VIDEO Life-Saving Blood

August 1, 2019 by Joe Rodriguez

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Pictured above is the Head Harbour (East Quoddy) Lighthouse. Bult in 1829, it sits on a small rocky islet located off the northern tip of Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada. This 51 feet tall wooden lighthouse is claimed to be the most photographed beacon in the world. It can only be accessed at low tide and the journey to reach it is said to be an experience in itself. In 1842, a large red cross was painted on the eastern side of the tower to serve as a conspicuous daymark.

What is the first thing you thought about when you saw this lighthouse? Among the few possible things, I guarantee that some of you, like me, will say The American Red Cross (organization).

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The red cross on the Harbor Head Lighthouse reminded me of one of the main services provided by the American Red Cross. Founded in 1881 by Clarissa Harlowe, the Red Cross developed the first nationwide civilian blood program and it is the only organization that still provides more than 40% of the blood products in the USA.

According to the dictionary, the word blood has several meanings, but the two most relevant to this devotion are:

  1. the physical substance circulating the body of humans and other vertebrates
    carrying nourishment and oxygen to and bringing away waste products from all parts of the body.
  2. the vital principle; life:

One of the most powerful, heart-tugging, and humbling messages that cause my soul to tremble is found in the lyrics of the song It’s Your Blood.

The blood that flows through our veins is without a doubt vital to our existence, but the blood that Jesus shed on his way to and at Calvary’s cross is surpassingly more significant and valuable. However, in order to understand its true power and worth, you first need to have a general understanding of the gravity of sin.

Sin is what separates the mortal man from the holy and eternal God. Unlike the common terminology that many use to define it, sin is more than just “missing the mark.” A more accurate and relatable way to describe sin is lawlessness. “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” –1 John 3:4Sin stems from the desire for self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency, so it avoids accountability at all cost (read Genesis 3). Sin is controlling and destructive. That is why the Bible tells us that its end result is eternal death (separation from God). “For the wages of sin is death…” –Romans 6:23a. However, God in His infinite love provided a way to do away with sin and its consequence and reconcile man unto himself. “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 6:23b. Because sin is lawlessness, it has to be dealt with justice. The Bible declares that without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin (Hebrews 9:22). Only God has the power to deal with and remove sin because He is holy and righteous. And because man could never approach God in his sinful state, God chose to come to man in the person of Jesus Christ to pave the way. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6.

Jesus lived on earth as both God and man, which means that His blood had human as well as divine qualities. Using the previous definitions of blood above, consider this…

  1. Jesus’ divinity and sinless life is the reason why He was able to offer himself as a ransom for our sins. His bloodshed is the only thing that provided full settlement for a debt we could never pay. Depositing our faith in His atoning sacrifice is what removes our sins (waste) and the penalty that comes along with it, which is eternal separation from God. This faith also allows us to be spiritually renewed and strengthened (nourished) through the power of His word.
  2. Trusting in Jesus’ redemptive work is the foundation (principle) of our faith. It is the ONLY thing that can supernaturally give and guarantee us eternal life.

It’s interesting to note that the red cross on the Harbor Head Lighthouse is also known as the Saint George Cross. Saint George became widely venerated as a warrior saint during the Third Crusade. Jesus’ life on earth was marked by a message of love, compassion, and eternal hope. In that sense, He became (and still is) the Mediator/Peacemaker between God and man. However, his death, burial, and resurrection also identify Him as the Righteous Warrior who defeated sin and Satan’s deceiving power. With Him as our spiritual Captain, we continue to engage in a spiritual battle (crusade) against the evil forces of darkness that challenge our faith.

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Equally fascinating is the history behind the Red Cross logo. Henry Dunant of Geneva, Switzerland, was the founder of the International Red Cross movement. In his search to adopt a symbol that was easily identifiable universally, he met with other delegates. In 1863, they agreed that the emblem should be a neutral symbol that reflected the ideals behind their life-saving mission. Because Switzerland long maintained an armed impartiality, they thought that a reversal of the Swiss flag would be a fair representation. The white flag is generally viewed as a sign of surrender. Thus, the Red Cross logo was adopted. John 3:16 (For God so loved the WORLD…) proves that God’s’ love is impartial. That love is universally represented today by the symbol of a cross. Furthermore, Jesus broke Satan’s power over fallen humanity because He willingly surrenderedHis life as a ransom for the world’s sin.

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Scripture reveals that the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and after breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). It also declares that the life of all flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:4). In other words, LIFE as we know it originates and belongs to the One who gives it (Isaiah 42:5).

The miracle of conception is the means by which God allows man to procreate. Therefore, unequivocally life begins at conception. Fetal development shows that by week 4 the embryo begins to receive nourishment from the blood in the mother’s uterus. By week 5 the baby’s blood cells begin to form and on the 6th and 7th week, blood begins to pump through its main vessels.

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Every life is precious, valuable, meaningful, and purposeful. No matter the difficulties you may have had, are having or will have to endure, God can use them to bring you closer to Him and experience the joy, peace, and love that nothing else in this world can ever offer. Even the darkest of days can turn into a testimony of God’s mercy and grace.

ONLY the life-saving blood of Jesus (his sacrifice) can grant us true hope in this world and eternal salvation for the life hereafter. Have you placed your trust in Him? If so, I encourage you to keep shining His life-giving light wherever you go. If not, I invite you to place your life in His by following THIS LINK.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize that no matter how difficult life may get at times, every heartbeat in my chest pumps the blood that keeps me alive and for that I thank you. But most importantly, I thank you for the life-saving blood of your Son who died and rose again to guarantee me eternal life if I put my trust in Him. Help me to never take that sacrifice for granted. Amen!

ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURES
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” -John 1:14 ESV

Our sins are washed away and we are made clean because Christ gave His own body as a gift to God. He did this once for all time.” –Hebrews 10:10-12 NLV

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,.” -1 Timothy 2:5

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” -Genesis 2:7

Credits
History of the Red Cross Emblem – icrc.org

Life-Saving Blood

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Who Wants to Admit to THAT Kind of Envy?

July 29, 2019 by CORRIE GERBATZ

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17 (NIV)

It was only a matter of time. I could see her eyes surveying the situation and hear the wheels of calculation grinding in her head. Sure, she’d been relatively content singing “Happy Birthday” and partaking in the spoils of cake and ice cream. But the time had come for opening presents, and she knew those presents weren’t for her.

The presents were for her younger sister, and one present in particular was the very thing she so desperately wanted for her own birthday. It was a baby doll, dressed in jammies, smelling of lavender, complete with all the essential accessories — pacifier, bottle and stuffed animal. What more could a 3-year-old girl ask for?!

I had foreseen this dilemma coming the moment both girls fell in love with the same baby doll. My two girls have birthdays a month apart, but my younger daughter’s birthday comes four weeks before my older daughter’s. And one whole month of waiting for any 3-year-old might as well be an eternity.

So I did my best to prepare my older daughter. I regularly reminded her that her sister’s birthday would come first. I encouraged her to celebrate her sister’s birthday. I even went so far as to assure her that she, too, would get the exact same baby doll on her birthday. And yet, when the time came for my youngest daughter to open her present, my oldest daughter immediately forgot EV-REE-THING I had said. She wanted that doll for herself, and the tears she shed were not of joy … they were of envy!

Nasty, all-consuming, who-would-want to-admit-to-that-kind-of-ugly ENVY!

My heart knew the struggle all too well. When others seemed to have all the newest “things” (bigger house, nicer car, perfect fall booties, etc.), I envied them, and my heart insisted I needed them more: “Don’t I deserve nice things too?”

When others’ friendships seemed so effortless and full of joy, while my own relationships felt forced and stuck in a rut of exhaustion, I envied them, and my heart complained, “Why can’t my relationships look like theirs?”

And when it seemed as though one friend was always overflowing with opportunity and blessings, having spiritual gifts that seemed much more exciting and more important than my own, I envied (hard) and whined (even louder), “But why heeerrrrrrrr?”

In Exodus 20:17, God commands His people, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

He commands it. He doesn’t merely suggest it. And why? Because God knew the thief that envy is.

And just as my daughter’s envy robbed her of the joy in participating with the rest of the party, so too can envy be a thief in our own lives. When we envy our neighbor’s belongings, we’re robbed of the opportunity to delight in and be grateful for the things we do have.

When we envy our neighbor’s relationships, we begin to neglect our own, missing opportunities to love and be loved right where we are. And when we envy someone else’s God-given blessings, not only do we risk doubting and dismissing the gifts given to us, but we are robbed of the opportunity to encourage and cheer on our neighbors’ work!

A grim picture to say the least … if that was the end …

But it’s not the end — because our God is greater than the thief! He’s the safeguard of our hearts. So when envy comes knocking again (because it most definitely will), I can instead turn to God, choosing to trust His provision for all of my needs. He is enough. I can respond with an obedient heart to the places He is calling me to serve. He has placed me with intention. And I can simply rest in His loving presence, knowing He is sovereign over it all.

Dear Lord, with all my heart, I desire to trust Your provision in my life, and Your placement of my life. Please forgive me for the times I’ve allowed envy to play thief and sow doubt where You intended it for good. Fill me with Your presence as I walk through this day, and open my eyes to all the mercies and all the blessings You continue to lavish upon me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (NIV)

Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 12:18-20, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (NIV)

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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
In which area(s) of your life do you struggle with envy? In what ways has envy impacted you, your relationships with others and your relationship with God? Share your thoughts in the comments!

https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/encouragement/encouragement-for-today-july-29-2019.html

We Love and Loathe God

If we can’t admit that, we won’t make much headway.
MARK GALLI| JULY 24, 2019

We Love and Loathe God

With this essay, I will stop introducing chapters of the book that will come out in the spring, When Did We Forget God? (Tyndale). The essays I’ve published here have been mostly critical in nature—it’s my inner prophet coming to the surface. Or maybe just my inner Scrooge. I have a couple more chapters analyzing the horizontal temptation in how we read the Bible and the small-groups movement, and the imaginative reader can probably guess what I might say in such chapters. Let’s just say the temptation to make our faith about ourselves and our feelings is with us always, even to the end of this moral, therapeutic, deist age.

But it would be irresponsible to not at least point some way forward, and the third part of the book attempts to do just that. But now that I’ve finished it, I realize I need to do a lot more reading and thinking about desire, and especially desire for God. So the third part is really just a few forays into a very complex topic.

This column will continue, but it will be more on an occasional basis. As I’ve been preparing these essays for online, I’ve been taking notes on topics that I have not addressed in the book but that might make for good reflections here. But I don’t think I’m smart enough to have something worth reading each and every week, so from this point on, this series will appear as the Lord inspires, or as hubris makes me think he’s doing so.

For now, here is a chapter from the third part of the book.

The Beginning of Desire

The writer of Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear he refers to is a healthy reverence and awe. But there is another type of fear we have to wrestle with in our relationship with God. In terms of that fear, I’d put it like this: The fear of God is the beginning of longing for him.

I ended the last chapter noting that we do,in fact, long to know and love God at some deep level. We do desire God. In spite of all the ways we have forgotten him, that is, marginalized God in our flurry of horizontal activity, we still want God. This appears to contradict what I’ve been arguing. Not really.

If I were to turn now and say all we have to do is make up our minds to start desiring God, I will have moved from hyperbole to fiction.

I have drawn a stark contrast between the vertical and horizontal dimensions of faith to bring some clarity and urgency to the problem. Such stark contrast is hyperbole, using language in a dramatic way to drive home a point. But if I were to turn now and say all we have to do is make up our minds to start desiring God, I will have moved from hyperbole to fiction. Because it’s not that simple.

Deep down we desire God still, yes, despite all the focus on the horizontal. And yet the reason for the horizontal focus is not just that we have forgotten God—as if we just got distracted, like going to the store to buy milk, then filling the shopping cart but going home without what we came for. No, we have forgotten God because we deliberately try to erase him from our memory. That’s because sometimes God is like a bad dream that leaves us confused and anxious.

It is crucial that we recognize this dimension of our relationship with God. If God doesn’t at times leave us confused and anxious, we have not yet met the living God.

Just ask Abraham, who could not for his life figure out how God was going to produce a great nation from his aged loins.

Ask Moses, whose whole purpose in life was to lead the people into the Promised Land, only to be denied entry himself.

Ask David, who in many a psalm complained that the Lord did not hear him.

Ask Jeremiah, who was furious with God for prodding him to preach.

Ask Jesus, who felt as if God had forsaken him on the cross.

Every believer sooner or later knows it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of this God. Which is why any believer worth his or her salt is deeply ambivalent about God. Yes, we yearn to be ruled by Unfailing Wisdom—and yet we resent having to submit to anyone or anything. We crave intimacy with Pure Benevolence—but we fear the loss of independence. We resent the one we long for, and we are afraid of the One we desire. In short, we love God and we hate God.

One reason we resent God and just as soon forget about him is that he refuses to come to us in the way we think we need him to come to us.

We can make no progress in the spiritual life until we acknowledge this. If we think we really do love God simply, and all we need is a gentle reminder to put him back on the throne of our lives, we’re kidding ourselves. We’re living a fantasy faith. That is simply not the sordid and splendid reality of the human heart.

One large reason we resent God and just as soon forget about him is that he refuses to come to us in the way we think we need him to come to us. We reason like this: God is magnificent and wondrous, who knows no limits; thus he will come to us in unmistakable splendor. Yet our prayers waft into the silent beyond. Worship feels like a mud puddle of words. We ask for healing and we end up paying medical bills. We long for love and file for divorce.

Where is the God of miracle and wonder when we need him? He does not seem very dependable. And rather than look to him and be disappointed time and again, we decide to forget the vertical and focus on the horizontal. We’re sensible enough not to abandon Christian faith because in spite of our confusion we still believe it the way to eternal life. Just don’t ask us to take seriously the presence of God.

Maybe the glorious God shows up other people’s lives. Maybe back in the Bible days. Maybe once in our life a long, long time ago. But not today, not here, not in the foreseeable future.

The God of miracle and wonder, of course, is in large part a figment of our imagination. It’s the way we want God to be. It’s not the way he is day to day, eternity to eternity.

Oh yes, there are miracles and wonders in the Bible. To be sure, some have experienced the power and the glory of God today. No question about it. But these are not nearly as obvious as we sometimes think. Remember that many saw and heard the resurrected Lord right before their very eyes and ears, and yet they still doubted (Matt. 28:17).

We are wiser to think of miracle and wonder as God’s defibrillator. We are sometimes so dead to God we need an electric shock to the heart to wake us up. But after that, things return to normal, and God returns to his normal mode of address. Man does not live by divine defibrillator alone, for a life of miracle and wonder would kill us. Instead, God comes to us as silently and subtly as the steady beating of our hearts.

If the first step in desiring God is to recognize how much we resent his presence, the second step is to accept how, in fact, he has chosen to be with us. We have to know what it is we desire. If we desire miracles, we will never find God. If we desire God, we must give up miracles and look for him in the mundane.

In the human and inadequate words of the preacher.

In the confusing language and idioms of the Bible.

In the bread and wine of Communion.

In the water of baptism.

In the gathering or two or three come together for prayer.

In the everyday experience of mystery, of not knowing, of wonder, of the perplexing—of which life is chock full.

If we look for God in any place but the mundane, we will not find him, because it is there that he comes and dwells among us, full of grace and truth.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/we-love-and-loathe-god.html

 

Hammering Cold Steel

by Allen Elston

A few days ago, when I was working on our fence, I needed a piece of “S” shaped metal. I found an old horseshoe and began to hammer it on an anvil. It wasn’t handy for me to heat it, so I started beating on it while holding it bare handed. I did pretty good for a few licks, but when I really hit it hard, it vibrated my hand so hard that I dropped everything, grabbed my hand and danced all around the yard moaning. I remembered what Dad told me as a boy, “If you hammer on cold steel the devil will get you!” I smiled through my pain as that old blacksmith adage came alive to me. I recalled childhood experiences watching Dad shape red hot iron into usable material. It doesn’t take much hammering cold steel to realize it is usually a venture in futility. And, what about the devil’s part? I suppose the penalty for trying to force the issue, where you hurt yourself or ruin the job, is in the devil’s jurisdiction.

You may be able to identify with me in this area of life where you get so involved and feel so strongly about getting the job done, that you get caught up in self effort and drive yourself to countless hours of hammering away but accomplishing little.

Many years of my ministry could be described this way. God’s assignment was beyond me, and the only response to failure that I knew was to work harder, try any different approach, be diligent, and do not give up. There is nothing wrong with this in itself. I can say I was faithful, committed, focused, but very ineffective. The Home Mission Board never pressured me to do ministry a certain way. They only said if I found a way that worked, to be sure and let them know. They too, were resigned to an ineffective ministry in my area.

Faithful, but ineffective! What a convicting thought…hammering cold steel, getting little accomplished, but busy. What about the devil’s jurisdiction in the story? Yes, the penalty of powerlessness does cause hurt and ruin. There is nothing that cuts deeper, and bleeds less, than the feeling in your soul that you are useless, unappreciated and wasted. The Lord does not say it. We do. Others do. “How much longer are you going to stay?” Or, “You could go to a bigger church.” Or, “You are wasting your life here.”

I could identify with the disciples that could not heal the paralytic, and even feel the sting of the Lord’s rebuke, “O unbelieving generation…how long shall I put up with you?” I have cried in desperation, “Lord, that’s not fair. I can defend my record by my faithfulness.” The Lord’s silence to my searching heart pained me as much as the awareness of my impotence convicted me. The Lord knew He could do little to help me until I admitted I was helpless. Sometimes it is easier to keep hammering cold steel than to admit that in our own strength we are powerless. The Peter principle—“Let me be first, Lord. You can count on me. I’ll never do that, Lord”—must run its course. When the Lord catches our searching eye, and in the early hours all alone we cry tears of confession and surrender, then comes the ageless, eternal truth from God, “I love you. I called you and my Spirit within you is adequate to do what I have sent you to do. Trust me with your life. You are accepted and acceptable in Christ Jesus.”

This testimony is a common experience and is shared to encourage those who may be hurting. The whole exchanged life of Christ’s life for our life depends on the statement, “Trust me with your life.” He will not change the message we are to share with the world. He will not remove the challenge of diligence, faithfulness, and commitment. However, He will change our ministry to hammering when the iron is hot.

 

[Retired pastor, Allen Elston, has graciously given me permission to reprint a collection of inspiring newsletter articles he authored from 1994-1996 (like this one). I thank him for his generosity.]

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https://jccast.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/hammering-cold-steel-by-allen-elston/

8 Steps in Psalm 51 for Real Repentance

Catherine Parks

8 Steps in Psalm 51 for Real Repentance

My brother and I had a childhood ritual of asking one another’s forgiveness for a laundry list of vague sins from our beds each night. I would lie there after the lights were out, look across the hall to his own open door, and let my voice carry my contrition to his sleepy hearing. Having been warned not to let the sun go down on our anger, we made sure to cover all possibilities of sins we may have committed during the day. “Aaron, I’m sorry for yelling at you, hitting you, being selfish with the Nintendo, and tattling on you today. Will you forgive me?” His answer, along with his confession of the typical older-sibling sins counter to my own (pestering, bossing, manipulating) came back to my room in return. Thus we slept in the peace of the slightly remorseful.

When I read Psalm 51 (written by David after his sin with Bathsheba), I realize how lacking my childhood confessions were. Actually, even many of my confessions in adulthood leave much to be desired.

Often we treat repentance as a statement—an “I’m sorry, please forgive me” that checks a box and (hopefully) alleviates our guilt. But if we look closely at Psalm 51 we see that repentance is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God—a process that doesn’t merely alleviate guilt but cultivates deep joy.

And that’s not the only pay-off. I wrote my book, Real: the surprising secret to deeper relationships, to show that repenting and receiving forgiveness from God leads to real relationships with others, because it leaves us with nothing left to hide.

So how do we grow in a joy-giving habit of repentance? Here’s how.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Ayo Ogunseinde

Rule 1. Define the sin.

Rule 1. Define the sin.

The first step to meaningful confession is understanding what sin is. David uses three different words for it in Psalm 51: “Iniquity,” “sin,” and “transgressions” (v 1-3). Each term has been deliberately chosen for its unique meaning in Hebrew. “Transgressions” implies a rebellion against God’s authority and law, “Iniquity” means a distortion of what should be and “Sin” is a missing of the mark. David is making it clear that his sin is deep—there is no minimizing or excusing it.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Evelyn Mostrom

Rule 2. Appeal to God’s mercy

Rule 2. Appeal to God’s mercy

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (v 1). Here, David appeals for forgiveness based on what he knows about God’s character: that God is merciful. David knows that God is committed to him in a relationship (or covenant) of “unfailing love”—and when we come before God in repentance, we do so on the basis of his covenant with us through Christ.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Rule 3. Avoid defensiveness and see God rightly

Rule 3. Avoid defensiveness and see God rightly

David’s sin hurt multiple people. He committed adultery, orchestrated a murder, and tried to cover it all up. And yet he says to God that “against you, you only, have I sinned” (v 4). How can that be?

Well, if we think of sin as failing to hit the mark, then we have to ask, “Whose mark are we missing?” The answer, of course, is that it’s God’s mark. So although our sin does hurt others, and repenting to those people is important, sin is ultimately against God, since it’s his ways that we have failed to live up to, and his image-bearers whom we hurt.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Wang Xi

Rule 4. Look to Jesus

Rule 4. Look to Jesus

David’s reference to hyssop in verse 7 is not accidental—”Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean”. He knows hyssop signifies purification (see Exodus 24) with blood, and he knows that blood alone can make him whiter than snow. What he doesn’t know is how this will be done fully.

But we do. Instead of relying on an animal sacrifice, we look to Jesus, who “has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9 v 26). His blood is enough to make us “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51 v 7).

Photo credit: Thinkstock/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Rule 5. Ask God to break you and heal you

Rule 5. Ask God to break you and heal you

David prays, “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (v 8). When God reveals our sin to us, it’s painful. David was already a sin-broken man; he just didn’t fully realize it until God sent the prophet Nathan to show him his sin and break him all the way. Like a doctor resetting a fractured bone, it is God who breaks, God who sets, and God who heals.

And this is all mercy: 19th-century British pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote that seeing our weakness, and experiencing God’s power to save, teaches us “a heart-music which only broken bones [can] learn …”

Photo credit: Thinkstock/mbolina

Rule 6. Be comforted by the Spirit

Rule 6. Be comforted by the Spirit

Next David prays, “Do not … take your Holy Spirit from me” (v 11). But the very fact that David is grieved over his sin is a sign that God’s Spirit is at work in him. This is true for you as well. Have you ever been so discouraged by your sin that you’ve wondered, “How can God love me? Surely I’m not really a Christian.” Take comfort in knowing that the very grief you’re experiencing is a sign that you have the Spirit of God working in you, causing you to hate what God hates.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Gabriel Lamza

Rule 7. Rejoice and proclaim truth

Rule 7. Rejoice and proclaim truth

In verses 12-15, David is asking God to make him so joyful about his salvation that he can’t help but teach other sinners the forgiving ways of God—”Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise”. This is important, because so often we do the opposite—we’re inclined to wallow in our sin and draw back from serving others, whether in church or in our communities, because we think we’re unworthy. But here David says the joy of forgiveness for sin should compel us to speak of that good news with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Guillame De Germain

Rule 8. Resolve to obey

Rule 8. Resolve to obey

We can check all the boxes, do all the steps above, and say all the right words, but if in the back of our minds we’re planning to sin in the same way again, then grace isn’t truly taking root. What God desires is the mark of true repentance—a heart that is “broken” by sin and truly “contrite”.

As Puritan pastor and writer Thomas Watson wrote, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet” (The Doctrine of Repentance, p 63). If we come to God with a heart like that, he “will not despise” it; he will accept it, and accept us, because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (v 17).

Photo credit: Thinkstock/Wenping Zheng

Time to respond

Time to respond

What sins are weighing on your heart? What guilt have you been trying to cover with distraction? Or are you submerging yourself under the weight of it as a form of penance, rather than taking your sin to the cross, where it’s already been paid for?

Take some time now to work through the steps above, and rejoice in the incomparable grace offered to you in Christ!

Catherine Parks shows us that the secret to growing the relationships we crave is in developing a biblical habit of repentance in her book Real: The Surprising Secret to Deeper Relationships. By being honest about our sin before God and receiving his forgiveness, we’re freed be honest about our sin with others. Buy the book today.

This article was originally at thegoodbook.com. Used with permission.

Photo credit: Thinkstock/Jacoblund

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/8-steps-in-psalm-51-for-real-repentance.html

VA Military Sexual Trauma program enables trust

Some participate via video telehealth

Two books laid out on a table for display

Five years ago, Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator Anne Eason began facilitating a 12-week Courage Group to women and male Veteran survivors of Military Sexual Trauma. The MST program has now offered the Courage Group program to over 250 men and women Veterans.

“Facilitating these groups is such a humbling and inspiring opportunity for a therapist,” Eason said. “It is a privilege to be in the room with them and witness the precious secret they expose the moment they walk in. These Veterans are absolutely determined to process this life-changing and debilitating trauma and they come to trust each other enough to do it as a shared experience.”

One new feature that has been added to the group is part of VHA’s modernization plan and the MISSION Act to improve access to care. Cincinnati VA’s Courage Group is using VA Video Connect, which allows Veterans to attend virtually through private encrypted video TeleHealth services from almost any mobile device or computer.

Several of the Veterans who participated in a recent Courage Group chose to access their healthcare using VA Video Connect, joining in from where they were located while others chose to attend in person at the Cincinnati VAMC.

Sincerity and understanding

“I observed the relief they felt, finally being able to say out loud after so many years what happened, and to be believed by other Veterans who had been through the same trauma,” one of the co-facilitators said. “As they give feedback to each other, you hear their sincerity and understanding. They are able to encourage each other like none of us could ever do.”

“It was liberating,” said one male Veteran who attended the group. “I had been confined, imprisoned all these years. Just stepping in the room on the first day, I wasn’t undercover anymore. To have this level of freedom was like being able to exhale. I stand no longer ashamed and no longer disconnected from the mental state of being a man.”

At the end of a recent group, Veterans received courage bags filled with items provided through donations to the Voluntary Service program. Veterans wrote thank you notes to Voluntary Service Chief Tracy Butts and Voluntary Service Specialist Lori Steinmann.



Donations and Gifts

Eason added that she, “couldn’t express enough gratitude, and more importantly, their gratitude for these gifts provided.”

One of the donations was a prayer shawl from the Florence United Methodist Church.

“When you touch the prayer blanket, you can feel the prayers in your hands,” an Air Force Veteran said. “You knew it was made with love. People will find comfort in the blankets and they know it’s blessed.  My plan for the blanket is to pray with it. I know they must have spent so much time making them with us in mind. It’s a great comfort. I never had one like that before. I love it!”

“When going through what is called MST, you feel so alone in life and you question humanity and your self-worth,” a male Marine Corps and Navy combat Veteran said. “When people and an organization such as Voluntary Services take the time and attention to console us with gifts, it means the world to all of us. Thank you for your support and I hope that it continues to fulfill its purpose with other survivors.”


Lisa Hollenbeck is a Public Affairs Specialist at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and is a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. She was stationed at Kaneohe Bay, HI, and served as a Trumpet player in the Marine Forces Pacific Band.

Original here

Did Jesus stay away intentionally?

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©Sophia Lorena Benjamin

It was a beautiful day. Everything seemed to be on track.

Jesus was taking his disciples to the other side of the lake.

They got onto a boat and began sailing, all set to cross over.

Everything was under control. Jesus was with them, in the boat, so no worries.

Suddenly everything changed. The weather got rough and the boat began to rock. They remembered that Jesus was with them and went looking for him. They found him sleeping. No wonder there was a storm.

Which means if Jesus was awake, would there be no storm? Obviously!

They woke him and cried for help. He resolved the issue, instantly.

However, the text seems to suggest that He wished they resolved it themselves and therefore his question ‘where is your faith?’

Every good teacher imparts his skills and knowledge through example. So also with Jesus. He was teaching the disciples through action.

Was the sleep He got into intentional?

Was it meant to teach the disciples Kingdom lessons?

I believe that Jesus the Master is still teaching us. Thank God that we are learning from the best teacher of them all.

Jesus commanded situations to respond the way He wanted and expects us to take authority and command situations to become how we want them to be, just the way He demonstrated.

Now I am wondering, why did I feel  the distance from Him when I had a problem?

Could it be that Jesus stayed away intentionally?

 

Bible text:

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Luke chapter 8 (NIV)

https://sophialorenabenjamin.wordpress.com/2019/08/02/did-jesus-stay-away-intentionally/