Oh, How He Loves Us!

iStock Photo by B-C Designs
iStock Photo by B-C Designs

What was the awesome power that kept Jesus, the Son of God, nailed to a weathered piece of wood, with spikes piercing his hands and his feet?

How was it possible for angry human hands to lay hold of Jesus, the Christ? How were they able to capture Him? What strength was available to those mocking soldiers with their furious faces? Even the sun was stunned, so traumatized by spitting scorners, cruel taunters, and the sight of a wounded Savior that it turned off the brightness of the afternoon and summoned midnight.

When He was captured in the garden, Jesus reminded Peter that He could have asked the Father for thousands of fighting angels to come to His defense. But we know why He did not. He who is King of Kings and worshipped by angels allowed those gritty human hands to subject Him to the cross. He did it because that was God’s plan. In their classic 1993 album, The Mississippi Mass Choir put the answer to our questions to music when they sang: “It wasn’t the nails that nailed Him to the cross. He could have come down, but my soul would still be lost. The ransom was so high, only He could pay the cost.”

Love held Him there. Christ volunteered to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet, His great love for us does not grant us immunity from life’s tragedies or disappointments. I encounter people every day who ask relevant, real-world question–even in the light of the victory of the cross. “If Christ loves me, why did He allow my spouse to die?” “If He loves me, why is my financial situation so hopeless?” “If He loves me, why did I lose my home?” Why did I lose my job? Why didn’t He save my child?

I sat in a chair in the kitchen today chatting with my daughter as she shared the story of the sudden loss of a colleague’s wife. Inexplicably, someone who was there is suddenly gone. And this is a family of believers. “What do you say?” she asked me. These are questions that confront us, even on Resurrection weekend when we celebrate the deep love we embrace as Christians. How do we understand the cross; how do we understand a life of victory in a world where unfathomable pain is possible? How could hundreds of Christians be murdered in Kenya? Why are there one hundred individual stories of mistreated children, innocent people incarcerated for decades, the working poor robbed by unscrupulous predators…why?

Jesus chose the wood, the nails, and the thorns. He did it for our victory. He did it because, no matter what we encounter in life, He assures us that we win. We win over sin and death. We win over pain and grief. This victory replaces any darkness that threatens. We can stare it down. We have undefeatable joy and an anointing that prevails. After the crucifixion comes Resurrection Sunday. Amen, and Thank God!

Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.–Hebrews 12:2 NCV

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

I will give you treasures hidden in dark and secret places.

Then you will know that I, the Lord God of Israel,  

have called you by name

—Isaiah 45:3, Contemporary English Version

 I, for one,

am not particular about being in the dark.  Actually, I prefer bright sunshine and well-lit rooms.

My favorite feature of the night is the brightness of the stars. These starry treasures point out that, even God wanted to punctuate the dark mantle of the night with a sprinkle of glimmer. I like that.

Life offers many contrasts. There are opposites and divergences.  Out of darkness comes light. Out of agony comes joy.

Someone has said that the richest blessings are often those that come to us in the night seasons of our lives, when we believe that we are surrounded by an unfamiliar haziness. In that hour, God sends a surprise package—some unbelievable delight.

There are countless stories of people who lost their homes during a flood. I have heard many people say that, after the loss, when those residences were rebuilt, they had an even better home.

The story is told of a man whose home and all of his belongings were washed away. On the darkest day, he stood to survey his losses as the waters subsided. Despondent, he saw an object shining in the mud. It looked like gold. And it actually was gold. The floodwaters, which brought ruin to his door, also made him very wealthy.

God will reveal to us hidden treasures in dark, secret places! This promise, this divine truth, comes today to brighten the night of your trouble, whatever it looks like. Look a little closer. You will see evidence of God’s hand, moving.

The darkness is not always the herald of shadowy things; sometimes it is about unanticipated blessings. Perhaps the night will usher in your next season of favor.

Mr. Demille, I’m Ready for My Close-up (or, Tyler Perry…Are You Out There?)


I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day;

night is coming when no one can work.—John 9:4 NRSV

 

 

Lights, camera, action!

Last Saturday evening, I trudged out into the February chill to hear author Eric Metaxas speak of how William Wilberforce launched a heroic campaign to end slavery.  There were a billion reasons that came to mind as excuses to stay home where it was warm and cozy. An hour and a half after taking my seat in the auditorium, I was glad that I came. Author of the book, “Amazing Grace,” Metaxas told riveting stories about how one person used his talent and influence to make a lasting global difference, impacting millions of people. The lecture was riveting and inspirational. I left telling myself:  “I’m ready to do something really big!”

I think I am ready for my Oscar. How about you?  Or we could plan a trip to LA, take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and see if anyone placed our stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame…but forgot to tell us.

Among the more memorable words ever spoken in the world of cinema, for some strange reason, I suddenly recalled this famous line from the picture, “Sunset Boulevard.” Actress Gloria Swanson slinked down a winding staircase and said, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  Swanson was Norma Desmond in the ‘50s classic and her lines addressed famed director, Cecil B. DeMille.  Playing Norma to the hilt, Swanson was ready to face all of “those wonderful people out there in the dark.”

There are even more people in the dark today. Who knew that we could find inspiration in the portrayal of an attention-driven actress? But this is the inspiration we need to tackle our God-given assignment and this is the strength we will find to help people walk into the light of Christ.

Well, this is the moment for your close-up.  I am challenging you to begin your most important quest—not necessarily to become a famous actor but to take on the pursuit of your really big role: accomplishing your divine purpose in life.

What is the one big thing you feel chosen to do? What great dream do you have for making a difference? What will you do to make the universe a more peaceful and joyous place?

You may be the one to positively impact someone halfway around the world. Closer to home, God may be counting on you to reach out in a new way in your own neighborhood or family.

Today is your day! This is the moment to find your true self.  If you don’t mind my saying so, it’s time to go big or go home.  Just go do it—whatever it is that God created you to do, do it now.  It doesn’t matter what work you envision; just don’t be a procrastinator. If you don’t do it, it may never be done. Ready for your close-up?

Sweet Beginnings!

Here we are.  Day #2 in what I have declared as “The Year of Opportunity!”

The past is our cherished history.  Tomorrow holds the great promises of God for a wonderful future, for accomplishing great things, and for fulfilling the purpose God has designed for our lives. Sweet!

There is nothing like a plate full of pancakes to make the sweet start of a brand new day. When my spiritual daughter, Kim, first came to visit me in Nashville, we left the airport and headed straight for Pancake Pantry. Not only is it a great place for celebrity watching, but also I have decided that one of the best eating experiences in the city is their sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon syrup.  Somehow, I think, that dish will be on the menu for at least one feast in Heaven.

In honor of sweet beginnings, I have decided to believe that this is the year.  Join me in affirming that every tomorrow comes bursting with wonderful opportunities. I will always cherish the past and hold on to the richness of memories, accomplishments, and dreams that have come true. However, the fact that I am still here is, to me, a sure sign that there is more in store.

What I envision for you in 2013 includes all of this: greater understanding, more days jam-packed with everyday joy, super-abundant opportunities, greater doors leading to fulfilled dreams, bigger triumphs, and enough prosperity that you can support cherished causes.  You can even become a grander “you” than you ever dreamed possible.

You must be more alert than ever of the negative force called “procrastination.”  It may be the one villain holding you back.  You may discover that the reason you didn’t accomplished the great things you set out to do in 2012 was that you kept postponing them. One of my biggest challenges is looking at a task, deciding it is too enormous, and then putting it off until tomorrow. Commit to doing something—anything—towards your biggest goal, doing it every day, and allowing nothing or no one to get in your way.  Start now. Failure is not an option.

This is the year to dream new dreams. At this very moment, God is putting fresh ideas into your mind. We are all very certain that God has a purpose for our lives. When we put ourselves into His hands, totally and confidently, the BIG dreams will come from Him. Do not be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Be willing to stand still and watch God do the impossible.

You are on the brink of a promised victory. Just follow the advice of Moses; watch God perform a wonder. The problems and obstacles that looked so fearsome are about to be removed from your face forever!

Moses told the people, Fear not; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians you have seen today you shall never see again.—Exodus 14:13 (Amplified Bible)

DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.  

2 Corinthians 4:7 (KJV)

Let’s do an experiment. Go get that special cup of gourmet coffee (or tea, if that’s more to your liking), take out a blank sheet of paper and write down the answer to this question:  who are you?  I don’t just mean your name. No, don’t just give me your bio. Who are you…really?

Here’s a bold statement: you are not who you think you are! I am struck by this fact—many of us don’t know our own worth.  If we look at the outside, we see a common vessel–a pot made of clay–we see the external you. However, the internal you is a priceless treasure. The divine light of Christ’s presence is within you. You mirror His glory; you were made in His likeness.

What makes this treasure even more valuable is that, as weak and as frail and as fragile as we may be, we carry the transforming power of God’s grace and share it by our words, our joy, our testimony and our actions.

The PBS’s documentary, “Who Do You Think You Are? With Henry Louis Gates,” highlights celebrities whose background is traced, as cameras follow. I spoke with one of the producers of that series not long ago and expressed how I appreciated their perspective on heritage. I’ve been thinking about having that kind of DNA test done that breaks down ethnicity, even geographically. What part of Africa were my ancestors from? I’ve always heard that my maternal grandfather (he died the year I was born) was Native American, as many people have said…was that true?

Bigger than the mystery of our ancestry is the awesome truth of how valuable we are to God. He bought us, He paid for us, He bankrupt Heaven…giving up His beloved Son…to buy us back to Himself. In the art world, a piece created by Pablo Picasso or Jacob Lawrence is valued based on what someone last paid for a similar piece.  Beyond that, the great God of the universe values you so highly that He paid an incredible price.

Early in the summer, I sat in the window of a fast food restaurant in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, waiting for an appointment with an Army small business specialist to begin.  I decided to use the time to read several documents I had saved on my iPad.  As it approached midday, I looked up and suddenly realized that I was surrounded by men and women dressed in fatigues.  What struck me most was the reality of who these young people are who serve in our military.

Fort Campbell is one of the world’s largest Army installations. It was lunch time. The restaurant had quickly filled with fresh-faced, fatigue-clad men and women. Should I have been surprised at how they looked like my grandchildren? Almost aloud I said, “These are our children! We send them around the world to fight for us, and they have only been in the world for two decades.”

With that vivid picture still so fresh,  the Defense Department announced statistics on military suicides.  They now cap one a day, a record high.  A few weeks ago, I passed through the book store of the airport ain Columbus, Ohio, nd picked up the July 23 issue of Time magazine.  The cover story was:  “One A Day.” The article, by Mark Thompson and Nancy Gibbs, stated that “every day, one U. S. soldier commits suicide” and went on to describe “why the military can’t defeat its most insidious enemy.”

Are these youthful soldiers returning from combat and giving up on life? Why? Perhaps it’s because no one told them who they really are.

You matter to God!  The One who created you wants you to claim the power of your identity and enjoy life…completely.  You were meant to know God, up-close and personally, serve Him by doing the work you’re created for, be joyful every day, and enjoy Him forever after this life. So, go do that.

 

What Are You So Anxious About?


D
o not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~

Philippians 4:6 (New International Version)

Anxiety!  It appears to be a commonly accepted illness of our age. Everyone is anxious. Or, at least, everyone has anxious moments. We are nervous, we are worried. We are concerned about everything. We fret. We’re fearful. We choke up, feel nauseated, get migraines and can’t sleep…all because of some very real (or imaginary and anticipated) troubles.

The great psalmist, David, must have been intensely familiar with anxiety. In writing the 139th Psalm, he expressed the assurance that God saw him, knew where he was and knew everything he was going through. David acknowledged the certainty of God’s presence.  To paraphrase, he said:  “If I am up high or down low, asleep or awake, in darkness or in the brightness of day, God, you are there.” But, in that same poetic expression, he pleaded words that can only come from a troubled heart.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. ~ Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

I have not completely escaped this malady. Today, I am taking my own medicine. I can imagine wild disappointments. Thankfully, most never materialize.  I have those moments, when I woefully predict, like Job:

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.~ Job 3:25 (NIV)

In those times, you must make a conscious effort to trade anxiety for peace. There is a peace of God which passes all understanding. And it is available, just for the asking. Next time you feel yourself drifting into one of those moody, hand-wringing moments, stop and remember your past victories. Yesterday’s fears never came.  Speak words of peace and calm to yourself. Make a list of your favorite scriptures for joy, victory and peace.

Replacing negative thoughts must be an aggressive strategy. The Word of God gives us tremendous coping skills. If you take the Word, like medicine, your joy and peace always win!

The Miracle of Forgiveness

Jason R. Warren

Suddenly, it’s Easter week! A time of triumph and renewal…gently lifting our spirits, ushering us closer to the warmth of summer. These are days of brightness and new beginnings.  We passed thru winter (such as it was); we’re coming out green, vibrant, alive. Easter: a time of hope, healing, restoration, rebirth.

Stores fill with ribboned, bejeweled creations. Sunday bonnets of every style imaginable burst with blossoms. Mothers slap slightly-tilted hats on the heads of recalcitrant little girls and put crisply pressed trousers and bow ties on little boys.

Jesus’ resurrection is central to our songs of praise and worship. At Easter we’re reminded of the certainty of love and the power of forgiveness. Even extreme forgiveness.

My spiritual daughter, Kim, introduced me to a living example of forgiveness on steroids when she met women who forgave those who meticulously, brutally murdered their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers. Battered and bruised—the women of Rwanda were left to pick up the pieces of devastated lives and communities. To bind up ragged remnants of their families and country. Hearing their stories, many ask: “How is this possible?”

Stunningly beautiful, Rwanda is “the land of a thousand hills;” it resembles Switzerland.  What we remember, however, is the 100 days of slaughter in 1994 and the loss of over 800,000 lives.

Kim participated in a conference for women from Rwanda and the Congo. One group lived so far into the bush and were so impoverished they actually lived naked. The ministry provided clothing; the women walked two hours to the nearest road to be picked up and driven to the gathering. Others walked for hours, babies strapped to their backs. After eight or nine hours of teaching, they still hungered for spiritual strength.

One woman, in particular, stood out. In one single day, she had lost seventeen members of her family—her husband, parents, in-laws, brothers, sisters, and all of her children. Three months later, she gave birth to a child who also died. As she spoke, she thanked God for all He had done in her life and for sparing her live.

To live in joy at that level, despite such dire circumstances is remarkable. The first thing many do is blame God.

Kim said: “We went to Rwanda to help.  Instead, we were the ones who were transformed. By their example, the Rwandan women were our teachers.”

Forgiveness is a choice. To do otherwise is to live in bondage to anger and bitterness.  The thrilling discovery of the power of forgiveness sets us free.

4 Secrets for Defeating Satan–Use Everything You’ve Got

This is a battle, and you’ve got to be in it to win it.  You are an overcomer.  In Christ, you are destined to crush Satan under your feet. Just use everything that you’ve got.  So…what are you doing with all that power?  Here are four tactics to apply right now.

  1. Use Your Mind. Think Satan’s defeat.  Your first weapon involves your mind. By thinking positively (Philippians 4:8) and expecting your faith to triumph, you gain the victory.  You win!
  2. Use your Eyes.  You need clear vision. Focus, focus, focus:  keep your eyes on Jesus.  (Hebrews 12:2) Then, stop searching for the faults in others; instead, look for their good.
  3. Use Your Ears.  Listen for the right sounds. What you hear is the source of your faith; faith comes by hearing. (Romans 10:17) Be perceptive; fill your ears with good teachings and positive reinforcement. Shut out the destructive noise of the world. The one thing Satan does not want you to do is to listen for God’s voice.
  4. Use your Mouth. Speak joy, your best verbal tool. Resentful, hurtful and critical speech is destructive.  Pronounce words of joy, healing, love and understanding. Accomplishing Everyday Joy is the strategy of overcomers.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.~1 John 5:4 (English Standard Version)

Change Your Joy, Change Your Life

In 2001, I received the shocking diagnosis of stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  It was a cancer that I knew very little about at that time.  I had repeatedly gone to the doctor to complain of bone-penetrating fatigue, initially, my only symptom.  The diagnosis was life-altering.

From that moment on, I learned that the right attitude can change your health.  It can certainly change your life.  I researched and collected every healing scripture that I could find in God’s Word.  Next, I applied those scriptures, just as if they were medicine.

Transformation evolves out of information and I believe that information has power. Even though your transformation may come about through prayer and suffering.  Despite that devastating diagnosis more than ten years ago, I was determined to be healthy again.   Today, I remain healthy and cancer-free.

I knew, without hesitation, that God would work through the excellent medical care I was poised to receive.  My faith did not preclude seeking medical therapies–chemotherapy, etc.  My immediate reaction was:  So, what kind of medicine do you have for this? By the time I had my first meeting with my wonderful hematologist-oncologist, Dr. Edward Prendergast, I was well educated on the disease, clinical trials and cutting-edge medicine.  Most important, I set out to learn all that I could about the spiritual side of healing.

Those lessons are meant to be shared. The book that I am writing is a collection of healing scriptures and stories that describe more of my experience…as well as telling the stories of others who believed for and received healing miracles.

I know that Christ still heals, just as He did in Biblical times.  “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?”  When we allow the joy of Christ to overflow into our personal universe, it transcends the harsh realities of whatever may be happening at that moment.  We rise to a new level of being.  A level in which we actually think like Jesus thought.

            Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.~Philippians 2:5 KJV

Please share with me your personal comments, questions or interests about healing. I’d love for your input to help craft my book. You may share them as public comments on this site or as personal comments to my email address:  regina@reginaprude.com.

You Are Relational

Black Man on Beach with Open Arms

When you look into someone’s face, do you see the real presence of the person you encounter?  Do you understanding our connectedness.

You are relational!  You are connected to others.  You are not a separate entity, traveling through life on your own.  Wrapped up in your own identity. Engulfed in your own little world.  So often, we get caught up in the “me” and “mine” of life—my money, my job, my family, my issues.

The dictionary definition of the word “relational” is this:

          Concerning the way in which two or more people or things are connected.

Last Saturday, the men’s ministry in our church hosted a prayer breakfast. We gathered at individual tables;  after sharing pleasantries, we got down to the business of discussing the assigned topics.  Near the end of the teaching period, each person shared a brief prayer with the entire audience.  As we went around from table to table, the room was electrified by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It was as if someone opened a window to let us peer into the life of the person sitting nearby.  We had a personal glimpse of private conversations with God.

A mother spoke of the imminent challenge facing her son—returning home in a few hours after twenty-five years of incarceration.  A young woman sought Divine direction in meeting the mate God designed for her.

We are connected to one another, even our enemies.  For years, I told myself I had no enemies.  That was all right; even when I discovered I was wrong, it didn’t matter.  When you can tolerate being injured by a person and not resent them for it, you become a stronger person.

When we understand that we are relational, we choose not to react to or get sucked into anyone else’s anger, resentment or hatred.  Otherwise, you wreck your immune system.  Being reactive results in inner dis-ease. You cannot become internally angry about a situation without making yourself ill.

Being conscious of our connectivity doesn’t make you vulnerable, it makes you powerful.  You can become immune to negative energy.  Nothing can hurt you; you reserve that power for sharing love. Transmitting love and joy may not change how others feel about you, but it sucks the negative energy out of your reaction.

Experiencing everyday joy means opening your eyes to those around you to see your coworkers, casual acquaintances, friends, family members. Learned joy is caring enough to understand the challenges others are facing and what is going on in their lives.

There is even scientific evidence that life connects us and that we affect one other. You are an eternal soul, encased in a temporary body. The energy that I want to transmit is that of healing, connection, communication and compassion.

That’s how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ,

as well as part of one another.  ~  Romans 12:5 (Contemporary English Version)