There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24b.
When my brother and I text or email or give each other cards, one of the special things I treasure is that we both will sign off with "love, me". Of course sometimes he will sign off as "love, the superior sibling" and in playful response I reciprocate, but for the most part it is "love, me". It's a sign of intimate knowing and friendship. With siblings you can have a heart connection that is often rarer than other friendships because childhood is shared, a family is shared, play and childhood silliness is shared, real struggles no one else knows about are shared, and really great simple moments and adventures have been shared.
When we were little, about 4 and 5, we had a game we played at bed time called "friends". Each in our own rooms, we would turn on our battery operated walkie talkies and have our stuffed animals talk to each other. This was one of those really great simple things I shared with my brother. But life happens, we grow up; have other significant relationships. Adult life often naturally separates the closeness. But there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother... Jesus.
I just learned that in the time Jesus lived, there was a door protocol followed for visitors. The visitor would knock, and the person inside would say "Who?" The visitor would respond only with "I". If you recognized the voice, you opened the door and let them come in (1).
We are to recognize the voice of our friend and let them in for fellowship and partnership on that defining attribute. Their voice. God's voice has many defining attributes and by knowing Him better, we recognize his voice.
We have to get to know God's voice. When Jesus said to Peter, "It is I, do not be afraid", Peter replied, "Lord if it is you tell me to come to you on the water" (Matthew 14:28). Peter tested and wanted to clarify the voice of the one calling him to get out of the boat and walk on water. Such should be our prayer life, asking "Lord is it you telling me to..." if we are unsure. Ask and it will be given.
Here are a few of Jesus' words related to reciprocal friendship, knocking, and recognizing his voice-
Here are a few scriptures related to being unfamiliar with the voice heard or being afraid of God's voice-
Many will try to enter and not be able to... these are serious words from Jesus, friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Does God recognize your voice? Are you knocking on his door and visiting with him? Have you let him in to your heart?
In our relationship with Jesus, we need to tune to his voice. We need to be familiar with his voice. We need to test and seek out His voice. We hear his voice through the indwelling of the Spirit and in His Word, John 16:12-15. There are implications that it is absolutely critical for him to recognize our voice; and for us to follow his voice as proof of our love for him.
God hears our voice-
In prayer, let him know you want to be able to hear His voice better. Ask and keep on asking. If you feel like you haven't heard his voice in awhile, assess if there is a "last thing" he asked you to do but you did not obey. Review in your heart if you have a block; and if He is just waiting for some honest dialogue between the two of you. He is faithful and just to forgive. He longs to hear your voice. He sticks closer than a brother. He is a forever friend. He always ends with "love, Me".
(1) Wright, Fred. January 28, 1953. "Manners and Customs of Biblical Lands", pg 15.
Last week I attended 2 Passovers. One was an Orthodox Jewish ceremony led by an Orthodox Jewish rabbi; the other one was with my Christian bible study group and was led by a Messianic Jew. The contrasts were thought provoking. The translations on the significance of the Passover very distinct.
One aspect of the Christian ceremony referred to something I had learned many years ago when I attended a church service. It was the marriage proposal Jesus offered to his disciples. Are you aware he did this?
In Jewish culture as in others, marriage proposals are done in a formal way. For Jews in the time of Jesus, many steps were taken prior to the official proposal. For brevity here, the man “popped the question” at a prepared table and communicated his offer to his chosen bride through a cup of wine.
The cup offering was paired with words from the bridegroom. Jesus used those same words with his disciples at the final Passover. Hear Jesus’ proposal,
“This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you.” - Luke 22:20, Matthew 26:28
Is his offer of marriage shocking to you? If so, hopefully in a way that opens your heart bigger and wider to his love.
Our God is a romantic! His are not empty words from a slick con-artist. He is the knight in shining armor who backs up his offer with great bravery, a fierce and intentional payment procured through the shedding of his own blood poured out on the cross of suffering. He is the passionate lover willing to pay the highest price for all who accept his holy offer of eternal love and salvation!
Ray Vander Laan is a well known bible teacher who has a Christian ministry platform that focuses on revealing Jewish culture for greater scripture revelation. He helps Westerners see some of the Eastern contextual nuances completely unfamiliar to our times and modern culture. Here is what he says about the communion Christians observe-
…”every single time you sit in your fellowship or
your community in your Church, and your Elder,
your Pastor, or whoever leads the Service, turns to
you and offers you the cup, Jesus, in the language
of the culture says to you, ‘I love you’, and the
only way I can describe the depths and the passion
of that love is to say, ‘Will you be my wife?’” – Ray Vander Laan
Without a holy filter and knowledge of the undefiled marriage bed Christ offers, our human minds may be disturbed about God’s marriage proposal. But in the light of holy interpretation; and as God truly defines it within the Kingdom of Heaven, the proposal is a supernatural invitation to be with Him in Heaven. It is the supernatural marriage and family offer beyond this world. What other god offers marriage? And with such great eternal inheritance full of promise and eternal joy? None! He is God and there is no other, He is God there is none like him!
In ancient Jewish culture, after the bride accepted the proposal, the man would leave his bride for a time. He would then go to prepare a place for his new bride to live. As she would be entering a new family, new living quarters were to be prepared for the husband and wife to live. His leaving to build a home was also symbolic of her being welcomed into the Father’s house. It was symbolic that this new place was made possible only by the bridegroom’s labor and preparation. Now she was adopted by the Father as one of his own children! (Note- If you would like to read more about the ancient marriage proposal ceremony, download the article at the end of the blog.)
This is seen when Jesus says to his followers-
John 14:1-4 Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
The groom is coming back for his bride of believers! He is taking his bride to be with Him forever, to be with him in His Father’s house!
Where else did Jesus hint at a marriage proposal? If we consider Jesus’ first miracle through the context of Jewish weddings, we will see it. What was it? What did he do? What was the sign Christ gave but didn't publically explain? Who are the only ones who were aware of the miracle? I won’t give the answers, except the last one. The only ones who were privy to the miracle were the servants who obeyed the simple instructions of Jesus, plus Jesus’ mother, and also Jesus’ disciples. See the book of John, chapter 2 verses 1 to 11.
It is still the same today. The ones behind the scenes with Jesus are the ones privy to the miraculous work and offer of Christ for eternal salvation. And as those who have his revelation, we are told to invite others to the marriage ceremony.
In the parable of the Wedding Banquet, Jesus intimated that his servants are to go to the streets and invite all who will come (Matthew 22:1-14).
In this parable, he also shared a couple of very serious warnings. The warning that most catches my attention is the reference to the man who did not have on a wedding garment. He is approached by the king and asked how he got in without wedding clothes. The man is speechless and is thrown out into eternal darkness. Yikes.
Are God’s servants clear on how to deliver the wedding invitation? Are we offering any other way except Christ? How many people think they are “in” when they die? Recently I have met several Jews, a couple of Jehovah’s witnesses, and 2 college students from India who believe when they die, they are “in”. But as of right now, they do not have wedding clothes on. They would be approached by the Father and removed from the wedding celebration of the Son.
As you ponder the truths of God’s marriage proposal in prayer, ask God to bring greater revelation of his divine offer to you, his priceless payment for your soul. Ask him to show you your wedding garment. Ask Him to bring to mind an area that needs spot cleaning. Let him cleanse you, He washes us clean with His word and our heartfelt confession! So beautiful!
Ask God to help you tell people about the marriage invitation. It is a heart moving way to share the Good News of forever love with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Matthew 22:30- At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.
Ephesians 5:25-33- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
The face of God represents intimacy in scripture.
Psalm 27: 7-9 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation!…
Psalm 105:4- Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.
Being able to see God’s face is blessing not accessible via any other forms of religion. Christ is the only God who put on flesh so we could know God’s face; and not be afraid when gazing upon Him.
When in the presence of God, looking at His face, we are to be without fear of punishment and unashamed of our humble and vulnerable reliance upon Him for our salvation. No lesser things can be seen when we our face is intent upon his face. Drawing close to talk, whisper, weep, confess, sing, gaze upon, and focus on Him and him alone.
This is the heart of the first commandment which says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The literal translation of Exodus 20:3 in original Hebrew is- No other god powers will exist for you “upon my face” or “in My presence”.[i]
No other powers will exist. This is the goal of intimate prayer as God intends. No other distractions, just the healing of His breath so close to ours, no hiding from Him, naked and unashamed as He always intended. We are meant to be healed in His presence and renewed there.
It is during this season when we remember the Messiah’s walk to the cross that we have a unique opportunity to look at God’s face as he suffered and took upon himself the full wrath of God.
Christ is the face of God that we can see in our mind’s eye. In the grace and help of God’s Spirit, we can envision a brow that sweat tears of blood from severe emotional trauma. We can imagine his face feel the disgusting spit of mockers as it landed and dripped down. We can work up in ourselves seeing his face writhing in pain as it was repeatedly struck with a reed, a nose broken from blows, a head pierced with thorns, blood dripping down, blurring his vision. We can imagine the sounds of his cries from the repeated blows to his head; and his ears taking in the sounds of it all, especially public mocking. Hair pulled out, his mouth dried up, no water to quench desperate thirst, only his own blood to swallow.
Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
Matthew 27: 27-31 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe around him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head. When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
As the Good Shepherd was struck, his sheep scattered (John 10:11, Zechariah 13;7, Matthew 26:31).
When Christ was struck, what did he endure?
A man by the name of Dr. Frederick Zugibe is known as one of the world’s leading experts on the medical pathology of Christ’s crucifixion. He died in 2013. He was one of the US’s top forensic experts and chief medical examiners, who over a period of 34 years, investigated brutal homicides in Rockland County NY. His unique legacy is a full forensic investigation into what Jesus’ body and heart would have experienced based upon the Gospel’s scriptural account. His detail is a real gift. He explains Jesus sweating blood as a rare response to extreme trauma called hematidrosis. This is just one of many medical diagnosis he explains in clear, common language for the every-day person to grasp. It's an excellent resource that I pull out about this time every year, to meditate and connect with my Savior’s depth of suffering. His descriptions help you “see” and enter as an eye-witness to Christ’s path of suffering, up to the point of his last breath. If you would like to reference this resource, his book is called “The Crucifixion of Jesus- A Forensic Inquiry”.
While at the time of his crucifixion his followers scattered, that no longer has to be true. Now that we know death did not hold him, we can stay with him in that walk and look at His face. We can whisper sweet things to him and praise him. His face is the place to undo our own words of mocking and unbelief that has reached his ears. His grace is sufficient!
May you be willing to meditate on aspects of Christ’s suffering. May you be willing to admit you are one of multitude who put him on the cross, Romans 5:8. Walk with him to the cross, see the depth of His love. Let your heart be softened by breaking as an eye-witness, share in his grief, grieve with Him and then celebrate His glory displayed in the face of the risen Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6- For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.
If you want to ponder more, last years blog for Good Friday can be referenced here (Have you given God a name?)
[i] Jeff Benner, “A Mechanical Translation of the Book of Exodus” (Virtual Bookworm, 2009).
There has been much discussion about gender identity and for the most part it seems either there is a lot of "it's okay" or a lot of anger that its "not okay", or a lot of confusion in how to respond. It has opened a new floodgate of unease for many. But does God want us to be stuck in confusion or silence? We need to know how to answer if asked, if in a position to share and reveal a God who understands.
The confusion, the sense that many people feel of being trapped in a body that is not comfortable, that the face they see in the mirror is not right, they do not fit in, the desire to make what they feel inside match what is seen on the outside, the fear humans have of dying without being truly known and accepted, can’t we ALL relate on some level? We all have need for identity, for what is within to match what people see and know of us.
This is why Jesus came. For the heart of God to be seen, for flesh and blood to be clothed with the fullness of God inside. Jesus was and is the true nature and heart of God relatable to all, a gift to all who accept him. And this being his goal, he identified himself a certain way. He had a box he regularly "checked" a title he regularly referred to as himself in 3rd person language. Do you know what it was? Was this title human or divine?
1640s, "regard as the same," from French identifier, from identité (see identity). Sense of "determine the identity of, recognize as or prove to be the same" first recorded 1769. Meaning "make one (with), associate (oneself), regard oneself as being the essence of" is from 1780. Sense of "serve as means of identification" is attested by 1886. Related: Identified; identifying.
His most often self-reference was not divine as the Son of God, it was human... the Son of Man. There are over 70 references Gospel authors recorded of Jesus referring to himself as the Son of man. (Note: For meditation and to ingest how Jesus identified, use the slide show below. Ask Jesus to speak to you as you read and help you know him better.)
There are people who argue that his preferred title of identity as Son of man is curious; and that it must mean he never claimed deity. If someone said to you, “Yes, I believe Jesus was a good man, someone who did very good things and an excellent philosopher, but he never claimed himself as the Son of God.” How would you answer? Where would you take them in scripture?
Here is just one excellent example where Jesus claims himself as both Son of Man and Son of God.
If you were to memorize John 5:24-27, you have 4 sentences to fully explain the beauty and gift of listening and believing in Jesus, the promise of release from eternal damnation, the promise of eternal life, the promise that the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and the claim Jesus made as both Son of God and Son of Man who one day will judge all.
Those 4 sentences also reveal how Jesus sees human identity. It is an either-or proposition. 2 identities only for all humanity. Do you see it?
All are either dead or alive in Him, Ephesians 2:1-10.
The Son of Man came to fully identify with all forms of suffering, confusion, and brokenness in human flesh. He went beyond that though. His soul has suffered and endured the wrath of God. We cannot relate!
Thank God for the one who identified most with all our suffering, who spilled his blood in a horrible death so we might live, the Son of Man the Son of God! Thank God we who believe will never have to face the wrath of God because Jesus drank that cup of suffering! Isaiah 53:1-12!
He loves! He took upon himself everyone’s human identity of being dead in trespasses in order to bring each one into himself, now fully and forever alive in Him! It's your choice to accept the gift. Just listen to Jesus and decide if you believe. It is the true pursuit for life giving identity.
For the gender confused, for the woman who can't stand her body, for the man who struggles with self-loathing, for the child who doesn't fit in, for the senior who regrets all their years, for the person who has never felt seen or loved or known or accepted, for the one heavily burdened by the weight of shame, the Son of Man came for you. For you, he was tempted in all ways, yet was without sin, Hebrews 4:15.
The truth is you are eternal by spirit; not flesh. So your pursuit for identity is an eternal question, not a human flesh fix. Jesus knows we are trapped in human form for right now and He came to release us. We have this gift called time to make our decision until eternal destiny comes for all.
2 Corinthians 5:17- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
He also has a special promise that will help you speak to your gender confused friend... that by faith in him there is neither male nor female, no slave or free, not any special race over another-
Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
He humbly identified with all of humanity, Philippians 2:5-11. He fully identified with all, giving fully of himself, pouring out his own blood that we might live. This is the picture of the Son of Man, the Son of God. Meditate upon, ponder, consider, think about the desperate nature of man looking for identity; and ask God to help you bring the gift of Jesus to others who are searching and without peace. To those who believe, He promises to make them a new creation!
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Into the Waters Ministry is a 501(C)3 public charity. Our mission is to inspire you to linger longer with God, to draw near and know Christ. For those willing, it is a place of supernatural hope and healing. I know this first hand. My name is Gina; and I'm the founder of the ministry. My 20+ year journey with God has been centered on immersing myself in the safe relationship God offers, learning about the power of surrender, and receiving His life in greater measure! I've experienced radical healing in mind, body, and spirit and believe God for more! I long for others to position themselves for the same! Into the Waters' resources help you spend quality time with God to enter His rest and receive His divine provision. Let us help you experience more of God! Read the blogs, try the exercises, participate in online sessions! His promises for life and wholeness are offered to all! But you have to say "Yes!"