Our Eyes on Jesus

Monday, May 30, 2016, 4:53 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Draw Me Close.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 4 (ESV).

We Have This Ministry (vv. 1-6)

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

If we are followers of Jesus, by God’s grace, through faith in him and in what he did for us in dying for our sins so that we could be set free, then we all have a ministry. God has called each and every one of us to be his servants and messengers. He has given us the awesome responsibility of being a light to the world and the salt of the earth, and to take his gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth. We are his body, and thus we are to continue the ministry he began when he was on the face of this earth. God created each and every one of us for a purpose. We have all been gifted of the Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts which we are to use for the building up of the body of Christ, as well as God has assigned each one of us a particular role (part) within the body, which we alone are to fulfill. So, we need to seek God’s face for what gifts and ministry he has for each one of us individually, and then we need to commit ourselves to obedience to Christ in ministry.

There are many people today who call themselves ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ who are in it for themselves, and who are not following Christ at all. They masquerade themselves as servants of the Lord, but they are self-serving, instead. They follow the ways of man and of marketing schemes, and they utilize manipulative tactics to get the people to do what they want them to do. They are liars and deceivers whose goal it is to feed their own stomachs, but it is not to care for the needs of the sheep. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, so we must be very discerning so that we don’t fall under their spells. They twist the word of God to their own advantage and they dilute the gospel of Christ to make it more appealing to human flesh. They utilize worldly tactics to draw in large crowds of people, and then they focus much attention and money on entertaining the people rather than on presenting to them the truth of the gospel. May none of us become like them!

We need to be truth tellers, but to do so with love and grace. We need to make sure we are among those who rightly handle the word of truth, and who set forth the truth plainly. We need to love others with sincerity, and to seek how we may minister Christ’s love, grace and mercy to them. There are many, many people in this world who need Jesus, who right now are blinded to the truth, and who are following their own flesh and Satan and the world and its desires. So, we need to be ministers of the gospel in opening the eyes of the blind, in turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified through faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18).

In Jars of Clay (vv. 7-12)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

When we accept God’s invitation to his great salvation, and we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, we are indwelt with his Holy Spirit, i.e. Christ comes now to dwell within our lives and to live his life out through us. Yet, we still live in flesh bodies. We still have the propensity to sin, although God has delivered us from slavery to sin so that we no longer must live in it. We still hurt, get injured, get sick, and get tired and weak. The flesh still pulls at us, although we have the power now living within us to resist the flesh, and to follow after the Spirit instead. Sometimes we are pulled in the direction of the flesh or of the temporary, and thus we need to refocus our attention on what is eternal in value. We will also face much affliction and persecution for our faith and witness for Christ, and in our flesh we may have the tendency to want to retreat and to give up. Our flesh doesn’t take kindly to pain, and its natural tendency is to escape.

Yet, God has placed his Spirit, his life and his ministry within us, his clay vessels, so that when God works through our lives into the lives of others it shows that the power to change human lives and to minister God’s grace to them, in its various forms, comes from God and not from ourselves. Daily we must die to sin and self and follow our Lord Jesus in surrender to his will for our lives. Daily we must yield our flesh over to God and yield control of our lives over to his Spirit. We must resist Satan, flee temptation and draw near to God. We must seek his face and his will for our lives, and then follow wherever he leads us.

We Have This Faith (vv. 13-15)

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

We are to walk by faith and not by sight. I had a refresher’s course in this lately. My husband decided to retire this year. He felt God was leading him to move back to our home town in Ohio so that he could take care of his aging parents. God prepared my heart ahead of time for Rick’s announcement to me. God asked me if I would leave everything behind to follow him wherever he lead me. I said, “Yes.” A few hours later my husband informed me of what he was thinking. Then God clearly told me to “Go.” So, I said “Yes” to the call. Yet, this meant leaving all our kids (4+4) and our grandkids (13) behind in South Carolina while we moved back to Ohio, which is about 500 miles away from them. Then, the loan process for our buyer for our house hit some roadblocks, so we had to pack our belongings (the ones we didn’t give away or sell) purely on faith, believing that when God says “Go” that he will make a way. We didn’t know for sure if the loan was going to go through until two days prior to closing on our house, when everything was in boxes, and all our arrangements for the move had been made. But, God provided, and now we are back in Ohio.

Two weeks before we were to move, my husband’s mother died unexpectedly. He had been looking forward to the time with her up here, but now that was gone. So, now we are down to taking care of just his dad and step-mom. Yet, we both have expressed belief that God has something more for us here than just taking care of his parents, though that is primary. God has placed us in a high-rise apartment building for people ages 55 and over. We have both expressed a belief that God has a ministry for us here, in this apartment building, as well. There are many lonely and hurting people here. In addition to that I still have family here, as does my husband. We have cousins and a couple of aunts and an uncle, as well as he has a brother and sister-in-law living here. We have been away from Ohio for 34 years, though, so we will have to get reacquainted with many of these family members.

With the Right Focus (vv. 16-18)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

For the past week, we have been unpacking boxes, taking care of my husband’s parents, getting Ohio licenses, and putting our apartment in order. I have been very focused on the temporary (the apartment) and not as much focused on the eternal, so I realized yesterday that God was directing my heart to refocus on the eternal, and to get my mind and heart away from too much focus on what is passing away. I am a Mary (sister of Martha) at heart, but sometimes I get too much like Martha, and so God calls me back to being a Mary. I like things neat and in order, but if I am too focused on what is external and temporary, I may miss out on what God has for me here in the lives of individuals. I know he has called me here, and he made the way for us to get here, and now I need to seek his face concerning what all he has in mind for me during whatever time he has us to be here. So, you can pray for me to be God-focused and to hear his voice, and to know his will for me here. Thanks!

Draw Me Close To You / Donnie McClurkin

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I’m Your friend

You are my desire
And no one else will do
‘Cause nothing else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace…

You’re all I want
Help me know You are near

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The Comfort We Receive

Saturday, May 28, 2016, 3:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Keeps Me Singing.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (ESV).

The God of all Comfort (vv. 1-7)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

In this life we will have trouble, hardship, sadness and pain. It is inevitable. Some people may experience only minor difficulties, while others may go through enormous suffering, trials and tribulations. Yet, no matter the level of severity of our troubles, we can know that, if we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, God is with us, he will never leave us or forsake us, and he will give us all we need to endure and to keep singing his praises.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “comfort,” I think of something which makes me feel good in my spirit, which encourages my heart, and which spurs me on to keep moving forward, even despite the suffering I am going through. Yet, there is more to this word than just that. This word also means exhortation, entreaty, and/or urging, “motivating and inspiring believers to carry out His” (God’s) “plan” (biblehub.com). So, this isn’t just about making us feel good inside, but this also involves counsel, even pressingly, for the intended purpose that we might learn something of value through our times of difficulty, which may then result in spiritual maturity and a change of mind or actions.

When we go through these tough times, not only are we to learn from what we experience, and to grow in our relationships with Jesus Christ, but God takes us through these times of suffering so that we can share with others what we have learned from our own hard times, in order that we might help strengthen and encourage them when they go through their own trying times. This comfort we receive from God, and thus impart to others, may come in many different forms, such as a kind and thoughtful word, a hug, a listening ear, a kind and thoughtful act of kindness, or it may be that we are to give a word of counsel, too, based on wisdom gained from our own learning experiences. Basically, we need to reflect Christ in how we treat others so that we treat others in the same manner as he treats us.

The Affliction We Experienced (vv. 8-11)

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

There may be times in our lives when our afflictions are so severe that they may seem absolutely unbearable, and we may long for our heavenly home with greater intensity than ever before. Yet, even these times have a purpose in our lives. When things are going well for us it may be easy for us to become complacent or casual about our relationships with God, but when the going gets tough, we are more likely to call on God for help. So, he uses these times in our lives to teach us to rely on him and not on our own strength and resources. In other words, I believe this fits in the category of God disciplining us. “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” To us who have been trained by it, “afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:3-11).

God does not always deliver us from our trials and difficulties, but he does deliver us through them. He comforts, encourages, strengthens, counsels and he leads us in the right way. We need these times to mature us spiritually and for us to learn perseverance, and to develop godly character in our lives. We need these times to humble us, too, so that we do empathize with others when they go through trials, and so we don’t get high and mighty, thinking we are where we are because of something we did to get there. So, even though these trials will sometimes threaten to undo us, no matter how big or how small, we must put our trust in the Lord, and listen to his voice. We need to let him teach us what he wants us to learn, because these trials have a purpose, and they are for our good.

Since we know what it is like to go through difficult times, not only can we comfort one another with the comfort we receive from God, but we need to remember to pray for one another, too. We all need prayer. Every one of us does! We don’t always know what others are going through. Many people bear the pain of unjust suffering in silence. We can’t judge people by what we see on the outside. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. So, we just need to pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for us when we don’t know what to say, because we don’t know the circumstances of other people’s lives. And, in all things we must rely on the Lord to lead and to guide us, and to open the doors he has open for us to minister his love and grace to the lives of other people.

He Keeps Me Singing / Luther B. Bridgers

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low:
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Though sometimes he leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See his footprints all the way.

Feasting on the riches of his grace,
Resting neath his sheltering wing,
Always looking on his smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.

Soon he’s coming back to welcome me
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown;
I shall reign with him on high.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

Fully Devoted

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 4:58 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “A Believer’s Prayer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 15 (select vv. ESV).

Jesus Christ is not only God’s Son, but he is God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on human flesh, suffered as we suffer and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. While he walked the face of this earth he was fully God yet fully man. He preached repentance for forgiveness of sins, and he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, delivered from demons and forgave sinners. Yet, the religious leaders in the temple were jealous of him and hated him, so they had him hung on a cross to die. Yet, in his death he who knew no sin became sin for us so that when he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death for you and for me.

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be our Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). In fact, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). Many people today are teaching God’s grace as though it is a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse while claiming they are promised heaven when they die. May it never be! God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). The righteous requirement of the law is fully met in us who walk NOT according to our sinful flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit. If we conduct our lives according to our flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (Ro. 8:1-14). For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!!

Thanks to God! (vv. 50-57)

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

One day we are all going to die. It is inevitable unless Jesus Christ returns in our lifetime and he takes us to be with him without us having to die. If we have trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) of our lives, we have turned from our sins, and we have been given new lives in Christ Jesus to be lived in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit living within us, then when we die, or when Jesus returns, we will go to be with him. Yet, remember that Jesus said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will die, meaning we will not have the promise of eternal life with God. Nonetheless, he said that if we lose our lives (die with him to sin and self), we will gain eternal life. The Bible says that if we say we have fellowship with God, and yet we walk (conduct our lives) in the darkness (sin/wickedness) we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). So, we don’t have the promise of heaven when we die if merely we just make a profession of Christ as Savior, but we continue living for sin and self. Please know this. Your life depends on it!

As well, from a physical perspective, when we go to be with Jesus it is not our flesh and blood bodies which go with him. Our bodies are merely what house the real us, and it is the real us (heart/soul) which goes to be with our Lord. As best as I understand it, I believe this is saying that one day, when Christ returns, we will be given heavenly bodies in which the real us will dwell with Christ in eternity. Our new bodies will not be like our old bodies. They will not decay. They will not experience pain and suffering and sickness, and they cannot die. When we have our new bodies, we won’t be subject to sin, either. We will finally be set free of these flesh and blood bodies and temptation to sin, and pain and suffering. Amen! Oh, how I look forward to that day, don’t you? We will truly be able to worship our Lord in absolute purity and freedom from all the distractions of this sinful world. Hallelujah! Yet, Jesus didn’t die just so we would have victory over sin in heaven, but he died to give us victory over sin now, while we still live on this earth. Thanks be to God!

Be Steadfast (v. 58)

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Since Jesus Christ died in order to put sin to death, and he was resurrected that we may live new lives in Christ Jesus, free from the curse of sin, and free from slavery to sin, then we ought to live as though this is true. We should no longer live as though our lives are our own to be lived however we want for our own pleasure. We should live as though Jesus truly set us free! Not only that, but we should desire to live holy lives pleasing to God because we love him, and because we are so thankful that he set us free. You see, Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and just so we could go to heaven when we die. He died to radically transform our lives away from sin to walking in his grace and mercy while we still live on this earth. This should so thrill us that we would not even think about returning to the lifestyles we once lived. If we truly love God/Jesus, we also should not be looking for loopholes which give us an open door to continue in sin, but many people do this.

Let’s examine our own lives and how we live them. How much of our day, time, energies and thoughts are given over to our Lord throughout the day? How much is given over to what we desire? Is he truly master-owner of our lives? Or are we still running the show? Do we even consider what he wants for our lives, or do we make all our own decisions? Is God someone we only go to when we need something or when we are in trouble, or do we call on him every day in truth for guidance and direction? Are we sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings? Or do we quench the Spirit on a regular basis out of fear of what others may think of us? Or, out of a selfish desire to still be the owners of our own lives? Do we truly want what God wants, or are our own wants given first priority? Do we even consider whether or not he is pleased with our daily activities, thoughts and actions/speech? Or, do we just fumble through each day on our own still walking according to our sinful flesh?

Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. So, give him your all today as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to him, and let him truly be the master of your life!

A Believer’s Prayer / An Original Work / July 31, 2012

With my whole heart,
Lord, I pray to be Yours,
And Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You, and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.

Love You, Jesus,
You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.

Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride,
I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.

In Weakness

Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 5:24 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus Paid It All.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 11:17-32 (ESV).

Divisions Among You (vv. 17-19)

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ we do not immediately reach sinless perfection. Yes, we died with Christ to sin, and we were resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Yes, we are called to be holy, which means to be set apart from (different, unlike) the world because we are becoming like Jesus. Yes, the very reason Jesus died on the cross for our sins was that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. And, yes, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit (Ro. 8). Yet, we are still in flesh bodies, and thus we still have the propensity to sin (1 Jn. 2:1). Yet, this fact should never be used as an excuse for continued willful sin against God, for if we continue to walk in darkness (sin), we don’t really know God, and he does not know us.

In other words, not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” is truly one of his. And, these types of divisions have a way of showing which of us have God’s approval, and which of us do not. It is not that we gain acceptance with God through our own works of the flesh, though, but that true faith in Jesus Christ is evidenced by how we live our lives, whether we live completely for ourselves without regard for God and others, or whether we live for God, not perfectly, but consistently seeking his face and doing what his word teaches us – all in the power of the Spirit now working within us. If we truly have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life (Ro. 6), then our lives (lifestyles) should bear evidence that this is true. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to walk in darkness, we are liars. The truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6).

The Lord’s Supper (vv. 20-22)

When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Now, to the matter of taking communion, the situation presented here may seem a little foreign to most of us, at least here in America. Most evangelical churches I have known use very small portions of grape juice (unfermented) to represent Jesus’ blood, and very small pieces of crackers or wafers to represent his body. And, everyone is served (mostly) equal portions. I think this is done similarly in most formal churches, as well, only they may use real wine, but still in very small portions. At least, this has been my experience here in America. So, it is difficult for me to identify with this situation presented to us here.

Yet, I believe there is a lesson we can learn from this. I believe this all comes down to our attitudes toward worship of God and service to one another when we meet together. Are we self-serving? Or, are we the Lord’s servants and fellow-servants with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we participate together in worship of God/Jesus for what we can get out of it, or do we truly consider the meaning behind what we are doing, and how that should make a difference in our lives and in how we treat one another? In other words, when we drink the juice (wine) and we eat the bread (crackers), are we thankful for what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins? And, do we consider that he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness? Do we take this opportunity of remembrance of our Lord, then, to consider how what he did for us should change our lives and how we live?

In Remembrance (vv. 23-32)

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

As far as I know, there is only one directive in scripture as to how our Lord Jesus should be remembered ceremoniously. He asks that we participate in the symbolic observance of the taking of the bread and the wine (or grape juice) in remembrance of his body and blood, which were given for us on a cross in order that we might be delivered from the curse of sin and slavery to sin, and so that we might have eternal life with God. Yet, this is not to be a mere ritual that we go through periodically as a religious activity. This is to be a time of solemn remembrance and thankfulness for what he did for us in dying for our sins so that we might be set free from bondage to sin and might be given new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. And, it should be a time of solemn reflection over our lives, a time of confession and repentance, and a time of recommitment of our lives to our Lord to walk in his ways, and to obey him in all things and in all ways.

If we are not walking in obedience to our Lord, and we know there is unconfessed sin in our hearts, I believe this scripture says we should not participate in the taking of the bread and the drink, as we would be guilty of taking it in an unworthy manner. Instead, before we go into this time of communion in remembrance of our Lord Jesus, we should examine our own hearts and lives, and we should humbly and sincerely confess and repent of any known sin in our lives, and we should submit ourselves to Christ and to the cross in surrender to the Lord’s will for our lives, and then determine to live our lives pleasing to our Lord in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us. We must remember that Jesus did not die merely so we can escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died to deliver us from slavery to sin, so we should walk in his Spirit and we should no longer live to gratify the desires of our sinful flesh. Amen!

Jesus Paid It All / Elvina M. Hall / John T. Grape

… your sins… they shall be as white as snow… Isaiah 1:18

I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”

For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And now complete in Him my robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side, I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed my ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,” shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down all down at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

Servants of Christ

Friday, May 13, 2016, 1:49 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Forever With Us.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 4:1-13 (ESV).

Faithful in Service (vv. 1-5)

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

If we are in Christ Jesus by God’s grace to us, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, then we have each been given gifts of the Spirit of God, and we each have an assignment from God within the body of Christ for the building up of Christ’s body until we all reach a unity of the faith and become mature (See: Ro. 12; 1 Co. 12; Eph. 4). We are all ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for all of us are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and we are all to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). We are all servants of Christ, and it is required of each and every one of us that we must be found faithful to God and to his calling on our lives, whether it be to the calling he has given all of us or to our individual callings to service.

When we step out in faith, and we answer “Yes” to God’s calling on our individual lives, and we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with other people, and we live holy lives, set apart from (different, unlike) the world, because we are becoming like Jesus, we will be hated, persecuted, judged unfairly, criticized, rejected, and abandoned, etc., even by those who call themselves our brothers and sisters in Christ. There will always be people who will judge us by the standards of this world, and who will think we should think or behave differently than we do, even within the body of Christ. So much of today’s church has gone the way of the world, and thus the worldly church has no place for those who are sold out to Jesus and who walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh.

Yet, we are not to concern ourselves with pleasing humans, but with pleasing God. We are also not to worry about how we will be treated by others if truly we do step out in faith and we are faithful to the trust God has given to us. We must also be very careful that we do not judge others based upon our own perceptions, human traditions, today’s culture, or our own human-based values, personal prejudices or religious affiliations. Certainly we must judge sin, especially within the church, but we must be very cautious against making judgments about other believers whose callings we may not understand because they are merely different from us, or because it was not the way we were raised. We need to make all judgments according to the Word of God, and not according to our own thinking, and we must be careful to not judge those things hidden, for God is the judge of all things.

We Received It (vv. 6-7)

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

As human beings, and as followers of Christ, we each have different upbringings. We have things that were taught us by our parents, by our church leaders, by our friends and family members, by society as a whole, and by God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We each have our own personalities and emotional makeup, too, and thus we each individually respond in different ways to the things we were taught, and/or to our life experiences. From these we form our own values and perceptions about life and about how things should be or should be done. Some of these values may be in line with scripture, and some of these may not, but may be the result of our own personal experiences and training, and how we ultimately responded to those encounters. And, we may confuse these personal values or prejudices with truth from God’s word, so we must be cautioned here to make certain we do not go beyond the Word of God in our judgments or in the exercising of those judgments.

We must also guard our hearts against personal pride in thinking that somehow our way is superior to another, based again on our own personal prejudices and perceptions, not based in the Word of God. There are many within the church who pride themselves in their religious practices and who think they are superior because they do things in a way that they have decided is important to God, but it may not be what God desires at all, but it may be based solely in human tradition. We have to be so careful not to confuse tradition with truth, for they may not be one and the same. Our way may not be God’s way at all, and what we may think is not God’s way, may be, in fact, absolutely what God desires. So, we must know the Word of God and what it teaches, through the study of the Word, through obedience to what it teaches us, and through the witness of the Spirit in our hearts. And, we must be seekers of truth and be willing to chunk human traditions if they do not line up with God’s word.

A Spectacle (vv. 8-13)

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

When we follow the ways of men, and we don’t make waves, and we conform to the standards of society, and we blend in with our culture, and we live to please humans and to be liked by others, instead of living to please God, we are less likely to be hated and persecuted, for if we are one with the world, the world should like us. But, when we take a stand for Christ and for his Word, and we tell people about Jesus, and we share the gospel of our salvation, and we walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, and we don’t conform to today’s culture, but we conform to Christ and his Word, there are going to be people who will not like us, and who will not want to be around us, even within the church.

If we are truly following our Lord Jesus Christ in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives, not in absolute sinless perfection, but in a consistent walk of faith in living to please him in all that we do and say, we will be an offense to the world and to the worldly church, and we may be treated with contempt; with disdain. We may also be called various things from “holy rollers,” to “religious extremists,” to “hyper-religious,” or to “crazy.” We may also be tagged as “intolerant,” “bigoted,” “hateful,” or as just plain weird because we are separate (different, unlike) the world, because we are becoming like Christ. And, we may even be put out of the institutional church because we have “strong convictions” and because we “don’t fit” with the modern church’s goals and objectives. We may, too, be encouraged to go “someplace else” where we will be a “better fit.”

Basically, we will be told by the body of Christ (parts of it) that “We don’t need you, because you don’t fit.” It isn’t that we don’t fit with God and his purposes, perhaps, or that we are not in conformity with the truths of his Word, but that we don’t fit with the world or with the worldly church which has conformed to the patterns of society and has gone the way of the world in order to draw in large crowds of people from the world. So much of today’s church is more interested in entertaining the world rather than in telling them the truth about sin, judgment, repentance and genuine faith in Jesus Christ, according to God’s Word, not according to man’s teachings. And, so those who are true servants of Christ and who are living unadulterated lives for Christ and for his service will stick out like a sore thumb, and will either be persecuted, rejected, ostracized, or otherwise kicked to the curb or encouraged to compromise in order to “make nice” with the world.

Yet, we should not let these things unsettle us, discourage or dishearten us, but we must remain faithful to the trust God has given to us, even in the face of strong opposition. We must be concerned with pleasing God, and not with pleasing humans, and we must remain strong in our faith and in our commitments to holy living and to sharing the gospel of salvation so many can come to know Christ, too. If we are mocked, rejected, mistreated and/or if we are judged unfairly, etc., we must return hate with love, and unkind treatment with kindness, and we must put on love, and forgiveness, and we must endure whatever comes our way for the sake of Christ and his gospel of salvation, because we love God, and because we love our fellow humans, and we want what is best for them.

Forever With Us / An Original Work
Based off Psalm 46 / February 5, 2016

Be still and know
God is over all things.
Throughout the earth,
He’ll be honored as King.
The Lord Almighty,
Forever with us.
He is our refuge
When we’re in distress.

Therefore, we have
Not a reason to fear.
Trials will come,
But our God is still near.
He is our helper,
So we do not fall.
Mountains will quake,
But on Jesus we call.

Joy to the Church,
Even if sorrow comes.
Enemies rage,
But our faith marches on.
God’s Holy Spirit,
Now living within,
Gives peace and comfort,
And grace without end.

Flesh and Spirit

Thursday, May 12, 2016, 12:56 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Abide in Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 (ESV).

Infants in Christ (vv. 1-4)

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

When we think of an infant, we think of someone newly born into this world. The same is true of those who are newly born spiritually, of the Spirit of God. They are spiritual infants, just learning about Jesus and how to walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. Although they have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, their journey has just begun. They must go through a process of sanctification in Christ Jesus, as we all must do, daily putting off the deeds of the flesh and putting on Christ and his spiritual armor. Daily we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ and are being made holy by God. It is a progression, but the fact that we are in process should never be used as an excuse for continued willful sin against God.

The problem here is when those who should have matured in Christ by this point are still behaving like infants, still needing the fundamentals of the Christian faith taught to them, because they are, in some respect, still living like they lack knowledge and understanding of the Christian life and what God expects of them. Sadly enough, this describes many who call themselves followers of Christ these days, and many who have professed to know Jesus for many, many years. They have not matured past day one, it would seem from all outward appearances. Of course, some of them may be professors only of Christ, and may not have ever had a genuine heart transformation of the Spirit of God, while others may have just never grown beyond spiritual infanthood, or they may have slipped back into some of their former ways due to neglect and laziness in their spiritual walks.

Only God (vv. 5-9)

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

I love this perspective! It is human nature to idolize people, it would seem. So many people become followers of other people or groups of people, and they follow them above God or in place of God, looking to them for their faith, hope and healing instead of looking to Christ. So many Christians or professing Christians are followers of humans over and above being followers of God. They believe whatever they see, hear or read without even bothering to inquire of God as to whether it is true or not. If a preacher says it or a famous person says it, or if a politician or the news media says it then so many people assume it is truth, when it may not be truth at all. Yet, even if the people that are being followed are godly men and women, still all the credit should go to God, for we have nothing that we did not receive from God, and all we are doing is just doing our assigned part. It is God who makes it work.

Our Solid Foundation (vv. 10-15)

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Ok, this is fundamental here. Although all believers in Jesus Christ are in process, and our salvation will not be complete until Jesus Christ returns, we must begin with the correct foundation or we are not in Christ at all. If we want to have the hope of eternal life with God, then we have to build on the correct foundation. That foundation is Jesus Christ, but not just his name, or not just some obscure “belief” in the person of Christ. If we are to build on Christ as our foundation, then we build our lives on the basis of all that he did and stood for and is, i.e. his divine character and will for humankind.

For example, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse, but his grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Jesus said that if anyone would come after him he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self), and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). Jesus’ apostles taught the same message of death to sin and living to righteousness.

So, if our basis (foundation) for our Christian faith is that God requires nothing of us – no repentance, no obedience and no submission to him as Lord – then that is the wrong foundation. It is built on sinking sand, and it will not stand the test of time. We are not saved (past), then live our lives however we want, and then go to heaven when we die. Jesus is going to tell many people he never knew them, but who professed his name and who did things “for” him.

There is a difference, evidently, between those who have the correct foundation but who build little of value on that foundation and those who do not begin with the right foundation at all. If I were you, I would make certain I have the correct foundation, but also I would make sure that I am building on that foundation with what has eternal value. I would not bank on making it to heaven based on a notion that I can “believe” but then do nothing.

Abide in Him / An Original Work / July 31, 2013

Based off Ps. 27:14; Is. 40:31; Jn. 14-15

If you wait for the Lord,
Put your hope now in Him,
He will give you His strength
And endurance within.
He will renew your strength,
So you will not lose heart.
You will soar on wings like eagles,
Never depart.

“If you abide in Me,
And My words live in you,
You will walk with Me daily
And follow what’s true.
I will live now in you;
Give you peace now within,
If you obey My teachings
And turn from your sin.”

“If you listen to Me,
And do all that I say,
I will give you My comfort;
Be with you always.
I will heal all your pain;
Life with Me now you’ll gain,
If in fellowship with Me
You always remain.”

The Word of the Cross

Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 2:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Full Release.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 1:1-18 (NASB).

Called into Fellowship (vv. 1-9)

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We who are in Christ by God’s grace, through faith in his Son, have been sanctified in Christ Jesus. We have been purified of our sins. Jesus – having put our sins to death on a cross, and having risen from the dead victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death – opened the way for us to be crucified with him in death to sin and to be resurrected with him in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Ro. 6). We have been made holy, separate from (different, unlike) this sinful world, because we are becoming like Christ, set apart to him and to his service as his special people.

We are also called into fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord (owner-master). When we are in fellowship with someone, it means we have commonality with that individual, and that there is unity of spirit, and a partnership (alliance, cooperation, agreement) together, i.e. that we are fellow participants with that person toward a common objective or goal, “being one in spirit and purpose” (Phil. 2:2). So, to be called into fellowship with Christ means that we, as his people, are called into oneness of spirit and purpose with Christ. What grieves him should grieve us. What moves him to compassion should move us to compassion. His desires should be our desires. We should think his thoughts and feel what he feels, and we should set our minds and our hearts toward doing what he has called us to do and to be who he has called us to be as his holy people.

In other words, if we have truly been sanctified in Christ, and if rightly we are his by faith, and we are among the called of God into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, then we should be living lives separate from this sinful world, and set apart to God and to his service, being conformed into the image of Christ. Daily we should die to sin and self, and by the Spirit we should be putting to death the deeds of our sinful flesh, and we should be walking in the Spirit and not according to our flesh. Our desire should be to please our Lord in all that we do, and to follow him in obedience wherever he leads us. As well, we should be sharing his gospel of salvation so that many more can come to know Christ before he returns. Basically, we should be carrying on the ministry of Christ which he began on this earth in ministering his love and grace to others, and by walking in his holiness.

No Divisions (vv. 10-16)

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.

As his holy people, we should also be followers of God and not followers of man. We shouldn’t identify ourselves as Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Charismatics, and the like, but we should call ourselves Christians, i.e. followers of Christ. We should also not take pride in one church fellowship over another, but should regard ourselves all as participants in the body of Christ, one with another, regardless of location or local affiliations with other believers in Christ. As well, we should not idolize any pastor or preacher or base our faith and practice on the teachings and/or ministry of one man, for not one of us is infallible. But, we should test everything we hear, read or see against the teachings of Christ and those of his NT apostles to see if what we are receiving from any minister of the gospel lines up with the Word of Truth. And, we should follow the Word of Truth over the teachings of man, even if the Word contradicts our human traditions.

Baptism (v. 17)

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.

Paul distinguished water baptism here from the preaching of the gospel. There are many who teach that water baptism is required for salvation, but I don’t believe scripture bears that out. For one, as a minister of the gospel, it would seem that Paul would find it necessary to baptize people who confessed faith in Christ since he was called of God to turn people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God so that they would receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Also, requiring water baptism for salvation seems so contradictory to the teachings of the apostles who taught that our salvation is not brought about by external religious ceremonies, but by transformation of the inner man. Why exclude circumcision and ceremonial laws, stating they are unnecessary for salvation based on the fact that we are saved by grace – and that it is circumcision of the heart (Ro. 2:28-29), not of the flesh, which constitutes regeneration – and then include water baptism as a necessary element of believing faith? (See: Gal. 5:11; Gal. 6:15; Phil. 3:2-3; Col. 2:11).

Also, we see in scripture where there were many who believed in Jesus, who were saved by grace, through faith, and filled with the Spirit prior to water baptism, so obviously water baptism is not what saves us, nor is it necessary to be saved. Yet, it is commanded by God that we should be baptized as part of the discipleship process, not to insure our salvation, I don’t believe, but as a public witness and identification with Christ in his death to sin, and in his resurrection to life, and symbolizing our dying with him in death to sin and our being resurrected with him to newness of life, which is to be lived to him and to his righteousness.

There is a baptism which does save us, though, but it is of the Spirit in the putting to death our old lives of sin, and in resurrecting us to new lives in Christ Jesus our Lord, which is what water baptism thus symbolizes (See: Ac. 11:16; Ro. 6:3-7; 1 Co. 12:13; Gal. 3:27).

Preaching the Gospel (v. 18)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul said that Christ sent him to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void, or so it would not be emptied of its power.

In other words, when we present the gospel of salvation to people, our presentation should be Biblical, unadulterated, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, and who convicts people’s hearts of sin. We should not compromise the gospel to make it more tolerable to the people of this world, or in order to give license for people to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. We should preach the whole counsel of God, not a half-truth gospel which transforms no one, but only appeases them in their sin. The true gospel of salvation turns people from darkness (sin) to light (Jesus, truth, righteousness), and from the power (control) of Satan to God (in submission to his Lordship). For Jesus died, not just so we can escape hell and go to heaven when we die, but so we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The power of the gospel is that it transforms human lives away from sin and self to God – to now come under the control of his righteousness.

Yet, the world finds the true gospel to be foolish, for it preaches death to sin and self and living to Christ and his righteousness. People who truly believe the gospel and who live the gospel as Jesus and as his apostles taught it may even be called “crazy,” “radical,” or “extremists,” because they hold to the belief that faith in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to new lives to be lived in his holiness. This type of teaching just does not fit with the world or with the worldly church which has compromised the gospel message in order to “make nice” with the world. Yet, to us who know its power in our lives, it brings us great joy and peace, for it delivers us out of bondage to sin and it frees us to now become servants of Christ and his righteousness, and there is no better place on earth to be than walking in the Spirit in Jesus’ holiness.

Full Release / An Original Work / April 15, 2012

Walking daily with my Savior
brings me joy.
Loving Father; precious Jesus;
He’s my Savior and my Lord.
Gently leads me; follow Him.
I’ve invited Him within.
Now abiding in His presence,
oh, what peace.
From my self-life
He has brought me,
By His mercy, full release.

Hope and comfort,
peace and safety Jesus brings
When I daily bow before Him;
Obey freely; do His will.
Follow Him where’er He leads.
Listen to Him; His words heed.
Now obeying his words fully,
oh, what love
That He gives me
through salvation,
By His Spirit, from above.

Loving Father; precious Jesus,
He’s my friend.
With my Savior, by His Spirit,
I will endure to the end.
Share the gospel, tell what’s true.
Witness daily; His will do.
Tell the world of how their Savior
bled and died.
On a cruel cross He suffered
So that we might be alive.