A Reflection by Chris King

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners…”

Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)

After a year of physical separation and perpetual anxiety, many of us have felt our sense of hope and security fading away. As Christians, we should be among the most hopeful people on earth. Jesus’ reassurance of God’s daily provision in our lives (Matthew 6:25-27) should be sufficient to quell our fears. Yet, I more often relate to the disciples shaking Jesus amidst the storm and pleading, “Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).

In a Lenten sermon by Dr. Jeff Ebert, he noted Isaiah 61 might be the most hopeful passage in all of Scripture. We are given a foretaste of what Jesus will proclaim, when the prophet says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the captives…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty” (Isaiah 61:1-3). 

A Christian, derived from the Greek word Christianos, is a “little Christ.” Jesus is The Anointed One, and through our transformation in Baptism, we too, become God’s anointed followers. We inherit the same Spirit to proclaim hope to a broken world. 

Jesus knows the task of spreading hope is not an easy one. After spending 40 days in the wilderness tempted to turn away from God, Jesus returns to Nazareth, His childhood home. In Luke’s Gospel, the first words of Jesus’ adult ministry are delivered to publicly affirm Isaiah 61 in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-19). Jesus asserts that He is the fulfillment of the law, and is He then heralded as God’s Son? No, He is scorned, driven out of town, and taken to the top of a hill to be thrown off the cliff (Luke 4:29). Imagine if the Gospel ended there!

As “little Christs,” we are called to offer hope to others. That work is much easier when you have seen the transformative love of Christ in action. For the past 19 years, my hope in the Sovereign Lord has been renewed through regular visits to Amistad Mission in Bolivia. Amistad is a Christian community that raises biological siblings from infancy through young adulthood. These children have experienced abuse and abandonment from a young age and have every reason to be resentful. Yet, their capacity to love feels limitless. As a U.S. visitor entering their home, I am enveloped with hugs and smiling faces that convey their hope and sense of security. They know the Captain of the Storm and are not bent by the winds of struggle and uncertainty. 

Amistad Mission in Cochabamba, Bolivia

As much as I would like to be the one sowing hope in these precious children who have endured early traumas, they are the ones who provide sustenance to a materially rich and spiritually poor man. In them, hope produces perseverance and confidence. Their eyes reflect the gaze of the Savior. My worried mind is calmed in their presence, as I think of an old hymn.  

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."
(Helen Howarth Lemmel, "The Heavenly Vision," 1922)

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A Reflection by Forsyth White

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:6

How many times have I “turned to my own way?”  So many times a day it is hard to count! Why do I continually forget that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6)? Why isn’t my first thought – go to Jesus with “this?”  Why do I think I ever know better?  Why do I try on my own before going to the One who wants me to give Him my burdens? 

Because I am a sheep. I actually find it comforting that the Bible compares us to sheep, not only here in Isaiah, but all throughout the Bible (Jeremiah 50:6, Luke 15: 5-7,  Matthew 10:16). Sheep are vulnerable, defenseless and have no sense of direction. They also have herd mentality and definitely are not meant to carry a burden!  Without a shepherd they (like me) would be lost. I would be wandering around with a heavy burden without Jesus.  

Of all of the verses in Isaiah 53 – this one makes me feel okay for not having it all together or knowing exactly what I am supposed to be doing all the time. It is nice that the Lord knows I will try to go my own way – and He already had a plan for that.

God knew that we will forget we need a Shepherd. 

And Isaiah 53:6 says that the Lord has [purposefully] laid on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all [me included]. 

It doesn’t say “The Lord has laid on each of us our own iniquities…”

It doesn’t say “Because you are all sheep and have gone your own way – you will pay.” 

This verse is full of grace! Undeserved merit! “The Lord laid on Him” what we should have received!  

Isaiah was written 700+ years before Jesus’ birth, but it was God’s plan from the beginning of time to forgive our iniquities through Jesus. He described His own character in Exodus when He says, “… Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,”  Exodus 34:7

Although we, sheep, continually go astray – we are also forgiven! (1 John 1:9)

Jesus is our Shepherd AND our Lamb: (John 1:29) “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” He is the One who shows us the way – and He is the way.  He is our Protector as the Shepherd and our Savior as the Lamb. 

As a sheep – I am eternally thankful for the Lamb. The Lamb who seeks us and pulls us back to Him as our Shepherd.  He knows I will wander but He also seeks me out! Praise God that I am not left to my own devices, carrying my own burdens. 

My favorite poem is by Annie Flint – My favorite part: “When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun…”

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Lord, thank You for seeing us so perfectly that You knew before the beginning of time that we would need a Savior. Thank You for being a God I can give my burdens to and fully trust to lead me and guide me in Your way. Thank You for forgiving all of my sins and iniquities. You are the Lord Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and yet You still see me and love me. Out of Your infinite riches in Jesus You “giveth and giveth and giveth again.”  Thank You, Lord. 

*Photo credit: Forsyth Tynes White

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Once and for All

How many things in life do I wish I could just do once and be finished forever? The list is endless but it definitely includes taxes and laundry. Knowing that I have to do any task again and again greatly diminishes the satisfaction of completion for me. Did I mention laundry?

Can you imagine the thrill of Jesus’ Jewish disciples when they realized that His death and resurrection was a “once and for all” sacrifice?” No more repeat sacrifices at the temple. Sin was forgiven forever through Jesus’ incredible sacrifice!

Isaiah 52:15 says, “so shall He sprinkle many nations….” I recently read that the Hebrew word for sprinkle is “yaz’zeh.” This same Hebrew word for sprinkle is used in the book of Leviticus for sprinkling sacrificial food (from The Complete Jewish Study Bible, pg. 579). This was really good news for the Jewish people! The good news for the rest of us is that Jesus’ sacrifice extended to all nations – forgiveness to anyone who would receive His free gift!

“For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Hebrews 10:14

We are all able to join God’s chosen people and become one His children if we repent and believe in Jesus’ sacrifice. If you are not a believer in Jesus (or “Yeshua,” His Jewish name!), then it may all sound too good to be true. The truth that Jesus’ sacrifice offers forgiveness for our past, present, and future sins is hard for any of us to believe! In fact, even many of us who have been believers in Jesus for decades, still find ourselves in the rut of trying to earn God’s forgiveness. Once we have surrendered our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and changes our hearts.

Can you imagine if we all accepted this astounding gift and let the truth sink down deep into our hearts? Love, joy, and peace would replace our guilt and shame.

Jesus summed it all up on the cross when He said in John 19:30, “It is finished!”

For further reading see Hebrews 10:1-23.

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Ultimate Light Bulb Moment

Have you ever been asked the question, “If you could have a conversation with anyone, from any period in history, who would it be?” 

Without hesitation, my answer would be, “I want to be with Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, as He explains the Scriptures to me.”

“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Luke 24:27 (NASB)

Jesus’ disciples were all Jews who knew the Scriptures and were looking for the promised messiah. Before Jesus came to earth, God spoke to His people through prophets, telling them of a messiah who would come and rescue them. These prophecies, found all throughout the Hebrew scriptures, pointed God’s people to a time when He would make a new covenant with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

For these Jewish disciples, this particular conversation with Jesus had to be the ultimate light bulb moment! The disciples said “…’Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?’” Luke 24:32 (NASB)

The good news for the rest of us who were not on that road to Emmaus two thousand years ago, is that the New Testament (or the New Covenant) opens up the prophecies to us. As people living after Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, we have the privilege of reading God’s Word and having hundreds or thousands of our own light bulb moments. 

As we read Isaiah 53, written over 700 years before Jesus, we see that God promised He would send a servant who would be pierced for our transgressions, take the penalty of our sin, and account many righteous (the best kind of accounting!). Jesus fulfilled so many Old Testament prophecies that it would be statistically impossible for it all to be a coincidence. With His arrival to earth, Jesus suddenly illuminated the Old Testament (or Old Covenant) Scriptures. “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:9 (ESV)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14 (ESV)

The Bible reads as one book, although written by forty different authors over a period of fifteen hundred years (see Reliable Truth by Richard Simmons). So, each time I read, I get to discover more fulfilled prophecies for myself. Jesus told His disciples that although He (the Word made flesh) had to leave them, God the Father would send the Holy Spirit to help them.

  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26 (NASB)

When we trust Jesus for our salvation, God gifts us the same amazing gift of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift, I get to have my own road to Emmaus experience with Jesus.

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*Photo credit: Clay Clark

A Reflection by Lynda Ratliff

A note from the editor: Please enjoy this blog from our friend Lynda, who challenges us to investigate the fulfilled prophecies in the New Testament and make a decision. Ask God to open your eyes to the truth and give you the faith to believe it. If you are seeking, then be encouraged that your desire to search for God is a gift from Him. He wants to reveal Himself to you! If you find yourself struggling with doubt on this journey then pray the prayer in Mark 9:24, “…I believe; help my unbelief!” Ask God for the faith to believe His Word and watch Him fulfill the promises of Matthew 7:7-8 in your own life. 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

It is a strange thing to think of Jesus as a man with no beauty or majesty. His simple appearance as a human was not a lure for people to follow him. The images of him on the cross are even less inspiring to those who don’t believe. 

Today, people follow others because of their beauty, the talent for singing, acting, or speaking eloquently. We follow athletes that have astounding skills that they’ve perfected over time. But what do we gain from this?

We’ve all heard the phrase “hindsight is 20/20”. As a voice for God, the prophet Isaiah (often referred to as the greatest prophet of all time) tells us in chapter 53 of the coming of a servant of God and a Savior for all who believe. 

Believing a prophet takes a lot of faith. When we can look back, though, see what was foretold, and see it come to fruition, we should take note as we do in the New Testament.

We must choose whether or not to believe what we are reading. We always have to choose to accept or not what we see, read, hear, or even feel. It’s hard to know what to believe these days. Believing our feelings can be tricky as sometimes our emotions change. Believing what we see depends on our perspective. 

Our lives are a series of choices. We choose to get up when the alarm clock goes off or to hit the snooze. We decide what to eat, whether or not to brush our teeth, what we will wear, what kind of music we listen to, what to do with our time, and the list goes on. 

According to Google: “It’s estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day.”

The thing about choices is that each one holds consequences. Some good, some bad, but the bottom line is, ultimately, they define our lives. But what do we do when we don’t know how to believe?

I am astounded by Isaiah’s words and how his prophecy in Isaiah 53 is fulfilled in the New Testament (John 1:29John 10:11-18Romans 10:92 Corinthians 5:21, and so on). That alone is a reason to meditate on the possibilities and consider believing. These verses lead me to Matthew 7:7-8.

Matthew 7:7-8 is key to figuring out this whole thing. How do we determine if what Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 is true? How do we discover for ourselves? You cannot just hope to miraculously get an answer without taking the responsibility to look at the evidence we already have.

It is abundantly clear to me that we need to ask God or talk to God (another way of saying “pray”), and we need to seek the answers; seek the truth. John 14:6 again reveals, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” So, by reading your Bible coupled with prayer, you will find answers. 

Just reading the Bible alone or praying alone is like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel or gas (or another power source). You need both. Many people have read the Bible and gotten nothing out of it because they didn’t use the power of prayer. Many people have tried praying and gotten no answers because they haven’t tapped into a guide – The Good Book, The Bible.

The next step is to knock. Once you seek and find the truth, you must invite Jesus into your heart. He has given us free will, and only when we acknowledge Him and invite Him in will we truly be saved.

From what do we need to be saved? Sin. “He took up our pain and bore our suffering.” “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” ~Isaiah 53:4-5. 

In verse 11 “by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities”, directly relates to John 3:16 (KJV) – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

Do you see it? Can you feel it? Are you hearing what I’m saying? Isaiah 53, written in 740 BC foretold of Jesus’ coming and his death over 700 years later. Dig deeper. Read a Bible with prayer, and you will discover the Truth. 

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You are Precious

Has the past year chipped away at your self-esteem? Maybe you have lost a job, your health, or even loved ones. Perhaps the main focus of your entire life has been ripped away and you no longer feel valuable. You have always been the giver and now you you have nothing left to give.

None of us aspires to be weak, at least I know I don’t. I want to be the rescuer, not the helpless. I want to be the giver, not the beggar. The bottom line is that I want to be valuable. We were all created with a desire to be loved and the test of true love comes when one party has nothing to offer.

I think our ability to experience God’s love correlates directly with our ability to see our weakness. As I  read the passage below, I am struck by God’s tender love for His chosen people, Israel. 

“But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you: when you walk through the fire you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you….Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you….I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-2, 4, 11 (ESV)

God expresses His deep love for Israel while telling them that He is their only Savior. As a believer in Jesus, I am told that I can share in the promises for Israel. The new covenant book of Ephesians says to “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility…” Ephesians 2:12-14 (ESV)

If we trust in Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice, we can all receive these beautiful words of love from God, given to Israel in the book of Isaiah.

You are precious in God’s eyes. Meditate on that!

God created me and calls me His own. I am precious is God’s eyes and honored and He loves me. Have you ever thought of yourself as precious to God? I certainly haven’t thought about it enough!

According to Merriam-Webster, the word precious can be defined as “of great value or high price” or “highly esteemed or cherished.”

You are cherished by God and honored, not because of what you do, but because He loves you. Be encouraged today that the most powerful One in the universe says you are important. He delights in you, not because you are a so-called contributing member of society, but because you are His creation. He loves you because He loves you. 

*Photo credit: Clay Clark

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Turn the Page

Are you tempted to live in the past? Do you need permission to let go of a heartache, transgression, or even just a silly mistake? You not only have permission but are commanded to look forward!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

“…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining forward toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

I have a tendency to ruminate over my past mistakes. Lying in bed at night, I often replay situations and conversations, worrying I might have missed an opportunity or inadvertently offended someone. Even more distressing to me are the memories of my blatant failure and sin. God never asked me to beat myself up mentally, but only to confess, repent, and move on. 

If you are like me and the word repentance makes you squirm or even cringe, then maybe some clarification would be helpful. After all, God says that His commandments are not burdensome (I John 5:2-3). Repentance simply means to turn around. It does not mean to confess the same sin over and over in grief and despair. We simply tell God we were wrong and go the other way. His forgiveness is always available and was fully secured when Jesus became the final sacrifice for sins.

“After the suffering of His soul He will see and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.”

Isaiah 53:11 (NIV)

My sister likes to say, “turn the page!” Sometimes a simple picture like this helps me grasp a truth. In a moment when I am tempted to torment myself for not measuring up, I visualize turning a page in a book and it truly helps me let go.  Hanging on to unforgiveness toward yourself or others eats away at the abundant life promised to us through Jesus Christ. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (NASB)

Forgetting the past comes more easily for some personalities than others, but we can all move forward with God’s help. It takes faith to let yourself and others off the hook and God’s Word is filled with promises of forgiveness and healing available through Jesus Christ.

My sister (the one who reminds me to “turn the page!)” happens to be a talented poet. Please enjoy her poem that illuminates the needless anguish of self-condemnation in light of the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


By Jennifer Galey

The stained glass walls are colored
with the turbulence of suffering.
Inside the temple questions rise
above the serenity of the steeple.
Murals of dappled saints stare
with their round anguished eyes
through the sculpture of my soul.

Kneeling low on trembling knees,
I light a candle to illuminate
the nameless carcass of sin.
With a gasp of shameful recognition,
I confess the face is my own
before shrinking into the stretched
shadows of bereavement.

I lean in to decorate Your living altar
with a dozen flowering prayers of penance.
The exhale of my unbelief has tainted
the fragrance of Your sacrament.
Beneath the blood warm silence,
I oscillate inside the casket
embodied by my own hesitance.

Dripping wax falls from candelabras
like condemnation on my clammy hands.
Gleaming thoughts of accusation flicker
before flaming into vain imaginations.
I ask you if I am alone—
My stony voice echoes inside
the coldness of my hollow heart.

I search for a pulse of dying faith
in the darkness of this empty space
where I presumed You would reside.
With red-rimmed eyes, I limply walk
down the center aisle where I collide
with two bright angels You have sent
to guard the resurrection of Your reply.

Happy New Year!

*Photo credit: Clay Clark

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Hope for the COVID Fatigued

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi’s quote has always resonated with me, but especially now as we near the end of 2020. I have never been so ready for the New Year, illustrated by the fact that our Christmas decorations are already back in the attic. COVID fatigue is a real thing. Not one person has escaped the exhausting effects of this pandemic. The initial perks of a quieter, less hurried lifestyle have long since been overshadowed by isolation and uncertainty.

We have each experienced dozens of small changes that add up and weigh us down. Social distancing means less hugs and conversations with strangers. As we wear our masks we miss exchanging smiles. My daughter and I have joked that people must think we are staring them down while we are smiling at them under our masks! Much heavier is the burden for those who have lost jobs and loved ones to the virus. Before I add to our COVID fatigue, I will get to some good news!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We are generally comforted when we connect with someone who has gone through a similar difficulty but this year has robbed us of that kind of human reassurance. Although none of us has successfully reached the other side of this pandemic, we can all have peace with God through Jesus Christ, and receive comfort and courage from His Word and Holy Spirit. One such comforting passage tells us that everyone gets weary and tired, but God does not.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

God is not fatigued by 2020. We can trust that He will supply strength and refreshment to us even in our wilderness. He proved this time and time again in His Word. 

“When the poor and needy search for water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”  Isaiah 41:17-18 (ESV)

God has given us Himself through the person of Jesus Christ and gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit when we put our trust in Him as our Savior. In His interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus tells her, “…’Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NASB)

The Person of the Holy Spirit dwells inside of believers and produces inner strength and joy that is available regardless of what is going on around us. Peace rules inside, making no logical sense to those around us or even to ourselves.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

I would be lying to you if I told you that I have experienced only peace in my heart in 2020. When my weakness as a human being gets in the way and I take my eyes off Jesus, I panic just like Peter did (Matthew 14:25-31). However, I have an enduring hope, just like Mary did, and no one can take that away from me (Luke 10:42). We can all have this hope by faith.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

As we wait for the restoration of community and the warmth of smiles and hugs, we can still soar like eagles on the inside, knowing that the God, the One who does not fatigue, loves us and is for us.

Happy New Year!

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Please Understand

I hate misunderstandings. Perhaps that is why I have been such a faithful student of Myers-Briggs Type for so long. I want everyone to understand everyone. A great book to read on Myers-Briggs types is actually called Please Understand Me. As a middle child, I find it natural to play the role of mediator and peacemaker. As an ENFJ personality type, the drive to facilitate good communication and harmonious relationships magnifies that role exponentially!

About two years ago, I saw my tendency to communicate on the behalf of others displayed in full color. During a weekend visit my sister and brother-in-law, my mother and I enjoyed spending some time with my niece, who was about two years old at the time. Although very verbally advanced for her age, she occasionally had trouble communicating her needs. Even though she was very skilled at letting you know what she wanted, without a full vocabulary, she still struggled from time to time. Anytime I thought I knew what she wanted, I intervened quickly to explain her desires to whomever was listening. My niece, would then happily receive what she wanted, and I would receive heroine status, which is what I wanted!

On the last night of our visit, while my sister was reading my niece a book, she was suddenly interrupted midway through the story. Coming to her aid, my brother-in-law stepped in and started reading the book from the very beginning (instead of where my sister had left off). My niece, not knowing how to tell him exactly where to continue reading, closed her eyes and covered her ears with her hands and yelled, “Mauuurnie!!!” She wanted her Aunt Marnie to communicate for her once again, which I did, happily and promptly, barely holding back laughter!

One of the many remarkable things to me about Jesus was His ability to keep silent during His trial before His crucifixion. The injustice and misunderstanding of it all would have been some of the worst kind of torture imaginable for me.

“He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV)

“Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?’ But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.”

Matthew 27:13-14 (ESV)

Jesus took our sins, allowed Himself to be falsely accused and utterly misunderstood. The onlookers surely thought He was getting what He deserved.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

Isaiah 53:4 (ESV)

Jesus, who was innocent, kept silent during His trial and even asked His Father to forgive those who misunderstood.

“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

Luke 23:34 (ESV)

The apparent misunderstanding was the plan from the beginning of time. The King of the Universe allowed Himself to be falsely accused and mocked while He prayed for His abusers.

Dear Jesus, Thank You for enduring the worst kind of misunderstanding on my behalf so I can enjoy being totally loved and understood by You.

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Ultimate Christmas Swap

What if I told you that my husband demands elaborate dinners every night? He only wants the freshest and finest ingredients, which means a daily trip to the grocery store. He doesn’t like to eat leftovers, so there isn’t ever a night off. He wants fine wine, candles, and background music. You could have a few different responses to this high standard. One might be, “He sounds like a tyrant who is very difficult to live with! You must be exhausted from all that work every day!” Another might say, “Well, he works very hard while you spend your days writing, working out, and playing tennis. He has every right to demand that of you!”

Well, I didn’t tell you the whole story. The truth is that my husband does demand those things but he does them all himself.  He loves to cook and creates incredible dishes for our family. He even enjoys going to the grocery store to pick out the best ingredients! He doesn’t ask me to do anything except to sit down at the table and enjoy the food that he prepared. In fact, he loves to entertain and is happy to cook for as many people as I will invite (at least before COVID restrictions)! When our daughter was younger, and our guests were raving about the food, she would often exclaim proudly, “We eat like this, every night!”

Some see God as One who demands a standard of perfection that none of us can ever attain. He actually does demand perfection, but that is only half the story.

“As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”

Isaiah 53:11 (NASB)

God demands perfection and He delivered that perfection in the gift of His Son. Jesus takes our sin and we get to take His righteousness…the ultimate Christmas swap! When you think about how Jesus came to earth and fulfilled every rule Himself so that we can feast at His table forever, then there is a sense of relief, gratitude, and praise. He gives us eternal life and writes His law, that He fulfilled, on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 10:16).

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Romans 8:3-4 (NASB)

All we have to do is accept God’s loving invitation and take our seat at His table. He doesn’t ask us to bring anything.  “Just bring yourself!” As we tell our dinner guests at the Clark house. Entrust your entire life to Jesus, and He is faithful to finish the work He started in you.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

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