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    Chuck Kralik
    poetry

    What really killed Jesus? 
    Was it the nails that pierced his wrists and feet, or maybe the spear that punctured his side?  Was it the cruel words that echoed in his ears, their shouts to crucify, crucify?  Maybe it was his gasping for breath, or his thirst, or his breaking heart.  Whichever of these it may have been, I’m pretty certain that I played a part in why someone so innocent, so good, so young had to die?  I am quite sure that I know why.  They scourged him and mocked him and stripped this man.  I looked away, only to see his blood on my hands.  Naked and bleeding and paraded by men.  He carried the cross.  He buried my sin.  As I look more closely, I finally see.  It’s not what really killed Jesus, but who?  It was me.

    William D'Andrea
    shortstory

    "See Lord, Here Are Two Swords"
    By William D'Andrea
     
    This story is a fanfiction crossover between the former TV Series, Xena: Warrior Princess and the Bible, in which Xena and Gabriel meet Jesus.
     
    I do not own the characters Xena or Gabrielle.  They belong to the Producers of the TV Series “Xena Warrior Princess”.  The Biblical Characters are all in Public Domain.  Amen.     

    Any heresies or blasphemies are unintentional.

    This story contains violence, but not as graphic as Mel Gibson’s version. 
    I think this is closer to what you might hear, from any faithful preacher of the Gospel, on any Sunday Morning.  I’ll give this a PG 13 rating.

    May the words of this writing, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in the sight of God, our Strength and our Redeemer.
     
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
     
    Xena and I were already on a ship far from land, before the sacred harlot was found murdered, in the Treasury of the Temple of Aphrodite in Ephesus, where a minor amount of money was missing.

    By the time we disembarked at Tyre, the Priesthood of Aphrodite had added another 10,000 sesterces reward, to all the other rewards, for the heads of Xena the Warrior Princess, and me, her companion Gabrielle. Whether or not, our heads were attached to our bodies, all the rewards would be paid in full.

    The two of us were now in Judea. The time was early Spring, and we were moving among a crowd of pilgrims, approaching Jerusalem, where they planned to attend the ancient Judean Celebration, called "Passover". We were dressed in the robes of Judean women.

    The day was hot. We were thirsty and exhausted, and we were climbing uphill.

    "Xena." My voice was hoarse. "This is the end of us, isn't it?"

    "No." She told me, "Not as long as we keep moving."

    "I'm tired of constantly moving. There's never any rest. Why don't we just give ourselves up, and take what we've got coming to us?"

    "Do you know what we've got coming to us Gabrielle?"

    I nodded. "We're warrior women, so you and I'll be sentenced to fight each other to the death in the Arena. You'll kill me, with no trouble at all. Then they'll kill you with a lot more trouble. We'll die fighting, beautiful and brave, just like warrior women should."

    "If we were ordinary warrior women, who'd been captured in battle, that's what would happen, but for all the things you and I've done, we're not getting off that easy. You and I are gonna be getting crucified."

    I said, "Then let's keep moving."

    We were moving through a village named Bethany. We stopped to rest, in the shade of a whitewashed, stucco building, and sat down there, under the eave of its red tile roof, to rest awhile, leaning against the wall.

    Many people dressed in black garments were entering and leaving through the doorway of the house.

    Through the window, we heard people repeating, "I was so sorry to hear about Lazarus."

    A woman said, "We sent word to the Master a week ago. We told him, 'The one you love is deathly sick.' But He has not come."

    Another man inside the house said, "The Master is coming now."

    A young man in rich garments stepped outside, and stood beside the doorway. His eyes scanned through the passing crowd. A young man, in dusty, plain garments, stepped out of the crowd, and came over to him.

    He spoke respectfully, "Good day, Joseph of Aramathea."

    The wealthy young man said, "And good day to you Phillip. I hear that you are among the Disciples of the Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth."

    "True. I am."

    "Tell me Phillip. Who do you say that He is?"

    Phillip told him, "He is the Christ. The Son of the Living God."

    Joseph of Aramathea put a finger to his lips.

    Xena groaned and spoke softly. "Another son of another god?"

    I smiled, "Another Hercules?"

    Xena groaned again.

    Now there was a commotion in the crowd. Everyone was turning their attention along the way we'd just come. A group of about a dozen men had entered the village. Xena and I stood up, to see what was going on.

    People kept calling out the name "Jesus!"

    This Jesus was in the center of the group of twelve. He was no Hercules. He looked like any man.

    He approached the doorway, where he was greeted by Joseph of Aramathea and Phillip.

    Joseph said, "Good teacher. What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

    I couldn't imagine anyone asking that of Hercules.

    Jesus answered, "Why do you call me good? No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother."

    "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

    "One thing you lack." He said. "Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

    Joseph of Aramathea was taken aback. His face was sorrowful, and he went away down the street, apparently grieving.

    Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "Children, how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

    His disciples looked at each other. One of them asked, "Who then can be saved?"

    Jesus told them, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

    I also couldn't imagine Hercules telling any of those things to anybody.

    Now a woman stepped out through the doorway, dressed entirely in black, and stood in front of Jesus.

    "Lord," she said, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

    "Martha," Jesus said to her, "your brother will rise again."

    "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

    Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

    "Yes, Lord," she told Him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

    After she said this, she went back inside the house.

    I heard her call out, "Mary! The Teacher is here, and is asking for you."

    Martha, and a younger woman, also dressed in black, came back outside. The younger woman fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

    When Jesus saw her, and everyone else weeping, He looked deeply troubled.

    He asked, "Where have you laid him?"

    "Come and see Lord."

    Now Jesus wept.

    Some people in the crowd said, "See how he loved him?"

    Others asked, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

    Then Jesus, His disciples, Martha, Mary, and everyone in the crowd, including me and Xena, headed away from the house, going to where Lazarus was buried.

    The tomb was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.

    Jesus said, "Take the stone away."

    "But Lord," Martha said, "By now he will be stinking, for he has been there four days."

    Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

    So they took away the stone.

    Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.

    When he had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"

    Then the dead man came out alive.

    That is what happened. I was there, so was Xena, and so were many of the leaders of the Judeans.

    When I'd first seen Jesus, I'd thought, he's no son of Zeus. Now I wondered. Is He the Son of the God of Israel?

    Now the crowd returned from the empty tomb of Lazarus, along with Lazarus, Mary and Martha, Jesus and all his Disciples.

    Xena said, "I thought I'd seen and heard it all. This is one day I will never forget."

    Phillip was walking near us. He said, "With Jesus, this is an ordinary day. He is constantly healing the sick, raising the dead, and casting out demons. He's fed 5,000 with an offering of five loaves and two fishes. He stopped a storm by saying 'Peace! Be still!'; and I was there when He walked on water."

    A man in priestly garments, named the Simon the Pharisee spoke to Phillip.

    He said, "If your master is a righteous man, why does he eat and drink with tax collectors and with sinners?"

    Now Jesus called out to him, "Those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but those who are ill. I have come to call the sinners, not the righteous to repentance."

    We returned to Lazarus' house. That night people were crowded inside. They'd come to see both him and Jesus. Many of the Chief Priests had come out from Jerusalem. Joseph of Aramathea had returned, along with an elderly priest named Nicodemus.

    As we were going inside, I happened to overhear Simon the Pharisee speaking quietly to one of the Chief Priests, with whom he was standing in a corner.

    Simon said, "What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."

    The Chief priest told him, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."

    Now inside the house, Jesus continued teaching.

    "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

    Now Simon the Pharisee spoke. "Teacher," he said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

    Everyone was silent. There was tension in the room. If Jesus said no, then he could be executed for treason.

    "You hypocrite," Jesus spoke sharply, "Why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax."

    They brought him a denarius.

    He asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

    "Caesar's"

    Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

    Then he spoke to us all, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

    That night I told Xena, "Whoever He is, this Jesus is no Hercules."

    Xena said, "Who is Hercules?"

    The following morning, Jesus rose early; so did we all. He sat upon a young donkey, and rode off toward Jerusalem, surrounded by His Disciples. The rest of us followed.

    Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus remained with the crowd.

    Nicodemus said, "Behold Joseph, the scripture is fulfilled which says, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt."

    Then we rounded the corner and Jerusalem came into view. Upon seeing the City Jesus wept over it.

    He said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

    A great crowd came out from Jerusalem, carrying palm branches and shouting.

    "Hosanna!"

    "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

    "Blessed is the King of Israel!"

    Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

    "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!"

    Then we entered the City. Jesus, His disciples, and many in the crowd entered the Temple. Xena and I were not Israelites, so we were forbidden to enter.

    In the middle of the afternoon, a large crowd emerged from the Temple. Jesus was among them. There was shouting and angry arguments were going on.

    I asked someone what was wrong.

    He said, "Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers, and drove them out of the Temple. He denounced the Chief Priests as hypocrites. He said they had turned God's House of Prayer, into a den of thieves."

    Then man returned to the arguing crowd.

    Xena said, "He's gonna get himself killed."

    I told her, "Then He's gonna need us."

    She nodded. "That's what we're here for."

    Phillip was in the crowd near us. Xena and I went over to him.

    "Sir." she said, "We would like to see Jesus. My name is Xena, the Warrior Princess. She is Gabrielle. You may have heard of us."

    The Disciple nodded.

    "We believe He is putting Himself in great danger, and we are offering Him our protection."

    Phillip stepped away from us, and spoke to another disciple. The other man looked at us. Then the two of them went over to Jesus and spoke to Him.

    Jesus looked at us, and for a moment, I saw fear in His eyes.

    Then He spoke. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

    "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name!"

    Then I heard a thundering voice which said, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."

    Everyone in the crowd was startled.

    Xena said, "That was thunder."

    I said, "An angel has spoken to Him."

    Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for the judgment of this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

    That night, Jesus and His Disciples gathered in an upper room, where they celebrated the Judean's Feast, called the Passover, and ate their Sacred Meal together. Xena and I stood guard at the door. Jesus and his twelve disciples reclined at the table.

    Then Jesus told them, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

    His disciples stared at one another.

    Then he spoke to his disciple named Judas Iscariot. "What you are about to do, do quickly."

    Then Judas got up from the table, and went out the door.

    Now Jesus said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

    After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

    In the same way, after the supper, He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

    Then He spoke to His disciple Simon Peter. "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen you brothers."

    The man replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and death."

    "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

    Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack for anything?"

    They answered, "Nothing."

    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors': and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."

    Then Phillip looked at both me and Xena and said, "See, Lord, here are two swords."

    Jesus replied, "That is enough."

    Then the Passover ended. Jesus and His disciple went out to a garden. Xena and I stood guard at the gate.

    He told them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."

    He went a short distance away from them knelt down and prayed "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

    Then things were quiet in the garden, for a good amount of time.

    Then I heard Jesus shout. "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation!"

    Now a crowd was approaching the Garden. Xena and I drew our swords. The crowd included a detachment of soldiers, and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

    Xena called out, "Who goes?"

    "Judas Iscariot."

    He was the disciple, who Jesus had told, to do something quickly.

    I told Xena, "He's brought help."

    The two of us stood aside, and the crowd walked right passed us.

    Judas approached Jesus, and greeted him with a kiss, in the manner of the men of the desert.

    Jesus asked, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"

    Then Xena and I raised our swords, rushed into the crowd, and someone slammed me in the head with a heavy club.

    I was aware of nothing.

    I opened my eyes. I was lying on a cot, inside a cell, with bars across the entrance, which faced out onto a courtyard, and it was daytime.

    So I wasn't killed last night. I thought, I woke up today. That probably won't happen again.

    A man was seated on a cot across the cell from mine. He was leering at me. Xena stood beside the man, glaring at him.

    He said, "I suppose you're not a harlot either."

    Xena ordered, "Don't say that word again Barabbas, or when they come to crucify us you'll already be dead."

    I sat up straight.

    "They're gonna crucify us?"

    "I tried to plea bargain it down," Xena told me, "to us fighting to the death in the Arena; but gladiator combat is banned in Judea; so you and I won't be getting a light sentence."

    "Well I never expected any kind of light sentence. We're getting what we've deserved for a very long time Xena."

    Barabbas chuckled, "I, on the other hand, will be dying beside two beautiful, naked women, so it won't be entirely bad, at least for me."

    Xena and I both groaned.

    Then Barabbas stopped leering. He pointed out through the bars.

    "But that man does not deserve this."

    Out in the courtyard, Jesus stood in a dirty purple robe, with a crown of thorns on His head, and he looked very weakened.

    Xena said, "The Governor had him scourged."

    The Governor Pontius Pilate, was seated upon a platform above the courtyard.

    He called out, "Behold the man!"

    There was a large crowd of Chief Priests and other officials from the Temple, standing there watching. They shouted "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

    He asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

    "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"

    "Do you think I am a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"

    Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But now my kingdom is from another place."

    "You are a king then!"

    "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

    Pilate shrugged. "What is truth?"

    Then the Governor addressed the crowd. "I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?"

    "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!"

    Barabbas said, "They want me? Instead of him?"

    Pilate called out, "Behold the man!"

    Now Simon the Pharisee called out, "If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar! Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar."

    Others cried out, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"

    "Shall I crucify your king?"

    "We have no king but Caesar!"

    Then Pilate told them, "You take him, and crucify him yourselves!"

    Then the guards took Jesus away, and he was gone from our sight.

    Other guards came to our cell, and opened the door. They shackled Xena and me, but they let Barabbas go. He ran toward the door, went around the corner, and was gone from our sight.

    Then Xena and I were led out of the fortress, along with Jesus.

    We were taken outside the City gates; and there they crucified us; with Jesus in the center. Xena hung on a cross, on his left hand, while I hung nailed to a cross, with spikes through my wrists and ankles, to Jesus' right.

    I hung there in agony, wanting only to die quickly, like everyone who I'd killed had died; but I would be dying slowly; remembering all the murders, thievery, whorings, and the man who I had not married, preferring this life of crime, and the children I had not borne. I deserved to suffer like this, I thought. I had no right to even wish to die faster.

    As I hung there, I heard Jesus cry out, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

    A small crowd had gathered to watch him die. Temple officials were among them.

    One of them was Simon the Pharisee. He sneered, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One."

    Then I heard Xena jeer. "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

    "Xena!" I shouted, "Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong!"

    Then I said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

    He answered me, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

    Then in a moment, my life and my agony was gone; and that very day, I was with Him in Paradise, and I will be here with Him forever.

    Amen.


     
    I acknowledge that this story does not follow the exact time line as the scriptures. I was not writing  "The Gospel According to Gabrielle." This story is told from the viewpoint of someone who saw only part of what happened, and understood it only in part, and told it as well as she could remember; just like all of us do.

    William D'Andrea



     

    Chuck Kralik
    devotionals

    “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NIV).
     
    Today is Independence Day in the United States of America.  This is the day we recall the many freedoms we have in our country.  We are truly blessed to live in such a great land.  We celebrate with family and friends, enjoying the finest of food grilled over hot coals, lively parades, and festive fireworks. 
     
    Still, the Fourth of July would not be complete without some meaningful reflection concerning the source of our freedom.  We remember the many brave men and women who currently serve in the military and those who have served our country in the past to ensure that we can live freely.  Many of these individuals paid the ultimate price, giving their very lives to purchase and maintain our freedom.
     
    Scripture speaks of another type of freedom that is just as much worth celebrating as our nation’s Independence Day.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, his blood-shed payment for our sins, we are declared free.  Our victory is over death, our transgressions, even the Devil himself.   
     
    The Apostle Paul was one of the first individuals to share this liberating truth.  He visited and wrote letters to many of the churches in the region of Asia Minor.  One of these churches was located at a place called Galatia. 
     
    For the Galatian Christians, their spiritual freedom was under attack.  A group known as the Judaizers had followed-up on Paul’s message of the good news Gospel of Christ with a message of their own, convincing new Gentile converts that, in order to be true Christians, they had to follow a list of rules and rituals.  Paul’s stern reminder to the Galatian people was that they were sons and daughters, adopted by God, not slaves under the Law.  They were in no way to return to the bonds of legal indebtedness, but were to live in the freedom of a relationship with their graceful God.
     
    Like the Galatians, we, too, possess a certain level of freedom as Christ-followers.  And, although we should watch that this freedom does not become a license for sin, returning us to a state of spiritual slavery, we are free to love God and serve others.
     
    Thank God today for the many freedoms we have as Americans.  More importantly, remember to thank God for the freedom we have in Christ.  We are citizens of a great country.  We are adopted sons and daughters of a great God.  Let’s celebrate!    

    Njoku Vivian Chidinma
    devotionals

    QUOTE: Come to me all ye who are heavily burden and I shall give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
     
    A Workaholic is a person who compulsively works excessively hard and long hours. Psalm 127 reminds us that if we are building our kingdom without God, we will be laboring in vain. 
    Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
     
    The Bible use the word 'Unless' which means the same as if...not. If we do not invite God we labour in vain. And God wants us to find rest in him. Hard work cannot be undermined but by working longer hours  we trust in our abilities and not in the Lord. If we are building God’s kingdom, there is nothing ever to worry about, because God is in control. Our worry and anxiety reveal our concern is for the wrong kingdom.
     
    In the creation story; on the seventh day God rested. He did not rest because He was tired. Rather the Lord teaches that everything must be done in moderation.
     
    Likewise in Mark 6:31, Jesus told His disciples; "come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest". He understood there is a time to rest and communicate with his followers. The King of kings had his own quiet time and rested. Workaholics deny those around them the opportunity to enjoy their presence. And working for longer hours is harmful to your health and can destroy any meaningful human relationship.
     
    There are times you think you need to work extra to earn a living but be reminded Jesus during his earthly ministry slept in the storm. His disciples where apprehensive but he was sleeping because he who count the clouds is his Father. Trust God to do what you cannot. The world around me may be collapsing, but I can lay my head down knowing God is in control and my life is in his hands.
     
    CONFESSION: When I am down to nothing, my Lord is up to something greater.
     

    NetChaplain
    devotionals

    If the need of man were the sole measure of the grace of God, then man only would be thought of, the work of the Lord Jesus would be simply for man, and the power of God expended merely in rescuing man and securing his relief. Man would be the object and end of it all, and not God.
     
    Whenever the heart drops into its own thoughts, which is always the case when we are acting in the flesh and in our own strength, and not the Spirit, it will reduce grace to man’s level, making his benefit the exclusive object.
     
    It will be said that the soul’s need must necessarily occupy it first. That is quite true. But he who is most relieved is most drawn to the One who has relieved him. The more intensely I have felt the need of relief, and the greatness of the favor conferred, the more I am attached to the Deliverer. He that is forgiven much, the same loves much (Luk 7:42, 47). If the only object of grace were to relieve man, then man could be relieved without nearness of God, and this is really the effect of confining the heart exclusively to the fact of relief and favor.
     
    Too often, the believer being relieved from judgement, pursues his course as a man on earth with the sense of relief; but the Lord Jesus, the Man in heaven, may not be his object, nor his aim to represent and manifest Him here. The grace of God could never have limited itself to man’s need, seeing that the greatest thing the Father can confer is nearness to Himself. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1Pe 3:18). That’s not just when we die, or at the Rapture, “but now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off are made near by the Blood of Christ” (Ep 2:13)!
     
    If grace were only to relieve man of the misery which sin has brought in, he might be a vastly improved man, and a happy man; but then God would not and could not form any part of his happiness. He might feel indebted to Him for His mercy, but if grace effected nothing more than this he would not be brought to God, and though there might be joy in the sense of forgiveness, there would be no joy in God, no separation from the man in the flesh, no walking in the Spirit and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.
     
    Many of those who minister the Word find it easier for their own consciences to confine their preaching and teaching to man’s need. We cannot present truth beyond our own experience with a good conscience. A servant has no real effect in presenting God’s side to souls, unless he be there in measure and purpose himself. He cannot go beyond his light, but when he has refused or avoided the light in order that he might retain the world, he excuses his own state by designating is as “too high,” and unusable for souls.
     
    The one who is most for God will be most sustained by God; but the minister, in preaching or teaching, who will command the ear of men, and allow himself most of the world, is the man who confines himself to that which merely meets man’s need, and which the natural conscience will accept. So that broadly, popularity and a low level of truth, which will awaken sentiments of merely man-centered religion, always go together, and the riches of the grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ are not really known because the glory of the grace has been neglected or refused.
     
    - J B Stoney
     
     
    Excerpt from MJS devotional for July 4: “Exhaustive effort brings home the necessity of strengthening rest. The believer will not be ready to enter into his spiritual rest until he is utterly worn out by his unsuccessful efforts to conquer sin and the old man. There is no rest for the “wretched man” of Romans 7—that struggle must lead to the rest of Romans 8.
     
    “The heart of man naturally seeks rest, and seeks it here. Now, there is no rest to be found here for the believer; but it is written, ‘There remaineth, therefore, a rest to the people of God’ (Heb 4:9).
     
    “To know this is both full of blessing and full of sorrow: sorrow to the flesh; because it is always seeking its rest here, it has always to be disappointed; blessing to the spirit, because the spirit, being born of God, can only rest in God’s rest, as it is said, ‘If they shall enter into My rest’ (Heb. 4:5). What God desires for us is to bring us into the enjoyment of all that which He Himself enjoys.” -J.N.D.
    http://www.abideabove.com/hungry-heart/

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