TORN BETWEEN

We have all had that point of no return decision to either speak up for what is right, to mumble some excuse, deny knowing anything about it, or to just be quiet and walk away.  What would we do if our life was threatened and in danger of being taken into custody and deemed a criminal for knowing Jesus?  Would our love and passion trump our fear?  Peter is torn between his love for Jesus and fear of being jailed for knowing Him.

Peter’s love and passion brought him to the courtyard so he could see and hear what was happening to Jesus who has been taken away from him.  But Peter’s fear drove him to deny he ever knew Jesus, His beloved Friend, who would soon be His Savior.

Jesus told Peter what would happen, but Peter forgot—until the rooster crowed. 

Matthew 26

Peter Disowns Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

“I DON’T KNOW HIM!”

Jesus told Peter it would happen.  Peter remembered what Jesus had said the second the rooster crowed.  All Peter could do was weep in regret.  Peter used the excuse of denial to be closer to Jesus but he would soon learn from the look in Jesus’ eyes that Peter’s disobedience of being there in the first place led to his denial of ever knowing Jesus.  Ah, this is a plot twist, right? 

Jesus told his disciples what He came to earth to do.  He was sent by God, His Father, to seek and to save lost people.  It was foretold in the Scriptures they grew up reading at the Synagogue.  One day, in the midst of ministry and mission, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do say I am?”  It was Peter who had the right answer, “You are Messiah, Son of the living God”. 

Remember, it was Peter that Jesus said He would give the “keys to the Kingdom” to as he worked with passionate Peter’s flaws and missteps to build the church Jesus would begin in Peter.  “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16

Did Peter remember this moment of confirmation and calling and wonder if he had just blown it all?  Did he cry with regret for his disobedience of being there in the first place and then disowning Him on top of it all, wondering if what Jesus put in him would be lost forever?

Peter repented.  Later, after Jesus rose again and walked among His beloved once more to prove His power over death, Jesus forgave Peter.  Peter was restored to Jesus, he was renewed to live out his purpose to “go and make disciples” and to build the church Jesus built first in Peter, a church that no one can destroy. 

If it were not for Peter’s humbled repentance to Jesus and his restoration through Jesus’ forgiveness, the story of the church might have been different.  But Jesus knew it would be Peter.  Peter’s quick mind got him into trouble when he was younger, but as he grew in his love and passion for Jesus, his wisdom and obedience trumped all fear and he became an apostle and spokesperson of the beginnings of the church Jesus ordained him to build.  Just as Jesus said.

Jesus knows our weaknesses.  Jesus knows our love for Him.  We all mess up from time to time.  Are we ruined forever?  Not according to the story of Peter!  I have made big mistakes in my life but the love and forgiveness of Jesus set me back on the road to His will and purpose for me.  He will do the same for you.  He always has and always will love and forgive us. 

You might be thinking, what about Judas?  Judas was sorry he got caught but not repentant for what he did.  Taking his own life was just another form of trying to control life on his terms.  That is the difference.

Abby Father, Lord of all,

We learn so much from Peter’s life and you knew we would.  You are God and we are not.  Thank you for forgiveness of all our sins.  Thank you for renewal and restoration of who you created and meant for us to be!  Thank you for your purpose for living that has meaning and significance for your Kingdom!  Thank you for saving my soul.  Thank you for making me whole again.  Continue to transform me.  Help us to help others find and follow you by loving them like you love us.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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“ARE YOU NOT GOING TO ANSWER?”

     When Jesus goes silent…

In our world where evil thoughts and false ideologies are arrogantly and boldly displayed daily at work, in the media, in our families among the lost, and infiltrates a group of imperfect people God calls His church, we wonder what answer to give to all the false accusations, the sarcasm and mocking brought about by selfish lives lived out with selfish motives.  God and His Ways are set aside or at best, manipulated for self-produced power and control.  God is not political.  God is God.  He is Truth.  Some choose Truth.  Some do not.

This isn’t a new “thing” we wrestle and battle daily.  Evil’s tricks, manipulations of people, with schemes to destroy God’s people and their families with lies and deception isn’t new.  It began with Adam and Eve.  At some point in our lives, we have been deceived.  Some see the deceit and come back to Truth.  Some do not.

This battle for Truth wasn’t suddenly caused by COVID, wars or rumors of wars, or sudden uprisings.  We can blame no one but ourselves.  Jesus taught that there would always be the poor among us, there would always be disagreements, there would always be lost people and there would always be decisions to be made for Him or against Him.  His answer was to the put God first, be Love as He is Love, and then do what God says.  In Jesus’ three years of ministry He always went to God first, got His direction and words from God, before doing anything of significance in His mission given by God to “seek and to save” the world God loved.  So, I stop to ask myself, how are we any more important in God’s work than to be with God and ask for God’s direction before doing anything in His Kingdom work?  Sobering, right?  We are famous for praying, “God, bless my/our plans”, when instead we should be asking, “God, what do YOU want and what do you want me to do, if anything, to accomplish your purpose?”

Jesus previously told His disciples, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.  9Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24

So, our situation isn’t new.  Evil was not orchestrated by God to test our faith.  Evil just is and always will be used to build our faith if we believe and stay strong and firm with God’s ever-present Holy Spirit helping us.  We will be mocked for believing in Jesus.  Sarcastic remarks will be made to make us feel less valuable in the eyes of the world when we say no to what is not God’s will for us.  These moments will be weird and awkward for the moment.  But, stop and think, who are we trying to please, honor and praise and live for?  Who will save us?  Who will be with us forever?  Whose love never changes and is unconditional?  Not the world, only God.

So, what is our answer?  Our lives.  Our daily walk will speak louder than any words we can ever utter.  Jesus needs NO defense in what will be accomplished.  HE is our Victor now.  He will proclaim victory when He comes for us!  So, no matter what is happening around us, we continue to love like Jesus.  We will suffer heartache at decisions made by loved ones who are lost, but we will continue to love.  When they hurt us with words, rolled eyes and sneers, we will never stop loving them.  This is our answer.  It is our only answer.  What echoes in my mind as I worked on this line of thinking is what Jesus said on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  This is the Love we are told to freely give because God freely gave His love to us through His Son, Jesus.  “Freely you have received, free give.”  Matthew 10:8

The gospel of Matthew written as a witness and solely inspired by God has taught us Truth.  Now we must live what we say we believe.

Matthew 26

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Jesus, His body the “temple of God” will indeed be torn down by the religious elite who will lie to the Roman government.  HOWEVER, Jesus, Son of God, will defeat evil’s plot planted in the minds of mere men to destroy Him.  He will go down to the residence of the evil one and defeat him at his own game.  He will rise from death a Victor over all sin!  He will rise to life forever!  Jesus is alive today and alive forevermore.  Jesus sits at the right hand of God, Our Father, as our advocate for eternity to all who believe.  Jesus, Our Savior.  Jesus, Our Lord.

FIND and FOLLOW Jesus.  He is Truth.

Lord,

Help us to love like you love.  Help us to live in peace with Your Spirit of Truth permeating our being.  Cleanse our hearts.  Remove anything, any thinking, that offends you and not part of who you are.  Then show us what your will is for each of us this day.  Protect and guide us.  Lead and direct our thinking and behaving.  Tell us when to speak and when to be silent.  Help us to walk in your ways.  To you be all glory!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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HOW THEN?

At the beginning of creation, God had a Plan.  The Plan was Jesus.  The Plan was designed and implement at just the right time and place.  The Plan was put in place at the beginning, knowing God’s created humans would need a Way back to Him.  God’s beloved, created humans were/are given the freedom to choose God and his goodness and perfect will or to choose their own way.  Freedom to choose good or evil was given to mankind.  Why?  Because God wanted people to come to Him because they desired to come to Him, not by force, but by loving Him back.  “We love God because He first loved us.”

THE PLAN: “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

God loves each one of His created.  He loved the world then, he loves us now.  God loves us while we are wandering in our sin, in our repentance of our sin, and after our sin has been forgiven.  God simply and unconditionally loves us.  “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him!”  (Romans 8, Berean Study Bible)

Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, also had a choice.  He didn’t have to die for our sin.  He could have called down armed and ready angels to rescue Him from the false accusations, the betrayal by His beloved, followed by the excruciating pain of torture that will lead to death on a cross for all to see.  But He didn’t.

In Jesus words, “But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

Jesus fulfilled God’s Plan, designed as meticulously as His creatioin, to rescue us from sin, clear all debts of sin, and now marked PAID IN FULL.

Matthew 26

Jesus Arrested

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

HOW THEN?

How then can we resist an innocent, perfect man who died for our sin?  Why do we pause in our decision to run to Him?

How then can we wonder if we should believe when the facts are written as proof in many other writings other than the Bible?

How then can we deny the existence of a God who SO LOVED that HE GAVE His Son to save us from death in exchange for life eternal?

How then can we make the wrong choice and follow a world that will soon fade away?  We must answer the question of Truth, “Do we really believe that what we believe is really real…and do we live what we say we believe?” 

How then can we believe?  Because God, our Father, is present with us through His Holy Spirit.  God is for us, never against us.  He knows us by name.  He knows what we are thinking.  He knows our struggles in our momentary doubts on days that make us uneasy and overwhelmed.  He still loves us.  God will always love us–forever.  He wants the very best for us.  He sent His best to save us from this world and worldview thinking.  God’s best is Jesus.   We need to only accept that He did, believe in that He did and love Him back with all that is in us.  No one has done too much to receive the grace and mercy of God.

Jesus fulfilled The Plan according to God’s Will and for God’s purpose…to save us.

Find and follow the One who loves you most.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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NOT MY WILL…

Sit here while I pray.

Stay here and keep watch with me.

Watch and pray.

The hour has come, rise.

Rise!  Let’s go.

                                           –Jesus

It is the beginning of the Finish.  Jesus, who is Son of Man and Son of God, knew what was about to happen.  As the Son of Man, he knew the pain that would be inflicted.  “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”  The cup of responsibility for the salvation of the sins of the world was heavy on his shoulders.  His shoulders would carry all the sins of everyone to the cross.  So, we realize it wasn’t about the pain, but the sin Jesus would carry that overwhelmed Him with extreme sorrow.  He, who knew NO sin, now would carry the sins of the world.  If there is some other way…then let’s do that, Jesus prays.  

But the Son of God knew there was no other way.

The scenario of our salvation was foretold in much detail by the prophets.  Jesus knew every detail before experiencing what was about to happen.  His disciples, even his closest beloved friends, did not quite understand…yet.  Their weariness overcame them.  They fell asleep.

Imagine being asked to pray with Jesus!  But you are so tired, you can’t even….  His followers were about to make choices that would change their lives forever.  But, for now, they fell asleep.  They didn’t realize the temptations to run and hide were to come in a few hours.  They didn’t know that most of them would run from protecting Jesus.  They still didn’t realize that one of them sold Jesus out for a few coins.  They just went to sleep. 

Matthew 26

Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

THINK ABOUT IT…

Yes, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  We all know that.  For our own flesh is weak even though we have willing intentions to please God.  So, we come full circle back to the direct commands of Jesus that we began with today.  His imperative statements leap off the page for us!

“Sit here with Me, keep watch with Me, pray with Me.”  THIS is the kind of intimacy with God that Jesus is demonstrating for us before He goes to the cross to reconcile all of us to God!  Being so intimately related to God through His Son, Jesus in this way helps us avoid temptations to run from Him, His teachings and instructions to live life for His glory and our good.  Our intimate, loving, knowing relationship with Jesus draws us closer and closer to God. When it is time for God to work through us, Jesus will give us our marching orders, “Rise, GO with Me.”  So, we daily sit, watch, pray with readiness until then.  Wow, what a message to our hearts, minds and souls today!

HOLY PAUSE

When and how has “the hour” come for you in your walk?  Did you rise or run?  This is a sobering thought, isn’t it? 

We must evaluate where we are in our relationship with Jesus often.  Why, because when we do, we grow deeper in our love and more intimate with Him when we do.  Life begins to make sense.  The peace of Christ settles our souls.

Abba Father,

I repent of running when I needed to just sit with You, wait for You so I could rise and go with You.  I don’t want to go my own way, but my flesh is weak.  Help me to listen closely.  Help me to be still and wait, watch and pray in Your Holy Name.  Then help me to rise and go when YOU say.  Heal my sleepiness and avoidance of facing what I should face in this life.  Help me to avoid all temptations to turn from you.  I know you are with me.  Please give me wisdom, insight and understanding.  Direct my life.  May all I think, do or say be for your glory.  I love you, Lord.  Thank you for taking and drinking the cup, dear Jesus.  May YOUR WILL be done.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe. 

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I WILL NEVER!

“Never say never” was one of my mom’s favorite sayings.  She said it as if she had experience so I would stop and ponder my “never”.  I will never eat asparagus!  Years later, I developed a taste for it because my husband likes it.  I will never learn to drive!  Days later, I was driving.  I will never learn to crochet! Being 8 months pregnant and told to take it easy with my third child, I learned to crochet so I could make Christmas presents for others. 

Seriously, our “I will nevers” just don’t carry a lot of weight.  We are human and we are fickle with our “never” statements when circumstances change.  I will never stop loving you and then when we are betrayed, we reevaluate our love.  I will never stop making you breakfast in the morning…I did that the first day after we were married.  Haven’t done it since, because we both worked different shifts.  You get the picture.

Peter proclaims “I will never deny you” to Jesus, His beloved Master.  Jesus knows he will and tells Peter it will happen.

A few hours later, that is exactly what happened.

Matthew 26

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

“‘I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

THINK ABOUT IT…

Most of us know the rest of the story.  Peter denies knowing Jesus just as predicted.  The rooster crowed on cue after the third cry of denial.  But remember, Peter was one of few disciples who risked his life to get as close to Jesus as possible.  The rest of the disciples ran away!  He was completely overwhelmed by what was about to happen to Jesus even though the Lord predicted the scene. 

Peter had to know what was happening.  Curiosity got the best of Him.  Peter’s human character of “shooting from the hip” as Jesus predicted because He knew Peter well, comes out in the form of denial of His beloved Teacher and Friend.

Never say never?  I believe Peter believed his “never” at the time he said it.  But then his life was threatened and he had a decision to make.  If he denied knowing Jesus, he could stay by the fire to see what was happening to Jesus, but was it worth disowning Jesus? 

One thing we do know, Peter was regretfully repentant of his denial when he looked into the eyes of the beaten body of Jesus as He passed by in the courtyard from one trial to another.  Jesus forgave him.  What kind of love is this?  The Love of God.

HOLY PAUSE

When our lives are threatened or at the very least our reputations or popularity, what would we do? 

Do we deny, take flight, keep silent, mix in with the crowd or act as if you never knew Jesus?  It’s worth thinking about before it happens.  This world is changing rapidly.  Satan is on the move to gain an entire generation who never knew Christ.

Where do we stand?  Will we let it happen?  If we do, is this be a form of denial?

Pondering…

Lord, Help us.  Help us in those times when we are pushed to stand for what we believe.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  I need you every hour.  Be our strength, wisdom, boldness to stand firm in what you have taught us.  All my hope is in you. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

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IS IT ME?

Matthew 26

The Last Supper

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

HOLY PAUSE

Jesus, flesh and blood, given and risen, for us.  Hold that thought for a minute or two.

Pause for a moment in pure gratitude.  Drink in the thoughts of this sacrificial, selfless love.  Chew on this scripture of preparation for the Savior’s act of payment of your sins, my sins, the sins of the world in which God loves, really, unconditionally loves.

“Is it me, Lord?” 

Am I a Judas of betrayal when I reject Him by living selfishly?  

Do we live life on our own thinking we can do better without God? 

When we treat others less than ourselves, do we betray who Jesus is and how He loves?

When we are divided, as in the upper room, between betrayal and loyalty, do we crucify Jesus yet again?

What is the gold standard of our love?  Is it love with conditions?  Is it love that requires love in return?  Do we truly love our neighbors and our enemies like Jesus taught and lived?

Abba Father,

It is not the intent of my heart to grieve your heart with my human weaknesses.  Continue to transform my way of thinking to match your desires.  Cleanse my heart of all that offends you.  Wash over my soul and lift me up in my thinking and behaving to where you are in love, mercy and grace.  It is only by your power that this can be achieved.  I am weak but you are strong.  Your grace is sufficient for all who believe.  And I believe.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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BEAUTY AND THE BETRAYAL

Satan love to play with our minds.  He walks like believers, talks like believers, and often is beside believers as we do ministry inside and outside God’s church.  Why?  So he can change our thinking about what is most important in sly, nonchalant, unnoticeable ways. 

Paul tells the church in Corinth, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”  This battle is daily for all believers.  When we succumb to this battle, the Deceiver wins, but only for a little while.

How does the Liar and Deceiver do it?

He weaves deceit and selfish ideas into the ministry that began as a work for God and His glory.  Notice in this passage that ALL the disciples were, at first, indignant of the woman who broke the neck of the alabaster jar of very expensive perfume.  ““Why this waste?” Their thoughts turned from Mary’s beautiful act of worship of Jesus to thoughts of waste for their ministry.  Jesus is the object of all we are before all we do.  Hold that thought.

When Jesus explained Mary’s heart, only Judas turned his eyes from the beauty of worship of Jesus, to where Satan was leading him—deadly betrayal.  Judas had two choices.  He chose betrayal because he wanted a revolutionary Messiah.  Jesus was not who he wanted him to be for his agenda. 

Matthew 26

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

POINTS TO PONDER

THE BETRAYAL…

Jesus did not criticize the disciples because they were concerned about the poor. He was concerned about the poor, and we should be too. He was cautioning them against missing their opportunity to worship Him. They would always have opportunities to help the poor. But they would not always have the opportunity to worship at His feet and prepare Him for burial.

The disciples did not know the true character of Judas. His criticism of Mary sounded so “spiritual” that they joined him in attacking her. We know the real reason Judas wanted the ointment sold: The money would go into the treasury and he would be able to use it (John 12:6).

Judas is a tragic figure. He was called to be one of Christ’s disciples and was named an apostle along with the others (Mark 3:13–19). He received power to heal (Matt. 10:1–4), and he probably used this power. It is not the power to do miracles that is proof of salvation (Matt. 7:21–29), but obedience to God’s Word.

While we can never fully understand the mind and heart of Judas, we do know that he had every opportunity to be saved. He was often warned by Jesus in the Upper Room, Jesus even washed Judas’ feet. Probably, Judas saw in Jesus the hope for Israel’s political freedom. If Jesus established His kingdom, Judas, as treasurer, would have had an important position. When Jesus repeatedly refused to become a political Messiah, Judas turned against Him. Satan found a willing tool in Judas. Satan put the ideas into Judas’s mind (John 13:2) and then entered into Judas to use him to betray Jesus to the enemy (John 13:27).

Judas’s life is a warning to those who pretend to serve Christ but whose hearts are far from God. He is also a warning to those who waste their opportunities and their lives. “Why this waste?” asked Judas when he saw that expensive ointment poured out on Jesus. Yet Judas wasted his opportunities, his life, and his soul! Jesus called him “son of perdition” (John 17:12) which literally means “son of waste.”

THE BEAUTY OF WORSHIP

Only John identifies this woman as Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. She is found only three times in the Gospels, and in each instance, she is at the feet of Jesus. She sat at His feet and listened to the Word (Luke 10:38–42); she came to His feet in sorrow after the death of Lazarus (John 11:28–32); and she worshipped at His feet when she anointed Him with the ointment (John 12:1ff.). Mary was a deeply spiritual woman. She found at His feet her blessing, she brought to His feet her burdens, and she gave at His feet her best.  It was an act of love and devotion in worship of Jesus.

Because she had listened to His word, Mary knew that soon Jesus would die and be buried.  Instead of anointing His body AFTER His death, she did so BEFORE His death. It was an act of faith and love.  This was her act of worship of Jesus before, during and after his ministry and mission from God to save the world.  We can learn a lot from Mary!

Notice that every time Mary sought to do something for Jesus, she was misunderstood. Her sister Martha misunderstood her when Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear Him teach the Word. Judas and the other disciples misunderstood her when she anointed Jesus. Her friends and neighbors misunderstood her when she came out of the house to meet Jesus after Lazarus had been buried (John 11:28–31). When we give Jesus Christ first place in our lives, we can expect to be misunderstood and criticized by those who claim to follow Him.

As believers, Jesus is our Messiah, Savior and Lord!  At the beginning of anything done for God, is being with Jesus.  At the center of ministry is our love for Jesus because of His love for us, asking what He wants from us.  At the end of any ministry task, done in Jesus Name, is glory to God with thanksgiving for being invited to His work.  It’s all about Jesus working in and through us to reconcile people to God.  This is our worship to God. 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1, NIV

Abba Father,

Thank you.  Thank you for saving my soul.  Thank you for giving us your examples of true worship of beauty through simple obedience.  You always know what is best for us so that’s why all our trust and hope is in You.  I love you, Lord, with all that I am and all that I have, heart, mind and soul.  Continue to be my strength, joy, peace.  Help me to walk humbly, show mercy and love like you love me.  

In Jesus Name, Amen

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JESUS KNEW

Matthew 26

The Plot Against Jesus

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

“As you know…”  Jesus had told the disciples what was going to happen, but they just could not wrap their brains around it.  In two days, Jesus was going to die.  He told them he was going to die as they walked along in the roads from town to town, “seeking the lost”.  But crucified?  The disciples knew what it meant to be crucified for it was a torturous way invented by the Romans to deter crime and revolutions.  But Jesus?  He has done nothing wrong so how can this possibly happen to Him? 

Jesus’ devoted followers could not understand when Jesus told them he would be handed over to be crucified in two days.  He also told them He would rise again in three days but they just could not understand…yet.  Yes, Jesus told them the details of God’s Plan to save the world through Him throughout His ministry, but it was too hard to comprehend that Jesus, their Master Teacher, who could miraculously heal the sick and raise the dead would succumb to this scheme by the religious elite.

BUT HERE’S THE REALLY AMAZING THOUGHT…

Jesus, Son of God, knew.  Jesus knew every detail of what He had to do to save us. He knew the minds of the those who hated Him.  He knew the gossip, the mocking, the false accusations that would lead to the scheme to kill him.  He knew the religious leaders did not know God so they did not recognize His Son so they had stopped looking for “the Messiah”.  Jesus knew their plot to use the hated Romans to do their dirty work so life could go back to “normal” for them.  They wanted Jesus to stop getting in their way of oppressing the people of God.  Killing him was the only way…or so they thought.

Jesus knew how painful it would be to be nailed to thick planks after being beaten and stripped of his clothing.  Jesus knew those who had cheered when He entered Jerusalem on a donkey with shouts of Hosanna, “God save us”, would later shout “Crucify Him!” 

Jesus knew but He willingly laid down His life in exchange for our lives.  He who knew no sin took this cruel punishment to pay for the sins of the world.  He paid for all my sin.  He paid for your sin.

Jesus also knew He would rise again in three days from death to prove to the world that He is King of kinds and LORD of lords, the Messiah God’s people had been waiting for centuries to come.  Jesus, our Savior to all who believe and follow Him as Lord, knew.

Abba Father,

Thank you are words that don’t seem to be enough for all you did through Jesus to save us.  Thank you, dear Jesus, for knowing your mission and sticking with The Plan to save us that was created since the beginning of time…because you knew us.  I repent of taking this “knowing” lightly and your saving grace through pain and suffering for granted.  You knew the pain, you knew you would go to hell and back for my sin, and you did it anyway.  You humble me yet again this morning.  I will meditate on your gift of life, the payment for all my sin, all day long.  I love you, Lord, with all my heart, mind and soul.

In Jesus Name, Amen

Crucified
Laid behind the stone
You lived to die
Rejected and alone

Like a rose trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all…

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SHEEP ON THE RIGHT, PLEASE

Grandpa had a farm with goats, sheep, a couple of horses, peacocks, cockatiels, parakeets, cats, chickens, fish in the ponds, cattle and a few pigs.  He wanted a monkey but grandma put her foot down with that wish.  All the animals had their particular space on his 160 acres.  Goats would irritate the sheep if you put them together.  The horses would tease the cattle.  The cats could not, under any circumstance, be near the birds.  The chickens had their own place for the production of eggs to eat and sell.  Yes, it was a producing farm.  He raised the exotic birds to sell to pet stores.  He raised cattle and pigs for his family to eat all winter.  Grandma grew flowers, vegetables and fruit.  They froze meat, canned fruit and vegetables and enjoyed providing for more than the two of them.

Grandpa was also a talented carpenter.  He built custom cabinets for people who merely told him what they had in mind.  He built his own house on his farm while raising animals.  AND he was an elder in his church.  Actually, he was deemed “THE elder” when it came to decision making with Godly wisdom.

How did he do all this?  I’m wondering that now as I write this.  He was fully devoted to God and asked God daily what He wanted him to do.  His nightly habit, with Grandma at his side, was to read a portion of God’s Word, meditate on it, then get on their knees to pray.  That’s where his strength and Grandma’s relentless faith came from, being with God before retiring for rest.

How do I know?  I spent all my school vacations on this farm with them and became part of the process of learning about God and living for Him.  I thought Grandpa knew everything.  I wanted to be where he was at all times.  I would sit on the door step waiting for his truck to come home from working on someone’s house so we could be together again.  My grandma taught me about cooking but I always wanted to be outside as soon as “chores” were done inside.  I will never forget the smile on Grandpa’s face as I followed him around with “life” questions.  I loved seeing the twinkle in my grandma’s eyes when I did what she did well.  She also laughed at all my jokes. 

I also observed and sometimes helped my grandparents feed others.  They would not hesitate to feed someone who came down their path from the main road hungry.  Grandma’s habit at church was to greet new people who came with, “What are you doing for lunch?  Why don’t you join us?  We have plenty to share.”  They were not rich in the eyes of the world but wealthy in faith, love, sharing, and caring.

I could go on, but you get the picture.  When they served others, they knew they served Jesus.  Those were the “lessons for life” that I learned.  I am grateful, eternally grateful, for these lessons learned by knowing, seeing and doing.

Matthew 25

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN?

Serving is what Jesus did.  “I came to serve, not to be served.” (John 13).  He gave us the extreme example of how to serve.  He left us with nothing to question.  He expects us to put others’ interests first (like He did)… above our own desires, pleasures, habits, free time and contentment.  We are not to be greedy with our time but gracious in interruptions that help others.  We are to serve “without the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing”.  That means we serve as a habit of right living expecting nothing in return for our service to others.  We see a need, then we meet that need according to what has been given to us. 

It seems simple, doesn’t it?  But, when this principle is called to be acted upon, excuses are easily found.  Here are some of today’s “Goat-like” excuses: 

“I’m too old and/or tired, let someone else.”

“I need to save my money for a rainy day.”

“I cannot serve because my needs have not yet been met.”

“I need my church to do for me what I expect.”

“I want my church to be there for me when I need it.”

“If you love me, you would give me what I need.”

 “I’ll pray for you, but that’s all I can do at the moment.”

“I will come and help when life settles down.”

“I’ll be there for you…when I get a chance.”

“I would help you, but you need to help yourself first.”

“I would help but you got yourself into this so you can get yourself out.”

I could go on, but you get the picture.  I am eternally grateful Jesus did not treat me, a failure in so many ways, with these goat-like excuses.  He saved me.  He restored me.  He taught me and still teaches me.  He is graciously patient and loves me without conditions.  I must love like He loves.  I want to love others like He loves me.  This is the “least” I could do for what He has given to me…Life eternal with Him.

Jesus showed us the bigger picture of life and death in his story better than we can think or imagine.  There are His sheep and there are goats.  Who are we?

Abby Father,
We repent of being goat-like in our attitudes of serving.  Teach us to always follow in your ways, prompted by Your Holy Spirit.  Help us to mature to the point of serving without question, without even thinking about it.  Help serving to be in our DNA as Your people.  May we serve you by serving others as a way of life.  May this always be our habit of choice.  Continue to transform our minds, hearts and souls.  Put this sheep on the right, please.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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THE WORTHLESS AND THE WILLING

All we have belongs to God.  ALL of who we have become, all we have in our pockets right now, all we have on our backs, and all we have stored in our hearts, minds and souls.  God, our Father and our Creator, gave us specific abilities at birth.  He gave us Holy Spiritual gifts beyond our created abilities at our rebirth.  When we say yes to Jesus Christ, these Holy gifts begin to take shape as we transform daily into all that God intended for us to be from birth.  Amazing, right?

These Holy Spirit gifts come with the responsibility to grow and use them to help others find and follow Jesus, too.  These gifts grow and bear fruit under God’s care and abiding in us.  These gifts multiply as we use them humbly and gracefully for God’s Kingdom work, not for our glory, but for His.  If God’s precious holy gifts are hidden, stored or worse yet, forgotten they become worthless to His Kingdom.

What gifts will He find in us when He comes? 

Did we use what was given to us well? 

Did we multiply our gifts by investing in learning His Word and growing in Him? 

Did we then use our gifts to help others find and follow Him?

Did we bear the fruits of His Holy Spirit of “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” in the process of our transformation to be like more like Jesus in our walk with Him? (See Galatians 5)

Did we use our Holy gifts to help build His church? (See Ephesians 4) 

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:11-16, NLT

OR are we burying our gifts?  (That’s what our foe, Satan, wants us to do.)

Jesus explains this process of using what was given to us in another parable of preparedness for His coming back to claim His own someday. 

Matthew 25

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

WHAT DO WE LEARN?

The two men who put their money to work each received the same commendation (Matt. 25:21, 23). It was not the portion but the proportion that made the difference. They started as servants, but their Lord promoted them to rulers. They were faithful with a few things, so the Lord trusted them with many things. They had worked and toiled, and now they entered into joy. Their faithfulness gave each of them a capacity for greater service and responsibility.

The third servant was unfaithful and therefore was unrewarded. Because this man was afraid he might fail, he never tried to succeed. He feared life and his responsibilities. This paralyzed him with anxiety, so he buried the talent to protect it. The least he could have done was put the money in a bank and collect some interest. There was no real risk in that.

What we do not use for the Lord, we are in danger of losing. The master reprimanded the unfaithful, unprofitable servant, and then took his talent from him. The man with the most talents received the extra talent.

USE IT OR LOSE IT! 

It is possible that the one-talent man thought that his one talent was not really very important He did not have five talents, or even two. Why worry about one? Because he was appointed as a steward by the Lord!  Use what has been given to you!!   Were it not for the one-talent people in our world, very little would get accomplished. His one talent could have increased to two and brought glory to his master.

Jesus is our Master, Savior and Lord.  Whatever has been given to us, we must give back to Him and to others wrapped up and delivered by His love, mercy and grace that lives in us.  All for God, the Giver of Life.

These parables of being prepared (see yesterday’s blog) encourage us to love the truth of His appearing, look joyfully expectant for His appearing, and join Him in His work faithfully until He comes. We should be watching, witnessing, and working. We may not be successful in the eyes of other men and women, or even popular with others. But if we are faithful and profitable in using the gifts and abilities God gave us, we shall receive our reward when He comes.

Jesus IS coming back, you know.

Abba Father,

What a reminder of Your Truth today!  I will be meditating on it all day long as I work in Your Name, for Your Glory.  There is still much to do to reconcile the world to a right relationship with you.  Speak to my heart, lead my mind and fill my soul.  I’m listening…and willing.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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