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Friday, April 2, 2010

Three crosses

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"Good Friday"

"This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross" (Acts 2:23).

FootwashingLast night we partook of Communion in our church followed by a time of foot washing and prayer for one another.  We wanted to emphasize what Christ has done for us as we commemorate the events that took place on Maundy Thursday the night Christ was betrayed.

Jesus said to the chief priests when He was arrested, "This is your hour--when darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53).  This hour of darkness appeared to be a hopeless situation for the followers of Christ, an excruciating time in the cosmos from our Lord's arrest to His final cry on the Cross; a time when our Lord Himself said, "Darkness reigns"!  But some 53 days later an empowered Peter stood boldly before the crowd on the Day of Pentecost and gave the first recorded sermon of the Church.  He who had days earlier cowered in fear as he denied knowing Christ, now emphatically addresses many of those same people who had a role in putting Christ to death.

I find such richness in the entire daily verse but especially ponder one phrase, "By God's set purpose".  The KJV translates "the determinate counsel".  The atoning, sacrificial death of God's only begotten Son was no accident.

Following Abraham's remarkable encounter with God on Mt. Moriah, when God provided a sacrifice for Isaac, "he called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided'" (Genesis 22:14).  This verse contains the Hebrew description Jehovah Jireh for God. Many of us have sung the Jewish tune, "Jehovah Jireh, my provider, His grace is sufficient for me." We may take this Hebrew name to mean, "God provides for our everyday needs" but the greatest provision is in regard to our eternal salvation.

Seven hundred years before Christ came to earth Isaiah spoke of the One who was "led like a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:5).  As Jesus began His ministry John prophetically declared, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"  Even as He was arrested the narrative underscores His foreknowledge, "Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him."  And in the final book of the Bible we read about the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

Today we, who are of the Christian faith, look back nearly 2,000 years ago to the Ultimate Sacrifice.  On this Good Friday we solemnly remember that at the ninth hour our Savior breathed His last at the hands of wicked men.  We also realize this day is good because God showed us the full extent of His love by making restitution for our redemption.

Perhaps the merciful attitude expressed in Joseph's response to his wicked brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" would take on much greater fulfillment as Christ poured out His goodness on those who sought to do Him evil.

Yes, surely God intended the Cross for good.  He even used evil hearts to bring about His set purpose.  He was not overcome by evil, but He overcame evil with good.   God's plan of salvation was divine in nature, but He also helps us daily in our overcoming evil with good.   We walk in newness of life and in the power of His resurrection as we battle the enemy.

On this Good Friday let us indeed praise God from whom all blessings flow as we remember the greatest Sacrifice. Let us give deep, heartfelt thanks to God for His incomparable love and the demonstration of that love as seen in the One impaled on a bloody cross.

Amazing love, O what sacrifice,
The Son of God, given for me;
My debt He pays and my death He dies,
That I might live, that I might live.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, the words that Jesus spoke to the chief priests upon His arrest, "This is your hour… when darkness reigns" would days later turn into the finest hour on the Christian calendar. Torture and death did not have the final say, for darkness dissipated and light broke through as Jesus rose from the tomb. We are joyful and victorious as we walk in the newness of life provided through the death and resurrection of our Savior. We are also reminded that evil and death have no permanent hold over us, for the former things have lost their power because Jesus defeated our greatest enemy. We give thanks to You, God, for Your indescribable gift of salvation through Jesus. Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: Our custom is for the men and women to go into separate rooms for the footwashing ceremony. Following our foot washing last night Ester suggested we have a group hug. So the ladies gathered in a circle, from 21 years of age up to 84 years. We interlocked our arms together as we sang, "They'll know we are Christians by our love." Some verbally expressed their appreciation for the sisterhood in Christ as others received that warm message with nods and smiles. There's just something extra special that goes beyond my ability to adequately describe the depth of one's gratitude when joining with believers of like faith as we celebrate the wonder of Christmas and the triumph of Easter. The greatness of God clothing Himself in flesh and giving His all that we might live is heightened when we enjoy these celebrations with our brothers and sisters.

If it were possible I'd like to have a group hug with all our listeners and readers of the Daily Encouragement. Wouldn't that be a picture beyond words… since we come from all over the world, speak in many different languages, and vary in age from children to seniors. Some have walked with God for 50 years or more while others only 5 years or less. Some have been raised in godly homes while others knew nothing of Christ until they came to faith as adults. The picture of our interconnection through this faith based website would be a marvel to see, but it's not going to happen on this side. So until we reach the other side we'll just stay connected through the power of the internet and give thanks for the Spirit that makes us one in Christ. Happy Easter to all our devoted readers!

Lancaster County PA Amish flower cart 4/1/10
A sure sign of spring are the small Amish roadside flower carts which will soon dot the rural roads in our county. We saw our first one for the season yesterday near New Holland PA.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"What Love Is This?"  Video  

"By His Wounds"  Video  

"Lead Me To The Cross"  Video  

"The Wonderful Cross"  Video  

"It's Still The Cross"  Video

"The Bridge"  Video  This powerful dramatic video illustrates the sacrifice God made in allowing His Son to die for our sins.

Major Events of the Passion Week

Here's an interesting chart from a Study Bible that may be helpful as you study the Bible this week. It sure helps me to have a sense of when the events took place and is inspiring to read these Scriptures in the daily sequence leading up to Easter.

The four gospels cover the life of Christ, a period of about 33 years. But most of this material deals with just the 3½ year period of His earthly ministry.  However, an astounding 30 of the 89 accumulative chapters in the gospels cover the period beginning with Christ's triumphal entry through His resurrection and post-resurrection appearances.  Mathematically this means that approximately 33% of the written material in the Gospels deals with a mere .05% period of His life!  In the providence of God we have a much greater proportion of Scriptural revelation dealing with God's greatest act of mercy in providing our redemption.

  • Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19
  • Jesus Clears the Temple: Matthew 21:12,13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45,46
  • Jesus' authority challenged in the temple: Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8
  • Jesus teaches stories and confronts the Jewish leaders: Matthew 21:28-23:36; Mark 12:1-40; Luke 20:9-47   
  • Greeks ask to see Jesus: John 12:20-26
  • The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-38
  • Judas agrees to betray Jesus: Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10,11; Luke 22:3-6
  • The Last Supper: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20
  • Jesus speaks to the disciples in the upper room:  John 13-17
  • Jesus struggles in Garden of Gethsemane: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1
  • Jesus is betrayed and arrested: Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12
  • Jesus is tried by Jewish and Roman authorities and disowned by Peter: Matthew 26:57-27:2, 11-31; Mark 14:53-15:20; Luke 22:54-23:25; John 18:13-19:16
  • Jesus is crucified and buried: Matthew 27:31-56; Mark 15:20-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:17-30
  • The glorious resurrection: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18
(This material is developed from an outline in the Life Application Bible)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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