When you are troubled…


I remember when Carole King released the song, “You’ve Got a Friend”. It was a secular pop song but I’ve often listened to it from the perspective of Jesus being my friend. Here is the first verse and chorus:

Verse 1
When you’re down and troubled
And you need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

When I’m troubled I often pray Bible verses back to God, especially Psalms 71:1, 2 Timothy 1:12, and Jeremiah 29:11. Praying God’s word is a good way of knowing that what you’re asking from God is within His will and, therefore, can be prayed “in the of Jesus” with confidence.

I’ve prayed this way for probably forty+ years. I’ve prayed this when I was on the mountaintop, I’ve prayed this when I was in the valley, when I was on the righteousness road and when I’d strayed into worldly ways. At all time and in every situation my Father has heard His word, which is Jesus the Son of God (“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” John1:14), and brought me through my trouble. God rarely saved me from my situation or condition but, rather, He took my hand and guided me through to the other side.

Anything good that you may find in my life or from my life is God. I am just clay, dirt as it were. There’s nothing to see of me but there’s much to see in me for God abides in me. Here are the verses I pray to God my Father:

Psalms 71:1
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame!

2 Timothy 1:12
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day..

Jeremiah 29:11
(NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Matthew 4:18, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said.

Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash
Come, follow me,” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus said to Peter and Andrew. Their response was “At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:20)
Would you do what Peter and Andrew did? Could you do that? What reasons might you come up with to decline the Messiah’s call? You might say, “I owe it to my dad to keep working for him.” Or, you might say, “I’ve got obligations I have to deal with before I can go.” Perhaps you would ask, “How much per hour will you pay me to do the work (remember, Peter was married)?” Or, maybe just, “I’ve got plans, pick someone else.” But Peter and Andrew at once left their nets and followed him. (there’s no indication they were in debt)
What would family members, your employer, co-workers, and even fellow church members think of you? You might also be called a sinner. Nevertheless, live as one who’s home is not this world. Listen for your Master’s call. When Jesus our Lord calls, and He will call, there are no pros and cons. We must drop all our plans and immediately say, “Yes Lord.” He is our highest authority. All else is chaff compared to the Lamb of God.
Are you listening? Are you ready? Are you bound by debt and moral commencements that would be a sin should Christ call you right now? If so, I urge you to build a life that blesses others and is obedient to your local church, but always is ready should your “Lord and God” (John 20:28) suddenly call you away to a new task.
Review Matthew 4:18:20 which says, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”At once they left their nets and followed him.” Are you ready? Do you already hear His footsteps coming for you? Life in this world is transient. A grave awaits us all. We need to live such that Jesus can call us and we can immediately run to Him.

This was new, but it’s not new now.

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash
First, I want to make certain that you know this if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord of your life then you are part of the Church.
I could write a book on Acts 4:19-31, but better people than I have already quite adequately addressed this passage of Scripture. However, I do trust the Holy Spirit has given me something to speak to in this powerful passage of the Word of God.
For today’s study, there is a single facet out of this multifaceted text, in which I want to focus, and that is this: Acts 4 gives us an account of the first conflict between the Church and civil authorities. This was new, but it’s not new now.
I’ll say more about how the Church should handle attacks by civil authorities, but first please read the following Scriptures. I’ve just included the salient passages for our specific study. If you have time, it would be better if you read the entire passage of Acts4:19-31.
Acts 4:
1: The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.
3: They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.
7 They [priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees] had Peter and John brought before them…
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: 
10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
12 “…Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
18 Then they [the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law] called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 
19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 
20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 
24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.    
28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen…”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
As it says in MacLaren’s Expositions: “This first collision with civil authority gives, as has been already noticed, the main lines on which the relations of the Church to hostile powers have proceeded…The limits of civil obedience are clearly drawn. It is a duty, because the powers that be are ordained of God, and obedience to them is obedience to Him. But if they, transcending their sphere, claim obedience which can only be rendered by disobedience to Him who has appointed them, then they are no longer His ministers, and the duty of allegiance falls away. But there must be a plain conflict of commands, and we must take care lest we substitute whims and fancies of our own for the injunctions of God.”
A note from the Geneva Study Bible regarding the matter raised in verse 28 says, “The wicked execute God’s counsel, even though they think nothing of it, but they are not therefore without fault.” and the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comments on verses 28, “God made the passions, which the enemies of Jesus indulged, to be the instruments for working out His will. So men when they suppose they are choosing their own way, have the ends thereof shapen by God rough-hew them how they will. Their misdeeds are made to execute the will of God, yet they are not on that account exempt from blame.”
So, what point am I attempting to make? It is common and often that the Church is placed at odds with civil demands. And, in fact, these civil demands that attack the Church often are what God decided beforehand should happen. Yet, with this said, the attackers are not excused from their actions and the action of the Church should be to thank God, pray and boldly, publicly declare that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name [that is Jesus Christ] under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
What happened in Acts 4 was new but these actions have continued on throughout the ages. And, these attacks on the Church are quite active in the present world in which we live. So, be strong. Do not fret or fear or become angry when civil authorities align against the Church. Rather, as in Acts 4, rejoice! Praise God, preach the gospel, snatch the lost from eternal destruction. Amen.

To believe brings us into God’s supernatural.

To give you a sense of how things have changed since Mom and I were teenagers, here’s a part of the lyrics to a hit song by Anne Murray. All the Top 10 radio stations played it, and other artists such as Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez, and Elvis Presley put out their versions of the song. You can hear the song here on YouTube (https://youtu.be/SY-2XHqKGuw) or just read the chorus and one of the verses.

Put Your Hand In The Hand (1970)

Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water;
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.
Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently,
By putting your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee.
Every Time I look into the holy book I wanna tremble
When I read about the part where the carpenter cleared the temple
For the buyers and the sellers were no different fellers than what I profess to be,
And it causes me shame to know I’m not the gal that I should be.

Things sure have changed since then. One of the most significant shifts in Western culture is the shift away from focusing on personal character (e.g., a handshake was as valid as a contract) and daily seeking Jesus, so let’s go back, way back. Let’s go back before Elvis, before the dominance of Western culture, all the way back to one of the earliest Christian handbooks, circa 60 AD, – the Didache (it is not to be considered equal to Scripture ). Here’s what it says in passages 8.2 and 8.3:

8.2 And do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in the gospel: Our Father in heaven, holy be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us enough bread day-by-day. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.

8:3 Pray this three times each day.


When these Christians prayed they stood with outstretched arms, palms turned upward, and their heads lifted towards heaven. I think these Didache-era Christians knew their physical posture was prophetic. As a Christian, I know that there’s more going on in this world than what I see. Christianity is supernatural (e.g., God Created) and requires the supernatural for us to be saved (e.g., By grace you are saved, through faith).

So, when I pray, as the early Christians prayed, I am confident that I’m reaching out to other Christians around the world. I know this because “The Lord’s Prayer” says “us.” I can’t speak the words of Jesus and be alone. As I pray I am holding your hands and hands of Christians in Peru and Christians in Russia and Christians in Ghana; all around the world together we speak the words Jesus spoke, honoring God the Father, in the presence of Jesus (Mt. 18:20), spiritually bonded by the Holy Spirit. It is a prayer from, with, and to the Triune God (i.e., Father, Son, Holy Spirit). It is miraculous and it is real.

Spiritually connecting with Christians around the world is meaningful. I’m alive with His very words, in me, through me, and with others, as we commune with the Father. We easily see this value within communal singing, prayers, and liturgy. What I’ve discovered is that while I’m praying, often God speaks the name of a person to me for which I need to pray. It’s His will so I have confidence that the prayer will be answered if I do it. It is a ministry in the Body of Christ.

Sometimes we pray in solitude, perhaps in a closet (Matthew 6:5-6). However, there are other times available to us when we can join the 2.3 billion Christians on earth and pray together.

Isaiah 51:12, “I, even I, am he who comforts you…’

My daughter has Irish twins, that is, she gave birth to two babies less than a year apart; her’s are eleven months apart. They are such a blessing to her family and to the grandparents.  Of course, many times the “twins” both need to be comforted at the same time but for different reasons; one has a skinned knee, and the other is sleepy. They have different needs, but they need the same comforter.

We that have put in our faith in Jesus also have different needs at the same time and at different times, but we all need the same comforter. In Isaiah 51:12 the LORD tells us, “I, even I, am he who comforts you….” Jesus gives us further guidance in John  14:26 (AMP), “...But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”

I don’t think it’s possible to read the Bible and not know that God loves us, provides for us, heals us, cares for us, and has prepared an eternal home for us. These are all accessible to us if we enter the kingdom of God through faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords.

If there were no problems, no hurts, no pains then there would be no need for comfort, but that’s not the world in which we live. The singer, songwriter, and pastor Andrae Crouch said it this way, “If I never had a problem, I wouldn’t know that God could solve them. I wouldn’t know what faith in God’s Word could do.”

We live in a harsh world, but be full of courage and stand firm for it is the one true God who comforts, defends, and provides for us when we let go of faith in worldly powers and by faith appropriate God’s promises in His word.

I do want to provide a few words of caution that we find in the Bible. The first one is found in Mark 11:24-25, where Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand to pray, if you hold anything against another, forgive it, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your trespasses as well.” and in James 4:3 where we find: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  So, if you want God’s comfort then behave like God’s child.

I want to challenge you to not only seek comfort but to also give comfort. I know I said what some of you feared the most. However, there’s no reason to worry if these opportunities come from the same God that comforts you. In fact, I have a place for you to start.

When you are at a fast food drive-thru window bless the person working there. You’ve got 10 to 15 second. Don’t start a conversation for there’s not enough time for that. Don’t attack them for poor service. If it’s true, tell them you like their uniform or thank them for their help. If this fast food stop is part of your routine, you’ll probably see them regularly. Let them know you recognize them, learn their name, and say their name when they are helping you. Let them know you appreciate them. Comfort goes both ways.

Please take time to read Isaiah 51:12-13 and John 14:25-27.
Isaiah 51:
12 “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mere mortals, human beings who are but grass,
13 that you forget the Lord your Maker, who stretches out the heavens and who lays the foundations of the earth, that you live in constant terror every day because of the wrath of the oppressor, who is bent on destruction?
John 14:(AMP), 
25 “I have told you these things while I am still with you.
26 But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.
27 Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]
Prayer: Father, I ask for peace. Save me from foolishness. I know this is a battle that I fight within me nearly every time I act on faith in Your Word. 
Dear God, my spirit has been made alive through Christ’s work on the cross. Therefore, I will seek out Your promises and hold fast to Your answered prayer. I will remind myself that You said, “I, even I, am he who comforts you…” 
Thank You for Your comfort and strengthen so that I have peace. In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, I pray. 

Only Jesus Can Save

I’ve got Andraé Crouch singing “Jesus Is The Answer” in my head.

Jesus is the answer, for the world today,
Above Him there’s no other,
Jesus is the way. 3x
Verse Two:
I know you’ve got mountains,
That you think you cannot climb,
I know your skies are dark,
You think the sun won’t shine,
But in case you don’t know,
That the word of God is true,
Everything he’s promised,
He will do it for you.

We find the scripture for Andrea’s song in the book of Acts.

Acts 3:6 1599 Geneva Bible (GNV) Then said Peter, Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, that give I thee: In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.

Acts 4:12 1599 Geneva Bible (GNV)  “…Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other {f} name {g}under heaven {h} given among men, whereby we must be saved.

(f) There is no other man, or no other power and authority at all; and this kind of speech was common among the Jews, and arose from this, that when we are in danger we call upon those at whose hands we look for help.

(g) Anywhere: and this shows us the largeness of Christ’s kingdom.

(h) Of God.


Today, I’ve chosen to use the 1599 Geneva Bible as the translation for our Scripture text. This translation has a fascinating history. The Geneva Bible was produced by John Calvin, John Knox, Myles Coverdale, John Foxe, and other English refugees in Geneva, Switzerland. They fled to Geneva to avoid the persecution of Roman Catholic Queen “Bloody” Mary in England. Mary would not tolerate the Protestant Geneva Bible.

Per Wikipedia, “The very first Bible printed in Scotland was a Geneva Bible, which was first issued in 1579. In fact, the involvement of Knox and Calvin in the creation of the Geneva Bible made it especially appealing in Scotland, where a law was passed in 1579 requiring every household of sufficient means to buy a copy.” And, it was the Bible of the Puritans and Pilgrims since the King James Bible was a translation from the Anglican Church, and therefore not a Protestant translation.

As an aside, the Geneva Bible was used and quoted by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, John Donne, and John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

So, please remember, only Jesus can save.

I don’t really care.

Many years ago, in a lifetime far, far, away… That’s how my Star Wars began.
I didn’t literally mean lifetimes, but the different life I had when I was young. A time when I spent many wonderful years playing bass and six-string guitar in gospel groups. That “lifetime” is extra beautiful since that is how I met my wife.
During that time I used to write gospel songs, and one that I wrote was “Caught in the in-betweens.” A line of the song goes like this:
Now there's a pain that's deep within,
and God's light just cannot be seen.
You're tossed and you're turned,
but you never quite learn,
    that you're caught in the in-betweens.

(c) 1978, Gary W. Moore

Another phrase from that song asks, “Do you go through the motions without emotions?” There are times in one’s life when it is easy to get in a rut or to be desensitized to the Holy Spirit or to insulate your self and run from circumstances or run from the call of God. We find a reference to this life in Isaiah 29:13, which says: The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught…”

This condition is deeper than apathy. Apathy is a natural coping mechanism. An approach that human nature uses to keep us caught between the healing of God and the will of self. The intent is to keep us “caught in the in-betweens.” We try to live without care. That’s not fulfilling and, let’s face it; it’s not how Jesus called us to live.

So how do we open our scars and allow God’s healing salve into the wounds that put us in this do-not-care condition? God’s tool of choice is praise. As Psalms 68:4-5 declares, “Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the Lord. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

God cares. He is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. Our God cares and He cares for us but we must open ourselves up to God for His healing to enter us, and praise from us to Him is the best way for us to allow the Holy Spirit of God in to pour oil on our injuries, just as the Good Samaritan did in Christ’s parable.

Open your mouth, thank God, sing to Him even if you don’t feel like it or don’t know what to say or sing. The point is to thank God, have faith in God, declare your love of God out loud, and that you are determined to find your joy and purpose in Him. As the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,..”






Do you feel dead? Jesus is life!

I was sitting on a bench in our backyard this morning when I noticed our hibiscus plant had withered and two bulbs that had started to grow were now dead. It was kind of sad and it got me thinking about my life.

dead flowers
Withered Hibiscus Plant

There have been times in my life when I was a withered Christian. I had no fragrance*, no “bulbs”, no color. For the life of me, I couldn’t find God; heaven was as brass*. I would fervently pray but no peace could I find. Nothing I do changes anything in my life. I am reminded of Psalms 63:1: (CEV) O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.


Nevertheless, I called out to Jesus. I asked my Lord to show me my faults so I could repent, to teach me how to obey His commands, and to transform me as Scripture says in Romans 12:2 (NIV) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Living Hibiscus Plant

Jesus did! It wasn’t in a day or a week or even a month, but He brought me out of my winter and into spring. Just like my hibiscus plant, I came alive, again, and what He did for me He will do for you for Jesus said:

John 10:10 (BSB) 9 I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.…


*2 Corinthians 2:16 (BSB) For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16To the one, we are an odor of death and demise; to the other, a fragrance that brings life. And who is qualified for such a task?

*Deuteronomy 28:23 (KJV) And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.



His vision is complete

Last time we talked about the day eternity changed. This time I want us to fully understand that when God poured out His wrath on Jesus they had the complete plan of salvation worked out with exact clarity.

# His vision is complete
black and white keys music note
Photo by Pixabay

It’s said that Mozart, the great music composer, never wrote down a single note on paper until he had his musical composition completed in his mind. When it was finished in his mind then, with fervor, he scored the musical composition, releasing all that was built up within him. I don’t know if that legend is true but my wife, for one, has that same proclivity, so Mozart had nothing on her.

My wife, Diana, is a creator of things. From bookshelves to stuffed animals, she can make them, and they are excellent. Curiously, she has said to me on more than one occasion, “I can’t start until I’ve worked the whole thing out in my mind.” Now I’m not saying she’s a Mozart, but there is a connection there.
This “see it all first” talent is a testimony to our God; it’s one of the countless human attributes from the image of God in which we were created. Scripture is full of examples of God’s way of “seeing all” and working within “His counsel” (**Ephesians 1:11**) to accomplish His will.
Here is a passage of Scripture that has meant a lot to me when meditating on the marvels of the “one true God” (John 17:3):
   Isaiah 48: (emphasis added)
    6 I foretold the former things long ago,
        my mouth announced them, and I made them known;
        then suddenlyI acted, and they came to pass
There is nothing in the universe that can stop the will of God. So, be encouraged when you read in Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,”says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
For a moment, think about Jesus as the Omega (i.e., “the last”). He will have the last work, the last decision, and the last word.Moreover, take heart, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6); Completion is “the last.”
You can’t see the whole you, your end from your beginning, but God does. God holds a “you” in His heart, and it is complete. There are no missing pieces. If we will only stop trusting ourselves and put our trust in Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, if you will cast all our cares on Jesus, if you will live wholeheartedly and uncompromisingly for Jesus, if you will go as the Holy Spirit guides us, if you will make disciples as Christ’s great commission has told us to do. (**Matt 28:18-20**),
If you let God do His will in you, for you are free to choose good or evil, but if you chose God you can be that whole person He holds in His heart – all the good parts and none of the bad. That is the desire and intent of God. Our Heavenly Father has a vision of you, and He has already stored up all you need to become “you.”  Just let go of whom you think you want to be and give your life to Jesus so you can be the person you are meant to be.
Prayer: I pray this, and I hope you also do.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for completing the way of salvation that God the Father gave you to do. Thank you for calling me, saving me, and adding me to Your kingdom. I know nothing can steal my eternity with you for you said in Jude 1:24, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.
I pray You will teach me to disdain the world and not let it steal my joy. Why do I allow this world to turn my head? Teach me, Jesus, to keep Your commands. Thank you, my Savior, my Mediator, my Lord.
In the will of my Savior, I ask, Father God, for Your vision, Your plans, Your strength, Your endurance, and Your provisions through Your Grace to have free reign in me to complete the unique calling You have placed on my life.
It matters not whether my family or people of this world understands. I humbly prostrate myself before You, Almighty God. I cry out Your Word. I seek the council of your anointed disciples, for You said in Proverbs 11:14, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” I rest in You for this work is Yours, and You share Your glory with no man.  (Isaiah 42:8) I rejoice that it’s not by my skill, talent, strength, cunning, or intelligence that Your call on my life depends. All of me rests on You, oh my God.
Thank You for seeing the end from the beginning. For assuring my place in You, provided, of course, I chose to live in You, for You have made all mankind free moral agents able to chose life or chose death.
Dear Father, I am so thankful, excited, and full of awe by what You’ve promised and what You’ve done and what You now are doing in and through me. It indeed is joy unspeakable. I reaffirm I pray this in the name of Jesus, the name above all names. Cause any part of this prayer that is not in alignment with You to be cast out, and I ask Your forgiveness for any selfish requests I have me.

Let’s start when eternity changed

I remember as if were yesterday when my mother grabbed my arm and dragged me out of a Sunday night church service. It was at Temple Baptist Church. I was six or seven years old. I had squirmed, made noises, refused to just lay down on the floor and sleep. I was in full rebellion mode and after about 30 minutes of this Mom had enough. If it were possible, steam would have been coming out of her ears.
Dragging me, Mom opened the side door in the sanctuary, pulled me through, and suddenly we were alone in the church’s hallway. The real punishment was about to begin but she “hid” it from the congregation. Oh, they could hear it but their eyes were shielded by the wall of the sanctuary. That was both merciful and even more painful, for this punishment was personal, from Mom to me. And, oh yes, I deserved it and so much more than she applied.
She was so angry she could hardly look at me. There was no “last nerve”; that was gone. Much in the past had been building up around my behavior and now I’d hit the tipping point. If not for her mercy, her wrath would have left me wounded in spirit as well as in body. No, neither of those occurred, although she spoke some unvarnished truths and I got my butt smacked, nothing worse occurred. Still, she got through to me and I never behaved that way in church again and I have never forgotten her anger and how I had hurt her by my actions.
Now, for a moment, let me take you back to when Father God poured His wrath out on His one and only Son, Jesus. It’s the day eternity changed for Jesus, the Son of God, never had and never would again Jesus be separated from God the Father. In all eternity this is a unique event.
Jesus is hanging, bleeding, suffering, on a cross. It is “The” cross. The wood is gone but we rarely pass through a single day without glimpsing, somewhere, sometime, a symbol of that cross. The cross of Jesus is where our salvation was bought.
The culmination of thousands of years of God’s wrath is now poured out, unrestrained, upon Jesus because He willingly took this unimaginable ordeal, pain, and punishment, as a substitution for the judgment and punishment you and I deserved.
We find a first-hand account of this the book of Matthew, chapter 27:45-46:
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[c] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
God the Father hid this punishment from people. He caused darkness to cover the land from noon until three. Just like my mom’s punishment, people could hear but the punishment was hidden. This was a very personal matter which no one should watch. It was the fulfillment of what the triune God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, had planned in eternity past. It was a punishment that Jesus suffered beyond anything we ever could understand.
The Reformation Study Bible’s commentary says, regarding Matthew 27:46:
why have you forsaken me. Jesus’ desolate cry is a fulfillment of Ps. 22:1 showing the depth of His distress as He suffers separation from His Father. Later the apostles realized that Jesus was enduring the dreadful wrath of God’s judgment on sin. This was all the more agonizing to One whose relationship with the Father was perfect in love. The cry is Aramaic, except the Hebrew “Eli.” Mark gives the Aramaic “Eloi.”
The punishment that Jesus took upon Himself did not change Him but it did make the way by which you and I might receive forgiveness for sin. The completion of our way to salvation was fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s death. Our hope for eternal life was made real through the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father awaiting His time to call His own to His marriage supper.
As for me, returning back to our pew after my behavioral adjustment was embarrassing because I knew I was too old to have behaved the way I had and to have received the punishment all in the congregation knew I’d received. No, I was not scarred forever, I needed no psychological therapy, and I still love my mother though she passed away a number of years ago. What she did was good for me. What God did was good for “…there is none good but one, that is, God…’ (Mt. 19:17)
© 2018, Gary Moore
Photo by Harley Upton on Unsplash
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