Monday, March 28, 2016



[Photo of a folded linen cloth laying on the ground]

“Then Simon Peter… arrived and went into
the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying
there, as well as the burial cloth that had
been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was
folded up by itself, separate from the linen.”
—John 20:6-7

Vacuum cleaner put away. Dishes washed up from the sink. Good silver polished and back in the silver chest ready to be placed when I set the table. Done. I had finished the Easter dinner preparations. Anyone seeing a “before” and “after” picture of the house could tell.

But now:

Imagine a hot afternoon in Galilee. Jesus has completed the final pieces of a job he has worked on for several days. The hair of his strong forearms is matted with sawdust and sweat. His face is shiny with heat. He takes a final—and welcomed—drink of cool water from a leather bag.

Then, standing to the side of his work, he pours water over his face and chest, splashing it over his arms to clean himself before his journey home. With a nearby towel, he pats his face and arms dry.

Finally, Jesus folds the towel neatly in half, and then folds it in half again. He sets it on the finished work and walks away. Later, whoever arrives to inspect the work will see the towel and understand its simple message. The work is finished. 1

When Peter came to the tomb on that Resurrection Sunday and saw the folded linens, he must have realized the symbolic meaning of them. Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth, had left behind a very clear message: His work was finished.

Jesus knew the work that God had given Him to do. Though more difficult than any of us will ever know, He, out of obedience to His Father in heaven, took on the task. He gave His blood for us, hopeless sinners, so that He might claim us as those He had redeemed. His work was completed.

What a victory! Christ’s death, looking like He had forever been conquered, instead resulted in the greatest turnaround in history. God broke the bars of death and Jesus came out of the tomb to eternally offer life to all who believe. Indeed, the work of salvation has come to all who believe. His work is finished!


1 Brouwer, Sigmund, The Carpenter’s Journey. Nashville: Countryman/Thomas Nelson, 1997. pp. 120-121.



Monday, March 21, 2016



[Photo of Jesus carrying the cross]

“A certain man from Cyrene,
Simon, the father of Alexander
and Rufus, was passing by on his
way in from the country, and they
forced him to carry the cross.”
—Matthew 15:21

Suppose you had come into the city for the Passover holiday, were minding your own business and had a specific intent for your visit that day. Perhaps you even had a meeting planned. But, because of the crowd, you could not get through, making you late for your appointment. We don’t know Simon’s intentions that day. We only know that this act of giving help—that of carrying Jesus’ cross—was forced upon him.

Interruptions can be pesky things. Especially when plans have been made, the schedule is full, and the goal is important for the Kingdom. Why that must have been what the priest and the Levite felt when they walked on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho in the story of the Good Samaritan. They had holy business to which they must attend. They couldn’t possibly stop to help the injured man and risk interrupting their honorable intentions!

As recorded in Luke 10:30-37, the Samaritan also had matters to which he needed to attend. However, Jesus held this man up with praise above the holy men in the story. Why? Because he showed the kind of compassion and unselfish concern for the wounded man that Jesus looks for in a true disciple.

Jesus Himself knew interruptions on a daily basis. Almost all of the gospel stories concerning His earthly ministry show people waiting for Him, or following after Him, or calling out to Him. In an account of Jesus in Matthew 9:18-26, we find Jesus teaching His disciples. But, He is interrupted by a ruler who came frantically asking for Him to come and heal his twelve year old daughter. On the way, a woman sick with chronic bleeding stopped Him, and He healed her as well.

In Matthew 14:13-14, we read:

When Jesus heard what had happened, [John the Baptist’s beheading] he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

It seems as if He couldn’t catch a break, even to mourn over His friend’s violent death!

I for one hate interruptions. And, maybe you do, too. But, I realize that God wants me to accept a little more flexibility into my schedule, in case He has something of utmost importance He wants me to do. Sometimes the interruptions seem trivial and bothersome. Sometimes we do have to make wise and discerning decisions about such things.

But if you’re like me, plenty of times I need to resist the cranky response, the resentment, the downright refusal, and accept cheerfully the interruption—even if it is to bear a cross for another. We become more like Christ when we do so.



Monday, March 14, 2016

Quickie Prayers


[Photo of Jesus rescuing Peter]

“Before they call I will answer; while
they are still speaking I will hear.”
—Isaiah 65:24

Have you ever wished that God would answer your prayers while you are still speaking to Him? The verse at the top of this devotional blog post speaks of the way God will answer prayer in the New Heaven and New Earth. Yet, God can and does do that kind of immediate answering in the here and now, too.

In Nehemiah 1 and 2, we read how Nehemiah, while in exile with God’s people in Persia, had heard about the condition of the walls of Jerusalem. He wept and prayed and fasted for days. In fact, he spent four months praying about this situation, and asking God to give him favor with the king. You see, Nehemiah was cup bearer to the king and daily served him. After the four months of praying, one day Nehemiah took wine to the king.

The king noticed Nehemiah’s downcast expression and inquired what caused it. In Nehemiah 2:4, we read:

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…

Nehemiah had specific requests of the king. Among them, he asked the king for permission that Nehemiah might return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. To every request, the king “was pleased” to comply. Amazing!

How did it happen that so large a request prayed in so short a time came about so quickly? I think the answer lies, not in the power of a quickie prayer, but in the fact that Nehemiah had done his homework. Painfully, over many days and weeks, he prayed and wept, and searched for God’s will in this matter. The urgency with which he prayed and the exact details that came to pass, show us the reason that God answered so quickly.

In the New Testament story of the death of Lazarus, we read in John 11 that after Lazarus had already died, Jesus came to Mary. John 11:32 tells us:

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Little did she know that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the grave, and answer her prayers in a way she couldn’t possibly have anticipated.

This was the same Mary, criticized by her sister Martha, who sat at Jesus feet when He came to her house. She desired the place where she could hear Him and learn from Him. She considered nothing more important than that.

I like what Matthew Henry, the Puritan writer said about this:

Those that in a day of peace place themselves at Christ’s feet, to receive instructions from him, may with comfort and confidence in a day of trouble cast themselves at his feet with hope to find favor with him. 1

In Psalm 119:145-147, the psalmist seems to be praying short prayers of desperation:

I call with all my heart; answer me,…I call out to you; save me…I rise before dawn and cry for help.

Of these prayers, Dr. James Montgomery Boice says:

In the Hebrew text, as well as in English, the petitions “answer me” and “save me” are short, staccato utterances, which are appropriate for one who is in trouble and earnestly seeking help. 2

Dr. Boice uses as an illustration the story of Peter on the stormy Sea of Galilee. Peter had walked alongside Jesus in His earthly ministry and had numerous long conversations with His Savior. But, the night Peter found himself on lake in the wind and rain, Matthew 14:30 records him as saying:

“Lord, save me!”

Now that’s a quickie prayer!

Who then stands in the best position to have quickie prayers answered? Those who have done the work of labored prayer in the secret place, sitting at Jesus’ feet to learn from Him so that the requests they make can reasonably be answered by their Lord.

If you have prayed and prayed over a burden you carry, you can rest assured that not only does the Lord hear your prayer, but that He may arrange, in a day and time you may not expect, a response to a quickly breathed prayer that He will answer in a truly remarkable way.


1 Henry, Matthew, Commentary on the Whole Bible. McLean, Virginia: MacDonald Publishing Company, Volume 5, p. 1053. (Now in the Public Domain.)
2 Boice, James Montgomery, Psalms: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998. Volume 3, p. 1047.



Monday, March 7, 2016

Dead Branch or
Budding Endorsement?


[Photo of flowers on a stem]

“He is like a tree planted by streams of
water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.”
—Psalm 1:3

In this season of political endorsements, I enjoyed reading the way in which God set up Aaron in front of the Israelite nation as His endorsed leader from the tribe of Levi. The story in Numbers 17 occurs just after the nation complained against Aaron and Moses as their leaders. A group of men had become insolent and had risen up to take the leadership and the priesthood away from them.

You may remember the story in which God allowed the ground to swallow these imposters as a testimony to His anger against their sinful rebellion. This didn’t end the rebellion, however, and God sent a plague that killed 14,700 to show His power. And, even though Aaron stood between God and the rest of the Israelites and stopped the plague, interceding for them, they continued to grumble about his leadership.

At this time, God told Moses to have the leaders of the twelve tribes come to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and bring with them their staves or rods, the symbol of the authority of their governmental leadership. We read in Numbers 17:5 that God said:

“The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling.”

The next day, when Moses entered the Tent, he found Aaron’s staff not only sprouted, but budded and blossomed, producing almonds! From that day on, God asked Moses to keep that rod before the Testimony as a remembrance to His decree and endorsement of Aaron as leader!

Isaiah predicts another time, yet to come, when God will endorse His people before the world. Here’s what He promises in Isaiah 60:21:

“Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.”

I like that! Not for their own aggrandizement, but for the display of God’s splendor.

And, in our world today, how does God endorse us? We know that by ourselves, we display nothing but the image of a dry stick. However, with the life Jesus gives us through His atonement, we can bud with His sap running through our veins. I compare this to the sermon Jesus gave in John 15 about the Vine and the Branches. The only way the branches can provide fruit, is when they exist attached to the Living Vine.

We are nothing but dry branches without Him. John 15:5 makes it clear with these words of Jesus:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

God wants to endorse us by displaying His splendor through us, by living His life through us, and by making our lives spiritual food for others. May we know that kind of usefulness to His glory!