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"Jesus Triumphant!"

"Jesus Triumphant!"

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words (Luke 24:1-8)

All of Christianity is summed up in one verifiable historical event. And this event changes everything. Jesus of Nazareth, a maverick Jewish rabbi and prophet, who claimed to be the Messiah that the ancient Hebrew Scriptures foretold, was arrested, condemned in an illegal trial and crucified. A Roman soldier had pierced Jesus' side with a legionnaire"s spear and blood & water flowed from the wound bearing testimony to the final collapse of our Savior's lungs. He was
dead.

Days after his body had been prepared and placed in a sealed tomb, some women went back to that very same tomb and found the Roman seal broken, the stone rolled away, and Jesus body had mysteriously dissaperaed. The vertex soldiers who had stood guard, keeping the Governors seal intact, had fled in fear of something greater than the certain knowledge that their lives would be forfeit for abandoning their posts.

Soon after that day, over 500 people gave eyewitness testimony to having seen Jesus, the very same man whom everyone knew had been killed upon Golgotha's height, alive, visibly resurrected from the dead! Others claimed to have seen him ascend into heaven before their astonished eyes. Most of these witnesses were still alive at the time of the writing of the four Gospel accounts of Jesus life, ministry and final vindication. If the words of this "Good News" were not true, any one of those witnesses could have easily refuted the Gospel writers.

Those who committed to following Jesus early on gained no visible benefit from following him, no wealth or power or earthly possessions. Rather, many of them were themselves beaten, stoned, tortured and crucified. Yet Christianity has persisted on through the relentless march of centuries and is experiencing explosive new growth in our own day.

And finally, because we know that this account of Jesus' death and resurrection is factual, we can also know that his promises are completely certain. The innocent Lamb of God who died as a criminal in order to pay the price to redeem us from our sins has risen from the dead and is even now preparing a place for us. One day, we will be made alive again with him and join him in festal celebration for all eternity.

He has risen, he has risen indeed!

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Lenten Season Devotional- "Dwell on The Death of Jesus"

"Dwell on The Death of Jesus"

Tomorrow is Easter, and we are probably, in our minds, pushing past today and thinking about the joyous celebration that will take place tomorrow commemorating the resurrection of Jesus.

But wait for a moment, lets not rush to the pinnacle of the Holy week drama to quickly. We would do well to remember that the people we read about in the Bible lived all this beautiful and broken drama out one verse at a time. They couldn't skip ahead to the next chapter. They didn't know the end of the story. For each and every one of them that woke that Saturday morning so long ago, one singular incontrovertible, devastating truth confronted them- Jesus was dead and buried, his ministry seemingly ended. The tomb was sealed, hope was gone, and Jesus' corpse lay decomposing in the earth.

Why should we bother thinking about Jesus' final moments on the cross and about those who buried him? One answer is that there would be several false accounts that would crop up over the next five centuries, accounts which deny either the death or the resurrection of Jesus.

It is essential to our faith that we know for certain that Jesus was really dead. That is why they buried him. These Ancient Near eastern people were not overtly superstitious; they knew when someone was truly dead, and they knew what to do with a dead body. You buried it. Immediately. Joseph and Nicodemus went to great personal trouble and expense to honor Jesus in this final heart wrenching demonstration of devotion. Though they did not stand for him in life, they now owned him publicly following his death. They personally prepared his body in haste so as to get his corpse into the tomb before sundown according to traditional practice. These men intended to go back later and remove Jesus' bones so that they might be placed into an ossuary (bone box) and be given the final treatment that a proper Jewish burial of this age required. They were never afforded the opportunity to go back later and gather up the bones of Jesus. And the really cool part is that everyone since that fateful morning knows why!

"Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph."
(Mark 15:43-45)

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Lenten Season Devotional- "Redeeming Failure"

"Redeeming Failure"

"Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants[a] and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself." (John 18:15-18 ESV)

The Bible doesn't cover up character flaws. Peter failed miserably, and it's all there in black and white for us to read about. Under intense pressure, he abandoned his master and friend in Jesus' darkest hour. Peter failed him in the garden even before the episode told above. Jesus had asked him to watch and pray but Peter fell asleep.

Now we see him deny even the fact that he knew the One he said he would follow to prison and even unto to death, not once, but on three different occasions on that unbelievable & unparalleled evening. And so he weeps bitterly, feeling the weight of his colossal failure. It literally breaks him.

Yet this is not a story about Peter. This is a story about Jesus, the One who knew it would happen all along- even before he spoke to Peter for the first time. He knew that Peter would be shaken and sifted by Satan until the most sinful inclinations of his heart surfaced and could be exploited. And Jesus knew that Peter would be made perfect through such suffering. This tragic event, this epic fail, would in the end, be used for God's glory and Peter's own good.

Something would be forged in the crucible of degradation that would not have emerged otherwise. God allows redeems those things that seem to be the enemy's crowning accomplishments, especially the basest of our failures. It is through these failures that pride and self-reliance lose their grip on our souls, and we are set free to run full tilt, refreshed by the Holy Spirit into the preferred future of blessing that our Heavenly Father has graciously prepared for us.

Come out tonight from under there cloud of guilt and shame. Refuse to listen to the whispering lies of the adversary who wants to undermine that which Jesus has secure for you beloved child of God. 
You are loved and through your loving obedience to our Father decree, the world is being changed, one soul at a time.

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Lenten Season Devotional- "Betrayal"s Benefit"

"Betrayal"s Benefit"

Betrayal is an agony like no other. There are no wounds quite as devastating as those inflicted upon us by one we thought a trusted friend. Jesus knew this pain. His close friend, whom he had taught, loved and shared meals with for years, sold him out for thirty silver coins. And yet Jesus shows us that even this pain can be redeemed; because of his experience, he shows us that none of us has to suffer through betrayal alone. Our God is willing to walk that lonely painful path with us.

Pain does not necessarily lead to growth in character. Improperly processed, pain can leader us to bittiness, despair and destruction. Yet Jesus demonstrates that we can choose to use our pain to provide us the coin to purchase empathy and compassion for others, that they might receive the comfort we ourselves have received from leaning on God.

How did Jesus deal with betrayal? He remained steadfast. He remained true to his identity, and refused to exact revenge, nor even defend himself. This same will be true for you too as you look to him during your time of trouble. When you are betrayed, there is nothing better to do but commit yourself to God and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Pray that the character being cultivated in you and the glory you will one day see, will far outweigh the pain of the difficult moments you are experiencing. This is the hope that is found in the Gospel and in the testimony of the Resurrected Son of God.

"Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me." (Psalm 41:9)

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Lenten Season Devotional- "Slake Your Thirst"

"Slake Your Thirst"

The Old Testament poets had far less knowledge about the person & promises of God than we who have the entire Bible do now do, yet they seem to have had a much better understanding of what it looked like to thirst after the person & manifest presence of God than we do. That implacable thirst is absolutely necessary for true discipleship to occur. This thirst can often be dulled within us by worries, anxieties and the concerns of this life. The previous sad reality is regularly compounded by our consistent chasing after things other than the loving arms of our Father God.

In the Gospels we see Jesus teaching his original disciples that the hunger & thirst for true righteousness can only be satiated in him. This longing for the blessed, abundant life that we pine for our entire lives leads everyone of us to the place where we come face to face that we are created for more than the material things we see and strive for. This gift of thirst leads us into ever deeper relationship with King Jesus, and ultimately when we drink deeply, becomes a spring that overflows from us into the lives of others around us.

What do you want more than anything else on this world? This questions calls every one of us to make a decision: follow hard after God or chase after everything else. One path leads to incredible, beautiful intimacy with God, the other leads to an ever disappointing descent into idolatry and hopelessness. For the Samaritan woman whom Jesus had compassion on, there was no question as to what she would choose. The future hope that she desired was standing right in front of her, asking her to provide literal water for him while he offered the greatest gift imaginable to her; forgiveness, freedom and friendship with God. And on the cross, as his sacrifice on the behalf of everyone who would trust in him drew to its predetermined conclusion, Jesus speaks. He has only the strength to rasp "I thirst" then he commits his soul to the Father so that we might find forgiveness and never have to thirst for Father's affection, forgiveness, and presence again. 
Life is beautiful and you were intended for more. Reach out to Savior, he longs for you!

1As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my savior and my God.

(Psalm 42:1-3,9-11) ESV

7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water."
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

(John 4:7-11,13-14)

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Lenten Season Devotional- "Cosmic Authority of The Compassionate King"

"Cosmic Authority of The Compassionate King"

Something about Jesus drew his disciples to him. Yet it's clear that when they signed on with him they really had no idea what they had signed up for. A storm that was furious enough to terrify seasoned fishermen meant nothing to Jesus. "Be still!" he calls out to the unruly elements of wind and water and incredibly enough, they respond as if they had heard this voice before.
But notice the response of the disciples. "Who is this man?" they ask with incredulity, because they had never seen nor heard off anyone who possessed such unparalleled power & authority over the natural world. A demon possessed man who terrorized the inhabitants of an entire city falls to his knees before Jesus, and Jesus calmly says "Come out!" The demon obeys Christ's command immediately, and as a consequence the people of the city are overcome with fear and beg Jesus to leave immediately.

There is something about Jesus's power that is both attractive and repellent. Like the disciples, we fail to realize whom we have signed up to follow. Like the Gerasenes who lived in the city, we sometimes ask Jesus to back off because we are afraid of what he might do next or, even worse yet, what he might ask us to do! We call Jesus our Savior but we forget the staggering ramifications of the fact that he is also our Sovereign Lord.

In a few verses, Mark demonstrates Jesus' lordship over the natural world (the storm) over the spirit world (the demon who possessed the man), and if we continue reading, we see him conquer the implacable foes of every human being, disease and death itself! If Jesus' disciples had any questions about the authority of this God-man they were following, they would soon be reassured. These were not tricks. Jesus possessed all authority in heaven and on earth. And maybe the most remarkable thing about his authority is that he chose to use it to suffer and die in our place, instead of exercising that authority to save himself from death on the cursed cross, abandoned and alone.

"And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 
Mark 4:37-41 (ESV)

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Lenten Season Devotional- "The Priceless Gift of Humility"

"The Priceless Gift of Humility"

Jesus was criticsized, rejected , slandered, misunderstood, plotted against, betrayed, denied, and abused by his friends, family and disciples. He was humiliated and sentenced to death by both his own people and by the military occupiers of his country. Yet, he chose to willingly identify with sinners. He lived in poverty and obscurity for the vast majority of his life. As his ministry progressed, Jesus faced increasing levels of hostility andopposition. Yet, he knew who he was and whose he was. His relationship with his Heavenly Father gave him the power and security to love & serve others. He was never defined or constrained by the freely offered opinions of those around him.

The humility of Jesus reflects an absolute dependance on and complete submission to the will of his Father. We see this illustrated in his baptism as a dove descends from heaven. Doves were the sacrifice that the poor and underresourced offered at the temple. Jesus goes out of his way to identify with the poor, the lonely, the stranger, & the outcast.

For us humility is the mark of true repentance, evidence of a transformed life. Our flesh and our pride chafe against humility, so we are forced to learn it through suffering. We learn it through forgiving those who wrong us and by seeing these incidents as opportunities to grow in maturity. As we do, we begin to develop a teachable spirit, a willingness to to seek wise counsel and submit to authority. As we join John the Baptist in saying "he must become greater and I must become less" (John 3:30), we learn the wisdom of humility and stand in awe of the amazing grace of our resurrected King.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

"But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me."
(John 5:30)

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Lenten Season Devotional- "The Proven Vine"

"The Proven Vine"

The Promised Land had been filled with grape vines, with branches everywhere, weighed down by enormous bunches of fruit. The grapevine had become a symbol of the people of Israel, and gold clusters of grapes hung over the temple gate. Those listening to Jesus knew that Israel was the vine that God had taken from Egypt and planted in the promised land. They knew from the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah & Ezekiel that this transplanted vine had been a disappointment when it failed to produce fruit. It was a beautiful symbol of their intended purpose, but also a reminder of their frequent failure. Leaves and fruit on a grapevine were good, but branches that did not produce were not strong enough to build anything with; their only use was firewood, and God had proclaimed this repeatedly.

So when Jesus opened his mouth to speak about a vine on this day, his listeners may have held their breath. Or they may have noticed that he said that he was the "true vine", and that may have stung deeply. But if the people assembled there that day were listening closely, they would have seen that Jesus was giving them another and better chance to realize the destiny they so desperately desired.

Branches that produce fruit must come from a proven vine. Here stood the most reliable of sources offering the people of Israel an opportunity to overcome their failures and glorify God wholeheartedly once again. They had been chosen by Jesus, who desired to be their source of strength. If they would remain in loving relationship with him, finding their life purpose, their strength and their deepest pleasure in him, then they would be enabled to produce something that would last forever. They could achieve true significance! That gift stands available to anyone who would draw from his source of salvation-strength this Lenten season.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."(John 15:5-8)

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Lenten Season Devotional- Jesus: Friend of Sinners

Jesus: Friend of Sinners

Sin is awful. It separates us from God. The religious leaders of Jesus' time got at least that much right. Unfortunately, they had worked everything in the own favor, exempting themselves from any consequences. And in so doing, they built their own system, a system of insiders & outsiders divided by arbitrary, man made laws enforced by armed guards who patrolled the temple precincts in order to keep the sinners from mixing with the righteous.

The outcasts- the sick, the ceremonially unclean, the drunkards, the whores, the lepers, the tax collectors who stole from the people, the foreigner- these types of folks had little in common but for one thing; they were barred entrance to the temple which was the place of God's glory presence. They were turned away and refused the opportunity to meet with the God who loved them. Yet it is these very same people that Jesus seeks out & ministers too. He sits down to dinner with sinners & thieves, graciously permits a prostitute to wash his feet, courageously refuses to agree to the stoning of a woman caught in the act of adultery, gently touches the flesh of lepers, and heals the servant of Roman soldier who imposed the evil of occupation! For a Jew who strictly obeyed the law, Jesus' behaviors were unthinkable.

Unless, of course, through his actions, Jesus is saying something, making a statement about what God thinks of those in authority who hide their own sins behind robes and titles while exposing the sins of others and prohibiting them from worshipping God. Jesus did not judge the sinners or there unclean. He loved and respected them. He offered them acceptance and said that he (not the traditions that stood against them) was the only way to God. And because ne spoke with authority and walked in integrity (he had no sins under his robes), many believed in him and experienced the freedom that comes from submitting to him as Lord.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Matt 11:19)

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
(Luke 7:36-39)

And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32-39)

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Lenten Season Devotional- " Knowing the God who shares our pain"

" Knowing the God who shares our pain"

Jesus promised his followers many things: peace, joy, abundant life, the forgiveness of sins, a secure union with him. One thing he did not promise however, is a pain free life here on the earth. Rather, he reminded us that we would have trouble throughout our journey here in this world. This might not be fair, but life stopped being fair when Adam and Eve purposefully disobeyed God's loving directive in the garden. The ripple effects of their willful disregard of a compassionate God's attempt to safeguard their minds & bodies from the ravages of sin & death continue to effect each of us even unto this day.

Since that day in the perfect garden paradise prepared for the enjoyment of God's greatest and most beloved of creations, the human race, life has been filled with an unending procession of victimization & pain. But one of the most remarkable things about the Christian faith - the one thing that sets biblical Christianity apart from every other world religion - is that our God feels our pain with us. He suffers with us. He weeps with us. Each and every one of our tears shed in the bleakest and most desperate of moments matter to him!

Incredibly enough, he promises that one day soon we will weep no longer. Death will disappear once and for all, swallowed up by the victory Jesus accomplished at the Cross of Calvary. Until this longed for deliverance arrives, Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to be the comforter of very person who will trust in him. It is in seeking the face of God in the midst of the most overwhelming of trials that our sorrow can be transformed into joy. Joy that comes from knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Creator-King of the universe cares intimately for us.

What trial do you need to trust him with? Release anxiety to him right now knowing that his Father's heart is turned to you, desiring to bless you and reveal the depths of his passion for you his most beloved child. Receive that encouragement and hope that will refresh your soul even now.

"How lonely sits the city that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave...
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
(Lamentations 1:1 & 3:21-23)

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
(Luke 19:41-42)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:3-4 )

 

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Lenten Season Devotional- "Jesus is Our Life"

"Jesus is Our Life"

Jesus was very clear about why he had come into this world. It wasn't to pass judgement. It wasn't to congratulate good people who followed the rules. Jesus came into the world to bring life, an abundant life that fills us to overflowing,This has always been God's intention towards his people. God created us to experience a life of fulfillment and promise. It is his heart to to give us more than we need, to flood our lives with fullness of blessing.

Yet God's people have consistently chosen to walk a path of disobedience & rebellion, a path that leads to death. But God was not willing to leave us on that path. He sent his Son to bear the curse of our sin for us, to pay the price of our sins, once and for all. Gods made it possible for us to get off the road that leads to destruction and onto the road that leads to eternal life. Jesus offers all those who enter this new life through him a forever life in the presence of God. Let us remember that he is not only the provider of this life, he is our life!

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Debt. 30:19-20)

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:7-10)

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