Resurrection Sunday – Has the Story Changed?

The Lord’s Day, April 1, 2018

Read Matthew 28:5-6

5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for He has risen…”

Has the Story Changed? 

The story has not changed in 2000 years.

The tomb is empty. Christ has risen from the grave. He is alive!Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 9.41.37 PM

The story has not changed, but has the story changed you?

Paul tells the church at Corinth: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1Cor.15:19).

In other words, the story changes our life now and forever, and we’ve got to believe it and live in it. The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes our now and our eternity. The Lord is not in a tomb, He is reigning in glory and His Spirit lives and reigns within you and me! That’s where HE is.

Paul powerfully concludes saying, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you….” (1Cor.15:53-58).

I love that – He give us the victory… stand firm. Let nothing move you!  In Christ, and by the mystery of Christ in us, we stand on a solid Rock. We are immovable, strong, loved children of the risen King of kings.

The enemy hates this story. He lies profusely to sow seeds of doubt and distract us from the truth. He tries to label you with a distortion of the truth of who you are. He wants to move us.

The truth is JESUS IS ALIVE. The truth is HE has crushed Satan and put death to death. The truth is He has purchased life for you and me. The truth is we are full of Christ’s power, Christ’s love and Christ’s everlasting life. That is HIStory – and He has changed everything, including you and me.

Prayer:

Father, Thank you for the cross, Lord. Thank you for the price You paid.
Thank you for the amazing grace that changed my story! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Holy Saturday: The Trauma of The Cross

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Read Isaiah 53:3-6

3He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. 4Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrowsa that weighed him down.And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

The Trauma of The Cross

Trauma is defined as “any negative life event that occurs in a position of relative helplessness,”(1) or “any event or situation that changes your vision of yourself and your place in the world in a negative way”(2).

I remember the call… I can feel the emotion even now. I was 14 years old. The caller told my parents that my older brother had been critically burned in a forest fire in Colorado. I adored my brother. He was being airlifted to a burn trauma center in New Mexico. Four other firefighters died at his side on the mountain and his fate was very uncertain. We were on the other side of the country in New York… helpless. The thought of losing my brother, his suffering, our inability to help – it was overwhelming. My world had been shaken.

Imagine that first Saturday after the crucifixion. Jesus lies dead in a sealed tomb. You saw your beloved friend horrifically murdered. You thought he was the answer, and now he’s gone. Confusingly, it was the religious men who hated him and demanded crucifixion. Now the city is in turmoil and you fear for your life.  Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 6.07.23 PM

The Roman Guard is on high alert and tension fills the air. Jewish religious leaders are crazed, having called for the release of a notorious prisoner named  Barabbas, not Jesus (Mt.27:17). They are frantic, trying to make sense of the damage to the veil of the temple which was torn from top to bottom. At the same time, Jerusalem is filled with fear, having experienced an earthquake the night before. Some are grappling with their role and wondering if they just killed the Son of God (Matthew 27:51-54). The world is literally and physically shaking.

That day, the trauma of the cross was overwhelming. The unfinished, unresolved, horrific loss leaves our minds and bodies in a frozen state of broken, defensive anxiety. Our souls long for healing and wholeness. The most precious intimate relationship ever has been destroyed – or so we think.

Sitting with the tension of unresolved pain is hard, it always is. There is hope that the resolution will come tomorrow, that joy will come in the morning. It was promised long ago (Gen 3:15) and promised by Jesus (John 14-17). But for today, we must sit with our pain and trust in His presence.

PRAYER:

Father, be with us in the tension and in the traumas of life, big and small. Help us to learn from our pain and meet us in it. Hold us, heal us. We look forward to the joy of the coming morning and lifeeverlasting. Amen.

 

(1) Dr. Robert Scaer, author of The Trauma Spectrum; (2) Judy Crane, author of The Trauma Heart.

Good Friday Devotional: The Weight of The Cross

Friday, March 30, 2018

Read Matthew 26:36-39

36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watchd with me.” 39And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

The Weight of The Cross

When you think of something weighty, what comes to mind? I think of big life events, such as birth and death. Just before my father passed away, the doctor asked me and my siblings, “What do you want to do?” The question was to prolong his life or let our father die. That was too weighty, so we deferred to Dad and told the doctor, “Ask him, he’s still lucid.” My father, realizing his weakness and frail health, made the decision to “let it go.” He kissed my mother one last time and passed away within 12 hours.

To us, that was weighty. Yet Jesus faced the weight of the world, literally.Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 9.44.58 PM His hour had come and this cup he was to drink was full and heavy. It was a world class cup. It contained every sin ever, of all mankind, and the wrath of the Father toward every act of disgraceful disobedience, disrespect and dishonor against Him.

Jesus knows the weight, the horror, the pain and the ultimate cost. Drinking down the Father’s wrath and consuming the sins of mankind will be crushing. Understandably, He is sorrowful and troubled. For in the instant that He consumes the cup, He will experience separation (Matthew 27:46) from His Father that He has never before known; He will feel the horrendous weight of being forsaken.

It’s no wonder He asked the Father to let this cup pass from me. It’s an even greater wonder that he was steadfast and faithful and said, “not as I will, but as you will” and then took up The Cross. This is a depth of love and obedience that is beyond comprehension. Jesus knows something deep and weighty, and He is committed to it. He knows His loving obedience to the Father is the pathway to joy, gladness, and glory.

So He bore the weight, took the blame, and crushed death, so that we might have life.

 

Prayer:

Father, thank you that life is mine to live, won through Your selfless love. 
This, the power of the cross: Son of God – slain for us. What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross. Amen.

Holy Week Devo #4: The Mercy of The Cross

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Read Matthew 26:30-35

30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”35Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

The Mercy of The Cross

Have you ever found yourself doing something you said you would never do? It happens.  As parents, we say ‘I would never hurt my children,’ then your frustration peaks, anger erupts and wounding words fly. A wife promises to be faithful, for richer or poorer, then financial hardship comes, fear and insecurity overwhelm, and she lashes out at the man who is sweating bullets to provide. Yesterday, Frank Page, the President and CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee (the SBC’s highest post), resigned over a “morally inappropriate relationship.” Page has been a faithful pastor and family man for decades, only to fall (at 65 years of age) to something he would have said a thousand times – NO!

In our journey to the cross, we see Peter, again, adamantly sure the Lord is wrong and that he will be faithful to Jesus to his death. Jesus says, Peter “you won’t last the night.”

I mean no condemnation to anyone, especially Peter or Dr. Page. I am very aware that I too, too many times to count, have sinned in ways I prayed I never would.

Mercifully, Jesus does not shame Peter, but says after all this I’ll see you in GalileeScreen Shot 2018-03-25 at 9.44.58 PMHe acknowledges the weakness, brokenness and propensity to wander that exists in every human heart, even those who have taken bread from the Savior’s hand. And Jesus says, I know you’ll fall away, see you soon.

Our wandering hearts are the sad reality of a broken world, racked by sin from the beginning. Sin takes on different forms, but none of us can evade the disease. We dislike some folks sin more than others, generally detesting the sin that hurts ‘me’ most… but we all have the curse.

Yet, Jesus did not come to curse, condemn or judge the world (John 3:17), but that we might be saved through Him. Jesus does not point out Peter’s fast approaching denial to kick him in the teeth with shame and guilt, but to help him appreciate the depth of mercy held by the cross. Jesus has mercy sufficient for all – and we all, including Peter, Frank, me and you are desperate for it. By faith the mercy of the cross is ours in Jesus.

Prayer:

Thank you for this love, Lord. Thank you for the nail pierced hands. You
washed me in Your cleansing flow, now all I know is Your mercy and your grace! Hallelujah, what a Savior! Amen.

 

Holy Week Devo #3: Time For The Cross

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Read Matthew 26:1-5

1When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

Time For The Cross

How often have you said, “I need to make time for that,” or “I don’t have time for that, I’ll get to it later”? Or at a funeral we think, where did all the time go – it went by too fast. I think I have control over my time. Then an unexpected meeting, a friend in need, a death, or who knows what shows me time is not mine to control. I demand my Day-Timer perform better, but it’s not in control either.

In our passage, we see Jesus telling his disciples it’s time. He’s been telling them for a while now, “it is not yet my time.” Then, since just before Palm Sunday (the Triumphal Entry), he has predicted his death several times. Now he is specific, in two days, during  Passover, I will be crucified.

Meanwhile, the religious leaders and chief priests gather to plot and plan Jesus death. They coyly think they’ll do it after the Passover, so as not to create an uprising and draw too much attention to disposing of Jesus. This is as ridiculous as my plotting the timing of the sunrise. Jesus knows the time. His Father preordained the time. The greatest scandal in the history of man, the crucifixion of the spotless Lamb of God, will happen on the Lord’s timing.

I am reminded as we journey to The Cross that our Sovereign God is in control of time. All things, from creation to His return, to the beginning of life and the end, including the Crucifixion of His Son, happen with a purpose and on His divine schedule. Nothing is by chance. Our days are numbered (Ps139:16) and the hairs on our head are numbered (Matthew 10:30) by the One who holds the keys to life and death (Rev 1:18).

As I consider these truths, it makes me pause to consider time – His time, His purpose, His sacrifice. It all happened in the exact way and exactly when He said it would. It could not be concealed by men of power, but happened in a way that created such an uproar it changed the world. And by faith, in His perfect time, it changed me and it changed you.

Prayer:

Father, I thank You that in Your perfect timing You applied the work of Jesus on The Cross to my life, making me alive together with You. I don’t make time, but this week I will take time to praise You and thank You for Jesus’ time on the Cross. He not only redeemed my wasted time, but all eternity in glory with You was purchased for me. What a Savior! Amen.

 

 

Holy Week – The Journey to the Cross #2

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Read Matthew 21:12-17 (following the Triumphal Entry)

12Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13“It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’e but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’f

14The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’g ?”

17And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

SPACE FOR THE CROSS

Have you ever had a junk drawer or closet full of all the stuff you think you may need at some point, but don’t know what to do with it right now? It’s not important enough for its own assigned spot, so it takes up residence in the junk drawer. The really important things go in my top dresser drawer, that belonged to my father, in a special box that also belonged to my father. Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 9.44.58 PM There are everyday things and there are things we hold sacred. I don’t go to the gym in my dress suit and I wouldn’t go to a wedding in workout cloths. It’s just wrong and out of place.

The wise elder men of Israel had allowed the sacred temple to become full of the ordinary. The Father’s house had become a junk drawer. Meanwhile, the blind and the lame and the children are coming to him, finding healing and hope, and praising Jesus.

It’s a strange situation – the Scribes and Pharisees are full, like junk drawers, and have no room for Jesus. On the other hand, the young, hurting and broken are hungry to have a sacred encounter with the Living God. Their brokenness, their emptiness, has created space in them longing for Jesus. They are the temple of God (1Cor6:19), welcoming His holy, healing presence.

Mercifully, Jesus does not discard the Scribes and Pharisees and the Temple; He brings a cleansing fury. He drives out the ordinary, the secular, the vulgar to make room. The point is that there is more to fill this space than junk. Kindly he presses them, and us, to see that he has more for us when we make space for Him. He has a sacred love, a deeper joy, a fuller glory with which to fill us. And like children and babies, safe in a mothers love and nurture, we will praise Him like satisfied children when we make space for Him.

PRAYER:

Father, let me clean out my closet and empty it of my accomplishments and my sense of goodness, of my sins and failures in order to be open to your love, forgiveness and divine glory. Work in me, your temple, to bring satisfaction to my soul and praise and glory to You. Amen.

Holy Week – The Journey to the Cross

Monday, March 26, 2018

Read Matthew 16:24-28

24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.25For whoever would save his lifeg will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

THE COST OF THE CROSS

If I invited you to follow me as I bungee jump off a bridge, would you? First of all, I will never do that. You can, but I’m not jumping as I hate free falling and it only takes one little mistake and… splat. I’ve counted the cost versus the reward, and I ain’t doin it!

After Jesus told the disciples He was going to Jerusalem to suffer, die and be raised on the third day, he invited them to follow him.Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 9.44.58 PM He said, “take up your cross and follow me.” Do you think Peter was having it? He had just rebuked Jesus Christ for saying it. Now Jesus invites them to join.

I can only imagine Peter and the disciples are looking at one another wondering what in the world they have gotten themselves into. Was following Him a good idea, a safe idea? Jesus is asking a lot, and it appears it will cost them a lot. Will they jump?

The truth is, they don’t jump. Later, when Jesus does, they scatter. Peter even hides his identity and denies Jesus in front of a little girl at a fire. In that moment, he counted the cost and said, “no!”

How many times have my actions proclaimed “no” to my cross? To count for too long is to invite a flood of guilt and shame. What can I give in return for my soul? What did Peter give? Remarkably nothing… absolutely nothing! Jesus paid it all.

The cross is remarkable – remarkably costly – and yet God’s love is free to all. As we journey to the cross this week, may the mystery of the gospel take us deeper into His love, His glory and His abundant life.

PRAYER:

Thank you for the cross, Lord. Thank you for the price You paid. Bearing all my sin and shame, in love You came and gave amazing grace. Draw me deeper into your love. Amen.