Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Take Me to the Cross

Recently, I was asked to speak at a youth event-a bonfire.  It was the first function for the youth group, so I was honored to attend.  Before the event, the youth pastor asked if I would speak on the topic, “Take Me to the Cross.”  So, I agreed to follow her instructions for the event. As I started to meditate on the phrase and study the scriptures, I couldn’t get my mind off a man named Simon.  Who is Simon?  Simon was the man who carried the cross of Jesus. (Luke 23:26; Mark 15:21; Matthew 27:32)  A man on a simple journey – with no agenda; he is just passing by.  He has just left the countryside, walking into a peaceful journey until he encounters Jesus.  Oh, who wouldn’t want to personally meet Jesus!  Yet, may I remind you Jesus isn’t preaching to a multitude, healing the sick, or raising the dead.  Jesus is on the road that’s leading to death, a hill called the “Skull.”  A place of death for horrible criminals to face their punishment for their crimes committed.  Yet, at the end of Simon's peaceful journey, he is placed in the center of a road to a crucifixion.

 Life will take us on several different journeys, some we don’t want to walk down.  Yet, if we truly want to walk with Jesus, we have to follow the road to Calvary.  Nevertheless, I am wondering what’s going through Simon’s mind?  Was he trying to figure out the charges of Jesus?  Why is heading to the Skull?  Although the cross is a public, humiliating, and horrific death for our Savior to suffer, He did.  Before the cross is placed in the ground, Simon got to visually see the aftermath of the beating of Jesus.  He was completely unrecognizable as a person, “Who could do this to another person?”  The back of Jesus is scared from the repeated whips tearing His flesh apart.  His face is beaten, bruised, and bloody from the thorns upon His brow.  “What did this man do?” Simon had to wonder as his eyes met the Savior’s.  As Simon carries the cross down the road, he hears the voices of others.  He hears the women weeping and wailing as they follow Christ on the road.  As he continues to carry the cross, he sees the soldiers with their swords.  The soldiers are reinforcing the decision of the government to punish this criminal.  Other voices are yelling for Jesus to be crucified but the voice of Jesus is comforting towards the women.  “How can you comfort people on the way to your death?”  Simon had to ponder.  “Who is this man?”  “If anyone needs comfort-it’s this man!”  He understands the people are divided about this man but he is asked to carry HIS cross.  Simon doesn’t know anything about the man except what the many voices are saying.  

A simple walk through the country would forever change the life of Simon.  He will always be known as the man who carried the cross of Jesus but he was a follower too.  According to Bible scholars, “Rufus” found in Romans 16:13 Paul was referring to Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross. So, although Simon had a personal encounter with Jesus it changed his life.

What can we learn about Simon’s journey?  Eventually in our lives we will encounter the life of Jesus, we will either choose to be a spectator of the events of Christ or become a devoted follower.  What we must understand, God calls us out of the crowd to make a public choice about Him.  WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?  Which voice will lead your path?  Will it be the mockers who didn’t understand?  Will it be the followers who walked closely behind?  Sadly, some chose to sit with the mockers to gamble their eternal destiny.  Besides mocking the mission of Christ, they mock Him directly to His face.  Although they mock Him, He longs to forgive them.  Others walk with Jesus closely behind him; they truly know WHO He is.  As they walk with Him, they suffer with Him.
Calvary does demonstrate the love of the Father but it also demonstrates the cost-death. 

We can’t follow Christ without their being a death to sin and to self.  So, we can’t have the abundant life or eternal life without believing in Jesus.  Besides dying at salvation, it’s a continual journey to die on a daily basis so the will of God is done.  (I Corinthians 15:31)
     Simon was passing by but he was called out of the crowd-to follow Jesus.  It’s a personal journey down the road to Calvary, only the footprints of Jesus and yours.  It’s a personal and public declaration to the world-not for popularity.  If we are to follow Jesus, we are to follow Him to Calvary.  At Calvary, Jesus suffered a public, shameful, and horrific death to publicly carry my penalty, shame, and sin.  He publicly demonstrated His love for us, so why is it so difficult for us to publicly demonstrate our love before the world?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Old Fork in the Road

As we journey in this life, we will eventually come to the old fork in the road.  As we stand gazing down each path, we can start to feel overwhelmed about the choice we have to make.  Whether the decision is about getting married, selecting a career, or moving to a new location for better opportunities-it’s VITAL to seek God’s face for every important decision for your life.  One of my spiritual mentor’s, my Aunt Elaine said, “Never go where the peace of God isn’t leading you.”  Although this statement is quite simple, it’s guided me during through some critical decisions in my life, especially in recent events.

When we have the peace of God in our lives it will keep our hearts and minds at ease.  Peace should rule our lives, so we can walk confidently with God regardless of the circumstances ahead. 

 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7 

Our faith begins in a relationship with God, grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and ends with the reward of those who keep the faith.  So, if it begins and ends with God, so why would God stop in the middle of the journey? “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way thou shall go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” Psalm 32:8

Recently, I had the privilege of preaching at my home church, I was so excited to pour back into the church family who lovingly supported me.  I couldn’t wait to share updates with all my family and friends about what God was doing.  Yet, on the other hand I was deeply saddened about where my life was, especially in ministry.  I felt as if I was a disappointment to everyone, even God.  A few days before my departure, my husband started teasing me about moving back to Maryland.  Honestly, it wasn’t even a decision I would consider because I knew God’s call for my life.  As I boarded the plane, my heart stayed focused upon “my expectations” for this phase of my life.  In my eyes, I failed miserably.  Nevertheless, God was testing my heart, drawing me deeper, and spoke directly into my life during this trip.  It wasn’t what I expected but it was what I needed, a timely word from God. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Proverbs 25:11 

Upon arriving at the airport, I was greeted by my biggest fan, my mother who lovingly kissed my face.  As she promised, she was going to “spoil me” during my visit at home.  She didn’t go back upon her promise; we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Olive Garden-one of my favorite places.   Although dinner was short, we were expected at the pastor’s house for dessert, so we drove to their home.  Upon arrival, I wasn’t sure what to expect during this visit.  As I was getting acquainted with the pastor and his family, enjoying the dessert and fellowship with godly people-God arrived in the midst.  In the middle of dessert, the pastor and my mother laid their hands upon me and started praying for me.  As they prayed for me, the Holy Spirit spoke prophetically into my life through the pastor.  It was a timely word spoken directly to my heart and changed my outlook of “my expectations” for my life.   Yet, God was testing my heart!  After Sunday night service, I thanked the pastor for allowing me to share the Word of God.  We had a brief conversation, encouraged each other and he asked me if I would consider being his Associate Pastor.  I advised, “I wanted to fast and pray before my answer and to speak to my husband.”  What was I tell my husband? 

As the next several weeks unfolded I continued to seek the Lord’s face, sought godly counsel, and made a list of pro’s and con’s.  Yet, I finally asked God to “open the door and close the door to what He wanted” so I could walk clearly.  As I waited upon God the door was closed at the moment to go back home.  As I was listening to the results of various decisions, my heart was completely crushed.  Why would this great opportunity arise?  Why would God speak so clear with a timely word?  We must remember the greatest call of all!  As Christians, our goal is to simply grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.  It's not about titles or callings; it's simply to know Christ in the fullness of the Spirit.  Sadly, we can get so sidetrack with life’s responsibilities that we neglect the reason for living-to know God! 

It’s only through loving God will our purpose be made known; His perfect will come as a result.  We can't force the will of God into our lives; we have to allow God to open doors for us.  Until God opens the door to His perfect will; rest on His perfect Word spoken in your life. "Then Job replied to the Lord : "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." Job 42:1-2   One of the reasons it's so important to have the Word hidden in your heart, so you learn to encourage yourself. The Word hidden keeps us from sin but it also builds our faith to endure any test, especially if we stand alone. 

While tending the flock David is completely unaware of the prophet of God coming to Jesse’s house.  He is working faithfully in his father’s field; he doesn’t understand why he is being called out.  As Samuel anoints David with oil, he receives a prophetic word about his life. After this prophetic call, David returns to being a shepherd, he wasn’t escorted to the throne.  At the moment of anointing, David was being PREPARED for the call of God not only to be king but to be the man after God’s own heart.  David didn't force his way to the throne, he waited on God's timing and promise.  His heart of worship led him to the palace but it wasn’t the RIGHT MOMENT to rule; he was used to comfort a tortured king.  As David was faithful and gained the trust of the king, he was led into battle.  It wasn’t just a battle against his enemies but his family, King Saul, was his father-in-law.   As David won battle against his enemies, his calling became evident to all; God’s anointing will be recognized.  Yet, David wasn't lazy while he waited he served his father's flock, played harp for the king Saul, and in battle. Yet, it was all used to equip David to be King, so be faithful with your hands and heart. 


1.       When the call of God is summed; it’s time to realize EVERYTHING in your life is being used for PREPARATION.
2.       God’s purpose can’t be stopped for your life; He is the author of it.
3.       WRITE DOWN spoken promises to build yourself up when life’s circumstances are not clear, family isn’t supportive, and rejoice on the day of God’s timing.
4.       God’s call doesn’t come without a battle, so BE PREPARED for warfare against the enemy.
5.       REST IN GOD where you are; God will open the doors at His appointed time.
6.       REALIZE your greatest call is BECOMING CHRIST LIKE; not the title you carry.
7.       While waiting SERVE FAITHFULLY with the responsibilities you are given.

When the fork of the road seems to overwhelm you; go to the road map-the Bible.  God will make His will clear but be willing to walk in whatever direction He asks.  If there is a check in your spirit, it’s time to stop what you are doing and listen.  If you have heard directly from God which direction to take; don’t fear it!  He is walking each step of the way because He leads us in the path of righteousness for His name sake. (Psalm 23:3)