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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Children of God

1 John 3:2 (ESV)
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Just look at it—we’re called children of God!

We know that God is the Father who has extended His marvelous love towards us. Directly after emphasizing this, the Apostle John reminds us that we, if we have chosen to follow Jesus, are called “children of God.” This is who we really are. This is our true identity. Our self-image is not based on what we do. Our self-worth is not founded on our achievements. No, our true identity is built upon something more lasting and secure. What better foundation than the central revelation of the New Testament—that those who know Jesus are the adopted sons and daughters of the Father? Is that how you see yourself? If not, let me urge you to build your identity on this truth. Let me encourage you to do what the Apostle John says here and “just look at it.” Consider, reflect, ponder this truth and then revel in its beauty. If you do, you will always have a profound assurance that your security is in your position as a child of God, not in your work.

Dear Lord, we want to give You praise that You love us for who we are—a child of God. Thank You for this honor. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The love of all loves

1 John 3:1-3 (ESV)

1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us!

There is no greater joy in life than to know that God is our loving Father, yet many people, including those within the Church, have not experienced this unspeakable joy. Many have been wounded by their earthly fathers and, as a result, project their own experience of fatherhood onto God the Father. They then create God in their earthly father’s image—seeing God as an absent or abandoning parent. Others have a picture of God as a distant and vengeful Father. None of this is an accurate representation of the picture that Jesus paints. Jesus came to reveal the marvelous love of the Father. Yes God is King. Yes God is Lord. Yes God is Judge. But pre-eminently He is the Father who loved this orphaned planet so deeply that He sent His one and only Son to turn slaves into sons and orphans into heirs. This is the highest blessing of all—to know that God is the world’s greatest Father. If you have lacked a good father on earth, know this: you have a perfect Father in Heaven and He has extended His marvelous love to you in Jesus.

Dear Lord, we thank You that You are not remote but relational. Help us to enjoy a greater intimacy with You as we continue to study Your word. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Our true identity

2 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV)
And I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.

“You’ll be sons and daughters to me.”

Every good father has a dream for his children. “I’ll be a Father to you.” That’s been His plan since before the foundation of the world. But there’s more. Not only does God want us to know His true identity; He also wants us to know our true identity. If He is our Father, then what does that make us? If we choose to follow His Son, Jesus Christ, it makes us His sons and daughters. This is the greatest joy of all—to know that God is the Father we’ve all been waiting for, and to revel in the privilege of being His adopted sons and daughters. This is His dream for our lives. Let’s make it our highest goal to enter into the fullness of what it means to be the sons and daughters of the greatest Father of all. Let’s make it our life’s goal to be the best sons and the best daughters that we could possibly be to our Father in Heaven. This is the Father’s dream for our lives. Let’s make it our dream too!

Dear Lord, we thank You that You’ve called us to be Your adopted child. Help us to build our identity on this wonderful honor. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Heavenly invitation

2 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV)
And I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

“I’ll be a Father to you.”

What is the most important verse in the Bible? Many people would answer, “John 3:16: God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” However, this verse from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth can make a very big claim as well. In a way, the entire plan and purpose of God can be summed up in the words, “I’ll be a Father to you.” This has been God’s plan ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. When that happened, human beings became separated from the Father’s love. In effect, we became spiritual orphans—no longer able to relate to God as our Father. But thanks to Jesus, all that has changed! Jesus is the answer to our orphan state. He came into this world to die for our sins and adopt us into the Father’s family on earth. Now we can call God “Father” and rest in His arms of love. In this book of devotions, Jesus is inviting us to respond to these timeless words: “I’ll be a Father to you.”

Dear Lord, thank You for Your invitation to know You as Father. With all of our heart we say “Yes.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Power in Group Prayer

Galatians 6:2 (ESV)
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

To get through what you’re going through, you need to recruit other people to pray for you.

This is very easy when you’re in a small group. When you’re going through a tough time and you’re not in a small group, you are unprotected. You don’t have the strength that people in a small group do because you don’t have people praying for you.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:11, “You are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety”.

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know how this works. But there is additional power in group prayer that is not there when you just pray for yourself. There is more power in group prayer than in the single power of you praying for yourself.

The Bible says, “If any two agree as touching anything it shall be done” and “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

You need that power to get through what you’re going through. That’s why you need to be in a small group. That’s why you need to ask them to pray for you.

The Bible says in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. What is the law of Christ? “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When you pray for other people, you are loving your neighbor as yourself. When they pray for you, they are loving you as themselves.

Dear Lord, we thank You that we can pray to You. We thank You for those that will pray with us. We pray that we will always be faithful through our prayers. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Your Pain Often Reveals God’s Purpose

2 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV)
Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Your pain often reveals God’s purpose for you. God never wastes a hurt! If you’ve gone through a hurt, he wants you to help other people going through that same hurt. He wants you to share it. God can use the problems in your life to give you a ministry to others. In fact, the very thing you’re most ashamed of in your life and resent the most could become your greatest ministry in helping other people.

Who can better help somebody going through a bankruptcy than somebody who went through a bankruptcy? Who can better help somebody struggling with an addiction than somebody who’s struggled with an addiction? Who can better help parents of a special needs child than parents who raised a special needs child? Who can better help somebody who’s lost a child than somebody who lost a child?

The very thing you hate the most in your life is what God wants to use for good in your life.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1, verses 4 and 6, “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things”.

This is called redemptive suffering. Redemptive suffering is when you go through a problem or a pain for the benefit of others.

This is what Jesus did. When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t deserve to die. He went through that pain for your benefit so that you can be saved and go to Heaven.

There are many different causes for the problems, pains, and suffering in your life. Sometimes the stuff that happens you bring on yourself. When you make stupid decisions, then it causes pain in your life. If you go out and overspend and buy things you can’t afford and presume on the future, and then you go deeply in debt and lose your house, you can’t say, “God, why did you let me lose my house?” You can’t blame God for your bad choices.

But in some of your problems, you’re innocent. You’ve been hurt by the pain, stupidity, and sins of other people. And some of the pain in your life is for redemptive suffering. God often allows us to go through a problem so that we can then help others.

Dear Lord, we pray that You would open our eyes when we struggle so that we can use what we learned to help others. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Never Doubt the Light

2 Corinthians 1:12 (ESV)
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Regardless of your circumstances and how you feel, hang on to God’s unchanging character.

2 Corinthians 1:12 says, “Now that the worst is over, we're pleased we can report that we've come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world — and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn't by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised.”

Your circumstances cannot change the character of God. God’s grace is still in full force; he is still for you, even when you don’t feel it.

Remind yourself what you know to be eternally true about God: He is good, he loves you, he is with you, he knows what you’re going through, he cares, and he has a good plan for your life.

Raymond Edman, one of Billy Graham’s mentors, once said, “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”

So, what has God told you in the light that you now doubt in the dark? Why do you think you doubt God now? Remember, your circumstances cannot change the character of God.

Dear Lord, help us to never doubt what You have shown us. Help us to be faithful to what You have taught us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Don't Give in to Your Fears

2 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

God is watching over you, so don’t listen to your fears. This is a choice. Trust God, and don’t give in to your fears.

God’s promise to believers is that, no matter what happens to us, he is working for our good — if we love him and follow him. If you're a believer, the Bible says all things are working together for good — not that all things are good but that they are working together for good.

That means we can stop listening to our fears. There is no difficulty, dilemma, defeat, or disaster in the life of a believer that God can’t ultimately get some good out of. There is no need to fear the future.

Your fears reveal where you do not trust God. Today, make a list of your fears, and ask God to help you identify why you have fear in those areas. Then, ask him to help you replace your fears with trust.

Now, this next step is important: Expect God to start helping you learn to trust him with each fear. Then, watch to see how he helps you.

Dear Lord, we thank You that You will take our fears away from us. Help us to fully trust You today in all we do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Light in the Dark Times

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV)
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

Did Jesus suffer? Was he sometimes lonely? Was he tempted to be discouraged? Was he misunderstood, maligned, and criticized unjustly?

Of course! None of us are exempt from suffering, loneliness, discouragement, or unjust criticism, because God is developing within us the character of Christ, and, in order to do this, he must take us through all of the circumstances in life through which he took Christ.

Does this mean God causes tragedies? No. God is good, and he will not cause evil or do evil. But God can use dark and stressful times for good. He'll use them to teach us to trust him, to show us how to help others, and to draw us closer to other believers.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:8b-9, “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead”.

So, what should you do when you’re going through difficult times?

First, you refuse to be discouraged. Then, you remember God is with you. Finally, you rely on God’s protection and guidance.

We all go through difficult times. The difference for those who believe in Jesus is not the absence of the shadow but the presence of the Light.

Dear Lord, we thank You for being the light in our dark world.  We pray that we would focus on the light rather than the darkness. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

He is risen. He is risen, indeed!

Luke 24:34 (ESV)
Saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”

As we look at the shocking picture of Jesus’ pathetic lifeless body hanging on the cross. It might be difficult for us to take in that picture. Well, the good news is that it does not end there with us glorifying a decaying body. Psalm 30: 3 is a prophetic pronouncement that, Jesus will not remain in the pit, is fulfilled.

The depressing dark picture slowly is beginning to take on some color as the sun’s rays come streaming in. Psalm 30: 5 is a promise that we might spend the night weeping but there is joy in the morning. A shocking and unexpected event had occurred. Jesus is risen, he had literally risen from the dead. The frightened disciples are now unfazed and unafraid; he had risen indeed!

This led to the confident proclamation of the disciples that if Christ had not been raised from the dead all their preaching and teaching is in vain (I Corinthians 15: 13-14). We can easily conceive of a religion like Christianity without the resurrection. With just the life and teachings of Jesus it would still look good. There was no need for the disciples to include the resurrection. The only reason they did was because the event did actually occur.

However, now in the light of Jesus’ resurrection, his life and teachings take on renewed meaning! He becomes a standard for mankind. If Jesus is risen his teaching is no longer good advice but is the key to the good life. The invisible one we pray to is really out there. We no longer guess. We know! Now that we know, it is a sobering reminder that we humans can actually communicate with God. That is why our relationship is not dependent on the clause, “if you are the son of God” rather it is “remember me.”

This morning as you celebrate Easter Sunday, remember, that Jesus is really alive and that He remembers you and is willing to accompany you along life’s journey. We need no longer resign to death, suffering and failure instead let us look forward to resurrection possibilities in our circumstances.

Dear Lord, Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for the victory and power in your Name. Thank you that you hold the keys over death, that by your might, Jesus was raised from the grave, paving the way for us to have new life with you. Thank you that you had plan, that you made a way. Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. Set you way before us. May all your plans succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to a world that so desperately needs your presence and healing. In the resurrected Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit

Luke 23:44-47 (ESV)
44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

The last words of Jesus on the cross explains the way He lived His whole life. He had committed his entire life here on earth to His father and now He commits His death to His father too.

We must not merely see these words as the last words of a resigned frail dying man. Jesus is quoting from Psalm 31:5! He is confidently handing over his spirit to his father. He has completed his earthly work and is handing over his spirit into his father’s hand.

From the cross Jesus is teaching us that our spirit, no matter what condition it is in, is safe in Gods hand. We can trust God with our life. Trust is built on a relationship. Jesus has no doubt about the character of his father. Although, in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus’ prayer goes unanswered, yet he does not doubt his father’s love.

In the garden, he concludes that the father's will takes precedence over his will. And now on the cross he affirms that decision when he entrusts his spirit to the father. Are you struggling with unanswered prayers? Trust God, boldly. Heed the advice of Psalm 31:7, “I will rejoice and be glad in your faithful love.” Remember, joy has very little to do with our circumstances.

We too can rejoice and be glad in God’s faithful love. The shocking picture of the cross with Jesus’ body on it is a symbol of God’s faithful love. For me, Jesus hanging on the cross resembles the picture of the prodigal son hanging on his father. Tired, filthy and worn out and yet loved by his father. Jesus, in some sense becomes the prodigal when he stepped into our mess. Yet, in the story of the prodigal son, the father gives him a kiss on the neck and his life is changed for the better.

Give your life to him and experience his faithful love. Regardless of the condition in which your life is, come to him, just as you are. Hand over your life to God and he will love you and give you a kiss and your life will change for the better.

Dear Lord, we commit our spirit to you. We ask that You would take it and give it a kiss. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, April 19, 2019

It is finished

John 19:30 (ESV)
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

I can think of three different meanings to “it is finished.” In one sense it communicates a sense of resignation and negativity. Your career is finished, your money is finished, your family is finished and you might think you are finished. The world we live encourages negativity and self-pity. ‘It is finished’ is the acceptance of defeat.

Then there is the perspective of Jesus’ enemies. They were happy that Jesus was finished. They put him on a cross and expected to put an end to his life, his teachings and his movement. But they were wrong. In history on several occasions there have been attempts to finish Christians and Christianity. But Christians have survived. I am still here and you are there reading this devotion.

Then there is a positive “It is finished.” Ah, what relief those three words bring to us especially at the end of any project, a sickness, a court case or a Ph.D., dissertation. When Jesus says, “It is finished,” he means he has fulfilled his mission. It is a proclamation of completion. Jesus’ ministry began with the words, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” It ends with Jesus’ confident proclamation, that the work that he had come to do is finished. He had submitted his will to the father from the beginning to the end.

In his high priestly prayer Jesus prays, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; and now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made (John 17:4-5). The cross was Christs act of obedience.

The cross is not the demand of a blood thirsty God rather it is an act of a merciful God. Imagine us humans in a pit unable to get out. Then imagine God as a loving parent entering that pit, clearing all the filth and dragging us out. Jesus enters the system, purifies it from within and redeems us.

Dear Lord, we pray that You would take our negativity and change it to positivity. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

I thirst

John 19:28-29 (ESV)
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.

He was thirsty on the cross and he accepted the drink offered to him. Two drinks were offered to Jesus. One, in Mark 15:23, sour wine mixed with myrrh to dull the pain which he did not accept. Two, In John 19:28-29 he accepts the other drink which was meant purely to satisfy his parched throat.

Jesus has been thirsty before. He asked the Samaritan woman for water. However, he turned his thirst into a conversation about quenching her spiritual thirst with living waters.

Two reminders for today.

One, Jesus turned his thirst into quenching the spiritual thirst of the woman. Here too we can, by way of extension, turn his thirst into quenching the spiritual and emotional longings of people. In Matthew 5:6, he says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

When you walk up the stairs of the Mother Teresa ashram in Kolkata you cannot but notice Jesus hanging on the cross and painted on the wall beside the crucifix are the words – I Thirst – in bold. It is interesting to hear Mother Teresa’s explanation, “They serve as a constant reminder of the purpose of the Missionaries of Charity. They remind us what a Missionary of Charity is here for: to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls, for love, for kindness, for compassion, for delicate love.” There are many people out there to whom Jesus would make a world of a difference.

Two, we would have run to Jesus with something to quench his thirst on the cross. Today we have the opportunity to go out and meet the physical needs of people around us. This is not something strange, Jesus talks about this in Matthew 25:35. He wants us to see him in the sufferings of others and lend them a helping hand.

Dear Lord, help us to take the rest we have found in You to restless hearts all around us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46 (ESV)
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

What a heart wrenching question from the mouth of Jesus. The son who has been sharing an unhindered relationship with his father since eternity, is now driven to say these words. While we might think he is tempted to doubt his father’s love, he positions his circumstance against the backdrop of scripture and quotes from Psalm 22:1. From the depths of his pain he quotes scripture. Jesus’ life is so steeped in scripture.

Just as Psalm 22 is the cry of a community, Jesus here is identifying with the sufferings of this world and experiences what it means to be concealed from God’s love. He enters our struggle and abandonment and experiences what each one of us has to go through when we abandon the love of God for other lesser loves. The writer Augustine expresses this beautifully, Jesus is praying as the head and as the body.

This cry is a reminder that Jesus unites all our suffering. As Christians, we are reminded here that our suffering is not private. Jesus associates with us. Our suffering is also not private because we are a community of believers. Ideally, we ought to suffer with those who are suffering.

Today, let us remember that our suffering is not an isolated experience but we have Jesus who suffers with us. Let us also remember those who are suffering so that we may enter into their circumstances and offer our help and assistance.

We might feel Jesus isn’t doing enough to alleviate our suffering. Instead, he seems to plunge us deeper. That is right, he plunges us deeper by helping us realize that our suffering is not in vain. It is not meant to be an individual experience but a cooperative experience of redemption. Jesus’ involvement in human suffering and his cry of abandonment must serve as a model for us to stand in the gap and help.

Dear Lord, help us to step into, walk with and alleviate the pain of those who are suffering. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!

John 19:25-27 (ESV)
25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

This is the second time Jesus is referring to his mother as “Woman.” The first time was at the beginning of his ministry at the wedding of Cana. And now at the end of his earthly life he refers to her as “Woman.” At the start of his ministry she spoke and expected him to obey. Now at the end of his earthly life she sits quietly by his cross.

Mary is a model mother, who steers her children to go out and do something but continues to stand by her children when the going gets tough. Parents have the privilege of steering their children to accomplish something beautiful. However, there are also times when parents are brought to their knees to silently cry for their children.

While Mary was crying, Jesus was making all things new. This offers hope to parents that Jesus is going to make all things new. The tears for our children will not be in vain. He will, indeed, make all things new.

The relationship children share with their mothers is most special. Mothers usually care for their children in ways most fathers struggle to. Here, we find at the foot of the cross when most people have abandoned Jesus, his mother, his aunty, 2 Marys and John.

It is difficult to be the mother of a misunderstood child. I have seen mothers argue on behalf of their children who they think deserve more. Mary here, is portrayed quiet at the foot of the cross where her bleeding son hangs. What the silence implied is difficult for us to comprehend.

Maybe, Jesus heard her heart's cry and the loneliness she might be feeling and said, “Woman, here is your son,” and then looking at John he said, “This is your mother.” We have an opportunity this season to reach out to our parents and offer them our company as they wade through the struggles of old age.

Like John, we can also reach out to the elderly in our community; welcome them into our homes. Or visit them, listen to them, or simply just give them company.

Dear Lord, hear our heart's cry and help us to hear the silent cries of the elderly wherever they might be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Today you will be with me in paradise.

Luke 23:39-43 (ESV)
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The promise of salvation is not just for the future. It is also for today. There were two prisoners on either side of Jesus. Each of them had a view of Jesus that might resonate with anyone of us. The first one, in continuation of the mocking that Jesus had already received, challenges him to perform a miracle: “If you are the son of God, save yourself and us.”

This challenge was not new for Jesus. Even before he began his ministry Satan had asked him a similar question: “If you are the son of God, change these stones into bread.” Sometimes, we are tempted to ask Jesus the same question: “If you are the son of God, do this for me…”

To Satan he responded with scripture. To the first prisoner he chose to stay silent. He didn’t see the need to defend his identity.

Conversely, the second criminal on the cross does not want Jesus to ‘perform’.  Rather, he wants Jesus to ‘remember’ him. So to the second prisoner Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus’ ultimate answer to every one of our requests is – heaven.

Yet, he reminds us that heaven is not merely a place. It is a person. “You will be with me.” Heaven is where Jesus is. The offer of heaven is himself. He can make heaven enter into our lives if we are willing to allow him to make his home in our hearts. Jesus can help us change the perspective of our experiences.

The second criminal surprisingly viewed Jesus as ‘The King’ despite Jesus’ powerlessness. He asked Jesus for the most important thing – to remember him. Don’t we all get a boost when someone great remembers us? What a privilege for us to see Jesus now in all his power and know that he remembers us!

Today let us remember two things. One, heaven is not only a place to arrive at but we can have a foretaste of it, here on earth, with Jesus in our hearts. Two, Jesus has regained his splendor and majesty and he remembers us by name.

Dear Lord, help us to live everyday with the knowledge that You remember each of us. Help us to share that great gift with those around us today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do

Luke 23:34 (ESV)
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

In the movie – The Passion of the Christ – the suffering of Jesus is portrayed very accurately. You can imagine what Jesus had just been through. He had been spat upon, his hair and beard pulled, they made fun of him, they ridiculed his teaching, they slapped him, they whipped him and they pressed a crown of thorns into his head. Eventually they nailed him to the cross. And this is what he says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Even from the cross Jesus along with the father forgives his perpetrators. The union that he shares with his father is evident even in his forgiveness. Jesus teaches us that when injustice is being done to us the father takes it personally. Likewise, when we forgive we are forgiving on behalf of the father.

Jesus then reminds us that sin is ignorance. When we sin we become ignorant. We become so ignorant that despite being aware of the consequences of our behavior we still choose to go ahead with our action. Jesus reminds us from the cross that we can accept his forgiveness and change our ways.

Forgiveness is a very difficult decision. But it is a very important decision. More than anything,  it offers us, the victim, freedom. We must strive to forgive, because the father has forgiven us. With God all things are possible. So with God’s help let us try to forgive. Additionally, with the power of the Holy Spirit let us hope for our pain to be transformed into compassion and our memory into prayer and intercession.

The cross is at the center of our journey as Christians. Jesus reminds us from the cross that forgiveness comes from the father's loving heart and we must extend this forgiveness to others.

Dear Lord, thank you for the relief that Your forgiveness brings to our life. Help us find others to offer it today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

I Have a Hope that Never Dies

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Life without the empty tomb would be hopeless.

The very existence of Christianity depends on the truth of the empty tomb. Without Jesus fulfilling the promise to rise from the dead, where would we be?

Mary Magdalene saw it with her own eyes though. Mary Magdalene, the woman who was once possessed and didn’t know hope until Jesus found her, was the one to first see it with her own eyes. And not only did she see the empty tomb, she saw Jesus. Jesus came to her and spoke her name.

He simply spoke her name and things changed for Mary Magdalene. Hope had come back into her life.

When he walked out of that tomb, Jesus brought hope to the hopeless. He conquered death. He conquered death.

1 Corinthians 15:55 says, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Our victory is in Jesus. Our victory is in his life, his death, and, praise God, his resurrection. The resurrection means everything. The resurrection validates that Jesus was who he said he was. It validates every word Jesus ever said. It shows us that Jesus can be trusted. He does what he says he will do.

The resurrection gives us unbreakable hope.

Will you say yes to that hope today? Will you live fully today because of the victory we have in Jesus?

Today’s Challenge: Be joyful today. We have the ultimate hope. And if someone asks why you have so much joy today, tell them why.

Dear Lord we thank You for the hope that we have through what You did for each of us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, April 12, 2019

I Have the Promise of Eternal Life

Romans 6:23 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Are you and I any different than the thieves that hung on the cross with Jesus?

Think about it. We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. Just like the two thieves who died next to Jesus.

The question today is: Which thief are you going to be? One thief joined the crowds and mocked Jesus. He said, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” I wonder what it was like that day. Were the witnesses of Jesus’ death giving in to peer pressure and mocking because everyone else was doing it? Either way, one thief joined the jeers.

The other thief was changed. His heart had experienced the truth of Jesus while he hung on that cross. He was repentant and confessed his sins. Jesus said to him in Luke 23: 43, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus saved a thief being executed right then and there. We don’t know any details of his wrongdoings. We don’t even know his name. Do you think that’s symbolic? Perhaps Jesus is saying it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. Place your trust in me and you will live with me for all eternity.

Breathe that in for a minute.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”

We can’t save ourselves but glory to God He can. God has given us this breathtaking promise through Jesus.

Will you trust today that God wants to give you the gift of eternal life?

Today’s Challenge: Schedule 10 minutes of quiet time for yourself today. Listen for God as you’re quiet. Or perhaps pray to Him that He will help you trust that this gift of eternal life is real.

Dear Lord, we thank You today that You paid the price for our sin. We thank You that because You took our sins upon You we can have eternal life with You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

My Life Has a Plan

Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

When a baby is born there is often celebration. There are tears of joy. There are prayers of thanksgiving. There is pure wonder.

Imagine what Mary must have been feeling as she held the son of God in her arms for the first time—her son. Did she have plans for Jesus? Did she have hopes for her baby boy? Of course she did—what mama doesn’t have those types of plans for her children?

Not many mamas I know would have plans that would include a violent death. So as Mary watched her son hang on the cross, the sorrow and pain for her had to have been unfathomable.

This wasn’t the happy ending she pictured for her baby boy. Far from it—it was a nightmare.

But when God is the author of our stories, they often play out quite differently than had we been our own authors. God’s will doesn’t exclude pain and suffering. And that sometimes seems senseless to us.

How senseless the death of Jesus must have seemed to Mary. Do you think that when Jesus spoke to Mary from the cross, Mary had a feeling of hope or comfort? Do you think it was being revealed to her little by little that Jesus’ death was God’s plan of hope for His people all along?

When life seems unclear, God can be trusted. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Will you rest today knowing that God has a beautiful plan for your life?

Today’s Challenge: Take a small gift to a tired mother you may know. Read Romans 8:28 to her. Pray with her. Pray that she will trust her children’s lives in God’s hands no matter what that means.

Dear Lord, we thank You that we can trust our children’s life in Your hands. Help us to be the encouragement someone needs today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

My Pain Is Understood

Hebrews 4:15 (ESV)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Poverty. Disease. Injustice. Brokenness. Death. We live in a fallen world that includes immense pain.

We often ask God why there is so much pain. If you’re good, God, why won’t you stop the pain? We ask ourselves these questions and don’t often find the answers we're looking for.

The life of Jesus though… The life of Jesus can assure you and me that God knows our pain. He has felt our pain. And He understands our pain.

Think about everything He endured on this earth. Hurt from relationships. Torture. Mocking. Physical beatings. Death on a cross. He has felt our relational pain and he has felt physical pain.

The difference between us and Jesus is that Jesus suffered willingly. With his suffering came a promise to you and to me, a promise of compassion. God gave his son to die for us. Jesus endured that death.

While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26 tells us that Jesus felt unbearable stress. He says in verse 39, “‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as a I will, but as you will.” He understands deep pain.

God knows. He sees. He understands.

Will you let Jesus’ suffering on this earth help you to understand that you are truly not alone?

Today’s Challenge: Read Isaiah 53:3-5 to a friend or family member. Listen to the words as you read and then explain to your loved one why their pain is understood. Make the connection between our pain and Jesus’ pain.

Dear Lord, we thank You for knowing our pain. We thank You for the things You went through for each of us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

My Life Can Change

Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV)
3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Have you ever done something you never thought you would do? And not something for which you are proud. The other kind.

Hours before his death, Jesus was betrayed by two of his followers—his friends. Judas and Peter both did something they never thought they would do. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Peter denied his friend three times within a matter of minutes.

Can you feel the guilt both of these men felt after they committed these acts? I can feel it. I’ve felt it. Ever done something for which you assumed God would never forgive? Haven’t we all? Usually when we feel this guilt, we’re brought to one of two places: remorse or repentance.

Judas tried to give the money he earned for his betrayal back to the chief priests. But that act wouldn’t erase his guilt. It didn’t change his responsibility in the death of Jesus. His remorse and sorrow couldn’t heal him. He ultimately committed suicide.

Peter wept and repented. Later Jesus would reinstate Peter and ask him to watch over His sheep. Jesus wanted to use Peter because even though he made mistakes, he still loved Jesus deeply.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."

Your life can change when you trust Jesus, when you admit your mistakes and give them to him.

Will you let Jesus’ love for Peter and forgiveness for his mistakes lead you to repentance and godly sorrow?

Today’s Challenge: Make a list of yesterday’s sins. Read the list aloud to God. Ask His forgiveness and then rip the list up and throw it in the trash because He forgives you.

Dear Lord, we thank You that no matter the sin we have committed that You have already forgiven us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.