Crossroads Connection for the Week of October 20
 
 
 
Article #1
 

Are You Watching for Jesus' Return?

By Skip Heitzig

You probably know Jesus was raised in a little town called Nazareth. But did you know that from Nazareth, Jesus had a breathtaking view of the valley of Armageddon? Imagine what thoughts must have gone through His mind as a little boy as He looked out over the place that would one day host a battle—the battle of Armageddon at the end of the tribulation period—that only He would stop.

We know this battle won't be a pretty scene. But it will get better when Jesus comes back, ends all that has happened on the earth, and takes over the world He Himself created.

Jesus' return is anticipated all throughout Scripture. Revelation 19, which describes Jesus' second coming, says, "The essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus" (v. 10, NLT). In other words, Jesus Christ is the star on the center stage of the theater of biblical prophecy.

And just as there's a scarlet thread of Christ's redemptive work on the cross woven throughout Scripture, I believe there's also a golden thread of His coming rule and reign. It's the culmination of all redemptive history. All of God's people throughout all ages have looked forward to this event.\

This is when the serpent's head will finally and fully be crushed (see Genesis 3:15). This is when the scepter, the rule, will once again be reinstated in Judah (see Genesis 49:10). This is when God's promise to King David that somebody from his family line would rule and reign forever will come to pass (see 2 Samuel 7:16). This is the time Isaiah spoke about when he said, "The government will be upon His shoulder…. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:6-7). This is the time Daniel spoke about when he said that "the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 2:44). And this is what Jesus taught His disciples—and us—to pray for: "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

Beginning in Revelation 19, that prayer is finally answered.Jesus will come back to earth, end the battle of Armageddon, take over, and reign with a rod of iron (see v. 15)—first for 1,000 years in what's called the millennium, and then forever in the eternal state.

This is a reality that you will see and experience one day. I hope it inspires faith in you. The purpose of prophecy is not to cause fear but to create faith.

In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul described Christians as those who love the Lord's appearing. Do you love and long for His appearing, for His rule and reign on planet earth? I think of the almost-final words of Revelation where John said, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20). I pray that we would long for His return, watch and be ready, and in the meantime serve the Lord with a glad heart.


Article #2 

The Most Difficult Part of Evangelism

By Greg Laurie

“And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.”

—1 Corinthians 2:4

I think the most difficult part of evangelism is getting the conversation started. When I preach, it’s a monologue. Basically I get up and speak and then ask people to make a decision. But when I talk to people one-on-one, it’s a dialogue.

As I’ve said before, everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. People love to talk about themselves. So I ask questions and listen for an area where I can appropriately apply the gospel to the conversation. Then I try to find that bridge to build to take us to the next place.

The objective in sharing your faith is to build a bridge, not burn one. A lot of times evangelistic conversations end before they start because we’re unnecessarily offensive or weird. Or, we simply put people off.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matthew 5:10 nkjv). So be persecuted for being righteous . . . not for being weird.

Also, the objective in sharing your faith is not to win the argument; it’s to win the soul. I’ve seen people armed with the latest apologetics, with their gospel guns ready, and they blow the nonbeliever out of the water. They won the argument, and the other person walks away feeling humiliated and offended. That is not good evangelism. We want to win the soul.

Think of Jesus with the woman at the well in Samaria. He could have said, “Look, let’s just cut to the chase. You’re an immoral woman. I’m God in human form. So repent.”

Would that have been true? Yes.

Is that what He said? No.

Instead, He engaged her in conversation and drew her in. So don’t try to win the argument; try to win the soul. Be a nice person. If you want to win some, be winsome. 


 


   
 
Article #3
 

 

 

Prayer at Work

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jer 33:3-4).

Julian Watts and Warren Sinclair, who operate an international company called Markets Unlocked in Guildford, England have learned how important intimacy and the presence of God is to fulfilling His purposes for their business.

In 1999, the Lord asked Julian if he would be willing to resign his partnership in a multi-national company, leave the company and walk out into the unknown. Now without a job, he spent the next few months attempting to discover what the Lord wanted him to do. Eventually, he founded an internet company that specialized in connecting businesses that wanted to buy and sell to each other. He set about building the new company, focusing on all the commercial fundamentals and occasionally praying for God's help to get the task done.

The business grew very quickly, riding on the crest of the Internet wave. But the dotcom crash that swiftly followed in the year 2000 was brutal, and the company was all but wiped out. The Christian directors started praying together - monthly at first, then, as things continued to worsen, weekly, and finally, as desperation set in, daily!

The directors' daily routines soon began to change. At first, Julian started having his own personal time with the Lord from 5:00 A.M. to 7:00 A.M. each day. Then, from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M., all the company directors would meet to worship and pray. From 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. every weekday, one director would worship and intercede for the company; and every Tuesday from 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M., everyone in the company would meet, along with local pastors and intercessors, to worship and intercede.

By late 2001, the company had passed through the wilderness of the dotcom crash. In the process, all the commercial aspects of the company had been completely transformed - including its business strategy, organization structure, people, operational processes, location and everything else.

Today, the directors see that the Lord is increasingly establishing their company's corporate identity and defining characteristic as their corporate intimacy with Him. Markets Unlocked is now expanding rapidly around the world, with customers in over 80 countries.

 

 
 

 
 
Article #4
 
 

Arrows

By Gerrit Bomhof 

Scripture Reading: Psalm 127:3-5

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Psalm 127:4

Parents sometimes compare their child to a teddy bear, or a princess, or maybe Einstein. But have you ever heard of children compared to arrows, as in Psalm 127? This psalm describes children as providing protection from enemies. That was important in ancient times, and we can see its bene­fits still today.

For example, if outlaws came to steal or wreck your property, a group of defenders could help to protect you. Having a large family could give you strength in numbers. And, as this psalm points out, it’s also important to have defenders in court, in case some accusers try to ruin you even though you are innocent. In that society, having two or more witnesses on your side could uphold your case in the public court and keep you from shame.

This psalm gives us a wake-up call in the way that we raise our children. We must have an ­urgency in training our children to use their talents and gifts to do what is right and to live by the ways of the Lord, who “builds the house” (Psalm 127:1)—and that can refer to our household of family mem-bers as well as to the household of faith (the Lord’s church). We need to pray often for our children, knowing that even while we are sleeping (v. 2) God keeps working in them through his Spirit, honing them for service in his kingdom.

What kind of difference can you make—not only now but also for future generations?

Equip us, Lord, to train up children in the way they should go, for your sake, from one generation to the next. Amen.

Equip us, Lord, to train up children in the way they should go, for your sake, from one generation to the next. Amen.



Article #5
 

 

Mighty in You

Christ…is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.
2 Corinthians 13:3


If anything brought the apostle Paul to his wit’s end, it was the problems in the church he established at Corinth. He loved the believers there like his own children, but their problems, errors, lapses, and failures drove him to distraction. Near the end of his final letter to them, he urged them to remember the strength available to them in Christ. “For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you” (2 Corinthians 13:4).

 


Recommended Reading:
2 Corinthians 13:1-6

Each of us have particular strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes our weaknesses rule over our strengths. But in our walk of faith, we can tap into Christ’s strength.

If you’re facing a crisis today, let the Lord calm you. If you have a problem with no resolution, give it to Him. If there’s an opportunity, ask God to strengthen you for it. If you feel weary, remember how God gives us strength sufficient for each day (Deuteronomy 33:25). Christ is not weak toward you, but mighty in you!

Whatever and wherever we are at any given moment of any given day, God is God enough!
Jill Briscoe

 
 

 


 
 
 
Article #6
 

Where Fearless Courage Comes From

By Greg Laurie

“I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.”

—Psalm 63:4

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is so familiar that we can almost dismiss it as a fable of some kind. But this is a real story that actually took place. And one of the takeaway truths we discover from it is that God did not deliver Daniel out of the lion’s den; He delivered him in it.

Sometimes God will take us out of our problems. But there are other times when He will be with us as we’re facing our problems, as we’re walking through them. That was the case with Daniel. The Lord was with him in that den of lions, as were some angels, and out of the worst conceivable situation came the ultimate good.

Maybe nothing stands out more in this story of Daniel than this one simple fact: Daniel was a man of prayer. Yes, he was a spiritual man. Yes, he was a purposeful man. Yes, he was a persecuted man. But let’s not miss the fact that he was a praying man.

And when Daniel learned about a new law that banned praying to anyone but the king, what did he do? Daniel 6:10 gives us the answer: “But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God” (NLT).

Just as he had always done . . . Daniel had done this from his youth, and he still was doing it in his later years. When he knelt down on his knees, he received his fearless courage. This reminds us of a simple truth: If you kneel before God, you can stand before any man. 

 
 
 



 

 

 
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.