A Cross, Not a Stone Because Jesus Came to Set Us Free, Not Be Set Free

Easter Tuesday ~ Everything could've been different, but God required a Cross, Not a Stone ~ Jesus Came to Set us Free, Not to be Set Free (Featuring "Freedom" by Michael W. Smith)

A Cross or a Stone?

Everything could’ve been different—horribly tragically different—if God hadn’t intervened. 

Whew!

One of the first lessons we learn in church is that Jesus came to set us free from sin and He accomplished it through His death on the cross. 

But did you know God chose the time, place and manner of Jesus’ death before the foundations of the world? 

And that man tried to change it with some stones?

For years, I never stopped to think about all the complex orchestration and maneuvering Christ’s crucifixion required. 

As man moved, God moved because He required a cross, not a stone, and Jesus came to set us free, not to be set free. 

Let’s consider just a few of the main events God had to coordinate.

But first, for your listening pleasure, hit the play button on Michael W. Smith’s song “Freedom” from his Freedom album. It could be the soundtrack to Jesus’ life.

The Red Thread of Jesus via JeanWilund.com

The Red Thread of Jesus via JeanWilund.comStone Him!

A short time before the week leading up to the cross, Christ enraged the Jewish leaders.

He claimed equality with God. 

Them’s fightin’ words by Jewish law. Stoning words, to be exact. 

“anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them…”
~ Leviticus 24:16a

The Jewish leaders declared utmost loyalty to the Law of Moses. Moses was The Man to them.

But even with their devotion to God’s laws passed down to Moses, the hardness of their hearts blinded them to the truth standing before them.

They refused to see Jesus, the Christ, for who He really is—God in the flesh. Messiah, come to save them from sin.

Thus, those loyal leaders faced Jesus and bowed low to the ground—but not to worship—to pick up stones. 

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
~ John 10:33

But God Required a Cross, Not a Stone

God had already predetermined that Jesus would be crucified on the cross, even before Roman crucifixion was a thing. Even before being Roman was a thing. 

Long ago, through their hero Moses, God had pointed to Christ on the cross. 

“The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
~ Numbers 21:8 

The Red Thread of Jesus via JeanWilund.com

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;”
~ John 3:14

Through the prophet Zechariah, God had revealed how Christ would die.

“…they will look on Me whom they have pierced…”
~ Zechariah 12:10

The leaders picked up stones and set out to kill Jesus, but fortunately, God is not hindered by man’s plans.

“…they tried to seize Him, but He escaped their grasp.”
~ John 10:39

Not even a crowd can hold onto one man if that one man is the Son of Man. 

Two other times Jesus slipped away from those who wanted to kill Him before His appointed time, place, and manner. (John 7:30, Luke 4:30)

No one could lay a hand on Jesus at that time because God required a cross, not a stone.

Jesus Came to Set Us Free, Not Be Set Free

The Jewish leaders had tried to kill Jesus before His hour had come. 

The Roman Governor, Pilate, tried to do the opposite. He tried to set Jesus free.

So Pilate said to Him [Jesus], “You do not speak to me?
Do You not know that I have authority to release You,
and I have authority to crucify You?”

The Red Thread of Jesus via JeanWilund.com

Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me,
unless it had been given you from above . . .”
As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him . . .
~ John 19:10-12a

Jesus’ words transformed Pilate from speaking with boldness and arrogance about his great authority to quaking in his Roman sandals.

Pilate had set out to put Jesus in His place. Jesus showed Pilate that His place is above all earthly rulers.

It seems Pilate grasped this truth enough to make “efforts to release Him.” 

When you’re one of the heads of the government in Jerusalem, that shouldn’t be too difficult, unless the Head over All intervenes.

God moved because Jesus came to set us free, not to be set free. 

Christ Had an Appointment With The Cross He Couldn’t Miss

God wouldn’t allow Pilate to cancel Jesus’ appointment with the cross even though Pilate was right. Jesus wasn’t guilty of any wrong.

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”
~ Luke 23:4

The Red Thread of Jesus via JeanWilund.com

And Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.
~ Luke 23:14

The Red Thread of Jesus via JeanWilund.com

And he [Pilate] said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”
~ Luke 23:22

All through the last week of Christ’s life, God moved each of the players into place so our relationship with Him could be restored. 

If Jesus had been killed before the appointed time, place, or manner, or if He’d been set free and not crucified, we’d be lost today.

Everything would be different.

We’d be without our Savior, and we’d have a God who wasn’t able to save us. 

We’d be without hope. 

But God is able, and we do have a Savior—a crucified and risen Savior.

We’ve been set free because Jesus wasn’t.

for truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.
~ Acts 4:27-28

If God Can Orchestrate Christ’s Life, He Can Orchestrate Yours

At times, it looked like God’s plan was falling apart. But He never lost control.

God worked all things out perfectly for our good and His glory.

But sometimes even God’s perfect plan involves pain and heartache for a good purpose that we, unfortunately, don’t always get to understand this side of heaven.

Let’s not lose heart when we feel like the plan for our life must be falling apart.

Pray and trust God to work in His time.

Look to Him for your next step.

God never fails. 

The Red Thread of Jesus via JeanWilund.com

Share this post with your friends and family and join me tomorrow as we move through Easter week to Resurrection Day. 

God required a #cross, not a stone, & Jesus came to set us free, not to be set free. #Easter Click To Tweet

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Monday Music ~ 3 Truths To Remember In the EYE OF THE STORM

Always remember, God is always in control. Watch Ryan Stevenson's music video Eye of the Storm as part of our "Storm Training."

The Eye of the Storm

Ah, the eye of the storm.

That happy, calm place after Armageddon seems to have broken loose and before it’s about to get all crazy again.

A storm may have knocked us upside down for the moment, and we’re thinking “ain’t nobody got time for that.” But God hasn’t been knocked anywhere, especially off His throne.

If you’re feeling all alone in the eye of a storm, remember these three truths:

1. When no one is around to remind you God is in control, God is and He will.

We’re not alone. God’s always with us and always in control.

And this isn’t our battle. It’s God’s.

He’s working in us, drawing and empowering us to trust Him before, during and after the battle.

Philippians 2:13 tells us God will give us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. Hebrews 11:6 tells us we can’t please God without faith.

Thus, it seems clear He’s the one who’ll give us the faith we need in all stages of the storm. But we have to walk in the faith He gives. He won’t do that part for us. 

Faith is only useful when it’s used.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13 NLT).

2. When no one you know is praying for you, Jesus can and He is.

After I placed my faith in Christ, I spent a few years far from Him. Since I was raised in a non-Christian home, my parents neither noticed nor cared whether I followed Christ or not.

They weren’t praying for me, but Christ was interceding. And He drew me back by His grace and love.

Every time I’ve struggled or rebelled, He’s interceded and drawn me back. 

Other times, when I didn’t give in to the temptations or frustrations, I know it’s because His prayers anchored me in truth, and I chose to stay put, surrounded by His love rather than setting sail for other shores.

And when my heart is broken over my child or another loved one, I know Christ is interceding, even if no one else is. 

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 NASB).

3. When no one can comfort you, the Holy Spirit can and He will.

Always remember these 3 truth when you're in the eye of the storm. And watch Ryan Stevenson's music video Eye of the StormI was having a particularly hard “I miss my girls” day last week since one left for Hawaii and the other for college. I was at the grocery store and didn’t want anyone to see me weepy.

Why the grocery store?! I don’t know. I probably saw one of their old favorite foods.

The situation isn’t changing anytime soon, and that can be depressing.

But then the Holy Spirit reached through my sadness. He comforted me, reminding me Christ’s compassionate love is enough to hold me through my deepest hurts. And it was — and is.

He guards our soul with His power and Truth.

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26 NASB).

Ryan Stevenson’s Eye of the Storm

In his song Eye of the StormRyan Stevenson reminds us of the truths we need to remember about God when the storm hits.

Sound a little like what we’ve been talking about lately?

A Storm is Coming: What You Absolutely Need to Know Before Your World Explodes (Training — Part 1)

Train in the Calm Before the Storm so You’ll be Calm in the Storm (Training — Part 2)

Yeah, I thought so, too.

3 Truths to Remember in the #EyeOfTheStorm @ryansmusic #GodIsInControl Click To Tweet

The Never-ending List of the Character Traits of God is coming up next. Seriously. 




Hail to the Chief! Oh My! (How Not to Dread This Political Season)

Psalm 52:6 - But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.

 

I always dread this season.

Not the fall season or football season. I love those.

I dread the political season.

We get to see the worst in people and then elect one of them to become our nation’s leader.

Hail to the Chief! Whoopee!

But it’s not all bad news.

When all is said and done, God is the one who chooses our president, because He’s the real Chief. And we can trust Him completely.

Even as this 2016 election season gets more insane, we can trust in the steadfast love of God forever.

We can be like a green olive tree.

I realize being compared to an olive tree isn’t necessarily the clearest of comforts if you’re like me and have lived with oak trees and Bradford pears, but never with olive trees.

Let me explain:

I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.

Olive trees live a long time. Some over 2,000 years.

They withstand drought and storms well, unlike the sensitive, fragile Bradford pear trees.

Bradford pears can’t handle much. They crack and fall under pressure. 

America needs to stop acting like a Bradford pear and get back to being an olive tree. 

But it’ll only happen when we get back to following Christ as a nation.

I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.

Infinitely stronger than any olive tree, God’s love lasts forever.

No matter how crazy our world gets, or if America ever turns back to Christ or not, God never changes.

Remember that during this changing, bizarro political season.

~ Psalm 52:8

 

God doesn’t always choose a president who follows Him, but He always chooses the one that fits His purposes.

Sometimes God determines we need a president who inspires us to become a greater nation.

Other times we need a president who shakes us up and makes us realize how far we’ve fallen from pursuing and loving God.

This season we apparently need more than just a regular shake up. Oh my!

I know America needs to turn back to God, but I don’t have a clue how to make that happen.

But God does. And He can, and He will, if that’s His plan.

Unfortunately, we don’t know if that’s His plan. He left it out of the Bible.

No matter. God’s made it clear we simply need to pray, trust, and follow Him–the One who knows it all.

He’s not worried or scrambling. He’s calmly working for our good and His glory.

We might need a microscope to see it in our country right now, but when He’s got all the players and pieces in place, the world will see and know that there’s a God in heaven, and He loves us with an everlasting love.

The political season will never be my favorite season, but we don’t have to dread it when we remember who really runs our country and our world.

Hail to the real Chief–our Almighty, All-knowing, and All-loving God!

AMEN!


Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings; [and presidents] . . .”
~ Daniel 2:20-21 NASB

Hail to the Chief! Oh My! (How Not to Dread This Political Season) #Elections #GodIsSovereign Click To Tweet


How have you been encouraged this political season? Share in the comments. Thanks!




Laughter Through the Hard Times of Parenting (While My Child is Away ~ Part 4)

Laughter Through the Hard Times of Parenting. Learn how best to pray while your child is away in While My Child is Away (a book by Edie Melson) Interview by Jean Wilund

Parenting Will Make You Cry

Parenting will make you cry — tears of sorrow and tears of laughter.

Edie Melson, author of While My Child is Away: Prayers for When We Are Apart, and her husband try to look at life through the lens of laughter.

This mindset made a big impact on one of their boys late, late one night.

As teenage boys will do, one of their sons got into trouble in the middle of the night. When he realized he’d been seen, he ran away in the snow. Much to his surprise, they caught him.

The boy ran away in the snow and couldn’t figure out how they tracked him down?

When Edie and Kirk picked their son up around 3:00 AM, they could’ve been irate. But the humor of his shock over having been caught so easily was just too funny. They burst out laughing.

Their son later told them that was the day they became “the best parents ever.”

“I’m not suggesting we become our kids’ best friends,” Edie said, “but enjoying life together is important. Our kids need to see us relax.”

Laughter Produced by Joy

During a time when depression had snuffed out my joy, I still laughed from time to time. It felt great. But it never lasted.

Eventually, God taught me the comfort and power of His sovereignty even in the midst of deep sorrow. And that gave birth to more than laughter. It gave birth to joy.

With joy squishing out my anxiety, laughter came much easier–even in the hardest times.

Joy is Titanium Tough

Joy is titanium tough and enables us to laugh even when we’re picking up our son at 3:00 AM in the morning.

Worry weighs down our spirits. It can’t fix our problems or improve anything, but it’s great at making us miserable. Worry draws our attention away from God’s voice and opens the way to depression.

Joy lightens our spirits and helps keep our minds clear to hear from God. It strengthens us to face the challenges ahead with laughter rather than anxiety.

Joy is a Choice

Joy and worry are a choice we make. Which will we choose?

Edie encourages us to pray for God to teach our children how to choose joy.


Choose Joy

by Edie Melson

Your success and happiness lies in you.
Resolved to keep happy,
and your joy and you
shall form an invincible host
against difficulties.

~ Helen Keller

Dear Lord, as my child grows he’s going to go through times of hopelessness. When those struggles come, don’t let him get so bogged down in circumstances it affects his attitude. Show him how to hold onto his joy in spite of difficulties.

Draw him even closer to You when these times come. Make him hungry for you and for reading the Bible. I know how spending time reading Your Word makes such a difference in my life. Give him the same experience. So often we look for complicated answers when the truth is as simple as opening a book.

Use these times to teach him that joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. Our joy comes from You, and there are no circumstances too big for You. Help him learn this lesson early.

Surround him with others who can share this truth. Give them insight about what he needs to hear from them, and how they can help him adjust his attitude. Remind him that nothing is too big or too small for You. Amen.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~ Romans 15:13 NASB


Edie Melson, author of While My Soldier ServesEdie Melson is the mother of three grown boys and the author of several books, including While My Soldier Serves: Prayers for Those With Loved Ones in the Military. A sought-after writing instructor, Edie serves as the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. Connect with her on her blog The Write Conversation at www.EdieMelson.com, Twitter, and Facebook. Edie and her husband live in Simpsonville, South Carolina.


Laughter Through the Hard Times of Parenting - We need it! #Stop2Pray #Pray4MyChild @EdieMelson Click To Tweet




When God Clears the Mist

When God Clears the Mist of Our Understanding (Music Video: Who Am I? by Casting Crown)

We don’t always know what God’s up to. His ways can seem confusing, almost misty.

Sometimes He parts the mist and reveals what He’s doing.

Other times, He asks us to walk by faith, not by sight.

No matter how confused we may be about God’s ways, we can walk in confidence that He knows how to lead us — even in the dark.

My friend Traci Burns was living in a dark, swirling mist of questions after her daughter Anna’s accident, until one day:


When God Clears the Mist

by Traci Burns

I often wondered why I was not home when Anna’s accident occurred. — why my husband and I were hours away.  

Months after Anna’s accident I got my answer.

Before I continue, I would like to share a thought:

The way Jesus showed up for me may not be the same way He shows up for you.

Jesus knows what’s best for us.

He created us.

He loves us.

As you continue to read, please keep these truths in mind.  

One night, I was sleeping and woke up at just about the time Anna’s accident had taken place.  

I lay in my bed and two thoughts came to my mind.

What if I had been home the night Anna had her accident?  

What would I have done when the highway patrolman knocked on my door or rang my doorbell?  

I knew exactly what I would have done.

I would have gotten to Anna as fast as I could.  

I would have seen the scene of the accident.  

I would have seen my precious daughter.  

By every account, Anna died instantly when her truck went off the interstate. If I was home and had gone to Anna, there’s nothing I could’ve done.

AND, THEN I KNEW.  

I knew why I had been with my dear friends in Atlanta instead of at home when the accident happened.

ANNA WAS ALREADY WITH JESUS!  

Jesus knows me, and He knew if I had gone to the accident scene and seen my precious daughter I’d have those images etched in my memory forever.  

Jesus spared me that scene and that memory.  

He even took me hours away to accomplish this.  

But, He didn’t stop there. He also placed me with dear friends who showered me with love and comfort when I got the news.  

Anna and I had spoken on the telephone the night before her accident, and the last words we said to each other were, “I love you,” and “I love you too”.  

THAT is the memory I’ll always have.

The lyrics to Casting Crown’s song Who I Am reflect my thoughts about Christ’s love for me and what He did for me in my darkest moment.

It’s the same love He has for you.


 When #God Clears the Mist of Our Understanding. Who Am I? by #CastingCrowns Click To Tweet




Waiting & Wondering Are Agonizing. God is Amazing!

Waiting can be agonizing. Waiting and wondering can be torture. But God is absolutely amazing! He'll show up in ways and places you don't expect. (www.JeanWilund.com)

Waiting can be agonizing. Waiting and wondering can be torture. But God is absolutely amazing!

Yesterday God blew me away with His kindness and His ways in the midst of agonized waiting and wondering.

He doesn’t always answer me in miraculous ways. Sometimes He doesn’t seem to answer me at all. When He doesn’t, He’s no less amazing, loving, kind or powerful.

But when He does, I have to shout it out. So here it is:

I woke up yesterday with a heavy heart I couldn’t shake.

I tried.

I reminded myself of the wonderful truths of God’s sovereignty, kindness, and power.

How can a heavy heart stand in the face of that?

I’ll tell you:

When you love something or someone with your whole being, at times God’s sovereignty, kindness and power can seem to pale in the face of them or it.

Missing someone.

Worrying about IT.

Waiting for the results.

Wondering how to face the results.

Waiting and wondering. Bleh!

Yes, I realize how vague that all sounded, but I hope you understand what I mean. If you’ve experienced this, you do. If you haven’t, you will.

Waiting can be agonizing.

I’ll see my child again in seven months.

Waiting and wondering is torture.

Will I always have to settle for seeing her once a year?

It’s easy for our minds to run away with us and act stupid. It condemns us for what we didn’t do. Or did do and shouldn’t have done. Or should we have? Yes. No. I don’t know.

With my heavy heart, I got ready to teach Bible at the Dayschool. I didn’t want to go. I LOVE the kids and teaching them, but Ugh, I didn’t want to teach with this heavy heart.

As I drove to the school, I told God, I need a hug.  I decided I’d walk straight to my friend Bev’s desk and get that hug.

The copier man foiled my plan.

Seriously? You have to fix the copier by her desk right now?

How can I stand next to some strange man and ask my friend for a hug? Nope. I’d look like a weirdo. Not doing it.

I told God, Fine, I’ll do without a hug. I’ll stand on Your great promises instead that You’ve got everything right where You want it. I’ll find my comfort in You alone. 

I wish I could tell you that joy instantly returned.

But, then the kids walked into the class, and OH MY! I’m sure you all think your kids are amazing — and they are — but have you seen these?

The two-year old class alone is like a shot of pure love straight into the veins. There’s nothing like walking into a room of little munchkins as they run up shouting your name with delight. To say they’re adorable is almost an insult.

After I taught my three classes, I felt better. But once I left the kids, IT still hung over my heart.

Normally after I teach, I leave. Yesterday I had to stay to begin setting up for a Ladies’ Brunch we’re hosting this weekend.

My friend Karen and I worked together until she had to leave. I laughed and had a good time. But IT still hung over my heart.

As I continued working alone, a banging sound by the side doors startled me.

My friend Toni stumbled in with two cumbersome guitar cases strapped to her shoulders. The self-closing door tried to pancake her.

Toni said, “Jean, I wanted to come tell you thank you. You’re making a difference, and I wanted to give you a hug.”

I could barely respond as I soaked in her warm hug. I must have looked like an idiot. 

Normally I’d have been home by then, not still in the church.

How did she even know I was in the sanctuary?

She couldn’t know I’d told God I needed a hug.

I barely responded from the shock. Think Stupid Stare.

And then, OH MY!

Toni walked out the doors, but turned and walked back in. “Also, I wanted to tell you that I’ve been praying . . .” And then she began to say everything my heart had been heavy about.

Stupid Stare turned into Blubbering Idiot.

I hadn’t talked with anyone but God this morning about my heavy heart. No one even knew I had a heavy heart.

It vanished in that instant. The hug had lifted it. But now it was GONE.

It felt like God had walked into the room Himself and said, “I know, Jean. And you need to know I care. I’ve got this. And I’ve got you.”

He moved Toni to walk in to hug me and tell me about her prayers.

Even before I awoke, He’d moved in Toni to pray for me. She prayed in the middle of the night.

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
~ Isaiah 65:24

As if that wasn’t enough . . .

As I was leaving, my dear friend Traci walked up. All week I’d wanted to be able to give her a hug on the 14th (yesterday) because it’s the anniversary of her sweet daughter Anna’s Homegoing.

(If you haven’t read Traci’s posts about Anna, you want to! Click this link and scroll to the bottom to read the first in the series: Traci Burns)

We hugged. She then told me how God had been encouraging her.

Yes, He’d been telling her the same thing I’d been asking God to do in me as I prayed to be freed from my heavy heart.

Of course I immediately regaled her with the morning’s events.

I drove off with the most joy-filled heart.

Then . . . yes, then . . .

Part of my heavy heart was missing my daughter Brittany terribly and feeling hopelessly far from her.

While juggling potted plants at the Midlands Flower Festival (a little bit of heaven, I must say), I accidentally FaceTimed her. I have no idea how! My phone was “locked.”

I quickly hung up. Then she FaceTimed me back, but I thought I’d done it again, so I hung up again.

Then I realized she’d FaceTimed me, so I FaceTimed her again and then hung up when I got her text. Bahaha!

She texted me to say she couldn’t talk but would call me at 9:00 pm.

Yay, except I’d be at a loud — very loud — lacrosse game.

Just so happens, she got delayed and called me right after I’d walked into my quiet house after the game. 

Stupid Stare again. All day God amazed me.

I’d woken up heavy-laden and went to bed lighter than air.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
~ Matthew 11:28

That verse was an understatement! He gave me so much more than just rest.

Why He chose to do all that for me, I have no idea. He didn’t have to. He’s that good.

Even if God hadn’t done any of it, the truth would’ve remained unchanged, though.

His love is enough, and He’s always in complete control. And He’s absolutely amazing.

If your heart is heavy today, tell Him.

He might show you His great love through someone with skin on.

Or He may encourage you to be that someone with skin on to show His love to others. You never know what He’ll do with it.

Whatever God shows you to do. Please do it. Don’t wait.

What if Toni had ignored His prompting to go hug me?

What if she decided not to come back into the room and tell me she’d been praying for me?

I’m still flying high from the wonder of His great love for me, and that He’d move in others so I could see it.

If He’d do it for me, He’ll do it for you. I promise! I could never have orchestrated all that. I’m just not that good.

And Traci and I will be telling you more about that soon. Stay tuned!

When waiting and wondering are agonizing, God is still amazing!

Waiting & Wondering Are Agonizing. God is Amazing! #GodAnswersPrayers #Hope Click To Tweet