And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. (Matthew 15:30-31)
Jesus loves to heal!
We see this all throughout the Gospels, as again and again we read that when people brought their sick and hurting loved ones to Jesus, He healed them all. But Jesus’ first priority isn’t healing. It’s the glory of God.
Jesus loves people!
We see this in the compassion He showed for the hungry, the hurting and the lost. He provided food and fresh hope to many people. But Jesus’ first priority isn’t people. It’s the glory of God.
Jesus loves you!
Throughout the Scriptures we see that our God is seeking Savior, looking for and desiring that people everywhere be saved and redeemed. Even though He dealt often with large crowds, Jesus repeatedly showed His love for individuals by spending one-on-one time with them in their hour of need. But Jesus’ first priority isn’t you, and it isn’t me. His greatest desire isn’t you, and it isn’t me.
It’s the glory of God, and this is a wonderful thing! Why?
Because when we understand Jesus’ desire for the glory of the Father, it frees us from the weight of having to make sure we’re good enough to earn His healing compassion and love.
He’s not seeking to bless you for your sake, but for the glory of God, and that means the pressure’s off and you can simply receive the blessing.
As you wait for God’s perfect methods and timing for your healing, may you rest in hope as you remember that you’re off the hook of earning the right to be healed. Why? Because of this truth: Jesus heals for the glory of God.
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The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
It’s a strange line, to be sure, but there is a supernatural point to the Psalmist’s reference to Melchizedek.
Melchizedek was a special priest of God Most High (Genesis 14). He was outside the normal line of priestly succession. In fact, he was completely before it both in time and in importance.
The priests of Israel interceded for the people for a short time, but the Bible says Melchizedek served forever. The New Testament makes an even bolder statement in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 7).
Jesus is the true eternal priest.
That means that even now, He is interceding for you. In this very moment, He is standing in the gap for you. For all time, Jesus is working on behalf of all those who are in Christ, so if that’s you, then He is working on your behalf.
Commentaries and theologians can sort the ins and outs of where the historical Melchizedek ends and where the eternal High Priest, Jesus, begins. In the meantime, even if you don’t grasp all the details, let this simple truth delight you.
He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalm 96:13b)
Most people don’t think of God’s judgement as a happy thing. We get images in our minds of the great throne of God, of all the people of the earth being brought before Him for their lives to be weighed in the scales of justice.
This is an accurate picture.
The Bible says that one day all people will stand before God’s throne to be judged. He will measure our lives against His standard of complete justice. He will decide our fate based not on whether or not we were “a pretty good person,” but on whether or not we met His standard of perfect righteousness.
He does not give free passes; all debts must be paid in full.
He does not accept excuses; all sins must be atoned for completely, no matter what.
He does not grant exceptions for extenuating circumstances, all people will be judged fairly and justly, period.
Here’s why this is such good news.
If you’re in Christ, that means that when God looks at your life to judge you, He will see only Jesus’ life instead, and Jesus’ life is perfectly righteous! If you’re in Christ, God will judge you according to how Jesus obeyed, to how Jesus was faithful, to how righteous Jesus is.
This means that if you’re in Christ, there is no exception or technicality that can convict you – you are totally righteous in God’s eyes. No sin can come back to haunt you on judgement day – you are totally clean!
Because Jesus gives you His righteousness, in Christ, God’s judgement will bring you joy.
“And going a little farther, [Jesus] fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.'” -Mark 14:35-36
Jesus weeps in the garden at the thought of the torment that awaits Him.
It’s not just the thought of physical suffering that puts Him in anguish, but the knowledge that He will be cut off from the presence of the Father. This separation, unlike anything else in all eternity, is the deepest pain of all, and Jesus submits to it willingly.
We may speculate and theorize as to why the Father chose the cross as the way He would redeem humanity. We may question why He would not have prepared an easier way, a way that would not have caused His Son to go through such agony. Yet, one thing we can know for sure.
Jesus agreed with the plan, and followed it completely out of love.
The heart of Jesus was not to seek His own glory, but the glory of the Father. His goal was not to pursue His own pleasure, but the plan of the Father. His desire was not to accomplish His own will, but the will of the Father. This is love, that He did the will of the One who sent Him.
And though the will of the Father led Jesus through the sting of death, it brought Him out of it in a far more glorious resurrection!
So it is for us.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to pursue a life that looks more and more like His. That means that as we grow in Christ, our hearts grow more and more committed to knowing and doing the will of God. And, the more we grow in His will, the more His life grows in us.
May you join with Jesus in making this the sincere prayer of your heart. “Our Father in heaven…your will be done…”
Do you ever feel overwhelmed during the Christmas season?
Do you find yourself frustrated by the commercialism, by the long lines and busy schedules, by the financial burden and the family hassles? Here is your solution.
In Scripture, to “selah” means to stop and consider, to step back and ponder something of great importance. Naturally, then, we must have something of great importance to consider.
A couple of years ago I was part of a home-based Bible study community. One night around Christmas time, a friend of mine shared this piece, and it was such a beautiful way to draw our focus to Jesus that I wanted to share it here.
Read it slowly. Read it deliberately. Don’t rush through it, but take the time to ponder the significance of what is said.
If you would seek to not be overwhelmed AT Christmas, join me in being overwhelmed BY the Christ whose birth we celebrate. Indeed, as we ponder, He will be faithful to send His peace.
He always is.
The Mystery of the Incarnation: A Scriptural Tapestry of Jesus as Man and God by Gregory of Nazianzus
“He was baptized (Matt. 3:13) as man, but he destroyed sins (Matt. 9:6) as God; he himself was not in need of purifying rites, but [he was baptized/he came] that he might sanctify the waters.
He was tempted (Matt. 4:1) as man, but he conquered as God; not only this but he even encouraged [us] to be courageous, since he had conquered the world (John 16:33).
He was hungry, but he fed thousands (John 6:10); not only this but he is indeed life-giving and heavenly bread (John 6:51). He was thirsty (John 4:7; 19:28), but he shouted, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37); not only this but he also promised that those who believe would gush forth [with water] (John 7:38).
He was tired (John 4:6), but for those who are tired and heavy laden he is rest (Matt. 11:28). He was heavy with sleep (Matt. 8:24), but he is light upon the sea; not only this but he even rebukes winds; not only this but he even makes Peter light when he is sinking (Matt. 14:25, 29; Matt. 8:26).
He pays tax, but [he does so] from a fish (Matt. 17:24-27); not only this but he is even king of those demanding [the tax].
He hears himself called a Samaritan and demon-possessed (John 8:48), but he saves the one who went down from Jerusalem and fell among robbers (Luke 10:30); not only this but he is even recognized by demons (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34) and drives out demons (Matt. 8:16), and he sinks a legion of spirits (Luke 8:33) and sees the ruler of demons falling like lightning (Luke 10:18).
He is stoned, but he is not caught (John 8:59).
He prays (Matt. 14:23; 26:36; Heb. 5:7), but he hears [prayers] (Acts 7:59).
He weeps (John 11:35), but he causes tears to cease.
He asks where Lazarus [is laid] (John 11:34), for he was man, but he raises Lazarus (John 11:43), for he was God.
He is sold, and very cheaply, for [it was] for thirty silver coins (Matt. 26:15), but he buys back the world, and [it was] for a great price, for [it was] with his own blood (1 Pet 1:18-19).
He was led as a sheep to slaughter (Isa 53:7), but he shepherds Israel, and now, indeed, the whole inhabited world (John 10:11). [He is] silent like a lamb (Isa 53:7; Matt. 26:63), but he is the Word (John 1:1), being proclaimed by a voice of one shouting in the desert (John 1:23).
He has been weakened, wounded, but he heals every disease and every infirmity (Isa. 53:5). He is lifted up upon the tree (John 12:32), he is fixed [to it] (Acts 2:23), but he restores by the tree of life (John 6:51); not only this but he saves even a robber crucified with [him] (Luke 23:43); not only this but he darkens everything that is seen (Luke 23:44).
He is given cheap wine to drink (Luke 23:36), he is fed bile (Matt. 27:34). Who? The one who changed the water into wine (John 2:1-11), the destroyer of the bitter taste (Heb. 2:9), the [one who is] sweetness and all desire (Song 5:16).
He hands over his life, but he has authority to take it again (John 10:18); not only this but the curtain is torn apart (Matt. 27:51); for the things above are exhibited (Cf. Rev. 11:19; 15:5) not only this but rocks are split; not only this but dead are raised beforehand (Matt. 27:51-52). He dies, but he makes alive, and by death he destroys death.
He is buried, but he rises. He goes down into Hades (1 Peter 3:18-19), but he brings up souls; not only this but he goes up into heaven; not only this but he will come to judge the living and the dead . . . ”
(Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 29.20, translation by Rodney A. Whitacre)
“I will keep Your statutes; do not utterly forsake me!” -Psalm 119:8
I used to worry that God might leave me if I didn’t do what I was supposed to, but today there’s not a place in my heart that is afraid of that at all. I don’t have to ask Him not to forsake me; I know He won’t!
How can I be so sure?
Because when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) it was a cry that meant two things. It was a sign of my despair on His shoulders, and it was a promise of His triumph on my behalf. It meant that He was taking my place, bearing the abandonment that I should have experienced for my sin.
If you have trusted Christ for salvation, then you can be confident of this today: Since Jesus was forsaken for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), God will never forsake you for yours!
The Psalmist keeps God’s law in order to receive His favor, but as followers of Christ, you and I have received complete favor through Christ as a gift. That means that now, we get to keep God’s law not out of fearful duty, but grateful love, and no matter how well we “perform,” He will never forsake us.
All throughout history the people of God have struggled with hurt, with pain and uncertainty. It’s never easy to walk through the valley of the shadow, especially because we never DO know how long it will last.
And yet, it is in these times of suffering that God offers us a point of light, a beacon of hope to look to & know that He is still with us.
It is the cross of Christ.
It is the cross that reminds us that He has suffered deeply, painfully, and it was for us.
No trite words of “God loves you” can bring peace in the time of pain, but let the blood-stained wood of the rugged cross be your support. Let the nail-scarred hands of the crucified Savior hold you up. Let His wounded head nod in understanding at your suffering, and His tear-filled eyes overflow with yours, because He loves you.
I can’t promise you easy answers or quick fixes, but I can promise you this: He did not go through such agony then to abandon you now, and no matter how long the night may be for you and those you love, He will be with you until the morning comes, and beyond.
Repentance is not the same thing as beating yourself up.
When you hear the word “repentance” or “repent”, what comes to mind? How does it make you feel?
Sometimes in church world, that word gets used to describe feeling so bad about doing wrong that you try really hard to do right instead. The Bible does indeed talk about that approach…and does not approve. (See Galatians 3:1-3.)
Sin should indeed cause us to grieve, but not stay there. It should cause us to want to change, but not by “trying really hard.”
Repentance is not drumming up your strength to “do the right thing.” It’s discovering the emptiness of sin and the delight of Christ Himself. THAT is what produces lasting change, and with it, lasting peace and joy.
– Pastor Phillip
p.s. If you like the graphic, share it with a friend or two! (That’s what Facebook and Pinterest are for, right? 😉
How could God plan to sacrifice His Son? How is that a loving, good, and right thing to do to a son whom you love?
[NOTE: This is part four of a four-part series of posts based on a question brought to me by a friend. If you haven’t yet, check out Part 1 , Part 2, and Part 3. I hope it’s helpful to you. -Phillip]
“I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” -John 10:17b
In any discussion of the cross, we must never forget the resurrection. Jesus says that He is sacrificing Himself, but that embedded in the core of the plan to die is also the joyful expectation of resurrection! To forget this is to miss the heart of the story. God doesn’t sacrifice His Son so that the Son will be dead, but so that the Son may be resurrected and in the process bring many more to new life with Him.
Jesus doesn’t have some maudlin death wish or misguided martyr complex. He is fully aware and fully in control of His destiny, and He knows that on the other side of the cross is an empty tomb and a glory that surpasses even the glory he had before.
We are such finite creatures, locked into a world where death seems so final and suffering so unwelcome. But in the mystery of eternity, God Himself prepared His grand drama of love and salvation, and of His own free will chose to play all the parts Himself.
That’s His prerogative.
That’s His plan.
That’s His love, painted in deeper colors than we can fully grasp, but painted boldly for all to see.
How could God plan to sacrifice His Son? How is that a loving, good, and right thing to do to a son whom you love?
[NOTE: This is part three of a four-part series of posts based on a question brought to me by a friend. If you haven’t yet, check out Part 1 and Part 2. I hope it’s helpful to you. -Phillip]
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” -Hebrews 4:15
Anyone who has been through suffering can tell you that the comfort and love and encouragement that meant the most to them was that which came from someone who had been through similar suffering, too. Nothing connects two hearts more deeply than suffering, and the greater the pain, the greater the bond.
Hebrews 4:15 speaks of Jesus as the “High Priest” of a new covenant between God and humanity, one who can “sympathize” with us.
A few verses later, the writer continues, “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Hebrews 5:7-9)
If Jesus truly loves “His sheep” like He says He does in John 10, then it makes sense that He would want to be able to empathize with them. We don’t often choose pain only for the purpose of empathy, but if we do find ourselves in that place, we can appreciate that after we ourselves have suffered we can better show love to those who have felt the same way.
Jesus doesn’t want to be a far-off deity who looks on with cold indifference at the human condition. He wants to enter in to it Himself because of His love and care for us. Note how the writer of Hebrews highlights the fact that Jesus prayed to the Father in the midst of His suffering, and he was heard. Not ignored, not abandoned for the long-term, but heard. What, then, was Jesus praying about? Surely not for escape or deliverance from the trial, because He Himself said in Matthew 26:53 that He could have stopped the whole thing at any time (“ten thousand legions of angels” is a hefty backup force.)
Jesus did indeed pray that if there was any other way to accomplish redemption for humanity, it would have been His preference. However, His desire is not to escape pain but to complete the mission of love for which He volunteered and was therefore sent by the Father. Luke’s Gospel records that “there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.” (Luke 22:43) Jesus’ prayer was answered with strength from heaven, enabling Him to go forward with the plan.
What’s more, Hebrews tells how He “learned obedience through what He suffered, being made perfect.” It is not that Jesus was lacking perfection, but that through the cross He was given the opportunity to manifest it fully through His voluntary obedience. It is not obedience if one is forced into something. That is slavery. What Jesus experienced was both being chosen and sent by the Father, AND volunteering and initiating a mission of redemption for the fallen humanity that the Father, Son and Spirit all deeply love.
But that’s not all.
To be continued… (Missed the previous posts? Part 1 | Part 2)
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