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Devotional Archives - The Crossroad

Aug 04 2015

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Listening To Jesus

August 4, 2015 | By

Review

At the Gathering this past weekend we talked about the biblical response of a disciple to the glory of Christ. The call was in the words of God the Father, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7). We also discussed the means of listening to Jesus – the high standards of Christ becoming “light” and “easy” – by beholding Him. “And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). But the Bible calls us to more. Read More

What A Gospel-Centered Church Is and Isn’t

July 22, 2015 | By

What does it mean to be a gospel-centered church? This was a question posed on an online forum which brought about some interesting and even controversial responses. I’d like to use this to echo and build upon some particularly helpful responses that were given. Before discussing the topic of a gospel-centered church though, it would be helpful to define what we mean by gospel and gospel-centered. These days using the term “gospel-centered” has almost become trendy. There are books on everything from gospel-centered parenting to gospel-centered funerals. We are told that the gospel must be central to all we are and all we do. This, in and of itself, I believe is a good thing, because God really does intend for the gospel to be central to the lives of His people and certainly at the center of His church. Confusion may arise however when one author uses the term differently than another.

So here is what we mean by “the gospel” and “gospel-centered” at Crossroad. Read More

Apr 02 2015

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Death

April 2, 2015 | By

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
(Mark 15:1-5 ESV)

I don’t think Mark 15 is a chapter that can be read lightly by anyone who loves and knows Jesus. Beginning with Peter’s denial of his association with Jesus Christ in Mark 14:66, we can see “death” in the forms of denial, deception, murder, injustice, corruption, mockery and torture, all before the ultimate climax of the crucifixion of the Son of God. We see here how Jesus experienced all of these forms of death, and it is an essential part of the Gospel message that it was for us, each of us as individuals, that Jesus Christ gave himself entirely over to all of these experiences and His death.

Consider the silence of Jesus, or the silence of the Word. Jesus responded to Pilate, then he was accused by the chief priests and questioned again by Pilate, but he made no further reply. As Mark’s account of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ reads, we see no more words spoken by Jesus Christ until three in the afternoon, the time Jesus breathed His last. When the Word became silent, we see the immediate breakdown of the structures and authorities of the world, which are ironically supposed to be for the good of humanity, protective and life-giving. A convicted murderer was set free in society as the One who went around healing and already having brought the dead back to life, was crucified. The very place, within the foremost human government of its time, where justice was supposed to reign, was ruled by manipulation, falsehood and corruption.

As I read this passage and see that Jesus was handed over to be crucified, I cannot help but see how the society and community suffered as well. And I cannot help but think that as Jesus entered into His last moments and crucifixion, in addition to carrying the burden of our sins on Himself, He also showed us a picture of the depravity of society without God speaking. When the Word went silent, there seems to be some sense in which He also took on the burden of the failed human system of justice and social order. It is Jesus Christ alone Who saves us from death; human society and systems cannot save but also experience forms of death without Jesus actively speaking.

Pilate may have been amazed when Jesus was silent while accused, but I imagine this amazement was nothing compared to what he would have felt if he was with the centurion who was standing before the cross when Jesus died. He and many more must have expected that Jesus had now fallen silent for good. Nonetheless, the centurion spoke, breaking any silence of speech, with the beautiful words, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” No one asked him to be silent or to not share this with anyone. Likewise, we are not called to be silent! If Pilate was amazed at the silence and Jesus’ death caused the centurion to confess that this was the Son of God, what is the response to the rest of the Gospel message, that silence and death was not the end! Jesus is no longer silent; let’s reflect on how it is that Jesus seeks to speak, to us, to the lost who Jesus longs to reach and to the world. Just as Jesus’ silence led toward death and gave us a picture of death spreading in the larger community, in what ways can we take part in Jesus’ desire to speak and be life-giving to the world? And as we consider this, let us remember that it is our Lord resurrected from death who calls us to do this.

Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of your name. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]

This is part of a series of Lent related blog posts written by various members of The Crossroad body and inspired by the free devotional guide Journey To The Cross. Closing Prayer added from The Worship Sourcebook.

Sacrifice

March 27, 2015 | By

It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
[MARK 14:1-9]

The story of the woman who poured costly perfume as an offering of worship on Jesus’ head is spoken of wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world. What is it about this act that encapsulates the gospel? Could it be that her reaction is the only appropriate way to respond to the message of God in the flesh come to save us? Jesus is saying that this un-named women understood what the prominent men sitting around the table did not understand about Jesus. He is the one they had been waiting for! The promised Messiah was there with them. If only for a short time, God had entered human history in person. He was being anointed for the act that would change the trajectory of the human race. Jesus’s impending sacrifice was/is the most amazing thing that has ever happened.

This story and Jesus’s praise for this woman, shows us how God expects to be treated in our lives. He is worthy of our most valuable possessions and most lavish displays of affection. So often we think God wants us to just do the right things, but he wants our love. He wants to be valued above all else in our lives.

When I read this passage, I think about how I value the sacrifice of Christ on my behalf. How have I honored his sacrifice this day? Am I putting anything else above loving him fully? He has redeemed us with his death and we owe him our lives. Let us be as moved as this women was after her encounter with Jesus. Let us show him our love in sweet moments of fellowship with him and great deeds of sacrifice for his name’s sake.

Closing Prayer

O Christ, by remaining faithful till death, you show us the road to greater love. O Christ, by taking the burden of sin upon yourself, you reveal to us the way of generosity. O Christ, by praying for those who crucified you, you lead us to forgive without counting the cost. O Christ, by opening paradise to the repentant thief, you awaken hope in us. O Christ, come and help our weak faith. O Christ, create a pure heart in us; renew and strengthen our spirit. O Christ, your Word is near; may it live within us and protect us always. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]

This is part of a series of Lent related blog posts written by various members of The Crossroad body and inspired by the free devotional guide Journey To The Cross. Closing Prayer added from The Worship Sourcebook.

Lament

March 19, 2015 | By

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
[MARK 12:41-44]

The word lament is defined as “a passionate, expression of grief or sorrow” and biblical lamentation expresses sorrow that is embedded in prayerful worship and complete dependence on God. In lamenting, we cry out to God, to hear, to acknowledge and to act as we go through difficult situations. Thinking about this passage I wondered how Jesus’ observation of this poor widow expresses lament. He notices she is a poor widow, as her appearance and her contribution probably give away her social status in the community. As a poor widow, she undoubtedly has been through sorrow, with death taking away companionship and abundance only to leave loneliness and poverty. There is a strong likelihood that she has lamented much in her life, and in her destitute situation, she offers everything she has to the offering box and Jesus lifts her above all the other rich contributors.

How is she able to offer all she has, everything she has to live on? I believe she may have understood what the Psalmist wrote: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (34:18). She is able to give her all because her God is able to be close, to be sufficient when she is pained with grief and sorrow. Her comfort is not found in riches but in the presence of the God who understands her anguish. The Lord is aware of our hurt, our pain; He does not stand outside our sorrow, but is familiar with our grief and He desires for us to come to Him, to cry out to Him, to know we have hope in and through Him. It reminds me of Digory’s story, in The Magician’s Nephew, one of C.S. Lewis’ books in The Chronicles of Narnia. Digory’s thoughts are on his dying mother as Aslan asks if he is ready to “undo the wrong” he has done:

“But please, please, won’t you, can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at his face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself. “My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet”.

As we come closer to the final weeks of Lent, leading up to the crucifixion, we will see the sorrow of Jesus as he suffers torture and death. We will understand Isaiah 53:3 – “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He is able to identify with us in our suffering and He patiently and lovingly offers us hope, offers us His presence. As we lament the brokenness in our lives and in the world around us, may we do so with hope knowing that Jesus not only identifies with us in our brokenness but that He will one day restore all that is broken for His glory.

Closing Prayer

Remembering Jesus, we make bold even in our lament to offer words of trust and praise: “I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”
[The Worship Sourcebook]

This is part of a series of Lent related blog posts written by various members of The Crossroad body and inspired by the free devotional guide Journey To The Cross. Closing Prayer added from The Worship Sourcebook.

Mar 13 2015

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Suffering

March 13, 2015 | By

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
(Mark 12:1-12 ESV)

As I read over this passage afresh and anew, I found myself tempted to become appalled at the audacity, insensitivity, and downright evil ways of the vinedressers. How could do they do such a thing? How could they take for granted the owner of the vineyard and deny him his due fruit? How could they treat the owner’s servants the way they did? And how could they treat the owner’s son in such a shameful way? In other words, how could they perpetrate such suffering? Read More

Mar 03 2015

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Humility

March 3, 2015 | By

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [MARK 10:35-45]

As I read this passage I am quick to respond, “Wow, I hope that I wouldn’t ask the same thing of Jesus as James and John did”; however, as I consider my quick criticism of their request, my daily actions and the state of my heart I am reminded that I too need the Lord to cultivate a different heart in me- one of humility and of a servant’s heart. Read More

Feb 23 2015

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Repentance

February 23, 2015 | By

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
[Mark 10:13-16]

Reading over this passage of scripture, I wondered why the disciples reacted in such a way to these families. It’s easy to look at the story and think, why in the world would the disciples want to prevent these precious children from seeing Jesus! But then the planner in me thinks these children were probably not perfectly quiet and lined up waiting to be blessed by Jesus. More likely, they were probably running around excited to see Him. Maybe they didn’t have the “proper reverence” that the disciples thought they should have when encountering their Lord and thought it would be a bother to Him. Let’s take a step back. As adults, are we better suited to approach our Lord than a child? Is it because of our extra knowledge or ability to control ourselves in social situations that Jesus would be more pleased to entertain adults in His presence? The truth of the matter is that God understands who we are; that we are like mist here today and gone tomorrow. Yet He cares deeply for us and finds value in His creation, young and old. God does not require perfection before we can approach him; He desires for us to step into His light so that we can be changed!  Read More

Ash Wednesday, Lent, and The Gospel

February 18, 2015 | By

Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a 40 day period (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter. For those like me who come from a denominational background that does not observe Lent, it along with Ash Wednesday and even Holy Week may seem foreign to you. However, I think there’s great benefit in observing Lent on some level, whatever form that might take for you. Not only does it connect us to church history (it’s been a practice of the church since the 4th century), but most importantly it allows us to let the gospel make its way deeper into our lives.

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The One-Anothers of the Bible

February 2, 2015 | By

Because of our identity as family, we as a church value community. This stands in stark contrast to the western world’s value on individualism. If we’re not careful, this value of individualism can seep into the church with sentiments like “my faith is personal – it’s just between me and God.” But even a cursory look at Scripture reveals that we are not meant to live in isolation but in community with one another. How else can we be obedient to the many, many commands of Scripture related to how we ought to treat one another? As we seek to live as family together, in a loving community that is wonderfully different from the world, let’s keep in mind this list of the many “one-anothers” of the Bible. Read More