Friday, March 17, 2017

The Rocks That Rocked the World

One of the most profound experiences I've had on this journey happened here, in the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. 

If you look closely at the picture, above, you'll see that there's a metal railing surrounding a large section of flat rock. The boulder in the far left corner is reminiscent of an altar, and just the right size for propping against as you pray or leaning against as you rest.

The rocks are the centerpiece of the chapel because they're believed to be the rocks on which Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Are they the exact rocks? There's no way to know that for sure, but they could've been. 

Regardless, they serve as a focus point in pondering the agony of Christ.

The church wasn't as crowded as the last time I visited, and I was able to approach the front of the church, where I saw the kneeling rail. One of our missionaries was already on his knees. I glanced his way as I took my place on the rail near him and saw him wipe away tears. 

I'm ashamed to say this, but for a second, I wondered about the tears. Just as quickly, I understood. The events on those rocks rocked the world. 

The battle for the redemption of mankind was fought and won there. Jesus surrendered. Death was defeated. Victory over sin was won. There was still the cross to come, but the surrender to it happened right there, on the rock.

I looked at the rock in the hush of the sanctuary and thought about Jesus, leaned against the large boulder, praying. The words of John 17 came to mind, not just the, "Not my will but Thine be done," prayer, but the prayers for His disciples and all those who would come after.

"I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one - as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me." John 17:20-21 NLT

There are only a few more sentences to the prayer before we read, "He went forth..."

The last prayers of Jesus before He headed to certain torture and death were for His disciples, including me. 

That thought hit me like a boulder. Beaten. Spit upon. Crown of thorns. Ridiculed. Dragged through the town. Clothes stripped away. Giant nails hammered through feet and hands. Crucified. Dead in a tomb for three days. 


As I pondered the enormity of what Jesus did for us, people who so often take His sacrifice lightly, my own tears began to flow. 

I wouldn't have done it.

I wouldn't have let my son do it, even if I knew the empty tomb waited on the other side.

But God did, because it was the only way. 

Something changed in me at that altar of stone. 

I have a new appreciation for the agony and sacrifice of Jesus, a deeper understanding, a greater desire to honor His gift of life, to live the way He intended.

Jesus intended that we live as the disciples did - 100% committed to Him above all else, totally in love with God and our fellow man, and willing to lay down our lives for our Savior. 

Today, let's take a close look at what Jesus did for us and at the response of our lives and our attitudes. Maybe you, like me, need a deeper appreciation for what He did for us and a greater commitment to live as He intended. 

Let's live like we love Him. Live in such a way that we make His sacrifice understandable to those around Him. Live so that others want what we have...
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post, The Disappearing Sin-Paper

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Disappearing Sin-Paper

After the devastating Chicago fires of 1871, Horatio Spafford intended to take his family to France to visit with his good friend, Dwight L. Moody. Spafford was a prominent attorney whose business detained him, but he sent his wife and four daughters ahead, planning to join them in a few weeks. 

His wife, Anna, and their four daughters sailed on the Ville du Havre. On Nov 22, 1873, the ship collided with an iron sailing vessel. It sank within minutes of the collision. Mrs. Spafford was later found floating on debris, unconscious but still alive. All four daughters died in the shipwreck. After she was rescued and carried to Wales, Mrs. Spafford sent a telegram to her husband that read, "Saved alone." 

When Mr. Spafford sailed to meet his wife, he crossed over the place where the ship had gone down and his daughters had died. He returned to his cabin and wrote the words to the beloved hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul."

They had three more children after the shipwreck. A few years later, the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem where they spent the rest of their lives doing charitable work with all who were in need. 

The beautiful house, pictured above, was the home of one of Spafford's daughters. It's served a variety of functions over the year, from student dormitory to consulate, but the property now serves as the Jerusalem Prayer House. We visited there yesterday. 

The Prayer Center is upstairs. It's an interactive area that's experienced in silence. There's an area for meditation, an area for confession, and an area for intercession, as well as an area for journalling. 

The confession area was my favorite. Kneeling pillows were stacked against the wall. A large porcelain bowl of water sat on a table, two long bamboo chopsticks resting across the edge. A pen and a stack of narrow paper slips sat on the adjacent table. 

After I'd spent time on my knees in confession, I wrote my sin on one of the slips of paper, dropped it in the water, and stirred with the chopsticks. I watched as it slowly dissolved and disappeared. Within a few seconds, there was no evidence of the sin-paper. 

Tears trickled down my cheeks as I looked at the clear water and pondered the enormity of verses I'd learned as a child:

~ Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow... (Isaiah 1:18)
~ Removed as far as the East is from the West... (Psalm 103:12) 
~ I will remember them no more... (Hebrews 8:12)

Just as the sin-paper disappeared, so our sins "disappear" when we're forgiven. Washed white, removed, forgotten. 

Ponder the miracle of forgiveness for a moment...

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

If we're willing to confess our sin to God, He is willing to do more than forgive them. He's willing to remove them completely. 

Today, let's release the sin-load we carry and give it to the One who came remove it entirely. 

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: It Still Starts with Love

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It Still Starts With Love

This is the McClain building at Ajloun Baptist Conference Center in Ajloun, Jordan. It was the first building built when Dr. McClain arrived from Britain. He was an Anglican physician-missionary who came to Jordan in 1928 in response to the call of God. 

He loved everyone according to the royal law of our King. Christian. Muslim. Rich. Poor. Dirty. Clean. Young. Old. He loved everyone, and so did his entire family.

Nearly a century later, people still remember the way he and his family loved and sacrificed for the people. All the doctors who followed him also loved in that bold, sacrificial way. 

The story is told the, when patients needed blood before surgery, one of the surgeons would roll up their sleeves, stick out their arms, and (if theirs was compatible with the patient) give their own blood for the patient they were about to take to surgery. Regardless of the patient's religion.

Muslims and Christians alike remember Dr. McClain and the missionaries who lived on that hill because of the genuine love they showed. 

Many people came to Christ because of that love. 

Not one single person was drawn to Christ because of hate, meanness of spirit, prejudice, or fear.

They lived what Scripture teaches, and it worked the way God intended:

God has not given us a spirit of fear, 
but of power, love, and a sound mind. (1 Tim 1:7)

Love God with every fiber of your being. (Matt. 22:37)

Love your neighbor as you love yourself. (Matt. 22:39)

The doctors and their families endured all kinds of hardships, but they never stopped acting like Jesus. Their impact on a nation is still being felt because of their consistency.

As I talked to people in their homes, in the markets, in the churches, one thing is clear. It's possible to make a lasting impact on a nation for the cause of Christ if we do it with love. 

When my life is ended and I move to my eternal home, I want people to remember my impact on the world for years to come. I hope they forget the mistakes I've made, the times I've failed Christ. 

What I hope they'll remember is how I obeyed the royal law of my King, the way Dr. McClain did.

For that kind of legacy, I have to live with love now. 

Today, let's ask ourselves this hard question: Will people remember me for my unfailing love for all? Will people say I showed them Christ by my love?

If not, what are we going to do about it?

Prejudice and hate are choices we make. So is love.

Choose love.

"Love never fails... These three remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:8,13
I'm writing from the Middle East, where I'm serving for three weeks through intercession and relationship. It's been a sweet time. Today, we'll be at the Prayer Center in Jerusalem. Intercession is the sweetest work of all. It's also the hardest. Pray my heart will be pure and focused and filled with love for all. Thank you!