Saturday April 20, 2019 – Holy Saturday – Imagine their pain and sense of loss

Matthew 26:31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

Any understanding of the events of Jesus’ suffering and death was hidden from the disciples whenever Jesus spoke about it prior to his death (Luke 18:34).  It was only after his resurrection that Jesus opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  But while the events were unfolding and following his death, they didn’t understand what was happening or why or what it all was leading to.

They had such hope in Jesus – and He and that hope were snatched away from them in such an incredibly vicious way.  On top of that they all had fled just as he said they would. I cannot imagine the pain, despair and hopelessness that they experienced at His arrest, crucifixion and death.  How could they console one another? There had never been anyone like Jesus

Our view is so dominated by the knowledge and joy that Jesus rose from the dead, it’s difficult to comprehend the pain they went through.  That pain, and restless sleepless nights would have continued not only on that Friday, but on Saturday and into Sunday.

I think of the scenes of Aslan’s death from ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’.  Lucy and Susan watched as the hundreds of horrible creatures tortured and then killed Aslan.  In their heartbreak, they witnessed the jubilation of the Witch and the wicked host who believed they had won and that nothing could now stop them.  Aslan was now gone forever.  The girls’ tears and misery lasted throughout the night.  In the morning they experienced more pain as they tried to untie Aslan’s body.  They had no idea what was about to happen.

Two thousand years ago, the first disciples spent today in such pain.  Wicked men had killed Jesus of Nazareth, the man so used by God and they were helpless to stop it.  They experienced the shame of running and hiding.  They deserted Jesus – just as he said they would.  They didn’t understand what was about to happen.

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Friday April 19, 2019 – Good Friday – Peter’s pain and God’s encouragement

Luke 22:61-62  The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.  Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  62And he went outside and wept bitterly.

I cannot imagine the pain that Peter experienced after he denied Jesus the third time and the rooster crowed – and he saw Jesus look right at him.  Their eyes met!  Peter knew – that Jesus knew that it had happened just as Jesus had said it would. Then Peter went outside and wept bitterly.  It was bad enough that Jesus had told him a few hours earlier that it would happen; but to have Jesus witness it and to look right at him at that very moment is pain and a sense of failure beyond imagining.

Peter had some other difficult moments.  When he walked on water he sank.  When he rebuked Jesus for talking about his coming suffering and death, Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”  In the garden when Jesus was being arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut off Malchus’ ear, earning a rebuke from Jesus.

I find it so encouraging that in spite of these events, Jesus didn’t reject Peter and send him packing!  Jesus chose him because he believed in him.  When Jesus spoke to him of the denials, he also said, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  After Jesus’ resurrection, the angel told the women who had come to the tomb, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter.”  Then Jesus appeared separately to Peter.  Think of what each of these would have meant to Peter as he struggled with his actions of denying his beloved Lord.

Peter was a mixture, just like you and me – lots of potential and lots of things to work on.  In spite of difficulties noted above, Peter was the one who did walk on water. He was the disciple who first acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.  He spoke for all the disciples to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. He was rescued from prison by an angel.  He was also the one who received the vision from God regarding the gentiles who then received the gospel at Cornelius’ house.  Peter was one of God’s chosen servants who never gave up and God used him mightily.  What an example he is for us!

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Thursday April 18, 2019 – We can have ‘pollutants’ in our hearts

Matthew 5:8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

This is a verse that is so rich in promise and at the same time contains a foreboding
warning that we must not ignore.  As born again followers of Jesus, we can have ‘pollutants’ in our hearts – stuff that just shouldn’t be there.  Unfortunately, we tend to be far more concerned over what is in the food we eat or the water we drink.

I think of the religious leaders in the time of Jesus.  Here they had Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God right in front of them and the ‘pollutants’ in their hearts caused them to focus on everything but the reality God had right in front of them.  What were miracles, signs & wonders and the greatest teaching that mankind has ever heard compared to who Jesus was eating with; who he was talking to; who he was associating with; and whether he did something he ‘shouldn’t’ do on the Sabbath.

The scary thing is that the same thing can happen to us.  We can be so affected by the unclean stuff in our hearts, that we miss God.  We can become spiritually blind and disoriented.  That which should be avoided is embraced; while that which should be embraced is avoided.  It results in us missing the life and blessing that God has for us – the
wonder of Him working in us day by day.

We like to hear about being ‘Blessed’ and ‘seeing God’ but it is the core of being pure in heart that must command our attention.  We must come to understand what that means and commit ourselves to getting there.  Matthew Henry has some helpful thoughts on
this verse:

“Here holiness and happiness are fully
described and put together. The heart must be purified by faith, and kept for
God. Create in me such a clean heart, O God. None but the pure are capable of
seeing God, nor would heaven be happiness to the impure. As God cannot endure
to look upon their iniquity, so they cannot look upon his purity.”
 

A clean heart is what God desires.  Let us remember Jesus’ words that describe the uncleanness that can come from within – when we do not take following Jesus seriously:

“’For from within, out of men’s hearts, come
evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come
from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” Mark 7:21-22

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Wednesday April 17, 2019 – How will we respond?

Matthew 13:54-55  Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked.  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

If you saw a miracle happen – blind made to see; crippled made whole; deaf made to hear would you believe it?. Or would you immediately dismiss it because ‘miracles don’t happen’ today!  What if you were the one in need of a miracle?   Would you listen to those around you dismissing it – or would you set aside these opinions and see if a miracle could happen to you?  Some of the people in Nazareth did respond and they experienced what God had for them.

But for the most part, the people of Nazareth and the Jewish leaders represent one of the most difficult to believe ‘phenomenon’ in the Bible for me to understand.  They chose to adhere to opinions they had rather than recognize and believe what their eyes were seeing.  The Scriptures say the people of Nazareth were amazed at what they saw and heard, yet they responded with unbelief.  They chose to hold to what their ‘common sense’ was telling them.

This is a significant principle that God uses and we have to adjust accordingly.  It all boils down to whether we are going to respond appropriately to what He is doing in the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Will we respond with unbelief, listening to common sense or fear?  Or will we respond in faith to what we are encountering?  Will we seek Him and allow Him to guide us?

The Lord gives us opportunities to follow Him and accomplish things that He has purposed us to do.  But in the midst of those things, He allows all manner of problems,
difficulties and obstacles to arise.  They can be fearful or overwhelming.  How are we going to respond?

It might not seem fair, but we have a path to choose.  We can be fearful and succumb to worldly wisdom or fear – or we can seek and trust the Lord, lifting all of the problems
to Him.  I think of Joshua and Caleb and the other 10 spies sent in to explore the Promised Land.  There were giants there, but only the Joshua and Caleb had their focus on the Lord.
They knew He would see them through.  The other 10 focused on the giants – fear and ‘common sense’ dictated how they responded.

The things we sometimes face can lead to similar choices.  We can focus on the ‘giants’ or
we can focus on our God – unbelief versus faith.  Each is an opportunity for the Lord in His greatness to enable us to overcome.  The choice is ours.  How will we respond to
the challenging things He allows in our lives?

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Tuesday April 16, 2019 – Comparing our Jesus walk to a speedboat or a sailboat

John 3:8  “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Think about the differences between a speedboat and a sailboat – one has a motor and the other doesn’t.  One doesn’t need sails while the other does.  One needs gasoline and the other needs wind.  One can move independently of the wind, the other cannot move without the wind.  One is a whole lot easier to get where you’re going, when you want to get there and how fast you want to get there – guess which one!

The speedboat (any boat with a motor) offers independence – it’s at the whim of its ‘captain’.  The sailboat is dependent upon the wind.  No wind – and it isn’t going  anywhere.  A speedboat can be driven by just about anyone, even someone who’s never been on water; just start the motor and off you go.  Whether a child or an adult, if you
can steer anything – from a kiddie car, go-kart, automobile – you can steer the
speedboat.  It’s also easier to stop!

The sailboat is different; there’s a whole lot more to learn and a lot more skill involved.  But the key things are its dependency upon the wind and the ability of its ‘captain’ to read the wind and sail the boat where it’s to go, and the route the sailboat goes to get there.

Think about it: how do you get from here to there with a headwind blowing straight at you?  That means that the wind is blowing from the direction you want to go.  Instead of
being at your back, it’s blowing in your face.  The question then becomes are we sure that’s where we want to (or are supposed to) go?  If it is, the sailboat can do it, but it sure isn’t a direct route.

Kind of sounds like what we experience with the Holy Spirit sometimes doesn’t it?  He leads us to do something and we encounter ‘headwinds’ – difficulties, opposition, obstacles, etc…  As I suggested in yesterday’s devotional, for the Christian (Jesus Follower), a life of obedience to Scriptures, becomes the sails of our boat.  Walking in His ways, becomes the skill to sail the boat – to read the wind and allow it to choose the route whatever it might be.  Loving God develops the life-dependence upon Him.

That dependence is essential if our lives are to be about Jesus (sailboat)!  Without it, our lives are about us (boat with a motor)!  We must beware of the spirit of independence that is so common in our culture and in our lives.  The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we may have relationship with Him and live the lives that experience, enjoy and reflect the glory of our God.

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Monday April 15, 2019 – An essential component

John 15:5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Picture a large sailboat, out at sea, with sails unfurled and moving gloriously with the wind.  (Hopefully imagining this doesn’t make you seasick!)  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be on such a ship, on such a day, with a group of dear ones?  Wow – what a great time that would be!  Donna and I have been able to do this very thing a couple of times and the memories we have are ones we treasure.

But take a moment to think about all of the needed ‘ingredients’ in this adventure.  What must we have to make it happen?  First we’ve got to have a sizable body of water for sailing on.  Then we must have a sailboat big enough to handle the group of friends that are going on the adventure – and a crew to sail it.

We would like to have a beautiful day with a strong breeze.  How about doing the sailing amidst a group of islands with beautiful scenes to behold – and a group of dolphin accompanying us?  Of course we want to have something wonderful to eat, so why don’t we
make it a morning sail and we enjoy homemade coffee cake and coffee and orange
juice as we sail.  Can’t you just picture enjoying one another, the breeze, the sea spray, the beauty and the wonder of it all!?

In considering the necessary ‘ingredients’, does anything seem to be missing?  Not at first glance.  But there is something absolutely essential that is taken for granted in the above items.  Without this ‘essential’ the adventure doesn’t happen – except that we sit on the sailboat, wherever it is, and enjoy the scenery, the food, the breeze and one another – but we don’t go anywhere!

What is this essential – that is taken for granted to be there?  Answer: Sails.  And what is a sail?  A piece of material extended on a mast to catch the wind and propel a boat, ship, or
other vessel: “all the sails were unfurled”.

From God’s perspective, walking in His ways is as much as a given for Christians as sails are for a sailboat. Just as a sailboat won’t go anywhere without sails, Christians who don’t walk in His ways won’t ‘go anywhere’ either.  This is why we are more and more hearing the term Jesus Follower.  This is how we remain in Him!  This is how we bear righteous fruit!  Sailboats with sails = Christians who obey Scripture (Jesus Followers) = the adventure is on!!

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Sunday April 14, 20019 – Donna’s divine appointment!

Proverbs 16:3 Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed. (Amplified)

Two days ago I wrote about this verse and how God will cause our thoughts to become agreeable to His will when we commit what we do to the Lord.  One of the wonderful things that God does with this is put us into ‘divine appointments’.  I was reading in my journal from several years ago about how God did exactly this with my wife Donna.

It was Sunday June 24 and we were living in Colorado Springs.  On this particular day Donna had a ‘bee in her bonnet’ about going to look at a new subdivision of 24 homes in Manitou Springs.  Upon arriving there she recognized the salesperson as Jill – someone she had worked with at a different subdivision when Donna had a job as a temp employee.  They talked and Donna wound up sharing the events in her life since they had worked together – particularly focusing on her termination the previous August of her job as a sales coordinator with a wonderful new home builder.

Donna shared how much she loved her job – and how she cried all the way home after being told they had to let her go (due to the downturn in the real estate market).  But she
recognized that she had two choices 1) blame God and react negatively, or 2) recognize that God was closing one door but others would be opened.  She shared with Jill how she chose to look to God, making the right faith response.

The very next day, Jill was let go by her employer.  She just could not get over the fact that
Donna had been there less than 24 hours earlier talking to her about that exact experience!  Jill had never had anything like that happen before.  They both were so blessed by this Divine Appointment.

It is important to recognize that it became a Divine Appointment because of what was shared.  If Donna hadn’t shared her experience, the opportunity would have been missed.  But by doing so, Jill was able to experience the Lord’s love and concern – plus through Donna, He showed her the way to go and an example to follow.

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