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Judas Betrays Jesus

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

Judas Betrays Jesus by Jonathan Holmes

Read: John 18:1-11

The private ministry that Jesus had with His disciples has now ended, and we are moved to watch the dramatic story of redemption play out in front of our eyes. It all begins with Judas, a disciple, betrays Jesus and leads Him into arrest. It still amazes me today that Jesus was betrayed by one of the twelve closest people to Him. If one who saw, touched, and heard Jesus can betray Him then we should be assured that there will never be a perfect church. We will see others, even in our midst, betray the love of Jesus.

Judas accomplished the worst deed ever committed. Judas was flawed; he was less than perfect. But, who isn’t? I am not making excuses for Judas or making light of the fact the he committed the worst deed that has ever been committed. What I am hoping you see is that we are all flawed. All of us have been born broken (Psalm 51:5, Eph. 2:3) and are capable of betraying the love of Jesus by denying the Truth of His gospel. Judas’ betrayal reminds us of our complete depravity and how even those who appear faithful can prove to be faithless.

We are saddened, shocked, and even disgusted by Judas’ betrayal. That is a natural response to sin, but don’t fall blind to your own sin. We are all flawed and have moments in which betray Jesus through sinful actions. Even in our moments of disgust of Judas’ sin and even our own we must remind ourselves that Jesus loved the betrayer even as he betrayed. Jesus loves the gossipers even as he gossips. Jesus loves the idolater even as he worships idols. Jesus loves the lustful even as he lusts. Jesus loves the liar even as he lies. So for you, Jesus loves the ____________________ even as he ________.

Questions:

  • Do you make light of your sins by comparing them to others?
  • How can Jesus be our example of faithfulness (v. 11)?

Prayers for Lent

  • Thank the Lord that He loved us even while we were still sinners AND He died for us. Meditate on the fact that He seeks you even though we aren’t worthy of seeking.
  • Ask God to reveal in your heart areas that are resistant to His love.
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The High Priestly Prayer

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

The High Priestly Prayer by Jonathan Holmes

Read: John 17

Chapter 17 of John is a beautiful picture into our Savior’s heart as He prays to the Father. In Jesus’ prayer we see that our fellowship as believers is spiritual, deep, real, and essential for life. The illustration that Jesus uses to demonstrate the beauty and depth of Christian community is the fellowship that He has with the Father. We are one like the Father, Spirit, and Son are one. Believers share a common life that is centered on our mediator Jesus Christ.

Christianity is not a private experience. Christian life is all about sharing in life together that is bound together by our relationship with Jesus. Our culture obviously doesn’t hold to these same ideals. American culture is built on an increasing desire for privacy and impersonal communication. Technology has only increased this trend. Our lives are hijacked daily by constant communication, social networks, and gaming. Through the overuse of technology we are given a self-centered opportunity to live in a world that we selectively download and respond to.

Our culture uses technology to allow us to control perceptions of our lives, see our value in likes on a photo or tweet, and to communicate when it’’s convenient. Christian community forces us to be open, see our value in our Savior, and to communicate even in hard conversations. The simple truth is that technology is convenient and Christian community must be worked for. If we value living life together as our Savior did, we have to work for true Christian community. In community we are able to fight against our desire to live in a world consumed with self and pursue a life that is lived with God, His people, and on His mission.

Questions:

  • What are some rules that you could put place in your family to help you focus on community rather than technology?
  • When is the last time you were at church or your small group and never looked at your phone once? See if you can do it just one time and reflect on what was different.

Prayers for Lent

  • Thank God for a community where we can find encouragement, Truth, and love.
  • Thank God for being the very thing that binds us all together.
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I Have Overcome the World

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

I Have Overcome the World by Jonathan Holmes

Read: John 16:25-33

Jesus had been speaking to His Disciples using figures and illustration, which ultimately left them unclear about what was going to happen. The disciples’ security rested in their ability to understand Jesus’ plans. We see them frantically discussing the conversational bomb He just dropped in the passage before, but here we see that Jesus is speaking to them plainly and now they understand! They felt a sense of security and peace as they understood God’s plans.

Jesus questions them, “Do you now believe?” He watched as His disciples delighted in knowing what was happening and finding peace in their circumstances. Jesus is quick to point out that within one hour all of His disciples, who are now smiling and shaking their heads in agreement, will be running in all different directions and denying that they ever knew a guy named Jesus. They will be so confused with what just happened that they will forsake everything Jesus taught them and refuse to be identified as His followers. The Savior will be left alone, but He reminds us that He is in fact not alone, “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”

Why is Jesus saying all of this to His disciples? They just began to understand what He had been teaching them and He tells them that in just an hour the circumstances will change and all of them will scatter like cockroaches caught in the light. Why does Jesus take away their peace and confidence? Because it was placed in the circumstances and their knowledge of Jesus, not actually Jesus Himself. He tells His disciples that in HIM they might have peace. In this world you will face trouble – trouble with friends, trouble at work, trouble at school. All of life will be facing trouble. But take heart, take courage, take rest, take peace; Jesus has overcome!

The promise of the Christian life being easygoing or light is bogus. Jesus didn’t buy into that and neither should you. I have gone through tough times of incredible stress and deep sorrow. We all will. Jesus says that we are given His victory, not in our circumstances, but in Him. We are granted peace and security because we don’t have to understand why bad things are happening, but we rest in that our Savior has overcome the world. My peace and security will be in Jesus. Will yours?

Questions:

  • How is your attitude affected when trouble comes in your family, job, or friends?
  • How can you find peace and security in Jesus overcoming the world and not in your circumstances?
  • How can we be followers even when our troubles tell us to scatter?

Prayers for Lent

  • Think quietly about the Truth that Jesus has overcome the world.
  • Ask God for a renewed gift of security and peace that only comes from Him.
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Tree Truths

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

Tree Truths by Mark Robinson

Read:  John 15:1-7

We live in a neighborhood with lots of trees.  In my time as a homeowner, I have come to learn a few things about trees:

  1. Tree branches that fail to stay connected to the trunk of the tree become a real hassle.  In December 2007 an ice storm dumped a half inch of ice all over every tree branch in our neighborhood. Under the heavy weight of the ice, branches began snapping off and crashing to the ground.  The beautiful branches that once hung green above the streets below, now lay in lifeless, brown piles awaiting destruction.
  2. Trees require care if they are to remain vibrant.  We once had an apple tree that only produced grape sized apples.  Over time, I found that by trimming several branches off the tree, the tree would actually produce bigger, tastier apples.  Without the strain of those extra branches, the tree could produce better fruit.  This made pruning a priority for me, because the reason you have an apple tree is to produce apples!

These “tree truths” are used as a spiritual analogy by Jesus in John 15:1-17. As Jesus was preparing His disciples for life AFTER His death and resurrection, He made two points about the implications of their branch like connection to Him:

  1. Jesus says that Christians who fail to remain connected to Christ in their daily lives, cease to be spiritually vibrant.  Christians dependent upon Jesus produce His fruit in their lives.  However, when these same Christians decide to do their own thing, rely on their own strength, and detach themselves from Christ, they quickly wither.
  2. Jesus says that in order to produce maximum fruit in our lives, we must be pruned by our Heavenly Father.  Jesus says this in John 15:2, “He (the Father) cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”  The idea is that our loving God is always trimming away at extra desires, attitudes, and opportunities in our lives so that we are in the best position to live a life that is glorifying to Him.  Pruning is a priority for the Father because the purpose of Christians is to produce Christ’s fruit!

This passage reminds us that spiritual vitality comes from abiding in Christ as a branch does in its vine.  The key to spiritual life and growth comes from living a life of dependence upon the Savior.  Further, if you find your spiritual life producing some fruit, but not “much fruit,” then think for a moment about what is in your life that might be an “extra branch” that the Father might need to prune off to allow for more growth.  Maybe your extra branches are relationships that pull you away from Him, addictions, time wasters, etc.  Whatever they are, invite the Gardener to examine your life and see if He might want to clip a branch here or there to encourage future growth.

Question:

  • Is your spiritual life more alive or dead?  Are you connected to Jesus?
  • Are you producing Christ’s fruit, or are extra things getting in the way?

Prayer:

  • Ask God to reveal if there is any area of your life right now that needs pruning.
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The Only Way

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

The Only Way by Jonathan Holmes

Read: John 14:1-14

The passage occurs in the process of the Upper Room Discourse of John chapters 13 through 17, where Jesus is delivering His final instructions just hours prior to His crucifixion. You can hear the fear in the disciples’ voices as Jesus tells them that he is leaving them. In John 14:6, Jesus responds to Thomas’ fearful question with, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the only way.

The definite article ‘the’ leaves no room for multiple routes or paths to God. Jesus is THE only way to God, for He is God. There are no actions, achievements, credentials, goodness, karma, zen, or deeds that can bridge the chasm separating man from God in a Genesis 3 (fallen) world. This is directly counter to what the world fundamentally believes and practices.

Christianity holds dear the belief that Jesus is the ONLY way to God and that not “all religions lead to the same god.” This is a fundamental an historic Christian belief. The world rejects narrow thinking like Christianity’s exclusivity. However, it is this same narrow logic which allows the very function of the world as we know it. For example, computers and smart phones function through a set of instructions known as a programming language. The language was written by the creator of the language, and this creator or writer laid out all the functions of the language in a specific manner. The language is exact and specific. The language allows for no variance or deviation.

In fact, the program written in the programming language must be narrow, concise and perfectly conforming, in order for the program to function correctly all the time. We have a word for when the program has an error in the written instruction. We call them ‘bugs.’ When the way of the programming language is violated the phone does not call, does not find Google, or the computer does not pull up YouTube.

Jesus tells Thomas, “I am the way to myself.” Jesus is saying that everything about me is the way. He says “follow me,” in fact “follow and be like me; how I lived life.” We are to live as Jesus lived: walk, talk, pray, fast, discipline ourselves, love, sacrifice, and ultimately lay down our lives, and our pride just like Jesus did.

Questions:

•Why is Christianity’s exclusivity a common reason for rejecting the faith?

•Does it give you hope that Jesus provides the way to “crush the head” of sin and its effects in your life?

Prayers for Lent: 

•Thank God for fulfilling the promise of salvation.

•Ask God for greater faith in His timing and plan.

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Washing Feet

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

Washing Feet by Mark Robinson

Read:  John 13:1-20

Isn’t it interesting how passages of Scripture hit you differently at different phases of your life?  John 13 is one of those passages that has impacted me in different ways.  As a matter of fact, the more life experience I have, the better I think I understand what this passage is all about.

When I was younger, I never quite understood Jesus’s strong reaction to Peter’s refusal to allow Jesus to wash his feet.  It seems quite natural (and even appropriate) for Peter to try to stop the Son of God from stooping to the role of the lowest of household servants.  If Jesus washing the disciples feet was some kind of discipleship pop quiz, it seemed like Peter should have gotten 100%.  However, Jesus pushes through Peter’s refusal, insisting that if Jesus does not wash Peter’s feet, Peter will have “no part” of Jesus.  This was quite a strong reaction!  When I was younger I always thought that was either a massive overreaction by Jesus or an indication of just how bad Peter’s feet smelled.

As I have gotten older, though, I have begun to understand the dynamics at play in John 13 a little better.  As a parent, I have had many show downs with my son that go something like this:  “Josh if you don’t _____________, then we can’t _____________.”  In other words, if he doesn’t clean his room, I can’t read him a story; if he doesn’t do his homework, we can’t go to the game, etc.  At one level, these interactions sound like overreactions.  (Is it really worth disrupting fellowship in an evening over a few pieces of dirty laundry on the floor?  Is one night of missed homework really worth missing the Thunder game?)  However, as any parent will tell you, these kinds of consequences are not overreactions at all, because more is at stake than just laundry or math problems.

At its core, refusal to listen to the direction of a leader who loves you is an issue of control.  Our sinful tendencies predispose us to want to control our environment and our situations.  We want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it, and on our terms.  This level of control, however, is not ultimately good for us.  We need to learn to submit to the right authorities in our lives.  It is a part of growth as a person.

In John 13, Peter is trying to control Jesus:  to tell the Savior what He can and cannot do.  Jesus says, “Let me wash your feet.”  Peter says, “No way.”  Jesus says, “If I don’t wash your feet you have no part with Me.”  Peter says, “Then wash all of me!”  Jesus says, “Peter stop trying to control Me!  You don’t need your whole body washed, just your feet.  Trust me on this.”

Question:

  • In what area of your life right now are you resisting the Lord’s leadership?  Is there an area He wants to “clean” but you are still trying to control?

Prayer:

  • Ask God to reveal to you the areas He wants to cleanse in your life.
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Passion Road #6 Sermon Audio/Video

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This past Sunday, March 22, 2015, I preached a sermon at Wildwood Community Church based out of Revelation 1:9-20.  This message was part 6 in the series “Passion Road.”  In case you missed the message, or you want to listen to it again, I have included the audio and video below here on my blog:

 

If you want to listen to the message to the message online, use the online media player below:

 

If you want to download the message to listen to later, click on the following link to download:

Passion Road #6

 

If you want to watch the sermon video, watch the Vimeo video below:

 

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Palm Sunday

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

Palm Sunday by Jonathan Holmes

Read: John 12:12-19

Jesus’ popularity is going viral at this point. A few days earlier Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and it was gaining Him a lot of attention. In the passage before, we learn that a large group of Jews had gathered and were talking with the Chief Priest about how to take care of these two guys, Jesus and Lazarus. The crowd of Jews that gathered to plot His death was nothing to the crowd of people that gathered to welcome Him into Jerusalem.

This Triumphal Entry has the crowd of people stirred up as they wave their palm branches (symbols of victory) and they shouted, “Hosanna!” Jesus makes His entrance on a donkey ,fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. The donkey was a sign of peace and humility. To say the least, this is not what the crowd had expected as their new kings grand entrance. Nonetheless the crowd continues to increase as the news of the miraculous sign of Lazarus spread.

The question that has to come to our minds when we read about Jesus’ triumphal entry is, how can the crowd go from screaming “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!”? The simple answer is… missed expectations. During Jesus’ time in Jerusalem He became the source of more and more controversy. He flipped over tables in the temple, began speaking about His impending death, and the Pharisees fueled it all with their murderous plots. As Jesus drifted further and further from the crowd’s expectations of their king, the tones shifted of radical support for the man who healed to bitter hatred for the controversial figure.

God is a lot of things, but He is not always what we expect…

  • We expect a hero to conquer our enemies, but we find a peacemaker who reaches out to them.
  • We expect someone who joins established religion, but we find someone who challenges it.
  • We expect someone who uses power and wealth to impress, but we find a friend to the oppressed.
  • We expect a God who is far off, but we find a God who is closer than we think.
  • We expect judgment, but we find grace. We expect extraordinary, but we find ordinary.

Questions:

  • Will your faith stay strong when God shows up in ways you didn’t expect?
  • What are areas of your life that you are still not trusting in God’s plan?

Prayers for Lent

  • Ask God for greater strength of faith in yourself, your family, and your friends.
  • Ask God for greater faith in His timing and plan.
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Passion Road #6 (Sermon Discussion Questions)

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On Sunday, March 22, 2015 I preached a sermon at Wildwood Community Church based on Revelation 1:9-20.  This message was part 6 of the series “Passion Road: Meeting Jesus on the Way to the Cross.”  Below are a few questions for further reflection or group discussion related to the sermon.

 

Questions:

  1. Read Revelation 1:9-20
  2. When you think of Jesus, what image stands out to you most?
  3. How different is the image of Jesus found in Revelation 1:9-20 from how you most often think of Him?
  4. In your life today, what are some of the things that tempt you toward despair?  Is there any life circumstance that is particularly troubling to you right now?  As you deal with difficulty, do you ever struggle with doubting God?
  5. What stands out to you most about the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16?  How does this description encourage you in the midst of your present “tribulation”?
  6. Any particular application from today’s message?
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Enemies Into Friends

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[The following devotional is a part of our 2015 Easter Season Devotional Book “Passion Road.”  We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between February 18 – April 5, 2014.]

 

Enemies into Friends by Jonathan Holmes

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22

Individuals who have received the salvation of God offered through the life and death of Jesus Christ are not then left alone to fend for themselves. They are brought into community with other believers. This is called horizontal reconciliation. Vertical reconciliation happens when both the Jew and Gentile have been brought to God (16-17), given access by the Spirit (18), and are indwelt by Him (19-22). When we think of what Jesus’ life and death accomplished, our minds naturally go to vertical reconciliation, but let’s take a moment and reflect on the beauty of the horizontal reconciliation that has been provided.

Horizontal reconciliation is presented by Paul through a then-now contrast. It is explained through past alienation (12, 19), exclusion (13), and present reconciliation (16), found in unity (15-16), and results in the message of peace (17). Horizontal reconciliation is where the barriers of race, gender, position, power, etc. are removed and believers are united in the life and death of our Savior Jesus Christ.

In our passage the content of Paul’s command is that the Ephesians remember their position before Christ and the position they now have through both vertical and horizontal reconciliation. The result of Christ’s sacrifice is that Jews and Gentiles are created into one group, abolishing the hostility and creating peace that they might have access to the Father. They now stand a group who are all citizens of God’s household, centered on Christ and unified together in him as a dwelling place for the Spirit.

Once enemies of God, now sons and daughters of the most high. Once enemies of those around us, now citizens together through the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Questions:

  • What is vertical reconciliation? How does vertical reconciliation make horizontal reconciliation possible?
  • Are there areas in your life that you need to surrender to God in order to provide horizontal reconciliation with someone?

Prayers for Lent

  • Thank God for the reconciling power of Jesus’ life and death.
  • Ask God to show you where you have prevented horizontal reconciliation in your own life.