Holy Week Day 5

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Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday. Today we see Jesus realizing that the end of his earthly life is near. He institutes Holy Communion, while celebrating the Passover early with his disciples. Jesus took elements from the Passover meal, which has significance to the Jewish people, and re-purposed them for the use of his followers. The first was the bread, which he made his body. The second was the cup of wine, which became his blood.

The meaning of the term “Maundy” comes up from John 13:34. The term comes from the Latin word “mandatum”, which means commandment. “Maundy” is an English version of this word, and applied to today because Jesus instituted a new commandment on this Thursday. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:24, NASB). The heart of this day rests in loving each other and serving one another, as Jesus did for us. He showed us what love is on the Cross. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT). Today begins a series of events where God showed us what love is ultimately about.

I encourage you as we celebrate today to especially read John 17. These verses are the final prayer that Jesus prays before being arrested. He would have prayed these words either really late tonight or really early in the morning. I just think this is a good prayer to pay attention to during this time of celebration and remembrance.

Today’s readings: Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-23; John 13-17

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 93

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Holy Week Day 4

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Wednesday

Today can be taken in a couple different ways. First is that Jesus continued to do teaching like he had done all of his ministry. The other way, and the one I kind of like, is that he took today as a day of rest. The Sabbath is to be a day of rest. It’s the day that no one, in all of Israel, is supposed to do any work. It’s set up that way, because God rested on the seventh day of Creation. I find a great reminder to take some time to rest in this. During the two most significant acts God ever did for us, Creation and Redemption, He made the point to take a day of rest.

I know that holidays and times of celebration can become quite busy, between family and church events. I want to encourage all of you to make a point to find time to rest. Especially to take some time to spend in prayer and in the Word. If Jesus can take the time to rest while he was finishing his ministry and saving your soul, we can take the time to rest and reflect on him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 92

Holy Week Day 3

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Tuesday

Today was a day filled with teaching and questioning for Jesus. He spent most of his day teaching in the Temple. However both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were watching him, waiting for him to make a mistake. They even asked him question in order to trip him up. They ranged from “Is it right for us to pay taxes?” to “Is there marriage in the Resurrection?” With each question, Jesus had an answer that not only put them in their place, but also was good for teaching the people about the Kingdom of God. Then in Matthew 24, Jesus takes his disciples out to the Mount of Olives and teaches them about his return. It was on this day the High Priests decided they had had enough of Jesus and decided to capture him in secret and kill him (Matthew 26:4). It is possible that this is the day Judas met with the priests to offer them Jesus Christ.

The teaching of Jesus that I love on this day comes from Luke 21: 1-4. Jesus reminds the people hat we must give our lives to God, not just what we can do without. They saw rich men putting their gifts in the offering plate. They were clearly giving only what they were obligated to give and not anything more. Then there was a poor woman who gave only 2 pennies. Jesus tells the crowd, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” (Luke 21:3-4, NASB). Her act was essentially placing her life in God’s hands. She had no idea when the next time was that she would have money, but she knew she had to give something. So she chose to give it all.

What could you give? Could you give it all and trust it all to Jesus? Let’s think about this today on this third day of this Holy Week.

Today’s Readings: Matthew 21:23-25:46; Mark 11:27-13-37; Luke 20:1-21:26)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 91

Holy Week Days 1&2

Well everyone, I’m back and both baby and my wife are doing excellent!


 

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I thought that for this week we would look through the final events of Jesus’ life as we observe Holy Week. However, I am starting this a day late so we will be taking a look at the events of both Palm Sunday and Monday.

Palm Sunday

The events that happened on Palm Sunday can be seen in all four of the gospels. Jesus left Jericho early in the morning with his disciples. They traveled towards Jerusalem. When they reached Bethany, Jesus sent two of his disciples to get a donkey for him to ride into the city. They met on the Mount of Olives, and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. The people shouted at him, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13), “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38), “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10),  and “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, NASB); all of which echo the words found in Psalm 118:25-26. All of these things were done to fulfill a prophecy found in the writing of the prophet Zechariah:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you:
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
–Zechariah 9:9, NASB

After these events, Jesus went into the temple in order to have a look at the environment. However he soon left to go back to Bethany, which was were he and the disciples stayed during this final week of Jesus’ life.

Monday

After 3 years of ministry, today is the day that Jesus makes his final push for the people to come to realize the truth about God and His Kingdom. When he entered the temple, undoubtedly to teach, he saw a sight that he absolutely despised. He saw people, inside the temple, selling animals and other sorts of merchandise, and people who were taking peoples money either with taxes or exchanging currency. Jesus tells the people, quoting Jeremiah, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den.” (Matthew 21:13, NASB). He then drove them out with a whip of chords he made, and by turning over their tables.

Both of these days were also filled with teaching and healing. I think it’s nice to see the events of Jesus’ life as his time on earth came to an end. Join me tomorrow as we continue onwards.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 90

 

What Type of Soil Are You?

Hands Holding a Seedling and Soil

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday, but my daughter was sick. So Daddy had to stay home and take care of her, which made me very busy.

Jesus once told a story, “A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a [road], and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:3-8 NLT).

What is Jesus saying to us through this story. Yea, you could read onward and hear Jesus’ explanation (v. 18-23). But instead of quoting Scripture, I’d rather talk about it.

Each one of these types of soil relates to someones relationship with God, and the seed represents the message of Jesus. The first type of soil is the road. As we heard, once the seed was spread, the birds came and took it away. This person would be an unbeliever, especially someone who is very against the church. They just let God/Jesus bounce right off of them, just like they don’t matter. We all no people like this (maybe you’re one of them), but it is still our duty as the Church to spread Jesus’ message everywhere. Even to the people we know will not receive the message.

The second type of soil is the gravel. This type of person are the people who get hyped up about the cause of the Church. These Christians get super excited about their faith at the beginning, but then the inevitable happens. Life gets tough (and if you don’t believe me you should probably re-check your theology), and they go through some troubled times. The issue that arises in this situation is that they lose their faith, and there is no hope of gaining it back. We all have had a season of doubt at some point in our lives. But the people who are the gravel we’re never really interested in Christ, they were just focused on what His church was doing (or even what it was doing for them).

The third type of soil is with weeds. These Christians hear the message and accept it, but never really venture forward in their belief. These people believe when Paul writes, “The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT), but they don’t live this way. They allow their old ways to continue. They live with their boyfriend/girlfriend, have premarital sex, get drunk every weekend (or during the week too), do drugs. They also don’t always engage in Christian behaviors like praying, reading Scripture, and studying the Bible.

The last type of soil is the good soil. These are the Christians that walk with Jesus. They are the ones that let the message of Christ sink into their lives and change them. They become a “new creation”. They take to heart the words Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace my increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4, NASB).

So where are you? Which type of soil to find yourself in? Don’t feel bad or discouraged if you find yourself somewhere you didn’t expect. I have personally ventured through all 4 types of soil, and I still believe I’m not going to stay where I am. I think we go through periods where, for instance, we maybe good soil, but then some weeds appear. We just have to remember to work through these troubles to our faith. Just as God is a good gardener (John 15), I believe he can till our soil to make us better. So stay strong in your faith and work to God to make yourself a better Christian. If you find yourself in the “good soil” category, then pray that God helps you stay there. Just remember that we must first become good soil if we are ever going to further the Gospel, which is the very command Jesus gave to us (his disciples) before leaving us until his second coming (Matthew 28:16-20).

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Go! (Mark 16)

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HA HA! I bet you all thought that I gave up on this blog thingy! NEVER!!!!!! Unfortunately my family had a really busy weekend, and had to spend yesterday in the hospital with my mother-in-law. So no time for blogging :(. But now I’m back! So let’s finish up Mark!

In Mark 16 we discover the biggest reason to believe in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection!. In the last chapter, Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin!). So the following morning after Passover, three days later, Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother Mary went to the tomb with spices in order to anoint his body (as per the Jewish custom). But when they arrived they saw that the tomb was open and empty, and a man wearing a white robe told them that Jesus had risen! When the women returned and told the disciples what they saw, none of them believe except Peter, who took off running to the tomb (Luke 24:11-12).

40 days Jesus spent on this earth after his resurrection. On the last day he gathered the disciples on a mountain and gave them a message, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (16:15 NASB). This is the statement that caused the disciples to spread out across the world after Pentecost (Acts 2). They were told to go, not stay there in Jerusalem (or Israel) and speak the gospel. That’s where (I believe) the Jews messed it up in the first place. God told Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). Yes, you can also show that this is part of God’s overall redemptive plan, but I also believe that God hadn’t given up on the Jews and gave them an opportunity to spread knowledge of the one true God to all the world. But since the Jews hadn’t done this yet, Jesus sent the disciples out to accomplish this goal.

In today’s church there is a problem. We don’t go out anymore. We wait for new people to walk in the door, and if we’re lucky, then we can make a new disciple. Yet when we think of Jesus’ command, we are the one’s supposed to take the risk. Not wait for people to come to us, but rather go after and seek them. Also the problem shows in our individual lives. Instead of speaking to a friend, co-worker, or family member about God and Jesus when they need it, we say “Nope, not in church”. Church and our personal lives cannot be disconnected from each other. In order to be disciples, we have speak about Jesus every opportunity we get. It is true that those opportunities become easier to deal with in church. But God doesn’t only exist in church, He lives within you! So everywhere you go, God is there!

The heart of God is for His people! So as a Heart Man, let’s start a revolution and seek out people to make new disciples for Christ. Let’s move outside of our churches and into the world that the people live in. Let’s be the light of the world and shine for Jesus Christ, and show the world the real Jesus. Not the one that the media makes look bad. He is our savior, and loves each one of us. God came into this world for me, and you, and all those other people who don’t know who He is. So let’s go and make disciples!

“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” (Mark 15)

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Well friends, we’re coming to the end of our study of Mark. Today’s chapter covers the entire process of getting Jesus crucified. It’s a story I’m sure we are all familiar with. Something I noticed though was that the other gospels recorded a few phrases of Jesus’ from the Cross, but Mark only records one statement. This statement is “Eloi, Eli, lama sabachtahni?” translated to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (15:34 NASB). Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night , but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
All who see me sneer at me;
They make mouths at me, they wag the head says,
‘Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delight in him.”
-Psalm 22:1-8, NASB

Not only was this relevant because of everything going on around Jesus, but I’m sure this psalm captures the way he was feeling. The theological statement here that I like is that this moment is when Jesus takes on the sin of the world. He shouts out this Psalm because this is the first moment in his 33 years of life that he has been separated from God because of sin.

But don’t we all get this feeling. Jesus was hanging on the Cross and felt as thought God had left him. I’m sure David felt this way when he lived in caves because he was being hunted by Saul. We feel it today when life hurts the most.

It is true what Moses says to the Israelites before the enter the promised land “… the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NASB). And also what God says in Hebrews, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NASB). There are lots of people who would say having the feelings Jesus, or the psalmist, expresses are a form of blaspheme. But I urge you to realize that if the feelings are expressed in the Bible, especially by Jesus Christ, then they are perfectly valid feelings to have.

I recently read a great book called Deeper Places. The author draws upon the feelings expressed in the Book of Psalms to teach about experiencing God. The biggest take away I had from the book was that if you have a feeling, talk through it with God. The problem arises when we feel that God has left us, we leave Him. But God will never leave us. Our sinful nature leads us to feel that God is gone, but sin naturally causes a barrier between us and Him. Work through it. Read your Bible. Spend time in prayer. Worship Him. Lead some worship if you can. Some of my biggest breakthroughs with God come when I’m leading others in worship, but I don’t feel like doing it.

I encourage you, no matter your feeling towards Him, seek God. Continue to seek him out and you will find him. God will come after you when you decide to seek him out. If you feel lost, read the psalms, especially Psalm 139. But God has not forsaken us, He is simply waiting for us to turn back to Him.

Who Was He? (Mark 14)

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Today’s chapter takes us to the final night of Jesus’ life. By the next time the sun sets, he will be dead. Jesus shares in the Passover meal and goes to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane before he is arrested. John’s account of this evening includes a final prayer given by Jesus (John 17).

After he was arrested, Jesus was taken to see Caiaphas and the rest of the priests in Jerusalem. They all raised testimony against Jesus. Most of them were false or inconsistent. But Caiaphas comes forward and asks Jesus a simple question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” (14:61 NASB). He was effectively asking Jesus, “Who are you?” Jesus’ answer to this question causes the priests to tear their clothes and say “Blaspheme!” Why? I believe this goes beyond Jesus simply answering the affirmative.

Jesus’ answer says more than just answering Caiaphas’ question. It is structured in a way that the Sanhedrin (all the priests) would fully understand what he was saying. It goes all the way back to Exodus 3. Moses is on Mt Sinai after he has been away from Egypt for years. God encounters him through the burning bush. Moses asks God essentially the same question Caiaphas asks Jesus, “Who are You?” They both answer, “I AM!”

This is why the priests react so much. Jesus effectively placed himself on the same level as God! This has become one of the basic principles of Christianity; Jesus was both fully man and fully God. This was not something understood by the priests at that time.

I recently read a book by an inspiring pastor called I Am Not But I Know I AM. In this book, he takes the story from Exodus 3 and claims that since God’s name is “I AM” ours must be “I am not”. This becomes a powerful reminder of where our standing is in relation to God.

However Jesus was able to take on the name “I AM” because he was God. This was something that the Old Testament priests couldn’t understand. So praise God today for all the things He has done for us. It even includes living a life as a human, to be rejected by humans, and killed by humans. He died a sacrificial death, so that we may live! There is no greater act of love than this. God loves you, Jesus loves you, now let’s spend some time loving on Him today!

Don’t Be False (Mark 13)

Poster ad from the video game Bioshock Infinite
Poster ad from the video game Bioshock Infinite

Today’s chapter was a little hard for me to find something to talk about. Mark 13 talks a lot about the end times and the return of Christ. This isn’t something that I like to spend a lot of time on in discussion simply because people can get insane over the topic of the “End of the World”. But Jesus did say something that is important for us to remember, even not during the End.

Jesus says “false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead [you] astray, if possible” (13:22 NASB). This relates to a post I made earlier. In that post I told you to be careful about what you say. In this one, you must be careful of what others say.

Jesus knew that without him to guide the disciples (and us later on), they would fall prey to people preaching about Christ, but didn’t fully understand. Something that arose in the early church was a heresy called Gnosticism. It was a belief that the physical world was evil and should be done away with, and we should only focus on the spiritual world. This belief influenced many early Christians to the point that many of the disciples had to fight against it, and Paul wrote several sections of his letters that allude to Gnostic beliefs in the Church.

In today’s world, Christianity gets put in a bad light, which I think is sad. Yet we knew it was going to happen. Jesus warned us that we would get persecuted, and honestly, the Church has been persecuted since day 1. But today, it is because of some members of the Church, not outside influence. There is a lot of hate going around in Jesus’ name. Hate that is unfounded, because Jesus preached a life of love.

This isn’t to say that God doesn’t hate things. He does. He hates sin. Sin is very simply the act of deciding that you know better than God, and you are going to decide what is right. I’m not sure how imperfection trumps perfection, but I am even guilty of the behavior. We all are. But some of this hate goes towards the people. God doesn’t hate the sinner, He hates the sin. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB).

So I guess my focus for today is that we not only be careful what we say and do, but also what are Christian brothers and sisters are doing. It is our duty as mature Christians to help those who aren’t as far along as we are. We must help the world to see the love of Christ and show that love through our own lives.

Give To God What is His (Mark 12)

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Today’s chapter has a ton of Jesus’ most well known teachings. This only makes sense because if the gospel writers knew anything, it’s that Jesus did a lot of good teachings during his final week on earth. Among these is Jesus speaking on paying taxes.

The Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes attempted to get Jesus in trouble with the Roman government by asking him if it was right to pay the poll tax. They clearly expected him to answer “No!”, but this is not they way he chose to answer. Instead he says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (12:17 NASB). While I feel as though most of the time this text is used to teach about submitting to authority, today we’re using it to show that we can’t hold anything back from God!

There are two things in this world; things of the world and things of God. They best way to tell the difference (to me at least) is to know what things go away with time. As the prophet Isaiah says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NASB). So God wants us to give to the world the things of the world, that must eventually fade away. However, He wants us to give Him what is eternal. To put it another way, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (12:30 NASB).

So while we can give our tithes and offerings, we can tell people about God and Jesus Christ, etc., what God truly wants from us is for us to give our whole hearts into worship. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 NASB).

Give the world what it deserves. Give it time at your job. Give it money. Give it submission to authority over you (so long as it doesn’t conflict with God). But never give it your worship! Worship is reserved solely for God. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7). It’s right there in the first Commandment. The second doesn’t even want us making idols so that we aren’t tempted to worship that instead of God! When Moses delivered the Ten Commandments, God was telling us that He wants and deserves our worship, nothing else deserves it more than Him!

So worship God today (What?! It’s Tuesday!). I love to pick up my guitar in the mornings and just sing Him a song. But even if you don’t play music, turn on some Christian music/radio. And even beyond that just read your Bible and pray. That is the most intimate kind of worship. Just praise God for all He has done for you. Even if it’s a hard day. Worship is most meaningful when we just don’t feel like it. Because what we are saying then is “No matter how bad I feel, or how angry I am with You, You are greater than all of it and worthy of my praise!”