The Cloud of Saints

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 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.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Since nobody else has posted about the great cloud of witnesses this month yet, I will.  This reading from Hebrews is what I consider my “life verse” and it never fails to inspire and encourage me.  The witnesses are all the saints, past and present.  My question to you today is, who’s in your crowd of witnesses?

I’ve told you about some of my Biblical favorites — Nicodemus, Mary and Martha.  Then there are people who have gone before me, who are now in the presence of God — my grandfather, the lady who picked me up every Sunday when I was a child and took me to church and Sunday School, my good friend, Paul and others.  There are the living saints who have cheered me on and encouraged me in my Christian walk — my old Pastor, Dave; my college roommate, Nancy;  my prayer buddy, Karen;  many of my fellow congregation members;  Via de Cristo and Marriage Encounter friends, and more.

Most of all, there’s Jesus.  He’s the one on whom we’re meant to particularly focus.  As a man, He endured all the same temptations and sufferings that we do — yet He did not sin.  He loves us and prays for us;  He promises He will never leave us — what an encouragement that is!

We’re still running the race, but we’re not alone.  We’re in the company of saints.  Persevere ladies!

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Who Do I Look Like?

As saints of God, we’re all part of His family.  In any family, there are resemblances.  Maybe you have your mother’s eyes, or your father’s temper.  Maybe you and your sister are like two peas in a pod, with similar talents and interests.  Maybe you and your cousin could pass for twins.  So today I’m pondering — what member of God’s family do I look like?

I’ve always felt an affinity for Nicodemus.  You’ll find his story in the 3rd Chapter of John.  Here’s how it starts:

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He came to Jesus at night ….” John 3:1-2

I like to obey the rules, so, like Nicodemus, I can see myself identifying with the Pharisees.  He was curious (definitely me) and he wanted to learn more about this Jesus, but he came at night … because he was also cautious, not willing to make an impulsive commitment in front of others (well, me again).  He had his position to think of, after all.

Jesus doesn’t scold Nicodemus for his caution.  He recognizes him as an honest seeker and answers his questions.  Then we don’t see Nicodemus for a while.  When he reappears later in the story, Jesus is before the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus, attempts to defend him (he’s not stupid — I don’t think I am either– and he can see his associates don’t really have a leg to stand on). Yet, he is rebuffed and he doesn’t persist. (Did he think, “I tried, but there wasn’t anything else I could do?” — Have I said things like this to justify myself when I’ve failed to defend Christ vigorously? hmmm–for sure) Then after Jesus is crucified, we see Nicodemus again.

“….Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.  Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.  With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.” John 19:38-39

The crucifixion was a catalyst for Nicodemus.  He saw clearly now who Jesus was, and he declared himself as a follower.  I wonder if he worried that he had committed himself too little and too late.  Sometimes I think about that, too.  I have often have good intentions, but it’s hard for me to surrender everything and follow quickly.

Yes, I’m alot like my brother Nicodemus.  I honestly want to know Jesus, and I believe He is the son of God. (that makes me a saint). However, I can be overly cautious, worried about what others think, and slow to respond (that makes me a sinner).  Thankfully my debts have been paid in advance by the One who loves me and knows me through and through.

I’m challenging our other writers to think about and post an answer to this question as I have — Blogging sisters, who do you look like?  I really want to read your answers!