Sow & Gather

Don't Be a Drifter

MemoriesMarci AnthonyComment
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We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1 NIV

I love summertime. It’s a wonderful time to gather with family and friends and venture out into God’s glorious creation. Summer is a time of road trips and vacations, a time to journey into the mountains or lay aimlessly on a towel at the pool or the beach. I prefer the latter. Every year my family vacations at the beach. My girls love to run along the beach, gripping sand in their toes and building castles of sand towards heaven. My husband enjoys diving below the surface, looking for treasures left behind on the ocean floor. 

If you’re looking for me, you will find me sitting under an umbrella as large as a four person tent, covered from head to toe in 90 + UVA, UVB flex seal strength sun screen and wearing the widest brim hat money can buy. You could say I’m a tad paranoid when it comes to sun exposure. However, there is but one caveat to this perfect sun screen storm. If the ocean water is clear, and the temperature of the water feels like taking a bath--if, and only if these ideal conditions exist--you may just spot me lounging on a float adrift along the sea shore (cue the dramatic Jaws theme).   

I don’t know what it is, but there is something so peaceful and relaxing feeling the sun on your skin, the wind slowly rocking you back and forth, listening to the soft lapping of the waves against your vessel (in this case a float). Now, normally I am alert and attentive to my surroundings, especially when there’s nothing but endless tons of water surrounding me. However, one summer I found myself in a bit of a predicament. It was a cloudy day, and the air was nice and warm. The water was the perfect temperature for floating. As I settled myself on my little float island, I allowed my eyes to close. I drifted off to sleep. I don’t know at what point I woke myself up, but suddenly, I realized I had not only drifted down the beach, but the current had pushed me further out into the ocean than I had ever been before. Knowing that the current was too strong to paddle directly towards the shore, I knew there was no other option but to do the one thing of which I was terrified. Put my feet in the water and kick parallel to the shore (cue the Jaws theme), slowly working my way inland. Exhausted after paddling for more than 15 minutes I made it back to the shore, feeling stupid for having fallen asleep in the middle of the ocean. 

My experience reminded me of how complacent I can be in my own life. I can get so caught up in my daily schedule and weekly routine that I get lulled away from spending quality time with God. When my priorities take precedence over God, I find myself adrift on my own selfish island. Thankfully, God is always there to tow me to shore (no paddling required).  

Key verse |

Proverbs 16:9; Galatians 5:25

Action Item |

Are you feeling alone or adrift in life? Ask God to throw you a life preserver, and allow Him to set your life back on course. 

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for always drawing me close to You when we drift apart. You always pursue me; help me to become more diligent at pursuing You. Help me to not get so caught up in my day to day tasks that I drift away from Your presence.   

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Treasure God's Word--Hebrews 2:1

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Do You Doubt God's Love?

MemoriesMarci AnthonyComment
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The LORD appeared to us saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness" Jeremiah 31:3 NIV 

One of my fondest memories of my dad is playing basketball with him in the backyard. It was just the two of us, jumping, laughing and playing with and against each other. Basketball may seem like a strange activity for a father and daughter to enjoy together. However, the loving look on his face and the time he spent with me exhibited his love just for me. It was wonderful. 

This love is the same kind of love God, our Father, has for us, but even stronger. He loves us so deeply. His love is unconditional and as the verse states, everlasting. His love will never end or dry up. In fact, there is not a place we can go or an activity we can engage in that will separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38-39). That’s awesome! 

God even sent Jesus, His Son, to die for our disobedience on the cross. We are the ones who should have died for our waywardness but God loves us that much. (John 3:16) And after Jesus died, He rose so that we could have life with Him presently and upon our death in heaven forever. Truly, God loves us. 

However, my biggest problem is that I forget or doubt God’s love for me. I struggle at times really believing that this big God wants to love me. To combat this untruth, I began to pray this verse, Ephesians 3:17-19, to Jesus. ”Lord, may I have your power, together with all your saints to grasp the width, and length, and depth, and height of your love.” Every time I pray this verse, my heart has become more and more confident of this one fact. 

God loves me and …. God loves you!!!! 

Digging Deeper |

Romans 8:38-39, John 3:16, Ephesians 3:17-19 

Action Item |

Pray Ephesians 3:17-19 to Jesus. 

Prayer |

Dear Loving Lord, Thank you for loving me. Thank you for dying and rising again so I may have life. Help me to be confident in your love and truly understand the love you have just for me. Amen. 

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Treasure God's Word--Proverbs 31:28a

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

What Is Your Heart's Desire?

MemoriesMarci AnthonyComment
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Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4 NASB 

Do you have children that are involved in extracurricular activities? Do you try to attend every event and activity they are a part of to encourage them and show them how much you love them? Along with these activities come the fundraisers, especially the fundraising suppers to create extra money for the group.  

I remember well the spring my son had one of those fundraiser suppers for the band at his high school.  My husband and I decided to attend and we purchased our tickets beforehand. As we were handing the tickets over to grab our supper, we were asked if we wanted to enter a drawing for various eateries in the area. At first I was not interested, but a prize for a gift certificate at a local restaurant that serves scrumptious breakfast caught my eye.  Yes, we wanted to enter and we received a few tickets with numbers printed on them. 

After enjoying our supper and gabbing with our friends, the drawing began. As in all contests, there was excitement and disappointment by all participating. But, I was waiting patiently for the one gift certificate for that special restaurant.  

Finally, the next drawing was the one I’d been waiting for. In that moment, I prayed a few short sentences.  I asked God to allow me to obtain the gift certificate. I told him I wanted it. Please God?  

In that instant my number was called and I won the gift certificate! Woohoo!! God answered my short prayer and gave me the desire of my heart.  I stood up with excitement and dashed to the front to grab the certificate.  I laughed out loud and yelled, “Alright!!!” 

I ran back to the table and in my excitement told everyone that I had prayed to Jesus. I had asked for the certificate and He said “ yes!”  He truly is an awesome God.  He gives us more than we ever need, and He loves to give us the desires of our heart. 

What happened next surprised me. My friends at the table asked me to pray for them to win, too. Isn’t that interesting? I prayed. God gave me my desire and I was able to share Jesus to all those around me. 

He is a delightful God. 

Dig Deeper |

James 5:13-16 

Action Item |

Do you pray? When you pray, do you ask just for your needs or for your desires as well? Go ahead, ask. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, You are truly an incredible God. Thank You for allowing me to talk with You through prayer. Let me never forget, You answer our prayers. You provide for our needs and at times, You delight in fulfilling our desires.  Amen. 

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Treasure God's Word--Psalm 37:4

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

The Good Seed

Marci AnthonyComment
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But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. Luke 8:15 NASB

Some of my favorite things to do in the spring are shopping for flowers, plants, and walking through gardens.  It inspires me to get my own flower garden and pots ready for the spring.  I’m a wanna-be-gardener who has grand plans,  but I’m happy just to get my pots filled and for a few plants to survive.  

Over the years I’ve learned to trust certain nurseries that purchase from local farmers who use organic materials and good soil to grow plants.  Those plants have a longer survival rate, especially in Texas heat! 

Before I add my new plants to my old pots, I make sure that the potting soil is ready for my new plants.  When you take the plants out of their container, the soil is rich and the roots are strong.  For that new plant to survive, it needs to be surrounded by good, rich, nutrient-filled soil.   There is nothing like the smell of pure, rich, composted dirt and mixing it all together with your hands! 

Planting reminds me of this verse which is a perfect picture of the heart, and the seed is the Word of God.  This verse comes from a parable that Jesus told, and He was using soil as a metaphor for the heart.  Some of the seed fell on a hard-packed path and it was trampled on, some fell on rocky soil so the roots could never grow deep, some fell among the thorns, and the thorns choked it out, and then some fell on good soil that grew up and produced a crop.     

My heart has been hard, my heart has been shallow and my heart has been full of weeds.  God is the sower and His Word is the seed.  When I open up His Word, the Bible, I need to make sure that my heart is ready to receive His seed.  I need to humble myself before Him, pour out my sin, and ask that Jesus prepare my heart.  I do this so I can hear His Word, and so that His Word can take root in my heart. 

How is the soil in your heart?  Is it hard?  Is it full of things that keep the roots from growing; are there any weeds that are choking it out?   

“Create me in a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10 

Happy planting! 

Dig Deeper |

Luke 8:4-15, Mark 4:10 -20 

Action Item |

How is the soil of your heart?  Is it ready receive the Word of God? 

Prayer |

Dear Father, You are the great Sower.  I’m so thankful that you turn over the soil in my heart and prepare it for receiving Your Word.  I want Your Word to take root in me and to produce fruit for Your kingdom. Amen

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Treasure God's Word--Psalm 9:10

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Do You Value Others?

PhilippiansMarci AnthonyComment
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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of others.  Philippians 2:3-4

International speaker and author, John C. Maxwell writes, “The success of my day is measured not by the harvest I reap but by the seed I sow.”  Who doesn’t want their day to be successful?  Too many days we measure our success by the accomplishments on our “To Do” list.  Maybe we feel accomplished if we exercise or eat a salad for lunch.  I like viewing today’s success in relation to the hope of a harvest tomorrow, as in Maxwell’s quote.    

There are so many seemingly small opportunities in our day to add value to others.   A tense work situation is softened through one encouraging email.  A warm greeting in a new and uncomfortable situation opens a door to community.  Remembering to follow up with someone who has shared a personal struggle or hardship strengthens connections. Pastor Doug Page challenges us to have the “touch of the Gospel” in everything.  How do we change our touch to those around us?  As we incline our hearts toward the Lord and shift our focus, others begin to see the Gospel touch.   We allow God to sow the seeds in our daily lives.    

Dig Deeper |

Philippians 2: 13Joshua 24:23 

Action Item |

Consider the old adage, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.   Be generous with the touch of the Gospel to those around you. 

Prayer |

Dear Lord of the harvest, thank You for the opportunity to touch others with Your love and encouragement.  Please give me a humble heart so that others may see You.  Help me to trust You enough to step out of my familiar circle for Your glory.  In the precious name of Jesus.  Amen 

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Treasure God's Word--Philippians 2:3-4

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Unlikely Hero

PhilippiansMarci AnthonyComment

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:2-3

More than ever women are making headlines all over the world. Some women are standing up for themselves when no one else would. Some are making history running in the political arena. Others may be marrying into a famous family across the pond. There are those who celebrate their differences and continue to fight for equality. Whatever the news story, it’s a great time to be a woman.

While most discussions and coffee talk tend to lean toward current events, it's more important than ever to teach our next generation of women leaders about the women who helped shape Christianity in the Bible. What touches my heart is the special emphasis God has placed on females throughout the Bible. In story after story you read about brave female individuals willing to risk everything for the sake of their heritage or beliefs. These women, many of whom came from simple origins, God used for His glory. 

One woman named Lydia, was instrumental in helping the early ministry of Paul, one of the greatest missionaries of the early church. We first read about Lydia in Acts 16:14-15. In Acts we read about her conversion and how, as a successful businesswoman, she showed hospitality by opening her home to all believers of the faith. Lydia’s house may have been the meeting place that started the first Church of Philippi.

Lydia was one of the first women CEO’s of her time. She was a successful seller of purple cloth. What’s even more impressive is that she realized where her success came from and used that success as a springboard to support Paul’s ministry. She willingly supported Paul’s ministry and sent money and gifts to help him as he traveled to different cities spreading the message of Christ.

Throughout Paul’s letters to the church of Philippi in Philippians, we read about his references to females as sisters as well as referencing two females by name. Although Lydia is not mentioned by name, I believe that throughout the book of Philippians, many times Paul made secret references in his letters to individuals like Lydia who supported his ministry. Christianity was not a popular topic. In many cities Paul visited along his missionary journey, he had to depend on loyal supporters to help him by providing him a place to stay and by assisting him financially. Like Lydia many supporters risked their own reputation and life by supporting those spreading the message of Jesus Christ.

Having two daughters I feel a huge responsibility to my girls to help them understand how important their female heritage is. Even more important is the need to teach the girls about biblical examples of women breaking boundaries for the sake of Christ.

Dig Deeper |

Acts 16:14-15; Acts 16:40

Action Item |

Take some time to look through the Bible and read about the fascinating women God used for His glory.

Prayer |

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Lydia and her willingness to step out in faith by showing kindness and hospitality to Paul. Help me to bring this example to life in my daily walk this week.

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Treasure God's Word--Philippians 2:10-11

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Do You Shine Like the Stars?

PhilippiansMarci AnthonyComment
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Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. Philippians 2:14-16 NIV 

While vacationing in Hawaii, I visited the Mauna Kea Observatory on the big island of Hilo. Upon reaching the summit, the view of Hilo was amazing and the expanse of the sky was breathtaking. The darkened sky was filled with an immeasurable amount of stars. Some of the stars shone brightly, while others were just a speck of light. There were stars from one horizon to the other. I have never seen so many. It was awesome! 

Just like the stars in the heavens at night, we are to sparkle, too. We are to shine like stars, as children of Jesus in a world that is “warped and crooked.” As stars, we should glow every day and glisten through the darkness in our lives. The light of Jesus should radiate to everyone we encounter just as His life radiated light when He lived as a man. 

So, how can we twinkle to others? 

We can start by praying for them and their needs. Given the opportunity, we can share Jesus by telling of our experiences with Him or by sharing verses from the Bible, the Word of life. We can take the time to listen to those we may meet for a few minutes or those who we know deeply and personally. Or, maybe it is time to volunteer at church or other organizations that meet the needs of others. Whatever we do, our actions should be intentional.  

We should glow like stars of Jesus! 

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 5:14-16 

Action Item |

Gaze at the stars tonight and remember you too are a star of Jesus.  Spend a few minutes and sing the children’s rhyme, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” 

Prayer |

Dear Creator, Thank You for the stars at night. Help me to dazzle so that others may see You in me. My desire is to shine brilliantly with Your love. I love You. Amen. 

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Treasure God's Word--Philippians 2:14-16

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Success Comes from Christ

fear of failureMarci AnthonyComment

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has not worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

Do you have a fear of failure? It’s hard to admit, but the older I get the more I realize how much of my life has been ruled by a fear of failure. Growing up, it wasn’t as if I was ruled by parents, who only recognized success. My life just evolved from the pressures of everyday life into an unhealthy drive for success. I became obsessed with making sure that everything I did was perfect. Failure was not an option. I did not like, nor would I accept, the word “no”. It just wasn’t in my vocabulary.  

The problem with this ideology is that no one is perfect.  At some point, the perfect little glass house you’ve built begins to crack and shatter around you.  You eventually find yourself surrounded by imperfect broken pieces and it’s impossible to put them back together.  

How do you respond in times of trouble or failure? Well, there are two options:  the first is to try to force the pieces to fit back together, but more often than not we find that we aren’t equipped with the skills to accomplish this since we are unaccustomed to having to deal with failure. So we begin to wallow in our own self-pity, blaming our situation and those around us instead of admitting that we need help.  This would be admitting that we had failed. The second option is to seek out answers. The answers you are searching  are not worldly answers but a search for the truth from the One who knows us best.  Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” When we strive for perfection, we are only setting ourselves up for failure. Who are we trying to impress? Who is going to receive the glory for our efforts? Those are the questions we should be asking anytime we set out to accomplish anything.  

Are we like the tree planted by the water, sending out our roots to be nourished by God or are our roots stunted from growth because of our own stubbornness and fear of failure? Do we seek success for selfish ambition or are we looking to God to grow our character? When we seek success for ourselves we are destined for a life lived in worry and fear. What motivates us is an unhealthy fear of failure. This is no way to live. We need to drop the act, shatter that glass house and allow God to plant our roots by the streams of life. We need to allow him to nourish and fulfill us and stop seeking a life that is filled with an idea of perfection that can never be attained. 

It’s taken me a long time to realize this, but success only comes from failure.  It’s instinctual. We didn’t talk the first time we opened our mouths. We didn’t pick up a spoon the first time we tried to eat. And, we didn’t learn to crawl or walk the first time we tried. We failed, over and over again. As babies, we didn’t care. We didn’t lean on our own understanding; we trusted in those around us to guide us. Do you fear failure? Are you seeking perfection in every aspect of your life, or are you placing your trust in the One who wants to help guide you in your journey. 

Dig Deeper |

Deuteronomy 28:38-42; Romans 4:18-22

Action Item |

Examine your life and determine if you are ruled by a fear of failure. If you are, recognizing that fact is a good first step. The second is to work towards being ok with failing and ask God to help you overcome your fear. 

Prayer |

Dear God, it is so hard to accept when things don’t go as we want. Help me to accept help from You in my life and not try and do everything on my own. Help me to stop putting pressure on myself and instead allow You to take on the burdens I bear. Help me to recognize that failure is only a stepping stone to building my character. AMEN. 

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Treasure God's Word--Matthew 28:6

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Extending An Olive Branch

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
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Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Matthew 26:36 NIV

One of the things I love to do in spring is to plant new flowers and mow the grass. As I mow, I watch as the mower clips away the dead thatch from winter and allows the new sprigs of green grass to break through. Being outdoors gives me a sense of being close to my Creator. As I look around and take in the new greenery that emerges in spring, I am reminded how our lives ebb and flow with the seasons. Thousands of years ago one man named Jesus sensed a change coming with the emergence of spring. He knew that His time on earth was coming to an end.  

The city of Jerusalem where Jesus spent his final days was full of scenery. If you’ve ever visited Jerusalem or the areas around the city, they are seemingly impassible with rocky terrain and buildings crowded together. But if we go back and picture the scene thousands of years ago, the landscape would have looked differently. The walls around the city were present at that time, but there would have been more areas of green lush landscaping amidst the harsh mountainous terrain. As Jesus prepared to be taken into custody before his crucifixion, he chose not to run and hide, (as most of us would have done), but instead went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Previously, when I pictured the Garden of Gethsemane, I pictured something that looked like the Garden of Eden because that’s the kind of Garden I pictured the Son of God praying in. As I studied the pictures and read about the type of garden the Garden of Gethsemane was, I realized it wasn’t like the typical garden I had always pictured. 

The Garden of Gethsemane was rocky like the surrounding terrain. There were probably areas of grass to lie on and I’m sure there were bunches of flowers scattered throughout the garden. What is unique about this particular garden is the outcropping of olive trees. Olive trees are certainly not unique to the area, but what I find special about the place where Jesus chose to talk to God, is the symbolic nature of the garden. Jesus chose this garden, I believe, because of the olive trees and because an olive branch symbolizes Peace. In the book of Genesis, Noah sent a dove to find land after being in the ark for 40 days. The dove brought back an olive branch as a sign that the flood was over and peace was coming. God sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to earth as a sign that peace was coming. He is our olive branch. The gift God gives through His Son Jesus is the gift of eternal life.  

What better place for Jesus to choose to pray and feel the peace and presence of God than to be surrounded by a grove of olive trees? You or I might have chosen tulips or daisies to be surrounded by in our final days, but Jesus knew that His purpose was to bring about peace, so He prayed in the place where He might be reminded of His purpose. I know Jesus was probably in complete and total agony over what was about to happen. He even asked God if there was another way. But in the end, we know that Jesus was obedient and submitted to God’s will, He became our olive branch and because of that, we have the promise of hope in eternity with God. 

Dig Deeper |

Read the prayers of Jesus in the three Gospels; Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:27-31, Luke 22:39-46 

Action Item |

I don’t know if you enjoy gardening as I do. But if you have a moment this spring, go and look around you at the wonder that is our world. Marvel at God’s creation and thank Him for the Prince of Peace who came to save us. 

Prayer |

Heavenly Father, I am at awe of Your creation and the changing seasons. I am overwhelmed by the generous gift of Your Son Jesus. Thank You God for Your Grace by extending your Son to us as Your promise of hope that we might live eternally with You forever. Amen. 

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Treasure God's Word--Matthew 21:9

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment

Is it sweet, salty, spicy, cold, hot? Terms you might not consider when you are reading God's word. God calls us to hide, treasure and taste His word. Join the contributors and readers of Sow & Gather in tasting and memorizing God's word this week.

Memorize It |

The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”  Matthew 21:9

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Do I Turn Away?

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
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They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again…Then they led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27: 30, 31b

I really do not like scary movies or movies with lots of blood and guts.  I watch NCIS on Tuesday nights, ready to close my eyes at any time.  I even have trouble watching Funniest Home Videos.  That show almost always involves falling, crashing, breaking and getting hurt.  It just makes me feel bad.  That’s just me. 

Knowing that about me, it’s reasonable that I struggle with the physical pain and suffering Jesus endured during crucifixion.  You’ve read the scriptures and then, of course, seen the movies.  I can hear the powerful pounding of the mallet against the spikes as they cut through muscle and wood.  Then there is the sound of the cross, heavy with the body of Christ, being dropped into the hole.  Thud.  Jesus had no way to physically brace Himself against the tearing of His skin and muscle with that jolt from horizontal to vertical.  Excruciating.   I turn off the TV, close my eyes or walk out of the room with fingers in my ears saying, “lalala” to drown out the sound.  I scan over the scripture as I read.  It’s far too painful to think about.  

However, sometimes I need to stop and remember why Jesus endured this terrible physical and spiritual pain.  Sin.  My sin and the sin of all mankind that came with a cost. There are no freebies.   

I heard a person very precious to me say, “God is so big and powerful that He knows we can’t obey him.  God’s not going to put us in time out.”  My sweet friend left out the part about the Perfect, Holy and Righteous God who cannot look on sin.  Jesus was the sacrifice for my sin…my “time out” that separated me from God. 

Looking through the eyes of God, not my frail, physical eyes, the external pain of the cross looks different.  I can see the total love and sacrifice of a Savior…for me, for you.  I can stop covering my eyes and turning away.  I can confess with deep sorrow the sins in my life.  Then I can delight in the joyful truth of the Resurrection and life everlasting with Jesus, who paid it all on the cross…for me, for you. 

Action Items |

Do I gloss over my own sin in my time with the Lord?  Do I remember that God takes sin seriously?  Ask Jesus to be your personal Savior. 

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 27:27-44; Philippians 2:6-11  

Prayer |

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the Cross and the Resurrection.  Your love for me, revealed though You allowing Your son, Jesus, to die a painful death, is beyond my understanding.  Help me Father to continue to confess my sin and seek You in all that I do.  Thank you for loving me.  Amen. 

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Treasure God's Word--Matthew 27:30-31

scripture memoryMarci AnthonyComment