UNTIL THESE CALAMITIES BE PASSED BY

REMEMBER August 2020
HEB: 13:3

By Sylvia Blacksell

Ps 57:1 “Be merciful unto me O God, for my soul trusts in you. Yea in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be passed by”

While we have been restricted in many areas, some are finding this season very difficult, with the loss of jobs, businesses closing and financial and other significant hardships of deep concern.

We have much to be thankful for.

We still have access to many things. The government’s help, health services, doctors, hospitals, nurses, etc.

We can still use our electronic devices, contacts, and communicate with each other by phone, e-mail, Face Time, and now Zoom, and to keep in touch with world news we have T.V. There is still plenty of food available and clean water (just turn on the tap!). We are able to take walks.

We thank God for all the above and for people moved with compassion who are helping others with vital and immediate needs, e.g. people in lockdown, people who are isolated and others.

As quoted by Voice of the Martyrs (July 2020): “In several restricted nations as authorities distributed essential resources Christians were excluded. This type of discrimination has deprived many of our brothers and sisters of basic human needs. Sadly, some have died of starvation because they have been turned away from food distribution centres.” If they are in prison there are no phones to call family or to ask anyone to pray for them, no e-mail, no outside communication, and no encouragement inside the prisons.

These are persecuted, despised, and deprived because they belong to Jesus, (our brothers and sisters!) and are not able to access the things we take for granted every day.

Please pray for God’s mercy and grace for these people and that He will provide for their needs through His church and other avenues.

Please continue to uphold our precious brothers and sisters in Christ as they have significant needs for their physical, mental, and emotional health as well.

That they may be assured of God’s love for them and their families and loved by other Christians.

It is reported that many persecuted ones are rejoicing and trusting God.

May they take their refuge under the shadow of His wings “Until these calamities be passed by.”

Thank you.

Remember: “My Peace I Give Unto You (John 14:21)” June 2020

By Sylvia Blacksell

Suddenly and without warning we were confined to our homes by our government because of something we had no control over. Some people found it very hard to comply and felt that they were “in prison”. Others were confused and frightened.

But for the Christians there is the promise of peace from Jesus Himself.

In John 14:27. Jesus says, “My peace I give into you, not as the world gives, do I give to you Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid.”

We are asked to obey instructions by our government because of the coronavirus, for our good, but the better instructions are the Word of God for our peace. We are blessed in this country to be able to access help in crisis times and for this we are grateful to our God and for the prayers of His churches and for giving us this peace.

Then suddenly and without warning in some other countries’ terrorists’ attacks have been escalating in violence and imprisonments, particularly against Christians. As Barnabas quoted “Males have been taken by extremists to serve them in their armies and females also taken to serve their enemies.

Coronavirus has also afflicted some, making it more distressing imprisonment doesn’t just or only mean being held in a structure of some sort, it can also mean being held against your will and “forced” to serve others, e.g. those who hate you because you serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

These are God’s family, the same family we belong to. Jesus has given His life for them and many have given their lives for Him.

What is our response to all this concerning our persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters?­

Heb 13:3: “Remember those that are in prison as bound with them and those who suffer adversity as being yourselves in the body.”

Please pray for comfort and protection as they endure adversity. Their needs are many and deep, may they know the peace that only Jesus gives.

Please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your prayer for them.    

Remember: “I will never leave you (Heb 13:5-6)” May 2020

By Sylvia Blacksell

I often wonder how many millions of Christians over the many years have found comfort and assurance from these same words of Jesus when passing through a crisis and difficult times in their lives and even now as a global crisis sweeps across the whole world?

The resurrected Jesus spoke these words of comfort to His disciples just before He ascended to heaven to be with His father. He alone knew what His disciples would face for His Name’s sake as they fulfilled His commission to go into all the world to teach and preach the gospel.

He knew they would face persecution, fierce opposition and even death as He Himself had.

And again, He spoke words of comfort. Matt 28:20 “…lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.”

In some poorer countries Jesus’ churches are experiencing great hardship being forced out from their homes by extremists despised, rejected and destitute fleeing for their lives unable to take anything with them for their needs and comfort.

Seeking places of refuge and in constant danger and hunger they look to God to sustain and lead them to safety and shelter; He is their living Hope.

They know He only is their help, putting their faith and trust in their Heavenly Father and Jesus words and promises (Heb 13:5-6) “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.

To Jesus His persecuted ones are much loved; they are His.

In love please pray:

  • for Jesus’ persecuted loved ones our brothers and sisters that He will enable them to stand steadfast in faith under severe hardship and pressure.
    • that “the joy of the Lord would be their strength”.
    • for God’s grace, provision and safety for them, and that they will be aware of His loving Presence and Peace surrounding them knowing that “He will never leave nor forsake them” and that “He is with them always even into the end of the world”.

Remember: “A Willing Surrender, A Willing Sacrifice” April 2020

By Sylvia Blacksell

Easter, it means different things to different people. We see in the shops and the catalogues what the world calls Easter. Easter bunny gets a high priority, but we know no bunny can replace our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

There are scoffers and mockers and those who are willingly ignorant of the fact that Someone called Jesus Christ died for them, and really did rise from the grave alive.

They wouldn’t know that He went to Gethsemane and made a “willing surrender” to His Father God. “Not my will Jesus prayed, but you will be done.” Mat 26:39 And that He was taken to a place called Calvary and nailed to a cross where He gave His life a “Willing Sacrifice” for their sins and for all mankind.

But to the believer the Easter message is his death and resurrection, it is the very heart and core of our faith worship and adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What does Easter mean to the persecuted church? Let’s pray that it will bring hope and joy, and the assurance of God’s love, and the enemies’ plan against them will fail.

In some countries where Christians are despised, planned attacks have been increased at Easter time inflicting much damage and severe pain and loss. Our brothers and sisters face these things because they too have surrendered their will to God and many have and do face the command “Deny Jesus or Die”, and thousands of them have given their lives and “willing sacrifice” for the love of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for they loved not their lives unto death.

Women and girls are most vulnerable

Please pray that God would protect women and girls from those who would do them harm because of their faith and gender. Please pray that the enemies’ plans against the church will fail, particularly at Easter time and comfort all children who have been traumatised and provide for their needs. “Quote Barnabas Aid”.

REMEMBER – Gal 6:10

March 2020

Especially The Family Of Faith
Please pray that God will keep His persecuted ones strong in faith and hope,
and that the Holy Spirit will be their comforter.

By Sylvia Blacksell

Recently I read and I quote: “Christians are a huge family – spread to the four corners of the earth. It is the biggest family the world has ever known” (Quote Barnabas Aid July/August 2019).

When I stopped to think about it I realised more and more what a privilege and honour we all have to belong to the family of God all connected and joined together from every nation and culture and language through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I remember as a child growing up and as a young person in our big family of seven we were given responsibilities and things we had to do and especially to and for each other.

We were taught to help and support and love each other.

And to “look out for each other”, and we did (not always perfectly or lovingly though).

When I became a Christian and became part of a much bigger family, I found that according to the Bible that responsibilities also applied. E.g. “Love one another” and much, much more, for instance.

Galatians 6:10 says “As we have therefore opportunity let us do good unto all mem especially unto them who are of the household (Family of God) of faith”.

I believe our church has always been very generous and active in this area regarding missions, mission trips and gifts. However, a big part of our larger family is suffering at the hands of evil people causing severe physical, emotional and mental problems. They are lonely, destitute and hungry in some of the world most hostile regions.

“We may never meet them in this earthly life, but they are still our brothers and sisters.” How can we love, support, and “look out for them”? (Quote: Barnabas.)

Thank you church for praying for our precious brothers and sisters as the Bible tell us to “as we have opportunity”.

“To do good to all mem especially to them who are of the family of faith”.

Prayer is good and pleasing to God when we pray for one another, especially the poor and the needy.

Prayer changes things doesn’t it? And it is so desperately needed.

Turn Your Eyes

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Acts 3:1-10

3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

So, this is an event that occurs after the miraculous coming of the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This was a time of the shift from the old covenant to the new covenant. Jesus has come and ushered in the time of, what is deemed as the Messianic age.

Jesus had changed everything. In Him, through what He did on the cross, He brought hope for the hopeless, release for those in bondage, restoration for the broken. Then He returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit came and He empowered Christ-followers in new and amazing ways.

Now we see that Peter and John are heading up to the temple at the time of prayer. This is an ordinary event that is being depicted here. But it is an ordinary event that has an extraordinary outcome.

On this journey, as we read, there was an encounter between Peter and John and a crippled man. The record of this event has a double perspective that we can relate to. We can relate to Peter and John, look at what happens when Christ-followers are empowered by the Holy Spirit. We can also relate to the crippled man, with the breakthrough and victory in Jesus’ name that he experiences. This latter perspective is what we will focus on as we delve a little deeper into the events of this true story.

I want to point out 3 elements of this situation – Make eye contact – Extravagant Praise – The power of testimony.

1. Make Eye Contact

Peter and John spot this lame man. They notice this man. They noticed this man’s situation. They chose to step in. They call to the man and ask him to respond to them “Look at us!” they say.

Sometimes we find ourselves in terrible, awkward, tricky, painful, restrictive, depressing situations. We are needing God to step in. God does notice you. He does see your situation. And He is calling and asking something of us.

“Look at me!” We are called to turn our attention to our LORD and saviour.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)

To the crippled man’s credit, he turns his attention toward Peter and John. The ESV says that “…he fixed his attention on them…” He might have had ulterior motives for fixing his attention. I am sure that he thought that he was going to get some financial support. He turned and paid attention to the ones that were calling out to him.

We need to make sure that we are turning our attention to God when we are in need. Even if our expectation is different to what he has on offer. We need to turn our eyes to Jesus.

2. Extravagant Praise

Peter and John declare that the miracle is done in the name of Jesus. Which occurs immediately. Their authority is given to them from the one they follow. Jesus is the one that heals the man of his condition. And the lame man responds accordingly.

Look at verses 7 & 8 again. He leaps and he walks and continues going to the temple and continues to leap. While he is going, he is praising God. He is now declaring who it is that has healed him.

This man becomes a walking prophecy. Isaiah in his prophetic writings about the Messianic age pointed to this occurring: Isaiah 35:5-6 (NIV) This man is now the fulfillment of prophecy, but he is also now prophesying about Jesus. He is drawing attention to the power, authority, and reality of Jesus.

It is so easy to receive a miracle and quietly treasure it for ourselves. But there is power in receiving from the LORD and what He is doing, then making sure that all those around you know about it. What better way to share the gospel than to say “Look at what the LORD has done for me.”

3. The Power of Testimony

The interesting thing is that Luke (the author of Acts) records people’s responses. This amazing thing has happened. And people witness the effect on this man.

Verse 9 tells us that people witnessed this man who was a cripple walking around, but they also witnessed him praising God. People would have been familiar with this man. Many of them would have walked past him at the temple gates, possibly even three times a day. Yet now they see this crippled man walking toward the temple by on his own strength. And they were filled with wonder, amazement at what had happened.

No one can argue against your experience. They might challenge it, to justify their life choices. But you know what you experienced. When we say that God made a miracle of our life, nothing can be said to discredit it. And without a doubt, it will challenge people’s views of God.

There is power in sharing our Testimony of God.

Jesus is walking with us saying “Hey! Turn your eyes to me.” And we can choose to turn our eyes to Jesus, or we can choose to stay focused on our circumstances.

However, we need to be intentional in hearing the call of Jesus and responding, by Turning our Eyes, our focus, on Jesus.

When you feel damaged turn your eyes upon Jesus. When you feel hopeless, turn your eyes upon Jesus. When you feel trapped, turn your eyes upon Jesus. When you feel like nothing will ever change, turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Breakthrough and Victory is just a look or focus on Him away.

In faith, hope and love
Steve and Cass Abram

Remember – Heb 13:3

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Dear Church,

We stand on the threshold of another Christmas and as we plan and prepare, and shop and wrap the last of our gifts, and hope we have remembered everyone, and that we are ready in time for Christmas day with our families.

A wonderful day celebrating Jesus’ birth. The day that changed the world our saviour was born.

It’s a day of remembering the birth, life, and His death and resurrection, and all that it means to us here and now as believers.

But there is something else for us to remember.

In Hebrews, written to Christians for Christian believers – Chapter 13:3

We read,

“Remember them that are in prison as being there with them; and them who suffer adversity as being yourselves in the Body (of Christ, the church)”.

“Remember” in this context is an action word.

What does it mean to us?

I believe it means to pray and intercede for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted and afflicted and help them in whatever way we can.

Persecution is more intense and destructive with much pain and suffering around Christmas for these dear ones. As the Word tells us to, could you please remember to pray for them?

As we enjoy being with our families and friends, as we celebrate Jesus, let us remember those who are isolated from their families and suffering because of their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They are precious in His sight and very dear to His heart.

Enjoy Christmas. Celebrate Jesus.

Blessings,

Love,
Sylvia

Just a Crumb

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Here is the message that I gave at Turning Point: KooWeeRup. This is a message of hope that no matter what it is that you are going through Our God is more than enough for you.

Matt 15:21-28
21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children›s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters› table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Let’s get a quick overview of the first 20 verses of this chapter and look at how this story sits in this chapter’s narrative.

At the start of chapter 15, some of the Pharisees and Scribes ask Jesus why He doesn’t require His disciples to follow the traditions of cleansing established by the Israelite elders.

Jesus is frustrated by the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees. Basically, Jesus calls these men hypocrites, stating ‘For the sake of tradition you have made the word of God void!’ He then quotes from the prophet Isaiah ‘This people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

The Pharisees were offended, and the disciples let Jesus know the men were offended. To which Jesus tells the disciples that these Pharisees and teachers of the law think they have sight, but they are blind. These Pharisees thought they knew it all. The thought Jesus should appreciate how they lived and who they were. But Jesus actually thought they didn’t know anything, and He didn’t appreciate what they were doing because they were leading people astray. They honoured God with their lips but not their hearts.

The greatest hindrance to the faith of the Pharisees was that they thought that they deserved peoples respect and the love of God. It’s not about deserving it, it’s not about our own righteousness. It’s about the grace and mercy of God. God loves us even though we don’t deserve it. Eph 2:8-9 (NIV) 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Now we start to see something in contrast to this situation with the Pharisees. Jesus withdraws from the opposition of the Pharisees in Galilee and moves into the Gentile communities of Tyre and Sidon. Jesus and His disciples are now in pagan territory. While there, Jesus was approached by a Canaanite woman (or Syrophoenician woman) who needs help.

By stating that she is Canaanite, the author is acknowledging her ancestry. She was a descendant from Israel’s ancient enemies. Let’s look at how this woman, who appears to be an enemy of God responds to Jesus.

The Woman Makes a Petition

News has spread far and wide about Jesus and the miracles he was performing. This woman would have been more familiar with the pagan god Eshmun, the pagan god of healing. But she goes to Jesus, declaring ‘Lord, son of David.’

Now, we need to understand that she is not acknowledging Jesus’ divinity. She is purely saying ‘You are a teacher from the line of David.’ But also trying to show some familiarity and knowledge of who He is.

What does Jesus do? He ignores her.

How many times, when we need help, do we give up when we feel like God is silent? We present our case or petition, we don’t here yes or no, but we give up.

We need to petition God, but not leave it there.

The Woman is Persistent

The woman keeps crying out. She keeps hassling Jesus and His disciples. It gets so bad that the disciples come to Jesus and ask Him to do whatever it takes to get rid of this woman. Jesus answers the disciples, within earshot of the women, saying that His focus at this point was to minister to the Jewish nation.

This does not put the women off. She now falls at the feet of Jesus. Her persistence drove her to her knees at the feet of Jesus.

If we give up and don’t persist, then we will probably never find ourselves at the feet of Jesus.

We make our petition known, but never persist long enough to get to His feet. When we get to His feet, it does two things. It shows humility and dependence, which gets the attention of Jesus. Do you need the attention of Jesus? Get to His feet.

The Woman touches the heart

Now the whole situation changes. The woman is now communicating directly to Jesus. ‘LORD help me!’ she cries.

Jesus now uses an interesting analogy. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Jews would insult gentile people by referring to them as dogs. The word kuon depicted a wild, homeless scavenger dog who fed off others. But that is not what Jesus says to this woman. He uses a much more affectionate term. Kynarion means little puppy or domestic dog. Jesus is saying “I am not against you, but I must tend to the children first.”

The response of the woman is so profound that it touches the heart of Jesus. ‘Can’t I even have some of the crumbs that fall from the table?’ We can only imagine how that response of faith warmed the heart of Jesus. Having dealt with these Pharisees and Scribes, seeing that they had all the knowledge yet having no faith and relationship with God. Now He comes into the land of pagans and he witnesses such faith. Look at the response of Jesus “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the business of our own lives and we start to think ‘God can’t possibly help me.’ The reality is that it only takes a crumb from God to change your situation.

Conclusion

We all have struggles, some physical, some emotional and some spiritual. It’s in these times that we need to petition, persist and speak to the heart of God. Because for you to receive healing for your situation, all you need is the crumb.

Maybe you feel like you’re struggling physically, emotionally or spiritually. Maybe you even feel like it is too much for God. Let me encourage you. You may not need God to lift every burden, just the heaviest ones. You may not need Him to move every mountain, just the highest ones. You don’t need God to give you the whole loaf, just a crumb.

Regardless of what you are facing in your life today, the answer will be found in Him! He can move your mountain; Meet your need; save your soul; forgive your sins; touch your loved ones; heal your body.

Bring it to Jesus who cares. 1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you.

 

In faith, hope and love

Steve and Cass Abram

God’s Love is Steadfast

Read Psalm 107:1-16

This Psalm was a song written to express gratitude as the people of Judah returning from being exiled in Babylon.

This Psalm records a similar cycle to that of the book of Judges.
• Israel betrays God.
• God allows the consequences of poor decision making to come upon Israel.
• The people call out to God for deliverance.
• God saves and redeems His people.

But what we see here are two major themes.
1. God’s love endures forever.
2. This love is the foundation for a heart of gratitude. Thankfulness.

In the first half of the Psalm, we see two different situations where God displays His enduring love.

1. The Wanderer (v4-9)

Some of the exiles would be more correctly described as refugees. After Babylon took Jerusalem, there were those who fled Judah and left as refugees. Some of these refugees were attacked by Edom, as they fled.

This sets the scene for what this part of the Psalm deals with. We read that there were those who wandered in the desert, with no city to dwell in. They hungered, thirsted and grew faint. Which was ultimately self-inflicted. They made poor decisions and choices. They were independent not dependent on God.

This is depicting a barren, lonely and unstable/ uncertain way of life. Maybe that’s a place that you feel that you’re in. Maybe you feel that all you are experiencing barrenness, loneliness, and instability.

2. The Prisoner (v10-16)

Some of the exiles were taken captive. They were held as prisoners. This is a result of rebelling against God. They rebelled which lead to the bondage of labour.

These were people that were alone with no help, held captive by the situation of their life, with no ability to see a way out. Once again this was self-inflicted. They made poor decisions and choices. They were reaping the harvest of what they sowed.

Maybe you feel captive in a situation. That might be to do with your employment, or your relationships, your finances, your own emotions.

In both these situations, we read that there is hope. The wanderers and the prisoners call out to the LORD. Here is where the enduring love comes in.

God didn’t condemn them. He didn’t say “I told you so.” He didn’t say “I can’t help you because you didn’t come to me first.” All he did was wait patiently for His children to call on Him and depend on Him. Then He moved to restore and heal them. All because of His love.

Calling on God in this way is a call of humility, where pride is stripped away, and we stop trying to solve the problem ourselves. We let God redeem us.

God’s love redeems the barren, the lonely, the isolated, the unsustained soul, the captive, the rebellious. Our God is all about relationship and restoration. He is about faithfulness and loyalty to His people, even when His people aren’t faithful to Him.

So, what are we to do with this?

Give thanks to the LORD for His steadfast love endures forever. This Psalm lays out situations that are hard to be thankful for. This is where we need to understand what we are being thankful for.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 instructs us to: 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Paul calls us to give thanks ‘IN’ all circumstances, not ‘FOR’ every circumstance. What are we being thankful ‘FOR’ ‘IN’ every circumstance? We need to be thankful for God’s steadfast and enduring love. For His ever-present mercy that He shows us, even when we let Him down.

Life brings about many different types of distress, whether out of our hands or self-inflicted. Yet God brings us out of all of them when we call out to him. He is faithful to His children. Our calling out to Him is an acknowledgment of our dependence on Him. We can’t get ourselves out of situations in our own strength.

We should thank God because He restores and redeems us when we become dependent on him.

Do you feel like a wanderer in the wilderness?

Do you feel like a prisoner to something?

God wants you to turn to Him. Let Him be your deliverer. Break out of an independent frame of mind.

As we learn to give thanks in every circumstance, we will find that overcoming will be our natural state. Not because we are strong enough, but because our God is more than strong enough.

 

In faith, hope, and love

Steve and Cass Abram

Take up my cross?

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What does it mean to be a Christian? Well, it means that we have accepted Jesus as our LORD and Saviour. Being saved by Grace through faith alone. Does it stop there? Is that the only requirement? It is all there is for salvation, but it is also just the start of a faith journey and relationship with Jesus. The next stage is being a Christ-follower. This is about following in the footsteps of Jesus, following His example that He set for us.

Does Jesus say what this should look like?

Luke 9:23-27
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

If you look back further in this chapter Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. This leads into Jesus’ foretelling of His death, which He uses to talk about what it means to be a Christ-follower.

Jesus says “If ANYONE” would follow Him. Jesus is talking to the disciples, yet, He is addressing this to everyone. The cost of following Him is two-fold, so let’s look at what the cost of being a Christ-follower is:

Deny yourself (V23)

Jesus is saying that being a Christ-follower is more than just giving up a few things, it’s not about only denying some things. What Jesus was talking about was denying personal control of your life. Giving up your right to manage your life direction.

Why is this important, because I know that whenever I take control then my selfish nature rises to the top like the cream on fresh milk.

To be a Christ-follower we need to give over complete control to Jesus. That’s everything.

Take up your cross (V23)

The cross meant something very different to Jesus and those that He was speaking to than it does for us. This is what it meant for Jesus:

Opposition – The cross for Jesus meant that people were in opposition to Him. Think about His experience leading up to hanging on the cross. That’s some opposition right there.

Shame – Being nailed to a cross was for saved for the worst of criminals. There was a stigma attached to those who deserved this death. This meant that as the criminals as they were being led to the place would have crowds hurl abuse and objects at them. Then they were stripped naked and put on the cross. The cross was shameful.

If we are a Christ-follower, then we are going to face opposition and shame for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel

Suffering – The cross was a form of execution that was about creating suffering. Crucifixion would generally kill people through suffocation. The death was a long and painful process.

Christ-followers should expect to experience some suffering. Taking up our cross means that we will suffer for our faith and for our connection to Jesus.

Death – The ultimate purpose of the cross was to bring death. There was no coming back from the cross, once you were hung on the cross you were there till death.

We may not be called to a physical death directly because of our faith, but we are called to a death to our self (Galatians 2:20). It’s no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me.
When Jesus tells us that we are to take up our cross and follow Him, we need to know that we will experience opposition, shame, suffering and even death as a Christ-follower.

The new story

How much are you prepared to invest or even sacrifice to be a Christ-follower? How much are you prepared to give for your relationship with God? These are important questions for us.

I am sure that after this speech Jesus gave, people were jumping up desperate to be a Christ-follower. But it doesn’t end there. You see, although the cross was about death, the cross of Jesus is not the end of the story.

Being called to take up our cross is an invitation to know that opposition, shame, suffering, and death do not have the final say in our lives. When we experience opposition, shame and suffering we know that Jesus has been there before us. People who embody opposition, shame and suffering in our lives don’t have the final say. They don’t define us.

Jesus has the final say in our life, he is the one who defines us amid all these trials and experiences. This is where the mystery of the cross steps in. You see, something like the cross that was opposition, shame, suffering, and death is now flipped on its head. We no longer view the cross in this way, we see the cross as life.

Jesus turned the cross from a symbol of death to a symbol of life. He made this a hopeful message. We need to choose Jesus.

We need to choose His life. Taking up our cross means that what is death is life for us.

We will experience hardships in our life for the sake of Christ, that is a lot of being a Christ-follower. Our victory is in Christ, even in the midst of our trials and sufferings.

Whatever you go through, whatever you experience this is not the end of your story, it is an opportunity to grow more and more in love with our LORD and saviour Jesus. Will you take up your cross and follow Him? With all the sacrifice that requires, but thankfully with all the benefits it also brings. There is hope.

Don’t let death have the final say, let Jesus have the final say in your life.

In faith, hope, and love

Steve and Cass Abram