Welcome To Our New Heights Nazarene

Our prayer is that you would be blessed and strengthened by the power of Jesus Christ and that you will life a live of abundance in fellowship, and joy. New Heights Nazarene is here for you. It is not a church. It is a fellowship of believers coming together to declare the glory of the Lord and celebrate Jesus as King. We study the Word, practice what we learn and in the process grow together. May God richly bless you!



Lenten Journey: Day 46 (Saturday, April 15)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 46 (SATURDAY, APRIL 15)

There is no gospel reading today

This morning as we conclude our Lenten Journey let us spend some quiet time today just reflecting on our journey and how the path of our feet; our hands; our lips and our hearts and minds have taken us.  This journey has been one that has brought us closer to God and into his presence as we stand today—changed.  It is in his presence that we find that we are loved beyond measure, and we find our true purpose because we are in the center of God’s will.  Sometimes I think that we spend too much time looking back to see what we missed, and looking forward worrying about what is ahead.  Maybe God just wants us to live in His presence—now. 

God is with us, but more, God is within us.  Let us dwell for a moment on God’s life-giving presence in our body, in our mind, in our heart, as we are here, right now. 

This journey is just the beginning of new life, new understanding, and a new and refreshed purpose for each of us.  It is a journey that has to continue, but as we continue may we always be reminded of the Cross and may we always keep our eyes on Jesus

Prayer—Lord, continue to transform my heart into a place where you can dwell peacefully,  Never leave me and give me the grace to never separate myself from you because of my sins.  I pray that I will always be reminded that only in you will I find true rest.  Calm the storms in me and satisfy me with your love.  I love you and you are all I need—Amen

Enjoy the journey.



Lenten Journey: Day 45 (Good Friday, April 14)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 45 (GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 14)

Scripture:  John 19:16-37

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” 23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them  and cast lots for my garment.”a] So this is what the soldiers did.25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”c] 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”d]

 

On this Good Friday there is a lot of emotion and thought when you stop and realize what happened on this day.  Our journey has been long, as it was with Jesus, and we probably have been through a few ups and downs even along our own Lenten journey.  But to really take in what today represents, we cannot forget about the victory that was won as our Savior rose from the dead just like he said he would.  But at the same time we need to truly realize the love our God has for each of us on what He went through for us on this day. 

God loves each of us so much that the only way for Him to have a relationship with us is to make a way for us to take our sin away.  Since God is a holy God he had to find a way that we could be holy because there is no way that we could be holy and perfect on our own.  It is impossible for us to live in holiness without the help, and Spirit of God living in us. 

And so this takes us to the cross.  Jesus lived the perfect life that we could never live, and then took all our sins on Himself.  God said, “I’ll take the rap.  I’ll take all of your wickedness and evil and I’ll put it on Myself so that when I die on the cross, It’s finished, once and for all.”

The cross is the only place that God will meet with mankind.  The cross is the only place where both God’s mercy and God’s justice could meet.  How can God be a God of love and a God of justice at the same time?  How can holy; perfect God meet with the sinful, rebellious man?  Only at the cross.  He came, He took our punishment and then He declared you and me righteous because of it. 

This is God’s love shown to us, and has shown that he wants a relationship with us.  After centuries of Old Testament animal sacrifices, he paid the penalty and gave us Jesus Christ, who was simultaneously God and human.  Jesus died in our place to pay the price (death) for the sins of all humanity and to give a “not guilty” verdict to those who receive him as Lord of their lives.  His resurrection overcame the power of death to guarantee eternal life to those who are his, while here and now his Spirit brings life to our previously disconnected human spirits.  This is Love.

When we grasp how holy and righteous God is, and then recognize his love, it becomes far more meaningful to us and impacts us more powerfully than it ever could without first grasping the king od God we are dealing with and the mess we are in. 

May each of us be filled with wonder at God’s holiness, righteousness, and love as it hangs on the Cross. 

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”–Romans 5:8

When sharing our faith, we must understand that we participate in both the cross and the grave; our sin was the cause of His death. We cannot get to the resurrection without the death of Jesus, and it’s critical we remember to share that!  Enjoy the journey.

 

 

 



Lenten Journey: Day 44 (Thursday, April 13)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 44 (THURSDAY, APRIL 13)

Scripture:  Luke 4:16-21

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
 
 

Step by step through this Lenten Journey we have entered into the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Being in his presence is an awe amazing experience, but it should be more than an experience, we must take it in—into our hearts.  During these past few weeks we have all experienced Him through the reading of the scripture and prayer—but have we allowed Him to enter our hearts.  This is the challenge because Jesus taught so often to love others, but until we are able to receive love, the love that Jesus is pouring out in his own life and death on the cross we will never be truly changed. 

Jesus lists his priorities and all who are restricted or confined are invited to freedom.  We should realize today that among the poor, needy, and sinful people we too are include in the invitation to freedom, this invitation of love.  Jesus lives among people whose vision was narrow and who found it difficult to accept his inspired words, and some were even ready to kill him.  Yet he remained part of them, and even going to pray with them as was his custom.  Jesus is also with us and inviting us in our own daily activities to accept his invitation of freedom and love.

The throwaway details in this passage tell us a lot about the ordinary life of Jesus.  It was his custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath even though he took issue with the details of the Law proclaimed there because He chose to join with his community in the worship of God.  Though he wrote nothing (as far as we know), he read, and was chosen to read to the assembly.  He read standing up, and then sat down which is a posture for serious teaching.  The eyes of all in the assembly were fixed on him.  It is a moment of grace and promise as he brings the good news to his own people—and even you. 

Christ is here!  The Lord and Giver of life is here.  The hour comes—and now is!  “Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your heart.”  Today, reach out hands of faith, and pray.  “Jesus think on me!” – James Stewart (The Strong Name)

Jesus’ good news is that we are all loved unconditionally by God, no ifs, no buts.  When we accept that and receive that, and truly believe and live by it we too will gain freedom of heart and mind along with a new insights into the way God works in our lives.  Enjoy the journey. 



Lenten Journey: Day 43 (Wednesday, April 12)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 43 (WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12)

Scripture:  Matthew 26:14-25

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

 

As our Lenten Journey only has a few days to go we should watch carefully these coming three days not just as spectators but as participants.  Holy week is an invitation to walk closely with Jesus; we fix our eyes on him and accompany him in his suffering and we let him look closely at us and see us as we really are.  We do not have to present a brave face to him, but we can tell him about where we have been disappointed, let down and perhaps even betrayed.  We can avoid getting stuck and left behind in our own misfortunes by seeing as he sees, and by learning from his heart. 

In our passage today is Judas motivated by anger and disappointment?  Did he have a different vision of the coming Messiah than Jesus?  Did he resent that Jesus saw through him when he protested at the waste of Mary’s costly perfume at the feast?  One thing is clear; he refused to accept Jesus as he was.  Like us, he did not see that it is we, not God who must change. 

Look at Judas and watch him fearfully betraying Jesus.  And then look at Jesus as his heart goes out to the weakness of the disciples.  In all sorts of weakness in our lives, the love of God is triumphant.  As he walks with us—let him be the strength in your weakness and sinfulness. 

If we look closely at Judas his real sin was not his betrayal of Jesus, but it was rather his rejection of him and what Jesus represented, and the real love and forgiveness that he has for his people.  Judas refused to believe in the possibility of forgiveness, and we should remember not to imitate him no matter what we have done wrong we can turn to Jesus for forgiveness and healing. 

The disciples had come on a long journey to bring them to this point and now the depth of their discipleship would be challenged.  We too, have been on a journey and we have traveled to arrive with Jesus at our sides.  Remember that we receive strength as Jesus shares himself with us and may we draw upon that strength to stand in our own difficult moments too. 

Think of the characters in the gospel story and see where you can recognize yourself among them when some profess their faith; some do as they are asked, some do simply what others do, and some disappear in the moment of crisis.  We can be like Judas and abandon him in despair, or be like Peter and come back to him with tears of repentance. 

In his self offering on the Cross, Jesus brings all the sin of the world deep within the love of god, and wipes it away.  Accepting the Cross, entering into fellowship with Christ, means entering the realm of transformation.” – Joseph Ratzinger (Jesus of Nazareth)

Jesus invites each of us to recognize the truth of our won discipleship and you are invited to follow willingly, freely and forgiven. 

Prayer—My Lord my God you see my heart, and my desires are not hidden from you.  I am encouraged and strengthened by your goodness to me today.  I want to be yours, and yours alone.  O my God, my Savior, my Sanctifier, hear me, help me, and show mercy to me for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
 

Enjoy the journey.

 

 



Lenten Journey: Day 42 (Tuesday, April 11)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 42 (TUESDAY, APRIL 11)

Scripture:  John 13:21-33, 36-38

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.”
Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

 

As we continue our Lenten journey in the beginning of holy week it would be good to slow down and really take in what this week represents in our faith walk with Jesus.  It is so easy to get ahead of Jesus on this journey that we have to make sure that we do take in each moment, relish it a little, contemplate on the situation, and maybe even place yourself in the situation and really sense how you would react to what is going on.  We all know what the right answer is when following Jesus but are we really putting our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength into action and actually following through with what we know to be right.   

Judas made a fatal decision on giving up on Jesus and decided to give him over to the religious leaders.  As soon as left it is no wonder that the John comments:  “Night had fallen.”  Yes, it was a moment of utter darkness.  This is a gospel which constantly contrasts light and darkness.  Yet at the very moment which sets the whole passion experience in motion, Jesus speaks of his being glorified and of God as being glorified.

To do this Jesus is going to leave his disciple and he will leave them in death but he will also leave them to return to the glory of his Father.  Peter, well meaning but weak, swears that he will go all the way with Jesus, even to death.  It is the second betrayal; worse in some ways because at least Judas made no wild promises.  What will save Peter will be the depth of his repentance and later conversion.

Peter hit deep points of his life here. His sureness of following Jesus was challenged by Jesus himself. He would later find himself weak and failing in this following. But this would not be the last word; even when Peter said later that he didn’t know Jesus, there would be time for taking it back and speaking it with his life. We at times go back and forth in our following of the Lord; these days let us know in the certainty of Jesus’ love that there is always another day, another chance, another joy in our following of Jesus. 

We will hesitate to answer affirmatively the question, “Will you lay down your life for me?” But there is no mix feelings, no contradictory ideas, no fluctuation and no confliction in Jesus – he has already decided to lay down his life for us, in purest love.

Prayer—

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and I feel my weakness and helplessness give me the sense of your presence, your love, and your strength.  Help me to have perfect trust in your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for in living close to you I shall see your hand, your purpose, your will through all things.—St. Ignatius of Loyola

Enjoy the journey.



Lenten Journey: Day 41 (Monday, April 10)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 41 (MONDAY, APRIL 10)

Scripture:  John 12: 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’
When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

 

As we begin our Lenten journey into holy week it is time to be reminded of the true reason Jesus came.  Yes He came to save us, but if you look closer it is all about the love God has for each of us.  This is the true essence of our God who would do anything to give us peace, joy, and life.  It is so easy though, just like Judas to get caught up in the worldly part of Easter with all the candy, chocolate bunnies and Easter egg hunts and forget the true reason behind Easter is Love.  A love that is overflowing to the point that it may almost look like waste, but it is not.

Judas, the spiritually blind materialist, only sees what he regards as terrible waste. Hypocritically he suggests the money would have been better spent helping the poor. John suggests Judas was more interested in getting the money for himself than sharing it with those in need. Jesus sees an altogether different meaning in Mary’s action. He sees the tremendous love behind the action and interprets it as a symbolical anointing for his burial. In everything that Jesus did and continues to do there is love behind it.  It is not just love, but love overflowing that never stops and always pursues.

In life it is so easy to get caught up in the actions of others or in the busyness of our own lives and miss giving the attention to the things that God wants us to give attention too.  Relationships are important and making time for them is even more important, but it they are not always easy when there are “things” to be done.  If this can happen with our family, and friend relationships, just imagine how easy it is to push aside our relationship with the Lord.  You see, Jesus wants us to put down our work, set aside the cell phone, and spend quiet time with him.  Only in this way will our hearts overflow with love, and be filled with Jesus’ knowledge and insight.  Jesus waits patiently for us, to have those conversations with us as we talk about our needs and concerns.

It is only Jesus that we can remain pure and blameless.  When we get our direction from our time with the Lord then we can live and move in the direction that we are led.  The Lord wants us to participate with him, being used for God’s praise and glory.  When we overflow with the holy love found in the Trinity, God’s glory is seen in and through all we do.  Overflowing love comes intimate participation in a holy God.  My prayer for you today is found in Philippians 1:9

And this is my prayer:  that you love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.  So that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Enjoy the journey.



Lenen Journey: Day 40 (Palm Sunday, April 9)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 40 (SUNDAY, APRIL 9)

Scripture:  Luke 19:28-40

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”a] “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

 

It is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy week.  There was a procession of children with their Sunday School class walking in to open the church service waving their palm branches on Palm Sunday.  As they all came forward one little boy remained in the back, holding his palm branch and looking very unsure of himself.  One of the ushers leaned down to him and asked if he was okay.  The boy replied, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with the leaf.”

Palm Sunday is sort of like that, leaving us all a little bit unsure of what it is exactly that we are suppose to be doing.  Jesus is, after all, entering the city in triumphant fashion, being hailed by his followers and greeted as a Savior.  So on one hand we should be cheering along with them.  On the other hand, we know that when Jesus goes to Jerusalem, he is going there to die.  This is where he will be arrested, tried and put to death on a cross.  There are dark clouds on the horizon, so maybe we should be hiding in fear.  Palm Sunday can be a confusing clash of emotions. 

It can also be a clash of ideals.  Some New Testament scholars suggest that there was not one triumphal entry in to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but two.  There was Jesus, of course, riding into the city on his donkey, and his disciples cheering and waving their palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!  Save us now!  That is one procession.

At the same time, there would have been a second procession entering the city on the opposite side.  This second procession would have been led by the governor, Pontius Pilate, leading the Roman troops into the city in order to put down any disturbances that might arise during the Jewish Passover celebration.

These two different processions symbolize two different understandings of humanity and the way of the world.  Pilate and the Romans symbolize a peace that exists through a show of power.  It is the kind of peace that comes when people see the emperor’s armies and decide not to disturb the peace because they are afraid of what might happen to them.   

The other procession—the one led by the poor carpenter on his donkey symbolizes the peach of Christ.  This is a king of peace that is rooted and grounded in self giving love.  This is the peace that passes our understanding.  It is ultimate peace, and the promise of God’s kingdom in the community of faith. 

Make no mistake about Palm Sunday; these two different worldviews will clash.  There is a tension about Palm Sunday, and here we are in the midst of it, caught between two dueling notions of peace and power.  And it may be that those two forces will clash over, and over, and over again every single day for the rest of our lives. 

We all struggle at times with these two forces in our lives.  On one side we have light and on the other we have darkness.  The world makes us fearful with all the terror attacks, loss of jobs, and just the fight to keep our head above waters some times.  And it is human nature at times to want to fight back to keep what we have and to keep the peace.  We are all looking for some kind of power to make it through life. 

That is the clash of ideals that happens every Palm Sunday, and indeed every single day of our lives.  Every single day we have a choice between the love of power and the power of love, and every single day we work that choice out in various ways.  It may be the suggestion that the way to peace is paved with violence, or the idea that those who are strong have earned the right to step on those who are weak.  It comes in the way that we treat our children, and our husbands or wives, or the stranger we meet in the parking lot.  That’s not my problem, we tell ourselves.  I don’t have to show

them

kindness – it’s my right!  It’s my house, my job, my business, my way or the highway, and the point of it all is to win at all costs, we say.  And through all of that, day after day after day, Jesus comes, riding his donkey, preaching mercy, and forgiveness and love.  He was a different kind of king exerting a different kind of power.  And no, it might not be what we’re used to or even what we ask for, but it might be just what we need, even in the darkness, even in the midst of our terror and fear, even when there are dark clouds on the horizon.

I once heard the story of a little girl who was tucked into her bed one night and was sound asleep until the sound of thunder woke her up.  The house was dark.  The power had gone out and as the thunder rolled and shook the windows and the lightning flashed behind the curtains she waited, and waited, and waited as long as she could.  The pulled the covers up tight but it didn’t do any good.  She was terrified.  Finally she called out to her mother.  After a few moments, the girl’s mother came pacing sleepily into her room.  “It’s okay, sweetie,” she said.

“But Mommy, I’m scared,” the little girl said.  “It’s so dark.” The mother quieted and reassured the little girl as best she could, and then said, “You’re safe.  Remember that God loves you and God is with you even in the dark.”  The mother then returned to her bed but after just a few moments thunder crashed again and the girl called out.  Her mother came back to her bed and said, “Sweetie, I told you to remember that God loves you and is always with you.”  After several seconds of silence the little girl replied, “Mommy I know that God loves me, but when it’s dark like this what I really want is someone with skin.”

Today on Palm Sunday we remember the tremendous clash of forces in the world, the powers that are greater than we are, and the dark clouds on the horizon.  Yet we also remember that into that darkness rode Jesus.  In the life of Jesus Christ God put on skin so that God could walk with us, and laugh with us and cry with us, rejoice with us and wipe away our tears, love us, and ultimately die for us out of love, that we might have hope and joy and peace.  How powerful is that?  Enjoy the journey.



Lenten Journey: Day 39 (Saturday, April 8)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 39 (SATURDAY, APRIL 8)

Scripture: John 11:45-56

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’

 

During this Lenten Journey, God through his Son Jesus Christ has been taking us down a pathway leading us to an amazing site, but sometimes we need to revisit and be reminded again of how much God loves us.  The Scriptures are a love letter to us as well as the example shown in his Son the way he carried himself, the way he treated people, and the sacrifice he made so that we could experience that love that God has for us.  But I think sometimes when we say, ‘us’ we think of it maybe as a universal love, but not a personal love for each of us individually.  John reminds us in 1 John 4:16 “God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God.”
 

In our passage today Caiaphas who was a Sadducee was a ruthless, political leader who felt threatened by Jesus and was trying his hardest to keep the status quo because he was so powerful and wealthy.  He uses the argument of the powerful in every age:  we must eliminate the awkward trouble maker in the name of common good—meaning the comfort of the Sadducees.  But he spoke wiser than he knew, because one man Jesus was to die for all people, and for me.  Caiaphas like maybe some of us can get blinded by things of the world, the everyday routines, the overwhelming draw to think of only ourselves and can miss the real comfort, the real peace, and the real love when it is right in front of us. Jesus did die for us—but he also died for me.

Jesus died for his people and for everyone, but this must not be applied to us generically;  it means that Jesus died specifically for each and every one of us individually and that is the ultimate expression of Jesus’ love for all people. 

Fortunately for us God has spoken through his Son Jesus Christ in a human form through the grand story of God’s redemptive love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  God’s glory, majesty, and awe are not diminished, but heightened in Jesus.  The holy, Almighty God is above and beyond us; always loving us and always reaching out to each of us.  Love is the high point in the biblical unfolding of the nature of God.  Charles Wesley wrote, “Pure, universal Love Thou art…Thy nature and Thy name is Love.”  But what does all that mean to you and me?  Everything — because, God “loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. 

To know Jesus, to follow Jesus is a way to God and it is in God and only in God that we find true happiness, freedom, and peace.  but the only way to know the truth of that statement is to experience it personal.   Enjoy the journey.



Lenten Journey: Day 38 (Friday, April 7)

LENTEN JOURNEY:  DAY 38 (FRIDAY, APRIL 7)

Scripture:  John 10:31-42

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ – and the scripture cannot be annulled – can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.

 

Our world today it seems that we are being bombarded with words by advertisers, politicians, social media and every kind of preacher.  It seems that in each of the pieces of information we are being asked to believe in something.  Just think how powerful the world (and maybe us) has made Google.  Anytime we need an answer we go to our electronic device and Google it, and whatever answer comes up we are convinced that the answer is right without even checking the source. To each of these we should be looking to see if their works line up with their words and then we can believe them. 

 In our passage today, the source is our Father in heaven who is working through his Son Jesus, and it is more than what he is saying, but He shows us through his miracles and acts of kindness and love who he is, the Son of God.  As we have journeyed these past few weeks we have read many words, as you have even listened to me (hope you’re listening) on Sunday morning that you not only listen and read, but also look to see that the one you are listening too is also living out their words in everyday life with all of its ups and downs.  When someone’s words line up with their deeds they are someone you can believe. 

Jesus often impresses upon us the need to act upon his word, but one can argue with words, but deeds cannot be contradicted because they speak for themselves.  James reminds us to “Let me be a doer of the word, and not a forgetful hearer.”  The world watches the deeds of the Christ follower and it is sad to say that more often than not they are not impressed.  As we have journeyed these past few weeks take a look at your own words, and your own deeds and see if they line up with what Jesus has been teaching us. 

Jesus spoke a lot about love and forgiveness and this is the love and forgiveness we know of him in our own lives.  What we see in Jesus we can see of the Father, and what the Father sees in Jesus, he sees and loves in us.  May our hearts be made like the heart of Jesus so our lives can demonstrate the love and forgiveness that comes only from the Father. 

You have probably passed many people on this Lenten Journey and I wonder how many of them, when they saw you—saw Jesus.  The message of Jesus was threatening to the people in Jesus’ time and remains threatening even today. Jesus was not putting himself above the people, but he was calling them to realize their true worth.  Think of how Jesus was born and became like us so that we may know ourselves truly as he accompanies us.  We have a great opportunity to share the love and forgiveness with the world if our own deeds line up with the words and teachings we have learned from Jesus.  Think about what may have to change for you, to not only accept what Jesus proclaims, but also express the vision that Jesus gives you?  Enjoy the journey.