Betrayal and Jesus’ Loyal Love

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Today’s guest post is by Peter Hubbard, the teaching pastor at North Hills Community Church in Taylors, South Carolina. He has two master’s degrees and is currently completing a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling at Westminister Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Peter and his wife, Karen, have been married 25 years and have four children. He is the author of Love into Light.

My wife and I recently sat with a friend whose husband had just announced he wanted to be married to another woman. He was abandoning his wife and kids. As we sat with her, I didn’t know what to say. I’ve been with many widows and grieving parents and have walked with friends through deep loss. But something felt different this time. Betrayal is like losing a loved one, except the loved one isn’t taken. He leaves. And the loved one is acting like a thief and the thing stolen all at once.

Betrayal is an invasion from within—an insider acting like an outsider, doing damage without tripping off any alarms. The pain is deep and toxic. And the victim of betrayal usually feels stunned, used, and angry. As Michael Card explains, enemies can’t betray one another:

“Only a friend can betray a friend

A stranger has nothing to gain

And only a friend comes close enough

To ever cause so much pain.”

The strongest word for “friend” in the Hebrew Old Testament is allup, a close companion. This word is often used in the context of betrayal to highlight the intensity of the treachery. The adulterous woman, for example, “forsakes the companion [allup] of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God” (Proverbs 2:17). In Psalm 55, King David captures the agony of betrayal.

“But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion [allup], my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.”
—Psalm 55:13–14

David knew the cold, sharp, back-stabbing pain of betrayal. But at another time he wielded the knife. Uriah was his loyal friend, yet David stole Uriah’s wife and orchestrated his death (2 Samuel 11:1-27; 23:39). Betrayal went viral. Many of David’s friends and sons turned on him and sought to take him down.

Jesus befriended betrayers. He called the 12 disciples to follow him, yet he predicted their acts of treason: “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me” (Matthew 26:21). He made this announcement as they shared a meal. And after Judas went into the darkness, they sang a hymn, and Jesus broadened the prediction, “You will all fall away” (Matthew 26:31). Even Peter, who promised loyalty, was told he would deny Jesus. And he did.

The kiss of betrayal is far more painful than the crushing blow of animosity. Jesus, the friend of sinners, embraces the pain of betrayal so that we, his unfaithful friends, might taste loyal love. [Click to tweet!] And this loyal love changes us. It interrupts the epidemic of betrayal and transforms the tongue of treachery into a tool of truth and praise!

“Thank you, Jesus, that you invite betrayers to your table. And through the treason you endured, you fill us with your unfailing love.”

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Redefining Greatness through God

Redefining Greatness through God

Today’s guest post is written by Jan Harrison, author of  Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through, speaker, and Bible study teacher who has inspired thousands of women for over 15 years. She and her husband, Frank, have three grown daughters and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter when we prepare our heart to receive the joyous reality of Christ’s resurrection power by reflecting on his life and death. In sincere and genuine reflection, I find myself under conviction. God’s firm but gentle hand is leading me to look into the mirror of his word.

Will you join me in your heart and pray with me?

Lord Jesus, When I look into the mirror of your word I see selfish, self- centered, self-protecting me. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’ve neglected your example and failed to practice what you taught when you washed your disciples’ feet. Show me what it looks like in my life to genuinely serve others as you did. In your name I pray, Amen.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave to all.” (Mark 10:44-45).

To be perfectly honest, I would like to be great for God.  I genuinely desire to live my life with eternal purpose and to bring glory and honor to his great name.  My challenge is to remember whose voice I allow to define the meaning of ‘great’.

Greatness is usually defined in terms of numbers of people who follow, like, listen, and talk about us favorably. This world measures greatness by the number of people who serve you. We like to be catered to and taken care of. We gladly pay for people to serve us. Maybe one reason Jesus was rejected by the Jews and religious leaders, and by people today, is because he came as a suffering servant. Born in a manger, trained as a carpenter, roamed the countryside with unprofessional, unlearned men and misfits in society—hardly the resume of a ‘great’ man. Read Jesus’ words and you will find ‘greatness’, according to his standard, rearranges everything you ever heard.

“I am among you as the one who serves,” (Luke 22:27).

Greatness for God didn’t just happen, not even for Jesus. Read the words from Philippians 2: 5-8, and see how Jesus became great:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”

Jesus emptied himself of glorious heavenly perfection.

Jesus humbled himself and willingly became a bond-servant. The king of glory stooped low to assume the position of a slave.

Jesus obeyed the Father’s requirement of death on a cross to atone for sin. He laid down his perfect, sinless life on a painful, shameful cross to pick up and pay for my sin and shame.

As I reflect on the price for greatness with God I have to ask myself,  “Am I willing to take the same steps required of Jesus?

Will I:

1. Empty myself and hold nothing for myself? Paul said it this way, “Whatever things were gain to me, and those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ,” (Philippians 3:7). 

2. Humble myself, bow low and stay there everyday, in every circumstance? “He gives grace to the humble,” (James 4:6).

3. Become obedient and discipline myself under the Word where the will of God is revealed and respond with obedience? “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,” (I Samuel 15:22).

4. Suffer willingly and allow my suffering to be used to bless others? “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow to attain the resurrection of the dead,” (Philippians 3:10).

 How serious are we about being great for God? Crowded into the upper room to eat the Last Supper, the disciples got into a dispute about who would be the greatest. Patient Jesus gave them a demonstration of greatness instead of a lecture. Without introduction or fanfare, he got up from the table, took off his outer garments, and tied a towel around his waist. He moved quietly around the table where they reclined and washed his disciple’s feet. Emptying himself, humbling himself, obeying his Father, suffering for others, just as he had done everyday of his life on earth. When finished he said,

“For I gave you an example that you should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, neither is one who is sent, greater than one who sent him,” (John 13:15-16).

What do you consider to be gains in your life? I would call these the things we consider to give us a “leg up” in life. Some possibilities could be your heritage, spirituality, education, a talent, career, family, social position, reputation, influence? Would you consider them all as loss, and be willing to empty yourself of them in order to genuinely serve in the name of Christ?

It’s time to do more than reflect. It’s time to repent. Using these prompts as I did, allow the Spirit to redefine greatness. [Click to tweet!]

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Discipleship: It Looks Like Jesus

Discipleship: It Looks Like Jesus

Today’s guest post is Rebecca Davis, collaborating author of Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches (an introduction for those who will hear.) She is an author and editoe with a passion to help the oppressed, and is currently on  the advisory board of Speaking Truth in Love Ministries.

 

What does discipleship look like if you have a painful past?

It looks like Jesus.

What does discipleship look like if you’re interacting with people who have painful pasts?

It looks like Jesus.

Sometimes Jesus did things that left his friends’ mouths hanging open, not just with his miracles, but the scandalous ways he berated the scribes and Pharisees.

But more often, the discipleship of Jesus took place in the simple nitty gritty of life.

You need faith like a grain of mustard seed.

Follow me.

Why is that storm making you afraid? (Hear the gentle voice.) Where is your faith?

Follow me.

Hold my commands in your heart if you love me. Then my Father and I will love you, and I will reveal myself to you.

Follow me.

One of the ways we follow Jesus is in the way we treat his fellow disciples. [Click to Tweet!] He is our Example in discipleship, as in all of life.

Jesus knew his destiny. He had been given authority over all things.

We as Christians know our destinies. We’re seated in the heavenlies with him.

Jesus knew where he came from. He had come from God.

We know where we’ve come from. We’ve been lifted out of the pit, and now our feet are set upon the solid rock of Christ.

Jesus knew where he was going. He was going back to God.

We know where we’re going. We’re headed toward an eternal glory with him.

And so . . . and so . . .

Jesus took the position of the lowliest of the lowly and washed his disciples’ feet.

When we’re grounded in the faith of Christ, we’ll happily take the lowliest place and wash the feet of others.

Because it’s what our Savior and Master did.

It’s what disciples do.

Not because we’re obligated. Not because it’s on a ‘List of Things to Do.’

But because by faith we know who we are. We know where we came from. We know where we’re going. We know who our savior is.

In the down and dirty, the nitty gritty, and painfulness of life, we’ll wash the feet of others.

Because we love as Jesus loves.

***

You can get Rebecca Davis and Dale Ingraham’s ebook, Tear Down This Wall of Silence: Dealing with Sexual Abuse in Our Churches on Vyrso today. The ebook provides—through personal memoir, voices of authoritative professionals, and the words of abuse survivors themselves—a foundational explanation of the problem of sexual abuse in churches and its aftermath, and offers hope for real change.

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What’s the Big Deal with Palm Sunday?

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Today’s guest post is by Rob Bentz, author of The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-In-Progress (Crossway, 2014). Rob and his wife, Bonnie, have been married for 17 years, have two children (Reid and Bethany) who like to laugh, and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Palm Sunday is a day most Christians recognize, yet many consider a second-tier faith holiday. Perhaps we should all reconsider—Palm Sunday is a big deal!

The biblical narrative, often referred to as the Triumphal Entry, is one of the rare stories of the life of Jesus found in all four Gospels (Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19). That fact alone makes the details of the story something significant for every Christ follower. Yet there’s a whole lot more for us to engage with when seeking to grasp the magnitude of this moment in Jesus’ life.

Here are the key points of the narrative: Jesus, riding a young donkey, enters Jerusalem. He’s greeted by crowds of people honoring and praising him with shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowds cover the dusty path before him with their cloaks and palm branches as they would for an earthly king.

Theologians call this day “Passion Sunday,” as it’s the beginning of Jesus’ final week on earth. I call this one of the most poignant moments in all of Scripture!

The God-Man who left the comforts of perfect unity with the Father to enter our world is now willingly riding on a young donkey. But it’s not on a joy ride—rather it’s a bittersweet moment of half praise as he journeys the city of his death to be sacrificially slaughtered for your sin and mine.

As a child, I recall getting thin little branches in Sunday school on Palm Sunday. We waved them in honor of Jesus that day. Then I would take my branches home and move on with my life. Like my childhood experience, I fear that many of us overlook the significance of this biblical narrative. Many of us—myself included—often consider Palm Sunday simply a nice Bible story complete with a tangible object lesson for children.

But this thinking is to our detriment.

Read the Gospel narratives of the triumphal entry afresh and take note of the irony. The masses praise Jesus for what they think he’s about to do. They wave palm branches to honor his coming kingship. Yet Jesus doesn’t come to establish an earthly throne, but a heavenly one. He doesn’t offer tangible earthly benefits to his followers, but eternal ones.

This biblical narrative that begins Holy Week is significant because it gives us a vivid picture of the truth that Jesus’ ways are not the ways of man. His plans and purposes are different than even his followers can fully comprehend. For many of us, our life seems upside down, inside out—the negative image of what we believe it should look like. It is in the midst of this messiness that we are reminded of the powerful image of our Savior riding on the back of a donkey.

Palm Sunday is an ironic, hope-filled beginning to a world turned upside down by Jesus, the Christ.

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Hearing the Voice of God

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Today’s guest post is by Dr. Brian Simmons, the lead translator for The Passion Translation. He is also the author of I Hear His Whisper, 52 devotions to encounter God’s heart for you.

True prayer is a love relationship with God—it is enjoying a relationship, not enduring a religious activity. Prayer is the privilege of soaring to the very throne of God to touch His face. It is meeting with God Himself. Our souls are starved for this sense of awe . . . to speak and to hear from God. We must never forget that Father God loves to share His heart with His children.

Fellowship with God in prayer is meant to adjust us, not to adjust God to what we want. We must have frequent, intimate contact with our Father—the Daddy Abba Father of Galatians 4:6. Prayer is more than speaking to God; it is speaking with Him. We cannot build an intimate relationship on one-way speeches.

As I pray to God, I am aware of this: both of us will speak, and both of us will listen. When we practice two-way prayer, listening carefully and humbly, God will often speak. This prophetic interchange is not limited to verbal communication. We can expect to encounter God in various ways. However we hear Him, this divine encounter will always do two things: it will change us, and we will be given ammunition for spiritual warfare.

As we hear accurately from God, the church will begin to enter into prophetic praying. Prophetic prayer is praying with revelation and receiving God’s response. It is becoming a prayer partner with Jesus. God will not only speak to us, but He will also pray through us.

I encourage you to become one who hears from God in the secret closet where you are trusted with strategic prayer assignments. Instead of praying, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” it’s easy to fall into “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking!” Decide today that you will have a heart that will wait on the Lord and listen for His voice.

Your tools for ministry must include a consistent life of hearing from God. I love the words of Isaiah 50:4–5 (NKJV):

“The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.”

Ask Him for a listening ear! Marvelous revelations and a deeper understanding of Scripture await those who will ask for it . . . and linger in His presence to hear His voice. Our Lord is known as the great “Revealer of mysteries” (see Daniel 2:29, 47). There is much He has to say to the seeking heart.

Sometimes people ask me, “How do I know when it is God speaking? I don’t want to be misled. I only want to listen to the Holy Spirit.” Here are some simple guidelines for knowing God’s voice and discerning when it is the voice of the enemy:

  • Jesus is a gentle Shepherd; Satan is a condemning and accusing intimidator.
  • The Lord’s voice is often quiet and deeply internal; Satan’s is intrusive and vulgar.
  • The Holy Spirit calls and draws us; Satan threatens, demands, and drives.
  • Check the content—does it agree with the Scriptures?
  • God’s voice drips with mercy; He does not condemn our personal worth before Him.
  • The Lord’s voice will change you and touch you.
  • His voice is rooted in hope, not negativity or despair.
  • God’s Word is for now; Satan locks us into our past.
  • God uses the ordinary, not merely the spectacular.
  • His Word gives more hope, not more condemnation.
  • God’s voice inspires us to love, not to criticize others.
  • Peace comes from God; anxiety comes from Satan.
  • The voice of the Spirit will always glorify Jesus as Lord and point us to Him.

John 10:2–4 (TPT) gives us reassurance that we can hear God’s voice. Are you listening today?

“And the sheep recognize the voice of the True Shepherd, for he calls his own by name and leads them out, for they belong to him. And when he has brought out all his sheep, he walks ahead of them and they will follow him, for they are familiar with his voice.”

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Redemption for All

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Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children Go, Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, as well as an internationally known speaker who’s appeared on TBN, Daystar, and Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural! Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma Magazine, and Pray! magazine. Greenwood is part of the core faculty at Wagner Leadership Institute under C. Peter Wagner and Ché Ahn. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son!

Matthew 27:50–54, AMP

God did not forget His covenant plan for mankind. When Adam failed, God in His perfect time sent His Son, Jesus, to save humanity from its lost state. Jesus laid down His heavenly robes to walk the earth and restore that which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. He came as a servant, priest, deliverer, savior, and redeemer to defeat and strip Satan of his grip over our lives and to give us redemption through the price that He paid by shedding His blood and dying on the cross.

Can you imagine what those painful final days of earthly ministry must have been like for Jesus? After three awesome years of deliverances, healings, supernatural encounters, raising the dead, teaching, and performing numerous signs and wonders, our Jesus experienced one wounding after another as circumstances tragically turned against Him.

There were the religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and threatened by His power and authority. To put it bluntly, it appears that they hated Jesus. There was Judas, the sadly deceived disciple who thought the payment of 30 pieces of silver was worth betraying His friend and master. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by someone who had intimately walked with Him for three years. They had experienced life together, incredible kingdom moments of ministry together.

After Judas there was Pilate, the weak governor of the Roman province of Judea, who attempted to wash his hands of any personal responsibility of Jesus’ suffering and death. Then there was Herod, the powerless Jewish king who mocked our Lord. The chief priests and teachers of the law observed the unfolding drama and ridiculed Him as well. And we can’t forget about the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!” I often wonder how many were in that crowd who had earlier witnessed Jesus performing a healing, salvation, or supernatural miracle.

There was Barabbas, the renowned criminal who gained his unjust freedom at Jesus’ expense. And then there were those in the Roman army who mercilessly beat and tortured our Savior beyond the point of recognition. Then there were the three denials of Peter at the exact time when Jesus needed His most cherished friends and disciples the most. Finally, the Roman soldiers who hung him on the cross and mocked Him, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself” (Luke 23:37, MEV).

As Jesus hung on that cross, He carried the weight of the sin of every person who had walked and who would walk the earth, including you and me. Yet after His persecution, the numerous betrayals, the excruciating torture, and the unimaginable agony of His crucifixion, our magnificent savior, Jesus, became the ultimate example of forgiveness. While facing the very ones beating and killing Him, He cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, KJV). It was a demonstration of mercy unlike any that had been witnessed in that day and time, and a powerful example for each of us.

The particular time of day and year that Jesus gave up His Spirit coincided with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb as the priests made atonement for the sins of the Jews. At that moment Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, making atonement for the sins of all mankind. The veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, making a new way for all people, Jew and Gentile, male or female, free man or slave to enter into the Lord’s presence through a personal relationship with Jesus. No longer were animal sacrifices required. They were not necessary because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice given for each of us once and for all.

The temple itself was divided into various courts—the holy of holies, the holy place, the priest’s court, Israel’s court, and the courts for women and Gentiles. A dividing wall, approximately three to four feet high, ran through the temple area separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which only the Jews were permitted. No longer was man’s relationship with God dependent on trying to fulfill the Law as determined by the Jewish religious leaders. No longer was there any separation based on sex, race, ethnicity, or political status of those who desired to worship the true King.

The power of death was defeated once and for all at the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the miraculous signs was the opening of the tombs with many bodies of dead saints coming forth and appearing in the city. Can you imagine the response of those in the city to whom they appeared? It must have been a frightening and awesome experience to witness the power of death being defeated.

Many say that the tombs were opened as a result of the earthquake, which is a highly probable explanation. But, friends, earthquakes do not have the supernatural power to raise the dead! I find it interesting that the Greek word anoigo means “to open,” and it refers to God as the one who does the opening. And egeiro is the word used for “to be raised, to wake up, arouse or rise from the dead.” When the power of death was defeated by Jesus, the ground could not hold the dead. This also serves as a prophetic sign that the redeemed, those who have believed upon and given their lives to Him and His saving grace, will be raised and with Him upon His return.

* * *

Learn more from Rebecca Greenwood by downloading her powerful ebooks: Let Our Children Go, Defeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. Get them on Vyrso today!

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Study the Resurrection and Prepare for Easter

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On Sunday we’ll be starting one of the most significant weeks for the church. As you prepare for the significance of next week, remember how the story ends—Jesus raises from the dead! This week we’ve heard from Karen Jensen Salisbury, Rita Schulte, Anita Agers-Brooks, Rebecca Greenwood, and Brian Simmons. There are also a number of titles that we have discounted to aid you in your study of Jesus’ resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus Bundle—available for $4.99 through April 5 at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). This bundle includes the following titles:

  • Evidence for the Resurrection by Rose Publishing
  • 100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus by Rose Publishing
  • Bible Time Line by Rose Publishing
  • Easter Story by Rose Publishing

If you’re curious about the bundle, you can check out more information from Monday’s post. We also have a number of titles available at a 50% discount through April 5 at 11:59 p.m. (EDT):

And be sure to come back next week to read Holy Week devotionals by Jan Harrison, Peter Hubbard, Jessica Thompson, and Andreas Kostenberger!

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Redemption for All

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Today’s guest post is by Rebecca Greenwood, author of Let Our Children GoDefeating Strongholds of the Mind, and Breaking the Bonds of Evil. She’s also the cofounder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, and an internationally-known speaker. Her articles on prayer have appeared in The SpiritLed Woman BibleCharisma magazine, and Pray! magazine. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Colorado Springs.

 

“And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son!”

—Matthew 27:50–54 (AMP)

God did not forget his covenant plan for mankind. When Adam failed, God in his perfect time sent his Son, Jesus, to save humanity from its lost state. Jesus laid down his heavenly robes to walk the earth and restore that which was forfeited by Adam and Eve. He came as a servant, priest, deliverer, savior, and redeemer to defeat and strip Satan of his grip over our lives and to give us redemption through the price that he paid by shedding his blood and dying on the Cross.

Can you imagine what those painful final days of earthly ministry must have been like for Jesus?  After three awesome years of deliverances, healings, supernatural encounters, raising the dead, teaching, and performing numerous signs and wonders, our Jesus experienced one wounding after another as circumstances tragically turned against him.

There were the religious leaders who were jealous of Jesus’s popularity and threatened by his power and authority. To put it bluntly, it appears that they hated Jesus. There was Judas, the sadly-deceived disciple who thought the payment of 30 pieces of silver was worth betraying his friend and master. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by someone who had intimately walked with him for three years. They had experienced life together, incredible kingdom moments of ministry together.

After Judas there was Pilate, the weak governor of the Roman province of Judea, who attempted to wash his hands of any personal responsibility of Jesus’s suffering and death. Then there was Herod, the powerless Jewish king who mocked our Lord. The chief priests and teachers of the law observed the unfolding drama and ridiculed him as well. And we can’t forget about the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him!” I often wonder how many were in that crowd who had earlier witnessed Jesus performing a healing, salvation, or supernatural miracle.

There was Barabbas, the renowned criminal who gained his unjust freedom at Jesus’s expense. And then there were those in the Roman army who mercilessly beat and tortured our Savior beyond the point of recognition. Then there were the three denials of Peter at the exact time when Jesus needed his most cherished friends and disciples the most. Finally, the Roman soldiers who hung him on the cross and mocked him, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself,” (Luke 23:37, MEV).

As Jesus hung on that cross, he carried the weight of the sin of every person who had walked and who would walk the earth, including you and me. [Click to tweet!] Yet after his persecution, the numerous betrayals, the excruciating torture, and the unimaginable agony of his crucifixion, our magnificent savior, Jesus, became the ultimate example of forgiveness. While facing the very ones beating and killing him, he cried out from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34, KJV). It was a demonstration of mercy unlike any that had been witnessed in that day and time, and a powerful example for each of us.

The particular time of day and year that Jesus gave up his Spirit coincided with the annual sacrifice of the Passover lamb as the priests made atonement for the sins of the Jews. At that moment Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, making atonement for the sins of all mankind. The veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom, making a new way for all people, Jew and Gentile, male or female, free man or slave to enter into the Lord’s presence through a personal relationship with Jesus. No longer were animal sacrifices required. They were not necessary because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice given for each of us once and for all.

The temple itself was divided into various courts—the holy of holies, the holy place, the priest’s court, Israel’s court, and the courts for women and Gentiles. A dividing wall, approximately three to four feet high, ran through the temple area separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner court into which only the Jews were permitted. No longer was man’s relationship with God dependent on trying to fulfill the law as determined by the Jewish religious leaders. No longer was there any separation based on sex, race, ethnicity, or political status of those who desired to worship the true King.

The power of death was defeated once and for all at the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the miraculous signs was the opening of the tombs with many bodies of dead saints coming forth and appearing in the city. Can you imagine the response of those in the city to whom they appeared? It must have been a frightening and awesome experience to witness the power of death being defeated.

Many say that the tombs were opened as a result of the earthquake, which is a highly probable explanation. But, friends, earthquakes do not have the supernatural power to raise the dead! I find it interesting that the Greek word anoigo means “to open,” and it refers to God as the one who does the opening. And egeiro is the word used for “to be raised, to wake up, arouse or rise from the dead.” When the power of death was defeated by Jesus, the ground could not hold the dead. This also serves as a prophetic sign that the redeemed, those who have believed upon and given their lives to him and his saving grace, will be raised and with him upon his return.

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Resurrecting Clay

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Today’s guest post is by Anita Agers-Brooks, author of Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over: Moving Past Your Pain into Lasting Freedom available for pre-order on Vyrso. Agers-Brooks is also an inspirational business and life coach and an international speaker.

We live in a world of makeovers. People, relationships, homes, careers—it seems there’s nothing reality TV won’t reconstruct. By the numbers of viewers, it seems everyone wants a change. But no one wants transformation to take place through pain.

This makes me think of Christ’s plea in Luke 22:42. As he anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane, I imagine his knees ground so hard into the dark soil that his imprints remained once he stood. His eyes looking to heaven. His hands gripping his scalp as he cried out, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

And yet, without his death, there could be no resurrection.

According to Merriam-Webster, to resurrect is to bring back to life, to cause (something that had ended or been forgotten or lost) to exist again, to be used again, etc.

As defined by the dictionary, how many of us long for a resurrected life? A transformation? A makeover? But what are we willing to give up in order to receive it?

Just over a decade ago, I went through a period I call my Jobette years. Think female version of Job. Near death, betrayal, financial challenges, prodigal child, loss of my eyesight over an extended interval, a tsunami of painful events that threatened to break me. But I have a confession.

Prior to the start of this deeply painful period, I had offered a prayer. “Lord, I know I fail you. You are the potter and I am the clay. Too often I don’t look like someone made in your image. Please break me down and remold me.”

Yes, I now know—be very careful what you ask for.

But I also know something else:

  • The power of complete and total submission to God’s will
  • The transformational ability of Jesus’ saving ability to transform the ashes of our lives into a crown of beauty
  • The comfort available through the supernatural touch of the Holy Spirit

In the midst of my sorrows—mask off—I cried out in raw and honest anguish, much like Christ did in Gethsemane. My prayers were a bit different, but the core message was the same.

One night in my living-room floor, I fell to my knees and prayed, “I know I’m supposed to forgive, but right now I really don’t want to. I need you to rip the roots of bitterness out of my heart and plant flowers of forgiveness in their place.”

Another time, as a thunderstorm raged around me, and rain pelted my face, I stood in my front yard, arms raised in desperation, and said, “I know I’m supposed to thank you in all things, but I can’t imagine how I’ll ever be able to thank you for this.”

Though there was no instant flash of healing or magic wand–waving improvements, God absolutely heard my cries.

Over time, He corrected my want to.

Then He taught me to forgive.

And today, I not only thank Him for every experience, but I praise Him for resurrecting my life through them.

Today, the messages that resonate the most with audiences I address, come from that excruciating period. My latest book, Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, was born out of my sufferings, and the true stories of many others who endured things many can’t imagine. We each discovered purpose through our pain.

It’s interesting that Job received a double portion blessing after going through multiple tragedies. I’m sure he would not have chosen that path. I wouldn’t have chosen mine either. But today, I am grateful.

In the final chapter of Getting Through, I share many key things I’ve learned from enduring things I’ll never get over. One is a Twelve-Step map I follow today.

Number three says this: “Take a risk and believe God. This is different from believing in God.”

Jesus demonstrated more than belief in God, he showed us what it looks like to trust Him. To die to self. And as a result, Christ was raised from the dead to do greater things.

One day, our troubles will become memories of the past. If we allow Him, God the potter can take the dust of our pain, mixed with tears from our sorrow, and remold us.

Our pain is not wasted. It is the foundation for transformation. It’s true we may go through things we’ll never get over, but with Christ, we will be made new. God is still in the business of resurrecting clay.

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Want to read more from Anita Agers-Brooks? Pre-order her new ebook—scheduled to ship April 1—Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over: Moving Past Your Pain into Lasting Freedom for just $9.74 on Vyrso.

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A Study on the Resurrection of Jesus

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In the final week prior to Easter—in what many consider to be Holy Week—we’ve created a small bundle of resources that discuss the Easter story, provide evidence for the resurrection, and outline the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. Get the Resurrection of Jesus Bundle for just $4.99 through April 5 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

Here’s what you’ll get in the bundle:

Evidence for the Resurrection by Rose Publishing

People have been asking questions about Jesus ever since he left the earth—was Jesus a real person? Is there legitimate evidence that he rose from the dead? Can the witnesses to his life and resurrection be trusted? Evidence for the resurrection answers questions and presents historical, archaeological, and cultural proofs to those who don’t believe. This short pamphlet, which can be read in half an hour, presents evidence that has convinced critics over the years and will equip you to with the right information when you talk to people who questions the resurrection story.

100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus by Rose Publishing

100 Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus is an ebook that speaks to the very heart of the hope found in Christ, our Messiah. It’s amazing to discover that Jesus fulfilled more than 100 prophecies foretold 400–1,500 years before his birth. This ebook arranges prophecies into those related to Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection.

Bible Time Line by Rose Publishing

Bible Time Line is the best-selling Bible timeline sold in Christian stores. It covers Genesis to Revelation in a glance! The Bible Time Line ebook shows hundreds of events in biblical history side-by-side with world and Middle Eastern history. Know the 200 most important people and events in the Bible, including all of the kings and prophets. Compare biblical events to world events chronologically.

Easter Story by Rose Publishing

The Easter Story tells the most dramatic story in history. This ebook is drawn directly from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and tells the story of Jesus from the Last Supper and Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension—in 14 colorful pages.

Get all four ebooks for $4.99 through April 5 at 11:59 p.m. (EST)—bundle and save big!

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