The Journey to The Cross, Day 9

 The Journey to The Cross, March 20: Preaching In the Temple

 Have you ever wondered what Jesus did between the time he rode into Jerusalem on Sunday and the Passover celebration Thursday night?  He was quite literally down to his last few days before His death – and within two months of when he would ascend back into Heaven.  If we knew for sure our time on earth was limited, we would probably be trying to fulfill some sort of “bucket list”.  So what was important to Him during that time?

You.  Me.  The people.

He spent those days teaching in the Temple. Even though hatred was steadily building.

Even though the religious leaders were actively looking to trap Him anyway they could.

Even though he was down to his final few hours of daily fellowship with his closest friends. He thought of you.

Some of what He did over those few days were a sort of wrap up to His earthly ministry.  He cleansed the temple of the cheating merchants and healed those who came to Him there.  He protected the children who were praising Him and He countered the wily questions of the religious leaders trying to trap Him.

But for much of his final days of teaching, He taught about the things that are yet to come.  The last days.  His return.  Interspersed with that is very practical teaching about how to do life here and what to expect in heaven.  Marriage and giving in marriage in heaven.  The difference between faith in Him and faith in my own good works.  And how to give sacrificially like the widow who put her last two coins in the offering while Jesus watched.

He thought of you.  And me.  Even in His very last hours.  Always teaching.  Always pointing to the Father.  Always loving the sinner while hating sin.

I wonder what I would do if I knew my time on earth was coming to a close?  I hope I would think of you, just like Jesus did.

Adoration: Praise God for the teachings Jesus gave us while He was here, showing us how to live and how to love.  Consider praying back to God David’s words in Psalm 119:11-12 (AMP): “Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, that I may not sin against You.  Blessed and reverently praised are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes.”

 Confession: Ask God to point out any areas in your life where you are resting on your own righteousness instead of His.  Confess to Him that your good works are nowhere near enough to save you.

Thanksgiving: Thank Him for the saving grace He has shown you.  Consider using Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) as a thanksgiving prayer: Thank You, God that You “saved me by Your grace when I believed. And I can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from You, God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things I have done, so none of us can boast about it. For I am God’s masterpiece. He has created me anew in Christ Jesus, so I can do the good things he planned for me long ago.”

Supplication: Pray for those you have invited to Easter services to understand the grace that God has toward them.  Pray that they would know their need for Him and that they would surrender all to Him.



The Journey to The Cross, Day 8

March 19: In Rides the King

 The Sunday before Jesus died on the cross, He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, fulfilling a prophecy given by Zechariah.  As the donkey descended from the edge of town into Jerusalem, the crowds went wild!  They cherished His presence, laying down coats and palm branches, making a “red carpet entrance” for Him as He rode. They shouted, “Save us now!”, “Blessed be the One who comes in the name of the Lord!” and they called Him “the Son of David”.

All of these things showed their misunderstanding.  Or, rather, their partial understanding of who He was. You see, the palm branches had been a symbol of Jewish nationalism for centuries.  Although the Jews lived in Israel, the land God promised them, they were not self-governed and had not been since the Babylonian captivity.  “Save us now” and “Blessed be…” are actually quotes from Psalm 118, a psalm about beating your enemies.  And the name “Son of David” is in reference to the fact that Jesus was a descendant of King David through both Mary and Joseph.  A physical King for a physical throne.

They thought He was riding into Jerusalem to start the revolution.  To beat Rome.  To give them freedom.

They didn’t understand.

The revolution He initiated that day was for their hearts, not their government.  He came to beat the real enemy, Satan. And to grant them real freedom, the freedom from the fear of death because of the promise of eternal life.  He didn’t just ride in that day for them.  He was also riding for us. But they didn’t understand.

Which caused that same triumphant crowd to become a murderous mob just a few days later. God had a bigger plan in mind than they could comprehend.  And they turned on Him because of it.

Do you trust God with His plans for your life?  Even when they are the opposite of what you think He should do?

A cross on a hill proves His love for you – and that you can trust Him completely.

Adoration: God has a master plan!  Praise Him for that – and that one day, Jesus will ride in to this world again, but this time as the conquering King.  Consider praying back to Him these words from Revelation 5:13 (NLT), where John says, “…I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

 Confession: Tell God the areas where you do not trust His plan for your life.  Commit to trusting Him even when His plan seems to be the opposite of what you need or want.

Thanksgiving:  Thank God for the fact that Jesus will one day return like this: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who was riding it is called Faithful and True (trustworthy, loyal, incorruptible, steady), and in righteousness He judges and wages war [on the rebellious nations]…He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God…And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16 (AMP)

Supplication: Pray for those in authority in your life, from your boss all the way up to the President.  Ask God to help each of them to come under His authority, recognizing Him as the Ruler of All and living accordingly.


The Journey to The Cross, Day 7

The Journey to The Cross, March 18: Completely God

 Isaiah the prophet said that one of Jesus’ names would be “Emmanuel”, which means “God with us”.  And what a fabulously accurate name that is!

God in the flesh. God with skin on.

God who got weary, sweaty, dirty and smelly.

God who didn’t look like much from the outside, according to Isaiah.

And yet, fully God.

How did He prove His God-ness?
He controlled the wind and waves.

Told fish to jump into nets that had been empty all night.

Knew what people were thinking before they spoke.

Healed lepers with the touch of His hand.

And others who were ill were healed from a distance.

He commanded demons and they obeyed.

And he attracted the children, the weak, the ill and the disenfranchised to Himself.

He raised the dead back to life again.

God in the flesh. Coming to earth as a man.

So that He could teach us how to live. Demonstrate God’s heart.

And die in our place.

Completely human.  Completely God.

That idea makes my head hurt because I cannot fully comprehend it.

But it makes my heart sing because of how awesome He is!

Adoration: Praise God for sending Jesus to be our Immanuel.

Confession: Tell God where you have put Him in a box, forgetting that He is God and you are not.  Thank Him for the example that Jesus set for us as He walked this earth.

Thanksgiving:  Thank God for His power over death and that He is Sovereign over every circumstance you face.

Supplication: Ask God to prove Himself to be real to those in your life who doubt Him.  Ask Him to use you to show them His power by how your life is changed as you walk with Him.


The Journey to The Cross, Day 6

The Journey to The Cross, March 17: Completely Human

 Are you weary?  Exasperated?  Frustrated?  Does it help you to know that Jesus felt that way, too?  During His three-year ministry there were many times where the writers of the four gospel accounts would record that Jesus was “deeply troubled”, that he “groaned and sighed deeply”.  He definitely was harsh with the demons who tormented the people as well as the religious leaders who oppressed them with unnecessary rules and regulations.  He even flipped tables in the temple, not once but twice, because the men in it were dishonoring His Father by cheating the people.  Part of what makes Jesus so wonderful is that he not only was tempted in all the ways we are, he also felt all the emotions we feel.  He knows how it feels to be betrayed by a person who claims to be a friend.  He understands what it means to be rejected, not just by strangers but also by family.  He felt the frustration of being misunderstood and misrepresented.  And yet, in all of this, in all these feelings and circumstances, He did not sin.

So how’d he do it?  How did He keep the journey to the cross clear of the sin that would shut down His mission?  He spent time with His Father.  In prayer.  In solitude.  In silence. And in His Word.

He worshipped routinely in the synagogue, participating in every feast and every celebration.

He filled up His spiritual tank routinely, staying in constant contact with His Dad.

Now, you are probably saying, “Well, that’s great, but He was God and I am not.” Yes, He was completely God.  But He was also completely human.  And even He did not rely on His own strength but reached out constantly to God the Father.

If Jesus needed to do that, how much more do we?

Adoration:  Praise God for the gift of prayer and His Word. Thank Him for being constantly available to us for all that we need.  Consider praying Lamentations 3:22-24 (AMP), which says, “It is because of the Lord’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great and beyond measure is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,” says my soul; “Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him.”

 Confession: Confess to God where you are weary.  Ask Him to show you where you are striving in your own strength instead of His.

Thanksgiving: Thank Him for being our strength, remembering a specific instance in your life where you saw His mercies renewed in your life.

Supplication:  Ask God to make you hungry and thirsty for Him and His Word in your life.


The Journey to The Cross, Day 5

The Journey to The Cross, March 16: The Sinless Savior

 After the time of the prophets in the Old Testament, there was a period of 400 years where God was silent. No new messengers or messages.  No sign of the Messiah, the Anointed One that was promised. But all that changed when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear the Son of God.

Fast-forward through the Christmas story and the little we know of the early years of the life of Jesus.  When he was approximately 30-years old, he left the carpenter shop and became an itinerant preacher.  His first stop?  A meeting with John the Baptizer, where God officially sanctioned his ministry, saying, “This is My Beloved Son. Listen to Him!” But from there, Matthew tells us that Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he fasted and prayed for 40 days.  At the end of that time, when Jesus was physically spent, Satan tried to derail His ministry before it even began.  He showed up with three temptations for Jesus – and three times, Jesus used Scripture to shut Satan down.  He conquered those blatant attacks.  But we also know that Jesus conquered every temptation ever sent His way – and that He was tempted in every way that you and I are tempted but that He never once gave in.  How do we know?  The writer of the book of Hebrews says it: “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, AMP) We can’t really fathom that – but we know it is true.  It has to be.  Because if it was not, then Jesus’ death would not count as a substitute for our punishment.  Instead, He would have been dying for His own sins, unable to take ours on Himself.  But oh, praise God!  He fought the temptations, remained sinless and was able to take our sin on Himself.  I was rightly declared guilty and sentenced to death; He was rightly innocent of all sin and took my death on Himself.  This is great news, rooftop-shouting news!

Adoration: Praise God that your sin was paid for on the cross.  Consider praying back to Him 2 Corinthians 9:14-15 (AMP), where Paul writes about, “…the surpassing measure of God’s grace [His undeserved favor, mercy, and blessing which is revealed] in you.  Now thanks be to God for His indescribable gift [which is precious beyond words]!

Confession: Ask Him to forgive you for the areas where you routinely give into temptation and thank Him for the ability to fight temptation with Scripture.

Thanksgiving: Thank God for the specific ways you have seen His grace in your life.

Supplication: Ask God to help you to live out His grace to other people – to show them the same sort of extreme grace that He has shown to you.  Ask Him to help you to love all the people in your life so well that they ask you why.


The Journey to the Cross, Day 4

The Journey to The Cross: March 15: The Suffering Servant and the Coming King

Don’t you wish you could tell the future?  Know exactly what is going to happen?  While God didn’t give the biblical prophets the whole picture, He allowed them glimpses into what was coming.  There are hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament, the portion of the Bible spoken by God and recorded by men before Jesus came.  Some were for current events; others looked far into the future.  Often they did not make a whole lot of sense to the hearers until after they came true.

The Old Testament prophets had two themes in particular that brought hope to the Jewish nation that had been scattered: 1) God would make them a nation again and 2) that He would give them a perfect King to rule them.

Unfortunately, the nation focused so much on those incredibly hopeful themes that many of them completely missed the fact that the Heroic King would first have to come as a Suffering Servant.  Jesus came the first time to become The Way to peace with God; when He comes again the second time, He will come to assert His rightful place as the King of All Things.

Isaiah was given one of the most complete visions of the first coming of the King, the Suffering Servant.  Reading and “chewing on” Isaiah 52 and 53 is a terrific way to prepare your heart for Easter.  In these passages, Isaiah accurately foretells what will happen to Jesus hundreds of years later.  He uses words like, “he was so disfigured he seemed hardly human” and “he was despised and rejected”, “oppressed and treated harshly”.  Long before Jesus took His first steps towards the cross, God told us exactly what would happen.  What the punishment for our sin would entail.  How Jesus would die.  And that He would willingly suffer so that He could be the King of our Hearts.

Adoration: Spend some time in Isaiah 52 and 53, particularly 53:4-6.  Personalize it with your name so that, instead of “we” or “our”, you read, “Yet it was (your name)’s weaknesses he carried; it was (your name)’s sorrows that weighed him down…”  Praise God for His willingness to send Jesus as a substitute on your behalf.

Confession: Ask God to show you if there are any weaknesses, sorrows or sins that you need to confess.  Thank Him that Jesus took all of those on Himself on the cross so that you do not have to be trapped by them.

Thanksgiving:  Thank God for fulfilled prophecy, one of the many proofs that the Bible is truly the Word of God.  And thank Him for preserving His Word for millennia so that we can know Him personally.

Supplication: Lift up those in your life who do not see their need for a Savior.  Ask God to open their hearts this Easter season to their need for Him.


The Journey to The Cross, Day 3

God explained that that night He was going to pass through the land to bring judgement. But if He saw blood on the doorposts of a house He would pass over and those inside would be spared. So the Hebrews did as God instructed. – Slide 15

The Journey to The Cross, March 14: The Passover Lamb

Fast-forwarding again on our journey to the cross and we are now in the land of Egypt.  Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph, ended up in Egypt, first as a slave and eventually as the second-in-command to Pharaoh himself.  But now 400 years have passed and there are over a million Israelites in the land.  They have been slaves for centuries, crying out to God for deliverance.  Enter Moses, born as a slave, adopted as a prince of Egypt, wanted as a murderer and finally living as a fugitive in the wilderness.  There, 80 years after his birth, God appears to him with a mission to return to Egypt to tell Pharaoh: “Let My people go.” Moses reluctantly heads back to Egypt with God’s message.  Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, even after nine awful plagues that decimate the land.  Which brings us to the 10th and final plague, the death of the firstborn male.  However, unlike the first nine plagues, God gives them a way to avoid this one.  Take the blood of a perfect lamb, He tells them, and paint it on the doorframe of your house.  If you do this, the Angel of Death will pass over your house and no one will be harmed.  Those who believed obeyed and were spared.  Those who did not believe did not bother to obey and lost any firstborn males in the household, from adults to kids to livestock.  And Pharaoh finally let God’s people go.  A living object lesson, a gigantic neon sign, pointing 1500 years into the future, when God would allow the Lamb of God to be slain so that we do not have to experience eternal death, or separation from God.  All we have to do is believe, accepting the gift of the perfect Lamb’s death on our behalf.

Adoration: Praise the Lamb!  Consider using Revelation 5:12 (NLT), John’s testimony of those around the throne of God singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

Confession: Listen quietly to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to show you any place in your life that is out of alignment with God’s Word. Agree with God about your sin, and thank Him for sending the Perfect Lamb who was worthy to be slain.

Thanksgiving: Thank God for the people in your life who acted as signposts, pointing you towards the Savior and a relationship with the Living God.

Supplication: Continue to pray for those people you should invite for Easter.  Ask God to make it plain and then to give you the boldness you need to invite them.  Ask Him to make you a signpost to your world.