The Practice of Golgotha

Calvary. The place of the skull. Where Jesus was crucified.

We’re coming up on the time of year when many reflect on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

I observe Passover to celebrate Messiah, while most observe Easter Sunday for this. I personally, in line with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remove leavening for a week from my home. I go through the cupboards and look at the ingredients on each item as needed. Just as I physically do this, I also spiritually do it. I become quieter, spending more time in prayer and reflection.

What still needs to be crucified in my life?

This is what I’m asking myself. What about me isn’t glorifying God? Am I dishonoring Him in my thoughts, words, or actions? Is my heart pure? Am I living in integrity? Am I walking in love?

Every year, more of my flesh and old self is surrendered on Golgotha.

Jesus (Yeshua) died for my sins. And all of us have many. Becoming a believer doesn’t automatically make me or you act like a saint. We’re still…becoming.

1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning. I don’t intentionally sin, but I still need much refinement. The Holy Spirit is faithful to do it as we yield.

Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service.

So, my challenge during this approaching season is to “practice Golgotha.” Be a living sacrifice. Lay aside the carnal for the eternal.

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

I heard Amy Grant many years ago say her mother-in-law prays everyday that she’ll do something of eternal significance. That’s been my prayer for a few years now.

Father, let me never lose sight of who You are. Help me do something of eternal significance today and may more of my flesh die so I am walking more in the spirit. Help me to love more like You do.

It centers on the cross. The beautiful, old rugged cross. Where my death becomes my new life.

Forward in faith and worship. May this season remind us of the Messiah in a beautiful, new way.

And I pray that in the moments when I feel unloved I remember everything my Savior did for me. Love gives, and He gave it all.

Thank you King Yeshua.

Philippians 2:5-11 TLV Have this attitude in yourselves, which also was in Messiah Yeshua , Who, though existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be grasped. But He emptied Himself— taking on the form of a slave, becoming the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man. He humbled Himself— becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue profess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord— to the glory of God the Father.

The Product of Testing

James 1:3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

My middle son, who’s 7, is a pretty mellow child. But the other day I caught him hitting his brother. When asked about it, he replied that he was being hit and finally couldn’t take it anymore. I still disciplined him and he was upset about that.

“It isn’t fair, I was defending myself” he said through muffled tears.

I get his point.

Have you ever felt that way? Someone or something broke you down until you finally answered, only for someone to see the tail end and jump to a conclusion? It’s frustrating. Demoralizing. At times you want to jump on a roof and shout to someone who will listen the whole story. You want fairness. Vindication.

  • You’re having a bad day
  • You just had to explain that for the 100th time
  • 3 things just broke down and you don’t know how you’re going to get it fixed
  • You’re tired
  • You’re overwhelmed
  • You worked so hard only for someone else to take the credit
  • Someone cuts you off in traffic and you’re running late

The list could be practically endless. Life provides many opportunities to get offended. To react. Yes, circumstances can and do play a role in our mental health and how we approach life. However, it’s still possible (though it might be more work for some) to rise above it.

My oldest son is low functioning ASD. For those who are familiar with it, I’ve said enough. You totally get what my family goes through. For others, it requires a lot of explaining.

Testing.

All of us at some point find ourselves in circumstances that test us. Try our patience. Wear on us. Frustrate us. Anger us. Depress us. Worry us.

How we respond is everything.

When someone cuts me off in traffic, makes a snap misjudgment, is rude, lies about me etc. When one thing after another is breaking down, including my energy.

What comes out of me when I’m pressed? Shaken? Tried?

If I’m holding a cup of coffee and you bump into me with some force, guess what’s going to spill out of my cup? Yep, coffee. Because that’s what is in the cup.

If it’s coming out of you, it was in you.

That’s something huge that I’ve learned. What’s in our heart comes out in our speech and actions.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Today, my personal challenge is to let the Holy Spirit do the daily, continuous refining in my heart. Little by little. We are all in the process of becoming more like Messiah. Let the testing of your faith produce steadfastness.

This…

James 1:4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

I’d love to lack nothing. How about you? The price?

The testing.

Romans 5:2-5 ESV Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Purpose

Purpose: the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

30 million.

That’s the number of copies sold of the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren, according to Google.

And that was in 2007.

Outside of a humongous payday for Rick, something else is striking. Saddening.

People don’t know their purpose.

The reason which something (or someone) exists. Millions upon millions-maybe billions-do not know their purpose. I assume 30 million is just a fraction of everyone on the planet who is interested in the topic of purpose.

Just the other day I had a couple of conversations with two different people. Both brought up that they are unsure of their purpose. And both are professing people of faith.

When you ask someone, particularly a Christian, about purpose you hear the “Great Commission” per Matthew 28:19-20. Go and make disciples. Others reference Matthew 22:37-39. Love God with everything you have, love your neighbor as yourself. A few mention Genesis 1:27. Bear God’s image.

All true. But this involves something more.

Tikkun olam. Hebrew for “repairing the world” found in the Mishnah.

In loving God and others, in making disciples (and being a good one), in bearing God’s image and reflecting the fruits of the Spirit is a call to repair. Heal. Improve. Restore. Reconcile.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation

God, through Christ, reconciled us to Himself. Others need to know this. We are the hands and feet of Jesus (Yeshua.)

I didn’t have eloquent answers for the folks who asked about purpose. But I said this: love God, love people by repairing the world.

We are called to repair.

Each one of us has talents and giftings from God. We each have a function and place in the Body and plan of the Creator. When we are earnestly seeking God, we can trust that our steps are ordered and directed by God. If we get off course, He will guide us back on track. If our hearts are humble and clean, we will be responsive to His leading.

In some way, each day seek to be a repairer and blessing to someone. I assure you, if you sincerely pray to be used to help others God will definitely answer that. But be willing to be stretched. Interrupted. Inconvenienced. Discomforted.

Ministry isn’t a title, position, or platform. It’s loving one another. You may be a doctor, lawyer, nurse, scientist, dietician, mechanic, pastor, evangelist, stay-at-home-mom etc. But first and foremost you are a repairer.

Looking for purpose? Seek God wholeheartedly. Read His Word. Study. Pray. Fellowship with believers. Obey His commandments. And seek to bless others. Big or small, do your part. Someone, somewhere is counting on you to be…you.

So be.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Too Many Withdrawals

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Not long ago someone asked me for marriage advice. I laughed internally, as I’m not anywhere near qualified to give much. However, having been married for 12 years and gone through just about everything, I’ve learned a few things. But one in particular I’m going to share here.

To put it in perspective for you, this is a taste of what my husband and I have walked through:

  • None working (outside of the home)
  • Both of us working
  • One of us working
  • Extra money
  • Negative bank balances
  • Bankruptcy
  • Job losses
  • Antisemitism
  • Fertility issues
  • Health problems (all kinds)
  • Special needs children
  • Loss of church
  • Loss of close friends
  • An inheritance taken
  • Life savings taken from a shady real estate deal
  • False accusations
  • Temptations
  • Death of friends and family

That’s just a sample. We’ve been through. And somehow, by the grace of God, we’re still together. We both grew up in abuse and dysfunction. We, in turn, carried that baggage into the relationship. People who knew me before marriage say I’ve changed a lot.

I have changed.

My goals used to be to have a couple of kids, move in a nice house with the white picket fence, and do the church thing on Sunday. I would settle in a career, make decent money, and invest properly to retire with a nice little financial nest egg. I’d give to some worthwhile ministries and good causes, of course.

Life happened.

My firstborn is severely autistic. So, my social life is affected. I had to quit my day job. Vacations are gone. Nothing left in our house is nice nor can we afford that white picket fence at the moment. I battle with isolation, but do the best I can.

My oldest son, unintentionally of course, stirred up old wounds and traumas I needed to face. And I am. My husband is going through his own things. He’s more private so I won’t give specifics.

But after all the loss, the stress, the changes…my goals are totally different. I became self focused, keeping a steady eye on survival. That drew me very close to the Good Shepherd, which is wonderful. But it also hurt other areas, especially with friendships.

All losses in relationships were tied to one main culprit.

There were too many withdrawals and not enough deposits.

I’ll repeat it. There were too many withdrawals and not enough deposits.

What happens when I take out more money than is in my checking account? This isn’t a trick question. I end up with a negative balance. Fees start to incur. If I ignore the account long enough, it closes. Same with people. Some can handle more than others, but eventually, if you only take withdrawals (or deposit minimally) it will be costly. Relationships have to be about give and take.

Give and take doesn’t have to be in the same way, but it needs to be there. Some relationships are very one sided and specifically purposed. That’s ok, but not ideal.

My point.

We all have something to give. So give. Successful relationships are the byproduct of givers. It could be money, time, prayers, a listening ear, small gifts, helping fix something etc. People have different love languages (time, words, touch, gifts, service.) Give what you can.

I hear many say that a marriage, relationship with a parent/child/sibling, friendship etc is “incompatible” and can’t work. Outside of gross sin (serious character issues) and extreme behavior (boundary crossing), it’s rarely true.

People won’t make deposits.

Love is about serving God and others, not just ourselves.

I want to leave you with a couple of questions to consider. Are there any relationships in your life (or used to be) that had more withdrawals than deposits? What could have been done/could now be done differently to improve its quality?

I didn’t get the white picket fence. Bummer. But I got so much more. I’m growing and learning. And that’s what life is about. Growing and learning.

Don’t give up yet. Some investments take time, but the most worthwhile ones are so fulfilling and enriching. God doesn’t give up on us. Love is patient, steadfast, and believing of the best.

Pray today, “Father, help me to live for You and for those You’ve placed in my life. Teach me how to give and deposit into each person I encounter. Help me manage my time and resources better. May my life in every way glorify You. Amen.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

My Thoughts

Recently I feel as though my spirit had an upgrade. Perhaps an epiphany of sorts.

Several.

I’m seeing the evolution of my faith and understanding. It rattles my comfort but satisfies my thirst. Greatly.

I’ve written in several blogs that my life “is still being written.” And from my perspective, it’s true.

But it’s not. It is all already written.

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

He already knows.

As I seek Him, I can trust that my desires will line up with His in time. So I can thank God in prayer and ask for preparation in receiving it. And all of my needs are known. Even in what appears to be unmet, it’s no surprise and has a purpose.

None of us have to worry one second longer.

And…for many years I struggled with seeing God as a giver. I bought the lie Eve did; God withholds or takes good.

Not exactly.

Follow me for a minute. I finally realized that God is a giver of good (Matthew 7:11). He doesn’t withhold good (Psalm 84:11). All good and perfect gifts come from Him (James 1:17). Yes, yes and yes.

The devil, our enemy, is a taker. He steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10).

Ok. So God is a giver and Satan is a taker.

Not exactly.

God also restricts/withholds. Satan also gives (though the end result involves a taking.)

If God only gave, we would be overwhelmed. If He only withheld or took, we would be desolate.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Sometimes God asks us to trust Him and rest in His grace, His empowering to carry us in life. His withholding is in His plan.

Lastly…God really does want me to love myself (in a non narcissistic way.)

It’s ok to love who I am and know my Creator loves me. And I’m called to live loved.

Live loved by God.

When you know you’re loved, it frees you to be yourself. To be me. Healthy me. The me that emulates Christ and radiates the fruits of the Spirit through my own quirks and expression.

Proverbs 19:8 Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.

Ephesians 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church

Bringing it all together.

God is outside of time. He’s eternal, and has already written the book of my life. He chose me, gave me gifts and talents, and is guiding my steps. He gives good, but His love is in His restrictions, too. The enemy masks as a giver, but only eventually takes. And, I can love myself without being selfish, self centered, or unhealthy. In fact, it’s healthy in balance.

That’s a lot to chew on. I’m slowly savoring this, lingering on the texture and taste of what I just experienced.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Yes, the Lord is good. Very good.

Never Forsaken

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

I was scrolling through on Facebook and saw a rather funny post. The New York Public Library shared some old inquiries that they received dating all the way back to the 1940s. Some were incredibly funny.

  • Are women mammals?
  • How many buildings are in the shape of vegetables?
  • Are black widow spiders better off dead or alive? (I say dead.)

I wonder if people just casually scrolled through and hit the “like” or “laugh” button without really reading them all. There were about thirty-five in total. But the one pictured above stood out to me. It pierced. Made me wonder. The amount of laughing reactions saddened me.

The abandoned woman.

Abandoned: having been deserted or cast off.

What caused that person (assuming the inquirer was likely a woman) to ask that? Did her husband or boyfriend just walk out on her? Someone die? We don’t know.

But something else struck me.

Lifespan.

This person asked about lifespan. Were they sick? Afraid they’d die of a broken heart or lack of support? Chances are this person may not be alive anymore as it was asked back in 1963. Or they are elderly.

I’m wondering.

How many people in this world are brokenhearted and abandoned? Alone? Lacking support? How many people do we encounter each day in our lives that are desperately broken and wounded? Needing love?

People need to know God’s love. They need Jesus (Yeshua.)

I can only imagine what motivated a person to call the library over lifespan due to abandonment. But what I do know is this….

God never abandons us. Human love fails. His doesn’t.

But this leaves me pondering. God uses people. The Body of believers are His hands and feet. How are we loving others?

How am I loving others? Am I taking the time to see the broken, wounded, needy, and lost?

God help me. I could do much better.

This brings me back to two wonderful truths in scripture.

  1. God will never leave or forsake us.
  2. We are called to love God, love people (by making disciples.)

Matthew 22:37-40 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Today, in this moment, I’m sitting in a chair with the sunlight streaming in on me. I’m thankful that I know the Creator. The One who made that sun that shines. Who made me and you. I know that I’m never alone. God will provide. But…He uses people. I pray that I will be obedient to be the part He asks me to be when needed. And I pray you are sensitive to His leading also.

We are never abandoned by God. But far too many don’t know that. May we tell them, in words and actions. Always.

John 15:12 ESV “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

The Time That’s Left

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

This morning, for some reason, a story that a visiting pastor-Marcus Mecum-told at my church months back was burning in my spirit. It’s as if God put an exclamation point on this.

Marcus shepherds a large congregation in Kentucky. One day while traveling he met a young woman named Makayla (I think I’m spelling it right) on an airplane. She lost both of her legs to cancer. If I recall correctly, she lost almost all of one leg and the other below her knee. She wore metal prosthetic legs.

I don’t believe in God.

That’s what she finally told the pastor. She was abandoned as a baby and neglected in the foster care system, getting cancer that wasn’t properly treated.

Why would God do that if He was real?

That seemed to be the unanswered question Makayla carried with her.

God didn’t do it.

We live in a fallen world and there are spiritual and physical laws. Within those parameters, sometimes people get very wounded. In some cases a believer can, in Jesus/Yeshua’s name break off enemy attack or oppression. Other times we must wait for the fullness of God’s promises in eternity.

Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

She needed a bike.

Makayla trained for cycling events. She loved to ride bicycles and race. But due to her physical limitations, she needed a special, rather expensive one. The pastor decided to write her a check for it and offered to follow her on Instagram where she posted her races. She, in turn, followed him. Occasionally she’d even like or comment on one of his sermons posted.

Pastor Marcus didn’t hear from her in a while. Then, she messaged him a couple of times asking him to call.

Busy.

He was busy. Busy with large church issues. The building needed to look right. Be impressive. The church sign. Lighting. Sound. Carpet.

Then she died of cancer.

He saw a family member post of Makayla’s death.

What did she want? Did she know Jesus? Could he have given her comfort and led her to Christ?

No one knows. But of all the people she knew, she chose to reach out to him on her deathbed.

This is a scar and reminder this pastor carries with him. Life is short. Time isn’t promised. Obey the Holy Spirit when He nudges.

This morning I’m asking God to show me anything I’ve been ignoring or refusing to obey. Has He been speaking to me and I’ve been too prideful to hear?

God forbid.

Today, I want to encourage you to stay tenderhearted and sensitive to God’s voice. We never know when we will meet someone we can affect eternally. Or when our last conversation will be.

The world is full of hurting people, needing God’s love and hope. May we be obedient to share it before it’s too late.

James 4:13-17 ESV Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.