you speak a word. And what did God say back to Moses in that tent? “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name” (Ex 33: 17 NIV). How would you like to be on a first name basis with God? Buy a tent!



WHERE GOD GUIDES, HE PROVIDES!

A great door … has opened to me.     1 Corinthians 16:9 MV

Dr. David T. Demola says, “Where God guides, He provides.” If you’re doing all you know yet nothing’s happening, it could be that: (a) it’s your season for sowing, not reaping. So be patient; (b) you’re in a time of training and preparation. So learn each lesson well; (c) you could be off course, doing something God didn’t call you to do. So go back and check with Him. Moses told God: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us” (Ex 33: 15 MV). If God’s not behind it, you don’t want to be involved in it. Humility demands that sometimes we stop and say-“Oops, that was me, not God.” Does this mean it’s always smooth sailing in God’s will? No. Even when God is in something you’ll still deal with delays, discouragement and setbacks. Paul wrote, “A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (ICo 16:9 NIV). Opportunities and obstacles, they go together. What you don’t want to do, however, is allow it to become a self-esteem issue: “Does God love me? Has He really

called me? Am I in His will?” Jesus took His disciples on a trip that involved going through the worst storm of their lives. All you need to know is that He’s on board. Why? Because He’s promised to bless His plans, not yours. If God’s guiding, providing and blessing you in spite of the storm, rejoice. If He’s not, seek fresh direction. Ask Him what He wants you to do. God will bless you every time-when you’re doing what He’s told you to do.



JUST GLOVES

The Holy Spirit … will produce this kind of fruit in us.  -Galatians 5 :22 TLB

We just the glove. The Holy Spirit is the hand that fills it, empowers it and makes it function. Without Him, we’re sunk! The Christian life isn’t hard, it’s impossible- without God’s indwelling Spirit. “What will the Holy Spirit do for me?” you ask.

(1) Move you forward. “The earth was without form, and void … the spirit of God moved … and God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Ge 1 :2·3). The first thing God’s Spirit will do for you is move you out of darkness and into light [understanding]. You can’t be filled with God’s Spirit and stay

where you are; He’ll always move you forward.

(2) Comfort you. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the “comforter” who would never leave us (See Jn 14:16). When you wake up anxious about your day He whispers, “Don’t worry, I’ve got everything under control.” When you feel like you can’t go on, He holds your hand, stays by your side, strengthens you and says “I’m right here with you.” The Greek word for comforter is paraklete, which means, “one who comes alongside to help.”

What a promise! You’re not in this fight alone-you’ve got God’s help. Use it!

(3) Protect you. “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard

against him” (Isa 59: 19). When the enemy moves against you all you have to do is pray, “Holy Spirit, be my standard bearer and my defender.” Go ahead; try it. Those who did it in Bible days saw their foes scattered, took home the spoils of battle and enjoyed God’s richest blessings-and you will too!



DON’T GET HOOKED

Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.  -Luke 9:55

Face it; some people are unwilling to take responsibility for their lot in life, so they plough through .each day complaining about everything. And because they’re Incapable of loving themselves they can’t extend love to others. Often their negative edge just masks their real struggle. Deep down they’re afraid of being rejected, so they don’t get too close to anyone-except kindred spirits. So how should you respond to such people? Don’t get hooked! If you can’t lift them up, make sure they don’t drag you down. When Nehemiah’s enemies criticized the wall he was building he replied, “I am doing a great work! Why should I stop it to come and visit with you?” (Ne 6:3 TLB). And what was the result? “The wall was finally finished . . .just fifty-two days after we had begun! When our enemies heard about It, they were … humiliated, and they realized that the work had been done with the help of our God” (Ne 6: 15 TLB). Was It easy working around people like that? No. How did Nehemiah do it? When he started getting discouraged he prayed, “Lord God please strengthen me!” (Ne 6:8 TLB). Notice, he didn’t say, :’Lord, zap them.” Or, “Lord, make them. nice to me.” No, he asked for strength, maintained a good attitude and prayed that God would take care of his critics. And God did. Many of the people who aggravate you have no idea why-it’s just their nature. When Christ’s own disciples wanted to call down fire on the heads of those who wouldn’t accept their message, Jesus said, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”



LOOKING FOR JESUS

Sir, we would see Jesus.  -John 12:21

One day some Greeks came to Philip saying, we would see Jesus.” And if you listen-that’s what around you are still saying today. You say, “Tell them to church and they’ll see Jesus.” Maybe, maybe not. Get some folks who fill a church pew every Sunday and you just might see the devil at work. One of America’s finest ministers was sitting on a plane one day reading his Bible. The lady in the next seat turned to him and asked, ”Are you a preacher?” He said, “Yes, Ma’ am.” Then she asked, “Do you believe in a real literal devil?” With a chuckle he replied, “Lady, have you ever been to an annual church business meeting?” You may smile, but if you’ve been in church a while you know he’s telling the truth.

Board member, people are looking for more than just a good budget, they want to see Jesus=-in you. Choir member, you may sing like an angel and bring the house down, but when your song ends people want to see Jesus=-in you. Pastor, you may be a skilled expositor and a gifted orator, but when the sermon’s over people want to see Jesus-in you. Sir, lady, when you get through telling the folks at work what you stand for, they want to see Jesus-in you. You don’t have to defend Him, just display Him through your attitudes and actions each day. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up … [I] will draw all men unto me”

(Jn 12:32). We do the lifting; Jesus does the drawing-that’s how it works!



THE POWER OF CRYING OUT (2)

In the day when I cried out, You answered me. Psalm 138:3 NKJV

Most of us find it humbling and difficult to cry out to God in times of trouble. Especially men! They refer to be known as the strong, rugged, self-sufficient types. They’d rather endure tenaciously and conclude with pride, “I did it.” Bill Gothard tells of several thousand men kneeling in a convention center in Knoxville, Tennessee, crying out in a loud voice, “Abba, Father, in the name of Jesus deliver me from anger and lust!” Some months later a man who had battled pornography for many years wrote to him saying: “I have long been held captive by lust. In the third grade I picked up what looked like a comic book. It was my first exposure to pornography. My young heart was captured. Lust nearly ruined my

marriage on numerous occasions. I wanted to be free from it and confessed it many times to God. I even sought help from Christian counselors. In May 2001 your message on crying out was given at our men’s meeting. For two more weeks I struggled with lust. Finally, on the way to work I stopped the car and cried out to God for deliverance. God was faithful, and the bondage has been broken.”

David said, “In the day when I cried out, you answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul,” If you’ve tried every way you know without success, why not try God’s way? Do what men and women have done throughout the Scriptures -get alone with God and cry out to Him. He’ll give you the strength to say “no” to your old ways.




 

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