Death Vanquished; Life Reigns

…Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again *

Death could not hold Jesus Christ. He pushed through the boundaries of the tomb and broke the dominion of death. He defeated Satan and rendered him powerless, condemning sin, nailing it to the cross. He set his people free!

Come join the victory dance…

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone…

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

 

Because he lives; we live also.


No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

* Songwriters: Andrew Shawn Craig / Donald A. Koch
In Christ Alone lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group
Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

Waiting

Waiting – Holy Week, Day 7

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain…*

The followers of Jesus watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus made haste to bury Jesus before the setting sun marked the beginning of the Sabbath. The previous hours blurred with incessant activity—three Jewish trials, three Roman trials, no rest, no sustenance. Driven by increasing emotional furor, Jesus’ accusers allowed no relief from their crazed ferocity to see him executed. The riot escalated until Pilate, Governor of Judea, acquiesced to their demands. His Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, King of the Jews.

There in the ground His body lay… Now he was buried without ceremony.

It was Sabbath. So they waited…waited for the opportunity to properly care for the dead.

Light of the world by darkness slain…

They had heard him say, “I am the light of the world.” He certainly brought light, and love, and truth, and hope everywhere he went. How could such powerful light fall victim to the dark powers of evil? Yet, they remembered his promises for a future.

So they waited. They observed Sabbath. They remembered.

And they waited.

 

* Songwriters: Andrew Shawn Craig / Donald A. Koch
In Christ Alone lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group
Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

It Was the Lord’s Will

A choking grief blanketed Jesus friends as the savagery of Good Friday, Day 6 of Holy Week, finally ended with the light of day darkened into night. The unimaginable had taken them. They couldn’t block out the brutal images of Roman crucifixion and Jesus of Nazareth lay cold as the stone tomb where had laid his lifeless body. How could Messiah, the very son of God be dead? Nothing that happened on that Good Friday seemed good by any measure.

From our place in redemption history, we can see the good of that day. But for those in first century Jerusalem who loved and followed Jesus, their most cherished hopes were trampled beyond recovery, just as Jesus was wounded and crushed to death. Nothing about the day made sense, their sorrow marrow deep and suffocating. Would life ever have meaning again?

Even as we embrace Jesus’ substutionary death, we struggle to accept the necessity of such violence. But according to Isaiah, the suffering was necessary to accomplish the Father’s will.

Isaiah says God’s suffering servant 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. (Isaiah 53:5.) It was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10a.) Because Jesus suffered, he brings many sons and daughters to glory; he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.  After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10b, 11.)

I don’t understand this kind of regard. I am undone by this love and amazing grace.

 How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Songwriters: Stuart Townend
How Deep The Father’s Love For Us lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

Submitting to the Father’s Plan

Wednesday, Day 4

Silence
Scripture records nothing on Day 4 of Holy Week. The day ends with a night of rest, the last Jesus would have before he died.

By the time I am writing tonight, Jesus would have already completed a day weighted in significance—a last meal, last words, a final prayer over his disciples, a last visit to a favorite garden. He has now been arrested, incarcerated, and shuttled between interrogators.

Maundy Thursday, the fifth day of Holy Week had dawned on Jerusalem swelling its normal population of 30,000 with  an additional 150,0000 Passover  pilgrims. The sheer press of the numbers exacerbated the tense atmosphere brewing with the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders.

Of the all that happens on this day and all the words that are said, two specific events stick in my mind.

I

“One of you will betray me,” Jesus’ announcement disturbs the Passover meal. The disciples  begin discussing among themselves. “Surely not me, Lord.” Who would do such a thing?

On the heels of that discussion, they pick-up an ongoing argument, “Which of them would be regarded as the greatest” in God’s Kingdom.(Luke 22:24 NET)

Jesus has just said, “…the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like to one who serves.” (Luke 22:26 NET) He got up from the table, took off his clothing and wrapped himself with the towel which lay beside the basin and the water pitcher. Taking the role of a slave, he began to wash the dirty feet of all those seated at the Passover table. Stunned silence came over the room. Jesus, Messiah, Son of God washed the feet of his bickering disciples.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example…” (Luke 22:13 – 15 NET) His example brought his words in sharp focus. Later St. Paul would say, “Don’t do anything out of selfish ambition or vain glory.” We are not greater than our Master, so we should serve others as he served us.

II

I have often thought about Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The real battle for redemption took place in the Garden. As the cross crowded out all other considerations in Jesus mind, he had to deal with his surrender to the Father’s plan. The word in the original language that describes his anguish here means terrified.  Jesus was terrified at the prospect of becoming sin for all mankind. He fought the battle there, prostrate on his face. He determined, “Not my will, yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) He got up from that place of surrender and walked with unwavering purpose and without hesitation to the cross.

Jesus knows what terror feels like. He knows what submission requires. Brave in the face of fear, he humbled himself and served me by his death on the cross. He is the champion of my faith because he submitted to the Father’s plan in every way. Because he did, I, too, can submit to the Father’s plan through the life of Christ in me.

I’m forever grateful.

Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

God’s Kingdom First

Seek first God’s kingdom…
Jesus (Matt 6:33)

Recalling of the events of Holy Week requires eight of Matthew’s twenty eight chapters. Four and a half (Luke 21 -25) of those eight chapters cover the events of Tuesday, Day Three.

As a Jewish Rabbi, Jesus was expected to teach about God’s Kingdom. His Tuesday discourses comprise the most extensive of his teaching on the Kingdom. He had come to Jerusalem so he taught the people. His teaching was so counter cultural to the common understanding of the Kingdom of God that he kick-up intense opposition.

He taught:

  • The king gave a wedding banquet. Many of those invited did not come and one guest arrived without wedding clothes. The king revised the guest list to omit those who refused to come or came improperly dressed.
    “Many are invited, but few are chosen,” Jesus tells them.
  • God’s kingdom has only two laws.
    # 1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength.
    # 2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
    All the Jewish law and the teaching of the prophets could be summarized in these two commands.
  • God’s kingdom operated by a different rubric.
    The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
    (Matt 23:11, 12)
  • Citizens of the God’s kingdom treat the stranger with consideration and kindness.
    Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matt. 25:34-36)

Jesus describes God’s kingdom as a place where appearance and accomplishment does not earn acceptance. He openly rebukes the Jewish leaders and teachers of the law he saw as blind guides, hypocrites, and snakes. The Jewish leaders question Jesus’ authority, inflaming their altercation with him from “they looked for a way to arrest him,” in Matthew 21 to “they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him,” in chapter 26 as Day Three ended.

St. Paul would later say to the church of Jesus Christ, Be very careful then, how you live…(Eph. 5:15) Though the invitation to participate in the Kingdom of God is open to all, be careful how you treat it. In our consideration of God’s Kingdom, Jesus defines for us the Kingdom culture: take God’s invitation seriously; love God, love your neighbor; humble yourself and be a servant; treat others with consideration and kindness so that you will receive the inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you.

As we follow Jesus through this final week of his earthly life, Seek first God’s kingdom…

Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

Getting it Right

Of first importance…

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem takes him to the Temple. In dramatic style, he sets the tone for the week. The coming days will be filled with passion and drama as Jesus takes on the Jewish establishment with his teaching about divine authority, the end of the age and coming judgement, the nature of the kingdom of God and who would and who would not be present in the coming kingdom. He silences his detractors with his adroit display of divine wisdom.

As His first order of business he cleanses the Temple. Motivated by zeal for his Father’s house, Jesus defends the designated purpose of the place of worship—prayer, spiritual connection with the Father. As he did at the beginning of his ministry, he drives out those who bought and sold animals and exchanged the profane currency of secular society for the holy coin acceptable for sacrifice.

“My Father’s house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.”

With authority he affirms the heart of worship, prayer—communication between the Father God and his children. God’s intention to meet with his children would not be thwarted by merchandisers.

We will be well served to remember that worship defines of the Father’s House. Whenever any other purpose rises above our spiritual connection with God, we join those who Jesus drove from his Father’s house.

Of first importance we will make the Father’s House a place of worship.

 

 

Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

Remembering Palm Sunday

Today we remember Palm Sunday, named thus because those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem just prior to his crucifixion greeted him with loud shouts of praise, spreading garments and palm branches before him as he rode into the city on a donkey foal.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9 ASB)

The King of Kings came to his capital lowly, and riding upon an ass. He himself had said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. (Matthew 20:25 NIV) He eschewed the trappings of power because his mindset was that describes by St. Paul in Philippians 2:6 – 8.

Though in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 

The attitude Jesus displayed as he inaugurated Holy Week led him to the cross where he gave his life so that we could be forgiven and restore to relationship with the Father.

Consider the Jesus of Palm Sunday, humble and lowly. Adopt the same mindset he had. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3, 4)

 

Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

Panic or Peace

When the ground shifts and the wind swirls the sand at our feet, sick only the house on a firm foundation escapes destruction. When the house shudders in the raging storm, ambulance the foundation anchored in the rock keeps the house firm.

The upheaval of Isaiah’s day stirred fear in men’s/women’s souls. In a day when the refuge carved from lies collapsed, Isaiah writes,

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone,  for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.
Isaiah 28:16

Jesus said,

Everyone who hears (my) words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Matthew 7:24, 25

Christ alone, Cornerstone.
Weak made strong in the Saviors love.
Through the storm, He is Lord of all.

Anchor your life in Jesus and His words. Build your house on the rock that can never be shaken.

Posted in Heart Beats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2015 Week of Prayer

Day 1

I am joining the Potomac Ministry Network in this 2015 Week of Prayer.

Because it is my conviction that prayer is a most important aspect of our lives as believers, viagra I come to this week looking to our Father for clarity in a life too often plagued by confusion and fear. As Richard, mind Bishop of Chichester, 1253, reflects may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

So we set aside time at the beginning of 2015 to pray. I encourage you to carve out time daily during this week for intentional times of prayer.

Prayer is a spiritual discipline. I love the insight John Ortberg shares in his study The Life You Always Wanted, As with a marathon runner, the secret to winning the race lies not in trying harder, but in training consistently—training with the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines are neither taskmasters nor an end in themselves. Rather they are exercises that build strength and endurance for the road of growth. The fruit of the Spirit—joy, peace, kindness, etc.—are the signposts along the way. As you train in righteousness in the coming year, I would invite your consideration of a spiritual discipline often overlooked – the discipline of lament.

The Spiritual Discipline of Lament

beauty girl cryLament makes us uncomfortable. It means we fix our attention on the brokenness of our lives and our world. It requires we pay attention to our loss and grief. Lament is a familiar scriptural theme. We often see King David lament the losses of his life. In the antecedent to his soliloquy on the faithfulness of Yahweh, Jeremiah laments the bitterness and the gall of his soul. Jesus includes morning in the endowment of the blessed. Blessed are those who morn…. He weeps over Jerusalem as well as the untimely death of His friend Lazareth. Isaiah describes the Savior as a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.

The brilliant strategy to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem – broken down with its gates burned with fire – came following Nehemiah’s prayer, in a season of lament. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayer before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4 In fifty-two days the returned exiles rebuilt the wall surrounding Jerusalem resulting in this response from their enemies. … all the surrounding nations were afraid…they realized this work had been done with the help of God. Nehemiah 6:16

 In our pursuit of God’s mission in the earth, we must not turn a blind eye to the discipline of lament. Could it be that the discipline of lament is the stuff of which victory is made?

What are the broken walls in your life? What losses have you covered over? Lament the state of this culture without God. Out of your sorrow, allow God to “enlarge” our soul and transforms us into lovers of Him and others. (Dr. Peter Scazero, Enlarging Your Soul and Church Through Grief and Loss) and birth in you strategies of rebuilding.

 

Posted in devotionals | Leave a comment

Just Ask

I recognize in me a reluctance to ask God for specifics. I am challenged to find out why I feel like that.

I have trouble asking for help, seek for a favor, for accommodation. It seems wrong to me – selfish. I don’t mind if you ask, but I have a hard time being the asker. Truthfully, I think I’m afraid to be turned down.

Asking God? I’m more confident praying for you. For me? I’m okay with the big stuff, like God bless my family, help me make wise decisions, etc. The specifics are so much harder. Those things that either happen or don’t. What if God says “no?”

My impressions from childhood include hearing “no” often. As a mom, I recall how frequently my default answer was “no.” The request required too much of my effort and attention, was too costly, or it was just easier to say “no.” I regret my self-protective penchant for “no” when it should have been a self-sacrificing “yes.”

So I project onto the Heavenly Father my own flawed perspective.

Several reasons for reluctance occur to me:

  1. Asking for specifics puts God on the hot seat. What if He says “no” when I was so sure He would answer? I don’t like to pray prayers that don’t get answered. I want to pray prayers God can answer. (I know “no” is an answer and am quite experienced in the trusting when I don’t understand.) I do trust God’s heart and His ways, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to pray prayers that receive a “yes” answer. Sometimes I feel safer to not ask rather than to be disappointed or cast God in a bad light.
  2. Or perhaps I am convinced I am not worthy of His help. I am so disorganized. What right do I have to pray for help in the chaos I created? I am too bad. I have made too many mistakes. Why would God help me out when what I deserve is the trouble I’m in?
  3. Why should God bother with me? My troubles – significant to me, though insignificant in the grand scheme of things – just don’t rank up there next to world peace, global hunger, war, and the environment.
  4. Or maybe I am capable – I don’t need God’s help. Intelligence, ingenuity, personal charisma and strength of character will see me through. After all, ability to handle life is God-given.

So I don’t ask.

But, then I am reminded of what Jesus has to say about the asking.

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Mathew 6:8)

Ask and it will be given to you… For everyone who asks receives… Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7 – 11)

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22)

To ask or not to ask. The choice is mine. Not to ask, to go it own my own, is to my own peril, failing to grasp the nature of my heavenly Father who welcomes my asking and delights in providing for me.

Lord, fill my heart with the faith and obedience to ask of You.

Posted in devotionals, Heart Beats | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment