Rejoicing, not just Weeping

Rejoicing, not just Weeping

Why is it easier to weep with others in their suffering than rejoice with them in their success?  Jealousy?  Insecurity?  Self-importance?  Disappointment with my own life? Scarcity mentality (that there's not enough "good stuff" out there for me too)? Have you found that it's much easier to find others to weep with you in your distress than rejoice with you in your success...even among your friends and loved ones?

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When the Unfolding Gets Hard

When the Unfolding Gets Hard

Today the "Unfolding Fullness" of God in my life just got hard . . . not hard like cancer or broken marriage or wayward children- type hard. It was the stress of my plans being rearranged- kind of hard. Now I love spontaneity when it's MY spontaneity (a.k.a. my own change of plans). So today didn't start out well . . . until my husband John reminded me, "It's His Unfolding Fullness." 

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Unfolding Fullness

Unfolding Fullness

At the beginning of this calendar year something interesting happened . . . the Lord gave me "a word" for my year. Have you heard of having a word for your year? I had a few years ago, but I never really had one . . . until 2016. The word He gave me was "unfolding." But it didn't stop there. I sensed the Lord adding to it . . . "fullness." So it became "Unfolding Fullness."

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Alone on Mother's Day?

Alone on Mother's Day?

There are lots of emptyings in life.  There are deaths and losses of every kind.  There are ends of relationships...ends of jobs...ends of school-years...ends of eras...ends of phases of life.  Some of these are expected.  Some catch us by surprise! This Mother's Day, I think of an emptying that affects all mothers sooner or later...the emptying of the nest!

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A New Beginning

Welcome to the newly refreshed, renewed, and reconstructed "A Branch in the Vine."

My thanks to my designer, tech specialist, and did I mention, my amazing son, Jeremy J Loyd. Well done, my precious one! You have kept me current, although more and more my inner self fights change.

Jeremy J. Loyd

 

So, dear friends, pray for me as I learn the inner and outer workings of this site.

Thank you for following "this branch" as I rest and abide in our Life-filled Vine. Let's continue to journey together as conduits of His pulsating Life as He produces fruit, more fruit, much fruit through us to the glory of our Father, the Vinedresser. Amen. 

I am the Vine; you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.

Welcome to the Vineyard...Afresh

Welcome to the Vineyard...Afresh

Welcome to the Father’s Vineyard.  I’m a branch in the True Vine…just a branch…but a beloved one.  I’m not THE branch, for there are many…multitudes, in fact, from every tongue and family and tribe and nation. But I am in THE Vine.  There is only One, you know, in the Father’s Vineyard.  The True Vine is more than enough to supply life to all of us beloved branches.  And fruit?  You should see the baskets full that come when each of us branches really makes its home (“abides”) in Christ, the Father’s glorious Vine! (John 15:1-5)

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Resurrection and a Spring Facelift

My Redeemer lives!
My Redeemer lives!

Christ is risen...He is risen indeed! He's alive and so are we! And so we celebrate the LIFE that Jesus rose to, and we rose with Him...glorious mystery! In keeping with the New Life that is portrayed by so many new and blooming things, "A Branch in the Vine" is also preparing to bloom into new life. We are getting a "facelift" thanks to my dear, generous, designer son Jeremy J. Loyd of Sparkbox and the creator of my blog.

To make things easier on him and to give this "branch" time to learn new things, we are taking a break from posting for a short time.

So just in case you, my dear fellow branches, would like some devotional material for your days, I have a couple suggestions:

First, I would like to suggest my "spiritual fathers" series. Here are the links that will take you to stories and quotes from some giants of the faith who have been very important in my life. You too may find encouragement there for your souls.

bread-for-my-souls-journey/ J. Henri Nouwen

abide-in-christ-in-faith-filled-surrender/ Andrew Murray

a-modern-day-prophet/ A.W. Tozer

abbas-child/ Brennan Manning

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The-With-ness-of-our-God-cover-temp-3-210x300
The-With-ness-of-our-God-cover-temp-3-210x300

Next, at the risk of appearing self-serving, I want to invite you to read my book, The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension,...not because I wrote it but because it reveals a God who is intimately and securely united with us in every possible way.

If you are struggling to feel connected to the Lord, though you may know in your head you belong to Him, please consider this little volume. In it you will receive manna for your heart, not just your head. You will find not only simple, practical instruction, but also meditation, stories for application, questions for journaling and just pondering...and more.

Or maybe you aren't struggling but just want to go deeper...this is for you too. You can dive into the deep or stay on the surface...your choice.

Springtime also brings occasions for gifts, such as Mothers' and Fathers' Day, weddings, birthdays.

And the book is very accessible and affordable.  You can purchase on online (see links). Locally, volumes can be purchased for a reasonable price at The Booksellers at Austen Landing and at BellHOP Cafe in Bellbrook.  And I've priced the ebook at the lowest allowed, $3.99.

So please take a look and consider walking with us on this journey into The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension.

And thank you for your grace!

Publisher website: www.janloyd.com

And a link to my blog page that has lots of goodies in addition to endorsements, pdf files, etc concerning the book.

http://www.abranchinthevine.com/with-ness-of-our-god/

Abiding...

vine with many branches

vine with many branches

It was almost 30 years ago now that I "discovered," as if for the first time, that I am a branch...a beloved one at that, but just a branch...in the Vine, the Father's true Vine, that is. And I love being a branch, because a branch doesn't have to be smart or strong.  All a branch has to do is what Jesus told His disciples just hours before His death on our behalf. And what is that something? Let's take a look as Jesus tenderly prepared His beloved disciples for the days ahead by following His walk through a vineyard on the way to Gethsemane.

Jesus to His disciples:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. ... Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, and neither will you if you are not connected to Me.

I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing. ... If you abide in Me and My voice abides in you, anything you ask will come to pass for you. Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory to the Father.

I have loved you as the Father has loved Me. Abide in My love. Follow My example in obeying the Father’s commandments and receiving His love. If you obey My commandments, you will stay in My love. I want you to know the delight I experience, to find ultimate satisfaction, which is why I am telling you all of this. John 15:1-17 VOICE

Abide...Jesus seems to love that word. Abide to bear fruit, abide to live in His love, abide to do anything.

What does it mean to abide?

My spiritual father Andrew Murray starts us off with reflections on abiding (click on his name for more about abiding):

On my part abiding is nothing but the acceptance of my position, the consent to be kept there, the surrender of faith to the strong Vine still to hold the feeble branch.

Found in my file from years gone by is this quote from Discipleship Journal, titled "Life as a Branch":

Perhaps one of the most profound things I am learning about abiding is that it never takes you out of the moment you are in ... Abiding is not primarily about cloister and quiet. The invitation to abide is the invitation to draw spiritual sustenance directly from its Supernatural Source amid the dailiness of life! ... If we abide, fruit happens! We do our part,  but there is a life that flows up through the roots and branches that is beyond our ability to understand or produce! Abiding is and always will be a moment by moment thing!

A young friend of my children, Tess Augustine, wrote recently on facebook about contentment, an aspect of abiding:

One of the most important lessons I've learned is the JOY of being content. That's not the same as settling or giving up. That's not forfeiting dreams or "goals" because of your current circumstances. It's about being QUIET in the waiting. It's about learning to cheer others on, as they are blessed and able to do more, and help more. It's about being okay when someone's impact, abilities, talents and purpose instead of trying to do it all and be it all. It's not possible to do EVERYTHING well. It's about being joyful and loving to people and being okay when they may not return the feelings It's about humility. It's about being thankful THIS VERY SECOND and not losing your mind over what everyone else is doing, saying, or gaining. Being content is a much deeper and better feeling than any material gains or accolades one could possibly acquire in this life. Take a deep breath; be thankful for what you have now and what you've had in the past. Be hopeful for the future, but not consumed with desire and comparison. And, for the love, just. be. you.

And last, the way I say it:

Don't fight your TODAY life! Embrace it, hug it to your breast, live it (from your union with your Lord, of course), and be thankful.

Are you abiding today, dear friend? Have you discovered the freeing realization that you are just a branch? A beloved one, but just a branch, a conduit for the Life of the Vine ... and that's all you ever have to be!

And our Lord's promise is that you WILL produce much fruit! Praise His holy Name!

fruitful vine

fruitful vine

Holy Week: 7 Sayings of Christ with B.C. 2001

www.johnhartstudios.com.

A few years ago, I came across an inspiring cartoon in my "Easter" file (See enlarged image below).  I think my husband John, who had been the family reader of the Sunday funnies in years gone by, cut it out and gave it to me back in April 2001.  So there in my file, this little treasure has been tucked away for all these years.

For those of you who have been following the Lenten Meditations on a branch in the Vine, this piece serves as a fitting climax during Holy Week.

There's an interesting story behind this controversial cartoon.  Apparently for Easter 2001, cartoonist Johnny Hart wanted to do something special. He stated,

I noticed one day that the center section of the Menorah -- the sacred symbol of Judaism, bore the shape of the cross. I wanted everyone to see the cross in the Menorah. It was a revelation to me, that tied God's chosen people to their spiritual next of kin -- the disciples of the Risen Christ. http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/BCcomics_easter.htm

This year as I reflected on the final amazing image of the cartoon, I couldn't help but think what an arresting contrast the Menorah as the cross and the communion cup in the empty tomb represent: the movement from the condemnation and death under the Old Covenant to the forgiveness and life under the New Covenant. Think about it!

And then peer deeply into the empty tomb, and remember HIM!

Behold the Lamb (Communion Song)

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away, Slain for us - and we remember The promise made that all who come in faith Find forgiveness at the cross.

So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of peace Around the table of the King.

The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Torn for you - eat and remember The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life Paid the price to make us one.

So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of love Around the table of the King.

The blood that cleanses every stain of sin, Shed for you - drink and remember He drained death's cup that all may enter in To receive the life of God.

So we share in this bread of life, And we drink of His sacrifice As a sign of our bonds of grace Around the table of the King.

And so with thankfulness and faith we rise To respond, - and to remember Our call to follow in the steps of Christ As His body here on earth.

As we share in His suffering We proclaim Christ will come again! And we’ll join in the feast of heaven Around the table of the King

Words and Music by Keith and Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na8Xue4VEw4[/youtube]

Devotions for Holy Week:

Perhaps for the days of Holy Week, you would like to meditate on Christ's sayings one by one.  Here is a summary of the links from our Lenten Meditations at  A Branch in the Vine.

Last Words and Conversations:

  1. Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34 -- a Word of Forgiveness
  2. I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 -- a Word of Salvation
  3. Dear woman, here is your son...Here is your mother. John 19:26-27 -- a Word of Family Affection
  4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Matthew 27:46 -- a Word of Abandonment
  5. I am thirsty. John 19:28 -- a Word of Personal Need
  6. It is finished! John 19:30 -- a Word of Completion
  7. Father, into your hands I commit My spirit. Luke 23:46 -- a Word of Reunion

BC

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Reunion

Now I lay me down to sleepI pray the Lord my soul to keep If I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take

So goes a traditional nighttime prayer taught by American moms to their children for generations.

It may seem odd to us today that there would be the mention of death in a child's prayer.  But scientists say that sleep is the closest we come to death while still alive.  The Greeks even had a proverb,

Sleep and death are brothers.

However, in the first century, Jewish moms taught their children a different bedtime prayer...quoting Psalm 31:

Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.

Sound familiar?  It should...they are the final words of Jesus as He breathed His last (Luke 23:46).

For most of us, death comes suddenly and often without warning.  But for many, there is a sense that death is imminent...and it even seems that in some cases, the dying individual yields his spirit after seeing that treasured love one or after receiving permission from an important someone, "It's okay...you can go" (perhaps merely giving in to the inevitable).

But not so in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ!  His death was totally voluntary...under His control...in submission to His Father's will:

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46 ESV

About a year or so earlier, He had spoken of this voluntary quality of His death in the beautiful metaphor of the Good Shepherd:I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.... I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep... For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. John 10:11-18 ESV

Later in that same beautiful passage, Jesus says,

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-31

Talk about intimacy and security!  And this with our Father God through His Son, our Lord!

So in this last word from the Cross, the God-Man Jesus Christ recites His familiar childhood prayer...the prayer learned at His mother's knee.   In doing so, He consciously and in full control yields His life and returns to the bosom of His heavenly Father.  Why? for love of you and me!

Lord, we are overwhelmed...thank you...thank you...thank you!!!!!

Calvary's Love -- S Green

Only Jesus, Only He Brings redemption, full and free There's a yearning, in all our lives That only Jesus satisfies

Calvary's love will sail forever Bright and shining, strong and free Like an ark of peace and safety On the sea of human need

Through the hours of all the ages Those tired of sailing on their own Finally rest inside the shadow Cast by Calvary's love across their souls

Chorus: Calvary's love, Calvary's love Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of The deepest sin can't rise above Calvary's love

Calvary's love can heal the Spirit Life has crushed and cast aside And redeem til Heaven's promise Fills with joy once empty eyes So desire to tell His story Of a love that loved enough to die Burns away all other passions And fed by Calvary's love becomes a fire

Chorus

Calvary's love has never faltered All its wonders still remain Souls still take eternal passage Sins atoned and heaven gained Sins forgiven and heaven gained

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqoPnatf6cA']

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Further Application:

Consider making this your nighttime prayer as you drift off to sleep each night. You may also want to read and meditate on all of Psalm 31.

Further Meditation:

During Holy Week, you may like to join me by going back through the meditations...one or two each day. Journal what the Holy Spirit highlights to your heart. Last Words and Conversations:

  1. Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34 -- a Word of Forgiveness
  2. I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 -- a Word of Salvation
  3. Dear woman, here is your son...Here is your mother. John 19:26-27 -- a Word of Family Affection
  4. My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Matthew 27:46 -- a Word of Abandonment
  5. I am thirsty. John 19:28 -- a Word of Personal Need
  6. It is finished! John 19:30 -- a Word of Completion
  7. Father, into your hands I commit My spirit. Luke 23:46 -- a Word of Reunion

Bible Students: Explore these Shepherd passages and be blessed! Psalm 23 -- the Lord, my Shepherd Ezekiel 34 -- contrast with false shepherds Luke 15 -- seeks for lost sheep John 10 -- the Good Shepherd John 21:15-23 -- feed My sheep... Heb 13:20-21 -- the Great Shepherd of the Sheep 1 Peter 2:25 -- the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls 1Peter 5:4 -- the Chief Shepherd

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Completion

Tetelestai!* It is finished! The death of Christ on the Cross is the HINGE of human history...and now before He breathes His last breath... a cry of victory, It is finished!

What's finished? It must be something BIG,...look at what happened when Jesus died:

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man truly was the Son of God! Matthew 27:51-54 NLT

So WHAT was finished?  What was complete at the death of Christ?

All the work that the Father had sent the Son to accomplish:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

...especially the work of atonement and redemption as our Sin Bearer:

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2Cor 5:21 NLT

...so that there was nothing left to be done to bring us to a Holy God!

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. 1 Peter 3:18 NLT

This has HUGE implications for us!

Jesus did everything that He needed to do... ...for our salvation from the penalty of sin! ...for our Christian life on this earth! ...for our eternity in glory!

Look at how Paul says it:

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. ...God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. Romans 5:6-10

But not only did Jesus die for us (as if that wasn't enough), but we died with Him (read Romans 6 and Colossians 3)

I have been crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me... Galatians 2:20a NIV

...you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:3-4

Now this is where it gets really exciting...and practical for my everyday life:

WHAT did I die to through my union with Christ?

I died to the sinful self -- Gal 2:20; 2Cor 5:17; Rom 6:3-14 I died to the flesh -- Col 2:11-12; Rom 8:1-10 I died to sin --  Col 2:13; Romans 6:3-14; Eph 2:1-7;2Cor 5:21 I died to the Law (“to do list” religion)! -- Rom 7:4-6; 8:3-4; Gal 2:19-20; 3:10-25; Col 2:14 I died to the power of Satan, whose main tactics are lies and accusation! -- Col 2:15; Heb 2:14-15; Eph 1:19-21;6:10ff I died to the world -- Gal 6:14; Col 2:8

So if death means separation, then...

I've been disconnected from my selfish self as my source of life; I've been disconnected from the fleshly and sinful attitude of independence as the source of my life; I've been disconnected from the need to do good works (religious and otherwise) to earn God's favor (I already have God's favor in Christ); I've been disconnected from the power of the lies of the enemy (for a good example of this, see Caught in the Web); I've been disconnected from the world system with its values and mindset as my source of meaning in life.

Now I can chose to live from the indwelling, risen Christ who is my life...

And that's worth shouting about...Tetelestai!

And singing about..

How deep the Father's love for us, How vast beyond all measure That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away As wounds which mar the chosen One, Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross, My sin upon His shoulders Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there Until it was accomplished His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything No gifts, no power, no wisdom But I will boast in Jesus Christ His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer But this I know with all my heart His wounds have paid my ransom

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV2zMZ-nZ7k#aid=P-4Mig5yZ1c']

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Bible Note: In John 19:30, "John chose to quote Jesus using the Greek word tetelestai, an accounting term found on canceled loan documents, relieving a debtor of future payment.  When the last payment had been made, the paper was stamped tetelestai, meaning 'paid in full.' If the lender wished to forgive the debt, he could stamp the document tetelestai, meaning 'fulfilled' or 'completed.'"  (Chuck Swindoll, Saying It Well, p. 131)

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Family Affection

Dear woman, behold your son…behold your mother.  John 19:26

Jesus has a special love for His own.

As we’ve already seen with His forgiving and saving attitude in the midst of excruciating agony, His concern was not with His own suffering.  Rather His attention was next drawn to His precious loved ones at the foot of His cross, His mother and His beloved disciple John.

What agony Jesus must have seen on Mary’s face. Calvin Miller describes the scene well:

Beneath the tree stood the grieving mother of the heretic.  She was a woman whose face was rimmed by little wisps of silver hair that protruded defiantly from under her mantle; occasionally she trembled with uncontrollable spasms of despair.  Before the tree a young fisherman gazed in blurred glances at his dying friend; his broad arm cradled the head of the convict’s mother.  But he was unable to console her.  The man on the cross was her son…
Miller, Once Upon a Tree

This was her little boy…her precious son that she nursed and rocked and raised to be a man to fulfill God’s plan.  Yes, she had warning of suffering ahead…remember Simeon’s prophecy when the baby was presented in the Temple?

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others.
He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.
 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword [romphia] will pierce your very soul. Luke 2:34 NLT

Little did Mary know all this sword would entail.  According to Miller, romphia (Greek) was a huge Persian sword that literally skewers its victims in pain.   Jesus Himself knew all this and yet submitted to the Father’s plan.

But now He would care for His suffering mama by entrusting her to the man He knew would care for her as his own.

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”
And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.”
And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

John 19:26-27 NLT

Years later the apostle Paul would write to Timothy, his beloved son in the faith:

 

Michelangelo’s Pieta

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 
1 Timothy 5:8

But this begs the question…where were Jesus’ brothers?  Surely, this first-born Son could have entrusted His mother to one of his brothers, James or Jude, or perhaps another close relative.

There was obviously something more going on here…something that includes you and me.

Perhaps a year or so before…

…as Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.”
Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers.
Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

Matthew 12:46-50 NLT

So by entrusting His mother to His beloved disciple and friend, Jesus was “creating a new family based not on kinship to one another [blood relationship] but solely through their relationship to him.”*  Although his brothers were related by blood, they had not yet become related in the Spirit through faith in Him, God’s Son and Savior of the world.

And that brings us back to us believers…those of us who are related to Him by faith.  We are His family…children of the same Father:

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12

Jesus the God-Man is our Brother, and we are his brothers and sisters:

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers …
For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.

Hebrews 2:10, 11, 17

And Jesus cares for His own with a special love and care:

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested…So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.Hebrews 2:18; 4:16 NLT

We also belong to one another…brothers and sisters in our Father’s and Brother’s family.


On the night before He died, Jesus gave us the new commandment, Love one another as I have loved you...

Why? because then the world will know you are my disciples.
Why?  because the world will hate you.
Why? because in this world you will have trouble.

So we will need each other!

Love each other with brotherly affection, and delight in honoring each other.Romans 12:10

Dear brothers and sisters,
…who is it in your human family that needs your affection and attention?
…who is it in the family of God that needs your brotherly (Or sisterly) affection and attention?

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith.  Gal 6:10

 

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Bible Students:

Go back to the night before Jesus died (John 13-17).
Mark every time that Jesus says love with a red heart.
Who is loving whom?
Now do this for the epistle of First John.
Did you notice that LOVE is John’s emphasis?
No wonder…He’s the disciple Jesus loved.

You may also like this post:  “Love’s Abiding Harvest”

The New Testament is filled with “_________________ one another verses.”
Click here and read through all of them, including the Scriptures.
Which ones jump out to you and why?
Is God telling you to do something about it…attitude or action-wise?

You may also like this post:“It Takes a Village…”

Activity:

In the center of a piece of paper, write your name.  Around your name, write the names of all the other persons that you consider part of your family.  Those closest to you might be written close to your name, those further away may be written a greater distance from your name. *

Now do the same with your “spiritual family”…fellow believers in your life, whether in your church body, Bible study, family, neighbors, etc.

Then answer the closing questions above…

Dear brothers and sisters,
…who is it in your human family that needs your affection and attention?
…who is it in the family of God that needs your brotherly (Or sisterly)affection and attention?


Lenten Meditation: a Word of Personal Need

Thirst is a primal need in all of us humans...more demanding even than hunger!  We can go quite awhile without eating, but a very short time without drinking. Jesus on the Cross had refrained up to this point from satisfying His thirst.  Instead He drank the Father's cup to the very last drop! He became sin for us...the Sinless One!  Jesus took our place, and the Father turned His back.  The punishment for sin had been accomplished...spiritual separation from God....for US!

Now in fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus expresses His own physical need:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. John 19:28-29 ESV

Here He is...the Source of Living Water...asking for a drink!  That reminds me of another time Jesus was thirsty...and it was a thirst that ended up quenching thirsty souls.

He had been traveling through Samaria, and  He asked an unknown woman at a well for a drink.

Samaria was the place where a mixed race lived...half pagan, half Jewish...wholly outcast to pure bred Jews.  But not to Jesus!  He was to have a divine encounter with this forgotten woman over a drink of water.

This woman of Samaria was not the godly, religious type, even according to Samaritan standards...in fact, the exact opposite.  She was looking for love in all the wrong places...five husbands and now a live-in boyfriend.  Yet still thirsty for love...from Someone, but didn't know it!

So in her shame, she daily came to the well to draw water at mid-day... at a time when she could avoid the knowing glances and whispers of the "righteous women" of the community.

Here she encountered a Stranger with a strange request:

Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.  She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?...

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Thinking that Jesus was talking about physical water and physical thirst,

“Please, sir, the woman said, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus, gently confronting her of her sinful and fruitless life, answered her God questions:

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!

The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him...

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.

Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world. John 4:1-42 NLT

In the end, this little woman, as well as the community she desperately tried to avoid, drank deep of the Well of Living Water...all in response to a Thirsty Stranger's request for a drink.

Prayer: Lord, I hear Your words, I thirst, and I realize that You thirsted for me too.  Thank you for Your ever-thirsting thirst for the souls of men and women like me! I have to admit that I go through my days thirsting also. But I often try to quench my thirst at broken cisterns that hold no water ...cisterns of human approval, recreation and entertainment, social media, relationships (even good ones), religion, perfectionism, comparison, one-up-manship, and the list goes on. In the end I come up dry...because I'm really thirsty for YOU, my Savior and Lord. Thank you for Your Indwelling Spring of Living Water...Your Beautiful Self! Cause me to walk in Your overflowing fullness every day of my life. Amen and amen!

Let anyone who is thirsty come to ME and drink. Whoever believes in ME, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. John 7:37-38

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Bible Students:

Fully God, but fully HUMAN.

This is another of the divine mysteries...the Kenosis, the self-emptying of the Son of God.

Explore these passages and be humbled and blessed by the realization that the Sovereign God became one of us...for you and me!

Philippians 2:6-11 ESV Hebrews 2:9-18 ESV

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Abandonment

Abandoned!  Left on the “doorstep of Life”…but with no Rescuer in sight!

What happens next in the unfolding drama of the crucifixion of our Lord is incomprehensible!

It’s an abandonment so profoundly mysterious that it boggles the mind…but ravishes the believing heart! Let’s watch it unfold…

It is noon.

By this time, Jesus has already forgiven His executioners as they cruelly hammered Him to the Cross…as they, careless for His pain, roughly lifted and dropped His Cross into the ground…Father, forgive them.

By this time, He lovingly has received the confession and cry of a repentant thief with a word of hope…Today you will be with me in Paradise.

And by now, He has tenderly cared for His suffering mama by entrusting her to His beloved disciple and friend…Behold your son…behold your mother.

Three hours of agony are yet to come…as if enough suffering hasn’t already been Hiscup. This agony will be beyond understanding and description!  But this is the crux of theFather’s cup that Jesus has chosen to drink…and drink it He must…to the full!

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.
At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah.
One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink.
But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” 

Matthew 27:45-49 NLT

 

Strangely silent, God the Father abandons Jesus, God’s Son…for three hours.

This is the same Father who validated Him at His baptism with the words:

This is my beloved Son in whom I’m well-pleased. Matthew 3:17 ESV

…the same Father who declared Him superior to Moses and Elijah at theTransfiguration:

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them;
and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!
” John 17:5 ESV

…and the same Abba who responded to Jesus’ prayer just days before His crucifixion:

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
…Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 
John 12:27-32 ESV

But now nothing but darkness!  What kind of rift could be happening?

Whatever it is, it’s so mysteriously real that we hear the very human God-Man ask the question we all ask when we face the “unanswerables” of life…WHY?

Theologians* down through the centuries have basically scratched their theological heads, trying to understand and explain this mystery of mysteries.

But it’s the pages of Scripture that give us the answer to Jesus’ WHY?

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the LORD laid on him
the sins of us all.

Is 53:4-6 NLT

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2Cor5:21 ESV

God turned His back on His Son so He wouldn’t have to turn His back on us…

Because the wages of sin is death…spiritual as well as physical;
because death means separationseparation from God (spiritual death) as well asseparation of the soul from the body (physical death);
Jesus our Brother underwent spiritual death as well as physical death to be our sinless Sin-Bearer, our Perfect Substitute.

Jesus the God-Man was spiritually separated from a Holy God in order to take our place…and bring us to God.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit… 
1 Peter 3:18 NIV

And WHY?

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

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us,
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

1John 3:16

 

Prayer:

“We twist in anguish at Your cry …”My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  God forsaking God, this is a mystery beyond understanding.  A forsaking that was meant for us, but wretched alienation and blackness experienced by You.
Because of that tormented howl, the barrier that kept us from God tears in two.  And we who have insulted and mocked You, denied You and crucified You, we fall on our knees and whisper Good Friday truth: “Surely this man was the Son of God.”
Ann Voskamp, Trail to the Tree

 

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Something to Think About:

 

Have you ever been forsaken by someone you love?  Jesus understands…He was no stranger to abandonment.
He was abandoned by His nation, His people, His “so-called disciples, His brothers, Judas, Peter…and in reality, us as well.

He was despised and rejected
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care. 
Is 53:3 NLT

Have you ever felt abandoned by God?  Jesus was!  And this has been the experience of devout believers through the ages.  (See Dark Night of the Soul)
Of course, we will never experience it to the extent of the Son of God.  But we know that because He has gone through it before us, He understands and comes to our aid even when the Heavens may seem like brass…silent and dark.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT

Have you asked the WHY? question…without getting a reply?  Read what our Mysterious God says:

The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. Deut 29:29


Bible Students:

Many Bible scholars consider Psalm 22, the psalm Jesus quoted here, a Messianic Psalm.
There are at least four points of comparison between Psalm 22 and Matthew 27.  See if you can find them.
Look especially at Ps 22:1,7,8,18 and Mt 27:35,39,43,46.

You may also like to read through the Gospel of John during this Lenten season.  As you do, make note of how intimately connected to and dependent on the Father, Jesus was.  This made the abandonment the Son experienced all the more painful…all for you and me!

A Theological Word:

God forsaking God.  Who can understand that?
Martin Luther (quoted in Abiding Christ Church, Lenten study 2012)

The first three sayings were probably all spoken before noon.  This one, which is in every way central, was uttered about 3pm, after three hours of darkness and silence during which the Son of God bore the sin of the world.  In that work He had to be forsaken by God, and yet at the same time there was no splitting up of the Trinity.  All that is involved is inscrutable, but He gave Himself, He was made sin, He bore sins, and His soul was made an offering for sin.  His work was to bear sin.

Charles Ryrie,  Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p.69

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Abandonment

Abandoned!  Left on the "doorstep of Life"...but with no Rescuer in sight! What happens next in the unfolding drama of the crucifixion of our Lord is incomprehensible!

It's an abandonment so profoundly mysterious that it boggles the mind...but ravishes the believing heart! Let's watch it unfold...

It is noon.

By this time, Jesus has already forgiven His executioners as they cruelly hammered Him to the Cross...as they, careless for His pain, roughly lifted and dropped His Cross into the ground...Father, forgive them.

By this time, He lovingly has received the confession and cry of a repentant thief with a word of hope...Today you will be with me in Paradise.

And by now, He has tenderly cared for His suffering mama by entrusting her to His beloved disciple and friend...Behold your son...behold your mother.

Three hours of agony are yet to come...as if enough suffering hasn't already been His cup. This agony will be beyond understanding and description!  But this is the crux of theFather's cup that Jesus has chosen to drink...and drink it He must...to the full!

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a reed stick so he could drink. But the rest said, “Wait! Let’s see whether Elijah comes to save him.” Matthew 27:45-49 NLT

Strangely silent, God the Father abandons Jesus, God's Son...for three hours.

This is the same Father who validated Him at His baptism with the words:

This is my beloved Son in whom I'm well-pleased. Matthew 3:17 ESV

...the same Father who declared Him superior to Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration:

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" John 17:5 ESV

...and the same Abba who responded to Jesus' prayer just days before His crucifixion:

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” ...Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:27-32 ESV

But now nothing but darkness!  What kind of rift could be happening?

Whatever it is, it's so mysteriously real that we hear the very human God-Man ask the question we all ask when we face the "unanswerables" of life...WHY?

Theologians* down through the centuries have basically scratched their theological heads, trying to understand and explain this mystery of mysteries.

But it's the pages of Scripture that give us the answer to Jesus' WHY?

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Is 53:4-6 NLT

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2Cor5:21 ESV

God turned His back on His Son so He wouldn't have to turn His back on us...

Because the wages of sin is death...spiritual as well as physical; because death means separation...separation from God (spiritual death) as well as separation of the soul from the body (physical death); Jesus our Brother underwent spiritual death as well as physical death to be our sinless Sin-Bearer, our Perfect Substitute.

Jesus the God-Man was spiritually separated from a Holy God in order to take our place...and bring us to God.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit... 1 Peter 3:18 NIV

And WHY?

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

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1John 3:16

 

Prayer:

"We twist in anguish at Your cry ..."My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  God forsaking God, this is a mystery beyond understandingA forsaking that was meant for us, but wretched alienation and blackness experienced by You. Because of that tormented howl, the barrier that kept us from God tears in two.  And we who have insulted and mocked You, denied You and crucified You, we fall on our knees and whisper Good Friday truth: "Surely this man was the Son of God." Ann Voskamp, Trail to the Tree

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt0WluTpFTg[/youtube]

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Something to Think About:

Have you ever been forsaken by someone you love?  Jesus understands...He was no stranger to abandonment. He was abandoned by His nation, His people, His "so-called disciples, His brothers, Judas, Peter...and in reality, us as well.

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Is 53:3 NLT

Have you ever felt abandoned by God?  Jesus was!  And this has been the experience of devout believers through the ages.  (See Dark Night of the Soul) Of course, we will never experience it to the extent of the Son of God.  But we know that because He has gone through it before us, He understands and comes to our aid even when the Heavens may seem like brass...silent and dark.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT

Have you asked the WHY? question...without getting a reply?  Read what our Mysterious God says:

The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. Deut 29:29

Bible Students:

Many Bible scholars consider Psalm 22, the psalm Jesus quoted here, a Messianic Psalm. There are at least four points of comparison between Psalm 22 and Matthew 27.  See if you can find them. Look especially at Ps 22:1,7,8,18 and Mt 27:35,39,43,46.

You may also like to read through the Gospel of John during this Lenten season.  As you do, make note of how intimately connected to and dependent on the Father, Jesus was.  This made the abandonment the Son experienced all the more painful...all for you and me!

* A Theological Word:

God forsaking God.  Who can understand that? Martin Luther (quoted in Abiding Christ Church, Lenten study 2012)

The first three sayings were probably all spoken before noon.  This one, which is in every way central, was uttered about 3pm, after three hours of darkness and silence during which the Son of God bore the sin of the world.  In that work He had to be forsaken by God, and yet at the same time there was no splitting up of the Trinity.  All that is involved is inscrutable, but He gave Himself, He was made sin, He bore sins, and His soul was made an offering for sin.  His work was to bear sin.

Charles Ryrie,  Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p.69

 

Lenten Meditation: Eulogize your living loved one

eulogy  noun, plural eulogies.
1. a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a set oration in honor of a deceased person.
2. high praise or commendation.

In our week’s Lenten meditation, we focus on the Lord’s care for His dear mom as His own death approaches.  How tender, how like a beloved son of a beloved mom! Caring for our treasured loved ones is at the heart of “family” in the purest sense of the word.

However, we often forget that true caring can be much deeper and more needed than merely physical care, as critical as that is.  There’s a caring that touches heart and soul…one that meeting physical needs approaches, but a caring that perhaps only loving words can reach.

We busily go through our lives, often thinking many kind thoughts and feeling loving, appreciative sentiments for our loved ones, but not stopping to put words and voice to them…nourishing the soul of ones we love.

Rather what do we traditionally do?  We wait until the person has passed away to express those words, words that deep down she may have been longing to hear.    We give those golden words to others in the form of a eulogy, either formally or informally delivered, at a funeral or memorial service.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death these days, especially since my dear mom has gone to her reward with Jesus in heaven just last November.  About eight years ago, several of my siblings had the wonderful brain-child to celebrate my mom’s 85th birthday with a big party/reunion.  This was a huge deal with music, singing, readings and fun!

As part of that, many of us wrote, in a sense, our eulogies to her, and my son Jeremy compiled them in a book with photos.  And as wonderful as the entire occasion was, the most important thing was that little volume of golden words.

I’m not sure my mom was able to take it all that day. But I do know something was received…she was honored with words of love, affection, and affirmation.  And she looked through that book while she was in the Manor House Senior Center, and who knows but many memories kicked in when she viewed not just words but alsophotos of loved ones.

So dear friends, don’t wait too long!  Don’t even wait till 85…life is a vapor!

I really believe that a big part of our grief over the loss of a loved one is really regret (which can eat us alive!).  Seize the opportunity to just simply say the beautiful, wonderful things you think and feel, even right then and there in the moment. You don’t need a big bash to do it! Don’t assume the person knows how you feel!We are all insecure enough to NOT KNOW!

You will be glad you did…but most of all, your loved one will be “cared for” in the depths of her soul!

For His honor and glory! Amen!


To see my “eulogy” for my mom’s 85, click here.

Take a look at the one another verses.

Lenten Meditation: Eulogize your living loved one

eulogy  noun, plural eulogies.1. a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a set oration in honor of a deceased person. 2. high praise or commendation.

In our week's Lenten meditation, we focus on the Lord's care for His dear mom as His own death approaches.  How tender, how like a beloved son of a beloved mom! Caring for our treasured loved ones is at the heart of "family" in the purest sense of the word.

However, we often forget that true caring can be much deeper and more needed than merely physical care, as critical as that is.  There's a caring that touches heart and soul...one that meeting physical needs approaches, but a caring that perhaps only loving words can reach.

We busily go through our lives, often thinking many kind thoughts and feeling loving, appreciative sentiments for our loved ones, but not stopping to put words and voice to them...nourishing the soul of ones we love.

Rather what do we traditionally do?  We wait until the person has passed away to express those words, words that deep down she may have been longing to hear.    We give those golden words to others in the form of a eulogy, either formally or informally delivered, at a funeral or memorial service.

I've been thinking a lot about death these days, especially since my dear mom has gone to her reward with Jesus in heaven just last November.  About eight years ago, several of my siblings had the wonderful brain-child to celebrate my mom's 85th birthday with a big party/reunion.  This was a huge deal with music, singing, readings and fun!

As part of that, many of us wrote, in a sense, our eulogies to her, and my son Jeremy compiled them in a book with photos.  And as wonderful as the entire occasion was, the most important thing was that little volume of golden words.

I'm not sure my mom was able to take it all that day. But I do know something was received...she was honored with words of love, affection, and affirmation.  And she looked through that book while she was in the Manor House Senior Center, and who knows but many memories kicked in when she viewed not just words but also  photos of loved ones.

So dear friends, don't wait too long!  Don't even wait till 85...life is a vapor!

I really believe that a big part of our grief over the loss of a loved one is really regret (which can eat us alive!).  Seize the opportunity to just simply say the beautiful, wonderful things you think and feel, even right then and there in the moment. You don't need a big bash to do it! Don't assume the person knows how you feel!We are all insecure enough to NOT KNOW!

You will be glad you did...but most of all, your loved one will be "cared for" in the depths of her soul!

For His honor and glory! Amen!

To see my "eulogy" for my mom's 85, click here.

Take a look at the one another verses.