Good Friday

Good Friday

Contemplate the words of this great hymn on this Good Friday …

Good_Friday

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee.
I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 15-17

Think About This: Lord Jesus, you embraced your cross to redeem the world. Help me to embrace the crosses in my life — the hardships, struggles, disappointments, pain. Only by recognizing my own weakness, can I discover your strength.Author Unknown

Verses to Memorize: But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 2 Corinthians 2:9-10

Unspeakable Joy

Unspeakable Joy

May grace and peace be multiplied to you.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
~ from 1 Peter 1

Lone oak in the early morning, summer sun. See this tree in different seasons.

Oh beloved, it is true.  We are exceedingly stronger than we know.  And the reason we don’t know we are strong, is because we don’t know who we are.

Do you know who you are?  You beloved (and me) are the friends of the most joyfully powerful Being who ever was, and is, and is to come.  We have been made one with the One who knows perfectly what it is to be in joyful and powerful communion across eternity.  And His joy spills out in infinite strength in and through a believer who allows Him to do it.

Why don’t we get it?  You beloved (and often this fool of a writer) think that the joy of the L_rd is something we must grab ahold of or rustle up.  However, just as any human attempt generally ends in failure, our attempts to try and be happy in our Christianity fall completely short.  We manifest only our failure, and we get distracted by all the other things flying out of control all around us.

Can we get one thing straight?  The joy of the L_rd is not about us, and neither is just about any other part of the gospel.  In fact, one of the first things Jesus points out is that we are blessed if we are poor in spirit.  We are blessed if we finally get that we could not, can not, and will not be able to do life on our own.  And it is only in this place of confessing the truth of our weakness that we finally get it.

It is all about Jesus.

We then begin to read the Word as it is intended to be read.  And we find the Word is not a rule book. We find that the Word is not a text wherein we can validate our viewpoint or behavior. We find that it is actually an infinitely Loving and powerful and joyful G_d reaching across the gulf created by our sinful state – and this same G_d putting us into a right relationship with Himself through Jesus.  And finally, it is the Spirit of this same infinitely Loving and Joyful and Powerful Jesus that is at work in our lives.

And when we get it.  The joy we experience…  Yeah, unspeakable.  – Makala Doulos is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and a regular Freedom Fighter blogger

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 12-14

Think About This: Don’t pray that He would teach you to have joy; pray that the living God full of joy would enter into you. Don’t pray that He would teach you how to be peaceful; ask for the God of peace, the Prince of peace to infill you. Because if you try to imitate in your own strength, you will be a miserable replica. But if you allow the impartation of Jesus Christ to overtake you, suddenly it all works because it is Him imitating Himself, and He is very good at being God. Eric Ludy

Verses to Memorize: But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 2 Corinthians 2:9-10

What Did I Do Wrong to You?

What Did I Do Wrong To You?

“Thus says the LORD: “What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters?  Jeremiah 2:5 (NKJV)

Sometimes things just go too far and they reach that point of no return. Sadly, there are those of us in this world who will ask how far that point is and how long will it take to get there. In my case there was a time in my life where that point was on the horizon and I was at full sail to get there, “hold her steady as she goes, matey!!” But God wasn’t having any of it and just as fast as I set sail and got under way was just as fast as God brought that journey to an end. And when that journey, on the seas of destruction, came to its end, I was left standing on the deck, in front of God, faced with a question. What did I do wrong to you? To this day I am devoid of an answer…yep…pretty much!

What Did I Do Wrong

When we look at chapter two of The Book of Jeremiah we see the same question being asked to the people of Israel. King Josiah was doing his best to turn the nation around but it went too far. My guess is that the sacrifice of its children to a graven image was the final straw. Surely this time period in Israel is in the forefront of The Savior’s mind as He rebukes His disciples, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) In any case, too far is too far and if you know the history surrounding Jeremiah during his ministry you’ll understand why it wasn’t easy for him to be preaching anything to anyone. This brings me to where we are today, as a people.

Not too sure if any of you reading this are picking up on it but those “Award” shows do everything they can to elevate man above man. As I was looking at the “Oscar” statue, I couldn’t help to notice that not only is it faceless but it has, what looks to be, a sword. I commented to my wife, “Doesn’t that look likeNebuchadnezzar’s idol?” It was also funny that, recently, while this idol was in an actor’s hand, he wanted to thank God, who he looks up to, “God is all about gratitude”…then he said his hero is who he ten years from now. WHAT!? That just gives me a headache and has made me wonder what kind of people will we be in ten years?

In my own little way of contrast I have to look at myself and notice my times of ingratitude. Before Jesus, I was all about elevating me above you, sometimes even by way of beat down. And you know something…they never gave me an award for doing it. HMPH!! But when God had enough of it and stopped me the question was: “What have I done wrong to you to make you rebel against Me?” As humbling as it has gotten, I am becoming increasing aware that it is about being content with rather than being awarded for. Unfortunately society today doesn’t see it like that, on the contrary, it only acknowledges God if it has a “graven image” in its hand first. Sad but true!!

I believe that we have our Jeremiah’s in this world saying to us, “Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of My servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.” (Jeremiah 26:4-6) But, as a people, we ain’t listening. Instead some of us are holding our “award” and listening to ourselves sing “How Great I Art”. Once again…sad but true. As Christian brethren, may we not reach that point of no return but instead turn to find our contentment in what He was CHOSEN to give us and then in a grand chorus sing, “How Great Thou Art” Amen? – Chris Hughes is a regular Freedom Fighter blogger and a graduate of the Colony of Mercy

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 10-11

Think About This:“Grace will save a man but it will not save him from his idol. The blood of Christ will shield the penitent sinner alone, but never the sinner and his idol.”—A.W. Tozer

Verses to Memorize: But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 2 Corinthians 2:9-10

 

Wicked Servants — A Lack of Gratitude

Wicked servants—a lack of gratitude!

I made a really bad choice a few years back—a choice to divorce my wife. I didn’t have a biblical leg to stand on but, I had made up my mind and that was that.

A Lack of Gratitude

The question you should be asking, especially if you know my wife is “how in the world did that happen?”

The answer is very simple, I had completely lost all gratitude for what Jesus and many others in my life had done for me.

First, Jesus had led me to Keswick where He saved me spiritually and physically.

Second, after I graduated and had left the Colony, I was invited back to serve in the maintenance dept.

Third, God gave me a wonderful Godly woman as my wife.

The list goes on and on and on which is all the more to my shame because after several years, I stopped being grateful and could only see what I didn’t have but wanted.  Envy, lust, greed—its an ugly list. But it still begs the question, how?

I had been a loner most of my life and never really knew it. I had always been around family, friends and “people”, but I never revealed what I was really thinking or feeling, not at a heart level. Even at Keswick in the midst of many Godly men, I was able to “isolate” by not being open.

Matthew 18:21-35 is the parable of the wicked servant. I know the focus of the lesson is on forgiveness, but I believe we can also learn a lot about gratitude from it as well. Think about the first servant who had been forgiven much (that would be me) If that servant had been grateful, he never would have gone out and put a strangle hold on a brother for such a small debt.  In my case, I would not have held things in and become bitter over nothing. I would have remembered everything I was forgiven of AND the many blessings I received as well—none of which I ever deserved.

If we forget how much we’ve been forgiven, we WILL forget how much we have been blessed with. If we forget how much we’ve been blessed with, we will become arrogant and demanding.

So where is your heart and mind today? Do you remember where you came from and how much you have been blessed with or are you full of yourself and demanding more from everyone—from God—than we deserve?

Father, open the eyes of my heart before its too late and I make a terrible choice.

In Jesus name, amen. – Steve Schmidt is a regular Freedom Fighter blogger and a graduate of the Colony of Mercy. He serves on the full-time Keswick staff

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 8-9

Think About This: Jesus never forced anyone to follow him, and he doesn’t expect his followers to use high-pressure tactics to attract disciples.  Gary R Collins

Verses to Memorize: But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 2 Corinthians 2:9-10

Think About His Love

Think About His Love

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

We begin this week, one of the most precious times of the Christian year, reflecting on all the things that took place in the life of our Lord Jesus, as the events of His earthly life will culminate on His crucifixion on Calvary’s cross for you and me.

1 cross

I want to encourage you to not run through this week on auto-pilot. I want to encourage you to take your Bible and read over from the gospels the last week of our Savior.

Put yourself in the Upper Room as He has this one last intimate meal with His disciples. Allow yourself to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, to have a bird’s eye view as Jesus prays in agony as He contemplates what is about to unfold.

Try to imagine Jesus in Pilate’s hall. Hear the crack of the whip as it snaps on the back of your Savior. Hear the ripping of flesh. The mocking. The jeering. He did this for YOU!

Follow Him on the road to Calvary. Here the cries of His followers. Travel to Calvary. Listen and watch as the Roman guards toss their criminal to the ground. Hear the nails being pounded into His hands. His feet. Feel the awful dreadful pain as the cross is jolted into the ground. The clothes ripped from his body. He did this for YOU!

He hangs there naked. Taunted. Laughed at! Spit upon! Hanging and suffering in agony. He did this for YOU!

Maybe this was what Isaac Watts was contemplating when he penned these words:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Think about his love this week, brothers. He did it all for you!

Going the distance with Jesus,

Bill Welte
President/CEO America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: 1 Kings 6-7

Think About This: The truth of our Lord Jesus Christ is what is worth living for, and what is worth dying for. —W. Robert Godfrey

Verses to Memorize: But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,nor the heart of man imagined,what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 2Corinthians 2:9-10

God’s Word — A Lamp Unto My Feet

God’s Word – a Lamp unto My Feet

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119: 105 NIV)

Back in the Old Testament days God communicated with man in various ways. To Moses, in Exodus 3, it was a burning bush that God used to get his attention so He could communicate with him. For young Samuel, in 1 Samuel 3: 1-11, God spoke at night in a voice that Samuel thought was old Eli, the priest, calling him. God told Noah, in Genesis 6: 11-14, to build an ark because it was going to rain and flood the earth. No one knew what rain was because it had never rained before. We are told that Noah believed and walked with God. An angel of the Lord spoke to Mary and Joseph before Jesus was born. Today we have God’s written Word, the Bible. God communicates with us every time we open our Bibles and read. God does not speak audibly to us today but through His Word, the Bible.

Lamp Unto My Feet

Communication is a two-way street. It takes more than one person to complete a communication network. If our Bibles just sit on the desk, table, or in the book case, we are not seeking to hear from God. When our phone rings or plays music, or whatever alert is programmed in, we must activate it in order to communicate with the person on the other end. When the e-mail alert signal sounds it means someone is trying to communicate with us. Unless we take some positive action, no communication will take place.

Another way God communicates His Word to us is through other people who expound the truths of God from His Word, the Bible. We must listen and follow along with them as they use the Bible to make clear the message of God recorded there for us.

Let’s check out what God’s Word says about God’s Word. And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times (Psalm 12: 6 NIV). Your word, O LORD, is eternal: it stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119: 89 NIV). For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4: 12 NIV). I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1: 16 NIV). How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word (Psalm 119: 9 NIV).

How does this purification take place? By obeying John 3:16 and asking Jesus into your heart and life to forgive you of your sins. We are told to search the Scriptures (God’s Word) and hide them in our hearts. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119: 11 NIV). Victory in Jesus is waiting for you. Do you hear God speaking through His Word, the Bible? – Chaplain Stan Marsh serves at the Colony of Mercy and oversees our Aftercare Program

Keswick, America’s  (2012-12-13). Real Victory for Real Life Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 4068-4101).  . Kindle Edition.

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 22-24

Think About This: It is only when the whole heart is gripped with the passion of prayer that the life-giving fire descends, for none but the earnest man gets access to the ear of God. (E. M.) Bounds

Verses to Memorize: I waited and waited and waited for God.   At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock  to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-son,  a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God. Psalm 40:1-3 The Message

Your Marriage — His Church Part 3

Join us tonight  for our monthly Men’s Fellowship Night at America’s Keswick. Pastor Bryan Murawski will be our speaker. Dinner is at 6:15 PM followed by a great evening or praise, testimony, teaching from the Word and great fellowship in the Activity Center. Please call for information — 732-350-1187.

Your Marriage=His Church III

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (ESV)

Wedding Rings

To wrap up this series on how your marriage equals His church we start by taking an ecclesiastical walk. Keep in mind that when Satan attacks a single believer, he does it when they are alone; just like he tempted Eve in the garden, and Christ in the wilderness. That threefold cord we read about in Ecclesiastes represents the importance of fellowship…of relationship!!

To draw an ad-lib from John Gill…Persons in Christian fellowship, be they a few or many, while they keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, they are terrible in the eyes of the adversary, as an army with banners, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against them. And if this is true of the united love and Affections of God’s people, it must also be said so much more when we talk of the love of Father, Son, and Spirit. That by three principal graces, they being faith, hope, and love, that cord cannot be broken at all!!

In the beginning Adam and Eve were to be in agreement just as Father and Son are in agreement so that the work of The Holy Spirit could go forward and bless the Creation in ways that would glorify the Godhead in all its majesty.  In a very ecclesiastical way the plan was always to be Head to Body…Husband to Wife…Christ to Church. Husbands are compared to the head; wives are compared to the body. Husbands are compared to Christ; wives are compared to the Church. Husbands are commanded to love as Christ loved or loves; wives are commanded to submit as the Church is to submit to Christ

In Ephesians 5: 21 we read, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”then it goes into the wife submitting to the husband…but a lot of times we forget that 21st verse.  John Piper wrote about this saying, “Submitting to one another is seen as an expression of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Husbands and wives who are filled with the Holy Spirit serve one another. They humble themselves and get down low to lift the other up. They find ways to submit their immediate preferences for comfort to the need of the other.” Can you say Amen to that?

However, the world around us can use that as a foot hold to usurp the plan. They hear about that mutual submission stuff and in some weird way it turns into an equals sign. It kinda confuses the proper roles of husbands and wives. (Except for the child-bearing part) In the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus wrapped Himself with towel, got down on a knee and washed His disciples feet…this is the greatest example of servant-hood The Master shows us and it is also a great illustration of how the Bridegroom is serving the bride. There is no doubting that the authority of Jesus Christ was in that room that night and I would say to you that this is also an example of how servant-hood does not nullify leadership…on no—it defines it.

So as husbands we need to show Christ’s example of loving headship while our wives takes her cues from how the church is to follow Christ by willing submission. Anything else is just not how God intended this marriage stuff to be. Marriage and Church have to be in agreement so that the working of the Holy Spirit can take place and bring glory to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. And ever since that moment in the garden, the adversary has tried to do his worst in keeping Christ from establishing His church here on this earth. But that hasn’t deterred the Holy Spirit from adding to the church. Amen? – Chris Hughes graduated from the Colony of Mercy and is a weekly Freedom Fighter blogger

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 19-21

Think About This:“The church is now in the process of construction. Every time a soul is saved, a living stone is added to the building.” One day soon, the work will be finished. The last stone will be added, and the Lord Jesus Christ will descend into the air. Then, as if it was a divine magnet the church will rise up to meet the Savior. The Bridegroom will be with His bride.”— William MacDonald

Verses to Memorize: I waited and waited and waited for God.   At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock  to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-son,  a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God. Psalm 40:1-3 The Message