Sunday Devotional: John 11:47-52

So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do since this man does many signs? If we let Him continue in this way, everyone will believe in Him! Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation.”

One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all!  You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.”  He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,  and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God.”

Last week was the celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the salvation we are able to receive because of the payment for our sins by Jesus dying for our sins.  He freely gave His life for us but the chief priests, scribes and the people were a part of how that came about.

The chief priests and scribes conspired to kill Jesus because they were threatened by Him.  Several times they tried to kill Jesus   But after the time that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the plot to conspire to kill Jesus was really put into effect.

But even with all this, truth shone out.  The words that Caiaphas spoke saying “that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish” served as prophetic words.  Jesus would die for the people so that the people would not perish.  But not only that, He died so that Jews and Gentiles alike, all nations, all people, all languages would be gathered together to be apart of the family of God.

Even though the season of Easter has passed, the hope that came from it does not.  It is an everyday hope that all followers of Jesus have.  Because of one man dying for the sins of the world, we have hope.  Because of His resurrection, we have hope.  Let us share that hope with others.

Sunday Devotional: Mark 16:1-8

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him.  Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise.  They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?”  Looking up, they observed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away.  When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him.  But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’”

So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.”  (Mark 16:1-8)

Today is Resurrection Sunday.  Today is the culmination of all that transpired during Holy Week.  Today is the day we celebrate that there is an empty tomb.  Today is the day we celebrate that Jesus was resurrected.

Even some nearly 2,000 years later, it is something that is simply amazing.  Death could not keep Jesus in the tomb.  The hope of salvation rung out and stepped out of that tomb.  We who follow Him now can follow Him into new life.  He paid the price for our sins on the cross.  Now we get to celebrate in the new life that we have and that will culminate in His return.

It was a shock to those followers who came to the tomb to see there was no body.  They were astonished.  I imagine if we had been there that Sunday morning that we would’ve had the same emotions and thoughts.  It took a while (and several visits from Jesus himself) for it to really sink into their hearts and minds that Jesus had truly risen.  And for us, it may take a long time for it truly to sink in what all it means for Christ’s death and resurrection.  But the good news is that God is patient with us and loves us.

Today (and everyday) let us celebrate Christ’s resurrection.  Let us celebrate the hope that has come from His death and the new life that has come from his resurrection.  He is Risen!

2017 Book List

It is a little later than normal but the yearly tradition continues.  For now the 13th year (starting in 2005), I have kept track of every book that I’ve read.  So far this year at this point I’ve finished 3 books and just starting my 4th book.  Here is the list so far:

Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

College Ministry 101: A Guide to Working with 18-25 Year Olds by Chuck Bomar

Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

Sunday Devotional: Matthew 21:1-11

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me.  If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
even on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden.”

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee!”  (Matthew 21:1-11)

Today is Palm Sunday.  This day recognizes the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem prior to his death and resurrection.  It is both a reminder of His Glory as well as what is to come for Him.

Everything surrounding his entry into Jerusalem both was prophesied and also foretold the future.  It was prophesied in that He would ride into the city on a donkey, not a horse as a king would normally ride into a city.  But it does foretell in his return (as prophesied in Revelation) that He will triumphantly ride in on a white horse.

His disciples that were with Him shouted praises and sung joyfully entering the city.  It is an interesting contrast between the beginning of the week and how joyful the disciples were to the end of the week and the sadness that had taken them with the death of Jesus.  But the great reminder of for us today is that just as Jesus was triumphant entering Jerusalem on that day, He is still triumphant today.  And one day He will return triumphant riding on a white horse to fully establish the kingdom of God here on earth.

Sunday Devotional: Ephesians 2:11-18

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—  remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:11-18)

Paul, in this letter to the church in Ephesus, like many of his letters to various churches wanted to encourage and exhort his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here he wanted to remind them of what brings us all together and that’s Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross.  At one time the Gentiles (non Jews or the “uncircumcision”) were far away from God and the promises that God gives to His people.  There was no hope.  However because of Jesus Christ and what He has done, He made a way not just the Jews but the Gentiles as well.

Because of Jesus Christ, we can not only be reconciled to the Father but we can be reconciled with one another as well.  Jesus brings peace to those who were “far off” and to those who were “near”.  All have the opportunity to be reconciled and to be at peace.

This week, let us be reminded of this great news.  We are not left without hope.  We have hope in Jesus Christ.  We are not left without peace.  We have peace through Jesus Christ.  And we get to share that message with the world to everyone.

Sunday Devotional: Luke 22:39-46

“He went out and made His way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him.  When He reached the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray,  “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.  Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. When He got up from prayer and came to the disciples, He found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief. “Why are you sleeping?” He asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)

At this point, Jesus and His disciples had just finished eating the Passover meal and they left the upper room.  Jesus then went over to the Mount of Olives to spend some time in prayer.  While Jesus was praying, several of His closest disciples (Peter, James & John) were to keep watch.  However, they were tired and kept falling asleep.  Jesus kept waking them up and encouraging them to pray as well.

As I was recently reading over these verses again, I was struck by a phrase that I hadn’t noticed before.  It said that when Jesus checked on the disciples he found they were sleeping “exhausted from their grief.” Other translations say they were “sleeping from sorrow.”  The disciples knew something was the matter even though they didn’t know what would take place in mere hours.  But they were distraught.  And so they wanted to just sleep.

I know there have been times in my life where I was exhausted from my grief and and wanted to sleep from sorrow.  When times were hard and I was struggling and just wanted to turn my mind off and sleep.  But like the disciples, in those times we need to pray.  We need to pray for the situations that we’re struggling with at the moment.  We need to pray for those around us and the problems they are facing.  We need to pray and praise God for listening to us.  But no matter what we need to pray.

This week, whether we are exhausted from grief or things are going well, let us pray.  Let us be about prayer.  And if it something we’re struggling with, let God know.  It is a joy and privilege that we have to be able to talk to God.  Let us take advantage of that.