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A New Kind of Love



John 13:34 (NLT)
So now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

Maundy Thursday.  The name comes from the Latin ‘commandment’ – this new commandment of love that Jesus illustrated in the washing of the disciples feet.  While knowing suffering and death were imminent, Jesus became a humble servant in washing the feet of His beloved friends.  Friends and enemies.  Jesus bent to wipe Peter’s feet who, within hours, would swear an oath denying any association.  Jesus stooped to hold Judas’ foot, knowing that Judas held in his hands the very coins that betrayed Him.  A commandment to love.  Today is an opportunity for renewed commitment to this kind of love.

The Tenebrae service is the one I find most meaningful throughout the entire year.  Why?  Because I can identify with the disciples.  I love Jesus.  I believe He is the Son of God.  I soak up His teaching, but am sometimes confused by it.  I try my best to live His example.  However, as each candle is extinguished, as each disciple falls away, I am one of them.  I am afraid that if I were ever truly tested, I would deny and desert Him.  I am reminded of missed opportunities to speak about my love for Him or to do the right thing.  The final darkness and silence leave me to my thoughts and draw me close to God with my confession of weakness.  I am reminded that I helped put Jesus on the cross.

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Another Final Lesson

Luke
19:41-42, 44 (MSG)
When
the city came into view, He wept over it. 
“If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for
you!  But now it’s too late…. because you
didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.”
Matthew recounts another parable
Jesus told in His final days – another critical, last minute lesson.  Remember, Jesus was at the end of His
ministry and didn’t have time to sugarcoat His message.
It was a story about a King’s wedding reception
for His Son.  Yes, capital K and capital
S.  The customary save the date notices
had been sent, then messengers spread the word that the banquet was ready.  “But [those invited] paid no attention and
went off – one to his field, another to his business.”  Others abused and killed the messengers.  The King decided those who were too
preoccupied with their day-to-day lives to celebrate with Him didn’t deserve
the festivities.  The King killed
them.  Ouch!
Because He had a wonderful party prepared,
the King sent new messengers to gather up anyone and everyone they could
find.  As was the custom, the King
provided party clothes to all the guests because many, especially in this
situation, couldn’t dress appropriately on their own.  The ballroom was packed with all sorts of
people!
But the King noticed a man in street clothes
who apparently had refused to change. 
The Host, who had freely offered the appropriate attire, was
insulted.  The man was speechless when
asked “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?”  The King threw him out and ordered severe
punishment.  Ouch again!
What’s the take-away message?
God offers an undeserved invitation to
undeserving people- anyone and everyone. 
In addition, He freely, graciously provides the righteousness required
to stand in His presence by forgiving our sins. 
Some of us are too busy.  Others
are too stubborn to change our ways.  God doesn’t appear to be
particularly understanding of our excuses.
Today’s scripture tells us Jesus wept about
the choices His people made.  Consider reading the story again. You have
been invited!  How have you RSVP’d?
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A Final Lesson

Matthew
21:43 (MSG)
Jesus
said, “Right – and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles: The stone the
masons threw out is now the cornerstone. 
This is God’s work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!  This is the way it is with you.  God’s kingdom will be taken back from you and
handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life.”
What did Jesus teach between Palm Sunday and
The Last Supper?  I’m guessing these
final lessons were extremely important – messages people then (and now!) need
to hear.  Warning!  Some of it is pretty harsh.
In one parable, Jesus described God assigning
responsibility to the Israelites for maintaining and harvesting His vineyard/kingdom.  According to crop sharing customs, the
tenants would owe the owner/God rent periodically.  So three times God sent prophets to speak
with the Israelites about collecting His due. 
The prophets brought messages from God, the owner – instructions for better
kingdom care and requests for God’s portion. 
The tenants had managed the vineyard independently for so long that they
had forgotten their agreement with the owner. 
They didn’t want to change their ways and resented the implication that
they owed the owner anything.  Instead of
listening to God’s messages, the religious leaders beat and persecuted the
prophets.  Finally God sent his son Jesus
who perhaps would carry more weight with the religious leaders, but instead the
leaders saw an opportunity to seize power by killing the heir.
In this retelling, I’ve mixed the parable
with the traditional interpretation. 
However, we shouldn’t leave the interpretation in an ancient vineyard.  The Bible speaks to modern day situations too.  Applying the parable to Holy Week 2014 poses many
questions.
What if we believers are responsible for
growing God’s post-resurrection kingdom until Christ returns?  Are our efforts productive?  Is God sending messengers to correct our behavior?  Are we receptive?  Do we honor the owner/tenant relationship or
do we assume an ownership attitude?  What
agreement do we have with God as to our share and His share?  Are we honoring this contract (or covenant)?  Are we willing to share the results of our hard
work and the accompanying accolades with Him? 
And ultimately, would we give it all over to Jesus or try to maintain power
and control?
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Clearing the Temple

1
Corinthians 3:16-17 (NLT)
Don’t
you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit
of God lives in you?  God will destroy
anyone who destroys this temple.  For God’s
temple is holy, and you are that temple.
We have celebrated Jesus’ triumphal entry
into Jerusalem.  We know, and He knew, death
was imminent.  What were Jesus’
priorities in those final hours?  He went
straight to the office, so to speak. 
Mark says that right after the parade Jesus went to the Temple and “looked
around at everything but since it was already late” He didn’t stay.  Luke says Jesus taught at the Temple every
day while the Jewish leaders plotted his death. 
But first….
But first, Jesus cleared the Temple.  He was justifiably angry at the Temple’s
misuse.  Money changers were inflating
the exchange rate.  Merchants were
profiting from the sale of sacrificial animals. 
The Temple had become a tourist market place.  There was no room for God in this space, no
quiet for prayer, none of God’s justice and mercy.
Later, Paul tells us that we are God’s
temple, each of us individually and all of us together.  What would Jesus see if He looked around now?  Is your bustling life and faith community
honoring God properly?  Is there quiet
space for prayer?  Is God’s justice and
mercy active?
You are that temple.  What would Jesus clear out?
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Open The Door

Revelation
3:20 (NLT)
“Look!  I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my voice and open the door, I
will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
Jesus is more than a set of rules or
a moral code of conduct.  He is calling
you into a relationship!  Look at this
verse.  He’ll never force Himself into
your life, but He persistently knocks. 
If you hear His voice calling you, open the door and the two of you will
be friends sharing the ups and downs of life over a meal.  Fellowship. 
Relationship.
The person who loves you enough to
stretch His arms on a cross invites you into relationship.  This is a safe place.  Jesus cares about the details of your
life.  He forgives your mistakes.  He knows you better than anyone could.  Open the door.  Share your heart with Him.  Let Him love you.  Fall in love with Him!
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Fall in Love!

John
21:16 (NLT)
Jesus
repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
What does Jesus mean to you?  Is He a moral code of conduct?  The path to heaven?  A model of goodness?  A passion in your life? Were your answers
yes, yes, yes, and kinda?  If so, Jesus
might be just a useful tool in your toolbox or a set of rules to be debated.
Without love and passion, Jesus is religion, not life.
Fall in love with Him!  Let Him grab your heart and your senses!  Look around at all the gifts God has given us
in nature!  The universe reveals His
glory – the beauty, grandeur, power, intricacy, generosity, care…  But those gifts aren’t enough.  Human nature is to turn away from His
sovereignty, His rule, and want control for ourselves.  Even so, He loves us.  That’s why Jesus dwelt among us and died to
repair this broken relationship that we continue to break.  Day after day God gives us grace – His undeserved
love and forgiveness.  Who would do that?
Look at the cross.  Stare at it. 
See those arms spread eternally wide open for you.  For
you. 
Who would love you like
that?  Who?  Only God could love you into a passionate,
purposeful life filled with His Spirit. 
The world might seduce you with temporary pleasure, but only God can
satisfy.  Fall in love with Him!
This devotion was inspired by the
writing of Ann Voscamp (http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/04/why-you-really-have-to-keep-falling-in-love/)
and Paul Tripp (http://paultripp.com/articles/posts/fall-in-love-again).
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On My Knees

Romans
5:6-8 (NLT)
When
we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us
sinners.  Now, most people would not be
willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing
to die for a person who is especially good. 
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us
while we were still sinners.
I hope you’ve been contemplating
grace – the undeserved love and forgiveness God pours over you.  Has your appreciation for His grace increased?  I hope to personally return to a place where
God’s grace amazes me every time I
enter His presence.
What happened to the practice of
kneeling in prayer?  Except occasionally
in services of another denomination, I’ve never knelt for prayer.  First, I wasn’t raised with the practice and
second, it seems uncomfortable and distracting. 
The kneeling position shows humility and respect.  Am I reflecting self-importance by never
kneeling?  Is bowing my head enough to
give my heart the proper attitude?
No matter my physical position, the
posture of my heart can and should bow to God. 
Not to cower in fear but to humbly respect His mercy for me, a screw-up,
to fall on my knees in gratitude.  My
point is that when my posture isn’t physical, it’s harder to remember my place.  Is this part of why I tend to take God’s
grace for granted?
Here are the lyrics to a song that
spurred these thoughts and a YouTube link to listen:
 “Your Grace Still Amazes Me”
My faithful Father, enduring Friend
Your tender mercy’s like a river with no end
It overwhelms me, covers my sin
Each time I come into Your presence
I stand in wonder once again

Your grace still amazes me
Your love is still a mystery
Each day I fall on my knees
Your grace still amazes me
‘Cause Your grace still amazes me

Oh, patient Savior, You make me whole
You are the Author and the Healer of my soul
What can I give You, Lord, what can I say
I know there’s no way to repay You
Only to offer You my praise

It’s deeper, it’s wider
It’s stronger, it’s higher
It’s deeper it’s wider
It’s stronger, it’s higher than anything my eyes can see

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXVUYC_ykwE
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What is Grace?

Romans
5:15, 18, 20 (NLT)
For
the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many.  But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and
his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.  Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for
everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship
with God and a new life for everyone. 
God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they
were.  But as people sinned more and
more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.  (see the MSG translation below)
Grace has been a theme in my
devotions lately.  What is grace?  How do you define grace?  Not the ‘good posture and flowing movements’
sort of grace.  What is God’s grace?
Here’s my favorite definition:  Grace is the undeserved love of God.  It is God’s love for us that can’t be earned
or repaid.  It’s a gift offered freely
without strings attached.  An undeserved
gift.
I feel as though we’ve lost the
significance of God’s grace.  We so often
hear how much God loves us (and He does!), that we forget that He doesn’t have
to.  We aren’t entitled to His love.  We haven’t been good enough for Him.  We have nothing to offer except our gratitude
and reciprocal love. 
God doesn’t have to love us.  But He does. 
God loves us so much that He became one of us and suffered excruciating physical
and emotional pain to guarantee our place in His eternal presence.  God could have given up on the human race
long ago when time and time again we failed to trust Him.  But He didn’t.  He continues to beckon us into a personal and
trusting relationship.
Do you recognize God’s grace?  Do you appreciate it?
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Excerpts
Romans 5:15-20 (MSG)
The
verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins
that followed was this wonderful life sentence. 
If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you
imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who
grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand
setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?
Here
it is in a nutshell:  Just as one person
did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person
did it right and got us out of it.  But
more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life!
All
that passing laws against sin did was to produce more lawbreakers.  But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in
competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.    When it’s sin
versus grace, grace wins hands down.

Our Privilege

Philippians
1:28-30 (NLT)
Don’t
be intimidated in any way by your enemies. 
For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but
also the privilege of suffering for Him. 
We are in this struggle together.
It is absolutely a privilege to be
called a child of God.  I am so grateful
for forgiveness, second chances and the life I share with Him.
But really?  Is suffering for Jesus really a privilege?
How can we adjust our thinking to
make this true?
Who is the enemy?
What are our struggles as Christians
in the United States?
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Adjust the Focus

Hebrews
12:2 (NLT)
We
do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects
our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting
him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside
God’s throne.
We move toward whatever we focus on.  If you think about what someone else can do
rather than what you can do, you feel slighted. 
If you dwell on your wish list of ‘toys’, you don’t enjoy what you
already have.  If you keep telling
yourself  not to eat the M&Ms on the counter, you eventually eat them (at
least I do).
So how do we follow Jesus’
example?  By knowing Him through prayer
and scripture, then using that scripture as guard rails to stay on track.  By viewing the details of life through His
lense.  By journeying with spiritual
friends and Christian community.  By
focusing on the positive and letting the rest fade away.
How can you adjust your focus to
move closer to Jesus?
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