Between Heaven and Hell . . . There’s a Cross


© Jeanne E Webster. All rights reserved

Luke 12:51-53 “Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? I tell you, No, rather division. From now on there will be five in one household divided, three against two and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”


The cost of following Jesus has a steep price tag, particularly in family relationships.

A daughter accepts Christ as her Savior and her life changes. She begins to exhibit characteristics of a Christian, and her family is taken aback. Soon they are estranged and the costs begin to mount up for the girl. She suffers hateful accusations meant to prompt a change in her faithfulness to Christ:

“Well, hello Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes!”
“Who do you think you are?”
“You’re not fun anymore.”
“We’re not good enough for you anymore?”
“You’ve stopped swearing.”
“Gee, you’re as phony as a $2.00 bill.”
“You’re not my daughter anymore!”
“Don’t cram that Jesus stuff down our throats.”
“You’re not welcome here till you change back to your old self.”
“You can go to hell for all we care!”

We pay a steep price for our fellowship with Jesus. Our Lord warned us that we would be scorned, hated and abused, but our reward is heavenly.  Between Heaven and Hell . . . there’s a cross.

Luke 9: 26 “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily. Whoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, will save it. What’s your reward if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?”


I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Refrain:
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than man’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name.

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.

~Rhea F. Miller, 1922

Are You Ready?

©Jeanne E Webster  –  all rights reserved

 

Are you ready for Christmas? I guess that depends on what I mean by “Christmas.”

Is your shopping done? Have you gotten all the gifts on your list?  If not, you’re not ready for Christmas. It takes quite an organized person to bring this about so early in the season. You still have two weeks to shop, select necessary items, make catalog purchases, order gifts online, and perhaps have time remaining to gift wrap, package, ship out, then take a deep breath of relief. You’ve got it all in hand. You’ve done your duty, to family and friends.

On the other hand…are you ready for Christmas? Are you ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?

No shopping list needed, no gifts to buy, no weeks of shopping ahead, no hurrying and scurrying here and there in a frantic rush amid the masses. All you need is an open heart and a listening ear.

Do you hear the music? Listen…with your heart and spirit:

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O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

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For Christ is born of Mary; and gathered all above,

While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.

O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth;

And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

 

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him, still the dear Christ enters in.

 

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel. Amen

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Father, we celebrate the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ…

Your Heavenly gift to us so long ago on that dark night in Bethlehem town. No one heard His coming as Mary gave birth in a lowly manger. The angels heralded the news to meek souls below, as they told us that a Savior was born, which was Christ our Lord. As we sing praises and glory to you this Christmas day, we give thanks for this precious Child, our King. Come into our hearts, abide with us, O Lord, be born in us today! In His dear name we pray, amen.

Are you truly ready for Christmas? May we join together and say a heartfelt amen to that. AMEN!

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Don’t You Care?

 

© Jeanne E Webster – All Rights Reserved

 

Mark 4:37 There arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship asleep on a pillow, and they awake him, and say unto him, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

And he arose and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them: 

“Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly and said one to another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Jesus had preached to thousands from the deck of a large boat that day, expounding in parables the mysteries of God. Some Bible scholars believe our Lord used this method of teaching as judgment on the hearers’ spiritual dullness, yet leaving intact God’s willingness to enlighten and save them. Later, alone with His disciples, Jesus revealed to them these mysteries.

Evening drew near and our Lord told them to sail across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They soon departed the shore, having sent away the masses of people; their Master was at rest in the stern of the boat.
Quite rapidly, as happened often in that area, a vicious storm had developed, with gale-force winds hefting their muscle and pitching wave after wave of water into their boat. It soon became dangerously full, stoking the worst fears of the disciples. A day basking in the warmth of their master’s voice bearing witness of God’s love to the people had now ended in an evening of extreme terror.

Their first thoughts were, “Do something!” “Wake up!” “Don’t you care if we drown?!”

They were gut-cut afraid; out of their minds afraid. Where was the Watchman? The Master was present in the boat but asleep on a pillow. He was sleeping on His watch!

“Master! Master! Save us! We’re going to drown!”

How many times do we reach a like stress point and scream,  “Master! Save us!”

We know all too well Jesus is with us, see Him at peace among us, believe He is watching over us, yet we grow fearful, not necessarily of dying but of believing that Jesus can save us, no matter what storm thunders through our lives. It is said that faith dispels fear only in proportion to its strength.

After quickly rebuking the winds and the sea waters, Jesus scolded the disciples, and scolds us today, “O ye of little faith!”

Faith turns and flees the scene of terror, leaving only fingernail strength hanging to the dangling threads of our Master’s garment.

“Why are you so afraid?” Christ admonished His disciples, chiefly because of their little faith, not the lack of it.

Amid the tempest in our lives we too shrink back in fear . . . when suddenly the storm is over. He has hushed the howling of legions of marauding tribulations. He has stilled the storm; the waters have stopped and rise no more. We too utter a soul-deep gush of wonder:  “What manner of Man is this?!”

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O Thou, in all Thy might so far
~by Frederick L. Hosmer

O Thou, in all Thy might so far,
In all Thy love so near,
Beyond the range of sun and star,
And yet beside us here.

What heart can comprehend Thy Name,
Or, searching, find Thee out,
Who art within, a quickening Flame,
A Presence round about.

Yet though I know Thee but in part,
I ask not, Lord, for more;
Enough for me to know Thou art,
To love Thee and adore.

And dearer than all things I know
Is childlike faith to me,
That makes the darkest way I go
An open path to Thee.

(Written on the night of Hurricane Sandy, 2012, besetting the entire East coast, flooding New York City. A horrendous storm!)

Throned Upon the Awful Tree

 

Throned upon the awful tree,

King of grief, I watch with Thee

Darkness veils Thine anguished face;

None its lines of woe can trace:

None can tell what pangs unknown

Hold Thee silent and alone—

 

Silent through those three dread hours,

Wrestling with the evil powers,

Left alone with human sin,

Gloom around Thee and within,

Till th’ appointed time is nigh,

Till the Lamb of God may die.

 

Hark, that cry that peals aloud

Upward through the whelming cloud!

Thou, the Father’s only Son, Thou,

His own anointed One,

Thou dost ask Him—can it be?—

‘Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

 

Lord, should fear and anguish roll

Darkly o’er my sinful soul,

Thou, who once was thus bereft

That Thine own might ne’er be left,

Teach me by that bitter cry

In the gloom to know Thee nigh.

By John Ellerton-1875

Hey Judas!


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© Jeanne E Webster   All rights reserved

Envision this:

While going about your daily business two thousand years ago, a certain man ambled by and addressed you with sound authority. You had recently heard bits of rumors about him… he is a prophet, a great teacher, and a healer. He invited you to join him and his group of followers, and perhaps sensing something unique about him, you decided to follow him too.

You lived, ate, walked, talked, slept and pondered with him and his men. He told you about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the Ten Commandments. He explained some of the mysteries of scripture, cured diseases, resurrected people from the dead, and told you how to live a pleasing life for God.

How mesmerizing he was explaining how to love people and love God, warned you of false prophets, calmed your fears, forgave your sins and taught you how to pray. Gradually your admiration for this man grew into a secret desire for some of his power.

One day he called you and his other disciples around him and chose twelve to be his closest apostles. You were one of the twelve! What an honor! What glory! To be one of his inner circle! That’s a choice position! You must really be someone special!

Soon after this event, he gave you and the others real POWER: power to heal the sick, make the blind to see, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons and raise the dead. WOW! He told you to go to the cities where the Jews lived and tell them “the kingdom is at hand!

Repent!” Pretty heavy stuff here! Pretty heady too!

For three years, you and the other disciples performed miracles and followed this man. He took you and the others aside one day and asked, “Who do men say that I am?”

One of your group answered, “Elijah!”

“A great prophet!” said another.

“John the Baptist!” answered another.

Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

The Messiah?! The Son of God?! Just think of that! You have seen, felt, and experienced the Messiah!

You saw him perform thousands of miracles, weep at the loss of a friend, have compassion on the poor, the children, and sinners. What honor, what pleasure, what glory and power and elation filled your spirit. You not only witnessed the Messiah and His works down here on earth, you were among His special disciples. That was something to write home about.

Then…now that your head is puffed way up out of proportion, and your heart is filled with pride…then…this Man says something that immediately bursts your bubble. The hot air is still hissing from your big balloon when he continued, “I must suffer many things in the days ahead…the elders and chief priests and scribes are going to reject me…I will be killed…and after three days I will rise again.”

Your mind spun out of control, the thoughts flashed by one after another with lightning speed. WHAT? He just said the elder, chief priests and scribes did not believe He is Messiah. They are going to kill Him? He will rise again in three days?

Peter spoke out, “Lord, You don’t have to go through all that. We’ll fight for You. I’ll lay down my life for You! Don’t say things like that!”You didn’t want to hear things like that either.

The Master rebuked Peter and called him, “Satan!” He continued, “Whoever saves his life will lose it but he who loses his life for My sake will save it. Don’t be ashamed of Me because if you do, I’ll be ashamed of you when I come again to judge you.”

Over the next few days or weeks He warned you of more things to come. “Don’t be deceived, for many will come in My name. There’ll be wars, earthquakes, famines and lots of trouble. You’ll be delivered up to councils, be beaten and brought up on trial before rulers and kings. You’ll be hated by all men because of Me. But endure, be faithful and you will be saved.”

Passover arrived. You joined the others in an upper room, had a good meal, good discussions and maybe got a little drowsy when you suddenly perked up at the voice of Jesus. “One of you is going to betray Me!”

That took your drowsiness away! “Betray You, Lord? Me?”

Jesus answered, “He that dips his hand in this dish with Me, that’s who it is. Woe to the man by whom I am betrayed! It’d been better if he would have never been born!”

You slowly rose from your resting place, walked over to Jesus and asked, “Master…is it I?”

He looked up at you and replied, “Yes, you have said it.”

You immediately left the room. Meeting with the chief priests and scribes later, you told them, “Jesus and His disciples will be in the garden of Gethsemane tonight. Go get Him! I’ll greet the prophet with a kiss.”

That evening you approached the garden, followed by the priests, scribes and soldiers from the temple. Walking over to Jesus you proclaimed, “Hail Master!” You leaned forward and kissed Him on His right cheek. He peered into your eyes and asked, “Friend, why did you come here?”

Later, after realizing your mistake, you had second thoughts about this event. You didn’t know it would go this far. You gave the money back. Jesus didn’t have to be crucified. “Why don’t they stop this awful nonsense?!” But it is out of your hands now.

Dejected, you found a rope, put a noose in it and prepared to end your misery. Seconds before you flung yourself off the tree branch, you vividly saw again your Master’s face and hear His last words to you, “Friend, why did you come here?” Thus was the fate of Judas Iscariot.

It might be that Jesus asks us that question today. “Friend, why do you come to Me?” Is it for the glory, the power, the esteem, the need to feel better than others? Or do our hearts reply, “Whoever saves his life will lose it but he who loses his life will save it.”

“Don’t be ashamed of me because if you do, I’ll be ashamed of you when I come again to judge you.”

Do we truly mean, as the old hymn so eloquently pleads:

Just as I am without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me;
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God…I come…I come.
Just as I am Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.
Because Thy promise…I believe!
O Lamb of God…I come…I come.
(Just as I am, written by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871)

Now the day is over . . .

 

Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh,

Shadows of the evening steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary calm and sweet repose;

With thy tenderest blessing may mine eyelids close.

 

Grant to little children visions bright of Thee;

Guard the sailors tossing on the deep blue sea.

Comfort every sufferer watching late in pain,

Those who plan some evil from their sin restrain.

 

Through the long night watches may thine angels spread

Their white wings above me watching round my bed.

When the morning awakens, then may I arise

Pure and fresh and sinless in Thy holy eyes.

 

~Sabine Baring-Gould

O Come, King of Peace

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Refrain

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Refrain

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Refrain

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Refrain

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

And be Thyself our King of Peace.

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An advent prayer/song, yes; both to celebrate our Lord’s birth and, after prayerful thought, perhaps for the days at hand.  O come our King of Peace!  Amen