Journey to the Cross–February 28

[Jesus] took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (Jn. 13:4-5, NRSV)

Many of us are so familiar with this story that we may miss its significance. What Jesus was doing here was not just a nice little gesture with some pleasant symbolism attached. It was actually shocking, almost scandalous. What He did would be kind of like having your boss and her husband over for dinner and noticing her quietly taking out the overflowing garbage pail. Or like if your child threw up in church and the pastor came to clean it up. Sort of like that. Foot washing was something the disciples considered to be beneath them. How much more was it beneath their Master, Jesus! Yet Jesus did it. In fact He insisted on doing it. He was making a point.

Might His point have been something like this? Ministry in My Kingdom isn’t always glamorous. It isn’t always fun. If you’re doing it for admiration and recognition, forget it! Kingdom work means serving people. And serving people gets messy. Sometimes there are bad smells; often you get dirty in the process. Many times you’ll end up exhausted. But serving others—even in the most menial, degrading ways, is not beneath you. Not if You’re truly My servant, anyhow, because it’s not beneath Me.

Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and help you see why you do ministry. Is it for the joy of it? For the sake of helping someone else see Jesus? Does compassion motivate you?

Or is service an obligation? Something you do to avoid the disappointment or disapproval of others. Are you motivated by the thanks and recognition you might get later? Would you serve if you knew no one else would ever know about it?

If you consider some forms of service to be beneath you, ask Jesus to forgive you for that attitude and to change your heart. Or if you serve others for the recognition you’ll receive, ask forgiveness for that, too. Then ask Him to fill you with His humble confidence and selfless love so that you can serve others in the same way He did. Ask Him to show you one way you can do that today. And, with His help, do it!


Journey to the Cross–February 27

Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. (Jn. 13:3, MSG)

Knowing who we are and what we are to be about brings a huge sense of security. Do you think Jesus was secure in His identity? If so, what do you think may have contributed to that sense of security? What difference do you think His security made in how He experienced life?

God’s Word declares that certain things are true of you, if you know Jesus. Read the following list (not comprehensive by any means!) of “I am” statements that describe how you see yourself. Put a + by any that you know (in your head, at least) are true of you. Put an * by any that you don’t feel very confident about, even though you may intellectually believe them to be true.

I am . . .

___A new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)

___God’s child (Jn. 1:12)

___Jesus’s friend (Jn. 15:15)

___The Holy Spirit’s home (1 Cor. 6:19)

___God’s handiwork (Eph. 2:10)

___A member of Jesus’ body (1 Cor. 12:27)

___Forgiven (Col. 1:13-14)

___Free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1-2)

___Chosen by God (1 Pet. 2:9)

___Empowered (Phil. 4:13)

___Safe in God’s hand (Jn. 10:29)

Talk to God about your answers. Ask Him to help you believe at a heart-and gut-level the things He says are true about you.

If there is one statement that is especially hard for you to believe and feel, consider memorizing the verse that corresponds to it. In this way, you can feed your faith.

Journey to the Cross–February 26

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Mt. 26:14-16, NIV)

Money was not the only thing that motivated Judas in his decision to betray Jesus. But apparently it was a factor. For the right price, he’d be willing to hand Jesus over. The chief priests offered that price and the deal was sealed.

Our checkbooks (or credit card statements) reveal a lot about our spiritual lives. For this prayer experience, find a recent bank or credit card statement. Lay your hand on it and pray, asking God to help you to see what is recorded there through His eyes. Then slowly, prayerfully consider each expenditure. What does each one say about what is important to you?

Is there anything you noticed that you would like to change? Is there anything you need to confess? Is there anything that gives you joy? Tell the Lord about it. Where you wish to change, ask for His help—spending habits are a matter of the heart, and heart transformation is not possible on our own. We need the Holy Spirit’s help—which He is only too glad to offer.

Then ask God to show you one step you can take this coming week to use money in a way that reflects His life in you. Don’t be surprised if you experience joy, peace, freedom—or all of these—as you follow through. That is the way it works in God’s kingdom.

Journey to the Cross–February 25


Painting by Mary Lee Moneypenny

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” (Mt. 23:37, NIV)

Do you hear the longing in Jesus’ words? His heart doesn’t just go out to people who get it all right, model students, perfect children— His heart goes out to the prodigals, the rebels, the ones who would spit in their own fathers’ faces. But even though Jerusalem has rejected God’s repeated overtures of love toward her, even though she has killed God’s messengers of peace, even though Jerusalem will in a few days abuse and murder Him, too, Jesus longs to embrace these wayward ones. He loves them. He wants to be near them. He wants to draw them under His wings so they can experience His love and care for them. Just like a mother bird cares for and protects her chicks.

Do you ever feel as if God couldn’t love you? That you just don’t have your act together enough for Him to want to be around you? Well, that’s not at all how He feels. Whether you’ve had a good or bad day, whether you’ve lived a good life or a bad one, He yearns for you.

Let this image of tiny birds tucked under their mother’s wings guide you into reflection about God’s love and longing. What would it feel like to be a baby bird under its mother’s protection? Can you let your soul draw near to Jesus so you can experience His gentle strength and faithful love? Spend a few minutes silently enjoying His love and protection. Then tell Him whatever is on your heart.

Journey to the Cross–February 24

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it. (Lk. 19:41, NIV)

Sometimes it is hard to understand why the King of kings and Lord of lords would weep over any human situation. He’s sovereign and all-powerful. He created and sustains the universe. Why would anything move Him? Why doesn’t He just make the pain and brokenness go away?

Theologians have long debated that question—but the most simple, honest answer might be, “We really don’t know.” What we do know and would do well to take to heart is that Jesus was moved. He saw and experienced things that broke His heart, things that moved Him to compassion and prayer. And as we seek to become more like Jesus and to represent Jesus well to the world around us, we too, might find our hearts broken from time to time.

What person, situation, city, or nation, breaks your heart? Do you ever weep over it? Tears can be prayer. If you find yourself moved over something, don’t ignore or stuff it. God may be inviting you to weep with Him. So invite God into it and let it become a holy moment of shared sorrow.

What if nothing breaks your heart? It could be that your own heart has been broken and has become calloused in order to protect it from further pain. Ask Jesus to show you His compassion for you—ask Him to heal the brokenness and make your heart tender again.

Or, your heart may be reasonably healthy, but your life busy and preoccupied with other things. In that case, consider praying the prayer that Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, used to pray: “Lord break my heart with the things that break Your heart.”

In any case, try to take in the astonishing fact that Jesus, very God of very God, wept. He was moved with compassion—for Jerusalem, for the world, for you.


Journey to the Cross–February 23

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Lk. 19:40, NIV)

The crowds were worshiping and praising Jesus on Palm Sunday when He entered Jerusalem in kingly fashion. The Pharisees were indignant: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” But Jesus would not. Somebody’s going to praise Him—if not the crowds, then the very rocks would! Can rocks worship the King of Creation? Or was Jesus just being poetic? Consider these Scriptures that talk about creation in worship:

“Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.” (1 Chron. 16:33)

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Ps. 19:1)

 “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them.” (Ps. 69:34)

“Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” (Ps. 98:8)

“The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Is. 55:12)

If you can, enjoy some time in nature today. If you can get outdoors, do so. If not, maybe you can see a sunrise or sunset from your window. Nature photographs or a nature documentary are other options. Or maybe you have brought nature into your home or office—plants, pets, rocks, seashells, etc. Whether indoors or out, choose some element of nature to focus on. Realize that God intentionally made whatever you have chosen to look at. The Master Artist specifically chose to create this particular expression of nature.

Why do you think He did so? What does this piece of creation say about Him? How does it, in its own unique way offer Him praise? Let your time with God’s masterpiece inspire your own praise of Jesus, Lord of Creation. Don’t be outdone by a rock—worship Jesus with gladness and joy!

Journey to the Cross–February 22

Lent invites us to align ourselves more closely with the life and call of Jesus, and confess and repent of those areas in which we fall short. However, the Sundays that fall in the middle of this season traditionally are exempt from these more sober reflections. Instead, they are celebrated as “mini-Easters”—appetizers, if you will, of the resurrection hope toward which Jesus’ resurrection points us.

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Is. 2:3, NIV)

Think back over the different meditations you’ve done this week. What transformation have you been invited to? Now think about the body of believers at your church. What if each person were to be transformed according to the challenges Jesus is putting forth? What would your church look like? Now, stretch even further: Think about the body of believers around the world. What would the world look like if every Christian willingly let the Holy Spirit transform him or her to resemble Jesus in the ways we’ve considered this week? How different would the world be?

Read Isaiah 2:2-5 slowly and prayerfully. Try to picture the scenes and events in your mind’s eye. Try to feel it with your heart. Read it several times to allow the pictures and feelings to crystallize for you. What longings are stirred? What gives you hope? How can this vision encourage you as you continue your Lenten Journey with Jesus? Pray about what you are seeing, thinking, and feeling. And give God thanks that one day this is in fact how it will be.

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established

as chief among the mountains;

it will be raised above the hills,

and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways,

so that we may walk in his paths.”

The law will go out from Zion,

the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He will judge between the nations

and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, O house of Jacob,

let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Journey to the Cross–February 21

“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” (Mk. 11:17, NIV)

Jesus made this statement just after toppling the money changers’ tables and driving them out of the Temple. Various Bible scholars suggest different reasons for Jesus’ angry outburst in the Temple a few days before His crucifixion. But no one can deny Jesus’ vision for the world. A Jewish Messiah, He came for the Jews, of course, but He also came for the entire human race. His plan was always an inclusive one that invited people from every tribe and tongue and nation to enter into the abundant life that He came to give.

Do you share Jesus’ global compassion? Is your heart moved for the people around the world who don’t know Him yet? Do you pray for the lost? Give to mission groups that serve them? Would you ever consider a short-term missions trip or reaching out to foreigners in your community? Is there a specific country that God might be prompting you to pray for?

Ask God to enlarge your heart for the peoples of the world. What might your part can be in sharing the good news with all nations? Listen for His response. Then ask for whatever you need from Him to take the next step.

Journey to the Cross–February 20

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mk 12:38-40, NIV)

Jesus was a teacher who practiced what He preached. He didn’t merely give sermons—He lived them. If someone wanted to learn how to practice His teachings, all they had to do was watch Him.

In Jesus’ day, talking a good religious talk earned honor, recognition, and a paycheck—even if it was not backed up by godly character, integrity, and action. We occasionally see the same thing today. Some Christian pastors, teachers, and leaders have near rock-star status with minimal accountability. Our high premium on privacy, along with the use of convenient but impersonal mass media, makes it difficult for us to know who they really are. Maybe they do live what they preach—maybe they don’t. How could anyone know?

What are we to do with Jesus’ disturbing warning? Most importantly, whether you’re a leader or not, take care to watch yourself. Who you are and what you do, should line up with what you say. If you want to be known for being all about social justice, go ahead and post articles on your Facebook page, put bumper stickers on your car, advocate for fair trade, and campaign for politicians who support your convictions. But don’t stop there. Also get to know the widow or divorcee next door. Make friends with the foster child in your child’s class. Drive the extra distance and do business in a poor section of town. When you cross paths with disabled people, single moms, minorities, the economically disadvantaged, look them warmly in the eye. And if the Lord prompts you to do anything more, trust Him and step out.

Also, when choosing someone to mentor you in your spiritual life, choose someone you can get to know personally. Jesus says in Luke 6:40 that students, when they are fully trained, become like their teachers—so who we allow to help us with our spiritual formation really matters. Keep in mind that most of us learn more by watching and doing than merely by listening to exhortations and instructions. So, don’t just depend on popular Christian personalities to help you grow spiritually. Seek to do spiritual life with others who will do everyday life with you with honesty, vulnerability, and integrity. If you don’t have someone in your life like that, ask God to give you someone.

Journey to the Cross–February 19

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” (Mk. 14:6-7, NIV)

Being concerned for the poor is a good thing, obviously! God commands it, and Jesus’ life models it. Nevertheless, Jesus reminds us not to lose sight of the big picture. An unnamed woman had just entered the room with an outrageously expensive bottle of perfume. Boldly, shockingly, scandalously, she broke open the container and poured the contents on Jesus’ head. The onlookers were indignant. “What a waste!” they said. “You could have sold that perfume for a year’s wages and given the money to the poor!” And they rebuked her harshly.

But Jesus saw it differently. This woman recognized who Jesus was and what He was about to do. In an intimate act of worship, she acknowledged Him and gave her most valuable treasure to Him in an act of lavish adoration. Jesus received her love and praised her for seeing what the others couldn’t see.

This story raises an important question: Are there ever times when God might want you to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best? Is your spiritual life ever out of balance? For example, do you ever get so busy serving people that you don’t have time to worship God? Or does your passion for studying God’s Word ever take priority over your pursuit of heart change and spiritual transformation?

Serving the poor, worshiping, studying the Scriptures, developing spiritual gifts, becoming more like Jesus—these are all important parts of following God. But one is not more important than another. Ask God to show you where your sense of timing or balance may be off in your expression of any of these, then invite Him to help you grow in the areas that are neglected or weak. Then take it a step further: If you have criticized others (aloud or even in your thoughts) for not being more like you in the way you follow God, ask God’s forgiveness, and if appropriate, theirs as well.