He Still Bears the Scars

You suffered for us; we join our sufferings to Yours & trust. You alone can grow a fragrant rose of great beauty from the midst of thorns.

by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro (c) 2012       www.holyspiritpress.org     www.eaglesnestfoundation.org 

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”   But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”  28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:24-28 NIV)

Human wisdom sends out a constant, subconscious message that if we do everything right, all life with be good.  But this is not reality and when we experience the opposite, it is hard.  When beyond hardship we encounter evil, our world can begin to crumble for God did not create us for evil, but for good and we cannot make sense out of that which we are experiencing.   As more happens which doesn’t seem to make sense, we can be tempted to crash and burn…

Last week as I walked and listened to the Lord, looking for whatever He would have me see, He whispered a powerful reminder.  The wounding Jesus received on the cross is still there. The nail scars on His hands and feet have been part of who He is since the crucifixion.

God has used all that Jesus suffered for extreme good!  (By His wounds we are healed from the sentence of death so that ALL who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord and His sacrifice for us on the cross will receive the gift of eternal life.)  Yet when Jesus rose from the dead, the wounding He received was not gone. It remained.  Thomas put his finger where the nails had been.

Jesus the King of heaven and earth was wounded for our transgressions.  We need to be reminded that suffering is a part of life.  Often, but not always its source is evil.  It grieves us; it wounds us.  But God will redeem it.  If we will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, contemplating His promises (who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross), He will lead us through it, and use everything for eventual good in light of His eternal plan. Eventually the pain from where we have been wounded may be less, or even fade away, but the scars will remain.  They are part of our sacrifice.

If we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us lay aside bitterness and forgive (again and again), without condoning that which was wrong, we will receive a great blessing.  Our sufferings will be joined with those of Christ.  As Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. “ (John 15: 18-19 NIV)  and “22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. “  (Matt. 21:22 NIV)  We may be battle-weary and scarred, but He enables us to dwell in the peace and joy of the ever-present, promised and eternal victory of our King.

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.   (Acts 2:23 NIV)

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  (Isa. 53:5 NIV)

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  (1 Peter 3:13-18 NIV)

…And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  (Heb. 12:1b-3 NIV)

Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist.  She is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way. 

For books, worship cds, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org  Worship music audio clips can be found at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro

Elizabeth is the Founder of Eagles Nest Foundation which provides spiritual support & encouragement to military and military families as well as those in physical and emotional battles (such as cancer, long-term illness) as well as those grieving a loss.  (A current outreach is The Japan GRIEF Project.)  For information visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org  

Eagles Nest Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.  Thank you for your prayers and support!

Promises which Refresh, Reminding of His Goodness & Way

Even through seasons of winter in life, You are there working out Your good, eternal purposes. We can rest in You and rejoice in You for all things are in Your hands. You are our hope for only in You do we have life now and forever.

by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro (c) 2012        www.holyspiritpress.org    www.eaglesnestfoundation.org

Below are a few of God’s promises to revel in today, to be reminded how much He loves us, that we can hear from Him and that He will use us for great purpose every day – if we will let Him.

God’s Word (the Bible) encourages us because it is filled with His promises.  We call these promises, because what God says in His Word, He will fulfill.  God is Truth. Therefore He cannot lie.  He is also unchanging. Therefore, what He spoke through His Word in times gone by can still be relied on today.

The exterior of how we live our lives might change from one generation to the next.  But the interior of who we are as human beings and how God relates to us remains the same.  Here are a few promises to revel in:

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6 NIV)

6 I the LORD do not change….  (Mal. 3:6 NIV)

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  (Heb. 13:8 NIV)

2 “This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: 3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’  (Jer 33:2-3)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  (Jer. 29:11-13)

8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  (Ps. 25:8-9 NIV)

21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  (Isa. 30:21 NIV)

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Matt 6:31-34)

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  (1 Peter 5:6-9)

28 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.  (Rom. 8:28 Amplified)

7 ….. These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.  (Rev. 3:7 NIV)

3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love;  I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.  4 I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.  Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful “ (Jer. 31:3-4 NIV)

What a delight to be reminded that because He is God and Lord, we do not have to worry.  He is in control.  He will use all things for good in light of eternity.  ALL THINGS.  This does not make suffering easy, but we know that through the trials, suffering and obstacles we encounter, God will use these for great purpose.

Nowhere does He promise us an easy life.  Our physical lives will never become heaven on earth.  But through how He uses us in these difficult places others will experience the reality of the living all-good, loving God through our lives and seek Him in turn for themselves.  In this way, through all our circumstances, God weaves a plan that accomplishes His overall objective that more find Him, so they can be with Him in eternity, and our lives become lives of great purpose to have His effect on others which can have everlasting consequences.

What joy to know that if we seek Him, He will allow Himself to be found!  How humbling to know if we will follow where He leads, He will use us to have an eternal impact on others! How amazing to be reminded that He has the plan (so we don’t have to) and will speak to us, guiding us in the way we are to go!

No, His voice most often will not sound like a human voice resounding in our ear, because He is Spirit.  Instead it will be like a whisper, a whiff of a thought which drops into our minds from seemingly out of nowhere. Initially we may wonder if is our own or His.  He tells us to test it to make sure it is not from the adversary.  But even in this we are not to worry.  God looks at the heart.  He is the perfect Father.  If we are truly seeking His will, if we really want to hear from Him, then He will not let us get off His narrow path.  He will hold our hand.  He will guide us in the way we are to go.  He will shut doors before us where we think we ought to go, but He knows are not His plan for us.

May we have the courage to listen for His Holy Spirit nudges and to follow when what we “hear” may not seem to make sense, but does not contradict His character and way.  May He use us for His eternal purposes again and again for the growth of His Kingdom and our blessing.

Selah! [Pause and calmly think of that!]

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Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist.  She is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way. 

For books, worship cds, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org  Worship music audio clips can be found at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro For information on her work for the military and their families please visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org   Eagles Nest Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Blessing One Another Honors Our King

You are Light of the world; Your Way everlasting and perfect. Lead us by Your Spirit. We need You. We will follow.

by Elizabeth Burgard Fulgaro (c) 2012        www.holyspiritpress.org   www.eaglesnestfoundation.org

The following devotion is long, yet the reminder of the importance of blessing one another is critical for us to walk out the Great Commission and see more of His Kingdom come and His will being done on earth now as in heaven.  Find a quiet place and be still with Him as He takes us through some powerful Scriptures.  Note: As you read, please keep in mind, there can be people and situations where for a variety of reasons we need to forgive, love and bless at a distance.  For instance, sometimes it is out of respect for their wishes and sometimes it is out of respect for our own safety and well-being.  Each person must ask the Holy Spirit for direction in each circumstance.  God alone knows what is best.  May He bless you with deeper revelations of how to walk out His love (with godly, respectful boundaries) in your own circumstances. ~ Elizabeth

February is a time of year we celebrate secular love, however, the source of all love is God.  Those of us who know Him, revel in His love for it is like no other.  His love is unconditional, unoffendable, merciful, forgiving, unending, infinite and never fails!!!

God’s love was made most clearly manifest through Jesus.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16 NIV)

It is through God’s love that we were created, have purpose, and can be restored to right relationship with Him which takes us beyond the end of our natural, physical lives and into eternity with Him.

This God who IS LOVE, calls us into relationship, inviting all who will turn and acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord to be adopted eternally into His family as His own.   The invitation stands ready and awaits our response from the moment of our physical birth until the time of our death.

He looks for our response to His love.  If we choose to love Him, too, then He tells us our love will manifest in obedience to Him.  He loves all and desires every single one to be restored to Him. Thus if we love Him, we will choose to love others as well – not in order to get anything in return from them, but because He loves them and asks from us the same.

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us….God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.  (1 John 4:1-12,16b-21)

He tells us that we are each unique and to each of us He has given certain gifts with which He wishes to bless the world and reach even more individuals to give them an opportunity to be adopted into His forever family.  He does this by becoming visible in our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit through us.

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us…

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.   14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

   “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;  if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Rom 12:1-6,9-21  NIV)

None of us are perfect.  None of us can do it all. It is the way He designed it to be.  We are each like one piece of His Body.  Together, we function under Him, the Head and He accomplishes His purposes through us.  But we must choose to work together.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Our innate nature is to argue and have disputes among us, judging one another, becoming offended, holding grudges, etc. But when we so choose, the Holy Spirit can and will work through us to transform us more and more into the image of Christ….being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18b NIV)

Jesus calls us to this unity. It was His final prayer to the Father before His passion and crucifixion for us. It is through our unity, which He says the world will recognize who He is.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:21-23)

This puts a great responsibility on us!  He knew He created us all different.  He is asking us to choose to honor one another and love one another.  It is a choice, yet without it we cannot represent our King.

It is likely one of the reasons He asked us to love our enemies, forgive one another just as He forgives us and bless those who persecute us.  None of us are perfect. This means even when we are trying not to offend and to bless, there will be times we offend anyway!  (Not to mention in our humanness, the times we succumb to the temptation to be unkind, unforgiving, angry, hateful, jealous, critical, condemning, etc.)  Each of us will offend and each of us will be in a position to be offended.  In order to preserve the unity and functioning as one Body to which He calls us, at those times when we find ourselves hurt, we must choose to forgive (which does not condone wrong behavior) and to bless.

The Lord gave us the example in Numbers 6.  He had Moses tell Aaron and his sons (the priests), to bless the people and by their blessing, the Lord would put His name on the people and with it His blessing.  The Lord’s blessing is His favor, His protection, provision and all that is good in Him and from Him.

22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “ Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites.  Say to them:

24 ‘The LORD bless you and keep you;

25 The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’

27 So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”  (Numbers 6:22-27 NIV)

The Lord told Moses it was through the blessing of the priests on the people that His blessing would come.  Through Jesus we have all inherited the position as priests before Him.  We need to bless one another – in season and out of season; when we feel like it and when we don’t (as an act of will) in order to honor our King and seek peace throughout the Body that the enemy might not be able to use us against each other to create division (and animosity) which keeps the message of Jesus Christ, His Love and gift of life eternal from going forth.  This is not easy! Especially when we believe we are the one who has been wronged!  And yet, the bigger picture is worth working to preserve the unity in His Body through pursuing peace – as much as it depends on each of us individually.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  (Rom 12:18 NIV)

Granted peace cannot be forced.  We can each only do our part.  We cannot force the other party to pursue mutual peace as well.  Thus as much as it depends on each of us, may He bless us with the courage and strength to love when we are not loved back in a way which we can feel; may He empower us to forgive and forgive again when we are wronged intentionally and unintentionally; and may He give us His strategy regarding how to express His love in godly, prudent, Spirit-directed ways to each person He puts around us.

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

…  13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  (1 Peter 3:8-9,13-18 NIV)

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.  (2 Cor. 2:5-11)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  (Matt. 5:43-47 NIV)

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Elizabeth Fulgaro is a wife, mother, writer, inspirational speaker, worship leader, composer, singer & recording artist.  She is also a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Financial Counselor with a heart for helping Christians understand and steward their finances God’s way. 

For books, worship cds, Bible studies and teachings written by Elizabeth Fulgaro or to schedule her to come speak to your group please visit www.holyspiritpress.org  Worship music audio clips can be found at www.cdbaby.com/Artist/ElizabethFulgaro For information on her work for the military and their families please visit www.eaglesnestfoundation.org   Eagles Nest Foundation is a 501(c)3 corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.