Christ’s Love is a Choice!

[Reposted from March 2012, with minor edits]

sketch of jesus praying in the garden of gethsemane

Let this cup pass from me…

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:41-42)

Jesus prayed this prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem, just a few hours before his arrest leading to crucifixion.  Jesus knew the torture and death He was facing.  He knew the level of rejection coming from the very people whom He came to save.  He knew the full measure of sin of the entire race of mankind to be placed on Him as He suffered.

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me!”

Jesus also knew He was born into the race of mankind for this purpose.  He knew the love that the Father has for us.  Jesus fully lived out the Father’s love toward us, during His time on this earth.  Jesus knew that it was only through His torturous death that mankind could be redeemed from Adam’s covenant of slavery to the kingdom of darkness, and restored to right relationship with God.

“Yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

Can you hear the agony of His prayer?  Can you hear the passion of conflicting desires?  Can you hear the choice…the moment of decision…of choosing one desire as a higher priority than the other? Can you hear His love…love for the Father…love for us?

In this prayer we hear the competing desires of Jesus in His moment of agonizing decision.  Jesus came for this purpose…yet still had a decision to be made as He stood at the edge of action.  Jesus walked His entire life in perfect submission to the Father’s will…yet still had to choose the will of the Father at a critical moment.  Jesus completely loves both us and the Father…yet still had to make a deliberate choice of sacrificial love being a deeper desire, a higher priority, than self-preservation.

Through this prayer we are granted insight into Christ’s private thoughts and prayers.  I tend to think of Jesus as simply being at one with the Father…as not having to put any effort into that oneness beyond simply being who He is.  Not so!  Jesus had to make daily choices and decisions between competing desires, just as I do…except He always chose the highest priority based on His deepest desire, to do the will of the Father.

This realization makes His gift yet more precious to me.  He had a choice!  Just as God respects our choices and holds our free will sacred, Jesus also has a free will and the ability to choose.  Prophetic fulfilment and the eternal destiny of mankind relied on one man’s choice, yet the Father trusted Jesus to choose.  He could have chosen to forego the cross…but He didn’t.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Not only was it a free choice, but it was also an extremely difficult choice.  We hear the agony in His words!  This was something Jesus desperately did NOT want to do!  And yet, even more than He did not want to face the cross, He DID want to fulfill His purpose in doing the will of the Father to redeem us.

This is sacrificial love!  If it were an easy decision, it would not be sacrificial and would not demonstrate the same depth of love.

Jesus did not choose to die because He wanted death.  He chose to die because, although He desperately wanted to live, He wanted more to fulfill the Father’s will in redeeming us from the kingdom of darkness.

Competing desires…deep, deep desires…mutually exclusive choices…where one must be chosen over the other…and Jesus knew which desire was deepest.

HE CHOSE LOVE!

What passion drives your daily choices?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Graceful, Wellspring ]

 

The Great Divorce

[Reposted from April 2012, with minor edits]

picture of a divorce decree

Redemption!

Pharaoh cut a covenant with Joseph in a ceremony described in Genesis 41:39-45.

All subjects of a kingdom are in blood covenant with the king, but the ceremony described and the resulting relationship between Joseph and Pharaoh clearly go far beyond that of a normal subject of the crown, to a blood covenant in which Joseph was treated as an equal to Pharaoh.

What a celebration of a God-ordained event!

Joseph was given a new name, new clothes, a gold necklace, new authority, and Pharaoh’s own signet ring!

The new clothes and new name carry significant meaning in a blood covenant ceremony, and the signet ring, in particular, gave Joseph full authority to speak on behalf of Pharaoh. A command issued by Joseph, under the seal of Pharaoh’s signet ring, carried the full authority of Pharaoh’s own signature. Pharaoh said that Joseph was now ruler over all the land of Egypt and equal to Pharaoh in everything except the throne.

Though the word covenant is not explicitly used in this passage, it is clear both by reference to covenant rites and by transfer of trust and authority that Joseph was now in blood covenant with Pharaoh, King of Egypt.

Later, Joseph’s father, brothers, and family moved to Egypt, in order to escape starvation during the seven years of famine. By accepting Pharaoh’s provision, they accepted the protection of Pharaoh’s covenant with Joseph, placing themselves under obligation to that covenant.

Moreover, since covenant is an inheritance passed down from father to son, all of Israel’s descendants and all of Pharaoh’s descendants were in blood covenant with each other. They were family, blood-brothers.

But something went wrong…

“Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8)

The Hebrew word translated here as know (yada`) is used almost exclusively to denote either the intimate personal empathetic understanding of a covenant partner or special God-given perceptive understanding of a specific topic. This is the same word used, for example, in Genesis 4:1 (NKJV), “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” In this case, it is clearly a covenant reference, indicating that the new Pharaoh was not empathetically disposed toward the family of his covenant partner, Joseph.

The new Pharaoh chose not to honor the covenant with Joseph (did not know Joseph). Rather than acting on behalf of his covenant partners, as was his obligation by sacred oath, he chose rather to enslave them. Because of the change of attitude on the part of the new Pharaoh, Israel was now in a covenant that had become bondage. They were in need of redemption, and they had no means of redeeming themselves.

God told Moses, “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments’” (Exodus 6:6).

Note that God listed deliver and redeem as two separate actions He would perform on behalf of His people, Israel. To this day, Jewish Passover traditions, designed by God to commemorate this historic event, include four cups of wine to be drunk at specific intervals in the meal, with the cup of redemption and the cup of deliverance recognized as two separate acts to be celebrated. Nor is this unique to the Exodus story. The words deliver and redeem are often paired in scripture as two separate but closely related events (Job 6:23, Jeremiah 15:21).

Deliverance speaks of God’s protection as Israel was brought out of Egypt and journeyed to the promised land. Redemption speaks of Israel being justly released from their covenant obligations to Pharaoh.

God’s plan, as revealed to Moses, was to redeem Israel from their blood covenant with Pharaoh. When Israel left Egypt, they were to leave with no covenant ties, no covenant obligations, no debts or allegiance owed to Pharaoh.

But what was the redemption payment? At what price was the covenant obligation fulfilled? How can a price even be set for a blood covenant? Did God pay Pharaoh some ransom price for the freedom of Israel?

God said He would redeem Israel, “with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”

In reading the Exodus story, three truths stand out clearly:

  1. God was in complete control from start to finish. Even when Pharaoh appeared to be in the position of authority, God was working out His plan through Pharaoh’s choices.
  2. Israel was not leaving Egypt without Pharaoh’s permission, not even for a few days. Over and over, God sent Moses back to Pharaoh asking permission for Israel to leave Egypt for just a few days.
  3. Israel was not leaving Egypt with Pharaoh’s blessing. Each time, God caused Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened, so that Pharaoh refused to let Israel go even as plague after plague continued to roll over the land of Egypt.

God could have delivered Israel without Pharaoh’s permission. So, why was Pharaoh’s permission required? And why, if Pharaoh’s permission was required, did God cause Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened, so that he consistently refused to let Israel go, until after the plague of the death of the first-born?

The answers are found in Exodus 6:1, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.’”

When Pharaoh chose to “drive them out of his land” Israel was released from their covenant obligation. At that moment, Israel was divorced from Egypt. The covenant was dissolved, and Israel was free to proceed to the Promised Land with no obligation of allegiance to Egypt.

In fact, the Hebrew words translated here as the phrases let them go (shalach) and drive them out (garash) are both translated elsewhere as divorce (Malachi 2:16, Leviticus 21:14).

By the manner in which God redeemed Israel from Egypt, He gave new meaning to the word redemption. No ransom price was paid, yet the covenant of bondage was dissolved in a manner that was just. As their redeemer, God justly caused Israel’s blood covenant with Egypt to be dissolved, so that Israel was no longer in a covenant of bondage to Egypt.

God brought about the divorce of Israel from Egypt, and God called it redemption.

Thank God, He is still in the business of redeeming His children from covenants of bondage!

From what circumstances has God redeemed and/or delivered you?

 

[Note: This post is comprised largely of excerpts from my book, So You are a Believer...Who has been through Divorce... To read more, click here.]

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Graceful, Wellspring ]

 

Warm Up

warming up horse before rodeo event

Warming up before a rodeo roping event

Although I am not a horseman, my wife grew up riding horses and our 12-year-old is a rodeo athlete.  My role seems to be a crazy mix of stable hand, horse groomer, cheerleader, photographer, and student.

I’m learning and having a lot of fun in the process!  :-)

One of the things I’ve learned is the importance of the warm-up.  Watching the kids prepare for a rodeo or practice, they always warm up their horse beforehand.  Similarly, before I let one of the grandkids ride a horse, I first ride it around myself to warm it up.

If a rider hops on a horse and takes off without a proper warm up, unpredictable things tend to happen.  At best, starts and stops may be slower than desired and attention to rider signals will be lax.  And depending on the horse, frequency of workouts, weather, and a host of other variables, the horse may buck, act up, or outright rebel against the rider.

Although the warm up is physical activity, it is mostly about the horse’s mental preparedness.

When a horse is left for extended periods to run the pasture without being worked, he tends to start acting entitled.  He starts forgetting his role on the farm.  Roles invert, with the horse acting like the master is his servant, charged with serving his needs with no right to expect anything of the horse.

The warm up is intended to correct this misperception.  It is a focused attitude adjustment activity.  It reminds the horse of his role to serve the will of the rider, and refreshes recollection of nonverbal rider cues.  The warm up prepares the horse for peak performance and quick response to rider prompts.

The more frequently a horse is ridden the shorter the required warm up period.  For horses used frequently, a ten minute warm up works well.  However, a horse left unworked for several months will require a much longer warm up, and really needs increased riding frequency for peak performance.

I find myself reminded that I’m not so different from a horse.

If left unused for extended periods, I tend to start acting entitled…treating God like He is responsible for serving my needs with no right to expect anything from me.  Before I can be useful for kingdom service, I sometimes require a warm up…a temporary period of discomfort designed to adjust my attitude and prepare me for service.

And, like our horses, the longer I go between times of service, the more warm up I require.

To stay prepared for service, I need to serve frequently.  To hear and respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompts, I need to continually listen and respond.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

Your thoughts?

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Graceful, Wellspring ]

 

Seed of Eve

image

Born of a virgin!

Impossible, yet, it happened…the virgin birth of Christ, an essential part of God’s plan of salvation.

We will look at three specific reasons for the virgin birth:

  1. to identify Jesus as the Messiah (Christ)
  2. to qualify Jesus as our Kinsman-Redeemer
  3. to illustrate how Jesus delivers us

Identifying Jesus as Messiah

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and she will call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

I’m guest blogging today with the talented Mia DeVries at His Loving Embrace.  Won’t you join me there?

 

Take a Stand!

Gallery

A recent post on Intentionally Yours blog exhorts Take a Stand: Divorce is Not the Answer!  Similarly, Will Davis Junior recently posted Hey Christians, It’s Time to Take Divorce Off the Table! and Always Learning recently posted For Those Pondering … Continue reading

Divorce Mythology

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In recent discussions on another blog, one commentor asked how so many people came to believe they would go to Hell if they divorced their abusive spouse.  Below is my response (with minor editing): Our modern Christian culture has, to a large extent, embraced … Continue reading

Waste of Divorce

I frequently hear people express the post-divorce regret of waste. Wasted years, wasted love, wasted effort, wasted prayers, wasted emotional investment…seemingly, all for naught.

Most of us invest several years in our marriage relationship prior to reaching the point of divorce. As we encounter issues, we work harder, pray more fervently, and seek counsel, all with the goal of healing and improving our marriage relationship. If all the hard work pays off in a healthy marriage relationship, it’s counted a wise investment. But when it doesn’t work out…when we invest that much of ourselves into a relationship, over several years, and it all ends in divorce…it seems SUCH A WASTE!

To read more, click HERE

I’m guest blogging today, with Beth over at Messy Marriage.  Won’t you join me over there, for her Wedded Wednesday link-up and a chance to win a free copy of my book, “So You are a Believer Who has been through Divorce“?  Just click HERE.