2019 Advent Devo: The Widow’s Mite

Not having any money can put a real drag on the enjoyment of life.

If you were of the Jewish faith in the time of Jesus, not having enough money also meant that you were not capable of being a worthy Jew. It took money to do the things required by law that made you a “good” Jew. Giving sums of money to the Temple in a public display was one such requirement.

I so much enjoy how Jesus can take a serious situation in our lives and turn it in a whole new direction. This happened when the widow put her two mites into the offering.

The Pharisees think they have everything in smooth working order until Jesus comes along and says, no, no, no, no.  He says, “Here is the new view about money, about faith and tithing to the Temple.” Jesus says it is not how much you give that matters the most. This raises eyebrows of disbelief from all who hear it, including His disciples.

A denarli is one day’s wage. One denarli = six meahs. One meah = two pondions.  One pondion = two issarines. One issarine = eight mites. Two mites is 1% of a denarli which makes it 1% of a day’s wage.  (A mite can also be translated as a “crumb/morsel of bread.”)

It is true today that we have to have some money to buy food and maintain a living condition. So what is the deeper message here with the widow and her two mites and why did she place both of them into this massive round offering plate in front of this massive, ornate Jewish Temple?

It is true that the Jewish culture of that time did have a social system to “take care” of widows and orphaned children. It was a Jewish dictate, a law, that they do this in a sincere way. So if the widow had absolutely no money, she gave all she had, then she would clearly be supported by this Jewish requirement. But there is more to this story than simply the act of her giving all she had.

Jesus, watching as the long line progressed by giving their tithes, realized there was a deeper, more personal issue going on. It was a matter of sincerity, devotion and trust. There was the matter of her faith. The money was to be used for God’s purposes. The widow believed in Yahweh; she believed He would take care of her. She said by her actions, “I trust You. I believe this is the right thing to do. I give you all I have in obedience to Your love and care for me.” Then she dropped her two mites into the plate and walked away not knowing what the future would bring.

During this Advent Season we are called to refresh our awareness of what really happened when God gave us His All. By giving His only Son, who entered this world like every person who ever lived, God gave us the opportunity for a new life, a bright future and a Holy Spirit in this life to guide and show us what is right and wrong. God gave us His all knowing what the final outcome would be. And that final outcome is for us to live as Jesus lived to bring about heaven on earth and life eternal to all believers.

You are loved!
Steve Mayberry


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2019 Advent Devo: Jesus Meets Zaccheus

As we join Jesus on his final journey to Jerusalem, he stops in the city of Jericho. As always, there is a large crowd following him. One man in the crowd, a very short man, wants so badly to see Jesus that he climbs a tree to get a better view. And guess what?!? Jesus not only notices him but stops to talk to him. So, Luke introduces us to Zacchaeus, a Jew by birth but, as the chief tax collector, an enemy to his countrymen. Definitely not a crowd favorite. And, even worse in their eyes —a sinner! And yet, Jesus saw into the heart of this “sinner.” He told him to come down and then he invited himself to stay with Zacchaeus. The crowd is appalled! But, Zacchaeus “welcomes him gladly” and in his response to Jesus pledges one-half of all his possessions to the poor. In addition, he promises to pay back four times the amount of money to those whom he may have cheated. Wow! For a man once defined by the pursuit and love of money that is what I call a transformation! To the stunned crowd, Jesus reminds them Zacchaeus is like them, a son of Abraham. Could that possibly mean that they, too, were sinners? Above all, Jesus proclaims that he “has come to seek and to save what was lost.” I wonder how many truly heard him.

We still sing the favorite children’s song,

Zacchaeus was a wee little man A wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree 

The Savior for to see. And as the Savior came passing by He looked up in the tree. And he said, “Zacchaeus, you come down from there! For I’m going to your house today.” 

It’s a great song and it’s wonderful to hear a group of kids singing Bible stories together. But this isn’t the whole story. In fact, it completely misses the significance of Zacchaeus and, I know it it had nothing to do with being a “wee little man.” Zacchaeus was a sinner! His sins of greed, cheating and selfishness were evident to all. But Jesus saw beyond the external and into his heart. When Zacchaeus met Jesus, he immediately obeyed him and gladly took him to his home. Zacchaeus was convicted that he needed to change and he did! In fact, he was completely transformed.

In my personal meditation, I don’t see many differences between Zacchaeus and myself. I know how it feels not to be able to see over the heads of the crowd around me. But, my true connection to Zacchaeus is this, “I am a sinner.” I thank God that he sees inside my heart and loves me enough to save me and to change me.

In this season of advent, we focus so much on the images of the sweet innocence of baby Jesus. But Advent’s true meaning and celebration should be on what that child would and does mean to the world for all eternity. He came to seek and to save what was lost! And that means me and you! I pray that his love and forgiveness will transform us all into more of his likeness as we move past Advent and into the 2020.

You are loved,
Sharon


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2019 Advent Devo: Transformation

On this day, 176 years ago, Charles Dickens waited anxiously for the dawning of tomorrow, December 19, 1843, when the first edition of A Christmas Carol would be published.  Struggles with printers and publishers had exhausted Dickens and the young writer, still eager to achieve success, wondered how British readers would react to his story.  The story met with great acclaim as the first printing of 6000 books sold out by Christmas Eve. Continuously in print all these years, the book still captures the hearts of readers around the world.

Because of Dickens, Scrooge is universally used to describe a miserly, joyless, selfish person and bah-humbug is the quintessential expression dampening the enthusiasm of others.  While Scrooge and his routine expression of bah-humbug may be the most recognized parts of the story, the true meaning is captured in the minor character of Tiny Tim, the young crippled son of Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit.  Tiny Tim becomes the antithesis of Scrooge counterbalancing bah-humbug with “God bless us, every one!”  Dickens’ novel connects the characters of Tiny Tim and Scrooge and uses the boy’s plight and enduring, endearing, loving attitude to soften the heart of Scrooge.

Luke 18 reminds us that a trusting, loving attitude as demonstrated by Tiny Tim is indicative of the kingdom.

“Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”” Luke‬ 18:15-17‬ ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬

Luke 18:18 introduces us to a character known as the rich young ruler.  In many ways he seems to be admirable. However, his reaction to Jesus’ response to his question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life,” reveals the heart of Scrooge. The young man loves money more than God.  We don’t know what happened to the rich young ruler. Perhaps he lived out his life outside the kingdom. Or maybe, like Scrooge, he encountered a change of heart and was transformed by the promise Jesus offered at the end of the encounter.

“And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”” Luke‬ 18:29-30‬ ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬

Christmas brings hope to all of us as it helps us understand that the Gospel is Good News. It has the power to transform the “scroogiest” of us and turn our bah-humbugs to hallelujah!

You are loved!
James Peterman


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2019 Advent Devo: Called Higher

When I read Luke 17, I think of the Casting Crowns song Called Me Higher.  The song talks about how God has a plan for all of us and has called us to do higher and bigger things than we could ever imagine.  And in Luke 17, Jesus talks about how we will all face sin and the consequences of it, but we have to focus on what God has called us to do and go to God for help to get through those trials.

Whatever you’re struggling through this Christmas, remember that God has called you to higher and bigger things and try to focus on that calling.

Watch here > https://youtu.be/Y8mMp3bKDt0

You are loved!
Zoe Henegar


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2019 Advent Post: Lost and then Found!

Recently my parents came to visit from Florida. My dad isn’t very high tech and doesn’t use a phone or GPS system. Unfortunately, this is not a formula for success if you are traveling around a new city. His cousin came to town to visit his family who also live in Raleigh. The two of them were going to meet up and go fishing together! My dad looked up the directions online and thought he was prepared to find his way to where they were going to meet. Well around 5pm that afternoon (hours after we thought he would come home), he walks through the door with a big smile on his face and says, “Boy am I so happy to be back I could kiss the floor!” Needless to say he had gotten lost driving not only to the lake that morning but also on the way home that afternoon and had been driving all over Raleigh for the past two hours. I think he had probably seen all of the city by this point.

Have you ever been lost? What emotions have you felt while lost? Frustrated, angry, frantic? The joy you feel when you finally find your destination is immense!

Luke 15 gives us 3 parables about being lost and then found: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.

Flip it the other way and what emotions have you felt when you lost someone or something? Have you ever lost your keys or phone? Or have you been in a store or at the park and lost sight of your child? Even if it’s for a split second, the feeling of sheer panic engulfs you!

When I was young and immature, I had a hard time with the parable of the lost son. I had selfish feelings and thought very similarly to how the brother felt. From a human perspective, it was hard to understand why we should receive the same reward If I had been living my whole life faithful and my friend/peer/etc had been living a sinful life for so long and suddenly runs back for forgiveness. However, now that I’m older I see this story very differently. I FEEL very differently. I now understand better God’s love and forgiveness. If it was my sibling who was lost and came back crying and asking for another chance, I would feel as the father felt; overjoyed and ready to forgive him instantaneously. This is how we should feel towards not only our brothers and sisters in Christ but to complete strangers who come “home” to Jesus. Being lost can be lonely and scary. Let’s be a source of comfort and support to those looking to be found!

You are loved!
Lacey Dellapace


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2019 Advent Devo: The Simple Life

From my infancy until my teenage years, 16 or 17, I spent many of my summers on my grandparent’s cattle farm. They lived a simple life on their 160-acre homestead.. There was no running water or indoor plumbing. Water was pumped either from the cistern next to the house or drinking water came from the spring pump my grandpa built on top of a hill in the 1930’s. They used coal in the pot belly stove for heat in the cold winters and counted on the 200-year-old oak trees surrounding the house to keep them cool in the hot summers. It was an uncomplicated, self-sufficient way of life. They were not simpletons by any means, but every day they did live a simple lifestyle.

Grandmother milked the cow, Betsy, twice a day and kept the chickens laying eggs; Grandpa butchered the hogs and cattle to keep food on the table for them and the farm hands. You went to bed soon after the sun went down and you were up and dressed ready to work when you came down the stairs for breakfast before the sun began to shine. I loved every summer and holidays I spent on that farm. It taught me more about what mattered and was real about life and death than anything else I have ever done; fishing in the pond, flying kites, seeing faces in the clouds, working hard, being with family and friends, feeling deeply loved and accepted.

Jesus lived a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle. His message of God His father and of heaven was direct and uncomplicated. His message of salvation and of being the Son of God never wavered or was burdened down with details or complexities.  We see this in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10:21 where we read Jesus saying “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”

This single verse comforts me. It expresses a profound insight into how Jesus shared His message of salvation and joyful living and purpose in life. It speaks to me in the midst of my very busy, very complicated and distracted way of “living” in the culture I sometimes find myself. We live in the age of technology and intellect and moral freedom. We live in an age where money and intellectual superiority often gives people the illusion of power and privilege to get their own way, right or wrong.

In the wisdom and love of God as expressed through Jesus Christ, His message of salvation comes to us in the universal, most common starting point of a new born child in a manger surrounded by mother and father and magi from the East bringing gifts. It is a picture adored by little children.  The story of the birth of Jesus Christ can bring comfort and well being if we slow down long enough to hear.

You are loved!
Steve Mayberry


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2019 Advent Devo: Just Listen

“Do You Hear What I Hear?”

“When is he coming? How much longer must we wait?”

“Has he forgotten us?”

“What will he bring?”

I don’t know about you, but my brothers and I asked these questions every year as Christmas approached. And my children asked them every year and now my grandchildren ask them every year. Oh the anticipation of something wonderful that is going to happen!

For a moment, try to put yourself in the place of those who actually lived before that first Christmas. They had been waiting and anticipating the arrival of Jesus the Messiah for 400+ years. I suspect their questions mirrored our own Christmas questions.

When is he coming? How much longer must we wait?

Has he forgotten us?

 What will he bring?

When Jesus finally arrived as promised and later began to fulfill his mission to proclaim the “good news of the kingdom of God” (Lk 8:1) the responses to his message were as individualized as the ones who heard him teaching. In Luke 8:4-10, Jesus shares a parable that gives insight into the “why” of the various responses and exhorts “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (v. 8) As I doubt the audience was comprised of those with hearing problems, what exactly did Jesus mean by that? From the text, we hear his disciples ask him that very question. Jesus’ response is timeless and echoes through the ages resounding in our ears today—if we just listen.

Four types of soil representing four types of hearts are scattered with seed which is the “word of God”. Only one produces a crop. Jesus explains that “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15).

It is obvious that Jesus is not talking about the hearing we do with our ears, but the hearing we do with our hearts. And when we hear with our hearts, Jesus changes us and, in that transformation, we persevere and share that same “good news of the kingdom of God.”

I pray that God will continue to teach me to listen with my heart open to Him and to persevere in Jesus’ mission to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to everyone I meet. May we all honor him together with our listening hearts.

You are loved!
Sharon Cooke


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2019 Advent Devo: Listen for the Bells

At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe. – Billy from the Polar Express

In the fanciful children’s story, The Polar Express, a young boy named Billy begins to doubt the story of Santa Claus.  His emerging disbelief exhibits itself through his inability to hear the ringing of a tiny Christmas bell. Billy’s belief is restored by a journey on a magical train, the Polar Express, that takes him to the North Pole.  After meeting a host of characters and witnessing the manufacture of countless toys for Christmas gifts to all the world’s children, Billy’s belief is restored and he once again can hear the bell.

Luke chapter 7 presents 4 episodes in the ministry of Jesus and introduces us to many characters.  These characters fall into one of three belief categories; believers, doubters and unbelievers.

The first episode in Luke 7 tells of a Roman Centurion whose belief overshadows that of many of the Jews.  He fully trusts in Jesus’s power to heal his beloved servant so much that he says don’t bother to come, just say the words.  Jesus remarks with, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  A few verses later, his healing power was again demonstrated by raising a widow’s son. Belief took root in those who witnessed the miracle with their proclamation that “God has visited his people!”

The final story of the chapter introduces us to a strong believer amidst a group of staunch unbelievers. While dining with Pharisees a woman known for her sinful living boldly interrupts the feast and, moved with true conviction, begins to wash Jesus’s feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, then anoints his feet with perfume from an alabaster flask.  In contrast to her faith, the Pharisees ridicule Jesus for allowing a sinner to approach him.

Inserted in between these stories contrasting believe and unbelief is a fascinating account of a question from John the Baptist.  Struggling with doubt, he seeks confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus’s answer for John is simple; consider what you have seen and heard.

Belief can be elusive and at any point in time our belief in God can vary on a continuum from extremely weak to overwhelmingly strong.  Like waves at the seashore, our faith can ebb and flow on a daily basis across the spectrum of belief. This can be frustrating and even frightening.  We must not get discouraged but work with resolve to trust through the times of doubt. When doubt arises, let’s all be like John and return to Jesus with our questions, then consider what He has said and done.

During this Christmas season we all face the challenge of doubting that God truly sent his son to earth as a baby to an unwed teenage mother.  How outrageous does that sound? But look at what he did and said. I pray that we will all be like Billy in the Polar Express… Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.

Listen for the bell.

Live Jesus, Give Jesus.
James Peterman


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2019 Advent Devo: God Only Knows

So, when I read Jesus’ words in Luke 6: 20-23,

Blessed are you who are poor,

    for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now,

    for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now,

    for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you,

    when they exclude you and insult you

    and reject your name as evil,

        because of the Son of Man.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,

 because great is your reward in heaven,

I think about all the real, awful things people go through that most of us don’t even know about.  And then I think about what Jesus is saying, which basically is that God’s love is bigger than all that stuff.  It reminds me of a song by For King and Country called, “God Only Knows.”

Watch here > https://youtu.be/Q5cPQg3oq-o

We don’t know all the things that other people are going through, but God does, and His love is bigger than those things.  He turns it all upside down. So whatever you’re going through right now, I hope you’ll feel a little better knowing that God knows, His love is bigger, and better things are coming.

You are loved!
Zoe Henegar


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2019 Advent Devo: Rest

“When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness and laying his hands on each one, he healed them….” Luke 4:40

There are so many sections of Luke 4 that can be studied and dissected further. Many of these passages you have probably read several times in the past- the temptation of Jesus, the rejection of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth, the healing of Simon’s mother in law, etc. I challenge you to read this chapter and these “stories” again to find something new; something you may have missed in the past.

If you’re like me, I often start a chapter with intense focus but by the end, find myself losing attention. The last verses won’t get near as much thought or meditation on as the first ones. When I was reading through Luke 4 this time, the last verses stood out to me. The realness of Jesus came to life in this passage. After a night of healings, he went out at “daybreak to a solitary space.” (Luke 4:42) 

“The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.”

“But he said, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 

What stands out to you? Have you ever felt this way? Exhausted and needed so much that you just had to have a few moments of time to yourself. How real is that!? But even when the people came looking for him, Jesus wasn’t rude or insincere. In fact, despite him being tired, he knew he must go on; doing the mission he was sent here for.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think rest is so important! Let’s face it, if you aren’t well rested and you’re feeling overwhelmed you aren’t much good to anyone. And as you see in these verses, Jesus also needed time alone. What do you think he was thinking about during this time of solitude?

In this crazy busy world, you can feel pulled by so many things. Your boss may be asking more of you, your kids may be needing your attention, your family wants more time with you. You may feel like some days you are going to implode if one more person asks something of you. This may make you lose sight of your mission here on

Earth. You may want to do what’s “comfortable” because you’re exhausted and feel you can’t give one more thing to one more person. Balance can be hard to find.

But there is one more voice asking something of you. And this request is the most important. It can be easy to block God out because he isn’t constantly tapping your shoulder or sending you a thousand texts & emails. But his requests and mission for your life are of the greatest!

Let this season of the year be a time to slow down (without guilt) and focus on what God is asking from us. Let it be a time to find balance and if needed, a few minutes of solitude to collect your thoughts and refocus. Our life here on Earth is a gift and God has a mission for each one of us.

You are loved!
Lacey Dellapace


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Cross Walk Devotional: The Day That Everything Changed

Growing up as a children in America, we learned about all the days in history that had an impact our lives: the day we won our independence from England, the day we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, and most recently, the attack of the Twin Towers on 9/11. These days all had great significance, and we now have dates that we use to remember these historic occasions.

All of these days have great importance in our history, but they all are small in comparison to the day we celebrate each year in the Spring to remember and celebrate the day Jesus Christ was resurrected from the grave of death. This day is the day that changed everything.

Before the resurrection there was the cross and the death Jesus had to endure on our behalf. Without the cross, there is no resurrection and there is no mercy from God because His justice would not be satisfied. With all thanks and praise to Jesus, payment has been made, and we do have the mercy we don’t deserve.

The penalty for our sins was paid on the cross, so why was the resurrection so necessary to complete our redemption?

Without the resurrection, the only thing we would have is sympathy without victory. Our hope comes not only when the darkness is shared but also in the process of leading us out into the light.

Without the resurrection, Satan would have won. Paul suggests that the cross was a trap for Satan. Due to his limitations in knowledge he did not see God’s plan with the cross and the resurrection to bring about our redemption.

Without the resurrection, death would still be our final enemy. Jesus took on our humanity “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death —that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus, through His resurrection from death, has removed the fear and the sting from death.

Without the resurrection, we would not have newness of life. Where the cross brings forgiveness of sins, the resurrection brings us an offer of new life. In his discussion of baptism, Paul gives us the vision of us identifying with Christ in His death and His resurrection. When we enter our watery grave, we nail our sins to the tree, and as we rise up from the water, we leave our old life in the grave and walk in a brand new life. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).

As we stop and reflect this day on all that changed for all time for all people everywhere, it is important to see the power and significance of this day. We can see how it truly did change everything for every person who would believe in Jesus and His sufficiency and repent to live God’s way.  These will have life and life eternal.

If I truly believe that this resurrection did occur, then what has changed for me and my life? How about those around me who may not believe? Have I shared this Good News with them? Do I live as if this Gospel message is just for me or am I proclaiming this message of life and victory to every person at every opportunity that is presented?

Lord, we offer our thanks today to you for your Son Jesus, who paid our penalty for our sin and then through His resurrection proclaimed victory over sin and death. We praise you and your perfect plan and ask your forgiveness for our disbelief. Lord, give us the desire and the courage to love others as you have loved us and to proclaim this message to the lost at every opportunity. In Jesus Name, Amen!

Peace and grace to all in Jesus’ name!

You are loved! Jackie Gass


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Cross Walk Devotional: Focus

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My in-box shouted at me as I scrolled through the e-mail on my phone rushing from one meeting to another.  The subject line of one of the numerous devotionals to which I subscribe caught my attention because the message was painfully applicable to me.  If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. Wow…that hurts; but sometimes the truth always does.  Now to prove how well this statement fits me, I haven’t even had time to read the entire devo.  But I’m not sure I need to. The message has haunted me for days.

I prefer busy because I’m easily bored.  But busy has become its own vice as my busyness robs me of the ability to keep focused on what is truly important.  Why didn’t I read the daily scripture for today before I left for work? Because I knew I needed to be at work early since it would be such a busy day.  This is beginning to sound like a circular argument and unfortunately, I’m very good at it.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…”

Those words from Jesus’s first recorded public teaching forever haunt me as they daily convict me of my greatest challenge.  My hope and personal prayer this Easter season is that I focus on the cross and truly seek first the kingdom and his will in my life each day.

As the women discover the empty tomb, one of the angels tells them that he is risen and prompts them to “remember how he told you…”  And the women, “remembered his words…”

May this season help us remember and remain in remembrance of God’s love and power demonstrated through Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death.

God’s wisdom in the institution of the Lord’s Supper in commemoration of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is amazing.  He seemed to know that we (I) would struggle with busyness and life’s many distractions. May we remember resurrection Sunday this Easter and each Sunday and every day.

Father, lead me to seek first the kingdom.  May it become a mindset and my life’s sole direction.

You are loved!

James Peterman

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Cross Walk Devotional: Stay the Course

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Jesus hung on the cross for six hours of sheer agony. That was after a severe beating and having to carry the cross part of the way.He was on the cross from the third hour (9 am) to the ninth hour (3 pm). He was now at the pinnacle of His walk on the earth. We would be the beneficiary of His travails. Our sins could only be remitted by His sacrifice. – Amen

We are now at the sixth hour when Jesus speaks. “Eloi Eloi, lema sabachtani?” – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a direct quote from Psalm 22:1. Wonderful psalm, reading it will give you a better understanding of the sentiment Jesus is expressing. I am sure you will see yourself in the words therein.

The use of this passage by Jesus brings up some good questions. Why do you think Jesus was saying this? Do you think Jesus being fully God as well as man felt real distance from God? Is it even possible for God to feel separate from Himself? This is good theology and will lead to many interesting studies if you should pursue.

Here is another idea, could Jesus in His expressions be telling us that this feeling is a common reaction in difficult times?  Could Jesus in His kind and nurturing ways be bolstering us for the ways we will feel whilst in the midst of struggle? Recall Jesus tells us in this world we will have trouble.  Also, the night before the crucifixion Jesus was asking to be excused from the task at hand. Can we from these teachings learn to cope better with our struggles or disasters?

Have you ever felt God to be distant from you, not in touch with you at all? Have you abandoned yourself to ‘my way’ mode?  Do you grow impatient with God and become demanding in your prayers? Or do you find yourself doubting God’s very existence because somehow you think the Christian walk should be without pain or bother?

Recall passages like the ones in James that tell us to count it all joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2,3). Take a lesson from Jesus:  the victory is a certainty no matter how we might feel or what we experience. So, when you have difficult times, do as Jesus did. Keep talking to God and stay the course.

You are loved!

Edward Constantine

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Cross Walk Devotional: We Mostly Live in Saturday

Friday is the day of pain,

of sorrow and of woe.

We see His face of suffering,

to darkness He must go.

We look ahead in two days’ time

when victory shows its face.

He’ll conquer death, at last, we’ll know!

that heaven is His place.

The painful day of sacrifice

is finished!  Love’s stripped clean.

But we mostly live in Saturday,

the day that’s in between.

The next day brings a joyful shout!

our faith will soon be seen.

But we mostly live in Saturday,

the day that’s in between.

We pray that help is on the way,

to heal the scars that gleam.

‘Cause we mostly live in Saturday,

the day that’s in between.

We all have heard, “He is the Way!”

But what does all that mean?

‘Cause we mostly live in Saturday,

the day that’s in between.

I still have hope that in my life,

He’ll bring me peace serene.

That I will move past Saturday,

the day that’s in between.

How ‘bout you?  Do you still walk

the path that’s dark, unseen?

Will you let go of Saturday?

the day that’s in between.

You are loved!
Deborah Constantine

 


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Cross Walk Devotional: Follow or Follow Not

On the last night Jesus was with his disciples prior to his death, He shared with them that there would be betrayal and denial. Of course, He was right. In his three years of ministry Jesus had been laying out what allegiance to Him and His Kingdom looked like.

So, Peter told Jesus that he would follow him even if it meant his death, though at this time, Peter still had his own earthly hopes and dreams in mind about Jesus’ Kingdom. After Jesus’ arrest, Peter followed Jesus to the priests’ courtyard, and he did deny Jesus just as had been predicted. He wasn’t committed to Jesus’ Kingdom vision yet.

We know Jesus said that a person that would follow Him would have to “deny themselves and take up their cross.” What do these conditions really mean in our lives today?

Just as Peter denied Jesus on that night, we too have the tendency to deny Jesus in a variety of ways. We fail to proclaim Jesus’ message, we fail to place our trust in Jesus and trust in our own ways, and we fail to “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” to name a few.

As we reflect on our lives, are we denying the lordship of our own lives and proclaiming Jesus as our Lord? When we “take up our cross”, do we realize that Jesus is calling us to die to our own hopes and dreams and allow Jesus to resurrect them to His purpose?

Jesus said that if we want to save our lives, we will lose them, but if we lose our lives for His sake, then we will save our lives (Luke 9:24).  The good news is that just as this was a process for Peter, it is for us as well. Denying ourselves is a continuous process of trusting Jesus with our complete life.

Lord, we ask for the courage and passion to follow your Son Jesus according to His call and not in our own ways. We give our thanks for the wonderful example of Jesus in how to live in His ways and may we do your work, your way.

Grace and peace!

You are loved! Jackie Gass


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Cross Walk Devotional: Transformation

One of the most fascinating characteristics of the Bible that attests to its authenticity is the human frailty of so many of its characters.  Beginning with the dysfunction of the first family where Cain kills his brother Abel, to the fleshly weakness and moral failure of King David, the Bible is rife with flawed characters.  But these characters don’t hide in the background like extras on a movie set. These are the “heroes” of the story used to deliver God’s message to mankind.

The trend doesn’t end with the Old Testament as the recurring theme continues in the New Testament among the apostles, who like the children of Israel wandering in the desert, at times seem lost to the true meaning of the Gospel story.  We see their faith repeatedly waiver, their doubts emerge and their human frailty surface over and over. As the Gospel story rushes to its climax as Jesus is arrested, nearly all the apostles abandon him and he who would become our savior suffers alone.

The apostle Peter provides perhaps the greatest New Testament example of human frailty when he denies Jesus three times on the fateful evening.

Yet there is a transforming moment after which the remaining 11, along with the appointed replacement for Judas, demonstrate an undying commitment to the mission Jesus laid out for them.  That moment of truth is the resurrection where doubts and fears are replaced with steadfast faith and hope. From that moment these 12 men, and many more witnesses of the resurrection, live transformed lives where a spiritual focus outweighs their mere physical existence.

Each day I’m reminded of my many frailties, weaknesses, doubts, fears, and failures.  But hope still abounds for the cross and the empty tomb still provide the transforming power to lead me into a spirit-filled domain.  The entire Bible points to the cross as the Old Testament anticipates it and the New Testament reveals it, reflects on its power and inspires us to celebrate it until He comes again.

My prayer for all of us is that this Easter season will transform our doubt into faith and our fears into hope as we marvel at the love, grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Transform me, Father!

You are loved!

James Peterman


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Cross Walk Devotional: The Plan

So, What’s the Plan?

“So, what’s the plan?” I ask.  Family is coming and I need to be ready. They all know that I like to have a plan. I function best when I can make a list so nothing is forgotten and no one is overlooked. I will also admit that My Plan offers me a certain sense of security.

As I study the life of Jesus and his disciples, I wonder if Jesus’ followers found a sense of security in what they thought was “The Plan.” After all, the prophet Isaiah foretold of one who would

“. . . reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isa 9:7

And they believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of those words. But the story doesn’t seem to play out as expected and as I read and re-read the accounts of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, I am drawn to thinking about the “rest of the story.”  There is much to ponder beneath the obvious event of a once devoted follower selling out Jesus, Son of God, for a measly 30 pieces of silver.

If there were any doubts about Jesus’ future and their roles in it, the disciples weren’t seeing them. It fact, it had been an incredible week! On Sunday, they were welcomed to Jerusalem by crowds lining the road with their cloaks and with palm branches cut from nearby trees. The people sang and shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.” The Plan seemed to be right on track.

The next day they witnessed a side of Jesus they had not seen before. Jesus, entering the temple, was angered at the buying and selling taking place in the temple area.  He drove out the merchants, overturning tables and benches and forbidding anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. Just what they needed! A king who could rule with a strong hand. What excitement! How exhilarating! Victory at last!  But the trend did not continue.

Thursday, Jesus and his disciples gathered for what we commonly call the Last Supper. Jesus continues to talk about things like his death, his betrayal. Exactly the opposite of what one expects to hear from a conquering king. When Jesus is finished speaking, they sing a hymn and an exhausted and confused group of disciples, led by Jesus, retire to the Mount of Olives and the peace of Gethsemane.

Soon, the darkness and quiet peace of the Mount of Olives were shattered by the sounds of an approaching crowd. Torches could be seen as a collective of soldiers armed to the hilt and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees approached.  As the group drew closer, a familiar face stepped out from the crowd, greeted Jesus with, “Rabbi” followed by a kiss on the cheek. This was the secret signal to the soldiers to seize Jesus. Seize him? But he is the future King! The disciples must have been astounded when Jesus did not resist. Even when a passionate Peter drew his sword and swiftly sliced off the ear of a servant. Jesus’ response, again, is not one expected from a man who is about to conquer the Roman Empire and return the nation of Israel to the throne.  Instead, Jesus rebuked Peter and then goes peacefully with those who were there to arrest him. To say the least, The Plan envisioned by the disciples had been turned upside down. How disillusioned, confused and disappointed they must have felt. Can you relate? I certainly can.

As I continue to think about the defining moments of that last night in the Garden of Gethsemane, I am drawn to Jesus and his response to The Plan. Namely, in the hours prior to Judas’ betrayal, Jesus poured out his heart to God begging for release from what was to come. (Ironically, Peter, James and John whom Jesus had invited to join him, slept through it all.) Jesus completely surrendered himself to God’s Plan when he said,  “Yet not my will but yours be done.” Shortly afterwards, Jesus confidently and with the bearing of a King peacefully went with his accusers and soon to be murderers. He, without resistance or complaint, picked up and carried his own cross after hours of humiliation and torture. Astounding! How did he do it? He simply trusted and obeyed. Through his obedience to the Father, he completely conquered death and Satan’s hold over mankind and, in doing so, offered salvation to all who believe. That had been The Plan all along.

Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

When we open our hearts, our eyes and our ears to Jesus’ leading, success will always be the result. The only worthy Plan is to follow in his footsteps, relying as completely as he did on the Father, surrendering to His Plan and, with humble willingness, carry the cross we are given—no matter what. Jesus has shown us how.

All praise be to our God and Father who loves us unconditionally to infinity!!!

How wonderful to know that we are loved.

You are loved!

Sharon Cooke


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Cross Walk Devotional: It’s All About Jesus

When Jesus and his disciples meet to celebrate Passover together, they are observing the oldest of the Jewish religious feasts. In Exodus 12, we learn that God is going to make a distinction between His people and the Egyptians as the last plague before He delivers them from captivity. God is going to kill the firstborn of every household – both human and animal – that does not observe the sacrifice and feast He commands. An unblemished, one-year-old male lamb is to be killed and its blood spread on the door post and lintel of the house. When Yahweh sees the blood, He will “pass over” that house and the firstborn will live. Other details concerning the meal are given, and the Lord commands that Israel celebrate the feast every year as a reminder of their deliverance from bondage.

In Matthew 26, we read that Jesus’ eats the Passover with His disciples. During the meal, Jesus reveals that one of the disciples sharing this intimate and important remembrance will betray him. The fact that Jesus would be betrayed did not surprise them. They expected it. Only the identity of the betrayer caught them off guard. One of His closest friends. One of the Twelve. The ones who had walked with him along the dusty roads, watched as he healed people of diseases, listened as he taught the throngs, fed thousands from the basket of a small boy, calmed a raging storm on the ocean, and raised Lazarus from the dead. One of them. How could that be? They began to ask him one after another, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” Jesus says that it is the one who has dipped in the bowl with him. Then Judas says, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Not Lord. Rabbi. Not Lord. Teacher. Judas has already agreed to betray Jesus. He has already withdrawn himself emotionally from the group. He is already looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to the chief priests. Jesus answers him, “You have said so.”

After this, Jesus takes the elements of Passover and changes their meaning. Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks it into pieces and gives it to His disciples. He says, “Take and eat; this is My body.” The unleavened bread had been a symbol to Israel of their separation from Egyptian bondage. The bread now symbolizes Jesus’ body that will be given up so we might be separated from the bondage of sin. Jesus also gives thanks for the cup and tells all of them to drink from it because it is His blood which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. The blood on the doorposts and lintel covered the families in Egypt and protected them from death. Jesus’ blood now covers us and protects us from eternal death. Jesus will be the final Passover lamb.

As Jesus reinterprets the Passover feast, He points our attention to Him. He points to his own suffering. It’s not about religion, tradition, festivals, rules or rituals. It’s ALL about Jesus. Dying a painful, humiliating death on the cross for us. Paying the penalty for our sin and pouring out His blood that we might be set free to live our lives for Him. Jesus Christ. The Lamb of God.

You are Loved!
Melissa Holland


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Cross Walk Devotional: The Struggle is Inevitable

There are times in each of our lives when forces are at work to undermine what we are attempting to do or so it might seem. We try very hard to be stewards of the tasks our Father has given to us. We read our scriptures almost daily (that’s the plan anyway). We pray for others: the lost, the sick, our family, for those that ask. Just a genuine person walking by faith, well mostly.

Something that lurks just beneath the surface in our belief system is, if I walk uprightly and do the right things as best I can, things will also work for me. We believe we will have a life free of major struggles. We would never teach this but we surely believe it. Have you ever thought or verbalized, “I have lived a good life. Why is his happening to me?” Well guess what, the devil would like you to believe it is due to your failings or your lack of efforts. Remember it is not up to you. We are justified by the finished work of Christ.

Jesus had detractors, and he lived a sin-free life and yet from within his group sprang his betrayer. Whatever your response to this, the main point here is that you will always face times in your walk with God where you might be betrayed, cheated, treated unfairly. At times it could be someone you trust. No matter what you might be facing, maintain your focus through continued reading of the word, praying, talking with a close follower of Christ, and keep your thoughts focused on the spirit. Keeping up your spiritual strength will help with the feelings, desires and actions that might be associated with what you are going through.

You are loved!
Edward Constantine


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Cross Walk Devotional: What Love Smells Like

The smells from the kitchen make the mouth water. The scents of rotisserie lamb, freshly baked bread, and aromatic spices waft into the hall where the guests have gathered into a cozy gaggle.

The invitees include Simon, a leper Jesus has healed; Lazarus, a dead man Jesus raised; the disciples who have left everything to follow him; Martha, who served him; and, lastly but not least, Mary, who sat at his feet.

Yet, another odor has drifted into the room. More of a stench than an aroma. It is the stink of death. Only Jesus detects it. The Christ, and one other—Mary.

Mary comes in cradling an alabaster jar containing expensive perfume. It represents her investments. Her future financial security. Her future hopes. Her most precious possession. As she breaks the seal, the smell of extravagant love fills the room. The syrupy fluid begins to flow from the thin neck of the veined alabaster jar anointing the head of her Lord and Master.

What she has done violates every cultural norm, and upsets the social etiquette of the day. It becomes a moment where all the others in the room become invisible, and it is an intimate moment of worship between she and Jesus. And like most moments of intense worship, this one draws critics too. For some in the crowd, the ministry is a business to be budgeted rather than a Savior to serve.

Mary doesn’t need to defend herself, because Jesus does it for her. As she stands over Jesus, wanting to slink away from the sting of the purse keeper’s words, Jesus speaks up for her. Somehow, this perfume mixed with the saltiness of her tears, is potent enough to be savored for all eternity and we whiff its’ bouquet even now. It is a fragrant reminder of what love smells like.

Several hours later, Jesus would be stripped naked. He would hang in shame as his arms were suspended and held in place by nails that pierced his palms. Unable to cover himself, the only thing he would wear that day were the remnants of the perfume that lingered in his hair.

As his head lolls onto his chest, and rolls back and forth in anguish, the aroma fills his nostrils and helps cover his own odors and those of the ones who hurl insults at him. And as he struggles for his last breath, with one heaving inhalation, he may savor the scent that gives him the strength to exhale and exclaim, “It is finished.” It is a fragrant reminder of what love smells like.

Like the seal on the alabaster jar, the alabaster body of Jesus would be broken. Blood would flow from the wounds, and from the spear stabbed into his side. That precious blood–so lovely, so pure, is more precious than any perfume.

Mary came to break an alabaster jar for Jesus. And Jesus came to break an alabaster jar for humanity.

It was a jar he never regretted breaking.

And neither did Mary.

Nor should you.

You are loved.

Kent


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