Lenten Devo 25: The Two Thieves

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about the two thieves on crosses next to Jesus. It fell on Day 46 of this series.**

Reading: Luke 23:39-43

Scenes from the Cross.

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[a] 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It was no mistake that Jesus hung between two criminals.  They had equal chance of being saved, and yet only one of them sought salvation.  Philip Yancey wrote,

“Only one person in the Bible receives a direct promise of heaven—a thief.”

Jesus’ first word on the cross was a word of forgiveness. His second word was a word of hope. When the thief asked Jesus for ultimate deliverance, Jesus made a promise: “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

Let us rejoice in the fact that he spoke the words of forgiveness first! Forgiveness is such a wonderful and amazing gift.  When forgiveness flows forth it leaves room for hope.  It is fitting that his second word was one of hope.  Hope gives birth to new life.  Jesus is the one who breathes new life into each of us.

Maybe you are someone who has already turned your life over to Jesus.  What could you do to draw daily closer to him?  Maybe you find yourself longing for the forgiveness of Christ? All you have to do is ask.  Pray to Jesus, pray for a personal relationship with him!  What a glorious day it will be when we all gather together in heaven!

Prayer Focus: Let us pray for Pastor Ruth and her family today.

Lenten Devo 24: Death On A Cross

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about Jesus’ death on the cross. It fell on Day 45 of this series.**

Reading: John 15:13

Jesus Dies

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends

I think its important, when reflecting on the death of our Lord and savior to remember that it was not something that would have been called joyful suffering.

A few years ago I came across an article that went in depth into the physical, and science behind the cross.  I think its important to share that article so that we can remember the love that Jesus has for us. It is also important to remember that Jesus could have stopped this from happening at any time during the crucifixion. The following excerpt is rather longer than most of these devotionals, but I fully believe it is worth your time.

“The exact events in this scenario may not have happened in Jesus’ specific case, but the account is based on historical documentation of crucifixion procedures used during that time period. Please be aware that the following is of a realistic and graphic nature.

It is important to understand from the beginning that Jesus would have been in excellent physical condition. As a carpenter by trade, He participated in physical labor. In addition, He spent much of His ministry traveling on foot across the countryside. His stamina and strength were, most likely, very well developed. With that in mind, it is clear just how much He suffered: If this torture could break a man in such good shape, it must have been a horrific experience.

Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:37-42, Luke 22:39-44

After the Passover celebration, Jesus takes His disciples to Gethsemene to pray. During His anxious prayer about the events to come, Jesus sweats drops of blood. There is a rare medical condition called hemohedrosis, during which the capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands break down. Blood released from the vessels mixes with the sweat; therefore, the body sweats drops of blood. This condition results from mental anguish or high anxiety, a state Jesus expresses by praying “my soul is deeply grieved to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Hemohidrosis makes the skin tender, so Jesus’ physical condition worsens slightly.

Matthew 26:67-75, Mark 14:61-72, Luke 22:54-23:25, John 18:16-27

Traveling from Pilate to Herod and back again, Jesus walks approximately two and a half miles. He has not slept, and He has been mocked and beaten (Luke 22:63-65). In addition, His skin remains tender from the hemohedrosis. His physical condition worsens.

Matthew 27:26-32, Mark 15:15-21, Luke 23:25-26, John 19:1-28

Pilate orders Jesus to be flogged as required by Roman law before crucifixion Traditionally, the accused stood naked, and the flogging covered the area from the shoulders down to the upper legs. The whip consisted of several strips of leather. In the middle of the strips were metal balls that hit the skin, causing deep bruising. In addition, sheep bone was attached to the tips of each strip. When the bone makes contact with Jesus’ skin, it digs into His muscles, tearing out chunks of flesh and exposing the bone beneath. The flogging leaves the skin on Jesus’ back in long ribbons. By this point, He has lost a great volume of blood which causes His blood pressure to fall and puts Him into shock. The human body attempts to remedy imbalances such as decreased blood volume, so Jesus’ thirst is His body’s natural response to His suffering (John 19:28). If He would have drank water, His blood volume would have increased. Roman soldiers place a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head and a robe on His back (Matthew 27:28-29). The robe helps the blood clot (similar to putting a piece of tissue on a cut from shaving) to prevent Jesus from sustaining more blood loss. As they hit Jesus in the head (Matthew 27:30), the thorns from the crown push into the skin and He begins bleeding profusely. The thorns also cause damage to the nerve that supplies the face, causing intense pain down His face and neck. As they mock Him, the soldiers also belittle Jesus by spitting on Him (Matthew 27:30). They rip the robe off Jesus’ back and the bleeding starts afresh. Jesus’ physical condition becomes critical. Due to severe blood loss without replacement, Jesus is undoubtedly in shock. As such, He is unable to carry the cross and Simon of Cyrene executes this task (Matthew 27:32).

Matthew 27:33-56, Mark 15:22-41, Luke 23:27-49, John 19:17-37

Crucifixion was invented by the Persians between 300-400 B.C. It is quite possibly the most painful death ever invented by humankind. The English language derives the word “excruciating” from crucifixion, acknowledging it as a form of slow, painful suffering.1 Its punishment was reserved for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals. Victims were nailed to a cross; however, Jesus’ cross was probably not the Latin cross, but rather a Tau cross (T). The vertical piece (the stipes) remains in the ground permanently. The accused carries only the horizontal piece (the patibulum) up the hill. Atop the patibulum lies a sign (the titulus), indicating that a formal trial occurred for a violation of the law. In Jesus’ case, this reads “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38). The accused needed to be nailed to the patibulum while lying down, so Jesus is thrown to the ground, reopening His wounds, grinding in dirt, and causing bleeding. They nail His “hands” to the patibulum. The Greek meaning of “hands” includes the wrist. It is more likely that the nails went through Jesus’ wrists. If the nails were driven into the hand, the weight of the arms would cause the nail to rip through the soft flesh. Therefore, the upper body would not be held to the cross. If placed in the wrist, the bones in the lower portion of the hand support the weight of the arms and the body remains nailed to the cross. The huge nail (seven to nine inches long)2 damages or severs the major nerve to the hand (the median nerve) upon impact. This causes continuous agonizing pain up both of Jesus’ arms. Once the victim is secured, the guards lift the patibulum and place it on the stipes already in the ground. As it is lifted, Jesus’ full weight pulls down on His nailed wrists and His shoulders and elbows dislocate (Psalm 22:14).3 In this position, Jesus’ arms stretch to a minimum of six inches longer than their original length. It is highly likely that Jesus’ feet were nailed through the tops as often pictured. In this position (with the knees flexed at approximately 90 degrees),4 the weight of the body pushes down on the nails and the ankles support the weight. The nails would not rip through the soft tissue as would have occurred with the hands. Again, the nail would cause severe nerve damage (it severs the dorsal pedal artery of the foot) and acute pain. Normally, to breathe in, the diaphragm (the large muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity) must move down. This enlarges the chest cavity and air automatically moves into the lungs (inhalation). To exhale, the diaphragm rises up, which compresses the air in the lungs and forces the air out (exhalation). As Jesus hangs on the cross, the weight of His body pulls down on the diaphragm and the air moves into His lungs and remains there. Jesus must push up on His nailed feet (causing more pain) to exhale. In order to speak, air must pass over the vocal cords during exhalation. The Gospels note that Jesus spoke seven times from the cross. It is amazing that despite His pain, He pushes up to say “Forgive them” (Luke 23:34). The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim.5 The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture.6 Jesus most likely died of a heart attack. After Jesus’ death, the soldiers break the legs of the two criminals crucified alongside Him (John 19:32), causing suffocation. Death would then occur quicker. When they came to Jesus, He was already dead so they did not break His legs (John 19:33). Instead, the soldiers pierced His side (John 19:34) to assure that He was dead. In doing this, it is reported that “blood and water came out” (John 19:34), referring to the watery fluid surrounding the heart and lungs. While these unpleasant facts depict a brutal murder, the depth of Christ’s pain emphasizes the true extent of God’s love for His creation. Teaching the physiology of Christ’s crucifixion is a constant reminder of the magnificent demonstration of God’s love for humanity that was expressed that day in Calvary.”

Allow this lesson to remind us of the Love that the Lord has for His children. Let us worship him with our every breath! God so desires a relationship with us that he would suffer in such a way!

Praise God for this Easter season.

Lenten Devo 23: Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about the scene where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet at the Passover meal. It fell on Day 44 of this series.**

Reading: John 13:1-17

Just before the Passover festival, Jesus was eating with his disciples. In the middle of the meal he decided to get some water and a towel and wash his disciples’ feet. This was always a task given to a gentile servant; not even a Jewish servant would do this job. People in those times wore sandals and walked on dirt roads. Can you imagine what their feet would be like after a long journey? It should have been the disciples washing Jesus’ feet, not the other way around! Why do you think He did this?
In the first verse, scripture states that Jesus “loved his own… and loved them to the end.”
What does it mean to love someone “to the end”? I think it means to love completely, and therefore love enough to give up your life. Jesus knew that, after this meal, he was meant to give up his own life. So I think before he died on the cross, he wanted to demonstrate his love for his disciples in a tangible way. He humbled himself to the lowest station, and performed a servant’s task.
How can we set aside our own pride? How can we humble ourselves before others and before God?
In verse 14 Jesus tells us to go and do as he did. I don’t think he means to literally wash others’ feet (although I don’t think that’s entirely out of the question!), but rather to go and act similarly.
Setting aside our pride. Getting rid of our own agendas. Humbling ourselves. Loving completely. Loving God so much that we lay down our own lives.
I think this means something different for each one of us. What does this mean for you?
Thank you Jesus for laying down your life for us.

Lenten Devo 22: For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, & the Glory Forever

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about the phrase “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever”. It fell on Day 39 of this series.**

Reading: Matthew 13:44

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

In reflecting on this powerful part of the Lord’s Prayer I am reminded of the beautiful Christian allegory calledA Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  If you haven’t read it then I would suggest getting a copy today.

The story begins with the protagonist, Christian, who lives in the city of destruction.  Christian becomes convicted of his own sin through the reading of a book, and meets a man named Evangelist, who tells him about the Celestial City on Mount Zion.  Christian tries to convince his wife and children to go with him, but to no avail.  He leaves everything behind and faces all sorts of trials on his journey to the Celestial City.

I won’t share anymore so that you can read it for yourself, but the allegory behind giving up everything for something as glorious as heaven is so wonderful.  It is something of a treasure hunt!

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a story about a man who was working in a field digging.  There he is digging away, but what he doesn’t know is that in the field there is buried treasure.  Suddenly his shovel bumps into something hard.  The man bends down and picks up a chest.  When he is able to pry open the lid what he sees inside takes his breath away: beautiful, glittering, gleaming precious jewels! The man wants that treasure more than anything!  He runs home, sells everything he has and buys the field.  Then he runs back and digs up the treasure again.

Coming home to God is as wonderful as finding a treasure! You might have to dig before you see it, you might have to look before you see it. But being where God is, in His glorious kingdom, that’s more important than anything else in all the world.

Lets remember that God loves us with an unstopping, never-giving-up, always, and forever type of love.  His love is glorious and his kingdom is mighty. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Pray with me for all of our family members who don’t know Jesus.

Lenten Devo 20: For Thine is the Kingdom

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about the phrase “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever”. It fell on Day 37 of this series.**

Reading: Matthew 26:50-54
“For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

This is such a powerful phrase.  It makes me reflect on the power of the kingdom of God.  It makes me think about the glory of God.

I find myself thinking about the time in Matthew 26:50-54 there is this riveting scene which takes place just before Jesus surrenders himself up to be sacrificed on the cross for our sins.

The guards have come to arrest Jesus, and Peter the rock draws out his sword to defend his master.  Maybe it was the first time Peter had actually handled a sword, or maybe it was for a different reason, but Peter strikes a blow with that sword and chops off the ear of one of the high priests servants.  The servant was probably unarmed.  Jesus rebukes Peter, bends down to pick up the man’s bloody ear, and then reattaches it.  Let me say that again.  He reattached the man’s ear.  If this section of physical healing isn’t dripping with the power of heaven, then maybe what Jesus says next is.  Jesus says “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

In a Roman legion there are 6,000 soldiers.  If Jesus could easily call 12 legions of 6,000 that would be 72,000 angels.  And Jesus makes that sound easy!

The day Jesus was born in a manger was the day that Heaven stopped threatening to break through, and began to overflow into this world.  Ever since that day the power of heaven has been shining through the Holy Spirit, and we should take comfort in the fact that God’s kingdom is one of power and glory!

Prayer Focus: Today let’s pray for those involved in bowls.

Lenten Devo 19: Deliver Us From Evil

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about the phrase “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. It fell on Day 35 of this series.**

Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:10

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
When we pray The Lord’s Prayer, what does it mean when we ask for God to deliver us from evil?
First off, this line in the prayer shows us that there is indeed evil in this world. But before we get disheartened, let’s be encouraged because it also shows us that God has the power to deliver us from it!
To be delivered from something means to be saved, rescued, set free, liberated, released or redeemed.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that when Jesus died on the cross, we were delivered from our sins. Next he says that He will deliver us AGAIN. And if that doesn’t quell our fears, Paul states finally that God will CONTINUE to deliver us. We are reminded in this scripture that when we encounter evil or deadly peril in this world, we know that God will rescue us over and over again.
At district assembly this weekend, we were encouraged one evening to pray for what God has promised us. In the Bible, God has promised to set us free from our sins, so let’s pray for God to do that work in our lives.

Prayer Focus: Join me today in lifting up all the Nazarene pastors and their families.

Lenten Devo 15: Forgive Us Our Debts

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about the phrase “Forgive us or debts, as we forgive our debtors”. It fell on Day 29 of this series.**

Reading: Matthew 6:14-15

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Easier said than done, am I right? Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Evidently forgiveness has more positive impacts than spiritual.  There is scientific proof that forgiveness is good for the body as well as the soul.

Forgiveness is good for your health. It’s a fact. It turns out that revenge or “getting even” is not nearly as good for you as you might have been led to believe. The evidence from the research studies is compelling about the benefits that forgiveness brings. Those who forgive have better physical health and better mental health too. They have better outcomes from diseases like cancer. Even their blood pressure is lower. To put it simply, their response to stress is less distressed and so they report higher levels of subjective happiness.

I remember I was once struggling with holding onto some hurt and anger against another person.  I asked my good friend if I needed to forgive right away, or if it would be possible to gradually forgive. I’ll never forget what he said, “The funny thing about forgiveness is that it comes from the Holy Spirit. The mark of a Christian, the thing that makes us different is that the Holy Spirit gives us the power to forgive right away.” That was a hard thing for me to hear, but the Lord has given me a great gift in the Holy Spirit. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Today, let’s pray, and meditate on each word of the Lord’s Prayer.


Lenten Devo 14: Forgiveness

**We were tasked with writing some devotionals alongside Ruth for the Lenten season. Our theme for these 40 days is The Lord’s Prayer. This is about the phrase “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. It fell on Day 27 of this series.**

Reading: Psalm 103:12

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Psalm 103:12 says as far as the east is from the west, so far he has removed our transgressions from us

Lets rejoice at this! How wonderful that God has done this for us!

I recently read a piece by C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory, where he writes about the difference between forgiving and excusing:

Forgiveness says ‘Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.’ But excusing says, ‘I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites.

This really got me thinking about how often I come to God and say I want “forgiveness”, but in my heart I am actually making excuses for the sin that I committed.  I am trying to justify it in some way. The problem is that if I am simply asking to be excused, then the parts that are inexcusable won’t go away.  Excuses are simply a way for me to feel better about my mistakes, a way for me to satisfy myself.  The only one who truly needs to be satisfied is God.

Let’s seek to be forgiven instead of excused.

Join me in praying for the areas of your life that need reconciliation.