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.

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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.

One-a-Day Monday 4/14/14

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 1The Monday before Easter

The Cleansing of the Temple

…for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me (Psalm 69:9)

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar;

For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7b).

“Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which still bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?  Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?  But I have been watching!” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 7:9-11).

Jesus entered the city and went up to the temple.  It was Passover, the biggest holiday of the Jewish year, so the joint was really jumping.  Many people had come from a long way away to be part of the celebration.  Rather than transport all the animals you would need for the various sacrifices, it was normal and acceptable to buy what you needed when you got to Jerusalem.  The customary practice was for vendors to set up shop at a convenient place near the temple.

What Jesus saw when he arrived was dramatically different. The vendors had their booths and tables set up in the temple itself.  They were operating in an area called the Outer Court, the only place in the temple where non-Jews could come to worship God.  There they were, selling animals and changing foreign currency into local currency, and just generally carrying on noisy business, all while people were trying to worship.

Jesus was furious.  He knocked over the tables and chased the vendors out of there.  John even says that Jesus made a whip and used it to drive the blasphemers away.  He yelled at them, saying, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers!’”

This is not the meek and mild Jesus we think of from Sunday School flannel boards.

He is not holding a lamb on his shoulders.

He does not have little kids crawling all over him.

He is not happy.

This is the Messiah, the Lion of Judah.  This is a man of righteous integrity, protecting the purity of his father’s house.

Do the insults of those who insult God fall on you?  There are a lot of people out there who mock Jesus, and this is a prime season for them to do it in.  Does that bother you, Beloved?  What are you doing about it?  Do you stand for Christ in your daily world?  Look, I’m not calling you to grab a whip and chase the heathen out of town—but if you do, please send me pictures and I’ll post them.

There is no sitting for Christ.  You stand, or you fall.

Stand for him today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Sunday 4/13/14

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

Palm Sunday

The Triumphal Entry

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).

O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his face shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar (Psalm 118:25-27).

Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem for the Passover.  This week would be the climax of his ministry, and would represent the very reason he came to live among us.  The time had come to declare himself as the Messiah.  (“Messiah,” by the way, is a Hebrew word that means “anointed one,” or “chosen one.”  The same word is translated “Christ” in the Greek.)

So, Jesus did what anyone would do—he sent for a donkey.  This really does make sense.  Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would arrive as a king, and would come to claim his throne riding on a donkey.  By arriving in this manner, Jesus was sending an unmistakable signal to the crowds.  Now I know that a donkey is not the manliest of animals…certainly not very king-like.  But to the Hebrews, the donkey was significant.  A king used a stallion when he rode to war, but a donkey when he came in peace.  Thus, Jesus came as the King of Peace, to make peace between man and God.

The crowds loved it.  They spread cloaks and leafy branches on the ground for Jesus to ride upon—sort of a red carpet treatment.  They cried out “Hosanna!” which means, “Save us,” and, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  They were quoting Psalm 118, essentially acknowledging Jesus as Messiah and pledging themselves to him.

Crowds are so fickle.

As he descended the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem was spread out before him.  Jesus wept over the city, knowing that, though they praised him at that moment, they would soon turn on him.

Do you praise him, Beloved?  I know you pray, and you study his word—at least you’re reading this—but when was the last time you threw your head back, spread your arms wide, and declared your love for the King of your heart?

You know what?  Don’t worry about the last time.  When will be the next time?

How about now?

One-a-Day Friday 4/11/14

number 1When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever (Proverbs 10:25).

What storm are you weathering today, Beloved?

Career?  Relational?  Health?  Financial? Emotional?

You will survive it.  The promise is right here in this verse.

The wicked—the children of this world—are swept away by the storms of this life.  That makes sense, because this life, this world, is everything to them.  Literally, it is all they have.  When it blows away, they go with it.

But you are different.

You are his.

Your roots are sunk deep, not into the shifting sands of this world, but into the solid rock of Christ.

Aren’t they?

If that question gives you pause, you may want to spend a little time before the Throne of Grace this morning, getting your righteousness on.

By the way, don’t let that word, “righteousness,” spook you.  It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.  Righteousness simply means you have a right relationship with God, that when the Father looks at you, he sees past the sin to the Son who died to pay for that sin.  Your sins are forgiven, your debt is paid, and you are right with God—righteous.

So, if you have any business to do with God this morning—any confession, any repentance, any receiving of grace—do it.  Make sure, before you step out into the storm, that your roots are deep in the Rock.

Stand firm, Beloved.

One-a-Day Thursday 4/10/14

number 1When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (Proverbs 11:2).

The world’s wisdom says that the opposite of love is hate, but that isn’t so.

The opposite of love is pride.

Love puts the other person, the beloved, first.  Pride puts self first.  God wants your love, and he knows that you are incapable of giving it when you are wrapped up in pride.  So, because he loves you, he will break your pride.

This is usually a very painful process.

It’s kind of the classic, “This is for your own good,” scenario.  When you are humble, you are open to God’s love, his teaching, his wisdom.  You can grow when you are humble.  When you are walking in pride you are closed off to really experiencing God, because your world begins and ends with you.

You have a couple of options, Beloved.

Option One:  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”(1 Peter 5:6).  Trust your reputation, your ego, your self-worth to God.  Let him build his character into you.  Make every effort to subordinate your will to his, and let him work through you.

Option Bad:  Continue walking in pride until God chooses to humble you.  Because he will.  And the longer it takes, the messier it will be.

Let me know which option you choose.  I may want to clear out of the way.

Or get a front row seat.

Choose wisely, Beloved.

One-a-Day Wednesday 4/9/14

number 1When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19).

I talk too much.  That revelation comes as no surprise to those of you who know me.  I find that this Scripture could easily be my life verse, and probably many of yours as well.  We have all experienced that moment of wishing we could “unsay” that ill-timed, unkind, ungodly word.

But we can’t.

So I’m going to take God’s advice today, and hold my tongue.  Obviously, that will make it difficult to type without getting the keys all wet, so I’ll make my typed words few, as well.

See, now there’s an image you didn’t need.  I just proved my own point.

Enjoy the quiet today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Tuesday 4/8/14

number 1Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs (Proverbs 10:12).

It’s amazing what a little attitude adjustment can do for you.  I can’t say that I walk around seething with hatred, but I do have my share of negative attitude toward people.  Because, well, people bug me.

There, I said it.

People bug me, and sometimes they bug you, too.  Admit it.  Frankly, people can be idiots at times, and it gets to a person.

So, what do you do with that?

You can carry that negative feeling into your interactions with the people who bug you.  I guarantee the result will not be blissful, harmonious fellowship.  You might score a zinger point or two, but in the long run your relationship will be hurt and God will not be glorified.

Or

You could try entering the interaction zone wrapped in love.

I know you don’t feel like loving them—why should you?  They bug.  So don’t try bringing your love.  You’d be pretending and everyone would be able to tell.

Bring His love.

You know God loves them—for crying out loud, he loves us, and all we deserve is a slap in the belly with a wet fish.  So try seeing them as God sees them, and perhaps loving them as God loves them.  It’s gonna take prayer, but you can do that.

You might be surprised at how powerful God’s love is to cover over those things that annoy us about other people.  Sometimes that love gives us insight into why they are the way they are.  Sometimes that love simply grants us extra grace to deal with their issues.

As I write this, I wonder how many of you will take my advice and apply it toward me today.  Because, frankly, I bug sometimes.  Hmmm…

Walk in his love today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Monday 4/7/14

number 1Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).

The wellspring

The source

If you live in the desert, a clean, pure water source is something to treasure and protect.  If it dries up, you are lost.  If something gets in that pollutes it, you are equally doomed.  Actually, one great way to defeat an enemy in days of yore was to poison his water source, often by throwing dead things into it.

Lovely image, hmm?

God has given each of us a new heart, and it is a spring of his living water, nourishing and refreshing us.

We’ve gotta guard that wellspring, Beloved.  If we fall out of fellowship with the Father, he cannot replenish the spring, and it dries up.  Do you know what happens to life in a desert with no water?  Yes, you do.

If we let the world into our hearts, the wellspring gets polluted, fouled, undrinkable.  If we let our Enemy poison it with his lies, it produces death rather than sustaining life.

Guard your heart today, my friend.  Be oh so careful what, and who, you let in.  Keep in close contact with the One who refreshes and replenishes.

Drink deeply, Beloved.

The Gospel According to Popeye

As a child, I used to skip church to watch Popeye cartoons.Spinach

Go ahead and judge.

In all fairness to my 10-year-old self, it wasn’t just Popeye.  It was the whole Popeye and Friends show, featuring George of the Jungle and Super Chicken.  This was, as far as I know, the only place to see Super Chicken and his sidekick Fred, and they were well worth seeing.  And the show was hosted by Tom Hatten, who took little squiggles that kids mailed in and turned them into cool cartoons.

Up against all that, church didn’t stand much of a chance.  Let’s just say that my walk with Christ lacked a certain intensity in those days. Continue reading