Category Archives: Countdown

Road to Emmaus • Devotion #1: Catch Up

I hate Waldo. It is rather a blunt sentiment to start a devotion with, but I have never truly enjoyed the Where’s Waldo books. The main reason for this loathing for the red and white striped man is it never seems like my eyes move fast enough to spot him. I know who I am looking for, I know all the tricks to the book by faking you out with the random candy cane thrown in there, and that there are only two pages to scan through, and yet my eyes fail me. The same happens to the two men who were on the road to Emmaus.

I find humor in random places in the Bible and this event makes me chuckle any time I get to read it. Two men, walking down the road, and the resurrected Savior of the world just starts strolling with them. The cherry on top has always been the amazing truth that is on display by the once crucified Jesus who is now walking around. Hard to claim a man undergoing torment three days prior was up strolling around without any sort of miraculous feat happening, but I digress. These two men are chatting about the man who they cannot seem to recognize. Jesus seems to be enjoying the scuttlebutt that is circulating Jerusalem and probes the men for more details.

While the men are causally chatting to Jesus, about Jesus because they do not recognize Him as Jesus, our Lord rebukes the men saying, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). Just in case you missed it, Jesus explains every piece of Scripture that pertained to Him!

Eventually, the men’s eyes seem to properly work and they recognized who this random traveler truly was. Luke 24:32 says, “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” Sadly for them, their eyes were just not fast enough to recognize Jesus. Jesus even rebukes them by saying they were “slow of heart.”

An amazing truth can be taken away from this moment. There are times in our walk with Christ, that our eyes are too slow to catch Jesus standing right next to us. While we can blame our optical capabilities, the truth is our eyes are slow because our heart is slow. Our hearts are slow to see God move because we are not truly tuned in to seeing Him. Do not miss Jesus like we miss Waldo. Keep your heart and eyes open.

The Resurrection • Devotion #6: Where is Our Hope?

One of the things that people begin to learn as they study the Bible more and more is that words that we commonly use today do not have the same meaning as they once had, or more specifically, still have in the biblical context. One of those words is the concept of “hope.” Today we use this term in reference to an outcome we desire to happen or not happen. We can think of situations like “I hope it does not rain today” or “I hope the Lions do not embarrass our state too much this season.” These are things that may or may not happen. Hope in the biblical context is a term in reference to the expectation of an outcome happening because God said it will. To a believer, this “hope” does not have a chance of failing, and there is something amazing about that.

There is something that is quite troublesome that occurs following the death of Jesus. It is as if all of His followers lose this hope and begin to just go on with life, as usual, mourning the loss of a loved one. This hope of His resurrection seems to be almost forgotten about. His followers watched Him die and then there was a period, the story was over, and they were ready to move on. We see this hope lost in Peter as he denies Jesus. Something that stands out to me the most is that the denial and doubting of Jesus follow Peter even after Jesus’ death. Upon hearing that Jesus has risen from the dead, Peter does not believe the words he is hearing and has to see them for himself.

Luke 24:11-12 records, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”

Why was it so difficult for Peter to just believe the words of these women? We often read this and think Peter is terrible for what he has done. He lost hope in Jesus at the first sign of failure. I like to think, “What would I have done in this situation?” I want to say I would stand stronger, but the reality is I probably would not. We have to remember that Peter did not know how the story ends yet. He does not have the same luxury that we do. We are lucky that we have seen the writings of His resurrection to know that this whole concept of Christianity was not lost at His death on the cross; but instead, it truly began. His death gave us the ability to have hope in Him in the past, the present, and the future. We must read His Word and have hope that what He says is going to come true will and not lose that hope at the first sign of struggle.

The Resurrection • Devotion #5: Just as He Told You

The resurrection of Jesus is profoundly significant to our Christian faith. We worship and serve a LIVING Savior. I have always found the story of Mary and the disciples discovering that Jesus had risen from the grave fascinating. He had told them multiple times that He would not stay dead, that He would be resurrected, yet I think they did not quite believe it, even though they had seen Him bring others back from death.

Mary Magdalene and the disciples were in deep mourning, so much so they seemed to have forgotten all that Jesus taught them. He had told them, I will rise on the third day, yet on that third day, the disciples were still in hiding and Mary was making her way to His grave to treat His body. It is such a clear picture of what we do sometimes. God tells us, “I am faithful, good, and loving” but we move about in our lives as if we cannot be sure that it is true.

Can you picture it? Mary was heading to the tomb to treat a body that she had been told would not be there, and when she got there, the shock of the truth was realized. Look at Mark 16:7, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, JUST AS HE TOLD YOU” (Emphasis mine). Also, look at Luke 24:6, “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee?” Mary and His disciples were moving about as if what Jesus had told them might not be true, they had a contingency plan. Mary walked to His grave to treat His body just in case he had not risen. His disciples were hiding just in case He had not risen from the grave like He said He would.

Yet, here we are, so much like them, living our lives with a contingency, “Well if God does not show up I should be prepared to handle it myself.” How would our lives look different if we simply live a life without a spiritual contingency? Would we live more boldly? Would we live a life that is more faithful to God?

What contingency do you have in your life? What is the one that you hold onto just in case God does not show up as He promises? Maybe, just maybe, if you released those and fully embraced the promises of God, you could see what He has for you.

I love the verse in Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 CSB). Can we live without a contingency and rest in His promises that He is holding us in His righteous hand?

The Resurrection • Devotion #4: As He Said

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be amongst the crowd during the crucifixion of Jesus or being one of the ones to see that the stone was rolled away? Whenever I read these passages, I often find myself wondering what would I feel or see – what would the setting be? I would imagine feeling entirely heartbroken seeing Jesus on the cross, unable to even look. I would sense the dark clouds, empty streets – feeling lost and defeated. I have often imagined the morning of the third day. Something is different. The streets are still empty and the weight was still very present, but there is work to be done as life presses on. I imagine it is a quiet morning, the warm sun is peeking over the trees, and dew is still on the ground. This is the setting that I often picture when I think of Mary Magdalene approaching the tomb that morning. Across the four Gospels (although we get some variance on details) we get one glorious message – the tomb is empty! However, as I read through these verses, two things stand out to me.

In each of the four Gospels, we see doubt and disbelief from the very closest followers of Jesus that this really happened. Luke captures this perfectly when he writes, “These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11). They were even in the same place as Jesus, in person, and still doubted! In Matthew’s Gospel, he accounts a conversation between the group of women who went to the tomb and an angel, in which the angel says, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:5-6). Those three words at the end really stand out to me – “As He said.” The resurrection of Jesus was prophesied all throughout the Old Testament. It was not a secret! Between you and me, I am always a little encouraged and comforted when I see the disciples miss things or struggle as they were His closest followers and were with Him in person (John 20:29). On a serious note, it made me wonder, “How often do we read the promises of God in Scripture but do not believe it is actually for us?” To take it one step further, “How many times do we doubt or disbelieve the living work of God in our lives?”

The second thing that stood out to me was an interesting interaction that John records of Mary Magdalene at the tomb. In John chapter 20, we read, “They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus” (John 20:13-14). She did not even recognize Jesus. She thought He was a gardener! Now, I have no doubt that this was a very confusing interaction, not to mention after over 48 hours of weeping and grieving, but as I read that Jesus was standing right in front of Mary having a conversation with her, but Mary failed to recognize Him – it caused me to pause and examine myself. If Jesus was standing right in front of me, would I recognize Him? How often do we let the circumstances of our situation cause us to miss what God is doing, or how He is moving in our lives? A lot of times we can focus so much on what is in front of us, that we may miss “who”is in front of us.

With all this in mind, it is a reminder for us all to be in the living, breathing Word of God. That is how He reveals Himself to us. When we know what His Word says, we will better see when He is “right in front of us” through His promises and His work in our lives.

The Resurrection • Devotion #3: Why do you Seek the Living Among the Dead?

Everything about the Christian faith rests on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything about our hope, the way we live our lives, and the faith we put in God are totally dependent on Jesus rising from the grave three days after His crucifixion. One chapter earlier in Luke, we see our humble Savior take our place on the cross, suffer agonizing pain, and bury our sin in the dirt when He died. Now, that is amazing for a person to claim, to die for his brothers, for those that he loves. However, if Jesus did not rise again from the grave then everything that He has said is all a lie. All the faith and time that His disciples spent with Him were all in vain if there was no resurrection. Jesus would have just been another guy who said a lot of big words, performed some miracles, and then died a martyr’s death. However, that is not what happened.

On that blessed morning, a couple of women who were followers of Jesus decided to head to the tomb with the spices and ointments they had prepared to put on Jesus’ body. They were probably still mourning and missing their friend Jesus who had just been with them, alive, just a few days ago. As they approached, however, they saw that the stone was rolled away and Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found. I cannot imagine what was going through their mind at that moment. Then we get to verse 5 where some of the most amazing words are spoken by an angel of the Lord saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5-6). That morning, everything had changed forever. Jesus truly was who He said He was. He truly was the one that came to this world, clothed Himself in flesh, lived a perfect life, died a terrible, humiliating death as the Son of God, and rose again three days later to offer sinners of the world the free gift of grace. There is now a way for redemption from sins, justification before the Father, and hope that will never be put to shame.

This is the amazing truth about Christianity and the biggest thing that sets it apart from all other religions and faiths. Paul addresses the necessity of the resurrection in his letter to the church in Corinth when he said, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). If Christ has not risen from the grave then none of this matters. The preaching of the pastors at this church is in vain. Those that spend their time serving and loving others are in vain. The outreach that we do at this church to save lost souls is in vain. Everything about the Christian faith is reduced to nothing if Jesus Christ stayed dead 2,000 years ago.

Paul even goes on further to say, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we put our hope in Christ only to get through the struggles of this life, and He has not risen, then we are to be the most pitied people on this planet. However, our God did not stay dead. He rose again, and now we have a hope that we are to share with everyone, that there is a Savior who died for the sins of the world, that whoever would believe in His name shall not perish but have everlasting life.

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