God, My Hope

Today’s Reading: John 14:1-14

“If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” – John 12:44-46

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” – John 14:1

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27

The disciples were unaware of what was ahead, but Jesus knew. He spoke the words he would want them to remember when times ahead became difficult – TRUST ME. Do not be troubled or afraid. Place your trust in me and I will give you peace of mind and heart.

These last few years, God has taken me on a journey of faith and trust. When faced with an unfamiliar situation, I can hear God say, “Trust me.” When faced with a tough decision, I can hear God say, “Trust me.” When asked to let go of something God has given me, I can hear God say, “Trust me.” When asked to walk away from the known into the unknown, I can still hear God say, “Trust me.”

There are many times when I have to trust God with my children, something that is often difficult to do. Other times I am at such a loss that it is easier to trust God with my children because I know I do not have the answers. I do know that God is God and I can trust Him. So when Libby leaves for her third year of college in a few weeks, I will need to trust God. A few days later when Madeira loads up and leaves for her first year of college, I choose to trust God. When Brooke gets behind the wheel and drives across town, I will trust God. God is good and He is generous. He is worthy of my trust and it is in Him that I put my hope.

This week we have been soaking in one of my favorite verses:

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

When what is ahead is unknown, we can submit to God’s sovereignty and say – I trust you, Lord. Show me your perfect ways and teach me how to walk the path you have set before me. Guide me in what is true and teach me what you need me to learn. You are my God and you are my Savior. I place my hope in you no matter what today brings. I trust you.

This morning, I pray that you hear God’s voice saying, “Trust me.” I pray the response of your heart is to say with confidence – You are God, my Savior, and my hope is in YOU all day long!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. The Lord gives his people strength. – Psalm 28:6-8a

But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands. – Psalm 31:14-15a

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. – Psalm 56:3

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. – 1 John 4:16

Can you add to this? What verse or words has the Lord given you when you need to trust Him in any situation? Find us on Facebook at My Morning Coffee and share a word of encouragement with all of us.

God, My Savior

Today’s Reading: Matthew 26:1-5, 14-35; Mark 14:1-2, 10-31; Luke 22:1-38; John 13:1-38

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.” – Matthew 26:1-5

HOW COULD HE? Caiaphas had been set apart from the rest of the community to carry out duties of worship and sacrifice. He was called to be a mediator of God’s presence. How many times had he heard or spoken the Ten Commandments? Did he hear the words “Thou shalt not murder” when he joined in with the others in this plot to kill Jesus.

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. – Matthew 26:14-16

HOW COULD HE? Judas had been chosen among all of Jesus’ followers to be one of the elite Twelve. They did not come to him, he went to them. He went out seeking an opportunity and found it. Judas had spent all of that time following Jesus without ever becoming a true follower of Jesus.

It was time for the Passover Lamb to be sacrificed, so the disciples asked Jesus where he wanted them to prepare the Passover meal. He sent them on ahead of him and they found a room already set up for this ceremonial moment. They began their preparations for this special time in the Jewish tradition – the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end…So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him…

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” – John 13:1, 4-5, 8

HOW COULD HE? How could the son of God stoop down to the level of a servant? How could the King of Kings humble himself to clean the dirty feet of those who were there to serve him?

After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that is what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” – John 13:12-16

Jesus turned to his disciples and told them that one of them would betray him. They were confused and wondered who it would be. Jesus dipped a piece of bread in the bowl and gave it to Judas. Judas ate the bread and scripture says that Satan entered into him. Jesus told him to hurry and do what he was going to do. No one understood but Judas, who left at once, going out into the night (John 13:21-30).

HOW COULD HE? How could Judas miss this opportunity to change his mind? How could he look into the eyes of Jesus and still walk away with a plan to betray him? There was a bigger plan in place – a battle waging around them that they were unaware of. Jesus was more than just a carpenter and a teacher, he was their Savior and the time had come for him to give his life for our salvation.

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this 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. Mark my words – I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” – Matthew 26:26-29

“I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:34-35

HOW COULD HE? How could Jesus keep talking about leaving them, about dying? Peter was so upset. He wanted to know where Jesus was going. He wanted to die for Jesus.

Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter – before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” – John 13:38

HOW COULD HE? How could Peter deny knowing the One who loved him so much and how could Judas betray the One who was willing to die for him? It was not part of the plan for Peter to die for Jesus. Jesus was going to die for Peter, for the rest of the disciples, and for all of us. God sent His son as the Passover Lamb and as a sacrifice for all of our sins.

We often walk away not understanding the bigger picture of God’s plan and why He allows some things to happen and others not to happen. But we are His children and He is our Savior. Let’s sit at His feet and learn from the One who was willing to die for us.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

Guide Me

Today’s Reading: Matthew 25:1-46; Luke 19:11-27

Every day Jesus would go to the temple to teach, and each evening he returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives (Luke 21:37). One evening while Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives his disciples came to him privately with their questions. “Tell us, when will this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).

Their request was like that of the psalmist and their desire to understand was very much like our own. Show me. Teach me. GUIDE ME.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

Jesus wanted to help them understand what was ahead so he painted three word pictures. These were the final stories or parables that Jesus used to teach his followers for this was the week before his death. What significance is there to what Jesus has saved for last?

Picture this: Ten bridesmaids stand waiting for the bridegroom, five have come prepared with extra oil for their lamps and five have not. By the time the bridegroom arrives, only five bridesmaids remain. The other five did not have enough oil to keep their lamps lit. They were not prepared for his coming and therefore missed their opportunity to go with the bridegroom to the marriage feast. The door was locked by the time they returned with more oil and they were left standing outside. It was too late (Matthew 25:1-13).

What keeps my light burning? When I neglect my time in God’s presence, I miss the chance to daily be filled with His Spirit. When I am not feeding my relationship with Jesus and I find myself empty, my light begins to fade. “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’” (25:12). The bridegroom is coming back for those he has a relationship with, those he knows by the Spirit living within them.

Picture this: A man is going on a long trip. He is going to be gone for a long time so he calls in his servants and entrusts them with his money while he is gone. He gives five bags of silver to one, two bags to another and one back to the last servant. When he returns, he finds that the one with five bags of silver has invested the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver has earned two more. To both of these servants, the Master responds, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”

However, the last servant has not been about his Master’s business while he was gone. Perhaps he was lazy or focused on his own treasures instead of building up treasures for his Master. The servant brings the one bag of silver back to his master, having done nothing with that which was entrusted to him. “You wicked and lazy servant!…Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – (Matthew 25:14-30)

What has God asked of me? To what has He called me? What am I doing with what He has entrusted to me? Is my life marked by multiplication or am I simply maintaining the status quo?

Picture this: The Son of Man comes in all His glory. Angels surround Him as He sits on His throne. All the nations have gathered in His presence and He begins to separate the people into two groups, as a shepherd would separate the sheep from the goats in his flock.

To those on His right, the King will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me…I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” – Matthew 25:34-40

To those on His left, the King will say, “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me…I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” – Matthew 25:41-45

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:46

Jesus’ time was nearing the end and he chose to talk to his closest companions about eternal punishment and eternal life. This topic was obviously very important to Jesus yet how often do I consider the reality of these two endings? How many of Jesus’ followers today accept the truth of Heaven and Hell.

Lord, give me eyes to PICTURE THIS – people around me with needs, both physical and spiritual. Help me to PICTURE THIS – YOU in the eyes of those in need around me, both physical needs and spiritual needs. Fill me with a love and passion for the unsaved that desires to save them from a life marked by hunger, nakedness, sickness and bondage. Give me eyes to PICTURE THIS – people around me walking on the path that leads to eternal punishment. Forgive me for taking their destiny lightly and only focusing on my own future with You. Master, may I hear you say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Matthew 25:21)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

Teach Me

Today’s Reading: Matthew 23:13-36 and 24:1-51; Mark 12:41-44, 13:1-37; Luke 21:1-38

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

Jesus’ time on earth was short and there was still so much he wanted his disciples to know. He took advantage of these last few days to teach his followers and prepare them for how they should live as they wait for his return.

6. BE GENEROUS: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law – justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” – Matthew 23:23-24

Justice – an average of 17,812 unborn babies are aborted every week in the United States, but the topic of abortion is rarely discussed in the church.

Mercy – we are quick to judge those who have walked away from the church instead of reaching out and loving them as Jesus would.

Faith – we say we have faith in God but do we trust Him with immediate obedience when He asks us to do something?

It’s not enough to attend church every time the doors are open, teach a Sunday School class, and tithe. It is more than just meeting a minimum standard, it is giving our lives! It’s about generosity.

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” – Mark 12:41-44

7. INWARD CONDITION, not OUTWARD APPEARANCES: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy – full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

“…For you are whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:25-28

Jesus, forgive me for all the times I have worried about what other people would think. Lord, wash me from the inside out. Purify my heart, Oh God!

8. ENDURE: “Then you will be arrested, persecuted and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:9-14

What is ahead will not be easy, but endure. We live in a world full of false teachings, let the truth of God endure. There is power in the gospel message and it will endure until all nations have heard the message of salvation.

9. KEEP WATCH: “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” – Matthew 24:42-44

No matter how hard things get, keep watch, be ready and stay faithful.

10. BE FAITHFUL: “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 24:45-51

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

Show Me

Today’s Reading: Matthew 21:23-27, 22:15-46, 23:1-12; Mark 11:27-33, 12:13-40; Luke 20:1-8, 20-47

As Jesus’ time on earth shortened, the religious leaders were ramping up their opposition to him, trying to trip him up through the questions they were asking. If they could get him to say the wrong thing, they would have a reason to have him arrested.

Jesus took advantage of this opportunity to teach his followers. His time was short and there was still so much he wanted them to know. Jesus focused on preparing them for how they should live their lives as they wait for his return.

His wisdom is still valid for us today as we wait for the day when Jesus will come back for us. His words are encouraging as we face persecution and opposition for our Christian values. Let’s simply sit at the feet of Jesus this morning and soak in all of the things he felt it was important for his followers to hear before he left them. Let’s start by sincerely praying the words of the psalmist:

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

1. GIVE: “…give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” – Matthew 22:21

There’s an element of honesty here. As we live in a community, we cooperate with the government and authorities by giving what is required of us. In the same way, we live a generous and honest life with God, giving the tithe that is required but also responding generously to anything He asks us to give.

2. STUDY: When the Sadducees asked him a question about the resurrection from the dead, Jesus said, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

By studying God’s word, I increase my knowledge of the Scriptures and gain a clearer understanding of who God is and how incredibly BIG He is! This understanding helps me face any situation before me.

3. LOVE: When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with the question of which commandment in the Law of Moses was the most important, Jesus answered: “’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” (Matthew 22:37-40).

The Law of Moses can be quite overwhelming. But if we focus on living our lives out of a deep love for God and love for others, the result will be a life marked by holy living.

4. PRACTICE: When we love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we live a life to please only Him rather than focusing on pleasing people. Our religion becomes more than just what we say but how we live. Unlike the Pharisees, we practice what we preach.

“So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show.” – Matthew 23:3-5a

5. BE HUMBLE: “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12

Lord, give me a servant’s heart. Create in me a heart that only desires what you desire. Lord, I want my life to be honest and generous, demonstrating a love for you and a love for others. Show me YOUR ways. Teach me your word and live through me in such a way that my life brings you glory, Father God. Amen.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.
– Psalm 25:4-5

At the Feet of Jesus

Today’s Reading: John 12:20-50; Psalm 55

What is on your mind this morning? What decision are you facing or what situation is heavy on your heart? This morning let’s simply sit AT THE FEET OF JESUS and listen to what He has to say. What do I need to hear today? What words of Jesus speak specifically of where I am and what is happening in my life today? Jesus, let your words wash over me fresh and new today.

Follow me…be where I am

Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” – John 12:23-26

Walk in the light…put your trust in the light

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so darkness will not over take you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” – John 12:35-36

Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” – John 12:44-46

Do as I have done to you

“I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” – John 13:15-17

Love each other

As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will soon give glory to the Son. Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:31-35

Don’t be troubled…trust in me

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:1-4

You know me

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” – John 14:6-7

Ask me for anything and I will do it!

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that he Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” – John 14:12-14

Perhaps today you will walk into a new situation and hear Jesus saying – I know you cannot see what is ahead but put your trust in me. Follow me. Be where I am. Walk in the light. Put your trust in the light. Do as I have done to you: Love each other. Don’t be troubled. Trust in me. You know me. Ask for anything and I will do it! What is He saying that speaks into where you are at or what is ahead for you today?

Morning, noon, and night
I cry out in my distress,
and the Lord hears my voice…

Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall…
I am trusting you to save me.
– Psalm 55:17, 22-23

What Will My Story Be?

Today’s Reading: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19; Psalm 115

When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. – John 12:9-11

LAZARUS’ STORY BROUGHT JESUS GLORY

Lazarus was making a difference in the lives of so many people because he allowed his story to be shared. Jesus had done something miraculous in his life and he used that miracle to share with others the difference Jesus could make in their lives. Once he was dead, but now he was alive! What Jesus had done for him became his story, but it did not stay Lazarus’ story. His healing was about Jesus; it was HIS story. It was used for Jesus’ glory and to bring others to Jesus, so that they could see for themselves the power of the Messiah.

Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. That was the reason so many went out to meet him – because they had heard about this miraculous sign. Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!” – John 12:17-19

The town of Bethany was on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, while Jerusalem was on the western side. So as Jesus was leaving Bethany to head to Jerusalem for the week of Passover, crowds began to form. Word was spreading that Jesus was back (the Jesus who had raised Lazarus from the dead) and lots of people were coming out to give him the triumphant welcome he deserved.

As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
“Tell the people of Jerusalem,
‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
– Matthew 21:1-5

NOT FOR THEIR PURPOSES BUT FOR JESUS’ GLORY

The only thing the owners had to hear was that the Lord needed what they had, and their response was to IMMEDIATELY let the disciples take them. They did not get possessive with what they owned or concerned whether they would ever see the animals again. They did not focus on the value of what was theirs but they shared with Jesus without questioning what he had planned. The donkey and its colt were no longer needed for their purposes as much as they were needed for Jesus’ glory. I like to believe that the owners followed the disciples; that they were in the crowd of people that day.

Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it, and he sat on it.

Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting.

“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
– Mark 11:7-10

What an incredible moment in history. Prophecy was being fulfilled and Jesus was receiving glory for all God was doing through him. But the reality was that not all of Jerusalem was ready to receive the Messiah. As Jesus came closer to Jerusalem, he began to weep over the condition of Jerusalem. He had come that all would experience life but he knew what was ahead. He knew this city would not accept their opportunity for salvation (Luke 19:41-44).

Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” – Matthew 21:12-13

JERUSALEM’S TEMPLE DENIED GOD THE GLORY

The Temple was built to give God’s people a place to worship Him. It was to be a building where God was glorified, but the people had lost their focus. The building was now more about ritual instead of relationship; about profit instead of the Great Prophet.

Jesus’ time on earth was drawing close to an end and the people were still so focused on themselves that they were missing the presence of the Messiah. Jesus’ words to the people held great purpose:

“Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” – John 12:23-26

MY STORY FOR JESUS’ GLORY

That is the desire of my heart this morning – to follow Jesus, to be where He is. I want everything God does in my life to be more than just my story, but to be for Jesus’ glory. I want my possessions to be available for His use and for His glory. I want to be in the crowd welcoming Jesus with garments and palm branches, instead of missing the moment because I am too caught up in the chaos of the Temple. I do not want Jesus to weep when he considers my future, but to be pleased with the plentiful harvest of his power at work in my life. Oh Jesus, this is my prayer!

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness. – Psalm 115:1

What Will My Response Be?

Today’s Reading: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11

In chapter 12, John gives account of several different responses to Jesus – these responses remind me of the various responses of people within the church today.

Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus – the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Not that he cared for the poor – he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. – John 12:1-6

The Passover was only six days away and I am sure there was much that needed to be done for this annual celebration, yet Lazarus and his sisters put aside their preparations in order to throw a dinner party in Jesus’ honor. What a year it had been for them! They recognized how different this Passover celebration would have been if Jesus had not intervened and raised Lazarus from the dead. God had blessed them greatly and they refused to forget His generosity. Instead they chose to be generous in return.

MARTHA’S RESPONSE WAS TO SERVE.

Martha is doing what she does best – serving. It is her love language. Lazarus is soaking in the presence of Jesus, thankful for the opportunity to share a meal together in brotherly fellowship and giving Jesus the gift of his time, probably recognizing that every minute of his life is a gift from Jesus. Martha and Lazarus remind me of my mother-in-law, Bonnie Sherwood. Three times she has been diagnosed with cancer and today she is cancer-free, not saved by human efforts but healed by God. She knows that every day is a gift from God and so she lives out her love language of serving God by serving others and she soaks in every opportunity to worship in Jesus’ presence.

MARY’S RESPONSE WAS TO GIVE SACRIFICIALLY.

Mary’s response to Jesus is beautiful in her own way, perhaps describing her love language – sacrifice. There was nothing too expensive for Jesus, nothing she was unwilling to do in order to express her devotion to the Savior. The house was filled with the fragrance. Mary’s gift and worship had an impact on the entire house, affecting the experience of everyone in her vicinity. When we give our best to God, when we serve and worship Him in reckless abandon, all those around us are impacted by that kind of sacrifice – by that kind of gift.

JUDAS’ RESPONSE WAS ONE OF SELFISHNESS AND GREED.

Judas was thinking only of himself. His concern was first for his own experience, disregarding the heart of Jesus and the needs of others. He had an attitude of possessiveness and entitlement.

These various responses can sadly been seen today among the body of Christ. Consider these examples and ask God to reveal your heart.

– The Church announces a work day. Martha signs up to help, Mary offers to buy the cleaning supplies and Judas says, “I was at the last work day. It is someone else’s turn to clean.”
– A teenager who is rough around the edges, struggling with some addictions and coming from an unchurched family walks in the door. Martha offers him a ride to all future youth group events, Mary offers to pay his way to camp and Judas complains that there are cigarette butts in the Church parking lot now.
– The State posts the abortion statistics for the local community and the lives of 350 babies are reflected in last year’s numbers. Martha volunteers her time and Mary writes a check to the local pregnancy center, while Judas looks the other way and complains if the Church brings up the topic of abortion – after all, it makes everyone uncomfortable.
– A man walks out on his wife and kids, filing for divorce. Martha volunteers to babysit, Mary brings over a week’s worth of groceries, and Judas says, “There’s always two sides to every story – I’m sure she shares some of the fault in their marriage going bad. Pastor, you need to find someone else to teach her Sunday School class.”

WHAT WILL MY RESPONSE BE?

Heavenly Father, reveal to me any “Judas” traits I might have. Forgive me for the times when I have put my own desires ahead of the needs of others, or the times when I have been too busy to honor you. Forgive me for the times when I have judged others instead of showing love. Help me to always see how different my life would be without your intervention and healing.

Lord Jesus, may I never forget your generosity but always be generous towards you. May the fragrance of my devotion to you be a blessing to all those in the house. Grow the “Martha” and “Mary” in me so that my first response is service and generosity. Like Lazarus, thank you for allowing me to experience your presence this morning as I drink my morning coffee.

Invite Them to the Table

Today’s Reading: Matthew 20:1-16; Luke 19:1-10

Jesus told a parable that I believe we often read over and move on too quickly. I think Jesus knew our humanity enough to know we would battle selfishness and jealousy. We would be quick to respond with a feeling of injustice and cry out, “That’s not fair!” But Jesus wanted to transform the hearts of his disciples and he wants to transform our hearts also.

PEOPLE IN THE MARKETPLACE

There once was a landowner who hired workers for his vineyard, agreeing to pay them a normal daily wage. A few hours later, he saw some people standing in the marketplace with nothing to do – no purpose, no plans. He hired them to also work in his vineyard. At noon and then again at 3pm and 5pm, the landowner hired more people from the marketplace, sending them to work in his vineyards.

At the end of the day, the foreman paid the last workers first, giving them each a full day’s wage. When those hired early in the morning came through the line, they also received a full day’s wage. Can you imagine their shock?

“Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.”

The landowner responded, “Friends, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?”

Jesus took this opportunity to make a strong statement to all those listening: “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” – (Matthew 20:1-16)

The injustice in the eyes of the people is that those who spend the majority of their life producing fruit for the Master could end up with the same reward as those who live a long life of sin, accepting late in life the salvation that comes through Jesus. Too often we focus on how someone has spent a great deal of their life not following Jesus, seeing only the scars of their sins.

PEOPLE IN THE TREETOPS

Or perhaps we get so caught up in working for God that we no longer see those standing in the marketplace with no purpose, no plan. We pass them by in a hurry to get to the vineyard. We no longer look up in the treetops to see who is curious about God from a distance because they do not feel worthy of walking into our fellowship to get to know Christ.

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. – Luke 19:1-2

Although Zacchaeus was a Jew, he worked for Rome collecting taxes from other Jews. The only way a tax collector would gain wealth in this job was to charge Jews a great deal more than he was required to give to Rome. He was dishonest and disloyal, considered a traitor and a cheat.

He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” – Luke 19:3-10

How often do we walk around the “trees” because we despise the sins of others?
How often do we ignore the “trees” and those who are potentially seeking Jesus?
How often do we give up on others, assuming they are too steeped in sin to repent?

PEOPLE AT THE TABLE

In 2015, our family went to Nazarene Youth Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. On Sunday morning, we were challenged by Eric Samuel Timm to see others as Jesus would see them. The Jewish people saw Zacchaeus as wicked but Jesus saw only who Zacchaeus was meant to be. We need to see people differently. We need to see them as Jesus does.

Let’s start looking for people in trees and invite them to the table. Let’s take notice of those standing in the marketplace and invite them to come work in the vineyard. This is not an invitation only country club. All are welcome, for the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.

Lord, give us a burden for the lost that changes the way we see those around us today. Give us EYES TO SEE and HEARTS TO NOTICE the need of salvation in those we come in contact with each day. Amen.

The Unknown

Today’s Reading: John 11:45-57; Mark 10:32-45; Matthew 20:17-19; Psalm 56

Because I can look back on yesterday,
and understand NOW what God was teaching me THEN,
I can trust Him with my TODAY
knowing that God has a plan for my TOMORROW.

In the same way, the disciples did not fully understand everything Jesus was teaching them until after his death and resurrection. Early on in his ministry, Jesus began talking about his death. The disciples were slow to understand but Jesus was preparing them, little by little, for what was ahead. As time went on, he would give them a little more information about the suffering that was coming.

Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. – Mark 8:31

Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. – Mark 2:19-20

Consider again what Jesus said to Peter, James and John after the Transfiguration on the mountain.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” – Mark 9:7-10

God could have opened up the minds of the disciples and helped them to understand how Scripture was being fulfilled. Jesus could have had a lengthy conversation with His followers, clearly revealing His role and what was about to take place.

SOMETIMES GOD REVEALS THINGS A LITTLE AT A TIME – ALL AS A PART OF HIS LARGER PLAN.

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. – Mark 9:31b-32

They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear. – Mark 10:32a

They did not understand what was about to happen, yet they could feel the enormity of what was coming. They had a choice, yet they continued to follow Jesus. Their love for Jesus and their faith in him was enough to continue moving forward, regardless of their fear or anticipation of the unknown.

The disciples still did not understand what was about to happen – the unknown. As we look over the gospel accounts, we see moments when Jesus spoke so clearly to them about what was about to happen. They heard yet they did not fully understand. Something was about to happen that would forever change them. They could feel the anticipation and fear what was to come, but they still experienced confusion about God’s larger plan that was unfolding. Can you relate to how they were feeling?

SOMETIMES WE CONTINUE MOVING FORWARD REGARDLESS OF THE CONFUSION, FEAR AND ANTICIPATION.

“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.” – Mark 10:33-34

“…Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?…” – Mark 10:38b

“…For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of light.” – John 12:35-36a

There have been many times in my life when I was able to look back and see the evidence of how God was preparing me for my current situation. I did not understand at the time, but later God increased my understanding. Looking back, I can see how various experiences in my life were shaping me into the person I needed to be for God’s plan. I can look back and see how God was revealing, little by little, things I needed to learn for a future purpose.

Because I can look back on yesterday, as the disciples did,
and understand NOW what God was teaching me THEN,
I can trust Him with my TODAY
knowing that God has a plan for my TOMORROW.

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you…
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised…
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.
– Psalm 56:3, 9-13