1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in Him purifiers himself, even as He is pure.
From February 14th through the Easter Holiday, 18 new believers have been born again in the rural and metro areas of Central Luzon. Today, 6 of those new believers were baptized today. God always keeps His promises: His Word will not return void, and our labors are not in vain.
Keep praying, working and giving. Keep waiting and watching. One day He will come again, and we will be changed!
There are other fruits to enjoy with our brothers and sisters overseas. One of those is a new “rooftop” for the mission church in the picture above.
Please keep praying for my friend and brother, Pastor Eric Hennessey, of River of Life Baptist Church in Cabanatuan City as he slowly recovers from a bout with very serious illness.
Final thought: Why do people nowadays refuse or deny simple invitations to church? This was a question asked in a facebook group I’m a member of recently. There are a lot of obvious answers, and we as “the church” can point the blame outward in every direction. But we need to understand something very basic and simple about this lost and dying world. It watches us and measures and records everything we do and say. It sees and remembers how we act as opposed to what we teach. And yes, it knows what we teach.
So instead of blaming the world for doing exactly what scriptures say the world is going to do, maybe we should ask ourselves these questions:
Do we, as a church, love the way we’ve been commanded? (John 13:34) If someone took a real, serious, close look inside my church, would he see what I have there and want that for himself?
Is my individual life really set apart? Does it look different from this broken world somehow?
If someone really wanted to change his life, why would he choose Jesus knowing that the only apparent difference between my life and his life is church attendance?
Mark 16:6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
Luke 24:5-8 King James Version (KJV)
5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words,
Matthew 28:6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
Jesus told His disciples and others about his death and resurrection several times:
Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:22-23, Matthew 20:17-19, (Matthew 12:39-40, John 10:17-8)
We serve a RISEN Savior. Not just spiritually resurrected, BODILY resurrected by the same power of the same Holy spirit that allow Jesus to heal, forgive, save, and raise other people from the dead.
Our forgiveness is sealed by His death. Our justification is sealed by His resurrection.
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” -Romans 8:32
Jesus’ body rested in the tomb on Holy Saturday; it was a rich man’s tomb, fulfilling the prophecy (Isaiah 53:9)
Preparations were made for Jesus’ body and placement in the tomb until 6pm, when preparations for the Sabbath began. “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” –Luke 23:55-56
There are lots of opinions about where Jesus’s soul was between His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection. There are passages in the epistles that speak about it, but that’s a study for another time.
The gospels don’t really say much about it, but they do say this:
Luke 23:43 and Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
This paradise is referred to in (Revelation 2:7) as “the paradise of God”.
“Holy Week is relatively silent on Black Saturday. The tomb has been sealed, the guards stand watch, the disciples are hiding in confusion and fear. The Savior has surrendered all to save his people from their sin. And that even includes the ones who cried “let His blood be on us and our children.” (Matthew 27:25)
What more condemning words could there possibly be? Still that is, in effect, what is said every time a person rejects and refuses to believe in The Christ. It happens every day.
But it’s interesting how the meaning of words and phrases can change when the context changes. As true believers, we can rejoice and shout, “let His blood be on us!” We say it with a different meaning.
Not defiantly as the crowds that crucified him, but desperately because we depend only on his sacrifice.
“Jesus, let your blood be on us. Let it cover us. Let the blood that flows – from your head, your hands, your feet, from your side, from your stripes – wash over us and cleanse us from all of our iniquity”.
We proclaim Jesus’s death. We rejoice in his death, not because we believe he was a fraud or a lunatic, but because it is by his death, by his wounds, by his blood that we are healed.
What a wonderous thing this is!
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Good Friday was the last day of Jesus’ life on earth before His resurrection. He was betrayed by Judas, just as He said, and denied by Peter, just as He said. His disciples scattered, Just as He said.
He was arrested and was placed on trial falsely. (Isaiah 53:7) He was condemned, scourged, and mocked (Isaiah 53:8). He was forced to hear the cries of the crowd to crucify Him. (Isaiah 53:3) The soldiers made a crown of thorns and put it on His head and continued to beat Him and mock Him. He was led away to a mountain and made to carry His own cross (John 19:17, Genesis 22:6-7) to the place where He was crucified. He was mocked, ridiculed, and taunted along the way, but there were some who mourned after Him. (Luke 23:27).
He was offered something to dull the physical pain, but Jesus refused, choosing to face the pain of death head on (Matthew 27:34). He was nailed by the hands and feet to His cross. But knowing that his death was to atone for even these who drove the nails, Jesus begged the Father to forgive them. (Luke 23:34)
They stripped Him of His clothes letting him hang there naked on the cross, and cast lots for them, Fulfilling another prophesy. (Psalm 22:18)
All of these things happened just as He said.
Matthew 16:21-23, 17:22-23, 20:17-19
Mark 8:31-33, 9:30-32, 10:32-34
Luke 9:21-22, 9:43-45, 18:31-34
Two prisoners were crucified alongside Jesus, again fulfilling prophesy (Isaiah 53:12). One mocked Him, but the other said, “‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:39-43). While suffering the most cruel, unfair, unjust, and painful death a human body could endure, Jesus chose to respond in grace to the criminal beside Him teaching us there is always hope in His forgiveness – right up to the point of death.
Even in His disgrace He cared for His mother and best friend. (John 19:25-27).
Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Isaiah 53:6). He accepted the drink he refused before, fulfilling another prophesy (Psalm 69:21) And then He died.
Jesus was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linens, and placed in a tomb, fulfilling prophesy again even in death. (Isaiah 53:9)
This is what He did for us. To satisfy the wrath of God against sin. To close the separation between us and our God. To make peace between us and God by His blood.
Mark 14:12-72 (read this for yourself and compare with the other gospel accounts)
On Holy, or Maundy Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus and His disciples shared the Last Supper. We notice how, like the donkey, everything was supernaturally prepared ahead of time and the disciples always found things the way Jesus said they would be.
On this day, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. And, He broke bread with them for the last time. It’s still observed and partaken today as an ordinance for believers. The bread broken and the wine shared represented, then and now, the body and blood of Christ, broken and shed for them, and for all of us.
During the meal, Jesus predicted His betrayal by Judas, and Peter’s denial.
After the meal, the disciples accompanied Jesus to the Garden at Gethsemane. He warned that they would flee from Him soon, fulfilling prophesy (Zechariah 13:7).
In the garden, Jesus prayed in agony for Himself, for His disciples, and for us (John 17:1-26).
He prayed in such agony that an angel came to strengthen Jesus in the garden as the sweat fell from His face as drops of blood (Luke 22:42-44).
There, in that moment, He taught His disciples, and us, what to do when we come to the end of our own strength and need The Father to help us press on.
Jesus is betrayed by Judas, just as He said – with a kiss (foretold in Proverbs 27:6). Jesus is arrested and led away to a secret, joke of a trial by the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night, and He is condemned. Peter weeps as he denies his all knowing knowing Master, just as He said. (“before the cock crows twice…”)
“Just as He said” has been a common thread throughout Holy week so far. But starting now, it becomes a theme.
The word “maundy” comes from the Latin root madam, and means “commandment” or “mandate.”
On that Thursday Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment (maundy) The word in this context is used by Jesus after He washes the feet of His friends. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another: just as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Can you imagine that God-in-the flesh, would humble Himself to wash a man’s feet – one who would deny and betray Him – before intentionally giving His life to save him? That’s exactly what is happening. And He did it for you.
“What manner of love is this that He has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God?”- 1John3.1
Are you starting to see why LOVE is the greatest commandment? Can you see How important LOVE is to God? Can we see why the world, and OUR flesh-our EARTHLY MINDS, our wisdom can not understand this kind of love?
Can that kind of love be seen in our lives as believers?
Can the world see that we, as believers, are at least trying to use this standard of love?
Holy week – Wednesday – A day of rest for the Savior, but not for those who served Him or for those who would betray Him
Mark 14:1-11 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. 3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. 4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. 8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. 9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her. 10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
Wednesday is referred to as a day of rest for Jesus. While in Bethany, a woman anointed Jesus with perfume. Mary, of Bethany (John 12:1-3) used all of her “very precious” spikenard ointment to anoint Jesus for His coming death. She also broke the costly alabaster box so it could never be used again.
I wonder if maybe this was symbolic of her devotion and thankfulness for what her Lord was about to do to save her. Maybe this is the kind of surrender Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians 5:15 and Romans 6:11.
Some also call this day “Spy Wednesday” because While Jesus rests in Bethany, the plot of the high priest and the authorities to kill Jesus is coming together. We can see in the scripture that they were not trying to decide ifthey would kill Him, they were trying to figure out how to entrap Him so they could kill Him.
Finding an open opportunity in the greed of Judas, Satan entered him. Judas went to the chief priests and authorities, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray Him. His agreement was to betray Jesus for the price of a slave. (Zechariah 11:12)
Once that was accomplished the twelve would scatter. No one will be left at the foot of the cross as Jesus dies but John and His mother.
As the hour comes, Jesus knows He has to bear this burden alone. There will be no team effort, But still, He keeps them close as long as He can. The Christ must go forward by Himself, as his friends and followers betray him, deny him… and hide.
Today we face a choice. Will we surrender to Him as King and Savior? Or, will we reject Him and seek out our own way?
This was a day of much teaching and avoiding the traps set for Him by the religious leaders.
On the way back to the temple the next morning, Jesus and the 12 passed by the fig tree. It was withered and dead. Good for nothing but firewood. Remember that before, the tree was alive and full of leaves, giving the appearance that it was yielding fruit. But there was no fruit. The Lord cursed the tree, and it died as a testimony of what happens to those who give the outward appearance of spiritual righteousness, but produce no spiritual fruit. When Peter spoke about the tree, Jesus responded with a lesson on the importance of faith and forgiveness. Maybe Jesus was making them understand that, without faith and forgiveness, they would end up like this tree – like the ones cast out of the temple. But with faith and forgiveness, God would make their lives fruitful as a part of His Kingdom.
Maybe He was preparing them for the teachings they would hear that day…
As they entered the temple, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders. They challenged His authority. They asked Him who gave Him His authority to do the things He was doing, attempting to catch Him in His words. He responded by asking them a question about the authority of John’s baptisms. It was a question they could not answer without being caught in their own words. Jesus went on (in the gospel of Mark) to establish his own authority – even over them by teaching the parable of the tenants and citing a prophesy from Psalm 118:22-23. Matthew’s account recalls 2 other parables proving the religious leaders to be lost and condemned in their stubbornness, by their own words and fruitless lives and lack of faith.
Then, His allegiance was tested by asking questions about government taxes. He answered according to scripture (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)
Next He was questioned about the order of husbands and wives in the resurrection in an attempt to fool Him by the Sadducees, who didn’t even believe in the resurrection. Jesus explained that in Heaven we are like the angels in that we do not marry. He also taught that the resurrection was indeed true because God the Father is the God of the living and not the dead, quoting exodus 3:6&15. (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been physically dead for many years at the time of Moses)
Finally, His tests ended when asked which was the greatest commandment. His response was that real and pure love for God and for other people was first and greatest because real and pure love for God and men fulfills all law.
There is much more. Too much to cover in one devotion.
But this is our Lord, Jesus Christ. Teaching in grace and truth, standing up to tests, and silencing all those who would try to discredit Him. He did all this with nothing but the authority and power of God’s Word.
Another day closer to the cross.
All the haters and scoffers, all the stubborn unbelievers were given yet another chance to repent and believe the Word – to believe in Him, because He is the Word. He is the King, who has real salvation.
Jesus curses the fig tree: Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Jesus cleanses the temple: Isaiah 56:7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. 12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: 13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. 14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
Fruit tree growers know that ordinarily a small amount of fruit ripens prior to the main crop. It is referred to as the first ripe fruit or the firstfruits. When Jesus approached the tree, it was the time of the firstfruits of figs, but it was not yet time for the main harvest. Maybe this means that the particular tree on which Christ expected to find figs was barren, because it had no figs on it at all. It did not fulfill its purpose, and Jesus simply eliminated an unproductive tree, not with an ax or a saw, but by faith.
Maybe Jesus used this incident to teach His disciples—and US—that the outward appearance does not count with God. Instead, what really counts is whether or not one produces godly fruit in his or her life.
15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. 19 And when even was come, he went out of the city.
Why did Jesus clear the temple? We have to remember that He was just there yesterday. He was ignored. Rejected as King and Savior – quite the contrast to the praises He received from the common people as He entered the city. So, as it says, “He observed all things round about”.
What did He see?
My personal belief is that He saw merchants in partnership with the religious leaders and authorities using the church as a way to make a profit by exploiting the Word of God concerning salvation. (they were selling fake salvation)
So, let’s look at how these short stories “stack” together and act as blocks to build a larger overreaching story.
The King, who has salvation comes as foretold in prophesy. Those who need and want salvation were waiting and watching for this King, and they knew Him when they saw Him. And they respond accordingly. Jesus is an eternal King, with real, eternal salvation. So, He goes to church, where He should have been received and praised all the more. But here He finds people who don’t want real salvation. They are busy corrupting the church with buying and selling of fake salvation through their own power and authority. So, the King, with real salvation leaves quietly and comes back the next day.
On the way back to church, He teaches His followers a lesson in the barren fig tree about how people who only appear to be godly but don’t really produce godly fruit with their lives will ultimately be cut out of the Kingdom because God looks past the external and sees what is inside of us all. When He reaches the corrupted church this time, the King with real salvation brings His teaching to reality by cutting out the merchants and leaders who are selling (and buying) fake salvation. (corrupted fruit, bad fruit – no fruit).
Then He sat down and began teaching the ones who remained. Other gospel accounts say he also healed many while he was there that day. Those who had been called out, rebuked, and even cast out as barren fig trees, could only stand in the background and try to find a way to destroy this King because He had taken away their power and authority – and their way of life.
Jesus is the the Prince of Peace. The Savior. He is the Lord. He is the King of kings, who has real salvation. In order give Him the praise He deserves, we have to accept Him and follow Him. If we accept Him and follow Him, we receive real salvation and we will produce good fruit in our lives. But we need to understand ahead of time that real salvation and good fruit means that we surrender everything, even the most important things, to Him.
Some of us will do that because we seek real salvation. But some of us will reject Him. Some of us have the outward appearance of righteousness and fruitful lives, but on the inside we are not really interested in real salvation. It costs too much.
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
The day we have decided to call “Palm Sunday” is the day that Jesus entered into Jerusalem during the time of the Passover, before His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus did this to fulfill the prophesy of Zechariah 9:9.
Mark 11:1-11 And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, 2 And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. 3 And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. 4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. 5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? 6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. 8 And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawedthem in the way. 9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. 11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.
According to tradition and culture the donkey was considered an animal of peace, while the horse was considered an animal of war. – Jesus came to bring peace through the blood of His cross. – Colossians 1:20
Maybe this symbolism is why the donkey is the only animal in the world to have a cross on it’s back.
Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 He is humble – Matthew 11:28-30
According to Tradition: Palm branches represent victory of the spirit over the flesh. Spreading garments and palm branches was a customary way for the subjects of a king to honor him. Hosanna is a word used in recognition of a rescuer or savior. They took this from Psalm 118:25-26. Hosanna can be heard in 2 ways: “save us, please”. And “salvation, thank you”. It’s clear that these people knew the scriptures and connected Jesus to those scriptures when they saw Him coming. I believe theytruly recognized Him as Savior and King. But did they really understand what was happening? Probably not. They connected this coming King and Savior as someone who would bring peace by freeing them from Roman rule. But we know that Jesus came to bring peace between us and God through sacrifice… Prophesy fulfilled!
I want us to notice something in verse 11>
11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.
During Jesus’ entry, the “regular” people knew Him. He was recognized. There was celebration. It was like a parade. But when He came to the temple the big party had turned into a non-event. He wasn’t noticed. He wasn’t recognized. He wasn’t even acknowledged. According to the word, He came and looked around to see what was going on. Then He left.
Why is that?
I think the religious leaders of the day, were not waiting for a savior. The were not watching for Him. We can be sure they knew who Jesus was, but we can also be sure they were never going to recognize Him for who He truly is.
If there was ever a time, it’s now. Let’s look and listen. Let’s wait and watch for the Savior together. Let’s know Him when we see Him. And let’s rejoice because He is here with us and we know Him for who He is: The King of kings and the Lord of lords.
2 Peter 3:8-10 says, “8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the LORD as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The LORD is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
We live in a world plagued by typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, pandemic disease, war… and every other kind of brokenness. Spiritually, this world becomes more and more broken every day. Those of us who believe THE DAY OF THE LORD is coming as the Bible says in Revelation 6 (among other places) when all things will be made right in His judgement, can’t help wondering: What is He waiting for? Indeed, even non-believers mock us in asking the same question.
The answer to that question lies in 2 Peter 3: God is patient with us because He does not want any of us to die (spiritually). He wants all – who will – to come to Him (through Christ) in repentance of our sinful ways. He wants eternal fellowship with us, and He is willing to wait so the we all have a chance to make that choice.
And some are responding to His mercy and Grace toward them in Christ even now. In a small part of the Philippines, through the obedient work of a few, the first 59 days of 2021 have seen 33 new souls saved and 11 baptisms from all age groups and social groups. Here are a few pictures of what God has done in these last days.