Sunday, April 1, 2018

Day of Victory!

     Today is Sunday, and it is the very first Easter!  It is the day after Sabbath.  That means the women that loved Jesus, could take the spices and perfumed oil and put them on His body.  Early in the morning, while it was still dark, three of the women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the disciple James, and Salome, went to the tomb. They talked among themselves about how they were going to get that huge, heavy stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb so they could anoint His body.  Can you guess what they saw?  They saw the Roman guards.  Then, they saw a bright and beautiful angel, whose face was brilliant like lightening and whose clothes were as white as snow, coming down from, Heaven. As the angel was coming down, the ground began shake and the huge, heavy rock rolled away from the tomb.  The tomb opened up and the angel landed right on the large stone.  He sat on top it.  The guards shook with fear, and then they fainted!  The angel looked at the women and said, “Don’t be afraid!  I know you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified.  He isn’t here!  He is risen from the dead just as He said would happen.  Come, see where His body was laid.  And now, go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead and He is going ahead of you to Galilee.  You will see Him there.  Remember what I have told you.”  Wow!  Can you imagine how surprised the women were? 

     They were so delighted to hear that Jesus was alive.  They left right away and went to the disciples.  Peter and John went with them back to the tomb.  They did not believe what the women were saying.  When they got to the tomb, Peter went in first and John followed.  When they went in, they saw the linen wrappings lying there.  The cloth that had covered Jesus head was folded up.  They understood right then that Jesus was ALIVE!!  They understood that He really was Jesus, the Messiah.  They believed.  They were still a little afraid of the religious leaders and Roman soldiers, so they went home.  Mary Magdalene and the other women stayed.

     Mary Magdalene stood outside of the tomb crying.  She was so upset that Jesus was not there.  She loved Him so much.  She went into the tomb to be close to where Jesus had been.  Now, guess what she saw!  Two angels!  One was sitting at the head, and the other at the foot where Jesus’ body had been lying.  “Dear woman, why are you crying?”, the angels asked her.  She told the angels it was because someone had taken her Lord away, and she did not know where they had put Him.  
     Mary Magdalene turned to leave.  She saw someone standing there but she was so upset about not knowing where Jesus was, that she did not recognize Him.  The man asked her, “Dear woman, why are you crying?  Who are you looking for?”  She thought it might be the gardener.  Remember, this tomb is in a beautiful garden.  She said to the man, “Sir, if you have taken Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will go and get Him.”  

     Then the most WONDERFUL, AMAZING, AWESOME, BEAUTIFUL thing happened.  The man simply said, “Mary!”  Mary Magdalene’s heart began to beat quickly, it even jumped around inside her chest.  She could hardly catch her breath and nearly fainted herself.  She was so happy and began to run over to the Man.  When the Man said her name, there was such a sweetness about the way it sounded.  There was such love in His voice.  She recognized this voice.  IT WAS JESUS!  When He said her name, it healed her broken heart. 

     Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus after he rose from the dead. The disciples were still hiding in a room because they were afraid of the religious leaders and Roman soldiers. Mary went to tell the disciples that she had seen Jesus.  Later that evening,  Jesus saw the disciples.  He knew they were shook up by all of this, and He knew they were afraid.  He said to them, “Peace be with you.”  One of the disciples, Thomas, doubted that this was really Jesus risen from the dead.  He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands.  Put your hand into the wound in my side.  Don’t be faithless any longer.  Believe!”  Thomas said with so much love, “My Lord and my God!”  He believed.  Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me.  Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

     Jesus was talking about us.  All of us!  If we will just believe in Jesus and follow Him, we will have the power to live winning lives.  We can have victory in everything.  Jesus overcame the biggest enemy, death.  And, He leaves us this power to live lives of victory.  We just have to choose, Jesus.
     Christmas, our biggest gift is that Jesus left Heaven to live here with us.  Easter, our biggest gift is that He died and overcame everything evil for us so we can live lives full of blessing, power and victory here, and forever with Him, in Heaven.  Thank You, Jesus!

   Today is a day about victory and love.  

   All praise and glory and honor to You, Jesus. Thank you for your grace and mercy and love. Thank You that I can live a victorious life here on this side of Glory, and then an eternal life with you when I get to Glory. I do not have words that can express how much I love and adore You. But I give you my life, every area of it. I will serve you all of my days and be with you in Heaven all of eternity! Happy dancing here!!!! Happy Easter, Jesus! Happy Easter, God! And while we are at it, thank You Holy Spirit for coming at Pentecost and staying with us here until we do go to our home in Heaven. Thank you for teaching, directing, guiding and staying with me to help me truly walk in love and make my Heavenly Father known. Happy Easter Holy Ghost!  

Friday, March 30, 2018

Day of Freedom

     So much happened yesterday all those years ago.  Some very sad things.  It is so hard to believe what those people did to Jesus.  How wonderful Jesus did that for us.  The religious leaders never tricked Him.  At any moment,  Jesus could have called on thousands of angels and they would have gotten Him out of all of what He went through.  He did what He did, because He obeyed His Father, God.  He knew He was the Messiah, and only He could make everything the Old Testament Scriptures said come true.  He did what He did because He loves us.  And what Jesus does today and tomorrow is very, VERY good news for us.  The religious leaders thought it was over and that they had won.  WRONG!!!!!!!!!

     They remembered that Jesus said He would come back to life in three days.  And, they were afraid that the disciples would steal His body out of the tomb.  So, the priests and Pharisees went back to Pilate to try to get Him to do one more thing.  They asked Governor Pilate to seal the tomb so that the disciples could not steal the body and then tell everyone Jesus had raised up out of His grave.  Pilate agreed to do this.  The guards, priests, and Pharisees went into the tomb to make sure Jesus was there.  His body was still lying there.  They then put a large stone in front of the tomb and sealed it very tight.  Pilate also put Roman guards there to guard the tomb for at least three days.

     Boy did these people miss it!!  Jesus’ body was there, but HE was not.  His Spirit had gone to the center of the earth.  He went down to Hades, or what we call, Hell.  He looked straight at the devil, who was the one behind all of the evil that happened this week, and took the keys of death and Hell away from Him!  Hallelujah!!!  The devil had been running over people and hurting them, stealing things from them, and killing them since he got Adam and Eve to sin against God in the, Garden of Eden.  God never wanted people to live in such a sad and hopeless way.  And now,  Jesus was putting everything back in order.  With His blood,  Jesus bought us back so we could be reconciled with God.   Jesus was beating the devil at his own game.  The devil always seeks to steal, destroy and kill anything or anyone he can. He will lie and do anything he can to pull people away from God and render them hopeless and  powerless.  Jesus just fixed all of that for us!  How wonderful!!   Jesus was out of His body and in Hell taking ALL power away from the devil.   Jesus was now the winner and the King over all, once and for all.   Just wait until you see what happens tomorrow!  

     Today Jesus delivers us once and for all.  He takes the keys back from the devil that have locked people up for  4,000 years.

     Thank You Jesus for taking on my griefs, my sicknesses, weaknesses and distresses and the pain of my punishment. Thank You for being pierced and bleeding for my transgressions, sin and rebellion, and bruised for my guilt from that sin. Thank You for the torment of my chastisement that You took on in my place so I could have the peace that goes beyond understanding. Thank You Jesus for taking that horrible whipping that broke Your flesh so that my flesh could be whole; because by your stripes I was be healed. And then after that, You go to Hell to take the keys of dominion and blessing God gave us in the beginning away from Satan that he has held since the day Adam and Eve handed them over in exchange for a bite of fruit. I am having a hard time here not breaking out in full praise, but tomorrow ..... oh Jesus tomorrow!!!!!!!!! Thank you!  \o/

Day of Sacrificial Love

     Early this morning, the religious leader met to plan how they would get Jesus put to death.  Judas came in and interrupted their meeting.  He felt convicted about what he had done to  Jesus.  He told the leaders that he knew he had sinned because he had betrayed an innocent man.  The leaders asked him, “What do we care?  That is your problem.”  Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver down on the floor of the temple and went out and hung himself.  Remember how Jesus warned that it would have been better for that person to never to have even been born? 
     The religious leaders bought a cemetery for people from other countries with the silver pieces.  This was just what the prophet Jeremiah said would happen in the Old Testament Scriptures.  
     The religious leaders had no real power to have someone put to death for a crime, or any other reason, but the Romans did.  They took Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate.  When Jesus stood before Governor Pilate,  he asked Jesus, “Are You King of the Jews?”  Jesus told Him He was.  Immediately, the religious leaders that had bullied Him all week began shouting accusations at  Jesus. Jesus did not respond to them at all.  
     Every year at Passover time, the Roman Governor would free one prisoner.  The crowds were gathering in front of Governor Pilates' house, the Praetorium, to see who the prisoner to released was.  Pilate asked them who it was they wanted to be let go, Barabbas or Jesus Who is called, the Messiah?  Pilate sat down as the crowd talked it over.  He sat down next to his wife.  She told him that she had a nightmare the night before and that it was really awful.  She told Pilate that he should leave Jesus alone because He was innocent of any crime.
     In the meantime, the religious leaders walked among the crowd and talked them into having Barabbas let go, and having  Jesus put to death.  Governor Pilate was sure the people would say to let Jesus go.  He remembered how just five days before on Sunday,  Jesus rode in and they treated Him like a King. Again Pilate asked the crowd which prisoner would go free.  The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”  “Then what should I do with Jesus, who is called, the Messiah?”, Pilate asked.  The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!”  Pilate asked them, “Why, what crime has He committed?”  The mob roared louder, “Crucify Him!”  Pilate was hoping the crowd would change their minds because he felt in his heart that his wife was right.  But, he knew he was getting nowhere with this crowd because they were starting to riot.  Governor Pilate had a servant bring him a bowl of water.  He washed his hands in front of everyone and told the crowd, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.  The responsibility is yours!”  Pilate was nervous about what was happening so he washed his hands of the whole mess.  The crowd yelled back that they would take responsibility for Jesus’ death, they and their children.
     Barabbas was involved in trying to overthrow the government, and he was murderer.  Jesus was innocent.  The whole of His life He did no wrong.  He was good to everyone.  But, Pilate let Barabbas go to the people and He ordered that Jesus be flogged and turned over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.  They flogged Jesus with a whip. The whips were made of long skinny leather.  Each leather piece had pieces of metal and of bone sewn to it to cut the skin.  The end of each piece was weighed down with lead.  They tied Jesus to a post and whipped Him over and over with these leather whips.  His skin was all torn and blood flowed out of Him.  Most people never lived through this horrible beating.  After this,  Jesus was turned over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
     Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and then they called out the whole regiment of soldiers and government leaders.  In front of everyone they stripped the clothes off of His cut up body and put a bright red robe on Him.  They took branches with thorns and made a crown.  They shoved the crown on Jesus’ head.  The thorns tore the skin on His head.  Then they put a stick in His hand.  They mocked Jesus.  They said things like, “Hail! King of the Jews!”  They spit on him and grabbed the stick out of His hand using it to hit Him in the head with it.  When tired of mocking Him, they removed the red robe and put His own clothes back on Him.  Then, they took Him to be crucified.

    The soldiers made Jesus walk down a long road.  They made Him carry a very heavy cross made out of a tree down this road, 
The Via Dolorosa.  This was the cross they were going to crucify Him on.  He was bloody and beaten, almost to death.  He was not able to carry the cross the whole way.  The soldiers grabbed a man along the road and made him carry  Jesus’ cross and walk with it behind Him.  They would not help Him themselves.  They were as vile to Jesus as they could be.  They took Him out to a place called, “Golgotha” which means, “Place of the Skull”.  When the Romans executed someone they hung them on a cross. With rope they tied the criminal to the cross.  Not Jesus.  They laid the cross down on the ground and then put Jesus on top of the cross.  They took long nails and nailed His hands and feet to the cross.  They raised the cross up and put it in the ground.  Everyone could see Jesus nailed to the cross.    They could see that His skin was broken open, they could see His bruises, and they could see His blood running down.  It was then that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”   Jesus loved people, all people.  He loves us today.  No matter what they did to Him, or how badly we behave today,  Jesus loves us, and will forgive us.  Since He forgave these people for what they were doing, and He was in so much pain, nearly dead, He will certainly forgive us if we ask Him to.  He loves us that much!
    Even still, the crowd kept on mocking Him and insulting Him.  They said things like, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”  They put a sign on the top of the cross as He was dying that said, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS”.  The religious leaders mocked Him, too.  They yelled and said if He would save Himself they would believe He was the Son of God.
     Jesus saw his mother, His mother’s sister and his dear friend, Mary Magdalene, standing near the cross.  Jesus was dying.  He knew He would not be on the earth anymore to watch over his mother in her old age.  He talked to his mother and said, “Dear woman, here is your son.”  He was talking about His disciple,  John.  He said to John, “Here is your mother.”  From that day on,  Jesus’ mother stayed with the disciple  John.   Jesus took care of His mother even though He was on a cross and dying.  
     There were two criminals hanging on crosses with Jesus, one on each side.  They were tied and not nailed to their crosses.  They had not been treated like Jesus.  One of them mocked Jesus while he was on his cross.  He said to Jesus, “ If You are the Messiah, prove it by saving Yourself and us, too, while You are at it!”   The other criminal stopped him and said, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Then he looked at Jesus and said, “Jesus , remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”   Jesus said to him,  “I assure you, today you will be with me in, Paradise.”  You see, that man believed Jesus was the Christ.  He knew Jesus was the Savior and though his life must not have reflected it, he desired righteousness.  He would go to Heaven because he was sorry and asked Jesus for His hand.   Jesus always takes someone for His own when they want Him to.
     By this time it was noon.  For three hours, from noon until three o’clock in the afternoon, the whole land was dark.  The light from the sun was totally gone.  At three o’clock that Friday afternoon,  Jesus cried out and said, “It is finished!”   To God He then cried out, “Into Your hands I commit my Spirit.”  Jesus’ body died on the cross that afternoon at three o’clock.  At that moment miracles began occurring.  There was a place in the temple called, “The Holy of Holies”.  Common people were not allowed to go in there.  Only special priests could go in.  No one but these special priests even saw the inside of this sanctuary.  The moment Jesus gave up His Spirit and died, the big curtain in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies sanctuary ripped right down the middle!  It was as high as the ceiling and went all of the way to the floor, and was very heavy.  No man did this, God did it.  There was a huge and scary earthquake.  Many rocks split in half and tombs came open.  Can you imagine the noise and the shaking of the whole earth?  The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the cross were terrified and said, “This man truly was the Son of God!”
     Remember that at the Last Supper in the upper room the night before, Jesus talked about His body being broken for the disciples?  Remember Jesus saying that the wine in the cup was His blood shed for them?  Remember these were new things the disciples had never heard before?  The bread and wine was to remind them of something wonderful God did for His people years before.  This would now be the event that God’s people would remember when they break bread and have the cup.  This was going to be the new and better covenant God made with His people,  with anyone that loves Jesus.  This is the new wonderful thing God did for His people. Jesus paid the price for man’s sin, He did freely and all we have to do is believe He is the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts and confess so with our mouth and we will be in right standing with God. 
     There was a man named Joseph from,  Arimathea.  He was a priest on the council of religious leaders, but he disagreed with what they had done to Jesus.  He loved Jesus and knew He was the Messiah.  He had been a secret follower of Jesus.  He feared the religious leaders and so He went to get permission from Governor Pilate to take Jesus’ body off of the cross and bury it.  Pilate granted Joseph permission to do this.
     Joseph was a wealthy man.  He was an old man as well.  He had men carve out a rock in the side of a hill to make himself a tomb for when he died.  But, he gave his tomb to Jesus.  Oh, but what Joseph did not know was that Jesus was only going to need it for three days!  
     Joseph and another secret follower of Jesus, Nicodemus, went to the cross and took Jesus down.  They washed his body with perfumed oil and wrapped Jesus with spices and a long sheet of linen cloth, for this was the custom.  The tomb Joseph was giving Jesus was in a beautiful garden, near where the crucifixion took place.  Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus body to the new tomb and laid Him there.  The women that loved Jesus so much had followed Joseph and Nicodemus.  Once they had laid Jesus to rest they went home and bought spices and perfumed oil to anoint His body.  They would not be able to anoint His body with the spices and oils tomorrow as it was the Jewish sabbath, and it was not allowed.  But, day after tomorrow, Sunday, they will go tend to His body.

   Today was completely about sacrifice that came from Jesus’ deep love for us. Oh Father, take my life and make count for You, never letting this grace you have given me prove vain.

   Thank You Jesus for such amazing and unconditional love,

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Day of the New Covenant

    Today is a wonderful and amazingly special day.  Today is the day, that God’s people will celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Many years ago, back in Old Testament Scriptures, we can read about how God saved His people from a very hateful and mean people called Egyptian's, who kept God’s people for slaves.  God delivered His people from being the Egyptian's slaves.  On the day that God’s people were able to leave Egypt , they had to leave swiftly.  God told them to make their bread without yeast.  Yeast is the leaven in bread that causes it to rise, but yeast takes time to work.  So, the women made their bread without yeast.  Once they were free, God told them to remember Him and how He saved them by making their bread without yeast the same time every year.  He told them to have a big celebration every year and to call it the, “Feast of Unleavened Bread”.  This Feast lasted seven days, and always started the day before Passover.  That is why God’s people celebrated the two together like a big festival.  It was a happy time for God’s people.  No matter what was going on at that time, when it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover, they remembered how much God loved them and took care of them.  This is why all of God’s people came to Jerusalem this week.  Since tomorrow will be the Passover, today is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

     Jesus’ disciples went to prepare the Feast just as He had told them to.  Once all of the disciples and Jesus were together in the upper room above a certain man’s house,  Jesus said something that shook the disciples up.  He told them that one of them was going to betray Him.  One His own disciples would betray Him.  He told them that one of them that had just dipped their bread in the bowl with Him, would be the one to betray Him.  In that day, only friends and family that trusted each other would dip their bread in the same bowl of wine or honey.  Jesus is saying here that the one who would betray Him, was one who had shared the bowl with Him.  Someone Jesus should have been able to trust would betray Him, and Jesus knew it.  The disciples began to ask Jesus one by one if it would be them that hurt Him.  Jesus told them that it would really be terrible for the one that was betraying Him, and that it would have been better for that person to never to have even been born.  Jesus told them that He knew it must be this way because the Scriptures from the Old Testament said it would happen like this.  Even though one disciple would betray Him, it would not happen if God did not have it that way. But God’s plan was that this year, Jesus would be the once and for all,  Passover Lamb.

     Then finally,  Judas asked if he was the one.  Judas knew he was.  He had already been paid to hand Jesus over to the religious leaders.  He was just seeing if Jesus knew it was him that would be the betrayer.   Jesus told him that it was indeed him,  Judas Iscariot, that was the betrayer.

     After this, Jesus did a very amazing thing.  The unleavened bread and wine they were having was because of their celebration.  But,  Jesus was about to change all of those years of tradition.  He took the bread, blessed it, broke it into pieces and gave a piece to each of His disciples.  He then told them, “Take this and eat it, for this is My body. Do this to remember Me.”  They had never heard such a thing.  Then Jesus took the cup and gave thanks to God for it.  He gave the disciples the cup and said, “Each of you drink from it, for his is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people.  It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.”  This was something new for Jesus to say.  The wine in the cup always reminded the people of the blood over the door posts.  The bread reminded them of how God quickly freed them from slavery.  This was a new teaching  Jesus gave them.  Jesus was teaching the disciples about the new and better covenant they would have.  From here on this would not be called the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover.  This time of remembering God’s goodness would be called, “The Lord’s Supper”.  This is very important but they did not understand.... yet.  They all sang a hymn and went out and back to the, Mount of Olives.  They probably sang Psalm 116-118.

     On the way to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told the disciples that tonight each one of them would desert Him, the Old Testament Scriptures said that it would happen that way.  But He told them that after He was raised from the dead that He would go ahead of them and meet them in Galilee.  Jesus’ disciple Peter said he would never desert Jesus.  Jesus told Peter that this very night before the rooster crows in the morning he would deny Him three time and tell people he never even knew Me.  Peter insisted that he would die with Jesus before he would deny Him.  The other disciples said the same thing.

     When they got to the Mount of Olives, they went to an olive grove called, Gethsemane.  Jesus asked His disciples to sit while He went to pray.  He took Peter, James and John with Him.  Jesus told the three of them He was very sad because of the sins in the world.  He asked these disciples to stay watch for Him while He prayed.  Jesus walked a little way from them and bowed down, His face to the ground, and prayed to God.  He asked His Father in Heaven if it was possible for Him to not face this awful death tomorrow.  He told His Heavenly Father whatever He wanted,  Jesus would do.  Jesus went back to Peter, James and John.  They were sleeping.  Jesus woke them up and asked them again to please stay awake and watch out for Him as He prayed.  Jesus went back to prayer.  God had answered Jesus about the awful death tomorrow.  Jesus told His Father that He understood that the cup of death could not be removed from Him.  He told God He would be obedient and see to it that His Father’s will was done.  Jesus went back to His disciples.  They were sleeping again.  He said nothing to them and went back to keep praying.  When He was done praying the third time, Jesus woke the three disciples up.  He told them He had been betrayed into the hands of evil men and to get up and get going back to the other disciples because His betrayer had come back and was now among them.
     At some point, Judas had left the group of disciples because he was the one Jesus was talking about coming back, and was now with the evil men that had come to harm Him.  Judas was walking with a group of men toward the other disciples and Jesus.  The men with Judas were carrying swords and clubs.  The religious leaders sent them to arrest Jesus.  It was night time and there was no one around except these men, the disciples, and Jesus.  These men had come to take Jesus like thieves under the cover of night, this way they did not have to worry about what the people would think or do.  Since it was dark and some of these evil men may not have been sure who Jesus was,  Judas had given them a signal to know which One was Jesus.  He would kiss Jesus on the cheek as a sign for them to arrest Him.   Judas greeted Jesus, and then gave him the kiss.   Jesus knew what this meant and told Judas to go ahead and do what he had come to do.  The men with clubs and swords grabbed Jesus and arrested Him.  Peter grabbed the arresting man’s sword to get him to let Jesus go.  Jesus instructed him to put the sword away.  He asked Peter if he did not understand that He could call on His Father in Heaven for help and that God would send thousands of angels to protect all of them instantly?  He told the disciples that He could do that, but then how would the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures be fulfilled as they were meant to be?   Jesus told everyone there He could have been arrested in the temple since He was there everyday; but that this was happening the way it was to fulfill the Scriptures.

     The arresting men took Jesus to the high priest Caiaphas’ house where all of the religious leaders were waiting for Him.  Peter followed some distance behind.  All of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, Elders and teachers put together in a council of men were called, the Sanhedrin.  They were all there.  The laws of that day said that there was to never be a trial at night, but the Sanhedrin held a trial right then and there at night.  They broke their own laws because they were so desperate to kill  Jesus.  They tried again to trick Him and they tried to get people to lie about Him.  Finally, they asked Jesus if He was the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus told them He was.  Caiaphas declared that Jesus was speaking disrespectfully about God and asked the Sanhedrin for a vote.  They said He was guilty and should die. These religious leaders began to beat Jesus, they even spit in His face.

     Peter had secretly watched all of this.  He knew they were going to kill Jesus and he was afraid for his own life.  While sitting outside of a house in a courtyard a servant girl said to Peter that  he was one of the men with that Jesus from, Galilee.  Peter said, No! and that he did not know what she was talking about.  A little later out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to the people standing around, “This man was was with Jesus of Nazareth.”  Again Peter denied knowing Jesus and he swore to it.  A little later some of the the people standing around came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”   Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying-I don’t know the man!”  Immediately, the rooster crowed.  Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter's mind:  “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  Peter left the courtyard crying very hard... he completely undone.  Now, the sun is starting to come up.  And, it will be Friday, the day Jesus has been talking about all week.

   Today was a day of fellowship in the upper room and of announcing a new and better covenant.

   Oh Father, I pray Your church embrace all the Jesus did this night those 2,000 years ago!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wondering Wednesday

   For  six months, Jesus had been telling His disciples that he would be dying soon.  On this Wednesday, He tells them it will happen in two days.  Jesus knew that this Passover celebration, He would be the Lamb whose blood would be shed to save the people.  Remember how God’s people put the blood of a lamb over their door posts to save them from dying?  Well, after this Passover the only blood that would count would be the blood Jesus shed.  From then on, anyone that believed in Jesus, and accepted Him would be able to live with Him in Heaven.  Although Jesus had been telling them about all of this, He never really said when it would happen.  Now, He tells them it would be in two days, on the Passover.  Jesus would be the once and for all, Passover Lamb.

   The chief priest's, scribes and religious leaders realized they would never be able to trick, Jesus.  So, they all got together at the high priest's house to plan and plot how to capture Jesus secretly, and just kill Him.  The high priest's name was, Caiaphas.  By this time many thousands of people were going into Jerusalem.  That was a problem for these evil men that plotted to kill, Jesus.  Earlier in the week, they were concerned about the people being upset with them for arresting Jesus and killing Him.  But now, there were thousands of people they were worried about upsetting, especially since it was their Passover celebration.  They knew Jesus was not going to be giving them a reason to arrest Him.  If the people got very upset, the Roman government would stop these religious leaders from arresting and killing Jesus.  But, these evil men were determined to see Jesus destroyed.

   We can not be sure of just what Jesus did on this Wednesday before the Passover, because the Bible does not say.  Jesus most likely went to the temple again to teach and heal.  He probably spent time in prayer.  He may have taken a walk with Mary and Martha and reassured them that no matter what happened He would always be with them.  He may have spent some time with His very dear friend, Mary Magdalene, assuring her that no matter what happened, she would see Him again.  He probably talked with His disciples about those things He wanted to be sure they heard.  Maybe He tried to tell them in words what only the cross was going to show them for sure... just how much He loved them.  Maybe He told them just how precious they were to Him.  Maybe He talked privately with Peter and reassured Him that no matter what happened He would would always love and forgive him.  Maybe He told Peter he was much stronger than he thought and to never be afraid.  Maybe He walked to where the dead Fig tree was and prayed to God about the people that would be destroyed if they would not say they were sorry for their sins and accept Jesus as their Savior.  Maybe He talked to the people about forgiveness and love, and how important those things are to God’s Kingdom.  But, whatever Jesus did do during that day, He was doing what God wanted Him to do because He always did the work of His Heavenly Father.

   But, we do know what Jesus did that evening.  That evening,  Jesus was back in Bethany, having dinner at a man named Simon’s house.  The people back then ate at table that was low to the floor. They sat on the floor and often reclined back a little.  Meals were a time of getting together with family and friends that they loved and trusted. Although meals were a time to eat, they were really more about a time to meet, fellowship.  Jesus was reclined back and enjoying His disciples at this dinner meal at Simon’s house.  While having His dinner, a woman came in with an alabaster jar filled with perfumed oil.  She broke the long neck of the alabaster jar and  slowly poured it on Jesus’ head.  Back in the Old Testament it was a sacred thing to pour expensive oil like this on a man's head.  It meant he was being set aside from all of the other people to be holy and to be the priest.  This woman was showing that Jesus was holy, and that He was their Priest.  She also did this because she understood what Jesus was talking about when He said He would be dying in two days.  Back in this day, they put oil and spices on a persons body to bury them.  This woman loved Jesus.  She did for Him what she could, and what she knew God wanted her to do.  She was brave to do this.  Her love for Jesus caused her to be brave and obedient.  This time, many of the disciples were upset at such extravagance.  They were upset about how expensive the perfumed oil was and that it was wasted.  They said it could have been sold for a lot of money and the money could have been given to the poor.  Jesus asked His disciples why they were giving this woman such a hard time.  He told them that the poor would always be with them, but that He would be leaving in two days.  Jesus told them that she did a good thing, that she prepared his body for His soon to be burial.  He told them that anytime the Good News would be preached about Jesus throughout the whole world, this woman's good deed would be remembered and talked about.

   Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus disciples and their treasurer,  was angry about this the Saturday night before, and now it happened again.  He was furious.  He wanted the money from the perfume for himself.   Judas knew the religious leaders were at the high priest Caiaphas’ house trying to figure out a way to kill Jesus.   Judas left the dinner and went straight to Caiaphas’ house.  He also knew they would like to be able to capture Jesus secretly to have Him killed.  But, where Jesus was there were always so many people and they would not get a chance to snatch Him.  But,  Judas also knew Jesus’ plans for the next two days and he knew how  and when the religious leaders could sneak up and capture Him when He would be alone with just His disciples.  When Judas got to Caiaphas’ house, he asked the religious leaders how much money they would give him if He double crossed Jesus and told them when they could capture Him.  They paid Judas 30 pieces of silver.  This is the amount slaves were bought and sold for.  For 30 lousy pieces of silver, Judas sold Jesus to the men that wanted to kill Him.

   Today we can wonder,  just what Jesus did do?  What we do know is that Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, sold to those trying to kill him for a fist full of silver.

   Thank You Jesus that Your life is hidden in the Father's and that because of Your great love for us, we are hidden "in" Him as well!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Day of Questions

   When Jesus got up on Tuesday morning, He went back to the temple. He had so much to teach the people and so little time to do it in. The temple chief priests and elders were there and had planned to badger Jesus with ridiculous religious questions in hope He would answer saying something they could have Him arrested for. They wanted Jesus arrested and killed. They began bombarding Him with trick questions that no matter how He answered He would have to say something that could get Him arrested. Since Jesus knew His Father and knew the writings we now call the Old Testament, they could not trick Him. Instead of answering their questions, He began telling parables. In His first parable Jesus uses the story of two sons and tells them the simple fact that the vilest of sinners will find their eternal home in Heaven because of their repentant heart and their repentance, there will be religious pretenders that will not go to Heaven, but to Hell because of their lack of repentance.

   The second parable is about wicked vinedressers and was much more severe in its message. There were people in Israel that had treated God’s prophets horribly, and now there were the same type of people plotting to kill Jesus. By rejecting Jesus these people were rejecting their place in the Kingdom of God.

   The third parable is set at a wedding feast. There are those that reject the invitation to the wedding feast, and those that accept. Those that reject His invitation will see the ruin of Jerusalem just as the people that declined the King’s invitation to his son’s wedding saw their town burned down. Those that accepted the invitation would be blessed. This lot is who God will use to finish His redemptive work. These were the Gentiles, those of us that believe Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior Messiah. People that truly choose to accept and follow Jesus would be given the authority and all of the promises from God.

   The Pharisees knew that Jesus was talking about them when He told these parables about people that do not love God and do not believe and accept, Jesus. They were livid. They were now ready to get the job at hand done, kill Jesus. The Pharisees and Herodians were enemies, but they got together and asked Jesus a very tricky question. They were sure He would answer wrongly because if He said yes to the question the people would be angry with Him. If He said no, they could arrest Him. Even if they did not get to arrest Jesus with His answer, they would have been happy with just turning the people against Him. Then, arresting Jesus later would be easier since the people would not be upset about it. The evil leaders said to Jesus, “Teacher, we know how honest You are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now, tell us what you think abut this; Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” The people did not like the way the Roman government did the taxes and so they would be upset if Jesus said, “Yes.” to pay Caesar. If He said “No.” the Pharisees would have Jesus reported to the Roman authorities and He would be arrested for being a traitor. Those evil men thought for sure they had Jesus. But, Jesus saw their wickedness and He knew what they were up to. Jesus said to them,  “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap Me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” They brought Jesus a Roman coin. Jesus looked at the coin and said, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s.” they replied. Jesus then answered their question. 
“Well, then, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” That settled it and, the people were not upset and the evil leaders had no just cause to arrest Jesus. The Pharisees and Herodians were amazed. They left Jesus.

   The Sadducees were another group of men that hated Jesus. These men did not believe Jesus would be raised from the dead even though the prophets had written about it in the Old Testament. And, when Jesus does come alive after He dies, they work very hard to keep the disciples from preaching about it. They did not believe in angels even though many men had written down true stories about how the angels did things in the Old Testament. The Pharisees thought and acted like the Romans, but the Sadducees thought and acted more like the Greeks. The Pharisees were very interested in the law of the Old Testament. So much so that they made things up to try to make people do the law their way. The Sadducees were suppose to be religious leaders, but they really did not believe God had anything to do with religion. They did not believe He was a living God. These men thought they were great thinkers and that their thoughts about the Old Testament were more important than what God had actually penned through chosen men. But, the one thing the Pharisees and Sadducees had in common was that they both wanted Jesus out of the picture. They came together to try to kill Him..... just like the Old Testament said they would.

   Since the Pharisees could not trick Jesus, the Sadducees thought they might have a go at Him. They tried to trick Him with a question about something written in the Old Testament. Once again, Jesus told these people trying to trick Him that their ideas about the Old Testament were wrong and that they did not understand the things of God. Jesus told them that they did not understand the power of God. He answered their question in a way that was the very truth of the matter and amazed everyone. The Sadducees could not trick Jesus, either.

   The Scribes were men that were the lawyers among the religious leaders. Not all of the Pharisees were Scribes, but the Scribes were Pharisees. They actually wrote the laws. These were the men that added to God’s Word to make up their own laws for the people to obey. The people had to obey these Scribes, they were very powerful. They were good at arguing the law and also very evil. When the Pharisees found out that the Sadducees had also failed to trick Jesus into saying something that would get Himself killed, they got together and sent a snakey Scribe to try to trick Him. Scribes were good at tricking people with words and so they were sure a Scribe could trick Jesus. The Scribes asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. A law question.... of course. These Scribes had written more laws than they could even remember. They were silly made up laws that no one could keep. They were just trying to be the big rulers and be bossy so they could be the well.... the bosses. Once again, Jesus saw right through them. He understood what they were trying to do. He quoted to them something they themselves repeated two times everyday. It was from the Old Testament. He said to them, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” WOW! Jesus summed all of their laws up in one commandment and He used a part of the Old Testament that they even used to do it. Jesus summed up all of the laws with the only reason for doing anything.... LOVE. The Scribes could not trick Jesus either.

   Now, Jesus turned this around. He asked the Pharisees a question about whose Son Jesus really was. Because of their unbelief, they could not answer Jesus’ question. From this time on none of the Pharisees and religious leaders even dared to ask Jesus a question.

   Jesus then turned to the crowds and began to talk to them about these religious leaders. He told the crowd and His disciples that these men were suppose to be the men that taught the religious law. He told them to listen to the laws they spoke about that God had given them. But, He warned everyone that these arrogant men did not understand God and so not to do what they did. Jesus pointed out a few things that were wrong to do that these men were doing. He talked about how these men thought more of themselves than they did God or other people. They taught their own thoughts and not what the Scriptures actually said. Even though they did speak the law the way it was given by God sometimes, they never did what it said. They paid attention to small things and did not do the big things God asked of them. They fussed over how they looked to other people. They wore flashy long robes with long tassels on them. Tassels were a sign of importance. They also wore leather boxes on their arms and even right up on their foreheads. These boxes had Scripture verses in them. They wanted everyone to think they were the pinnacle of religious example. Jesus warned the people that these men were like graves; they were kept really nice and pretty on the outside, but they were dead on the inside.

   Jesus knew there was no changing these religious leaders minds. They rejected Jesus and that was all there was to it. So, He left them to themselves. This desperately grieved Jesus. He loved these people and wanted them to accept Him, have really good happy lives; and be able to go to Heaven some day and live with Him there. He warned them that they would be left with nothing. Their religion was empty and they were about to lose their temple and everything else. He gives them a look at what was about to happen. He tells them that He would be leaving, but that He would return and they would then know He was the King, but it would be too late.

   Jesus left the temple. His disciples heard Him talking about the temple being destroyed. They asked Him if He saw all the buildings of the temple. He told them what He said would happen, would honestly happen. They went back to the Mount of Olives. The disciples asked Jesus about the temple, His return and the end of time. Jesus answered all of the disciples questions. The disciples loved Him and they believed Him. They accepted Him. Jesus was glad to get to teach these men. He talked about the Old Testament and showed them how it was true, that it was coming true right before their eyes. He told them that the Words of God would last forever and ever and would never change or end. The disciples could always count on the things God said to be true. Jesus warned them that there would always be religious pretenders. There would always be people that would try to make them believe their thoughts instead of trusting God’s Word. He warned them that there would always be wars, rumors of wars and earthquakes, and people that would hurt them. He told them that just as the Fig tree has buds that tell you summer is coming, there would be signs that Jesus was coming. He told them to never be afraid. God would always take care of them. He reminded the disciples of what happened in Noah’s day. Those people were partying, sinning big time and ignoring God. But, the faithful family of Noah just kept their eyes on God. They trusted Him and did exactly what He said, even though it seemed quite silly. When the flood came, they were the only family to safely make it through. Everyone else drowned because they would not follow God. Jesus said that if when things look bad and people try to take you away from Jesus you would just keep following Him, and keep watching for Him to come back, their reward would be great. If when He came back they were serving Him, they would rule over much. Jesus told the disciples that no one would know the day or time that He was coming back. Even Jesus did not know. It would be when His Father, God, said it was time. So, we must keep watching for Him and always be ready since we won’t know when it will happen, until it happens.

   Watching does not mean that we just stand and do nothing. There are so many things that God needs for us to do before He sends Jesus back. The more we serve Him, the more God will trust us to do for Him. And, if we are serving Him when He comes back, we get rewarded, big time! If we are lazy and disobedient and do not serve Him, we will lose our reward, not our salvation but our rewards in Heaven. You can rule it all or lose it all, it’s up to you.

   What we have to give and what we are able to do can be used to serve God. When we feed someone, or visit them when they are sick, or give someone clothes that needs clothing, or share a toy with someone, we are doing something for God. God says when we are helping other people we are as much as doing it for Him. When Jesus comes back everyone will be divided into two kinds of people. There will be those that loved and served Jesus, and those that did not. Jesus loved the disciples and He loves us, too. That is why He told us all about these things to come. He wants to be our friend, but we have to let Him.

   This was a very long day for Jesus. Jesus had to deal with so much. But, the evil men that tried and tried and tried to trick Him, could not. After being picked on by the religious leaders all day, He had to walk back to the Mount of Olives. Jesus needed to be alone with His disciples there because He had so many things to tell them. He knew His time was short. Jesus knew that tomorrow something was going to happen that would bring a tragic end to the week.

   Such love! In the midst of knowing these people were going to kill Him, Jesus tries to reach these religious leaders. Such love! He would have done it just for me, or you. Tomorrow the questioning pretty much comes to an end and a horrible turn occurs, one that will lead one man to take his own life out of the depths of the hell of his guilt, and put an innocent lamb to slaughter.

   Thank You Father, You did this out of such everlasting mercy and unconditional love.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Day of Authority!

   Last night Jesus went back to Bethany where his dear friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived to eat and spend the night. This morning all those years ago while Jesus walked out of Bethany He was hungry. He saw a fig tree with leaves on it. A Fig tree is different than other fruit trees, the figs bloom before the leaves appear.  If a Fig tree has leaves , it should have fruit.  This Fig tree had lots of leaves, and no fruit. Like other times Jesus used things the people could relate to and understand, He used this Fig tree to teach the disciples something very important. His time was at hand and He wanted to teach them everything they would need to know when He left at the end of the week. Jesus said to the Fig tree, “May you never bear fruit again!”   When the disciples saw the fig tree withered and dead the next morning they were perplexed and asked Jesus about this. They had seen Jesus heal the sick, make the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame walk.  They had seen Him raise Jairus’ daughter, a widows son and Lazarus from the dead.  All that was very amazing indeed!  But, they had never seen Jesus curse anything.  This made a big impact on the them. When  Jesus spoke to them about the Fig tree, He was using it to show His disciples how the people of Israel were behaving, well - misbehaving.  They looked like they were doing right and were living for God, but they did not accept God’s Son,  Jesus.  They were fake.   Jesus was showing them that religious pretenders did not and would not ever bear fruit.  Just like the fake and fruitless Fig tree, these people were cursed. They knew He was very serious about the lesson He was teaching them.  The disciples did not want to be empty and fake on the inside and only pretending to be living for God on the outside.  They would listen very carefully from now on to everything Jesus had to say.  Then, they would do what He said.  They wanted to be good men that Jesus could call His friend.   

   But, so like Jesus it did not stop there. Jesus told them something that is great news for us still today that believe Him and have made Him Lord of our lives. He told the disciples that if they really have faith in God, and would not doubt Him or His Word, they could do things like this and more.  If it is God’s will, we can have whatever we ask for.  We have to know what God says we can have, and we can find that in our Bible.  All we have to do is just believe what God says is true, ask for it and receive it.  That is how we receive salvation and everything else from God. What wonderful news!!!!!!!  Jesus was telling the disciples that the authority He had, they would have too.  He was going to leave that power with them, with us. It is the power from the victory we will see at the end of the week. Tonight Jesus will go back to the Mount of Olives and sleep.  That is where He went to stay when He had to get out of the public’s eye after He had raised Lazarus from being dead.  He knows this night is one He must get rest because tomorrow will hold much for Him to do.

   Thank you Father for the patience you showed us through Your Son Jesus with every parable and lesson You taught us!