Every Heart

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day about cancel culture. The first person says, “I hate cancel culture.” The second one answers, “The very first Bible story is God cancelling two people over an apple.” I wanted to put in a good word for God here.

What this meme defines as “cancelling” was God closing the doors of the Garden and not allowing Adam and Eve back in. They had just sinned, separating themselves from God, causing a rift in the relationship. And they showed a distressing tendency to continue on that path, refusing to admit their responsibility in the matter, pointing fingers at each other.  

God did not want them to eat of the tree that would give them eternal life in that state. They would have been eternally separated from God and his love for them. Isn’t that the definition of hell? It was an act of mercy and compassion banning them from the Garden and locking them out. He was giving them a chance; he was giving them time to turn, time to realize what they had lost. Until God would come back into another garden and open the door again by offering Himself up as the atonement. 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. John 18:1-3 (ESV) 

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. John 19:41 (ESV) 

You are invited to turn around and come back into the garden and walk again with the One who loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.  

“God now fills the recovered garden, and we may without fear walk and commune with Him in the cool of the day.” — A.W. Tozer 

Come back  Salvation

Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved. 

Shards on the Ground

Jesus became a broken shard of pottery for us.

Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘He has no hands’? Isaiah 45:9 

“A potsherd among the potsherds” NetBible translates this “a mere shard among the other shards on the ground.” That really hit me when I read this verse. We are mere broken shards laying on the ground. Wow, that is a very humbling picture. But the wonderful thing is that Jesus, Messiah, was described the same way. 

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Psalms 22:15 

Psalm 22 is the great Psalm describing the Crucifixion. It includes “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” 

Jesus became a broken shard of pottery for us. Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). Human likeness, like the other shards on the ground.  

The Hebrew word translated potsherd is cheres or heres (חֶרֶשׂ). It means both an earthenware or clay vessel, and a broken shard or potsherd. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) includes this definition: 

“This word, which occurs seventeen times, represents the potter’s product (Isa 45:9) which is dried and fired (Psa 22:15 [H 161), or even glazed (Pro 26:23). Bottles (baqbuq), bowls (ke li), and pots/pitchers (nebel) are made of it. It is in vessels made of heres, that documents were stored (Jer 32:14). heres can apply generally to a vessel (Pro 26:23), or it can mean pieces of potsherd at least large enough to use to carry a coal from a hearth or dip water for a drink (Isa 30:14).” 

As I read this definition, I realized that Jesus was all of these for us. He was a clay pot (a human being) in which the Word was stored. 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 

He was the broken potsherd large enough to carry the coals from the altar of sacrifice. The coals that cleanse like the angel did for Isaiah. 

With it [the live coal] he [the angel] touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:6-7 

He was the broken potsherd large enough to give us his living water. 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 

Cheres is a variation of a word whose root is “to scrape,” and means itch and an eruptive disease. Job took a shard of broken pottery – a cheres – to scrape his boils of the “serous or lymph-like fluid” [which] is occasionally “acrid and offensive.”i 

Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. Job 2:8 

In like way, Jesus touched the lepers. He puts his healing hands on us at our most needy and disgusting. 

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Matthew 8: 3 

But the most wonderful, the most amazing thing about the heres is this: 

“Being porous, it [heres] absorbed the fat of holy things and the uncleanness of unclean things. Thus it was to be broken when contacted by either holiness or uncleanness (Lev 6:28 [H 211; Num 15:12).” — L.J.C., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 

Jesus was both. He was a pottery jar carrying God’s holiness, but he was also a pottery jar which absorbed and carried the uncleanness of our sin. He was broken after coming in contact with our uncleanness. We are broken when coming in contact with his holiness. 

Oh Lord Jesus, let us be broken with your holiness! Let us be like you, Jesus, storing the Word in our hearts, touching the lepers, offering the life-giving water, carrying the live coals of your righteousness and sin-cleansing power of the blood. Let us be broken with you as shards on the ground.  

Image from WikimediaCommons, Broken vases on Holy Saturday in Corfu 

i Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 

Wait, What Just Happened?

When Jesus died on the cross something chain busting, history crashing and astounding happened. A transaction took place, what Derek Prince called a “divinely ordained exchange.” Let’s not let Easter fly by without camping out for a while in the revelation of what took place that glorious day. Below are some aspects of the exchange. I have also posted a Bible study written by R. Nelson Colyar in Hidden Treasure Bible Studies here The Transaction at the Cross

  1. Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven and have peace with God (Is. 53:4–5) 
  2. Jesus was wounded that we might be healed (Matt. 8:16–17, Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) 
  3. Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made the righteousness of God (Is. 53:10; 2 Cor. 5:21) 
  4. Jesus tasted death for us that we might share his life (Heb. 2:9) 
  5. Jesus was made a curse that we might receive the blessing given to Abraham (Gal. 3:13–14) 
  6. Jesus became poor that through his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9) 
  7. Jesus suffered our shame that we might share in his glory (Matt. 27:35–36, Heb. 2:10) 
  8. Jesus suffered our rejection that we might become accepted by the Father as his beloved children (Matt. 27:45–51, Eph. 1:3–7)

You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 (NLT)

Image in the Public Domain

Living Stones

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him … “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” Luke 3:7-8 

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:39-40 

This morning I smiled as I read these verses, because I realized that the words of John by the river, and the words of Jesus to the Pharisees, were prophetic. Jesus did raise up children from the stones – not for Abraham, but for the Father. The hard stone of our hearts he replaced with flesh (Ezekiel 11:19) and made them living. He did this by giving us the grace of repentance and the gift of justification by faith in his atoning death on the cross.  

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26  

By his blood shed on the cross he enabled us to become children of God and living stones that are being built into his house and into his priesthood.  

But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. Hebrews 3:6 

… and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:6 

Cry out his praise all you stones!  

Photo of stones by Sheila Bair

“Come down from the cross!”

Whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross.

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. Matthew 27:39-42 

Come down from the cross! As Christians, we are to be crucified with Christ, and whenever we are insulted and mocked for Christ’s sake it is a provocation to come down from the cross. This is man’s remedy. It is man’s way to show strength. It is like kids in the schoolyard, “You say you’re so tough? Prove it! Come over here and fight!” It reminds me of this verse: 

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Luke 9:51-55 

This was not the first time that Jesus had been tempted to prove himself, justify himself – glorify himself – with the words “IF you are the Son of God.” Turn these stones to bread! Throw yourself off the pinnacle of the Temple! Come down from the cross! But Jesus always remained fiercely focused on the will of his Father – the salvation of the world. Love kept him focused. Love kept him nailed to the cross.

Man’s remedy is to come down from the cross. To call down fire from heaven. But what did Jesus command? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-44). I like how the Message translation puts it. 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best–the sun to warm and the rain to nourish–to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. Matthew 5:43-45  

Jesus said that this loving-your-enemies thing, this giving like God gives is to be daily. And it can only happen if we deny that self that wants to call down fire. It can only happen If we have been crucified with Christ, if we stay there hanging on the cross with him. Daily. 

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily (throughout the day) and follow me.” Luke 9:23 

I am to be daily crucified with Jesus. Hidden in him, I am to be his witness. To be a representative of his love and forgiveness and salvation here on this dying earth. Henri Nouwen said it this way: 

“Whenever, contrary to the world’s vindictiveness, we love our enemy, we exhibit something of the perfect love of God, whose will is to bring all human beings together as children of one Father. Whenever we forgive instead of getting angry at one another, bless instead of cursing one another, tend one another’s wounds instead of rubbing salt into them, hearten instead of discouraging one another, give hope instead of driving one another to despair, hug instead of harassing one another, welcome instead of cold-shouldering one another, thank instead of criticizing one another, praise instead of maligning one another . . . in short, whenever we opt for and not against one another, we make God’s unconditional love visible.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with 

(rendered idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative, deprived of force, influence, power, caused to cease, severed, separated, loosed from us, put an end to, annulled, abolished, destroyed, made of no effect, vanish away, made void)

that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 

I love that! The old me is unemployed. The one who wants to come down from cross and curse and hate and malign is inactivated. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you – don’t come down from the cross. In this time of insults and mockery and hatred, don’t respond in kind. Stay there on the cross with your Lord. Take it up daily. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:31). That is our mission. To draw all men to Christ. To make God’s unconditional love visible. To give God’s best. To love and forgive and bless no matter what. To be crucified with Christ. 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross 

Image, Coventry cathedral father forgive, by David Perry https://flic.kr/p/qfiB6r  

All

None are left out here. All are included on the sin side, and no one is excluded on the redemption side.

All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 (NKJV) 

This verse begins and ends with the Hebrew word kol, translated “all.” It means the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whatsoever, howsoever, whosoever – all. 

None are left out here. All are included on the sin side, and no one is excluded on the redemption side. Henry Allen Ironside wrote of this verse as a balancing of the books of heaven and as a condensed version of the story of the world. 

In verse six God, as it were, balances the books of the world – two debit entries and one credit entry. The two debit entries: “All we like sheep have gone astray” – there is the whole fallen human race; “we have turned every one to his own way” – there is each individual’s own personal sen; and then the credit entry that clears it all on the books of God if men would but receive it: “Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (R[evised]. V[ersion].)

Here we have the entire story of the Bible epitomized: Man’s ruin both by nature and practice, and God’s marvelous and all-sufficient remedy. The verse begins with all and ends with all … The first is the acknowledgment of our deep need. The second shows how fully that need has been met in the Cross of Christ.

H.A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Prophet Isaiah

And where it is translated “the Lord has laid on Him” our iniquities, the Hebrew word is paga. In the form used in this verse it literally means that the Lord made our iniquity to fall on him or attack him.  

[Paga] sometimes refers to a hostile encounter or attack … the Lord makes “sin” attack “him.” In their sin the group was like sheep who had wandered from God’s path. They were vulnerable to attack; the guilt of their sin was ready to attack and destroy them. But then the servant stepped in and took the full force of the attack.

NetBible Translators’ Notes

I love that! He stood between us and our sin and took the full force of the attack! And who is the “Him” who is spoken of in this verse? He is God’s Servant who is first introduced in Isaiah 42. He is the One who will “sprinkle many nations” and who will be “despised and rejected by men,” who will take up our infirmities and carry our sorrows. The one who will be, and has been, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and healed us by his wounds (Isaiah 52:15-53:5). He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All (the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whosoever) we like sheep have gone astray (erred, wandered, reeled and staggered, been intoxicated, led astray, misled, deceived); 

We have turned (turned from, away, back, aside), every one, to his own way (road, path, journey, direction, manner, habit, course of life, moral character);  

And the LORD has laid on Him (made to fall on him and attack him) the iniquity (perversity, depravity, sin, moral evil, fault, guilt, punishment, consequence) of us all (the whole, any, each, every, altogether, as many as, whosoever).  

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24 

Sin

It’s never too late to confess our sins to God and seek refuge in His salvation.

This week a definite theme emerged in the blogs and devotionals I receive daily. Sin is not something we like to think or hear about, but it became obvious what the Spirit is saying. 

Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned   Romans 5:12 

The Bible does not say that God punished the human race for one man’s sin, but that the nature of sin, namely, my claim to my right to myself, entered into the human race through one man. But it also says that another Man took upon Himself the sin of the human race and put it away— an infinitely more profound revelation (see Hebrews 9:26). The nature of sin is not immorality and wrongdoing, but the nature of self-realization which leads us to say, “I am my own god.” — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Degeneration, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18 

A broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a subdued will are rare things, especially in this age in which men everywhere are taught to demand their rights; and the church has become a place where man is exalted and enshrined as though he were God. Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-promotion are the cry of the day. Every man does that which is right in his own eyes. — Steve Rebus, Broken People!, https://steverebus.com/2020/10/05/broken-people/  

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2 Corinthians 5:21 

Sin is a fundamental relationship— it is not wrong doing, but wrong being— it is deliberate and determined independence from God. The Christian faith bases everything on the extreme, self-confident nature of sin. Other faiths deal with sins— the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ confronted in people was the heredity of sin … — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Reconciliation, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

Just as the nature of sin entered into the human race through one man, the Holy Spirit entered into the human race through another Man (see Romans 5:12-19). And redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin, and that through Jesus Christ I can receive a pure and spotless heredity, namely, the Holy Spirit. — Oswald Chambers, The Nature of Regeneration, From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

When a Bible verse comes to me from two different sources in the same week, I pay attention:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9, 11 

The psalmist answers his own question: By living according to God’s Word … Then he goes on to say, “I have hidden God’s word in my heart that I might not sin against God.” That’s the secret of purity. It’s hiding God’s Word in your heart, because one or other of two things is going to happen: Either God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word. 

So don’t just flow with the current like a dead fish. Be willing to be a live fish and swim against the stream. God’s Word will give you the strength if you hide it in your heart. It is possible to lead a pure life even in today’s world. — Derek Prince, Devotional: Hiding God’s Word 

With my whole heart I have sought You … Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You … I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. Psalm 119:10-11, 15 – Blogged by Gary Wilkerson, Attentive to His Presence, World Challenge online devotional https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/attentive-his-presence?ref=devos   

Blogging about the raising of Lazarus, J.D. Walt writes (The Problem behind All Our Problems): 

Death was not part of God’s plan for his creation. It was a consequence of human sin—not a consequence as in punishment, but as in irrevocable laws of the universe, like gravity. If sin, then death. It turns out the law of sin and death was not so irrevocable after all. In fact, it’s not really accurate to call it a law. It’s an aberration. The only true and real law is the law of the spirit of life. The law of sin and death merely describes the outcome of rebellion against the law of the spirit of life … Love overcomes sin and life overwhelms death. 

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 

The gospel is the good news that God saves his sinful people from his wrath through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, promising to share his glory with them in a renewed creation forever—all to the praise of the glory of his grace. — Adam McClendon, via Dr. Peter Cockrell, The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2020/10/06/the-gospel-is-big-enough-for-your-church/  

It’s never too late to confess our sins to God and seek refuge in His salvation. He will deliver us from our sins if we only acknowledge and repent them. — Derek Prince 

Photograph copyright 2018 Derek Bair

Crucified with Christ

Here is a compilation of what the Spirit has been saying to me this week through the blogs and daily devotionals I receive. May it encourage you too.  

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.”  Luke 18:31  

In our Lord’s life, Jerusalem was the place where He reached the culmination of His Father’s will upon the cross, and unless we go there with Jesus we will have no friendship or fellowship with Him. Nothing ever diverted our Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He never hurried through certain villages where He was persecuted, or lingered in others where He was blessed. Neither gratitude nor ingratitude turned our Lord even the slightest degree away from His purpose to go “up to Jerusalem.” — Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, updated edition 

In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross. If he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar, but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility. ― A.W. Tozer, The Radical Cross: Living the Passion of Christ 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Matthew 7:21 

The glory of God is the love of God, which we see in its fullest expression on divine display at the cross of Jesus—unfathomably full of grace and truth. While his entire life is the cross, Jesus’ finest hour comes on Good Friday. In the hour of his greatest glory, he wears human sovereignty as a crown of thorns. On the darkest day of human history, the Light of the World shines brightest. On the day when the Son of God is emptied of his life, grace and truth are poured out in their fullest measure. In the hour when all of the vitriolic hatred of the human race is unleashed on this sinless suffering servant, the love of God reveals itself as the very essence of divine sovereignty. — J.D. Walt, Why the Glory of God is Not What We Think http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.seedbed.com%2Fwhy-the-glory-of-god-is-not-what-we-think%2F          

Like Jesus and David, Christians, the ‘royal priesthood’ (1 Peter 2:9) also have to go through a Mount of Olive experience. An experience where we are stripped of all we know, face conspiracy and unspeakable anguish. This is our make or break moment. A moment where we are hanging in the balance- between life and death, faith and fear, and victory and defeat. What makes a difference is what we do when we are up that mountain. When darkness reigns and we can’t see God, we ought to relinquish our wills to Him regardless. Once we surrender to God while at the mountain, He strengthens us for the battle ahead. — Mulyale Mutisya, Something about the Mountain https://carolynemutisya7.wordpress.com/2020/09/25/something-about-the-mountain/#like-1465  

One thing taught throughout the Bible, and particularly in the New Testament, is that the Christian life is a progression, a journey of the redeemed soul toward God. Another is that Satan stands to resist every step and to hinder the journey in every way possible. To advance against his shrewd and powerful opposition requires faith and steadfast courage. The epistles call it “confidence.” 

In his Philippian epistle Paul declares his own determination to advance against all obstacles. He says in effect that while he is not yet perfect and has not yet attained unto the goal set before him, he is putting the past behind him psychologically as well as chronologically that he may go on to find in Christ his all in all. “I press on toward the goal,” he says, “to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Then with a fine disregard for apparent self-contradictions he urges, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (3:15). — A. W. Tozer, Sermon: Keep Growing 

Graham Cooke said, We’re saved once, but we get redeemed from our old ways every single day! We’re learning how to be a new creation.” This is critically important to understand if we’re going to walk in what God intends for us. While Paul said “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Eph.2:8), he also said, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil.2:12). — Mel Wild, https://melwild.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/walking-out-our-redemption/#like-39182  

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25  

[M]aturation in a spiritual sense is a growing willingness to stretch out my arms, to have a belt put round me, and to be led where I would rather not go (John 21:18). — Henri Nouwen, A New Vision of Maturity, Daily Meditation, September 20, 2020 

This is a true saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. 2 Timothy 2:11 (NLT) 

Photo by Jack Bair

May That Grace

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 

This short benediction at the end of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth contains the whole of the gospel in one sentence.  

May the grace (good will, loving-kindness, favor, merciful kindness of God, gift of grace) that Jesus came to demonstrate and consummate by his death on the Cross – 

Which provided for the forgiveness and forgetting and throwing into the depths of the sea our sins which separated us from our great and compassionate God, ripping apart the dividing veil, opening the door, revealing who he is, making it possible for us to know God, know Him as our Father, and his great love and yearning for us – 

May that grace which made the way for us to come into God’s presence and know the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, abide in him and he in us, that we might be with him and he with us – Immanuel, Friend, Lover, Bridegroom – forevermore – 

May that grace be with you all (individually, each, every, any, all, everyone).  

Find that grace, love and fellowship https://lp.billygraham.org/find-peace-with-god/

Photo by Jack Bair

Triumphal Procession

Just as Jesus was made a captive for us, we are to be captive to Him.

Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles’” … Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:11, 13

… to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron … Psalm 149:8

These two verses being in my daily reading for today got me looking into the idea of binding with fetters. It appears to be a paradox as we are to bind with fetters, but we are also to be bound, or taken captive ourselves.

It was usually only the kings or princes that were bound with fetters in this way.

To bind their kings with chains. Even royal captives were thus treated in the ancient world. Assyrian and Babylonian monarchs always represent their captives, even when kings, as fettered. Nebuchadnezzar “bound Zedekiah with fetters of brass” (2 Kings 25:7). Parthia, and later Persia, and even Rome, followed the same practice. And their nobles with fetters of iron. On the monuments, captives below the rank of kings are not often seen “fettered.” Their arms, however, are frequently tied together with a cord, and they are fastened one to another by a stout rope.

Pulpit Commentary

Jesus triumphed over the kings of the earth, the powers and authorities, and fettered them.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15

Jesus has given us this privilege, to bind on earth.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Yet, while we, through Christ, overcome the spiritual kings and princes of this world, Christ also leads us in triumphal procession – he has also captured us. I wrote about being a captive of Christ here Captured

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 2 Corinthians 2:14

This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” Ephesians 4:8

This is the triumphal procession of the victor, of the King. This is our honor and privilege: to bind the “kings of the earth,” the powers and principalities, and to take captive unto Christ many captives. But the paradox is that we can only take captives if we ourselves have been made a captive by his love and mercy.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. Colossians 1:21

… the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Romans 8:7

Just as Jesus was made a captive for us, we are to be captive to Him. He was bound and led away captive by the Romans to die on the cross for us. We are to be taken captive by his love and be crucified with Him.

Lord, I don’t want to be hostile to you anymore. Take me captive as you were taken captive for me. Lead me in your triumphal procession.

[Some interesting Bible trivia. One of the six cities of refuge assigned in Israel for people to run to for mercy was named Golan: captive. I believe that each of the names of these cities represents a facet of Jesus. I wrote about the cities of refuge and their name meanings here City of Refuge ]