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All This for You

There is found in the story of one oil painting the truth of the application of the love of Calvary to all persons.

The artist, Sternburg, who lived in Dusseldorf in Prussia, was commissioned to paint the crucifixion. He knew the story of the crucifixion by heart but was not a believer. One spring morning he was walking in the forest near his city when he met a gypsy girl making straw baskets. She was lovely. He enlisted her to be a model for another painting he was doing of a dancing girl. She was asked to come three times a week. As she posed, her searching eyes found the painting of the crucifixion. “Who is that she asked?” Sternburg: “The Christ.” “What is being done to Him?” Sternburg, “They are crucifying Him.” “Who are those people with the angry faces?” Sternburg, “Now look here! I cannot talk. You have nothing to do but stand as I tell you.” Days later she asked, “Why did they crucify Him? Was he bad, very bad?” Sternburg, “Listen, and I will tell you once and for all. Then no more questions.” He told her the story of the cross. It moved her to tears.

Finally, her last day came. She stood motionless but emotionally before the painting and said to Sternburg, “You must love Him very much when he has done all that for you?” “All that for you” rang through his mind for days. He knew he did not love Jesus. Sometime later he was saved. Out of gratitude he sought to express his love through finishing the painting of the crucifixion. It was soon hung in the great museum in Dusseldorf. Underneath the inscription: “All this I did for thee; What hast thou done for Me?”

One day Sternburg visited the gallery and saw a lovely girl standing before the painting weeping. It was Pepita. They greeted and she said, “O Master! If he had but loved me so!” The new Sternburg told her of Jesus’ love for her. In near unbelief and with deep gratitude she accepted Jesus as Savior.

Some years later the painting was visited by the wealthy young nobleman, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. This young aristocrat was trained for a diplomatic career in the Court of Dresden. On a trip to Paris he stopped in Dusseldorf to rest his horses. While there he visited the art gallery. He noted the painting of Sternburg and was struck by it. He stood paused to read the inscription: “All this I did for thee; What has thou done for me?” His eyes met those of the thorn-crowned Jesus. He could find no answer to that question that satisfied his mind. Hours passed, the light faded; time came for the gallery to close. It was night when he left the gallery, but a new day had dawned in his experience. From that day all that he had was placed at the cross of Jesus – his wealth, fame, heart and life. He declared, “I have but one passion. It is Jesus, Jesus only.” Jesus became his life’s passion.

You who have previously trusted Him pause and express your love to Him

You who have never done so are urged to do so now.

Take Every Thought Into Captivity

“…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ….” II Corinthians 10: 5

Every thought releases a chemical into the body, some good, some not good for you. You determine which chemical by what thought you have.

It is for this reason Scripture notes “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 7: 22)

Before dealing with the first part of this verse consider the second.

“Bones” in the Bible figuratively represents the body: fat bones means a healthy body (Proverbs 3:8; 15:30; 16:24), but dry bones signify unhealthiness and lifelessness. ( Ezekiel 37:1-14)

A broken spirit, that is a negative spirit, always looks on the dark side of things, contributing to poor health.

Pause and think, before scientific knowledge opened our understanding to these things the Lord revealed a summary of the principles to Solomon.

It is even known now that the left brain is more associated with positive emotions, while the right brain is more associated with negative emotions. A key to sunny disposition, and good health is to keep the left side dominating.

When the levels of serotonin are normal, one feels happy, calm, less anxious, more focused, and emotionally stable. There is an increase in activity and zeal. A bright outlook exists.

Negativity can become a habit. Frequent criticism, cynical thoughts, and denial can create neural pathways in the brain that encourage a negative outlook which is unbecoming of a person of faith.

The good news is the brain can be trained. The basic premise is to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus….” (Philippians 2: 5)

When you think on a topic, think of how Jesus would speak on it if He were present under your circumstances. Your first thought on the subject may be negative. Before leaving the topic go back and consider how Jesus would think about it. Retrain your brain to flip negatives into positives. That is a good final filter.

Some steps in training the mind include: focusing on good things, practicing gratitude, being open to and enjoying good humor, and spending time with positive people. 

Foremost on training your mind is found in this axiom: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119: 11)

That requires that you “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2: 15)

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23: 7)

Let the good chemicals flow.

Now Thank We All Our God

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Heb. 13:15, 16

Our text gives us two directional outlets for gratitude.  Verse 15 speaks of praise and is God-ward.  Verse 16 speaks of performance, that is, service which is man-ward.

We are to praise God and share with others.

Note the reference to “the sacrifice of praise.”  This is one of the only gifts we can give God.  When it is difficult to praise Him, our praise is often best.  We have to sacrifice our feelings in order to praise. We sacrifice our ego and praise Him rather than seek praise for ourselves.  It is “the fruit of the lips.”  Praise on the lips is the fruit and gratitude in the heart, the root.

A German named Rinkart was the son of a poor coppersmith. He lived through the Thirty Years War which started in 1618.  His city was ravaged by plague and famine.  Yet, he wrote:

“Now thank we all our God
With heart and hands and voices,
Who mighty things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices.”

We are to offer the sacrifice of praise to God and render service to people with our voice, hands, and heart.

We are to “continually” offer praise to God not just when things are going good and we feel like it. It is not to be simply a feeling, but an expression of praise.

Praise that comes from our lips pleases God. It is likened to the fruit of a tree. It is spoken out unto the Lord. What comes from the lips is regarded as fruit. The fruit of a tree reveals the nature of the tree. Expressed praise reveals the heart of the one praising Him.

This is more than a cliche flippantly spoken when something good happens. It is a heartfelt expression of sincere gratitude. It is to be a sacrifice at times. Those are the times things aren’t good, but God is acknowledged to be good. Don’t confuse things with God. Things are not always good, but God is always good, always. To praise Him when things aren’t good is a testimony to His good nature and sufficiency.

We are to be thankful not only for the benefits of God, but for the God of all benefits.  Thank Him not only for what He gives, but who He is.

In a culture where our passionate desire for things is inflamed, contentment is hard to find.  When one comes to the realization that contentment is only in Jesus and not commodities, can it be had.

Grow On

“….grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  II Peter 3:18

There is a French proverb: “Qui ne s’avance pas recule,” that is, “Whatever does not go forward goes backwards.”

Have you continued to grow, not physically, but spiritually, morally, and intellectually. Some people have reached a stage of arrested growth. That is, they reached a certain stage and have not gone beyond it. Let’s focus our attention on spiritual growth. Some who were remarkably mature years ago are still living at that level of maturity. When was the last time you challenged yourself by memorizing a new passage of Scripture? How recently have you read a book of the Bible?

Now is a very good time to resolve, “Thy word have I hid in my heart.” Get off your apathy and renew your commitment to the study, memorization, and the application of God’s word. If you don’t know, you can’t grow in grace and knowledge.

Note, the text for this Post identifies two areas of growth. They are grace and knowledge (and don’t confuse the two).

Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward us. It is God giving to us what we need when we need it not because we deserve it, but because it is His nature to do it.  We then are to be God’s channels through which His grace flows to the world. Pass along His grace, His favor, to others. God showers His grace on us because He so loves us. We pass it on because we love Him.

God’s grace often consists of kindness, wisdom, and understanding. These however don’t reach their full meaning until we have experienced His greatest grace, the gift of His only begotten son. We can not earn, merit, or deserve this grace. It is the gift of God. A gift involves giving and receiving. God has given, we must receive the gift of salvation by His grace.

Once experienced we must on frequent occasions, “Be still (cease striving) and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Grow in grace… and knowledge. “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2: 15) Do your homework, get in the word, and get the word in you.

This requires time and discipline. Got it! It takes time and discipline. 

Now renew your commitment to continued growth. Take as your slogan “Press on.” Don’t allow yourself the luxury of being distracted from the object of growth.

Resolve to grow the rest of your life, however long that may be.

You Are a Sum Total of Your Decisions

Joshua 24: 13 – 17

Andrew Jackson’s dad died before his birth.  He was orphaned in Waxham, N.C. at age 13. He didn’t follow his mother’s desire for him to be a minister, but became inclined toward the glory of the battlefield and later politics.  Facing the sunset of his life at 60 plus years of age he gave his life to Jesus.  The memory of his mother was the influence that called him to Jesus.  He also recalled that his mother had a gingham covered Bible.  He purchased a Bible and had it covered like hers.

That dramatic change is by the grace of God made possible by a transition made possible by a single act, the same act involved in the national life of ancient Israel. 

Joshua had gathered the tribes of Israel at Shechem where he was to preside over the nation’s congress for the last time. Shechem, located in a scenic mountain pass between Mt. Eble and Mt. Geruzim seemed impenetrable and invulnerable as a result of this natural location.  Joshua knew their safety was not determined by geographical location but by God’s grace.  Joshua called upon the people to repent.

Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve….” On that single word “choose” hung their destiny.

In the world of theology it stands out like a sentinel light to guide doctrine. The word “choose” found here and elsewhere in Scripture refutes Calvinism, predestination. God in His sovereign will has given human beings a free will.

The marvel is not that we must choose, but that we may choose.  The option is ours. Decision making is among the most important thing we do.  It influences all of life and determines our destiny.

You are a sum total of your life’s choices. You can change your life by changing your choices. 

Once a choice is made, a resolute determination is needed.  Commitment is the capacity to carry out the intent of a decision long after the emotion that motivated it has faded.

Joshua said, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” He set an example.

Andrew Jackson became a changed man based on one thing, his choice. He thereafter set a different example.      

Our trust must be in the Lord, not self, substance, or any other substitute.  If you haven’t been trusting Him, change your mind and lovingly thrust yourself completely on Him. It is a choice. Making the choice to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord not only changes life, but one’s eternal destiny. It is your choice.