Thursday, December 22, 2011

Brandmarks of Christ

In my quiet time this morning, the Lord took me to Psalm 22. I suppose it may seem strange to some that as the joyous day of the birth of our Christ quickly and soon approaches... the Lord carried me to His death. The Lord has carried me there quite often these last few days and even weeks. My focus this Christmas season has not been on the birth itself as much as it has been on what He was born to do. He was born to die.

And ladies and gentlemen so where we.
We were born to die to ourselves.
We were born to die to this world.
And it is only in our death that we live.

Reason with me for a moment.
Jesus was God in the flesh.
Born into this world as baby just like you and me.
Jesus did not stay a baby.
He grew.
He aged.
What would have happened if Christ had refused to go to the cross.

I believe He would be a very sad site today.
An eternally alive Spirit trapped in a 2000 year old body of flesh that has aged with the years and suffered the consequences of this natural world.

Where is the glory in that?

Jesus was the Word made flesh that came and dwelt among us. Dwelt in the Greek is skenoo and it means to tabernacle to abide in a tent. Jesus did not come with the virgin birth to set up a permanent residence. He came just to pop a tent and stay a bit.
He showed us that we were not born to set up a permanent residence in this present body of flesh either. God has been trying to tell us that from the beginning.

 For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:19

The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
Isaiah 40:7

As I read Psalm 22 this morning my heart rested on a particular verse.

For He has not despised nor abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted;
nor has He hidden His face from him,
 but when he cried to Him for help,
He heard.
Psalm 22:24

I know many who are hurting right now. Many who are afflicted. Many who are calling out to Him for help... help to just understand. As I was praying for these that I know that are hurting and afflicted this was the direction my prayer went.

Oh Father,
So many are afflicted right now. It's a strange affliction. When we try and compare it with our brother and sisters in Christ who are being beaten, and hacked up, and imprisoned over the declaration of Your name, our troubles, our struggles, our afflictions seem weak and petty... but they are still our afflictions.

Then immediately Job popped in my head and heart.
And I continued in my prayer.

Job is our example... Oh Father, yes, he is isn't he. His struggles are the same hurts we deal and fight in our nation, in our church. Oh thank You, Father for leading me to this book. Thank You for recording his story so that we might know how to respond in our affliction. Oh Father I love You!
My Jesus it's in Your name I pray,

You know I do not if one day God will place me in a position to receive beatings, hacking, imprisonment for the declaration of His name, for my obedience to the name of my Jesus... but I do know that it is by His sovereign design that I am here in this place at this time. And I am none the less called to suffer for the sake of my Christ here than in a nation that would slice my throat in the open street because I said Jesus is Lord.

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake,
not only to believe in Him,
but also to suffer for His sake,
Philippians 1:29

  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death; 
in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11

I will probably never bear the stripes of a whip on my back, the scars of shackles around my ankles and wrist, the weakness from hunger, the sickness from being thrown in a dark, damp prison cell... but I still will know the fellowship of His sufferings.

The sufferings of Christ were more than just the beatings by the Roman soldiers and the nails that bore in His hands and feet... His sufferings began long before that moment. He suffered also with the same sufferings that Job suffered. Ridicule from the religious, hurt from loss, pain from being misunderstood and ignored, and more.

So my brandmarks will not look like yours... but they are brandmarks all the same. And as I rejoice in every suffering... no matter what it might be... I manifest in my body that their is life in Jesus Christ, real eternal life.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God
and not from ourselves; 
we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not despairing; 
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed; 
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 
For we who live
are constantly being delivered over to death
for Jesus’ sake,
so that the life of Jesus
also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
So death works in us, but life in you.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12

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