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?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Hope For Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:11-12: “Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold they say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.” Therefore, prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.’”

Our media resembles this passage right now. People are dying; the virus is spreading; the economy is collapsing; there is no sense of when our quarantine will end. Where is our hope?

We hope in the brilliance of our medical doctors and scientists. God has given them incredible minds to understand the human body. We hope that our politicians will finally unite and work for the good of our country and the good of our economy; we hope in the goodness of people to stop hoarding all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

These are all good things. Yet, our true hope must be in the sovereign Lord. He is the only one who can do the miraculous, who can bring to life what was dead. Many people in this world have been dried up; they have not known the Lord and understood his ways. Can we join together in prayer and ask the Lord to bind up this virus, to heal our land, and more importantly to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to him?

When people awaken to the Lord, the power of darkness and death is broken and the way to the promised land is made clear. While we cannot control or even predict what will happen with COVID-19, we can trust in the power and presence of our God.

Father, our hope is in you alone. Restore our hope; bring life out of these challenging times; draw us back to you; and lead us into your promised land.

Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:5: “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

God calls Ezekiel to do what seems impossible – prophesy to dry bones in order to bring life into them. What is impossible to Ezekiel is possible through the power of the Lord. The Lord alone has power to speak life into what is dead.

Life begins with hearing the word of the Lord (verse 4). The word is accompanied by breath; breath comes with sinews and flesh. The body is pulled together and breath is put within the being resulting in life and a knowledge of the Lord. The Lord works the impossible; he brings life to the dry bones.

Are we dry bones? Do we need to hear the word of the Lord in a new and powerful way? Do we need his breath to fill us, to speak to the deepest places that feel dead?

As we are invited into an unusual time of quarantine, we can become aware of these dry bones within us, the places we need to feel the work of the Lord, the breath of the Lord, and the healing of the Lord. Can we allow the Lord to reveal our need for him? Can we respond humbly and allow him to do the miraculous work that only he can do?

When God breathes his Spirit within us, we are brought to life in new ways and we will know that he alone is the Lord. Oh Lord, come and do a mighty work in us. We look to you; we need your breath of life; we long for your healing. We want our lives to be a testimony to your miraculous work.

How Do You View Suffering?

John 9:1-3: “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed.’”

Humans long to understand why suffering occurs; we long to think there is a cause to the suffering so that we can avoid those things and thus avoid our own suffering. Jesus’ response to the disciples in this passage negates our best efforts to explain, understand and avoid suffering.

It was not the sin of the blind man nor the sin of his parents that caused his infirmity; instead, it was an opportunity to see the power of God demonstrated in this man’s life. If that is true for this man, can that be true in our lives? Is there suffering in our lives that is out of our control, that has no cause except for us to experience the power of God and to live as testimonies to that power?

I won’t even begin to explain the reason for the coronavirus. I have no idea how it started and how God will use it. However, I know it is not out of his control, and I know that God can use it for his glory and our good.

How do you view suffering? How are you allowing God to work in your life and all the uncertainties of this virus today? Will you spend some time in prayer asking him to use this time to work in you and the world around you? Can you trust him to use the coronavirus as an instrument to showcase his might and glory?

Walk as Children of the Light

Ephesians 5:8-10: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Darkness surrounds us these days. Ironically, last Thursday was the official start to Spring. There is more physical light with the longer days but less emotional light due to the grim news we get each day. The coronavirus is spreading; we don’t have a vaccine and likely won’t anytime soon; people are dying; jobs are being lost; the stock market is plummeting. There is no denying that these are tough times!

We live in this realm of darkness, yet the darkness does not define us. According to Ephesians, we are light in the Lord, and our call is to live as children of the light.

This is a high and mighty call in these dark days! People are desperate for light, desperate for answers, and desperate for security. While we cannot provide any of those things in a worldly manner, we can provide light for eternal security. Jesus is the true light of the world. In him, there is no darkness (1 John 1:5). As people become more and more desperate, they may become more open to the light that only Jesus can provide. Our very lives are instruments for them to see his light, to be drawn to it, and to allow us the opportunity to share that light (yes, this will need to be done through phone calls, texts, Facetime, and even social media). God can make a way!

Are you living in the light? Are you allowing others to see your hope, peace and security through Jesus? How can you share your light with someone who needs to see it today?