Categories
.

April 17th: A Day of Reflection

Silent Wednesday 

The Bible doesn’t say what the Lord did on the Wednesday of Passion Week. Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent this day resting in Bethany in anticipation of Passover. 

So lets us reflect on this today…

Remember when you were a child, you waited all year for that one special holiday? It seemed like it would never ever get here….you’d go to bed early anticipating in a few hours what was to come in….AH! A living room full of gifts…

As a culture we spend a lot of time, money , and energy preparing for Christmas. There’s parties, presents, and twinkling lights, trying to outdo our neighbors with who has the most elaborate decorations in their yard. While I am thankful for the incarnation, for the warm cuddly images of Baby Jesus, lying in the manger- but without the cross, Christmas would mean nothing , the nativity manger would be a long forgotten story about a young Hebrew girl who gave birth in a barn. And yet it’s Christmas that gets all out attention. If you were to take a peak inside my garage too, I am guilty of the overindulgence by the number of plastic bins filled with Hobby Lobby decorations stacked one on another. Easter seems to sneak up on us, as we are recovering from Christmas’ excess.

Easter is not about a birth, but a death, which begs the question, When was the last time any of us wanted to gaze on a bloody, mangled body? Even the thought is too much. Instinctively our stomachs churn, our voices moan at even the idea of such a sight. As many of us sat in theaters watching The Passion of Christ…. the crown of thorns on His head, the piercing in His side, the whipping, the scourging, the nails in His hands and feet. We turned away. It was just too much too absorb.

But the manger…..the newborn babe… we smile, we Oooohh, we Ahhhhh at the cuddly baby Jesus. We can’t stop looking into that beautiful face with snuggly, sweet cheeks. Hope wrapped in a downy soft baby blanket.

A big difference from the cradle to the grave. And yet, this is the conundrum of our Christian faith-that Jesus, the son of God, was born to die. The innocence of His birth stayed with Him to His last breath on the cross. There He hung-naked, tortured, and there He died. And WILLINGLY He endured all of this for us because of His infinite love.

Even though we may understand Easter, it’s still Christmas that we eagerly anticipate and prefer.
The story of Mary, the teenage virgin who bravely birthed a tiny baby king is a much happier one. The sweetness of the Christmas babe being lullabied by an angelic choir is easier to embrace.

The necessity of a blood sacrifice just isn’t what we talk about in our daily conversation.
Most, give Easter little thought, time or preparation. We take a minimalist approach to celebrating the greatest event of history.
this is by no means to put a guilt trip on anyone for enjoying bright beautiful easter baskets filled with chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, all your favorite treats, and my favorite of all…PEEPS! (Who doesn’t love peeps?)

Jesus never asked us to commemorate His birth, but He did command us to remember His death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

I want to encourage you, let’s make Easter a season, like Christmas by preparing earlier, teaching our family, about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. And-don’t stop celebrating the Resurrection after Easter Sunday! Most of us leave our Christmas lights up through the New Year…or even til Valentines Day (yes that’s me)

So why not continue the joy of this life-changing event…Christ is RISEN!!

*written by Kathy Cochran

Categories
.

April 16th: Holy Tuesday

Day 3:  Tuesday.    Jesus teaches on the Mount Of Olives. 

On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to his companions about the importance of faith.

Back at the Temple, religious leaders, upset at Jesus establishing himself as a spiritual authority, organized an ambush with the intent to place Him under arrest. But Jesus evaded their traps and pronounced harsh judgment on them, saying: 

“Blind guides!…For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Matthew 23:24-33

Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem. Here Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. 

Scripture indicates that this Tuesday was also the day Judas negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16).

After a tiring day of confrontation and warnings about the future, once again, Jesus and the disciples return to Bethany to stay the night.

The events of Tuesday and the Olivet Discourse are recorded in Matthew 21:23–24:51, Mark 11:20–13:37, Luke 20:1–21:36, and John 12:20–38.

Categories
.

April 15th: Holy Monday

On Monday, Jesus throws the money changers from the Temple. 

The morning after the Triumphant entry, Jesus returned with his disciples to Jerusalem.    As He was making His way to the city, He cursed a fig tree because it failed to bear fruit. 

When Jesus arrived at the Temple he found the courts full of money changers.  He began overturning their tables and clearing the Temple, saying, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Luke 19:46

On Monday evening Jesus stayed in Bethany again, probably in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Monday’s events are recorded in Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45-48, and John 2:13-17.

Categories
.

April 14th: Palm Sunday

Day one in the Passion week is known as Palm  SUNDAY. It is the day that we celebrate what is known as Jesus’ triumphant entrance into the city of Jerusalem… 

On the Sunday before His crucifixion, Jesus began His journey into Jerusalem to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  

Fulfilling Old Testament prophesies, according to Zechariah 9:9: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey… 

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

A great crowd welcomed Him crying out, “Hosanna, to the son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord…” 

What we now know is that just a few short days later, many of those same people would betray Him & witness His torture & death.

That night, Jesus spent the night in Bethany.  

These events are recorded in: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.

Categories
.

April 13th: Heart of the Matter pt. 2

The heart of the matter will be the matter you choose to put in your heart.

Think about next Friday, Good Friday, for a minute. Think about what took place that day all those years ago as Jesus took so much on our behalf on the cross. In those last moments He would push up on His nailed feet digging His exposed bones and flesh against the wood for another gasp of air to say “My God My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and realize, my sin is within Him.  And after Jesus declared for all of humanity “It is finished” a soldier thrust a spear into His side between His ribs and into His heart immediately releasing the water and blood of a broken heart. 

   Three days later, He was risen from the dead and in doing so, provided us an opportunity to do the same – die to ourselves, be a servant to all, pick up our cross moment by moment, and live to His glory!  Often times, we complicate this by getting in our own way, choosing the convenience of when, where and why we want to “invite Him into our heart” (that He made). As though we were standing at the noontime deli counter in Publix, oblivious to the fact He is the beginning and the end, standing beside us, ready, willing and wanting to engage and even serve us that sandwich! 

Matthew 6:33 gives us a great picture of how to respond with our heart to the cross, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”.  Here’s some more tips for setting your heart before God…

Be consistent in asking the Holy Spirit for His power to do a work within, to cut deeper into your heart so that you can be filled with more of Him and who He called you to be for His purpose.  Ask for His understanding and wisdom before reading His Word daily, so that you will be consumed with wanting more. Believe and know that His promises and Word are Truth.  Act and be obedient to the work He does in you sharing Him with everyone you can on the straight path which He directs. 

Think on this today: There is no limit to how much of Christ is available to us but the limit we put on ourselves. 

Smith Wigglesworth said “I don’t often spend more than half an hour in prayer at one time, but I never go more than a half an hour without praying”.  The heart of the matter will be the matter you choose to put in your heart.  1 Peter 4:1-2 “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God”, Amen. 

“Guard your heart above all else,
    for it determines the course of your life.”
Proverbs 4:23

*written by Joseph Costello

Categories
.

April 12th: Heart of the Matter pt. 1

Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross this type of living within our heart and mind is possible.

Ancient Hebrew defines heart (levav) as “authority within”, considering it the center of a person’s mind or thoughts. Scripture confirms this thinking in multiple passages including Matthew 15:19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies”, Luke 5:22 “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, why are you thinking these things in your heart?” Psalm 26:2 “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart” amongst many others. 

       There’s no denying how closely these two (mind and heart) are connected in feeding one another, both literally and figuratively.  Our heart pumps blood continually to the most complex, thought processing, reasoning and intellectual organ in our body. Likewise, thoughts, taken in through our various senses, are a direct result to the passion, hope, emotion and desires within our heart.  You cannot have one without the other and call it a relationship much less faith.

God in His Word described David as a “man after my own heart” in 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22.  Instead of choosing to only see lies, adultery and murder – God looked on his heart and saw repentance, obedience, faith, sovereignty, devotion, trust, humility, respect and love.  David did everything God wanted him to do and he did it relentlessly.  Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses begins “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the Law of the Lord.  Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart- they do no wrong but follow His ways”

David went after God with his mind and it showed in his heart! The Good News is, you can too. It requires intentional living, direction and focus of what we value in the time that remains in our lives. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross this type of living within our heart and mind is possible.

How is it possible you might ask? For me, I can’t help but think and ask for it to forever dwell within my heart, the unexplainable and unconditional love Jesus had for each and every one of us as he came to die for yours and my sin. I find it so important to dwell on how He endured being wrongfully accused, mocked, spat on, flogged, muscle torn from His back, a crown of thorns beaten into his head, nailed naked to a cross and the first thing He says “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”

Let us strive to look at our heart in this season and ask the question “Have I let Jesus and the work of the cross deal with the heart of all my matters?”

*written by Joseph Costello

Categories
.

April 11th: Scars

We should be willing to show off our scars that have created the roadmap that has brought us to every mile marker in life.

It was a normal day for us at the beach with our family and friends at the end of this past summer. My husband, our 9 year old daughter, myself and few other family members were out in the water ducking under and over waves when all of a sudden I hear my daughter come up screaming next to me. I look over and she’s holding her arm screaming that she had been bit! I go into full panic mode and yell for my husband who immediately picks her up and gets her to the shore. He starts peeling these long, purple strands from her arm. I stopped looking and counting after the fifth one he peeled off. She had been stung by, what we thought at the time, a jellyfish. Come to find out later she had actually swam into a rather large Man of War and it’s tentacles had wrapped themselves around her arm.  Multiple doctor appointments, two missed days of school, bursting blisters from the tentacles and a round of antibiotics later and our daughter was left with some pretty angry looking wounds. Wounds, that over time, have turned into a road map of scars going from her elbow down to her wrist.

It’s been six months since she was stung and those scars are still very noticeable. She recently had a kid in her class tell her that her scars were scary looking. To which my daughter got rightfully upset and asked if she could wear a jacket to school to cover them up until they go away so no one would ask her about them anymore. She said she wanted to hide the scars because they made her feel different and she didn’t want people to see such an “ugly” thing on her. It broke my heart but that moment also birthed such a revelation. How could this amazing, bright, wonderful child think any part of her was ugly? She is treasured and loved so completely. She was made on purpose for a purpose and with everything I had in me as her parent I was going to make sure she knew that. I cupped her face and made her look at me and told her nothing could ever make her ugly. That she is beautiful and I was so proud of her for being such a strong kid.

And then it hit me. This is exactly how our Father sees us. He sees those scars that are both easily seen and deeply hidden. He not only sees them but he knows how you came by each and every one. He sees the deep cuts left on your heart by a cruel word or a false accusation. He sees the still angry marks that were self-inflicted or left by a surgeons knife after a life-saving operation. Our all-powerful, all knowing God sees them all and calls them beautiful. He holds your face in His hands and pulls you to Him saying “I am so proud of you my beautiful child”.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and after He had risen from the dead, he appeared to his disciples. John 20:20 “As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord”! Jesus wasn’t ashamed of his scars. It’s such a small gesture but carries such a tremendous message. We should be willing to show off our scars that have created the roadmap that has brought us to every mile marker in life. Just as the disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus’ scars, we should be just as accepting when others reveal their precious marks to us. Jesus’ scars preached a powerful story that no one could deny. His scars were a representation that all things work together for the good who love the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, what testimony is waiting to be shared in your scars? Do not be ashamed of those marks, the seen and the unseen ones. Our scars are not there to remind us that we have been hurt but to remind us that we have been healed.

*written by Krissy Hairston

Categories
.

April 10th: Keep Dreaming

Dreams…Some are just thoughts we don’t put into action.  And some, people say are too big to happen.

For Joseph, “The Dreamer” dreams were his gift from God.  He dreamed dreams, lived them, and interpreted them.  His dreams were what propelled him from prison to the palace.  Joseph’s story is told in Genesis 37-50.  We learn that at the time when he was still in his father’s home, he was the youngest son born to his father, Jacob, at a very old age.  He was also the son of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, who was barren for years before she got pregnant with Joseph.  Joseph sounds like a miracle child everyone would want to welcome with open arms, but it wasn’t exactly that way when it came to his brothers.  Joseph was given the infamous coat of many colors robe from his father, dreamed prophetic dreams that translated that he was superior to his family, and so much more that his brothers despised him for.  The hatred amongst his brothers got so much that they gathered up a plan to kill him.

Jesus wasn’t the only one who was betrayed by people he thought he could trust.  Joseph clearly had experienced betrayal as well.  The ones they both thought would’ve had their back, defending and supporting them…didn’t.  Their “loved ones” didn’t just leave them, they lied about them and sent them off to die.

Joseph ends up not dying but instead being sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s royal guard.  Later, Joseph was imprisoned for being falsely accused of an action he didn’t commit.  Sounds familiar- Jesus too was being plotted to be killed, chained and being falsely accused.

God wasn’t planning these set ups for a setback.  He was setting apart Jesus and Joseph to stand them up.  Sometimes your separation from the things that were once comfortable to you is really God sanctifying you for the biggest plan of your life.

God delivered Joseph out of prison by making him Pharaoh’s right-hand man.  Genesis 41:40-41 says, “You [Joseph] will be in charge of my court and all my people will take order from you… I put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.”

What a faithful God we serve.  God raised up Jesus and Joseph above their enemies, trouble, hurt and disappointment.  At Jesus’ resurrection He even had His enemies right at His feet.  Joseph’s story ends similarly with his brothers bowing down to his feet as well.  But no matter what their enemies had done to them, both Jesus and Joseph forgave them.

Child of God, first don’t allow your enemies to steal your dreams.  Secondly, if you have enemies right now, rejoice because that just means your destiny is awaiting your arrival!  Lastly, forgive your enemies today.  Jesus innocently hung on the cross and with his final breaths whispered, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to forgive the ones who have wronged me.  Heal my broken and hurting heart.  Strengthen me so that I may be able to step in my destiny and dreams that are waiting for me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*written by Megan Cochran

Categories
.

April 9th: There’s More To It

..because of the finished work of Christ, He promises to give us, “everything in abundance,” and more than we could ever expect!

            I think one of the best feelings on earth is when somebody pays for your food. (I know what Jesus said. Just hear me out.) I love food. I love people. So, of course, I love getting food (or coffee) with people. It’s one of the ways I get to see people I love, connect and grow a deeper relationship with those people. Many times, I set up a lunch date with a friend or a group and I expect to just eat, talk and go about my day. But, sometimes what I thought would just be “lunch” ended up being some of the best days of my life.

            I went to lunch with a friend I have not seen in years. We ate at Sonny’s (and I love Sonny’s), got caught up in each other’s lives, and had great conversation! What I thought would be the end of that, my friend ended up paying for my food and invited me to his house right after. I agreed. We get to his house, and we end up on his parents boat, ate some more good food and we ended up spending the entire day together. What I thought would be an awesome lunch, ended up being one of the most cherished memories and best adventures of my life!

            I think too often, we miss out on the fullness of what God has for us (especially me). Sometimes, I see Jesus as my ticket to Heaven and the One to forgive me when I slip up. Jesus did become our way to eternity in the presence of God, and He did die for us to be forgiven. In John 10:9-10, Jesus evens says He is the gateway. But Jesus follows that up with so much more.

            Jesus says, “to enter through me is to experience life, freedom and satisfaction.” We think Jesus is our way to Heaven, but because of the finished work of Christ, He promises to give us, “everything in abundance,” and more than we could ever expect!

            Of course, Christ died for us to be washed clean of our sin and so we can spend eternity with God. But Jesus also died so we no longer have to live in shame. Jesus died so we can have purpose here on earth. Jesus died so we have hope. Jesus died so we can be made whole. Jesus did not take the beating He did, shed the blood He shed, die the death He died just to be our ticket to Heaven. Christ did and always will always exceed our expectation. What Jesus did, did not stop at the cross.

            I want to challenge you during this sacred season to truly reflect on what Christ did. When you pray, ask God to show you how Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection influences your life today.

I am the Gateway. To enter through me is to experience life, freedom, and satisfaction. 10 A thief has only one thing in mind—he wants to steal, slaughter, and destroy. But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect — life in its fullness until you overflow!

– John 10:9-10 (TPT)

*written by Chris Alvarez

Categories
.

April 8th: Hold My Hand!

Even though we might let go of His hand and become bitter, wild, and senseless; Jesus still reaches out for us.

As I’m chasing after him, yelling his name to stop and dragging our 5-year-old daughter with me, I see a truck backing out of a space right where he’s heading. The driver sees the sight heading for his tires and immediately stops just as I grab my son. The sound of the tires squealing scared him and he was balling his eyes out and had his face buried in my neck. I sank to my knees in the parking lot rocking him and thanking God he didn’t get hurt. I pulled him back a bit and looked into his scared, tear stained face and said, “That’s why you have to hold my hand”.

“Hold my hand”! I told our almost 2-year-old son as we crossed the street in the grocery store parking lot. He was going through this “really fun” phase of not wanting to hold our hands. He was wanting to run wild and free everywhere we went. As I grabbed his little, squirmy hand he did his best to wiggle away as was the usual these days for him but I knew all his tricks so he never got away. He was starting to whine and cry, making a scene as all toddlers do when they don’t get what they want. He really started to pull away and his little hand was just sweaty enough that he was able to break free of my grip. He realized he was free and immediately he was on the run!

How many times has this happened to you? How many times have you let go of Jesus’ hand? How many unanswered prayers have you been frustrated over? How many times have you tried to do things your way? How many times have you ran the opposite direction God wanted you to go and ran right into trouble? More times than you would like to admit I’m sure. Psalm 73: 21-22 says “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. I was so foolish and ignorant- I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you”. When my toddler son let go of my hand he immediately ran towards a dangerous situation. Like a wild animal, he didn’t want to be held and confined to one area! When we let our hearts become bitter and our actions become foolish we take off in every direction but the one God has laid out for us. We set ourselves up for sin and danger.

Jesus doesn’t just want to come alongside you. Jesus wants to hold your hand. He wants to keep you safe. He wants to grip you tighter when you start to drift. I could not fully protect my son by just having him by my side. He was too tempted to run off in every direction. By holding his hand in mine I knew I could keep him safe, that when he started to pull away I could pull him back towards me. Jesus wants that same relationship with you. For you to trust him enough that you let him take hold of your hand and grip it tight. Psalm 73: 23-24, “Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny”.

Those verses paint such a beautiful picture for us and how desperately we need Jesus. That even though we might let go of his hand and become bitter, wild, and senseless; Jesus still reaches out for us. He takes us by our hand and leads us to our destiny, our future. And that future is full of hope and goodness. (Jeremiah 29:11) Brothers and sisters don’t fight the hand that is holding yours. Let Jesus’ tender yet strong hands take yours and lead you into the destiny that has been appointed to you long before you were even born. Take encouragement and comfort in the knowledge that even if you do start to stray and you end up hurt or scared Jesus will be right there, taking you up in his arms saying “That’s why I told you to hold my hand”.

written by: Krissy Hairston