The Beautiful Outcome of Our Lord’s Betrayal

Betrayed.

Abandoned.

Humiliated.

Stranded.

Thrown under the bus.

Do you have a few stories of your own that made you feel…drastically alone?

“The sober symphony of Calvary was arranged by these characteristic notes of betrayal.” This was the story leading up to Jesus’ death.

“Our Savior’s murder was not a story just to give us a knee-jerk emotional response, but to show us how carefully and divinely orchestrated a mission of mercy it was.” Imagine how many betrayals Jesus encountered by both friends and enemies, from the garden of Gethsemane to the interior of the governor’s palace?

Yet, he gave no excuses.

“He humbly remained the Passover Lamb and stumbled up a hill to His own slaughter.”

He took the punches, the spit, the ridicule, the bruising, the scourging, the nails…

Yet, “he muted His own omnipotent roar to save us.”

The lash on his back, the thorns on his head, the spit on his cheek, the bruises on his face, the nails in his hands, the spear in his side, the scorn of the rulers, the betrayal of his friend, the desertion by his disciples – these were all the result of sin, and all designed by God to destroy the power of sin. ~ John Piper

Roman crucifixion ranks among the most heartless and inhuman forms of torture and death yet contrived. That such a cruel practice could be transformed into a means of salvation testifies powerfully to God’s grace and mercy for all the world. ~ Lisa Harper

What MERCY!

What GRACE!

As I read this week’s bible study from Lisa Harper’s, The Gospel of Mark, I was somberly and joyfully reminded of the Cross. Jesus’ story of betrayal led to my story of redeeming beauty. Everyday this should be a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude in our hearts. What an amazing reminder of God’s goodness in our lives. Everyday we have access to eternal life, healing, the promises of God, joy, and so much more because of our Lord’s choice of a sacrificial death and resurrection. Sometimes we have to be reminded to keep the main thing the main thing; It’s. All. About. Jesus.

Let’s take a moment right now to thank God for this beautiful outcome!

We have one more week in this study! Join me for the final week of The Gospel of Mark Bible Study next Thursday morning as we close up with a grand finale and release the topic of the next study. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

The Gospel of Mark Book

Week 6: The Beautiful Outcome of Our Lord’s Betrayal

Scripture References:

  • Mark 14: 32-16:8

Reflective Questions:

  • If someone asked you, “Why did Jesus have to die?” how would you answer that person?
  • When you really ponder the symbol of a cross, do you feel more sorrowful or hopeful?
  • What’s the “Oh wow, surely Jesus is the Son of God” moment in your life?

 

 

The Beginning of His Earthly End

The Bible is at times hard to read. There are times I’m left with emotions of frustration and hurt because I’m asking God, “Why did that happen in the Bible?” “Have you ever encountered things in Scripture that seemed tough or even wrong with harsh judgements that our soft hearts don’t want to consider?” I was in the book of Genesis two weeks ago and it broke my heart to read about some of the hurtful things that happened to women. Also, other examples of scripture that we may have trouble trying to reconcile with includes the “destruction of the firstborn in Egypt in Exodus 11:5 or eliminating the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20:17,” as Lisa Harper mentions.

Though we come across passages that challenge us and may seem hard to come to grips with, it’s so important that we understand the biblical context so that we can “appreciate the holiness and goodness of God.” That’s why I love the Bible so much! No matter what we are reading, there is good in it. The Bible is pure, holy, and leads us to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” ~ The  Westminster Confession

Let’s take this passage in Mark 11 for example, about the Withered Fig Tree. In week 5 of The Gospel of Mark Bible Study, we are turning the corner and heading into the scene of Jesus’ last week of His earthly life. After Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem on a donkey, the next day Jesus curses a fig tree that He sees.

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard him say it.” Mark 11:12-14 NIV

At first glance this is hard to understand. I love how Lisa Harper considers what the disciples were thinking about all of this because the narrative does not mention their expressions. They may have wondered aloud if skipping breakfast had made Jesus light-headed, I mean who would fuss at a tree? However, as we dig into scripture and the context this is what we find:

  1. The fig tree often symbolized Israel’s relationship with God in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 8:13, Hos. 9:10, 16; Joel 1:7; Mic. 4:3-4; Zechariah. 3:10)
  2. God’s chosen people had stopped producing the real fruit of relationship with Him through prayer and worship and were instead engaged in the ostentatious but spiritually barren practice of ritual and legalism. By killing a showy yet sterile tree, Jesus was making the emphatic point that our Creator will not allow unrepentant sinners masquerading as spiritual folks to flourish indefinitely. (Lisa Harper)
  3. In all works in the ministry of Jesus, this is the only destructive miracle. God doesn’t approve when there is profession without reality, talk without walk. (David Guzik)

As you study this passage, remind yourself of the goodness of God’s Holy Word, it’s ability to interpret itself, and reveal the holiness of God. Take some time to reflect on the questions below and I will meet you back here next Thursday for week 6. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

The Gospel of Mark Book

Week 5 The Beginning of His Earthly End

Scripture Reference:

  • Mark 11:1-26

Reflective Questions:

  • What are some examples of things in Scripture that seemed harsh or even wrong until you learned more about the context?
  • How have you come to reconcile these problematic passages?
  • What spiritual principles does this passage in Mark 11:22-26 contain regarding prayer and faith?

 

Let Choices Lead and Feelings Follow

Help! There’s a tornado whirlwind of jeans, tops, and dresses all over my bedroom! I cannot make up my mind on what to wear so I throw every article of clothing I feel like wearing in every direction of my bedroom. Can anyone relate?? I like the idea of wearing one blouse in my mind but I like how another shirt fits and feels better on my body. So I change. After walking out the door and realizing I’m not dressed for the weather, I change again. Then I feel like wearing different shoes because they look better with the new dress I put on. This probably goes on two or three more times. Then don’t get me started on my food options. I will probably feel three different ways about my lunch today when it comes time to chow down. There are so many feelings, no wonder our culture thrives on one of the scariest ideas floating around – that your feelings are truth.
feelings face
feelings faces – bernadinia
Our culture is saturated with feelings! Do not misinterpret this. Feelings are not bad. In fact, they were given to us by God. However, to allow our feelings to dictate what we do and how we identify ourselves in critical areas of our lives is deception and misaligned. Our culture believes that those desires, those urges, and those impulses are who you are. Live how you feel! Do what you want, when you want, and with whoever you want. Follow your heart! This is a horrible existence. The reality is this is not truth. Pastor Judah Smith stated it best, “Don’t follow your heart, question your heart.”

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Don’t follow your feelings. Most of the time we cannot identify our emotions or know what we want. How can we trust the roller coaster ride of our emotions dealing with God, people, careers, etc? Yet, it is a sad reality that the same approach we have towards what we’re going to eat and what we’re going to wear, is applied to other major areas in our lives. One of the best ways to safeguard our hearts and lead a life of decision is to understand that it starts with relationship. Here are three important areas of our lives where we can be a generation of people that choose to live by decision and will, not by emotion and frill. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!
  • Our Relationship with God
    • What if God responded to us out of His feelings? We would not be redeemed today! Someone once told me that they are waiting to feel God before they start following Him. Well, that is the wrong approach to our relationship with our Father in Heaven! Friends, let me tell you that our love for God is an act of the will and selfless surrender of ourselves. It is a decision. (James 4:8)
    • Love is a law and laws have no feelings. Romans 13:8; John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Sometimes you feel like running the red light because you are late, but the law says STOP! (Myles Munroe) God has given us a command to obey, even to the point of loving our enemies. We definitely cannot feel our way to doing that. We choose that!
    • Obey God wholeheartedly – If we think of love primarily as emotional desire and not as active committed service, we end up putting duty and desire against each other in a way that is unrealistic and destructive – Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
  • Relationship with our Spouse

    • Andy Stanley said, “Falling in love is easy; all it requires is a pulse, but staying in love requires a plan.” Love is a verb. You do it. You don’t feel it. Love is an act of the will. We think love is some emotional concoction deep in the soul. However, it is a daily decision to love (verb) our spouse. Then those initial feelings we had when we were all googly-eyed during the dating season will return and stay!
  • Living Out Our Purpose and Calling
    • What is that hard thing God has called you to? Did you start out with enthusiasm and emotion but found yourself giving into your feelings of not wanting to do it anymore? Most people start out feeling one way and quit on a “bad” day. Here’s the thing, you cannot rely on your feelings to lead you to greatness. Greatness occurs through daily habits and choices. Commit, follow-through, invest, practice and deliver even when you don’t feel like it.

Start Your Day with WWJD

wwjd

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

You remember the “WWJD” phrase? This was the most popular Christian saying back in the 1990s. In fact, it was so culturally iconic, you weren’t considered cool or Christian unless you wore a WWJD bracelet (maybe not that extreme lol)! However, the motto, “What would Jesus do?”  does hold so much truth in how we demonstrate our actions in every situation and circumstance as believers. I also believe it can be a catalyst for how we shape our mindset to start our day.

This is an encouragement for you this morning to start your day with God. Let me ask you this… did you wake up with a worrisome thought about life? Did you wake up with thoughts of fear? Or how about thoughts of extreme lack of motivation for the day…dreading the work hours ahead of you? Did you wake up feeling rushed, too busy to think with all of the work you HAVE to get done today? If any of those scenarios didn’t fit, then you probably were the one who walked mindlessly to the bathroom or kitchen, possibly contemplating if you could sneak in five extra minutes of sleep. Yet, in all of these scenarios, if we’re not careful, they can be the catalyst to how we go into the rest of our day, with a filter being worried, doubtful, tired, stressed, or without purpose. But what if we woke up thinking WWJD?

Remember that worrisome situation that was on your mind when you woke up? “If you’re tuned into God, the first thing you’ll do in any worrisome situation is lift it up to Him.” When we wake up in the morning and devote the priority of the day to our King, we do what Jesus would have done…go to the Father in prayer. I find setting time each morning to pray before anything else, is the most important part of your 24 hours.

God can do more when we allow Him with our day, then we can do on our own. Give Him control.

Praying prepares our hearts and minds for whatever may come at us that day. Prayer allows us to cast every burden and weight on the Lord so that we can start each morning free and joyful. Prayer is setting the thermostat for our day. When we set it, we carry the presence of God that has the power to influence people and situations for His glory. When we don’t set it, well…we can be subject to the people and circumstances around us. So let’s hold true to the motto WWJD. Let’s start each day communing with Christ in prayer and reading God’s Word, even if its just for a few minutes. I’m telling you, your life will change all for the better! Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

“Are your dreams CRAZY enough?”

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I remember as a 7th grade girl I went to my dad and told him I was going to run for the class officer secretary position. I was so elated and nervous to step out in faith for this class position that I could not wait to tell this dream to my dad. As I was explaining with excitement and energy about this role that I wanted to take on, I noticed his demeanor was not moved by my 7th grade buzz. So to pull a response out of him, I asked my dad what he thought about this next endeavor I wanted to pursue. With love in his voice and a warm embrace around my waist, I will never forget the words that came out of his mouth next. He said, “If you’re going to run for an office, why not run for president?” Stunned, I looked at him blankly. I had no answer. In fact, the response shocked me and completely shifted my thought process. Why didn’t I think of that before? If I was going to dream, why not dream big!

I look back at the scenario in my early childhood to remind me to dream crazy dreams. Moreover, our Heavenly Father is saying the same thing to us. “God is offended by anything less than your biggest dreams and your boldest prayers.” As Mark Batterson put it, “If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God…because they don’t require divine intervention.” God is waiting to move miraculously on your behalf and most importantly for His glory!

Before I got a chance to run for office, my father passed away suddenly from a fight with Leukemia. That next year I ran for class president and titled my speech, “Why not me?” I won the election and will never forget the lesson my father left me that day when I spoke to him. Our heavenly Father is welcoming the same invitation in our lives. Why not you?

So, answer this question with honesty and truth…”Are your dreams crazy enough?” If the answer is no, “then you haven’t really come to life yet.” As I was finishing up the book I was reading called “The Circle Maker,” I came across the new Nike commercial released a few days ago as well. They both echo a message that we all need to desperately grasp. Are you dreaming bold, daring, crazy dreams? Are you living your life to its fullest potential? Are you relying on and inviting God to intervene and show His faithfulness in your life? Today is the day to begin if you have not started. I encourage you to pick up the book and dive deep into the pages. Then read it a second time, and again, and again. Batterson outlines 10 practical steps to goal setting and writing down your life goal lists. Below are a few highlights I got from the book. So dream crazy big dreams. Dream daring bold dreams.

If you want, comment below on some of the dreams you are believing for in your life. Be Blessed. Be revealed!

The Circle Maker

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson

  • Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers.
  • Do the best you can with what you have where you are.
  • When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter in prayer?
  • After you pray through, you need to praise through.
  • Dreaming is a form of praying and praying is a form of dreaming, The more you pray the bigger your dreams will become. And the bigger your dreams become the more you will have to pray.
  • May imagination overtake memory.
  • Circle makers are risk takers.
  • If you give beyond your ability, God will bless you beyond your ability.
  • Today could be the day. When you live in prayer mode, you live with holy anticipation.
  • I’ve never met a person who didn’t experience some big disappointments on the way to his or her big dream.
  • How desperate are you for the miracle?
  • We do know that 100 percent of the prayers we don’t pray won’t get answered.
  • Pray through the Bible.
  • Pray like it depends on God; you also have to work like it depends on you.
  • It’s the hard times that teach us how to pray.
  • What seems like an unanswered prayer means that God has a better answer.
  • Dream Big. Pray Hard. Think Long. Prayer is the inheritance we receive and the legacy we leave.
  • The only way you can fail is if you quit trying. If you’re still trying, even if you’re failing, you’re succeeding. God is honored when you don’t give up.
  • Your greatest legacy is the prayers you leave behind. It’s also your longest legacy.
  • God will still be answering your prayers long after you are long gone. And the ripple effect will only be REVEALED in eternity!

 

Go Look at the Horizon

I have a confession. I don’t like waiting…

For example, the thought of long lines, being put on hold on the telephone, and the worst…traffic…makes me want to avoid them at all costs! Here’s the thing, if you know anything about Atlanta, GA traffic, you don’t have the option of avoiding it. You learn how to deal with it. You find out that morning rush hour is from 5:00 am to noon and that evening rush hour is from noon to 7:00 pm. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere. Atlanta has its own. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Period. Seriously. Something worse could happen. I’ve learned to pack meals and even listened to entire book audiotapes to pass the time away. I’m telling you it’s a fine art in how you deal with waiting in Atlanta traffic.

But life has you wait for more than just long lines and terrible Atlanta traffic. You could be waiting on a job opportunity, a dream in your heart to come true, your future spouse, a change in your health, financial turnaround, or waiting to have kids. The wait is different for everyone but everyone has a wait. Waiting is a big part of the Christian life and prayer. In fact, you don’t get the option of whether you have to wait as a Christian, but you do get the option of HOW you wait. I recently listened to a message from Jesus Culture Church in Sacramento called “The Prayer of Anticipation.” It has definitely encouraged me in my own waiting process so I wanted to share some great points that will hopefully encourage you as well on waiting on God. Be Blessed. Be Revealed.

Lamentations

  • There are two types of waiting: Passive waiting and the Biblical concept of waiting. People think waiting is passive. They distract themselves with other activities and get their mind off what they are waiting for. Yet, this is not the Biblical concept of waiting. The definition of wait in the Bible come from several different Hebrew and Greek words. In general, it means to LOOK, EXPECT, HOPE FOR, LIE IN AMBUSH FOR, LONG FOR…I don’t forget about it. I keep looking. I anticipate. I lean in to prayer and expect it. Waiting on God is to seek Him and pray anticipating that what your Father said will. come. to. pass. It’s not going through the motions of prayer. We can pray and not believe. Yet, waiting on God is to pray AND believe in faith.

 

From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4 NRSV

 

  • Waiting helps us know the character of God. When I can know God in a deeper way and trust His character, it can help me get through the long process of waiting. When we do not know that God is faithful, consistent, not a respecter of persons, kind, good, etc. we can become bitter, hurt, discouraged, and stop praying in our waiting process. God wants you to get to know Him while you wait! Lean in and position yourself to know that God cannot deny His own character. If He did it for other people, He will do it for you! When fear or doubt try to cloud your mind remind yourself that God is faithful. He is the most consistent person you will ever meet. He will not fail you. Even when we are not faithful and consistent, that does not stop God from being who He is.

 

Wait Scripture.png

  • GO LOOK AT THE HORIZON. When Elijah prayed for rain in the Bible, he told his servant to look toward the sea for rain. When the servant came back and said there is nothing there, Elijah told him to go back…seven times. On the seventh time, the servant responded, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” Before you knew it, a heavy rain poured. You and I need to pick-up the prayers we put down and pray with anticipation and expectation! We need to keep looking at the horizon until it comes and lean into God! It may take seven times, it make take 7,000 times but that is part of trusting that God will deliver. It’s coming and God’s timing is not our own. Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose hope. Just Go Look One More time. 

 

 

 

Cloudy and I Know It

Last year was a bit “cloudy” for me. I went through a lot of transitions and experienced some high points and low points. Dreams were put on hold and others came to reality. My faith was tested and my walk with God wavered. Many people believe this myth that because you are a Christian, you won’t have struggles or you do not wrestle with your faith…this couldn’t be further from the truth. I say all of this to say that there were moments I was on Cloud nine. I was blissfully happy and nothing in my surroundings could move me in a negative direction. I saw clearly what life had in store for me and I was ready to dive headfirst into the vision I know that God has for me. Then there were other moments…

…life situations that I allowed to happen and life situations that. just. happened

…and they placed me right in the middle of the clouds and everything became a blur. All I could see was what was right in front of me and nothing made sense anymore. My heart became heavy, my mind stubborn to the Word of God, and I felt myself slowly falling away from God’s pleasing and perfect plan for my life.

Welcome to what I call life. We all have different life situations that will challenge the way we see things. Sometimes we allow those things into our life that we know are not for us…they could be romantic relationships, business partnerships, jobs, excessive social media, etc…and they slowly take our focus from being above the clouds where the vision is clear to suddenly being immersed in them.

Sometimes we allow GOOD things into our life, but it’s not the BEST God has for us.

What’s funny is then we try to justify our actions. We try to make the wrong right, or what we think is right fit into our lives. Let me tell you…it will not work! No matter how bad we desire our own wants, we know in the back of our minds something is off. I guarantee you the Holy Spirit splashed a huge warning sign in front of us at some point but we were so stubborn to follow it because we want what we want so badly. Then I’m sure you get frustrated with the struggles of life because you have no control over it. Well, at least I do. I had a situation that lasted nearly 8 months and it seemed like whenever I fixed one problem, the situation only got worse and was prolonged further!

I understand what it means to feel pain in areas of life that makes you wish you had a huge reset button. (How cool would that be to just reset life lol?!) You’re tired and your strength is weak. You wonder what the future has in store for you. You feel like no one else is going through what you are experiencing. Trust me when I tell you that we all have some giant elephant we are dealing with…some choose to try to hide it which only makes matters worse. Life is certainly not a fairy tale, but I know it is beautiful. It becomes beautiful in its own time. Only when we surrender to God’s will and perfect timing, will we be able to see the beauty above the clouds and even in them.

The serenity about life is that when we mess up…God is still faithful. God is not moved by our conditional behavior. The fact that I fell slowly into the clouds only made me aware how much more I need a Savior that loves me in spite of the filth. It was when I recognized my weakness and vulnerabilities that I could be strong in the Lord. I am not saying that you should accept your shortcomings as a way of living; we are called to be set apart and live a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. However, we are to accept our wrongs as lessons, make them part of our stories that we share with others, as to maintain an integrity and wholeness towards soundness and healing. True healing and peace comes from accepting all of yourself, even the parts you don’t want to; to recognize that you may be on cloud nine or in the clouds. That’s authenticity. That’s integrity. God can only transform what we authentically bring to Him…

Now that the new year is upon us and it is 2017, it is a great opportunity to see clearly what God has for your life. I am joining my church in our annual 21 day fasting and prayer this month which starts today. Why fasting and prayer? It is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all discussed in the Bible. We need our lives transformed! We need results and not talk! We need the power of God! Prayer and fasting is the answer to all of those. I’m believing God for clarity and a clear vision for 2017 and beyond. If you need to get out of the clouds, I encourage you to fast and pray so that your life can be used for Kingdom purpose. I will leave you with 12 things you can expect from a Fast from Lisa Bevere’s “You Are Not What You Weigh.” Be Blessed. Be Revealed.

 

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WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A FAST

Excerpt from, You Are Not What You Weigh, by Lisa Bevere

  • Fasting Creates a New Hunger -(Ezra 8:23) As the initial hunger pangs or longings cease, a new desire is formed.
  • Fasting Works Humility – (Psalm 35:13) – We feel our natural strength waning. In our weakness, we find ourselves more dependent upon God. It is turning away from what we can provide, and turning toward what God alone can give.
  • Fasting Increases Sensitivity to God – (Luke 2:36-38) Anna in the scripture could hear clearly what God was saying.
  • Fasting Chastens or Disciplines – (Psalm 69:10) David maintained his spiritual life by means of bringing his body into subjection.
  • Fasting Changes Our Appetite – (Acts 13:2) God often uses times of fasting and prayer to speak to the desires of our hearts, and to reveal his purpose and destiny for our lives.
  • Fasting Increases Our Capacity – (Esther 4:16) Fasting increases your capacity for self-sacrifice and imparted wisdom.
  • Fasting Brings Answers to Prayer – (Isaiah 58:9) A godly fast will bring answered prayer and it may come through his Word, or as a still small voice, or by a strong confirmation of what He has previously shown us.
  • Fasting Leads to Quick Healing – (Isaiah 58:8) The healing can be physical, mental, or spiritual. Even natural medicine supports this – many illnesses occur in the digestive system. A short fast gives our body a chance to refocus its energies on healing instead of eating. (Please consult a physician before undertaking a fast if you are ill.)
  • Fasting Opens the Door to God’s Protection and Provision – (Isaiah 58:8) God promised to be a guard before us and behind us. A fast renews your righteousness and sends it on before you. Then, as you give God the glory, He returns righteousness as your rear guard.
  • Fasting Looses the Chains of Injustice – (Isaiah 58:6) This fast has the power to loose any unjust chains that bind us. It is not merely for personal liberation, but it represents God’s desire to see us reach out and loose the ties that bind others, and remove the chains of oppression.
  • Fasting Frees the Oppressed and Breaks Every Yoke – (Isaiah 58:6) A fast is a time when we take our eyes off of ourselves and our own needs; and look around at the oppression and pain of others. In response, we learn to reach out in compassion and help – becoming agents of healing.
  • Fasting Motivates Us to Provide Food for the Needy – (Isaiah 58:7) You are not eating because of a fast, then you are free to share your portion with those less fortunate.

If you would like to follow the 21 day devotions for fasting and prayer, click the link below.

http://21days.victoryatl.com/