My old self has been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body
by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 NLT
Easter is fast approaching, and, like me, you may be trying to wrap your mind around its true meaning. I think my mind understands the facts. Father God’s plan to save humanity included a horrific sacrifice. The Father sent his beloved Son Jesus to earth to deliver his message that he loves us and was making a way home so we might be able to live forever in his presence. There was no other way for our relationship with God to be restored except that Jesus bear in his own human body the penalty for all the sin. Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross we, who were chosen and called, would be returned to our heavenly Father’s family.
Jesus obeyed his Father out of sacrificial love for us. As far as I can discern, the word sacrifice here means “the holy, or sacred, destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” If we accept this interpretation, it seems to imply that the Cross of Christ is a place of holy exchanges.
Sacrificial love carries with it an implicit loss of precious things. It was not just the physical, emotional and spiritual agony that was caused in God’s sacrifice. But, also, Jesus had to endure the loss of his public honor and reputation, the loss of fellowship with his beloved disciples, the loss of intimacy with his Father when God the Father had to turn his face from him as he bore our sin, and ultimately the loss of his human life.
Jesus set aside Heaven and all the glories he enjoyed there to obey his Father and set us free. He and the Father suffered great loss in order to return us to the place and plan created for us before the earth was formed. In order to receive and respond to that sacrifice for us, we are asked to manifest their sacrificial love and life as we become more like Jesus. In order to do that, we must crucify, put to death, our old nature with its rebellious ways.
We nail to the Cross of Christ our selfish desires in exchange for true freedom. We crucify our plans and claim God’s perfect will. We pick up our godly calling and mission on earth as we deny the world’s pull on our time, resources and passions. We choose to align with Jesus and bear any loss so that we might gain him, his eternal love and faithful, tender presence forever.
Dear friends, be blessed as you embrace the crucified life in Christ. Acknowledge the loss that sacrificial life implies and surrender happily to Jesus. May you experience the freedom of being set free from the cares of a selfish life and soar with unending hope, love and joy as you receive the Father’s pleasure. Amen.
Mary Sumner ~ March 24, 2021
What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.
Galatians 6:15b NLT
I’m afraid I am beginning to sound like a grumpy old lady. Yes, I am getting older, but I don’t want to be negative about the inevitable changes taking place.
It seems like every appliance we replace does not work as well as the one we are replacing. The technology we just got used to, changes, so we need to learn how to do things all over. This pandemic keeps challenging us as our favorite restaurant closes, and we can’t do things we used to like with the people we liked to do them with. You get the idea! It’s hard to stay positive when you just don’t like the way things are going… in the world, in our families, even in some churches.
But I refuse to become a negative Nelly! Especially when God reminds me that he created the world to be alive, and that means he created it, and us, to change and grow. Life is messy! Growing can be hard. In fact, the other day I heard myself saying, “If something is going to be worthwhile, it will probably be hard.” Every beautiful rose has thorns.
The thought came to me that there is probably only one alternative to change, death! We were created to grow and overcome the challenges of change. It keeps us alive and alert. So, if you have been complaining like I sometimes do, let’s remember that what we really need to change - is our attitude!
Instead of complaining, let’s look for the gifts hidden in the challenges. Let’s be determined to allow God to improve our character in the stretching. Let’s let the Holy Spirit guide us through, light the way and make us more like Jesus. Let’s align with God, his thinking and purposes in the matter. Let him work his patience, kindness, thankfulness and grace into our very fiber, so we can be strong in him and witness to his Kingdom that is being established through the change. Let’s not miss the new life springing up from the wreckage of the old.
Dear friends, be blessed as you shed the old habit of complaining and choose to put on a new attitude of thankfulness and praise. May we choose to light the way into the coming days with proclamations that our God is good and he is in control. What he changes for good, no one can undo! Be blessed to embrace the truth that we were created to grow, and that means change. Amen.
Mary Sumner ~ March 17, 2021
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.” - Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Last month at Refresh, we heard Matthew 11:28-30 in the Message version and I love it. Part of me feels like I could just leave this verse here and write nothing else and it would be more than enough to fuel you for the week. Spend some time resting in this word and listening for God’s voice to speak to you; I can guarantee He’s got something in there for you!
I read something the other day that made me laugh and also made me want to cry just a little bit. Anyone else relating to this? “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired of living through historically significant events.” Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around all that has and is going on around the world, and then, add on top of that, so many people have personal trials they are walking through. It’s just so much. Can you relate?
Well-meaning people say, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I’m here to tell you that’s just not true!! It’s the very nature of the Father to intentionally stretch you beyond your own capability! It’s the very nature of the Father to do the impossible in and through you. It’s the very nature of the Father to be the One to walk you through the darkness on the path you could never successfully walk on your own. It’s the very nature of the Father, to empower you beyond your own ability to figure it all out and fix it. He certainly gives you more than you can handle!
If you were able to “handle it” then would you learn to rely on your own wisdom? Would you begin to encourage yourself with your own strength? Would you stop trusting the Father? Handling everything in your own strength might get you through for a while, but it will not grow lasting fruit and will only leave you tired, worn out and burned out.
I bless you today with trusting the Father in the midst of the trials. I bless you with walking in the “unforced rhythms of grace” as you face every difficulty in your life. I bless you with an encounter with Jesus where you get away with Him and let Him teach you and give you rest. I bless you to learn to partner with Holy Spirit to live freely and lightly no matter what you’re walking through in life. May you know the heart of the Father for you today and forever.
Lisa Nelson – March, 2021