Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

Friday

13

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Matters of the heart

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"Pour out your heart before Him." (Psalm 62:8) Matters of the heart | Learn more at hopereflected.com

Matters of the heart

You can learn from the Psalms how to get your heart right with God.

In 2017, my Dad had a heart attack. To say the news came as a shock would be a complete understatement. My Dad, the foundation of our family, the rock, having a heart attack? It just seemed so unlikely. He was so fit, so healthy, at least so we thought. In more recent days, a friend of Wes’s and mine – and many others in the community – had a heart attack. Again, someone so strong, so energized, so full of life, seemed like an unlikely candidate for a heart attack.

That’s the mystery of the heart. In terms of health, we can look at someone else and think they’re fit, they eat – relatively – healthy, they exercise, they could never have a heart attack! Quite often however, the part that we can’t see, the heart, tells a different story.

It’s the same with our spiritual lives. So frequently we look at other Christians and think they’ve got it all together. They’ve got the gift of teaching, of praying, of encouraging – they must have it all together! Sometimes though, we might be surprised. After all, only God can see your heart.

Only God knows the condition of your heart. Only He truly knows the bitterness, the envy, the resentment, the jealousy, the dislike, hey, even the hatred, that you carry around. For all intents and purposes, on the outside, you may look like the model Christian. You’re sitting in church every Sunday, you’re serving others in the community, and you’re saying all the right things. Regardless of the surface or how things may appear, God knows your heart. He knows when you’re coming from a sincere place, and He knows when you’re acting or saying things to put others in a bad light. God knows when your heart is broken and crying out, even on those days when you’re pretending you’ve got it all together. He knows when you’re longing for companionship and you feel completely alone. God knows your heart. And that’s what matters.

It doesn’t matter how you look to others or what they think about you. What matters is that God knows your heart, and that your heart is right with Him.

Here are some relevant Bible verses about the heart to encourage and to instruct you in how to get your heart right with God.

  1. Confess your sin. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) You lied. You stole. Whatever you may have done, confess it to God. Ask Him to create a clean heart in you. David, who we read in the Bible was a man after God’s own heart, made many mistakes (we call it sin). Yet, he asked God to create in him a clean heart, and to renew his spirit (Psalm 51:10). To get your heart right with God, start with confessing your sin.
  2. Be honest with God. “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.” (Psalm 26:2) There have been many times when I’ve caught myself praying one thing but thinking another. It can be hard sometimes to be honest with ourselves and with God, can’t it?! And I have no idea what I’m thinking: As if I think that God of the entire universe isn’t going to know what’s truly in the bottom of my heart! To get your heart right with God, you’ve got to get right down to it. Guess what?! I don’t want to pray for that person who hurt me! I don’t like them! Tell God about it, because guess what? He already knows! Be honest with God.
  3. Actively pursue a relationship with God. “With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from your commandments!” (Psalm 119:10) We’re told in the book of James to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. (James 4:8). That verse continues with these words: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” When you’re actively pursuing a relationship with God – praying, getting into and memorizing God’s Word, going to church – when you earnestly seek Him, you’ll find Him. And more importantly, He will find you. Store up His word in your heart! (Psalm 119:11) and He will fill your heart.
  4. Protect your heart. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) You may have heard the saying “what goes in must come out,” or the computer slang GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). What you allow in your heart will penetrate your life, so protect your heart. Fill your heart with God’s Word. Focus your eyes on God and your heart will surely follow. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
  5. Trust God. “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:8) Note that verse doesn’t say to trust God “sometimes” or “when things are going good”. No, we are called to trust God at all times. Even when things don’t make sense, and even when your heart is broken. Trust God, and pour your heart out before Him. Keep short accounts. When you’re actively talking with God, you’re less likely to allow the wrong things in your heart. Anger, jealously, pride, resentment, fear, worry– these are all things that take can up residence in your heart if you’re not careful! “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3)

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” God knows your heart. He knows my heart. He knows our intentions (Hebrews 4:12) and He longs for us to draw near to Him. Whether your heart is bitter or broken, He longs for you to take your heart and hand it to Him. After all, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Originally published as “Matters of the heart.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. January 25, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Friday

6

July 2018

Hope Reflected | Mercy

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"Show mercy and compassion." Zechariah 7:9 Mercy | Read more at hopereflected.com

Mercy

How can you live a life filled with mercy?

David and Saul. You’ve likely read about their tumultuous relationship before. David was that guy that Saul just loved to hate: Successful, beloved, and righteous. Saul couldn’t stand it. He hated David, so much so that he pursued David throughout the wilderness because he wanted to kill him. And what happened? Well, in the end, Saul dies in the most tragic of circumstances, but before that happens, we see perhaps one of the most moving examples of mercy documented in the Bible.

Whether or not he was sleeping or using the bathroom is beyond the point, but in the midst of his pursuit of David, we find Saul taking a break in a cave (1 Samuel 24:3). It just so happens that this very cave is the place where David and his men were hiding! Saul is completely unaware of his present company, while David and his men contemplate their next move, and what does David do? He spares Saul’s life, and he doesn’t let his men kill Saul, either. He chose to show goodness rather than evil to the very person who was purposefully practicing evil against him, and he encouraged his men to do the same. David demonstrated mercy.

God’s mercy is described in many ways throughout the Bible: Great (Isaiah 54:7), sure (Isaiah 55:3), abundant (1 Peter 1:3), tender (Psalm 25:6), new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Quite often in Scripture, we read about God’s mercy in its plural form (God’s mercies). We serve a God Who doesn’t just show us mercy in one way – He is filled with mercies. As Christians, we should lives that exhibit mercy, just as Christ demonstrated toward us when he went to the cross so we could have eternal life.

So how can you live a life filled with mercy?

You can live a life filled with mercy when you show mercy to others. “Show mercy and compassion every man to his brother.” (Zechariah 7:9) Mercy can be defined as not getting what you deserve. When you live a life filled with mercy, you show compassion to others even when they treat you with cruelty. When you apply mercy in your own life, you exercise forgiveness.

You can live a life filled with mercy when you learn to love mercy. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8) I don’t think you can love mercy until you’ve truly experienced it. And the greatest mercy of all? God’s gift of eternal life to us. Some versions of the Bible replace “love mercy” in Micah 6:8 with “love goodness,” or “love kindness”. When you live with mercy, you learn to love that virtue and the others that go along with it.

You can live a life filled with mercy when you keep mercy close to your heart. “Put on therefore…bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering….” (Colossians 3:12) Your bowels are the deepest part of you. The term “bowels of mercies” suggests that mercy, like many other virtues, comes from the deepest part of you. When you truly have mercy in your heart, you’ll show it through your actions towards others.

We see God’s mercy demonstrated toward us in His forgiveness, His gift of eternal life to us. As C.S. Lewis once said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Mercy doesn’t come naturally, it is learned through a personal relationship with God. When you have a relationship with God, God’s mercy toward you is bigger than any mistake you can make. God’s mercy is inexhaustible. And when you see God’s mercy at work in your own life, you’ll be better equipped to live a life filled with mercy.

Originally published as “Mercy.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. January 18, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Wednesday

4

July 2018

Hope Reflected | What does the Bible say about Insecurity

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"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:10) | What does the Bible say about insecurity? | Read more at hopereflected.com

Insecurity

What does the Bible say about overcoming insecurity?

There are many different forms of insecurity. Perhaps you feel insecure about your weight, or maybe your relationships. It could be that you feel insecure in your job, or that you’re worried about what others think about you. Entering a new year can also be a trigger for insecurity: A new year brings with it many challenges and unknowns, filled with peaks and valleys.

In the face of insecurity, where are you searching for validation? Is it in the number of likes to your latest Facebook post, or maybe the attention and compliments you receive about your latest hair colour or outfit choice? We’re all longing for approval, but quite often we don’t look for approval in the right places.

So what does the Bible say about insecurity? There several references throughout Scripture regarding insecurity. God’s Word talks a lot about our worth and our value, and gives us wise instruction on ways to overcome insecurity.

  • Remember that you are of great value to God. “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalm 139:17-18) Think about that for a minute. God’s thoughts toward you are more in number than the sand. If you have kids (or a dog) and you’ve ever taken them to the beach, you should have a good understanding of how small each grain of sand is. Those miniscule grains seem to work their way into every crack and lock of hair (or fur) on children and pets after a weekend at the water! Now imagine trying to count each grain of sand, not just on one beach, but on every beach in the entire world! It would be impossible to count every grain. And yet our Lord’s thoughts toward you are more in number than the sand. When you’re feeling insecure, remember that you are of great value to God. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
  • Accept that you are a special creation. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) You aren’t a mistake, and you are not unloved. God created you! There are a lot of people out there who don’t believe in the sanctity of life, but the fact is that even before you were conceived, God knew you. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) You may feel insecure about certain aspects of your body, but God created you in His image. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) God loves you and you are a special creation. So special in fact, that God sent His only son to die so that you could have eternal life. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • Acknowledge that you have a purpose. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Each one of us was created for a purpose. Some days it may not feel like it, especially when you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over, but God has a purpose for you. You’re not just born into this world to live and do what you like – though that’s how many of us often live – you’re born into this world with a God-given purpose. Have you asked God to reveal your purpose to you?
  • Seek the approval of God and not man. “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” (Psalm 118:9) This can be so hard, can’t it? We live in a world where we’re inundated with images from everyone’s highlight reel on Facebook and Instagram, and it’s so easy to start comparing ourselves to others and seeking more likes and reactions. That’s not where we should be focusing our energy, however. The Bible tells us to “Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” (Isaiah 2:22) When we look to others for validation, that’s a sure-fire way to feel insecure. Consider the wisdom of Jeremiah 17:5: “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5) Looking to the Lord for approval means moving your eyes away from others and self and is a great way to overcome insecurity.

We live in a world where society profits from our self-doubt. When you put your eyes on the Lord, your thoughts will follow and will move away from self and others. Your mind believes what you tell it, so remember to nourish it with the right things: Start in God’s Word and feed on His truth, love, and faith.

Originally published as “Insecurity.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest Confederate. January 11, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

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Wednesday

18

April 2018

Tips for helping robins

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Tips for helping robins in winter | see more at hopereflected.com

I think we all understand that it’s no longer winter, but seeing as we’re experiencing one last (we hope) blast of winter before spring sets in, today I’m sharing some tips for helping robins. You’ve likely noticed all the robins flitting about in your yard, along the sides of road ways, and in the streets.

Here are some suggestions and tips for helping robins in winter (or in this unseasonable stormy and cold spring):

Tips for helping robins in winter | see more at hopereflected.com

  • It’s a misconception that robins only eat worms. Robins also enjoy various types of berries, and they’ll even eat cracked corn. If you have robins in your yard, set out some berries to help the little guys get through this cold spell: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, raisins, and even apple chunks are favourites.
  • Fresh water. You may think that we’ve got enough precipitation, however even in these cold and freezing temperatures, it’s important for robins (and other birds) to stay hydrated and have a fresh source of water for keeping clean.
  • Ground to forage. This one is tough, especially with that layer of ice that seems to be covering everything, however if you’re able to clear a spot on the ground, robins are creatures who love to forage. You’ve likely noticed them along the sides of your house, or in any place where there’s a clearing (like on the sides of highways and streets).
  • Don’t panic. We have this notion that robins can’t survive cold temperatures or that since they’ve migrated north after all winter that they’re not accustomed to or can’t handle winter weather. They can! But that doesn’t mean we can’t help them out.

For more information about robins, visit Living With Wildlife.

Tips for helping robins in winter | see more at hopereflected.com

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Sunday

1

April 2018

He is Risen | Easter | Resurrection Sunday

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"He is risen, as He said." Matthew 28:6 | See more at hopereflected.com

He is risen! Wishing you a blessed Easter. Happy Resurrection Sunday!

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Matthew 28:1-7

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Friday

23

March 2018

Encouragement | Easter Meditation on Isaiah 53:6

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"All we like sheep have gone astray." (Isaiah 53:6) | See more at hopereflected.com

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6

Sheep need a Shepherd. For Christians, that Shepherd is Jesus Christ.

The role of the Shepherd is to protect the flock. The Shepherd guards the flock with his life. In Jesus’s case, rather than let us suffer the consequences of our sins, He went to the cross for us. The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Because Jesus went to the cross and rose the third day, we have the peace and promise of eternal salvation, when we have a relationship with Him.

Consider Christ as our Shepherd. He is our protector. He is our salvation. He is our buckler. He is our high tower. Christ is our Saviour.

This idea of Christ carrying our sins to the cross also translates into Christ carrying us. As the shepherd carries the sheep, so Christ carries us always. “Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.” (Psalm 28:9)

As humans, it can be hard to keep our eyes on the Lord. And it can be easy to stray, even when we have a relationship with Christ. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, For I do not forget Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:176)

And while we all have a habit of turning to our own ways, thankfully the Lord, as our Shepherd, has a habit of keeping His hand on us. “For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered: so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6

Click here to read more from this series on Isaiah 53.

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Thursday

22

March 2018

Encouragement | Easter meditation on Isaiah 53:5

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"The chastisement of our peace was upon him." Isaiah 53:5 | See more at hopereflected.com

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

The first part of Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities;”. Jesus carried the weight of our sin to the cross. Every sin, every transgression, and all of our iniquity — even the things that happened last week, and this week, or that will happen in the future — Christ bore it all on the cross. It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it?

Romans 4:25-5:1 puts it like this: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”.

Jesus went to the cross for all of our sins. But He didn’t stay there!

Isaiah 53:5 continues on to say, “the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

What is the chastisement of our peace? In his exposition of the Bible, John Gill explains the chastisement of our peace like this:

“the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
that is, the punishment of our sins was inflicted on him, whereby our peace and reconciliation with God was made by him; for chastisement here does not design the chastisement of a father, and in love, such as the Lord chastises his people with; but an act of vindictive justice, and in wrath, taking vengeance on our sins, of our surety, whereby divine wrath is appeased, justice is satisfied, and peace is made.”

Christ didn’t just go to the cross to die. He went there, carrying all of our sins, so that we might live and have eternal life and peace. I love how it’s described in 1 Peter 2:24: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Christ went to the cross so that we should live unto righteousness!

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Click here to read more from this series on Isaiah 53.

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Wednesday

21

March 2018

Encouragement | Easter meditation on Isaiah 53:4

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"Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Isaiah 53:4 | See more at hopereflected.com

Casting all your cares on Him

Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

Isaiah 53:4 is tied to Matthew 8:17 “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”

Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, bore our griefs and carried our sorrows to the cross. And you know what? He still bears our griefs and carries our sorrows to this very day.

When you have a personal relationship with Christ, you have the privilege of casting all your cares on Him.

  • “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

Although He faced a world that regarded Him as stricken, although He was smitten of God, although He was afflicted — although Christ carried the burdens of the entire earth to that cross, we all know what happened.

He rose again the third day. Christ conquered the grave. He conquered our sin. He conquered every insecurity and every fear. All we have to do is put our trust in Him. You are able to give your all to Him, casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28)

Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”

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Tuesday

20

March 2018

Encouragement | Easter Meditation on Isaiah 53:3

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He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. | See more at hopereflected.com

Encouragement | Easter Meditation on Isaiah 53:3

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

With Holy Week starting next Sunday, this week I’m meditating over Isaiah 53 and the New Testament Scriptures that detail the history of our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus was despised, rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, despised. We hid our faces from him, and we esteemed him not.

Psalm 22:6 says, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Jesus was despised. He was rejected. He was the man of sorrows. He was acquainted with grief.

If you’re sad, discouraged, down, or depressed, remember this: Jesus has already been through it all. He has been through the deepest grief, and He has felt more sorrow than you will ever know.

We’re told in Hebrews 4:15 that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are….” Jesus knows every aspect of the feeling of your infirmities. He completely understands the depths of your debilitating depression and your grief. You know why? Because He’s been there!

Jesus was in the world, in fact He made the world, and the world knew Him not (John 1:10). If you’re longing for significance, or looking for an answer, I encourage you to look to the Lord. He went to the cross for you. He wants to know you personally. Call out to Him, and He will hear you.

“Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.” (Psalm 105:4)

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3

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Monday

19

March 2018

Encouragement | Isaiah 53:3-7

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"The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6 | See more at hopereflected.com

Next week marks the beginning of Holy Week, and as we head into this Easter season, I’m meditating on our Lord and what He took on for us, all so we can have eternal life. I woke up Sunday morning with the hymn “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!” stuck in my head, and as Wes and I read through Mark 15 where Jesus stands before Pilate, I realized how casually we often read through the account of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Really there are no words to fully describe or illustrate what Jesus went through leading up to and on and after the cross. This weekend, the passage of scripture found in Isaiah 53 struck me in a new way. I went through and underlined how Isaiah describes what happened to our Lord.

Isaiah 53:3-7 reads [emphasis my own]:

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Despised, rejected, man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, carried our sorrows, stricken, smitten of God, afflicted, wounded, bruised, chastised, oppressed, afflicted, brought as a lamb to the slaughter — our Lord endured it all, all so we can have eternal life.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re going through, Jesus has already been through it all for you.

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