Stop putting your chains back on.
When Jesus died and rose again He took our sins on Himself, He set us free from our chains- so why do we keep setting the locks back in place? We claim our sin as our identity, we tattoo it on our arms (or on our foreheads) we announce it with pride, yet it is what is killing us, it is holding us back, tying us down, and making us defeated. Those sins are nailed to the cross, stop tearing them off and sticking them back on yourself, you deserve more, you deserve better. You are loved so much more by Jesus who says to cast your sins aside than you will ever be by the devil who says to keep your sins and to wear them proudly, in fact mr. Do what makes you happy not what the Bible tells you to, doesn’t love you at all. The devil hates you. That’s why he encourages your sins. Jesus loves you. That’s why He tells you to leave your sins behind. Jesus set you free. So be free. Stop being a slave to the flesh. Be a redeemed, set free, undefeated, friend of God. For He called you by name.
Where is Jesus?
His knees ached as he prayed, he swung back and forth in agony as his soul searched for something, anything. Around him others prayed to their gods and the pain was clear in their mumbled as they searched for the same thing. A woman was kneeling beside him, a book clasped in her hands as she prayed silently, a dim smile spread across her face. He leaned over to her. ‘What god do you pray to?’
She whispered back, ‘I pray to Jesus.’
‘Oh, what is Jesus the god of?’
The woman thought a moment, ‘well, He’s the God of everything. There isn’t anything that He isn’t God over.’
‘Really? Who is He?’
‘He’s the one who died for you. He came to earth from Heaven and was sacrificed for our sins. Then He rose again and took deminion over death. Now we who love Him can join Him in Heaven.’
‘Interesting. How did you get to know Him?’
She began to answer but a rod came down with a crack between them, ‘no talking!’ The guard bellowed, ‘just do your worship and leave.’
The woman went back to her praying, the book clutched against her heart. The man looked around him, some people beat their heads and chests in anguish, some had knives and drew blood from their palms, some merely mumbled to themselves the same things the man had heard them say every time they had come, he looked at the statue of the god he was praying to, it seemed so indiferent to him to his needs, it never died for him, it didn’t care about him. Then he glanced at the woman again, she was smiling, then she laughed softly, she cried but it seemed like a happy cry. He glanced at the guard, the person had moved on. He leaned forward, ‘how do I contact her god? Do I need a sacrifice? She seems to have just come here. He whispered again to the woman.
‘How do I get to know your God?’
She grinned, ‘just talk to Him. Call Him by His name, Jesus, God, even Father.’
She nodded. He began to pray, ‘um…Jesus. Are you there?’ Suddenly a wave sweapt over him. Peace. Fear of the power that surrounded him seized his soul, but the peace chased it away. Then he began to cry as another wave hit him. Love. It was sufficating and beautiful.
The guard rang the bell that said free time to worship was over. The man got up and saw the guard take the book from the woman as he collected all the religious items from the worshipers. He saw her stop herself from reaching after the book. She left. He left. But the feeling of her God didn’t leave him. It followed him as he went to his house. On the road he saw the woman again, he rushed over to her and she startled back from him.
‘Don’t be afraid. But I have to know. Why does it feel like your God is following me?’
She smirked, almost laughed and then said gently, ‘because He loves you.’
‘Yes. He wants you and is with you wherever you go. I don’t have to attend the worship hour in the chamber to be near my God, He is always with me, I go because they keep the Bibles and I love holding His book in my hands.’
The man didn’t know what to say, the woman suddenly whispered, ‘guards coming.’ And dissapeared.
The man returned to his home, sat on his bed and said ‘Jesus. Are you here?’ The peace and love swept over him again and he decided that day that he would aim to get a Bible too during the allotted worship hour, then he could learn more about this God who clearly loved him. Now when he prayed he knew someone was listening and cared about what he had to say, now when he cried he knew someone was there to comfort him. Now he was loved. And had purpose, if that purpose was simply to worship the god called Jesus.
He never saw the woman again, but as he learned about Jesus and gave his life to Him he knew that some day he would meet the woman again in Heaven, and then he would thank her.
Lent devotional 37
Who is He?
Two people walked past the platform in the street market. Amid the shouting of the vendors and the bartering of the shoppers you could hear a single voice raising. It said As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’
Acts 13:25 NIV
“Who is he?” The one person asked the other.
“One of those followers of John I think.”
“Who is he speaking of?”
A shrug, “who knows, the man is crazy, he lives in the bush and rants about the Messiah.”
“Yes but, what if he is right?”
“And what if he is wrong?”
The two continue on and later find themselves arrested, each had stolen from the vendors as they passed through the streets. Their trial took several days and at last they were executed. While on the cross he had earned through his crime the man wondered again if his Messiah would truly return soon. He hoped ‘soon’ would be within the hour. Then he looked at the man next to him. His face, His eyes, they were not right, they did not belong next to him. His friend gloated and mocked the man in the middle. What was wrong? Why did He seem so out of place? So many mourned this man, so many seemed to hate Him, for what?
The man turned on his old companion and silenced him, deep down he knew that what he had heard was not the ravings of a man in the wilderness, it was the prophesy of one who believed he would see God. The man wanted that, even at this late hour while death stood waiting the man desired to see Heaven, to be free of guilt and shame. He turned to see sad eyes staring at him, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
The face smiled, “today we will be together in Paradise.”
We don’t know much about the two men who died with Jesus and though the scriptural parts are true the rest is an idea, an idea of how the man with Jesus whom Luke claims came to know God in his final moments might have felt, had he heard John or one lf his deciples speak of Christ? Had it simply been the presence of Jesus Himself that turned the man’s heart? Maybe he had been at the sermon on the mount? We don’t know. All we know is that Luke says he asked to come into God’s kingdom with Jesus and Jesus said ‘yes’. Was this man significant to the story? Yes. And God would have known that. We needed to see that it is never too late and you are never too far gone for God to save you. It is so important to remember that. He wants you with Him. That was the point of all this. So that you could come to know Jesus and be with Him forever.
The flames will only make me stronger-Zeno
People often call the testing of God, “going through fire.”
Actually bad things in general are often called tests of fire too.
Right now it feels like the whole world is burning, being tested by fire.
One of my absolute favorite novel characters ends up in a burning building. You guessed it. Even though he is not the main hero he ends up having to save everyone from the collapsing, burning building. When the others argue about leaving him behind to be engulfed by fire he responds with: “don’t worry. The flames will only make me stronger.”
For those who are wondering, no, he does not die. Though badly burned, he makes it out alive.
Do we live like that? Do we see our “flames” as something that only makes us stronger?
I know that I don’t. Though the power and beauty of fire is nice at a distance, walking through that fire is not something to be called, “enjoyable”. But just because you hate it, and just because it hurts doesn’t mean that God isn’t making you stronger through it.
During these difficult times I challenge you to read through the story of the three Hebrew boys, pick the verse that most speaks to you, and put it up someplace in your home to remind you that the flames will make you stronger.
Our feet feel the squish of who knows what? The air is some sort of un- breathable fume and the walls are wet like tar. But we asked to come, so here we are.
Wails trick our ears from every corner and sunshine is a distant memory, but there is hope. The jingle of keys in a strong and determined hand. Several people join our ranks, faces I never thought I would see as each door is opened. Jesus smiles as He sets the last of the captives free.
Imagine being there with Jesus. Walking through hell and setting the captives free. The Bible says that Jesus took the keys from the devil. You didn’t think He kept them as a souvenir did you? He used them to free those imprisoned by death. Death before Jesus would have been terrifying. Death now is a glorious reward, Heaven.
What would it have been like to walk through the devil’s territory and let free those who had been waiting there for Jesus? Imagine the joy. Imagine the disgust and horror the devil must have felt? It would have been glorious.
Thank you Jesus that we can live unto you and no longer have to fear death because you died for us. Amen.