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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3rd – And it’s more than cussing…

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Read Exodus 20:7

7“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

A Weighty Relationship (Commandment #3)

On a few occasions, around new people, some will flippantly let an f-bomb drop or a “G.D.” this or that fly. Then, as their friends uncomfortably point out that I’m a pastor, they’ll awkwardly say, “Oh shoot, I’m so sorry.” I simply smile and enjoy the momentary squirming as they wrestle with warping the ears of the “man of God.” I imagine they have the 3rd commandment in mind and they think cussing in the presence of a pastor puts them at risk of a lightning strike. It’s strangely comical.

The reality is God’s 3rd Commandment is not about cussing or “speaking” His name in vain, though such may not be edifying. The verse says “take” not “speak.” It’s deeper than what we say. The Hebrew word means “hold, bear or carry.” Thus ‘do not carry the name of the Lord in emptiness.’ We carry the name of God upon us.

We are children of God, made in His image, ultimately belonging to and representing Him. We have a responsibility to carry His name with the weight and worth He deserves. He is calling us to value our relationship and the weight of glory within us.

Imagine the uniformed UPS man. He represents Big Brown and they have strict standards for how he carries their name as a company representative. UPS doesn’t want an employee sullying their reputation through frivolous actions. In our case, we carry the name of Christ upon us. More than putting a cross necklace on or slapping a fish on your bumper, we have been chosen for a loving relationship with the Lord God Almighty. As such, He calls us to live as godly image bearers and to weigh heavily the relationship we enjoy with Him.

PRAYER:

Father, may my life, including my speech, reflect the deep deep love and goodness of our relationship. May I not think, speak or act in emptiness, but cherish your glory within. AMEN.

The Second Word on our Relationship with God

Friday, March 16, 2018

Read Exodus 20:4-6  (Commandment #2):

 4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the
earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousandsb of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 9.03.46 AM
Second Finger…

On the surface, in our day, this may seem a strange prohibition. Yet, realize that the Egyptian Pharaohs made gigantic statues of themselves that they demanded be worshiped. Saddam Hussein and other dictators have done the same. Likewise, idols (statues and representations of gods) were pervasive in the ancient world, like a pair of lucky socks or a good luck charm today. Human beings are captivated by tangible, visual images. We often make them in a form that is unreal, but controllable and reflective of our own desires. In a way, idols and images were the pornography of the ancient world – a distortion of what is good, true and beautiful, the One True God.

So God says don’t equate me to something you can fashion with your own hands and mind. This is one step away from reducing God to a limited, created being, and it is on par with people who fabricate gods for their own pleasures and purposes. Israel, and now the church of Jesus Christ, is not to reduce him to a statue, worship a created thing (i.e. “mother earth,” the sun, stars, crosses, ancestors, etc.) or compare the limitless, loving, Sovereign Creator of the universe to any thing contained or created within the universe. He is beyond our ability to contain, construct or fully comprehend. He is uncontainable.

The profound impact of going astray here, distorting the One True God, is to damage a father’s whole family, and by ripple effect, generations of that family. Conversely, to accept God’s self definition from his Word, and love him as such, is to embrace and be embraced by His covenant love forever and ever (to a thousand generations)!

PRAYER:

Father, where there are idols in my life, destroy them. Where my view of you is distorted, make it pure and clear. When my affections wander and my allegiance falters, draw me back. I desire to know and love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. AMEN.

 

Day 8 – 40 Days of Kindness

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Read Matthew 7:7-11

7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

KEEP ASKING

God answers the prayers of His children according to his perfect will, and we know it is his will for the body of Christ (the church) to be vital and healthy. Perhaps vitality wanes because we give up on prayer too soon?

A little girl watched as he mom put a deep cleansing charcoal facial mask (available from Mary Kay via Rita Stephenson) on her face. The little girl asked, “Mommy, “why are you smearing that stuff on your face?” Mom replied, “To make myself beautiful.” In a few moments the mother began to wash her face and the little girl asked, “Are you giving up already?”

Giving up on pretty may come in time (personally speaking), but let’s not give up on prayer. Asking, seeking, knocking are things children do routinely. While we may grow weary at times the trivial, the deep desires of our children matter to us. How much more do our desires meet the loving, receptive ear of our God and Savior. He may not give exactly what we ask, but surely he will give us what we need, even when its difficult to receive.

May we pray for each other and the collective CCG family that God would give us exactly what we need. We need physical sustenance such as money to pay the bills and hands to do the work and equally so we need spiritual sustenance. In fact, we need the later more than the former to thrive, but may for ask for both and trust him with the outcome.

PRAYER: 

Father, where I have been lax in my conversation with you, forgive me. I desire communion with you. I desire your wisdom to guide me and your sustaining Spirit to fill me. And Father, I ask you to give us all we need as your church to thrive and glorify your name. Amen.