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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?

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)

Leprechaun impostors frolic along beer-scented streets. Shamrock patterned underwear hangs in the local department stores. Party favors honor the shamrock as a lucky charm, rather than a symbol explaining the Holy Trinity. Tavern patrons cheer St. Paddy without praising his evangelism. Most cities celebrate St. Patrick’s day with little regard for the saint or his legacy.

Despite its lighthearted intent, one holiday tradition reflects the influence of a saint. Authorities load small boats with special equipment. The sanctioned crafts launch a vibrant green dye into the water. Wherever they go, the river transforms into a beautiful new flow of color.

The Lord commissioned and equipped an escaped slave to transform the spiritual environment of a nation. Saint Patrick delivered the gospel to Ireland, leaving a glimmer of hope across the nation’s landscape. He blended new meaning into existing symbols. Wherever he went, vibrant news of eternal life sprang up alongside his path.

Scripture refers to all Christ-followers as saints. Equipped with the truth and anointed with the Spirit, we each have an opportunity to change the spiritual environment wherever we go. The culture around us starves for the truth, and a few small vessels can transform the world.

Will you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with me by greening a bit of the river around us?

“This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah” (Ephesians 3:8).

“I have become its servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:25-27).

The odd life of a fairy tale creature begins ahead of our classic “once upon a time” moment. Forest animals pranced among the trees without a musical score and avoided humans until Snow White entered the scene. Attic mice scurried along like common vermin before Cinderella inspired them to sing. A frog croaks regrets of lost glory, his hopes fading day by day, until a royal kiss restores his identity.

In the backstory, these charming characters showed no promise. Unremarkable critters continued their existence with little or no potential to play a role in an epic tale. They knew nothing else, expected nothing more. Had they remained outside the storyline, they would have lived in perpetual commonness. The author chose them, knowing the story required drawing those specific characters into destined lines on its pages. Author selection transformed them from mundane whatevers into extraordinary creatures. 

As we scurry through the everyday ho-hum of our existence, commonness takes hold of our identity. We look into the mirror and declare the same first name–ordinary. We feel unremarkable, insignificant. Hope of promise or potential eludes us. Dramatic plights destined to change a kingdom remain foreign dreams, unknown to us.

Enter the Author. He opens His Story and everything changes.

Once upon a time, an epic tale chooses each of us. We choose whether to accept our destined role in the extraordinary new life. Remaining outside the storyline delivers a sentence of mundane existence. The Author’s quill feathers whisper over us an invitation to choose life.  Our previous lackluster state cannot limit the Author’s power. He specializes in dramatic transformation. The more impossible a character’s elevation seems, the more it adds sparkle to the story.

Examine the Author’s previous work. Ordinary mice like Gideon become valiant heroes. David, the bleating little back-country kid, morphs into a king with an everlasting legacy. And in a little mudpuddle called Nazareth, an impoverished girl becomes the mother of God’s Son.

Those who accepted Him as Author of their lives received a transforming Holy Spirit to dwell within them. The Lord’s power seated inside, no Christian remains ordinary. Unlike the fairy tale versions, our mirrors tell precious little of who we are. The Prince of Peace knows your identity and your true destiny. Take His hand, and accept your role as an extraordinary creation. Follow the Author’s Words and become part of the story that will lead to to a joy far greater than happily ever after could promise you.

Squeech. Background noise pervades televised sports, its high pitch grinding at my inner ear bones.

Shaboom. Eeep. Whrr. Car radios, electronic signals, exhaust fans–life’s daily din raises the irritation.

Whaack. Fluorescents slam my pupils open.

Tick-tock. Minutes sift from my hours, progress slipping like sand through my fingers. Meager accomplishments pale in contrast to those yet to be done. Time shaves years of my life away.

Snip. Words, spoken and unspoken, scrape against my heart.

My senses balk at endless chafing. I reel from push-pulling on my heart and mind.

Life grates at me.

I could complain. Sometimes grating tempts me into a pity party. I whine to the Lord, since no one else listens as long. God’s patience continues for a moderate-level rant. He waits until the attitude’s sound grinds at my ear.

In trying to shake off the pitch of selfish laments, I can beg Him to adjust my tone.

He asks me to surrender my issues. He transforms irritants into character shaping tools. The Lord smooths patience and compassion onto my spirit. He carves humility into my dense areas. Layers of protective love oil me into a piece of handiwork more able to reflect His perspective.

I could complain, but gratefulness proves the better choice. Especially when life grates at me.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NIV).

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11, NIV).

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