Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A New Way is Opened Up

The curtain had always been in place.  It separate the Holy of Holies from the rest of the people.  Only the high priest could go behind the curtain into the Holy of Holies and only once a year on the day of Atonement.  It was called the Holy of Holies because the presence of God was there and everyone was separated from it so that no sinful person would be destroyed by going into it.

But something new and different happened as Jesus hung on the cross and died.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:37–38)

The curtain was torn in two from top to bottom to let us know that God was doing something new.  He was letting us know that the old sacrificial system was no longer in place and no longer needed.  Jesus' death now made it possible for everyone everywhere to do directly to God with out having to go through someone else.  We all have direct access to God through His Son who gave his life on our behalf.

A new way has been opened up for me and for you.  So we can now go boldly and directly to God. Today  you and I can approach our Father wherever we are whatever we need because Jesus made it possible.  What do you think about that?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Man Who Missed His Cross

He was convicted of murder for his part in the insurrection.  He was condemned and sentenced to death on the cross.  We have no idea how long he was held in prison before the day his execution.  But we can only imagine that he had time to really think about what was going to happen to him.

He eats what he believes will be his last meal and gets no sleep that night.  The sunrise that he glimpses the next day appears to be the last one he will ever see. It is now Friday morning-the day that he was dreaded-the day that he is going to die.  He is defiant, angry and terrified all at once.

You see, his name is Barabbas, which means son of a rabbi. He grew up studying the Scriptures and being taught about Yahweh-the God of the Jews.  Yet, he rebelled and went his own way, choosing to leave the faith of his fathers and live his own life.  That rebellion has led him to the place he is on this day.  Now, he's certain that this will be his last day and he's afraid of all of the pain and suffering that awaits him.  Pain and suffering that he has earned and deserves.

But there is a large crowd that has gathered not too far away.  All he knows is that the people who have come to Jerusalem for the Passover have now become loud and angry.  He knows it has something to do with this man called Jesus.  Finally, the crowd becomes more agitated and gets louder.  He thinks he hears his name but he's not sure why.

All of a sudden he hears the soldiers coming towards his cell.  He stomach gets all in knots and tears begin to well up in his eyes.  This is the end-their is great pain and suffering that awaits him and then DEATH!!!  The door slowly creaks open and he feels like he will faint-they soldier in charge comes up to him and says, "it is my duty to inform you that you are now a free man-the man they call Jesus will die on the cross that was made for you."

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:12–15)

We have no idea what happens to Barabbas after this but we do know that Barabbas is the man who missed his cross. We know that Jesus took the cross that was meant for him.  He also took the cross that was meant for me and for you.  We, too, like Barabbas were condemned to pay for our sins.  Jesus willingly took our place as well.

Think about this: If you were Barabbas, what would you be feeling at this time?  What do you feel about the one who came to give us life by surrendering his?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Asleep or Awake?

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”” (Mark 14:32–34)  

When Jesus went to the garden to pray, he knew that the end was near.  He also knew that he needed help so he asked the disciples closest to him to watch and pray for him.  Instead of watching and praying, they feel asleep-not once or twice but three times.

Each time Jesus came a woke them up and seem astonished that they could not stay awake and pray on his behalf.  They really wanted to stay awake on his behalf but just were not able to do so.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Mark 14:37–38)

All of this makes me wonder how often I have been "asleep" when others needed me.  I have often told people that I would pray for them or do something for them only to walk away and forget.  It's easy to get consumed by what is happening in my life and overlook the needs of others around me.  

How about you?  Are you awake or asleep?  Is there anyone in your life who needs you today?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Religion or Relationship???

One of the most eye opening things that Jesus did was to spend time with people that others did all that they could to avoid.  In fact, Jesus developed a very poor reputation among the religious elite because he did this.

It seems that religious people have always had a hard time being around those they considered less important and certainly those who were less religious.  Oftentimes religious people seem to think that their mission in life is to point out the evil in others. Religion can get in the way of what God is doing!

Jesus did not do this.  Instead, he went out of his way to be with these people to let them know that in spite of all that they had heard or been taught, they mattered deeply to God.  He wanted them to know that God loved them and that his grace and mercy was available to them.  Relationship is what matters.

Just a couple of days before Jesus was arrested, check out where he was spending time:

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” (Mark 14:3)

Jesus was spending time in the home of a leper.  No self-respecting religious person would do that.  But Jesus was not about religion-he was about relationship.  He came that we might have a relationship with God-not religion.

What about you?  Are you into religion or relationship?  What kind of people do you spend time with?  How would God want to us you in the lives of those others try to avoid?  Are there any relationships you need to pursue?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Keep Watch and Be Prepared!

Jesus' disciples wanted to know when the end would come-they wanted to know when the things he had taught related to the last days would be fulfilled.

It seems to me that people have always wanted to know when these things would happen and when the end would come. There is always someone out there who has "figured it out" and sets a time and date for when the end would come and Jesus would return. People get all excited and upset-sometimes they even sell everything they have and give it to the one who has made the prediction.

This has always puzzled me because Jesus said that no one knows the date or time-not even him. But here is what Jesus did tell us about the last days:

“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. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ”” (Mark 13:35–37)

It seems to me that we are to live each day as if this could be the day. We are to live out what we know to be true because Jesus could come at any moment. So, today I want to keep watch and be prepared. I want to live this day as if it could be my last day. I want to love God and love people and share the hope that I have in Him.

I believe that we should keep watch and be prepared. What do you think? Let me hear from you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Not One But Two

When Jesus was asked to name the most important command of all, He did not give one. Instead He gave two.

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”” (Mark 12:29–31)

It seems to me that Jesus is saying that the way that we demonstrate our love for God is to love people as well. I don't think that we can say we love God if we don't truly love people-ALL people. What do you think? Can you love God and not love your neighbor as yourself? Maybe God has that difficult person in your life to help teach you how to love Him.

Today as you go about your life LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Give God His Place

The religious leaders were doing all that they could to try to get Jesus to make some big mistake that they could use to condemn him. They sent there brightest and best to trip him up in front of the people.

Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.” (Mark 12:13–17)

They used flattery to try to distract him by saying: “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. "

But Jesus knew their motives and tactics and turned it back on them. He used this moment to make it clear that we are to give God what is rightfully His. They were amazed at his response. "Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.

So are you holding back on giving God the first place in your life? Are you making him the center of all that you do? Today, where does that need to take place in your life?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jesus Cleans Up!!!

Today begins our Easter Reading Schedule: We are taking the next 43 days to read through the Easter Story in the Scriptures and allow God to work in us and through us.

Mark 11:15-17: On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He oer turned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written; My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." But you have made it a den of robbers.

Jesus made it clear that the temple was there for all people from all nations. It was to be a place where people could come and meet God regardless of who they were or where they came from. The religious leaders were taking advantage of those hwo came and making huge profits as a result.

Today, I am asking myself this question: What does God want to clean up in my life so that it I make it easier for others to get to know him? The thing that comes to my mind is that I need to be much more aware of the people that I come into contct with. I am prone to have my agenda and overlook opportunities just to connect with others and show an interest in them. Today, I am looking for ways God would want me to make a difference for them.

What about you, is there anything God would want to clean up in your life so that others could get to know him?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Good Friends...

I have been out of commission over the last several days due to the flu bug. During that time, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the value of having so many good friends in my life.

I have had many, many people praying for me and many who have contacted me. There have been others who have stepped in to help take over some things that I was responsible for-one who stepped in to speak on Sunday, one who stepped in to lead our small group, assist others in ministry etc, etc, etc...

I have also watched others step in to be a good friend to those in need. Visiting the sick in the hospital, preparing meals for those in need, giving food away, and even providing financial help.

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. (Proverbs 17:17)

We all need good friends, we all need to be a good friend. Is there someone who needs you to reach out to them? Is there someone you just need to say thank you to?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finding Joy in Humility

We usually don't associate joy and humility. Humility is one of those words that has some very negative connotations for us. We think of it as putting ourselves down, allowing others to take advantage of us or simply believing that we should be treated poorly. We would rather be treated as if we are more important than others and often believe that this is what will bring us joy and happiness. Yet the Paul tells us this:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.(Phil. 2:5–8)

Paul makes it clear that humility is to characterize Christ-followers. In fact, Paul would tell us that we can and will find joy when we choose humility. We are to follow Christ's example and have the same attitude that He had and be willing to serve others as he did.

What do you think about when you hear the word humility? Can you find joy in humility? Whom can you serve today and treat as being better than you?