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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

jesus_nailed_to_the_cross

Today, thousands of pilgrims are walking the Via Dolorosa.  This is the processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem, that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.  The path to the cross was difficult and he was weak with suffering.  It is marked by nine Stations of the Cross; with the remaining five stations being inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The week that started with people waving palms and singing as Jesus entered the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem ends in a kangaroo court sending Jesus into Roman hands for crucifixion.  Many want to blame the Pharisees for Jesus dying on the cross.  Others lay the blame on Pontius Pilate for making the final decision.  This perspective forgets Jesus instructing Peter to put his sword away.  Jesus reminds Peter that he could call down 12 legions of angels from heaven to stop his capture.  Instead, Jesus lays his own life down for us.

In his captivity, Jesus is jailed, beaten, spat upon, tortured, marched to Golgotha, and crucified next to criminals.  From the cross, Jesus makes provision for the care of his mother, cries out to God, forgives his killers, and shares with the penitent thief that those who believe in him will have a place in heaven.

When the soldiers confirm that Jesus is dead, his body is taken to a tomb.  It is sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers.  It seems that all is lost.  The disciples are scattered.  The promises of Jesus ring in their ears, but seem to fall silent.  It will take time for all to see, but this will be the weekend that changes the world.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

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jesus-light-of-world-500x331

Today is Christmas Eve. Our day is focused on completing tasks, chores, and jobs before families and friends gather together. We are quick to make our homes ready. But there is an older Christian practice of making our hearts ready.

As the world waits to proclaim that Jesus is the Light of the World, let us prepare our hearts to receive the message of Jesus again. Though you have heard the songs and scripture verses before, let the truth and joy of the message change you. Hear the promise of God’s Messiah arriving on earth and let it change you. Imagine a gracious Savior coming to earth for you to be redeemed and let it change you.

Christians are called to be changed people. We are called to live in a way different than the world. But change only comes when we experience Jesus. Those who have experienced Him are no longer the same. We are called to be transformed and to be children of light. People who now live in the love that they have received from Christ. We are called to be this group. One who puts off the old self and puts on the new. A person transformed by the grace of Jesus. Someone who can never be the same because of Jesus.

Precious God, allow us to make our hearts ready. May we hear the message of Christmas and feel the joy and love of Jesus in our hearts. We were once in darkness. Now we live in the light. Allow us to be transformed people who follow after Jesus, the Light of the World.

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foot washing

Maundy Thursday is celebrated many different ways in the Christian church. Tonight people will gather this evening to remember Jesus going into the Upper Room, washing the feet of His disciples, sharing the Passover feast, and instituting the Lord’s Supper. After singing Psalms and celebrating the faithfulness of God in delivering the Jewish people from bondage, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here Jesus prays for strength and is arrested as a common criminal. Ultimately, Jesus journeys to the cross. The story of deliverance changes. This time He will deliver the world from sin.

God didn’t just say that He loves you, He demonstrated it. Romans 5:8 shares, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

As we enter a time of worship this day, do so remembering that we are loved.

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Graham

Billy Graham, America’s pastor, died today. He became an ordained minister at the age of 21 in 1939. Across his career, Dr. Graham preached at racially integrated churches in the 1950s and 1960s. He took bold stands for truth and justice. He delivered countless crusades in stadiums across the world to share the message of Jesus Christ.

Billy Graham avoided sexual and financial scandals that ended the ministry of many pastors and televangelists. It is said that he spoke to over 200 million people across the span of his 99 years on earth.

A favorite quote shares that, “It is God’s job to judge, the Spirit’s job to convict, and our job to love.”

May we all strive toward the finish line and be faithful stewards of Christ like the late Dr. Billy Graham.

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The Scandal of Christmas

shepherds

The Christmas story sounds strange for a reason. It is. The events we find in Luke 2 give us a picture that doesn’t make sense.

First, we find an angel and the heavenly host proclaiming the Messiah’s birth in the remote region of Bethlehem. Jerusalem or Jericho would make more sense. These cities would have more people to hear the message. Instead, a small group of shepherds living in fields outside of Bethlehem receive the heavenly announcement.

Second, it is late at night when the angelic message is given. People are at home and asleep. Why not make the announcement during the day when the marketplace is bustling with activity and people.

Third, the announcement of Jesus is given to shepherds. While this was a worthy calling in the Old Testament, much had changed for the profession in the first century. At the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were considered the bottom rung of the social ladder. It was best for them to stay outside of the cities, in the fields. They were seen as petty thieves who could not be trusted. Shepherds were even prohibited from being witnesses in trial and court settings.

Bethlehem was the wrong place.  A dark evening was the wrong time. Shepherds were the wrong people.

The Christmas story is scandalous. It says much about our God and the kingdom that Jesus will establish. The Christmas story shares that God will go anywhere, at anytime, to anyone. Praise God for the divine example that our Father will go anywhere to seek and save the lost. It speaks to the hope and salvation that is found in Jesus Christ and is available to everyone.

When we look at the Christmas story we should see how deep it is with grace and love. The proclamation of Christ at that place, at that time, and to that people shows how great the Father’s love is for us all. May the gift of Jesus continue to be shared in the scandalous example of God’s great love.

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palm sunday

It is easy to get into a rut during Holy Week. While the music, pageants, processions, and lessons can easily feel the same consider where you are standing.

As we enter into Holy week, we should enter into the story. We should imagine ourselves watching and cheering as Jesus passes. But we shouldn’t just watch. We should go with him. We should join in the procession ourselves. We must follow along after Him and continue to shout and sing in the praises of our Messiah.

As Christians, we are not to remain spectators cheering from the sidelines. We are to fall in line. We are to join the procession. We are to become part of the parade itself. We are to follow Jesus, marching with him, moving wherever God’s voice is calling us to go.

Precious God, allow us to see Palm Sunday and Easter with new eyes.  Help us to see Jesus and follow after Him with our entire heart. Amen.

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protest

Protests, riots, general strikes, and shouting matches, oh my! Where did all the big boys and big girls go in America? Every time I watch the news or read a story, it seems that all the adults are on vacation.

Coastal elites are burning more American flags than the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Today’s coalition of discontent wants to make a lot of noise, set things on fire, and boycott their jobs. Everyone is entitled to shout and protest. But worse yet, no one seems willing to listen to each other.

We cannot plug our ears and runaway if we do not agree with the message. No matter which protest you attend, those protesting must be willing not only to shout, but also to listen. Folks should be civil and respectful.

When people behave in a purely secular manner, we will witness a purely secular response. The ultimate result is a place more destructive and bitter than what we have today. There is a better way.

In John 13, Jesus shares this with his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus teaches a meaningful and difficult lesson for people to learn in the first century and in 2017 – love those around you. Jesus was frequently criticized for the company that he kept. Jesus acquired a reputation for being a wild child. Jesus knew tax collectors, fishermen, zealots, and other rowdies. Jesus went to their homes and befriended them.

Jesus was a loving, laughing, Lord, someone who enjoyed a good time. He befriended the leper, the lame, the outcast, the downtrodden, the soldier, and the saint. It was done out of pure, perfect, and heavenly love. He showed the kind of affection that transforms lives and honors God.

When people are given that kind of respect and love, they are willing to listen to each other. The challenge is demonstrating the love that Christ commands. May God empower us to love one another, no matter what others say or how they express it.

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fig tree

Things aren’t always as they seem. How long was the Hundred Years’ War? It lasted 116 years. When do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? They celebrate it in November. What country sells the most Panama hats? Ecuador is known for the famous straw hat.

In Mark 11, Jesus makes a similar observation. Jesus is walking from Bethany to Jerusalem.  From a distance, He sees a beautiful green fig tree. It looks wonderful. It is full of leaves and seems to be a bastion of good health. When Jesus arrives at the tree, hoping to eat a hand full of young fig buds, there is nothing. The tree is barren. It has no fruit. It produces nothing.

Typically, fig trees make buds each March and they eventually turn into delicious figs. The buds are green like the leaves of the tree, so you need to carefully inspect the tree. When Jesus looks it over, there is nothing to find. The tree gives shade but no nourishment. It gives comfort with no provision. Help but no hope. The green, leafy, tree unfortunately produces nothing.

Jesus curses the tree for that very reason. It yields nothing. Despite all of the right signs and appearances, the tree is not what it seems to be. Jesus doesn’t condemn leaves, they are necessary for trees to live and grow. But we cannot be content with leaves alone.

Things aren’t always as they seem. A church might appear to be “healthy” when you look at it from a distance, only to be disappointed on closer inspection. The fruit it bears will tell the story. Individuals are the same way. A person may show all the right signs of “health” like a leafy fig tree, but bear no spiritual fruit.

The lesson of the fig tree is that we should bear spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). If we only appear to bear fruit, then we have missed the point and purpose of what God desires. God judges fruitlessness, and expects that those who have a relationship with Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5-8).

May our lives yield a bumper crop of spiritual fruit that benefits mankind and pleases the Lord.

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nativity

Just about everyone loves the Christmas season. While reasons may vary, from hearing a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus to watching snowflakes, people love the Christmas season. It is the arrival of our promised Emmanuel, “God with us.” This season also has a funny way of changing people.

Yes, Christmas is the best time of year, but we often forget what it does to us. Christmas brings out the best in us. No matter where you live, there is an increased effort for people to be kind, caring, and generous. Drivers are more courteous on the roadways. You open the door for someone when their arms are full with shopping bags. Neighbors help each other by raking leaves or shoveling snow off sidewalks. We even tell total strangers “Merry Christmas!”

This spirit of gratitude and grace comes from our Creator. God has demonstrated His love in sending Jesus Christ to earth. We celebrate this perfect gift in many ways, but the power of God’s love changes us.

We reciprocate the love that God has shared with us, His children. The gift of Jesus is so tremendous that we live in a different way. We choose to be transformed, and in turn, show greater compassion. This beautiful event happens more now than at any other time of the year. Christmas and the celebration of our Savior yield a new and different world, one where people give gifts, adopt orphans, feed the homeless, care for widows, support unemployed veterans, and show compassion to total strangers. In short, we decide to live out our faith. We put God’s plan of grace into action.

As the Christmas holiday approaches, make the decision to be transformed. Reflect the love that God has poured out from heaven through Jesus, the promised Messiah. Demonstrate your faith and share the love that you have received from our Heavenly Father.

 

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Good Friday

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
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.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
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.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet 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,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 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.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

John 3:16-17

16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Matthew 26:2

“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Mark 8:31

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Matthew 27:27-31

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Luke 23:33-34

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Matthew 27:45-54

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

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