Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-12-24

In our present culture, we seem to be fixated on words like inclusiveness, because we are afraid to exclude anyone for any reason or even keep a person accountable for a crime, a lack of skill, diligence, or motivation on a job. We are hesitant to temporarily hold children back in school even when they cannot yet demonstrate a proper level of learning, because we are more focused on their self-esteem and feelings than helping them cope with small failures and learning through hard work and sacrifice they are able to achieve more! Let’s remember, we [human beings] are made wonderfully complex; the workmanship of Almighty God (Ps 139:14).
Yesterday, I saw a report of how Mattel has designed a new version of Scrabble—a 75 y/o competitive spelling board game—that is more inclusive for Gen Z. The new name is called “Scrabble Together” and in the game everyone wins, because each player is offered helper cards, team advantage, and a simple scoring system. The release of this new game will begin tomorrow in Europe on April 13th to celebrate National Scrabble Day. No criticism from me, but really?

Every human being needs to find the “Pathway” to unity; however, we also need help to grow emotionally stronger through obstacles, spiritually wiser through temptation, and gain more knowledge through study each day. Of course, believers know Jesus is that Pathway, and although we are all invited to enter his Kingdom, each one of us must work out our salvation in the Spirit. It is, by the way, hard work that requires endurance and perseverance through failure. We need to be able to learn from the Spirit what is true and fight our flesh in order to follow righteousness. If all we do is cater to our flesh and think we will enjoy the fruits of heaven, we have believed a lie.

There is a term call “the gospel of universalism” which is the theology that all human souls will be saved and reconciled to God. But, Jesus referred to himself as the “Door” or “Gate” through whom people must enter salvation (John 10:9). So, God himself demonstrates spiritual exclusion for those who refuse to bow to Christ the Living Word of God to enter the Kingdom through the Great Door of salvation. Are we going to rewrite God’s Word to make it more inclusive?

This week in our lessons, the Apostle John has warned us about the lies of the Antichrist, as well as about false spiritual teachers who do not groom God’s family to live in the righteousness of Christ. False teachers pander to human weakness, rather than focus on God’s power to redeem. When John says we do not need anyone to teach us, he does not mean we do not need higher education, spiritual training, or position ourselves to learn from other believers. He means every believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit who bears witness when we hear the truth that is taught or shared by others. We don’t need to be led astray by lies, we can follow the Truth as long as we stay connected him!

1 John 2:26-28 NLT
26 I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. 27 But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship [connected] to Christ.

Living as Children of God
28 And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the lessons you have brought forward for us, today. We pray for our hearts to love and respect others. We pray for our minds to desire to learn and grow from you. We pray for healthy emotions and courage to learn from our mistakes and failures and grow in righteousness and endurance. We pray for the Holy Spirit to make us aware of lies and lead us into the Truth. We want to remain connected, Lord, so we reach out our hands to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-11-24

So far this week, we have looked at divine love and eternal life from the perspective of Christ’s disciples. John was an eyewitness to the power the Messiah brought to change hearts and renew minds. No religion has ever been able to influence this kind of radical change to the soul of human beings; we must be born of the Spirit who is Truth and raised from spiritual death. John himself was changed by the Anointed Truth; so he spoke and wrote from a personal place of experiential knowledge. However, when we have embraced the Spirit of Truth, the enemy begins to lay a series of spiritual traps/lies in order to bring confusion and chaos to the soul. We cannot open the door or we leave our hearts and minds unguarded to the lies!

I shudder sometimes at how humanity, as a whole, really loves to connect themselves with the enemy’s spiritual lies. Satan is the father of lies and he is very cunning and convincing (Gen 3:1). I understand the temptation, because the Spirit of Truth is very convicting and uncomfortable when we want to see things from a fleshly perspective. Yet, as children of God, we need to know and experience life from Christ’s perspective who was fully human and fully divine and now whose Spirit lives in believers. Jesus is a complete picture or example of human life in a righteous relationship with Father God and in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:18). Since the resurrection, believers are partakers in the spiritual incarnation of Christ; he lives in and through our bodies.

Although John’s testimony and writings to the Church [people of God throughout all generations] is extremely helpful to us as we learn to discern the Truth from lies, Jesus himself claimed to be the Son of God who served the Father as the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father unless it is through the Son (John 14:6). The spirit of antichrist was present with the first disciples and is present now.

One day the spirit of antichrist will accumulate in one evil human being; John calls him the Antichrist. So, let’s restate the Truth: Christians are those who repent from sin, deny themselves, place Christ—the Son of God—on the throne of their hearts knowing it is through his mercy (shed blood for our sin) and grace (work of the Spirit of Truth) that we have eternal life with God. Anything else, is a lie.

1 John 2:18-25 NLT Warning about Antichrists
18 Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. 19 These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.

20 But you are not like that, for the Holy One has given you his Spirit [Christ’s anointing] and all of you know the truth. 21 So I am writing to you not because you don’t know the truth but because you know the difference between truth and lies. 22 And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who [habitually] denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist [the enemy/antagonist of Christ]. 23 Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24 So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. 25 And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the discernment to know the Truth from lies. We can know this in the divine spiritual realm, as well as the human natural realm, because Jesus was both and has become our Wisdom. Thank you for protecting us by the Truth. May we guard our hearts to continue to live in the Truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-10-24

The Sadducees—a group of Jewish aristocrats who were focused on the written law—did not believe in life after death and they spent time in many contentious arguments with the Pharisees about the subject. They based their stand of the resurrection on the fact they found nothing in the Pentateuch—the Books of Moses—to confirm it. So, when the Pharisees could not prove life after death according to Scripture, the Sadducees decided this was a great question to ask Jesus; they were certain it would stump him, as well. But, they did not understand who they were talking to: the Word of God who is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

In our passage today, the Sadducees use an example about marriage to prove a point about resurrection, but their focus is not marriage. They simply want to prove themselves right about the permanency of death. In this world, there will always be battles over correct doctrine; in this case the doctrine of resurrection. Jesus does not fight them, he simply tells them they don’t know Scripture; they think they are standing on God’s Word, but they don’t make a connection with him when they are talking to him.
Jesus knows all about the argument between these two religious groups and he takes the opportunity to tell them that Moses indeed wrote about the God of the Living.

Do you ever wonder what life will be like beyond this temporal world? I do, but I know it is not just another phase of this human life. It’s something supernatural, because the laws of nature are not hindering to eternal life with God. Jesus spoke about Abraham, Issac, and Jacob—patriarchs who had physically died—as though they were living. Although I can only imagine the heavenly state of being, I know our believing loved ones are alive with Jesus, too.

Mark 12:18-27 NLT Discussion about Resurrection
18 Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: 19 “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. 20 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. 21 So the second brother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her. 22 This continued with all seven of them, and still there were no children. Last of all, the woman also died. 23 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”

24 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. 25 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.

26 “But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—haven’t you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 27 So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.”

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the love that moves you to teach us the truth. You correct our wrong doctrine and you build us up in wisdom so we can apply the truth to our lives. May we trust you when it comes to things like heaven that are too much for us to understand with our natural minds. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-09-24

Today’s passage picks up in a continuous thread from yesterday when in her devotion Jen challenged us to remember that love unifies and marks us as Christ’s disciples. Our love becomes more selfless the more mature we become in Christ’s love, because we realize love is not an emotion…it is a CHOICE…a door into Kingdom righteousness and the revelation of genuine love. This world and what it offers will come to an end, so choosing eternal Kingdom riches is wisdom.

Think about how we learn at each stage of our lives and the wisdom we gain if we will bring those lessons forward. We can learn from our successes, as well as our failures in loving God, others, and ourselves; each one valuable if we will allow Christ to use them to help us grow in spiritual maturity. Love is our course of study; believers are disciples of LOVE and, if we are willing to follow Christ, we will continue to be lifelong students who grow and develop in Christlikeness.

Humanity’s greatest challenge will always be choosing to love God more than the world, because what the world offers to our flesh is what our flesh wants. We crave the fulfillment of physical desires and self-gratification. We hunger for tangible items to satisfy our materialistic nature. Our self-worth and attitude can be wrapped up in how others view us. These things are contrary to what the Holy Spirit desires for us. Therefore, our flesh fights with the Holy Spirit who was given by Christ to be our Helper.

Let’s remember Christ had very similar temptations when he was in the wilderness (Mat 4:1-11). The Spirit of the Lord was upon him and he was successful in defeating Satan’s temptations. You and I have the Spirit of the Lord, as well. So, we must pray for our attitudes, mindsets, appetites, and goals and ask the Lord to build them on the solid rock of pleasing God; not our wills but the will of the Father!

1 John 2:12-17 NLT
12
I am writing to you who are God’s children
    because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
13 
I am writing to you who are mature in the faith
    because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I am writing to you who are young in the faith
    because you have won your battle with the evil one.
14 
I have written to you who are God’s children
    because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith
    because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith
    because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts,
    and you have won your battle with the evil one.

Do Not Love This World
15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for our lessons on love. Please help us make good choices, because each one leads us forward into our future. Help us as believers to learn from one another as we stand on your Word. Satan is a defeated foe, so Holy Spirit help us move beyond our cravings for the world’s corrupt and unrighteous way of living by growing mature as citizens of your eternal Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-05-24

Problems will always be a part of living in a fallen world; therefore, we must decide how we view a problem and choose how to handle each one. We cannot just ignore each daily difficulty, because many times a problem arises to reveal and teach us something about life and help us gain strength to face every challenge that will arrive in the future. In Christ, we are more than conquerors, so we must have things to conqueror!

To conquer is “to subdue or overcome” and believers do that by the power of the Holy Spirit and righteous influence. I imagine with each problem we may face, our default way of handling it would be to ask our Holy Helper to simply take the problem away. Yet, what if rather than asking the Lord to take the problem that is disturbing our peace away, we press in to ask the Lord for more wisdom, help, and courage to be victorious in the midst of the problem so others around us can see the power of God working in our lives? The work of disciples is about allowing the power of God to be revealed.

In our passage today, Peter and John have been proclaiming the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is not the message anyone in governing leadership or power wants to hear. The atmosphere around the early church family is filled with hatred toward the truth. Jesus was terribly misunderstood and his followers find themselves there, as well.

The Roman government and religious leaders continue to silence the believers and seek to snuff out the faith they have in the work of the Spirit and the power outflowing Christ’s resurrection. These believers are powerful and influential to win hearts for the truth of Christ; a threat to unbelief so the work of evil [lies] is relentless. Time and time again, the disciples are viewed as a problem to be dealt with and asked to give an account for the miracles they experience, “By what power or what name do you do this?” (Acts 4:7). So, the disciples pray for more courage!

When the world is unkind and filled with judgmental hate for believers, we must remember this is not something new. In fact, it was through the avenue of these problems, the church became a revelation of the living, resurrected Lord. I saw a brief commentary on the news the other day about how Christians are a threat to freedom and democracy. Well, friends, if our hearts are filled with the love of God, we are no real threat to freedom or democracy. We are, however, a threat to a fallen and sin-filled earth because we are carrying a Conqueror who is returning to judge the world.

Christians are actually a part of Christ’s protective grace in the world; we are a gift not a threat and not a problem to be removed. But, that will happen one day when Christ returns for his grace-covered Bride and I cannot imagine what it will be like to live with the problems humanity has created in God’s world with grace absent!

Acts 4:23-31 NLT The Believers Pray for Courage
23 As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. 24 When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— 25 you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying,
‘Why were the nations so angry?
    Why did they waste their time with futile plans?
26 
The kings of the earth prepared for battle;
    the rulers gathered together
against the Lord
    and against his Messiah’ (Ps 2:1-2).

27 “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. 28 But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. 29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. 30 Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”


31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.


Prayer: Lord, we thank you for even the difficult things we must face in life, because we have you to help us handle and conquer them. Help us yield to you rather than the temptation to think we must escape every difficulty or handle things in our natural strength. Give us more courage and remind us we are to pray about everything. We place our faith in your plan and know you will be faithful to provide what we need each day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-04-24

The blessings of God are permeated with the life-giving power of the Lord; life is God’s gift and love is the fuel he uses to get his blessings to us. He has promised to provide for us and protect us while we are in this fallen world, so if we are seeking, we will see that each day comes with the blessings of his divine care. The world is cursed because of sin, but God’s children are blessed in many ways; we are empowered to be productive and fruitful for the Kingdom.

Although God provides blessings in very tangible ways for us, the greatest blessings will always be spiritual and eternal. For example, God has spiritually forgiven our sins, so we will not face the wrath of God. This blessing is the difference between life and death for humanity. Every child of God stands in unity of faith in this place; we are the forgiven…the blessed of the Lord.

In a world that looks at the differences between people, God calls us to gather to his throne to be blessed by the blood of Jesus which covers our unrighteousness. We are not different in this place; we are the same. Sinners in need of grace. Each one of us are offered peace with God!

Psalm 133 A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony!

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
    that was poured over Aaron’s head,
    that ran down his beard
    and onto the border of his robe.

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
    that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing,
    even life everlasting.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the peace we may experience with you as we work to enjoy peace with one another. As believers, we will not agree on everything, but we can certainly agree that life should be lived serving you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-03-24

Facing rejection can be very difficult and certainly painful, because we would all like to be accepted, valued, and affirmed by others. Yet, being accepted or appreciated by all people in every situation is impossible. And, just because we may bring ideas that someone does not value does not mean we are not valuable. In fact, God himself was rejected by his people, because they did not approve of him as a messenger nor did they like his message.


In our passage today, the psalmist understood rejection, but he also knew the Lord was the real strength he needed to be successful to the work God called him to do. So, when we feel rejected by others, we need to remember Jesus knows how we feel, but those feelings cannot be given the power to define us. We are who God says we are and we must know our value to God and give him the power to make us unique and useful in his Hand. God knows what he is doing!


In spite of his rejection, Jesus became the Cornerstone—the most important and valuable structure on which the Kingdom is built. The enemy will always try to get us to look at what we are not and slide into the despair of rejection, but Jesus knows what we are yet to become and we must press on to believe, because we live, move, and have our being in him and who he anoints us to be in his Body. God has given you the victory! You are not all things to all people. However, you are precious to the Lord! REJOICE!


Psalm 118:14-24 NLT
14
The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.
15 
Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.
    The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
16 
The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph.
    The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!
17 
I will not die; instead, I will live
    to tell what the Lord has done.
18 
The Lord has punished me severely,
    but he did not let me die.
19 
Open for me the gates where the righteous enter,
    and I will go in and thank the Lord.
20 
These gates lead to the presence of the Lord,
    and the godly enter there.
21 
I thank you for answering my prayer
    and giving me victory!
22 
The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
23 
This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.
24 
This is the day the Lord has made.
    We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for making each one of us as your children special and unique to the righteous work you have prepared for us to do. Thank you for the privilege of serving you and being useful and beneficial to grow your Kingdom. When we experience despair or rejection, help us to fix our gaze upon you because in spite of the cruel and horrific things you faced, you pressed through to accomplish salvation for us. We can certainly move beyond feelings by allowing you to be our hope and strength. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 04-02-24

The word transformed brings along very powerful connotations; we experience the feeling or assurance that something has happened internally, as well as the literal meaning of change that will be externally evident at some time. The Greek word metamorphosis “to transform” is best seen in the change from an immature caterpillar to an adult stage of a butterfly. To be transformed, according to Scripture, is to experience a change in form internally that is worked out in our external appearance; to be transfigured.

According to Jesus, salvation is connected to spiritual transformation which is connected to renewal and physical transfiguration that comes from being born again with a heavenly birth. We are being changed internally as our minds are renewed and one day when Jesus comes for us, in the twinkling of an eye, we will grow beyond the limitations of these natural bodies. Transformation is about overcoming! No more sin, sickness, or weakness! Jesus makes it all happen in the Spirit! YES!!!

Yesterday, in Jen’s devotion, she lead us to remember Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection or the transformation that God has in mind for his children. Because Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine—a life-giving Spirit—he had the resurrection of his physical body. The Life of Christ is in believers which makes us fully human with the Spirit of the divine presence. We will be the fruit of the resurrection that will one day follow Christ into being completely transformed in his likeness, so we can inherit the Kingdom!

In our passage today, we continue with the Apostle Paul’s message to the church at Corinth. He desperately wants the people to understand the power of the resurrection and the process they will be experiencing in the transformation. Through our fruit production of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—acts of love for God and others—we are being transformed on the inside and appearing more and more like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23). According to Scripture, even having the right attitude and the actions of how we treat people is all part of the transformation process that takes us from an immature likeness of Christ to get us ready for a mature likeness. We need this supernatural work to be ready for Jesus’ return.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NLT
50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.
51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.


54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory. (Isaiah 25:8)
55 
O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting? (Hosea 13:14)”

56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the promise that one day when the final trumpet is blown, believers will follow you in the resurrection and receive glorified bodies. In the meantime, Holy Spirit, please help us to look at each day with a heavenly perspective, so we will be bearing righteous fruit that makes us mature in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 03-30-24

Let’s remember from the beginning of time, God’s first act of bringing order out of chaos in the world was to use his Word to separate the Light from the dark!

Genesis 1:1-5a NLT The Account of Creation

1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw 

that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness.  

5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”  

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.

John 1:1-5 NLT The Word Became Flesh 

1

In the beginning the Word already existed.

    The Word was with God,

    and the Word was God.

He existed in the beginning with God.

God created everything through him,

    and nothing was created except through him.

The Word gave life to everything that was created,

    and his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Out of the darkness, the Light of the World came to reveal the heart of Creator God for his creation, but not everyone wanted to receive him. Wicked humanity thought the cross was an instrument of death, but God made it a symbol of LIFE that would bring LIGHT to those who wanted to see!

John 3:13-19 NLT 

13 Jesus said, No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life [in Him].

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.

Luke 12:49-51 VOICE

49 Jesus said, This is serious business we’re involved in. My mission is to send a purging fire on the earth! In fact, I can hardly wait to see the smoke rising. 50 I have a kind of baptism to go through, and I can’t relax until My mission is accomplished! 51 Do you think I’ve come with a nice little message of peace? No way. Believe Me, My message will divide.

John 19:28-30 NLT  The Death of Jesus  28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:38-42 NLT The Burial of Jesus 38 Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. 39 With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. 40 Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. 41 The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. 42 And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Jesus, the Son of God, lived to help us see God’s mission. He died to fulfill it, because we are sinners—we struggle to believe God exists and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. Faith initiates a fight with our human flesh. The name Israel means “One who struggles with God.” For those who hate Israel—God’s people—they have simply allowed the message of Christ’s commands of love–Love God wholeheartedly and love our neighbors as we love ourselves–to divide them. There is a lot of power involved in this one CHOICE!  

God did not make the choice to divide, human beings who want to be their own God by rejecting Christ have done it themselves. When we judge our sin and choose to live in the light with the Son rather than the dark, God does not judge us. Remember, throughout Scripture, every biblical character struggled at some point to believe God, but many turned to ask for help with their unbelief. Please don’t let God’s division find you on the wrong side of the Son, because Sunday is coming…

Prayer:  Lord, you have made your plan clear for those who have eyes to see. The sin of the world was placed on you, so humanity could be free to choose a righteous life with you! We spiritually wait in that tomb with you, because much like Lazarus…we want to walk out of dead living and into life in the power outflowing the resurrection!

Please plan to join us Easter Sunday @ 9:45 A.M. for the musical celebration… “Resurrection!”

Daily Devotional from Pastor Mary 03-29-24

Jesus’ time with his disciples celebrating the Passover was complete. He would now suffer from the rejection of his very own people. The betrayer was in place and Jesus knew the cross stood before him. Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “Pray, that you will not give in to temptation. In a little while you won’t see me anymore, But a little while after that, you will see me again.” You will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. No one can rob you of that joy! (John 16:16,19-20, 22).”

After midnight, Friday morning, Jesus walked to the Mount of Olives with his disciples, found a quiet place, and prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. He shared a prayer only a true High Priest would pray when facing such agony. Who was on Jesus’ mind? His disciples…you, me, and the ones who would come after him and choose to follow.

John 17:1-26 NLT 1 Jesus knelt down and prayed, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

6 “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!

25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

The temple guards came and arrested Jesus; they led him to the house of the Jewish high priest. Peter and the rest of the disciples had all fled. But, Peter lingered in the dark and follow from a distance. He watched as the guards mocked Jesus, spit upon him, cursed and slapped him. The words Peter utter about not knowing Jesus haunted him; he denied his Christ just as Jesus told him he would do!

Later in the day, Jesus would be put through 6 trials and found guilty of sedition—attempting to lead an insurrection. The trials were filled with illegal maneuverings. There was to be no night council meetings, but their hatred drove them to abandon the truth and their leadership responsibilities. When humans hate a person so deeply they lie, connive and seek to silence him or her, they have become a host for Satan—the love of God is not in them.

Jesus was led to Golgotha where he was nailed to the cross on Friday around 9 A.M. for crimes he did not commit. At noon darkness fell; the sun was not allowed to shine. Jesus died at approximately 3 P.M. on the 9th watch. In less than twenty-four hours, Jesus found himself arrested, tried, and executed. He came a long way from Bethlehem’s manger.

Prayer: Lord, there are not enough ways to thank you for taking our sin upon yourself and dying in our place. The prayer of unity and protection you prayed over us as your disciples is so loving, beautiful, and selfless. We know the joy you were referring to is the privilege given to believers; of being able to directly approach the Father through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are One as you, Jesus, are One. Please hear our hearts of gratitude, Lord. May honor and glory be given to you for all you have done to offer salvation to your fallen world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.