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Gethsemane ~ A Lesson in Perseverance

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,
you will receive what he has promised.

                                               Hebrews 10:36

As we draw closer to Easter weekend we remember the time Jesus spent preparing for the last meal He would eat with His disciples before His death. Throughout the day Jesus tried to explain to them what was to come – of His imminent betrayal and eventual death. His disciples didn’t get it. Jesus washed their feet, explained to them about serving others, and asked them to join Him as He prayed in the garden. He never gave up trying to teach them of God’s love for them.

When evening came Jesus gave us such a beautiful yet heart wrenching picture of perseverance. Jesus knew He was about to be betrayed and executed. He had lived a perfect life. In all His interactions with those who opposed Him Jesus never sinned. Yet He would be ridiculed and hung on a cross to die the most painful death for all people who believe that He is Lord and Savior.

His heart must have been so heavy, yet He persevered.

Jesus Gethsemane

Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane that evening to pray for God’s will. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He didn’t receive an answer so He prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Jesus prayed a third time in the same manner, persevering for an answer from His Father for what He was facing.

The outcome of Jesus’ perseverance was not His deliverance from the coming ridicule and death. It was not what He desired but for Him it was more important for God to be glorified than for Him to be comfortable. Because Jesus persevered and completed the purpose for which His Father sent him to earth we reap countless blessings. Every year as we remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us we are reminded that if He had not persevered through His times of tribulation we would not have the gift of eternity in Heaven with Him.

Each one of us has challenges to work through and overcome. While yours may not seem significant to the world it is significant to you, therefore it also matters to God. Whatever you are facing as you read this I pray for your perseverance. Don’t give up – on yourself, a solution, and especially your faith that God will bring good out of your circumstances. And as you persevere remember that through Jesus’ gift of salvation we can have the blessing of peace that passes all understanding.

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Are You Prepared?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

 

How do you spend the days before a holiday or special event? Mine are usually filled with lists, shopping, decorating and baking. I want to make sure everything is just right for the special day.

Passover was a time of preparation as well. There was cleansing, choosing a lamb and preparing food for the feasts. I imagine there were plenty of lists and worries over everything being just right.

This year Jesus was trying to prepare His disciples for what they were about to experience. This Passover would be different but they didn’t realize it yet. Jesus told them parables but they didn’t understand what He was trying to say. He even told them that one of them would betray Him and send their Savior and friend to His death but still they were unclear.

jesus-teaching-in-temple

Maybe the disciples were not truly listening to Jesus closely enough to figure out the intent of His parables. Perhaps they believed He would explain them later when all the other people had gone.

Or possibly some of them did begin to understand what Jesus was preparing them for but were too afraid to believe it really could happen. There could have been a sense of denial as well. They may have said to themselves, “Maybe this one time Jesus could be wrong.”

When all that Jesus was trying to prepare them for did come to pass the disciples found themselves unprepared and unable to process it all. They weren’t ready to move on and see what God had for them next.

What about us? Have you ever found yourself at a place of uncertainty, unprepared for what comes next? I know I have and sometimes I look back and see how God had been trying to prepare me only I wasn’t paying attention or didn’t want to hear what He had to say.

Thankfully, while the circumstances the disciples found themselves in left them without Jesus for a time that never has to happen to us.

Jesus and His Holy Spirit are always with us to guide and direct us, giving us wisdom beyond our own. He will take our fear and turn it to confidence and joy.

We need only ask.

If you’re facing uncertainty today and it’s unclear what your next step should be I encourage you to take some time to sit quietly and seek God’s guidance. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you, and be open to His leading. Prepare your heart to be ready to hear from Him.

I guarantee you will.

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The New Sacrifice

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”    Luke 19:38

Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, a very important holiday for the Jewish people. It is at Passover that Jews celebrate their freedom from slavery in Egypt.

God’s people had been slaves in Egypt for generations. What began as an invitation by Pharaoh for Joseph and his family to share the Egyptian land turned into fear. Joseph and all of his brothers had died and a new Pharaoh came to power. He saw how numerous the Israelite nation was and was worried that the Israelites would someday side with Egypt’s enemies in a war…and he would be out of a job, or worse yet, killed.

To prevent this from happening the Egyptians became slave masters over God’s people and forced them to hard labor with little or no pay. They lived this way for generations until God provided a way out for them.

One night the Israelites were instructed to kill a lamb without any deformities and paint its’ blood over the doorposts of their home. The angel of death visited the land of Egypt that night and killed every firstborn son. Those with lamb’s blood on their doorpost would be spared.

That very night God’s people left Egypt under God’s protection and found freedom from the Egyptians. They were no longer slaves but were free to worship their Lord in their own land.

leaving_egypt

Every year this freedom is remembered and celebrated in the homes of Jewish families and for some it is a time of pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the geographical center of the Jewish faith. This was also true in Jesus’ time.

Remember reading about when Jesus was very young and He taught in the temple? This was during Passover. His family had returned to Jerusalem for the festival that year as well.

This year Jesus knew Passover would be different.

He entered Jerusalem on a colt and was surrounded by hundreds or perhaps thousands of people. People had been following Jesus everywhere He went for years, but just a short time before this Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Many who saw or heard what He had done now followed Him into Jerusalem, shouting praises to Him and declaring, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

jesus_donkey

In just a few days many of these same people would desert Jesus. They wouldn’t understand the sacrifice He was about to make that would give them a new freedom.

Jesus’ life had been perfect (just as the lambs at the Passover celebration) so He was the only one who could serve as a sacrifice for us. While He disagreed with the religious leaders and some of the laws of the land Jesus never sinned. He took with Him to the cross the sins of every man, woman and child who ever lived or ever will live.

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

As we enter Holy Week and reflect on the last days of Jesus before His ultimate sacrifice may we examine our hearts and ask ourselves if we believe without reservation. Will we stand and proclaim Jesus is Lord through it all?

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Obedience ~ Words Worth Remembering Week #11

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.

As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

                                                                                                                          2 John 1:6

From a very young age we are taught to obey. Before we can talk or ask, “why” we are taught what is right and wrong. But as we mature we begin to question why we need to obey, a sort of  “what’s in it for me?” attitude. Today’s verse shows us that obedience is a form of love. As children of earthly parents we obey because it pleases our parents and shows our love for them, even if we don’t understand why they are asking us to obey. Obedience to God is the same.

obedience1

Oswald Chambers wrote:

There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral value in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders…A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.

God did not intend for us to be slaves to His laws. He asks us to obey because we love Him and recognize Him as the leader of our lives. It is not always easy, and we won’t always understand. But when we know God is asking for our obedience we must step forward in love to Him and to others around us.

Tomorrow we begin what is recognized in Christian churches as Holy Week, the week we remember the days leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus’ entire life was lived out of obedience and love for His Father God. All that Jesus did during His earthly life was done to show God’s love to those around Him, and through Scriptures even to us today.

There is no greater example of obedience through love than this week of Jesus’ life. Through the ups & downs, the people and places we can learn so much through each step of His obedience.

Sometimes the week before a big holiday can be crazy and chaotic. We see that at Christmas, and also now that Easter is just a week away. It can be easy to lose the impact of Jesus’ gift to us at Easter when we focus on the activities and preparation.

This week I will be posting a devotion here each morning. I pray that they will help to focus your day and encourage you to cherish the incredible gift that Christ gave us on the cross.

blessings and peace to you today!
Paula