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April 16: The Crown of Thorns

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 06:23 AM PDT

Read: Mark 15:16-32

. . . twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. (v. 17 ESV)

It wasn’t enough for the soldiers in Jesus’ execution detail just to torture him. They also decided to make fun of him. Grabbing a branch from some nearby thornbush, the soldiers jammed a makeshift crown on Jesus’ head and bowed in mock worship, making a joke of his claim to be Israel’s king. It was soldiers’ humor, cops’ humor–tough, hardened men mocking a defenseless victim. Just hilarious.

Later, many in the crowd of onlookers at Golgotha joined in the fun, heaping scorn upon the figure hanging from the cross. Jesus not only endured a hideous death, but people even laughed at him while he died, taking gleeful pleasure in what they took to be his comeuppance.

Jesus simply endured it all–the taunting, the mockery, the laughter–as the prophet had foretold (cf. Isaiah 50:6). He silently bore the insults of the crowd, neither replying to them nor retaliating against them. In this, says the apostle, he left us an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21-23). Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame,” adds the writer to the Hebrews, “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). The chief part of that joy was to see God glorified through our salvation.

Can we ever thank him enough? –David Bast

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all you endured for me.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

Lent Devotions

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April 15: The Man Who Crucified Christ

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 08:24 AM PDT

Read: John 18:28–19:16

So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. (v. 16 ESV)

The Apostles’ Creed mentions three names among its 111 words. The first, of course, is Jesus; the second is Mary; the third is Pontius Pilate.

Pilate would have been totally forgotten, just another minor official of a long-dead empire, except for a trial over which he presided one day. But that was the trial at which Pilate condemned Jesus to death, and now his name lives in infamy forever. How would you like to be eternally remembered as the man who crucified Christ?

Pilate didn’t want to condemn Jesus. But like so many successful men, Pilate was in love with the world–with his status, his possessions, especially with his career. Set over against all of that was this one innocent man, Jesus Christ.

The balance was tipped at the decisive moment when someone in the crowd shouted that if Pilate released Jesus, he would be no friend of Caesar. So Pilate’s choice came down to this: He could either be Jesus’ friend or Caesar’s. He could have the world or he could have Christ, but not both. Though Pilate would like to have chosen Jesus, he just couldn’t bring himself to pay what that would cost him.

What about you? Which will you choose today: the world, or Jesus? –David Bast

Prayer: You may have all the rest; give me Jesus.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

RoosterSF1

Lent Devotions

April 14: The Rooster’s Crow

4/14/2014
Read: Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75

And immediately the rooster crowed. (v. 74 ESV)

Many of the people who welcomed Jesus with loud “Hosannas” on Palm Sunday must also have shouted, “Crucify him!” on Good Friday. It’s perilously easy to betray or deny Christ; all you have to do is fall in with the crowd.

Having done that in the high priest’s courtyard, Peter could have gone on with them, if not for one small thing. He heard a rooster’s crow. That was Peter’s wake-up call. His soul was pierced by the memory of Jesus’ warning (v. 34), and he went outside and wept bitter tears of repentance.

That rooster’s crow was a sound of grace. You know how it goes when we get caught up in sin. We stifle our conscience until it finally falls silent. We become deadened–to guilt, to truth, even to God. But then somewhere, somehow, a rooster crows. Maybe it’s in a sermon, or through a friend’s word, or a remembered verse of Scripture, or a line from an old hymn. Whatever it is, something quickens our conscience again, and we realize what we have done.

If you hear the sound of a rooster’s crow in your life, recognize in that moment the Lord’s voice, calling you to repent. It could be a very small sound. But through such things souls are saved–or lost. –David Bast

Prayer: Lord, help me to hear your voice in the small things.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

April 12: In the Garden

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Palm Sunday, April 13: He Really Was a King
4/12/2014
Read: Luke 19:29-44

As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully . . . . (v. 37 NRSV)

All the hoopla that greeted Jesus the day he rode a donkey into Jerusalem quickly turned to demands for his death. He was declared a king on Sunday and a fraud on Friday. His enemies would kill him, but he would live again. There would be no end to this King’s kingdom.

Jesus and his followers carried no weapons of war when they entered the city. But his death on a cross outside the walls would start a revolution that would encircle the earth. His enemies thought they could get rid of him. How foolish! They were dealing with a King whose authority had no limits.

The city welcomed Christ with shouts of passion. Knowing the needs of the people there, he wept. Christ loved the city. Willingly he died for the cities of the world. His death was not for his sin-he had none-but for the sins of us all. Since he has all the necessary power and authority as King, there is nothing he cannot do. He broke the grip of sin and death for all who trust him. –Ron Geschwendt

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we acknowledge your power and authority. Truly you are King. Capture our mind and hearts. Amen.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

Lent Devotions
April 12: In the Garden
Posted: 11 Apr 2014 05:51 AM PDT
Read: Matthew 26:36-56
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. (v. 39 NRSV)
Here is a sight: Jesus sorrowing, sweating, crying out to be delivered from the terrible prospect before him. Jesus was human. When faced with death, he looked for a way out. When the dark hours of suffering descended, he asked his friends to watch with him. And when they failed him, he was disappointed.
But it wasn’t just the physical or emotional pain that troubled Jesus. What weighed so upon him was something he called “this cup”–God’s holy judgment upon sin. For Jesus, accepting the cup meant experiencing the dreadful curse of separation from his Father.
Jesus neither deserved nor desired that. Humanly, he hoped there could be some other way: “My Father, if it is possible . . .” Don’t you think that if he could, God would have granted that prayer? But some things are not possible even for God. It was not possible for God to forgive sins in any other way than for Jesus to accept sin’s punishment upon himself.
And if it was not possible for Jesus to save us in any other way than by dying in our place, do you suppose it is possible for you and me to be saved in any other way than by trusting in him? –David Bast
Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach me to pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

April 11: The Traitor

4/10/2014
Read: Matthew 26:20-25

Is it I, Lord? (v. 22 ESV)

J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion sets Matthew’s text of the passion story to dramatic music. When the soloist singing Jesus’ words announces to the disciples that one of them will betray him, an agitated chorus immediately breaks in with the disciples’ question, “Lord, is it I?” The choir sings that phrase exactly eleven times. One disciple didn’t have to ask Jesus who the traitor was.

What can Judas teach us? For one thing, he shows us the danger of what John Bunyan described in the character he called Formalist. Formalist is outwardly religious but inwardly unconverted. Formalism is having the appearance of faith without the reality.

It is sobering to remember that Judas was one of the Twelve, a member in good standing of Jesus’ inner circle. He had all the advantages of his position: he had heard Jesus’ teaching, seen his miracles, even served in his mission. To all appearances he was just as committed as all the others. When Jesus announced there was a traitor in their midst, no one asked, “Lord, is it Judas?” But all this time Judas’s heart was unchanged.

Church attendance, Bible reading, charitable giving, works of service–these are all good things. But if your heart hasn’t been changed, none of them matter. –David Bast

Prayer: Lord, deliver me from every competing love, and make me wholehearted in my devotion to you.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

Lent Devotions

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April 9: Assigned Seats

Posted: 08 Apr 2014 05:29 AM PDT

Read: Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking.” (v. 22 ESV)

Be careful what you ask for; you might get it! Jesus’ disciples, though, still don’t “get it.” For the third time Jesus warns them about his impending suffering and death, but they aren’t really listening. After all, he’s the Messiah, heading toward Jerusalem. What else could Jesus be going there for, except to take his throne?

The mother of James and John, with her sons close behind, approaches Jesus and asks him to promise them the two thrones on either side of his. There is evidence in the gospels that this woman was Jesus’ aunt, Mary’s sister–which perhaps makes her audacity a little more understandable. Jesus rebuffs her: “You don’t know what you’re asking.” Then he puts a question to the brothers: “Can you drink the cup I’m going to drink?” “Sure,” James and John chirp. They really don’t get it. “Well, you will someday,” Jesus says rather grimly, “but those thrones are for the ones God has chosen.” Notice, Jesus does not deny that he will reign in glory, or that his faithful disciples will reign with him. He simply tells us that heaven’s thrones are assigned seats.

But before we worry about which seat is ours, we must drink the cup. The cross comes before the crown. –David Bast

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that though suffering is real, heaven is also real.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

Lent Devotions

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April 8: Who’s Responsible?

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 07:42 AM PDT

Read: Luke 22:14-23

The Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed! (v. 22 NRSV)

Mark Twain said he wanted an attorney who had only one arm. How come? So the attorney could never say, “On the other hand.”

Unfortunately, some truths require two hands. On the one hand, Judas’ betrayal is the fulfillment of God’s own plan: “The Son of Man is going as it has been determined.” But on the other hand, Judas is responsible for his treachery: “Woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

If the deed is inevitable, then how can Judas be responsible for it? And if Judas is responsible for it, then how can it be inevitable? Some truths require two hands.

How responsible are we for our actions? To some degree, I suppose, we are shaped by factors beyond our control: genetics, heredity, our upbringing. But I wince to hear people trace their sins to every door but their own, as though they were victims of providence.

It may be arrogant to suggest that we are masters of our fate. But it is ludicrous to believe that we are victims of fate. Not masters are we, nor victims, but co-creators. Let us not blame our genes or our parents for sins we could have avoided. –Lou Lotz

Prayer: Lord, when I am tempted, give me your strength.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

Lent Devotions

 

April 5: Outrageous Love

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 05:20 AM PDT

Read: Matthew 26:6-13

But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste?” (v. 8 NRSV)

A woman did something in public for Jesus that very few would dare to do. At the risk of scorn she purchased expensive ointment and splashed it on Jesus in anticipation of his death and burial. Jesus’ own disciples questioned the extravagance.

In the last week of Christ’s life, the plot thickens. Religious leaders plan for his death. A traitor from among Jesus’ closest friends sells him out for thirty pieces of silver. But in contrast to this treachery is a story of extravagant love.

Love at its best has no personal agenda. It is not selfish. No sacrifice is too great. It thinks only of its beloved. This woman at Bethany broke all the conventional rules because she was blinded by love for Jesus.

This woman obviously discovered in Jesus the wealth of his love. Nothing would deter her from offering to Jesus the gift of her love, no matter the cost. Judas betrayed the Messiah for a price that was a fraction of the cost of her perfume. Cold hearts never understand liberality. Real love seizes the heart and captures the mind. Outrageous love for Christ is never a waste. –Ron Geschwendt

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the gift of your Son’s love. We would lavishly love him with heart, soul and mind. Amen.

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.

Lent Devotions

Lent Devotions

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April 4: Wresting for Authority

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 06:12 AM PDT

Read: Mark 11:27–12:12

By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them? (v. 28 NRSV)

Authority. Some think they have it. Some wish they had it. Some really do have it! Jesus truly had authority, unlike the religious leaders who opposed him. Jesus spoke and acted with authority from God. He claimed that he and God the Father were one (John 10:30). The battle lines were drawn. In the minds of the religious leaders Jesus had broken the very first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3). If Jesus was not the God-man, then their accusation was true, and Jesus really was in league with the devil as they accused (Mark 3:22).

The storm clouds of this controversy gathered with intensity. In this fight there was no middle ground. Jesus is truly God or, measured against his claims, a liar or a lunatic. If he was not God, he was not even a good man, much less a great teacher. He said, “Before Abraham was I am” (John 8:58, emphasis added). Today, we diagnose people with mental illness for saying less. But unlike the mentally ill, Jesus’ life and actions backed his claims.

So Jesus’ authority is real because he really is God. He can restore the worst of sinners. He can forgive the selfish and arrogant. He loves even the silly and the foolish. He will give eternal life to anyone who bows before him. –Ron Geschwendt

Words of Hope is an international media ministry, founded and owned by classes of the RCA, dedicated to building the church in the hard places. The Words of Hope devotional encourages readers to grow spiritually through daily Bible readings and prayer. To subscribe, please visit: woh.org/word/devotionals/.