Monday, April 30, 2012

Developing Patience

Today’s Text: James 1:1-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Words of Devotion

When people confide to me that they are praying for patience, I often ask what else they're doing to acquire a calm and gentle heart. Patience isn't so much something believers receive as it is an attribute that they develop over time and through experience.

Think of patience as a muscle that you have to use in order to see it build. To that end, believers should recognize difficulty as an opportunity to flex their patience. The human instinct is to cry out to God in bewilderment when tribulation comes knocking. We blame. We resist. We complain. What we don't do is say, "Thank You, Father--it's time to grow in patience!" People aren't trained to think that way, but according to the Bible, that is exactly how Christians are to respond.

James tells us to consider trials a joy (1:2). But we often fail at this, don't we? Humanly speaking, praising the Lord for tribulation is unnatural. However, doing so begins to make sense to believers when they cling to God's promise that good comes from hardship (Rom. 8:28). We are not waiting on the Lord in vain. We can praise Him for the solution He will bring, the lives He will change, or the spiritual fruit He will develop in us.

Accepting hardship as a means of growth is a radical concept in this world. Even more extreme is the believer who praises the Lord for the storm. But God's followers have cause to rejoice. Tribulation increases our patience so that we can stand firm on His promises and await His good timing.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Finding Joy that Surpasses your Circumstances

Today’s Text: Colossians 1:11-12

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Words of Devotion

I read about some prospectors who were mining for gold in Colorado years ago. They came upon a large amount of gold, and they agreed with one another that they wouldn’t tell anybody where they found it.

So the day came when they had to go back to the city and get fresh supplies and provisions. And when they went back to the city people began to notice something was different about them based solely on the looks upon their faces. They couldn’t keep it to themselves!

When you have abundant life in Jesus Christ, it’s going to show up. You can’t keep it to yourself! You won’t have to look for people to share Christ with; they’ll be looking at you if you truly have the joy of the Lord. And you’ll have the privilege of telling them that the difference is the Lord Jesus Christ!

In every situation in life—the good and the bad—Jesus makes all the difference. It’s the unspeakable joy we have in Him that makes life really worth living. It’s in following Him that we find meaning and purpose. And when we do, the lives we live will be markedly different because we have a hope beyond compare!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

God's Call

Today’s Text: Jonah 1
 “Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.” Jonah 1:5

Words of Devotion

Jonah had made his plans. He knew what he wanted to do. And he certainly wasn’t interested when he learned that God wanted him to travel to Nineveh, which was over land to the east. Instead, Jonah went the opposite direction, boarded a ship sailing for Tarshish, and headed west by sea.

Jonah must have thought he would find fulfillment going his own way. But God knew better. He intervened, sending a great storm and hurling hurricane-force winds with such power that the professional sailors thought the ship was about to break apart.

Jonah might have realized that God was trying to speak to him. Yet, instead, he escaped into sleep. After the captain woke him up, he joined the other travelers in casting lots. It soon became clear that their troubles were on account of Jonah trying to flee from God. After he was thrown overboard, “the sea stopped its raging.”

All of us should sympathize with Jonah. We all have had our own plans and dreams at times. There are things we haven’t wanted to do. It can be easy to want to run away from God’s call and be governed by our own ideas—to be like Jonah and try to escape and go our own way.

Yes, it can be difficult to trust in God and obey Him unconditionally, trusting that He knows best. It even can be difficult to recognize when He tries to get our attention—through storms or feelings of restlessness. But God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows that we never will find true peace apart from serving Him.

Today, remember that God has prepared rich blessings for you. He has a great plan for your life. Don’t resist Him. Commit your life anew to Him. Listen to His voice. Seek to obey and follow Him.

PRAYER: Father, I surrender my life to You. Help me to know Your plan for my life. I commit my time, talent, and treasure to You. Use me to bless others. In Jesus’ name Amen

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Your Inescapable Appointment with God

“I'm not afraid of my death. I just don't want to be there when it happens." Woody Allen

Today’s Text: 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Words of Devotion

If you're like me, there are some appointments that you would just as soon not keep. The dentist for a root canal, the accountant for taxes, the doctor for the famous “after 50” physical…. Yes, it feels like we should avoid them like the plague.

I think funerals are like that—and not just other people's funerals (which remind us of our own mortality), but our own funerals. Wouldn’t we just as soon avoid that appointment, too? Maybe; but maybe not. Maybe we’re afraid of death only because we aren't certain about what lies on the other side, when we meet Jesus face to face. Maybe if we knew the truth and believed it, it would change our perspective. Let’s take a look:

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

That's a powerful, loaded passage. And it's kind of schizophrenic, too. I mean, Paul is saying that he would rather be away from his physical body and face to face with the Lord, but in the same breath he says that we have to appear before the “judgment seat of Christ.” This is a different moment than the “Great White Throne Judgment” where believers in Christ will be separated from those who don’t believe. Paul is addressing believers in Christ here, saying that everyone who is in Christ will one day stand before Him face to face and have “the talk.” That's one appointment that we have to keep no matter what.




Seem too far away to matter?

We could feel all those things thinking about standing before the judgment seat of Christ. It is definitely “the big moment.” It is the summation, the conclusion, the review of our entire earthly life. Are you ready for it?

PRAYER: Lord God, Your Scripture says that You are a righteous judge. But what will it be like to stand before You on that day? Lord, open my mind, open my heart, shape my will as I ponder that inescapable appointment with You. Transform my soul and my mind so that I might worship You with my body in a way that anticipates that powerful day. Amen

Monday, April 23, 2012

Absolutely Persuaded

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

How would we act today if we really believed that God will provide for our every need? How would we act if we really believed His Word is true? How would it change our thinking if we spent every minute absolutely convinced that He is with us? That He is guiding us? That He already has gone before us in every situation? That He really knows the beginning from the end and has our lives in His hands?

How sure was Paul? He used a Greek word that indicated he was absolutely persuaded—He had complete confidence.

He was confident because he understood the whole plan of God. He knew that all Believers go through temporary problems; we all face challenges and difficulties. But Paul had grasped the long-term perspective. He was persuaded and confident that God had begun a good work in His people, and that He would “perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Paul knew that Believers were involved in the process of being perfected. God was working on them, chiseling away flaws and imperfections, and building Christ-like characteristics within them. Their faith was becoming stronger as they were depending more on God and less on the world. They were learning to trust Him in every circumstance, even in situations that seemed dangerous or hopeless. And this perfecting work would continue throughout their lives.

Today, in every situation you face, remember these Biblical truths. When you face uncertainties, use them as opportunities to focus on God. Have faith that He is perfecting and teaching you.

Don’t give up or become discouraged. Instead, renew your relationship with Him. Confess His promises. Trust in Him. Let Him deliver you from fear and anxiety and flood your heart with peace.

PRAYER: Father, thank You that You are continuing to perfect and strengthen me. I am confident in You. I submit my life to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

Today’s Text: Exodus 16:3 

and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Words of Devotion

God has done a lot of crazy/awesome things for the Israelites. The 10 plagues have happened, God parted the Red Sea, saved them from the Egyptians, and now they want to go back because their tummies are hungry. Their hunger makes them forget what God had done. They had gotten comfortable having food in their stomach even if it meant being in slavery.  We can read this and say we would never act like this toward God if He showed us all of these miracles and rescued us.  What we must remember though, is that God has rescued us from sin and His wrath to come.  

Everything we have: our car, our family, our money, and our house are from Him also.  So, what is the comfort in your life that you can’t live without?   What would happen if God took away your car, downsized your house, or maybe cuts your paycheck by a little? Are you going to complain to Him and forget all the things He has done for you in the past?  If we are brutally honest about ourselves, we would admit we are just like the Israelites who can get comfortable with a paycheck in the bank and food on the table every day.  But, Jesus never called us to live a life of comfort.

Look at your life and see if there is anything you can’t live without and ask God to help you rely on him and not that comfort.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Beating the Goliath's


“He [Satan] will take away your prayer life little by little, and cause you to trust God less and less and yourself more and more, a little at a time. He will make you feel somewhat cleverer than before. Step by step, you are misled to rely more on your own gift, and step by step your heart is enticed away from the Lord.”  Watchman Nee

Today’s Text: 1 Samuel 17
For forty days the Philistine (Goliath) came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. (Vrs 16)

Words of Devotion

Everybody knows the story of David and Goliath, right? But have you thought about that story and how it might apply to you today? Goliath was this evil, nasty, mocking giant of a man. He was standing out in the valley in front of the whole Israelite army talking down God and God’s chosen. “Choose a man and have him come down to me.  If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” (Vrs 8b-10) 

Goliath called the chosen ones to physical battle and the stakes were fear and slavery. But when the boy David came into the camp, he saw the battle differently: David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (Samuel 17:45)

Against all earthly odds, David nailed Goliath with one smooth stone and his sling, killing him instantly. After the short showdown, David cut off the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem and he put the Philistine’s weapon in his own tent. He held his head up in Jerusalem. The little guy beat the big guy.  And he did it with a very unconventional weapon: complete dependency on the Holy God of Israel.  

Let’s fast forward a few hundred years. Jesus, the Son of God, goes to the cross. It’s like David and Goliath meeting again. There’s ridicule and there’s mocking and Jesus comes with a very unconventional weapon. It’s called a cross. “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-32)

Jesus knew the battle plan ahead of time. On the cross, Christ accepted the sewer of human sin, the cesspool, all of it, all at once. It was a horrible exchange. Satan brought everything he had against Jesus physically, and Christ was being filled with our sin at the same time. Jesus took the shot.  

Now, Satan has nothing to accuse you of anymore. Everything that he could accuse you of was nailed to the cross. You have nothing to be afraid of, nothing to shame you or enslave you. But Satan can still lie to you. If you believe the Father doesn’t love you, that Jesus can’t save you, that the Holy Spirit isn’t in you… then Satan can enslave you in fear again. It’s the only thing he can do to you, because in truth Jesus paid it all and vanquished the enemy.

A Closing Prayer: Almighty God, by the Truth of your living Word, I believe that the Father loves me, that the Son died for me, and that the Spirit lives in me today. Expose the lies of Satan that cause me to fear and make me a slave. I want to know the Truth and I want the Truth to set me free! Amen

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lake of Knowledge

Today’s Text: Hosea 4:6
 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

Words of Devotion

“Knowledge is power,” was the conclusion of Sir Francis Bacon. Born in London in 1561, his career flourished after James I became king of England in 1603. He held several important positions, including Lord Chancellor. 

Much of Bacon’s success resulted from his extensive knowledge. He has been described as having “one of the most powerful and searching intellects ever possessed by man.” His knowledge enabled him to take advantage of opportunities and fulfill more of his God-given potential.

This aspect of Bacon’s life, reminds us of a truth in the spiritual realm: God offers great riches, power, and blessings to all people. Indeed, the Bible tells us that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Yet many Believers fail to experience this vast potential because of a “lack of knowledge.”

No matter our level of spiritual maturity, there is much more that God can teach us. To begin to grasp His riches, we need to immerse our lives in His Word, as well as deepen our personal relationship with Him. We must walk by faith and believe that His promises are true. 

God has a great adventure for you and to experience this adventure we must seek after Him daily. Following God in the footsteps of His son Jesus Christ.

As God told Hosea, He already has provided answers and guidance through His knowledge. When we ignore His Word, we won’t experience complete peace and rest, fulfillment and meaning, joy and satisfaction. We won’t receive the answers we need. Lack of knowledge can fuel disappointment. Without God-centered knowledge, we easily can seek the wrong goals and draw the wrong conclusions.

Today, think about the promises of God, and realize they are true for you! Read His Word. Declare His truths. Seek Him. Don’t be content with less than all He has prepared for you. Be willing to believe that His Word really is true.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Power to Overcome the Evil One

Today’s Text: 2 Kings 6:8-22

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (Vs. 16)


“And all the powers of darkness
Tremble at what they’ve just heard.
‘Cuz all the powers of darkness
Can’t drown out a single word!” —“He Reigns” by the Newsboys


Words of Devotion

The king of Aram was at war with Israel. Like any decent leader, he had a group of strategists that planned the movements of his enormous army. It should have been a slam-dunk victory. His only problem was that Israel ALWAYS knew what they were going to do before they did it! The king thought he had a leak in his leadership. When he confronted them, they said it wasn't them, but the prophet Elisha who was getting the inside scoop from God about their plans. Desperate for a win, the king told his army to capture Elisha.

When Elisha’s servant went out to get water one morning, he saw a horrific sight: a massive army encircling the city ready to attack.

“Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:15-16

When the servant’s eyes were “opened,” he saw that the hills surrounding Elisha were filled with the fiery chariots of God’s army. On a natural level, it looked as if all hope was lost. But on a spiritual level, the battle belonged to the Lord… and a supernatural victory took place that day.

Today, you will face the enemy in many different forms, false teaching of God’s Word, lies, and more. But at least one is spiritual:

Satan is:
Very powerful
His demons are very powerful
The Bible says that he is the king or the lord of this dark world, this present darkness
The great liar, the great accuser (John 8:44)
And he hates us—passionately hates us

Like Elisha’s servant, you may be filled with fear today, calling out, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?”
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 
1 John 4:4

The more we can know about Satan, the better prepared we will be to defend ourselves. Satan’s main objective is to cause each of us to lose our soul. So, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… 1 Peter 5:7-10

No matter what Satan has to throw at you today, remember that an army of angels battles for you and the Holy Spirit is in you. God will always be the victor because no other force in the universe is greater… and He has the enemy way outnumbered.

God, I’m so glad we’re on the same side. Amen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Being Forever Changed by the Living Jesus

“The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.”
Robert Flatt

Information alone rarely changes lives. But when someone experiences the truth, their future is often changed for good. This is certainly the case with Jesus. Sure, people's lives get changed for all sorts of different reasons, but the transformation that we see in the disciples’ lives is irrefutable evidence that they believed they had encountered the living Christ.

Remember the disciples back in the Garden of Gethsemane? At the first threat of real danger, “everyone deserted Him and fled” (Mark 14:50). But then “Bam!” just like that, something changed. These guys became radical and fearless, willing to give their lives in the name of Jesus Christ. What happened?

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)  

This encounter with the living Christ completely transformed them from men who were hiding behind “doors locked for fear of the Jews" into an unstoppable team. History and tradition show us that the disciples were tortured, exiled, and killed because they would not be quiet about their encounter with the resurrected Christ.

James of Zebedee — Beheaded, A.D. 44
Philip — Scourged and crucified in Phrygia
Matthew — Martyred in Ethiopia, A.D. 60
James — Stoned and clubbed, A.D. 94
Matthias — (Judas’ replacement) Stoned, beheaded in Jerusalem
Andrew — Crucified in Edessa
Peter — Crucified
Bartholomew — Beaten and crucified in India
Thomas — Thrust with a spear
Simon the Zealot — Crucified, A.D. 74
Judas of James — Crucified in Edessa, A.D. 72
John — Exiled to Patmos

We can truthfully say that billions of people can testify to the change that the resurrected Christ had made in the disciples life! That's why you should be so committed to telling the truth from the Scriptures. But it has to go from head knowledge to a living, relational experience with the risen Christ.

Is the focus of your faith simply informational?

How would your life be changed if you lived in fuller awareness of the resurrected Jesus in you and with you today?

Prayer: Risen Christ, I don't want to just know about You. I want more than just the facts that show You rose from the dead. My heart yearns for You. My heart seeks You. I am open to experiencing You today, on a personal level, Amen

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Hope Found in an Empty Tomb

“It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!” 
—Tony Campolo

Some people can appreciate Peter and the way he was prone to live on the extremes: he was bold and boisterous when he was with Christ, but when he was separated from Christ, Peter was a pansy. He caved under the pressure, even cowering to the questions of little girls, denying that he had ever even known Jesus at all.  (See Mark 66-72).

We might look at the cross today as symbolic of some sort of victory, but it was devastating in the moment. The significance of Christ's death was the shedding of innocent blood—the perfect and final sacrifice for human sin. But what is the significance for us if He was raised? I can’t answer that any better than Peter:   

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. —(1 Peter 1:3-7)

What a contrast! Yes, Jesus had to die and we had to be crucified with Him to get to this point. But what a transformation the resurrection made to Peter and what an astounding transformation it makes to us. In the mercy of the Father, through the resurrection of Jesus, God has given us two crucial things: new birth and a living hope.

Where would we be without either of those?!

Prayer: Jesus, touch me with the Truth today. Quiet my heart that I may ponder what You did on the cross. Ignite my heart that I may celebrate what You did through the resurrection. Amen

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The transforming power of the resurrection

“What gives special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren still being alive. St. Paul says in effect, ‘If you don’t believe me, you can ask them.’” —Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University

Today’s Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve.  After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time… Vrs 4-6a

Words of Devotion

There is no question that the Romans were successful in crucifying Christ. The apostle John personally confirmed the death of Christ. John was there; he recorded the soldier’s confirmation that He was dead, and he saw them jab Him in the side with a spear causing water and blood to flow from His heart (John 19:33-35). Many others saw His body wrapped and placed in the tomb. Everything appeared to be over. But the sunrise of Sunday revealed a stone that had been rolled away, guards who had fled for their lives, and an empty tomb.

This is where it starts to get good… because people started seeing Him alive. The apostle Paul recorded that the living Christ appeared to Peter, and then to the disciples and more than 500 other people (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Hundreds of these firsthand witnesses would still have been alive at the time that Paul wrote this letter.

If you took the resurrection to court and each of these 500 witnesses had only six minutes of testimony and cross examination, it would add up to over 50 hours of firsthand eyewitness accounts confirming the Christ was alive. The list of witnesses also included those who were hostile towards Christ before their encounters with Him. The most notable of all these was the apostle Paul himself who encountered the resurrected Christ long after the fact. In his words:

Then He [Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. —1 Corinthians 15:7-10.

What stands out to me in Paul's account is not only his record of what happened, but also how it affected him personally. This encounter with Jesus transformed him from an arrogant religious leader into a humble, faithful servant… a man transformed by the grace of God.

May it be the same for each of us!

A Closing Prayer: Dear Jesus, Your Word says knowledge makes us arrogant. But love edifies. What a tragedy it would be if the proof of Your resurrection became an object of my pride, rather than fuel for my faith. I am truly nothing without You. It is only by Your grace that I am what I am. I praise You, Lord. Glory to Your name! Amen

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

His Stripes

Today’s Text: Isaiah 53:3-5

“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” 

Words of Devotion

The chief priests and scribes mocked. Jesus was before them on a cross. To them, this moment meant that He was a fraud and that His ministry was not true. They declared their judgment: “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.” They dared Him, “Now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” (Mark 15:31-32)

These religious leaders did not realize that, before their very eyes, Jesus actually was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic vision of the Messiah: He was a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” He was “despised and rejected”—a Man who bore “our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
He was wounded “for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” He did all of this for us…for you!

Throughout our lives, we will find that others may disappoint us or fall short of our expectations. We will discover flaws in our friends and family. In fact, we all make mistakes. But we always can depend on Jesus

He knows and understands what we are going through.
In your life, remember that Jesus is not a pop star or a comic book hero. He is the Son of God, the Messiah. 

If you have a need, turn to Jesus. He will not disappoint you. He has experienced pain, and He knows the kinds of things you’re going through. He is ready to comfort, heal, and save you. Trust Him right now.

A CLOSING PRAYER: Father, thank You that Jesus was bruised for me and that He suffered and died for me. Thank You that by His stripes I am healed. In His name  Amen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter is Over, Now What?

We have been reminded of and celebrated the fact that Jesus conquered sin and death and rose from the grave. Churches around the world did their best to worship God and inspire people. Choirs burst forth in song, preachers gave their all, the faithful dressed in their best. And with that, Easter for this year is over. Now what? What will you do differently in light of all the assurance, hope, and inspiration you received on Easter?

We focus a great deal of understandable attention on the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. But we should never stop there. As important as those two events are, there is a third that is connected to them that when left out or ignored, has a huge impact on our thinking, attitudes, and actions. That third event is what we call, the Ascension. Luke tells us about this all important event in Acts 1:9. We are told that Jesus spoke to the disciples, gave them their marching orders to take the Gospel into all the world, and then was raised up, ascended, into the clouds and out of sight. At that point an angel spoke to them and said that we would one day return in the clouds just like they saw Him depart.

Okay, fine, what is so important about how Jesus was raised up into the clouds that it absolutely must be spoken of in the same breath as the Crucifixion and the Resurrection? Simply this; it is not how Jesus ascended that really matters but where He ascended to that is all important. In the Apostles Creed we state that Jesus is “seated at the right hand of the Father”. We get that idea from numerous places in God’s Word. Perhaps the most complete and compelling of those passages is found in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:18-23.

The theological capstone on the Crucifixion and Resurrection was that Jesus was raised to glory in order to take His place at the right hand of the Father. The imagery of being at the right hand is that Jesus is now reigning over creation as Lord and Christ. He has gone from being the despised, suffering servant, to being the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the one to whom every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. He has been vindicated and is now ruling over His kingdom.

For us that means we can go through life with a confidence that is beyond measure. We can go forth into the world carrying out the mission of taking the Gospel with us and have no fear. We need not fear because Jesus has conquered sin and death. We need not fear because Jesus is enthroned in glory. We need not fear because He has sent the promised Holy Spirit to lead us and strengthen us and comfort us in all things.

We can also live in a constant sense of wonder. Easter is a day that reminds us of that wonder. It is a wonder that the tomb was empty and Jesus appeared alive to lots people and the disciples. From the empty tomb, to the angels, to the grave clothes lying inside, to Jesus appearing to Mary, then to over 500 people then the disciples, then to Thomas who doubted, every detail is a wonder to behold. We rightly feel that sense of wonder and joy on Easter. But we can and should feel and walk in that sense of wonder everyday. Everyday is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. 

Everyday can and should be an acknowledgement that our King is ruling over all the universe. Such knowledge should take our breath away. It should constantly impact our decisions and actions. A picture of Jesus on the throne as King should cause us to live each moment as an opportunity to love and worship Him like never before.

He is risen. He is Risen indeed! He is risen not only yesterday, but everyday and is ascended on high and rules and reigns over all creation! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday … What's Good about Good Friday?

Today’s Text: Genesis 50:20 
 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Words of Devotion

Why do Christians call the day Jesus Christ died “Good Friday”? How can this dreadful day, full of the painful agony and death of our Lord be called “good”?

 Throughout the Bible, people discovered that God's purposes were accomplished through their suffering. Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused, imprisoned, abandoned and forgotten. But years later, after becoming the second ruler of Egypt, he was able to save his family—including the brothers who had sold him into slavery—from starvation by bringing them into a land of plenty (Read the full story in Genesis chapters 37-50).

 Another story that often comes to mind when we think of suffering is Job's. In the midst of his suffering Job came face to face with God. “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you,” he told God. “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:1-6).

 Throughout our lives we encounter suffering and death. We could never call these things good, just as the crucifixion of Jesus cannot be called good. But God has promised that He works for the good of those who love Him, even as He did with the death of Jesus. Our sins were nailed to that cross and we died with Jesus. Through faith we are forgiven. Death cannot hold us in a tomb either!

 We should not commemorate Good Friday without remembering the triumph of Easter. Knowing all that Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension accomplished for us, transforms “good” into an understatement!

Are you in the midst of suffering like Joseph's or Job's? Can you trust God's goodness and patiently wait to see the good He will do in spite of how awful things may look right now, just as they looked awful on that first Good Friday?

In Matthew 27:45-61 Jesus cried from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why did God forsake his son? Why couldn't He look on Him? (Read Psalm 22:1-3 and Isaiah 6:1-7 for some clues.)

Read John 20:17. We know that Jesus later was not forsaken—the debt for sin was paid. We see this in Jesus' words to Mary Magdalene right after his resurrection. Where was He going? See also Acts 7:55.

Read Romans 8:28 to see how God uses all things for good. To whom is this addressed?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday… The New Command

 Today’s Text: John 13:34
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 

Words of Devotion

The Thursday before Easter is called Maundy Thursday. The word maundy means “command,” and this day commemorates the command Jesus gave to His disciples on the night He was betrayed. They had just eaten a Passover meal together, which we call “the Last Supper.”

Jesus knew that He was about to leave His disciples. The Bible tells us “He now showed them the full extent of His love” (John 13:1). How? He poured water into a basin and began to wash their feet.

This job was usually performed by the lowliest of servants. Israelites wore sandals and their feet were dirty from dry, dusty roads when they entered a house. One of the servants would wash the guest's feet before they ate.

But Jesus and His disciples were borrowing a place for their Passover meal. Imagine this group of guys eagerly digging into the meal with no thought of washing up beforehand! It wouldn't be the first time. Earlier some Pharisees and teachers of the law had come to Jesus asking, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" (Matthew 15:1)

A basin and towels were provided with the room, but who was willing to be the servant? Jesus explained that He was giving them an example: they should show their love by humbly serving one another, just as He was doing. 

Jesus was humble, but He was not weak or powerless. Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7)

Jesus served His disciples because He loved them. He commands us to love and humbly serve the way He did. The only way we can do this is by knowing His love in us and extending it to others, serving them.


Read John 13:1-17, the story of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. What was Peter's reaction? Why didn’t Peter need a “bath”?  (Compare Hebrews 10:10-11 with 1 John 1:8-10)

Why do you think Jesus washed Judas' feet? (John 13:18-30)

Why is it significant that Jesus gave His new command to the disciples after Judas left? (John 13:34) 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where the Wrath and Love of God Meet

Today’s Text: Romans 3:23-26

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, (Vrs 23-25a)

Words of Devotion

In our culture, sin is no longer considered an issue. Although some people might admit to making mistakes or being wrong, few will actually say, "I have sinned." The Lord, however, takes sin very seriously. Until we learn to see transgression as He does, we will never understand what happened at Christ's crucifixion.

The cross was God's perfect answer to a terrible dilemma. Because the Lord is holy and just, He hates sin and must respond to it with punishment and wrath. Yet He also loves sinners and wants to be reconciled with them. The cross of Christ was the place where God's wrath and love collided.

The only way to rescue fallen mankind from eternal punishment was to devise a plan whereby the Lord could forgive sins without compromising His Holiness. There was no way to overlook transgressions; His wrath had to be poured out--either on us or a substitute. But there was only one possible substitute: the perfect Son of God.

So Jesus came to earth as a man and suffered the Lord's wrath for us as He hung on the cross. Sin was punished, divine justice was satisfied, and now God could forgive mankind without compromising His character. His wrath was poured out on His Son so that His love and forgiveness could be lavished upon us.

Because of human limitations, we'll never grasp all that happened while Jesus hung on the cross. We can begin to comprehend only the physical suffering He endured, but in the spiritual realm, Christ bore so much more--the very wrath of God. This costly redemption plan proves God's great love.