Visitor Devotion

 

 

Monday of Holy Week: Devotion

MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK

Jesus and his disciples have stayed overnight at Bethany, and leave in the morning to go to Jerusalem, a couple of miles away. The fig tree they come upon has leaves, which means it should also have the first crop of fruit that grows from the previous year’s shoots.  But it doesn’t.  It cannot provide breakfast for Jesus and the disciples. Jesus curses the fig tree for its lack of fruit.  That tree symbolizes the spiritual fruitlessness of the people in Jerusalem.  God has sent them prophets and they have rejected and killed them.  God has sent them his Son and they will reject and kill him. The people of Jerusalem have brought God’s judgment on themselves.  But Jesus will continue to Jerusalem and let God’s judgment for their rebellion fall on him as he suffers and dies on the cross on Good Friday. 

Jesus and his disciples arrive at the temple and here is what happens:

(Matthew 21:12-17) Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” 17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Jesus makes it clear that the temple is really his and all about him.  His actions show he has the authority to say how things should be done. He is the object of praise at the temple, as he receives praise from the children there.  He is the source of blessing, as the blind and lame find healing from him there.

The church is still to be all about Jesus today.  His word is still the authority.  We don’t change what we believe or teach as our culture changes.  We don’t want to be self-serving or manipulative in the way we operate as a congregation.  The goal is to glorify Christ and serve others.  The church is still intended to be a place where broken sinners, broken relationships, and broken lives find healing and restoration in Jesus through the gospel; especially healing from the power and condemnation of sin through forgiveness in Jesus and restoration with the Father.

It is interesting that the religious leaders are most upset, not about all the revenue they will be losing, but that Jesus is being praised as the promised Savior- God come to earth to save his people.  This is always the real issue:  Am I willing to acknowledge Jesus as the one with authority, or do I have the right to determine for myself what is true, good, and right?   How easy it is to act as if we are the authority; to question or even be dismissive of certain teachings in the Bible or to rationalize attitudes and thinking and behaviors that we have that are contrary to God’s Word.  

But that is why Jesus had come to Jerusalem: Because you and I and the entire human race needed rescuing from our foolish and selfish rebellion against the authority of God.  His mission is only beginning as he reveals who he is there in the temple on Monday.  He is headed for the cross of Good Friday to provide us with the forgiveness we all need, and turn our hearts from seeking what we want for our self-gratification to seeking what he wants for his glory.

Praise him for such amazing mercy and grace today!   Seek that grace not only for the forgiveness you need, but for the will to live for his glory in genuine thankfulness!


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I Need More…STRENGTH

I Need More

After several attempts of twisting and tapping, the lid just wouldn’t budge. “Honey, can you open this for me?” Her teenage son is eager to flex his muscles. He opens the jar and hands it back to his mother.

Life is sometimes like that jar, isn’t it? Sometimes we just don’t have the strength we need to tackle what’s in front of us. Not the strength it takes to move a piano or change a flat tire, but the strength we need to raise our children or stay married to someone who is difficult to live with. We need the strength it takes to go to work and deal with people who are rude, inconsiderate, and lazy, or to walk to the mailbox that contains bills we’ll have difficulty paying.

I need more strength!

“Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth… He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

What should we do when we need more strength? Hand that jar over to the LORD. He has all the strength we need and so much more. After all, he is the One who created the earth and everything in it. More than that, this strong, wise, loving God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. The all-powerful God came in human weakness to rescue us from sin and death. He was condemned and crucified. Weakness, right? No! Strength! Jesus used his strength to remain on that cross until every last sin of ours had been paid for. His empty tomb proves it. “Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Death has been defeated! The guilt of sin before God has been removed! By trusting in Jesus, life in heaven is waiting for us.

Need more strength? The One who created the earth has it. The One who died and rose for you has it. He is the One who gives us the strength to face each day with fresh confidence. Find that strength in his Word. And then be ready to soar. Be ready to soar on eagles’ wings with renewed strength and through every challenge of life! Be ready to soar on eagles’ wings to the home that Jesus has prepared for you in heaven!


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March 2019: I Need More…GOOD NEWS

Indeed, we live in frazzled and frustrated times. Just turn on the nightly news. So frequently we are given reports of events that have devastated property and lives; are told about individuals that have deviated from law and order; and hear of other stories that dampen our spirits. On a regular basis, most of the news is not good news, and a depressed sigh first finds solace in the silence of a turned-off television.

Turns out, though, that we don’t have to turn on a TV to know that. We don’t even need to be near it. As our consciences rerun the past, we see where our own deviations have had a devastating impact. As a direct result, our spirits are dampened and depressed. Even life-long Christians feel the sting of past sins as their consciences cry a guilty testimony. That’s the “news” we know by nature. That’s God’s Law on sinful hearts, and that’s why stricken hearts crave more good news.

The calm to the craving is not attained by turning off; we get it by tuning in. The answer is not in blocking out God’s Word or dulling our consciences by making poor excuses. The solution is still found in what God’s good news says to every individual—even to you. The calm, promise, and solution remain the message of the gospel! Hearts are calmed at the message of Christ for us! And it’s in that message the apostle Paul, a very real sinner, would have sinners still take comfort and confidence. As he lifted Timothy’s eyes and heart to the grace of the cross, so he lifts ours: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Craving more good news? Forgiven sinner, tune in to the Savior who carried your every sin! See him in his Word! Redeemed believer, tune in to the gospel—God’s good news that quiets sin’s accusations! Hear that saving message! Beloved child of God, tune in to the trustworthy message of the Bible and let your heart sigh with thanksgiving. Jesus came to save sinners. Jesus came to save you! That’s the good news! Crave it. Enjoy it. And stay tuned in!


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February 2019: I Need More…FAITHFUL FRIENDS

A friend is someone who knows all about me and likes me anyway. Have you heard that description of a

friend? How would you define what a friend is? Are you happy with the friends you have? Do you wish

you had more friends or different kinds of friends? That your friendships were healthier or more

helpful?


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January 2019: Jesus is the One and Only Savior

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

A common resolution at New Year’s is to lose weight and improve fitness. There are various ways people seek to reach that goal. Some strive to improve their diet, either eating smaller portions or switching to healthier foods. Others focus more on exercise, building up their strength or following a cardio workout plan. Picking any or all of those options can help a person reach a weight loss and fitness goal.


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December 2018: Will I go to heaven?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

I saw my name on Santa’s list!  I was so excited.  I didn’t think it would be there.  I got mad and hit my sister on Thanksgiving Day.  I admitted my fault.  Since then, I was very well behaved.  After all, Santa brings good things to good boys, right?  I saw MY name!  I was getting a puppy for Christmas!  I did it!  I made up for my sin.

Christmas came and no puppy.  I was crushed.  I thought I deserved one.  I thought Santa loved me.  Was the name on Santa’s list someone else with the same name as mine?  Did Santa think my apology was insincere?  Was hitting my sister such a horrible thing that he would totally reject me?  No puppy that Christmas.  (It would be another 29 years before I got a puppy.)

What if God treated us like that?  We would never be sure we are going to heaven.  But God does not treat us like that, and we can be sure we are going to heaven.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” 

Notice what God did not say.  “God so loved the ones that don’t hit their sisters…”  “God so loved the good ones… the top 50%… those who help themselves.”  No, God loves sinners, all sinners, you and me.  He loves the whole world.

God gave us the greatest gift of all.  Jesus, God’s Son, came at Christmas to save the world from sin and hell.  God gave us a gift only he can give—eternal life.  God did that by sending Jesus into this world to live a life without sin.  Jesus never hit his sister.  He never even thought angry or insulting thoughts about anyone.  Jesus was punished for all our sins, in our place.  Jesus rose from the dead to guarantee our sins are paid for.  He did this for the whole world.  That includes you. 

Jesus is the greatest gift ever given.  Trusting him as your Savior, you can be certain you will go to heaven.  Enjoy God’s gift of Jesus this Christmas. 


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November 2018: God’s Encouraging Word … when I’m suffering

God’s Encouraging Word … when I’m suffering

Are you familiar with tunnel vision? Someone experiencing tunnel vision can see an object directly ahead, but they often fail to notice what’s around it. Maybe age or injury has robbed them of their peripheral vision. Maybe they grow fatigued during a long drive. Do you know what that’s like?

We’re also prone to tunnel vision when we’re suffering. Face it, we’ve all been there. No one is immune from problems and pain. Everyone experiences hurts or hang-ups. But when we’re hurting, is the bad all we can see? Do we focus on the problem so much that we ignore everything else? We can see no help. No hope. No good. No God. Do you know what that’s like? It’s not a happy place to be.

It can be especially tough as we prepare to enter the holiday season. How can we put on a smile for Thanksgiving and pretend that we are just fine?

No need to pretend. Listen to the psalmist: “My comfort in suffering is this: your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50). Remember how God worked so wonderfully to solve our greatest problem. The burden of sin we could never carry. The consequence of guilt we could never dodge. The sentence of death we could not avoid. So Jesus stepped in for us and shouldered them all. The cross and the tomb—both empty now—mark Jesus’ great victory.

And his victory is your victory. So resist the urge to give in to those feelings of defeat. Don’t shrink back in fear. Don’t separate yourself from others. Don’t become bitter. Don’t give up. Otherwise, you will miss the help God wants to give you.

All around the problem of suffering, God’s help is ready and waiting. Look up and find confidence: “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121). Look into God’s word where he promises, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Look back and recall how God has helped you through past challenges. Look around and find Christian friends eager to give you a hand and fold hands for you in prayer. Look ahead and see the open heaven God has in store for you through Jesus.

God promises to bring you safely through the tunnel of trouble. Trust his goodness!


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October 2018: God’s Encouraging Word … when I am tired

God’s Encouraging Word … when I am tired

Sleep experts advise getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night.  We need rest for our tired bodies to recuperate. 

Even on the most regular day, life is draining.  The work day is long and the demands are great.  The commute, getting the kids to school, work schedules, meeting deadlines, grocery shopping, getting dinner ready, children’s activities, only to get ready to do it over again the next day.  Getting older doesn’t help matters.  By the time you hit the pillow at night you may feel like a smart device that has only 2% battery life left.

But what do you do when you become tired emotionally?  It’s the exhaustion that comes from strained relationships, heated arguments and being rejected by those from whom you want acceptance.

Then there’s that inner weariness—the kind that no one else knows you have except you. The weariness that comes from the burden of sin and guilt.  It comes when you must live in the brokenness of past mistakes.  When things don’t go so well on any given day, you wonder if God is angry and out to get you.  The earthly consequences of your sins and knowledge of your guilt is…well…spiritually tiring.

God comes to you today with an encouraging word recorded in the book of Isaiah: The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.   

The LORD is the everlasting God.  He is the Creator.  He never gets tired.  He has perfect understanding; he knows what it’s like when you feel tired for any reason at all.  He promises to give strength to you when you’re tired.  The LORD God is Jesus, your Savior.  He took your sins and guilt to the cross and died for you.  It’s a fact!  Jesus took your sins and guilt away from you, buried it all in his tomb, and rose from the dead.  Your sins are forgiven.  That’s rest—rest for your soul.  Talk about strength for the weary!

And don’t forget!  It’s the LORD God who gives the blessing of physical rest too.  It’s been said that a clean conscience is a good pillow.  God gives you this clean conscience in Jesus Christ.  He also provides you with home, food, and bed to become recharged to tackle the new day with all its challenges.  So do it with all the energy and strength that Lord God gives you as his own through faith in Jesus!

 


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September 2018: God’s Encouraging Word … when I’m worried

God’s Encouraging Word … when I’m worried

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Erma Bombeck once told about Donald.  Donald was worrying about going to school.  Here is how he expressed his anxieties: “My name is Donald.  I don’t know anything.  


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August 2018: God’s Encouraging Word … when I am frightened

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Soon, students and teachers will be headed back to the classroom. Some students will be getting on a bus for the first time, some will be away from Mom and Dad for the first time, or they are headed to a new school and a new classroom.  Many of those children will be very anxious.  The other side of that classroom door is completely unknown.  The worst could possibly happen.  They will wonder if they can even do it!


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July 2018: God’s Encouraging Word … when I am insecure

God’s Encouraging Word … when I am insecure

What is the strongest building in your neighborhood?  I’m guessing that many people have never even thought about it, but if you live in a trailer home in tornado alley or near an ocean where hurricanes can strike, you’ve probably considered that question many times.  When a tornado approaches or a hurricane, being in a building that you know is constructed to withstand the worst, provides a sense of security in the chaos of a storm. 


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June 2018: God’s Encouraging Word … when I am overwhelmed

God’s Encouraging Word … when I am overwhelmed

It’s finally summer. Plans have been made for months. The kids are out of school. Vacations are right around the corner, but rest and relaxation are the farthest thing from my mind. Do you have any idea how much I need to accomplish? My list grows by the day no matter how many things I check off. I feel like I’m swimming. I wish I could give something away, but I can’t.


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