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Walking Out Of The Grave

jesus_hands

Sunday, April 5th

Walking Out of the Grave
HE IS RISEN!!

Matthew 28:1-8

“He is not here; He has risen,
just as He said…” Matthew 28:6a

Sabbath was over and the women just had one thing on their minds. They must prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. They left quietly as the men had finally fallen asleep after hours of discussion, debate and devastating sadness over the loss of their leader and friend. The women were also mourning but right now they had to set their grief aside for this important task.

They walked to the grave carrying spices and discussing how they would gain access to the body. A huge stone had been rolled in front of the entrance and sealed with the Roman seal. Even if they could get past the stone, breaking that seal would mean certain death for the women.

As dawn broke and they reached the tomb they stopped in amazement. The tomb stood wide open, seal broken and stone rolled away. Frightened and concerned that someone had taken Jesus’ body the women rushed ahead and found an astonishing sight inside the tomb.

Jesus body was gone!

Before the women could process the thought they noticed there was someone there.

Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’

Then they remembered his words.     Luke 24:4-8

 

And they believed!!

The women didn’t stop to ask questions or wonder where Jesus was. They ran back, woke the men and told them the good news!!

 

Jesus is Alive!!

Jesus is Alive!!

 

The men followed the women back to the tomb and saw for themselves that Jesus’ body was gone, but the cloths He had been wrapped in for burial remained.

 

Their sadness turned to wonder and hope that Jesus was truly alive!

 

A short time later Jesus appeared to His friends, confirming the truth that He had walked out of the grave and conquered death. I pray that this Easter you will allow Jesus to walk into your heart. Whether for the first time or as a renewal of your faith I pray you will know the hope of His gift for us on the cross and allow Him to bring you the joy of His resurrection not only today but every day of the year.

 

 

 

Prayer

My Savior and my God!! You walked out of the grave and beat death so that I can walk into Heaven with you someday. My hope and joy is renewed on this Easter day each year as I celebrate with others this incredible gift.

 

Lord, this year may the joy and hope not end with the celebration of this day. As Spring turns to Summer and days turn into weeks and months help me to keep the gift of your resurrection in the forefront of my mind. Help me to remember that each day is a gift give to me because of Your life on earth, death on the cross, and Your walk out of the tomb.

 

And may my joy and hope be contagious, bringing others closer to You.

 

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Betrayed, Arrested, Disowned

Thursday, April 2nd

Betrayed, Arrested, Disowned
Mark 14:43-50

“The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”

In amongst the blessings of life we all have times when things don’t go our way. We face sickness, pain, loss of jobs, days when dreams don’t come true or someone didn’t come through the way we thought they would.

All of this is part of living in a sinful world filled with imperfect people. And we learn to cope with it. But have you ever been betrayed by someone you love? Have you ever had a time when someone you thought would stick by you pretended they didn’t know you? This goes beyond disappointment. It’s enough to plunge someone into despair.

When Jesus finished praying in the Garden of Gethsemane He walked directly into confrontation. He faced a group of His enemies…and one of His closest friends. The kiss Judas greeted Jesus with was not a kiss of affection. It was a kiss of betrayal intended to identify Jesus to those who wanted to take His life.

Jesus was bound as He walked out of the Garden of Gethsemane, led off to be judged. His friends followed at a distance or I imagine some of them slipped away as not to be taken captive themselves. Either way they didn’t stand at Jesus’ side to plead His case to the man who would judge Him.

We don’t know why Judas agreed to betray Jesus, but we do know that he did it for a few pieces of silver. And we know Judas was so ashamed of what he did, sure he could never be forgiven that he took his own life.

As Jesus walked into the temple to be judged Peter followed. I believe in His heart Peter wanted to protect Jesus and defend Him but I also think he was scared.

Whatever the reason, when asked if he knew Jesus Peter denied that he did. He was pressed by someone who saw him with Jesus and still he denied that he did. Three times Peter denied that he had anything to do with Jesus and he never had a chance to make it right before Jesus died.

Have you ever said something and then wished you could take it back? Perhaps you have treated a friend badly or had a fight with your family, then parted before being able to make it right. It is a terrible feeling.

The good news for Peter was that after Jesus rose from the dead He gave Peter an opportunity to redeem himself. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus. Three times Peter said that he did. And all three times Jesus told Peter to go and take care of others, helping them to know Jesus as Peter himself did. Peter didn’t let Jesus down again.

This same opportunity is available to you and me. No matter what we do, when we genuinely confess and repent to Jesus we will be forgiven. It may take time to repair the damage done to earthly relationships but there is hope for those as well.

 

The same gift of forgiveness and restoration offered and granted to Peter is there for us too. We only need to ask.

 

Prayer

Lord, it can be so easy to judge Peter for turning his back on You when the pressure was on and at the same time so easy to forget that I have most likely done it too. Perhaps it wasn’t a blatant declaration that I didn’t know you but rather keeping quiet in a conversation instead of defending You. Or maybe it was taking credit when I should have given it to You.

Father, please forgive me for these times. Point them out to me so that I can be more aware and stand stronger next time. Thank You for Your gift of forgiveness and the certainty that while I may deny you through my words or actions You will always claim me as Your own and welcome me back with open arms over and over again.

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Walking Into Servanthood

Jesus wash feet

Tuesday, March 31st

Walking Into Servanthood
John 13:1-17

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”  Luke 18:14b

Jesus was a King. He was God living on earth yet He walked everywhere He went. He had no fancy carriage and no palace in which to sleep. Jesus and His disciples slept under the stars and ate whatever they could find. Yet they never went without. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate God’s love for all people by meeting them where they were.

Jesus welcomed children, fed the hungry, healed the sick and lame and loved everyone, no matter their occupation or the sins they had committed. He expected them (and us) to follow His example.

Perhaps one of the greatest acts of servanthood Jesus showed was at their Passover supper the night He was betrayed.

In John 13 we read that as the meal was being served Jesus got up from the meal and removed His outer clothing. He picked up a towel, tied it around His waist and poured water into a basin. Jesus then began to wash the feet of His disciples, drying them with the towel tied around his waist.

There is great significance in this.

First – We just discussed that Jesus and His disciples walked everywhere they went. If they wore shoes at all they were likely only a form of sandals designed to protect the bottom of their feet from rocks and other debris. They were held on by cloth or leather strips, barely covering the tops of their feet as they walked along the dusty roads. Their feet were constantly filthy. Only an individual themself or a servant would wash his or her feet.

Second – A king was dressed in robes and splendor. Jesus never did wear the kingly robes he deserved, and He removed the only robe He was wearing and replaced it with a towel tied around His waist just as a servant would have worn.

Third – Jesus did the unthinkable. He bent down to His disciples, kneeling before them to wash their feet. This posture of kneeling before someone was again what a servant would do to a master. Not a posture fit for a King.

Some of Jesus’s disciples argued with Him. Imagine if you had spent the day walking through a muddy field or down a dusty dirt road wearing open sandals. You arrive home to find someone famous whom you really admire waiting for you with a bowl of water and a towel ready to wash your feet. Would you be excited, or embarrassed? Most of us would want to run around to the back entrance, hop in the shower and clean up before this person could see us. It was the same way with the disciples.

The lesson Jesus was trying to get across is that it doesn’t matter what position you hold or how much money is in your bank account. It’s irrelevant how many Facebook friends you have or if you rub shoulders with influential people. The only thing that matters to God is how far you are willing to go to show love to others.

Jesus knelt before them and washed their feet.

Jesus allowed His enemies to mock Him, beat Him and whip Him until He could barely stand.

Then Jesus gave His life for His friends. That includes you and me.

 

If the creator of the world did all of this for us, is it too much for Him to ask us to humble ourselves before others?

 

I’m going to ponder this today…and hopefully put it into action.

 

Prayer

Jesus, you gave us such a beautiful example of loving others. Everywhere You went kindness and mercy flowed from You. Never were you too busy for someone in need and never were You too important for even the least of society. The desire of my heart is to replicate this way of life but I fail more than I succeed. Lord, today show me how I can be more like You. May Your kindness and humility show through me and if others ask about my actions may I lovingly and humbly point them to you.

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Jesus Walks Into The Temple

overturned-table-122946_630x210-600x200

Monday, March 30th
Jesus Walks Into The Temple
Mark 11:12-19

“My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Jesus woke with the image of the temple from last night burned into His memory and as He walked toward Jerusalem knew the task that lay ahead of Him. The scene as He approached the temple confirmed what He knew in His heart. The outer court was filled with money changers and merchants trying to swindle worshipers out of their offerings. The noise of those hawking their wares permeated the air, attempting to coerce visitors out of their offering money with the purchase of sacrifices at exorbitant prices.

The crowd with Jesus was amazed as He paused from teaching and made His way through the temple courts overturning tables and benches. They could see the anger mixed with sadness fill His face as Jesus drove out the money changers and merchants who had overrun the temple courts.

Quoting the prophet Isaiah He spoke: “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house for prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17) The whole crowd was amazed by His teaching for no one had ever dared speak against the chief priests and teachers of the law who allowed this practice to take over the Lord’s temple. The teaching was not popular however with those leaders. They saw the reaction of the crowd and feared Jesus, looking for a way to kill Him.

I have often been quick to judge those money changers and merchants wondering how they could turn the Lord’s temple into a marketplace, distracting those who came to worship and pray. I have thought, “I would never do that!” But I have been wrong.

Romans 12 1-2 says:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

God’s desire for His temple in Jerusalem was to be a place of prayer. It was to be dedicated to Him and a refuge where He could be found by anyone seeking Him. It was to be a holy place of worship where all who brought sacrifices and sought forgiveness from sin were welcomed and cleansed.

The same is true of us. God created us to worship Him but too often we allow ourselves to conform to the sinful patterns of the world around us. I don’t know about you but too often I get to the end of a day and realize that I didn’t sacrifice my sinful desires enough. I allowed the cravings of my stomach to override my mind as I put too much unhealthy food into my mouth instead of putting it down. Or perhaps I listened to the voice that told me the comforts of my bed were more desirable than physical exercise and time with the Lord. Perhaps it was joining in with the crowd of complainers and mockers instead of speaking what was kind and encouraging and right.

If God came into our heart or mind on any given day would He need to overturn tables there? I’m not talking about mistakes or one-time sins but are there habits settled in that need to be driven out?

If you or I suddenly realized that Jesus was walking beside us would we be startled or pleased? I know it’s something I need to consider more.

 

Prayer

Lord, it’s so easy to judge the money changers and merchants for their actions in the temple courts and not look inside my own heart to see what actions are there that should not be. Please walk with me through the day today and make me aware of habits I have developed by conforming to the world instead of your desires for my life. Help me to offer my body throughout the day to you as a living sacrifice. My heart’s desire is to be holy and pleasing to You. May that desire not only be reinforced in me today but be evident to those around me as well.

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Walking to Jerusalem

jesus-on-donkey1

Sunday, March 29th
Walking to Jerusalem
Luke 19:29-44

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The Sabbath was drawing to a close as Jesus and His disciples walked toward Jerusalem where they would celebrate Passover together. Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead to bring a colt back. He was thankful they didn’t ask a lot of questions, simply did as He asked.

 

Walking along disciples Jesus listened to the other remaining disciples prattle on about mundane things. These men were precious to Jesus, walking faithfully with Him for three years. Jesus knew they were looking forward to the Passover celebration, yet they had no idea what this year held in store for them. He knew the challenges ahead would test them all and ultimately be too much for some.

 

The group stopped briefly as the two disciples approached with the borrowed colt. Placing their cloaks on the back of the colt and seating Jesus there they continued on the road to Jerusalem. Celebration was in the air as people spread their cloaks and branches on the roads shouting, “Hosanna!”. Children waved palm branches and sang to Jesus. Many of these people were present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, following Him since. They shouted praises to Jesus and recalled the miracles He had done, praising God. They cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

 

Jesus took it all in yet He could not celebrate with them for as He looked through the crowd He also saw the unbelief. It caused Him to weep for the city of Jerusalem, knowing the time had come for His purpose on earth to be completed yet those in authority didn’t recognize Him. They exchanged the peace that comes with knowing Jesus as Lord for earthly power and recognition. Their desire was to be acknowledged by their peers more than embracing the truth that a better reward was in store for those who believed in Jesus.

Some of the Pharisees, very upset by this display, told Jesus to quiet His followers yet Jesus told them if they kept quiet the very stones would cry out. (Luke 19:40)

 

The procession reached the temple area in Jerusalem. Jesus looked around, saddened by what He saw. Since it was late He walked on to Bethany with His disciples for the night, preparing for the challenges of the days ahead. Jesus knew in just a few days many of the same people who were praising would desert Him. They wouldn’t understand the sacrifice He was about to make that would give them a new freedom and power that cannot be attained on earth.

 

As this Holy Week begins how is your heart? Will you go through the week declaring the miracles Jesus has done in your own life or will you be part of the crowd that causes Jesus to weep as He looks your way? Is the desire of your heart to serve Him and not seek the pleasures of this world and the power and pleasures of this earthly life?

 

It can be easy to praise God and welcome Jesus as leader of our lives when we see miracles and other good things happen. It’s also easy to turn away from Him when we don’t understand how He will bring good from a difficult situation.

 

As you walk through this week of remembrance and celebration, join me in allowing God to examine our hearts and intentions. Let Him erase your faults and cleanse your heart so you can cry, “Hosanna” to those around you with a sincere and joy-filled heart.

Prayer

 

Lord, the week ahead will be filled with preparations for Easter. The culture around me doesn’t celebrate You or Your resurrection. As I begin this week cleanse my heart, Lord. Examine me and expose any areas where I need to repent. Cause me to reflect on You and express Your grace and love to those around me. May I be a light for You, showing those around me that Easter is about more than colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and baskets filled with treasures. May I, through my words and actions show the real Easter treasure is You.

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Walking With Jesus…

trail

Walking With Jesus
To the Cross…and Beyond

Holy Week Devotions

 

For much of my life I thought of Easter as only one day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We had a Palm Sunday/Sabbath celebration where we remembered Jesus’ joyous entry into Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration. and talked a little about the events of the week leading up to Easter but not much emphasis was put there. It was so unlike Christmas. Weeks were spent anticipating that day of celebration, singing songs, reading stories and decorating in anticipation of the celebration of his birth.

Not so much with His resurrection. One day of celebration, dinner with the family, then we were done.

While I’m not suggesting we need to intensify the hype of Christ’s Resurrection I realized over the past few years that I want to experience it differently. I dug into the scriptures of the time between Palm Sunday and the Resurrection and I discovered that Jesus walked through so much in those few days that I hadn’t thought of before.

I’d like to share some of what I found with you.

Beginning tomorrow, Palm Sunday I will post a devotion each morning to help us walk to the cross with Jesus.

I hope these thoughts will help deepen your experience of the days leading to the cross and intensify your celebration of the greatest moment in Christian history – the resurrection of Jesus!

blessings and peace to you as we enter this Holy week…
Paula

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Giving Up ~ 3 Things to Consider During Lent

The Lenten season has begun.  For many Christian denominations the tradition of Lent marks 40 days (excluding Sundays) until Easter. It’s a time for reflection, repentance and remembering what Jesus did for us as He made His way toward the cross, culminating with Easter Sunday and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

As a child I was fascinated as my friends would come back to school after religion class with ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. It was a tradition we didn’t follow in my Baptist denomination and I was curious. The ashes symbolize purification and sorrow for our sins. Each of my friends also gave something up for Lent. It was usually candy, pizza, soda or some other food sacrifice. I remember it wasn’t easy for them to carry this out for 6 weeks but admired them for the effort.

candy cake

In the days leading up to Ash Wednesday this year conversations at work and among friends turned to Lent and who would give up something they enjoy during the 6 weeks of Lent. It got me to thinking about what, if anything, I should give up. I considered giving up chocolate, but that was quickly dismissed. Other considerations were candy, all sweets, or “junk” food. I even considered giving up social media. All were things I enjoy a great deal and often struggle with overdoing. Any would be a good choice and may help change some bad habits.

Somehow any choice I came up with seemed like it wasn’t enough. I feared it would become about me and not the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Would I think of Him each time I turned away from a temptation or would I simply be proud of myself for each little success? My desire is to go deeper and give up something that would impact not only myself but my little corner of the world.

I prayed and pondered, coming up with almost more than I bargained for as God showed me things He’d like me to give up for Him. Here are five of them:

1. Insecurity/Jealousy
Wouldn’t you think jealousy would have left us in our teen years? In reality it follows many of us into adulthood. It amazes me sometimes how often I wonder if someone likes another friend more than me or I catch a glimpse into another’s life and wish it was mine (not taking into account that I don’t see the whole picture, just one small slice)

I know many of my jealous tendencies come from insecurity. Maybe yours do too. At times when I am not confident enough in who I am in Christ or grounded enough in His love I become discontent and jealous. I focus too much on what the world thinks instead of keeping my focus on Jesus.

One of the Ten Commandments instructs us not to envy others or covet what God has given them either materially or through our gifts and talents. When we do we are sinning.

Wow. So if it’s not enough that jealousy and insecurity makes us feel miserable, it’s sinning against God and making Him very unhappy as well.

How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I focused internally on God’s desire for my life instead of externally on what everyone else has/does? How would yours?

2. Being Quick to Speak
Do you have someone in your life who always has something to say? When you’re with them you feel like they’re not listening to you but rather trying to figure out what to say next. It can be very frustrating to spend time with them, especially if you need someone to really listen and care.

I know sometimes I am quick to have something to say and will sometimes offer my opinion when it’s unwanted. Is this you too?

Scripture has something to say about this as well:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

I am sometimes also quick to speak when it comes to prayer. I have so much to say or ask for that I don’t take the time to listen. In doing so I shut out the wisdom, peace and joy God wants to share with me and possibly through me. If I don’t listen to Him how can I offer others the thing they need most – the love and joy of the Lord.

How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I spent more time listening to others and to the Lord and less time talking? How would yours?

3. Overindulgence
AAAAAGGGggghhhhhh!! This is such a challenge for me! From chocolate to snacks and even with social media once I get started it can be difficult, sometimes impossible to stop!

Unfortunately along with overindulgence comes an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating too many sweets, snacks and fatty foods adds pounds and leads us down the road to likely early death. Too much time on social media and surfing the internet wastes time and possibly skews our way of thinking. Also it potentially opens us up to experience things we’d rather not and exposes us to things we’d rather not see or focus on.

When we eat ourselves into a food coma or immerse ourselves in social media we have less time for time in scripture, prayer or fellowshipping with friends and family members. We find our time and focus has been sucked away – time we’ll never get back.

Are there areas of your life where you struggle with overindulgence?

Scripture also warns against overindulgence.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I set more limits on myself in areas I overindulge? How would yours?

This all seems like a tall order and more than I am capable of. Even one seems like a big challenge that would take much longer than 6 weeks to achieve. I’m really not sure that was God’s intention but instead to draw my focus more to Him and less on myself and my desires.

HHoutreach with butterfly

Over the next 6 weeks I’m going to try to give up more of my heart to God. I’m going to try to listen to Him more, waste less time that could be spent with Him, and allow Him to speak to me about my life and listen less to the world around me. I’m excited to see how my life will be different through the process.

Will you join me in the next 6 weeks to consider what God would have you give up as we remember what He gave up for us on the cross?

I’ll be praying for you!

blessings and peace,
Paula