Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day 46: The Rugged Cross and Empty Tomb

Read John 19-21

For today's devotional we focus on John chapters 19-21; the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Today I want to dig deeper into the story to find the true meaning of the cross and empty tombstone and really understand what we should take away from it all.

Many years ago years ago, crucifixion was the worst possible punishment anyone could receive. It was seen as something so ugly, atrocious, dreadful; it was seen with so much disgust back then. Also the empty tomb, the tomb where you expect should’ve been the final resting place, symbolizes the sadness, loss of hope and grieving that it brought upon everyone. People connected the cross and tomb to a state of devastation and the end. But now look - today, the cross is seen in every church around the world and the empty tomb is talked about every Easter... but do we really know what they mean?

The cross means that we can look at the past and be thankful; the empty tomb means that we can look to the future and be hopeful. The cross was something that brought disgust, but today it is a symbol that brings us joy and fills us with gratitude. The cross symbolizes victory and the empty tomb is the victory of righteousness. On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished,” and the empty tomb says, “I am alive forevermore.”

The story of Jesus Christ’s resurrection opens our eyes to see a new perspective like Roy Lessin wrote, "We must look up, look forward and look ahead."

  • When we look up we see Jesus seated at the right hand of God
  • When we look forward we see Him guiding our steps daily
  • When we look ahead we see Him coming again for His bride
His resurrection calms our fears just as he calmed Mary Magdalene as she cried near the tomb. It confirms His word, “it is finished,” that we have no more burdens, no more baggage to carry with us through our lives. That we have been set free! Finally it uplifts our faith just like when he appears to his disciples and says "Peace be with you," and when He showed them his hands they become overjoyed to know their Father Almighty is living. We are able to believe there is a one true living God, not based on sight but based on our faith.

So this Easter let us take just a few minutes not just to hear the Easter story one more time but to really understand what we can take from it. What the cross and empty grave symbolizes. Above all realize how blessed we are to be able to serve and to be called children of a Lord who is alive, who is above all things and a Lord who showers us with everlasting love.

Let us pray that the old rugged cross and empty tomb will help us to look up, look forward and look ahead.

- Sydni Philip

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 45: Profound Mysteries

As we are approaching the final days of lent, and as Good Friday is quickly approaching, let us dig in and try to gain a deeper understanding of the radical love that the Father has for us. Often times we read the Passion story and it has no effect on us; we become numb to what happened almost 2000 years ago.  The story of the death and resurrection of Jesus has no impact on our lives. I pray that as we enter into this final stretch of lent, that God renew our hearts and minds and allow us to feel the love that was displayed on that cross. If you are reading this, please take a moment to pray that God never lets the story of His love become a trivial fact in our lives, but rather embolden us to action and to remain in awe of His crazy love.

As we read John 16-18, things seem to get a bit confusing, especially John 17 for me. But there are three profound mysteries that are contained within these chapters that will help us understand the love of Jesus even further.

1) The first mystery can be found in John 16:33, as Jesus states, 
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Did you catch that? What looks like a beautiful statement seems to have a contradiction. How can Jesus say that in Him we have peace, but then RIGHT after that state that we will have tribulation? Jesus seems to indicate that in the midst of tribulation we have a peace, as Paul states in Philippians 4:7 that “surpasses all understanding” and “will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus." The only caveat for this verse is that, in order for us to have this peace, our Father had to send down His only Son, to be tortured and brutally executed and lose His peace on the cross. The Son of Man had to be broken into pieces in order for us to obtain true peace in this world. This is the same Son who had all the riches and glories in Heaven. The same Son who was being worshipped in heaven by the angels and lacked nothing. As all of John 17 states, Jesus and the Father were one, and He gave up the comfort of all his glory to come down in order to give us eternal life.

2) What exactly is this eternal life?
As John 17:3 states, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

The second mystery is revealed in this! Often we believe that eternal life begins when our lives on this earth ends. But Jesus seems to indicate something particular here, that eternal life begins when we enter into a relationship with Him. How could this be? Until we accept Jesus into our lives, we are spiritually dead. We are basically, as a retreat speaker Brad Cauley put it, walking zombies on this earth. But just as God spoke words and gave the world life, it is the Word (who became flesh) that gives us life. Even though God knows all of our sins of our past and all the sins that we will engage in the future, He offers us a chance to actually experience life for the first time.

3) Though Jesus knows our sins, He still loves us unconditionally. This leads us to the third and final mystery that is contained in John 18.
I always wondered one thing, how could Jesus love Judas, especially when He knew that Judas was going to betray Him? One of the 12 disciples, one of His best friends is going to betray Him, yet Jesus allowed Him Judas to be so close to Him, even though He knew that Judas was going to lead Him to death. I often think about if I had a close friend, and if I knew that they were going to shoot me. How would I react? I know that I would avoid them because I knew my life would be in danger. But Jesus knew that in order for the Scriptures to be fulfilled, He had to endure that pain; the pain of His own disciple betraying Him. Often times, I also ask how Judas could betray Jesus for just a couple of silver coins. How could anyone betray the Son of Man so quickly? Then one day I heard something that really convicted me. The radio said something along the lines of, “I am sorry Lord. Judas chose 30 pieces of silver over you, while traded you in for far less.” I was instantly convicted of all the times I chose to indulge in my sin rather than choosing Jesus. How could God love me if I am much worse than Judas? And it is in that moment, I stood in awe of the love of our God.

My brothers and sisters, the journey of our faith is not an easy one. But when I look on the cross and see what the Son of God had to endure, it makes our burden so much lighter. Let us continue to press forward and remain in awe of the One who is awesome.

- Jijo Jacob

Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 44: You Were There

Read John 13-15

Hi everyone.  It's surprising how we're already at the end of March... time sure does fly by.  Today's bible passage is taken from the Gospel according to John ch. 13-15.  I highly recommend you read each of these chapters and really soak them in.  Here's just a rundown over what each chapter is about:
  • Chapter 13 talks about how Jesus is washing His disciples' feet, how Jesus predicts His betrayal, and also how Jesus predicts Peter's denial (awkward!).  
  • Chapter 14 is something I want to dive in with y'all, so... we'll get into it towards the end of the video.  
  • Chapter 15 talks about how Christ is the vine and we are His branches, how the world hates the disciples, and also the work of the Holy Spirit.  
Like I said, please take the time to read each of these chapters thoroughly because they will only strengthen you, increase your awareness of the Gospel, and it proclaims who Christ is if you have any doubts.  Anyways, let's dive into chapter 14.

The three short topics I will be covering: 
  1. How Jesus comforts His disciples
  2. Jesus is the way to the Father, and 
  3. How Jesus promises the Holy Spirit
1. The first topic is how Christ gives an assurance to His disciples.  
Jesus tells them that the Father's house, which is the Kingdom of Heaven, has space for anyone and everyone.  He also tells them wherever He goes, He will have a spot saved for them.  He reminds them not to lose heart, and not to let their hearts be troubled, and basically have a strong faith in Him.  Its a reminder for us to not lose faith.  Christ is telling us this world is temporary, and when we get to the Kingdom of Heaven there will be a spot for each and every one of us - all we have to do is have faith.

2. The next topic I want to focus in on is how Christ is the only way to the Father.  
Jesus answered, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me."  -John 14:6
  • I am the way.  I am, and none besides me, the way.  Chris is telling us that he and he alone is the only way to approach the Father.  Paul says,
For there is only one God and one Mediator, also between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 
To reach internal happiness, Christ is the key to opening the floodgates of Heaven. We must have a strong faith that Christ will lead us to the Father one day.  
  • The truth and the life.  Jesus is the truth... not some of the truth, the entire truth.  He's God's definitive and perfect Word expressing who God is, what He's like, who we are, and what we need to do to be saved from misery and futility.  
  • Jesus is the life.  We are blessed with a book to follow in every way, from learning how to lead a family to how many times we have to forgive others.  Not only did God give us the bible, but also the power to live them out and become new people by setting an example.  
3. The last topic is Christ promising the Holy Spirit.  
If you love me, obey my commandments, and I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth. -John 14:15-16
Christ was about to leave His disciples physically, but He was to remain with the spiritually, or "Holy Spiritually".  Continuing on in this chapter, in v. 23 He basically says if we have complete faith in Him he will end with eternal happiness.  That's just the solid truth!  All He has been saying is not his own, but the will of God.  Christ left us with a gift, which is the Holy Spirit.  Nothing can compare to what the Holy Spirit is.  I just want to read this portion to you:
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I said: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe. -John 14:27-29
Christ is coming back - get ready everybody, it's only a matter of time.  Increase your faith, spread your good news to the world, and love others.  

I wrote a song that I would like to share with you all.  It is about how there are times your world falls apart in front of you, and it gets to the point where you get tired and worn out about what's going on, and actually to the point where you start losing faith.  Because that's what happened to me personally.  But Christ reminds us that He is the only way, He is the only truth, and He is the life.  Have faith everyone, He is always there.

I want to thank my good friend Tiara Thomas and my brother Asish Mathew for helping me out with this song.  God bless everyone!

You Were There
Faith is such a strong word
But at times we forget how much it's worth
So we feel like were lost and forgotten, and we forget

You were there, through the thick and thin

You were there, where it all be begin
You were there when I was broken and bruised
I was lost, but now am found
I was weak, but You carried it all
I was in the need of Your faithfulness
You were there

One by one it falls apart

To the point we become so tired and worn out
But I know there's a light at the end of this dark tunnel, because

You were there, through the thick and thin

You were there, where it all be begin
You were there when I was broken and bruised
I was lost, but now am found
I was weak, but You carried it all
I was in the need of Your faithfulness
You were there

I am, the way, the truth, and life
I am, the way, the truth, and life
Father You are, the way, the truth, and life

You were there, through the thick and thin

You were there, where it all be begin
You were there when I was broken and bruised
I was lost, but now am found
I was weak, but You carried it all
I was in the need of Your faithfulness

You were there, through the thick and thin

You were there, where it all be begin
You were there when I was broken and bruised
I was lost, but now am found
I was weak, but You carried it all
I was in the need of Your faithfulness
You were...
You were...
You were there
-Christo Kurien

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Day 43: Light to the Darkness

Read John 11-12

Quick Recap: In chapter 11 there a lot of things that happen. We see the death of Lazarus and Jesus’ miraculous healing, and then the Pharisees and priests plot to kill Jesus. In chapter 12, Jesus is anointed at Bethany and later predicts His death.

The main verse I want to focus on today is John 12:24.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” -John 12:24
Jesus said this when he predicted his death. He is telling us that we must die in order to live. We must be willing to surrender our life for Christ. Dying in Christ means letting go of our old, sinful ways and replacing that with the love of Christ. In order to produce many seeds, we must first make time and space for Christ and glorify his name! This Lenten season is the perfect time for this. We give up food, music, social media, TV, etc. but what do we do in place of that? That time you spend “giving up” those worldly pleasures must be spent furthering your relationship with Christ.

How can we do this?

The theme of light resonates between these two chapters. Whenever Jesus was about to go back to heal Lazarus, the disciples questioned and reminded Him, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (John 11:8). Jesus responded, “…A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (John 11:9).

Jesus shows no fear because He fully relies on God. When we “walk by day” we will not “stumble.” This means that by remembering God and walking a life pleasing to the Lord, we will not stray away. ‘Stumble’ means falling back or getting lost in our relationship with God. If we “walk by night” then we will stumble for we lack the light. Walking by night means to walk in a way that is selfishly motivated and unpleasing to the Lord. So how do we find this light? Right before Jesus left, he says to His disciples, “…Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you…Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus clarifies that He is the light. We need to put our trust in Him and use Him when we walk so that we do not stumble.

By trusting in Jesus and using him as our light, we are able to walk by faith and ultimately better our relationship with Him. This faith and trust will guide us on the path to produce many seeds.

"Great Are You Lord"

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

- Lydia Philip

Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 41: Seeing is Believing

Read John 9-10

John Chapter 9 is not an extremely long chapter but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for with its impact.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” -John 9:1-2
The disciples were curious as to why this man was punished with blindness. They considered him as a puzzle that needed to be solved. As humans we often try to find a reason for everything. We believe that there must be a reason as to why something happens that goes beyond coincidence.
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. -John 9:3-4
Jesus simply states that the man was born blind so “God’s might” can been shown off. This is the part of the chapter I believe each one of us can actually learn from.

Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why did I fail this test?
Why did you take this person away from me?

These are all questions that we attempt to find an answer for. The question we should be asking on the other hand is: How can your power be displayed through this suffering?

This chapter really impacted me because it helped answer one of the questions that I had no answer to. As many of you know in 2010 I had a stroke. By looking at me you would never be able to tell. I have not had set backs or physical disabilities since I had my stroke. I sometimes wonder why it happened. After reading this chapter I realized that it does not matter why I had a stoke, yet what is more important is that that God’s might can be displayed in me.

- Stan Philip

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Day 40: I AM

Read John 7-8
"But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. -John 8:55-59
Do you know God? Do you know his character, his virtues? Do you know his joys and his grief? His will and his might? The entire human existence is an endeavor to know God. Whether it is in silent idols, irreverent nature, unlasting others, or condemning self, we seek satisfaction, security, and validation in something. Do you know God?

How can we know God? How do we come to know anyone? We can study their behavior or research their history, but the most certain way you can know someone is by their WORD. What they proclaim themselves to be! We communicate ourselves through our words: our loves and hates, our joys and sorrows, our fears and strengths. The Israelites knew God because they knew his word. God declared who he was though his word, and the Israelites were the keepers of those words (Romans 3:1-2). They studied them, they worshipped with them. They knew, memorized, prayed and sang them. The Israelites knew God. But somewhere along the way God’s word -and in effect his character- was twisted and perverted into a false image of God, that ended up looking like them.

This is where most of us find ourselves today. We have been raised within the walls of the church and know OF him, like we know of celebrities or historical figures. But we have neglected to know him more intimately, settling for our distance. Isn’t that devastatingly foolish? That we have neglected the God of the universe? We consciously deprive ourselves of the thing we need most- yes, the very thing we were made for: God! "Wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

Enter: Jesus the Christ, the God-man, the perfect, spotless lamb of God. In verse 55 Jesus makes a radical claim and says that he “knows God and keeps his word.” How was this possible? Earlier in this gospel John delivers a beautiful introduction into his book by saying “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He goes on to reveal that Jesus is the living word of God! This is the gospel! Why is this such Good News? Because no longer is God’s character limited to laws carved upon stone tablets, or words written on parchment, but He is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. If God reveals himself through his word, and Jesus Christ is the word of God, then Jesus Christ is the perfect reflection -in flesh- of God and his fullness. Since the beginning of creation Satan has been trying to pervert the word of God (Genesis 3:1). Indeed the first question he asks Eve is, “Did God really say…?” But where Satan perverts, Jesus restores. His life could not be perverted or twisted. He was perfect and righteous. How do you know God? Come to know Jesus.

Do you know Jesus? The disciples knew him and they followed him. The Jews knew him and they crucified him. One day all of creation will know him and they will worship him. This is why they picked up stones to throw at Jesus: Because he claimed to be YAWEH (I AM), the rightful name of God. But while the Jews took offense to it, we take refuge in it. Jesus is calling to you right now. What’s remarkable is that when we are without pursuit, Jesus is relentless. He is always chasing you - GOD is chasing you. He is jealous for you, and he wants you to know him and be fully known by him.

Jesus is Lord, and he has made the Father known, Amen.

- Arun Abraham

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 39: The Bread of Life

Read John 6

John Chapter 6 is divided into four sections. First there's a feeding of the 5000 by Jesus, second is the miracle where Jesus walks on water, third is the acclamation when Jesus says he is the bread of life, and four is when the disciples and Jesus have a discussion.

The feeding of the 5000 is one of the most important miracles in the Bible because it is such an incredible miracle. Through supernatural powers Jesus changed five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish into where it fed 5000 and had 12 baskets left over. A symbol is placed in this chapter that starts from the beginning and goes into the end of the chapter, and that symbol is bread; we will see this quite often in this chapter. The chapter mentions that a great multitude of people follow Jesus because of the miracles that he has done, so it is clear that Jesus is in his prime of his ministry. One thing that we must know about this crowd is that they are filled with all kinds of people; there are the poor people, the rich people, and the middle-class. At one point Jesus just looks among the crowd, then looks to Philip and says, "Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?"  Philip, being a statistical man, says it would take more than half a year's wage just to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.  Let's talk about Philip - he was a practical guy, always thinking about the bottom line. In the Bible we see that all disciples have a job, and Phillip's job was to be in charge of supplies - he was a trustee. One similarity that we see with Philip is he is doubtful like Thomas. Jesus knows the answer for the food; he did not need to ask Philip the question, "Where we will we get food?" He does this to test Philip, and Philip fails the test. Philip gets a second chance:
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?" -John 14:8-9

And yet again Philip fails. As humans we are always seeking for facts.  We must step outside the box and ask the spiritual questions.  The most important part about this first section is that after Jesus does the miracle, the people among the crowd said, "Surely this is the prophet who is coming to the world."  That part is so important because that is the recognition and acknowledgment that God is King. Through the supernatural powers, people of the crowd finally realize that Jesus is Messiah. Unfortunately, we are not able to see Jesus do his amazing works but every day is a miracle because we are living and we sin but yet we are forgiven. We don't need to see the miracles of Jesus - him giving his life for us was enough. 

The 2nd part of John 6 is  "Jesus Walks on the Water". The version that is inscribed in the gospel of John is not as detailed as we see in the other gospels. Also notice the omission of Peter walking on water. Later in the section we see Jesus disappears. This is an important factor for the next section!

The 3rd section is very critical. It answers many questions that were asked during Jesus's ministry. We start off with the people finding Jesus on the other side of the lake. They ask a question, "When did you get here, Rabbi?" Jesus answers this very elaborately. First he says that the crowd seeks him for another meal. He says meal because it is a temporary item that will be digested. He instead offers the crowd something else - "the Bread of Life" which will cease hunger (spiritual) for everlasting life. He also does an important thing when he says, 
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. -John 6:27
He says this to establish his ethos or his credibility.  He says, "I will give you this bread, because I am Jesus, the Son of God, your Savior."  This is a new concept for the crowd because they are used to seeing miracles but now they are forced to believe in a imaginary bread of life. With the current confusion they ask, "How can we receive this bread?" And Jesus answers, "Believe in the One that was sent." In his ministry it was common to see Jesus answer questions indirectly. But now He answers them as direct as possible. He continues on in this section on how to receive forgiveness, atonement, and more.

The 4th part is also a continuation of before. The disciples are baffled by what Jesus has previously preached. They confront Jesus and basically tell him how ridiculous his teachings are and who could accept it. This is where Jesus, again, tells his disciples his identity. And afterwards some disciples depart. The gospel doesn't say why they leave. But one could figure that it might be out of anger and frustration. Then Jesus ends this discussion with a strong statement:
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil!" -John 6:70
He foreshadows his death and that one of his disciples will betray him.

- Sam Saji