Crossroads Connection for the Week of June 16
 
 
 
Article #1
 

Learning From Examples

Scripture Reading — Philippians 4:2-9

Whatever you have learned … or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.
Philippians 4:9 — 

Most parents learn that the best way to teach their children is by setting an example. In healthy families, we learn a lot about right and wrong, good and bad, by simply watching our parents or older siblings. This is also true in our relationships in the church, where more experienced brothers and sisters in Christ gently show us the way or teach us what we need to know.

In our Scripture reading for today, Paul pleads with the members of God’s family in Philippi to settle their conflict and “be of the same mind in the Lord.” A reliable formula for family unity! Paul added more encouragement, urging everyone to “rejoice in the Lord” and let their gentleness be seen by all. We realize that rejoicing and gentleness cannot be taught easily; they’re much better caught by example.

It’s our privilege and responsibility as fellow believers to be examples to others. Paul’s own life must have shown joy and gentleness for him to use himself as an example to follow. It’s not a matter of just learning what the Bible teaches about such attitudes. What counts is putting them into practice. Like Paul, we’ve got to live in such a way that we can say, “Learn what I teach—by example!” A sense of what’s right and what’s wrong is a wonderful and necessary thing to know. What kind of example are you?

Prayer

Lord, you are our example of love and compassion. Empower us with your Holy Spirit to live in such a way that others may see Christ living in us always. In his name, Amen.

 
 
 

Article #2

 

Coming Home

Scripture Reading — Luke 15:11-32

"I will set out and go back to my father ..." Luke 15:18 — 

G. K. Chesterton tells the story of an English sailor who miscalculated his course and thought he'd discovered a new land in the South Seas. Ready to plant the British flag and claim the land as New South Wales, he'd actually landed back in his homeland. In search of the new, he had discovered the old. And for the first time he saw what he had left behind. Jesus tells a parable about a young man who made a similar discovery. He headed off to a "distant country" where he thought life would be great. Wine, women, and song looked more attractive than plowing his father's fields. But one day the prodigal son came to his senses. He returned home to discover the amazing welcome of his forgiving Father. Prodigal means "lavish," and what we discover is that the love of our heavenly Father is more prodigal--more lavish--than our sin. God's children come home to discover that life in the Father's house is what they've craved all along. Some of us are in a "distant country" today. We've wandered far from our spiritual home. We've sailed far from the land of grace, and it's time to turn our ship around and head home. When we do, we'll discover that our heavenly Father has been waiting and watching for our return. He has the lights on and is calling us to come home.

Prayer

Father, we know you are watching and waiting for us. Forgive us for wandering so far away. Thank you for calling and receiving us back again into your family. In Jesus, Amen.

 
 
 
Article #3
 

Joseph's Law

By Skip Heitzig

Murphy's Law says if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. But then there's Joseph's Law: if something goes wrong, God is behind the scenes making it right (see Romans 8:28).That was Joseph's perspective, even when it seemed like he took two steps forward and three steps backward. One day he was the favorite son of his father and got a dream from heaven; the next day he was sold by his own brothers into slavery in Egypt. While there he climbed to the top of Potiphar's household, only to reject the advances of Potiphar's wife, be accused of rape, and be thrown into prison under false accusation.

That's where we find Joseph in Genesis 40. Yet even there, God was at work behind the scenes: the captain of the guard put Joseph in charge of the jailed butler and baker of the king of Egypt. In the course of their custody, these two men each had a dream, which Joseph interpreted: the baker's days were numbered, but the butler would soon be restored to Pharaoh's household. "But," Joseph said to the butler, "remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house" (v. 14).

Sure enough, both dreams came to pass, "yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him" (v. 23)—for two whole years. Now, why did God allow Joseph to stay in prison for two years? I think it's safe to say He was putting some finishing touches on Joseph. Joseph started out pretty naïve and spoiled, but God was working something deep in his life—like humility and a heart of trust.

At the end of those two years, Pharaoh had two troubling dreams that called for Joseph's unique skill set. At this point, the butler remembered Joseph, who was summoned and interpreted Pharaoh's dreams: Egypt would face seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Then something extraordinary happened: Pharaoh put Joseph in an incredible position of power to help prepare for the famine (see Genesis 41:40-41).

When you're down in the muck, it's hard to think, Wow, God has something great in store! But you have no idea what God is preparing you for right now in the midst of your trials as He molds and shapes you more and more into the image of His Son (see Romans 8:29).

It's really a shame if painful, hurtful times don't serve to change you. Because then all you can say looking back is, "Gosh, that was horrible." If you don't grow through hard times, that's such a wasted opportunity. God wouldn't allow that to come into your life unless He wanted to teach you a lesson and change you. So find out what the Lord is trying to show you in whatever situation you're in and learn from it, finding encouragement in the example of Joseph.

 
 

 
 
Article #4
 

The Authority of the Scriptures

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

—Isaiah 55:11

When I think of Billy Graham’s preaching over the years, one thing comes to mind: he always quoted the Bible. How many times have we heard Billy Graham say, “And the Bible says . . .”? I’ve always loved that about him. He knew the authority of the Scriptures.

In the same way, Peter’s message on the Day of Pentecost was great because it was scriptural. He quoted Joel 2:28–32 from memory, and he also quoted Psalm 16 and Psalm 110. Obviously Peter had committed great portions of Scripture to memory. Any Christian worth his or her salt should be able to stand up at a moment’s notice and clearly articulate the gospel message without notes.

Why? Because someday you may find yourself in a situation where you’ll need to break it down fast, where you’ll be able to say, “Here’s how you can get right with God and put your faith in Jesus Christ.”

We need to know the Scriptures. I can’t emphasize enough how important the Bible is when you are sharing your faith. As Isaiah 55 tells us, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, . . . so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (verses 10–11).

We need to use the Scriptures as we share the gospel. As artists know how to use their pens and brushes (and nowadays, their computer programs), as cooks know how to use their knives and utensils, as soldiers know how to use their weapons, we need to know how to use the Word of God.

 

Article #5
 

Dissolving a Partnership

"So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company" (Gen 13:11).

My friend Danny and I have known each other for many years. Several years ago he was in a teaching session I was giving about Abraham being a great example of dissolving a partnership. When Abraham and Lot realized their families and livestock could no longer live off the same land, there had to be a separation. The question was, how should the separation take place? In the natural, it would be logical that the senior partner would make the decision and get first choice of the land options.

However, Abraham told Lot to choose where he wanted to live. He was totally at Lot's mercy. Sodom seemed to be the most fertile and logical place to locate. So, Lot chose Sodom. Abraham moved to a place called Mamre.

Danny had come to a decision that the Lord desired him to dissolve their partnership. The partner questioned Danny, "How are we going to divide our accounts?" "That's easy. I want you to choose the accounts you want and I will take what you don't want." This was quite a step of faith for Danny but he felt the leading of the Lord to make this offer.

Sure enough, the partner chose the very best clients they had, and left Danny with accounts that generated less than 20% of the revenue. Danny was surprised, but did not challenge his partner. However, he did have a conversation as they parted ways. "I can see the decision you have made. I can tell you that you have made a very poor decision that God will not bless. You should know that because of your decision, you can be assured that the value of your clients will go down in the coming months." Danny had no basis to make this assumption other than the story of Abraham and the Holy Spirit's prompting inside of him.

Months passed and Danny had some lean months. However, over time those small accounts gradually increased in value and the accounts his partner had decreased. It was a profound lesson to Danny and to his former partner.

Sometimes, faith requires total trust in a future outcome you cannot see.

 
 
 
 
 
Article #6
 

Trust in God

 

Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.

Psalm 40:4

 

The word binary has gained popular credence in the digital age. Binary can mean “one or the other” or “on or off.” The first transistors were binary switches, either “open or closed.” The notion of binary decisions has given rise in the computer age to phrases like, “You can’t be a little bit pregnant/bankrupt/honest.” You either are or you aren’t.

 

 

Jesus made a binary statement in Luke 16:13 when He said it is impossible for a servant to serve two masters: God and money. If you are serving God, your heart can’t be set on money, and vice versa. Blessing comes to the one who chooses to trust and serve God instead of trusting in himself, in money, or in worldly wisdom. Blessed is the man who trusts in God (Psalm 40:4) and in His Word (Psalm 1:1-3). Our daily challenge is to weigh our trust: Is our trust in God or in ourselves?

 

If you are facing a faith-challenge today, make sure you aren’t trusting in two things at the same time. Trust in God and be blessed.

 

As long as we continue to trust to our own abilities and activities we shall avail nothing.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
 




 

 

 
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.