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“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’” (Luke 22:39-46).

On the eve before His crucifixion, Jesus knew each detail of the unprecedented suffering awaiting Him. Jeering pagans would scourge him until near death. The priests who claimed His Father as God would insist they strip and kill Him. He would drag a beam through the dusty streets, as those He suffered to rescue spat upon His battered body. His raw flesh nailed to rough wood, He would hang to suffocate in the blistering sun. And that wasn’t the worst of it. He would also bear the immeasurable weight of every sin from the advent of time until the distant end of all days. Incomparable physical, emotional, and spiritual agony.

Jesus foresaw all this as He poured the Passover wine. Three years of cherished moments with these men culminated in this final message.He ripped the bread and explained its secret meaning to blank stares. In conclusion, He handed the elements to the dear friends who would soon abandon Him.

The scent of roast lamb floated through the streets. Jesus led them beyond the hard-packed roads until the murmurings faded and lush grasses eased their steps. With the steep incline, His legs strained under the added weight of His coming journey. They settled under a favorite cluster of trees in the garden. Gentle breezes lulled His full-bellied companions into repose. Jesus offered a vital exhortation to his too-comfortable students.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

He surrendered Himself in a crucial prayer. Angels responded to strengthen Him. Christ continued His fervent interaction with the Father. Until—

Every nerve and hair prickled as He recognized this moment. The time had come.

Jesus returned to wake his dozing supporters. Yes, He realized their frailty. But He must impress the concept of crucial prayer. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Christ’s insistence upon prayer at this moment renders it a crucial matter. The word ‘crucial’ derives its significance from its parent term, crucifixion. Though comprehension eluded the disciples until after the resurrection, we now benefit from Christ’s magnificent teaching delivered on Maundy Thursday. He

  • Forgiveness. He fulfilled the secret meaning of Passover as the Messiah Lamb Who redeems us from the consequences of sin. Despite impending betrayals and our continued undeserving nature, He demonstrated ultimate grace.
  • Service. He modeled the nature of a servant, explaining an additional impact of His coming sacrifice as providing inspiration for selfless living.
  • Submission. He surrendered Himself in prayer to the Father, Who strengthened Him to face unimaginable agony. During His crucial prayer, the Lord sent angelic support.
  • Crucial Prayer. He exhorted His followers to pray against temptation. He knew the trials awaiting them in the coming season. He knows prayer is our essential resource to fortify and equip us foll all that lies ahead.

This Maundy Thursday, as you reflect upon Jesus’ message to the disciples at the Last Supper and Gethsemane, will you join me in committing to a discipline of crucial prayer?

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:1-3).

Half the carrot harvest tumbled in the broth around chunks of their only lamb. Rich herb aromas billowed from the stew and pressed smiles into the sisters’ faces.

Mary patted Martha’s back. “You did a beautiful job, as always.”

“What better use of the food? I’d give Him all of it, if only we had more room at the table.” She stepped back from the kettle and peered into the next room. Eyes brimming, she laid a hand on her chest. “My heart leaps like a gazelle at the sight of Lazarus laughing alongside Him out there.”

Mary put an arm around her sister’s shoulders and gave her a quick squeeze. “Yes, we know how well the Lord cares for us. God will provide another lamb for Passover.”

As they ladled the extravagant meal into a pot, a refreshing cascade of peace washed over Mary. She felt joy and calm as if a divine breeze cooled her perspiration-drenched skin.

Steam filled Mary’s head covering, infusing her hair with rosemary fragrance as she carried the pot toward the reclining circle of men. Her brother’s charming smile warmed her heart. The familiar faces surrounding him included curious neighbors and cousins. The Teacher’s closest followers dominated the conversation with animated gestures and challenging remarks.

Mary’s gaze secured on one pair of callused feet. Extended from the table, the rough heels bore cracks from miles of travel. Bruises and insect stings framed the sides and toes. The battered, lovely feet of her Master and Teacher. She rested the pot on the table and glanced at His marvelous eyes. In their infinite depths, they seemed to bear a wistful gleam of both joy and care at once. Her Lord.

“Tell Martha she outdid herself,” Lazarus said.

Mary fled the table without responding. She sprinted, not to the kitchen, but to the sleeping quarters she shared with her sister. She grabbed a stick from the table and dropped to her knees at the room’s corner. Five hand-breadths from the wall, she hacked the earthen floor broke open. Mary reached into the cool hollow and wrapped her fingers around the chilled alabaster vessel inside. A treasure meant to seal her in marriage.

She clutched the vessel to her chest and stood, recalling how she once considered this the only thing of value she possessed. Tears careened over the rising apples of her cheeks as she raced into the main room. There they were. The priceless feet of her Lord.

Mary knelt. The conversation buzzed on as the men gave little notice to the one so often drawn to the Master’s feet. The vessel trembled in her grip. Fingers slippery with tears, she broke its neck. The crack of alabaster silenced the room. Her chest burned as she poured her heart out with its contents. Mary drenched every beautiful, bruised inch of those feet with the rich oil. The overflow soaked the tattered hem of His garment. Her eyes blurred as she kissed the blisters on his toes.

More. Her core ached with adoration.

She tore the covering from her head. Untethering her locks, she wrapped them around his soles. Pressing, patting her hair against the magnificent feet of her Savior.

Not everyone enjoyed the overpowering rush of nard at dinnertime. The scent’s strength qualified it to perfume the dead. Most of the guests waited for Jesus’ reaction. Except the one most offended by heartfelt praise. Judas dwelt outside the capacity to appreciate sacrifice, to give or accept divine love, or to understand the fragrance of true discipleship.

As Easter approaches, the opportunity to pour our heart’s treasures onto the Lord’s feet dawns before us. Our worship will be unique in nature. However it looks for each of us, all genuine adoration flows with abandon. Nothing we could hold back compares in value to the One Who offers Himself so fully to us.

The fragrance of our love and commitment for Christ will fill the air around us. The impact lingers and spreads. No one can deny such a compelling effect, for it seems to cover the stench of death so common in the rest of the world. Not everyone will enjoy or understand it. Some will find our aroma offensive.

When others shame or ridicule our extravagant love for the Lord, we can assure ourselves that we’re in good company. They found Jesus offensive, too.

Let’s pray for tho who remain outside to grow appreciative of sacrifice, to accept divine love in order to pay it forward, and to comprehend at last the divine fragrance of true discipleship. And through all, keep that strong fragrance pouring forth.

20140521_164204Bridges draw my eyes up and across their magnificent structures. Age and wear tug at my slumbering imagination, inspiring me to wonder at a bridge’s creation and years of shouldering live burdens toward safety. The builder invested careful engineering before setting the first stone at its foundation. Intense toil erected its magnificent path. The suffering laborer knew his work would provide means to cross a treacherous divide. For those who would follow his work, the bridge offered freedom from grave pitfalls below. The number of bridge goers would continue to increase beyond the end of the worker’s life. How many life stories plodded across this divide? Who paused to gaze into the ravine below and consider the passion required to secure their way?

So it is with our Bridge to Eternal Hope. Our Father, the Great Bridge Builder, engineered our way as soon as its need began. When sin ruptured the earth and triggered an epic collapse, a ravine gaped between the Father and His children. Deadly pitfalls threatened us, and we could not reach Him. The Father placed each stone with precise engineering, His heart empassioned to carry His children home securely. At the perfect moment, He set the Cornerstone which would never falter. Christ toiled and suffered, rending His body as building materials for the cross beams. He crafted a bridge to traverse the impossible divide.

We no more need linger on this forsaken shore. The passage welcomes us, drawing our wondering eyes up and over its secure structure. Let’s cross together with thankful and joyous hearts, pausing to cast a tearful gaze across the ravine. Thank You, Lord, for making the Way for us.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

 

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. ..But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christand seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:1-9

“God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1Timothy 2:3-6

It improves cocoa and makes chocolate more interesting. Nutritionists claim it boosts metabolism and immunity. While a little goes a long way, Mexican food isn’t the same without some form of this spice. Cayenne powder takes the chili seasoning to another level.

Life could go on without cayenne peppers, of course. We’d eat our dull food and survive. Some might even thank heaven for less heartburn. Bland routines avoid pain.

I recognize the comfort of routines. It’s easier not to think about adventure or passion. A day like yesterday risks nothing. If I raise my hands halfway in worship, no one will think me over-zealous. If I only offer blessings when someone sneezes, I can avoid offending someone who doesn’t believe.

Living in Christ means I no longer feel comfortable in my comfort zone. I’ve tasted the zest of grace, enjoyed the boost of God’s love, and dwell in the shelter of a glorious Father. My Lord offers more than a ho-hum, routine love for me. God’s love always rises to another level, one with intense passion.How can I settle for anything less than grabbing Jesus’ arm each day and setting out with Him on an adventure?

So, I’m endeavoring to add my spirit’s zeal to each day, like a dash of cayenne. Whether there’s a risk of pain or rejection, I know from my Savior’s example that passionate living is worth every kind of risk it takes.

 

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Psalm 63:3).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2).

A life-changing operation offers sight to a sixty-six year-old woman who had been born blind. She describes her overwhelming delight at seeing her local grocery store’s produce section, feasting her new eyes on the magnificent colors. She told news reporters that she wanted to taste each fruit again to fully experience its multi-sensory spectrum of beauty. Imagine her first view of the sunrise.

Two women rush to the gravesite of a beloved teacher. Upon arrival, they find an empty tomb. Grief floods their perception, and they struggle to comprehend what is happening. Through her muffling sobs, Mary can hear a man asking who she seeks. Tears blind her as she begs this fellow to tell her if he knows where she can find the missing body.

“Mary.”

When Jesus calls her by name, she sees at last. She recalls His words and understands. Since creation, there has never been a new day like this one. It is dawn, and everything has changed. 

He calls the grieving and lost souls by name. We need only ask to claim His offer of peace, made possible through the sacrifice of His body. Those who seek light in this world of death and darkness can have hope. A new dawn awaits.

Receiving Christ rebirth us into life in a fresh spectrum of hope and joy. Everything changes. Yet another new perspective lingers on the horizon. A brilliant feast for senses and spirit lies beyond our view. When believers enter heaven, they enjoy the dawn of unimaginable glory for eternity.

Praise be to my Risen Savior, Who opened my eyes and brought me to dwell in His love. Praise be to my Lord, Who opens my spirit to new wonders of His glory each day, now and forevermore.

May the Light of the World dawn into your hearts with a fresh glimpse of eternal splendor this Easter.

 

“…two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot…asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’

‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’  At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’” (John 20:12-16)

The uplifting impact chocolate delivers to the mind and body cannot be measured against other culinary experiences. Though reputed as a craving for women, cocoa attracts both genders in like numbers. We pursue its complex flavor, energy boost, and enhanced focus. The endorphin lift simulates the joy we so desperately need.

Widespread love of chocolate comes as no surprise. Consumers clamor for any form of the confection. Cheap candies and artificial flavorings fly off store shelves. Yet, not all chocolate-like edibles offer the same benefits. Substitutes fail to provide flavonoids, antioxidants, or a positive effect on mood. 

Fine chocolate stands above counterfeits. A distinct and incomparable category. Pure and rich, the silken textures deliver an unparalleled experience. Those who taste its genuine benefits can never expect satisfaction from lesser sources. Fine chocolate nourishes the body and mind, while delivering a boost to the heart.

Like fine chocolate, our souls crave the true source of joy and nourishment. Though alternatives claim to provide for our needs, only God can satisfy and sustain body, mind, and spirit. The pure, rich love of our Savior offers abundant life beyond our imagination. With one taste of His love, our deepest cravings melt away. Nothing else can fulfill His promises of hope, life, and unconditional joy. The intense, complex encounter with a loving God remains impossible to describe in words. Once His Spirit sweetens and coats the soul, the delicious transformation speaks for itself. The flavor embeds itself on the tongue, scenting breath and flavoring all that enters or flows out. 

Perfect bliss must be shared. Though we cannot force others to grasp His exquisite quenching of our spirits’ deepest thirstings, we can offer a kiss of blessings to others. Invite the hungry to taste our divine joy. Smile often, as a glimpse into our hope. Listen to the desperate cries of those who consumed artificial gods, and offer a warm sample of caring. Breathe the truth and wrap arms around those shivering in the shadows of falsehood. 

Love of chocolate does not surprise anyone. Sharing Greater Love can shatter the imagination’s ceiling and buoy the soul.

An atheist erected a beer-can pole near the nativity scene in Florida’s capitol building. He dubbed the eyesore a “Festivus pole,” citing the synthetic holiday originating in a Seinfeld episode. During the television interview, he expressed his desire to present the most ridiculous display he could imagine.

Atheistic protests have increased in recent years. In avid worship of disbelief, this minority group seeks to usurp our right to express respect for the true Lord. The shadow of humanism seems most inappropriate at Christmas. Many believers gasp at the affront to our cherished season’s original meaning.

Digging deeper into the story, however, we find this news clip brings nothing new. False religions defiled the honored public places and government buildings during the night of our Savior’s birth. Humanistic idols littered the earth for thousands of years preceding the first Noel. Asherah poles plagued ancient Israel’s high places. Instead of seeking the true Lord, men erected hedonistic poles with which they felt able to control all things seen and unseen. Much like modern atheists, the ancient pagan worshipers sought to direct their own spiritual sovereignty.

The poles of false religions fail to eclipse Christmas, for they represent the reason for a Savior’s birth into the dark world of humanity. Man wandered away from his Creator. Without the light of divine truth, humans lost their grasp upon morality and life. We could not rescue ourselves from the depraved state of the world. God poured His Son into our bleak existence. He entered the world as a homeless, impoverished outcast amid the rule of oppressive tyrants and emperors. He suffered our challenges to save us from ourselves.

The Asherah and Festivus poles remind us of God’s redeeming love, and the indubious light of Christmas. 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:5-14

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” – Isaiah 9:2

Amber, coral, and rosy rays glimmer along the horizon. The cerulean backsdrop deepens to brilliant sapphire hue as the day slips out of sight. Each sunset draws a fresh sigh, as I contemplate its reflection of divine grace.

God designed our days’ end with a visual poem of crimson-streaked light. Whatever befell you in these hours, He declares, “It is finished.” The beauty of dusk cools our skin and hushes our trepidation. We can only work thus far, and then He tucks the day into the past and reminds us of His sovereignty. We can watch the masterpiece unfold across the sky like a Creator’s promise for a new day coming.

The setting of light onto earth’s curved horizon reminds me of an ancient, blood-soaked hill.  Our Redeemer hung against the sky as a sacrifice to end our strife. Darkness engulfed the earth and chilled his entombed body. Like the resurrection joy, dawn cannot break until the former day has been put behind us.

I love the divine story sunsets tell, since He offers the only happy ending to last forever after. If you’re longing for a delightful tale, perhaps you’ll join me at the window this evening and watch the Lord weave inspiration with light.