What Kind of Love

Today’s Reading: Matthew 27:27-61, Mark 15:16-47; Luke 23:26-56; John 19:17-42

Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. – Matthew 27:27-31

These next few portions of scripture are difficult for me to read. It is hard to read about the pain Jesus suffered for us. It is hard to comprehend that a holy God could love a sinful people enough to send His very own son to be mocked, tortured and crucified. It is often more than we can fathom or wrap our minds around.

WHAT KIND OF LOVE IS THIS?

They led Jesus away, walking up a road leading to the placed called Golgotha. At one point, the soldiers either had some compassion on Jesus or they became impatient with how long it was taking our wounded Lord to carry the cross. They seized a man walking by named Simon and made him carry the cross behind Jesus. A large crowd followed, including many grief-stricken women. Even in that awful moment, Jesus had compassion on the broken-hearted following this procession.

And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.

Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece…

The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”…

Even the men who were crucified with Jesus ridiculed him. – Mark 15:22-32

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”…One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed…but the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:34,39-43

Again, the compassion of Jesus is displayed. Even while he was suffering, he was thinking of the purpose for which he was dying – salvation.

WHAT KIND OF LOVE IS THIS?

Scripture says that Jesus was nailed to the cross at 9 o’clock in the morning. At noon, darkness fell over the whole land. At about three o’clock, the time at which the Passover lamb would be sacrificed, Jesus called out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. – Matthew 27:50-52

When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” – Mark 15:39

Many walked away in deep sorrow while some stayed close by. A man named Joseph came with an order from Pilate to release Jesus’ body to Joseph. His loved ones followed as Jesus’ body was placed in the new tomb. By now it as the Sabbath so they would have to wait until Sunday morning to anoint his body.

WHAT KIND OF LOVE IS THIS?

He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned, he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.
– Isaiah 53:3-12

King of My Life

Today’s Reading: Matthew 26:47-68, 27:1-26; Mark 14:43-65, 15:1-15; Luke 22:47-54a, 63-71, 23:1-25; John 18:1-11, 28-40, 19:1-16

“Look, my betrayer is here!” – Mark 14:42b

But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear.

But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. – Luke 22:47-53

They took Jesus first to Annas and then to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest – the one who had joined in the plot to kill Jesus. They brought many false witnesses in to tell lies about Jesus and they brought up the moment when Jesus had said, “I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days, I will build another, made without human hands.” Even though they couldn’t get their stories straight, the people still cried out, “Guilty! He deserves to die!” Then the guards mocked him and beat him, they blindfolded him and hurled insults at him (Mark 14:53-65).

The next day, Jesus stood in front of the elders, leading priests and teachers of religious law. They condemned him for saying he was the Son of God. They bound him, led him away and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.

When Judas heard that Jesus had been condemned to die, he went back to the leading priests and tried to undo what he had done. It was too late. Filled with remorse, he threw the silver coins down, left the Temple and hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5).

KING WITH A CAPITAL K

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a “king” is a male monarch of a major territorial unit, especially one whose position is hereditary and who rules for life; or a paramount chief. If the word king is capitalized, it is by definition God or Christ. The dictionary actually offers 7 different definitions including the playing card, the chess piece, the crowned checker, or a kind of salmon.

Defining who was “King of the Jews” was the argument surrounding the trial of Jesus Christ. Pilate asked Jesus if he was king of the Jews and Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate said, “So, you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked
(John 18:36-38).

Finding Jesus not guilty of any crime, Pilate went out to the people and asked them, “Would you like for me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?”
But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas”
(John 18:39-40).

Just moments before Jesus was going to die on the cross for their sins, the people were emphatically denying him and crying out for his death – “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The soldiers mocked Jesus, placing a crown of thorns on his head and purple robe on his back – “Hail! King of the Jews!”

Still finding Jesus not guilty of any of the charges against him, Pilate again went out to the people and said, “Look, here is your king!”
“Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”
“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.
Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away
(John 19:14-16).

But Pilate seemed to know who he was handing over to be crucified. It didn’t matter to him that the people and the Jewish leaders were rejecting Jesus, he knew who Jesus was and he was determined to make it known. As was the custom, he had a sign made to hang over each man being crucified. Over Jesus the sign read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Once more the leading priests, men appointed by God to lead His people in sacrificial worship of Him, led the people in their rejection of the promised Messiah saying, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am the King of the Jews.’” Pilate stubbornly refused, “No, what I have written, I have written” (John 19:19-22).

God’s people stubbornly refused to acknowledge His Son as their King at the same time that Pilate stubbornly refused to acknowledge Him as anything but the King of the Jews. Just as they rejected God as their King, demanding an earthly king instead, they were now rejecting His Son, the Messiah.

“Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer.”
– 1 Samuel 8:5-7

Later Samuel called all the people of Israel to meet before the Lord at Mizpah. And he said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, has declared: I brought you from Egypt and rescued you from the Egyptians and from all the nations that were oppressing you. But though I have rescued you from your misery and distress, you have rejected your God today and have said, ‘No, we want a king instead!’ – 1 Samuel 10:17-19a

LORD WITH A CAPITAL L

According to Webster, a synonym for “king” is “lord” – one having power or authority over others. Again, when capitalized, the word “Lord” means God or Christ. So, I have to ask myself – How good of a job am I doing capitalizing God in my life? As Pilate asked, “What is truth?” I can say God is King of my life but am I truly letting go of control and letting him rule for life? I can claim Him as Lord of my life but is His power or authority evidenced in the decisions I make?

Today, I want God’s Kingship to be evidenced not only in my words but in my actions. I want to look back and see where He has brought me from and from what He has rescued me. He gets to be in charge, He gets all the authority and it is to Him that I bow in reverence this morning as I enjoy my morning coffee with the King of my life!

Recipient of His Prayers

Today’s Reading: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 13:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 17:1-26; Psalm 53

Let’s just soak in the words of Jesus in John 17 as He prayed for his disciples and for us. He knew he was about to be arrested and crucified, yet He was concerned for us and lifting us up to His Heavenly Father. He knew that the world would not like us, that there would be times of persecution and ridicule – so He prayed for God’s protection on us. He knew He was the only way to eternal life – so He died for us.

RECIPIENT OF HIS PRAYERS

After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began. – John 17:1-5

Desiring for those who believe in Him to have eternal life, yet knowing the one way for that to happen was for us to know God, Jesus willingly left heaven and came to earth so that we could get to know God by getting to know Him – that we could find our way HOME. Jesus, knowing our natural struggle to believe, became flesh so that He could personally deliver the message of salvation.

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.” – John 17:6-12

SUBJECT OF HIS PROTECTION

How beautiful the words of our Savior as He prayed for God to protect His followers. How comforting to know that He still prays for that kind of protection over us.

“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” – John 17:13-19

RECEIVER OF HIS LOVE

We are so unworthy of the sacrifice Christ made for us. He died so that we can be made holy by God’s truth. He died so that we can experience perfect unity – Christ in us and God in Christ – so that others may see and believe.

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” – John 17:20-26

Jesus knew that the moment of his arrest was coming. He knew that his time with the disciples was drawing to an end and he prayed for them. He prayed for them and he prayed for us. What a privilege this morning to be a RECIPIENT OF HIS PRAYERS, a SUBJECT OF HIS PROTECTION and a RECEIVER OF HIS LOVE! How overwhelming to know He died so that I can live. How incredible to know that Jesus is still revealing Himself to me. What a great day to be a follower of Christ!

Then, accompanied by his disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.”

He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. – Luke 22:39-44

Three times Jesus went back to the disciples and found them sleeping, unable to keep their eyes open. He woke them up and asked them to keep watch and pray. The third time he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no – the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” – Mark 14:41b-42

Stand Tall

Today’s Reading: John 15:18-16:4; Psalm 59 & 61

STAND TALL WHILE THE CROWD CHEERS YOU ON

When our daughter, Brooke, was in junior high, she tried every sport she could sign up for. By doing this, she introduced our family to the world of track meets. We knew swim meets, basketball & softball games, Bible quizzing invitations, as well as volleyball tournaments, but track meets were a new experience for us. At the end of both seasons, we bravely walked into a crowd of junior high students and their families at the IESA State Track Meet. Wow! What an experience!

As a slid down a grassy hill to my seat (literally), I joined a crowd of thousands of people cheering on the athletes. I watched as these young people lined up for their events and I felt nervous for them. Months of preparation and lots of hard work had brought them to this big moment. Every time a runner finished their race or stood on the podium to receive their medal, I felt the significance of the moment. Every time there was a false start or a pole vaulter missed their jump or a runner fell just inches from the finish line, I felt their disappointment and pain.

There were several moments at the track meet when I felt like I was at the Summer Olympics, which I look forward to every four years. I love to hear the stories of the athletes and then watch as their journey of hard work and dedication becomes the reality of a medal around their neck. I especially love the moment when an athlete throws their arms in the arm, looks to the sky and has a moment of praising the God who has been with them on their journey. Athlete after athlete has stood at a microphone and given glory to Jesus for what their body and mind were able to accomplish.

In that moment, the world is cheering them on but we also know the reality that the cheering will soon cease. The patience with those who use their Olympic platform to glorify God runs out and many criticize the athlete, looking for holes in their faith – hoping for the moment when this follower of Christ will mess up. They will pull their support of the athlete, just as millions pulled their support of Chick-fil-A when its owner stood for the Christian values on which his business is built, and just as many pulled their support of Hobby Lobby when they stood for the right to life for the unborn.

STAND TALL WHEN THE CHEERING CEASES

Jesus spoke of how this world would treat his followers and how the ruler of this world would be an enemy seeking to destroy them. He mentioned this in his prayer for his disciples and spoke of it often when preparing them for what the world would do to him. Let’s look at the words recorded by John:

“I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father.” – John 14:30-31a

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? “A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me…Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.” – John 15:18-21, 23-24

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning.” – John 16:1-4a

“The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.” – John 16:9-11

STAND TALL WHEN THE WORLD HATES YOU

Jesus’ final prayer: “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by our truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” – John 17:13-21

STAND TALL AND GIVE GOD GLORY IN EVERY SITUATION

In that moment, Jesus was praying for us! He has called us to bring the message of God’s love to the world around regardless of how they respond to that message. There will be times when our message is rejected or times when we are treated unfairly because of our faith but it is okay because we do not belong to this world. Our eternal rewards will far outweigh any Olympic medal or earthly praise and position we could attain here on earth. So let’s stand tall on the podium of life, giving God the glory in every situation. Whether we are receiving applause or criticism, congratulations or rejection, let’s stand tall for the One who PRAYED FOR US before he DIED FOR US.

Do not be surprised, my brother, if the world hates you. – 1 John 3:13

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:12-13

There Is No Limit

Today’s Reading: John 15:1-8 and 16:16-33; Psalm 120 & 128

This next passage of scripture is one of my favorites and a great continuation of where God had us yesterday – at “HOME”:

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great joy to my Father.” – John 15:1-8

THIS WORLD – LIMITED RESOURCES

During the summer of 2011, we were living in Texas during a severe drought. Restrictions were placed on how much water you could use to irrigate your yard or wash your car or fill your pool. Every month or so the level of water restrictions was increased until you could only water your yard every other week and it had to be before 10am and after 6pm. Everything was brown. The ground had huge cracks in it and roads were buckling. Soil was pulling away from the foundations of buildings, causing cracks in walls and causing doors to not close properly. Lakes were closed from recreational activity because of how low the water level was.

The next summer we were living in Illinois during yet another severe drought. The difference was there was no water restriction – no signs on every corner or city officials driving around fining people for using their water at the wrong time. Trees were drying out and lawns were brown from the hot, dry summer we were experiencing, but there were no concerns that the water was going to completely run out. The grass was dry but there were no restrictions stopping us from turning on the sprinklers to water the grass and save the lawn. The source of water was readily available, all we had to do was connect our “dry areas” to the source.

Jesus said, “Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Jesus – an endless source for us IF we choose to remain connected, to stay “HOME” as we called it yesterday.

JESUS – AN ENDLESS SOURCE

We have friends in Ethiopia – Ermias and Mulu Mekuria. I have never met two people as devoted to their prayer life as this couple. They get up every morning at 3 a.m. and spend time worshipping and praying together for a couple of hours, then they go back to sleep. When someone asks them to pray for a situation, they follow through and daily lift that person up to the Lord in prayer. Time after time, they have laid their hands on someone and prayed for healing and God has answered their prayer. Listen carefully – God hears them and answers their prayer! Why? It’s not about WHO they are but about WHOM they are connected to – the True Grapevine – and where they are, HOME.

“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” (John 15:7) Let’s not focus so much on the last half of this sentence that we miss the context provided in the first half – IF you remain in me and my words remain in you, THEN you may ask for anything you want and it will be granted. Are we experiencing God answering our prayers? If not, perhaps we should consider what it takes to be connected to the source – what it really means to REMAIN there. Let’s consider this as we look at the words of Jesus that John recorded.

ANYTHING – THERE IS NO LIMIT

“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 my Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask for anything in my name, and I will do it!” – John 14:12-14

“I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy…I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.” – John 16:23b-24,26-27

I spend time daily studying God’s word and praying to Him yet I am convicted of the depth of my relationship with God. I am not sure I have done more than scratch the surface of what it means to be connected to Him and to remain in Him. If I want to produce fruit in my life, if I want to save myself from drought, all I need to do is truly devote myself to the True Grapevine. There is no limit of what He wants to give me. I simply need to stop limiting how much I am receiving of Him. I need to stay HOME.

He Called It “Home”

Today’s Reading: John 14:15-31 and 15:9-17 and 16:5-15;

“If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15). It’s a simple but very strong statement made by Jesus. He goes on to explain what it looks like for someone to respond to their love for Jesus by obeying what He has told them to do and how He has told them to live.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” – John 15:9-17

“You are my friends if you do what I command.” This is another strong statement made by Jesus. If you truly love me, if you are really my friend, you will obey what I command. He then goes on to clearly define what He is commanding His friends to do – Love each other! Love each other the way I have loved you. I am about to lay my life down for you, my friends. That is the kind of love I am asking from you – to love me with that kind of love and to love each other with that kind of love.

That is a strong request for Jesus to ask from us – no, not a request but a command. Some people are easy to love and some people are hard to love. We are human and Jesus is asking us to do something that stretches us beyond ourselves. But Jesus does not ask us to love in our own strength. We could, for a very little while, but our love for others would not last long if we are trying to produce something from nothing – love for someone who is hard to love, who possibly does not give love in return.

Jesus goes on to explain how this is going to work. He is going to remain in the Father and we are going to remain in Him and He is going to remain in us. This connection is where the Father and His Son make their HOME with each of us. It is in this connection that Jesus reveals Himself to us because He loves us and we love Him, therefore God loves us! Let’s look at the Scripture that draws the picture of our connection with God the Father and Jesus the Son.

“When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them…All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our HOME with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.” – John 14:20-21, 23-24a

It still comes down to love and obedience. But sometimes loving and obeying is easier said than done. That is the beauty of God’s plan. You see there is One more who is involved in this connection that makes it possible for us to live a life that is characterized by love and obedience, One that makes this connection possible. Jesus explains this incredible gift He is giving in order for us to do what He is commanding us to do.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives WITH you now and later will be IN you…When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” – John 14:16-17,26

“And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment…When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.” – John 16:8,13-14

I am so thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. It is the voice of the Holy Spirit that convicts me of my sin and guides me into truth. It is through this Spirit of truth that I hear from Jesus. It is the work of the Spirit that changes me and strengthens me, producing fruit in my life – the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Did you catch that first fruit? He produces love in me! Isn’t that great?!! The love the Spirit produces in me is what makes it possible for me to do as Jesus commands – to love each other. The Spirit produces the love of Christ in me and, when I do what He has asked me to do, I remain in that love! As the Spirit produces love in me, I remain in the love of Jesus and He remains in the love of the Father. I love what Jesus called this connection – He called it “HOME” (John 14:23).

Let’s stay HOME today. Let’s remain in this connection or relationship – let’s remain in His love! Then as we go about our day, we still have access to the love of Jesus living within us that empowers us to love others as Jesus would love them because we stay home – we stay connected to God the Father and Jesus the Son through the power of the Spirit producing its fruit in us. Fruit in my morning coffee – what a great idea!:)

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