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.

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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.

10 Basics of Relational Wholeness

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Read Exodus 20:17 (10th Commandment)

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” 

COVETOUSNESS & CONCLUDING the 10

The wrongful desire to have the possessions of another – covetousness. This commandment is a summary commandment that simply speaks to a wandering heart. If your heart and mind covet, and go unchecked, then the preceding boundaries (commandments 5-9) will be broken and your neighbor’s life, house, family, marriage and business are destroyed.  This commandment speaks to the heart preceding damaging actions and challenges us to have a heart righteously oriented for the good of others.

Let’s recap the 10 … and maybe you could memorize them, with the help of your fingers, as a family this weekend.

  1. Have no other gods before Me.
  2. Do not worship images or created things, I am a jealous God.
  3. Do not carry My name in emptiness.
  4. You have the privilege of a Sabbath rest in Me, treasure it.
  5. Don’t diss your Momma or your Daddy.
  6. Don’t murder or hurt one another.
  7. Don’t be unfaithful to one another.
  8. Don’t steal from one another.
  9. Don’t lie about one another.
  10. Don’t desire your neighbor’s stuff.

Notice the relational aspects of the Ten Commandments.

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The first four are about our relationship with God, while the next six are about our relationships with one another. Clearly, a loving God who made us from a loving relationship (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) for loving relationships is concerned about the quality, character and care of our relationships. He insists that we be relationally protective of Him and one another.  As He is good to us, He commands that we be good to Him and to each other.

That’s the point. Do no harm to others. Do not relationally hurt others. Why? Because it is the antithesis of love. Hurt people hurt people, but love covers a multitude of sins. We are called, even as broken hurting people, to love one another. With our wounds and limitations, we must try to love as we have been loved. When we choose otherwise, we choose a cycle of destruction that leads to death.

PRAYER:

Father, as we prepare to begin Holy Week, make us mindful of the boundaries you have given for our good and Your glory. May the cost of my rebellion – the suffering, humiliation and death of Jesus – lead my heart and mind to be good and kind to others, for my good and Your glory. AMEN.

40 Days Devo – Don’t Hurt One Another

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Exodus 20:13

“You shall not murder.”

OF COURSE! 

This commandment lacks nuance. Maybe we would gladly skip over it, looking for more refined instruction that does not fall in the “Captain Obvious” camp.

Not so quick. The story of family begins with Adam and Eve dishonoring the Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 4.33.53 PMwishes of their heavenly Father, breaking the 5th commandment. Then on the heals of their turning from God, something He says brings
death, their eldest son Cain, in a fit of jealous rage, kills his little brother Abel. The first murder of the Bible follows the heals of a mom and dad disobeying God.

It would seem a family would be alarmed by such violence and put a stop to the relational destruction. How could they let it happen again? But Scripture says the story gets worse. Moses murders a man to ‘right a perceived wrong.’ Pharaoh murders the babies of Israelites to ensure they don’t outnumber and overtake his government. King David murders Uriah to cover his adultery. Herod Antipas murders John the Baptist to silence his voice against his incestuous behavior. Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, is murdered by the Romans and Israelites because he threatens their governing power and their religious status quo. And James proclaims “you desire but do not have, so you kill.”

There is a theme that James summarizes: we kill as a means of control. We so desperately want our way, control of our life and circumstances, that we will mortally wound another human being to fulfill our pleasures (James 4:3).

Jesus says, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).  The choice is to kill – with a look, a manipulative word, cutting sarcasm or force – to get what we want, OR surrender our desires, our “rights,” in the moment, to the eternal love of God. The former has left a trail of sin, suffering, brokenness and blood. The latter provides freedom. Jesus’ way leaves a legacy of love. Today, will you “kill” your neighbor or choose love?  

Prayer:

Father, history is full of demanding violence and death. Today, fill me afresh with Your Spirit of love and peace. Give me the grace that I may surrender to your love and trust you to provide more abundantly than I could ever ask or demand to be satisfied by in this world.

 

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.

 

#28 of 40 Days of Kindness

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Read Joshua 5:13-15

13Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lorde have for his servant?”

15The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

ARE YOU FOR or AGAINST? 

When Joshua, preparing for battle, saw a human figure with sword drawn, he naturally went to the man and asked if he was for them or against them. The man, who Joshua discovered was an earthly appearance of God, answered that he was not for then or against them, but was the commander of the Lord’s army. Joshua bowed down and worshiped the Lord.

When we are facing the challenges of life, even relationships in family and the church, it is natural for us to begin to choose sides. It is comfortable and easy to make things black and white, right and wrong, us and them. We can make distinctions between those who seem to be for our vision and our beliefs and those we imagine are against us. It may be true, but it may be an unnecessary division that only leads to a fight.

A more peaceful path may be to ask if we are personally in agreement with the Lord. Let’s ask, am I living toward people or am I against them? Am I living out of gratitude for God’s love, patience, kindness and forgiveness to me? He showed us love and kindness when we were against him (Rom 5:10)? We will know we are “with” the Lord when our desires for others correspond to His loving action toward us.

PRAYER:

Father, your lovingkindness changes me, it changes everything. I pray as I welcome your love today, my heart, attitude and actions will reflect your love toward others. AMEN,