Mar 30

March 30, 2015

read | Mark 16:1

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him.” 

 

On first read, this verse did not speak to me in any clear way. But when I meditated on it, I began to see a sense of sweet love and friendship in this little scene. I saw the three women carrying their burial spices along the road…Were they walking hurriedly, eager to anoint the lifeless body of their Master, anxious to just see their Friend one last time? Or were they walking slowly, arms locked in shared grief, dreading the encounter that would make His death real and permanent?

I don’t know. But I do know that however they did it, they did it together. They weren’t related, but they were family. And it was this sense of familial love that the Spirit led me to focus upon.

Christ taught us how to create a new, spiritual family: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

He told us to love one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)

God’s word instructs how to walk through life’s journey together: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

There are many of us in Los Angeles who are far away from extended family. Today I focus on my spiritual family and how grateful I am to have those I can laugh and cry with; how even when I don’t “feel” very loving, I can choose to love my brother or sister for Him who commands me; and most importantly, how privileged I am to have Jesus include me as a member of His family.

 

- Charlie Shahnaian

 

Mar 29

March 29, 2015

read | Mark 11:1–11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

    Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”


Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

 

Mar 28

March 28, 2015

read | Mark 11:9–11

“Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when He had looked around at everything, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” 

 

When I read this passage I start to get swirled up in the excitement and anticipation that those who were there that day must have felt. I can feel the celebration and community rallying around Jesus, our Savior, and I think about the buildup of similar excitement I have experienced either soaking in the awesome creation of the Hollywood Bowl on Easter Sunday or when the kids from the Sunday School classes are singing Hosanna and waving Palm leaves in the sanctuary on Palm Sunday.

Reflecting on this, I wonder how we can feel that same energy and enthusiasm for Christ’s presence everyday that we are able to experience in those instances around Easter? And better yet, how do we exude that into our surrounding environments?

As we read this passage, I challenge us all to be prayerful about ways we can be filled with the excitement of what we already know, and that we too can ignite and spread the power of God’s love and presence in everything that we do. God has blessed us and we should rejoice…each and EVERY day.

 

- Lori Tabb

 

Mar 27

March 27, 2015

read | Mark 11:7–8

“Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and He sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.” 

 

We live in the city of red carpet entrances. Important people are ushered down aisles of crimson while we all look at them in awe of their fame and notoriety. That’s what I’m reminded of when I read Mark 11:7–8.
But there is a difference that sticks starkly out in the passage. Mark says that “many people spread their cloaks on the road…” as Jesus sat on a colt, making His way into Jerusalem. People took off their own cloaks to spread on the ground before this man that they just knew was important. A simple, yet profound, offering. A willingness to be inconvenienced and lowered, not for the sake of self-righteousness, but because of the honest recognition of the King in their midst which must have resonated with a longing in their souls.

An encounter with the King, with the Messiah, with the Son of God, produces this visceral response. Too often, however, I become so familiar with the idea that Jesus is with me, that I fail to appreciate the person in my midst. I fail to allow the greatness of the Christ wash over my everyday tasks. I fail to marvel at His willingness to journey to the cross.

Take some time today to reflect on the complex mystery of Jesus’ willing Incarnation, and the recognizable love He demonstrates towards us on the road to the cross.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6–8

 

- Clay Collier

 

Mar 26

March 26, 2015

read | Mark 11:6

“They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.”

 

The fact that Jesus is telling the people to untie someone else’s colt is showing his authority as the King of Jerusalem and, ironically, His own humility as the Son of God. Humility in that Jesus even wanted a colt, given their lowly stature in those days. Colts were not used for riding, but for carrying burdens. Jesus was proud of His role as God’s Son and the role He was about to play as an earthly man of dying on the cross for our salvation. This tells me that God asks that we come before Him humbly, with unconditional acceptance and faith for our own lives in the same way that Jesus was able to. Is my acceptance for my own life and God’s divine plan for it, unconditional surrender, as shown in Jesus’ life? Or do I hold on to little parts of it and say, “God, humbly, I give You my heart and soul, but I’m going to make sure my life goes in this direction…with Your help?” Humanly, we can’t understand how Jesus could have been so accepting of His about-to-be fate. Think of how we would feel about salvation if we thought that Jesus had gone to the cross begrudgingly. It would change all aspects of how we feel about grace!

My prayer for today is that we humbly, and with complete surrender, search our lives with honesty and a desire for God to reveal Himself to us in ways that previously we have not and that given our roles as God’s child we are willing to accept that role with pride and authority as Jesus did.

prayer

Humble man, God’s Son

Accepting of earthly plan

High and Mighty not

 

Commandment to men

Untie lowly colt from stake

Even knowing fate

 

Complete surrender

God reveal Himself to me

Welcome His plan

 

- Yvonne Benveniste

 

Mar 25

March 25, 2015

read | Mark 11:4–5

“They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’” 

 

After weeks of Lenten refrain, be honest, have you given up on the giving up yet? Have you found yourself forgetting your promise to sacrifice like Christ, or maybe even more, have you found yourself not wanting to fulfill your promise at all? If so, then perhaps you are finally understanding what Lent is really all about.

Like fully keeping the law, our attempts at true self-sacrifice always fall woefully short. We find ourselves in a defeated cycle of getting back on the horse (or donkey, perhaps) only to find ourselves falling off again and again. Shame begins to cloud our view of ourselves and our view of the God that loves us. But then one day, maybe through another failed attempt at Lenten self-control, we began to really see that the space of our inadequacy can only be filled with grace.

In that repetition of emptying ourselves and allowing God to fill us, a new cycle is created and the patterns of our hearts, even the very pathways of our minds begin to change. We no longer fear our inability to obey because of our past failings, but we begin to just obey.

In the preceding weeks and months the disciples had spent with Jesus, they had seen their own shortcomings in stark contrast to His life of perfect truth and perfect love. They had questioned and doubted and failed, and yet, Jesus invited them to continue on the journey with Him. As they encountered that grace, it changed how they viewed themselves and how they viewed Him. So when Jesus asked them to perform a simple yet challenging task, they didn’t dismiss His request or offer alternatives…they just obeyed. Despite their past fears, despite the risks, despite the voices, both external and internal, questioning their actions…they just obeyed.

Lent is not as much about refraining as it is about refining us. In that formation, we are given the chance to see our part in God’s story, to see it not as insignificant or defeated but as indispensable and glorious…and it makes us want to obey whatever He asks us to do.

“For we are what He has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” – Ephesians 2:10

 

- Jay Wolf

 

Mar 24

March 24, 2015

read | Mark 11:3

“If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 

 

I can but imagine if I was one of those disciples being given a list of things to do for Jesus…I would want to be obedient and supportive. I would want to do what He asked of me….I think! And in this verse Jesus seems to anticipate what the disciples might face, what questions would we have asked of them—why would they be going to get a colt? So Jesus tells them, in essence, if anyone asks what you are up to, just let them know IT IS I, the Lord who needs it! There is an earnest tone in the request and an immediacy we sense…and Jesus promises… “[I] will send it [the colt] back here immediately.”

Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem. Deliberate and careful with details, He asks His disciples to help make for all the arrangements. No travel agent for Him. When Jesus comes into the Jerusalem, He names the mode of His transportation—no fancy carriage or stallion—but a colt, upon which no one has yet sat. In that day, riding on a colt as opposed to a big stallion or war horse was a sign of a man coming in peace. The Prince of Peace was coming—Jesus coming into Jerusalem as a suffering and triumphant servant. The prophet Zechariah (9:9) speaks of this…the Messiah would come in a humble, lowly way, riding on a colt!
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your King comes to you; triumphant and victorious is He,
humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

I am not sure if I was one of the ones Jesus asked to do this task, I would feel like I was specially chosen—commissioned for this assignment—or if I would have been troubled or bothered by it! I want to think I would have felt the honor of it, going ahead and getting something for Jesus, something HE needed. I don’t often think of Jesus having needs. He is the Savior after all, the Lord God. If someone asked them what they were doing with the colt they were untying, they were to say, “Tell them The Lord needs it!” Jesus has needs?

What other needs do we see Jesus have or ask for? “Let this cup pass from Me” and “I am thirsty” are two we read about this Lenten season and during Holy Week.

Did you notice twice here we see the word “immediately”? Was Jesus in a hurry? The “immediacy” of the stories that lead into and begin the passion narrative is highlighted by the three occurrences of the adverb immediately (Mark 10:52; 11:2, 3). The passion story is the “opportune time” (Greek: kairos) of the immediacy of God’s reign breaking in through the death and resurrection of God’s Son. As the sighted Bartimaeus “followed Jesus on the way” (Mark 10:52) into the city of Jerusalem, so too are we called to follow in the procession that now begins and takes us to the cross.

What does Jesus need from you?

How will you respond?

 

- Rev. Care Crawford

 

Mar 23

March 23, 2015

read | Mark 11:1–2

“When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.’” 

 

These verses begin Mark’s account of Jesus’ preparations for Holy Week. Two disciples are dispatched to retrieve a specific animal. The colt that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem had “never been ridden.” As the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, Jesus was unblemished, like the sacrifices made in the Temple. The animal selected to carry the Messiah on the first part of His journey to the cross also had to be “clean,” just like the priests who presented the sacrifice in the Temple. Priests purified themselves before entering the sanctuary. For such a sacred task as transporting our Lord, only a donkey that had never carried anything or anyone would suffice.

In the Gospel accounts of His last week, Jesus seems inscrutable. Being fully divine, Jesus must have known what God’s plan demanded. But being fully human, He couldn’t have anticipated the agony He would endure. Was His acceptance characterized by humility or humiliation? I seem to wrestle with this question every Lenten season as I read the Passion narratives. Was Jesus humiliated as He was literally stripped of His humanity by the events of His
last week on earth or did His actions reflect His humble and obedient response to God’s divine plan of salvation for a fallen creation?

The difference between humility and humiliation is the person’s self-perception and their attitude. Arrogance results in humiliation. Meekness produces humility. Certainly Jesus was not arrogant and boastful, so He could never be humiliated by His adversaries, regardless of their inhumanity toward Him. In meekness, Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Wondering whether Jesus demonstrated humility or humiliation exposes our own fallen nature and underscores our need for Christ’s sacrifice.

I marvel at the attention given to every detail of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem—including the selection of the donkey. In Advent, John the Baptist proclaims, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” The events of Holy Week challenge us to prepare for God’s greatest sacrifice. By allowing Jesus to atone for our sins, God allows us to be at one with Him. Like the colt in these verses, God wants to untie us and bring us to Himself. Prepare to encounter the Savior differently this Lenten season—with humility as well as gratitude.

 

- Steve Madaris

 

Mar 22

March 22, 2015

read | Mark 14:26–50

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted him and fled.

 

Mar 21

March 21, 2015

read | Mark 14:43–50

“Immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the Man; arrest Him and lead Him away under guard.” So when he came, he went up to Him at once and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Then they laid hands on Him and arrested Him. But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest Me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” All of them deserted Him and fled.”

 

In reading this passage of the betrayal of Jesus I am struck by the dichotomy of the emotions displayed by the disciples. In one moment they are fervently protecting their Friend and Savior and in the next they run away, abandoning Him. In this situation the disciples were literally scared for their lives. The vast majority of us will never have to face that kind of testing of our faith. But we are guaranteed to come up against very uncomfortable moments and attacks on our faith both directly and indirectly. In this passage there are three different reactions to a very direct attack: aggression, abandonment and peaceful confidence. What would happen if in those everyday moments when we have to decide between standing alongside Christ or running away we chose to peacefully stand with him? What if we chose to love that difficult person in our lives rather than avoid them? What if we chose to believe the best about a person when they are confronting us about something or behaving in an uncomfortable way?

As I prepare my heart to celebrate the remembrance of the resurrection of my Savior, I am asking Him to reveal areas of my life that I am running away from His teaching. Are my actions leading others to know the character of Jesus or pushing them away from finding out who He is?

prayer

Jesus, You are so good. You have blessed me immensely. You reveal Your power and grace ever day, yet my fears and insecurities often don’t allow me to see it. Help me know You so deeply that I replace my confidence that regularly waivers with Your confidence that does not. I pray that You will strongly convict me when I choose the wrong path. Thank You for never abandoning me even when I choose to run away. Thank You for saving me! Amen.

 

- Teri Proulx

 

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