Forgiveness

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Hanging on the cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors. He prayed for us.

How do you know the heart of God for you? How do you know that God loves you and forgives you? What did the Son of God pray?

By the very act of Jesus’ praying that intercessory prayer for us, asking for our forgiveness, God the Father demonstrated his abundant love for us by graciously granting his Son’s request to withhold judgment.

Jesus still prays for you whenever you sin, whenever you fail. He intercedes where you have sinned intentionally. He prays to help you overcome the blinding effects where sin has prevented you from seeing the way forward through repentance. In his kindness and grace, he is praying.

Today, I want to ask if you have done that in your life. Have your put yourself at the foot of that cross and allowed that intercessory prayer of Jesus Christ to be a prayer that he prays on your behalf?

This devotion is modified from The Crucified Life by Charlie Holt.

Palm Sunday

The Collect: “Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the day Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. There was a great celebration as people heralded their king. Children sang. The people cried out, “Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They laid their coats and palm branches on the road before him. Jesus was revealed as the promised Messiah to those who had eyes to see and hearts to believe.

Sadly, the celebration didn’t last long. Some of those people heralding Jesus as king would be the same ones screaming, “Crucify him, crucify him!” just days later.

Throughout his life, Jesus shows us the way of humility. He gave up all the rights and comforts of heaven to come among us. Jesus walked the way of suffering all the way to the cross where he took the full burden of our sins upon him.

Now, we must also walk that road. Thankfully, we have the power of his Holy Spirit to empower us and we walk with our eyes on Jesus knowing that as we share in his suffering, we will also share in his resurrection.

Walk with us this week Lord. Help us to faithfully walk through the suffering so that we can share in the glories of your resurrection. Create in us the humility we saw in your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.  

His Glory in our Deepest Needs

John 11:40-44: “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”

Jesus has called the people to do the unthinkable – take away the stone covering Lazarus’ grave. Martha is deeply concerned as she knows that the body has already begun to rot and there will surely be a smell. Jesus reminds her of his promise to display the glory of God. Jesus prays to his Father then cries out: “Lazarus come out.” Can you imagine standing there that day? These people have been deep in grief for four days now. Jesus is now offering hope that seems unbelievable. He is calling the dead man out of the tomb.

And Lazarus comes out of the tomb! He is bound with linen strips and his face is wrapped in cloths, just like when they laid him in the tomb. He was dead and now he is alive. With the power of his voice, Jesus called Lazarus back to life. He waited to come to Bethany; Lazarus died; and now the people have seen the greatest miracle – the dead brought back to life!

Are there dead things in your life that the Lord wants to resurrect? These are the very things that feel completely impossible in your strength. Maybe it is your marriage, a wayward child, an illness, an addiction, a patterned way of behaving. We all have places that need the miraculous touch of Jesus.

Will you cry out today asking God to do what you cannot do? Lord, show us your glory in the places of our deepest need. We look to you for healing, restoration and resurrection.

Jesus Wept

John 11:33-36: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?’”

How can Jesus have full knowledge and understanding alongside deep emotion? He knows that Lazarus died. He knows how much Mary and Martha loved their brother. He knows the grief of those in the village so dear to him. He also knows the plan to resurrect Lazarus; and he knows the people are about to see a great miracle. His perfect knowledge does not negate his feeling.

Jesus weeps. The text says that he was deeply moved in his spirit. He grieves over the pain of his friends; he feels anger over the power of death; and yet he knows what he is about to do. Still, he weeps when Mary comes out to him, and he weeps again at the grave.

I think Jesus still weeps for us. Psalm 56 says that he collects our tears in a bottle. The Lord knows our pain, and he hurts for us even while he knows the good he will work in our pain and through our pain. We do not have a God who is distant and detached; we have a God who sent his Son to walk among us, to feel our emotions and to take the punishment we deserve.

Can you ask the Lord to give you his perspective of your pain? Can you allow him to show you his mercy, compassion, and goodness in the midst of your hurt? Through Jesus, we see that we have a God who cares about our pain.

Lord, thank you for your care and compassion. Help us to rest in that care and compassion during these difficult times.

God’s Timing is Perfect

John 11:1-4: “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

Many years ago, Garth Brooks had a famous song entitled “Unanswered Prayers.” It is a beautiful song and has a powerful message to it. Many in the Christian community questioned the song saying there are no unanswered prayers with the Lord. There is certainly truth to that; however, I think what Garth Brooks was trying to convey is that sometimes God answers in ways that we don’t understand or like at the time. The refrain of the song is “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” God, in his infinite wisdom and perfect love, is answering prayers according to his plan and purpose. He knows what is truly best; whereas, we often know only what feels best to us in the moment.

We see this dilemma in John 11. Jesus has been asked to come to Bethany to minister to Lazarus. Jesus knows how serious the situation is with Lazarus; he knows Lazarus will die; and he knows that he will use the opportunity to show forth the resurrecting power of his Father. In his infinite wisdom and perfect love, Jesus chooses to wait two days before heading to Bethany. This is hard to understand. Clearly, it would have been very hard for Martha and Mary to understand. They loved and trusted Jesus; they knew he loved and cherished them as friends and as his followers.

Jesus does come, and he comes at just the right time to do something they could never have expected. He will work his miraculous power so that not only Mary, Martha and Lazarus can see but many in the town of Bethany. God’s power will be more powerfully displayed in Lazarus being raised from the dead than if Jesus came to town and healed Lazarus of the illness.

How do we respond to God’s delays or to when he denies our requests? Are we able to surrender and trust him, knowing that he does have the infinite wisdom and understanding that we lack and that matched with that wisdom and understanding is his perfect love?

God’s ways are not always easy, but they are always good because he is good. All prayers are answered prayers in God’s economy. As Garth learned, sometimes his no’s end up being his greatest gifts.

Lord, help us to trust you with the deepest cries of our hearts knowing that your timing and your ways are perfect, even when we cannot understand.

Live in the Light

Psalm 130:1-4: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

The writer of Psalm 130 acknowledges the depth of his sin. He recognizes that his only hope is in the mercy the Lord. His desire is to pour out his lament, to cry out for mercy because he knows that there is forgiveness in God alone.

What do you do with the pain of your sin? Do you hide it, run from it, deny it, or confess it openly to the Lord? There is no forgiveness and healing without confession and repentance. By its very nature, sin leads to shame which then makes us want to hide. It has been that way since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. However, God has made a way for us to be cleansed, forgiven, and healed. What stays hidden holds us; it allows shame to grow and control us. However, what is brought into the light is healed.

With the Lord there is forgiveness. What good news! May we, like the psalmist, be people who cry out to the Lord in confession, who trust in his mercy and who get healed through the power of Jesus’ blood in forgiveness.

The season of Lent and this new season of quarantine are wonderful opportunities to open your heart to the Lord, to ask him to show you anything you have kept in the dark, and to allow him to shine light into those places so that you may be forgiven and healed.