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THREE CROSSES

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:26-43
 
Today, being Good Friday, we center our minds on the cross. According to Luke, as well as the other gospel writers, Jesus was crucified along with two others. There were actually three crosses, but we rightly focus our thoughts on the center cross, the cross of redemption on which Jesus died. But I believe there was no mistake that He died alongside two others. In fact, according to Isaiah 53, it was predicted that this would happen. Therefore, it is important that we pause and consider the meaning behind the other two crosses on a hill called Calvary.

We are not told anything about the characters who were crucified along with Jesus other than they were criminals and were dying for crimes they had committed. We are told, however, about their attitude toward Jesus. Firstly, there was the cross of rejection. This was the cross on which the criminal hung who rejected Jesus as Savior. He only sought for his own immediate release: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  He totally rejected Jesus. Although he knew who Jesus was, He rejected the salvation that Jesus was dying to purchase. But then there was the cross of repentance. The thief who accepted Jesus requested, in his dying hour, that Jesus remember Him when He comes into His Kingdom. He received the forgiveness he sought and the promise from Jesus on the cross: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Which one of the two crosses would represent your attitude toward Jesus today?  The one rejecting Him or the one receiving Him?  
 
The dying thief rejoiced to see,
that fountain in his day.
And there may I,
though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.


NOT MY WILL

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:39-46
 
Is there a greater prayer we can pray on this Maundy Thursday than the words of Jesus in the garden, “not my will but yours”? The words form one of the greatest prayers in the New Testament.
 
At some time, in each of our experiences, we need to pray this prayer — a prayer of submission, consecration and commitment. Total submission to God is a difficult place to come to in our lives, but until we do, we cannot know the full blessing of God. Luke suggests, in this passage, that Jesus struggled to come to this place. A battle raged in the garden against the forces of evil, but the moment Jesus said “not my will” the battle was won and the cross was possible.
 
The garden experience happened just after Jesus shared many things with the disciples in the Upper Room. At the end of the Passover meal, He took bread and wine and spoke of His body being broken and his blood being shed. This established a continuing memorial in the Lord’s Supper.
 
So what was the garden scene all about? It was a moment of intense humanness. We often forget that Jesus was Son of Man as well as Son of God. In Hebrews 2:14, we read that “he shared in our humanity,” and here we see that humanity in its intensity. In these moments of deep agony, to the point of sweating drops of blood as He considered what was on the horizon, Jesus could have walked away from the cross. Instead, He submitted to the will of God and went to Calvary for you and for me. He prayed for another way, but knew there was only one way. And so He prayed, “not my will but yours be done.”
 
So today, we need to pray this prayer as we submit ourselves to the will of God for our lives. Yes, there will be a battle, and the forces of hell will come out against us; but remember, your enemy is defeated. You can win the battle through the One who won it in the garden.
 
“Not my will, but yours…”


DON’T BE A JUDAS

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:1-6
 
Have you ever felt betrayed — let down by someone you trusted? If you have, and many of us have, you can understand how Jesus must have felt when Judas betrayed Him. The story of Judas is well known. His very name means “betrayed.”
 
Have you ever betrayed someone? That’s not an easy admission to make. Betrayal is a choice, and it is obvious from Luke’s statements that Judas made a choice to betray Jesus. “He looked for an opportunity…” (verse 6). When we betray someone, we make a conscious choice to work ill against that person.
 
There are many feelings associated with betrayal, such as bitterness and resentment. And people often desire to get revenge. I remember how hurt I was when a close friend betrayed me. I struggled with the failure to understand why and the desire to defend. In the end, I learned some important lessons. If I allow myself to get bitter, it affects me more than it affects the one who betrayed me. If I do to them what they have done to me, I am no better than they are. There are some situations I cannot control; I can only leave them in God’s hands.
 
When Jesus was betrayed by Judas, he did not defend himself or even get back at Judas. I believe He still loved him and prayed for him. And if he asked, Jesus would have forgiven him. The one who has betrayed you needs your love, and needs you to pray for him or her. Instead of retaliating, seek restoration, no matter how hard that may be to achieve. Choose to forgive and heal while you still have the opportunity to do so.


The Wondrous Cross

Scripture Reading: John 19:16-27
 
Hymn-singing has always been part of the Church. From it’s earliest days, when Paul encouraged God’s people to sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16), the church has always been a singing church. God has raised up many great hymn/song-writers, and one of them is a man named Issac Watts.
 
Watts showed great talent at an early age. He was learning Latin when he was 5, Greek when he was 9, and Hebrew when he was 12. He was part of the Church of his day, but became increasingly disturbed by the psalm-singing English Church. He felt that more appropriate songs needed to be written to encourage God’s people to really praise Him. So he started writing songs, and in his lifetime,  completed over 600 of them. One is the lovely Easter hymn, “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.”
 
The words of this song are tremendous, especially at this time of the year, when our focus is on the cross. Watts was moved by the death of Christ on the cross, and originally called the song “Crucifixion To The World By The Cross Of Christ.” This title came from the challenging lines of the last verse:
 
Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all
 
This picks up Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20, which challenges me to be crucified — dead to self — so that Christ may live in me.
 
Watt’s hymns were and still are some of the strongest statements of the Christian faith. Take time in your devotions today to sing or say the words of this beautiful hymn, and I know they will bless your heart as they have countless people over the centuries.


DANIEL AND THE LION’S DEN

Scripture Reading: Daniel 3
 
Daniel stands out in the Scriptures as one of the great men of God. Taken into exile as a young man, he soon proved himself to be absolutely trustworthy, a real man of God. But men of God create enemies; there are always those who are opposed to, or should I say, challenged by, those who desire to follow God. Everything about them is a challenge — their attitude, their lifestyle, their outlook and so on. Daniel was such a man. Daniel 3, however, is an amazing chapter to read. Take time to read it, and at the end, ask yourself the question, “What does this say to me about my commitment, prayer, faith and deliverance?”
 
The verse that spoke to me is verse 22; God shut the mouth of lions! He still does that today. Oh, we may not face actual lions, although our enemy is called “a roaring lion” and God can certainly shut his mouth! But there are those around us who act like lions. They growl and snarl. They are on the prowl, out to get us, and would love to devour us and finish us off. Know what I mean? But remember, in that snarling situation today, the God who shut the mouth of the lions before Daniel can shut the mouths of the lions you confront. Just leave them to Him. He can handle that tough situation in your life, and you will stand as a testimony to the deliverance of God.


DAVID AND GOLIATH

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 17:1-50
 
As a boy I enjoyed reading comic strips, and I certainly had my favorites. The hero always wins, evil is overcome, and good prevails. If only it were as simple as that in real life, but it isn’t. We are involved in a battle, and the enemy is the devil. Evil has to be overcome and the only way we can overcome is “in the name of the Lord.”
 
It has always been that way as we shall see from another of the well-know accounts in the Old Testament. The story of David and Goliath is every boy’s comic strip, where the hero prevails. However, here the hero is the most unlikely person to be the hero. David was just as small boy and Goliath was a mighty giant of a man. David goes against him with a sling and a bag of stones, while Goliath faces David with a sword and a spear. But actually, David goes with much more. He goes with the Lord by his side and the might of the name of his God. The Lord is his strongest weapon, and because of that, he possesses a confidence that he will win. The battle is over before it begins. One simple slingshot, and the giant falls. 
 
The confidence that David possessed is the same confidence we should possess as we face our enemy, the devil. Paul writes, in Romans 8:37, “… we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” We already know that our enemy is defeated. He was defeated the moment Jesus died on the cross and declared “It is finished.”
 
Today, we can go out with absolute confidence in the name of the Lord, knowing that we have the victory. Your Goliath will fall as you trust in the power of the name of Jesus.


THE VOICE IN THE NIGHT

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 3:1-21
 
I am not a good sleeper; I often wake up several times in the night, if I can get to sleep at all. They tell us we should have at least 8 hours sleep. Well, I am fortunate to get 4 or 5. This is the way it has been for years.
 
Several years ago, I was diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, so I take medication to help me sleep. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. When I lay awake, I talk to the Lord. Sometimes, I feel the imprint of His presence close to me, gently revealing Himself and His will. I cannot say I have heard a voice, but I have heard Him in different ways, and I just know it is the Lord.
 
The call of Samuel is a great Old Testament story. As a young lad, he stayed in the home of Eli the prophet. God had been trying to get Eli’s attention but Eli wouldn’t respond. So one night, in the middle of the night, God spoke to Samuel. At first, he did not understand that it was the Lord. But finally, when Eli realized that God was speaking to the boy, he gave him directions to listen to what God was saying. What God revealed to Samuel was hard for him to relay to Eli, but Samuel learned a lesson: when God speaks, you better listen because He has something definite He wants to say to you. Samuel became one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, and it all started in the middle of the night, when he heard from God.
 
God will speak in whatever way He needs to to get our attention; through a burning bush, writing on a wall, even a donkey. Is He speaking to you today? And, more importantly, are you listening to Him? He will continue to speak until you stop and listen. And what He has to say to you will be very important. It is time to listen to God.
 
“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”


MOSES AND THE BURNING BUSH

Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-10
 
Have you ever questioned something God has said to you or asked you to do? I guess most of us have, and if so, we are walking in the shoes of many great spiritual men and women. Many have struggled with knowing and doing God’s will, and Moses was one of them.
 
The account of Moses, from the moment he was born and placed in the bullrushes to the end of his life, is well known. The Bible shares many impossible moments in his life that proved he was God’s man for the hour in which he lived. Exodus 3 shares a life-changing meeting with God, a holy ground experience that began with God speaking to him through a burning bush. Moses had been running from God for years, and God needed to get his attention. And the only way that could happen was to use the experience of the burning bush. Moses certainly saw, heard and became aware that he was on holy ground. It was an experience that shaped his future as he became the leader of God’s people, and the one to bring them out of bondage in Egypt.
 
The simple question I want to ask you today is this: What is it going to take for God to get your attention? Maybe you have been running away from Him, or you are seeking His direction for your life, or help with making some great decision. God wants to speak to you, but not necessarily in your way or your timing. God has the perfect way and the perfect time to reveal His will to you. What you need to do is to become available to Him for Him to be able to speak to you.
 
Maybe the circumstances you are facing at the moment are ways that God is trying to get your attention; no experience in life is wasted. Through what is happening to you, God is trying to reveal His plan. Stop, look, and listen — God is speaking, You are standing on holy ground, and God is about to reveal Himself to you.


NOAH AND THE ARK

Scripture Reading: Genesis 6:1-22
 
Chuck Swindoll asks this very important question, “Why is it so hard for us today to believe that God can still do the seemingly impossible?” This is indeed a very challenging question — one that introduces a series of devotionals for the week. We will look at some of the seemingly impossible situations revealed to us in the Old Testament, and be challenged by what they have to say. The first of these is Noah and the ark.
 
The story of Noah is one of the more well-known stories of the Old Testament. Many stories have been told around it, paintings have been painted to depict it, and questions have been asked concerning it. Did it really happen? History has revealed many accounts of a great flood, but only in the Bible do we read of God’s plan and purpose behind it, and the man set apart for such a time as this. Noah was an incredible man. In fact, the Bible describes him as one “who walked with God.” For him, that meant listening, staying in step with God, and being obedient to all that He said. That in itself is a challenge for us today. A man of God stays in tune with God and follows His directions absolutely.
 
The story of a flood, an ark, animals two by two, etc. seems an incredible story, but then, who is the God of the flood? What the world considers to be impossible is actually possible with God. As Jesus said in Mark 10:27, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” This is a wonderful promise for you to take with you today as you face the seemingly impossible situations of life. All things are possible with God!


MOUNTAIN MOVER

Scripture Reading: Matthew 17:14-23
 
“He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20-21).
 
A country church had just completed its new building and, in about 10 days, planned to move in. The local building inspector dropped by to sign off on the building and noticed they did not have enough paved parking. He said they could not occupy the building until they added the necessary parking. This was a problem, as all the land around the church had been paved, and they had no more land — only a mountain behind the church. Plus they had no funds left to pay for the added parking. The last Sunday in their old premises, the pastor announced that the new building would open as planned the next Sunday. He shared the problem they had, and said they would meet for prayer that evening to present the problem before the Lord, and to pray for the mountain to be removed. About 24 people showed up that evening and prayed for 4 hours.
 
Early the next week, only a few days before the opening, a truck pulled up in front of the pastor’s office. A contractor stepped out and walked inside. He explained that he was one of the builders at the new mall, and they were short several truckloads of fill dirt. He asked if it would be possible to take some from the mountain behind the church. They would pay for it and pave the area they removed for free. The preacher could hardly believe what he was hearing. He immediately recognized that God had answered prayer. He agreed to the terms presented by the contractor, and the next Sunday, they opened the new church with two nicely paved parking lots filled to capacity. Word spread that God had moved the mountain.
 
Whatever the mountain is in your life today, God can move it. He is still a mountain mover. The promise here in Matthew 17:20-21 can hold true for you as it held true for this pastor and his congregation. Trust Him. and the mountain will be removed.