Monday, March 31, 2014

DEVOTION + FRIEND WHY HAVE YOU COME?




TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2014
20 Days to Resurrection Sunday
Matthew 26:50 “Friend, wherefore art thou come?”

SCRIPTURE READING: MATTHEW 26:46-56
46Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
 47And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.
 48Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.
 49And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
 50And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took him.
 51And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.
 52Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
 53Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
 54But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
 55In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.
 56But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

REFLECTION:  Judas kissed Jesus.  What a sinner.

Jesus called Judas “Friend.” (Matthew 26:50) What a Savior.

The sincerity of sinners is always suspect.  When men relax their grasp of Truth—the Person and the principle—Satan inevitably takes advantage.  The Bible says specifically, “Satan entered into Judas.” Slowly but wholly the enemy was given control.  The Apostle Paul speaks of degenerates who “glory in their shame.”(Philippians 3:19).  Have you ever noticed how backsliders are notable for advertising their super-spirituality, unashamedly exhibiting their new found “liberty,” and fellowshipping with others who like themselves have lost their fear and love of God. Finally every vestige of virtue is lost.  What appear to be expressions of love (i.e. a kiss) become hypocritical displays.  It is no wonder Judas couldn’t stand himself.

In contrast the integrity of Christ is never in doubt.

When Jesus called Judas “Friend” there is no doubt but that He meant it.  Only hours before they were sitting together at the Passover table.  Jesus knew what Judas had done.  He knew what Judas was doing.  And He knew what Judas was going to do.

So why did Jesus call Judas “Friend?”

…First and foremost it must be to show that Christ loved him, “unto the end.” 

…Second, it was our Lord’s last effort to convince the betrayer to repent of his horrid plot. Christ knew that once Satan had used Judas, he would throw him away on the rocks in the field of blood. (Matthew 27:8).

…Third, it was to show us how to face persecution—returning good for evil.

…Finally, it was to remind us that if we are lost, it will not be because our Lord was against us. 

Remember our Lord’s parable of the man who gained access to the wedding feast without having on the wedding garment. The King of the feast asked him, “Friend, how camest thou in here not having on the wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12).  Sure the man was cast out of the feast for failing to wear the robe the King provided, yet the King still called him “Friend.”

Judgment is not based on whether or not God loves us.  That is settled.  He is the best friend we will ever know.  Judgment is based on whether or not we love God.  Will it be said of us, as it was of Abraham, “He was the friend of God.”(2 Chronicles 20:7, James 2:23).

Ah, soul! are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your Friend ere the shadows grow dark;
O accept of this peace so sublime!
By Warren D. Cornell

Jesus what a friend of sinners,
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole!

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.
            By J. Wilbur Chapman


PRAYER: Father in Heaven, “What a Friend we have in Jesus!”  Our hearts are stirred when we think that you sent your Only Begotten Son into this world to be a friend to the friendless.  We pray that throughout this day we will remember that our Friend is with us. May that knowledge bring courage when we are fearful, bring confidence when we are in doubt, bring salvation when we have strayed, and bring heaven when we stand before Thee.  May we so live that at the close of our life’s short day, it will be said of us, as it was of Abraham, “He was the friend of God.”  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.“Our Father, &c”

Sunday, March 30, 2014

DEVOTION + SLEEPY DISCIPLES


 

 
MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2014
21 Days to Resurrection Sunday

Mark 14:38  “Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation…”

SCRIPTURE READING: MARK 14:32-41
32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;
34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?
38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
39 And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.
40 And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.
41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

REFLECTION:  It wasn’t the first time that Jesus had to wake up His disciples.  Luke tells us that they fell asleep on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Both Matthew and Mark tell us that they fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. At our Lord’s invocation and at His benediction the disciples couldn’t keep their eyes open. Why are these disciples so drowsy?

Jesus seems disappointed as he stirs them in Gethsemane, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”  He explains their failure, “The spirit is ready, but the flesh is weak.”


Physically worn from the Passover preparations, emotionally drained by all that they had experienced that evening, Jesus explained their sleepiness, “the flesh is weak.”

It would be imprudent to assume that the Lord had reference only to the disciples’ physical exhaustion.  This was more.  This was a spiritual weakness of the flesh that the Apostle Paul identifies as our carnal disposition that lusteth against the spirit. (For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Galatians 5:17).

Dr. Benner observed, “It is this condition in the hearts of professing Christians today that produces, sleepy, stupefied, apathetic, disciples.” (Herald of Holiness, 1955)

All around us we see challenges and opportunities but too many disciples have been anesthetized by the carnal impulse within and the distracting din of this world without.

The Apostle Paul urges the Christians at Rome, “It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us cast off the works of darkness, and up on the armor of light…Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:11-12,14)

He exhorts the Ephesians, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:14-16)

To the Corinthians he simply says, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not.” (1 Corinthians 15:34)

How tragic that at the precise moment when the people of God need to be “watching” and “praying” for themselves, for their families, for their churches, and for their nation, the Savior finds us sleeping.

Benner’s prayer is our heart’s cry: “May the Church of this day hear the clarion call of the prophet, “AWAKE THOU THAT SLEEPEST!” Shake off the temptation to lethargy, let the burning Spirit of God cleanse from every disposition to spiritual drowsiness, and face the tremendous challenge of these times with energy, courage, resourcefulness, and full devotion to our Lord!” 

PRAYER: Father in Heaven, It thrills our souls to know that “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”  Whenever, wherever, and for whatever, we know that our help “comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”  What assurance and comfort we find in the awareness that you are there even now for us.   Our hearts are challenged and convicted by your Word. Oh Lord, wake us if we are sleeping, rouse us if we are drowsy, and may we be fully awake to your Word, to your Will, and to your High and Holy calling for us today.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.“Our Father, &c.”

 

DEVOTION + HE WENT A LITTLE FARTHER


SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2014
22 Days to Resurrection Sunday

Matthew 26:39 “And he went a little further and began to pray…”


SCRIPTURE READING: MATTHEW 26:36-45
36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

REFLECTION: 
It was not the first time Jesus had gone there to pray.  So far as we know, it was His last.  Never again would Jesus and his disciples pray together in Gethsemane.

Huddled around the heavy-hearted Savior the eleven tentatively walk, softly talk. The light of the waning moon filters through the olive trees.  Judas had not yet arrived with his malicious consorts.

Jesus asked His disciples to pray.

He asked Peter, James, and John to walk with Him further into the Garden. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful,” he cried.  He asked them to pray there.

Then “He went a little further.”

When Jesus prayed He did not stop at “Let this cup pass from me.”  He went a little further.  He prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine.” I’m so glad He went a little further.

When Jesus suffered indignity and injustice at the hands of the chief priest and his allies, and then again the courtrooms of Pilate and of Herod, “He went a little further.”  He picked up His own cross and carried it. I’m so thankful He went a little further.

Nailed on a cross hewn of wood from a tree that He planted, by men He created, with nails formed of ore He had made, Jesus went a little further.  He forgave those accountable for His death, witnessed to the thief who was dying next to Him, and then dismissed His Spirit.  Praise God, “He went a little further.”

He showed us how to pray.  He showed us how to surrender.  He showed us how to suffer.  He showed us how to die. He showed us how to rise again.  Always He went “a little further.”

Think how different our lives would be if we would follow in His steps, and go, “a little further:”

…If children would go “a little further” to obey and honor their parents,

…If parents would go “a little further” to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,

…If husbands would go “a little further” to please their wives.

…If wives would go “a little further” to please their husbands,

…If workers would go “a little further” to do an excellent job,

…If employers would go “a little further” to reward good employees,

…If God’s ministers would go “a little further” to please God rather than men,

…If God’s people would go “a little further” to pursue peace and holiness,

…If the people of God would go “a little further” to be understanding, even if not understood,

…If all who profess to love God would go “a little further” to be loyal, faithful, children of God, sincerely loving God and one another…

What a difference it would make in our homes, our churches, our communities, and our nation, if we would go “a little further” in our love and in our determination to do the will of God.

Why is it that intellectually all of this makes such good sense but practically it seems so difficult to live? The answer is before us.  Like the disciples we have fallen asleep at precisely the place and the time when we ought to be watching, praying, and surrendering.

 Jesus knows our problem, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  But he urges us, “watch and pray.”

Hear Him praying? “Nevertheless, not my will but thine…”Now pray that.  It’s time we go “a little further.”

PRAYER: Father in Heaven, We are struck by the truth that you are the Father to whom Christ prayed in Gethsemane.  You are the Father who strengthened our Savior in every trial, and especially the greatest trial.  Even when it seemed that you were nowhere to be found, you were everywhere to be found.  We thank you for being here for us.  We believe in you Lord.  You have made all the difference in our lives.  And now we hear your voice, softly and tenderly, pleading its time we go “a little further.”  We pray—O God show us any defect in our will—“Not my will but thine be done.” For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. In the name of Jesus, Amen.“Our Father, &c”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

DEVOTION + I HAVE FINISHED THE WORK


 
SATURDAY, MARCH 9, 2013
23 Days to Resurrection Sunday

John 17:4  "I have finished the work…”

SCRIPTURE READING: JOHN 17:1-11
1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

REFLECTION: 
It is is known at Christ’s “High Priestly Prayer.”  Like the High Priest in the Temple at Jerusalem, Jesus ceremonially washed, then prayed for himself and the people.  Unlike the High Priest of the Old Covenant, Jesus would offer himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the people.  (Read Hebrews 7:26,27).

The Last Supper had ended.  Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet.  Now He prays.  His intercession is recorded for us in the 17th Chapter of John’s Gospel.  We see seven specific requests that Our Lord made of His Father:

keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, (John 17:11)

that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)

not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.(John 17:17, 18)

that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, (John 17:21) (this is repeated in John 17:11)

that the world may believe that You sent Me. (John 17:21)

 
that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.(John 17:24,25)

These are wonderful prayer requests.  But it is our Lord’s preface to the requests that captures our attention.  Jesus said,“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4)  It’s not hard to see that He glorified God. But this, “I have finished…” is a hard saying.

Jesus healed, but He certainly did not heal every sick person in the world, or for that matter even in Israel. Yet He said, “I have finished …”

Jesus restored homes and mended hearts, but He did not restore and mend every one of them on earth.  But He said, “I have finished…”

Jesus did not convince every skeptic, win every heart, and save every lost soul living in His day. But He said, “I have finished…”

How could He say that he had “finished?” 

The key to the text lies in the context. (It always does.) “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4).  Indeed He had “finished” all the work that His Father had given Him to do to that point.   Each day He finished what His Father asked of Him. 

He didn’t do everything, He did that something that His Father willed that He would do each moment. 

There is nothing that pierces the soul of Christ’s disciples like His cry from the cross, “It is finished!”  But we knew that He would, “finish” that is.  He always has. He always does. And He always will.

So the God-man finishes.  But what of God’s men, can they finish? Shortly before the axe man severed his neck, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy,“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7).   He too finished.  He did not finish my course.  He did not finish your course.  He finished his course.

I find here both consolation and motivation.  Consolation that I need only accomplish what the Lord asks of me. And motivation to know and to do His will “moment by moment.”

PRAYER: Father in Heaven, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost!  “Hallelujah! Thine the Glory! Hallelujah! Amen!” We find great comfort and joy in the knowledge that as our Lord prayed, He prayed not only for His disciples but for those of us who would one day be His disciples.  We pray that we will finish the work you have for us today.  May we listen for your instructions.  May we act in time and on time to do your will.  And may we one day hear you say, “well done, enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.”  This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen. “Our Father, &c.”

 

Friday, March 28, 2014

DEVOTION - BE A FOOT WASHER

FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 2014
24 Days to Resurrection Sunday


John 13:14 "Ye ought to wash one another's feet..."

SCRIPTURE READING: JOHN 13:3-17
3. Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4. He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments, and took a towel and girded himself.
5. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6. Then cometh he to Simon Peter and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7. Jesus answered and saith unto him, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.
8. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
11. For he knew who should betray him, therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
12. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said .,unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13. Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
15. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16. Verily, verily I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither is he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

REFLECTION:  When we first read that Jesus washed the disciples' feet we are naturally discomfited.  Our Messiah did what? We side with Peter, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." (John 13:8).

Then we think again: "What a servant-leader!" "What a great example!"

Without moving a muscle we think: "Christians ought to follow Christ's example...they really should..."

Perhaps it has always been this way, but it seems that today there's a lot more admiration than imitation of Christ.

In the 4th century Church, Evagrius Ponticus wrote of the temptation to acedia--apathy and inactivity in the practice of virtue.  It is a vice that if left unattended and unchecked will lead to boredom and ultimately profound sadness.

When it comes to foot-washing, the lure of acedia (inactivity) has rendered many of us motionless.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard a young person whining, "I'm bored."  Of course you are.  Motionless people are bored people.  Get up and start washing feet!

Richard Hutter is right: "acedia...leads to despair...[it produces] a sadness that will always cause problems." (First Things, April 2012).

Ah ha! Now I see why Jesus said, "ye ought to wash one another's feet...I have given you an example...If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:15-17). Indeed!

FOOT-WASHING IS NOT ONLY ABOUT HUMILITY, IT'S ABOUT BOREDOM-SPOILING ACTIVITY!

IT IS NOT ONLY ABOUT BEING GOOD, IT'S ABOUT DOING GOOD!

AND, IT'S NOT ONLY ABOUT ACTIVITY, IT'S ABOUT THE JOY THAT IS THE INEVITABLE REWARD OF VIRTUOSITY.  Again, "Happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17)

Where is that wash basin?

PRAYER: Oh Lord God, it is with absolute confidence we can say, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above!"  We have found it so.  Not only are you the source of all that is good, you are the same,  yesterday, today, and forever.  Thank you for sending your son to teach us how to think, to show us how to act, and to make us into what we should be.  May we be employed today, and every day, in loving you and our neighbor.  In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen. "Our Father, &c."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

DEVOTION - BETRAYED


 

MARCH 27, 2014
25 DAYS TO RESURRECTION SUNDAY

John 13:2  "The devil having put it into the heart of Judas to betray..."


SCRIPTURE READING: JOHN 13:1-2
1. Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.
2. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him..
 
LUKE 22:1-6.
1. Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.
2. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him, for they feared the people.
3. Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
4. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.
5. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.
6. And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.

REFLECTION:  The ancient Roman historian Cicero said of March 15, "The Ides changed everything."

It was on March 15, 44BC (known in Rome as "the ides of March,") that the self-proclaimed dictator of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar was assassinated by a band of conspirators in the Roman Senate.  The conspirators were led by Marcus Brutus, ironically a man who owed his life and career to Caesar. With terror and disbelief the dictator cried, "Et tu, Brute?"  (Literally, "And you, Brutus?)

Brutus' involvement in the plot was understandable if not justifiable.

But almost 70 years later to the day, there was another betrayer, 1500 miles away in Jerusalem, who hatched a plot that is neither understandable nor justifiable.

Judas Iscariot, was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve disciples.  He was one of the 70 whom Jesus sent out to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:2).  He listened to our Lord's great wisdom.  He enjoyed our Lord's great love.  He was trusted to be the treasurer.  Jesus even washed his feet at the Last Supper." (John 13:4ff).

How did such a close friend of the Savior fall to such an extent that he would literally sell out Christ for 30 pieces of silver--the price of a common slave?  When Judas and his band of religious leaders stormed into Gethsemane to arrest him, Jesus called Judas "Friend." Indeed how could Judas have done something so gross to someone so good?

Was he a false disciple at the first? The testimony of Scripture does not bear out this conclusion.

Was he possessed by Satan from his childhood? Again there is no Biblical text to support that theses.


Was he doing Christ a favor by forcing Him to establish His Kingdom over the world?  Or could it be, as the Gnostics thought, that Judas was actually enlightened and that he did what he did to precipitate a crisis and hasten that moment when the world would be redeemed through Christ's death.

Both Luke and John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, trace Christ's betrayal to that moment when "satan entered" or "the devil put into his heart," this dreadful scheme.

Scripture, reason, and our own experience teaches us that Satan's entrance into Judas was "the outcome of a gradual failing in lesser things." (New Advent Encyclopedia.)

It appears that his concern for the money became a malignant love of money.

His tendency to shade the facts became a shameless hypocrisy--professing concern for the poor when the costly ointment was poured on Christ's head, feigning surprise when the Lord identified him as the betrayer, and kissing Jesus in Gethsemane.

His ambition to see Christ's Kingdom promoted became a desire for self-promotion.


 
Gradually, but undeniably, Judas himself opened his heart's door for Satan. And wasn't the end of Judas predictable?  When Satan wins, men always lose.

But thanks be to God, Satan did not win over our crucified, dead, buried Savior.  HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED!

In innumerable ways, some we know, and most we have yet to realize, "The Resurrection changed everything!"

PRAYER: We praise you, Our Father in Heaven, for your excellent greatness.  Your power to transform tragedy into triumph, your ability to turn what men meant for evil into something that is for our good, and your determination and drive to save "a wretch like me," testify to your infinite wisdom and might. 

We pray, Oh God, that if we have in even the slightest way opened the door of our heart to the deceiver, that you would deeply convict us, soften our repentant hearts, and forgive us.  Lord keep us from taking even the first step away from that warm and loving relationship we have with you. 

"Now unto Him who is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.  To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever." Amen.  "Our Father, &c"   (Benediction found in Jude 24,25)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DEVOTION + HE GAVE THANKS



WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2014
26 DAYS TO RESURRECTION SUNDAY

For the complete series of DAILY DEVOTIONS go to www.FCCToday.org or www.PastorRickJones.blogspot.com
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Luke 22:17  "...and He took the cup and gave thanks..."

SCRIPTURE READING: LUKE 22:8-20.
8. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.
9. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare?
10. And he said unto them, Behold when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water, follow him into the house where he entereth in.
11. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
12. And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.
13. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
14. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
15. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
16. For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
17. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves.
18. For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.
19. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
20. Likewise also the cup after supper saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

REFLECTION: Sure, Jesus knew that His death was imminent.  He knew that His death would be malevolent.  He knew that His death would be violent.

Only a few hours before the tragedy, Christ gathered with His disciples to eat the Passover.  "He took the cup, and gave thanks." (Luke 22:17). Then "he took bread, and gave thanks." (Luke 22:19).

It is not hard to comprehend that the Lord might offer thanks if He saw the cup and the bread as nourishment.  We thank the Lord for our food too, at least we ought to!

It is not hard to imagine that the Lord would offer thanks as a part of the Passover ritual. Literally for centuries the Jews always offered thanks at the Passover. These were words that were supposed to be spoken.

But Jesus "gave thanks," telling His disciples:
"I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,"
"I will not eat any more...until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God."
"This is my body which is given for you."
"This cup is the New Testament in my blood."

Jesus, the God-man gave thanks on the brink of His greatest trial.  They who are God's men are to give thanks in the hour of their greatest trial.  I remember reading the Apostle Paul's instructions, "In everything give thanks." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

To "give thanks" in a moment like that requires an unshakable confidence in God and His good, acceptable, and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2).  We are not our own.  We were created "by Him and for Him." (Colossians 1:16).  So we thank the Lord that He has brought us to this hour--even if it is a trying one.

To "give thanks" in a time like that requires an abiding assurance that God is with us, and more importantly, that we are with Him.  The Psalmist testified, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." (Psalm 23:4).  We "give thanks" knowing that the Lord will never leave nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5).  The Lord is our helper. (Hebrews 13:6).  His grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Finally, to "give thanks" in an hour like that requires a triumphant faith that looks beyond the immediate circumstance to the rewards of righteousness.  Charles Wesley was right:
Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees,
And looks to that alone.


We sing, "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!" And it will be.


So whatever it may be that we are about to face today, we "give thanks," with the Lord Jesus, knowing that God's will is best, that God's grace is sufficient, and that God's promised reward is for sure, forever.

PRAYER:  O Lord, My God, When we think of your gratitude in the hour of trial we are amazed and we are convicted.  We are truly awed by your unwavering confidence.  We are inspired by your willingness to endure.  We are thrilled by your promises of eternal reward.  But Lord, we confess, we have not always been so thankful.  We have complained when we should have complied.  We have worried when we should have rested.  And we have doubted, when we should have believed. Forgive us.  By your grace, may we live today and every other day, "giving thanks" in everything.  For it is in the name of our Risen Savior we pray. Amen.
"Our Father, &c."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

DEVOTIONAL + SHE HATH DONE WHAT SHE COULD



TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2014
27 DAYS TO RESURRECTION SUNDAY
Mark 14:8  “….She hath done what she could…”

SCRIPTURE READING: MARK 14:1-9
1 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.
2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.
3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.
4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? shehath wrought a good work on me.
7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

REFLECTION:  NOTE: Today we begin, “The Journey To The Cross.”

Her name is unknown. Her lavish expression of love for the Savior is well-known.

Our Lord’s last Passover was only days away.  While eating at the home of Simon the Leper (one who may very well have been healed by Jesus, see Matthew 11:5), this woman entered the house, opened a flask of precious ointment, and poured it on his head.

She did what was good. 
The money-managers said it was a total waste.  Jesus said, “she hath wrought a good work on me.”
The world values what is material—what is seen. The Lord honors what is not seen—virtue, faith, hope, and love.

Jesus was grateful for the woman’s lavish gift for He knew it had been given out of love. She loved much.  She sacrificed much.  Our degree of sacrifice is always proportional to our love.

She did what she could.
Her love moved her to do more than just what was good, she did what she could.  Doing good is praise-worthy, but doing what we can is a step further. 

Some congratulate themselves on going the first mile.  Jesus praises those who go “the extra mile.”

How different our world would be if we would do what we could for Christ, for our friends, for our neighbors, and for those who oppose and despitefully use us.

She did what she should.
We are not sure that this dear woman had ever heard our Lord say that he would be crucified.  But now she knew for sure.  Jesus thanked her for anointing His body for burial. 

She should love Jesus and she did.
She should sacrifice for Jesus and she did.
She should do His will and she did.

Jesus said that, Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the whole world, her example would be remembered.  May our admiration induce us to imitation.


PRAYER:  Our Father who so loved this world “that He gave,” we are inspired by those who have selflessly given of themselves to you.  Like the precious woman who did what was good, what she could, and what she should, we pray that our lives would be exemplary.  As everyone in the room sensed the aroma of her love, may the love that we pour out upon you touch all that you draw near to us today.  We love you Lord.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.  “Our Father, &c”