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.

 

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#18 – 40 Days of Kindness & Prayer, Together

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Read Nehemiah 1:1-11 (CEV)

I am Nehemiah son of Hacaliah, and in this book I tell what I have done.

During the month of Chislev in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes ruled Persia, I was in his fortress city of Susa, 2when my brother Hanani came with some men from Judah. So I asked them about the Jews who had escaped  from being captives in Babylonia. I also asked them about the city of Jerusalem.

They told me, “Those captives who have come back are having all kinds of troubles. They are terribly disgraced, Jerusalem’s walls are broken down, and its gates have been burned.”

When I heard this, I sat down on the ground and cried. Then for several days, I mourned; I went without eating to show my sorrow, and I prayed:

LORD God of heaven, you are great and fearsome. And you faithfully keep your promises to everyone who loves you and obeys your commands. I am your servant, so please have mercy on me and answer the prayer that I make day and night for these people of Israel who serve you. I, my family, and the rest of your people have sinned 7by choosing to disobey you and the laws and teachings you gave to your servant Moses.

8 Please remember the promise you made to Moses. You told him that if we were unfaithful, you would scatter us among foreign nations. 9 But you also said that no matter how far away we were, we could turn to you and start obeying your laws. Then you would bring us back to the place where you have chosen to be worshiped.

10 Our LORD, I am praying for your servants—those you rescued by your great strength and mighty power. 11 Please answer my prayer and the prayer of your other servants who gladly honor your name. When I serve the king his wine today, make him pleased with me and let him do what I ask.

BEGIN with BROKENNESS

Brokenness is often what God uses to reveal his purpose and vision for us. Nehemiah is an example of a broken leader, broken over a broken city and its people. Enemies destroyed the wall around Jerusalem, leaving the city in a vulnerable position. The people were broken and disgraced. Nehemiah sought God’s heart and followed His leadership. He was open to God working in him and through him.

A church’s [families] vitality depends on God working and servant leaders that are available and responsive to him. Nehemiah painted a clear picture of vital servant leadership. (1) Nehemiah was inquisitive and interested. He asked questions. What questions do you need to ask at home and at church? (2) Nehemiah accepted reality. He heard the news that the wall was broken down and the people were in trouble. What is our reality? Is there a need for fresh vitality and commitment? (3) Nehemiah acted. He cried, prayed, fasted and surrendered. What action do you and I need to take today for greater vitality in our family?

The beginning is to be broken over the current reality of the brokenness within and around us. Then we must seek God in prayer, fasting and surrender.

PRAYER:

Father, give me the wisdom to understand our reality, to be compassionate, to prayerfully seek you and surrender to the leading of your Spirit. AMEN.

Day 7 – 40 Days of Kindness & Prayer

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

 Matthew 13:1-9

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Jesus addressed a large crowd, telling a parable (an earthly story with a heavenly meaning) about a person’s heart. A farmer scatters seed that falls on different soils – hard packed, rocky, weedy and soft. Were not farmers – so what’s point?

The question at hand is what is the state of our hearts. Is it:

  • Calloused – hard to touch and connect with because you just go through the motions but really have a self-centered agenda
  • Rocky and shallow – a bit immature and easily exasperated. Liking the idea of faith and love, but pretty quick to dry up and give up.
  • Choked and distracted – consumed with busyness and the many words and ideas that are competing for your attention … prone to chase squirrels.
  • Soft and receptive because it’s been plowed (broken) and is open and ready to welcome the will and work of God within. This heart is content and centered in Christ, trusting his Spirit’s work in every situation.

What’s the state of your heart?  A way to a receptive heart is to connect with sadness. The sadness of those hurting around you and in this world. Sadness leads to compassion and compassion opens our heart to receive and give love. Let your heart be broken, so love grows.

PRAYER:

Father, what is the state of my heart? Show me and make me receptive to your love and your will. Let me connect to your compassion that I might be a conduit of your love. Amen.

40 Days Prayer & Kindness – Day 3

February 16, 2018

EMBRACING HUMILITY

LUKE 18:9-14

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Pride is a subtle sin. It is not always easy to detect in our own lives. Jesus got this so he gave us a picture of pride and humility with two characters in this parable. The Pharisee modeled pride and the tax collector humility.

In pride the Pharisee refuses to admit he has a need. Conversely the tax collector, recognizing his need of forgiveness, beat his chest and humbly pleaded for mercy.

Pride sees the problem with others and is happy to point out their faults. The humble man owns his own sin, brokenness and faults. Humility is not self-deprecation, but owning our need and dependence upon God’s mercy. It is the ability to own our brokenness and even our God given limitations and dependence upon others.

The focus of pride is earning our righteousness before others or convincing ourselves we are “good enough.” Humility on the other hand accepts that we are sinners and desperate for God’s redeeming love. The prideful heart is reactive and unreceptive. Humility accepts help and is receptive to love.

PRAYER:

Father, reveal to me where I am prideful and reactive rather than receptive to your love. Help me to see the limitations you’ve given me and accept the goodness of my gifts. Help me too to turn from sin and accept the transforming power and love of your Spirit to pursue holiness and peace with others.