Thursday: Man of Sorrows

This is the fifth post of an eight-day devotional designed to lead you to praise Christ each day of the week preceding Easter. Thanks for joining in!

A man carrying a water jar? An unusual sight, for carrying water was women’s work—but that was the sign Jesus gave to Peter and John (Lk. 22:8ff). They were to follow a man carrying a water jar, who would lead them to a place where they could prepare the Passover meal for the Lord and His disciples. It was the first of several unusual signs and symbols that would take place on Thursday of Holy Week. Read More

Wednesday: The Shadow of the Cross

This is the fourth post of an eight-day devotional designed to help you praise Christ each day of Easter week. Thanks for joining in!

Not long ago, I read a blog post by a woman who had undergone risky heart surgery. Her doctors had warned she probably wouldn’t survive the operation but guaranteed she’d die without it. She described the day prior to her surgery—a day she’d spent huddled with her husband and their four young children, aware they might be sharing their final precious hours together. Weeks later, knowing she was blessed to be alive, she looked back on that time with a mix of pain and gratitude.

That post may give us a sense of how Jesus spent the day on Wednesday of Holy Week—quietly, with His closest friends, knowing that in the coming 48 hours He would be arrested and crucified. We have no record of activity by Him on that day but only about Him. Read More

Tuesday: Language Enough to Say Thanks

This is the third post of an eight-day devotional designed to help you praise Christ each day of Easter week. Thanks for joining in!

“What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend?” So begins the third verse (my favorite!) of the ancient hymn O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. Through the centuries, many poets, prophets, preachers and disciples have struggled to find adequate means to express their thanks and praise to Jesus for the salvation He bought. Today, we see how one woman showed her adoration for Him. Read More

Monday: Holy Love

This is the second post of an eight-day devotional designed to help you praise Christ each day of Easter week. Thanks for joining in!

The special week leading up to Easter Sunday is often called “Holy Week.” I have a love/hate feeling towards that term. Hate because, in reality, for the Christian every week is holy week. Love, because what Jesus accomplished during that week was the most unselfish, precious, sacrificial, holy gift ever given from God to men.

On Monday, one day after He’d entered Jerusalem in triumph, Jesus went to the temple. What met His eyes was most unholy. Merchants peddling inferior animals (this in itself an insult to His Father—see Leviticus 3:6; 22:19, just two of many scriptures stipulating that animals offered to God must be without defect) at outrageous prices made a mockery of sacrificial worship. They stood to make a fortune during the busy Passover week when demand was high. People flocked to the hucksters’ tables, willing to pay the going rate for blemished stock rather than transport perfect animals from their own flocks.

Jesus was outraged. This couldn’t be! His Father deserved so much more. Read More

Palm Sunday: A Song of Praise

Aren’t you grateful to Jesus for the sacrifice He made for us? I love Easter week, because it makes us think about and appreciate His gift all over again. During this special week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, I’ll be posting praises to Him based on the words of some well-known hymns. Take a fresh look at the words. Sing them to Him, a private concert from your heart to His ears. (He made your voice and He loves to hear you sing. I guarantee it!) Give Him a song of praise!

On this day, Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph. He rode a donkey, in the manner of a conquering king. Adoring crowds welcomed Him, laying palm branches and cloaks across the road in front of Him. The streets of the city rang with His praises.

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” the people sang. (Mk. 11:9-10)

The disciples probably wondered, “Is it finally happening? Is He about to be crowned king?” Indeed He was, but not in the way they thought. No earthly throne could contain His majesty, no material crown—no matter how rich—could display His glory. Read More

Praying Psalm 1: Among the “Godly”

I can remember a man in my home church who had what you might call a “prayer persona.” When he prayed over communion or at the end of a service, his voice went into a deep bass singsong like a really bad radio DJ. He suddenly took on King-James English, rolling his Rs and using “thees” and “thous” that would’ve made Shakespeare proud. Even then, it made us teens snicker. In most churches today, it would sound ludicrous. Most pray-ers today speak plainly, in the same language and tone of voice they’d use in any other setting. It’s a good change.

There are other changes in the 21st century church that are good. Methods can change as long as the message doesn’t.

But some changes have so blurred the definition of the church and of Christians, both are barely recognizable. One example is the use of the term “godly.” Rarely do you hear any believer refer to himself or to other believers as godly people who make godly choices or behave in godly ways. It’s not cool. It might make the ungodly uncomfortable (though we’d never refer to them by that term either).

The fact is, both are Bible terms used to discriminate (ah, there’s another politically incorrect term!) between those who embrace the ways of God and those who don’t. Psalm 1 is loaded with both of these terms—or their synonyms, depending on the scripture translation you read. Read More

Praying Psalm 77: The Right Focus

There I was again, doing what I’d done dozens of times before—laying awake, shooting advice at the ceiling, giving God reason after reason why He ought to do what I wanted. I cried, I pouted, I fumed, I pleaded. No settling in my soul indicated He was listening. I poked the power button on my cell phone to check the time. Three o’clock and all was definitely not well.

Psalm 77:1-9 describes this mid-night misery with words and phrases like
• cried out
• in distress
• sought
• stretched out untiring hands
• groaned
• mused
• spirit grew faint
• kept my eyes from closing
• too troubled to speak
• inquired
and the most telling phrase of all, “my soul refused to be comforted.” I wallow in my distress claiming I’m unable to find relief, when the truth is I’m unwilling to let go and let God take control.

No Peace to be Found

What holds our eyes open in the night, robbing us of rest? Read More

#95: Knowing Jesus

The groom waits joyfully at the front of the sanctuary. He’s dressed in his best, ready for the moment he’s planned for, sacrificed for, and anticipated for ages. Many witnesses have gathered to share the joy.

The happy music begins. The back doors of the sanctuary open. The crowds rise to their feet, turning to view the bride’s entrance.

But the doorway is empty. She’s not there.

No—wait, wait. Here she comes!

The audience and the groom stand in horrified disbelief as the bride saunters down the aisle in dirty, worn old jeans and a baggy sweatshirt. Her hair is pulled back in a careless ponytail revealing pink earbuds connected to her IPod, the source of the rock tune she’s humming. In place of her bridal bouquet she’s holding the latest novel, reading as she walks. She glances over her book, spying her groom. Wiggling her fingers in a little wave, she gives him a wink as she moves forward.

She’s almost reached the altar when she stops, pulls one earbud loose and says to her stunned groom, “Ya know, there’s something I need to do. I’ll be back in a bit.” She hesitates, thinking. “Ummm, I might not make it till tomorrow. Well, not exactly sure when…. But I’ll be here. I love you to the moon and back. Never forget it!” Stepping forward she pecks him on the cheek, then reinserts her earbud, turns and walks away.

Suppose you were in the audience. Would you believe her declaration of love? Would you advise the groom to believe her—to wait for her?

As the Bride of Christ, we are sometimes just as casual in our relationship with Him, and just as unconvincing in our professed love for Him. I believe, though, that the more we know Him—the more we understand His love for us—the more we’ll grow in our depth of commitment and passion for Him. We’ll be increasingly ashamed of flimsy faith, increasingly determined to pursue Him with undivided hearts.

That’s why, nearly two years ago, I set out to write this in-depth study of Mark’s gospel—Knowing Jesus—looking at His life from many facets and learning all we can from Him. I wanted us to recognize the glory that the living Word of God set aside for us. I hoped we’d comprehend the enormity of His sacrifice just to live in human flesh—let alone to endure the agony of the cross. And I prayed we would come away with a fresh desire to live Christ with every breath of our lives.

We’ve pored over His life, listened in on His conversations, overheard His prayers. We’ve learned a lot. “Summing up” a life like His is challenging, to say the least—but I think these five points capture the overall portrait: Read More

#94: Giving Thanks for Chapter Sixteen

Welcome to Knowing Jesus as we wrap up the final chapter of Mark’s gospel. This post was delayed a week because last Tuesday evening—when I usually post to my blog—we were dealing with frozen/burst water pipes at our house. So thank you for your patience. Here we go!

The ending of a book can make or break it, don’t you think? I’ve read books I thoroughly enjoyed—right up to a disappointing last chapter. I’ve read books I thought were just average—right up until a thrilling conclusion. As we come to the end of this study (only one more week to go), I’m so happy that Mark’s book doesn’t finish with the despair of chapter 15, but instead closes in victory—the perfect ending!

Get your Bible and let’s take a look back.

Read Mark 15:46-47, and imagine this was where Mark’s story concluded. What if there was no chapter 16? The book of Mark might be a biography of a suffering martyr who lived a good, unselfish life. It might be an inspirational story of a great teacher who died for his convictions. It might be a tribute to an influential leader whose monument we can visit to pay our respects.

But if 15:47 was its final verse, one thing Mark’s book wouldn’t be is a gospel (meaning “good news”).

Ah, but add chapter 16—and the suffering martyr is our Christ, the great teacher is the living Word, and the influential leader is the Son of God, whose tomb is empty!

What makes the difference? The resurrection. Read More

#93: No Doubt About It

“I just can’t believe it!” Maybe you’ve said those words at some point, when you heard news that seemed beyond comprehension. In today’s study, we’ll see this reaction from Jesus’ disciples when the women brought word of His resurrection. The problem was, the disciples should have been the first to believe. How did Jesus respond to their slow acceptance? Let’s take a look.

Read More