One-a-Day Thursday 4/24/14

number 1Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

Father, grant me the hunger that only you can satisfy,

the thirst that only you can quench.

Create in me an emptiness that you alone can fill

because sometimes I think I’m complete

but I’m not;

I’m just crowded.

Father of all desire

let me crave

You.

One-a-Day Wednesday 4/23/14

number 1Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Let’s not read too much into this one, shall we?

I doubt that Jesus was literally promising you the world.  Really—what would you do with it if you had it?  A town, certainly, maybe even a small state—but the entire world?  Come now.  And what about that woman down the street, or the guy at work; do they also inherit the earth?  How do we do the sharesies on that one?  Jesus is teaching that those who walk with God will have all their needs completely met.  The earth and all that is in it are the Lord’s, and he gives joyfully to those who are his.

On another note, “Meek” is not the same as “Weak.”  When we read this verse, it’s easy to get the picture of these mousey, quiet, timid little people running the world someday.  It makes you wonder how anything would ever get done.  “Meek,” in the biblical sense, means to be humble and gentle before God and man.  A meek person trusts God to provide for him, and doesn’t feel the need to push and shove in order to get what is his.  One who trusts God, fully and completely, isn’t worried about the other guy.  He has nothing to prove and no one to beat.  He can afford to be gentle.

So, Beloved, will you walk in meekness today?  There may be a small county in it for you.

One-a-Day Tuesday 4/22/14

number 1Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

It’s good to mourn.

Oh maybe not good in the sense of, “Woohooo, my heart is breaking, I’ve lost everything I love—let’s get ice cream and cheesy puffs!”

Not good in that sense.

Good in the sense that it’s a natural part of who we are.  It’s healthy; it shows that we love.  After all, we don’t mourn that which we did not love.

God mourns.  Jesus mourned Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37).  He wept at the grave of Lazarus.  I believe that the Father mourns those who choose to live and die apart from him. When we mourn, we show that we are made in his image.  We reveal the stamp of our Creator.

And when we mourn, we are comforted.

There’s the promise.  The God of all peace, all healing, all love, stands ready to comfort us in our loss.  And that comfort outweighs our pain.

Eventually.

So, once again God invites us to be vulnerable and rest in his protection, to be weak and draw on his strength, to be empty and let him fill us, to be broken and allow him to restore.

When we are weak, he is strong—in us and through us.

What have you lost, Beloved?  What do you mourn?

Walk in his comfort today.

One-a-Day Monday 4/21/14

number 1Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3).

You’re not impressing him.  You know that, don’t you?

OK, so you pray, and you read the Word, and you tithe; you even visit sick orphans in prison. That’s great.  I applaud you.  But don’t think that you’re going to parlay that into some kind of spiritual currency.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I sometimes wish it did, but it doesn’t.

Jesus says to be poor in spirit—to recognize that all you have to offer is really not so much at all.  I once survived for three weeks on generic ramen noodles, a dozen eggs, and tap water.  I couldn’t afford shampoo—I used dishwashing liquid. I don’t recommend it.  Needless to say, I did little entertaining during those weeks.  I knew that I had nothing to offer.

When we come to God, we need to realize that we have nothing to offer that he needs.  He owns everything.  He doesn’t need our spiritual ramen.  When we come to him, we need to be poor in spirit.

The tax collector in Luke 18 had it right.  He came with no demands, but with one simple plea: have mercy.  That’s the ticket to the kingdom.

It’s Monday.  The Lord of all stands ready to shower you with his love, his grace, his peace this morning.  You didn’t earn it; you can’t pay for it.  But you will need it before the day is out.  Receive it, Beloved.  Open your heart wide and receive it.

One-a-Day Sunday 4/20/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Resurrection Sunday

He is Risen!

number 1…because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay (Psalm 16:10).

But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself (Psalm 49:15).

For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave (Psalm 86:13).

 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.  Where, O death, are your plagues?  Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14)

Lost

Alone

Confused

Empty

These words describe what I imagine the disciples felt on that Sunday morning.  They must have figured that, after all, Jesus had failed.

Has anyone ever been more gloriously wrong?

On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went with some of the other women to make sure that the body of Jesus was properly cared for.  Oh, the surprise they got!  The tomb was empty, the body was gone, and an angel announced, “He is not here; He has risen!”

Can you imagine?

Seriously, can you imagine it?  Imagine going with Mary and seeing the stone rolled away, hearing the angel’s words.  Imagine being with the disciples when she brings them the news.  Imagine running with Peter and John to see for yourself, and finding the tomb empty, the grave clothes neatly folded.  Imagine standing with Thomas, the doubter, as he touched the wounds on his living Lord.

Imagine.

His death satisfied the requirements of the old covenant—a perfect sacrifice to cover all sin always.

His resurrection broke the power of Death forever, and ushered in the New Covenant—a promise of grace and hope and peace.

His return will bring the fulfillment of history, as he gathers those who put their trust in him and takes them home forever.

He is risen, indeed!

Walk in joy today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Saturday 4/19/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday.

number 1Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones (Zechariah 13:7b).

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Everybody loves you when you’re winning.

What happened to the crowds?  Was it just last Sunday that the people were lining the streets, cheering for Jesus?  Now where are they?

Gone.

When the soldiers came for Jesus, the disciples scattered.  John followed, but at a distance.  He needed to know what was happening, but he couldn’t bring himself to intervene.

Peter, like John, followed at a distance.  He mingled with the crowd, where he could blend in and, hopefully, go unnoticed.  While he was standing with a group, a servant girl recognized him.  Here was Peter’s chance to stand tall for Christ.  Here was his golden opportunity to proclaim his loyalty to Jesus and stand with him—die with him, if need be.  After all, that is what he had promised Jesus.

What did he do?  You know what he did.  He denied his Lord.  Big, strong Peter couldn’t stand up to the questions of the lowliest servant girl.

What of the rest?  All we know is that they ran for it.

Don’t be too hard on the disciples.  I’m convinced they genuinely believed that they were up to the challenge.  When Peter said he would never betray Jesus, I think he meant it down to the marrow of his bones.  He didn’t have the courage, because he was only human.  Like us.  We know that John, and Mary, and a few others came to the cross before Jesus died; Jesus even spoke to John from the cross. But in the end, Jesus had to fulfill his purpose himself.

In the end, Jesus went to the cross alone.

He went to the grave alone.

He rose from the dead alone.

Because he had to.  That was the point—if anyone else could have done it, if anyone else could have helped, we wouldn’t have needed the perfect Son of God.

Jesus stood alone so that you will never have to.

Because he loves you.

You.

Walk in thankfulness today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Friday 4/18/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday.

Good Friday

Betrayal and Sacrifice

number 1Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me (Psalm 41:9).

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Matthew 26:14-27:65

Mark 14:17-15:47

Luke 22:47-23:56

John 13:18-30; 19:1-42

 

Betrayal

It’s a bitter, ugly word for a bitter, ugly deed.

Perhaps the worst thing about betrayal is that, by its very nature, betrayal involves someone you trust.  In a sense, you have to give the betrayer the power to hurt you by making yourself vulnerable.  Those who never make themselves vulnerable to others can never be betrayed.

But then, they can never really love, either.

Jesus, as we know, was betrayed by Judas Iscariot.  Jesus knew it was coming—he even announced it to the disciples at the Last Supper.  He was handed over to the Chief Priests, and then to the Romans, and then crucified.  Rather than synopsize this day, I suggest that you go read it for yourselves.  Pick one or more of the Gospel accounts I’ve listed above and go through it as a family.  It isn’t pretty.  It is essential.

As you read, remember that he knew what was coming.  He went to the cross on purpose because he loves you.

You.

One-a-Day Thursday 4/17/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday.

The Thursday Before Easter

Jesus, Our Passover Lamb

number 1The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:13).  

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).

You sin.

If that’s news to you, well, there you go.  At least you’re in good company—pretty much everyone.

That sin gets between you and God and messes up your relationship, just like lying, cheating, or whatnot hurts any relationship.  The Old Covenant had a means for dealing with sin and restoring your relationship with God.

Death.

Don’t like that part?  Well, I don’t blame you, but there it is.  As Paul says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23)  When Adam and Eve first sinned, death was the result.  God took an animal, killed it, and used the skin to cover their nakedness…their sin.  From that point on, animals were sacrificed to atone, or make up for, man’s sin.

Why would God want us to kill animals, and how does that make up for doing bad things?  By itself, the idea doesn’t seem to make much sense.  But think of it in context.  God used the sacrifice—the physical death—of innocent animals to remind us that sin causes spiritual death in us.  And it couldn’t be just any animal—it had to be your best.  Woe unto you if you brought leftovers to the Lord of the Universe.

The Passover Lamb was a particularly special sacrifice.  It reminded the people of their rescue from slavery.  When God broke Pharaoh’s will and forced him to release the Hebrews, he did it by sending an angel to put to death the firstborn of all Egypt.  To spare his people from this nightmare, God had them kill a lamb—a perfect lamb, without any defect—and sprinkle its blood on the doorposts of their house.  The Lord promised to “pass over” those houses sprinkled with blood.  The Jews continue to celebrate the Passover as a most holy day.

As we saw yesterday, Jesus brought a new covenant.  As he celebrated Passover with his closest friends, he said he was instituting, “A new covenant, in my blood.”  You see, the old covenant was limited in its power.  The blood of an animal could temporarily cover a man’s sin, but it could never remove it.  A man’s blood was useless, because the sacrifice had to be perfect, and no man was perfect.

Until Jesus.

Jesus lived a sinless life, and thus was the one man in all of history who did not need to offer a sacrifice.

So he offered himself as the sacrifice.

For us.

There is no way to adequately explain Christ’s sacrifice; certainly not in these few words.  My Bible covers it in about 2000 pages, and I still don’t fully get it.  So let’s rest in these words from Paul:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in

him we might become the righteousness of God.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)

In Christ, you are righteous; in him, you are righteousness.  I can’t get my brain around that, but I know I want it.

Do you want it, Beloved?

Then take it.

One-a-Day Wednesday 4/16/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday.

number 1“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Most Christian churches take communion on a regular basis.  If you have been part of a church for many years, you can probably recite Paul’s words from memory

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread…”

How many times have you eaten the bread…or cracker, and sipped the wine…or juice?  What does it all mean?

The first communion took place during the Passover, a reminder of the Old Covenant.  The Passover celebrated the night that God supernaturally broke the power of the Egyptians over the Hebrews.  He established a covenant with them, promising that he would be Israel’s God, and they would be his people.

Always.

For the most part, people in today’s world deal with each other through contracts.  A contract is a business relationship between partners.  Each side has obligations to and expectations of the other.  If these obligations and expectations are not met, the contract is broken, and the terms become invalid.  The people who were wronged by the violation of the contract can seek justice through an impartial third party, the court.

A covenant is more like family.  I give my children rules to follow, but those rules are for their benefit as much as, or more than, for mine.  If they violate those rules I will discipline them, but they will not cease to be my children.  My covenant with my children to love and support them as their father remains, even if, from time to time, they don’t live up to their end of the bargain.

Which they don’t.

Because they’re children.

Jesus brought his disciples, and all of us, a new covenant.  This covenant was not based in rules, but in relationship—in the person of Jesus himself.

Think about the relationships in your life.  Do they feel more like covenants, or contracts?  What about your relationship with God?  Do you feel like you are under the grace of his covenant, or like you are bound to a contract which you cannot possibly fulfill?

You are a child of the covenant, Beloved.  He makes the promise.  He paid the price.  All you need do is accept the grace that he offers.

Walk in that grace today.

One-a-Day Tuesday 4/15/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday.

number 1

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting (Isaiah 50:6).                          

They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing (Psalm 22:18).

Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet (Psalm 22:16).

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for a firstborn son (Zechariah 12:10).

I’m jumping ahead a little in the narration today.  You see, as Jesus went through this final week of his earthly life, he knew what was coming.  He knew he would die to pay the price for our sins.  He also knew that more than death would be involved.   There would be pain, and humiliation, and loneliness.  The soldiers slapped him around.  They laughed at him.  They dressed him up to look like a petty king, complete with crown of thorns.  They took his clothes. They spat on him.

And he took it.  For you.  For me.

The key to today is to remember that Jesus was not surprised by any of this.  He didn’t accidentally let his guard down.  He didn’t get caught up in circumstances beyond his control.  There are no circumstances beyond his control.  As he spent this day teaching in the temple, he was moving purposefully and steadily toward the pain that waited for him.   At any point along the way, Jesus could have ended this.  He chose to wait until he could say, “It is finished.”

The spiritual accomplishments of the Cross are so monumental that sometimes we forget about the physical agony Christ endured both after his arrest and on the Cross.  Remember it today, Beloved.  Remember what he suffered, and why.  And don’t ever, in all the days ahead, wonder if you are worthy of any good thing.

You, Beloved, are worth dying for.