Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Week:

In the days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, we see the final week of Jesus' life on earth. This week was so important that the Gospel of Mark devotes about 40 percent of its pages to this one week. This was the great climax of our Lord's ministry on earth, when He came to Jerusalem to reveal His most crucial teachings. And at the time of great conflict with Jerusalem's leaders, He was crucified. But on the third day, God raised Him from death. Holy Week begins with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and ends with Jesus' resurrection (Easter).

As you prepare for Easter and observe Holy Week, you can follow along through the week's events in these Scripture readings:
Palm Sunday: A Triumphant Entry- Mark 11:1–11
  • On this day, Jesus entered the city “in triumph,” riding a donkey and listening to the cheers of the throngs of the Jews all around Him. His entry is met with the simplest gesture of celebration, gratitude, and welcome from ordinary people of whom He treasures. This story speaks richly to us about what God values. Jesus leads without pageantry. He is gentle, humble, and unpretentious. May we celebrate and welcome Jesus into our lives today in the same manner!
Monday: Jesus at the Temple - Mark 11:15–33
  • The temple had evolved into a commercial enterprise with rules that restricted access to only certain people. After overturning many of the tables of the merchants and moneychangers, Jesus said, 
“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations  
Jesus did not miss an opportunity to include those who were usually excluded. This means many of us who feel unworthy or excluded should be welcomed and act hospitable when we meet God’s people. You should feel welcome regardless of your background or history and extend that welcome to others.
Tuesday: Friends in Bethany - Mark 14:1–9  
  • While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, Mary came and anointed Him with expensive perfume. It was a lavish gift, but more importantly, through her action, Mary showed her acceptance of the reality of Jesus’ impending death. Reflect on this. How can we also show our acceptance of Christ's death on the cross to take our place and erase our sins.
Wednesday: The Essence of Faithfulness - Mark 12:28–34
  • During this week, Jesus taught for hours inside the Temple. When a teacher asked Him what was most important commandment, He replied, "
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (vs. 29-31)
God asks us for our undivided devotion, but He also asks us to love richly those who are around us. May we remember to love as Jesus loved.
Thursday: In the Upper Room - Mark 14:12–31
  • Jesus had prepared a room where He and His disciples would meet and celebrate together. His final meal, eaten this night, is one of His best-known activities. We call it the Lord’s Supper. Foot washing was also a common practice—however it was one that was always done by a servant. By His action, Jesus clearly demonstrated a model of how His followers are to live.
 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14) 
We, as Christ-followers, are to join Jesus in this work. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15 NIV). May we imitate Jesus’ service to others in our own lives.
Good Friday: The Final Moments - Mark 14:32–15:47
  • Have you ever wondered why Good Friday is called good? I have. So, I looked it up and this is what I read. "The Baltimore Catechism declares that Good Friday is called good because Christ, by His Death, "showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing." Good, in this sense, means "holy," and indeed Good Friday is known as Holy and Great Friday. Many also refer to Good Friday as "Holy Friday".*source   
Perhaps some of the most famous words Jesus spoke are those reported by Luke: 
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV).
This is a fulfillment of His frequent teaching: 
“I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’” (Matthew 5:44 ESV). 
On the cross, He forgave and loved even those who were hostile to Him and to those who crucified Him. He does the same for us. May we, as Christians, love our enemies as Jesus did. That Friday afternoon, Jesus “died and was buried.” 
Saturday: It is finished! - John 19:30
  • As Jesus died, He called out, “It is finished!” There was no further price to pay; sin had been atoned for.  Some Christians recognize Holy Saturday, the seventh day of Holy Week, as the day on which Jesus “rested” from His work of providing salvation.  After His crucifixion, Jesus was laid in a nearby tomb, and His body remained there the entirety of Holy Saturday. Jesus’ disciples and His family no doubt mourned tremendously because few believed His promise of resurrection. They thought this was the end, and they grieved deeply.  
  • Holy Saturday has traditionally been a time of reflection and waiting, the time of weeping that lasts for the night while awaiting the joy that comes in the morning (Psa 30:5). Some observe the "Easter Vigil",  an evening service held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. On this day, may we reflect on the final moments of Christ's death and the anticipation of His resurrection that is to come!  *source 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Re-post: "WATCH" and Pray!

This week, I am sharing a post I wrote almost 2 years ago. Due to the fact that it has been another draining week/weekend, I felt drawn to read some older posts. This one, in particular, drew me in. It seems like so much in my life recently has been put on hold and God has been revealing to me that I need to just step back, watch, and pray. To see the original post, go HERE.

In our day, the term "watch" has lost much of its original power. Is there anything more passive than watching television? We live in a spectator nation. We watch movies, news, the markets, and sporting events. Watching has become an activity that puts us on the sidelines and not on the field of battle, an idea foreign to the original meaning of the word. At the time of the King James translators, "watch" emphasized the carefulness, attention, and vigilance in the way a soldier kept alert for any sign of enemy movement.

Many Bible verses raise the flag of being watchful, along with prayer. God reminds us to always be watching  and discerning. These are the last days before Christ's return and we are to look for the signs and be cautious.

 Romans 16:17 
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

1 Thessalonians 5: 2-11 

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief:
for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness;
so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober.
For they that sleep sleep in the night: and they that are drunken are drunken in the night.
But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.
For God appointed us not into wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11 Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do.

Mark 13:32, 33, 35

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ 


Luke 21:25-36

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
34 Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
 Watch What?
To "watch" in Luke 21:36 is all about being spiritually awake...not physically. Human nature is lazy and takes the easy road at every opportunity. It will rely on human reasoning, the word of others, or tradition rather than do the hard work of studying the Bible and believing what it actually says. Just because it is easy and comfortable, having been saying it for decades, does not justify clinging to an old notion unless we have a solid foundation in the Bible for that belief.  I Thessalonians 5:21 instructs us to "test [prove, KJV] all things," which would include our old notions, and then "hold fast" to the good ones—the ones that pass the test. We have to test our beliefs continually and rigorously against the only standard that counts—the Bible (Acts 5:29).

Luke 21:36 suggests that those who alertly overcome and pray always are those that may be counted worthy to escape and stand before Christ in God's Kingdom. In verse 36, Christ ties together all He has said throughout the chapter. If we do not neglect the spiritual (verses 34-35), and instead watch and pray always, we can "escape all these things" (verses 7-33) and enter God's Kingdom.  

We are certainly living in times very like those of the days of Noah, so the return of Christ could come anytime soon.

Christ reveals that the roles of watching—or paying careful attention to overcoming—and praying always are vital to our Christian lives, especially at this time.

We are also called to be thankful, as we watch and pray.
 Colossians 4:2
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."
Why is thankfulness included, along with being watchful?  
All might, power, and life come from God; His creatures are continually dependent upon him for all these: to earnest, persevering prayer, He has promised every supply. As every situation in life has its peculiar duties, trials, so to every situation there is peculiar grace appointed. "Be always grateful to God, who has called you into such a state of salvation, and affords you such abundant means and opportunities to glorify Him." Source

Let thanks for mercies given ascend as you ask for new mercies!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

John 3:16 - The Story of Love

Deep down in each of us, we all have a need to be loved by someone. Often when human love fails us, we accept the idea that God’s love is no different than this human love and that He will fail us too. Here's the problem, humans cannot possibly reflect a perfect idea of what true love is. In order to recognize and understand God's unfailing love, you and I will have to set aside our experiences and personal views.
This video is a bit long, but so worth watching!  It is just a small example of the love Jesus and His Father have for each one of us!!

He died...let this story sink in for a moment. You and I heard the story of "Jesus dying on the cross" to the point where we have  often lost sight of what it really means. Until we realize God's love, we will never be able to handle earthly relationships God's way.
God loves you…
The biblical account of His death on the cross wasn't a fairytale experience, it was a selfless act of love and sacrifice for YOU.. Jesus Christ labored for you at the cross and literally gave His life so that you might live. His Spirit of love has been planted in your heart and now you have the privilege of learning what it means to love Him back! He promises that we will find Him when we search with all our hearts. Are you pursuing God will all your heart or do your earthly relationships take first place?  
Can you have discernment in your friendships and relationships if you aren't daily experiencing a deep relationship with God first? It isn't possible! 
I would encourage you to read through the gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Also, read Isaiah 53.

His is the ultimate story of love!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lent: Surrender

Another week has passed. God continues to work in my heart and show me so much that I need to learn about life, about God, about love...and about pain and hardship. In my last "Lent" post, I wrote about sacrifice. I shared that God was showing me how real sacrifice (similar to the greatest sacrifice ever, which was made by His Son) comes with much pain and difficulty. It truly seems, as we live life, we are surrounded by so much pain and difficulty. This past week, I have discovered that pain and hardship can touch those closest to us, as well. 

This past week, I've learned that, both my stepfather and father-in-law, who each have struggled with physical ailments, were found to each have a mass in their abdomens. (Talk about timing!) They will each soon undergo testing to see if the masses are cancer or not. I am learning through this difficult time, that all we can do as a family is love each other, pray, and surrender all to God! I covet your prayers for both my parents and my husband's parents. 

During this lent season, there may be so much for each of us to surrender up to God in our lives. 

Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Psalm 37:7 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
Surrendering your life means:
  • Following God's lead without knowing where he's sending you;
  • Waiting for God's timing without knowing when it will come;
  • Expecting a miracle without knowing how God will provide;
  • Trusting God's purpose without understanding the circumstances.

Genuine surrender says, "Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my life or in another's life, please don't take it away!" 
This level of maturity doesn't come easy. In Jesus' case, he agonized so much over God's plan that he sweated drops of blood. Surrender is hard work. In our case, it requires intense warfare against our self-centered nature.  source

True surrender will always go beyond natural devotion. If we will only give up, God will surrender Himself to embrace all those around us and will meet their needs, which were created by our surrender. Beware of stopping anywhere short of total surrender to God. Most of us have only a vision of what this really means, but have never truly experienced it. source

This song below is one I've sung many times in church, but now the words and tune comes back to my mind and all I can do is sing it.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you. Help me to pray; and to concentrate my thoughts on you; I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness, but with you there is light; I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help; I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me. . . .

Restore me to liberty, and enable me to live now that I may answer before you and before men. Lord, whatever this day may bring, I pray that I will surrender all to You!

Prayer from Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Germany, 1906-1945)

Psalms 121 NLT

1 I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? 2 My help comes from the lord , who made heaven and earth! 3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. 4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. 5 The lord himself watches over you! The lord stands beside you as your protective shade. 6 The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. 7The lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. 8 The lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

Another song that came to mind to help me remember that God tells us to come as we are to Him!!

Lent is the season,when we look toward Easter, the Resurrection. When our lives are placed in Christ, then we share in his life, both the good and the bad. We share in his sufferings, in his death, in his righteousness and in his resurrection. As God’s children, we are co-heirs with Christ, sharing in who he is and what he has done. Some of us will spend time in reflection, repentance, and self-denial. As we do these things, let us do so with a sense of surrender...knowing we are united with him — forever in glory!    Source

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