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by: Carole L. Haines
One Easter morning, several Seasons ago, I was removing the Crown of thorns from the cross outside my house, and the black drape that had displayed the reminder of His death for two days. I then placed the white flower wreath around the head of the cross and draped the arms in white. As I laid the pieces on the ground, I began to wonder whatever happened to Jesus’ actual crown of thorns. I recently saw on the news, during the tragic fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, that there was a relic housed there that is said to be that crown of thorns.
Thorns have been with us since the fall of Creation. The Scriptures tell us this in Genesis:
The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor
all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17-18 HCSB)
They are a result of the fall of man. My Pastor recently said that they represent sin, and as you study them in the Bible, that sure makes sense. They show up in many ways. In three instances in Scripture, they are used as a metaphor for the people the Israelites did not drive out from the land. God says that these people would be thorns in their eyes and in their sides, and that their false gods would be a trap and snare to them. (Num. 33:55, Joshua 23:13, Judges 2:3) In this instance they are the result of disobedience in following God’s command. In the book of Judges, they are used as an instrument of punishment (Judges 8:4-17). People are said to be entangled in them; they are what overgrows everything when not tended to. They are mentioned often as what is gathered and burned.
Most famously we have the New Testament references of the Crown of thorns Jesus wore, and the thorn in the flesh spoken of by the Apostle Paul.
As I stood there pondering the question of Christ’s Crown of Thorns, God began to weave together for me the picture of each of us carrying a thorn in our flesh from Jesus crown.
As Paul spoke of these thorns in the flesh, he said this:
Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 HCSB)
This picture of a thorn from Jesus’ Crown being given to each of us to carry, as a thorn in our flesh, has blessed me many times in my own personal struggles. Paul said the thorn was given to him to keep him from exalting himself. Even so, I believe our thorns keep us from this same snare. The thorn I asked to have removed early in life was social anxiety disorder. Instead of removing it, God is always placing me in situations, where I am used to speak, teach, share, or sing publicly. Each time, I do it afraid, leaning on Him for the ability and stability to bring Him glory. Writing is so much easier because I can hide behind this computer alone, typing away. I pray that the Lord will bless you with that picture as you struggle with your own thorns in the flesh. Picturing it as one of the precious thorns that pierced our Savior’s brow, and is tipped with His blood, may just make it feel more like a privilege than a burden.
by: Carole L. Haines
I can’t imagine how depressed those disciples must have felt when they awoke to the reality of Saturday morning. The day after having lived the most horrific day in history. Good Friday is what we call it, but from their perspective it was anything but good. For three years they had followed Him. Three Years of transformation, expectation, reformation. Three years of physically being with Jesus every day. Waking up every day to a new adventure. Who would he heal today? What would He say? Where would He take us? Wonderful questions to wake up to. Everyday filled with anticipation.
I can’t imagine the confusion of Saturday, with the glaring reality of His crucifixion still throbbing in their memories. They way a fresh cut throbs, and we wince every time we accidentally bump it. That stab of pain shooting through us reminding us that we are wounded. Heads pounding from dehydration as they cried out all their tears ‘til none were left to cry. Eyes swollen from the constant stream of salty moisture. That broken-hearted realization of knowing there would be no adventure today. No one healed, no new word from Him, no place to go, no one to lead them. Saturday is barely even mentioned in the narrative of the Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew reveals what happened.
The Closely Guarded Tomb
62 The next day, which followed the preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while this deceiver was still alive He said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore give orders that the tomb be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come, steal Him, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ Then the last deception will be worse than the first.”
65 “You have a guard of soldiers,” Pilate told them. “Go and make it as secure as you know how.” 66 Then they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Just ponder those words for a minute. Jesus is referred to as a deceiver. Th last deception would be worst than the first, they say. Isn’t it just like satan, the great deceiver of the world, to point the finger at Jesus, claiming he is the one who deceived?
Jesus had told them he would rise again on the third day, but grief and confusion had caused them to all but forget that promise. They wrapped him up with 75 pounds of spices. They did not anticipate Jesus rising. Do we wrap Him up too? Do we forget his promises on our own Despairing Saturdays? Let’s sit in wonder of that day of hiding in fear the disciples went through, that day of grief beyond their ability to express. We know the end of the story they forgot that day. Meditate on its dark wonder today.
by: Carole L. Haines
I have a train track for a mind sometimes, and that same old train of thought keeps barreling down the track. It’s that same malady of thinking that someone is going to find something wrong with me and throw me away. I mean let’s face it, they are going to find something wrong with me because I am a work in progress and will be ‘til the day I die. But everybody is a work in progress, I just seem to be much more aware of it than some.
God gave me a verse this morning that really blessed me and revealed an inner struggle that must be dealt with.
7 Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God. (Romans 15:7 HCSB)
I think I have been rejecting myself for years and years, never living up to my own ideas of who I am supposed to be. Never living up to the ideas other people have tried to tell me I need to be. I am accepted by Jesus, the One who made me, My Creator, who knit me together in my mother’s womb. He decided my hair would be blond, my eyes blue, my personality, unique and quirky. He made every precious one of us. He looks at us and calls us His beloved children.
I believe I need to accept myself because I am accepted in my Savior. I need to make a conscious choice to see myself as His creation, His Precious child. We all do. We will never really accept others in Christ until we accept ourselves in Christ, fully His, fully loved, fully redeemed. The above verse begins with a ‘therefore,” so let’s look at what comes right before it.
5 Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, 6 so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.
Accepting one another impacts how we glorify God. He wants us to bring Him glory with a united mind and voice. We cannot do this if we reject ourselves or others in the Body. He has accepted us, and He is the final authority in everything. The word ‘accepted’ means this in Greek:
to take to one’s self. to take as one’s companion, to take by the hand in order to lead aside, to take or receive into one’s home, with the collateral idea of kindness, to receive, i.e. grant one access to one’s heart, to take into friendship. (Strong’s Concordance).
Imagine accepting yourself as a companion, with the idea of showing kindness to her, like a friend. We need to embrace Christ’s acceptance of ourselves in order to really accept one another as He does. I will leave you with a concluding Scripture from the same passage:
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Acceptance of others must begin with accepting ourselves as Christ has accepted us. May our journey to a deeper walk with Jesus and each other begin today with this truth.
by: Carole L. Haines
Growing up with several siblings can make you feel like you have fallen through the cracks. This creates in you a desire to be special, a favorite of somebody’s, anybody’s. Thus, began the life pursuit of trying to be somebody’s favorite whatever. I tried it on as a favorite child, a favorite friend, a favorite singer. I even used to want to be one of God’s favorites. But, Praise God, He doesn’t have any favorites, and that is where healing from this malady began. I picked up on what may have been a similar struggle in the Apostle Peter’s life.
15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. (John 21:15-17)
This is a precious passage where I believe Jesus is restoring Peter from the three denials he committed, as Jesus stood being questioned before His death (John 18:25-27). By asking Peter if he loved him three times, Peter was able to be restored by saying three times. “Yes, Lord, I love you.” But I believe there is more going on here than just restoration.
The first time Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him has an extra phrase, “more than these.” Peter was a natural leader, which is seen as you watch him in several passages of Scripture, which I cannot expand on now. But one obvious indication of his leadership call, is prophesied by Jesus Himself.
17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:17-19)
Now perhaps I am taking liberties here but bear with me. Peter perhaps thought he must be a favorite of Jesus by being called the Rock and building the church on that rock. Perhaps we have thought more highly of ourselves through a similar call or position God has put us in.
I believe the fall of Peter, through the denial of Jesus, was something Jesus used to help Peter realize that God has no favorites. “Do you love me more than these?” is a question that God has shown me I was unconsciously asking and believing for quite a long time. I longed to be somebody’s favorite, so I tried to be God’s.
But the true freedom is found in belonging to a God who has no favorites in His Kingdom at all. He just has Beloveds. He loves us all equally, completely, perfectly. Perhaps God is having to show you that He has no favorites, just beloveds. He showed me through the same kind of fall that Peter went through. I was knocked off my high horse like the Apostle Paul in Acts 9. But it was the love of God that knocked me off that horse, and it was the love of God that left me in a suffering situation longer than I would have liked. It was the Love of God that told me I was not a favorite of His because He has none. I don’t try to be a favorite anymore. I don’t need to because like all the children of God, I am a favored one, a beloved one, a treasured one; as are you all, Dear Believers. Rest today from favoritism, in His all-consuming, never-ending, completely restoring Love.
By: Carole L. Haines
It was my usual routine of rising around 5:30 (body-clock, not by choice). I went out to the kitchen to get a tea and there was a mess from the day before. I never do dishes and such at night because I am a morning person, so I even cook dinner in the morning some days and have it ready before 10 a.m. As I was cleaning, washing, preparing; etc. the “feel-sorry-for-myself” bug began to bite. I was moaning inwardly about how I do this stuff every day and no one even knows it. They just have a fresh breakfast, clean dishes, folded laundry and a hearty lunch and dinner. Yes, I work, part-time, but this routine has been part of my life for 34 years, daily. I have never achieved the dreams I thought I was destined for, so I was be-moaning that too.
Suddenly I heard that familiar voice inside my thoughts and He said to me,” She rises up early and cares for the needs of her family.” God was encouraging me in the midst of my self-pity. For those who may not know where this quote is from, it’s from Proverbs 31. I avoid this Proverb as much as I can because it details a woman that I think I can never be. Let’s read some of it below:
10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight.
14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.
15 She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle.
20 She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (Prov. 31)
Pretty daunting list, huh! No wonder I have avoided it. I highlighted the one God spoke to me this morning for you. But as I read the list just now, I felt His kind prodding that there were other things on that list that I do as well, and He is pleased with me.
He also pointed out one that I could work more diligently on, as well.
The point is, God let me know that He is pleased with me this morning! There can be no higher praise in all the world. It was like what we do with our kids when they are hurting from a fall. We call them close and we kiss their hurt. There is no magic in that kiss, not to physically heal the wound, but just the sense of being loved and cared for is enough to send a child skipping off believing all is right now. Just because of that act of caring, that kiss on a wound. God kissed me this morning in a place I have been hurting, and there can be no greater blessing in all the world. Pour out your heart before Him this morning, Dear Believer, and may He kiss you where you hurt.
by: Carole L. Haines
Opinions, O how we love them sometimes. But as believers in Jesus Christ, we really don’t have a right to our own opinions. We worship our rights within our culture. We constantly hear it said, “Well I have a right to _________________.” None is ever more touted in our society than, “But I have a right to my opinions.” Do we really, as believers, have a right to our opinions? Perhaps we do over trite things, such as favorite foods, places, colors, ect. But not over one another. We exchange our opinions for solid truth when we become Christians. As believers in Jesus, we lay down our rights because we have found something much better than rights, we have found love, deliverance, freedom, and solid truth, not fleeting opinions that change more quickly than the wind. Opinions often fly in the face of truth, never more so than in reference to how we perceive one another in the Body of Christ. Let’s look at a passage of Scripture:
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand… For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14: 1-4, 7-8)
I have always looked this passage as being about what to eat and not to eat, etc. But it is really about our opinions, judgments and acceptance of others. I have highlighted and underlined the key things.
We are to accept anyone who belongs to Jesus, weakness is a reality for us all. Strength of our own is an illusion that life will soon obliterate. Paul boasted in his weaknesses because in embracing them, his strength was always from the Lord, not of Himself. Accept one another.
We are not to pass judgment on one another, especially not on his opinions. We are not to judge one another. This was discussed above in detail.
We are not to regard one another with contempt, for any reason. If we find this in ourselves, we need to bring that to the Lord and ask Him to reveal where our thinking is wrong. If we sense it toward ourselves from others, we need to pray for God to gently reveal to them their own issues.
Paul sums it all up with one of the most practical portions of Scripture: 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand… For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
Above all of these reasons, Paul ties it with the bow of the fact that God has accepted each one of us. So, who are we to reject one another?
by: Carole L. Haines
We all know the profound definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
But this verse gives us a different perspective. Faith is portrayed here as simply believing GOD IS, that He exists; and that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. God loves to bless His children, and part of that blessing is to not allow us to stay as He found us, trapped in sinful patterns. Sometimes the surest way to wholeness is a path of suffering and loss. That was true for me, and He reduced me to a place of just being glad that HE IS and that I am His. God’s love is definitely the ultimate in TOUGH LOVE. His love is a love that breaks through our walls of resistance and self-reliance. His love breaks through our rebellion and the determination to have things our own way. His love breaks through our idols and the things that we place above Him. His love breaks through all, tears down all and calls us into a deeper walk with Himself. His love corners us, boxes us in, and lovingly lifts our head to see that all we really need, all we truly want, is not what we think; It is Him. We were created by God and for God, and true joy can never be experienced until we embrace our destiny, the reason we are here.
One Pillar of our Faith put it this way:
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Dear believer, go simpler. Simply Believe God today, and earnestly seek Him, with all that You are. He truly will never fail you.