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

What is LOVE?

Love… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13: 7, 8a NKJV)

What do you think of when you think of the word L-O-V-E? Is it hearts, flowers, and chocolate? Valentine’s Day hype? Or is it something deeper? Is love romance and sex? Is love the deep care for another? What about love for our family and friends?

If love, as we know it, is so enduring and never fails, why do so many relationships fall apart?

Could it be that we need to follow a better definition of love?

Let’s take a look at the Bible’s description of love using a variety of Bible versions of I Corinthians 13.

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.  (NLT) The New King James Version replaces “Love is patient” with Love suffers long. Certainly some of our patience with others can require some longsuffering. It’s easy to lash out or become irritated rather than to show kindness and patience. I’ve found that I have to swallow pride to go to my husband of 36 years and tell him I was wrong in a spat. An ‘I told you so’ does additional  harm if I’m boasting I was right. Oh, that I would love like God does! I’m so glad my Heavenly Father is patient and kind with me.

5 [Love] is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (RSV)  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (NIV) Ouch. This part of the definition of love is one I need to practice more. How many times have I been irritated when the dishes have been left on the table, or angry when I thought my ‘rights’ were being ignored or I thought something would have been better if it was done my way. Didn’t I just tell my husband of someone’s wrong against me? That does not honor the person, and it certainly does not honor my Lord God.

6 [Love] does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. (NKJV) It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.(RSV) A prayer partner once told me that while she wanted me to pray for her prodigal child, the specifics were best left to the Lord and not told. She didn’t want the actions of her daughter to become the focal point, or a matter of gossip disguised as a prayer request. What was important was the young woman’s return to Christ.

7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (NLT)   It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)

8 Love never fails.(NKJV)   Love never ends. (RSV) Did you note the words “never” and “always” in these verses? True love is consistent. The Lord’s love for us is the best example. He never gives up on loving us, no matter what we do or don’t do. His love endures whatever the circumstances.  There is always hope in Jesus Christ and His forgiveness. Jesus persevered even to the cross to show God’s love for us.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (NLT)

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay 

How can we show true, biblical love to others around us? Is our love the love with which God loves us? Let’s focus on showing true love to our spouse or romantic love interest, to our parents, siblings, children, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to flow through us with LOVE.

Dear Heavenly Father, Please teach me to love others as You love me. Help me to look past another’s foibles and to see them as You do. Amen.

___________________________________

Key to Bible Versions:

NKJV- New King James Version; NLT –  New Living Translation; NIV –  New International Version; RSV – Revised Standard Version

Love Block photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Devotional

What Is My Purpose?

by Kathryn J. Hughes

May he grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4

New Year’s Day has come and gone. Did you make resolutions? I tend to spend some time in reflection as I change yearly calendars. How did I do on my goals? What should I try to accomplish this new year? How have I grown in my faith? What areas have I failed in? What are my goals for the next year and several years?

I’m late in going through this reflection this year. I’m reviewing a book on organization that I read many years ago. It talks about starting first with a mission statement. A mission statement helps to guide the goals. Another way of stating my mission is to ask, what is my purpose in life? Certainly being a wife, an employee, a friend, and a mother to adult children are all part of my life. But what is my mission or purpose as a follower of Jesus Christ?

Jesus knew His purpose. In telling His disciples of His coming crucifixion, He said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this Hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27. He knew His purpose was to die to pay the penalty of sin so mankind could be rescued from eternal punishment. He knew He would come back to life, showing His power over sin and death.

Jesus gave His disciples final instructions regarding their purpose. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

It follows that telling others of Jesus and teaching them to observe His commands is part of my objective. Hmmm. I need to be more faithful in the telling and the teaching.

I also need to be better at knowing and observing Jesus’ commands.One of Jesus’ commands were to abide in Him even as He did in the Father. Keeping His commandments was key in abiding. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” If I’m abiding in Jesus, then my desires should reflect His desires. Another commandment was to love one another as Jesus loved us. (John 15).

Later followers of Christ were encouraged to continue in the Lord. When he (Barnabas) came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. (Acts 11:23) ‘Purpose of heart’ means it’s a firm, conscious decision. It’s said that people often do not choose to wander from God, but that it is a slow eroding away of commitment that leaves them open to the enemy’s attacks and to choices that do not honor God. Part of my mission, then, is to stay on target with God and not allow a foothold for the enemy. I’m to continue in the Lord, and not give up when discouraged, nor become ‘too busy’ to spend time with God.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

So what is my purpose? My mission is to follow Jesus, obey His commands, and to tell others how they can know Jesus and observe His teachings, too. My mission is to abide in Jesus Christ and His love. I am to love others as Jesus loves me.

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith… I Timothy 1:5

What is your mission statement? Are your goals on target with your purpose?

Lord, I want to live according to the purpose You have for me. Please help me be faithful to You. Show me how to set my goals to match my purpose, and then to follow through. Amen.

Devotional

What Did Mary Know?

…the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph…The virgin’s name was Mary…. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name JESUS.” The Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:26, 27, 30, 31, 38.)

“Mary, Did You Know” is a beautiful song originally by Mark Lowry (lyrics) and Buddy Greene (melody).  The song asks Mary, the mother of Jesus, if she knew her Baby Boy would walk on water, calm the storm, heal, save people, and one day rule the nations. It got me wondering, what did Mary know based on Scripture? What did she probably know about the Lord before she made her decision to obey what the angel Gabriel told her?

image by FSJ-FSP on Pixabay


 Historians think Mary was a young girl, probably around fourteen years old. Over 2,000 years ago women usually were not educated, so she probably didn’t study the Torah with a rabbi or prophets.  Her spiritual education was learned at the synagogue or at home.

Mary knew that God knew her, a girl from Nazareth. The angel called her by name and told her she had found favor with God.

Mary knew what the angel told her about the conception of her Baby, and that He would be holy.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born is to be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) Just imagine being told you were going to raise the Son of God! What an overwhelming task.  

Mary knew part of this Holy One’s future. “He will be great, and will be called the son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32, 33)

Did Mary know her Son would someday hang on a cross? Did she know He would be resurrected? I doubt it. The spiritual leaders of the day didn’t recognize that the Messiah would come as a humble servant and save them from their sins through His death and resurrection. They were looking for a political rescue from the Romans.

Mary’s words in Luke 1:46-55 tell us that she knew that God was her Savior. She knew the Lord was mighty; He scattered the proud and put down the mighty from their thrones. He exalted the lowly. “He has filled the hungry with good things.” Perhaps she knew the Lord provided from her own poor childhood experiences. Mary knew the Lord had come to Israel’s deliverance in the past, and would in the future, for she said “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Mary also knew her culture. She must have feared the gossip. How would she tell Joseph and family and friends that this Baby was conceived through the Holy Spirit? No one would believe her. She and Joseph would be judged as sinners, having conceived a child outside of marriage. Worse yet, Joseph knew the baby would not be his; he could have her stoned for immorality!

Yet Mary chose to submit to God. “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Mary trusted the Lord enough to overcome the fears and the shame her obedience would cost her. She rejoices! “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”

* * *

What do we know of the Lord, and does it lead to our obedience to Him? Do we willingly submit to God’s will and to what He asks us to do? Do we find favor with God? Do we rejoice? Are we following Jesus and becoming more like Him? What has God asked you to do?

Dear Lord, thank you for the best gift ever, my Savior, Jesus Christ. No gift is greater. Please forgive me for those times I do not obey. Please help me become more like You. Amen.

Devotional

Happy Thanksgiving! Reflections on Gratitude

by Kathryn Hughes and special guest Marcy James

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Thanksgiving Day is the one day of the year that we deliberately try to express our thankfulness to others and to God who provides all things and shows His great love towards us. How wonderful it would be if we all were thankful to God and to others all of the time.

Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks. It is grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God. It shows an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving is also part of Christian maturity.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  (Colossians 2:6, 7 NIV)

My friend Marcy James overflows with thankfulness. She is one of the most grateful people I’ve ever met. She expresses her gratitude for even the smallest thing one does for her or says to her. She shares her thankfulness to God as well as to others. I asked her to write her thoughts on gratitude:

“Right now there’s someone happy who has much less than you.”  Those words were on a poster at my daughter’s first school.  It’s a simple statement about gratitude that gave me pause and had me thinking about what “much less” is.  I’ve seen “much less” in China when a man with no legs used as his wheel chair one of those boards with casters mechanics use to slide under cars.  He propelled himself with his hands against the frigid winter road.  It’s not hard to see those with “much more” who somehow have it hard, but in a different way.  That might beg the question, “What is the source of happiness?”  But maybe the bigger question is, “Why are ‘much less’ and ‘much more’ not really a factor?”  I think the unmentioned factor is Christianity.  The love of God, the promise of salvation in Christ, the very loyal support of the Body of Christ all put this world in perspective.  The Word of God sharpens our focus on how to navigate our own trials and tribulations and still have the Fruits of the Spirit, which include joy and peace.  Vacation Bible School often speaks of God sightings, and the most moving God sightings to me have been kindness and compassion in others towards others.  The youngest of children can point them out.  Anytime someone of any age does something helpful, says something helpful, it’s a God sighting sent to you and the only possible response is thankfulness to that person and to God above and to pass that blessing on. 

I want to become more like my friend Marcy. I confess that I too often take things for granted. Unwritten thank you notes sit near my desk, as I substitute a quick verbal thank you for a gift or for an act of kindness from others. I thank God regularly for my food, but how often do I thank Him for the air I breathe, or for the sunrise I saw on my way to work? I’m learning to be more grateful.

Giving thanks to God is shown and taught throughout Scripture. Psalm 100 shows that thankfulness is more than words. Note the attitude and actions in the Psalm. (Underlines are mine.) May we be thankful and show our gratitude first to God, and then to others.

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!

Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him,
and bless His name.

For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Anytime someone of any age does something helpful, says something helpful, it’s a God sighting sent to you and the only possible response is thankfulness to that person and to God above and to pass that blessing on. ” ~ Marcy James

Dear Gracious Heavenly Father, thank you for being You. Thank you for Your faithfulness, for being my provider, and for Your unconditional love which You showed through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to rescue me from the punishment for my sins. Thank you for Your care for me. In Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving Fall photo by Hudsoncrafted on Pixabay