Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
Now they knew what Judas had done when he left the upper room that night they had eaten the Passover together. They had seen him greet Jesus with a kiss that dark night in Gethsemane. And they had run away in fear as the guards took Jesus away. This night and Sabbath day must have been the darkest time of their lives. Their Lord, the one they thought was going to be the conquering Messiah, had died on a Roman cross.
It is hard to look at your suffering and the weight of our sin that you carried on the cross. On this day of darkness help us not to turn away, for we can only understand your sacrifice if we look at you on the cross. We humbly bow, amazed at love we don’t deserve.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Matthew 23: 20-22 ESV
I took this image while I was walking alone on the lake trail last week. It had been a very unusual camping trip weather wise with a hail storm, tornado watch, lots of rainy, cloudy skies, and this day a half inch of snow. There was no one on the trail that morning so I walked to place I call the swamp. On this day, though it was filled with more water than I have ever seen. It was quiet and still which made for the reflections of the trees. I just stood there for awhile taking in this haunting image on this very unusual day.
The last Passover that the disciples ate with Jesus was also very unusual. They had eaten the Passover many times in their lives, this meal that always had the same pattern. But this time the meal didn’t go in the usual way. Jesus washed their feet; he told them he was leaving them and that this would be the last meal he would eat with them; he promised to make a home for them there; he prayed for them and for us; he took the symbols of the Passover and made them into the symbols of a new covenant. And then the most disturbing part of the meal was his news that one of them would betray him.
Each one ask him and each other in sorrowful tones, “Is it I, Lord?” Someone how they each knew that it was possible for them to betray Jesus. And later that evening they did betray him as they all ran away and left him to face the temple guard alone. They were shaken and didn’t understand for this was not the image they had of the Messiah.
Like the disciples on this day we must also ask ourselves, “Is it I, Lord?” For we all at times betray Jesus - when we don’t keep his Word; when we fail to share his love with the world; when we think more about getting than giving. On this day, this Good Friday, take time to look for times you have betrayed Jesus. Then as hard as it is to do, look to him on the cross and know that He hung there for you. Hear him ask his Father to forgive those who hung him there. Hear him promise the thief on the other cross paradise. Hear him give his mother’s care to his disciple. And finally hear him cry with a loud voice, “It is finished!” Humbly bow and seek forgiveness and Jesus will pour out a grace that is amazing.
On this day give us a fresh realization of the love that you have for us, that you demonstrated as you hung there are on the cross. Overwhelm our hearts with your amazing grace that we can never deserve. Give us the courage to share this love with the world and live a life that seeks to serve rather than be served.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
I remember the night I took this picture. I decided to go to this place at the dam because I would have a good view to the east as the full moon would rise over the horizon. We know there was a full moon on the night of Passover because the way the Jewish calendar, a lunar calendar, was used to determine the time of Passover each year. So as Jesus and the disciples left the upper room to walk toward the Mount of Olives, they were walking toward the rising moon in the east, a full moon like this one over the lake. Matthew and Mark tell us that the last thing the disciples did after the Passover meal before they left for the Mount of Olives was to sing a hymn. We don’t know what hymn they sang but it was very likely that it was Psalm 118, the last of a group of psalms called the Hallel that were sung at festivals like Passover.
As I think about that night, the night of his betrayal, I wonder what it was like for him to sing this Psalm knowing what he would face the next day. He knew the time had come to fulfill the purpose for which he had come to earth, that "this is the day the Lord has made." He knew that he was about to be rejected and all his disciples would leave him. It was the time of Jesus’s deepest anguish as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Go out this evening and look at the full moon and think about Jesus walking east toward the place of his betrayal and remember his great sacrifice for you. Know that it is because of his great love for us that we can truly say these words, “This the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
When we look at what happened this night of betrayal, “it is marvelous in our eyes.” We are amazed at your love for us and can rejoice only because of the anguish that you walked through that night. May we make you the cornerstone of our lives.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Hebrews 5:7, ESV
We could hear the power of the falls in Firehole Canyon long before they came into sight even though the car windows were closed. When we got to a place where we could stop and look down into the canyon we were amazed at their size and power. The sound was so different from small waterfalls in quiet streams that barely make a sound as they move over the rocks.
Waterfalls are a picture of what it is like to pray. Sometimes our prayers are strong and filled with anguish and other times they are quiet and filled with gratitude. When we just read the prayers of Jesus they can sound sterile without emotion. But when Jesus prayed, his prayers were far from sterile and were full of emotion. Some of his prayers were like big waterfalls of anguish and grief and some were like quiet streams filled with compassion.
Whether our prayers are like a loud crashing waterfall or a small quiet stream, God hears them all. Pray honest prayers to our listening God and then open your ears to hear his answer.
Great Listener God,
We humbly bow before you and offer our prayers knowing that you hear every prayer. Open our ears to the answers you have for each prayer we pray.
In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
The summer house and estate of Moses Cone close to Blowing Rock, North Carolina was beautiful on that late summer day when we visited. We enjoyed the carriage road and paths around lake. Before it was a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mr. and Mrs. Cone entertained many guests there in the summers. It must have been very special to have been invited to visit here.
On the night Jesus faced his arrest he sought to comfort his disciples with the promise of something much more than a beautiful summer house to visit. He promised them a home. He told them that he was going to prepare a home for them, a place where he would always be with them. He also promises anyone who loves him and keeps his word to make a home with them, for in the Greek the same word, monē, is used for the word “rooms” in verse 2 and “home” in verse 23. He has prepared for us a home filled with his perfect love, a place where we will never feel alone and where we will always be with Jesus and the Father.
We bow in gratitude for your wonderful promise that you will make your home with us, a home that you have prepared for us. May we remember the cost that you paid this week and open our hearts to you now.
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. Mark 14:3-6, ESV
There they were, a beautiful hillside of coneflowers in downtown Knoxville. Who would expect to see such lavish beauty in the center of the city? No one expected the lavish gift of the woman at the dinner that night as she broke the flask and poured it over Jesus’s head. Some saw it as a waste and scolded her, but Jesus stopped them and thanked her for her beautiful act of love. What is in your alabaster flask? What will you give to Jesus who gave his life for you?
We bow in amazement and gratitude for the lavish love you poured on us. Help us pour out the love we have received from you on those we see today.
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28, ESV
It was lush and green, this path that I have walked on so many times, but it was different that day. The impending storm made the skies dark and the well known path ahead foreboding.
Jesus had walked into Jerusalem on this road many times before, but on this day it was different. It wasn’t an accident the way he came into Jerusalem; he had planned for the donkey to be available (Mark 11:1-6); he came in from the east, opposite from the procession of the Roman soldiers on their horses who came from the west for crowd control during the Passover. His followers and the crowds were rejoicing with loud Hosannas, but he knew what he was doing. He knew the road ahead was going to be dark for him and for his disciples. It wasn’t easy for him. His soul was troubled, but he knew that the whole purpose of his life had been this hour. He faced that hour for you and me.
Make this day and week for us, a week to be amazed at your love. Fill us with wonder again at the story of a God who loves us so much that he sent you to take away our sin. Fill us with a joy at this love that our lives are daily changed by its truth.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. I John 1:8-10, ESV
You can’t really see the change, but each drop of water that flows in a mountain stream is gradually wearing the rocks away. In our lives, sin can be just like the drops of water over the rocks. We give in to one little temptation and then another. We try to justify each sin but before we know it our relationship with God is worn away.
There is good news, God will restore our relationship. We begin the process of restoration by confession. Confession isn’t easy. We must look hard to see the sin in our lives, especially the little ones that we think aren’t really that bad, and admit that we have sinned. During this time of Lent look closely for the sin in your life, and be amazed at a love so great that Jesus paid the price for each sin on the cross. Accept his grace and forgiveness and walk close to him.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Show us the truth of our sin. We humbly bow in gratitude for your faithfulness to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, NIV
The day before I took this picture of the daffodil it was standing upright, beautiful, without any blemish, but during the night the spring snow came. It is pressed down under the weight of the snow. Sometimes we can be like this daffodil after the snow - hard pressed, perplexed, and in despair. When we face difficult times we can learn from Paul who was able to face the many hardships in his life and ministry because he always carried Jesus with him.
Jesus, Lord and Savior,
Out of our despair we call to you. Walk with us through our difficult days so that others may see it is you who keeps us from being crushed.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Without the spring rains we would not have the beautiful flowers of spring - and after a long, dark winter we need the beauty of the flowers to bring joy and hope. Just like the rain that provides nourishment for the spring flowers, God’s word provides nourishment for our lives. The beauty of God’s word will bring forth beauty in our lives. Without a knowledge and love of God’s word we will not accomplish the purpose he has for us.
Giver of Rain,
Water our lives with your word so that we will grow in you. Make our lives beautiful to those we meet today that need to see your beauty.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
When I visit the churches in the cove I like to sit and think about all the people who have made life changing commitments sitting on the simple benches. Just like these hard benches, we need to do the hard work of looking at our lives. How would our lives be different if we committed each area of our life - our work, our family, our church, and our leisure time - to the Lord? When we carefully commit each area of our lives to the Lord then the plans we make will be true and sure. We won’t be easily shaken.
O Great Master Planer,
Help us do the hard work of examining our commitment to you. Show us ways that we can serve you in each area of our lives and establish our plans.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
My grandmother grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before it was a park. She loved wildflowers and knew all their names. She used to tell me about her favorite flower, the pink lady slipper, and how they used to be easy to find in the park. I had always wanted to see one but they are more rare and harder to find now then in my grandmother’s day. So when I read on a post from a hiking group where one might be, I decided to go and search for them. They were on a trail that I had never been on before and no one could go with me. I knew this would be my only chance to go so I headed out alone. I had never hiked alone before and was pretty scared, but my desire to see the lady slipper motivated me to go. I was willing to take a risk to search for this flower. And I found one, not only one but several and many other beautiful wildflowers that I had never seen before. I cried many tears of joy that day. I got so much more than I ever expected and will never forget that day for I had found the pink lady slipper.
In this parable Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like this - when we search for the kingdom of heaven we will find Jesus, of greater value than anything we could posses. When we see how much Jesus loves us we will want nothing else than to walk with him, whatever the cost. And like all the wildflowers that I photographed that day, Jesus will give us so much more than anything we give up to follow him.
Jesus, Pearl of Great Value,
Open our eyes to your love, a love that is more than we could ever deserve. Give us the desire and courage to follow you with all our heart. Help us make you the pearl of great value in our lives.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
It was a cloudy day on the Lincoln Highway in Nebraska when I saw this windmill. I wanted to have a good picture of a windmill as a reminder of our trip but I just couldn’t seem to find one in good shape. You could tell this one was no longer in use and the surrounding fence and gate were old and rusty. I almost didn’t stop. The sky wasn’t the clear blue that I had wanted for my windmill picture, but I stopped anyway. I didn’t even think it was worth getting out the tripod. I was wrong. This image turned out to be one of the best images of our trip to the west.
Sometimes we feel like this broken windmill on a cloudy day. We are crushed and lonely. It is in these times that we can feel the presence God more clearly because we are more aware of our need. Even though we are afflicted the Lord will deliver us. And when we look back we may see that it is in the hardest times that we experience the most growth.
Lord of the Brokenhearted
When we are crushed in spirit you have promised to be close to us. Help us to call on you when we face dark days and trust you to make our darkest days times of growth.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
In the days of the Missionary Baptist Church, printed bibles were a luxury, The way most people learned God’s word was from hearing it read in church. Today God’s word can come to us in many forms. We can read it on an iPad or listen to it read from apps on our phones. One of the forms of God’s word that I have come to love recently is really an old form, the Saint John’s Bible (Read more about it here). This wonderful work of art is a hand copied and illuminated Bible created the way the bibles 500 years ago were made. While I haven’t seen the original copy, I have seen a limited edition facsimile of the original. When I saw it for the first time, I cried at its beauty. My husband and family have given me several of the smaller printed volumes and I took one of them with me to Cades Cove. I wanted to see the beauty of God’s word in the beauty of his world. God’s word is both ancient and new. Every time we go to it with open hearts, God changes us. It is truly a treasure for us to store in our hearts.
Great God of Ancient Words,
We come to you with open hearts. Show us your beauty. Change us with your word. Amen
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
It was late afternoon, the busy dock was closed, and the lake was calm, quiet, and still when I took this picture on our walk around the lake. There was such a sense of rest and peace. But there was no sense of rest or peace when the prophet Isaiah spoke these words to a rebellious people.
Rest is something that can be very hard to find. We want to do a good job and work hard to seek perfection. So many times I hear people call themselves perfectionists and there was a time when I would have called myself the same thing. But I have learned that perfectionism is a burden that I no longer want to carry. When we seek perfection we are seeking to save ourselves by the quality of our work instead of trusting God to save us. We need these words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah today. We need to return to God when our work becomes our way to salvation and then in quietness and trust we will find true salvation and rest.
"Father, help me to use the gospel on myself to weaken the perfectionism that makes my work a burden. Give me the deep rest of soul that comes to the degree I remember I am saved by faith in Jesus, not by the quality of my work. Amen."
Taken from Timothy Keller’s Book, God's Wisdom for Navigating Life
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:33, ESV
Hidden within this daffodil bud is a beautiful flower. Where I live daffodils remind us that after the long, dark winter spring is on the way. When the Lord spoke these words through the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel were in exile and experiencing times of darkness. God made a promise to his people that he would make a new covenant and put his law within their hearts. Through Jesus’s sacrifice we can experience the new covenant. God will write on our hearts. He will make us his people. The long, dark winter has passed. God will bring us to full bloom and make us new creatures through Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your promise of new life through Jesus Christ. Come into our lives and write your word on our hearts.
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
Recently we were in Knoxville and decided to visit Lakeshore Park, a new park made on the grounds of a former state mental hospital (I worked there 40 years ago). The non-profit organization that oversees the land has done a beautiful job converting this to a city park overlooking the Tennessee River and the Smoky Mountains. One of the buildings on the grounds is named Marble Hall. From a distance it looks like a church, which is unexpected in the middle of a city park. As we got closer we saw that while it looked like a church on the front and back, there were not side walls and no furniture except for a stage area with a bench. There were no religions symbols. There is just this stained glass window.
Sometimes I wonder if we are not like this building that looks like a church but isn’t. Do we really make the effort to tell people that we meet about the hope we have in Jesus Christ? Are we always ready to give anyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in us? Are we afraid that what we say will be not spoken with gentleness and respect? During this time of Lent, let us ask these questions of ourselves and find ways to share our hope in Jesus every day.
Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior,
Teach us how to honor you as Lord of our hearts. Help us examine our lives. Give us courage to share the hope we have in you with the people we meet each day.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Flowers are truly beautiful whether they grow from the ground or on flowering trees as this dogwood. We plant them in our gardens; we give them as gifts. They delight our eyes, for they are but a small picture of the beauty of God. God can make all things beautiful. When we choose to take delight in the Lord, His desires become ours. Our lives filled with sin transform into lives filled with beauty. We find the desires of our heart in the Lord’s beauty.
Teach me to delight in you. Come and fill my heart with your beauty. Make your desires for me the greatest desires of my heart.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
With its beautiful, wide-open fields surrounded by mountains, Cades Cove must have been a good place to create a home. The early settlers farmed the land and built fences to keep themselves and their animals safe. How do we find safe pasture? King David, in this Psalm, gives us three things to do. The first is to trust the Lord. Only in him do we find the confidence and strength to make our homes and build our fences. We are to do good, a simple imperative that is much easier to accomplish when we trust the God that gives us good things. Finally we must dwell in the land, not just visit occasionally. Spend each day with God. Make him a part of your life and your home.
Good Shepherd, Creator of Safe Pastures,
When my heart is afraid help me to put my trust in you. Give me eyes to see places today where I can do good. Remind me of the beautiful safe pastures you have created for me. Amen
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
I don’t know how long the rower had been rowing when he came into my view, but it must have been a good feeling to see that shore and know that he was going to make it before the sun set behind the trees. The reward was in sight.
We work every day. Sometimes work seems like something that we are forced to do, with no reward in sight. Sunset is coming and it is hard to keep going. Paul wrote these words of encouragement to the church at Colossae which would have been filled with many slaves forced to do work for masters that may not have appreciated their work. He challenged them to do their work as if they were doing it for the Lord. Looking at work this way gave them a way to see a purpose and reward for their work. The shore was in sight for they were serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we face hardships in our work help us to remember to do our work for you. Give us strength to work hard and the joy that comes from knowing that the reward is in sight for we are working for our great and loving master, Jesus Chris.
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