FRIDAY: Passion Week 2012

LEARNING TO BEAR THE CROSS WITH JESUS

Luke 23:26 – When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.

As we gather tonight for our Good Friday services, we will experience together the cross-centered life. We first gaze on Jesus’ cross. We revel in what He accomplished for us. But, we will also venture into the territory of our own cross-bearing.

What must it have been like for Simon of Cyrene on that Good Friday? What must it have been like to be a man minding his own business, attending to his own agenda, to have been seized by Roman soldiers and placed under the crushing weight of Jesus’ already blood-stained cross?

One short verse in Luke’s Gospel. One man whose memory would be forever seared with the image of the Christ on the way to His death. One life forever changed by the One who ultimately bore the cross for the sin of the world.

Here’s my prayer and hope for you tonight (and for the rest of your life): May you hear the life-transforming call of The Cross Bearer. May you gaze into the heart of God’s love knowing that “God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). May you come to know true freedom in yoking yourself with Jesus, knowing “Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). May you expectantly walk with Him down the road of the cross-centered life.

Questions for Reflection & Prayer

What does it mean for me to pick up my cross and follow Him?

Where is Jesus calling me to die? Where is He inviting me to live?

Take a moment and pray for your worship experience at tonight’s Good Friday service.

JESUS, tonight as we gather to gaze upon Your cross, the tree where You bore the penalty and shame of our sins, might we more fully understand what it means. Might we understand what it means to now be free—free to walk with You down the road to the cross-centered life. Jesus, my Lord, tonight I long to meet with You. I long to be fully drawn into Your passion and suffering. But I also long to be drawn into the joy that was set before You as You endured the cross, as You despised the shame and as You looked toward the throne of heaven You would soon be seated upon with Your Father. Jesus, lead me down the beautiful, cross-centered road tonight. Thank You, Amen!

 

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THURSDAY: Passion Week 2012

LONGING FOR A NEW WAY TO LIVE

Luke 21:5-6 – And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”

Imagine yourself at the temple in Jerusalem during the Passion Week. Imagine overhearing what Jesus says, “There will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” Do you understand how much this would startle you? The temple is the meeting place of God with His people. Year after year, you’ve come to this place to connect with Him. And now, everything changes. Jesus is talking about a spiritual revolution. Days from this moment, as Jesus breathes His last breath on the cross, the sacred veil leading to the Most Holy Place will be torn from top to bottom. The physical temple will no longer be needed. And now, you and I will become the dwelling place of God through His Spirit
(Ephesians 2:21-22).

We begin to put the pieces together. Six hundred years before, the prophet Jeremiah talks about this moment—this moment when God would put His Spirit inside of us, this moment when He would fulfill a new covenant. A new way to live. A new power to live the cross-centered life. A new vision for what life can look like with Jesus. As the pieces of God’s great promises fall into place, I pray that you would long for a new way to live. I pray that you would experience the power of the Spirit’s presence living in and through you. Because of the first Passion Week and Good Friday, which we celebrate tomorrow evening, everything has changed. There is a new way to live.

Questions for Reflection & Prayer

What would and can change in my life knowing that God the Spirit lives inside of me?

Where do I need the Spirit to empower and lead me today?

HOLY SPIRIT, produce Your beautiful fruit in my life today—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Show me the new way to live. Show me the joy of picking up my cross and following Jesus. Take control of my day today, every conversation, every meeting, every class, every quiet moment. Holy Spirit, today, lead me to a place of abundant life. I pray this because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, Amen.

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WEDNESDAY: Passion Week 2012

SURRENDERING CONTROL OF YOUR HEART

Luke 20:45-21:4 – And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

That final week of Jesus’ life before the cross, He reminds us of things most important. Several of those divine reminders contrast two ways to live. One way to live draws attention to ourselves and makes much of ourselves. It holds onto control of the heart because it doesn’t trust Another. The other way to live is fully and completely surrendered to Another.

One day while Jesus and His disciples are near the temple treasury, He draws their attention to the two ways to live. The rich approach the offering box and draw attention to themselves, making a big deal about how much they give and how pleased God should be to have them on His team. After they leave the treasury, a widow approaches and drops in two copper coins, all she had to live on. Two ways to live—keep control or surrender control. If Jesus truly is King and Lord and as such we’ve confessed the things that compete for our affections and allegiance, we next invite Him to take control. The only way to walk the road to a cross-centered life with Jesus is to surrender your heart, your affections and your allegiances to Him.

Questions for Reflection & Prayer

Where do I struggle with surrender? Why?

Think through the “spheres” of your life (personal relationship with Jesus, relationships with family and friends, work or school, ministry and mission). What would a fully surrendered life look like?

JESUS, I want to be like the widow who gave all. And I want to be this kind of person because I know that You gave all. Lord, You know the places where I struggle with surrender. I need Your vision for what a fully surrendered life can and will look like. In my relationship with You, in my relationships in my home and with friends, in my neighborhood, in my work or school and in my ministry and mission at Northshore, teach me what it means to fully surrender to You. Lead me down the road to a cross-centered life. In the name of the One who saves, Jesus, Amen.

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TUESDAY: Passion Week 2012

CONFESSING THE THINGS THAT COMPETE

Luke 19:41-44 – When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

No sooner after the King enters Jerusalem on a humble colt is He weeping over the city. Yes, weeping. Jesus, God Himself, knows His heart for His people. For over a thousand years, He’s given His people a vision for who He is and who they are called to be in response. And as Jesus looks over the city, He is heart-broken because His people have sought and savored other gods to satisfy the hole in their hearts. Some believe that hope lies in the power of Rome. Some believe that strength lies in the power of a guerilla insurgency against the Roman forces. Some believe that rescue will come in religious performance and a work-based righteousness. And some have been consumed by decades of apathy. In that moment, as Jesus surveys His beloved people in the beloved city, He grieves over their choice of things that compete with His love and His lordship.

Yesterday, we began with recognizing Jesus as Lord and King of our lives. Even as we confess His lordship, we are aware of the other “lords” in our lives; the other gods who claim our allegiance, the other idols we look to for meaning, purpose and identity. Jesus weeps over our choice to go to them. If we are going to travel the road to the cross-centered life, we must confess the things that compete for our affections and our allegiances.

Questions for Reflection & Prayer

What are the things that compete for Jesus’ love and lordship in your life?

Remember, “idols cannot be removed, they must be replaced” (Tim Keller). How can you replace the idols in your life?

 LORD JESUS, today as I travel the road to a cross-centered life, thank You for Your amazing grace that invites me to confess my sin and idols. Lord, know my heart. Help me to see and give up the things in my life that compete for Your lordship. Today, I confess my idols. Free me of their control. Free me to be wholly and completely Yours. Free me to the uncluttered road to a cross-centered life. I want to love You with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength. For Your glory and for my good, I pray this in Your name, Amen.

 

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MONDAY: Passion Week 2012

RECOGNIZING JESUS AS LORD

Luke 19:28-40 – After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord has need of it.” They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:

“BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD;
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

The moment has come. The road has led us to Jesus’ destination. As the Passion Week begins and He prepares to enter Jerusalem, He sends two disciples ahead to procure a colt. The coming King enters the sacred city on a humble colt. Why would the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords not sweep into the city upon a huge, muscular, white warhorse? Because this is a different kind of King.

The Old Testament prophet Zechariah, led by God’s Spirit, told us what kind of King and Lord would come:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
~ Zechariah 9:9

The King has come! Will you recognize Jesus as King and Lord of your life? There is a Creator King who has designed a better way to live. And the road to the cross-centered life begins here.

Questions for Reflection & Prayer

What does it mean in my life to recognize and see Jesus as King and Lord?

Do I truly believe that He offers a better way to live? Why?

 

LORD JESUS, today I recognize that You are my King. I thank You for Your humble strength. I thank You for offering me a better way to live as You lead and guide me. Jesus, help and empower me to be one that truly shouts, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” As I recognize You as King, might Your peace sustain me and might Your glory fuel me. In Your Holy Name, Amen.

 

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