Wednesday, March 31, 2010

“It Is Finished”

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

Finished. Ended. Completed.

Jesus didn’t say, “Here’s something to get you started. I’ve paid the price for your past sins. Now that your account is no longer in the red, try your best to behave or else you’ll throw the whole thing into jeopardy.” He didn’t say that. Jesus said, “It is finished.”

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18). What Adam had started in the garden, Jesus ended on the cross. Jesus provided the way to reconcile us to God. Now, those who have trusted Christ’s work can commune with God just like Adam did originally in the garden.

Paul introduces a legal term here: “justification.” Commonly, we’ll say, “Well, if you feel justified, go right ahead.” Whether we mean that the person is justified by a reason or an excuse depends on our confidence in their decision. In the case of salvation, justification is not after the fact. We are justified at the beginning. It’s a declaration. The judge looks at our sin, and then looks at the price Jesus paid, and declares believers to be righteous. It’s a done deal. It is finished.

We cannot make ourselves righteous. We cannot earn righteousness. We could never measure up. If we try to depend on our own righteousness or goodness, we’re in trouble. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It’s the only way.

Now, if Jesus’ work is finished, and if He has declared us to be righteous, why do unrighteous thoughts and behaviors keep cropping up? God declares believers to be righteous. It is finished. But, when we look at ourselves, we might say, “not so much.”

So, we look to another theological word (boy, you’re getting your money’s worth today), sanctification. This is the practical working out of our salvation. Justification is a done deal. Through sanctification the Spirit empowers us to live our lives every day. On the days that we blow it, we remember that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). The act of our salvation was finished at the cross and declared when we crossed the line of faith. The daily part is, well, daily. It’s not working harder. It’s surrendering and allowing the Spirit to do His work in us and through us.

If you’re tempted to beat yourself up today, remember that there are no A+ Christians or D- Christians. God isn’t finished with you yet, but what He provides was finished at Calvary.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jesus said, “I Am Thirsty”

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." 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. John 19:28-30

Out of the seven last sayings of Jesus before His death, this one is unique. After hanging on the cross for six hours, this statement is the most human of His words.

The soldiers had offered Jesus another drink earlier in the day, wine mixed with myrrh (Mark 15:22-23), but He refused it. Myrrh was a narcotic. Considering the gifts the wisemen brought, you would wonder if they’d ever been to a baby shower before (Matthew 2:11). The gifts of the Magi were unusual and symbolic. The soldiers offered the drink not so much to ease Jesus’ pain, but to ease their own.

Jesus didn’t want the wine with myrrh. He didn’t want to be numb to the pain. Jesus chose to suffer for us.

But, then, six hours later, Jesus was thirsty. The soldiers offered the only drink that they had with them, wine vinegar. It wasn’t given out of cruelty. They weren’t making vinaigrette at the foot of the cross. This wine vinegar was a poor man’s drink. They gave Him the drink that they had as unpleasant as it would have been.

The drink was delivered in a sponge on the end of a hyssop branch. This wasn’t just a sponge on a stick. Here on the last day of Passover just prior to the Sabbath, the branch was actually a symbol.

When the angel visited Egypt as the last of the 10 plagues to take the life of every first born son, the Israelites were instructed, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down” (Exodus 12:21-23).

The Israelites’ homes were passed over because of the markings by the blood of the lamb. For us, the blood of the Lamb, Jesus, exempts us from the penalty of spiritual death.

There is really nothing that separates us from the love of God except for willingness to receive His gift. Jesus has made the way. Our place is to follow.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Oh How He Loves Us So

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34

Jesus expected to be despised and rejected by men. He didn’t come to earth to win a popularity contest. Jesus came to save the lost, even when the lost, especially the religious leaders, didn’t appreciate the saving. Their rejection was no surprise.

Jesus just wasn’t the kind of Savior that they wanted. He didn’t live up to their expectations. Jesus came and proclaimed Himself to be the Messiah, yet the Jews were still under Roman oppression. Where was His horse? Where was His sword? Where was His army? What kind of “Messiah” was this? The religious leaders rationalized that this must be a false one. Jesus couldn’t be it. He was a disappointment to them.

Jesus also knew that He would be rejected by the Father when He took on all of our sins. He knew full well the purpose of His coming. Taking on our sin was the focus of His mission on earth. This is what He was humanly born to do. Yet, Jesus had never experienced separation from the Father. He had never been rejection by the Father. They were intimately connected. They were One.

When Jesus utters this phrase, which is given to us in both Aramaic and English (from the Greek), His lament is not a complaint. What He experienced was not a surprise. It wasn’t remorse.

Beyond the ridicule and the physical pain leading to His death, this experience of separate from the Father was Jesus’ true agony. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus fully felt the pain of His wounded and broken body. But, separation from the Father was incalculable degrees worse than the physical pain.

Paul writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We will never be good enough to achieve righteousness. Jesus made the way for us to be united to God. He bore the brunt in His body and in His soul, so we wouldn’t have to.

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, KJV). Oh, how He loves us so.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Her Son and Her Savior

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27

This scene is unimaginable for any parent, especially for a mother. Jesus’ body was so injured from the beatings and the scourging that the two criminals on either side would have looked relatively healthy in comparison. Now, His broken body is hanging on the cross, and His mother is suffering as any mother would.

Mary, like most parents, might have thought, “Put me on the cross. Let me suffer for Him. God, do this to me, but spare Him.” But, Mary knew that Jesus was suffering not only as a Son, but also as her Savior.

Mary knew that this day was coming. As Jesus was being dedicated as a baby at the temple, Simeon prophesied, “ ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’

“The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:28-35).

Standing at the foot of the cross, a sword was certainly piercing Mary’s soul that day. Mary was not divine. She couldn’t call upon supernatural power to alleviate her pain. Mary was a mother whose heart was broken.

Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, had passed away at some point in Jesus’ life. We’re not sure when. Jesus would no longer be available to care for His mother. Hanging on the cross, Jesus took responsibility for his mother’s continued care. It’s what a good son would do. He turned her care over to the disciple whom He loved, John. (John never calls himself by name in his gospel). “Dear women, here is your son.” John is your son now. He will take care of you. Then, to John, “Here is your mother.”

As Jesus was dying to provide salvation for all of the world, His thoughts turned to providing for His earthly mother. Her needs were not insignificant. Jesus’ care for Mary reflects His care for us. Our needs are significant to Jesus. Not just our spiritual needs, but all of our needs.

What do you need today? Jesus cares about everything you need.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Do You Want God’s Power or His Presence?

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Luke 23:39-43

This conversation seems a bit unusual at first. Two convicts being executed use a handful of their last breaths to debate. One expresses a fear of death and offers a temporal solution: “Save yourself and us!” The other expresses a fear of God and asks for an eternal solution: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The first wants to save his neck. The second wants to save his soul.

The first criminal says, “Jesus, if you are who you say you are, then get me out of this mess.” None of us would ever say anything like that.

The second criminal brings some perspective to the first, “Considering where you are ‘hanging out’ right now (sorry), you might want to take God a little more seriously at this point.” The second criminal got it. He had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. He was dying anyway, so why miss out on eternity too? This life was over for him.

One thief wanted Jesus’ presence. The other thief wanted Jesus’ power. One thief wanted an eternal relationship. The other wanted a temporary fix.

I would venture to guess that none of us have suffered anything as horrible as crucifixion. But, we do suffer in other ways. What is causing you to suffer today? Are you asking Jesus for a quick fix or a transformation? Are you seeking His power or His presence? Are you interested in what He can do for you or in being closer to Him?

His power might erase our problem, but His presence will erase our fear.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Save Yourself, Jesus

"He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' "
Matthew 27:42-43

God doesn’t prove Himself on demand. He just isn’t manipulated that way. Sure Jesus could have commanded angels to come and rescue Him. God could have rescued His Son and wiped out the entire world (again). But, the most powerful, God-like thing that Jesus could do was to hang on the cross.

The people who heard Jesus proclaim, “I am the Son of God” saw many proofs: the hurting healed (John 5), the hungry fed (John 6:1-14), the possessed delivered (Matthew 8:16), the dead raised (John 11), and the sinners forgiven (Matthew 9). They were skeptical anyway. If Jesus had called the legion of angels to rescue him, no doubt someone would have complained, “Well, obviously he wasn’t attached to the cross very well. They sure don’t crucify like they used to.” You get the picture.

Jesus did absolutely nothing to warrant this cruelty. He was completely innocent of all sin and wrongdoing. Sure Jesus offended the religious leaders, but He just told them the Truth. He didn’t love them any less.

Why do we love babies? Well, sure they are cute and cuddly, soft and round. They have that new baby smell. Think about this: it’s easy to love a baby because a baby has never done anything wrong. A baby hasn’t sinned. They’re completely innocent. Who wouldn’t love a baby?

Jesus was as innocent as a newborn baby. He never sinned. He was never unkind. When He said, “Bless your heart,” it was to actually bless people.

There were really only two choices of what to think about Jesus that day. Either to exclaim with the centurion, “Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39) or shout and jeer with the crowd. If they couldn’t embrace who He was, then they had to deflect who He claimed to be.

Jesus stayed on the cross. His mission was nearly complete. One day, He will return with a legion of angels. In the meantime, Jesus is patient with us, even those who would mock and ridicule Him.

Are we as patient with others as Jesus is? Can we see things from their point of view? Do we say, “Shame on you for being so disrespectful” or do we say, “If you knew Jesus, like I know Jesus, you would feel very different?”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Father, Forgive Them

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34

In the next week or so, we are going to focus on the events surrounding Jesus’ death on the cross, especially the last seven things that He said before He died. For those who occasionally doubt what Jesus thinks of us, these words will reassure us of His great love for us as He gave Himself for our reconciliation with God.

After beatings, torture and humiliation, the first thing that Jesus says on the cross is a prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” His prayer was not, “Okay, Father, let’s get this over with” or “Help me cope with my circumstances.” He prayed to offer grace to His clueless tormentors.

For the soldiers at the foot of the cross, it was all in a day’s work. They were carrying out a court order. They were punishing three criminals: two thieves and a heretic. They didn’t see themselves as offering the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. Roman soldiers would have worshipped mythical gods like Jupiter and Apollo, Venus and Cupid. Their relationship with gods would have been cause and effect. Natural disasters expressed their gods’ displeasure. There was certainly no personal relationship with their gods.

For these soldiers the thought that God had come in the flesh and was dying to save them would have seemed ludicrous. The reality is that grace and forgiveness truly are ludicrous from a human point of view. Maybe it’s even just as ridiculous as crucifying a man who never sinned.

Some might be tempted to point fingers and place blame for Jesus’ death. The religious leaders were so threatened. The mob was so angry. The Romans were so callous. They were all to blame in one way or the other.

Let’s take a step back. If Jesus hadn’t died, we couldn’t be saved. Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). If no one had crucified Jesus, He wouldn’t have died as a sacrifice for our sins. Secondly, how can anyone hold Jesus’ death against the people He forgave?

Jesus’ heart toward us is never “Father, retaliate against them” or “Father, punish them” or “Father, just give them what they deserve” or worse yet, “Father, give them what they think will make them happy.” Jesus’ heart toward us is to always lead with forgiveness. Because He can forgive so freely, we are able to forgive as well.

Where do you need God’s forgiveness today?
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Where do you need to offer God’s forgiveness today? “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jesus Arrested. News at 6.

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him." Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him.

Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for."

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "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?"

At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled
. Matthew 26:47-56

Jesus’ arrest really wasn’t interesting material for tabloid television. It was fairly uneventful. Jesus wasn’t taken forcibly. There were no tazers. There were no handcuffs. While Jesus could have called in His own angelic SWAT team, He simply cooperated. Jesus had already surrendered Himself to the Father’s will back in the garden. It was a done deal. There was no need to protest. There was no need to struggle. God was in control.

Peter, being his impulsive self, picked up a sword and wildly swung. We can assume that his target wasn’t merely an ear. As Peter jabbed, Jesus’ thought wasn’t “don’t stop there,” or “seriously, dude, that’s pathetic.” Jesus simply instructed His disciples, “No more of this.” Violence was not on the agenda for that day.

Then, in a poignant moment, according to Luke, Jesus touched the man’s ear, and he was healed (Luke 22:51). You wonder what was going through the servant Malchus’ head at that point (John 18:10): “Are you SURE this isn’t the Messiah? My ear was on the ground. I was bleeding profusely. Now look. It’s like nothing ever happened.” But, nothing would deter their cause that day.

Jesus was able to calmly approach the arrest because things were settled between Him and the Father. He had surrendered Himself completely. Jesus was emotionally and spiritually prepared for that day.

What things are rocky inside of you today? What is unsettled? What answer or direction do you need? What reassurance could God provide? What is going on in you that is anything but calm today? I want to challenge you to carve out a short amount of time, even your daily commute, to surrender these things to God.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

When You Have to Go It Alone

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Matthew 26:39-46

At perhaps the most agonizing moment of Jesus’ life, he needed the support of the disciples. Even though He had come to earth with eyes wide open concerning His mission, the reality was almost too much to bear. As much as He desired to enlist His friends in this lament, Gethsemane was the starting point of a path that He had to walk alone.

Sure it would have been great to have the support and comfort of His companions, but they weren’t available to Him. Whether it was a very late night or they just couldn’t comprehend the weightiness of the matter, even Jesus’ inner circle of Peter, James and John couldn’t hang with Him.

There alone with the Father in the garden, Jesus makes an impassioned plea, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Jesus wasn’t trying to abort His mission at this point. His will wasn’t necessarily opposed to the Father’s will. He speaks with surrender. Considering the physical suffering of the cross, the emotional suffering for His people, and the spiritual suffering of separation from the Father, Jesus desired one last assurance before the arrest took place.

Jesus’ second prayer reaffirms His commitment to His mission: "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." The events that will in moments transpire are completely unavoidable if people are ever to be reconciled to God. Jesus wakes His disciples up in time for the arrest.

When we face trouble, it’s a blessing to have another person by our side. But, it’s also easy to depend on the other person and avoid seeking God about the problem. No one likes to go down any painful path alone. But, loneliness will lead us to the One who can answer our prayer. Even if the answer is to walk in obedience to our mission here on this earth, we have assurance that it’s God’s answer.

What are you facing these days that even the closest people around you don’t seem to understand? Most of us are overdriving our headlights emotionally. We simply can’t take on much more. But, there is One, our Father, who has the capacity to listen and to direct us. He never sleeps. He is never checked out. He is always available.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Overwhelmed with Sorrow

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Matthew 26:36-38

Jesus consented to His mission long before He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. As God, He knew that there was no other way to redeem anyone except that He would lay down His life.

One of the mysteries of faith is that Jesus is fully God and fully man. This is not a 50/50 equation. He is 100 percent God and 100 percent man. That is difficult to wrap our minds around, but that’s okay.

As His crucifixion neared, Jesus went to the Gethsemane to pray and to work through some intense feelings. One might think that the Son of Man who so brashly proclaimed His divinity to the religious leaders would approach His death with more of a “git ur done” attitude. But, Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow.

As a man, Jesus had never experienced death, especially a death accompanied by such torture and humiliation. Anyone who can sit through the scenes in the movie, The Passion of the Christ, without falling apart, must have a heart of stone. The agony is overwhelming. Jesus knew what was coming.

As God, Jesus faced taking on “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). This may have brought more anguish than the prospect of physical pain. Jesus had never been separated from the Father, not even in a small degree. Now, the Holy One, who had always been set apart from evil, would take on all of it and face separation from the Father.

The driving aspect of Jesus’ sorrow was over the lostness of people. He viewed us as “harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus knew that there was no other way for us to be reconciled with God. We certainly couldn’t save ourselves.

At Gethsemane, Jesus proves many things to us. He gives us the most extreme example of fully surrendering ourselves to God. Jesus doesn’t present obedience to the Father as the path to a problem-free life. He shows us that there is something better than a life devoid of troubles; namely, a blessed life.

Jesus expressed that real men experience real emotions. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel sorrowful. It’s okay to take those things to the Father.

Jesus showed us how important we are to Him. At great personal sacrifice, He died for our sins. “God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son…” (John 3:16).

Where do these words intersect with your life today? What are you feeling deeply that you need to lay before God? What are you struggling with that you need might need to surrender to Him?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Discussion Guides Available

Discussion Guides for the Daily Devotionals and the Sunday Messages at Brookwood Church are available as a free download at These are written on Sunday morning each week (all 52!) and posted by 3 pm Eastern on Sunday.

The Discussion Guides can be used by individuals, small groups, or a couple of friends over coffee.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:" 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. 'But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."

Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."

But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
Matthew 26:31-35

How many times in a moment of emotion have we pledged our undying commitment to something? If we can just get one more chance, we will never ________ or we will always ________. Fill in the blank.

Why couldn’t it be that easy? We could just declare what we wanted to be, and boom, it would happen. We could be thinner, smarter and better looking all in one fell swoop.

Peter’s sentiment bore some truth. While he expressed this in an idealistic and impulsive way, according to history, Peter did die for Jesus and never disowned him, later on. But, for now, there were a few things Peter needed to work out.

His heart was in the right place. The problem was that the rest of him just wasn’t quite there. For any of us that have made a new year’s resolution, we can certainly relate.

Sure enough, while Peter waited in the courtyard during Jesus’ trial, three different people ask him if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Three times Peter denied belonging to Jesus. Then, the rooster crowed, and Jesus’ words sunk in. (Matthew 26:69-75). At times it would certainly seem easier to die for Christ than to live for Him. Peter probably felt that Jesus would be done with Him at this point.

But, a remarkable thing happened. Not 60 days from those denials, Peter stood up and spoke to thousands on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). As his sermon concluded, about 3000 accepted the message and were baptized (Acts 2:41). Apparently, Jesus wasn’t finished with Peter.

What are the things that you would like to be, but just aren’t? What would you like to stand up and declare? Don’t give up on it. Just don’t expect everything to happen all at once. Maybe you’ve even made a complete fool of yourself like Peter, if you’re humble about it, God can even use your foolishness (and mine) to help you grow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

You Are What You Eat

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:26-30

It’s interesting that Jesus chose food as the lingering symbol of His death. Most people are remembered with a memorial service and a final resting place. The resurrected Christ had neither.

Why food? Well, food is readily available. Most of us encounter it several times a day. Unless we choose, we are never really without food.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our physical life depends on nutrition and nourishment.

After His 40 day fast in the desert, the Devil tempted Jesus by asking Him to turn stones into bread. Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus replied, “'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4).

Jesus went further by telling the Jews, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:50-51). Just as our physical life depends on physical food, our spiritual life depends on Christ’s sacrifice. Our goal is not necessarily to take communion every day, but to recognize that our wellbeing, physically and spiritually, is tied to Christ.

Food is also personal. When we eat something, it literally becomes part of us. “You are what you eat,” you know. Jesus’ hope for us was never that we would try hard enough and live up to His example. Our hope comes from that fact that Jesus is present in us. The only way that we can truly live a Christian life is for Jesus to live His life through us. Our job is to avoid getting in His way. As we surrender ourselves, our plans, and our ways to Him, He is able to come shining through.

For today, I want to encourage you to do something that’s perhaps a bit unorthodox. When you pick up your sandwich and drink a soda or sweet tea, thank Him for providing all that you need to live – physically and spiritually. This won’t replace an official communion service, but it is a daily reminder of how good God is to us – all the way around.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bad Baby Names

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

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"

Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?"

Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you."
Matthew 26:20-25

I don’t know of anyone who has ever named their child “Judas.” Jerry Seinfeld used to joke that if people named their child “Jeeves,” that child would inevitably turn out to be someone’s butler. “To the Peace Center, Jeeves.”

“Judas” really isn’t the name recognition that any of us want. Judas was driven by greed. As the disciples treasurer, he tended to help himself (John 12:4-6).

Judas’ specific actions of betrayal were prophesied hundreds of years before they happened. Psalm 41:9 foretells that “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” We find the fulfillment in Luke 22:3-4. Zechariah predicted the exact price of 30 pieces of silver that would be paid, 500 years before it happened (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:14-15). Both Jeremiah and Zechariah revealed that the money would be returned and would be used to purchase a Potter’s field (Zechariah 11:12-13; Jeremiah 19:1-13; 32:6-9; Matthew 27:3-10).

Was Judas’ wickedness a part of God’s plan? Judas plays a unique, if undesirable, role in the days leading to Jesus’ death. It would be easy to turn Judas into some sort of detestable beast, a Hannibal Lecter-type disciple. Certainly he was something that we could never become. Yet Judas’ sin and ours drove Jesus to the cross of Calvary. We’re not so innocent. Fortunately, through Christ’s death and His forgiveness, we are redeemed.

Judas regretted his actions to the point of taking his own life (Matthew 27:5). If only he had known that even his actions were forgivable. No one is unredeemable.

There is no sin bigger than God’s ability to forgive. What is dragging you down these days? Wouldn’t you like to be free? Give what is binding you to God and seek His forgiveness. He’d love to forgive you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Go Thou, and Revoke His Man Card

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover."

"Where do you want us to prepare for it?" they asked.

He replied, "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there."

They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
Luke 22:7-13

During Passover, Jews celebrate the exodus from Egypt. It’s a time to gather with family and close friends to remember the deliverance of God’s people from their oppressors. The Last Supper being held at a Passover feast is highly symbolic. Finally, everyone can be delivered from all oppression through Christ.

Jesus gives his disciples some fairly cryptic instructions: “a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.” Just how many men and how many jars of water would there be in the city? How would the disciples know which one? Well, in the culture of the day, it was fairly easy. Men didn’t carry water. Women were responsible for the water carrying. (I’m not saying it was right. I’m just saying that’s the way it was).

When Jesus told the disciples to find the man carrying the water jar, He could have said “find the man carrying a purse” or “find the man walking out of the Sex in the City movie.” There would only have been one. The disciples probably felt the instruction should be “find the man with the water jar and revoke his man card.” Everyone would have understood.

We don’t know why the man was carrying the water jar that day. Maybe his wife was ill, and it was water day. Maybe he lost a bet. Maybe he was making amends. Whatever the reason, the disciples didn’t question Jesus’ instructions. There’s not even one comment or criticism among them. They just went, found the man, and prepared for Passover.

For the man with the jar, it was an unusual task on an ordinary day. For the disciples, it was a little tradition with the Son of God. For Jesus, it was a sign of things to come later that week.

Who you do you relate to from this account today? Are you the person with an unusual assignment? Are you just going about an ordinary day? Are you slightly confused about the next step God is leading you into?

God freed the captives from Egypt, and then instructed His People to celebrate the annual feast of Passover. He intended that the Passover would point to the fulfillment of the promise: the sacrifice of His Own Son. God even chose that man to do the water duty on that day. God didn’t make it up as He went. He had it all in mind before it even happened. And, of course, He had you and I in mind as well.

This day, this life – neither is an accident. Knowing that God loves you, how are you approaching this day?

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Series Starts

I hope that you've benefitted from two full months on Abraham. I have certainly discovered things that I never really thought about before, and I've been on this path for nearly 40 years.

This next week we turn toward the events leading up to Easter. We will look at how God's eternal plan culminated in one profound week: The Week that Changed the World. I would encourage you to also join us at Brookwood Church for the message series, March 21-April 4. If you are outside of the Greenville, SC area, you can view the services online at The Sunday services are posted every Sunday afternoon. For further study, take a look at the Message Discussion Guide that is intended for Small Groups, individuals, or just a couple of friends over coffee: The Guides also appear on Sunday afternoons.

Lastly, feel free to add your comments and observations to the Devotional blog at

Thanks for following,
Allen White

PS Don't forget to set your clock one hour AHEAD on Saturday night!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A+ Christians and D- Christians

Life. Interrupted. Week 8 Day 5

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (NIV)

Everyone appreciates a passing grade. No one wants to fail. When I was in fifth grade, I received an “F” on a pop quiz. I only scored two correct answers out of five. It’s the only failing grade I ever received in school. (Now, I know that some people just aren’t into school. I’m not bragging. For the sake of full disclosure, I was also the kid who struck out at tee ball. Ouch! The ball is right there… I quit the team.)

Our educational system has indoctrinated us with the idea of what it takes to measure up. If we can accomplish the first three letters of the alphabet (A, B, C), then we’re in reasonably good shape. If we get a little further into the alphabet, we’re in trouble. If we perform well, we succeed. If we perform poorly, we fail.

God doesn’t grade on a curve. He also doesn’t grade on a scale. Sinners go to Hell. Saints go to Heaven. The only difference is that “saints” chose God’s forgiveness and “sinners” chose against it.
The test James speaks of in this passage is for “saints” only. Here’s the test: “if you persevere, you will receive the crown.” Here’s what it doesn’t say: “if you persevere with a smile on your face, if you never have a bad day, if you never utter a discouraging word, if you never doubt, if you sing hymns and recite platitudes while you’re suffering, then God will bless you” – those aren’t the conditions at all.

If we persevere, if we grin and bear it, if we admit our weakness and lean into God, if we just make it through, then we will receive the crown of life. There are no A-plus Christians or D-minus Christians. The crowns are all the same color. There is no gold, silver and bronze.

How do we pass God’s tests? By simply completing the test and not giving up. It’s okay to strike out. Just don’t quit the team.

What do you feel like giving up on today? I would encourage you to give up trying to figure everything out and surrender it to God. Instead of walking out, turn to God and say, “I just can’t fix this. God, I need you to take over.” Then, wait and see what He does.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

God’s Going to Bless You Anyway

Life. Interrupted. Week 8 Day 4

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." Genesis 22:15-18 (NIV)

God called Abraham and gave him the promise many years before this event (Genesis 12:1-3). How is it at this point in Abraham’s life that God applies a condition: “I will surely bless you…because you have obeyed me”? Was there a loophole?

God chose Abraham to start a people of God’s own. From the very beginning, God had an idea of what His people would be like. God wanted people who would resemble Him. But, between the Tower of Babel and the Call of Abraham, there really wasn’t anyone around that looked like one of God’s people. Should God start over? Should God go back to the garden?

God chose Abraham knowing two things very clearly: Abraham didn’t resemble God, and God was going to start a people through Abraham. Wasn’t there someone more devoted? Wasn’t there someone who wouldn’t choose adultery or lying as an option? Maybe there was. Maybe there wasn’t.

This is where our lives connect with Abraham’s life: God chose Abraham and us based upon His desire to have a relationship with us. And, God has a plan to bless us and to fulfill His will through us. None of us are prepared. None of us are good enough. But, nothing is impossible with God.

God delivers on His promises to us, but not all at once. For Abraham, the promise took a process. Abraham’s tests were not to prove his worth, but to cause him to more closely reflect God’s character. God didn’t put conditions on His promise when He gave it. If you do X, then I will give you Y. If passing a test was the criteria for God’s blessing, then Abraham failed miserably. And, he certainly wasn’t wealthy enough to buy all of the Mulligans needed to cover his faults.

Abraham never reached perfection in this life (and neither will we). But, with each test, Abraham grew a little closer to resembling his Father. That gives us all hope. As we keep moving forward, as we continue to lean into God, as we give up our selfish ways and surrender to Him, we will develop more of His character. He’s going to bless us anyway. We don’t have to earn that.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Time Change This Weekend (March 14)

We get to Spring Forward one hour this Sunday, March 14. Apparently, this is also the weekend to change the baking soda in your refrigerator and change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Did I mentioned that you also lose an hour?

So, unless you are in Arizona, Hawaii or half of Indiana, remember to change your clock or else you will be an hour early for church? Or is it an hour late?

The gods of Mastercard and Visa?

Life. Interrupted. Week 8 Day 3

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22:13-15 (NIV)

God used this circumstance to reveal His character to Abraham. God demonstrates one of His compound names: Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD Will Provide. This is more than a promise. This is part of the unchanging nature and character of God.

Providing is not what God does on occasion. It’s Who He is. Just like you might have brown hair or blue eyes, God is our Provider. It would be against His nature not to.

What does God provide? “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Recently, my second grader was studying for his economics exam. (What?!) He learned that needs were necessary for living. He also learned that wants are things we would like to have but don’t necessarily need. God will provide for all of our needs, but He might not provide for all of our greeds.

In our culture, we are prone to act to quickly. Think about it. When we need something, do we reach out to God in prayer or do we reach for our credit card? Often God does not provide for us because we’ve taken care of things ourselves. We haven’t given God the opportunity to provide.

What do you need today? Have you asked God to provide? Ask Him right now. It’s in His nature.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Doing the Unthinkable

Life. Interrupted. Week 8 Day 2

"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.
Genesis 22:7-8

Notice how Abraham’s faith shines through. He reassures his son that God will provide the lamb. All that Abraham knows at this point is that the child of promise, conceived by miraculous means, will be offered to God as a sacrifice. He assumes that the sacrifice is Isaac. What Abraham doesn’t know is that his words and actions point toward “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The thought of losing a child seems unbearable. The thought of causing your child’s death, even at God’s command, seems unthinkable. Here in what must have been a time of personal anguish for Abraham, we can glimpse the cost to God when He offered His Own Son to die for our sins.

Think of how much we are worth to God. At great personal loss, He paid the price to redeem us. If you were feeling a little worthless today, remember that God paid the ultimate price for you. You are worth everything to Him.

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is God Wearing You Out?

Life. Interrupted. Week 8 Day 1

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied. Then God said,

"Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey…
Genesis 22:1-3 (NIV)

I’m not sure what is harder to believe: God’s request or Abraham’s compliance. Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes. What would be going through your head? “Are you kidding me? After all that we’ve been through to get this boy, now you want you want me to kill him? God, you are wearing me out on this.” Wouldn’t you feel frustrated and confused?

Abraham didn’t show any of these emotions. He just got up the next morning, saddled his donkey, and took Isaac up the mountain. Maybe Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). Maybe Abraham had finally reached a place after several decades where he could trust God completely. He was at a very different place in his relationship with God. Abraham knew that he could trust God.

Throughout Abraham’s journey, he faced many failures and doubts, and he grew in his relationship with God. There really is no other place for a human to grow. Abraham started out more or less as a blank slate when he was called by God (Genesis 12). He trusted God enough to move, but he really didn’t know God.

When you begin to pile up Abraham’s problems: Sarai and the Egyptians, the promise and infertility, Hagar and Ishmael, Sodom and Gomorrah, doubting and laughter, you would think that Abraham’s faith would be devastated. Yet, the circumstances of his life provided fertile ground for Abraham to grow in his relationship with God. If Abraham had waited for things to calm down before he started growing spiritually, he still might be waiting today.

What test are you facing today? Is there something that God is asking you to give up? God will strip away everything that hinders our dependence on Him. The amount of struggle and drama is really up to you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Days of Haagen-Dazs and LA Law

Life. Interrupted. Week 7 Day 5

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Psalm 68:5-6

God provides what we lack. To the fatherless, He is our Father. To the husbandless, He is the spouse. For the lonely, He provides community. For the prisoners, He sets their hearts free. But, the rebellious, the disobedient, the self-willed, the God-has-abandoned-me-so-I’ll-just-do-it-myself crowd, they end up in an unpleasant place.

I was single until I was 35 years old. Now, while there were great days when I knew that I could do whatever I wanted and nobody would care. There were also sad days when I knew nobody would care about whatever I did. I’d blow up the black balloons and drown my sorrows in gallons of Haagen-Dazs and episodes of LA Law.

Now before you started feeling sorry for me (or ridiculing me), here’s the deal: my situation was my choice. There were people all around me. And, of course, there was God who loved me.

God wants to give us what we need to live our lives for Him. God has great plans for us. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). He has the desire and ability to lead us into satisfying, relationally-rich lives, if we are willing.

As my friend, Al Cleveland says, “It seems all I can control is the amount of resistance I offer against his leading. He seems quite determined to save me from myself.”

How much resistance are you putting up today? What do you need today? How can you step out of the way and let God provide?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My apologies to Aaron Keyes...

Aaron Keyes is the songwriter of "Not Guilty Anymore," not Aaron Shust. My apologies for the confusion. It's an awesome song.

Not Guilty Anymore

Life. Interrupted. Week 7 Day 4

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NIV)

“Though every act of sin is forgivable, the effects of some are not erasable.” – Chuck Swindoll

Why was Ishmael even there that day? Didn’t Ishmael’s birth come as a result of Sarah’s scheming? Now that Sarah had the “perfect,” promised family, her resentment for the “extended” family was clear. But, beyond Ishmael’s taunts and the family’s dysfunction, Ishmael was also a reminder of Abraham and Sarah’s unfaithfulness to God. Ishmael represented more than just a rowdy teenager. Ishmael represented their shame.

How do we feel when we face reminders of our past? Even though we have been forgiven, even though we have victory in that area, it’s easy to feel guilty and ashamed. Our pride is offended at the idea that we could have ever done such a thing.

Aaron Keyes sings God’s affirmation to us in Not Guilty Anymore: “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, doesn’t matter what you’re coming from, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been. Hear me tell you, I forgive.

“You’re not guilty anymore. You’re not filthy anymore. I love you, mercy is yours. You’re not broken anymore, you’re not captive anymore. I love you, mercy is yours.”

The things we are so ashamed of are reminders of God’s grace.

Click HERE to listen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

You're Invited to Talk Back

I would like to hear from you. Please feel free to add comments or ask questions on this devotional blog. For those of you who receive the devotionals by email, just surf over to:, then scroll to the bottom of the devotional and click the link for "comments." Just write your questions or comments in the box and press "send."

I'd love to hear what you think.

Is Your Life “It’s Complicated” or “Mayberry”?

Life. Interrupted. Week 7 Day 3

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation."

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
Genesis 21:17-21 (NIV)

Abraham’s family situation was complicated. It certainly wasn’t Mayberry. Now that God had given Abraham and Sarah the heir to the promise, they didn’t need a spare. At Sarah’s prompting and with God’s direction (Genesis 21:11-13), Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away.

Was Ishmael a mistake? Was Ishmael a problem that would never be resolved? Ishmael was out of Abraham’s family, but not out of God’s blessing.

Regardless of who you are, how you got here, or what you’ve done, God loves you and wants to bless you. That’s just Who God is. If you feel that you don’t deserve God’s blessing, well, that’s how it’s supposed to be. You and I don’t deserve God’s blessing.

God loves you, and there’s really nothing you can do about that.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Are You Stingy with God’s Grace?

Life. Interrupted. Week 7 Day 2

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac." Genesis 21:8-10 (NIV)

Sarah faced a common, but unbecoming dilemma. She had received God’s grace, but she refused to offer God’s grace to others. Sure there was some sibling rivalry between Ishmael and Isaac as well as plenty of tension between Sarah and Hagar. It was not your typical step family situation, if there is a typical one.

God never intended for us to hoard His grace. He gives grace to save us (Ephesians 2:8-9) and grace to sustain us (2 Corinthians 12:9). God also gives His grace for us to give to others. In 1 Peter 4:10 we read, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” How do we administer God’s grace? “Administer” used here is the same word as “stewardship.” Everyone who receives God’s grace has become a steward or manager of God’s grace. It’s our job to extend God’s grace to those around us by using our spiritual gifts (charismata or “grace gifts”).

How has God blessed you with His grace? How can you extend God’s grace through forgiveness, encouragement, mercy or helps today?