Easter: The Cross

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Salome - A Journey of Correction - Easter

Who was Salome? She was at the foot of the Cross of Jesus. Most commentators identify “his mother’s sister” as Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John (Matt.20:20-23). As the mother of James and John she was the one who once asked Jesus a very selfish request, “Can my two sons have places of honor in glory?” In other words she wanted something for her two sons. She wanted one of them to sit at the right hand of Jesus’ throne and the other to sit on the left hand of Jesus’ throne. What she asked of Jesus was a very selfish request. She wanted the best for her two sons.

Jesus responded (Matt.20:20-24) by saying that she didn’t know what she was asking.
“Can they drink the cup that I going to drink?” (i.e. referring to his death). Salome’s request was born out of pride and selfishness.

Did her two sons deserve thrones? Thrones are not given away, you have to earn them. Salome had forgotten the true cost of reward. She did not realize that suffering comes before reward. There is no crown without a cross. There is no wearing of a crown without the drinking of the cup of suffering. Even the Lord Jesus Christ himself did not return to the throne of heaven except by way of the cross.

Sometimes we can be so selfish in our desires. Salome’s request for her two sons was a selfish, earthly, proud request. She did not realize the price that her two sons would have to pay. Remembers James, he was martyred and John was exiled before they went home to glory. Salome was at the place of correction standing at the cross, realizing what it cost Jesus, the Son of God, to give up. Jesus gave up the glory of heaven and became a servant for us by giving his life for us.

As we contemplate the cross I wonder if we are corrected because of our selfish desires. Jesus says to us, “Are you willing to drink this cup?” We say, “Oh no, Lord, we just want the answer to our prayers!” Jesus continues, “Are you willing to suffer for me?” We respond, “Oh no, Lord, I just want the blessing, not the suffering!” Salome says to each one of us this morning, “The cross is a place of correction.” When we contemplate what Jesus did for us and gave up for us, what he endured for us and what suffered for us, the cross is a journey of correction in the light of our own selfish desires and ambitions.
Have you journeyed to the Cross of Correction? You know I love ya, Don

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mary Magdalene – A Journey of Redemption - Easter


Luke 8:2 tells us that Mary Magdalene was a woman whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. She had been in bondage to Satan for a long time. These seven demons made her do terrible things. Satan was at work in her life to destroy, cause havoc, wreck her physically, emotionally and spiritually. Mary was in a hopeless and helpless situation.

Then Jesus came along and cast out these seven demons. Jesus delivered Mary from her bondage and set her free. Mary Magdalene was miraculously saved from her dilemma. Mary Magdalene was redeemed and bought back from the bondage she was in. She was ultimately delivered through a miraculous encounter with Jesus.

When we talk about the deliverance that Jesus can provided for Mary Magdalene I often think of a verse in Acts 26:18, which reads, “To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins…” A Journey to the cross is a journey of redemption.

When a person trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ for deliverance from the bondage of sin, these same marvelous changes take place in their life. They go from darkness to light (mental, moral, spiritual). They go from the power of Satan to the power of God (God begins to take control). They go from being guilty to experiencing forgiveness. They go from being spiritually impoverished to becoming spiritually wealthy (becoming heirs of the Kingdom).

This is what Jesus did for Mary Magdalene. He redeemed her and bought her out of her miserable condition.

But, redemption is a costly thing. When Jesus delivered Mary Magdalene it cost Him something. Standing there at the cross Mary saw the price being paid. Jesus had to die that we might be redeemed and bought back from bondage. Yes, redemption is a costly thing. It is no wonder Mary Magdalene was standing there at the cross. It is no wonder that Mary Magdalene was there at His burial. It is no wonder that Mary Magdalene was there at His resurrection. Mary Magdalene had experienced redemption and she stood near the cross because it was a place of redemption.
Have you journeyed to the Cross of Redemption? You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Devoted is not new...

God’s favor does not stop at the close of Acts. God would continue to work in the lives of believers who are devoted. Jonathan Edwards, John of the Cross, Henri Nouwen, John Calvin, Thomas Kelly, and E. Stanley Jones commonly attest to the devoted nature it takes to be a follower of Jesus in their writings. “God, in his word, greatly insists that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit, and that our hearts be engaged vigorously in our religion.” [1] “God perceives the imperfections within us, and because of his love for us, urges us to grow up.”[2] “Through the practice of a spiritual discipline we become attentive to that small voice and willing to respond when we hear it.”[3] “It is a very important consideration that we are consecrated and dedicated to God. It means that we will think, speak, meditate, and do all things with a view to God’s glory.”[4] “How, then, shall we lay hold of that life and power and live the life of prayer without ceasing? By quiet, persistent practice in turning all of our being, day and night, in prayer and inward surrender, toward him who calls in the deeps of our souls.” [5] “You cannot attain salvation by disciplines – it is a gift of God. But you cannot retain it without disciplines.”[6] Passionately devoted to growing in the image of Christ while demonstrating the humble attitude of Christ is commonly shared throughout the ages of the church

As  we celebrate Easter, it is a great time to renew our resolve to be followers of Jesus. We are to continue to be devoted... You know I love ya, Don


[1] Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds., Devotional Classics Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. (New York: Harper One, 2005), Jonathan Edwards, 19.

[2] Foster and Smith, Devotional Classics Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. John of the Cross. 37.

[3] Foster and Smith, Devotional Classics Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. Henri J. M Nouwen 81.

[4] Foster and Smith, Devotional Classics Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. John Calvin. 130.

[5] Foster & Smith, Devotional Classics Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. Thomas Kelly. 176.

[6] Foster & Smith, Devotional Classics Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups. E. Stanley Jones. 281.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I am resolved to be devoted!

In the first chapter of Daniel, Judah had fallen and the Jewish Kingdoms had come to an end. The Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, took Hebrew children as captives and prisoners to live in a foreign land as slaves. These children had been taken from their homes as well as everything they knew as safe. It would have been a very frightening time. Guards separated the strongest and handsome of the captives in preparation for them to serve in the royal courts. A select group was to be the chosen few to serve the king and the palace. The selected captives would be treated with the best that royal life could offer. The guards offered the hungry, hurting, grieving, and lonely young men the choice life of fine foods, drinks, and pleasure. Daniel was one of the chosen few and he refused to defile himself with the pagan culture. He resolved to abstain from the any pagan pleasures that were offered in order to maintain his loyalty to his God.

Daniel witnesses several trials through his captivity. Yet, decades later his resolve would see him through a visit to a den of hungry lions. In Daniel 6, Daniel would pray three times a day. His time with God was precious and was his lifeline to the Creator. King Darius and the Medes conquer the Babylonians. The new governors request a decree, which requires everyone to pray to the pagan king. Daniel responds by remaining faithful to his resolve and goes home. Three times a day he looks toward Jerusalem and bows in prayer to give God thanks. The result is a trip to a den of hungry lions, where God would save Daniel. King Darius praises God and elevates Daniel as the leader of the entire country. 

            Daniel’s devotion is not unique throughout scripture. God responds favorably to a devoted nature by granting blessing and grace. Moses’ devotion to God would energize his ability to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. King David’s devotion to God would grant him courage to face a giant. Mary’s devotion to God prepared her to carry God’s son. Stephen’s devotion would empower him to preach the message of the cross, endure being martyrdom and see Jesus standing in heaven. Peter’s devotion would break through cultural barriers so as to extend the gospel message to Gentiles. Saul would be blinded and experience a personal encounter with Jesus, which would result in a devoted life. Saul, renamed Paul, would travel the Roman Empire preaching, teaching, and establishing new churches throughout the region. Repeatedly, one’s encounter with God results in a devoted life. 

 I wan to be known as devoted. You know I love ya - Don 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Blame: The Responsibility

Isaiah states in 53 verse 10; “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin.” An offering is a sacrifice ceremonially offered as a payment for an offense. Jesus was perfect in every way…that is what made him acceptable to Holy, Perfect and Just God. Jesus was also willing to take responsibility for our offense…He took the blame.
In a concentration camp, a guard announced a shovel was missing. Screaming at the men, he kept insisting someone had stolen it.  He shouldered his rifle, ready to kill one prisoner at a time until a confession was made. As the story continues, a Scottish soldier broke ranks, stood stiffly at attention, and said, "I did it."  The guard killed the man. As they returned to camp, the shovels were counted. The guard had made a miss counted.  No shovel was missing after all.
Who does that?  What kind of person would take the blame for something he didn't do? Jesus does. Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Christ lived the life we could not live and took the punishment we could not take, to offer the hope we cannot resist!
Jesus took responsibility. We are not willing to blame Jesus…but Jesus was willing to take the blame as his own!You know I love ya, Don

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Blame: Ugliness

The death of Jesus was a bloody, gruesome, gore of an experience. It was not meant to be pleasant. Isaiah’s prophecies, predict that the suffering servant would come 680 years prior to Jesus birth. The coming savior has no attraction that people might think he would save them from their sins…Jesus was born in a simple stable, with common folk parents. He did not belong to any rabbi school and he did not have any political associations. Jesus was unattached and had nothing to call his own. Jesus is the suffering servant that is declared rejected and unattractive.
Sin is our “not right” nature in life. It is that which separates us from God. Sin is the ugliest part of who you are. Sacrifice is not attractive and unpleasant. Blood is an unpleasant subject to many because it brings to mind suffering and death. Curiously, the Bible is a book literally filled with blood. On 362 occasions the Old Testament speaks of blood, most often referring to sacrifices and death by violence. The New Testament also speaks of blood 92 times, most commonly in reference to violent death. Much of the Bible’s teaching about blood is in relation to the hundreds of appearances of related issues such as the Temple, priesthood, fire, and smoke.
The shedding of blood and animal sacrifice likely began with God, after the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, as God covered their nakedness and shame with the skin of an animal (Genesis 3:21). Other sacrifices were offered by Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job (Gen. 4:1-5; 8:20; 22:3, 13; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7; Job 1:5). Perhaps the most insightful sacrifice was done by Abraham in place of Isaac, where it was promised that one day, through Jesus, God would provide the ultimate sacrifice (Gen. 22:14).
Blood was again shed in Exodus at the Passover (Ex. 12:1-30), which was commemorated each year with the Feast of Passover. The process of animal sacrifice was an incredibly personal confession of sin. First, an unblemished animal was chosen, symbolizing perfection. Second, the worshipper would draw near the animal that was to be substituted in place of the worshipper. Third, the worshipper would lay hands on the animal to identify with it, confessing their sins in repentance over the animal. Fourth, the animal was then killed and its blood shed as the penalty for sin.
Nonetheless, the Old Testament practice of sacrificial atonement was declared by God to be insufficient for the remission of sin (Psalm 40:6; 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Hebrews 10:4). This is because those sacrifices were only preparatory in anticipation of the death of Jesus (Jeremiah 31:34b; Heb. 8:3-13). Blood sacrifice was unpleasant, unattractive, undesirable, and messy. It was shameful and filled with blame.
Isaiah 53:3 states: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”
Sin is ugly and it brings a shame that separates us from God. The Blame is unattractive.
You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Devoted to God and to each other!

Luke’s summary statement of Acts 2.42 records that salvation unified the believers as a community while establishing a new initiation in joining the band of Jesus followers. The believers remain a very Jewish community in Acts 2. Luke records the first Christians as demonstrating a devoted life to the Apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. These disciplines are supporting the growth and transformation of the early church in connection with their Jewish roots by praying at the temple (3.1; 6.9) and observing Jewish traditions (10.9-17). Minear describes the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming the early believers as; “the very emergence of faith is a work of the Spirit, for it bespeaks the weaving of a new fabric of relationship, personal and social, earthly and heaven, human and divine.”[1] The reception of Jesus as Lord and Savior changed the worldview. The commitment of the believer was no longer a cultural religious commitment, but a devotion to radical change within the believer and in the view of the world.

“Devoted” is defined in several dictionaries with a common theme of staying the course and remaining faithful. The TDNT defines προσκαρτερἐω as “to be devoted to.”[2]  TDNT explains the meaning of the word with examples consistently focused and persistently loyal. Strong’s Greek agrees with the TDNT adding, “continually devoting themselves.”[3] Louw-Nida further describes “devoted” as meaning; “to continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of and despite difficulty—‘to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in’.”[4] The choice of words that Luke uses is descriptive of the passion recorded in the passages following Acts 2.42.

I agree with Bock’s assessment that the imperfect periphrastic construction of the verb speaks directly to an active and ongoing devotion. Devoted (προσκαρτερἐω) is used ten times in the NT, and six of the ten are in the book of Acts (1.14; 2.42; 2.46; 6.4; 8.13; 10.7). Bock describes their devotion mentioned in Acts 2.42 as “echoes of their unity of mind as described in Acts 1.14.”[5] The early Christians demonstrated unity of mind, which encouraged their actions of living a committed to God and to each other. 

Seeking to be devoted to God and to each other...you know I love ya, Don

[1] Paul Sevier Minear. “Holy People, Holy Land, Holy City: The Genesis and Genius of Christian Attitudes.” Int. 37 1 Ja (1983), 23.

[2] W. Grundmann, III προσκαρτερω"  TDNT abr. G. Bromily ed. 417-418.

[3] R. L. Thomas,  προσκαρτερω" #4342  Strong’s: Updated edition.

[4] Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A.προσκαρτερω" #662 L&N (elect. 2nd edition.) 1996. New York: United Bible Societies.

[5] Darrell L. Bock, Acts. (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007). 149.