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HEARTLIGHT — A Year with Jesus

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Post  Admin on Fri 02 May 2014, 7:07 pm

"No Matter What!" — A Year with Jesus for 05/02/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

I do not promise you that following Me will be easy. Some of My greatest and most faithful servants faced severe testing, hardship, and even martyrdom. That is still true in your day. You are asked to live with the character and compassion of the Father in a world that doesn't always appreciate those values. So when times of testing and hardship come, I want you to remember today's promises — they are highlighted in the verses below so you will not miss them.
Nothing can separate you from My love for you — nothing!
I have destroyed the power of death — wiped it out — and I have brought you the light of life and immortality through My resurrection from the dead; they are yours through your faith in the good news of My resurrection!
As I told you yesterday, I endured all of the shame and pain of the cross so that you could know the Father's love and know I love you and will NEVER betray, deny, or abandon you. I am alive forever... for you!

Verses to Live

Read carefully these words from Paul who lived a life of absolute passion and courage because he believed the promises he shares with you in these passages. They are true and will always be true for you! As you read these words from the apostle Paul, remember that he lived through extreme trials and hardships because he personally trusted in the words he shared (2 Corinthians 11:24-30). The final verses actually come from Paul as he is awaiting martyrdom with his faith undimmed and his heart as passionate for Me and for the sake of the gospel as when he first began his ministry (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God's Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing. As the psalm says,
On Your behalf, our lives are endangered constantly; we are like sheep awaiting slaughter.

But no matter what comes, we will always taste victory through Him who loved us.

(Romans 8:35-37)

So don't be embarrassed to testify about our Lord or for me, His prisoner. Join us in suffering for the good news by the strength and power of God. God has already saved us and called us to this holy calling — not because of any good works we may have done, but because of His own intention and because eons and eons ago (before time itself existed), He gave us this grace in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. And now, the time has come! That grace was revealed when our Savior, Jesus the Anointed, appeared; and through His resurrection He has wiped out death and brought to light life and immortality by way of this good news.

(2 Timothy 1:8-10)

Response in Prayer

Lord Jesus, today I not only thank the Father — with Whom You intercede for me and before Whom you serve as my advocate — but I also thank You for the promises of Your presence in my life and the assurance that You will always be there for me — with me in my trials and with the Father to be my advocate. I thank You, Lord Jesus, for You being alive, forever, for me and others who love You like me. Amen.
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The Thoughts and Prayers for 'A Year with Jesus' are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@heartlight.org.
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Post  Admin on Thu 01 May 2014, 8:49 pm

"Your Advocate Forever" — A Year with Jesus for 05/01/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

You saw My closest friends fail Me during My arrest, trials, and crucifixion — they betrayed Me, denied they knew Me, and abandoned Me. I felt so alone as I faced the cross. I endured all of its shame and pain so that you could know the Father's love and know that I will NEVER betray, deny, or abandon you. If I would face all of that to redeem you, surely you know how much I long to bless you with all things good and holy now that I am alive forever.

I want you to be sure of two things that My resurrection means for you:
You will always have someone on your side who will never leave or abandon you. I am your eternal Advocate and Friend.
I am in the presence of the Father to be your advocate, the one who sits at the Father's side to defend your cause and plead your case.

No matter how others view you, accuse you, or reject you, please remember this: I AM forever at the Father's side for you. Even when you are down on yourself and cannot believe that I could still love you or accept you or defend you before the Father, remember these words from My disciple, John:
There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things.

(1 John 3:19-20)

Don't despair! I will always be there — in the Father's presence to be your advocate and in the middle of your storms to help you through.

Verses to Live

Because I was raised from the dead and am alive in the presence of the Father, My grace for you is multiplied. Notice the words in bold below. I don't just bless you with forgiveness and grace in the cross, but I continue to speak for you before the Father and ensure that this grace is your gift each and every day!

So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don't you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God's chosen? Especially since God's "not guilty" verdict is already declared. Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf.

(Romans 8:31-34)

So we can see that Jesus has become the guarantee of a new and better covenant. Further, the prior priesthood of the sons of Levi has included many priests because death cut short their service, but Jesus holds His priesthood permanently because He lives His resurrected life forever. From such a vantage, He is able to save those who approach God through Him for all time because He will forever live to be their advocate in the presence of God.

(Hebrews 7:22-25)


Response in Prayer

Father in heaven, thank You for Jesus' resurrection. His resurrection ensures so many good and gracious things for me. I know that Jesus not only purchased my pardon with His sacrificial death, but that He also lives to advocate for me. Thank you for your plan too marvelous for words. In a world of fickle friends and people who can let us down, I am so thankful to know that Jesus is always there for me because of Your great love for me. Thank you! In Jesus' name and because of Jesus' many gracious gifts, I thank You in prayer. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Thu 01 May 2014, 10:10 am

"Reason to Celebrate" — A Year with Jesus for 04/30/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious One,

In the face of life's routine irritations, what is your source of joy?

In the middle of life's biggest heartaches and wounds, what is your reason for hope?

In the moments of life's greatest blessings, what multiplies and deepens your joy in anticipation of an even greater joy than you can describe?

Peter reminds you in the verses below that your faith in My resurrection gives you "a joy that is glorious and beyond words", a reason to "celebrate" and rejoice now as you anticipate a richer life and an even greater joy that I have waiting since "you are receiving the salvation" of your soul! This salvation has begun, but even greater experiences and realities of this salvation lie on the horizon.

So in the most joyous moments of your life, remember that even greater joy is ahead. In your painful and most trying days, remember that salvation is your future and far better days are ahead. In the everyday routine — no matter how filled with monotony or great blessings or deep sorrow — celebrate that you are caught up in the marvelous and astounding future promised in My resurrection from the dead. Life and joy are yours, both now and forevermore!

Verses to Live

As you read these verses for the third day in a row, focus on the future joy that is promised and especially the words "celebrate" and "glorious" and "greatly rejoice" and "beyond words." These words are used to the describe the joy that is yours because of your faith in My resurrection!

Blessed is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope — reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that will never fade or fail. Through faith, God's power is standing watch, protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things. You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. Suffering tests your faith which is more valuable than gold (remember that gold, although it is perishable, is tested by fire) so that if it is found genuine, you can receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, is revealed at last.

Although you haven't seen Jesus, you still love Him. Although you don't yet see Him, you do believe in Him and celebrate with a joy that is glorious and beyond words. You are receiving the salvation of your souls as the result of your faith.

(1 Peter 1:3-9)


Response in Prayer

Loving Father, open my eyes to the joy available to me because of the future ahead of me and the salvation you have given to me in Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
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The Thoughts and Prayers for 'A Year with Jesus' are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@heartlight.org.
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Post  Admin on Tue 29 Apr 2014, 8:36 pm

"Inheritance!" — A Year with Jesus for 04/29/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Child of the Father,

How does that sound? You are a child of the Father in heaven, the Eternal, the Almighty, and Creator. I AM your older Brother. I shared your world of flesh and blood so I could intercede for you (Hebrews 2:14-18) and so I could share My inheritance with you (Ephesians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:10-12; Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 9:15; Romans 8:14-18)!

Take the time to read those passages just listed — especially that last one from the apostle Paul! These scriptures champion the authenticity of your inheritance and that you are a co-heir with Me of the Father's blessings. Many people hope for a rich uncle or aunt or friend to leave them a lot of money when that loved passes from life. Here's the incredible truth for you: your inheritance — the riches that are most valuable for you, things that won't decay or be stolen or simply be lost to you when you die — will be yours when you die and you receive your eternal inheritance! Salvation is more than just being saved from hell and punishment. Salvation is being saved for a purposeful life now and an eternal glory that is waiting for you with the Father!

So yes, rejoice! "Celebrate with a joy that is glorious and beyond words" for the inheritance that is yours when you come to share glory with Me will far exceed any glory that any person at any time has ever inherited from a relative. Such is the nature of My resurrection and your faith and the salvation awaiting you that "you will see completely at the end of things"!

Verses to Live

While you read these words of celebration and praise yesterday, do so again. This time, however, the focus of your joy is not just your faith, but your being an heir of God's grace and glory. This eternal inheritance is yours, as the words in bold below announce. Salvation is so much richer and deeper than you can imagine and being a child of the King of Glory opens the way for you to enjoy the salvation that awaits you! 

Blessed is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope — reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that will never fade or fail. Through faith, God's power is standing watch, protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things. You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. Suffering tests your faith which is more valuable than gold (remember that gold, although it is perishable, is tested by fire) so that if it is found genuine, you can receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, is revealed at last.

Although you haven't seen Jesus, you still love Him. Although you don't yet see Him, you do believe in Him and celebrate with a joy that is glorious and beyond words. You are receiving the salvation of your souls as the result of your faith.

(1 Peter 1:3-9)


Response in Prayer

O Father, thank You for adopting me into your family by grace. Thank You, Jesus, for paying the high price of adoption. Thank you Holy Spirit for being the deposit that guarantees the inheritance that I will receive. Father, to know that I am Your child, a participant in Your grace, and an heir of the riches of Your mercy and grace is reason for great joy. So forgive me for not being thankful more often. Forgive me for wallowing in my problems and not looking through them to the glory that awaits. Thank you! In Jesus name I thank you with a joyful appreciation that is beyond words! Amen.
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The Thoughts and Prayers for 'A Year with Jesus' are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@heartlight.org.
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Post  Admin on Mon 28 Apr 2014, 5:50 pm

Great Joy in Believing" — A Year with Jesus for 04/28/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious One,

I know faith is not easy, especially now living nearly two thousand years after My death, burial, and resurrection. So I want us to spend today and the next two days together delighting in your faith. Our tour guide is My impetuous and dramatic apostle, Peter. We will be reading from the opening words of his small letter to believers in Asia Minor — 1 Peter. Like you, these people had never seen Me. They had to take the testimony of others who had. They were facing imminent persecution like many of My followers face right now all over the world. Peter wanted to affirm their faith and also to emphasize several great blessings that accompanied their faith. I want you to delight in these and be blessed. Each day, the focus verses will be in bold so you won't miss them!

Before sharing the verses from 1 Peter, I want to remind you of the promise I made to Thomas — a promise I shared with you in yesterday's verses:
Eight days later, they [the disciples] gathered again behind locked doors; and Jesus reappeared. This time Thomas was with them.

Jesus:
May each one of you be at peace.

He drew close to Thomas.

Jesus:
Reach out and touch Me. See the punctures in My hands; reach out your hand, and put it to My side; leave behind your faithlessness, and believe.

Thomas (filled with emotion):
You are the one True God and Lord of my life.

Jesus:
Thomas, you have faith because you have seen Me. Blessed are all those who never see Me and yet they still believe.
(John 20:26-29).
Notice those words in bold! I have a special blessing for you — the people who believe without having ever seen Me.

Your faith is precious! It stands guard over your heart and protects you to receive a salvation and share in a glory that you won't fully enjoy until you discover it "completely at the end of things." It is more valuable than gold. That faith gives you something that can't stolen. That faith has given you something that isn't perishable — it won't wear out or decay. That faith is connecting you to true and eternal salvation.

So today, I want you to take a moment and be thankful for the gift of your faith!

Your faith was planted in your heart and nurtured by someone for whom you should give thanks.

Your faith is more powerful than death and the all the forces of hell.

Your faith is protected by the power of God if you are willing to nurture it and rejoice in it.

Your faith is placed in Me and what We — Father, Son, and Spirit — have accomplished in My resurrection from the dead and the power that is continuously being released into your life as you keep your faith focused on Me.

Your faith is the door of grace opening to you so that you can receive all that salvation is meant to offer you — now and forevermore.

Thank you for believing! I left heaven to win your heart... to give you a reason to believe... and to give you a hope that can endure until we see each other face-to-face and your faith becomes sight and we rejoice together... forever!
Verses to Live

Peter was present when I was talking with Thomas in the verses quoted above from John's gospel. The second paragraph below echoes the things that I said to Thomas about you and others who have faith without having seen Me. Notice the things that Peter associates with your faith: "a living hope", "eternal inheritance," "never fade or fail," "salvation," "praise, honor, and glory," and "joy that is glorious and beyond words." Please remember Peter's words, especially when you are facing difficulties because of your faith and wondering whether it is worthwhile to continue along the path of faith.

Blessed is God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! Because He has raised Jesus the Anointed from death, through His great mercy we have been reborn into a living hope — reborn for an eternal inheritance, held in reserve in heaven, that will never fade or fail. Through faith, God's power is standing watch, protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things. You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. Suffering tests your faith which is more valuable than gold (remember that gold, although it is perishable, is tested by fire) so that if it is found genuine, you can receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, is revealed at last.

Although you haven't seen Jesus, you still love Him. Although you don't yet see Him, you do believe in Him and celebrate with a joy that is glorious and beyond words. You are receiving the salvation of your souls as the result of your faith.

(1 Peter 1:3-9)
Response in Prayer

O Father, thank you for those who first introduced Me to Jesus... for those who nurtured my freshly-born faith... for those who challenged my faith to grow... and thank you for the promised blessings for those of us who believe. I do believe, dear Father; I believe that Jesus is Your Son, the Messiah of Your people Israel, and Lord of all creation... as well as my Lord and Savior, in whose name I pray. Amen.
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The Thoughts and Prayers for 'A Year with Jesus' are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@heartlight.org.
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Post  Admin on Sun 27 Apr 2014, 4:47 pm

"A Challenging Blessing" — A Year with Jesus for 04/27/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Seeker of Truth,

Believing in My resurrection is a real challenge for many people. That's understandable. It's not normal for truly dead and buried people to come back to life, show their scars, eat bread and drink wine with you, offer for you to touch them, and share your company. Some folks believe they have seen a vision or experienced a ghost-like presence of someone who has died, but the tangible and physical presence of a person who has been dead is impossible when judged from inside your world of experience.

In the notes and scriptures the two previous days, I emphasized that My resurrection changes everything for you. However, there is another side to this reality: "Everything" also hinges on your faith in My resurrection. Paul makes this point very clear when he says:
Now if we have told you about the Anointed One (how He has risen from the dead and appeared to us fully alive), then how can you stand there and say there is no such thing as resurrection from death? Friends, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even the Anointed hasn’t been raised; if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the message is worthless. And what’s worse, all of us who have been preaching the gospel are now guilty of misrepresenting God because we have been spreading the news that He raised the Anointed One from the dead (which must be a lie if what you are saying about the dead not being raised is the truth).

(1 Corinthians 15:12-15)
Being My disciple hinges on your faith in My resurrection!

While there are many reasons to believe in My resurrection, sooner or later you must take a huge step of faith to trust your life and your future t! o this reality that you did not see. That is why My interaction with Thomas a week after My resurrection was so important. Thomas was not a bad guy. He was not trying to be difficult or problematic. He wanted to know for sure and so he would not believe until he saw me face-to-face and touched my scars. When he did, he believed. His confession is powerful and true:
You are the one True God and Lord of my life.

Thomas' confession is the confession I want you to make. The only problem is that I am not there for you to physically touch. That's why I gave the blessing that I did:
Thomas, you have faith because you have seen Me. Blessed are all those who never see Me and yet they still believe.
The apostle Peter knew this challenge and so he wrote to people who had never seen Me and he wrote to them about the blessing of believing and the joy such faith brings — Peter shares this at the beginning of his first well-known letter (1 Peter 1:3-9). So I want you to remember My blessing every time you confess. I want you to remember My blessing every time you struggle with doubts. I want you to remember My blessing every time someone ridicules you for believing in Me and the resurrection. That blessing is yours, because you believe!
Verses to Live

There are many reasons to believe in My resurrection. Here are a few:
The eye witnesses who wrote in the New Testament about My resurrection.
People like My own family, and especially James, who did not believe that I was the Messiah and Son of God until after seeing Me alive after My resurrection from the dead.
The change in the apostles from scared, hiding, and uneducated people to world-changing people of courage, many of whom were martyred for their faith in Me.
The experiences you have had of My presence in your life as you have served Me — the times just the right word came from someone else, the empowerment I've given you when you were on mission, the rich sense of My presence when you've served the needy, and the palpable sense of My presence as you've worshiped.
The testimony and resilience of My people over the centuries through oppression, martyrdom, and ostracism.
These are but a few reasons. But don't get so hung up on the reasons to believe that you miss the two truths I want you to hear in the verses below:
I know it is hard for many of you to believe — you're like Thomas and many others like him. Keep seeking Me and you fill find Me.
There is a great blessing for you who find your way through doubt and come to faith in Me — who have never physically seen Me and yet still believe.
Please receive that blessing now as you read about Thomas, his struggle for faith, his incredible confession, and My blessing on you who believe in Me!

All of the eleven were present with the exception of Thomas [that first Sunday evening after Jesus was raised from the dead]. He heard the accounts of each brother's interaction with the Lord.

The Other Disciples:
We have seen the Lord!

Thomas:
Until I see His hands, feel the wounds of the nails, and put my hand to His side, I won't believe what you are saying.

Eight days later, they gathered again behind locked doors; and Jesus reappeared. This time Thomas was with them.

Jesus:
May each one of you be at peace.

He drew close to Thomas.

Jesus:
Reach out and touch Me. See the punctures in My hands; reach out your hand, and put it to My side; leave behind your faithlessness, and believe.

Thomas (filled with emotion):
You are the one True God and Lord of my life.

Jesus:
Thomas, you have faith because you have seen Me. Blessed are all those who never see Me and yet they still believe.

Jesus performed many other wondrous signs that are not written in this book. These accounts are recorded so that you, too, might believe that Jesus is the Anointed, the Liberating King, the Son of God, because believing grants you the life He came to share.

(John 20:24-31)
Response in Prayer

Father in heaven, for many reasons, some of which I don't fully understand, I do truly believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. I ask, dear Father, that the Holy Spirit strengthen that faith and that the Spirit help me to be aware of those times when Jesus' presence is there for me and I do not perceive it. I believe, but I want to fully believe. I long for the day when my faith becomes sight, but I also rejoice that I know this faith that inspires my hope and gives me longing for the day I see Jesus face-to-face. Thank you for this hope, dear Father. I thank you in Jesus' name. Amen.
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The Thoughts and Prayers for 'A Year with Jesus' are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@heartlight.org.
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Post  Admin on Sat 26 Apr 2014, 8:32 pm

"Resurrection Power" — A Year with Jesus for 04/26/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

The apostle Paul prayed a beautiful and rich prayer for the Christians in Asia Minor. Here is part of his prayer:
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given those He called — His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms.

(Ephesians 1:18-20 NLT)


The power of My resurrection is also at work in you through the Holy Spirit Whom I "poured out" on you "generously" (Titus 3:3-7). While you still face the limits of your mortal physical body, you will one day have an immortal body like the one I had after My resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:49-57). Yet this resurrection power is already at work in you in many ways. So over the next six weeks, I want to share with you some of the implications of resurrection power that is at work in you through the Holy Spirit.
Verses to Live

Today, I want to share with you one other passage that goes along with Paul's prayer. Paul found himself in very difficult circumstances again and again. Paul was in Asia Minor — the place the people lived for whom Paul prayed in the verses above. He faced a terrible, life-threatening situation that should have ended in his death. However, he experienced resurrection power first hand as We — Father, Son, and Spirit — miraculously delivered him from death. It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last time that we did this for Paul. However, the words he uses to describe his deliverance are powerful and I know that they can be a great encouragement to you if you let them. Notice especially the part in bold below. They're worth memorizing, especially if you are facing a trying ordeal of your own.

My brothers and sisters, we have to tell you that when we were in Asia the troubles we faced were nearly more than we could handle. The burdens we bore nearly crushed us. Our strength dwindled to nothing. For a while, we weren't sure we would make it through the whole ordeal. We thought we would have to serve out our death sentences right then and there. As a result, we realized that we could no longer rely on ourselves and that we must trust solely in God, who possesses the power to raise the dead. Miraculously God Himself delivered us from the cold hands of death. We again place our hope in Him alone, and we know He will deliver us.

(2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

Response in Prayer

Almighty God — my loving Father, Immanuel, and Comforter — thank you for bringing life to what was dead, hope to those who are hopeless, and help to all who need You. I thank you for the apostle Paul's experiences and words that give me powerful ways to see the implications of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Thank you for this grace. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Fri 25 Apr 2014, 8:43 pm

"Something Good & Beautiful" — A Year with Jesus for 04/25/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

My resurrection from the dead changed everything! As awful and humiliating as My crucifixion was, My resurrection from the dead was far greater. My resurrection is the reminder that We — Father, Son, and Spirit — can take the very worst of life and turn it around into something good.

The devil wants you to keep My resurrection confined to Easter — to one day a year where it gets confused with eggs, bunnies, and new clothes. The devil doesn't mind if you praise God for My resurrection one day a year. The devil doesn't really care if you admire Me for going to the cross and coming back from the dead as long as you limit it to one day a year. As long as you keep My resurrection locked away in church buildings and confined to Easter Sundays, the devil is okay with the resurrection talk.

On the other hand, the devil is defeated when you let My resurrection from the dead change you. Faith in My resurrection can change your heart, your hope, your lifestyle, and your courage as you face life's worst struggles! When you truly believe that God brought life to My lifeless corpse you have something powerful! Your own life, regardless of circumstances, can be full of hope when you truly believe in My resurrection from the sealed tomb containing My dead flesh, My dried blood, and My lifeless limbs.

When you believe in My resurrection, you have confidence that the Father will do great things to overcome the brokenness of your world and transform the worst things in your life by His grace and power. The power of the resurrection means that you fully believe that "God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful" in your life no matter how awful things appear to be right now. Since My Father "did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over" to be crucified for you, then you can know with certainty that He will share His power, grace, and blessings with you now that I AM alive and have defeated death, sin, and hell!

My resurrection is not a theory to be debated, but it is the reality of grace that changes everything! My resurrection is your assurance that God will use His power and grace to bless your life by taking what is horrific and bringing something "good and beautiful"!
Verses to Live

Paul's words below are some of the most quoted and favorite verses of the Bible. You can believe them because you believe in Me and My triumph over death. I long for you to believe these words and live based on the conviction that they are as true for you as they were for Paul when he wrote them!

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.

So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don't you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him?

(Romans 8:28-32)
Response in Prayer

O Father, thank you for your promise to bring something "good and beautiful" out of the messes and struggles that I so often let consume me. I believe what Paul says here, dear Father, but help My unbelief to believe even more. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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"A Brief Look Back" — A Year with Jesus for 04/24/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Child of God,

What drew you to follow Me? What called your heart to Me? What convinced you that We — Father, Son, and Spirit — deeply love you and want you as part of Our family?

During the last week before My crucifixion, Philip and Andrew brought some Greeks (non-Jews) to Me. They had come to worship at the Passover festival and wanted to see Me. The coming of non-Jews seeking to meet Me and learn about Me was a huge confirmation in My heart that the time had come for Me to go to the cross. For Me, going to the cross was the ultimate way to glorify the Father and also reach out to Jews and non-Jews — even you today — and call to the hearts of all those seeking for something more to life than what they had found. As an instrument of execution, the cross was brutal, gross, morbid, and ghastly. While it was excruciating for the one crucified, the intention was also to publicly humiliate the person crucified and all those aligned with that person. For Me, as a Jew, crucifixion also carried another significant statement: the person hung on a cross was considered cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). The apostle Paul would pick up on this theme and speak great truth about the cross when he said the following:
The Anointed One [Christ], the Liberating King, has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. It was stated in the Scriptures, "Everyone who hangs on a tree is cursed by God."

(Galatians 3:13)

My resurrection reversed the whole meaning of My execution on the cross. All of the shame, humiliation, pain, mockery, and rejection that I endured during My crucifixion was turned into blessing — forgiveness, redemption, ransom, and salvation. I endured the worst of aspects of humanity and hell to redeem you from them. And My salvation isn't just for any one race or nation or people, but for all who find themselves drawn to My sacrifice, My love, and My grace.

My Body was planted like a seed in the ground. It lay there dead to life. Then the power of grace renewed life, and I rose a victor over sin, death, and hell. Now, on your side of the resurrection, millions upon millions have accepted My offer of salvation, forgiveness, and grace. What I appeared to have lost in humiliation is now given back many times over. Such is the power of the resurrection and the love of your Savior. On top of all the blessings that stream from the mercy and grace of the cross and the empty tomb, remember this: this resurrection power is available to you to help you as you live for Me (Ephesians 1:17-20). My resurrection from death's hold changes everything for you... even in the middle of the week, on a normal Thursday that seems so far away from resurrection Sunday.

I was lifted up from the earth so that you could be lifted up to share with Me in resurrected glory (Colossians 3:1-3). So blessings to you this Thursday as you live for Me by resurrection power from the Holy Spirit!
Verses to Live

So here is the brief look back as I was headed to the cross. After you read this, I hope you will remember the short little parable of the grain of wheat. Because of the resurrection power at work in you, when you offer yourself for Me and the work of the kingdom, your sacrifices and efforts are multiplied by grace to touch more hearts. That is the power of My cross and the empty tomb... even on a seemingly unimportant Thursday — a day to plant seeds and share in the future harvest of grace!

Pharisees (to one another):
Our efforts to squelch Him have not worked, but now is not the time for action. Look, the world is following after Him.

Among the crowds traveling to Jerusalem were Greeks seeking to follow God and worship at the great feast. Some of them came to Philip with an important request.

Greek Pilgrims (to Philip):
Sir, we are hoping to meet Jesus.

Philip, a disciple from the Galilean village of Bethsaida, told Andrew that these Greeks wanted to see Jesus. Together Andrew and Philip approached Jesus to inform Him about the request.

Jesus (to Philip and Andrew):
The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth: unless a grain of wheat is planted in the ground and dies, it remains a solitary seed. But when it is planted, it produces in death a great harvest. The one who loves this life will lose it, and the one who despises it in this world will have life forevermore. Anyone who serves Me must follow My path; anyone who serves Me will want to be where I am, and he will be honored by the Father. My spirit is low and unsettled. How can I ask the Father to save Me from this hour? This hour is the purpose for which I have come into the world. But what I can say is this: "Father, glorify Your name!"

Suddenly a voice echoed from the heavens.

The Father:
I have glorified My name. And again I will bring glory in this hour that will resound throughout time.

The crowd of people surrounding Jesus were confused.

Some in the Crowd:
It sounded like thunder.

Others:
A heavenly messenger spoke to Him.

Jesus:
The voice you hear has not spoken for My benefit, but for yours. Now judgment comes upon this world, and everything will change. The tyrant of this world, Satan, will be thrown out. When I am lifted up from the earth, then all of humanity will be drawn to Me.


(John 12:19-32)
Response in Prayer

O Father, yes, I do believe that Jesus' resurrection from the dead means that everything is different — better, hopeful, and full of power. I am one of those seeds that springs from the planting of Jesus' body in the grave and the resurrection power of that Sunday morning. Help me live by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit no matter what day it is or wherever I find myself. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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"The Crux of it All!" — A Year with Jesus for 04/23/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Child of God,

The apostle Paul took the good news message of My death, burial, and resurrection all over the Roman empire. After spending years opposing My followers and My message, I revealed Myself to him on the road to Damascus and he was changed forever (Acts 9:1-19). Thousands upon thousands were transformed as a result of Paul's conversion and influence.

Paul could plumb the depths of theology and could connect My coming to the promises of God in the Old Testament — see Paul's letter to the Romans. Yet this great teacher could also make things very simple and clear. Paul summarized "what was most important" about the gospel into three clear truths (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NLT):
"Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said."
"He was buried..."
"He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said."

Paul also tied this saving faith to baptism, which he connected to these same three truths (Romans 6:3-4 NLT):
"When we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death."
"We died and were buried with Christ by baptism."
"just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

At the heart of your new life in Me is what I did on the cross, in the tomb, and with My resurrection from the dead. My victory opened the way for you to share in My saving grace and also in My future glory:
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. .. Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

(Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1-3 NLT)

What happened wit! h My death, burial, and resurrection is the essential core of salvation. Do you believe these truths? Have you shared in these saving events with Me through your baptism? Your life can be fresh, new, and full of hope:
Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone — and see — a new life has begun.

(2 Corinthians 5:17)
Verses to Live

Notice all the ways Paul emphasizes this saving faith is essential, what is most important, and the essential truth necessary for you to believe if you are going to be saved!

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I preached to you when we first met. It's the essential message that you have taken to heart, the central story you now base your life on; and through this gospel, you are liberated — unless, of course, your faith has come to nothing. For I passed down to you the crux of it all which I had also received from others, that the Anointed One, the Liberating King, died for our sins and was buried and raised from the dead on the third day. All this happened to fulfill the Scriptures; it was the perfect climax to God's covenant story. Afterward He appeared alive to Cephas (you may know him as Simon Peter), then to the rest of the twelve. If that were not amazing enough, on one occasion, He appeared to more than 500 believers at one time. Many of those brothers and sisters are still around to tell the story, though some have fallen asleep in Jesus. Soon He appeared to James, His brother and the leader of the Jerusalem church, and then to all the rest of the emissaries He Himself commissioned. Last of all, He appeared to me...

(1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
Response in Prayer

Father, thank You for the future glory promised me as one who has trusted Jesus and shared with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 22 Apr 2014, 3:11 pm

"Receive the Breath of Heaven" — A Year with Jesus for 04/22/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, and a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus wouldn't be the only ones to meet Me as their resurrected Savior on that first day after My resurrection. The inexplicable and impossible becomes true as I met them at the tomb, along the road, and over a meal. So there will be more surprises as I show Myself alive to those closest to Me. Many were startled and even terrified when I showed up among them as they were locked inside the upper room. So My proof of life was very simple: look at My scars and let Me have a bite of your broiled fish. Fear gives way to joy, a joy so rich and full that they could still scarcely believe because it was simply too good to be true — except that it was true!

My resurrection was incredible for them, but I wanted them — and I want you — to know that this good news of My life, crucifixion, and resurrection is not news to hoard or hide away among a fearful group of people withdrawn, fearful, and hiding from the everyday world of real people. I want the good news I bring to be shared with everyone. So I drew My disciples close to Me and spoke words that I want you to hear as well:
I give you the gift of peace. In the same way the Father sent Me, I am now sending you.

The mission of testifying to My resurrection wouldn't be easy — not for My first disciples and not for you. So I drew My disciples close to Me and let My "breath" fall on them. I told them, "Welcome the Holy Spirit of the living God." (The same word in the languages I spoke was used to mean both "breath" and "spirit.") I reminded them about the Spirit Whom I had promised to send to them when I returned to the Father. In this moment of tender and joyful closeness, I wanted My disciples to know that I would be present with them and within them through the Holy Spirit, the Breath of heaven. My presence in them through the Holy Spirit would empower them to fulfill their mission of testifying to My resurrection.

Over the next few weeks, I will share with you some of those things I had originally spoken to My disciples on the night I was betrayed. I talked with them about the coming of the Spirit, their great Helper that I would send to be with them and to live within in them. Today, I want to remind you of two truths about the Holy Spirit, the Breath of heaven. 

First, the Holy Spirit is not just about power and presence, the Spirit is also the holy and cleansing fire of heaven that I will send to cleanse you and to give you the power to forgive others (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-7).

Second, the Holy Spirit will be in you as an endless blessing of grace. You cannot exhaust the supply of My presence, grace, and power within you. Remember My earlier promise about the Holy Spirit:
On the last day, the biggest day of the festival, Jesus stood again and spoke aloud.

Jesus:
If any of you is thirsty, come to Me and drink. If you believe in Me, the Hebrew Scriptures say that rivers of living water will flow from within you.

Jesus was referring to the realities of life in the Spirit made available to everyone who believes in Him. But the Spirit had not yet arrived because Jesus had not been glorified.

(John 7:37-39)


Now that I had been glorified, they were about to experience the powerful work of the Spirit. As you read the verses below, please know that My presence and power are available to you through the Holy Spirit today. So come close to Me. Lean in and let Me share the Breath of heaven with you so that you can answer My call:
In the same way the Father sent Me, I am now sending you.

Go and please share My grace by the power of the Spirit!
Verses to Live

Today we have sections of scripture from two of the Gospels. The first section, from Luke's Gospel, begins with the last few verses from yesterday. It continues on to recount My joining the disciples and interacting with them. The second section from John's Gospel also gives an account of My interaction with some disciples. Things are recorded in both sections to demonstrate that I was really alive, raised from the dead. I was really present with them in My resurrected body, interacting with them and telling them about the coming of the Holy Spirit to help them fulfill their mission to tell others about Me.

So they [the two disciples Jesus met on the road to Emmaus] get up immediately and rush back to Jerusalem — all seven miles — where they find the eleven gathered together — the eleven plus a number of others. [The followers gathered together behind locked doors in fear that some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were still searching for them.] Before Cleopas and his companion can tell their story, the others have their own story to tell.

Other Disciples:
The Lord has risen indeed! It's true! He appeared to Simon!

Then the two men report their own experience — their conversation along the road, their moment of realization and recognition as He broke the bread. At that very instant, as they're still telling the story, Jesus is there, standing among them!

Jesus:
May you have peace!

They're startled and terrified; they think they're seeing a ghost.

Jesus:
Why are you upset? Why are your hearts churning with questions? Look — look at My hands and My feet! See that it's Me! Come on; touch Me; see for yourselves. A ghost doesn't have flesh and bones, as you can see that I have!

Then He shows them His hands and His feet.

Now their fear gives way to joy; but it seems too good to be true, and they're still unsure.

Jesus:
Do you have anything here to eat?

They hand Him a piece of broiled fish, and He takes it and eats it in front of them.

(Luke 24:13-35)

Jesus:
I give you the gift of peace. In the same way the Father sent Me, I am now sending you.

Now He drew close enough to each of them that they could feel His breath. He breathed on them:

Jesus:
Welcome the Holy Spirit of the living God. You now have the mantle of God's forgiveness. As you go, you are able to share the life-giving power to forgive sins, or to withhold forgiveness.

All of the eleven were present with the exception of Thomas. He heard the accounts of each brother's interaction with the Lord.

The Other Disciples:
We have seen the Lord!

Thomas:
Until I see His hands, feel the wounds of the nails, and put my hand to His side, I won't believe what you are saying.


(John 20:21-25)
Response in Prayer

O Father in heaven, please fill me with Your Spirit. Yes, dear Father, I believe Your Spirit is present in me, but I yield my will and open my heart to be led and transformed by the Holy Spirit so that I can share the gracious compassion of Jesus and show more of His holy character in my life. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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"Beyond Bread" — A Year with Jesus for 04/21/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious Disciple,

Today, I hope you realize that everything is different because of what we celebrated together yesterday. Resurrection Sunday changed everything for all of time! On Sunday night after My resurrection — the beginning of Monday for us — I caught up with a couple of disappointed, confused, and yet hopeful disciples walking back home to Emmaus. The disciples didn't recognize me when they spoke these words that were poignant reminders of crushed hopes, yet still waiting to see what the rumors of My resurrection would actually mean:
We had been hoping that He was the One — you know, the One who would liberate all Israel and bring God's promises. Anyway, on top of all this, just this morning — the third day after the execution — some women in our group really shocked us. They went to the tomb early this morning, but they didn't see His body anywhere. Then they came back and told us they did see something — a vision of heavenly messengers — and these messengers said that Jesus was alive. Some people in our group went to the tomb to check it out, and just as the women had said, it was empty. But they didn't see Jesus.
So I stepped into their disappointment, confusion, and weariness and gave them the sacred blessing of My presence and My grace in the ordinariness of a simple meal.

I broke bread with them — something that I had done repeatedly throughout My ministry. Luke was very good to show you how often I shared a meal with precious people — some were opposed, some were seeking something more than they had, some were passionate disciples, some were hangers on, but all were precious to Me. So it was only natural that I began My passion with a meal and that I celebrated My resurrection at the end of My passion with a meal with believers. The first of those two meals was centered in Passover as a very special meal. This one with two disappointed disciples was very simple and ordinary, except... they recognized Me in the breaking of the bread.

So as you begin this week, I want to remind you of one very simple, and I hope very exciting, promise:
For when two or three gather together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

(Matthew 18:20)
And this promise is fully true when you share a simple meal, call on My name, talk about Me, think about the scriptures, and share in the love you have for each other.

In your busy and harried lives, you often try to segment life into sacred and secular, work and hom! e, holy and ordinary. As your resurrected Lord, I hope you will receive My presence with you at meals as an incredible gift with the simple and gracious joy that I give it to you. Anytime and any place that you gather with a few fellow believers and eat food, share in fellowship, and call on My name you have carved out an especially sacred space in ordinary life. After all, isn't that what all of My life was about — the Holy One of heaven who came to earth to be your human host Who makes all meals in My name into an especially sacred moment of shared grace!

So join Me on the road or at the family dinner table or at the communion table — each of these is an especially sacred place of grace when you gather in My name to remember, reflect, and renew our friendship. More than just saying grace for your meals, invite Me into the moment and let's share together in an ordinary, yet especially sacred space of grace!
Verses to Live

I cannot tell you how precious this story Luke provides is to Me. Enjoy your reading and begin your anticipating when we will sit at the table of grace together with your friends and family. Blessings to you as you read!

Picture this:

That same day, two other disciples (not of the eleven) are traveling the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they walk along, they talk back and forth about all that has transpired during recent days. While they're talking, discussing, and conversing, Jesus catches up to them and begins walking with them, but for some reason they don't recognize Him.

Jesus:
You two seem deeply engrossed in conversation. What are you talking about as you walk along this road?

They stop walking and just stand there, looking sad. One of them — Cleopas is his name — speaks up.

Cleopas:
You must be the only visitor in Jerusalem who hasn't heard about what's been going on over the last few days.

Jesus:
What are you talking about?

Two Disciples:
It's all about the man named Jesus of Nazareth. He was a mighty prophet who did amazing miracles and preached powerful messages in the sight of God and everyone around. Our chief priests and authorities handed Him over to be executed — crucified, in fact.

We had been hoping that He was the One — you know, the One who would liberate all Israel and bring God's promises. Anyway, on top of all this, just this morning — the third day after the execution — some women in our group really shocked us. They went to the tomb early this morning, but they didn't see His body anywhere. Then they came back and told us they did see something — a vision of heavenly messengers — and these messengers said that Jesus was alive. Some people in our group went to the tomb to check it out, and just as the women had said, it was empty. But they didn't see Jesus.

Jesus:
Come on, men! Why are you being so foolish? Why are your hearts so sluggish when it comes to believing what the prophets have been saying all along? Didn't it have to be this way? Didn't the Anointed One have to experience these sufferings in order to come into His glory?

Then He begins with Moses and continues, prophet by prophet, explaining the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures, showing how they were talking about the very things that had happened to Jesus.

About this time, they are nearing their destination. Jesus keeps walking ahead as if He has no plans to stop there, but they convince Him to join them.

Two Disciples:
Please, be our guest. It's getting late, and soon it will be too dark to walk.

So He accompanies them to their home. When they sit down at the table for dinner, He takes the bread in His hands, He gives thanks for it, and then He breaks it and hands it to them. At that instant, two things happen simultaneously: their eyes are suddenly opened so they recognize Him, and He instantly vanishes — just disappears before their eyes.

Two Disciples (to each other):
Amazing! Weren't our hearts on fire within us while He was talking to us on the road? Didn't you feel it all coming clear as He explained the meaning of the Hebrew Scriptures?

So they get up immediately and rush back to Jerusalem — all seven miles — where they find the eleven gathered together — the eleven plus a number of others. Before Cleopas and his companion can tell their story, the others have their own story to tell.

Other Disciples:
The Lord has risen indeed! It's true! He appeared to Simon!

Then the two men report their own experience — their conversation along the road, their moment of realization and recognition as He broke the bread.

(Luke 24:13-35)
Response in Prayer

O holy Father, what sweet grace that Jesus has given us the promise of His presence in the most ordinary places of our lives. We always welcome Him to our table and receive Your grace in Jesus' name. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sun 20 Apr 2014, 2:21 pm

"'Better Off Leaving Him Alive'" — A Year with Jesus for 04/19/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Seeker,

One of the more bewildering requests Pilate received during the whole ordeal of My trials, crucifixion, and burial was the strange request by the chief priests and the Pharisees:
So please order someone to secure the tomb for at least three days. Otherwise His disciples might sneak in and steal his body away, and then claim that He has been raised from the dead.

Here are the realities of the situation. My disciples were scared they would be the next to die and so they were locked away in an upper story room hiding from the authorities. They weren't going to steal any body. They were just trying to stay alive and trying to figure out what to do next!

The concern about their stealing My body was ludicrous. Even more ludicrous was the posting of a guard at the tomb of someone who is dead. If the deceased can make himself alive again, you have a lot bigger problem than a few guards at the entrance of a tomb could ever handle!

Just as My body lay still in the grave, those who crucified Me were about to ensure that their greatest fears would be realized. What were those fears? Matthew's words capture them powerfully. If My disciples believed that I was raised from the dead, then these religious leaders "would have been better off just leaving Him [Me] alive." A wonder-working Messiah was hard enough to oppose. How do you stop people who truly believe their Messiah had been unmercifully and brutally executed and then was raised from the dead by the power of God? As you now know nearly two thousand years later, you can't stop such "resurrection-believing" people!

All the schemes, plots, and machinations exerted to kill Me would be futile. In fact, all those efforts would only strengthen the foundation of My disciples' faith once they were convinced that I had been raised! After they had seen Me alive following My resurrection, their faith would push them out of their fear into bold passion. Once they ate with Me, their resurrected Lord, their conviction that I lived would stir them to turn the world upside down with My message of grace. These religious leaders and their soldiers could no longer threaten them into silence once they had touched My wounds — wounds on my head, hands, feet, and side — where I had been pierced by the thorns, nails, and a spear. These religious leaders would have their worst fears realized. Once My disciples believed in My resurrection and the empty tomb, they proved to be unstoppable!

So while all seems lost for My little band of followers, those who killed Me were still afraid of Me. You are reading this because you know what happens next: these religious leaders have their worst fears realized. Death could not stop Me or My influence or My triumph over the grave. All their politics, religion, lying, and deception couldn't keep My body locked in that tomb and held by the power of death. Soon, after a brief respite while My body would lie motionless and lifeless in the grave, they would have to deal with Me, the Lord of heaven and earth and conqueror of death.
Verses to Live

The Bible is filled with little glimpses of holy irony as humans try to oppose the plan and power of the LORD — Father, Son, and Spirit. The second Psalm is a powerful testimony about the futility of human scheming in opposition to the will of the Father (Psalm 2:1-12). I especially love the last part of verse 1:"Why are the people making plans to pursue their own vacant and empty greatness?" This frantic scheming by those who put Me to death proved futile as My resurrection demonstrated. So as you read the words below, notice how ridiculous this scheming proved to be. 
The next day, which is the day after the Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went together to Pilate. They reminded him that when Jesus was alive He had claimed that He would be raised from the dead after three days.

Chief Priests and Pharisees:
So please order someone to secure the tomb for at least three days. Otherwise His disciples might sneak in and steal His body away, and then claim that He has been raised from the dead. If that happens, then we would have been better off just leaving Him alive.

Pilate:
You have a guard. Go and secure the grave.

So they went to the tomb, sealed the stone in its mouth, and left the guard to keep watch.

(Matthew 27:62-66)
Response in Prayer

O Father, when death closes in on those whom I love and who are Jesus' disciples, please help Me believe! Help Me believe, O LORD, that the power that was present to bring life to Jesus' dead body will come with grace and power to raise those I love. The distance between burial and resurrection seems like a long wait from our perspective on earth, so I ask for faith to believe that resurrection is coming during the long wait till reunion with those of us who live on this side of the grave. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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"Welcome to Son Rise" — A Year with Jesus for 04/20/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Follower and Friend,

"Let there be light. And light flashed into being" (Genesis 1:3). Yes, I was there the very first time light drove away the darkness at creation. In fact, I AM the creative Word that brought creation into existence (John 1:1-5; Colossians 1:16). So guess what? I was there for the great rising of the sun on that Sunday after my crucifixion, the first Sunday after the ultimate Passover Lamb — Me, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God — was slain. I AM the Lord of Resurrection Sunday.

You may call it Easter, yet for heaven's angels it was Son Rise — the great day of victory for each of you who has placed her or his faith in Me. The power of sin and death was defeated. Broken hearts with shattered dreams were suddenly jubilant, joyously stitched together with unconquerable hope when I rose victorious over hell and the power of the grave.

I know you will have hard days, dark days that are too long and feel hopeless. So as you read the verses below, I want you to notice that Mary Magdalene twice calls Me her Lord even though she thinks that death still holds Me. So on your days that are too long and feel hopeless, I want you to hang onto faith like Mary did. Call out to Me as your Lord. Trust Me as your Lord. Hang on to Me as Lord even when there appears to be no reason to keep holding onto faith in Me. Sooner or later, like Mary, there will be Son Rise! That is the promise of Resurrection Sunday. That is the assurance that Mary Magdalene's example of faith can give you.

Rejoice today, but not just today. Every sunrise is a reminder that death cannot hold you when you are in My life-giving grip. Every cemetery sorrow is but a temporary parting for those touched by My grace. Remember this: the grave cannot hold those who have put their faith Me as Lord. With Me there is always the promise of Son Rise!

Verses to Live

Death is the horror that hell has used to enslave humanity. When you see the broken heart of My mother, Mary, as she watches me die, please know I came to bring hope to such pain. When you see Peter devastated by his betrayal as I faced death, please know I came to remove such shame. When you see Mary Magdalene, touched first by my powerful grace when I cast out the demons oppressing her and then confused and broken by my death, please know that I am Lord of life and of the assurance that hope triumphs over death. When you see the sunrise, remember Me and remember Son Rise. I bring light to darkness, hope to despair, healing to brokenness, and most of all, life to death. Hear these words and remember, Son Rise!

Near the place He was crucified, there was a garden with a newly prepared tomb. Because it was the day of preparation, they arranged to lay Jesus in this tomb so they could rest on the Sabbath.

Before the sun had risen on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made a trip to the tomb where His body was laid to rest. In the darkness, she discovered the covering had been rolled away. She darted out of the garden to find Simon Peter and the dearly loved disciple to deliver this startling news.

Mary Magdalene:
They have taken the body of our Lord, and we cannot find Him!

Together, they all departed for the tomb to see for themselves. They began to run, and Peter could not keep up. The beloved disciple arrived first but did not go in. There was no corpse in the tomb, only the linens and cloths He was wrapped in. When Simon Peter finally arrived, he went into the tomb and observed the same: the cloth that covered His face appeared to have been folded carefully and placed, not with the linen cloths, but to the side. After Peter pointed this out, the other disciple (who had arrived long before Peter) also entered the tomb; and based on what he saw, faith began to well up inside him! Before this moment, none of them understood the Scriptures and why He must be raised from the dead. Then they all went to their homes.

Mary, however, stood outside the tomb sobbing, crying, and kneeling at its entrance. As she cried, two heavenly messengers appeared before her sitting where Jesus' head and feet had been laid.

Heavenly Messengers:
Dear woman, why are you weeping?

Mary Magdalene:
They have taken away my Lord, and I cannot find Him.

After uttering these words, she turned around to see Jesus standing before her, but she did not recognize Him.

Jesus:
Dear woman, why are you sobbing? Who is it you are looking for?

She still had no idea who it was before her. Thinking He was the gardener, she muttered:

Mary Magdalene:
Sir, if you are the one who carried Him away, then tell me where He is and I will retrieve Him.

Jesus:
Mary!

Mary Magdalene (turning to Jesus and speaking in Hebrew):
Rabboni, my Teacher!

Jesus:
Mary, you cannot hold Me. I must rise above this world to be with My Father, who is also your Father; My God, who is also your God. Go tell this to all My brothers.

Mary Magdalene obeyed and went directly to His disciples.

Mary Magdalene (announcing to the disciples):
I have seen the Lord...

(John 19:41-42; John 20:1-18)
Response in Prayer

Almighty God — so high and exalted, yet so near — I praise You and thank You for Your power, love, and grace. Thank You for Jesus, born of woman, clothed in mortality, moved by love to be crucified for my sins, entombed in death to share my mortality, and raised from death as my conquering Lord. I thank You that Jesus' future is now my future, His conquest over death is now my assured victory, and His glory is now my destination. Thank you for Son Rise! Thank you, in Jesus' name, hallelujah. Amen.
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Carrying My Cross" — A Year with Jesus for 04/17/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Friend,

As you read the verses below, they give you details about the horrendous way I was treated during My "trials" and My journey to Golgotha. You see hatred in action. You see a mob that has been manipulated and the people in it have lost their ability to think clearly and act fairly. You see people in abject sorrow, "shrieking and wailing in grief." Even My words of warning at the end of this scripture are ominous.

However, I want you to notice one small touch of grace in an awful, violent, and out-of-control set of circumstances — circumstances fueled by the hate and fear of religious leaders determined to kill Me. What is that touch of grace? Simon of Cyrene is chosen to help Me by carrying My cross. After a night of no sleep, ridicule, being mocked, slapped, spit upon, beaten, scourged, paraded before leaders, rejected by the mob, and sentenced to death by Pilate, I was exhausted and physically weak. So I was given someone to help Me by carrying My cross to the place where they would crucify Me. Though forsaken by My closest followers — Peter denied Me, Judas betrayed Me, and the rest abandoned Me — I was given the consolation of someone to help Me by carrying My cross the last part of the way. Even though he did not volunteer, he did help ease My burden.

So out of this well of deep misery that is being inflicted upon Me as I go to My death and then My grave, I was given this one grace — someone to help Me by carrying My burden. Over the years, My disciples in different parts of the world have seen Simon as a reminder of how important it is to lift the burden of those who are dying. Others have seen Simon as a great image of someone who picks up his cross and helps Me in My mission.
Verses to Live

As you read the horrible price I pay and the ridicule I face and scorn I bear on the way to the cross, I hope you will be moved to choose one of two ways to honor Simon who helped Me by carrying My cross:
You will commit yourself to helping ease the burden of someone who is dying.
You will commit to help carry My cross by joining Me in My mission to reach the hearts of unbelievers.
In the horror of what happens in life, may you be Simon to someone else who needs help with life's burdens!

So the whole council got up and took Jesus to Pilate. They brought accusations against Him.

Sanhedrin:
We have observed this man leading our nation astray. He even forbade us to pay our taxes to Caesar. He claims to be the Anointed One and a King Himself.

Pilate:
Are You the King of the Jews?

Jesus:
It's as you say.

Pilate (to the chief priest and crowd):
I find this man guilty of no crime.

Sanhedrin (growing more intense):
He has been stirring up discontent among the people all over Judea. He started up in Galilee, and now He's brought His brand of trouble all the way to Jerusalem!

Pilate:
Just a minute. Is this man a Galilean?

When Pilate learned that Jesus was indeed Galilean — which meant He was officially under Herod's jurisdiction — Pilate sent Him over to Herod, who was currently in Jerusalem. Herod was fascinated to meet Jesus for he had heard about Him for a long time. He was hoping he might be treated to a miracle or two. He interrogated Jesus for quite a while, but Jesus remained silent, refusing to answer his questions. Meanwhile the chief priests and religious scholars had plenty to say — angrily hurling accusations at Jesus.

Eventually Herod and his soldiers began to insult Jesus, mocking and degrading Him. They put expensive clothing on Him and sent Him back to Pilate. This ended a long-standing rift between Herod and Pilate; they became friends from that day forward.

Pilate assembled the chief priests and other Jewish authorities.

Pilate:
You presented this man to me as a rabble-rouser, but I examined Him in your presence and found Him not guilty of the charges you have leveled against Him. Herod also examined Him and released Him to my custody. So He hasn't done anything deserving the death penalty. I'll see to it that He is properly whipped and then let Him go.

It was the custom for Pilate to set one prisoner free during the holiday festivities.

Crowd (all shouting at once):
Away with this man! Free Barabbas instead!

Barabbas had been imprisoned after being convicted of an insurrection he had led in Jerusalem. He had also committed murder. Pilate argued with them, wishing he could release Jesus, but they wouldn't be silenced.

Crowd (shouting):
Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

Pilate (countering a third time):
Why? What has He done that is so evil? I have found in Him no offense worthy of capital punishment. As I said, I will punish Him and then release Him.

But they would not relent. They shouted louder and louder that He should be crucified, and eventually Pilate capitulated. So he pronounced the punishment they demanded.

He released the rebel and murderer Barabbas — the insurrectionist they had pleaded for in His place — and he handed Jesus over to them to do with as they desired.

On the way to the place of crucifixion, they pulled a man from the crowd—his name was Simon of Cyrene, a person from the countryside who happened to be entering the city at that moment. They put Jesus' cross on Simon's shoulders, and he followed behind Jesus. Along with Him was a huge crowd of common people, including many women shrieking and wailing in grief.

Jesus (to the people in the crowd):
Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me. Weep instead for yourselves and weep for your children. Days are coming when people will say, "Blessed are the infertile; blessed are the wombs that never bore a child; blessed are the breasts that never nursed an infant." People will beg the mountains, "Surround us!" They'll plead with the hills, "Cover us!" For if they treat Me like this when I'm like green unseasoned wood, what will they do to a nation that's ready to burn like seasoned firewood.

(Luke 23:1-31)
Response in Prayer

O Father, please use me to be a Simon to someone in need. In Jesus' name and in memory of Jesus' sacrifice I pray to be used for Jesus' glory and to share Jesus' grace with those who do not yet know Him. Amen.
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Father Forgive Them!" — A Year with Jesus for 04/18/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Child of God,

Few things are more difficult for My beloved followers to read than the account of My crucifixion. In the verses below, this is what you will find:
I was crucified as a criminal, among criminals.
As I died, the soldiers at the foot of My naked and battered body gambled to see who could take home my clothes.
The religious authorities who were supposed to support My faith and give Me comfort mocked Me.
Calloused soldiers joined in mocking Me and teasing My parched and dehydrated body with sour wine for My thirst.
Soldiers mocked My identity as King of the Jews and then challenged Me to free myself.
The soldiers nailed a title of derision and sarcasm, "This is the King of the Jews!" written in three languages so anyone could read it.
One dying criminal joined in the derision, mocking, and ridicule.
Darkness descended and "the curtain of the temple was torn in two."

With all that is going on that is awful and sub-human, notice the touches of grace that redeem this story into a message o! f hope, mercy, love, forgiveness, and redemption:
My prayer of forgiveness for their murder of Me: "Father forgive them!"
My promise to the believing criminal crucified with Me: "I promise you that this very day you will be with Me in paradise."
The Centurion's words of faith after seeing everything that happened at the cross: "No doubt, this man must have been innocent."
Joseph of Arimathea, a good and fair man, who had objected to the plans and actions of the religious leader, asked Pilate for My body and gave Me a proper burial.
The only group who stayed with Me through the whole ordeal of My passion, the women, made preparations to complete My proper burial after the Sabbath had passed.

Some of you who read this are going through your own time of testing. You find yourself in what feels like deepest darkness. You could be facing this darkness because of your own mistakes. You could be facing this darkness because of what others have done to you. You could even be facing this darkness because you are having to say goodbye to someone incredibly precious to you and you wonder why your miracle never came.

The Father put My cross in the middle of such deep darkness so that you could know with certainty this important truth: there is not a place I won't go to reach you and share the Father's love with you. The cross was the Roman tool of subjugation — to put fear into the hearts of people. It was designed to be a tool of public humiliation and was reserved only for the worst of crimes and the lowest of criminals. Crucifixion was dehumanizing. Use of crucifixion was awful. My cross was awful — awful for Me and awful for the Father. My cross was Satan's apparent moment of triumph and hell's greatest moment of delight. 

Some of you feel that is where you live right now — at that intersection of Awful-to-God and Hellish-Delight. You see no end, no answer, no hope, and no one to save you. That's one reason My crucifixion is so important. It is a reminder that I chose to share that horrible address with you — the intersection of Awful-to-God and Hellish-Delight — to redeem you out of that place with My grace. The cross reminds you that I know your sense of pain, isolation, rejection, and misery. I endured these things so that you could know that you are not alone when you find yourself in such awful and hellish circumstances.

At the same time, the touches of grace in this awful scene provide you a reminder that in the worst of places, where inhumanity and hell's fury meet, God's grace seeps in and redeems the worst of messes even in the deepest darkness. Forgiveness is given. Grace is extended. Faith is declared. Kindness is shown. Faithfulness is demonstrated. Such is the power of My cross — the cross I bore so you could know that there is never a place My love won't go to find you and bring you safely back to the Father.
Verses to Live

The verses below show some of the horrors of My crucifixion as well as reveal touches of grace that remind You why I endured this awful and humiliating death. Please don't forget that what happens at the cross is more than just a bunch of angry people killing a would-be Messiah from Nazareth. The events recounted here are the story of the greatest grace ever shown. I give Myself as a sacrificial offering for the sin of the world so that you can be forgiven and reconciled back to the Father!

Jesus wasn't the only one being crucified that day. There were two others, criminals, who were also being led to their execution. When they came to the place known as "The Skull," they crucified Jesus there, in the company of criminals, one to the right of Jesus and the other to His left.

Jesus:
Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing.

Meanwhile they were drawing lots to see who would win Jesus' clothing. The crowd of people stood, watching.

Authorities (mocking Jesus):
So He was supposed to rescue others, was He? He was supposed to be God's Anointed, the Liberating King? Let's see Him start by liberating Himself!

The soldiers joined in the mockery. First, they pretended to offer Him a soothing drink — but it was sour wine.

Soldiers:
Hey, if You're the King of the Jews, why don't You free Yourself!

Even the inscription they placed over Him was intended to mock Him — "This is the King of the Jews!" This was written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.

One of the criminals joined in the cruel talk.

Cynical Criminal:
You're supposed to be the Anointed One, right? Well — do it! Rescue Yourself and us!

But the other criminal told him to be quiet.

Believing Criminal:
Don't you have any fear of God at all? You're getting the same death sentence He is! We're getting what we deserve since we've committed crimes, but this man hasn't done anything wrong at all! (turning to Jesus) Jesus, when You come into Your kingdom, please remember me.

Jesus:
I promise you that this very day you will be with Me in paradise.

At this point, it was about noon, and a darkness fell over the whole region. The darkness persisted until about three in the afternoon, and at some point during this darkness, the curtain in the temple was torn in two.

Jesus (shouting out loudly):
Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands!

And with those words, He exhaled — and breathed no more.

The Centurion — one of the soldiers who performed the execution — saw all this, and he praised God.

Centurion:
No doubt, this man must have been innocent.

The crowds of common people who had gathered and watched the whole ordeal through to its conclusion left for their homes, pounding on their own chests in profound grief. And all who knew Jesus personally, including the group of women who had been with Him from the beginning in Galilee, stood at a distance, watching all of these things unfold.

Meanwhile a man named Joseph had been at work. He was a member of the council, a good and fair man, from a Judean town called Arimathea. He had objected to the plans and actions of the council; he was seeking the kingdom of God. He had gone to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He removed the body from the cross and wrapped it in a shroud made of fine linen. He then laid the body in a cavelike tomb cut from solid rock, a tomb that never had been used before. It was Preparation Day — the day before the holy Sabbath — and it was about to begin at sundown. The women who had accompanied Jesus from the beginning in Galilee now came, took note of where the tomb was and how His body had been prepared, then left to prepare spices and ointments for His proper burial. They ceased their work on the Sabbath so they could rest as the Hebrew Scriptures required.

(Luke 23:32-56)
Response in Prayer

O Father, with the old hymn I proclaim that "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." In Jesus' name and because of His sacrifice, I thank you for Your amazing grace. Amen.
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"I AM!" — A Year with Jesus for 04/16/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

The ugly night that leads to Golgotha and My death on the cross has begun. There is not much to say other than everyone close to me abandons me... except for a handful of precious women who have supported me throughout My ministry. Each paragraph of Luke's account brings greater disappointment. 

The Father did not spare Me the cup of death and anguish.

My sweat is like large drops of blood falling to the ground.

After a brief respite and the encouragement of an angel, a heavenly messenger sent from My Father, I find My beloved disciples asleep — they didn't know what was happening, but they were weighed down by sorrow and could not stay awake with Me.

The noisy crowd that came to arrest Me was led by Judas. Yes, one of My own, Judas, came to betray Me into the hands of those who hated Me — came to betray Me with a kiss.

Peter, in his misguided attempt to protect Me, then cut off the right ear of the high priest's slave. Violence! How could any of My disciples have thought I would resort to violence to solve this decay of the human heart so clearly displayed by the Jewish leaders? My only act of power that night was to heal the slave's wound. I repeatedly refused that night to use any power to protect Myself!

I was then manhandled and taken to the home of the high priest. Peter was there, but it was pure agony to know what he did... to have seen him across the courtyard in the glow of the fire denying that he ever knew Me... to have heard the rooster crow... to have had our eyes meet... and to have seen the look of absolute and total shame as he fled the courtyard with bitter tears streaming down his face... all these broke My heart for him.

Then those holding Me mocked Me and beat Me. They blindfolded Me and mocked Me some more... insulted Me... degraded Me any way they could... then took Me in the darkness to be illegally interrogated.

Then in one bright and shining moment in the midst of hell's absolute darkness that held the world in its grip on this night of betrayal, denial, and shame, I was asked:

"Are You..." And I said "I AM!" Yes, I know you might miss this clear declaration of My identity because of your translations, but that is what I literally said. "I AM!"

The "I AM" Who revealed Himself to Moses and instructed him to lead Israel so I could redeem My people from Egypt. That "I AM" is Me... the "I AM" Who went to the cross for you, to redeem you, and to show you that you are truly My beloved.
Verses to Live

Beloved, as you see Me withhold My power to protect Myself, accept the Father's plan, and submit Myself to the horrors of religion gone bad and religious leaders grown corrupt, remember this one truth: "I AM!" The "I AM" Who is and Who was, and Who is to come. The "I AM" who gave Himself for you because you are truly one of My beloved. The "I AM" Who is Jesus, your Lord and Savior.

Once again He [Jesus] left the city as He had been doing during recent days, returning to Mount Olivet along with His disciples. And He came to a certain place.

Jesus:
Pray for yourselves, that you will not sink into temptation.

He distanced Himself from them about a stone's throw and knelt there, praying.

Jesus:
Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me. Yet not My will, but Your will, be done.

Then a messenger from heaven appeared to strengthen Him. And in His anguish, He prayed even more intensely, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When He rose from prayer and returned to the disciples, He found them asleep, weighed down with sorrow. He roused them.

Jesus:
Why are you sleeping? Wake up and pray that you will not sink into temptation.

Even as He said these words, the sound of a crowd could be heard in the distance, and as the crowd came into view, it was clear that Judas was leading them. He came close to Jesus and gave Jesus the traditional greeting of a kiss.

Jesus:
Ah, Judas, is this how you betray the Son of Man — with a kiss?

Disciples (realizing what was going on):
Lord, is this why You told us to bring the swords? Should we attack?

Before Jesus could answer, one of them had swung his sword at the high priest's slave, cutting off his right ear.

Jesus:
Stop! No more of this!

Then He reached out to touch — and heal — the man's ear. Jesus turned to the chief priests, the captains of the temple, and the elders and spoke.

Jesus:
Do you think I'm some sort of violent criminal? Is that why you came with swords and clubs? I haven't been hard to find — each day I've been in the temple in broad daylight, and you never tried to seize Me there. But this is your time — night — and this is your power — the power of darkness.

They grabbed Him at this point and took Him away to the high priest's home. Peter followed — at a distance. He watched from the shadows as those who had seized Jesus made a fire in the center of the courtyard and sat down around it. Then Peter slipped in quietly and sat with them. But a young servant girl saw his face in the firelight. She stared for a while and then spoke.

Servant Girl:
This fellow here was with Jesus. I recognize him.

Peter (denying it):
Woman, I don't even know the man.

A little later, a man also recognized him.

Man:
I recognize you. You're one of Jesus' followers.

Peter:
Man, you're wrong. I'm not.

An hour or so passed, and then another person pointed to Peter.

Another Person:
This fellow is obviously Galilean. He must be a member of Jesus' group.

Peter:
Look, I have no idea what you're talking about.

And he hadn't even finished the sentence when a nearby rooster crowed. The Lord turned toward Peter, and their eyes met. Peter remembered Jesus' words about his triple denial before the rooster would crow, so he left the courtyard and wept bitter tears.

At this point, the men who were holding Jesus began to mock Him and beat Him. They put a blindfold on Him.

Men Holding Jesus:
Hey, Prophet! Use Your prophetic powers to tell us who just whacked You!

They kept on with this sort of insulting, degrading treatment for quite some time. When dawn had given way to full day, the Sanhedrin council assembled, consisting of religious leaders of the Sadducean party, along with the chief priests and religious scholars. They took Him to their headquarters for interrogation.

Sanhedrin:
If you are the Anointed One whom God promised us, tell us plainly.

Jesus:
If I give you an answer, you won't believe it. And if I ask you a question, you won't answer it. But this I will say to you: from now on, the Son of Man will take His seat at the right hand of the power of God.

Sanhedrin:
So You are the Son of God, then?

Jesus:
It's as you say.

Sanhedrin:
What more evidence do we need? We've heard it with our own ears from His own lips.

(Luke 22:39-71)
Response in Prayer

Holy God, thank You for coming to our world as Jesus and demonstrating Your love for me in such unmistakable ways through Jesus' voluntary sacrifice on the cross. As Your beloved child, I thank you... with all I am, I thank You for being the great I AM of glory and grace who gave Himself for me in Jesus on the cross. It is through the powerful name of Jesus that I pray. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Tue 15 Apr 2014, 6:47 pm

"Nightfall" — A Year with Jesus for 04/15/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

Satan tries to mess up every act of genuine love. What you read in the verses below is one of My most precious moments with My closest disciples. They are still not "getting" what is about to happen to Me, much less what it means to them and what it will cost Me. They are teetering on the brink of striving for religious position and privilege just like the folks who were trying to kill Me — the very same folks whom I rebuked in yesterday's verses.

Rather than give a theological discourse on the nature of being a servant — I had spoken about this truth often enough with My disciples — I decided to show them My love as I faced My own death. I think you will find this time with My disciples to be quite precious and it illustrates the point beautifully: in My kingdom, the greatest is a servant; not the person of position and power at the head of the table and receiving all the attention while being waited upon hand and foot, but the one who is willing to wash feet and care genuinely for all the others.

Of course Peter — as he so often does — gets things a little confused. The others are a little mystified by what is happening. Why would I — their Lord and Teacher — stoop down, pick up the towel, and wash their feet like a common slave? They had to know that this is the nature of true love and true leadership. As the minutes I was going to have with them were speeding quickly into the past, I wanted to leave them a memory that would stick in their heart and transform their attitudes.

Then there is Judas. In the moment of love's great demonstration, he was biding time until he could turn Me over to those who wanted to kill Me. He was so close to Me. He shared this meal me. He was so close that we shared the same cup in which we dipped our bread. He had spent three years with Me. No one even suspected him. Yet Satan had already entered his heart.

This is the nature of love on its worst days. You give all you have to someone else and they let you down, like all those at the table with Me would do. Others overstate their commitment to you and then can't live up to their promises, like Peter. A few even sell you out for what they think is a better offer, like Judas.

So no matter what people might do to you — even people whom you have loved with all that you have and all that you are — you know you can always come to Me and talk to Me about how you feel. I know the hurt. I know the gut wrenching ache of abandonment, the disappointment of hours of invested love, and loneliness of facing the ridicule of others while having no one there for you from among your closest friends. I know because this is what I AM about to experience.

When Judas leaves, John's words hauntingly state the truth with such brutal finality: So Judas took his piece of bread and departed into the night. I hope you never know the feeling of such heartbreaking nightfall; but if you do, remember this: I know what it feels like and I will help you through it if you will call out to Me!"
Verses to Live

Love is demonstrated by what it does. So what does the following say about Me? And what does it say about those around Me? Most of all, what does this love call you to do?

Before the Passover festival began, Jesus was keenly aware that His hour had come to depart from this world and to return to the Father. From beginning to end, Jesus' days were marked by His love for His people. Before Jesus and His disciples gathered for dinner, the adversary filled Judas Iscariot's heart with plans of deceit and betrayal. Jesus, knowing that He had come from God and was going away to God, stood up from dinner and removed His outer garments. He then wrapped Himself in a towel, poured water in a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with His towel.

Simon Peter (as Jesus approaches):
Lord, are You going to wash my feet?

Jesus:
Peter, you don't realize what I am doing, but you will understand later.

Peter:
You will not wash my feet, now or ever!

Jesus:
If I don't wash you, you will have nothing to do with Me.

Peter:
Then wash me but don't stop with my feet. Cleanse my hands and head as well.

Jesus:
Listen, anyone who has bathed is clean all over except for the feet. But I tell you this, not all of you are clean.

He knew the one with plans of betraying Him, which is why He said, "not all of you are clean." After washing their feet and picking up His garments, He reclined at the table again.

Jesus:
Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and truly, that is who I am. So if your Lord and Teacher washes your feet, then you should wash one another's feet. I am your example; keep doing what I do. I tell you the truth: a servant is not greater than the master. Those who are sent are not greater than the one who sends them. If you know these things, and if you put them into practice, you will find happiness. I am not speaking about all of you. I know whom I have chosen, but let the Hebrew Scripture be fulfilled that says, "The very same man who eats My bread with Me will stab Me in the back." Assuredly, I tell you these truths before they happen so that when it all transpires, you will believe that I am. I tell you the truth: anyone who accepts the ones I send accepts Me. In turn, the ones who accept Me also accept the One who sent Me.

Jesus was becoming visibly distressed.

Jesus:
I tell you the truth: one of you will betray Me.

The disciples began to stare at one another, wondering who was the unfaithful disciple. One disciple in particular, who was loved by Jesus, reclined next to Him at the table. Peter motioned to the disciple at Jesus' side.

Peter (to the beloved disciple):
Find out who the betrayer is.

Beloved Disciple (leaning in to Jesus):
Lord, who is it?

Jesus:
I will dip a piece of bread in My cup and give it to the one who will betray Me.

He dipped one piece in the cup and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. After this occurred, Satan entered into Judas.

Jesus (to Judas):
Make haste, and do what you are going to do.

No one understood Jesus' instructions to Judas. Because Judas carried the money, some thought he was being instructed to buy the necessary items for the feast or give some money to the poor. So Judas took his piece of bread and departed into the night.

(John 13:1-30)
Response in Prayer

O Father, help me to love others like Jesus loves them and not give up on them when they disappoint me and let me down. Thank you Jesus, for walking in the world I live in and facing the pain of disappointment and rejection that I have felt. I know you faced much worse things and have triumphed through them and redeemed nearly all of those who let you down. Thank you! Thank you, Jesus, for Your great love. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Mon 14 Apr 2014, 6:27 pm

"The Last Straw" — A Year with Jesus for 04/14/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

Jerusalem after My triumphal entry was a tangle of tension and evil plotting. Look at a few of Luke's descriptions of the situation in the verses below:
The chief priests, the religious scholars, and the leading men of the city wanted to kill Him [Me, Jesus!], but because He was so popular among the people — who hung upon each word He spoke — they were unable to do anything.

"Tell us by what authority You march into the temple and disrupt our worship. Who gave you this authority?"

That [My parable of the vineyard] was the last straw for the religious scholars and the chief priests; they were ready to attack Him [Me, Jesus] right then and there. But they couldn't for fear of public opinion, and they realized that Jesus, through this parable had exposed their violent intentions.

They would send spies, pretending to ask sincere questions, listening for something they could seize upon that would justify His [Mine, Jesus'] arrest and condemnation under the governor's authority.

The whole conflict in Jerusalem centers around the truth of My story — or parable — in today's verses. Those who were religious leaders in Israel had decided they were entitled to their positions, their interpretations, their favor among the people, and the right to do with "their" religion whatever "their" interpretations supported. Keeping their positions, their influence and control, over the whole religious enterprise was now more important to them than honoring the Father. It was surely more important to them than lovingly leading the people they were entrusted to serve and to teach about how to love Us — Father, Son, and Spirit — with all their heart and to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

My conflict with these religious leaders is the same conflict that I have with any religious leader who forgets that position and spiritual influence are given by the grace of the Father. It must be used to honor the Father and bless His people. Any favor from the Father vanishes in a heartbeat when leaders use their position to manipulate the truth, control the power, abuse the people, and oppose the God's work in His people.

You live in a time when church leaders of various stripes and persuasions have embarrassed Me and the movement I gave My life to set in motion. The Bible is full of warnings about leaders and teachers being judged with greater strictness (Ezekiel 34:1-24; James 3:1; Matthew 23:1-39; Galatians 1:6-9). The abuse has been a problem in almost every age. This abuse was a big part of My conflict with the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem. My words of criticism of the spiritual leadership of Israel was part of what led these religious leaders to reject and crucify Me. So when you find yourself disillusioned by the failures of leaders in your day — moral failure, failure to offer compassion, failure to speak the truth, failure because they were co-opted by the political winds of the age — remember two things:
I abhor the abuses and neglect perpetuated out of hypocrisy and misuse of religious influence.
Those who have abused their privilege and position of spiritual leadership will have to answer to the Father.
And this, my beloved disciple, is how I characterized the Father's position on the subject:
He'll come and wipe those tenants [leaders] out, and he'll give the vineyard to others.

Verses to Live

The following verses contain hard words spoken and hard actions taken in the middle of a very difficult set of circumstances. Yet the issue underneath is a matter of utmost importance: Why do people serve God? Why do they serve the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit? Do they do it for themselves and for their advantage? Or do they serve to bless others and reflect the character and compassion of God?

He [Jesus] came back day after day to teach in the temple. The chief priests, the religious scholars, and the leading men of the city wanted to kill Him, but because He was so popular among the people — who hung upon each word He spoke — they were unable to do anything.

One day when He was teaching the people in the temple and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests, religious scholars, and elders came up and questioned Him.

Elders:
Tell us by what authority You march into the temple and disrupt our worship. Who gave You this authority?

Jesus:
Let Me ask you a question first. Tell Me this: was the ritual cleansing of baptism John did from God, or was it merely a human thing?

Chief Priests, Religious Scholars, and Elders (conferring together):
If we say it was from God, then He'll ask us why we didn't believe John. If we say it was merely human, all the people will stone us because they are convinced that John was a true prophet.

So they said they didn't know where John's ritual washing came from.

Jesus:
Well then, if you won't answer My question, I won't tell you by what authority I have acted.

He told the people another parable:

Jesus:
A man planted a vineyard. He rented it to tenants and went for a long trip to another country. At the harvest time, he sent a servant to the tenants so he could be paid his share of the vineyard's fruit, but the tenants beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. The man sent another servant, and they beat him and treated him disgracefully and sent him away empty-handed too. He sent a third servant who was injured and thrown out. Then the vineyard owner said, "Now what am I going to do? I'll send my much-loved son. They should treat him with respect."

But when the tenants recognized the owner's son, they said, "Here's our chance to actually own this vineyard! Let's kill the owner's heir so we can claim this place as our own!" So they threw him out of the vineyard and murdered him. What do you think the owner will do to these scoundrels?

I'll tell you what he'll do; he'll come and wipe those tenants out, and he'll give the vineyard to others.

Crowd:
No! God forbid that this should happen!

Jesus:
Why then do the Hebrew Scriptures contain these words:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very stone
that holds together the entire foundation?

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to fragments, and if that stone falls on anyone, he will be ground to dust.

That was the last straw for the religious scholars and the chief priests; they were ready to attack Him right then and there. But they couldn't for fear of public opinion, and they realized that Jesus, through this parable, had exposed their violent intentions.

They would keep Him under constant surveillance. They would send spies, pretending to ask sincere questions, listening for something they could seize upon that would justify His arrest and condemnation under the governor's authority.

(Luke 19:47-48 & Luke 20:1-20)
Response in Prayer

Father in heaven, forgive me when my motives get mixed up — when I appear to be serving You but I am doing it to get what I want and to enjoy what I like. Purify my heart. Forgive my sin. Restore me to your service with a clean and upright heart that loves and serves to honor You and bless Your people. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Sun 13 Apr 2014, 6:33 pm

"Loving Extravagance" — A Year with Jesus for 04/12/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved Disciple,

What would it be worth to you to have someone precious to you raised from the dead?

I don't ask this question to be morbid or hurtful, but to help you grapple with the deep implications of Mary's extravagant gift that My beloved disciple John shares with you in the verses below. Let Me explain a little bit to help you understand.

Life is very complicated. It always has been. The events that happened in My life that you will see over the course of this next week are part of that complicated life. These events of this following week are shaped by all sorts of forces:
The will and plan of God.
The scheming of political and religious leaders who considered Me to be their enemy.
Satan's evil work on the hearts of My closest disciples.
The tidal wave of popularity I was receiving from the crowd.
The forces of politics and religion as they coalesced against Me at the time of Passover in the city of Jerusalem.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead and the attention it brought to Me.
The conflict I had over the course of this week with those in authority in Jerusalem.
The duplicity and betrayal of Judas and the conflicts in his own heart.

Yet on another level, the world is amazingly simple. Mary's and Martha's beloved brother Lazarus had died, but I had raised him from the dead. He was now alive. I had given Mary and Martha the miracle of all miracles: their beloved brother, once dead, now lived. I had defeated death and given them life!

For Mary, in this moment of great swirling emotions, political maneuvering, religious hatred, and the evil intervention of Satan into the world of My disciples, there was really only one thing that mattered. I had given her back her brother from death. Her loving appreciation couldn't help but be demonstrated with extravagance.

Judas couldn't appreciate Mary's gift because his heart was on other things — treacherous and selfish things. His criticism was unwarranted and hypocritical. He knew, and all My disciples knew, that I cared deeply about the broken, the outcast, the marginalized, and the poor. Yet when the power of sin, death, and Satan are defeated for you and for those you love, no extravagance is unwarranted.

As you journey with Me this next week, please remember this truth and Mary's extravagance. You see, what I did for Mary and her sister Martha when I raised Lazarus, I will do for you and all other people who truly believe in Me. When I emerged victorious from the tomb after having faced the worst of humanity and defeating the worst that hell could throw at Me, I emerged victorious for you... and for all others like you who truly believe.

I don't ask you to respond with gifts of extravagant riches, but I want what controls all you have and all you are: I want your heart and then whatever you offer Me will naturally follow from the overflow of your love. So please pay close attention to the eight days that follow — the time from My triumphal entry into Jerusalem to My triumphant exit from the tomb. Realize this is for you... for every grief you suffer... for every person claimed by the grave who loves Me... for every scrambled emotion and broken heart when the miracle you so desperately wanted didn't seem to come.

During this next week, I will walk the path you walk. I will face the finality that you will one day face. I will pioneer a way through death so that you can one day follow Me home. Please understand; death cannot keep what I have claimed by My grace — you, and those like you, who truly love Me!
Verses to Live

Paul talked about being "the aroma of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). I hope you, like Mary, choose to spread the beautiful sweat smell of My love and ultimate victory over sin, death, and Satan. Think of how Mary felt as she shared this gift that seemed so small compared to the gift I gave her!
Six days before the Passover feast, Jesus journeyed to the village of Bethany, to the home of Lazarus who had recently been raised from the dead, where they hosted Him for dinner. Martha was busy serving as the hostess, Lazarus reclined at the table with Him, and Mary took a pound of fine ointment, pure nard (which is both rare and expensive), and anointed Jesus' feet with it; and then she wiped them with her hair. As the pleasant fragrance of this extravagant ointment filled the entire house, Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (who was plotting to betray Jesus), began to speak.

Judas Iscariot:
How could she pour out this vast amount of fine oil? Why didn't she sell it? It is worth nearly a year's wages; the money could have been given to the poor.

This had nothing to do with Judas's desire to help the poor. The truth is he served as the treasurer, and he helped himself to the money from the common pot at every opportunity.

Jesus:
Leave her alone. She has observed this custom in anticipation of the day of My burial. The poor are ever present, but I will be leaving.

Word spread of Jesus' presence, and a large crowd was gathering to see Jesus and the formerly deceased Lazarus, whom He had brought back from the dead. The chief priests were secretly plotting Lazarus's murder since, because of him, many Jews were leaving their teachings and believing in Jesus.

(John 12:1-11)
Response in Prayer

O Father, life is complicated. I sometimes get confused, discouraged, and lose my way. Yet as I journey with Jesus through the events of this special week, please draw my heart close to the depths of Your love, mercy, and grace in this story of Jesus' horrendous, but ultimately, triumphant week. Give me faith, dear Father, to believe that just as Jesus gave Lazarus back to Mary, the events of this week give me the promise of reunion with all those whom I love and who love Jesus. It is in His name that I pray. Amen.
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"Conflict with Compassion" — A Year with Jesus for 04/13/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Friend,

I came to Jerusalem and was greeted with wild enthusiasm. I came as the Prince of Peace, humbly riding on the colt of a donkey as prophesied (Zechariah 9:9), not as a conquering general riding on a white horse. The people had good reason for their excitement and their joyful reception of Me:
... a huge crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God with loud shouts, glorifying God for the mighty works they had witnessed.

The religious leaders were incensed and demanded that My followers stop their praises. My answer? The truth!
Listen — if they were silent, the very rocks would start to shout!

The time for diplomacy and subtlety was over. People had to decide about My identity. Fence-straddling would no longer be possible. I had done too many good things — miraculous and compassionate things — to be ignored. The people would not let Me slip quietly into Jerusalem. They wanted God's promised deliverance and were convinced in their hearts that I could bring it to them. Yet they had no idea what was at stake in the next few days!

Jerusalem's leaders would reject Me and make the excuse that they were trying to preserve and protect Jerusalem. I knew better. When I saw the city, the city of David, the holy city for the Israelites, My heart broke — not because of what they were about to do to Me, but because the leadership refused the offer of peace I came to bring.

Only by accepting Me could Jerusalem be spared impending destruction. Yet Jerusalem's leaders would not accept Me. They would kill Me for many reasons, but one of their stated reasons was to save their city and their Temple and their way of life. What they didn't know is that they were rejecting their only chance for peace... lasting and true peace. O how I wish they knew Me and the peace I longed to bring. Yet in the end, all I could really say was heart-breaking:
How I wish you knew today what would bring peace! .. Your enemies will smash you into rubble and not leave one stone standing on another, and they will cut your children down too, because you did not recognize the day when God's Anointed visited you.

How could My heart not break?

How could My emotions not be aroused?

How could I not keep coming back to the Temple to reach out to any who would listen?

How could I not confront the religious leaders with their hypocrisy, duplicity, and ignorance of the scriptures they claimed to know?

What follows My triumphal entry is a week of conflict — sometimes bitter conflict. Yet please always know that I love the people I confront. I love the people who listen on the fringes of the crowd. I love each person in the crowd. So I will minister to their needs and I will confront the wrong-headed notions of religion gone astray. I will not hide to keep Myself safe. I will not play the game of couching things in politically correct language. The strongest words of confrontation and accusation of My whole ministry come during this final week of My life. These words seal My fate in the minds of those who hold Me as their enemy. But please know this: My heart is filled with compassion for people held in bondage to this false notion of religion, to this pretentious show of religious knowledge, and to this pompous parade of the self-righteousness fueled by hate and determined to kill Me. They wanted to return things back to their religious and political status quo. I will not back down from the conflict and I will never let go of My compassion!
Verses to Live

This will be a week of conflict and compassion. Listen carefully. Examine the words of My story reported to you by the four gospel writers — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Notice the seeds I sow for hearts who come to faith and who will one day remember what happened during this week. Today, please remember this truth: even if the crowd had not welcomed Me to Jerusalem, the rocks would have shouted out My praise. So I will weep — not for My impending death, but for the people of Jerusalem and their leaders' hard hearts!
When He [Jesus] finished the parable, He pushed onward, climbing the steep hills toward Jerusalem.

He approached the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, which are near Mount Olivet. He sent two of the disciples ahead.

Jesus:
Go to the next village. When you enter, you will find a colt tied — a colt that has never been ridden before. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you why you're untying it, just say, "The Lord needs it."

So the two disciples found things just as He had told them. When its owners did indeed ask why they were untying the colt, the disciples answered as they had been instructed.

Disciples:
The Lord needs it.

They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their coats on the colt's back, and then sat Jesus on it. As Jesus rode along, some people began to spread their garments on the road as a carpet. When they passed the crest of Mount Olivet and began descending toward Jerusalem, a huge crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God with loud shouts, glorifying God for the mighty works they had witnessed.

Crowd of Disciples:
The King who comes in the name of the Eternal One is blessed!

Peace in heaven! Glory in the highest!

Pharisees (who were in the crowd):
Teacher, tell these people to stop making these wild claims and acting this way!

Jesus:
Listen — if they were silent, the very rocks would start to shout!

When Jerusalem came into view, He looked intently at the city and began to weep.

Jesus:
How I wish you knew today what would bring peace! But you can't see. Days will come when your enemies will build up a siege ramp, and you will be surrounded and contained on every side. Your enemies will smash you into rubble and not leave one stone standing on another, and they will cut your children down too, because you did not recognize the day when God's Anointed One visited you.

He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. He began driving out the temple merchants.

Jesus:
The Hebrew Scriptures say, "My house shall be a house of prayer," but you have turned it into a shelter for thieves.

He came back day after day to teach in the temple. The chief priests, the religious scholars, and the leading men of the city wanted to kill Him, but because He was so popular among the people — who hung upon each word He spoke — they were unable to do anything.

(Luke 19:28-48)
Response in Prayer

O Father, I want to believe that had I been there that day when Jesus entered into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, I would have praised Him for His great works and His great teaching. Yet sometimes I find myself slipping into the mode of trying to preserve the religious status quo of my day. Sometimes I don't want to risk having an extravagant and bold faith in Jesus and being rejected by people I know. I sometimes catch myself trying to water down some of Jesus' strong words of truth because they are not acceptable to many people — inside or outside Your people of faith. So give me compassionate courage, I pray, dear Father. I want to stand for truth and speak truth into the hearts of those who need it most. Help me, dear Father. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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Post  Admin on Fri 11 Apr 2014, 1:02 pm

"Seekers, Sinners, and Savior" — A Year with Jesus for 04/11/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Friend,

You are a part of My family. You are most likely seeking to be one of My disciples or you wouldn't be reading this. That means you are an insider — one of My followers and someone who is religious, in the best sense of that word. So I want to challenge you to listen to the two stories Luke gives you in the verses below. Realize that these stories are intended to speak to you, as My disciple, about how you treat people who are seeking to get close to Me. Notice several things about these two events!

At first glance, they are very different from one another. One man is blind and has to beg for just enough money to survive. The other man is rich and in charge; he lacks nothing financially. Yet when you look more closely at the two events, you find that these two men have a number of things in common.
They both live on the margins of society — the first as a beggar and the second as someone considered by the people as a "notorious sinner"!
Neither can see Me — one because of blindness and the other because he is too short to see over the crowd.
Both are determined to get close to Me — the blind man by shouting and the tax collector by climbing a tree.
Both show humility in My presence — the blind man begs for mercy and Zaccheus humbles himself, giving his money to help the poor and paying restitution for what he has done wrong.
Both receive what they need from Me — the blind man receives his sight and praises God while the tax collector receives salvation ("liberation").
Now notice one other disturbing parallel between these two people. Folks around Me try to get in the way of each of these men to keep them from connecting with Me — the blind man is given a "reprimand" from My disciples and I am criticized for going to be "the houseguest of this fellow who is a notorious sinner" by the crowd around Me.

Have you ever thought about why many religious people act so differently to broken and sinful people than I did?

Have you ever wondered why broken and sinful people longed to be around Me, but they mostly avoid those in your world who claim to follow Me?

Don't you feel sad, even angry, when you see people who deeply need My help, My love, My acceptance, and My grace and they are told to shut up and made to feel that they are not good enough to be in My presence because of their lifestyle?

Don't skip over those two questions too quickly. Go back and read them again. Think about the implication of what these two questions mean. Be troubled by them!

Why would Luke tell these stories?

Why would he put them back-to-back?

Now notice what I told My disciples that My mission was for My earthly ministry: I came "to seek and to liberate the lost."

If you are My disciple and your goal is to become like Me, then what does that say about your mission?

If people didn't understand Me and they criticized Me for the people I helped and the people with whom I shared meals, then what does that say about what others — even religious leaders and others who claim to follow Me — will say and do to you?

Rather than hiding from the broken and lost sinners of the world, shouldn't you be out there among them helping them find their way to Me?
Verses to Live

So how are you going to be more like Me in your daily life from this day forward? What will need to change? How will you have to come to view people differently? What criticism do you need to be willing to receive? Which people around you in your everyday life are wanting to get close to Me and need your help in getting closer to me? I hope you will think about these questions as you read these two very important and inter-connected stories from My ministry!
Picture this:

Jesus is nearing the city of Jericho. A blind man is sitting there, begging by the roadside. He can hear the sounds of the crowd accompanying Jesus, and he asks what's going on.

Crowd:
Jesus of Nazareth is passing this way.

Then the man starts shouting.

Blind Man:
Jesus, Son of King David, show mercy to me!

The people in the front of the crowd reprimand him and tell him to be quiet, but he just shouts louder.

Blind Man:
Son of King David, show mercy to me!

Jesus stops and tells the people to bring the man over to Him. The man stands in front of Jesus.

Jesus:
What do you want Me to do for you?

Blind Man:
Lord, let me receive my sight.

Jesus:
Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.

At that very instant, the man is able to see. He begins following Jesus, shouting praises to God; and everyone in the crowd, when they see what has happened, starts praising God too.

Jesus enters Jericho and seems only to be passing through. Living in Jericho is a man named Zaccheus. He's the head tax collector and is very rich. He is also very short. He wants to see Jesus as He passes through the center of town, but he can't get a glimpse because the crowd blocks his view. So he runs ahead of the crowd and climbs up into a sycamore tree so he can see Jesus when He passes beneath him.

Jesus comes along and looks up into the tree, and there He sees Zaccheus.

Jesus:
Zaccheus, hurry down from that tree because I need to stay at your house tonight.

Zaccheus scrambles down and joyfully brings Jesus back to his house. Now the crowd sees this, and they're upset.

Crowd (grumbling):
Jesus has become the houseguest of this fellow who is a notorious sinner.

Zaccheus:
Lord, I am giving half of my goods to the poor, and whomever I have cheated I will pay back four times what I took.

Jesus:
Today liberation has come to this house, since even Zaccheus is living as a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to liberate the lost.

(Luke 18:35-43; Luke 19:1-10)
Response in Prayer

O Father, forgive us for making church about cocooning ourselves from the world of broken and lost people. Forgive me when I have overlooked the needs of others seeking to meet Jesus and have sometimes even made it harder for them to get close to Jesus. Holy Spirit, as you are working to transform me to become more like Jesus, I ask for your help in having a heart for the broken and the lost like Jesus has. I want to search for those seeking answers and show them Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
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"Unable to Comprehend" — A Year with Jesus for 04/10/2014
Note from Jesus

Dear Child of God,

Sometimes the truth is simply too hard to comprehend. I'm not talking about truth that is too intellectually tough to comprehend, but truth that is too emotionally hard to comprehend — too much out of phase with the world you know and love.

On My way to the cross, I hinted, I taught, and I repeatedly made plain statements about My passion in Jerusalem. Yet this truth was hidden from My disciples. To put it bluntly, it was too gruesome, too horrible, for them to even imagine, much less comprehend. They had seen Me restore sight to the blind, raise the dead, restore to health those with leprosy, make the lame walk, free the demon-possessed, still the storm, feed the multitudes with scraps of food, and tenderly restore the broken to family, health, and a productive place in society.

How could someone with such power that they knew I possessed then have to face such a grotesque and humiliating death? They couldn't understand the truth about My upcoming crucifixion because there was simply no place in their thinking for it — at least not in the way they had learned and thought of the Messiah.

Yet the great prophet Isaiah had spoken about Me as the Servant of the LORD and My suffering as that Servant. This was the great window of the prophets to the truth I was about to embrace. I want you to read about My disciples' inability to grasp My journey to the cross and to the resurrection. Then I want you to read one of Isaiah's famous servant songs about My suffering.

I want you to realize that there will always be mysteries for you to uncover about Me. These are experiential mysteries. You will come to understand some truths about Me because your life experiences and your time in the Scriptures intersect. In that intersection, you are suddenly able to unwrap new, deep, and powerful truths about Me that were hidden from you. Following Me brings a lifetime of discovery!
Verses to Live

Remember, My disciples would have quoted the servant songs from Isaiah as part of their earlier training in the synagogue. Yet until the cross and resurrection, they did not put them together with My ministry as Messiah. When they did put the two together, what a powerful testimony they had to others. My story was written into the DNA of Scripture hundreds of years before I lived!
He [Jesus] took the twelve aside and spoke privately to them.

Jesus:
Look, my friends, we are going up to Jerusalem. Everything the prophets have written about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the outsiders. They will mock Him, disgrace Him, and spit on Him; they will scourge Him, and they will kill Him. And on the third day, He will rise from death.

But they had no comprehension of what He was talking about. The meaning was hidden from them, and they couldn't grasp it.

(Luke 18:31-34)

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low este! em.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he h! ad done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
!
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

(Isaiah 53:1-12)
Response in Prayer

O Father, open my eyes so that I can more clearly see Jesus. I ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to remove what is hidden from me about my Savior. I want to know Him and to be conformed to Him. I want to be able to share Him with those around me who do not know His grace. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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"As a Child?" — A Year with Jesus for 04/09/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious One,

When you read the verses below, I want you to notice that the good Doctor Luke put three interactions I had with My disciples and a rich public official back-to-back-to-back because he was making an important point — and this point is a truth I do not want you to miss:
Don't you realize — the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children? You can depend on this: if you don't receive the Kingdom as a child would, you won't enter it at all.

Religion gets so far off track when the focus becomes a question of who is most important and who is most religious and who is most deserving of the Father's love. Yesterday I challenged you about what your questions revealed about your assumptions. Today, I want to keep that same challenge before you.

I came to you as God. The rich public official in the story below missed that. He called Me "good" and only God is truly good. So I was challenging him to listen to Me as God. He needed to drop his religious game of trying to earn the Father's love and trying to outdo all the others around him. He needed to look deep into his own heart and see what was the one idol he held as more important than obeying the voice of the Father. Yet he dismissed what I said for two reasons:
He didn't think of Me as God, so he dismissed what I said as just more good religious teaching and not the command of God.
He was rich and his idol, his real god, was his money, and he thought he could earn the Father's favor just like he had earned his money.
Sadly, he walked away from Me and from the joy of My kingdom.

On one side of this rich public official's visit with Me, you meet children who are the model for the kind of heart you have to have to receive My kingdom. On the other side of this official, you meet My disciples. In childlike amazement they wonder how anyone can be saved if someone who has lived a good life like this rich public official couldn't find his way into My kingdom. I remind them that they are thinking in human terms. In human terms, it is impossible. Yet We — Father, Son, and Spirit — make the impossible possible. All My disciples had to do was look at themselves and what they had given up.

You see, nothing is impossible for the heart totally yielded to Me. What's more, you cannot give up more for Me than you will receive many times over in the age to come. However, and this is a huge however, you have to be willing to follow Me as a child. So come, dear precious one, and follow Me!
Verses to Live

Children in My days on earth were not an important part of adult society. They were precious, but were to be trained, loved, nurtured, and apprenticed at home. They were not important in the world of adult society. For Me to hold them up as a better example of the kind of person the Father accepts than a rich public official who was rigorous at practicing the Law of Moses was shocking. But sometimes, My precious one, shocking is good. Listen with your heart and invite the Holy Spirit to help My words below to sink into your soul. I AM the good teacher: God among you teaching eternal truth. You either renounce your idols — all of them — and follow Me as a child, or you walk away from Me and leave each of us with a sad heart.
Some people brought infants to Jesus, hoping He would touch them in blessing. The disciples rebuked them for doing so, but Jesus called to the people.

Jesus:
Let the little children come to Me. Never hinder them! Don't you realize — the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children? You can depend on this: if you don't receive the Kingdom as a child would, you won't enter it at all.

Public Official:
Good Teacher, what do I need to do to inherit the life of the age to come?

Jesus:
Why did you just call Me good? No one is good but God — only God. You know what the Hebrew Scriptures command: "Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother."

Public Official:
I've already been doing these things — since I came of age.

Jesus:
One thing you still lack — one thing; sell all your possessions and distribute the proceeds to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. Then you can come and follow Me.

The man heard these words and sadness came over his face, for his wealth was considerable.

Jesus:
What a hard thing it is for those with much wealth to enter the kingdom of God! In fact, it would be easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God!

Listeners:
Then who can be liberated?

Jesus:
Remember, what is humanly impossible is possible with God.

Peter:
We have left our homes and followed You.

Jesus:
I'm telling you the truth: there is nobody who leaves his house or wife or siblings or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive more than he has given up — much more — in this age and in the age to come. He will receive eternal life

(Luke 18:15-30)
Response in Prayer

Father in heaven, I thank You for Jesus being among us in His earthly ministry as Immanuel — God with us. I confess that I sometimes try to win your approval by compiling a list of things I believe you like and then going out and doing those things. I forget the accomplished work of Jesus on the cross and the empty tomb that have saved me. So I ask the Holy Spirit to settle my heart in this grace and to reveal to me any unsurrendered area of my heart so that You, and You alone, are my God. I will need the continuing guidance of the Spirit to help me yield this to you. Yet, dear Father, I want to follow Jesus as a child who holds nothing back from You and rejoices in the grace of Your acceptance of me and Your promises for me. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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"Unable to Comprehend" — A Year with Jesus for 04/10/2014
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"Are You Ready?" — A Year with Jesus for 04/07/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

Are you ready?

That's a question that could be asked about so many things that are a part of normal life — things like marriage, children, illness, moving, job change, or death?

But what about even bigger things? Are you ready for those things?

Most folks can't think of bigger things than the first list, but there are bigger and more important things — things like following Me, recognizing the presence of the Kingdom of God, and preparing for My return as the victorious Son of Man. I want you to be ready for the things on both lists, but the verses we are focusing on today center on the second list. As I approached Jerusalem for My last visit before the cross, there was speculation on the Kingdom of God coming — and by that, people were wondering if I was going to seize control of everything and use My power to restore the greatness of Israel among the nations. Notice how Luke describes it:
The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away.

(Luke 19:11 NLT)

The power and presence of My kingdom, the kingdom of God, were already present and visible in the lives of My disciples whose hearts were yielded to My Lordship and reign over their lives. This reign was displayed by the kind of spiritual family they formed and the character and compassion with which they lived. Read carefully the verses below and you will see that I didn't want the Pharisees to confuse the coming of the kingdom of God with My return as the glorious Son of Man from heaven (Daniel 7:13-14).

I taught you to pray:
Your prayers, rather, should be simple, like this:
Our Father in heaven,
let Your name remain holy.
Bring about Your kingdom. Manifest Your will here on earth,
as it is manifest in heaven.

(Matthew 6:9-10)
That kingdom you prayed for the Father to bring has arrived among you as you live for Me and as you live My lifestyle in the world.

On the other hand, My coming as the glorious Son of Man at the end of time is not the same as My kingdom being among you right now. Here are some basic things about My coming in power at the end of time:
There will be no doubt when I come as the victorious Son of Man and no doubt that I have come: it will be visible and recognizable to everyone!
Before My great coming as the victorious Son of Man, I had to suffer and be crucified on the cross.
People will be carrying on life normally like they always have done — marrying, eating and drinking, doing business, farming, and building.
The day I come as the victorious Son of Man will come suddenly and so you must be ready for it.
When I come as the glorious Son of Man, you will find Me bringing life to those who have died but belong to Me and raising them up to share in My glory.

My plea to you today contains two challenges:
Yearn, pray, and live to see the reign of My kingdom take hold in your life.
Be ready for My ultimate return — live as if it could occur at any moment, becaus! e it could!
Verses to Live

Notice how carefully and firmly I move from the Pharisees' question about the coming of My kingdom to talking about My coming again in glory as the Son of Man. Both are important, but the two shouldn't be confused. The coming of My kingdom has arrived and should be present among you as you live with My character and compassion. My return to earth as the glorious and powerful Son of Man lies in the future, but you must always be ready for it to happen.
Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come.

Jesus:
The kingdom of God comes — but not with signs that you can observe. People are not going to say, "Look! Here it is!" They're not going to say, "Look! It's over there!" You want to see the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is already here among you.

Jesus (to His disciples):
Days are coming when you will wish you could see just one of the days of the Son of Man, but you won't see it. People will say, "Look, it's there!" or "Look! It's here!" Don't even bother looking. Don't follow their lead. You know how lightning flashes across the sky, bringing light from one horizon to the other. That's how the Son of Man will be when His time comes.

But first, He must face many sufferings. He must be rejected by this generation. The days of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah. People were eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage. Everything seemed completely normal until the day Noah entered the ark. Then it started raining, and soon they were all destroyed by the flood.

It was just the same in the days of Lot. People were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building, and carrying on business as usual. But then came the day when Lot left Sodom — a different kind of rain began to fall, and they were all destroyed by fire and sulfur falling from the sky. That's how it will be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

When that day comes, if you're on the housetop, don't run inside to try to save any of your belongings. If you're in the field, don't bother running back to the house. Remember Lot's wife. Turning back is fatal for those who do so. If you try to hold on to your life, it will slip through your fingers; if you let go of your life, you'll keep it. Listen, on the day of the Son of Man, two people will be asleep in bed; destruction will take one and the other will be left to survive. Two women will be grinding grain together; destruction will take one and the other will survive. Two men will be working out in the field; destruction will overtake one and the other will survive.

Disciples:
Where, Lord?

Jesus:
Where vultures circle over rotting corpses.

(Luke 17:20-37)
Response in Prayer

Glorious God, thank you for Your promised victory when all of us who love Jesus and long for His return as the victorious Son of Man will be brought to You. Until that day, I pray that I can — and that we can — display the values of Your kingdom in the way we live with each other and before a world caught in darkness. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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"Questions Out of Focus" — A Year with Jesus for 04/08/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Believer,

Have you noticed how people often ask the wrong questions? Those questions reveal their assumptions about reality and their place in it. Religious people are not immune to asking the wrong questions. The two parables that I told, found in the verses section below, challenge you to think about the assumptions that lie behind your questions.

In the first parable, the question of My people is this: "Will God hear my prayers and answer my repeated pleas to bring justice and deliverance for us, His people?"

My response is the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge. In story form, My answer is clear: since an unjust judge can be swayed by a powerless widow who will not give up asking him for help, then surely you know that your loving Father in heaven will hear your earnest and repeated prayers and answer according to His gracious purposes for you and at the best possible time to bring redemption to the world.

However, I wanted to remind you of an even more important question: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find anyone who still has faith?" Of course that Son of Man is Me! You must live for Me with urgency anticipating My coming at any moment regardless of how it seems your prayers are heard. The Father hears and cares about your hurt and the delay you feel in His response to your prayers. Please be patient and faithful, knowing that I AM near.

In the second parable, the self-righteous man's implied question is this: "How can I display to others that I am a person of righteousness and honor when I go to pray in the Temple?"

My answer is this: the Father doesn't want you to try to make yourself look honorable and righteous to others when you worship Him or when you do anything to try to honor Him. Instead, the Father wants you to focus on a question of deeper significance about His love for you: "O Father, how can you be so gracious as to forgive me and to be merciful to me, a sinner?" Going home righteous is much more than appearing righteous.

Your questions, even when they are legitimate, often have their focus on you and your circumstances. Shouldn't your questions focus on the Father's faithfulness, mercy, and grace? Shouldn't your questions focus on how blessed you have been because the Father has chosen you to share in His grace? Shouldn't your perspective include the needs of the lost around you? Shouldn't your questions show amazement at the Father's great love for you even when you were a rebellious sinner and so prone to abandoning your faith?
Verses to Live

Please remember two things as you read the following verses:

First, at the heart of sin is an "I" problem — when people focus too much on themselves! Even when times are hard and persecution becomes increasingly dangerous, don't give up and don't lose heart. Be like the persistent widow in My story below. The Father is listening and will listen to you!

Second, God's faithfulness, mercy, love, and grace are reliable — you can trust in them — as you worship the Lord and live for His call.
He [Jesus] told them a parable, urging them to keep praying and never grow discouraged. The parable went like this:

Jesus:
There was a judge living in a certain city. He showed no respect for God or humanity. In that same city there was a widow. Again and again she kept coming to him seeking justice: "Clear my name from my adversary's false accusations!" He paid no attention to her request for a while, but then he said to himself, "I don't care about what God thinks of me, much less what any mere human thinks. But this widow is driving me crazy. She's never going to quit coming to see me unless I hear her case and provide her legal protection."

Did you catch what this self- assured judge said? If he can be moved to act justly, won't God bring justice for His chosen people when they cry to Him day and night? Will He be slow to bring them justice? Mark My words: God will intervene fast with vindication. But here's the question: when the Son of Man comes, will He find anyone who still has faith?

He told another parable — this one addressed to people who were confident in their self- righteousness and looked down on other people with disgust.

Jesus:
Imagine two men walking up a road, going to the temple to pray. One of them is a Pharisee and the other is a despised tax collector. Once inside the temple, the Pharisee stands up and prays this prayer in honor of himself: "God, how I thank You that I am not on the same level as other people — crooks, cheaters, the sexually immoral — like this tax collector over here. Just look at me! I fast not once but twice a week, and I faithfully pay my tithes on every penny of income." Over in the corner, the tax collector begins to pray, but he won't even lift his eyes to heaven. He pounds on his chest in sorrow and says, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"

Now imagine these two men walking back down the road to their homes. Listen, it's the tax collector who walks home clean before God, and not the Pharisee, because whoever lifts himself up will be put down and whoever takes a humble place will be lifted up.

(Luke 18:1-14)
Response in Prayer

Almighty God, I confess that I sometimes place myself as the center of my spiritual universe and do not consider the long-term implications of my influence. Forgive me for my impertinence in prayer and the selfishness sometimes found in my perspective on what is happening around me. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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"Presuming on Grace?" — A Year with Jesus for 04/06/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Beloved,

Yesterday I talked with you about how Caiaphas spoke treacherously about Me and yet at the same time spoke God's truth about My work to invite all people to the salvation through My death and resurrection:
"It’s better... that one man should die for the people so the whole nation won’t perish."... As high priest that year, Caiaphas prophesied (without knowing it) that Jesus would die on behalf of the entire nation, and not just for the children of Israel — He would die so all God’s children could be gathered from the four corners of the world into one people.

(John 11:50-52)

While many of My own people would reject Me (John 1:10-11) and have Me crucified by the Romans (Acts 2:22-23; Acts 3:13-15), My death would draw all kinds of people to Me as disciples — Jews and non-Jews alike (John 12:32-33) — because I didn't die just for one group, but for the sins of all people (1 John 2:1-2).

I want you to hear My loving, but firm, words of truth: No group, no race, no country, and no region can grow calloused and presume they are the only recipients of heaven's grace! We — Father, Son, and Spirit — called Abraham to be the father of a new nation that would live in a special relationship with Us and be a blessing to all nations of the world (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites, received Our promises and shared in Our covenants and their blessings. Israel was called to be a light to the nations and to be a blessing to those trapped in the darkness of sin, paganism, and ignorance. Yet through Our long history of loving patience with Our chosen people, you will find exceptional person after exceptional person who was not an Israelite by race, but who became part of the great story of faith — think of people like Rahab, Ruth, and the Centurion who had greater faith than all those in Israel. So as I near My chosen city that is about to reject Me, you shouldn't be surprised that only this one outsider in the story below returns to give Me thanks when all those who were insiders did not.

Years earlier, Moses had repeatedly warned the Israelite people to remember and not forget all that their great I AM had done for them. Yet how quickly they did forget. So I ask you to not presume on the grace you have received. Don't assume that Our blessings are yours by divine right, national privilege, or racial heritage. As Hosea declared and the apostle Paul repeatedly reiterated, My people will live by faith and that faith will motivate them to take the grace they have received and share it with others as they give thanks to the Father in heaven who blessed them with it.
Verses to Live

As you read the verses below, think back on the blessings that you have received. Ask yourself if you are more like the nine insiders who didn't offer thanks for their healing or the one outsider who returned to give thanks.
Jesus was still pressing toward Jerusalem, taking a road that went along the border between Samaria (considered undesirable territory) and Galilee. On the outskirts of a border town along this road, He was greeted from a distance by a group of 10 people who were under quarantine because of an ugly and disgusting skin disease known as leprosy.

Lepers (shouting across the distance):
Jesus, Master, show mercy to us!

Jesus:
Go now and present yourselves to the priests for inspection of your disease.

They went, and before they reached the priests, their skin disease was healed, leaving no trace of the disease that scarred them and separated them from the community.

One of them, the instant he realized he had been healed, turned and ran back to Jesus, shouting praises to God. He prostrated himself facedown at Jesus' feet.

Leper:
Thank You! Thank You!

Now this fellow happened to be, not a Jew, but a Samaritan.

Jesus:
Didn't all ten receive the same healing this fellow did? Where are the other nine? Was the only one who came back to give God praise an outsider? (to the Samaritan man) Get up, and go your way. Your faith has made you healthy again.

(Luke 17:11-19)

Response in Prayer

O Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. I want the reign of Your grace to completely capture my heart and continue to change my attitudes, words, and my actions to reflect my deep appreciation for the grace You have given me. I recognize that I am saved by Your grace. I trust that Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection defeated the power of sin and death, purchasing my pardon and making me Your child. May I never presume on Your amazing grace, O Lord! In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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"Gathering Storm" — A Year with Jesus for 04/05/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

If you have been following along with My story in the gospels, you know that I am headed for Jerusalem and on a collision course with the Jewish and Roman leaders there. My raising of Lazarus — which I talked with you about yesterday — intensified the whole situation. There is a gathering storm focused upon Me, My presence, and My identity. Lazarus' resurrection occurred very close to Jerusalem and the news of this miraculous sign spread quickly. As you read the verses below, notice all the different reactions to Me and My work. Before you pass judgment on any of the people who fit the following descriptions, try to place yourself in their situation and think through what you would do.
You believe in Me and see Me raise Lazarus from the dead.

You doubt Me, but can't quite get Me and what I'm doing out of your head.

You don't believe in Me, so what are you going to do about the Lazarus incident?

You are a Jewish religious leader trying to preserve Jerusalem, the Temple, and your role of importance in the whole political, social, and religious environment.

You are a Roman leader expected to keep the peace by Caesar and you keep hearing rumors about Me and My growing following.

You are a gawker always looking for the next big thing to come along and so you find yourself fascinated by all the rumors and crowds who gather around Me.

Something is going to happen. My presence will no longer be something that can be overlooked. The storm is gathering and lightning has just struck with the resurrection of Lazarus and this storm will only intensify in a few days when I enter Jerusalem to the cries of "Hosanna"!

Yet in all the speculation, rancor, scheming, and questioning, Caiaphas uttered a statement in panic with murderous determination that on another level was God's inspired truth:
...it’s better for you that one man should die for the people so the whole nation won’t perish.
And in case you missed the truth, John comments on it with these words:
As high priest that year, Caiaphas prophesied (without knowing it) that Jesus would die on behalf of the entire nation, and not just for the children of Israel — He would die so all God’s children could be gathered from the four corners of the world into one people. In that moment, they [the Jewish leaders] cemented their intentions to have Jesus executed.

So there you have it. Lazarus' resurrection is the final straw. My journey to the cross becomes set because I raised a dead man back to life. My time had come according to the Father's plan. My death was necessary from the point of view of the religious leaders who feared and hated Me. Those who hold Me as their enemy will have to work out the details, but My future, My purpose, and My trip to the cross are now in motion. So as we share that journey over the next few days, notice how I conduct Myself, what I say, with whom I spend my time, and how I handle those who are determined to kill Me, those who cannot decide about Me, and those who have put their faith in Me. In your world they say that trials don't make character; they only reveal it. So see what gets revealed about My character as I journey to the cross to die for the sin of the world.
Verses to Live

I'm sure Martha and Mary had no idea how big a storm would follow the death of their brother Lazarus. They were grief-stricken. Then when I raised Lazarus from the dead, they were overjoyed. Little did they know how big a threat that their resurrected brother could be to the leaders of Jerusalem. These leaders weren't content with killing Me, they felt they must kill Lazarus, too!
Then, the man who was dead [Lazarus] walked out of his tomb bound from head to toe in a burial shroud.

Jesus:
Untie him, and let him go.

As a result, many of the Jews who had come with Mary saw what happened and believed in Him [Jesus]. But some went to the Pharisees to report what they witnessed Jesus doing. As a result of these reports — and on short notice — the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the high council.

Pharisees:
What are we going to do about this man? He is performing many miracles. If we don't stop this now, every man, woman, and child will believe in Him. You know what will happen next? The Romans will think He's mounting a revolution and will destroy our temple. It will be the end of our nation.

Caiaphas, the High Priest That Year:
You have no idea what you are talking about; what you don't understand is that it's better for you that one man should die for the people so the whole nation won't perish.

His speech was more than it seemed. As high priest that year, Caiaphas prophesied (without knowing it) that Jesus would die on behalf of the entire nation, and not just for the children of Israel — He would die so all God's children could be gathered from the four corners of the world into one people. In that moment, they cemented their intentions to have Jesus executed.

From that day forward, Jesus refrained from walking publicly among the people in Judea. He withdrew to a small town known as Ephraim, a rural area near the wilderness, where He set up camp with His disciples.

The Passover was approaching, and Jews everywhere traveled to Jerusalem early so they could purify themselves and prepare for Passover. People were looking for Jesus, hoping to catch a glimpse of Him in the city. All the while, some Jews were discussing Him in the temple.

Some Jews:
Do you think He will decide not to come to Jerusalem this year for the feast?

In the midst of this confusion, the Pharisees and the chief priests ordered that if anyone knew the whereabouts of Jesus of Nazareth, it must be reported immediately so they could arrest Him.

(John 11:45-57)

The chief priests were secretly plotting Lazarus's murder since, because of him, many Jews were leaving their teachings and believing in Jesus.
(John 12:10-11)
Response in Prayer

O Father, because I know the story of Jesus' crucifixion, my heart is heavy with His impending rejection, ridicule, and crucifixion. Yet I find it powerful that the Holy Spirit can use words said out of a self-preserving hatred by Caiaphas to speak about the powerful, world-wide implications of the death that Jesus is about to face and the resurrection that will prove that He is Lord of all. Speak to my heart in fresh and convicting ways as I journey with Jesus through His crucifixion and on to His resurrection, knowing always that He did what He did for every person in the world. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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"One of the Hardest Miracles?" — A Year with Jesus for 04/03/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

What's the hardest miracle to perform? I know many of you would love to see some great miracle of your own selection to help you believe. Yet all around you every day some of the most amazingly wondrous transformations happen. As my disciples show in the verses below, one of the hardest of the wondrous transformations is for the power of grace to lead a wounded heart to forgive.

This very important reality is the focus of My teaching about prayer and miraculous results. One of the hardest to believe possible is forgiveness. I taught about this repeatedly in My ministry on earth. This teaching is rooted in the two greatest commands — to love the Lord your God with all you are and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). You cannot be wrong with your brother or sister on earth and be right with your Father in heaven. It's that simple to say and yet very hard for the wounded human heart to do. This teaching is also based on another essential reality: you do not truly appreciate the forgiveness you have received if you do not pass along that same grace of forgiveness to others (Matthew 6:14; Matthew 18:23-35; Ephesians 4:32).

Yes, this is a hard truth. That's why this may be one of the hardest miracles to perform. Feeding 5,000? Not hard for Me with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Raising the dead? I have done that. Healing the blind, the lame, the paralyzed, the leprous? I have done that repeatedly. Yet changing a wounded heart that has been abused and mistreated is so much harder. Grace has to permeate down to a broken and dark place in a person's soul and capture it with the truth of what I did to redeem it. For you to genuinely forgive those who come in repentance and ask for forgiveness is a hard wonder to perform, but not impossible!

What I want you to realize is that if you can have "faith the size of a single, tiny mustard seed", then that "little faith can accomplish the seemingly impossible". Including turning your wounded heart into a gracious heart like Mine! Watch what I do as I journey toward Jerusalem and take up the cross. Remember My words of forgiveness. Remember why I did what I did — not because I wanted to face suffering and heartbreak, but because those who sinned and rejected Me, both then and in your day, needed My forgiveness and grace.

The same spirit of forgiveness and grace must be true of you as you deal with those who hurt and sin against you. They need your grace displayed to them to understand the power of My grace. So when you forgive, don't act like you deserve a medal for doing something hard. Yes, it is hard, very hard, and sometimes it feels impossibly hard. Yet you call yourself My disciple! That means you have committed to the lifestyle of the cross and sometimes that will seem as hard for you to face as it was for Me to face the rejection, mockery, agony, and humiliation of My cross. Forgiving others is not only a sign that you have faith to follow My example of forgiveness; it also means that you realize that you are My servant and "unworthy of extra consideration or thanks" for you were just doing your "duty". I don't say that to be harsh, but to help you realize how important forgiveness is in My family of grace!
Verses to Live

I want you to know, My dear disciple, that much of My teaching during My journey to Jerusalem and the cross will be challenging and sometimes just very hard to accept at a fleshly level. It doesn't make sense. It seems upside down to the way your world works. So I ask you again, watch Me and what I do on the way to My cross and all that goes with My passion. Redeeming a lost world means living a radical discipleship. I wasn't crucified because I was a nice sweet man, but because I was a kind, gentle, truth-telling world-changer Who lived the character and compassion of God before a world opposed to His ways. I call you to follow Me in this world-changing lifestyle!
Jesus (to His disciples):
You can't stop temptations to do wrong from coming. But how tragic it will be for the person who becomes the source of the temptation! It would be better if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

So each of you needs to be careful. If your brother sins against you, confront him about it, and if he has a change of mind and heart, then forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times in a single day, if he turns back to you each time and says he's sorry and will change, you must forgive him.

The Lord's Emissaries:
We don't have enough faith for this! Help our faith to grow!

Jesus (pointing to a nearby mulberry tree):
It's not like you need a huge amount of faith. If you just had faith the size of a single, tiny mustard seed, you could say to this huge tree, "Pull up your roots and replant yourself in the sea," and it would fly through the sky and do what you said. So even a little faith can accomplish the seemingly impossible.

Imagine this scenario. You have a servant — say he's been out plowing a field or taking care of the sheep — and he comes in hot and sweaty from his work. Are you going to say, " You poor thing! Come in and sit down right away"? Of course not! Wouldn't you be more likely to say, "First, cook my supper and set the table, and then after I've eaten, you can get something to eat and drink for yourself"? And after your servant has done everything you told him to do, are you going to make a big deal about it and thank him? I don't think so! Now apply this situation to yourselves. When you've done everything I'm telling you to do, just say, "We're servants, unworthy of extra consideration or thanks; we're just doing our duty."

(Luke 17:1-10)
Response in Prayer

Holy and Almighty God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I confess that there are wounds I carry that weigh me down and burden my soul. I want to believe that I can forgive, but it is hard. Yet I know that I hold myself captive to the offenses committed against me and those I love when I will not forgive. So please, I ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to understand all that You teach about forgiveness and what it means. I also trust the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to pour Your love into my heart and to give me the strength to believe that I can forgive. I believe, but please help my unbelief. I want the miracle of forgiveness and grace to be an essential part of my life's character. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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The Thoughts and Prayers for 'A Year with Jesus' are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@heartlight.org.
Heartlight is proud to support and promote Compassion International.
© 1998-2014, Heartlight Inc.

"Unbound" — A Year with Jesus for 04/04/2014

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious One,

Yesterday I talked to you about the importance of My grace leading you to forgive those who have wounded you. That is hard. Today I want to talk to you about one of My greatest enemies (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) and one of the primary reasons I came to earth and walked as God among you: I came to defeat the power of sin and death and the hold they have over you.

Please know I hurt when grief rips apart your lives and tears huge and gaping holes in your hearts. My weeping at Martha's and Mary's pain, detailed in the verses below, is a reminder to you. While you shouldn't "grieve like people who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13), death still can wound you even when your faith is rich and full. I knew that I was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet the grief of his two sisters tore at My heart. I know the great resurrection life I will share with everyone who dies and belongs to Me, yet your grief tears at My heart for their friends and family, too!

There are many things about John's account of My raising Lazarus to life that can bless you and challenge you:
Someone's death doesn't mean I do not love them or those who love them.
Someone's death is not a sign that I don't care or don't hear their prayers for their loved one.
People who die with faith in Me have not really died — just their bodies die — and their condition is best called being asleep because they are still connected intimately to Me and are with Me until the day of resurrection.
I hurt deeply with the death of those who love Me and I hurt and I am intensely troubled for their families' pain as well.

There are even more messages for you in John's account of My raising of Lazarus. However, I want you to primarily hear one clear message from Me to you today: death should not hold you hostage if you and those you love belong to Me! Listen to those last words in the verses below and let them reverberate in your heart:
Untie him, and let him go.

Verses to Live

I want to remind you about two passages in your New Testament that speak to the truth that death should not hold you hostage. I want you to hear both of them so that you have their echo of My truth in your heart as you read John's account below:
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

"Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?"

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NLT)

Since we, the children, are all creatures of flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death — the devil — and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive.

(Hebrews 2:14-15)
I hurt when you hurt because of grief, but please know that all grief for those who belong to Me will ultimately be caught up in glory on the day when the Father will wipe every tear from your eyes (Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4):
There was a certain man who was very ill. He was known as Lazarus from Bethany, which is the hometown of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary did a beautiful thing for Jesus. She anointed the Lord with a pleasant-smelling oil and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus became deathly ill, so the sisters immediately sent a message to Jesus which said, "Lord, the one You love is very ill." Jesus heard the message.

Jesus:
His sickness will not end in his death but will bring great glory to God. As these events unfold, the Son of God will be exalted.

Jesus dearly loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. However, after receiving this news, He waited two more days where He was.

Jesus (speaking to the disciples):
It is time to return to Judea.

Disciples:
Teacher, the last time You were there, some Jews attempted to execute You by crushing You with stones. Why would You go back?

Jesus:
There are 12 hours of daylight, correct? If anyone walks in the day, that person does not stumble because he or she sees the light of the world. If anyone walks at night, he will trip and fall because he does not have the light within. (Jesus briefly pauses.) Our friend Lazarus has gone to sleep, so I will go to awaken him.

Disciples:
Lord, if he is sleeping, then he will be all right.

Jesus used "sleep" as a metaphor for death, but the disciples took Him literally and did not understand. Then Jesus spoke plainly.

Jesus:
Lazarus is dead, and I am grateful for your sakes that I was not there when he died. Now you will see and believe. Gather yourselves, and let's go to him.

Thomas, the Twin (to the disciples):
Let's go so we can die with Him.

As Jesus was approaching Bethany (which is about two miles east of Jerusalem), He heard that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Now many people had come to comfort Mary and Martha as they mourned the loss of their brother. Martha went to meet Jesus when word arrived that He was approaching Bethany, but Mary stayed behind at the house.

Martha:
Lord, if You had been with us, my brother would not have died. Even so I still believe that anything You ask of God will be done.

Jesus:
Your brother will rise to life.

Martha:
I know. He will rise again when everyone is resurrected on the last day.

Jesus:
I am the resurrection and the source of all life; those who believe in Me will live even in death. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never truly die. Do you believe this?

Martha:
Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Anointed, the Liberating King, God's own Son who we have heard is coming into the world.

After this Martha ran home to Mary.

Martha (whispering to Mary):
Come with me. The Teacher is here, and He has asked for you.

Mary did not waste a minute. She got up and went to the same spot where Martha had found Jesus outside the village. The people gathered in her home offering support and comfort assumed she was going back to the tomb to cry and mourn, so they followed her. Mary approached Jesus, saw Him, and fell at His feet.

Mary:
Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would still be alive.

When Jesus saw Mary's profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

Jesus:
Where have you laid his body?

Jews:
Come and see, Lord.

As they walked, Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus. But others were skeptical.

Others:
If this man can give sight to the blind, He could have kept him from dying.

Then Jesus, who was intensely troubled by all of this, approached the tomb — a small cave covered by a massive stone.

Jesus:
Remove the stone.

Martha:
Lord, he has been dead four days; the stench will be unbearable.

Jesus:
Remember, I told you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God.

They removed the stone, and Jesus lifted His eyes toward heaven.

Jesus:
Father, I am grateful that You have heard Me. I know that You are always listening, but I proclaim it loudly so that everyone here will believe You have sent Me.

After these words, He called out in a thunderous voice.

Jesus:
Lazarus, come out!

Then, the man who was dead walked out of his tomb bound from head to toe in a burial shroud.

Jesus:
Untie him, and let him go.

(John 11:1-44)
Response in Prayer

There are no words, dear Father, for the assurance that You care about my grief, heartbreak, and loss. I find myself angry at the emptiness and seemingly incurable wound that grief leaves in me. Yet, dear Father, because of Your grief at the sacrifice of Your Son and because of His power over the grave, I trust that my grief will be absorbed in the victory You have planned for me and those who share My love for Jesus. I just need the comfort and tangible sense of Your presence during times of sorrow to help me hang on to that faith. Please be near, I pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.
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The Thoughts and Prayers for 'A Year with Jesus' are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to phil@heartlight.org.
Heartlight is proud to support and promote Compassion International.
© 1998-2014, Heartlight Inc.
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