Monday, April 17, 2017

Because of the Cross

The day after Resurrection Sunday...what is on your mind? Last week as I spent time reflecting on Jesus' final days and words before the cross my thoughts shifted to things that happened because of the cross. We must spend time at the cross to better understand the because of the cross, but both are important in the life of the believer.

Sometimes we can make this complicated. I can overthink think things and analyze them way too much, but last week while I was in the Word the Holy Spirit kept it pretty simple. So today I'm going to share the basics - the ABC's. I pray the following blessings of the cross will encourage, convict and offer wisdom as you walk thru your day after Easter. Friend, we've just celebrated our risen Lord and Savior, now may we walk with Him and live for Him!

A - Abundant

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Jesus came to this world because His Father, our God, sent Him. By His presence He brought much and through His example we learn much, but because of the cross we gain much. His death brought life - eternally for believers in heaven and abundantly for us while on earth.

B- Better

"But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7)

Through Jesus' death and resurrection are lives are better? How can that be? Eternal life is something many believers quickly understand, but this verse gives great insight for the here and now. Jesus told His disciples that it would be good for them that He was going away. Other versions say it was for their advantage and a gift. Why? Because now instead of being in Christ's presence, He would be filling them with His Holy Spirit. Friend, the same is true for you and me we don't simply celebrate the resurrection and God's resurrecting power we have it in us. Because of the cross, we are filled with the Spirit of the One true God!

C - Commissioned

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

Have you ever struggled with what you should do with your life? Are you a young mom thinking you don't have a purpose when all you do is change diapers, make meals and do laundry? Are you an empty-nester thinking your job is done? Friend, regardless of our roles, our jobs or our age, as a disciple of the Lord we have a purpose. Jesus explains that purpose in some of His final words. We are His disciples and we have been commissioned to make more disciples. We don't have to "go" to the ends of the earth, though He may send us there, but we can also do this in our homes, our communities and our work place.

These ABC's may seem pretty simple, but they are critical. My young son is learning to read and without his knowledge of the ABC's it would be an impossible task. The same is true for you and me - we all want to shine our lights for Christ and these foundational "because of the Cross" truths will help us do just that!

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Lord God, thank you for the cross - the work you did through it and life we can live because of it. Help me remember that I can have abundant life - keep my eyes focused on you and continue to reveal your bigger picture to me. Thank you for sending your Spirit, may I continually be filled with it and yield to it. Father God, you've commissioned me and called me to live with you and for you. Help me live my faith first so I'm able to share it well. Thank you for your promise to always be with me; I go with you now. In Jesus' precious name I pray, Amen

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Finish

Is it easier for you to start something new or finish the work you've already begun? Personally, both situations present some challenges, but if I had to choose one it would be finishing. Carrying something thru takes time, work and endurance. We face temptations, wrestle with doubts and wonder if it really matters. But if we're truly called to start something, God also expects us to finish it.

I've been challenged and encouraged by the idea of finishing this Holy Week. I've spent time reflecting on Jesus - our Passover Lamb, been given an example by Mary to be a woman who does what I can and been reminded to be prepared. But yesterday as I read through the story of crucifiction and reflected on Jesus sacrifice for me, "Finish" was the message I received.

In John 19:28 we read, "Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." Friend, Jesus was hanging on the cross, He'd done his job of being sacrificed for sin, but yet He still submitted to the Father. He did what God sent Him to do.

John 4:34 states, "My food is to do the will of Him sent and finish His work." While John 12:49 says, "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." Even to the end, in unbelievable pain and distress, Jesus was obedient.

John 19:30 states this clearly, "When He had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

Stop and think about this for a minute. When it was hard, people didn't understand and the pain was unbearable Jesus didn't quit. Can you say the same? I can't, but I've been convicted, and encouraged, that I need to change. God equipped Jesus to finish what He started, I have to believe He can do the same for me.

Friend, He can do it for you too. Let's go to God and ask Him to help us persevere and let's look to Jesus as the example of One who finished well.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for again speaking to me through your living and active Word. Use it to penetrate my mind and soul, transform me Lord so I can be like you. Thank you Jesus for finishing the work you started, for dying for my sins and fulfilling Scripture. May I learn from your example and be more like you. I'm also reminded that a wait followed the completition of your work, help me remember that and trust your timing Father. This Easter season may we celebrate your resurrecting power, our victory over sin and death and the reminder that finishing is important. Father God, you are good, your are mighty and you are worthy of our praise. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What will you do?

As Holy Week continues I find myself still reflecting on the Passover Lamb and reading passages about Jesus' last days. This morning I was in the last few chapters of Mark and these words from 14:8 haven't left my mind - "She did what she could." 

This is a sentence Jesus spoke about the woman who annointed him. In other Gospels we learn this was Mary...sister to Lazarus and Martha. The one who had earlier sat at Jesus feet was now annointing them.

Stop for a minute and think about what she did and how she did it. She broke open a bottle of expensive perfume; some historians believe it was worth a year's wages. She poured it out, not saving any for herself.

She placed herself in a position that most likely would be questioned. As a woman, she was among men. She used her hair, a sign of her glory, to wipe Jesus' feet, a job reserved for the lowest of low. She had humbled herself and broke free from the fear of what others would think.

Friend, chances are you've read this story before, but have you let this story read you? I feel like God's been examining my heart all day thru the lens of this short story and even smaller sentence.

Mary did what she could. She didn't rely on her position, but took advantage of her opportunity. Do I do the same? Do you? Every day we have an opportunity to do what we can do, but do we?

Granted Jesus is not here in the flesh and His body no longer needs to be prepared for burial, but His people are here and His body (you and me) have gifts to use and roles to play.

When it comes to work, I'm not talking a 9 to 5 job, but the life you live - Are you doing what you can or simply what you have to or worse yet what you want to?

When it comes to worship, again not just a Sunday morning service, but in our daily life - Are we doing just what's necessary or are we doing all we can?

These aren't quick, easy answer questions, but they are important, powerful self-examination tools. As we prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, may we quiet our hearts, ask God to examine them and prepare to give Jesus all of them.

Mary sacrificed her perfume and she also surrendered herself. May you and I do the same. Jesus did what He could, I pray we will too.

Our external actions may not change, but our internal attitude will...instead of a focus on self, may we live with the desire to serve. Rather than holding back and fearing what others think, may we walk in faith and set an example for others to follow. May we worship the One who's worthy instead of wasting time on idols that are truly worthless.

Friend, I don't know what these 5 words stirred in your heart, but I'm praying now for God to use them in your life to help you do what He created you to do. It cost Mary and we too will pay a price, but may we remember it's an investment that will never fail! Today let's do what we can do for the Lord we love.

Heavenly Father, I want to be a woman who does what I can. Help me stop being one who does what I must or have to, but one who serves You wholeheartedly. May I count the cost and be willing to pay the price. May I throw myself at your feet and love you without fear. Help me worship you without worry. Father God, thank you for drawing me close and helping me know You more. Your Word truly is living and active, continue using it to transform me. Father, I thank you for the gift of your Son and the filling of your Holy Spirit. May I do what you created me to do...glorify you. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Passover Lamb


"Do you want to try and sell those lambs?" My husband's words in the early morning had my attention. He had mentioned this briefly earlier in the week, but this time instead of going to my head his words went to my heart.

Our kids have been raising 4 orphan lambs and they will eventually grow up and be sent to market, but my reaction to putting them up for sale now, while they are still young and kind of like a pet, hit me. The thought of someone using them - Skittle, Beefy, Oreo and the lamb with a changing name, for a passover meal made me sad.

The conversation didn't go any further, but my thoughts continued to run and they led me to the Word. Friend, we are in the midst of holy week and for the first time in 41 years, I find myself thinking about the Passover lamb in a real personal way. I encourage you to do the same in the days to come.

Did you know during the original Passover, the lamb played a significant role? First of all in Egypt, a lamb was sacred, it was considered to be a god of sorts and was worshipped by the Egyptians. Clearly, the Lord had their attention when He commanded the Isrealites to "take a lamb for their family" (Exodus 12:3). The Isrealites exercised their faith and courage by obeying this command.

They didn't just take any lamb...it had to be a year old male without defect. (Exodus 12:5) These animals were in their prime and were the best of the flock.

The lambs weren't simply selected and quickly sacrificed...they were chosen on the 10th day and slaughtered on day 14. (Exodus 12:6) In between they were cared for...typically in the home. Think about what took place in that time. I'm sure there were messes and noise. There was also time to grow attached and hours set aside to inspect. The people were surrendering normalcy and eventually something they loved.

This story mirrors what took place years later in Jerusalem - Jesus rode into the city and was welcomed as the One who would save. For the next 4 days, He too was set apart and inspected. Just like the lamb, He was found to be spotless and without defect. (1 Peter 1:19) During that time, the people saw him work, learned from His teachings and grew to know Him more.

Friend, chances are you celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday and like the people of years gone by said, "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" You may have plans to attend a Maundy Thursday service or a Last Supper Remembrance meal later this week. Countless services are scheduled for Friday and Sunday of this coming week as well. These events are important and powerful, but I challenge, and encourage, you to treasure the days to come.

We will not be bringing a lamb into our home, but I've invited thee Lamb into my heart. In the days to come I long to learn from Him and grow closer to Him as I prepare to reflect on His sacrifice and praise my Savior. I hope you will consider doing the same.

Heavenly Father, 
Lord, thank you for continually speaking into my heart and revealing more of yourself. I'm humbled to know you care and know me in such a personal way. As this Holy Week unfolds, may it be a time of reflection and relationship building. Draw me closer to Yourself as I sit with you, study your Word and experience your presence. Thank you for being my passover Lamb - your sinless life saved me from the sin in mine. Increase my understanding of this and gratitude for it. Today I struggled with the thought of giving up one of our lambs for a meal, but Father God you gave up your Son for me - thank you. May I give up my life for you. In Jesus' Name, Amen



Jesus, You are my all in all...Jesus, Lamb of God, worthy is your name - Friend, may these words bless you, remind you of Truth and encourage you to worship our Lord and Savior.