Crossroads Connection for the Week of February 17
 
 
 
Article #1
 

A Message to the Worrywart

By Skip Heitzig

Have you ever seen a worried bird? Sweating, wringing its little claws, saying, "Honey, the rent on this nest is getting astronomical"?

Jesus said, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26).

Notice the command in these verses: "Do not worry." The way it was written in the original Greek means to stop an action that is already going on. It's as if Jesus said, "I know most of you folks out there are worrying, so stop it. Stop being weighed down by anxious thoughts. Just look at the birds."

You have a God who promises to take care of you. You know why? He is your Father (see vv. 6, 8-9). God is not the birds' Father; He's their Creator. You, on the other hand, have a relationship with Him as both one who is created and one who is His child. If your Father feeds the birds, don't you think your Father is going to take care of you?

"Which of you by worrying can add one cubit [18 inches] to his stature?" (v. 27). The NIV says, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" You're not going to add to your life—or your height—by worrying about it. In fact, you'll probably live less; studies say that stress will shorten your life. "Therefore do not worry…. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (vv. 31-32).

What were you worried about exactly one year ago today? You might be able to answer that because of an immense trial you were in, but otherwise I'd wager that you can't give a clear answer. Worrying is a fruitless activity. Why bother engaging in it?

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (v. 33). Jesus said, "Here's the deal. Just seek Me and My kingdom first, and I'll give you everything you need." That's a great deal. Redirect your energy from worrying about your life to working for God's kingdom. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (v. 34). Blessed is the one who is too busy in the day to worry and too sleepy at night to do the same. So work for God. Serve the Lord. Expend your energy for eternal things and fall asleep in peace.

Copyright © 2019 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 

Article #2

The Net

By Dale Melenberg

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:47-50

“The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.”
Matthew 13:47

I remember fishing with my brother-in-law on his commercial fishing boat. It was a gill netter, and we were fishing for salmon. We laid out the half-mile-long net into the water across the current and then spooled it back into the boat, anticipating that we had caught our salmon. But on that day the tide must have been very low, because we caught mostly mud sharks (dogfish). The ratio of mud sharks to salmon was forty-two to one. We placed the mud sharks in a pile off to the side, while the prized salmon went into a special container to keep them fresh.

Jesus says that “the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.” Then he says that the net was found to have both bad fish and good fish—like a catch of both mud sharks and salmon.

Fish do not know if they are going to be kept or discarded. But Jesus knows his fish. He can see through our facades; he knows our hearts; he knows the righteous from the fake-righteous.

Good fish and bad fish, wheat and weeds—Jesus uses these images to remind us that he sees what is in our hearts.

Jesus, break our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. Put your Spirit in us and save us, we pray. In your name, Amen.


 
Article #3
 

 

Fulfilling Your Purpose

"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.”-(Ps 139:1-4).

Your purpose in life is chosen by God. It is not negotiable. It is like calling water wet-there is no changing that fact, and there's no changing God's purpose for your life. While you may not fulfill the purpose for which you were made, you still have a purpose that God intends for you to fulfill. This is your blueprint from God. In the same way that He had a specific purpose in mind for Jesus when He sent Him to the earth, He has a specific purpose in mind for your life.

This doesn't mean, however, that there is one highly specific niche for you to fill and that if you miss it, too bad. It is my belief that you can achieve your purpose in many different and creative ways. This should take the pressure off. You won't throw your entire life off course by choosing the wrong college, job or mate. God is much bigger than any miscalculation or disobedience on your part. "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me" (Ps. 138:8). Isn't that comforting to know?

Defining your purpose will help you to determine the activities that you should be involved in. Like Jesus, you should not involve yourself in activities that contradict His purpose for your existence. Jesus? purpose was to do the will of the Father and become the salvation for mankind.

Each of us must ask why we are involved in an activity. Is it a God-activity, or just a good activity? Remember, Jesus only did something if He saw the Father doing it, and He was able to see what His Father was doing because of His intimate relationship with Him.

Today, take steps to insure you are aligned with your purpose.

 
 
Article #4
 

In Quietness and Confidence

 

In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

Isaiah 30:15

 

Isaiah was dismayed when he saw the royal delegation leaving Jerusalem for Egypt. King Hezekiah was sending envoys to form a military alliance instead of trusting God’s protection. Hezekiah hadn’t asked Isaiah’s advice, nor had he sought God’s counsel (Isaiah 30:2). Instead, the king’s diplomats treaded through the desert (verse 6) on a mission doomed to failure (verse 7). Isaiah advised the caravan to turn back, saying: “In returning and rest you shall be saved.” He told them to turn around and return home, to rest in God’s protection, to quiet themselves, and to trust God’s promises. That, he said, would be their strength (verse 15).

 

 

That’s our strength too.

 

We can’t solve all the problems facing us; and sometimes the more we try, the deeper the mess. We find little help in “Egypt.” But in returning to the Lord and resting in Him, we find deliverance. And in quietness and confidence we find strength.

 

This quietness and confidence is… an abiding frame of mind, an all-enduring and an all-pervading spirit…. Indeed it’s priceless value lies in the fact that it pervades the anxious activities of life.

George Wilson, Edinburgh preacher of an earlier era

 

Article #5

Your Ministry to the Poor

"Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter? When you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Is 58:7).

For many years, I have read this passage without responding to it personally. I read it and moved on to the rest of my Bible reading without any actions steps. It was just another verse of scripture. Then one day the Holy Spirit asked me a question. "Os, how are you ministering to the poor in my name?" It was a very convicting question.

As I began to ponder that question, I realized I had no specific focus on the poor in my workplace ministry. Sure, I give to my local church that often gives to the poor and I may give a donation to the needy here or there. However, I was not directly involved in any specific activity that served the poor. I believed God was challenging me to change this.

I began praying about this and soon God connected me with a Christian leader in the nation of Uganda. I had never been to a third world nation. I had not seen poverty up close and personal. I decided this was God's answer to my prayer. Paying all my own expenses, I traveled to Uganda. I visited the camps where thousands of people have come to live - having abandoned their lands because of a 20-year rebel war. Children have been killed and maimed. During my stay, I experienced limited access to electricity and other basic needs we take for granted in the west. It is a stark contrast to how so many of us live.

This trip has begun a long term relationship with the nation of Uganda. The Lord does not ask us to give what we don't have. However, I do believe each of us should ask God, "What do I have in my hand that I can offer?" That is what Elisha asked of the widow. And God performed a miracle through what she had (2 Kings 4:2).

Ask God today what you have in your hand that you can give to the poor.

 

 Article #6

4 Common Evangelism Mistakes and                   Why They Shouldn’t Stop You

If you want to heap great shame on most evangelicals just say, “Tell me about the last person you shared Jesus with.”

Most of us know why we should share our faith with unbelievers:

  • We obey the most basic commands in the Bible when we share the gospel.
  • Evangelism is the means for unbelievers being saved.
  • We experience a deeper faith as we evangelize.

Though we value evangelism, very few of us are actually doing it. According to recent research, 61% of Christians have not shared Christ in the past six months, and 25% have only shared with 1-2 people.

I have spent the majority of my ministry teaching Christians how to be more evangelistic. In this post, I want to highlight 4 mistakes most Christians make in evangelism and why we need to stop making them.

Mistake 1: Thinking you must know all the answers

One of the primary concerns about evangelism is thinking you do not know enough. There is a fear of being asked a question we are unprepared to answer, or worse, giving the wrong answer.

Sometimes this fear stems from the assumption that the people we share with will be hostile and want to embarrass us. At other times, we are genuinely concerned that our answers will push someone further from Christ.

Consider these points:

  1. The Bible never suggests that Christians are responsible for knowing the answers to any question someone may ask. Sure, we need to be prepared, but it is impossible to anticipate every question. This stress is unhealthy and unbiblical. Rather than being afraid, feel free to say, “That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer, but I will see if I can find out for you.”
  2. The Gospel, not your answers, that is the power for Salvation (see Romans 1:16). God works to save through his Son, not through our wisdom. Familiarize yourself with His story; you’ll be fine.
  3. Unanswered questions rarely keep someone from trusting Christ. Think of it this way, you are a Christian. There are questions to which you do not know the answers. These questions have not kept you away from Christ.

Quit believing that you must have all the answers before you share your faith, you don’t need to have them all.

Mistake 2: Not being yourself

Another reason many fail to share Christ is that they assume effective evangelism requires a particular personality, one they do not possess. Remember what God said after Moses complained that his personality weaknesses made him unqualified to do what God commanded? “Who placed a mouth on humans? Who makes a person mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).

God has given you the personality, the experiences, and the opportunities to be an effective evangelist. You are uniquely gifted to reach people others cannot. Sure, some of us have to work harder than others to share our faith, but that does not mean you are unqualified.

Quit thinking that God cannot use you as you are to reach others for Christ, He has made you to tell others about Him.

Mistake 3: Not asking for a decision

The Bible teaches us that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Rom 10:13) Far too often we are content sharing the story of Jesus with others without asking if they would like to respond — if they are willing to call on Jesus and be saved.

We don’t want to be offensive. Some are afraid they are forcing a person to be saved or pushing them to believe. These fears may be sincere, but they are unwarranted.

If someone listens to you talk about Christ, it is natural and normal to ask, “Does this make sense to you? Would you like to trust Jesus right now?”

If they say, “Yes,” help them call on Jesus in prayer. If they say, “No” or “Not right now,” that’s cool too. You can rejoice that they understand and leave the door open for further conversations.

Quit stopping your gospel presentations short, give people a chance to respond to Jesus.

Mistake 4: Keeping silent

Finally, the single biggest mistake we make in evangelism is not doing it. You have friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates who are ready to talk with you about Jesus. You may not have all the answers, and you might make some mistakes. However, the most significant mistake you could make is keeping silent.

Quit being silent. Share Christ today.

 

 

 

 
 
 
A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis

Several years ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, orsuffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in JimBishop's book, The Day Christ Died. I suddenly realized that I had taken thecrucifixion more or less for granted all these years - that I had grown callousto its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details. It finally occurredto me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause ofChrist's death. The gospel writers do not help much on this point. Sincecrucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, theyundoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous. For that reason wehave only the concise words of the evangelists: "Pilate, having scourgedJesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified ... and they crucified Him."

Despite the gospel accounts' silence on the details of Christ's crucifixion, many havelooked into this subject in the past. In my personal study of the event from amedical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a Frenchsurgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wroteextensively on the topic.

An attempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of theIncarnate1 God in atonement2 for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope ofthis article. However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord'spassion we can examine in some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazarethactually endure during those hours of torture?

Gethsemane

The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of Hisinitial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is thebloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the onlyevangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, "And being in an agony, heprayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down uponthe ground" (Luke 22:44 KJV).

Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away thephenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that itsimply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting themedical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloodysweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries inthe sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone couldhave produced marked weakness and possible shock.

Although Jesus' betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, thenext event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective isHis trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here the firstphysical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face forremaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. The palace guards thenblindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spaton Him, and struck Him in the face.

BeforePilate

In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from asleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of theFortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, PontiusPilate. We are familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to shiftresponsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparentlysuffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned toPilate. It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate orderedBarabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

Preparations for Jesus' scourging were carried out at Caesar's orders. The prisoner wasstripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Romanlegionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. Thiswas a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two smallballs of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought downwith full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. Atfirst the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blowscontinued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first anoozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurtingarterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open bysubsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons,and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. Whenit was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death,the beating was finally stopped.

Mockery

The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement,wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincialJew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed astick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make theirtravesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonlyused for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaitedinto the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and againthere was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue.After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stickfrom His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper intoHis scalp. Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe fromHis back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serumin the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgicalbandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed.

Golgotha

Indeference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments. Theheavy patibulum3 of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession ofthe condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiersheaded by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we knowtoday as the Via Dolorosa.

Inspite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam,together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. Hestumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skinand muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had beenpushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion,selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry thecross. Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat ofshock. The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finallycompleted. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loincloth which was allowed the Jews.

The crucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic,pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the patibulumon the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shouldersagainst the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of thewrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deepinto the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action,being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion andmovement. The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes4,and the titulus5 reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" wasnailed into place.

The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended,toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the kneesmoderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists,excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode inthe brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve,large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himselfupward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nailthrough His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through thenerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves ofcramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbingpain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging bythe arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzedand the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable toact. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus foughtto raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbondioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the crampspartially subsided.

The LastWords

Spasmodically,He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven shortsentences that are recorded.

The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice6 for His seamless garment: "Father, forgive themfor they do not know what they do."

The second - to the penitent thief7:"Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

The third - looking down at Mary Hismother, He said: "Woman, behold your son." Then turning to theterrified, grief-stricken adolescent John , the beloved apostle, He said:"Behold your mother."8

The fourth cry is from the beginning ofPsalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps,intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from Hislacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of thecross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as thepericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and beganto compress the heart.

The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled: "I am poured out like water,and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in themidst of my bowels."

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a criticallevel; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish bloodto the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhalesmall gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimulito the brain. Jesus gasped His fifthcry: "I thirst." Again we read in the prophetic psalm: "Mystrength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thouhas brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15 KJV).

A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of theRoman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus' lips. His body was now in extremis,and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. Thisrealization brought forth His sixthword, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: "It is finished."His mission of atonement9 had been completed. Finally, He could allow His bodyto die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feetagainst the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: "Father,into Your hands I commit My spirit."

Death

The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of thebones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tensioncould not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocationoccurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiersapproached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs,upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, "Andimmediately there came out blood and water." Thus there was an escape ofwatery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interiorof the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died,not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due toshock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Resurrection

In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man canexhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and islikely to leave us despondent and depressed.

But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that wehave a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man--the gift ofatonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Eastermorning.

1Incarnate
2 Atonement
3 Horizontal portion of the cross
4 Vertical portion of the cross
5 Small sign stating the victim's crime
6 Gambling
7 The one who felt remorse for his sins and asked Jesus to help him.
8 As Jesus was dying, He gave his trusted friend responsibility for the care ofHis mother.
9 Taking our place by suffering the death penalty for our sin.

Dr.C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College ofMedicine. He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a bookabout medicine and the Bible.

 

Editors'note: If Jesus had remained dead, Christianity would be nothing but an empty promise. But three days after His death, He rose again from the dead. This is the miracle of resurrection, which is what Christians celebrate at Easter. To learn more about the resurrection, read John chapters 20 and 21.