Crossroads Connection for the Week of August 18
 
 
 
Article #1
 

Wisdom's Rare and Beautiful Treasures

By George Young 

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 24:3-4

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. . . .
Proverbs 24:3

A Japanese pastor friend, with whom we worked for many years as missionaries, gave us a beautiful bronze statue of hawks lifting off in flight. He had inherited it from his father, and he gave it to us as a farewell present when we returned to the United States. Now in a place of honor in our home in America, it stands as a rare and beautiful treasure that holds a flood of memories for us.

Our proverb for today teaches that the house of our lives is best built with wisdom, which comes from God. “Through understanding it is established,” and “through knowledge” provided by the one true God “its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

Jesus talks about a house like that in a parable about wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27): “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

With wisdom we build our lives on the solid rock of the love of God in Christ. The commands of God give us firm flooring, the protective arms of God are like walls keeping out the cold, and the Word of God is like windows letting in God’s light.

We all struggle to build a good life. Jesus and his good news are the keys to doing so. May we have heavenly wisdom each day to build our lives and to share God’s love with others.

O God, help us to build our lives with wisdom and to share your love and light in this world, remembering all you have done and that you are with us always. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Article #2

 

Obedience Is Best

Greg Laurie
 

What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

—1 Samuel 15:22

When God told King Saul to completely destroy the Amalekites, including King Agag, Saul didn’t do it. Later, in the book of Esther, we find Mordecai dealing with the wicked Haman, a descendant of King Agag.

Saul thought that because he had plundered the Amalekites’ livestock to sacrifice to the Lord, everything would be okay. But the prophet Samuel told him, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 NLT).

God told Saul to do something, and he didn’t do it. Sometimes the Lord will speak to our hearts and tell us to give up something that is taking over our lives, something we regard as an innocent pleasure that is becoming something of an addiction. It could be alcohol or some other thing. But that thing or that pursuit is becoming more important to us than God.

Maybe God is telling you to break off a relationship with someone who is pulling you down spiritually, someone who, whenever you’re around them, just pulls you down. Or worse yet, you’re the one who’s pulling someone else down.

Maybe the Lord is speaking to your heart and telling you to take a bold step of faith and do something you’ve never done, something way out of your comfort zone, like starting a Bible study at work or engaging someone with the gospel.

Whatever it may be, if the Lord tells you to do it, then do it. See what God will do. But don’t think that going to church or putting a little more in the offering will take the place of what God really wants from you, which is your obedience.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Article #3
 

Vested Interests

"When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed" (Neh 4:1).

Leaders who attempt something greater than themselves will always get attacked and it often comes from those who have a vested interest in what you are changing. Nehemiah was rebuilding the ancient wall of Jerusalem. It was a major undertaking. Not everyone was pleased with this initiative. Sanballat, another government worker, did not want this to happen.

When Jesus began confronting the Pharisees about religious traditions, He was attacked by the religious establishment because they had a vested interest that would be negatively impacted by His teaching. The apostle Paul confronted a religious tradition that generated income for those in the trade. Opposition arose because he was impacting a vested interest.

"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty" (Acts 19:23-27) .

Whenever you introduce a new product into the market, expect opposition from competitive products that have a vested interest. If God leads you to initiate a cause greater than yourself, expect opposition from those who may have vested interest.

 
 
 

 
 
Article #4
 

Do You Glow in the Dark?

By Skip Heitzig

One of my favorite lighting events is Fourth of July fireworks. But if you wait till the fireworks subside, you'll see what's left in the sky: the stars. They've been glowing up there long before the fireworks went off, and they'll be glowing up there for a long time into the future.

You and I are called to glow and be light bearers in the world (see Matthew 5:16). In Philippians 2:14-16, the apostle Paul gave a threefold strategy for how we can glow in the dark:

1. Understand the condition of the world. Paul described it as "a crooked and perverse generation" (v. 15). The world is morally contorted, spiritually deformed, and unable to support the weight of life.That shouldn't surprise you. But if you're going to glow, you need to view the world like Jesus. He looked at a crowd and was moved with compassion because He saw them for who they were: eternal souls who, if left in spiritual darkness, would see eternal consequences (see Matthew 9:36).

2. Understand your position in this world: "Among [them] you shine as lights"—or stars—"in the world" (v. 15).Because the world is so dark and contorted, the conditions for us to shine have never been better. But to be effective, we have to be around people who are in darkness. If all we do is shine among other believers, we're not doing a lot of good. We need to reflect the Son and be winsome and warm while speaking truth and showing people the way out of darkness.

3. Understand your vocation to the world. You're called to glow in two ways: you need the right attitude and the right action. The right attitude is found in verse 14: "Do all things without complaining and disputing." Do you think a grumbling believer is effective in bringing people out of darkness? No way. Complaining implies that God doesn't treat His kids very well, so why would an unbeliever want to follow Christ? A Christian with a bad attitude is bad advertising for the kingdom.

Then there's the right action: "Holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain" (v. 16). Some translations say, "holding forth the word of life." Don't just hold fast to the gospel—hold it forth and tell others the message. That's how we glow in the dark: by amplifying by our lips what we exemplify with our lives (see Romans 10:14).

So let's get in the game. Let's leave the place where we're all shining so brightly and go glow in the dark, lest the darkness overshadow our glow.

 
 

Article #5
 

God Is Not Mocked

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
Galatians 6:7

God’s harvest principle—we reap what we sow—is illustrated more than once in Scripture. But nowhere as sadly as in the story of Judah, one of Jacob’s twelve sons who fell away from God and reaped a terrible harvest.


Recommended Reading:
Genesis 38:1-30
Judah, the fourth eldest son of Jacob, exhibited leadership qualities when he intervened in his brothers’ plans to put Joseph to death. He convinced them to spare Joseph’s life and sell him into Egypt as a slave instead. He must have been a natural leader—until he yielded to fleshly temptation and married a Canaanite woman who bore him three sons. Two of his sons were wicked and died, and Judah had sexual relations with the widow of one of the sons, thinking she was a prostitute. This story is no doubt included in the Genesis record as an illustration of the need to isolate the Hebrews in Egypt, in order to keep them from intermarrying with pagans in Canaan. (Egyptians looked down on the Hebrews and would not intermarry with them.)

Judah’s actions sent ramifications, like ripples across a pond, throughout the story of God’s chosen people. God is not mocked: What we sow, we will also reap.
 
Sow holiness, and reap happiness.
George Swinnock
 
 
Article #6
 

The Lasting Effects of a Godly Life

 By Greg Laurie
 

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

—Ephesians 5:15–16

There are times when one of the best things to do to engage a nonbeliever is to just listen for a while and get to know them a little better. Then when the Holy Spirit prompts you to speak up about your faith, speak up.

In the book of Esther we read that she “had not told anyone of her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had directed her not to do so” (Esther 2:10 NLT). Some would say that she should have identified herself as a Jew, and by not doing so she was effectively compromising her faith.

There’s some merit to that argument, but there are some flaws in it as well, because sometimes you should speak up, and sometimes you should be quiet.

The problem with some Christians is they’re always talking about their faith but don’t back it up with their lifestyle. You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I think some Christians speak up too much. They feel they have to give a complete presentation of the gospel to everyone they meet. It’s this constant drone, and it isn’t the best way to do evangelism.

One of the great secrets of Billy Graham’s effectiveness was that he not only was a great preacher, but he also was a great Christian. He backed up his words with personal integrity. He loved his wife and children, and he was a humble man. That gave him even greater effectiveness in his ministry, because he never contradicted it with his lifestyle.

It’s a huge plus for the church when Christians live godly lives. They work hard and with integrity. They’re faithful to their spouses and keep their marriages together. Or, if they’re single, they don’t have sex before marriage. That’s a great testimony. Do that. Be that.

 



 

 

 
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.