What God is Saying:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter - Come, Lord Jesus!!!

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:1-4

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Revelation 22:20-21 

Revelation is a confusing book, but, in the words of theologian Craig Hill, it can be summed up in two words: God Wins! Believers in Jesus Christ can look with joy and anticipation to the future, when our risen Lord joins heaven and earth together. We know, with the certainty of a promise from Jesus Himself, that the glorious, amazing day described in Revelation 21:1-4 will someday come true. Every tear will be wiped away and we will finally live as God created us to live, totally within His will, reaching our full potential. Our prayer, "Come, Lord Jesus!" is a cry that that day comes soon! 

But it is also a cry for today. Our work now is to bring glimmers of this future glory to our present reality. We can only do this with the help of our living, risen Lord. As Christians, our task is to cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus!" at the face of injustice, poverty, heartbreak and anguish, and together with Christ reach out to offer righteousness, relief, solace and grace. Jesus asks to be invited into every place where His kingdom has yet to be realized, even the depths of our hearts. Come, Lord Jesus! 

Prayer: Thank you for Easter! Thank you that you rose from the grave! Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven! Come, Lord Jesus! In Your precious name I pray, Amen

* This devotion taken from The Sanctuary for Lent 2016 by Sue Mink

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Devotion (Day 39) - Sacred Moments

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Luke 24:28-32 

These two disciples (Cleopas who was Jesus' uncle, the brother of Joseph, and another disciple) came so close to missing Jesus! As they traveled to an inconsequential town, they chanced upon a stranger. After a compelling conversation, the stranger began to hurry on His way. It was only because of their strong urging that He stayed behind with them. They had no idea that they were about to witness a sacred moment. As Jesus broke the bread, they were able to recognize Him for the first time that entire day. The stories were true! Jesus had risen from the dead!!! As quickly as they comprehended the miracle before them, Jesus vanished, leaving them astounded. 

Isn't that how we often encounter the risen Lord in our lives? Sacred moments come upon us in unexpected places and times. Epiphanies and revelations catch us unaware, and as quickly as we recognize the presence of the Lord, the commonplace closes in again. God's presence is real, but elusive, always at the edge of our vision. Yet as fleeting as that moment was for the disciples,they would never be the same. Whenever we encounter Jesus in our lives, it is our personal Easter experience. When we recognize the living Christ, we are compelled to cry out with the disciples, "The Lord is risen indeed!"

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bless me with Easter moments, when I encounter Your presence in my life. I can't imagine a life lived without You. You are my Lord, my Savior, my Best Friend. In Your name I pray, Amen. 

*This devotion taken from The Sanctuary for Lent 2016 by Sue Mink

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Devotion (Good Friday) - His Great Love For Us

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,  for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Luke 23:44-49 

After examining Jesus' last words in the Gospel of Matthew, today we read the Gospel of Luke. At first glance, they seem very different. Matthew's account is a cry of despair and abandonment, whereas Luke's version shows us Jesus' great trust in God and submission to His will. Yet both of them contain quotes from Psalms, so each psalm should be examined in its entirety to understand fully what Jesus was saying. Luke's quote is from Psalm 31:5. Psalm 31, like Matthew's Psalm 22, is a cry for rescue from persecution that ultimately turns to praise. Like Matthew's account, Jesus' death cry holds the promise of hallelujahs to come. 

Yet Luke's story asks us to linger a moment at the foot of the cross. A soldier who had mocked Him realized at the moment of His death that Jesus was righteous - not just merely innocent but loved by God. Imagine the shock and fear he must have felt when he realized what he had just done! Where could one who had just murdered the Son of God find hope and mercy? The beautiful old hymn says it best. Beneath the cross of Jesus is where we are all confronted with "the wonder of redeeming love and my unworthiness." 

Prayer: Lord, keep me at the foot of Your cross, aware of the incredible gift of Your love to me, a sinner. Help me to see anew, this Good Friday, the awesome wonder of what You did for me. May I be eternally grateful and never ashamed of You. I love You Jesus. In Your name I pray, Amen.

*This devotion taken from The Sanctuary for Lent 2016 by Sue Mink

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Easter Devotion (Maundy Thursday) - The Cry of His Son

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
Matthew 27:45-50 

What a horrible cry for the Father to hear from His Son!!! How it must have torn the very heart out of God! Yet during His time on the cross, Jesus was the only person who ever was or ever will be truly God-forsaken. Jesus took on all of humanity's sins and suffered execution at the hands of human beings in order to break the power of evil in the world. Because God is the very antithesis of sin, at that moment, God had to turn from the heartrending cry of His only Son.  

Yet this cry is also the first line of Psalm 22. Take a moment to read through the psalm. It is an encapsulation of Jesus' execution, resurrection, and salvation of all of humanity (written hundreds of years before these events actually took place). Although God had turned away at the moment of Christ's cry, by calling out the beginning of the psalm, Jesus was letting all who would hear know that He knew the end of the psalm too. God would rescue Him from death itself!!! 

Through the cross, the world would undergo a radical transformation. Every human being, Jew and Gentile, born and unborn, would recognize the power and the grace of God. Hidden in Jesus' heartbreaking cry from the cross was the hope of all humanity. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me to trust in the Father, even in the depths of despair. Father God, thank you for the incredible love that You have for us that would cause You to be willing to watch Your Son suffer and die for each of us. I praise You, thank You and love You with all my heart! In Your Son's name, Amen. 

*This devotion taken from The Sanctuary for Lent 2016 by Sue Mink

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter Devotion (Day 36) - Total Forgiveness

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Luke 23:32-34

We've all struggled with forgiveness when we've been wronged. We know that God tells us to forgive, and we also know that forgiving others allows us to move forward and heal. But often our forgiveness is simply turning over the matter to God, trusting that God will hold them accountable for their sins. Even if we forgive, we sometimes take comfort believing that those who have hurt us will have to answer to God and be held accountable for what they have done.

But as Jesus hung on the cross in agony, He not only forgave those responsible for His execution, but asked that God forgive them too. His death on the cross was to be an atonement for all people, even those who had placed Him there to die. His forgiveness was not only personal, but cosmic. In the throes of excruciating death, Jesus asked that the biggest affront humanity had ever made to God be forgiven. 

This is the only reason we can dare to ask God for forgiveness for our sins. Forgiveness from God is a total cleansing, enabling us to stand as new creations, no longer accountable. Instead, our challenge is to live a new life of righteousness, dedicating ourselves to being true servants of Jesus Christ, the Savior who died for us. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me forgive others completely, as You have forgiven me. Help me to live a new life of righteousness, dedicating myself to being a true servant of Yours, Lord Jesus. Thank you for being my Savior. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

*This devotion taken from The Sanctuary for Lent 2016 by Sue Mink

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Easter Devotion (Day 35) - The Horror of Gethsemane

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”
Luke 22:39-46 

Jesus' time in the garden is the most anguished description of prayer in all of Scripture. He was facing humiliation and an agonizing death, but there have been martyrs who have confidently gone to their executions, secure in God's love for them and in their eternity with Him in Heaven. Why then did Jesus suffer so much in Gethsemane? 

Jesus asked for "this cup" to be removed. Throughout Scripture, a cup has been the symbol of God's righteous anger against sin and rebellion. Because Jesus was about to take on the sins of all the world, He would feel the full force of God's wrath falling on Him. The one person who was the closest and most attuned to the will of God and who could feel God's wrath the most acutely would face it with more force and power than anyone had experienced or would ever experience it. The pain that Jesus feared was not physical, as horrible as that would be. It was not about what humans could do to Him, but about the intense pain of anger and alienation from the Father. 

This is the horror of Gethsemane that night. It is what Jesus suffered for you and me. We never will be forsaken by God, no matter what, because Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath for us. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I cannot even comprehend what You have done for me. Thank You for taking on God's wrath for my salvation. What I could never do, You did because You love me so much. I love you too, with all my heart! In Your Precious Name Lord Jesus, Amen. 

*This devotion taken from The Sanctuary for Lent 2016 by Sue Mink

Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter Devotion (Day 34) - Live By Grace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 

Don't worry and be anxious. That sounds easy enough, but anxiety disorder is practically a natural addiction, affecting nearly one in eight adults in the United States. Anxiety is defined as worry about an unknown future event. When Paul wrote this passage, he was in prison facing a possible death sentence. While it would be natural to read about Paul's concerns over his own future, instead, his letters were full of concern for his fledgling churches. While he felt responsibility for them and cared deeply about them, he was positive and supportive, instead of allowing anxiety about them and about his own situation to cripple him. 

How did he do this? Simply put, Paul lived by grace. He turned all those things that could have worried him into a prayer list to bring before God, then he rested in the knowledge that the loving Creator of the universe knew his needs. He let go of unnecessary drama and petty difficulties that can consume people, instead, looking for opportunities to forgive and bless others. He didn't worry about pleasing other people, but focused on pleasing God. He recognized that God is the one in control of all future events and trusted in that knowledge. In so doing, he found that living by grace is living in a state of peace and joy, even in the most stressful situations. 

Prayer: Lord, calm me and teach me to live by grace. Help me to remember that You are in control of all future events and I can trust in that knowledge. May I have Your peace which passes all understanding. Thank You for being my God. In Jesus name, Amen

*This devotion taken from The Sanctuary for Lent 2016 by Sue Mink