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April 6, 2012

Photo of "Sin of the world" mural (click to enlarge)
"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins,
and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
(1 John 2:2)
I took today
's photo at the Rainbow's End Christian Youth Center in Mount Joy, PA. It is painted on the entire block wall of the gym.
Click here for larger photo.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"The Tree"

“They killed Him by hanging Him on a tree" (Acts 10:39). "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).

Foggy tree lineMany of our readers are surrounded by trees, although most take it for granted. Several weeks ago we were in Reading PA and there is a portion of the city that is very congested with row homes and scarcely any trees. It really stood out. In fact you can detect this setting even in a satellite image.*

Most urban areas have trees and benefit from the beautiful green shade the trees provide. Although we live in an agricultural area with lots of fields we still have plenty of trees. They're now budding and I am dealing with the inevitable pollen allergies that come with the budding season. But soon that will pass and we'll be surrounded by green leaves and branches swaying in the breeze. Songbirds are delighted as they discreetly build their nests in the dense trees and have plenty of shelter during the downpours from the spring storms.

These living trees are a solemn reminder of that one single tree, the tree that Christ died upon once for all to pay for our salvation as,
"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree." 

The "tree" in our daily texts is undoubtedly the most significant single tree that ever grew, that was ever cut down, and that was ever processed into a finished product. Normally in Scripture this tree is known as the cross (describing its finished appearance), but in both of our texts the apostle Peter speaks of the raw material the cross was made of.

Peter was surely aware of a statement made in the Law of Moses written some 1,500 years earlier, "Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse" (Deuteronomy 21:22). The apostle Paul is clearly referring to this statement when he wrote, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13).

CrossThe cursed tree of death became the blessed tree of life. Only God can turn ashes into beauty, curses into blessings. The cross is a reminder of the place where Jesus sacrificially laid down His life for our sins. One hymn poignantly describes the cross of Christ as, "the emblem of suffering and shame."

Paul acknowledged in his time that the message of the cross was "foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

CrossOne hundred years ago in 1912, "The Old Rugged Cross" was written by evangelist and song-leader George Bennard. At that time he wrote about "the old rugged cross so despised by the world". Today many still consider the very notion of the cross foolishness and despise even the subject matter. It's our observation that the despising of the cross is rapidly increasing!

But we write to those, who like us, view the cross as the ultimate demonstration of God's power and the only hope we have for salvation.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we thank You for Jesus who redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming the sin curse for us. The nails bore His body to the tree, and yet our sin condition bore His Spirit to the cross of Calvary. He who knew no sin became sin for us – what an unsurpassed substitutionary death our Savior sacrificed for us so that sin's curse could be removed and the blessings might follow; the blessings of forgiveness for sins, a home established in heaven, healing of body, mind and spirit, and the freedom from condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What unspeakable joy fills our hearts today as we rejoice in God's goodness to us through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Communion bread
Last night we gathered with other believers to acknowledge the Lord's death in our Maundy Thursday service. We began with a light meal followed by Scripture reading, hymns and prayers, Communion, a foot washing service, and a meditation by Pastor John "What Does the Cross Look Like to You?"  An opportunity was then given for people to share a testimony. Lee, a longtime friend of ours, shared an experience we had never heard before that took place sixteen years earlier when his oldest son was born. The baby was 4 months premature and only lived 2 days. Lee shared of his agony in the days that followed and how he cried out to God for understanding and comfort. He questioned God, "How could You, a loving God, allow me to watch my own son die?" It was as if the Father placed his arms around him and responded, "I do understand the awful pain.  I couldn't look upon my Son when He died but had to turn away as He took upon Himself the sin for the entire human race."  

It was a sobering testimony and one that Lee said has taken him 16 years to be strong enough it share it with others.  Our hearts went out to him and Jen as their hearts were laid bare before the family of believers who gathered last night.

Maundy Thursday meal
The center tables were arranged in the form of a cross.

Today's message completes our
Holy Week series using plants and animals which are a part of the Holy Week narrative in the Scriptures.
1) Palm tree (branches) - Monday
2) The donkey - Tuesday
3) The thorns that comprised the crown of thorns - Wednesday.
4) The rooster that crowed at Peter's denial - Thursday.
5) The tree (Cross) today

Of course there are other plants and animals that are referred to or alluded to such as the fig tree, fruit of the vine, wheat for the bread, spices, and of course the Lamb.

Kitchen Kettle Village singers
Yesterday in the course of our chaplain visitation route we stopped by the Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, PA and enjoyed some fine blue grass music from Banjo Jimmy. Listen here.

Kitchen Kettle Village Kitchen
It was a beautiful day as we walked through the Jam and Relish Kitchen and enjoyed some of their delicious samples! As seen it was established in 1954, the year of my birth!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"The Old Rugged Cross"  Video  Dallas Holm

"O Mighty Cross"  Video  John Chisum  I have enjoyed this song ever since it was a part of an Easter musical Brooksyne directed many years ago when we served a church in New England.

"It's Still The Cross"  Video  This is an outstanding song I have enjoyed the last several years. This is a group of young people from the University of Mobile who really do it justice.  See here for lyrics.  Here's another version by "Gold City", a male quartet. Video

"The Power Of The Cross"  Video  Again,the young people from the University of Mobile
. Very well done. Here's another version by Keith and Kristyn Getty, who wrote the song along with Scripture reading.  Video

"Lead Me To The Cross"  Video  Francesca Battistelli

"Crown Him With Many Crowns"  Video  Maranatha Singers

"O Sacred Head Now Wounded"
 Video  a beautiful Fernando Ortega version.

"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"
  Video  Sarah Sadler

"Your Grace Still Amazes Me"  Video

History of "The Old Rugged Cross"

Rainbow's End seeks to reach out to the youth in our community, especially those who do not have a Christian background.

* Reading PA row homes from satellite This area sure appeared treeless.

(We will leave the following materials up throughout the week.)

“It's Still The Cross!”

(A selection of Scripture verses focusing on the Cross for personal, family or congregational reading.)

Pastor: Here they crucified Him, and with Him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. John 19:18

Congregation: 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

Pastor:  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Congregation: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

Pastor: By abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  Ephesians 2:15-17

Congregation: He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name.  Philippians 2:7-9  

Pastor: For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:19,20 

Congregation: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13,14

All: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

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.

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

O Lord, be gracious unto us,.... This is a prayer of the church under the persecutions of antichrist, imploring the grace and favour of God in their miserable and distressed circumstances; desiring his gracious help, assistance, and deliverance; pleading not any merits of their own, but casting themselves upon the mercy and kindness of God: