Scripture Reading: April 9 & 10

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:1-11 NIV)



by Pastor Joshua Trojak

Service. As we are focused on that word this year it is a great time to point to the one who gave us the greatest example of service. Obviously, the answer is Jesus. Every part of his life was spent showing us what it looks like to put others above ourselves. So why is it that sometimes we spend more time trying to put ourselves before others?

One reason is our sinful nature. But another is that it is simply hard to do. This call to put others first was never meant to be easy. Jesus knew that. Jesus experienced that. As we take this time during Lent, we have to remember the example we were given in how to do this. In Matt 26:36-46 we see Jesus taking time before his arrest, conviction, and crucifixion to pray to the Father. Three times Jesus prayed for the Father to take this task from Him. But each time Jesus said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39 NIV)

Are we willing to say “Not our plans, but yours God”? For Jesus’ human nature, this was a task only able to be done with the Father’s help. Serving God and serving others will not be easy. But it is what He has called us to do, and He is not leaving us alone in the task. Let’s lean on Jesus as we serve those around us this Lent season, and in the days to come.

Jesus, help us serve others with the same mindset you served us with. Amen.


Always With Us

by Keith Bortner

As we deal with pain, suffering, illness, and death due in our lives, sometimes it’s easy to think that it must be nice for God to be sitting up in heaven, not having to deal with all the trials of this life. But at the same time, we know better than that.
In the Gospel of John, we read the story of the death of Lazarus. Jesus was told that his friend Lazarus was sick. He waited two days to go to him and by the time he arrived, Lazarus had died. It can be very easy to read past the next few sentences that John writes just before Jesus arrives at the tomb. One of them is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it’s a powerful one. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NIV) The One who is Lord over everything, who has the power to heal any illness and to resurrect the dead, wept over the death of his friend. Some of those around him stated, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36 NIV) Others said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37) We go on to read that Jesus did, in this instance, resurrect Lazarus from the grave. But the thing I want to focus on is the fact that Jesus wept in that moment. He felt that pain of knowing how his friend suffered in the sickness that took his life. He felt the grief that we feel at the loss of a loved one.

We don’t serve a god who sits in a faraway place who is so far above his creation that he doesn’t know what it is to be human. We serve a God who became one of us and who fully understands us and the things we experience. He also reminded us of this when he gave the Great Commission “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV) Our Lord is always with us. Through pain, sickness, suffering, and death, he is always with us. He may not always remove the hurts and pain we go through, but he is with us through them all.


What Shall I Do?

by Herman Crawford

“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’” (Matthew 27:22 NASB)

It has not been too long ago that we celebrated the birth of Jesus and a lot of this celebration has to do with giving gifts. But we don’t always give (or get) gifts that are useful. They may be valuable but, for us specifically, not useful. If anyone who has received gifts from me is reading this, I am sure that we will hear a few hearty “AMENs”.  When Ruth and I lived in Japan, I gave her a deep cast iron chicken fry pan…..two years in a row. Same thing. She wasn’t too excited with the first one. You can imagine how she lit up with joy with the second one. I forgot that I had given her one the year before because she never used it! Of course, she didn’t use the second one either. Not much value. And there wasn’t that much chicken in Japan. Two fry pans!! Or how about this as a gift. Once I went to a country in Africa where they mine diamonds. She thought that when I came back after a few weeks, I would surprise her with a 20 or 30 karat diamond ring. Instead, she got a tee shirt that said “Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa”. She might have been more excited with the tee shirt than the fry pans, but it was pretty hard to tell. Again, not much value.

But God gave us all something beyond anything we could ever imagine. It is His gift to us and it’s available to all who desire it. As we look at the time leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, here was a gift that had been given to everyone and the multitude essentially screamed to everyone there and even to us: “We don’t want it! Give us the world (Barabbas) instead!” My prayer is, that unlike Pilate who asked the question about Jesus the Christ – “what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”, we have come to Him with a repentant and believing heart. I pray that we celebrate His death and resurrection, especially in this Easter season, because of the most valuable gift He could give – Himself.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your love for us. I pray that as we remember what your love for us required of you, we set our hearts on serving you more in this coming year. Help us to have a heart for those who cannot see you because of the world. Thank you that we all have value in your eyes. Amen.


What We Need

by Crystal Johnson

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”

Nearly nine months ago, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to have our beloved family pet, an adorable and near perfect (in my eyes) Cocker Spaniel to sleep. Alex was my puppy and my sidekick from day one. He grew up with my kids and he and Catelyn even potty-trained together! So after 12 years of memories and love, deciding it was time to say goodbye to him left all four us heartbroken.

It didn’t help that while we were preparing our goodbyes and doing our “lasts” with Alex, my Mom decided to add a new member to her household in the form of…you guessed it, a puppy. She was so excited about meeting her puppy, buying new toys for her puppy, showing me photo after photo of her new puppy. I wanted to be happy for her; she wanted this puppy this so badly. My Mom picked out an adorable German Shepherd puppy that brought her a flood of memories from a puppy she had during her childhood. However, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy for my Mom and, in fact, I begged her NOT to get this puppy (for many reasons, but I digress).

Fast forward six weeks. Mom had brought her puppy, Archie, home to her other two dogs and they were all trying to settle into a nice, happy little life. It was not working. My parents had two older dogs at home and having Archie in the house upset the apple cart. Big time. Things were not working out. So, given my thoughts on this new puppy, you can imagine my surprise when I heard my voice say, “Archie can come live with us if it doesn’t work at your house.” WHAT?? I don’t know if it was my “inner daughter” trying to save my Mom (she and Archie had gotten attacked twice by one of her older dogs in the six weeks Archie was there). I certainly had not bonded with this puppy, I didn’t even want to look at him, but here I was offering to take this puppy that I vowed NOT to even like, to come live with ME and my family.

On a Monday afternoon, I picked up Archie and all his worldly possessions at my Mom’s house. (There was quite a lot of stuff…did I mention how excited my Mom was to get this puppy?). On the way home, I was preparing Gage and Catelyn, who couldn’t remember Alex’s puppy days, for the transition. I explained that Archie might be scared, shy, or uncertain, and how he might miss my parents and so on. Our house was his third house in six weeks. But when we got to our house, Archie walked right in the front door like he had FINALLY made it HOME. Our house was HIS house and we were HIS family right from the beginning–there was no looking back for Archie! Archie was where he belonged…with us!

Anyone who knows me has certainly heard about Archie! The dog I wanted NOTHING to do with and tried to resent came into our home and our hearts. As much as I complain about this dog, as much as he makes me CRAZY for his puppy, high energy, super strong, and immensely intelligent antics, I love this dog. He is a reminder to me that God gives us what we need, even when we don’t know it. God hears us when we pray. He knows what we need. The Bible promises us that He will give us what we NEED, not necessarily what we want! I’m not exactly sure what God will teach me or my family through this Archie adventure, but I know that through all the dog hair and mud Archie tracks into the house, God is most definitely giving us something we need!

God, thank you for hearing us when we pray. More importantly, thank you for knowing what we NEED. Thank you for providing for our needs, even those needs we may not want, or the desires of our hearts, that we do not need. Lord, your ways and your will are far better than my own; help me always to be aware of this truth and praise you, even during the times I’m not getting what I want, but what I need.


Redeeming Love

by Chris Abbey

Did you see it? The movie, “Redeeming Love”? I read the book twice, (once as part of Wise Women of Esther); and my sweet husband recently took me to see the movie for a belated Valentine’s Day treat.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s a parable on the book of Hosea, which we all know is a parable of God’s relationship with Israel. No matter how bad Gomer and Israel were, Hosea and God fervently pursued them and did everything in their power to rescue them.

In the movie, the main character, Angel, was sold as a child into prostitution, held captive her entire life, with no hope. No hope of ever getting away, no hope of love, no hope at all. She was abused, both physically and mentally, and had zero love in her heart. She knew nothing but evil, pain, and heartache. 

Then along came her redeemer, Michael Hosea. He lived an idyllic, simple life with a safe, humble, loving home and farm. He was a Godly man, who asked God to send him a helpmate. God led him to Angel. Michael was nothing like the other men who had been sent to Angel and she wasn’t quite sure how to handle him: she didn’t understand his intentions. He wanted nothing from her but to take her away and give her a good life. A good life that she didn’t think she deserved. Angel felt unworthy of Michael’s love. She felt she was too dirty, too bad of a person to be loved by anyone, and too far gone. She had no hope.

The point of the movie, story, and scripture is that no one is EVER too dirty, too bad of a person, or too far gone to be redeemed by our Savior. He knows our story, every tiny detail. He knows our heart and He knows our future. Whether you had a rough life, either by your choice or by someone else’s, God will rescue you and redeem you. Forever. As long as you have breath, you have hope. God is mightier than any transgression we have ever made. Don’t ever think you are too far gone to be saved. That’s when He gives His very best!

And our hope is in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Rescuer, our Protector. Isaiah 44:22 NIV says, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” It’s interesting that the metaphor Isaiah uses here is “swept”. When you sweep, you clean out the dirt, wipe it completely away so that all that is left is an open, bare surface, renewed.

I remember attending a revival in Atlanta once and there was this lady in the very front row. Each time the preachers said a good word, she would jump out of her chair, raise her hands, waive a red handkerchief, and shout ‘Hallelujah!” After a while I asked the person next to me who she was. I thought she was crazy! They said she was once a prostitute who heard someone’s testimony. That simple event purged her of her old ways and she became a new child of God. The gratefulness in her face and actions was so amazing. I think that the farther down you think you are, the more you appreciate your reward when you finally receive His love. I will never forget that woman. She is the perfect example of God’s redeeming love. As we all are.

While in the S.H.A.P.E. Sunday School class, Laura Enslen read something that I considered. The author of the book she was reading told us of our need to stretch for infinite joy. I like that phrase. She read, “Don’t settle for making mud pies in your backyard when God has prepared a party for you by the sea.” He has so much in store for us. We all have a story to tell, a story of how God saved us, and a future with Him so amazing that we can’t even imagine. 

 “And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14 NIV)

Lord, thank you for the many blessings You have given to us. Thank You for helping me through my life’s journey to bring me right here, right now, for redeeming my soul. Please show each of us where You want us to serve You, as we praise You for pouring out hope and joy all over us. Allow us that infinite joy as we witness and minister to those around us. Amen.