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Archive for the ‘Sacrifice’ Category

~ Written by Tabby McMonagle

I don’t want to brag but I am an expert on being oblivious. It is human nature to be self consumed and society encourages it. Being oblivious feels comfortable. I was so oblivious I was oblivious to being oblivious.

For years in my oblivion, I was running the show in my Christian walk. I believed I was allowing God to be in charge. The fact was I saw God as my puppet and I held the strings. I told Him what to do and how to serve me.

One day I found an old journal. As I flipped through the pages, I watched my prayers go from humble fervent requests to micromanaged demands. I realized my daily Jesus time routine went from something I enjoyed and needed to a reason I deserved God’s love.

One day it all came together. All the little hints turned into a picture that I then recognized as myself. It was not the picture I had in my mind. I was an ugly prideful twit. I had to repent and ask God to help me.

My Heavenly Father began to readjust my thinking in my times of prayer. Slowly but surely, He held up the mirror. I could only see a little piece at a time.

I’d like to say I did this willingly and all went well and quickly. It did not. I was ashamed of what I saw and who I had become. I wept bitterly, and had a long pity party.

In attempts to fix myself, I allowed lies from the devil to comfort me. I began to believe I’d never be enough for God. I stopped writing. I even stopped praying. I was mad and hurt, but I still made feeble attempts to seek HIm.

One night I woke up and heard the words “God doesn’t want to hear what I have to say.” I realized that was the lie I had been clinging to.

I repented. I asked God to help me be a servant like Him. I surrendered myself up to His work and asked Him to transform me. I couldn’t do it myself.

With God’s help I am stepping out of being oblivious to become more self-aware for God’s glory. Won’t you join me and ask God to continue His good work in you?

Humble us, Lord, that we may receive Your grace.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

Christmas is a season of anticipation. Children of all ages struggle to sleep the night before Christmas as their little hearts are filled with excitement of the next morning. Families have countdown calendars and preparatory traditions leading up to the joyous day. The Christmas season should remind us of another season of anticipation long ago.

For generations, Israel awaited the promised Messiah. Parents and grandparents would have gathered their children around to tell them the prophesies of the One who was to save them. They anxiously awaited freedom from Roman oppression. They expected a Savior King.

They got an infant. A baby so weak it could be contained in a blanket. A child so insignificant he was born among animals and laid in a feeding trough. Jesus was far from what they expected.

But as he grew, there was promise of greatness. He impressed the religious teachers in the temple as a boy. He performed miracles and drew huge crowds when he spoke.

Then the real unexpected happened. Jesus stood silent before his accusers next to a political insurrectionist named Barabbas. Barabbas was a voice in the rebellion. He was the leader Israel wanted. So though Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty under Roman law, his death was called for by the very people he came to save.

They were disappointed with Jesus.

Are you disappointed with Jesus? Has He been too slow in answering your heart’s deepest prayer? Did you expect Him to rush in and save the day? Are you wondering where the mighty Savior is? Have you been hurt by the lack of justice in your life or in the life of someone you love?

If you are disappointed with Jesus know you are not alone. And know that Jesus isn’t deterred by your disappointment. His love is unconditional. He knew He would be despised and rejected, but He came anyway. This season we celebrate the birth of a Savior who exceeded all expectations when He willingly went to the cross for each and every one of us.

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~ Written by Samantha Freds

She had been caught in the act. She was dragged from the situation, the shameful, adulterous situation, and put in front of the crowd. The law was clear; her punishment would be death by stoning. Quite frankly, she deserved it. She was a cheater! But, Jesus was there that day.

In fact, this little incident was really about Him anyway. Jesus was there and He gave her mercy when she deserved death. Then He gave the crowd something else. He gave them truth. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Quietly, one by one, they all left knowing the truth of their own sin.

To the crowd He gave truth and to the adulterer He gave mercy. Why? The crowd was made up of teachers of the law, the Pharisees, and those who had been listening to Jesus preach. They knew better. Jesus made this same move all throughout His ministry. He gave truth to those who knew better and mercy to those who didn’t.

But we want it the other way around. We want to yell truth at the people who live lives of sin and depravity and we want the mercy all to ourselves. But there is no truth for the world without Jesus. The people of the world have no reason to be formed by the truth until they have been transformed by Jesus. Here’s the key to that passage in John 8: Jesus told the woman, “go and sin no more.” He didn’t condone her sin, but he led with mercy.

He always leads with mercy. And we have to lead with Jesus.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Curiously looking for information on the Third Temple project being discussed in Israel, I stumbled across a Jewish discussion forum. The debate involved the question of whether or not animal sacrifices would be a part of the new Temple. Many argued that animal sacrifices were cruel, bloody, disgusting, barbaric, and unthinkable; they didn’t belong in this enlightened age. Others added reminders that such sacrifices were a law of Jehovah himself given to Moses, so they were still necessary.

A participant in the discussion then made a comment that gripped my heart. He said, “I think that when the Messiah comes, as great as he’s supposed to be, he’ll have the intelligence to come up with some ingenious plan for eliminating the animal sacrifices while still satisfying Jehovah’s demands.”

Doesn’t that make your heart ache and rejoice at the same time? My heart aches because this person is so close to the truth yet does not recognize that the Messiah has already come. But I rejoice because it is such a real-to-life description of what Jesus did. He did indeed come up with an ingenious plan—to sacrifice Himself to satisfy God’s demands.

As we celebrate this holy week, may we be aware of the brilliant solution God provided that frees us from the ugliness of the eternal consequences of our sin.

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~ Written by Cassie Rayl

Rarely has God woken me up in the middle of the night to sit at His feet in prayer. Typically, when I’m awakened past the midnight hour, my prayer is a simple, “Jesus, please, put me back asleep.” But the other night, my eyes weren’t tired, my heart kept racing, and I heard the Spirit whisper, “Get up, Child. We need to talk.”

I’ll be honest, I laid in bed counting ceiling tiles for a few minutes. My alarm would officially wake me up in five hours; God could wait till then, right? But before I knew it, I was on the couch with my prayer journal in hand. The second I wrote the words, “Hi, Abba Daddy,” the tears flowed with heart-wrenching intensity.

In the previous 48 hours, my hopes and anticipations for the future had been crushed. No one knew about it other than my husband, and life had continued on at a breakneck speed. The only healing I’d allowed my heart was a quick, “Thanks Jesus; you’re sovereign. We’re trusting you.” I hadn’t taken the time to realize how broken my spirit was, or to acknowledge the self-resenting lies my disappointments had created.

I learned that night what it meant to be honest before the Lord. I had to let myself weep till there were no more tears. I had to actively acknowledge the lies before the Spirit could refresh my heart with truth. I had to sit in silence before God could administer healing I didn’t realize I needed. I had to be broken before I was ready to receive truth which brought me closer to the heart of my Heavenly Father.

There are moments God requires us to go through more pain before He brings healing. It doesn’t make sense at first. But the reality is, God is not afraid of our tears. He knows exactly when all we need is to be held and reminded that we’re loved.

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~ Written by Pat Ashcraft

Barbara was the youngest of four children. Born in the early 1920’s, she lived through the depression. When she was seven, her mother died and she was raised by her dad and grandmother. She later met and married Bob Mason; together they had five children in six years. Their first child died at childbirth.

Barbara was very intelligent, funny, and outgoing. Everywhere she went, she was the life of the party. She was a good mother, wife, friend and neighbor. At the age of 33, after several years of problems, Barbara was hospitalized for the first time for bipolar disorder.

I know all this about Barbara because she was my mother. I am the youngest of her children.

My mother’s life and our family were greatly affected by her illness. In our house growing up, we never used the words “mental illness.” Our dad would just say, “your mom is sick, try to help out more.” We were all adults before we knew what her diagnosis was. We never discussed with anyone else that our mother was mentally ill.

My oldest sister took over running the household. My next sister took care of mom but also learned to cook at a young age. My brother coped by ignoring everything and keeping busy outside the home. I was the “baby” and was cared for and protected by the older kids. I probably had the most normal childhood, as I was allowed to be a child and not take on adult duties.

All of us had various issues that affected our schooling. It wasn’t until 12th grade that anyone asked me if there were problems at home. Even then, I didn’t tell the principal that life was a total upheaval at times because of my mother. At that point, I was soon going to graduate and leave home, so it seemed like a moot point.

When I was 16 years old, my mother was having a very bad manic episode. She hadn’t slept or eaten or stopped talking for about five days. She was totally confused. She would pick fights over the smallest things. We were all exhausted.

My dad decided to put her in the car and drive her to the hospital. She knew that meant another stay in the psychiatric ward and didn’t want to go. I was helping my dad get her shoes and socks on and helping with her coat. She was fighting us every step of the way. I was thoroughly disgusted with my mom. I had had enough of her and all we had to live with. I was tired and angry that I didn’t have a “normal” mom. I said to my dad, “How can you stand this?” He stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, “I don’t ‘stand’ anything. I love your mother. And when you love someone, you take care of them. Don’t you ever say anything like that about your mother again.” Wow, what a lesson in love.

When my mother was at her worst, her least attractive and most difficult to deal with, my dad chose to love her. What a picture of God’s love for me! When I was at my worst, ugly from sin and full of pride, God chose to love me. He sent His only Son to save me. That’s unconditional love at its best!  

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~ Written by Cindy Shuler

Enough! How much pain should I endure at the hands of those I love? That’s been my heart’s cry recently. With each infraction, I struggle to forgive, find hope and keep on loving. But when is it enough? Is it okay to place a protective shield around my heart? I’ve wrestled with this. It’s often what I want to do, but is that what’s best?

In a recent conversation with a friend, we talked about this very thing. How did Jesus respond when those he loved responded in ways that brought pain, both physical and emotional? I heard myself say, “He remained open to the pain for the sake of the relationship.” Honestly, that’s not what I wanted to hear, especially from my own mouth! I wanted to justify my protective shield. Still, as I reflected on it, I knew God was inviting me to a new level of trust.  

In Hebrews 12:2 we read of Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Because he understood the redemptive power of his Father’s plan, Jesus was willing to endure the pain and shame of the cross. Could it be that in willingly opening myself to potential hurt, I could have a small part in God’s work in the lives of others? Do I trust my Father’s heart enough to endure the pain so the relationship isn’t damaged, at least from my end? 

As I’ve chosen to lower the protective shield, I’ve caught glimpses of God at work. Yes, I still get burned and have to fight the urge to withdraw, but I’m also learning to trust God’s desire to reveal himself through my openess. Too, there’s a joy that surfaces as I surrender my comfort for his purposes.

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