Devotional

A Promise and a Command

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 NLT

Can you imagine how the followers of Jesus felt when Jesus Christ was taken up in a cloud right in front to them? They hadn’t grasped that He was leaving them again despite Jesus telling them that He would. Jesus left them when He was put to death on the cross. He came back to life and was with them again over a period of forty days. They had just asked Him if He was now going to restore the kingdom of Israel. But they didn’t receive the answer they desired.

Instead of kicking out the Romans, Jesus told them it was not for them [or us] to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. Instead of staying with them, He gave them a command. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

The assignment still seems difficult today. Allow me to put it in my geographical terms. Be a witness for Jesus in my city-that starts with my family, my neighborhood, my church, and my work place, and extends to my region. Next Jesus said Judea. That’s a lot of territory and a lot of people. Samaria? That must have raised eyebrows. The Jews and Samaritans despised each other. Does that mean I need to be a good witness of Jesus to people I don’t like, or to those who are enemies to my country? Yes, it does. The Jesus said, “to the end if the earth.” That still hasn’t been achieved.

It’s no wonder that Jesus’ followers stood watching Jesus disappear into the clouds. How overwhelmed they may have been. Sure, the Holy Spirit was promised, but they hadn’t been empowered by the Holy Spirit yet. Jesus left them! How alone they must have felt!

Our Lord knew their hearts, just as He knows ours. While they were steadfastly watching Jesus as He went up, two men dressed in white appeared. I think they were angels. They came with a promise.

This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)

Jesus will return! We don’t know the day or the hour, but Jesus promised to return. Jesus keeps His promises. His return is described in I Thessalonians, chapters four and five, and in Revelation.

I notice that along with the promise, it seems like the angels gave a subtle hint to Jesus’ followers to get busy. “Why do you stand gazing up into heaven?”

Jesus is coming back. Will we have fulfilled His assignment when He comes?

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

How can you and I be witnesses for Jesus? How can we be Jesus’ hands and feet for others? Let’s prayerfully consider who we will tell this week about Jesus. Do you have someone in mind? A friend challenged me to put a deadline on when I will talk to someone, with the idea that I not put it off, possible forever. Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit will give us the words to share with others. “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:12 RSV) The Holy Spirit lives in believers, giving us the power to conquer our fears and obey our Lord’s command. Let’s GO.

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for the promise that You will return. I want to be ready, having accomplished the work You have given me to do. Open my mouth with boldness. Remove my fears and my disobedience that keep me quiet when I should tell others of Your love and salvation. Help me rely on the Holy Spirit to teach me what to say. Amen.

Devotional

Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection – Part 4 of 4

A special weekly series for the Easter Season

Reflections on the hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today

And the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 NASB20

Charles Wesley composed more than 6,500 hymns. Some of the best known among Wesley’s hymns are “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”; “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”; “Rejoice, the Lord is King”; “Jesu, Lover of My Soul” and the hymn of this week’s devotional focus, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (also called “Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today”). The lyrics below were published in 1739; Music from Lyra Davidica, London, 1708 public domain. Six verses are shown here, so some may be new to you as verses five and six are new to me. Emphasis in bold is mine.

Verse 1.	

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!
Verse 2.	

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Verse 3.
	
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!
Verse 4.	

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Verse 5.
	
Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

Verse 6.	

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!
Easter Image by fedden from Pixabay
Christ the Lord is risen! I love that the angel showed the empty tomb to the women, people who at the time were around the bottom of the social strata. They weren’t allowed past the Court of Women in the Temple. The angel gave them proof that the seemly impossible had happened. Death no longer had its sting. Their Savior was risen, just as He said. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. 

Jesus gave us reason to raise our joys and triumphs high. He died to save our souls. Our redemption from sin is done.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Foll’wing our exalted Head, Because Christ Jesus is alive, we can follow Him every day. Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, We can know Him by studying the Scriptures and by having a personal relationship with Him. His power is proven not only by His resurrection, but by the change He brings in our lives as we trust and rely on Him and become more like Him.  

Heaven is open to those who believe in Christ Jesus. When death comes, or if Jesus returns again before we die, His followers will rise to everlasting life.

Alleluia!

Let’s spend time thanking Jesus for what He has done. He fought the fight, the battle won. Christ the Lord is risen!  Let’s praise Him.

Lord, thank you that You gave me a reason to have joy! Thank you for Your redeeming work on the cross for me. I’m sorry it took the cross and Your death to rescue me. Thank you for allowing me to follow You. I praise You, for You alone are worthy of all praise. Amen.

* * *

Dear Reader, thank you for following along with this four-part special Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection. If you missed any of it, or would like to review it, they are posted under devotionals on the following dates: 3/18/21 Part 1- At the Cross;  3/25/21 Part 2 – The Old Rugged Cross ; 4/1/21 Part 3 – Christ Arose; 4/8/21 Part 4 – Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Devotionals post every other Thursday (Special series may occur more frequently, such as the Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.) They are archived under Devotionals.

Devotional

Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection-Part 3 of 4

A Special Weekly Series for the Easter Season

Reflections on the hymn Christ Arose

Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV

One of my favorite songs of Jesus’ resurrection is Christ Arose by Robert Lowry. The verses are somber in tune and tempo as they describe Jesus waiting for the coming day when He would be free of the grave, having torn the bars of death away. Then the triumphant refrain follows each verse. It is powerful and bright, often with trumpets joining the singers in declaring Christ’s victory! “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.”Christ is the Victor in the battle with sin and death. He lives forever!  “He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”

Verse 1.	

Low in the grave He lay,
Jesus, my Savior,
Waiting the coming day,
Jesus, my Lord! 

Refrain:	

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Verse 2.	

Vainly they watch His bed,
Jesus, my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead,
Jesus, my Lord!

Verse 3. 	

Death cannot keep his Prey,
Jesus, my Savior;
He tore the bars away,
Jesus, my Lord!

Robert Lowry, 1874. Public domain.


What joy fills my soul when I sing the words of His triumph!
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

Jesus Christ won the war with the devil. Jesus conquered the power of sin and death. We know from Scripture that He also will win the final battle when the devil is cast into the lake of burning sulfur, never to deceive us again (Revelation 20).   

So why is it that I sometimes act like Jesus hasn’t won the war? Why do I still struggle with sin? I know God wants me to follow His direction and to become more and more like Jesus. Sometimes that bad attitude pops back up. I insist that my rights are being trampled, or something is being done the wrong way and impacts me. On the freeway a driver cuts me off so I have to miss my exit, and I fume at the person’s rudeness. The devil is a schemer. He knows my weak spots.

Do you ever feel this way?

The Apostle Paul struggled with sin, too. In Romans 7, Paul declares “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin within me. What a wretched man I am!      Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ my Lord!”

Reading through Scripture reassures me of victory in my own life, too. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

He arose a Victor from the dark domain, 
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. 

Like Paul, we have victory in Jesus! Jesus Christ set us free from the dark domain of sin and death. We’re no longer slaves to sin, because Jesus paid our price. We don’t have to let sin reign, but can offer ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness. Sin isn’t our master because we are not under the law but under grace. (Romans 6) If Christ lives in us, we will reign with Him.

Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Watch for the rest of this four-part special Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.

3/18/21 Part 1- At the Cross;  3/25/21 Part 2 – The Old Rugged Cross ; 4/1/21 Part 3 – Christ Arose; 4/8/21 Part 4 – Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Devotionals post every other Thursday (Special series may occur more frequently, such as the Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.) They are archived under Devotionals.

Devotional

Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection – Part 2 of 4

A special weekly series for the Easter Season

Reflections on the hymn The Old Rugged Cross

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Corinthians 1:18 NKJV

The cross of Jesus is despised by some. It seems like foolishness to the world. Why would God come to earth for humankind, knowing that they had already rejected Him or would do so in the future? Yet Jesus suffered and died on that cross to pardon and sanctify us. He sets us apart to follow Him, and to someday live in heaven with Him.

It is the message of the cross that led George Bernard to write the words and music to The Old Rugged Cross. He cherished the old rugged cross. (1913. Public domain.)

Verse 1: 

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,  
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;  
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best  
For a world of lost sinners was slain.  

Verse 2: 

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,  
Has a wonderous attraction for me;  
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above  
To bear it to dark Calvary.  

Verse 3: 

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,  
A wonderous beauty I see;  
For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died  
To pardon and sanctify me. 
Good Friday – Image by Marinas32 on Pixabay

Just think, Jesus left heaven for sinners- that’s us! I pray I’ll be faithful to Him, as George Bernard said in verse 4 and the refrain:  

Verse 4:	

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, 
Its shame and reproach gladly bear; 
Then He’ll call me someday to my home faraway, 
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

Refrain: 	

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, 
Till my trophies at last I lay down; 
I will cling to the old rugged cross, 
And exchange it someday for a crown

Our sins were nailed to the cross with Jesus. He removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. I remember when I was on a church youth group trip, we wrote down our sins on pieces of paper and nailed them onto a board. After a time of silent confession, the nails with the attached papers were removed. Nail holes remained. For me personally the holes were a reminder of the consequences to sin, but that Jesus forgave my sins and chooses not to remember my confessed sins any longer. A variation of this is to write down our sins on a piece of paper, confess them, and then to burn the papers. I think I want to do that again. Perhaps you would like to do something similar? 

Dear Jesus, Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for removing my sins and not holding me eternally accountable for anything You have already forgiven. May I gladly bear the reproach of others for Your cross, and lay everything at Your feet. Amen.

Watch for the rest of this four-part special Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.

3/18/21     Part 1-  At the Cross  
3/25/21     Part 2 - The Old Rugged Cross
4/1/21       Part 3 - Christ Arose
4/8/21       Part 4 - Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Devotionals post every other Thursday (Special series may occur more frequently, such as the Easter series, Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection.) They are archived under Devotionals.

Devotional

Jesus: His Cross and His Resurrection: Part 1 of 4

A Special Series for the Easter Season

At the Cross

He humbled Himself and became obedient to death… on a cross! Philippians 2:8

Easter is less than a month away. I find myself singing or humming the great anthems and hymns telling of Jesus’ crucifixion and atonement for my sins, and songs of His resurrection. I love these songs, because they are packed with truths from God’s Word. I find that the songs lift my soul and bring me into the worship of my Savior.

Consider the lyrics in At the Cross (a.k.a. Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed).

Isaac Watts published the text in 1707. The refrain was added by Ralph E. Hudson in 1885. (Public domain) The emphasis in bold is mine.

Verse 1:         

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Verse 2:     

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

 Verse 3: 

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.

Verse 4:

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

Verse 5:

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
’Tis all that I can do
.

Refrain (Hudson):

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sin is such a burden to us. We mess up. The accuser points out our faults and tries to convince us that we don’t measure up, and that we might as well give up trying to please God. The devil wants us to stay blind to God’s great love and forgiveness He has for us. That evil rascal would rather have us wallow in the guilt of our sin than to confess it to our Lord. Jesus frees us from our guilt because He paid our penalty. With faith, our eyes are opened to the freedom God provided us through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection!

Let’s reflect on what Jesus Christ did for you and for me. May we enter this Holy season of Christ’s death and resurrection with a new view and appreciation of His love and sacrifice for us.

Dear Jesus, Thank you for loving me so much that You willingly took my punishment for sin. You died in my place. Soften my heart so I am quick to grieve when I sin and to confess it. May I be thankful. Lord, I give myself to You. Amen.