“They” – Day 30

Matthew 27:31 – “After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.”

Sometimes I use the word “they” when referring to another group of people. Much of the time it is an innocent “they” and I don’t put a lot of thought into it. It is a “they” that I am not a part of and just making it known. No big deal. However, sometimes the “they” is a bad group of people (in my mind) and I want to make sure everybody knows, for sure, I AM NOT a part of that particular “they” group.

When we read those passages of Scripture in the gospels about the crucifixion of Jesus, you see a lot of verses which speaks of “they.” In reading Matthew 27, you will find that “they” equates to the Chief Priests and Elders; it equates to the crowds of people shouting “crucify Him!” to Pilate; and finally, it refers to the soldiers who mocked and crucified Jesus.

As we read this story in all four of the gospels, it is always “they” that “mock” and demand the crucifixion of Jesus. I read this account of the crucifixion and often think to myself, “how could “they” do such a thing!” Aren’t you glad you are not a part of a “they” group like that!

What were “they” doing? The gospels tell us that Jesus was mocked with a crown of thorns and the soldiers began to refer to Him as “King of the Jews” even though “they” did not believe it. The “they” crowds wanted to trade the life of Barabbas, a convicted criminal, for the life of Jesus. “They” were mocking Jesus.

Are we any different? We may not make and place a crown of thorns on His head, we may not pull His beard or put a purple robe on Him, but are we guilty of mocking Him in other ways. The word “mock” means “tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner:” I don’t do that and I am sure not any (or many) of you do either. But “mock” also means “not authentic or real.” Do we show our authenticity as believers when it is not convenient? When it might be embarrassing? When people might think less of us? To be authentic or real, it must meet the same standard every time. I cannot be one way at Church or with my believing friends and another with my friends who are not followers of Christ. That is mocking Christ. When I do that, I am as much a part of “they” referenced in Scripture as those in the crowds that crucifixion day. I may not be shouting “crucify Him, crucify Him” but I am saying or thinking “ignore Him” or “don’t speak of Him” or something similar.

Thankfully, Jesus said “Father, forgive them for “they” don’t know what “they” are doing.” I am a part of that “they” as well! Thank you Jesus!

Prayer: Jesus, thank you that on the Cross you took care of the sins that “they” and I commit. Father, thank you that, through Jesus’ death on the Cross, you welcome all of us, including “they’s” into your kingdom. May your Spirit work in our lives to eliminate any mockery we might have, especially towards your Son. Amen.

 

– Herman Crawford

Read more...

Grace & Humility – Day 29

Romans 12:3a – “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,…”

I have been blessed beyond measure, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Both my parents were strong Christians, and both sets of grandparents were believers as well. I grew up in a solid home that was built on the foundation of Christ, and at the age of three my mother led me to the Lord. Growing up, I was fortunate to have wonderful pastors, teachers, and youth leaders that poured into me and allowed me to question and explore the truth about Christianity. And even after a period of walking away from my faith, God drew me back and allowed me to build an even deeper relationship with him.

I give you all this background because even though I have been very privileged, that doesn’t mean that I always get things right. To be perfectly honest, I get things wrong most of the time. Having been a Christian most of my life, I often take things for granted…things that should never be taken for granted like God’s grace, mercy, and love. His forgiveness is something I’ve had since I was a child and so the weightiness of what He did for me sometimes fades in magnitude. Over time, I begin to see myself “more highly” than I ought with the mindset that I have somehow attained these things on my own.

When I read the Bible, a lot of times I tend to identify with the wrong person in the story. In the parable of the prodigal son, I have always sided with the older brother. For some reason it took me a long time to realize that Jesus was talking to the Pharisees when He told this parable. They had seen Him with tax collectors and sinners and began grumbling about the company He was keeping. This parable was Jesus’s response to them. The older brother is a mirror image of the Pharisees. The brother has served his father faithfully but with the wrong motives. The Pharisees have kept the letter of the law but have done so out of pride rather than submission to God.

Jesus ends the parable with the father speaking to the older brother. “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:31,32) And that’s where Jesus leaves it. It is then up to the Pharisees to decide how they react to the “younger brother” (the sinners and tax collectors).

This was (and is) such a huge point of conviction for me. How many times had I looked down on someone or felt that I was worthier because I have always “been with Him.” I have been blessed to have not known a time without Christ, and yet I have sometimes turned that into pride rather than being cognizant that I had absolutely nothing to do with the grace He’s bestowed on me.

My attitude should not be one of pride but should be like Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Wow…. Now that takes me down a peg or two. The God of the universe had so much humility that He became a servant to others. He squeezed Himself into our tiny, mortal form. Not only that, but He did so with the knowledge that He was doing it to sacrifice Himself for us: the pride-ridden race that had rejected Him in the first place. This should never get old for me or become commonplace – that my Savior did this for all sinners, including me. Because I am His follower, my attitude should reflect His.
 
– Deb Trojak

Read more...

Scripture Reading – Day 28

Matthew 26:20-30 (NIV)

The Last Supper

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

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

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.  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.”

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

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

 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.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 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.”

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

Read more...

A Life Well Lived – Day 27

1 John 4:16b – “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him.”

On January 1, 2018 I lost my dear Aunt Jill – wife of my mother’s brother and a second mother to me. I was fortunate to live just up the street from my Aunt Jill and her family during my girlhood years. It was with her passing that I was able to truly look back and focus on her life and what made her so very special – not just to me – but to many individuals, including Mark and our children.

When I think of Aunt Jill and why I believe her life was “well lived”, the word that first comes to my mind is “Love”. Aunt Jill loved deeply and without reservation. She showered our family with sticky buns, cookies and other goodies on a regular basis. She was a master seamstress and sewed clothes for me and for her own family as well. When you received a hug from Aunt Jill, you were in her grip for a good ten seconds….going nowhere, to be sure…..and got a smack on the bottom (a love pat, she called them) just for good measure! J Her love extended outward to friends and to her church family as well, where she was known and recognized for her culinary skills and her giving and caring ways. On a mission assignment from the Mennonite Church, my aunt and uncle served at The International Guest House in Washington D.C., taking on the responsibility of host and hostess to many individuals from all over the world. Mark and I were able to see them “in action” as they showed hospitality and the love of Christ to many people.

As Aunt Jill aged and succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, she still recognized her position – her calling – in life when one day, across the kitchen table from my uncle, she stated, “I just want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord”.

I will never forget my Aunt Jill. She leaves a lasting mark on my heart and on my life. So what about me? What about us? What mark are we leaving? How will I, how will we, be remembered? As Pastor Todd has recently challenged us to “reflect” Christ and His character, the word that has continued to come to me is LOVE. Love more, love deeply, love daily, love others, love recklessly. Love as Jesus loves.

The Scriptures are simply full of teachings on love and I want to challenge us all to reflect on these references (and more if you look at your concordance!), as we prayerfully look to the Lord and what He has to say to us this Lenten season:

 

On God’s Love:

  • The “love chapter” I Corinthians 13 – and particularly verse 13 that states “and now these three remain: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
  • All of Psalm 103, but particularly the character of God reflected in verse 8 – “the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”
  • Song of Songs 2:4b “His Banner over me is Love.”
  • John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
  • I John 4:16b “God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God and God in him.”
  • I John 3: 16a “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
  • I John 3:1a “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
  • I John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”
  • I Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
  • Ephesians 3: 17-19 “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 

Our call to love:

  • I Peter 1:22b “Love one another deeply, from the heart.”
  • Romans 12:9a “Love must be sincere.”
  • Matthew 22: 37-39 Jesus said “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
  • John 15:17 Jesus said, “This is my command, Love each other.”
  • Galatians 5:13b “…serve one another in love.”

 

And because this love is supernatural – we need the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

  • Galatians 5:22a “But the fruit of the Spirit is Love”….and all those other fruits too, of course!
  • Romans 5:5b “…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

 

I need the Holy Spirit – I can’t love like this on my own. But I want to. Like Aunt Jill, “I just want to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord”. So whether it’s sticky buns, sewing for my grandkids, or hugging folks till they hurt J, I want to love like Jesus.

May we all be touched by the enormous, crazy, wild, reckless love of our Savior this Lenten season. And may we choose to live as closely to Him as we can each and every day, pouring ourselves into His Word and asking the Spirit to use us for His glory. May we reflect His love to everyone in our life’s path. And when our chapter closes, may we be remembered for a life well lived – a life of love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for your love expressed on the Cross of Calvary. I praise you for this unspeakable gift of love. I pray that I can express that love to others each day that you give me breath. I thank you for loving me and allowing me to live for you. May my life be a reflection of you and your amazing love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And as a special bonus – if you have access to the internet, you might want to listen to Mercy Me sing an old hymn of the faith that expresses “The Love Of God”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWn
 
– Barb Schumacher

Read more...

Caught on Camera – Day 26

Every Tuesday evening for the past three years, my son, Gage, has a guitar lesson. During the winter months, better known as “Tax Season” in our house, it is my job to take Gage to his lessons.

Last March as I was sitting in a room with a few dozen amplifiers, listening to my son “rock out” to some 70’s or 80’s classic rock. I saw a ten dollar bill lying on the floor. Now, I never had any intention of keeping that money for myself. It was not mine, and someone could have come back looking for it. Before picking it up, I looked across the room and stared straight into a security camera. What if someone looking at the monitors saw me pick up that ten dollar bill? What if I HAD wanted to pick it up and keep it? Someone could have seen me! I thought then, that if there were more security cameras, perhaps people would be less likely to commit crimes or harm others. If there were security cameras strategically placed, perhaps even hidden so people didn’t know where they were, they would be too afraid to make the bad decisions and commit the crimes that we all too often read about or hear about on the news.

And then, like a ton of bricks, I was hit with a realization. We DO have a security camera so to speak; eyes that are always watching, ears that are always listening. Our Heavenly Father. He knows all and sees all and hears all. Isn’t being “caught” by the Lord a far bigger deal than being caught on a video camera, or store security monitor or even by a police officer? It certainly should be.

I picked up the $10 bill and gave it to the people behind the counter at the music store. I don’t know if anyone ever came back looking for it or not, and it doesn’t matter. I did what I hope and pray God would have wanted me to do with it, as I pray that I always do in any situation.

In all that you do, do it as though you are doing it for Christ. He is the ultimate “security camera”. “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17.
 
– Crystal Johnson
 

Read more...

Find Your Passion! Get Involved! – Day 25

What do you like to do? Do you like to sing, paint, cook, garden, exercise or read? What’s your passion? I’ve heard Pastor Josh preach about our “gifts” and how we should use them. I’ve heard famous people like NBA star Kobe Bryant and musician Jason DeRulo both say how finding one’s passion has been vital to their successes and enjoyment in life.

Me personally, my passion is people. I enjoy having fun and seeing people around me having fun! I love to see people smile. I even told my mother at an early age that I thought the reason I was put on Earth was to make people smile.

So what is your passion? Whatever it is, I encourage you to use your passion in a way to help serve the Lord. Use the gifts that you have been blessed with to make a difference in your world. We have all been given one life here on Earth and God wants us not to watch life pass us by, but to be an active part in making a difference for His Kingdom!

If you like to cook, help make meals for those who can’t. If you like to clean, join Nehemiah’s Mission to help neighbors. Whatever you like to do, there is a place for you to get involved in your church’s community to help make a difference.

Life is short. Get involved! Don’t just wait for opportunities to come to you – go out and seek them. I encourage you to participate in Men’s and Women’s ministry activities, join a Bible study or start one of your own. Let’s all make a difference for God’s kingdom and you’ll be surprised how much fun you have doing it!

In Matthew 5:12-13, we are reminded that “You are the salt of the earth, but if that salt loses its saltiness how can it be made salty again. If it’s no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

Don’t lose your saltiness. Get involved, join a group, go to an event. God has gifted YOU to use your gift for HIM!
 
– Dan Inners

Read more...