Poetry Saturday—The Thorn

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged Him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out of His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face. —Martha Snell Nicholson

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Assurance In Christ’s Ascension

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Assurance In Christ’s Ascension

     Our Savior descended when He came to the manger of Bethlehem, and further descended when He became ‘a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). He descended lower still when He was obedient to death, even the death of the Cross—and further yet when His dead body was laid in the grave. … Long and dark was the descent. There were no depths of humiliation, temptation, or affliction that He did not fathom. …  

     The time came for our Lord to continue His homeward, upward journey and return to the glory from which He had come down. From the Mount of Olives, ‘while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight’ (Acts 1:9). The rest of His upward progress we cannot describe. Imagination and faith step in and conceive of Him as rising beyond all regions known to us, far above all imaginable height. … 

     How high He ascended after He passed the pearly portal Paul cannot tell us, save that he says God ‘seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion’ (Ephesians 1:20-21). He describes our Master as ‘dwelling in unapproachable light’ (1 Timothy 6:16). The Man Christ Jesus has gone back to the place from where His Godhead came! …

     We are sure that the purpose of His love is secure or He would not have returned to His rest. The love that brought Him here would have kept Him here if all things necessary for our salvation had not been finished. …

     Remember that His assent to the Father is representative. Every believer rose with Him and grasped the inheritance. When He rose up, ascending on high, He taught our feet the way. At the last His people will be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and so will they be forever with the Lord. He has made a stairway for His saints to climb to their bliss, and He has traveled it Himself to assure us that the new and living way is available for us. In His ascension He bore all His people with Him.

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

Jesus told His Father that He had completed everything He was sent to complete (John 17:4). John also says that Christ’s “It is finished” cry from the Cross also marked the completion of everything that had been prophesied about Jesus (John 19:28-30). 

Such amazing love brought Jesus to earth! And His steadfast love also made sure that He left absolutely nothing undone that was needed for our salvation! 

There’s now no reason for us to live fearful or anxious or skeptical about what is coming next. When Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and when He promises that He has gone to prepare a place for us to bring us to be with Him, He has demonstrated His authority to make these claims in His death, resurrection, and ascension. 

Oh my friends, live every day in that glorious assurance!

Where’s God When I Feel Abandoned?

Have you ever felt abandoned by someone? 

You stood up for someone, but when you needed someone to stand up for you they disappeared Or you did what was right, but no one recognized you for it? Or you were the encourager, but when you needed encouragement no one was around for you? Or maybe even you obeyed God down to the very last detail, and yet it seemed God abandoned you when you needed Him most? 

Jesus knows what every single one of these scenarios feel like! He stood up for the downtrodden, but they screamed, “Crucify Him!” He poured His life into teaching and encouraging His friends, but they all ran when the heat was on, leaving Jesus all by Himself. He obeyed God down to the very last detail, and yet it seemed like God abandoned Him when He needed Him most. 

Have you ever felt abandoned by God? 

Jesus did. 

Hanging from the Cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!” 

I cannot help but notice two things about the state of mind Jesus was in heading to the horrific treatment He would face (see Matthew 26:31-44; 27:27-46). 

  1. Jesus knew all of this was going to happen to Him. Notice the phrases “for it is written” and “so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled” and “so that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. Even His cry from the Cross was a literal quotation of Old Testament Scripture (Psalm 22:1).
  2. God was silent. Even though Jesus called out to His Father three times in prayer, “My Father!” there was no heavenly response. 

Why would God remain silent during this trial? God didn’t need to speak to His Son during the trial because He had already spoken to Him before the trial! 

It’s the same in our trials—

The Teacher prepares us for the test, but then is silent during the test. 

God’s silence is not His rejection or abandonment. Just as God provided for Jesus in His moment of trial, God has provided for us in our trials too—For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13 AMP) 

So let’s learn three invaluable lessons we can learn from Christ’s time of supreme suffering. 

1. Be honest in God’s presence 

Jesus didn’t hide His feelings, nor did He try to couch His vocabulary in “churchy” sounding words. God already knows what’s in your heart, so pour it out raw and honestly! Go to the Psalms and see raw emotions on full display in prayer. 

2. Lean all your weight on Jesus

Jesus prayed, “My Father!” and He cried out from the Cross, “My God!” His death on the Cross took away the barriers that kept up from coming into God’s presence (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). After His resurrection, Jesus sent this message to His friends: “Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to MY Father and YOUR Father, to MY God and YOUR God’” (John 20:17). 

3. Go to the Word of God

This is what Jesus did. In His moment of abandonment, He quoted Psalm 22 from the Cross. Jesus fulfilled ALL of the Scriptures, so now we can pray with greater assurance—For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

God’s silence is NOT God’s abandonment. God’s silence is His invitation for us to be honest, to lean on Jesus, and to trust every promise in His Word. Every single promise that is Yes! and Amen! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Where’s God? series, please check out: 

And join me this Sunday as we take a look at how Jesus has conquered humanity’s ultimate enemy. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Why Did Jesus Suffer?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Why Did Jesus Suffer?

     Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it. If you cannot always understand how this or that grief worked toward the great end of the whole passion, yet believe that it has its share in the grand why. Make a life-study of that bitter but blessed question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     Why, then, did God forsake His Son? I cannot conceive any other answer than this: He stood in our place. There was no reason in Christ why the Father should forsake Him—He was perfect and His life was without spot. God never acts without reason, and since there were no reasons in the character and person of the Lord Jesus why His Father should forsake Him, we must look elsewhere. … 

     He bore the sinner’s sin and He had to be treated, therefore, as though He were a sinner, the sinner He could never be! With His own full consent He suffered as though He had committed the transgressions that were laid on Him. Our sin and His taking it upon Himself are the answer to the question, ‘Why have You forsaken Me?’ …

     So long as the smile of God rests on the man, the law is not afflicting him. The approving look of the great judge cannot fall upon a man who is viewed as standing in the place of the guilty. Christ suffered not only from sin, but for sin. If God will cheer and sustain Him, He is not suffering for sin. The judge is not inflicting suffering for sin if He is manifestly encouraging the smitten one. There could have been no vicarious suffering on the part of Christ for human guilt if He had continued, consciously, to enjoy the full sunshine of the Father’s presence. It was essential to being a victim in our place that He should cry, ‘My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?’ … 

     Beloved, see how marvelously, in the person of Christ, the Lord our God has vindicated His law!

From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

The great apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about his singular focus—When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2) 

“Think much of all your Lord suffered, but do not overlook the reason for it,” Spurgeon said. 

That earth-quaking, darkness-inducing, temple-rattling, soul-piercing cry of Jesus—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?—could only have been uttered by someone perfect. I know plenty of reasons why God could have forsaken me, but Jesus knew only a single reason. 

Jesus did not suffer because of something He had done wrong, but because of all I had done wrong.

That Cross was stained with His blood for my sin. 

Because He was forsaken, I am now accepted in the Beloved Jesus (Ephesians 1:6-7). Think much on this: Jesus was crucified for you and me SO THAT we wouldn’t have to bear the penalty of our sin. Justice was satisfied. Now, by faith in His sacrifice on the Cross, we can come to God not only with our sins forgiven, but we can be accepted by Him as His children. 

My friend, think much on this. Resolve to know the unspeakable value of Christ crucified for you. And then rejoice greatly that you are accepted in the Beloved. If you would like to know more, please contact me.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep The Focus On The Savior

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Keep The Focus On The Savior

     I have heard men tell the story of their conversion, and of their spiritual life, in such a way that my heart has loathed them and their story, too, for they have told of their sins as if they did boast in the greatness of their crime, and they have mentioned the love of God, not with a tear of gratitude, not with the simple thanksgiving of the really humble heart, but as if they as much exalted themselves as they exalted God. Oh! When we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with great sorrow, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things. … 

     My Master, I cannot understand how You stoop Your awful head to such a death as the death of the Cross, how You could take from Your brow the coronet of stars that from old eternity had shone resplendent there. But how You should permit the thorn-crown to gird Your temples astonishes me far more. That You should cast away the mantle of Your glory, the azure of Your everlasting empire, I cannot comprehend. But how You should have become veiled in the ignominious purple for a while and then be mocked by impious men who bowed to You as a pretended king; and how You should be stripped naked to Your shame, without a single covering, and die a felon’s death. This is still more incomprehensible. But the marvel is that You should have suffered all this for me! … 

     I, a lad, found the Lord of glory. I, a slave to sin, found the great Deliverer. I, the child of darkness, found the Light of Life. I, the uttermost of the lost, found my Savior and my God. I, widowed and desolate, found my Friend, my Beloved, my Husband. Oh, how I wondered that I should be pardoned! It was not the pardon that I wondered at so much; the wonder was that it should come to me. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon

How sad that many times the story of our salvation focuses more on how bad we were, and gives so little glory to how amazing our Savior’s rescue was. 

Just as the Apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners, and stood in amazement that Christ’s love would reconcile him to God, so Spurgeon stood amazed that Jesus would stoop to die for “the uttermost of the lost.” 

It’s fine to tell people what used to be, but please make sure your story focuses more on how amazing it is that God’s love saved you from those sins. Amazing love! How can it be that You, my King, would die for me? 

Let’s keep the focus on the Savior! 

Poetry Saturday—Our Sins The Cause Of Christ’s Death

Infinite grief! amazing woe!
Behold my bleeding Lord!
Hell and the Jews conspired His death,
And us’d the Roman sword.

O the sharp pangs of smarting pain
My dear Redeemer bore,
When knotty whips, and ragged thorns,
His sacred body tore!

But knotty whips, and ragged thorns
In vain do I accuse;
In vain I blame the Roman bands,
And the more spiteful Jews.

‘Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.

It was you that pulled the vengeance down
Upon His guiltless head;
Break, break, my heart! O burst mine eyes!
And let my sorrows bleed.

Strike, mighty grace, my flinty soul,
Till melting waters flow,
And deep repentance drown mine eyes
In undissembled woe. —Isaac Watts

Supernatural Interference

The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).  

“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). 

Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50. 

The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.” 

Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19). 

If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). 

The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!

Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God! 

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)

Six Hours, One Friday

“Six hours, one Friday. To the casual observer the six hours are mundane. A shepherd with his sheep, a housewife with her thoughts, a doctor with his patients. But to the handful of awestruck witnesses, the most maddening of miracles is occurring. God is on a Cross. The Creator of the universe is being executed. Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks, and His lips are cracked and swollen. Thorns rip His scalp. His lungs scream with pain. His legs knot with cramps. Taut nerves threaten to snap as pain twangs her morbid melody. Yet, death is not ready. And there is no one to save Him, for He is sacrificing Himself. It is no normal six hours . . . it is no normal Friday. For worse than the breaking of His body is the shredding of His heart. His own countrymen clamor for His death. His own disciple planted the kiss of betrayal. His own friends ran for cover. And now His own Father is beginning to turn His back on Him, leaving Him alone. Let me ask you a question: What do you do with that day in history? What do you do with its claims? If it really happened . . . if God did commandeer His own crucifixion . . . if He did turn His back on His own Son . . . and if He did storm satan’s gate, then those six hours that Friday were packed with tragic triumph. If that was God on that Cross, then the hill called Skull is granite studded with stakes to which you can anchor your soul forever.” —Max Lucado, On Calvary’s Hill

Sovereign Love

Jesus is on His passionate journey toward the Cross. Every step on this journey is a step of love. 

After Jesus finished His last supper with His disciples, they all went to one of their favorite places to pray—the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a place they all knew well. Including Judas, who had been looking for an opportunity to turn Jesus over to the religious authorities when He was out of the public eye. 

Jesus knew this time was coming (Matthew 10:33-34; John 13:1, 3; 18:4), and His knowing prompted His serving. So we can say that His foot-washing service was as much a reminder to Himself as it was to His followers. 

After they entered the garden to pray, events began to unfold at a fast pace, ultimately culminating in Jesus being crucified. 

But let us never forget that through all of this horrific, inhumane mistreatment and torture, Jesus remains the King of kings, the Son of God. In fact, very God Himself.

The Jewish religious leaders knew this too (John 8:54-59; 10:31-33). And without “knowing it” the soldiers that came to arrest Jesus knew it as well.

Just look at the absolute authority of the King of kings. Grown men—religious leaders and hardened soldiers—fall to their knees at just three words: “I am He.” 

Christ’s kingdom has overruling authority. It collects no taxes, it has no standing army, it requires no checks-and-balances because its Sovereign IS Truth and Love. This unequaled, unrivaled power was contained in Jesus—“You would have no authority over Me unless it was given you from above.” 

Which makes His submission to Pilate and others even more amazing! One word from Him could have crushed legions and toppled governments—yet for love’s sake, He submitted. Let that sink in—Sovereignty submitted.

What appeared to be the cruelty of man was the sovereignty of God. 

No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded. (John 10:18) 

“Christ’s death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.” —J.C. Ryle 

Christ has bought us out from under the doom of that impossible system by taking the curse for our wrongdoing upon Himself. For it is written in the Scripture, “Anyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed” (as Jesus was hung upon a wooden cross). (Galatians 3:13 TLB) 

Sovereign love submitted to the cruelty of man SO THAT you and I could be saved from the inescapable doom that will inevitably crash down on us. Jesus loved us so much that He allowed the Cross to happen to Him. 

The question now remains—what are you doing with this sovereign love? 

Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Have you received this gift He willingly, lovingly purchased for you on the Cross? 

If you have, let me ask you another question: Christian, are you living in a way that leads others to this sovereign love too (John 13:34-35)?

Anytime you see the Cross, remember what sovereign love did there for you. 

7 Quotes From “He Chose The Nails”

Max Lucado takes us in for a closer look at the Cross and all that Jesus did there for us. Please check out my full book review and then read this book—you will be glad you did! 

“Maybe you’ve never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance, have you ever blasted your high beams in someone’s rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good? That’s what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’ (Matthew 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus. …

“Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the Cross. Through the prophet He said, ‘I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting’ (Isaiah 50:6). Mingled with His blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.” 

“‘He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 NLT). Between His hands and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins. Dangling from the Cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by His hand; those down the list are covered by His blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV). ‘He has forgiven you all your sins: He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the Cross’ (Colossians 2:14 Phillips).” 

“Seats at God’s table are not available to the sloppy. But who among us is anything but. Unkempt morality. Untidy with truth. Careless with people. Our moral clothing is in disarray. Yes, the standard for sitting at God’s table is high, but the love of God for His children is higher. So He offers a gift.… a seamless robe… a robe worn by His Son, Jesus.” 

“What appeared to be the cruelty of man was actually the sovereignty of God. Matthew tells us: ‘And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn into from top to bottom’ (27:50-51). It’s as if the hands of heaven had been gripping the veil, waiting for this moment.” 

“Why is the Cross the symbol of our faith? To find the answer look no farther than the Cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God‘s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The Cross is the intersection. The Cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.” 

“‘Just look what they did to me!’ we defy and point to our hurts. ‘Just look what I did for you,’ Jesus reminds and points to the Cross. Paul said it this way: ‘If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you’ (Colossians 3:13). You and I are commanded—not urged, commanded—to keep no list of wrongs.” 

“Knowing His last deeds would be forever pondered, don’t you think Jesus chose them carefully? Deliberately? Of course He did. There were no accidents that day. Jesus’ last moments were not left up to chance. God chose the path; He selected the nails. Our Lord planted the trio of crosses and painted the sign. God was never more sovereign than in the details of the death of His Son. … The message: ‘I did it for you. I did it all for you.’” 

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