Cross found on all donkeys' backs?
There is legend that the crosses on these donkeys appeared after Jesus rode one into Jerusalem (read Matthew 21:1-11). There is no evidence that this is true. The dark stripe in the form of a cross was a trait in these donkeys long before Jesus lived. However, the fact that Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem is very important. It fulfilled a prophecy that was spoken 500 years before Jesus lived, and showed He was the Messiah (read Matthew 21:5 and Zechariah 9:9).
Dear Prayer Partners
1} President Obama and his advisors
2} the men & women serving in our armed forces and their families
3} Bobby- a missionary in Haiti who was flown back to the states with a broken back
4} Holly- recently gave birth to a son
5} Hailey- has Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is unable to work due to it
6} Margo- recovering from a stroke
7} Dan- has Leukemia & an inoperable brain tumor, the tumors in his stomach and lung have been removed successfully
8} Christine- recently gave birth by an emergency C-section and her new son is in critical condition
9} Living Waters A/G looking for a youth pastor with a vision to reach the youth
10} Dennis- having problems breathing
11} The Holm Family- death of a loved one from cancer
12} The DeRien Family- death of a loved one
13} The Fraley family- death of a loved one
14} Eugene- is battling cancer
15} Schimmica- husband is having an affair
16} Kevin- has some serious dental problems and is recovering from emergency oral surgery
17} Faith- is hospitalized after a heart attack and partial amputation of right foot, has a serious infection in heart, lungs and kidneys and is back on dialysis
18} Chantella- is expecting her 1st baby in the spring
19} Julianne- having difficulty with her pregnancy
20} Marc- family problems
21} Tom- problems with weight control
22} Achan- has HIV, an infection in her lungs and gall bladder is shutting down
23} Rick- has bulging disc in his back
24} Noah- a toddler having complications from heart surgery, has a very high fever
25} Frank- fighting depression
26} Gloria- hospitalized after passing out at work
27} Chaplain Sam- recovering from eye surgery
28} Chaplain Jay- preparing for a missionary trip to Uganda next year
29} For all the unspoken and personal requests that people have
30} For us at Highway Mission Outreach that we will continue have the doors opened to share the gospel and the needed finances to carry out the ministry of the mission and as we plant The Cross-Roads Chapel
31} For Michael Frankland, Gill Ainsworth, Mark Ainsworth, Tracy Ainsworth, Tony Wood, Eileen Walsh, and Elaine - break down strongholds in their lives
Opening Our Hearts to God
Psa. 19:14 - May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable before You, O Jehovah, my rock and my Redeemer.
Acts 13:22-23 - And when He had deposed him, He raised up David for them as king, to whom also He testified and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to My heart, who will do all My will. (23) From this man's seed, God, according to promise, brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus.
~~~~~ Words of Ministry ~~~~~
Both of the above passages are related to David. Psalm 19:14
is a prayer of David, while Acts 13:22-23 is a description of
David. In David's prayer, there are the “words of my mouth”
and the “meditation of my heart,” or the thoughts of the
heart. He prayed that he would not only be kept in his words
outwardly, but also be acceptable to God in his thoughts
inwardly. The words of the mouth are an expression of the
thoughts of the heart. The heart is the root problem.
Whether or not one outwardly says the right words is not the basic problem. Whether or not one has an outward attitude in his speaking that is right is also not the basic problem. The
thoughts of the heart are the basic problem. The thoughts of
the heart constitute the root problem and cannot be overlooked. David did not merely pray, “God, may the words of my mouth be acceptable before You.” He added to the prayer, “May the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You.”
David's prayer was for the thoughts of his heart to be
acceptable before God. This is why Paul could later testify
that David was a man according to the Lord's heart. A person
who is according to God's heart allows God to touch his heart. If you will not allow God to touch your heart, it will be hard for you to be one who is according to His heart.
Many Christians ask, “Why is it wrong for me to do this? Why
is it wrong for me to say this? Why is it wrong for me to
express myself this way?” Brothers and sisters, whether or
not you are doing the right thing, saying the right thing, or
expressing yourself the right way is not the real problem.
Rather, is your heart right when you are doing such a thing,
saying such a word, or expressing yourself in such a way?
What is the condition of your heart? What is the condition of
the root? Even if you are right in every outward thing, it is
still possible for your heart to be wrong. God is touching the condition of your heart and asking about it. He allows many winds and waves to beat upon His children for this very reason.
He uses these things to touch your heart and to expose the condition of your heart.
By C.H. Spurgeon
"For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called" (Isaiah 54:5).
JESUS, the Redeemer, is altogether ours and ours for ever. All the offices of Christ are held on our behalf. He is king for us, priest for us, and prophet for us. Whenever we read a new title of the Redeemer, let us appropriate Him as ours under that name as much as under any other. The shepherd's staff, the father's rod, the captain's sword, the priest's mitre, the prince's sceptre, the prophet's mantle, all are ours.
Jesus hath no dignity which He will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which He will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house. His manhood also, which he took upon him for us, is ours in all its perfection. To us our gracious Lord communicates the spotless virtue of a stainless character; to us he gives the meritorious efficacy of a devoted life; on us he bestows the reward procured by obedient submission and incessant service. He makes the unsullied garment of his life our covering beauty; the glittering virtues of his character our ornaments and jewels; and the superhuman meekness of his death our boast and glory. He bequeaths us his manger, from which to learn how God came down to man; and his Cross to teach us how man may go up to God. All His thoughts, emotions, actions, utterances, miracles, and intercessions, were for us.
He trod the road of sorrow on our behalf, and hath made over to us as his heavenly legacy the full results of all the labours of his life. He is now as much ours as heretofore; and he blushes not to acknowledge himself "our Lord Jesus Christ," though he is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Christ everywhere and every way is our Christ, for ever and ever most richly to enjoy. O my soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit, call him this morning, "thy Redeemer."
Thank you for your support and continued prayers for these new believers and this ministry!
In His vineyard,
We Shall Worship the Lord!
By John Piper
Do you delight more and more in the majesty and glory of God? Does your heart incline to worship God more consistently and intelligently and earnestly and intensely today than it did five years ago?
Is your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ abounding more and more so that you use your gifts more and more effectively to strengthen their faith and stir them up to love and good works?
And do you feel a greater burden for the lost? Are your prayers for unbelieving relatives and friends more consistent and earnest? Are your efforts to give a reason for the hope that is in you more bold, less ashamed? Are you becoming a world Christian with a zeal for the final mission thrust of the church to reach the hidden peoples?
If you can answer yes, we are making progress as a church. If not, we are failing in those areas. But at least we have goal and a definite Biblical theology behind it.
But it is not new. Listen to the way another pastor and teacher describes the meaning of membership in the church:
Membership, therefore, involves a personal obligation to promote the objects of the body as expressed in the covenant.
These objects are three:
1. The social, united worship of God...
2. The perpetuation and diffusion of the gospel...
3. The sanctification of its own members...
The church, thus comprehensive in its scope, looks upward to God, outward upon the needs of a lost world, and inward to the processes of sanctification in the souls of its own members; the neglect of any one of these grand objects of its organization imperils its whole design.
This is our philosophy of ministry. The quote is from Hezekiah Harvey, who was born in England in 1821 (The Church, 1879, reprint 1982, pp.35-36.). There is nothing modern or trendy about the priorities of our church. They have been around for two thousand years. They are tried and true, and it shouldn't bother us at all that they are not new.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Would you believe that the "Inmate Mail Policy" censors based on religious content????
Check this out: www.JusticeFellowship.org
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:7).
Please keep the following individuals in your prayers:
1) "Please ask God to send an answer soon. Home in foreclosure, mortgage company considering a modification to lower payments but nothing definite since we are on disability and have low income. Was to get an "agreement letter" about new payments but instead received a statement for $9,000 today which is our past due payments. We desperately need this modification to be approved to save our home. Am getting very anxious but still praying and praising the Lord. Thank you for your prayers." -Ellayne;
2) Anna asks for our prayers: "My sons out of control and i need lots of prayers, PLEASE!!! He's using drugs and i cant get him to accept treatment. He threatened if i sign him up he'll flunk all his classes. He's a senior in high school and i want him to graduate in time, but i can't let him destroy his life with drugs. I pray to the Lord and the Virgin Mary to please help me guide my son with love. LOrd hear my prayers.";
3) "Please pray for my friend Tony, he has been a loner for 11 yrs due to not letting go of his hurt from his ex. He needs deliverance and for the chains to be removed from his heart, so that he can move forward in life, he needs to know Gods love. I am his girlfriend and he has completely shut me out and caused me great pain. He is running from me. I love him." -AN;
4) Jo asks for our prayers. He writes: "My daughter Jo is going through a divorce and learning to survive as a single mom. She has serious money issues and an autoimune system illness. She now found out that she may have cervical cancer. We help her as much as we can, but sometimes I think her money issues would be less if we would have helped less. We need prayers for guidance in how to best help her, but she needs prayers that she can get emotionally and physically healthy, and also overcome her money problems. She does work and is looking for another job, but given her health they may not work. Thank you for your prayers." -Jo;
5) Virginia asks to be remembered in our prayers. She writes, "RECENTLY DIVORCED HAVING A REAL HARD TIME, WE WORK TOGETHER SO I HAVE TO SEE HIM ALOT. ADULTERY WAS THE REASON FOR DIVORCE I WANT TO FORGIVE HIM AND MOVE ON BUT I CAN'T ALL I DO IS SLEEP WHEN NOT WORKING. CRY ALOT. NEED HELP.";
6) "Thank you for your prayers for me while speaking with my customers and players just now. Please pray for me all day as I am tired and the Christmas season is here now. Thank you for your prayer support and please also pray for our debit/credit card sales as we are committing ten percent to the prayer ministry as a tithe to the Lord for your wonderful prayer support." -Robert;
7) Danny and Donna asks for our prayers: "God the Father, Protect me and my Family from any harms and dangers. May your graces be with us in our daily lives. May the wishes of everyone's heart of my family be real. I ask you this in the name of Jesus our Lord and Saviour .. Amen.";
8) "My son and I had to relocate recently due to the current economic condition. We are currently both looking for jobs in Nevada. We both need prayer for favor and guidance. We both love the Lord and we believe that He supplies all of our need according to His riches in glory. Thank you for agreeing with us, and may God richely bless each of you." -James;
9) Sasha asks for our prayers. She writes, "Please pray for the love of my life. Although he and I are no longer together, please keep him safe and well protected. Please allow him and I to be strong and please allow us both to somehow find each other again one day. Thank you.";
10) Please keep Chris in your prayers. He recently lost his job. Ask the Lord to use this loss as an opportunity for blessing him if it be His Will.;
11) "Dear God, Dear Prayer Team, please pray for Mark, whom I love dearly. He is in need of guidance and wisdom. Please God, talk to him. Open his heart and mind. Fill his heart and mind with understanding and wisdom, ideas and humbleness. Bring him on his right path and allow for our love to grow and to deepen. I am asking in prayer for a fulfilled and committed relationship with Mark. A fulfilled and committed relationship that will lead to us to be in a fulfilled and committed lifelong marriage with each other. Lift Mark up and have your angels watch over my Beloved. Thank you! Amen." -G;
12) Scott asks to be remembered in our prayers. He writes: "Please pray for my husband's salvation. He left me and I have not seen him in more than 4 weeks. I would like to pray for his health, peace of mind, softening of our hearts, forgiveness, renewing of the mind and our reconciliation and restoration of our marriage.";
13) "I am going on 4 months without employment since I was laid off from my job back in early Feb. Thankfully the Lord has provided for me financially in the interim with severance pay and unemployment. Please pray for God's "door" or "window" to become apparent and to open in His timing." -Miranda;
14) Tony writes: "Please pray for Willa Medinger who is recovering from a massive stroke. Willa is the wife of Alan Medinger-former Exodus president and director of Regeneration. She is expected to be in ICU a few more days. Please pray for a full recovery.";
15) "Please be in prayer for my family. My husband, Mark learned yesterday that his company is closing, and he as well as the rest of the employees will no longer have employment after December 29th. Mark has a deep desire to be a witness during this time, to demonstrate his faith in God for provision and a plan. We are going to believe; after all, we are believers right?! We're going to trust that God has a plan and a purpose and in His perfect timing He will open another door, to an even better job." -Mileah;
16) "I have a genetic eye disorder that I have dealt with most all my life. Recently I lost vision in my right eye. I had a corneal transplant,but immediatly lost the vision again. I have had another corneal transplant that so far is not doing well. I am praying for my eye to heal and to regain my vision so that I can go back to work.(I am the sole wage earner for my family. My husband has retired and has heart disease, so is limited in what he can do.) Please pray for my vision. Thank you." -Marilyn;
17) Dynita asks to be remembered in our prayers: "I am in need of prayer of my family and that who ever that trieing to put hexes,-- etc. of the enemy that have attempted to penetrate me be put to the pitts of hell where they belong and bind up in the name of Jesus! i pray that my finances be release from the enemy hands and the strongholds be destroyed over me and my family and be cast aside and destroyed any demonic spirit be turned around in jesus name. thank you for your prayers. your friend in christ jesus of nazareth i pray.";
18) "My husband and I have a 3-year-old son who is absolutely a joy to us. We love him so very much, but there have been a lot of behavior issues that have put me in tears on more than one occassion. I feel exhausted and somewhat hopeless at times trying to be the mom he needs while teaching him what he needs. It is hard to take him places because of how he acts and it becomes somewhat isolating when I am at home with him all day. Please pray for guidance and clarity for my husband and I and for our son to learn to behave a little better! Thank you." -Amanda;
19) Chuck asks for our prayers. He writes, "Please pray for me and my wife. We are seperated but still very much in love. We continue to see each other and are very much involved in each other's lives, but we're confused and frightened when it comes to deciding whether or not we should take the next step and try living together again. Please pray that God will give us guidance and strength, and open our hearts and minds to let us see the right path to follow. Our names are Chuck and Wendy. Thank you for your kindness." -Chuck;
20) J asks for our prayers: "My 5 year old son has a lot of eating difficulties. He is very tiny for his age - 3 feet tall, 30 lbs. He has not gained any weight in several months. He has very few foods he eats and those have to be forced. He has a lot of aversion to food textures (he basically eats soft, smooth food like fruit and yogurt - no veggies, meat or bread). He has some behavioral issues as well. Meal time is very difficult for our family. It is a struggle and usually ends in frustration for everyone. It is dictating our entire lives. Please pray that he would would learn to chew better, that he would not be afraid to try new things, and that he would be cooperative, and that he would decide that eating is fun!! Also pray that he would grow, gain weight and be healthy.";
21) "I am in great need of prayer and i'm asking for your help. I have an addiction i can't seem to stop. its not good for my general health and its ruining a relationship thats important. the guilty and shame its causing is to much to bear. please please pray for me. i am also looking for a good church home with a recovery program. i will be attending one tonight for a bible study. i am a born again believer and am ashamed that i have strayed from the church into this habit. please pray the stronghold be broken.thankyou so very much!" -Lisa;
22) Charles asks to be remembered in our prayers. He writes: "Please pray for me and do all that your site is intended to do. For I believe that where two or more are gathered that He (JESUS/IESOUS/YEHOSHUA) is in the midst and will give them the supplications of their heart. It is in this fact of knowing that for with YAHWEH nothing shall be impossible that I ask in the blood of the Lamb that my marriage to Anita is restored, that my covenant with her and GOD is re-established and that our family is made whole, that my ministry takes off and that my book will exceed all sales quotas that in my wealth I will build up the kingdom of GOD and shall bless his people for Jesus states that we have him but for a short time but the poor we shall have always. I pray right now that GOD will make haste and not tarry and that this prayer will come to pass right now by the blood of the Lamb and in the name Jesus Christ do I believe that I have all that I have prayed for. Amen. Amen. Amen."; and lastly . . .
23) "I just got a 3 day eviction notice to leave my home. I have a wife and 2 young daughters with no savings left, no money, and no place to go. I need God to work with me and help me use my skills to find income streams and a place to live. Thanks for the prayers. I NEED THEM." -Jeff
**God bless you for caring enough to pray!!!**
"For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).
By Robert Peterson
She was six years old when I first met her on
the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach,
a distance of three or four miles, whenever the
world begins to close in on me. She was building
a sand castle or something and looked up, her
eyes as blue as the sea.
'Hello,' she said.
I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to
bother with a small child.
'I'm building,' she said.
'I see that. What is it?' I asked, not really caring.
'Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of sand.'
That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my
A sandpiper glided by.
'That's a joy,' the child said.
'It's a what?'
'It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to
bring us joy.'
The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye
joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned
to walk on. I was depressed, my life seemed
completely out of balance.
'What's your name?' She wouldn't give up.
'Robert,' I answered. 'I'm Robert Peterson.'
'Mine's Wendy...I'm six.'
She giggled. 'You're funny,' she said.
In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked
on. Her musical giggle followed me.
'Come again, Mr. P,' she called. 'We'll have another
The next few days consisted of a group of unruly
Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother.
The sun was shining one morning as I took my
hands out of the dishwater. I need a sandpiper, I
said to myself, gathering up my coat.
The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited
me. The breeze was chilly but I strode along,
trying to recapture the serenity I needed.
'Hello, Mr. P,' she said. 'Do you want to play?'
'What did you have in mind?' I asked, with a twinge
'I don't know. You say.'
'How about charades?' I asked sarcastically.
The tinkling laughter burst forth again. 'I don't
know what that is.'
'Then let's just walk.'
Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness
of her face. 'Where do you live?' I asked.
'Over there.' She pointed toward a row of summer
Strange, I thought, in winter.
'Where do you go to school?'
'I don't go to school. Mommy says we're on vacation.'
She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the
beach, but my mind was on other things. When I
left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day.
Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.
Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state
of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy.
I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like
demanding she keep her child at home.
'Look, if you don't mind,' I said crossly when Wendy
caught up with me, 'I'd rather be alone today.' She
seemed unusually pale and out of breath.
'Why?' she asked.
I turned to her and shouted, 'Because my mother
died!' and thought, My God, why was I saying this
to a little child?
'Oh,' she said quietly, 'then this is a bad day.'
'Yes,' I said, 'and yesterday and the day before
and -- oh, go away!'
'Did it hurt?' she inquired.
'Did what hurt?' I was exasperated with her, with
'When she died?'
'Of course it hurt!' I snapped, misunderstanding,
wrapped up in myself. I strode off.
A month or so after that, when I next went to the
beach, she wasn't there. Feeling guilty, ashamed,
and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up
to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the
door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-
colored hair opened the door.
'Hello,' I said, 'I'm Robert Peterson. I missed your
little girl today and wondered where she was.'
'Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy
spoke of you so much. I'm afraid I allowed her to
bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept
'Not at all--she's a delightful child.' I said, suddenly
realizing that I meant what I had just said.
'Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had
leukemia. Maybe she didn't tell you.'
Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch
'She loved this beach, so when she asked to come,
we couldn't say no. She seemed so much better here
and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the
last few weeks, she declined rapidly...' Her voice
faltered, 'She left something for you, if only I can find it.
Could you wait a moment while I look?'
I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say
to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared
envelope with 'MR. P' printed in bold childish letters.
Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues--a yellow
beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was
A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had
almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy's
mother in my arms. 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so
sorry,' I uttered over and over, and we wept together.
The precious little picture is framed now and hangs
in my study. Six words--one for each year of her life
-- that speak to me of harmony, courage, and
A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the
color of sand, who taught me the gift of love.
NOTE: This is a true story sent out by Robert
Peterson. It happened over 20 years ago and
the incident changed his life forever. It serves
as a reminder to all of us that we need to take
time to enjoy living and life and each other.
The price of hating other human beings is
loving oneself less.
Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of
everyday traumas can make us lose focus about
what is truly important or what is only a momentary
setback or crisis.
This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra
hug, and by all means, take a moment...even if it is
only ten seconds, to stop and smell the roses.
This comes from someone's heart, and is read by
many and now I share it with you...
May God Bless everyone who receives this! There
are NO coincidences!
Everything that happens to us happens for a
reason. Never brush aside anyone as insignificant.
Who knows what they can teach us?
I wish for you, a SANDPIPER!!
I know and love one.
The Holy Spirit Compels You To Unite !
By Richard A. Kent
Last week we spoke of the “new thing” God is stirring in the body of Christ. We spoke of unity and how separate teachings and titles (denominations) can cause division, and cause confusion to those seeking a truth that seems to be blurred in a cloud of human theories and flat out rebellion at times. Where the arguments of man have indeed been the most hindering and power robbing aspect to the Christian faith. How can a faith that holds to “one way to Heaven” teach multiple truths? The answer is- it can not
In my journey to fulfill the quest God has placed before me, I have heard so many comments from members of various churches. Most stating they know there this is an issue in the body of Christ, and that we as the body need to work towards a remedy, but they also seem to have an empathic attitude towards the idea that it can really happen. “It will have to be a mighty move of the Holy Spirit” they say. Not realizing that move has already begun as we speak. From my experience, I feel that is mostly a spirit of pride that to this day prevents the true unification of the Christian faith. It is Mankind’s persistence in maintaining its stance that they are right and others are wrong, that their specific denomination holds the only solid truth, and others are lost.
The best picture I can give to show as an example of our unification problem is that of puzzle. There are many pieces of this puzzle placed through-out the world. They are scattered in this maze of doctrines and theories, and found in hundreds of our local churches. The enemy of God with a simple strike has blown what once was a solid picture into a scattered puzzle with the people having no real knowledge of how to restore it. In order to bring the church back to it roots, we must begin putting the pieces back together. These pieces I speak of are the members of what the word of God says are the five fold ministry, found in Ephesians 4:11, It reads: "It was he who gave some to be (1) apostles, some to be (2) prophets, some to be (3) evangelists, and some to be (4) pastors and (5) teachers." Without these called men and women working together and in one accord, it is much like a team of horses pulling in opposite directions and ripping the body of Christ into separate pieces, and thus hindering the works of the true church from the inside.
Without a doubt no man or woman can claim in truth these words to be false. How or why then, would any not place this on the top of the prayers list on every Christian church in the world? Why is not the most talked about move in the Christian faith? How can we simply ignore something this huge and just go back to our normal churches and hope it just goes away. I am here to tell the church, “It’s not going to go away”. The true men and women of God will be united, and yes it will be a mighty move of the Holy Spirit, but it will also be a mighty move of choice. I Mean, that we as believers have to consciously make the choice to hear the voice of God and act on it-amen. I believe not to act on it would be sin. I ask each person that reads this short article to take this to prayer. Take it into our churches, speak with it to the local pastors, and let’s make a choice to do what’s right today.
World Hope International is a faith based relief and development organization alleviating suffering and injustice through education, enterprise and community health.
A father wanted to read a magazine but was being bothered by his little girl, Shelby. She wanted to know what the United States looked like. He tore a sheet out of his new magazine on which was printed the map of the country.
Tearing it into small pieces, he gave it to Shelby , and said, 'Go into the other room and see if you can put this together. This will show you our whole country today.'
After a few minutes, Shelby returned and handed him the map, correctly fitted and taped together. The father was surprised and asked how she had finished so quickly.
'Oh,' she said, 'on the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus. When I got Jesus back where He belonged, then our country just came together.'
By R.C. Sproul
"The sinfulness of sin" sounds like a vacuous redundancy that adds no information to the subject under discussion. However, the necessity of speaking of the sinfulness of sin has been thrust upon us by a culture and even a church that has diminished the significance of sin itself. Sin is communicated in our day in terms of making mistakes or of making poor choices. When I take an examination or a spelling test if I make a mistake, I miss a particular word. It is one thing to make a mistake. It is another to look at my neighbor's paper and copy his answers in order to make a good grade. In this case, my mistake has risen to the level of a moral transgression. Though sin may be involved in making mistakes as a result of slothfulness in preparation, nevertheless, the act of cheating takes the exercise to a more serious level. Calling sin "making poor choices" is true, but it is also a euphemism that can discount the severity of the action. The decision to sin is indeed a poor one, but once again, it is more than a mistake. It is an act of moral transgression.
In my book, The Truth of the Cross, I spend an entire chapter discussing this notion of the sinfulness of sin. I begin that chapter by using the anecdote of my utter incredulity when I received arecent edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Though I was happy to receive this free issue, I was puzzled as to why anyone would send it to me. As I leafed through the pages of quotations that included statements from Immanuel Kant, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and others, to my complete astonishment I came upon a quotation from me. That I was quoted in such a learned collection definitely surprised me. I was puzzled by what I could have said that merited inclusion in such an anthology, and the answer was found in a simple statement attributed to me: "Sin is cosmic treason." What I meant by that statement was that even the slightest sin that a creature commits against his Creator does violence to the Creator's holiness, His glory, and His righteousness. Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an act of rebellion against the sovereign God who reigns and rules over us and as such is an act of treason against the cosmic King.
Cosmic treason is one way to characterize the notion of sin, but when we look at the ways in which the Scriptures describe sin, we see three that stand out in importance. First, sin is a debt; second, it is an expression of enmity; third, it is depicted as a crime. In the first instance, we who are sinners are described by Scripture as debtors who cannot pay their debts. In this sense, we are talking not about financial indebtedness but a moral indebtedness. God has the sovereign right to impose obligations upon His creatures. When we fail to keep these obligations, we are debtors to our Lord. This debt represents a failure to keep a moral obligation.
The second way in which sin is described biblically is as an expression of enmity. In this regard, sin is not restricted merely to an external action that transgresses a divine law. Rather, it represents an internal motive, a motive that is driven by an inherent hostility toward the God of the universe. It is rarely discussed in the church or in the world that the biblical description of human fallenness includes an indictment that we are by nature enemies of God. In our enmity toward Him, we do not want to have Him even in our thinking, and this attitude is one of hostility toward the very fact that God commands us to obey His will. It is because of this concept of enmity that the New Testament so often describes our redemption in terms of reconciliation. One of the necessary conditions for reconciliation is that there must be some previous enmity between at least two parties. This enmity is what is presupposed by the redeeming work of our Mediator, Jesus Christ, who overcomes this dimension of enmity.
The third way in which the Bible speaks of sin is in terms of transgression of law. The Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the fourteenth question, "What is sin?" by the response, "Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God." Here we see sin described both in terms of passive and active disobedience. We speak of sins of commission and sins of omission. When we fail to do what God requires, we see this lack of conformity to His will. But not only are we guilty of failing to do what God requires, we also actively do what God prohibits. Thus, sin is a transgression against the law of God.
When people violate the laws of men in a serious way, we speak of their actions not merely as misdemeanors but, in the final analysis, as crimes. In the same regard, our actions of rebellion and transgression of the law of God are not seen by Him as mere misdemeanors; rather, they are felonious. They are criminal in their impact. If we take the reality of sin seriously in our lives, we see that we commit crimes against a holy God and against His kingdom. Our crimes are not virtues; they are vices, and any transgression of a holy God is vicious by definition. It is not until we understand who God is that we gain any real understanding of the seriousness of our sin. Because we live inthe midst of sinful people where the standards of human behavior are set by the patterns of the culture around us, we are not moved by the seriousness of our transgressions. We are indeed at ease in Zion. But when God's character is made clear to usand we are able to measure our actions not in relative terms with respect to other humans but in absolute terms with respect to God, His character, and His law, then we begin to be awakened to the egregious character of our rebellion.
Not until we take God seriously will we ever take sin seriously. But if we acknowledge the righteous character of God, then we, like the saints of old, will cover our mouths with our hands and repent in dust and ashes before Him.
When the Stakes Are Highest
By Jill Carattini
There is a place in my Bible that is prone to be frequently revisited. In fact, it is quite often the place I find in front of me when I open the book. And every time it happens, like a scent that uproots a potent memory, I recall the story behind the pages.
Some time ago, between classes in college, I was reading in a park when the skies shifted without warning and the pounding rain left a permanent bookmark on a chapter in John. The pages have long since dried, leaving the paper wavy and wrinkled, and easy to turn to upon opening. But something about the lasting impressions of the rain—no doubt, a fitting metaphor of life—has also impressed that day into my mind. The hardest rains always leave indelible imprints.
In The Problem with Pain, C.S. Lewis refers to pain as God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Convincingly, he presents a careful theodicy, considering the problem of suffering from an entirely theoretical perspective. He presents the things we know to be true of suffering, pain, and evil, what we know of the suffering and death of Christ, and the strength we are given when the peripheral questions of life are answered by a good God. Twenty years later, in the pages of A Grief Observed, Lewis describes watching his beloved wife lose her battle with cancer and wrestling with God through the pain. Here, he writes as a man who bitterly and intimately knows what he knows to be true of God and evil, suffering and Christ, even as his soul is breaking. Writes Lewis, "Your bid—for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity—will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high."(1) He continues, "Nothing less will shake a man—or at any rate a man like me—out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself."(2)
I believe the first time I really and fearfully looked the object of my faith in the eyes was while I was pounding my fists against the chest of God, half-demanding, half-pleading to know why my father was dying. Those indelible days gave new meaning to Paul's admonition, "Work out your salvation in fear and trembling." In our prayers we cry and in our hymns we sing, "Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To the cross where Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, To Thy precious, bleeding side." But when the stakes are at their highest, do we really mean it? Have we counted that cost?
Just before Paul admonishes the Philippian Church to work out their salvation in fear and trembling, he describes the cost of Christ, "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8). In his life, his body, his very attitude, Christ carried the cost of our sin; he carried our dire need for hope in life and in sorrow, and our inability to draw near to God ourselves. There was a point in my dad's pain from spreading cancer when he said to me, "I had no idea how Christ suffered." There is something about our pain that can lead us to the foot of the cross, to the utmost expression of love wrought with stripes and sorrow. As the hymn continues, "There are depths of love that I cannot know, Till I cross the narrow sea; There are heights of joy that I may not reach, Till I rest in peace with Thee."
It is fitting, then, that the pages marked by rain in my Bible tell the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. As Mary and Martha and Jesus wept, the rain seemed appropriate. But I remember clearly being struck with another thought: Surely, it was Lazarus who got the lesser end of the deal that day. To a crowd of people mourning death and loss, Jesus proclaimed radically, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25). While Jesus spoke to the mourning crowd about true life, Lazarus himself was closer to truly living. I wondered that day how Lazarus felt about coming back. He was one great step closer to the heights and depths of the joy we long for on earth, the kingdom Jesus had told him about; he had been drawn nearer to the almighty God. For Lazarus, humanity's deepest problem and loudest prayer had been answered. And then it began to rain, ever etching that thought into my Bible and my consciousness.
**(1) C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: HarperCollins, 1989), 49. (2) Ibid., 49-50.
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