April 1 | New Covenant

Text: Luke 22.7-23

At the Last Supper, Jesus transforms the Jewish meal commemorating Passover to a memorial act in memory and proclamation of his death. With his disciples reclining near him, he used two common elements of the Passover meal to powerfully communicate two important spiritual truths. While they previously looked back to the Exodus and God’s old covenant with his people, they would now enter a relationship with God unlike anything they’d experienced.

He first takes the bread, which would’ve been eaten with lamb and bitter herbs, and says it symbolizes his broken body as the substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. He then takes the cup, “the new covenant in my blood,” (v 20) and says it is symbolic of the forgiveness of sin and a new relationship with God. This is what we remember and celebrate whenever we partake of Communion.

When we share these elements, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus as God’s supreme example of grace.

Today, as you welcome Jesus into your day and approach Good Friday, remind yourself of Jesus’ amazing sacrifice for you by listening to “O The Blood” by Gateway Worship.

March 31 | Betrayal

Text: Hebrews 4.14-16

It was a betrayal of the bitterest kind: not just a friend, but also one of the trusted, the chosen, the inner circle, one of the Twelve. Powerless to do anything about Jesus because of his popularity, the religious leaders cannot believe their good fortune when Judas approaches them.

This is a huge break: not only will they know where Jesus is, they’ll have “inside information” to use against him. Under the influence of the Evil One, Judas agrees to betray Jesus (Luke 22.1-6).

Perhaps nothing wounds as deeply as betrayal. “The mood of betrayal is fundamental to the character of all types of sin. In fact, sin is fundamentally a betrayal, not just of God, but of others who are injured by it” (Luke, NIV Application Commentary, Darrell L. Bock, p.546).

Betrayal has devastating effects on everyone involved, including the one who commits it. It was this Jesus experienced. Because he did, he understands our pain when we’re betrayed (Hebrews 4.14-16).

This leads to this week’s One Big Question . . . How can knowledge of Jesus’ betrayal give you confidence in praying to him about your heartache?

March 30 | Good News

Text: Luke 22.1-38 | Good News

Over the last five weeks we’ve joined the thousands of worshippers in Jerusalem for the five days leading up to Passover and the “Five Days” before Jesus’ crucifixion.

We’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the teeming crowds in the temple courtyards as Jesus completes his ministry, confronts the religious leaders, and takes the final steps to the cross.

We’ve watched as tension increases, confrontations are escalated, and a betrayal begins.

We’ve heard the cheers of the crowd, the accusing questions of the religious leaders, and the crashing of over-turned tables.

As we’ve watched the Christ, we’ve sensed both chaos and calm.

At times the chaos has been overwhelming: the tumultuous entry into Jerusalem, the bitter debates, and the cleansing of the temple. Cheers of joy, words of accusation, and righteous anger permeate the five days.

But in the midst of it all we see Jesus: controlled, compassionate, and composed. While those jammed into Jerusalem wait to see what’s next, Jesus uses all of it—all of the chaos and confusion—to bring about the “Good News” of salvation in his name.

Very few, if anyone, who witnessed those five days understood their significance. Certainly the disciples didn’t and they’d been with Jesus for three years. But that’s exactly what happens: even with some awful parts, this is—ultimately—a good story about “Good News.”

Today, as you welcome God into this very special week, slowly read Luke 22.1-38 and specifically note the chaos. Thank God for using this chaos to bring about the salvation of all who believe.

March 27 | God Wins

Text: Philippians 1.3-6

In Luke 21 Jesus tells his disciples a lot of terrible things are going to happen: Jerusalem will fall and they will suffer and be persecuted. But he also jumps to the “end of the story” where he returns and makes all things new. The knowledge that, in the end, Jesus returns and completes the work he started, gives us the sustaining strength we need to live for today.

God wins! That should be enough to take us through every trial as we trust in his strength and power.

As you begin your day, give thanks to God for his plan to keep growing us through our trials and eventually bringing us into his presence, ready for eternity. Use Philippians 1.6 as the basis for your thanksgiving, “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (The Message).

March 26 | Fearless

Text: Luke 21.9-19

Fear can stop us dead in our tracks. When terrible times hit, we imagine the worst, our emotions follow, and we can become like a “deer in the headlights.” But in Luke 21, Jesus commands his disciples not to be terrified in times like this, but to keep going and remain strong in their faith. No matter what happens, they will live on past the grave. The promise of everlasting life is a huge comfort.

Because the Bible tells us not to fear over 200 times (as God is in control), what we know and believe about God—and what he promises—determines how we handle fear.  Focusing on his character and promises keeps us strong in the middle of life’s storms. What we know about God matters!

As you begin your day, listen to the song “Always” by Kristian Stanfill as you focus on God’s character.

 

March 25 | Anxiety

Text: Luke 21.9-19

In Luke 21 Jesus gives his disciples a “heads up” on some frightening events to come: destruction, wars, tumult, and earthquakes. In the midst of this prophesy, he tells them to “make up your mind” beforehand not to worry (Luke 21.14). While we’re usually encouraged to not worry in the midst of suffering, here Jesus tells us to make up our minds ahead of time not to worry.

Jesus is telling us to decide now, before bad things happen, so we’re ready for the trials that are sure to come. We prepare by strengthening our faith and trusting in Jesus, who is with us in our difficulties, using them to make us like him.

One of the ways we can strengthen our faith is by learning God’s Word and taking to heart what he promises. As you lift your heart to God today, write out and memorize Matthew 6.33-34. Call these verses to mind when you find yourself beginning to worry or starting to feel anxious.

March 24 | Troubles

Text: James 1.2-8

You don’t live very long before realizing bad things happen: trials, pain, suffering, hardships, and disappointments all happen even without us looking for them. When they come, we tend to be surprised and ask, “Why me?”

When we encounter suffering, we tend to think it’s “just unfair.” But the Bible doesn’t promise “smooth sailing” in this world; along with the good times there will also be pain and suffering. Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world” (John 16.33). Pastor Manion says, “just because you pass through a trial doesn’t mean you have to become a trial.”

Even though we may think we’ve received an unfair amount of trouble, Jesus reminds us he’s overcome our suffering and will meet us through his Holy Spirit where we need his help.

The Apostle James tells us to consider it joy when we encounter different trials, because this testing of our faith builds endurance and character (James 1.2-8). We can move through pain, instead of wallowing in it, if we’re convinced God is using it to make us like his son (see Philippians 1.6).

As you welcome God into your day, ask him to show you an area of your life where you need to choose joy. Embracing your trials is not natural, but supernatural, as the Holy Spirit will meet you there, help you grow spiritually, and help you find joy in the middle of your difficult situation.

 

March 23 | Refined Faith

Text: Luke 21.5-36

No one likes gloom and doom. Yet, Jesus foretells some grim and frightening stuff on the fourth day of his last week in Jerusalem: a horrifying downfall of the city (which happens in 70AD), events some believe will also occur right before he returns to earth a second time.

Thankfully, he doesn’t just describe these horrible events, but also gives guidance to his immediate and future disciples to help them stand firm and avoid anxiety. In Luke 21.5-36 he gives five challenges: watch out, that you aren’t deceived (21.8); don’t be frightened (21.9); make up your mind beforehand not to worry (21.14); stand firm and you’ll win [everlasting] life (21.19); and be careful about carousing, drunkenness and anxiety (21.34).

Notice these aren’t suggestions, but commands given to his followers to refine their faith. This week we’ll delve deeper into these commands in the midst of our fear and worry.

Today, read slowly through the passage and consider the One Big Question . . . What current situations are surfacing the greatest anxiety in your life? Then discuss with someone in your circle how Jesus’ guidance can help you.

March 20 | Line in the Sand

Text: Colossians 1.15-20

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the Devil of Hell… Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

We can’t ignore this conclusion about Jesus: either he is a lunatic, a liar, or worthy to be called “Lord.” Jesus is drawing a line in the sand—for the religious leaders and for you. You must make your choice. Just don’t be fooled, thinking you’ve already made up your mind and know who Jesus is. Continue to let Jesus show you who he is as you reread Colossians 1.15-20 and allow these truths to change the way you approach the day.

March 19 | Messiah

Text: Luke 20.41-44

With the Sadducees stopped dead in their tracks, Jesus takes full control of the debate by proposing another question. Knowing his opponents await a human (not divine) Messiah to lead them in revolt against Rome, Jesus challenges this assumption when he quotes an Old Testament Psalm (written by King David) and essentially asks how David can call the Messiah, “Lord” (Psalm 110.1).

In American culture we rarely, if ever, use the term “Lord.” However, the Jews regularly used it as an expression of respect and honor for someone in power or authority. King David would never call his son “Lord” unless his descendant was also his God.

After Jesus forces the leaders to wrestle with the issue of his divinity, the story leaves us hanging: no account tells us if any religious leader turned and believed the Messiah to be divine or if any professed Jesus as the God-Man. Don’t let that be your story. Take a few moments today to praise Jesus’ Lordship as you listen to “Jesus Messiah” by Chris Tomlin.