Category Archives: AUTHENTIC

authenticEvery now and then I run across a blog post that is so authentic in it’s portrayal of Jesus Christ, and what it means to be a “Christian” and a real follower of Jesus, I have to share it with the world.

They are rare but when I find them—right here is where I tuck them.

The Ultimate Final Exam, Dr. Howard Hendricks

The Life of Howard G. “Prof” Hendricks

Our beloved Dr. Howard G. Hendricks went to be with the Lord early Wednesday morning. Dr. Hendricks’s memorial service from Saturday, March 2 is now available to watch online.

A Lasting Legacy

“You’re looking at a completely fulfilled human being. If I died today having produced some of the people God has given me the privilege of shaping, it will have been worth showing up on the planet.”

—Prof Hendricks to the Dallas Morning News, 2003

Dr. Howard G. Hendricks, known simply as “Prof,” directly or indirectly touched millions of lives in the evangelical community and beyond. For more than sixty years Prof served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), where he taught more than ten thousand students. He also ministered in person in more than eighty countries. Through speaking engagements, radio, tapes, films, the sixteen books he authored and coauthored, countless journal and popular-market articles, his service on numerous boards, and his work as a chaplain to the Dallas Cowboys (1976–1984), his reach was and is worldwide. His legacy, in partnership with Jeanne, his wife of more than sixty-six years, includes four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Holding large audiences enthralled at venues such as Billy Graham’s conference center or Promise Keepers’ stadium rallies, Prof would confide, “It’s wonderful to be here with you, but I have a group of delicious students waiting for me back at the seminary.”

“I don’t believe a word of it”

Howard Hendricks was raised in a broken home. He recalled, “My parents separated when I came along. I split the family.” His father’s mother reared him, and he described himself as a “troublemaker” during his elementary school years, “probably just ‘acting out’ a lot of insecurities.”

“Most likely to end up in prison” was the assessment of his fifth-grade teacher in Philadelphia. Once she even tied him to his seat with a rope and taped his mouth shut. Yet everything changed for that boy when he met his sixth-grade teacher. He introduced himself to Miss Noe, and she told him, “I’ve heard a lot about you. But I don’t believe a word of it.”

Those words would change his life. She made him realize for the first time that someone cared. “People are always looking for someone to say, ‘Hey, I believe in you,’” he said. And in his more than sixty years as a professor, he believed in his students.

Carpe DiemHundreds of Christian organizations were created as a result of Prof’s ministry to his protégés. In the words of one DTS graduate, “He impacted more lives personally than anyone I’ve ever known.” Prof once said, “I think the reason God has used me is that, by His grace, the Holy Spirit has developed in me an incurable confidence in His ability to transform people.” Prof went beyond communicating what students should do to convincing them that they could. According to a 2003 Dallas Morning News article about him, the combined ministries of just eight of his former students, a veritable Who’s Who of Evangelical Christians, reach close to thirty thousand people in the pews every week. Add radio programs and books to the number, and the audience expands to millions.

“If you don’t have a wife, get one!”

What greater tribute to Jeanne Hendricks than her husband’s adamant entreaty, “If you don’t have a wife, get one!” The two met in Philadelphia after Prof became a Christian, and they attended Wheaton College near Chicago as undergraduates. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1946, Hendricks and his wife moved to Texas, where he enrolled in classes at DTS. After earning a Master of Theology degree in 1950, he planted a church in Fort Worth.

Though he was a pastor at Calvary Presbyterian, the words in 2 Timothy 2:22 Timothy 2:2
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2 The things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

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stuck in his mind: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also.” So when Dr. John Walvoord, at that time the theology department chairman, asked Hendricks to join the seminary faculty part-time, he agreed. His reasoning: instead of pastoring only one church, he could train ten students to pastor ten churches.

A year after Hendricks joined the faculty, president Lewis Sperry Chafer died suddenly, and the newly appointed president Walvoord implored Hendricks to fill the full-time teaching vacancy. Prof accepted—on one condition: a Christian education course had to be included in his teaching load. He was twenty-eight years old with a passion for teaching and mentoring students. And in the years that followed, that passion never changed.

“You never graduate from the school of discipleship.”

Even more than his wonderful teaching, the time Prof took to mentor students is what most emphasize when they talk about his influence on their lives.

authenticityIn the days before air-conditioning, a certain campus bench between Stearns Hall and Mosher Library was known as “Prof’s bench.” He kept “office hours” there; students could stop by. Their questions drew on Prof’s wisdom. What students remember more than his answers was his availability.

Eventually bench time gave way to early-morning discipleship time. Tuesdays and Thursdays at six a.m. brought two groups of twelve men and women each semester. And whether one-on-one or in a classroom, Prof taught. He was known to stand on a chair while teaching if that’s what it took to captivate a bored-looking student. Before those in his classes, he served as “stand-up comic, cheerleader, personal trainer, encourager, and super teacher,” observed a student who cringed at the recollection of her professor’s favorite gesture, wiping his sleeve across his nose. Hendricks often mimicked the nearsighted cartoon character Mr. Magoo, by scrunching his face, squinting his eyes, and sniffing. Students too young to remember Magoo considered the gestures “pure Hendricks.” But Prof’s creativity had a purpose—that students might center their lives in Jesus Christ and live according to His Word. Prof was known to say that if he had his way, every student would memorize one thousand Bible verses before graduating.

In 1986, at the request of then seminary president Dr. Donald Campbell, Prof founded the Center for Christian Leadership. Its first program, Spiritual Formation, continues to build Christian identity, community, integrity, and diversity in DTS students through weekly small-group meetings. The program presents a model of discipleship intended for replication.

DTS chancellor Dr. Charles Swindoll, a 1963 graduate, whose Insight for Living radio program reaches across the world, recalls that Prof “is the one man who has had the greatest impact on my entire life. And there is no doubt in my mind that since the late 1950s to the present day, no other teacher at DTS has been more influential to more of our graduates, or more magnetic to more potential students than Dr. Hendricks.”

“Few have marked as many lives or have multiplied ministry passions like our beloved Prof,” said DTS president Dr. Mark L. Bailey. “Prof was a friend and a colleague who has marked us deeply for the cause of Christ.”

When Don Regier as a student told Prof, “I can’t preach. I don’t know what I am going to do,” Prof Hendricks convinced him that he had creative gifts. Regier has now invested those gifts for more than four decades of service as a professor at DTS.

Retired professor Dr. Eddie Lane remembers when he and now Dr. Tony Evans were the first African-American students on campus. “Dr. Hendricks made it clear that he was glad to have us in his classroom. As a student, I majored in Howard Hendricks.” DTS’s first women students echo the same sentiments.

Dr. Howard Hendricks“How big is your God? The size of your God determines the size of everything.”

The sixty years spent mentoring students held their share of pain. Seventeen years ago, Prof reported to the doctor’s office for removal of a small skin cancer. Eight hours later, more cancer cells remained. Eventually invasive surgery into his skull endangered Prof’s ears, eyes, and brain. Holding Jeanne’s hand, he said, “Either God is sovereign or He is not. And, if He’s not, we’re in deep trouble. But I’m coming down on the side that He is.” The mail brought a stack of cards six feet high from people around the world whose lives he had touched.

After the operation, the doctor reported, “It’s obvious that God is at work in your life. This cancer went as far as it could go toward your ear without affecting your hearing, as far as it could go toward your eye without affecting your eyesight, and as far as it could go toward your brain without affecting your mind.”

“If God had said to me, ‘I’ll give you another course [in trusting],’” Prof quipped, “I would have said, ‘Let’s make it an elective.’”

“Spend the rest of your life doing what God prepared you to do.”

During his years of service Prof received numerous honors including an honorary doctorate from Wheaton and the 2003 Tom Landry Excellence of Character Award from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In 2010 Prof added to his long list of honors the National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) Board of Directors Award, given to a Christian who “demonstrates integrity, displays creativity, and makes a significant impact on society.” While he appreciated such accolades, for Prof the greatest reward came in mentoring. At that time, he repeated what he had told the Dallas Morning News ten years earlier: “For me, [mentoring is] very important because I think it’s really my fulfillment,” he said. “I tell people, ‘You’re looking at a completely fulfilled human being.’ If I died today having produced some of the people God has given me the privilege of shaping, it will have been worth showing up on the planet.”

Dr. Howard HendricksDrawing on wisdom gained through experience, Prof wrote a journal series on aging for Bibliotheca Sacra. In it he argued that there is no such thing as retirement from service in the body of Christ. Consequently, he continued teaching for as long as he was able. But he did believe in making room for the next generation. So in the spring of 2011, in his sixtieth year at DTS, he retired from faculty responsibilities and formal classroom ministry. At the time of his retirement he was distinguished professor emeritus of Christian Education and Leadership.

About that time Prof described aging as a “quiet, ill-defined blur that steals up on one with little advance warning.” He said, “My body refuses to cooperate with my mind, as if it were a stranger. Mysterious little aches and odd moments of forgetfulness pop up. Birthdays become irrelevant. The surprise is that I no longer seem to be quite the ‘me’ I have always known.”

Even after he no longer had teaching responsibilities, Prof could be found on the Stearns bench. And though his presence was not required, he would make it a priority to attend the annual faculty retreat, to be present and available as long as he was able.

In one of Prof’s last chapel messages, titled The Ultimate Final Exam, he drew on the text of 2 Timothy 2:152 Timothy 2:15
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15 Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth.

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to emphasize three passions every believer should have: The Lord well pleased, the work well done, and the Word well used.

He alluded to a constant argument over whether Michelangelo was greater or the teacher who trained him. At one point the teacher perceived that his student was resting on his talents rather than dedicating himself to excellence. So he batted Michelangelo’s sculpture, breaking it into a thousand pieces. The teacher insisted, “Talent is cheap. But dedication is costly.” Prof’s conclusion: “If you and I are going to serve and be approved, our service is going to cost us. If you want success and significance, both will cost you. But it will cost you more not to have made the investment.”

From the earthly perspective of those who mourn his loss—and the DTS family feels this pain acutely—Prof made that costly investment. He was content to be the teacher behind many great communicators of our day, modeling a passion for his Lord, a passion for the Word well used, and a work well done of investing in lives for the glory of Christ.

Karen Giesen and Sandra Glahn contributed to this story.  They gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Kelley Mathews, and Julie Cramer.

DTS Dr. Howard Hendricks tribute

©  Dallas Theological Seminary


Remembering Jade Cove by Pastor Jack Hayford

Jade CoveAlong HWY 1 in California is a place called Jade Cove, near Big Sur. It was at this place that by the grace of God, I “turned the corner.” I don’t mean a curve on that twisting, perilous highway, but the turn-around at Jade Cove rescued me from something as bad as a car accident.

For several weeks, I had been experiencing a horrible accumulation of pressure—mentally and emotionally. Work had piled up, schedule demands were burning me out, and through a combination of circumstances, I was riding the ragged edge of a potential nervous breakdown.

Some nights I would dream of being chased and then crushed by a massive object relentlessly pursuing and slowly gaining on me as I ran to escape it. Other nights I feared closing me eyes to go to sleep, feeling if I did I would not awaken again; that my heart would stop or my breath cease. I was rational enough to know this wasn’t true, but weak enough in my emotionally drained condition not to be able to break the tormenting thoughts.

Jade Cove

Then I discovered the words of the songwriter. Listen to this, Loved One: “I will lie down to sleep and find peace-filled rest, for You, Lord, preserve me in safety” (Psalm 4:8Psalm 4:8
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8 In peace I will both lay myself down and sleep, For you, Yahweh alone, make me live in safety.

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). And another lyric: “I laid down and slept, and awoke in the morning, for the Lord Himself did sustain me.” (Psalm 3:5Psalm 3:5
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5 I laid myself down and slept. I awakened; for Yahweh sustains me.

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I can hardly describe the power of those words of God’s eternal truth from His heart to mine, written in the Bible to become a strength to my weary soul. These words meant even more to me, because I knew they were written by a man of accomplishment—David, a successful king and conquering hero; yet a man who needed release from pressures that threatened his sleep.

God’s words buoyed my soul for several weeks, until that day, while I slowly drove northward, hoping a break in schedule would take the pressure off my brain and the fear from my heart. I stopped at Jade Cove and walked down near the water’s edge to look at the beautiful seascape.

It was there something happened—better yet, Someone. Because as surely as I knew His Word had sustained me when fear plagued my nights, I knew God’s presence had drawn near to deliver my mind. Like fog burning off the coastline, the Son of God lifted the burden I had carried for months.

I share that with you in hopes that you will also receive His Word. “I will lie down and sleep and find peace-filled rest, for you, Lord, preserve me in safety.” Call upon His Holy Spirit to deliver you. I know He will, because He did that for me at a place called Jade Cove, and He did through the power of a man named Jesus.

And He’s there for you right now. You don’t even need to go to Jade Cove. “Those who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” (Acts 2:21)

© Jack Hayford Ministries

The Square Peg Alliance

square peg allianceThe Square Peg Alliance is a group of singer/songwriters who really like each other. We have all been doing music on our own but have decided to join forces like the wonder twins – except there are 13 of us instead of 2. There is no guy in a suit putting all of us together. We really just believe in each other’s art and want to support it.

We don’t write music so we can be the next big thing (or if we do, it hasn’t worked for us). We believe that there are folks out there who like music even if it isn’t played every three minutes on the radio, even if it isn’t on a big label, even if it isn’t accompanied by a music video, even if the shows aren’t flashy or even if the records don’t go platinum (or gold, or silver, or aluminum foil, etc.).

That is why we are the Square Peg Alliance. Thirteen artists who might not fit perfectly into the traditional mold of the music business, but have found a home with each other.”[FROM THE SQUARE PEG ALLIANCE’S MYSPACE PAGE.

The Square Peg Alliance is, at the moment:

Katy Bowser

Jeremy Casella

Billy Cerveny

Randall Goodgame

Andy Gullahorn

Matthew Perryman Jones

Chris Mason

Sandra McCracken

Andrew Osenga

Eric Peters

Andrew Peterson

Jill Phillips

Derek Webb

More here from Matthew Smith on a recent Square Peg Alliance show in Nashville.

© Shaun Groves

tolkien quote


What Is God’s Will? by Lysa TerKeurst

decisionsI used to think it was crucial for me to know God’s will. If I knew His grand plan for at least this season of my life, then I could direct all my decisions to fall in line.

Is it His will for me to stay in this job or change to that one?

Is it His will for me to send my kids to that school or make another choice?

Is it His will for me to teach that Bible study, serve on that committee, or go on that mission trip?

I ponder and I pray. I ask friends. I read the Bible. I look for confirmations that point in one direction or the other.

I assume there is one right answer and in order to stay in God’s will I must make the right choice.

That’s a lot of pressure for a simple girl like me. After all, I’m choosing between one good thing and another good thing. And so I fret and wonder, which of these things is God’s will?

But what if I’m wrong?

What if God’s will is more simple than that?

It’s great to pray, ask friends, and look for confirmations. But what if God is more concerned with us looking for Him than looking for answers?

What if God just wants us to pay attention to Him in the midst of whatever choice we make?

Recently I heard a story that shook me to the core. It had been a busy day at a restaurant with lots of customers coming and going. But at one point a guy came up to the manager and handed her a card. He told her, “This is for your staff.” And with an emotional catch in his throat, he said, “I just wanted to make sure they knew.”

The customer then turned and left as the manager tucked the card into her apron pocket.

A little while later, she had time to open the card.

It was a note directed to the staff thanking them. It wasn’t for their service or for the food. It was for their smiles.

He explained in the letter that he’d made plans to take his life that day. But their gift of simple conversations with simple smiles gave him the gift of hope.

As I heard the story, I cried.

Something stirred deep inside of me.

I got this overwhelming feeling that this is such a beautiful picture of how God’s will works. He intersects our lives with people that need His hope and whispers to us, “You have the hope they need… give it to them.

Maybe it’s to offer them a little of our time. Maybe it’s to share a little of our story. Or maybe, like with this customer, it’s to simply offer a smile. And when we listen, a shift happens. It’s like the world splits open with each of our simple acts of obedience to God and His light breaks apart the world’s darkness.

God instructs us to let our light shine. This is His will. This is His plan. This is His instruction.

And when we get in the habit of obeying His instruction today, we’ll develop a keen awareness of His direction for tomorrow.

The more we pay attention to these moment-by-moment instructions by God, the more our thinking starts to line up with God. Our mind gets in a new rhythm of seeing what He wants us to see, so that we can do what He wants us to do.

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.” (Romans 12:2Romans 12:2
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2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

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, NIV)

This is why I wrote The Best Yes. I want to unrush my schedule, unrush my life, unrush my soul… so I can have enough space to pay attention to God. To see those divine opportunities with people who need hope and to be able to say yes to God’s instruction. These are my Best Yes moments. And I don’t want to miss them.

I suspect the same is true for you.

THE GARDEN: God’s Heart For Relationship With You by Kari Jobe


It’s a beautiful morning. The orange glow of the rising sun paints itself across the expanse of the sky as you awaken to the beautiful sight, laying on a bed of soft, lush grass.

In the background, you can hear the rushing water of a flowing river that is sweet and refreshing. You can feel the breeze sweeping across the garden, constant and comforting. You can see the flowers and trees dancing with the wind, surrounding you in beauty.

You can hear footsteps, familiar and sure. You can sense the warmth of His love as He opens His arms, welcoming you to a new day in the garden.

I love thinking about what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden.

That Adam and Eve would wake up every morning in such a place, walking and talking with the Creator of Heaven and Earth amazes me.

Yet what God intended to be an eternal experience became a painful memory after the fall.

Sin entered the world and the intimacy and depth of relationship once experienced in the garden with God . . . was no more.

It must’ve been heartbreaking, not only for Adam and Eve, but also for God. After all, that was His heart – to walk and talk with His creation, His children, His beloved.


But the good news is, the separation is gone. Because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, our intimacy with God has been restored.

The garden no longer has to be a dream of what was. It can be a reality for your life today. Yet that can be a hard truth to remember and believe when we’re driven to grief by loss or brought to our knees by tragedy.

God’s goodness and love can seem difficult to trust in those moments.

As I started the process of writing for my newest album, The Garden, I went through such a season as my sister and her husband experienced the loss of their baby girl, James Ivy.

I still remember getting the call while on a business trip with my husband. At the time, I was pregnant with my son, Canyon, and it had been a dream come true to be pregnant at the same time with my sister.

But James had been born stillborn and in that moment, all I could think was God, I don’t understand.  

Perhaps you know this feeling. Maybe today, you are seeking God for comfort because of the loss of a loved one, friend, or a bad health report.

If so, I want you to know it’s okay. God can handle your disappointment. He empathizes with your feelings and He doesn’t question your sorrow. He longs to be in that place with you and surround you with His love, joy, and peace.

Personally, the more days I experience as a mom, the more aware I become at just how much our Heavenly Father loves us.

I love Canyon so much; more than he will ever know.

And to think that God, so majestic and glorious in all His ways, would love us in ways so high, so deep, so long, and so wide that we can’t comprehend it . . . it refreshes and comforts my heart in the difficult seasons.

Realize, we may not understand everything that happens in life.

There may still be questions. But that doesn’t change who God is, how much He loves us, and the destiny He has for each of our lives.

You see, God is always tending to the details of our hearts and souls. Like a gardener, He knows what to prune and what seeds to sow. He’s not distant or disconnected from our pain. In fact, He’s right there the whole time, turning ashes into a heavenly picture of beauty.

It might not happen in a day, much like a flower doesn’t grow in a day. But just like a gardener is sure that what he plants will grow, you can be sure that what God touches, He will bless and bring forth life from.

It’s been a difficult journey healing from the loss of my niece. But if there’s one thing I believe, now more than ever, it’s that God is good and His love never fails and never forsakes in every season life brings.

Even in the loss, you can focus on your God who will carry you through it. In spite of the struggle, you can worship your Heavenly Father who is greater than any and every attack of the enemy.

What Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden you can experience today.

God is good, He sees you, He calls you His beloved child, and He is working all things together for your good. He desires to meet with you right where you are.

I pray that you would experience the intimacy, comfort, and beauty of the garden today.

Faith is rising up like ivy,
Reaching for the light
Hope is stirring deep inside me
Making all things right
Love is lifting me from sorrow
Catching every tear
Dispelling every lie and torment
Crushing all my fears

From “The Garden”

Kari Jobe

Kari is a singer, songwriter, wife and mother. Since her first album in 2009, she has received one Grammy nomination and four Dove Award nominations, three of which she won. Kari is also a worship pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.


Rejection, Heartache and a Faithful God by Lysa Terkeurst

No person’s rejection of me can ever exempt me from God’s love for me.
A Gut-Honest Look at Love.” That was the title of my first blog post of this year. Based on 1 Corinthians 13, I wrote, “Love isn’t what I have the opportunity to get from this world, love is what I have the opportunity to give.
This perspective on love has been a lifeline during the most painful season and decision of my adult life. I so wish we were sitting face-to-face so you could see my tears and hear the deep grief in my voice as I share this with you. My husband, life partner and father of my children, Art TerKeurst, has been repeatedly unfaithful to me with a woman he met online, bringing an end to our marriage of almost 25 years. For the past couple of years, his life has sadly been defined by his affection for this other woman and substance abuse. I don’t share this to harm or embarrass him, but to help explain why I have decided to separate from him and pursue a divorce. God has now revealed to me that I have done all I can do and I must release him to the Savior.

Anyone who knows me and Proverbs 31 Ministries knows how seriously I take marriage. I’ve always encouraged women to fight for their marriages and to do everything possible to save them when they come under threat. So, for the past couple of years I have been in the hardest battle of my life trying to save my marriage.

When I first found out about Art’s infidelity 18 months ago, I made the decision not to divorce him. I had just finished fasting and praying for 28 days and really felt led by the Lord that I was to love Art in my reaction to this shocking news and trust God for every step moving forward. I was still committed to doing everything I could think of to make our story one of restoration, even in the face of the worst kind of betrayal imaginable. I prayed continually. I sought counsel from family and other wise friends. And Art and I even made repeated trips across the country together for intensive counseling especially designed for marriages in crisis. But sadly, though I have repeatedly forgiven and accepted him back, he has continued to abuse substances, be unfaithful, and refused to be truthful to me and our family.

I believe I have the capacity to love Art and to forgive him, but his steadfast refusal to end the infidelity has led me to make the hardest decision of my life. After much prayer and consultation with wise, biblically-minded people, I have decided that Art has abandoned our marriage. Yet, the Lord has been so faithful to help me at every step of this very painful journey and has now assured me I’ve done all I can do.

I am brokenhearted beyond what I can express. But I am more committed than ever to trusting God, His promises, and His plans, whatever they are from here.

As many of you who have followed our ministry know, I’ve never shied away from sharing how God has gotten me through tough seasons and even grown me through my struggles. Thankfully, my story has been one of learning that I’m not defined by my circumstances. I’m Lysa, a beloved child of the one true God. My true identity doesn’t shift or fall apart under life’s strains, failures, my own imperfections, setbacks or heartaches. While people—even God’s people—change, I’m so glad I serve a God who doesn’t. I love this verse in Malachi 3:6Malachi 3:6
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6 “For I, Yahweh, don’t change; therefore you, sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

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“I the Lord do not change; therefore you, children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

So what does all of this mean for Proverbs 31 Ministries and for me? Well, for over 20 years I’ve had a calling supported by my family for equipping women to deepen their relationship with God, study His Word, and to share their stories for God’s glory. Though my heart is so heavy that I’ve certainly pondered giving up, I’m determined not to let darkness win here. Therefore, after a season of rest and continued Biblical and professional counseling, I will continue to do ministry with an even deeper belief in the goodness of our God and a greater empathy for the deep heartbreak that happens to us all in this broken world.

Many people think Proverbs 31 is a picture of a perfect woman; but the Proverbs 31 woman is, at her core, someone who seeks the Lord in everything she does and trusts Him wholeheartedly with her life. Our mission is to meet women where they are in the real, hard places we all experience, and to intersect God’s Word right there. We are simply a group of women sold out to saying yes to God—and He truly does the rest.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” That’s what the Psalmist wrote long ago (Psalm 27:13Psalm 27:13
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13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of Yahweh in the land of the living.

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) and it beautifully reflects what I’m holding on to in the midst of the deep grief my children and I are now walking through. We have some amazing counselors and pastoral leaders who are committed to helping us pursue healing and learn how to move forward.

What can you do for us? I’d simply ask you to pray. Pray for my precious children and grandchildren. Pray for me. Pray for our team at Proverbs 31. And yes, please, please pray for Art.

I love you all. Most of all, I love the Lord, who first loved me.


Leading Women on the Adventure of Faith


What’s That You’re Carrying

By Charles Martin

what's that you're carrying

It’s Thursday night.  Darker than usual.  Jesus has just finished the Passover dinner.  Washed His disciples feet.  Taken the cup.  Watched Judas walk out.  The end has come.
The unsuspecting eleven follow Him through the quiet city streets.  Flying high on the heels of the triumphal entry, they are giddy with what-might-be.  The conquering Son of David soon to sit on His rightful throne.  Somewhere a candle flickers.  Then another.  They descend the Hill of the City of David and Jesus approaches the Brook Kidron.  Higher on the hill above them, the clear spring bubbles up out of the earth, circulates through the grounds of the temple, and fills the ceremonial cleansing pools.  From there it washes out the blood of the morning and evening sacrifices, then it descends the hill.

When it rolls beneath their feet, it smells of death.

Jesus stands on the stone bridge that crosses the brook.  Glancing over His shoulder.  The smell fills His nostrils.  Fitting.  He enters the Garden.  Gethsemane.  This is the place where the olives are crushed.  Where the oil is poured out.  This too is fitting…

Back up a thousand years.  Absalom, King David’s son — his own flesh and blood — betrayed him.  Turned on him.  David is forced to flee the city.  “All the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people crossed over the Brook Kidron…toward the way of the wilderness.”  Seven verses later, it reads, “So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot.  And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up weeping…”  (2 Sam 15:23-302 Sam 15:23-30
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23 All the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness. 24 Behold, Zadok also came, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God; and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city. 25 The king said to Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favor in the eyes of Yahweh, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation: 26 but if he say thus, I have no delight in you; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seems good to him. 27 The king said also to Zadok the priest, “Aren’t you a seer? Return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. 28 Behold, I will stay at the fords of the wilderness, until word comes from you to inform me.” 29 Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they abode there. 30 David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered, and went barefoot: and all the people who were with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.

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One of the things I love about scripture is that nothing, and I do mean nothing, is wasted.    David did what Jesus is doing.

When David fled from Absalom, he wrote, “But you, O Lord, are a shield for me, My Glory, and the one who lifts up my head.”  (Ps 3) Did Jesus whisper this to himself as He crossed the Brook?  I can’t prove it but I like to think so.  I’m also pretty sure He was thinking about Psalm 22.  Why?  Because as we will see, He lives it.  Line by line.

Jesus enters the garden with the eleven.  Stomachs full of food and wine.  “Sit here while I go there and pray.”  (Mt 26:36Mt 26:36
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36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go there and pray.”

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)  He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee.  “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.  Stay here and watch with me.” (26:38)  Despite His pleas, they sleep.  Snoring.  Smiling smugly.  Remembering how all the city laid down their cloaks, and sang, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord.” (Mt 21:9Mt 21:9
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9 The multitudes who went before him, and who followed kept shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

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)  A song so loud that had they been silent, “even the rocks would cry out.” (Lk 19:40Lk 19:40
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40 He answered them, “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would cry out.”

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)  The eleven are dreaming of their conquering King.  A political solution.  But their dreams will not come true.

Jesus separates Himself.  Prays.  He knows the end from the beginning.  He is in agony.  Listen to King David again.  And let me say this — I don’t understand it but the reason I add this is because I believe King David, supernaturally through the Holy Spirit, spoke the words and cries of Jesus a thousand years before Jesus felt them: “O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.”  (Ps 22:2Ps 22:2
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2 My God, I cry in the daytime, but you don’t answer; In the night season, and am not silent.

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)  Jesus returns to His friends only to find them crashed out.  Oblivious.  Drool running out the corners of their mouths.  He shakes their shoulders.  “Oh…So sorry, Lord.  You were saying…”  He returns to His prayers.  Behind Him, they to their snoring.  Face to the ground, Jesus’ blood vessels burst and He sweats blood.  His heart knows, before His ears can hear them.  “Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; for there is none to help.” (Ps 22:11Ps 22:11
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11 Don’t be far from me, for trouble is near. For there is none to help.

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)  In the distance, the air is filled with the sound of soldiers.  “Rise, let us be going.  My betrayer is at hand.“ (26:46)  The stone bridge carries the echoes of swords and shields and whispers.  Judas, thirty pieces of silver richer, emerges, smirking.  He slithers forward.  Grabs the Master, and then presses his lips to the face of Jesus.

The seal of betrayal. Of the King of the Universe.  Of “The Heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…the brightness of His Glory, the express image of His person, and the one who upholds all things by the word of His power.”  (Heb 1:2-3Heb 1:2-3
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2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. 3 His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself made purification for our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

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)  Don’t miss this, that very same Jesus — the Ancient of Days — who fashioned Judas out of the dust of the earth and then pressed His lips to Judas’ face and breathed in the breath of life — the ‘Ruach’ — has just allowed the created to betray the Creator.

What Kind of a King does this?

The prophets had said this was coming. None better than Isaiah: “[1] Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? [2] For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.  [3] He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. [4] Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. [5] But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. [6] All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. [7] He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. [8] He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. [9] And they made His grave with the wicked- But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. [10] Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. [12] Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.”  (Isaiah 53:1-10,12Isaiah 53:1-10,12
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53 1 Who has believed our message? and to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we didn’t respect him. 4 Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; everyone has turned to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he didn’t open his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is mute, so he didn’t open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living for the disobedience of my people to whom the stroke was due? 9 They made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased Yahweh to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Yahweh shall prosper in his hand. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

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We talk alot about The Cross.  Wear it around our necks.  Print it on our letterhead.  Chisel it in stone.  Genuflect.  It’s THE symbol of Christ.  But what’s it mean?  I mean, really.  When we wear it, what are we saying?  What are we agreeing with?

To understand The Cross, we need to backup 4000 years.  To Abraham.  2000 BC.  Long story short — when Abraham was 75, God promised him a son.  Abraham scratches his head cause Sarah is post-menopausal.  “Um…Lord.”   Eleven years pass and nothing.  So, Sarah, tired of waiting and feeling like a failure as a wife, pushes him toward Hagar.  Nothing wrong with that, except God said Sarah.  Not Hagar.  Ishmael is born.  The son of his flesh.  Fourteen years later, when Abraham is 100, Isaac is born.  The son of his love.  Twenty-five years after the promise.  Years pass.  Scripture doesn’t say how many.  I think Isaac was a teenager but that’s just a guess.  Let’s pick up the story there: “[1] Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ [2] Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering [Holocaust] on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ [3] So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. [4] Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. [5] And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’ [6] So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. [7] But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ [8] And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together…” (Gen 22:1-8Gen 22:1-8
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22 1 It happened after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” He said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah. Offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.” 3 Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place far off. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go yonder. We will worship, and come back to you. 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He took in his hand the fire and the knife. They both went together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, “My father?” He said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they both went together.

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Notice a couple of things: Abraham made a decision of his will not his emotions.   He did not feel like killing his son.  In spite of this, scripture records, “He rose early.” (22:3)  Let that sink in.  Would I have ‘risen early’?  Slept in?  Taried a couple of weeks?  Years? In that pre-dawn light, “Abraham believed God and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6Gen 15:6
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6 He believed in Yahweh; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.

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Let that picture focus.  There’s Isaac.  Broad-Shouldered.  Bright-eyed.  Carrying the wood — and his own life.  Everything before him.  There’s Abraham.  Heavy-hearted and carrying the knife.  Death before him.  He’d made sure the knife was sharp.  So it would be quick.  Less suffering.  In his other hand, he carried the fire — for the holocaust.
Isaac bounds up the trail.  Abraham drags his heels.

The story continues:  “[9] Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. [10] And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” (22:9)

Scripture records these events in less than two sentences, but back up.  Look closer.  There’s a ‘binding.’  Abraham wrestles his son to the ground and forcibly ties him.  Imagine Isaac’s surprise.  His dismay.  Utter unbelief.  Can you hear his cries, “But Abba, what!?  What are you…?”  Can you see Abraham’s tears?  See his hands fumbling to tie the rope?  See the snot rolling down his face?  He is losing it.  He is near to losing his mind.  The same mind that right this second is firing a thousand questions such as: How is he going to explain this to Sarah and will his son suffer.  And somewhere in that moment, he raises the knife — above Isaac’s screams.  “No, Abba!”

Isaac’s eyes are wide.  Frantic.  Searching.  Abraham’s hand is shaking uncontrollably.  His knees are buckling.  He has lost it.  His heart is already broken.  Rent down the middle.  “11] But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am.’ [12] And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ [13] Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. [14] And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’ [15] Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, [16] and said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son- [17] blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. [18] In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’ [19] So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.”  (Genesis 22:11-19Genesis 22:11-19
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11 The angel of Yahweh called to him out of the sky, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Don’t lay your hand on the boy, neither do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place Yahweh-Jireh. “Yahweh-Jireh” means “Yahweh is my provider.” As it is said to this day, “In Yahweh’s mountain it will be provided. 15 The angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time out of the sky, 16 and said, “I have sworn by myself, says Yahweh, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 that in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore. Your seed will possess the gate of his enemies. 18 In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba. Abraham lived at Beersheba.

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Walk with Abraham and Isaac down the mountain.  See Abraham’s hand resting on Isaac’s shoulder.  Listen to their voices.  I’d like to know what that conversation sounded like.

Now turn the camera.  Change the perspective.  From up top.  Looking down.  Jesus / God the Father / The Holy Spirit are staring down from the top of Mt. Moriah.  Watching Abraham and Isaac descend.  I’d really like to know what their conversation sounded like?

Note : What I’m about to suggest is not in scripture, but this is what I imagine the rest of this story looked like:

Jesus, with grin on His face, says, “Wow! You see that, Abba?”

The Father nods.  “He really loves us…”  A long pause follows as the three of them look out across time.  Out to you and me.  The Father continues, “Son, there’s going to come a time when He needs us.  When his sons and daughters don’t love us the way he does, when they bow down to other Gods and sell themselves into slavery and our enemy puts them in prisons of their own building.  Shackles them.  he won’t sell them cheap.  Matter of fact, only one thing will buy them back.”

Jesus thinks about this a long time.  Isaac is hugging his dad as they near the bottom of the hill.  Arms around his waist.  They are laughing.  Abraham’s cheeks have almost dried.  Jesus turns to His Father, nodding.  “I know.”  A tear trails down His cheek.  Jesus is weeping.  The Father thumbs it away.  Jesus whispers, “It’s okay, I’ll buy them back.”

Abba raises an eyebrow.  “With what?”

Jesus tilts his head.  Staring past Abraham.  Past Isaac.  Past you and me.  “With all that I have.”

Seven hundred and forty years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah said it this way: “[6] And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees. [7] And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations. [8] He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.”  (Is 25:6-8Is 25:6-8
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6 In this mountain, Yahweh of Armies will make all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of choice wines, of fat things full of marrow, of well refined choice wines. 7 He will destroy in this mountain the surface of the covering that covers all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He has swallowed up death forever! The Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from off all faces. He will take the reproach of his people away from off all the earth, for Yahweh has spoken it.

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Jump forward 2000 years.  Back to the garden where that same Jesus is making good on His promise.  Over the course of his three-and-a-half-year public ministry, scripture records that Jesus said “Follow Me” over twenty times.  We know we’re supposed to follow Him.  He’s our shepherd.  We’re His sheep.  But WHERE are we going?  Where EXACTLY is He asking us to follow Him?

All roads only lead to one place.  The Cross.

If that’s the case, do I, do you, eally understand what we’re saying when we hang that thing around our neck and sign our name on the dotted line to ‘follow Jesus’?  Where did the road to the cross take Jesus?  What’d it cost Him?

Luke, the physician, an eyewitness in the Garden, described it this way: “and being in agony He (Jesus) was praying very fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Lk 22:44Lk 22:44
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44 Being in agony he prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

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)  I’ve heard this described as one of the more painful experiences a human being can undergo.  Where inner turmoil and anguish actually burst blood vessels allowing the blood to exit the body via the sweat pores.

From the garden, Jesus is arrested and brought to the court of Annanias, the high priest.  Matthew, another eye witness, says this: “They spat in His face, and beat him with their fists and others slapped him.” (Matt 26:67Matt 26:67
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67 Then they spit in his face and beat him with their fists, and some slapped him,

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) The thought of someone actually clenching their fist and striking My King in the face, busting his lip…something in me wants to look away.  Psalm 22 says it this way: “Many bulls have encircled Me.  They gape at me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion.” (22:12-13)

The prophet Micah, some 800 years before it happened foretold this: “With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek.” (5:1)  Isaiah said this: “I gave my back to those who strike me, and my cheeks to those who pluck out my beard.” (Is 50:6Is 50:6
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6 I gave my back to the strikers, and my cheeks to those who plucked off the hair; I didn’t hide my face from shame and spitting.

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How’d they punch Him?  Haymaker?  Jab?  Superman?  Elbow strike?

Unable to decide what to do with Jesus, they bring Him before Pilate who orders Him flogged and scourged.  (Mt 27:26Mt 27:26
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26 Then he released to them Barabbas, but Jesus he flogged and delivered to be crucified.

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)  We’ve seen this on TV.  The movies.  Problem is this is not a cow whip.  Not Indiana Jones.  The Roman scourge was a tasseled whip studded with metal, glass or bone.  Whatever was available.  The whip didn’t so much slap the skin, or even cut it, as sink into it.  The tassels wrapped around the back, chest, neck and face — embedding into it.  Buried.  When removed, it peeled chunks of skin and flesh — with it.  It carved away tissue.  Divinely inspired, Isaiah described Jesus this way: “His appearance was marred more than any man.  And his form more than the sons of men.” (Is 52:14Is 52:14
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14 Like as many were astonished at you ,

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)  Another translation says, “He was unrecognizable as a man.”  Did that word catch your eye?  Unrecognizable.  That means all those pretty and priceless paintings depicting the loving savior staring down upon the world could not be further from the truth.

By that time, Jesus has been shredded.

Following the scourging, they crowned Him, “King of the Jews.”  Only this crown was a little different.  If you’ve ever traveled the Rift Valley you know that most every bush or tree there has a thorn on it.  And these aren’t uncomfortable little stickers that hinder your meander through the blueberries.  Bigger than sewing needles, these are one to three inch long stilettos — often used as darts in blow guns.  They will punch through leather, tennis shoes and rubber tires. “And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on his head…(30) and they spat on him and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.”  (Matt 27:29-30Matt 27:29-30
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29 They braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they kneeled down before him, and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.

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) Can you see the rods beating His head?  Driving the thorns in deeper? Back to Psalm 22: “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax, It has melted within Me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to my jaws; You have brought me to the dust of death.“ (22:14-15)

With thorns pressing into His skull, the soldiers drop a cross on His fleshless back and point outside the gate to the top of the hill.  “Walk!”  By then, having lost a lot of blood, His blood pressure dangerously low, Jesus began trudging up the hill.  Painting a trail behind Him.  Taking too long, the guards spot a healthy by-stander.  Minding-his-own-business.  Simon of Syrene.  “You!  Carry that!”  Simon shoulders the Cross and then hooks one hand under Jesus armpit to help him stand.  It is there, in my mind, that Jesus clings to Simon’s sleeve, lifts himself and looks into Simon’s eyes.  Scripture is silent on this too but I’d like to know what He said.  I’d like to know what Simon knew in that moment.

Add in a hostile crowd, ill-tempered soldiers and a host of salivating spiritual forces of wickedness and I think that walk took a while.

Reaching the top of the hill, Simon drops the cross and steps aside.  Pause right here.  That splintered thing on the ground?  That tree?  That method of execution?  That death sentence?  Today, it’s a shiny piece of jewelry. A fashion statement.  Something rocks stars and movie stars and pro athletes and guys like me are so eager to hang around our necks, and wear outside our clothes.  But, what part of this are we identifying with when we do that?

The next step is so understated.  So without comment.  Very simply it reads, “They crucified Him.” (Matt 27:35Matt 27:35
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35 When they had crucified him, they divided his clothing among them, casting lots, TR adds “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots;’” [see and ]

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)  Let the reader understand.  Scripture is silent on the single most important event in the history of mankind.  On the sound of the hammer hitting the spike head.  Or,the echo off the stone city walls?  And the blood-curdling screams of Jesus as they crossed His feet and drove rusty spikes through each.

He stepped off His throne for this.

No matter how hard I try, how many times I read this, or  try to write it somehow better, I can not wrap my mind around this.  I shake my head.  Stare at the Heavens.  “Really?!”  This wrecks me.  I’m totally undone.  Unworthy.

Having skewered Him, they dropped the cross into its hole, jolting the rag-doll body of Jesus.  Suspended between heaven and earth — between throne and grave — there hangs Jesus.  “For dogs have surrounded me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.  They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones.  They look and stare at Me.  They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” (Ps 22:16-18Ps 22:16-18
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16 For dogs have surrounded me. A company of evil-doers have enclosed me. They pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all of my bones. They look and stare at me. 18 They divide my garments among them. They cast lots for my clothing.

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Another myth that needs exposing are all those paintings of Jesus wearing a loin cloth.  Covering His privates.  I wish it were so, but it wasn’t.  Jesus had been stripped and hung naked.  Fully exposed.  This is why Scripture reads, “And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar.”  (Mt 27:55Mt 27:55
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55 Many women were there watching from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, serving him.

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If you live with shame because of your sin, if you think to yourself, “Jesus can’t possibly know the depth of my embarrassment and depravity,” it is here that Jesus wore it for you.  “But I am a worm and not a man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.  All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, “He trusted in The Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him since He delights in Him.” (22:6-8)

In a crucifixion, there is a constant struggle between your chest and your legs while your lungs combat your writhing body for air.  During this, fluids build up in your chest cavity.  Filling your lungs.  Producing a slow drowning.

The Carpenter lasted three hours.

During these three hours, God the Father laid on Jesus every sin of mankind.  One by one.  Yours and mine.  All of it.  Piled on.  Not one was left out.  God The Father clothed His Son in the sin of mankind.  Wrapped it around him like a blanket.  Or shroud.  And while I think the weight of that was killing Jesus, I don’t think it was the final straw.  I think the killing blow — what broke the spirit of Jesus — was rejection.  When God saw the sum of that sin, He turned.  And Jesus, able to see into this world and the world to come, saw it.  He saw His Father, His Abba, turn.  That’s why He asked Him, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?”  (Mt 27:46Mt 27:46
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46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lima TR reads “lama” instead of “lima” sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

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)  And when He did, every Jewish man and boy in the crowd would have known the reference and could have finished it for Him: “Why are you so far from helping me?  And from the words of My groaning?”  (Ps 22:1Ps 22:1
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22 For the Chief Musician; set to “The Doe of the Morning.” A Psalm by David. 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?

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I believe that’s the moment that killed Jesus.  Because it was there that He knew the rejection of His Father.  I want to pause here and speak to all of you who were put up for adoption, or who have suffered an equally great rejection, who have known loneliness of the soul — you are not alone.  What you feel in your gut, what you sense in your DNA, the absence, the void, Jesus felt first.  Here on The Cross, He knew your rejection.

“But You O Lord, be not far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me!  Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog,  Save me from the lion’s mouth, and from the horns of the wild oxen.  You have answered me.” (Ps 22:1Ps 22:1
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22 For the Chief Musician; set to “The Doe of the Morning.” A Psalm by David. 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?

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9-21)  Think about it.  The Father’s answer is a dead Jesus.

What were Jesus last words?  “It is Finished.”  And the last words of Psalm 22?  “He has done this.”  Jesus spoke an entire Psalm with just a few words.

Dead on the cross, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately, there came out blood and water.“ (John 19:34John 19:34
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34 However one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

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)  If you doubt that Jesus drowned, here speaks evidence to the contrary.  Again Isaiah, “He poured out his soul unto death.”  (Is 53:12Is 53:12
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12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

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) The Hebrew for “flesh” is soul.  Jesus poured out His flesh.

Payment made in full.

Here’s the nugget and this is what gets muddled.  This is the part that Satan has and is actively working to draw your attention away from.  He wants you to miss this.  To water this down: The cross is a crucifixion, an execution.  Something and someone is being put to death.

Those blows Jesus took, the thorns that pierced His head, that scourging, that flesh removed in chunks, those nails, that spear in His side, that shame, that rejection, that death — that should be you and me — that’s the cross we deserve.  Instead, He gave us what we did not deserve and withheld from us what we did.  When Jesus walked with his disciples He was and is speaking to us: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23Luke 9:23
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23 He said to all, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, TR, NU add “daily” and follow me.

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But here’s the crux of the matter — You can’t pick up your cross if you’re carrying your Isaac.

One more time — You can’t pick up your cross if you’re carrying your Isaac.

So, what’s your Isaac?  What is that thing that prevents you from denying, taking up, following, daily?  If you’re going to keep reading, walk out the rest of this, it will help you (and me) to approach this whole conversation with some gut-level honesty.  Real Truth.  Revealing all.  Even the stuff you want to keep hidden.

The rest of this will require that you and I admit our own sin?

Want some help?  Ask for the “Spirit of truth.”  Jesus says, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (Jn 16:13Jn 16:13
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13 However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.

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If you and I are to survive the rest of this, we need truthfulness — the same spirit of truthfulness the Israelites needed when they had to look upon the bronze serpent lifted high on a pole in the wilderness.  Their healing required an honest and public admission of their guilt.  Same goes for us. (Num 21:9Num 21:9
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9 Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it on the standard: and it happened, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked to the serpent of brass, he lived.

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Let me encourage you — You can’t tell Jesus anything He doesn’t already know.  You’re not telling Him for His benefit.  You’re telling Him for yours.

So, be gut-level honest about your sin.  No pretending.  No blue sky.  Isaiah says, “My righteousness is filthy rags.” The words he uses describe a woman in her customary impurity.  That means the best we have to offer of our own accord is of no more value than a bunch of bloody maxi-pads.  Paul recognizes his own unworthiness when he says this: “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  (1 Tim 1:151 Tim 1:15
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15 The saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

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)  If we’re honest, “we all have gone astray, each his own way…”

Some of your minds are starting to wander.  To your Isaac.  Your stronghold.  The sin you just can’t let go.  Some of you are starting to think, “Okay, Charles, I’m with you.  I need to clean house a bit.  Sweep out a few closets.  Smoke out the cockroaches, so I’ll offer up these three.  Possibly four.”  You sacrifice the easily expendable.  That which you can possibly live without.  But then there’s the secret hold in your basement.  The bar across the door.  The triple locks.  Your eye wanders there.  You shake your head, “Nope.  Not going to happen.”  For some of you, “That” is sexual sin.  And don’t think you get off the hook if you’re not physically touching someone else.  John on the island of Patmos, writing his Revelation about the judgment and outcome at the end of the age, says – “[1] Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,  [2] with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’”  (Revelation 17:1Revelation 17:1
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17 1 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here. I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters,

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The Greek word for, “Committed fornication” is “Porneuo” — porn-yoo-oh.  From it we get pornopraphic and pornography.  It means to engage in illicit sexual intercourse, be unfaithful, play the harlot, prostitute ones self.  The word is used literally and metaphorically to describe spiritual fornication, that is idolatry.  One of the biggest idols of the men reading this is “porn-yoo-oh.”

Am I trying to shame you?  Guilt you?  No.  I am speaking light into dark places, because if we, don’t we are just like those hypocrites who punched Jesus in the teeth.  And believe me, I’m hypocritical enough without adding to it.  Over the last couple of years, as The Lord has revealed The Cross to me and what His blood accomplished, I’ve been trying to ask myself some real honest questions: What, or who, do I lean on other than Him?
Note:  This has not been a fun process, and it will lick the red off your lollipop, but it has been freeing.  And Freedom is better than slavery.  And no matter how I try to weasel my may out, I have found that only one thing will cut you free.  It’s not mercy.  Not good intentions.  Not warm fuzzy positive feelings sent some place safe.  “You shall know The Truth and The Truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:32Jn 8:32
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32 You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

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)  The truth frees us.  The kind that comes out of our gut.  That’s His promise.  So welcome the Truth.  Don’t fear it.

Here’s some of what I looked at:

Alcohol — I want to know if this is an idol.  And you don’t have to be a drunk or an alcoholic for it to be an idol.  You may brush me off but don’t drink it for a week or two or three and then honestly ask your response to its absence.  How’s the craving?  Where do your thoughts go?  When you see it advertised or see others drinking it, do you think ‘good time?’ And what else causes you to think ‘good time’ with the same excitement?  Do you escape into it?  Just something to take the edge off?  Medicate your pain with it?  Admittedly, I have.  Jesus drank wine when here, and He’s already said He’s drinking it when He returns.  Alcohol is not bad in and of itself.  It’s what it becomes in our lives.

Food – For me, it can be. Are you not so sure?  How grumpy do you get when you don’t get what you want when you want?   If you really want to know to what extent food is an idol, just fast a day or two or three.  Won’t take long to find out.

Caffeine — Definitely.  For some of you this might not be an issue.  For me, it is.

Money — And you don’t have to have a lot of it for it to be an idol.  If you want to know if this is an idol, ask yourself — do you lean on it to provide your comfort, to bail you out…  Is it your go-to?  How tightly do you control it?  How much time do you spend thinking about it?  Do you spend more time in the Wall Street Journal or your monthly statements than The Word?  When you think about that sum sitting wherever it sits, do you think ‘safety?’  ‘Provision?’  Want to go deeper — Ask yourself, honestly, do you think your money somehow makes you better than the guy sitting next to you?  Does it elevate you?  You may answer, ‘No,’ and I might have once said the same but I travel to Nicaragua once or twice a year and everytime I step foot off the plane, I am pierced with the knowingness that I am guilty of all of this.

Your Children — this is a biggie and we’re all guilty.  We, all of us, attempt to control every circumstance of their lives so they don’t suffer what we’ve suffered.  Or, because we’re fearful that they’ll get hurt, or not make the right choice, or…name your own fear.  One of the reasons The Lord gives us children is to allow us to KNOW the love of a father for a son or the love of a mother for a daughter.  We better KNOW His heart through interacting with our kids.  The enemy knows this and hates it so he uses this relationship, or relationships, to cause us to distrust our Father.  He twists it.  Whispering lies.  Doubt.  His attacks usually start with the same phrase he spoke to Eve in the Garden, Did God say? We take over from there.  It is no exaggeration to say that God requires us to lay our kids down at His feet in the same way that Abraham laid down Isaac.

Sports / Football — This was a biggie for me.  If you need more on this read, “A Life Intercepted.”  And don’t think I’m only talking to athletes.  What do your weekends look like?  Do you raise your hands in triumph when your fantasy football star scores but keep your hands in your pockets in church?   I’ve spent some time studying worship in the Bible and I can find no place where worship does not include some motion or action of the body.  Whether hands raised, head bowed, dancing, or body lying prostate on the ground, worship is an act of the body.  Problem is, I often see more ‘worship’ at a football game than church.

Writing — Yes.  It could be.  I had to and continue to have to check this.  Asking, Lord, have I made this more important than you?  Do I like being called a, ‘NYT Bestselling writer,’ more than I desire being called, ‘Your child?’  Or, even more, ‘Bondservant of Jesus Christ’?  Have I found my identity in the pen, or The Cross?  Could I walk away from writing if you called me?  Just being honest, this is a toughy.

Hear me when I say this — I’m not telling you that all these things are evil.  Certainly, our kids are not evil.  Football is a great game, scripture says wine is good for the heart and The Lord made me a writer in the same way He made Abraham a father.  I’m asking you to examine whether or not you’ve made these things an idol and are they’re preventing you from picking up your cross. Daily.

I was talking to a guy some time ago. He was in a tough spot.  He’d been fired, and it was not entirely his own doing.  You know what he was worried about?  He was worried how his kids would react when they saw him without a company car, without a laptop, without a suit and tie, an expense report.  Here’s my take on that — if The Lord was to address his idol of false identity, or offer to take it from him, what’s one real obvious way for The Lord to do that?  There are a lot of guys reading this that need to sacrifice that same idol of identity.

Here’s the truth — Your idols are what you run to when you are afraid or you need comfort?  What you hide behind.  When you want to be made to feel the way that you want you to feel.  Read that again.  Your idols are what you turn to when you want to be made to feel the way you want you to feel.

Let me ask it this way: What in your life you hold closer to your chest than Him?  Will you let Him show you?  Long cut Skoal?  Chardonnay?  Single malt?  Vodka?  Those pictures on your hard drive?  The power of your Amex Card?  Three squares a day of meat and potatoes and just the right type of desert?  The comfort you find in the balance in your account?  Put this down, grab a notecard, go for a walk and get real honest.  Spend an hour.  Maybe two.  Write down what comes to mind.  Be honest — what are the ‘things’ that have your attention?  That have captured your heart.  Where do you not trust Him?  What have you hidden in your basement?  Come back when you’ve thrown open the cellar door and clicked on the light.

If you were honest, chances are real good your Isaacs are now written on the card in your pocket.  For lots of reasons, I’ve had some rather truthful and intimate conversations with different groups of men from all over.  Hundreds of men.  Times of conversation where we’ve gotten past the walls and broken through the pretensions and the lies we project and masks we hide behind.  Throughout those conversations of more than a decade, I’ve kept a running tally of the words on our cards.  That list reads something like this:

Our idols are:
• my pride
• my fear
• my girlfriend…the one my wife doesn’t know about
• the substance I’m addicted to
• my sex addiction
• my deviant sexual practices
• my porn addiction
• my porn addiction
• my porn addiction — yes, I’ve listed this three times
• my anger
• my depression
• my pain
• my money
• my money
• my money
• my success
• my accomplishments
• my wall of plaques
• my position
• my career — and the power I can and do exercise because of it
• my bitterness
• my inadequacies
• my prescription meds
• my lies
• my shame
• my gambling
• my secrets — those I’m taking to the grave
• my guilt — the skeletons in my closet
• my habits that my wife doesn’t know about — and the lies I keep from her
• my hopelessness
• my rejection
• my abandonment
• my self-sufficiency — the idea that if it is to be, it’s up to me
• my false identity
• my false self
• my kids
• my wife
• my performance meter
• my measuring stick with which I measure myself and beat down others, my frustration
• my failure — failure as a father
• my fear of failure
• my Vodka
• my DUI
• my drugs
• my anxiety
• my food
• my broken heart
• my Plan A
• my Plan B
• my I-want-to-do-what-I-want-to-do-when-I-want-to-do-it-just-cause-I-want-to-do-it
• my hatred
• my pissedoffness
• my racism
• my unbelief
• my fear of being found out
• my doubt
• my unworthiness
• my what I thought I should have been, could have been, would have been
• my reasoning
• my intellect
• my soul wound
• my unforgiveness
• my unforgiveness
• my unforgiveness — yes, I said this one three times, too.

When Peter says, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetimes doing the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries,” he was talking about us in these places of our lives.  (1 Pet 4:31 Pet 4:3
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3 For we have spent enough of our past time doing the desire of the Gentiles, and having walked in lewdness, lusts, drunken binges, orgies, carousings, and abominable idolatries.

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Whatever you’re holding onto, whatever you’re afraid to let go of, whatever you’re taking to the grave…That’s your Isaac.

Jesus’ question for you is this:  Will you lay down your Isaac and pick up your cross?

Like Abraham, like Jesus, This is a decision of your will, not your emotions.  Will you sacrifice what you love for The One who loves you more?  When Paul says in Romans, “Present yourselves a living sacrifice” — I think he’s talking about this process right here. Abraham “rose early.”  I’m not asking you to want to. I’m asking you to choose to.  When you walk back down this mountain what is the Son saying to the father about you?

2600 years ago, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah about us.  He’s talking about you and me. “ My people have created two great evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water and they have hewn for themselves broken cisterns that hold no water.  What’s your broken cistern?”  Most of us are holding spaghetti colanders.  Paddling ‘Titanics’.

Paul put it this way to the church in Ephesus: “[1] And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, [2] in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, [3] among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. [4] But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, [5] even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), [6] and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, [9] not of works, lest anyone should boast. [10] For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. …. [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:1-13Ephesians 2:1-13
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2 1 You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ , 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; 8 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, that no one would boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them. 11 Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision,” ; 12 that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ.

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I love that, “Brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Then to the church in Colossus: “13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col 2:13-15Col 2:13-15
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13 You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; 15 having stripped the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

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Let those two sink in.  Don’t skim them cause they’re long.  Read them slowly.  They are two of my favorites.  As is this one:  God The Father spoke this through Moses some sixteen hundred years before Christ.—“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”  (Lev 17:11Lev 17:11
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11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.

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The most powerful weapon in the universe is not a gun, or a bomb or a president with his finger on a button.  It’s one drop of Jesus’s blood.  “We overcome him by the blood the lamb and the word of our testimony.”  (Rev 12:11Rev 12:11
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11 They overcame him because of the Lamb’s blood, and because of the word of their testimony. They didn’t love their life, even to death.

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I’m betting my life on His Blood and what you’re reading is my testimony.

Jesus again: “He who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of me.”  (Mt 10:38Mt 10:38
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38 He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me.

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)  I desperately want to be worthy of Him.  But here’s the tricky part.  Jesus will not take from you and me what we do not offer.  That’s right.  He won’t take what you don’t give Him.

Some of you are feeling weighted down.  Your list is long.  Your Isaac is…precious to you.  Maybe you need some encouragement.  The writer of Hebrews knew this: “[1] Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2Hebrews 12:1-2
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12 1 Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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)  You’re not alone. There’s a Host cheering you on.  And they are raucous.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  But it is simple.  Here’s what’s involved.  “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  (Luke 9:23Luke 9:23
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23 He said to all, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, TR, NU add “daily” and follow me.

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Try this.  Hold out both your hands.  In one, you hold your idol.  Your Isaac.  Or, Isaacs.  In the other, Jesus.  Now extend your arms.  Hold them both up to the light.  Which do you want more?  Your money or Him?  Those glossy pictures or Him?  The touch of a girlfriend your wife doens’t know about, or Him?  Your power?  Your identity?  Your career?  Want me to keep going?

And don’t accuse me of telling you that this whole exercise is a function of good works and working your way to Jesus and you’re somehow saved by your own bootstraps.  That I’m one more Bible-thumper giving you one more list of things to do, one more set of boxes to check, en route to righteousness.  Stop.  That’s boloney.  I am telling you to walk up to the throne of God, lift your hand up, uncurl your fingers and give Him the opportunity either to take it or give it back.  But give the taking and the giving to Him.  Your job is obedience, lifted hand and open fingers.  It’s an offering.  That’s it.  You let Him decide whether you keep it or it dies.  We carry the wood and our life.  He carries the knife and the fire.

Want to call yourself a Christian?  Follow Jesus?  Hang that thing around your neck?  Then there is a cross in your future.  In mine.  The road we’re on will take us there.  What hangs on your cross is up to you but something and someone is going to be put to death.  Your choice.  But take heart.  Jesus has been here before us.  It’s the very same choice He faced in the garden:  Deny.  Take up.  Daily.  Follow.

This a decision of your will.  Not your emotions. You won’t ‘feel like’ doing this.  Will you ‘rise early?’  Will I?

One last thing.  Mt. Moriah?  The hill where Abraham raised the knife above Isaac?  It has an historic past. It’s the same hill:
1. where King David built an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite
2. where Solomon built the temple
3. and it’s also called “Calvary” — where Jesus poured out his blood.

I want to make sure you get that: The hill where Abraham offered his son, is the same geographic hill where God the Father offered His Son two thousand years later.
God wastes nothing.

I quoted this before.  It’s Isaiah.  700 years before Christ.  See if it means more the second time around:  “And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all people on this mountain, a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined aged wine, And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations, He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And he will remove the reproach, of His people from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”  (Is 25:6-8Is 25:6-8
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6 In this mountain, Yahweh of Armies will make all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of choice wines, of fat things full of marrow, of well refined choice wines. 7 He will destroy in this mountain the surface of the covering that covers all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He has swallowed up death forever! The Lord Yahweh will wipe away tears from off all faces. He will take the reproach of his people away from off all the earth, for Yahweh has spoken it.

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Psalm 22 one last time: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.  For the Kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.  All the prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship; all those who go down to the dust shall bow before Him.” (22:27-29)

“Shall remember…shall turn…shall worship…shall bow…”  Each of us is headed to the foot of the throne.  No escaping that.  Like it or not, we will all fall at the very real and very resurrected feet of Jesus — the first born among the dead.  Seated at the right hand of God Most High.  So, you can either extend your arms and uncurl your fingers now, at a date and time of your choosing, or you can do it later at a date and time of His choosing.

This is a surrendering.  A giving up.  A throwing away.  A yielding to.  A coming under.  When I do this, because it humbles and shreds me, I get on my knees.  Literally.  Sometimes I sink to my face.  Then I raise my hands.  I offer it.  Push it away from me and toward Him.  Then I say, or scream, something like this.  Feel free to join me and make it your own:

Lord, here.  Take it.  I don’t want it anymore.  I want to give you my Isaac.  It’s separating me from You.  Killing me slowly.  Forgive me.  Please.  I am so sorry for putting it between us.  For preferring it over You.  For running to it rather than You.  For clinging to it, and not You.  For trusting in it and not you.  For wrapping myself in these chains.  Lord, I run to You.  Cling to You.  Trust You.  When I hang this shiny thing around my neck I want to be identified with You, not my Isaac.  I bow down to You, not it. I worship You, not it.  I deny myself. Right now.  This very second.  And every second to come.   And I want to pick up my cross and follow you.  To lay it across my shoulders and walk like Simon.  Not out of obligation or guilt or duty or shame but because I love you.  I desire to be like You.  Walk with You.  Because Your lovingkindness is better than life.  Because one day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Because You’re my Glory, my Shield and The One who lifts up my head.  Because I’d be lost without you.  Because I’m no longer a slave.  But a son and if a son, an heir.  Because I don’t want to ever do anything that diminishes the truth about Your blood and what it accomplished for me.  Because I don’t know how else to say, ‘thank you’ for dying my death so that I might share in Your life.  Because I just can’t get the past that You, Perfect and Sinless, went through all that You went through for a wicked, black-hearted sinner like me. 

Sometimes I say it two, or three, or ten times.  Usually, when I do, tears follow.

Note: Don’t beat yourself up if you wake tomorrow and find your hands and heart clutched around something that is not splintered wood and you’ve got to come back here and offer it up again.  These things can have deep roots.  Sometimes they come up all at once in one big clump and sometimes it takes a while to uproot them.  We have a tendency to take back what we’ve offered up.  That’s why Jesus said, “Daily.”  But don’t lose heart.  Remember, God blessed Abraham after he offered up Isaac – and when He did, the blessing stretched beyond his wildest imagination.

If you’re having trouble, invite a friend.  Two lights in the basement are better than one.  Don’t be ashamed.  Satan is using that against you.  On purpose.  For those of you that are married, invite your wife or husband.  I know, it’s painful.  But, the Lord will honor and bless that.  Grab her hand.  Grab his.  Hit your knees.  Spill the truth from your gut.

Last thought — when Simon shouldered the Cross and Jesus looked into Simon’s eyes.  That look pierced eternity.  Jesus was looking through Simon, all the way to you and me, here and now.  His last step onto that Cross purchased your and my eternal, irrevocable Redemption.  There will come a time, when our time here ends, and each of us will look into those same eyes.  And this is the crux of the matter, this is The question — the hinge pin — when that time comes, and you stare into those eyes, what will He find on your shoulder?

What’s that you’re carrying?

Welcome to The Cross.