The journey to the cross – He is the One!

Day 34 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

(Matthew 21:1-13, Mark 11:1-19,  Luke 19:28-48, John 12:1-19)

Jesus on donkeyEntering Jerusalem by Harry Anderson (1906-1996)

The story is familiar.  I’ve heard it since I was a tot in Sunday school.  The flannel graph figure of Jesus sitting on a donkey moves along through the streets of Jerusalem while people wave palm branches and lay down their outer cloaks.  They are shouting “Hosanna” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” He accepts their praise, even welcomes it and says the rocks will cry out if the people are silenced.

It is His day.

All four Gospel writers narrow their lenses on the last days of Jesus’ earthly life.  They spend chapters talking about a week of activities.  There is consistency in their view of what occurred yet they each have their own slant, their own perspective.  It’s as if they want us to sit up and pay attention.  As if they shout “This is important!”

But why is it important, other than the fact that it fulfills yet another prophecy about Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah?.  Zechariah said the king would come riding on a donkey.  He would be righteous, victorious and humble.  Jesus was all of that and more.

There is something else.

Hundreds of years before, Moses had instructed the people to talk a lamb.  On the tenth day of the first month of a new year.  Set it apart.  Examine it for imperfections.  Keep it until the fourteenth day.  Then kill it.  It is the Passover lamb.

Jesus made His grand entrance into Jerusalem on the tenth day of the month.  He was about to make all things new.  He would give all those who believe a new beginning.  And so He was set apart.  Examined for imperfections.  Presented to the people on the 10th day as the sacrificial Lamb.  And on the fourteenth day of the month, just days later, He was killed.

God’s Passover Lamb.

He is the One we have been waiting for.  Give Him praise.  Shout Hosanna.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Resurrection cookies

Day 33 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Make Resurrection Cookies with a child, yours or someone else’s.

Today my friend Robin and her kiddos visit to share an activity that teaches a lesson, making Resurrection Cookies.  Then they get to eat the results.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

“One of my absolute favorite things in life is baking with my girls.  We bake cakes, cupcakes, muffins, cookies, breads, you name it.  We pick our treat, don our aprons, and get messy . . . I mean busy.

Tonight as we act silly and have fun measuring out ingredients. we also reflect on the sacrifice of Christ and the salvation He offers. The girls take turns adding ingredients and reading scriptures.  We talk about how badly Jesus was beaten and ridiculed by the soldiers, how He was given vinegar to drink when He was thirsty, how His death brought life to His children, the salty tears of the women who loved Jesus, the sweetness of His love for us, and the blood of the Lamb that washes our sins away and makes us white as snow.

The discussion was light and fun.  Memories were being made.

 After the cookies were in the oven and the door taped shut, the girls went to bed.  We sat and talked about the cookies and reflected on the ingredients and the significance of each. 

As I kissed the girls good-night I asked them to think what the cookies might look like in the morning.   I do the same as I lay my head down to sleep. 

NEXT MORNING

GOOD MORNING!  It’s time to check on the cookies!

The girls removed the tape from the oven door in excitement.  They wanted to see what had happened to the cookies overnight.  They didn’t look much different than the night before.  Curious Maddie poked the top of a cookie and crushed it.  Then Emma noticed holes in the tops of other cookies.   I cut one open and we discovered the cookies were hollow.   Before I had a chance to ask them about the empty-looking cookies, Emma smiled and said, “ah-h-h, just like the empty tomb!

 

Yes, that’s it!  The final symbolism is the empty cookie representing the empty tomb!  

The power of death could not hold our Jesus!  He has risen

As we get closer to the season of Passover and Resurrection Sunday,  I remember the importance the Israelites placed on passing stories down to their children and grandchildren.  As we talk about Jesus, we can also make memories our children and grandchildren will share with future generations. 

These cookies are easy and fun to make.  If you don’t have children in your home, make them with your grandchildren.  No grandchildren around?  Borrow someone else’s children!  The memories will be just as special for you.”

For the recipe for Resurrection Cookie, go here.

Here is a list of supplies and ingredients you will need for this project:

Supplies:
1 cup pecans
1 tsp. vinegar
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Zipper baggy
Wooden spoon
Mixing bowl
Mixer
Cookie sheet
Spoons
Tape
Bible

Preparing for Resurrection Sunday

Day 31 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggetion:

Get ready for Resurrection weekend by doing any or all of the following:

  • Put a palm branch on your front door on Palm Sunday and leave it there all week for a witness.
  • Watch The Passion of the Christ movie. 
  • Clean out a closet or a drawer in remembrance of Passover (leaven was to be removed from houses in preparation).
  • Make Resurrection Cookies with a child, yours or someone else’s. (Recipe will be posted tomorrow.)

Palm branches

A dear friend told me about her tradition of taking home a branch from the Palm Sunday decorations to place on her door during holy week.  I followed her lead.  To me the branch represents victory and triumph and hope for the future kingdom of peace.

The palm branch is beautiful and green when I press the tack into it to secure it to my front door.  By the end of the week it has become yellowed and dried, a bit symbolic of Jesus vital life being snuffed out in the prime of His life.

I hope this visual is a witness to my neighbors as they pass by and see something different at my house.  I’d like to think the outward sign reveals the heart of the home I share with Sweet William, the atmosphere that comes from the presence of Jesus, the Prince of peace.

The Passion movie

The Passion

The first time I saw The Passion, I cringed at what I saw on screen, the meanness, the beating, the cruelty of those who arrested, tried, and crucified Jesus.  It was more real than I had ever seen or could have imagined. My mind reels at what Jesus did for me.

I try to watch The Passion once a year during this season.  I can only bear to watch it once a year.

I see myself in the characters of the story, people like Judas, Peter, and Mary Magdalene. A betrayer.  A deny-er.  A sinner.  What I saw in Jesus’ eyes in this portrayal was love and longing and an offer of forgiveness.  I am convinced that is an accurate representation of His response.

How could he love me when I’ve failed Him so often?  Why does He long to be my friend and offer His sweet fellowship?  How can He forgive me again and again?  And again.

I don’t know the answers.  I only know He does.  He was passionate to do the Father’s will, to complete the plan, to die in my place.  He is the Savior I needed.  The Lover of my soul.  The High Priest who always intercedes for me.   He is Jesus.

Clean out something

Before Passover begins, Jewish families make a thorough cleansing of the house to remove all leavening agents, whether it is cookies or bread or baking powder. During the Passover meal and for seven days thereafter, nothing containing leaven is to be eaten.  This is the Feast of Unleavened Bread as told in Exodus 13.

Jesus warned His disciples about the leavening of the Pharisees, their pious self-righteous attitude that made them think they were better than others.  Jesus’ constant reminder was to serve, to think of others first, to stop trying to get the first place.  He lived out the principal for three year and washed feet at their last supper together, showing He meant what He said.

Cleaning out a drawer or a closet isn’t going to make me more humble.  But it can be a reminder that I need to consider what clutters my heart and my life.  I can gather hurt and unforgiveness, pride and selfishness very quickly.  If I don’t examine myself, those things can become corrupt in me.  The corrupting influence of leavening must be dealt with.  I need daily cleansing from the precious blood of the Lamb.

With any clean space, I want to be careful what I put in it.  I’ll take faith, courage, peace, love, joy and the gifts God offers.

Wash me, Lord, and I will be cleansed from my sin.  Fill me with Your presence.

Resurrection cookies

resurrection-cookiesCooking as a family can be fun, educational and even a little spiritual.  Making Resurrection Cookies together gives the adult an opportunity to tell the story of Jesus death and resurrection to a child with the best object lesson ever – something that can be eaten later.

Tomorrow I will post the recipe and more information. Think about a child with whom you can share this activity. It will be well worth the effort.

Deny myself?

Day 30 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Consider fasting a meal or two (or more as the Spirit leads) as a sacrifice unto the Lord.

When your stomach growls with hunger, remember Christ is the only One who can satisfy your longings.

100_2700

100_2695

Fasting is not a favorite subject.  It requires too much denying of the flesh.

Jesus told His disciples, Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people.

So we can assume that fasting is to be part of our Christian discipline.  There is something about it that is good for us, like praying, reading the Bible, and attending church.

My mother fasted on many occasions.  It was usually when she was desperate to hear from the Lord.  I can remember her preparing lovely meals for dad and me.  But she did not eat.  It made me aware that she needed God more than she needed her stomach filled.

Fasting, like prayer, is a personal encounter with a personal God.  It should not become legalistic.  It should not be a badge of honor we wear to show our spirituality.  But there is benefit to it.  When we fast, we lay aside one of our most basic needs for a deeper spiritual hunger.

I recognize that some people cannot fast food for medical reasons.  But there are any number of things we can do without for a season.  Social media is one.  Shopping, watching TV, drinking alcohol, or anything that consumes large chunks of our time and money can be a signal of where we are investing ourselves.   If we are honest, often we are trying to fill a deeper longing with cheap substitutes.

What is it you love to do more than anything?  Can you deny yourself for 12 hours or a full day?

Perhaps we will recognize that what we really need cannot be satisfied by food or drink or anything in this material world.  We can only be satisfied with Jesus.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

You are loved

Day 28 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:  

Remind yourself that you are greatly loved. Also remind someone else.

love crossThere is this curious Hebrew word in Scripture.  It shows up in the Psalms often.  Selah.  There are different arguments as to it’s meaning.  Some give it the definition of “pause and think about it”.

In our busy lives filled with so much activity, the pauses come infrequently.  We drop into bed at night exhausted wondering if we ever did pause for a few moments.

Scripture instructs us to meditate, to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time on certain things.  One of the important truths worth meditating on is how very much God loves you and me.

How often do you think about it, that  God loves you, I mean really, really loves you?  Sometimes we question it, don’t we, when things get complicated, when we are disappointed by some event, when life takes a dark turn, when grief knocks at our doors?

Often we tend to wonder if we are good enough for God’s love, if we are doing enough for Him, as if our behavior and accomplishments somehow affect the depth of His love.

Let me make this perfectly clear.  What we do does not increase or decrease the love of God.  We can never do enough to make Him love us more, and we can never sin so much that He will love us less.

This is hard for us comprehend because our love is often based on a person’s performance and how someone relates to us.

God’s love is a fact.  Nothing changes it.  His essence is love.  He demonstrates it constantly in the air we breathe, in the beauty of the earth, in the birth of a baby, even in the flawed love of people around us.

He has given us life and everything about it.  Gifts come from His hand every second of every day. Perhaps we just take them for granted because they are so common.  We forget the Lover of our souls.

His greatest gift is His love to a fallen world of humans who are unloving, mean, hateful, self-centered, puffed with pride, rebellious against His laws, and idolaters of any and everything.

Yet, He loved us.  He loves us still.

If you need some assurance, look to God’s love letter to the world and to you personally.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 

But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again.  

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.

Don’t you ever forget it – you are loved!  And nothing, no nothing, will ever change that fact.  He stretched His arms out wide on Calvary just to prove it.  He welcomes you into His heart.

Believe it and meditate on it.  Share it with someone else.  The world needs to know.

How deep the Father's Love for us

Selah

The season of new life

Day 26 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Look for signs of spring, a time of rebirth

daffodils

The calendar can tell us when the first day of spring comes, but the earth is on it’s own schedule.  I know it is spring when I begin to hear the birds singing in the predawn light.  I see two Canadian geese paired up and making themselves at home in the lake across the road.  They will be building a nest together soon and starting a family.  The daffodils in front of our house are budding and opening into gold.  There are buds on the forsythia bushes and the Bradford pear tree.

No matter the temperatures, nature knows it’s springtime and gets busy doing what she knows to do.

Passover occurs in spring, in the month of Nissan.  This month actually begins the Hebrew religious calendar.  God instructed Moses that this month was to be the beginning of a new year for Israel to commemorate their new lives as they left the bonds of Egypt.

And isn’t springtime really more like the beginning of the year, the time when things come to life after long months of dormancy?  As winter hangs on it has the look of lifelessness.  But spring promises hope every year.

Spring is the time we plant vegetable gardens and start new outdoor projects.  The days become longer and we have more energy.  Life is reborn in so many ways.

So wherever you are, even if you are chilled to the bone, step outside and look for those signs that spring is really here and will soon be dressed in all her God-given glory.  While you are out there in nature, look up at the vast sky and remember the Creator who has given it all to us to enjoy.  Thank Him for the beauty of a season of new beginnings that reflects the newness of your life in Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

Sunday Grace

Revised and re-posted from March 2014

New moon rising

Day 24 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

March 20 is the new moon when it is hidden from our view.  

Observe how it grows until it reaches its fullness on April 4th, the night of Passover.  

new-moon

The story of Passover is integral to the message of the cross of Jesus.  The last meal He shared with the disciples was a celebration of the Passover.  Passover and what we call Easter – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead – cannot be separated.  We must understand the first to fully appreciate the second.

The regulations regarding Passover given to Moses and recorded in Exodus 12 are a shadow of things to come.  The revelation of Jesus Christ fulfilled the Passover and presented Him as God’s ultimate sacrifice, the Passover Lamb.

This night, March 20, begins a new cycle of the moon when the moon appears to be invisible.  It’s what we call the new moon,  when it is positioned between the earth and sun.

As I studied the Passover in relation to the cross, I observed the moon growing full as Passover approached.

Just an explanation:  The Hebrew religious calendar is a lunisolar calendar, meaning the months are based on a lunar month for religious observances while most of the world operates on the Gregorian calendar with its “30 days hath September, April, June and November.  All the rest have 31 except for February what has 28 and sometimes 29.

After tonight’s new moon, it will appear to grow larger until it becomes full on Passover night.  But what significance does that have for me in 2015?

Picture the Israelites in Egypt as plague upon plague ravished Egypt.  The final plague was approaching, the death of the first-born, both man and beast.

On the night of Passover, God’s people were hidden behind blood-marked doors.  The moon was full as the destroyer moved through the land bringing final judgment on Pharaoh and the land he ruled.  This night was different from other nights, and it would be remembered through the generations.  Each year thereafter, the moon rose full and bright on Passover evening as they celebrated and remembered.

Scripture abounds with verses that tell us God is in control.  He rules nature.  He rules the earth and all that is in it. He rules even when we think earthly powers are in charge. What we see now is just the fringe of God’s might and strength.  We are only hearing the whisper of Who He is.

As you watch the moon the next couple of weeks, picture the Hebrews in the land of Egypt, enslaved and hopeless. The idea of emancipation was a distant dream, hidden from their view until God sent Moses with a message of freedom.  As the evening moon grew fuller, the time of their deliverance grew closer.

We have heard the voice of freedom, freedom from the bondage of sin, of self, and of our enemy.  The Voice cried out on a cruel cross, “It is finished.”  It was Jesus’ battle cry.  It was the deliverance we had been waiting for.