“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
James 1:2-3, ESV
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.
Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.
This reveals their brilliance and value. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.
God’s special nearness is available to each believer, especially those in the heat of the furnace. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father. Your faith must be purified, and this is never optional.
Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.
Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you. He delights to see your faith becoming solid and real.
We never choose to suffer, rather we choose His will. We must do so whether we suffer or not.
“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
Today I’m thinking about the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-26. The passage is tragic and disturbing. These verses detail an encounter with Jesus by a man who couldn’t give up his wealth. He could not become a disciple.
“When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
I would like to suggest something.
Perhaps riches aren’t the real point? Yes, I definitely believe that having wealth is inherently dangerous to wannabe disciples; it’s what this passage is all about. And it’s obvious that this man couldn’t give up his money to follow Jesus. But what if the issue for us isn’t about personal wealth; what if it’s envy, lust, selfishness or pride?
Sinful behavior of any kind effectively blocks the call and purpose of our lives.
No matter what it is. No matter what sin that stands in the way of true discipleship. Yes, it could be wealth. But it may be 1000 other sins (take your pick, there’s plenty). Hebrews 12 tells us that there is “the sin that so easily ensnares us.” Perhaps there is that one particular sin is one that traps us, over and over?
Jesus puts His hand on our lives, He calls us to love Him supremely. I like to think that loving Jesus is our energy source–He’s the nuclear core of our discipleship. His presence gives us the power to live and love. A sustained first love for Jesus propels us into the true reason of a disciple’s existence.
Perhaps it’s a daily surrender? Sin must be renounced every day. Jesus must always be the disciple’s first choice.
My most cherished sin would destroy me if it wasn’t for His grace and kindness.
Wealth, of course was this rich, young ruler’s sin. But don’t forget that there are many issues we could add. Lots of different sins that are getting in the way of being an actual follower. It’s a choice, and God’s power is always ready for you.
So who or what do we love most?
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
On a dirt road in the middle of a wide field stood a beautiful carriage, something on the order of a stagecoach but all edged in gold and with beautiful carvings. It was pulled by six large chestnut horses: two in the lead, two in the middle and two in the rear. But they were not moving, they were not pulling the carriage, and I wondered why. Then I saw the driver underneath the carriage on the ground on his back just behind the last two horses’ heels working on something between the front wheels on the carriage. I thought, “My, he is in a dangerous place; for if one of those horses kicked or stepped back, they could kill him, or if they decided to go forward, or got frightened somehow, they would pull the carriage right over him.”
But he didn’t seem afraid for he knew that those horses were disciplined and would not move till he told them to move. The horses were not stamping their feet nor acting restless, and though there were bells on their feet, the bells were not tinkling. There were pom-poms on their harness over their heads but the pom-poms were not moving. They were simply standing still and quiet waiting for the voice of the Master.
THERE WERE TWO YOUNG COLTS IN THE FIELD
As I watched the harnessed horses I noticed two young colts coming out of the open field and they approached the carriage and seemed to say to the horses: “Come and play with us, we have many fine games, we will race with you, come catch us.” And with that the colts kicked up their heels flicked their tails and raced across the open field. But when they looked back and saw the horses were not following they were puzzled. They knew nothing of the harnesses and could not understand why the horses did not want to play. So they called to them: “Why do you not race with us? Are you tired? Are you too weak? Do you not have strength to run? You are much too solemn, you need more joy in life.” But the horses answered not a word nor did they stamp their feet or toss their heads.
But they stood, quiet and still, waiting for the voice of the Master.
Again the colts called to them: “Why do you stand so in the hot sun? Come over here in the shade of this nice tree. See how green the grass is? You must be hungry, come and feed with us, it is so green and so good. You look thirsty, come drink of one of our many streams of cool clear water.” But the horses answered them not so much as a glance but stood still waiting for the command to go forward with the King.
COLTS IN THE MASTER’S CORRAL
And then the scene changed and I saw lariat nooses fall around the necks of the two colts and they were led off to the Master’s corral for training and discipline. How sad they were as the lovely green fields disappeared and they were put into the confinement of the corral with its brown dirt and high fence. The colts ran from fence to fence seeking freedom but found that they were confined to this place of training. And then the Trainer began to work on them with His whip and His bridle. What a death for those who had been all their lives accustomed to such a freedom!
They could not understand the reason for this torture, this terrible discipline. What crime had they done to deserve this? Little did they know of the responsibility that was to be theirs when they had submitted to the discipline, learned to perfectly obey the Master and finished their training. All they knew was that this processing was the most horrible thing they had ever known.
SUBMISSION AND REBELLION
One of the colts rebelled under the training and said, “This is not for me. I like my freedom, my green hills, my flowing streams of fresh water. I will not take any more of this confinement, this terrible training.” So he found a way out jumped the fence and ran happily back to the meadows of grass. I was astonished that the Master let him go and went not after him. But He devoted His attention to the remaining colt. This colt though he had the same opportunity to escape decided to submit his own will and learn the ways of the Master. The training got harder than ever but he was rapidly learning more and more how to obey the slightest wish of the Master and to respond to even the quietness of His voice. And I saw that had there been no training, no testing, there would have been neither submission nor rebellion from either of the colts. For in the field they did not have the choice to rebel or submit, they were sinless in their innocence. But when brought to the place of testing and training and discipline, then was made manifest the obedience of one and the rebellion of the other. And though it seemed safer not to come to the place of discipline because of the risk of being found rebellious, yet I saw that without this there could be no sharing of His glory, no Sonship.
INTO THE HARNESS
Finally this period of training was over. Was he now rewarded with his freedom and sent back to the fields? Oh no. But a greater confinement than ever now took place as a harness dropped about his shoulders. Now he found there was not even the freedom to run about the small corral for in the harness he could only move where and when his Master spoke. And unless the Master spoke he stood still.
The scene changed and I saw the other colt standing on the side of a hill nibbling at some grass. Then across the fields, down the road came the King’s carriage drawn by six horses. With amazement he saw that in the lead, on the right side, was his brother colt now made strong and mature on the good corn in the Master’s stable. He saw the lovely pom-poms shaking in the wind, noticed the glittering gold bordered harness about his brother, heard the beautiful tinkling of the bells on his feet — and envy came into his heart. Thus he complained to himself: “Why has my brother been so honored, and I am neglected? They have not put bells on MY feet nor pom-poms on MY head. The Master has not given ME the wonderful responsibility of pulling His carriage, has not put about ME the gold harness. Why have they chosen my brother instead of me?” And by the Spirit the answer came back to me as I watched: “Because one submitted to the will and discipline of the Master and one rebelled, thus has one been chosen and the other set aside.”
A FAMINE IN THE LAND
Then I saw a great drought sweep across the countryside and the green grass became dead, dry, brown and brittle. The little streams of water dried up, stopped flowing, and there was only a small muddy puddle here and there. I saw the little colt (I was amazed that it never seemed to grow or mature) as he ran here and there across the fields looking for fresh streams and green pastures finding none. Still he ran, seemingly in circles, always looking for something to feed his famished spirit. But there was a famine in the land and the rich green pastures and flowing streams of yesterday were not to be had. And one day the colt stood on the hillside on weak and wobbly legs wondering where to go next to find food and how to get strength to go. It seemed like there was no use, for good food and flowing streams were a thing of the past and all the efforts to find more only taxed his waning strength.
Suddenly he saw the King’s carriage coming down the road pulled by six great horses. And he saw his brother, fat and strong, muscles rippling, sleek and beautiful with much grooming. His heart was amazed and perplexed, and he cried out: “My brother where do you find the food to keep you strong and fat in these days of famine? I have run everywhere in my freedom, searching for food, and I find none. Where do you in your awful confinement find food in this time of drought? Tell me, please, for I must know!” And then the answer came back from a voice filled with victory and praise: “In my Master’s House there is a secret place in the confining limitations of His stables where He feeds me by His own hand and His granaries never run empty and His well never runs dry.” And with this the Lord made me to know that in the day when people are weak and famished in their spirits in the time of spiritual famine that those who have lost their own wills and have come into the secret place of the most High into the utter confinement of His perfect will shall have plenty of the corn of Heaven and a never ending flow of fresh streams of revelation by His Spirit. Thus the vision ended.
INTERPRETATION OF THE VISION
“Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” (Habakkuk 2:2). “Harness the horses; and get up, ye horseman,” (Jeremiah 46:4). I am sure that many of you who can hear what the Spirit saith to the Church have already seen what God was showing in the vision. But let me make it plain. Being born into the Family of God feeding in the green pastures and drinking of the many streams of the unfolding revelation of His purposes is fine and wonderful. But it is not enough. While we were children, young and undisciplined, limited only by the outer fence of the Law that ran around the limits of the pastures (that kept us from getting into the dark pastures of poison weeds) He was content to watch us develop and grow into young manhood, spiritually speaking.
But the time came to those who fed in His pastures and drank at His streams, when they were to be brought into discipline or “child-training” for the purpose of making them mature Sons. Many of the children today cannot understand why some of those who have put on the harness of God cannot get excited by the many religious games and the playful antics of the immature. They wonder why the disciplined ones run not after every new revelation or feed on every opportunity to engage in seemingly “good and profitable” religious activities. They wonder why some will not race with them in their frantic efforts to build great works and great and notable ministries. They cannot understand the simple fact that this Company of saints is waiting for the voice of the Master and they do not hear God in all this outward activity.
They will move in their time when the Master speaks. But not before, though many temptations come from the playful colts. And the colts cannot understand why those who seemingly appear to have great abilities and strength are not putting it to good use. “Get the carriage on the road,” they say, but the disciplined ones, those in God’s harness, know better than to move before they hear the voice of the Master. They will move in their time with purpose and great responsibility.
And the Lord made me to know that there were many whom He had brought into training who had rebelled against the discipline, the chastising of the Father. They could not be trusted with the great responsibility of mature Sonship so He let them go back to their freedom, back to their religious activities and revelations and gifts. They are still His people, still feeding in His pastures, but He has set them aside from the great purposes for this end of the age. So they revel in their freedom feeling that they were the Chosen Ones with the many streams of living water not knowing that they have been set aside as unfit for His great work in this end of the age.
He showed me that though the chastising seemeth grievous for the time and the discipline hard to endure yet the result with all the glory of Sonship is worth it all and the glory to follow far exceeds the suffering we endure. And though some lose even their lives in this training yet they will share alike in the glory of His eternal purposes. So faint not saints of God for it is the Lord that doth bring thee into confinement and not thine enemy. It is for thy good and for His glory so endure all things with praises and thanksgiving that He hath counted thee worthy to share His glory!
Fear thou not the whip in His hand for it is not to punish thee but to correct and train thee that thou mightest come into submission to His will and be found in His likeness in that hour. Rejoice thou in thy trials in all thy tribulations and glory thou in His cross and in the confining limitations of His harness for He hath chosen thee and He hath taken upon Himself the responsibility of keeping thee strong and well fed. So lean thou upon Him and trust not in thine own ability and thine own understanding. So shalt thou be fed and His hand shall be upon thee and His glory shall overshadow thee and shall flow through thee as it goes forth to cover the earth. Glory to God! Bless the Lord! He’s wonderful! Let Him be Lord of your life, friends, and complain not at that which He bringeth to pass in your life.
Bill Britton served as Vice President of Pinecrest Bible Training Center for the first three years of its existence and was a great blessing in helping to establish the work at Pinecrest.
I first connected with this message in 1984, by a man named, Bob Mumford. As a young Christian, the allegory “nailed” me. What did I want for my life? I had to make some decisions. I sincerely wanted to follow the Father through this process. And this hasn’t changed in almost 40 years.
For more of these and other messages: Bill Britton P.O. Box 707 Springfield, Missouri 65801-0707. This is a faith ministry, made possible by members of the Body of Christ. Not copyrighted, may be translated or reprinted without further permission. All messages are free as the Lord provides.
“The heart is deceitful above all things And it is extremely sick; Who can understand it fully, and know its secret motives?”
Jeremiah 17:9, Amplified
“The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.”
The Bible in its tremendous insight, never once makes humans out to be wonderful creatures. I think we would all volunteer to be that way. But we are not. Rather the opposite is quite true. We are manipulators, rascals, liars and sinners.
There is not a single iota of evidence that we can become exceptionally kind, loving and holy people in any sense of the word.
Somehow we generate a lot of self-deceit.
We trick our own hearts into believing that we are such noble people. We ignore evidence that would convict us otherwise. The prophet spoke to his generation in Jeremiah 17. He would speak directly to people who thought they were true and good. Jeremiah called this a lie, a serious miscalculation, especially when the opposite was true!
This is not the way “to win friends and influence people.” So many pastors, priests, elders, and leaders have a desire deep down to be acceptable and relevant. But God says, we are rascals, tricksters, phonies. Something inside is sick. There can be no human remedy. We simply cannot become religious enough to surmount our profound sin. Pride and selfishness opposes God and harms others.
As a boy living in Northern Wisconsin, on a farm somewhat, we found one of our dogs killing chickens. He was a nice dog, quite friendly and very gentle. But when he started in on the chickens my dad decided to intervene. One of the dead chickens was recovered. My father wired that dead chicken to our dogs neck, nice and tight. That dog wore that rotting chicken for several weeks. Finally the dog laid down, foaming and tongue lolling, eyes rolled back. He was profoundly sick. So Dad cut off the decaying remains.
The SPCA would have a fit. But that dog would never again chase a chicken, or even think of killing one. But even so, our sin is disgusting to God. We just seem to do evil without considering Him or others we effect. It’s all about us, as we think we can just skate through this “problem” without any issues. But Jeremiah tells us we are rotting inside.
We all carry around a dead chicken. I must tell you the truth, you’re terminally ill. You are quite sick, in the most essential part of you.
But Jesus died to free you. He’s the only One who can.
“Our life is full of brokenness – broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives.”
We are a broken lot of confused people, and we have never solved the mystery of our own iniquity. In those rare, fleeting times we step into clarity, we are ashamed and disturbed by what we see. Our awful sin needs a wonderful Savior. Jesus does what we could never do.
Jesus died to free us from death. He has come to cut us free from our spiritual evil.
He has died to destroy our sin. But there is much more. He gives us real life–eternal life. His life!
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
“Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.”
Jim Elliot was a Christian missionary martyred by the Auca Indians of Ecuador in 1956. He was just 29 years old. This quote was found in a journal he kept.
“He makes His ministers a flame of fire.” Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is transient, often short lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul – short life? … Make me thy fuel, Flame of God.”
Jim Elliot, “Shadow of the Almighty”
A wonderful and intense quote. Passionate. Maybe we should dismantle it and consider what he was trying to say. There are some great insights to be found here.
First, he writes of asking God to be saturated with the oil of the Spirit. Jim Elliot wants to be set on fire with his life, heart, and spirit becoming the fuel.
Second, he writes of “dread asbestos.” Almost 2000 degrees F is needed to melt it. Now regarded as a carcinogen but because it’s basically fireproof it was used often. For the person walking by faith it illustrates sin.
Third, he writes about the brevity and shortness of his life and his need to live in the bright light of eternity.
The ponderosa pine needs fire to propagate. Their seeds are fire-activated.
Fire activates the cone that holds the seeds. Looking we see a tight little bundle which is covered in resin. To germinate they must be burned. Fire melts the exterior and the pine cone and releases the seed; and actually they can lay dormant for several years waiting for the heat.
The believer needs heat to grow.
I don’t think there is any other way. The Word and the Spirit, combined with the heat of the circumstances we face, creates a blaze that is often seen by others. The furnace is God’s way to bring lasting change to His people.
“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”’
Walking with Jesus to Emmaus, Luke 24:32
“Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:10-12, ESV
This is the last final doctrinal passage of the book of Ephesians. In it Paul tells us we must be very conscious of an ongoing battle which swirls around every person.
Understand, the war is hardly an elective. We can’t drop this, thinking it’s optional or non-compulsory. We might think it’s just an emphasis for some of our brothers and sisters who are more charismatic than us.
We were born for battle. Every one of us. No exceptions.
We look around and see those whose ‘reality’ is different than others. We see politics, psychology, biology, religion, entertainment or science. Ephesians 6 tells us what we’re up against. Humans have a terrible knack for being manipulated by evil.
Believe me, it’s all pretty frightening and dangerous.
We must wear the armor that God assigns to us.
Ephesians 6 declares that we’re in a world where every individual is now a battleground. This passage clearly tells us that the only place of safety is to be “strong” in God and to find that the only place of any safety is pressing into His presence. To survive we must push everything else aside to be into His very being. Intimacy always gives power.
But remember, everything above is only found in first-love intimacy. You must come to him humbly and holy, and sit before Him and learn and love. And that is a major step in true holiness. Not legalism, it’s love.
Is it a playground or a battleground?
Which is it? The passage stresses that there is an organized force of evil darkness arrayed against us. This passage unveils the government of wickedness. I’ve learned that without the humble closeness that vitalizes prayer and Bible reading, we will be spiritually destroyed. We desperately need protection.
Our only hope of spiritual survival is appropriating Jesus’ strength.
We must “step” into it. We become strong through being close to Him. He shields us from the spiritual corruption that swirls all around us. As we draw to Him we become truly mighty, and as we listen closely to the Holy Spirit, we’ll walk in true discipleship with Jesus.
You need to do this. I believe when you do come close you will hear Him speak–especially when you push past the powers of evil. You are born for battle.
“He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.”
It’s good to know that Jesus sees our labor and effort. He truly understands all that concerns us, and He perceives every issue that matters most to us. Attentive and keenly aware He comes to our boat. It’s quite common for us to think that he isn’t aware, and we may feel that He’ll pass us by without a word. But that is not the case at all.
The Greek word for “against them” is ἐναντίος, and it means “opposed as an adversary, hostile, antagonistic.” I suppose that explains much to a believer who sees the wind doing awful things; that which is savage and difficult and contrary.
But Jesus watches over us, all the time. He is completely aware of you.
He knows all about our battle, the fight we have with our flesh, the difficulty we have with the challenging people in our lives. I often struggle to steer my boat. Jesus knows when and why I labor like I do. And He doesn’t condemn me.
The disciples were straining very hard to keep the boat afloat.
Every oar was being used and every man had his seat. They must work together. Some were frantically bailing, and a couple gripped the tiller. Considerable effort was being expended but to no avail. The wind pushed harder against them. This is perplexing. If you remember, they’re simply trying to obey the command of Jesus to cross the sea.
Why do things have to be so difficult?
I’m intrigued by believers who expect sunshine, blue sky, and red roses because they are doing God’s will. They don’t seem to think through the issues of conflict and challenge, weakness and weariness.
“It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
To do God’s will often means that there will be a headwind directly at us.
The seas will become impossible, and we may even be driven back. But special comfort comes when we realize we’re being watched. Jesus is doing constant surveillance on us, and He sees our toil on the oars. He comes to us, walking on the water.
Even in our storm, our hearts can rejoice.
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).”
Mary Magdalene would’ve been the last one I would have chosen to be the first witness. If it was me, I would have gone straight to Caiaphas, or gave Pilate a good scare–“I told you so.” He didn’t go to the Temple and to show off his resurrection power. He zapped no one.
It fascinates me, but Jesus didn’t show off his power. Instead Mary was chosen, the harlot, and the one who he cast out seven demons. Simple, humble Mary. The one whom he forgave. And he comes quietly, and gently to her.
Brutally killed, taken off the cross and carefully laid in a tomb–but Jesus comes to life!
The most powerful testimony of truth of the Gospel rests here in the resurrection. Our faith hinges on this. If there is no resurrection, Jesus’ bones still lay in a tomb, and we are still dead in our sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
There is so much in this passage; the implications are enormous.
“What the world calls virtue is a name and a dream without Christ. The foundation of all human excellence must be laid deep in the blood of the Redeemer’s cross and in the power of his resurrection.”
“Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 “But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 “And he said to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The pain was incredible, but I know that deep down I deserved to die. But not like this. Never like this. I was almost out of my mind with fear. What they were doing to me was terrifying.
You must understand that I was a common thief. I had stolen a loaf of bread when I was eight years old and that’s how it all got started for me. It more or else got bigger and easier. I knew how to steal and I was quite good at it. I was Jacob, the master thief!
When I was finally caught, they sentenced me to die. I supposed it was inevitable. I fault no one but myself as I knew what I was getting into. As I dragged my beam up to Golgotha, it was really strange but I suddenly remembered a verse from the scripture and it really did unsettle me.
It’s a terrible thing to die this way. There were three of us, nailed to the wood and lifted up between heaven and earth. Jesus was nailed to the middle cross, not that it really mattered; all three of us were going to die today.
Many hope for a simple and easy death, maybe in their sleep–but that’s not going to happen to us.
The third man could only mock, he was afraid, and I suppose he just echoed those Pharisees who didn’t really understand. But I knew better. I knew who this other man was, I had heard all the stories. Deep down I knew that this man on the center cross was the Messiah.
A crowd had gathered to watch us die. The Romans in their wonderful ingenuity had made a sign that they nailed above Jesus’ head, and it declared to everyone that Jesus was “the king of the Jews.” Even as he was dying, they found a way to malign him and irritate the crowd.
The other man being crucified continued to mock Jesus, and it infuriated me.
Why I defended him I don’t know for sure.
But I understood. Jesus was murdered out of the envy and jealousy of the Pharisees. He didn’t deserve to die like this, but He was hated, and who can confront these religious men without becoming a victim. Jesus had repeatedly crossed the line, so now they were now putting him to death. It seemed evil was really winning today.
I saw the soldiers throwing dice for Jesus’ clothes. He was now being mocked by them as well, even as he was dying on a brutal cross.
But all of a sudden it all made perfect sense, he really was the Messiah, and these bastards were killing him. Crucifixion was starting to work on me now. I began to choke on my words, and it was getting hard to breathe.
“Jesus… please remember me. When your kingdom comes, please let me be a part of it.”
And as beaten as he was, he managed to turn and look directly at me. They had whipped and brutalized him, and yet he was still aware. His words were whispered now, but I understood. “I promise that today you will be with me in paradise.”
I was starting to spasm again, but the horror of death had left me. Some time had passed, and I could hear his breathing stop. But for the first time, I had peace. They used a spear on Jesus, but he was already dead.
The soldiers now came to the two of us, and they were carrying an ax to break our legs. It all had to do with the coming festival, and the Pharisees wanted us dead. When they swung that ax I knew a pain that I could never describe. My own death came quickly after that.
I was suddenly standing in paradise, whole and complete, and loved.
Someone was standing before me. He was shining I remember, and I knew he was powerful; stronger, and he was more glorious than anyone I had ever met. It was crazy but somehow I knew that he was an angel and he had been sent to meet me. It’s funny, but I realized that somehow I really did belong. Me–a dirty rotten thief.
Jesus had promised me, he had pronounced me righteous, me of all people. I suddenly had a joy that I could never explain. I really was a part of the Kingdom that was beyond anything I had ever known. And all I can really say about this was that I was privileged to die with him. That is all I could claim. I simply believed him and asked if somehow I could be part of his eternal rule.
I simply asked and He gave me everything.
Cover Art: “Christ on the Cross between Two Thieves,” by Peter Paul Rubens
Prayer can often be just a nice religious duty, that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But such prayer does not suit a disciple who is tired of religion and is seeking authenticity. There are few models who can be our guides.
That is one of the reasons why we need elders in our fellowships; they have been through so much, they can anchor us to all that is real. As elders, they probably had lessons in prayer.
We often will theologically play on the periphery, and cleverly deceive others and ourselves. My own heart gets pretty creative as I display self-righteousness. (I should win an Academy Award as ‘best actor.’) But Jesus insists on us becoming real. You might say that really is the prayer that touches his heart.
When you talk with Jesus, do you truly talk to Him?
Do you have a real awareness that you are really talking with Him?
Is it the real you that fellowships with the ‘real’ God?
The following is an excerpt from A Diary of Private Prayer, by the Scottish theologian, John Baillie, 1886-1960:
Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.
For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
For the love with which You love mankind:
For the love with which You love me:
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:
For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:
For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:
I praise and worship You, O Lord.
Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;
Keeping me chaste in thought:
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.