Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Week Day 6: The Silent Saturday

Less than a week before, Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem on a colt while the crowds shouted Hosannahs and waved palm branches. For the disciples, it was probably one of the most exciting days of their lives. Dreams were coming true. Hopes were being fulfilled. Prayers were being answered.

And then...

Everything spiraled out of control.

Or so it seemed.

Before they could get past their shock and fear to decide how to respond, Jesus had been arrested, tried, and executed. They awakened that Saturday morning to their worst nightmare. Jesus was dead and buried. There was a Roman seal on the tomb. It was guarded.

Everything they had spent the last three years believing and working toward was over.

Or so it seemed.

I've felt that way before. Felt that God had given me clear instructions but, when I obeyed, nothing went the way I expected. It looked to me and those around me as if I had utterly failed. 

Or so it seemed.

I wondered if I had misunderstood what He said. I feared I had done the wrong thing. I couldn't understand. I felt ashamed and confused and afraid. Where was God in this mess that my obedience had made?

Maybe you've felt that, too.

It's where the disciples and the followers of Jesus were on that Silent Saturday. Jesus knew that, but He left them in their confusion. He left them in their fear. He left them in their uncertainty and their failing faith.

He left them in the silence because He knew Sunday was coming.  

He knew the stone would roll away and the tomb would be emptied. He knew the body would be gone and He would rise again. He knew He would soon walk with them and talk with them again.

God used my own worst disappointments to bring me to the end of myself and show me His own great glory. That's what He was doing for the disciples, too. They would soon be utterly amazed by the power of the God they served. By the Messiah they followed.

But they amazed weren't on Saturday.

On Saturday, they were devastated. Heartbroken. Afraid they could be the next to die.

On Silent Saturday, they didn't revel in the silence, but I do, because I know Sunday is coming. I know the glory and the splendor of my Risen King is just around the corner.

Silent Saturday reminds me that what looked like utter defeat on earth was simply a bigger battle in the heavenlies. It was simply a greater victory unfolding in a soon-empty tomb. Prayers that seemed forgotten were being answered in a way no one could imagine.

On Silent Saturday, it has become my tradition to be still before the Lord. To acknowledge all the confusion and uncertainty and unanswered prayers in my life and give them to Him, all over again. 

On this day, I recognize that what I see is not all there is and confess that, though my prayers may seem unanswered, there is a bigger battle in the heavenlies and victory may yet be won.

Today, join with me in being still before the Lord, offering Him our confusion, fear, and broken dreams and look toward the day when His glory will be revealed.

On that dark and terrible day, when all hope was gone, the Hope of the World was fighting a battle that only He could see, only He could win, and He won it. He defeated Sin and Death and set us free.

This day, let's remember that terrifying day, for tomorrow is coming. On day day, we'll celebrate the greatest miracle of all. Our Risen Savior.

"And so They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, 
as is the burial custom of the Jews. 
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; 
and in that garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid. 
Therefore on account of the Jewish day of preparation,
 because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
 John 20:40-42 nasb

Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Week Day 5: The Dark and Terrible Good Friday

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

The evening began in the Upper Room, where Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover. Jesus knew "His hour had come". (John 13:1) His entire life had been spent preparing for the events that were about to unfold. The Sacrifice. The Death. The Atonement. The Victory. The Resurrection.

Before victory, however, there would be much heartache and sorrow. More physical pain than any one innocent man should bear. More spiritual warfare than anyone but Jesus could survive.

During his last few hours, Jesus poured truth into these men with whom He'd spent the last three years. He taught about their relationships with God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Himself. He taught about their relationships with one another and with the world. He warned them about the persecution to come and His death and resurrection. 

He knew everything that would happen to Him, yet He comforted His disciples. "Do not let your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1) "I go to prepare a place for you." 

Peter and John had gone to prepare a place for Jesus and the disciples to celebrate the Passover. When they heard those words, at some level, they must have wanted to believe Jesus would be back from this preparing in a few hours. 

It's clear they didn't understand, because the events of the next few hours shocked them to their core. 
Olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane

After dinner, Jesus did what He always did to prepare for ministry. He went to a solitary place to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. It's a beautiful place. Quiet. Serene. You can see the city from there if you want, or remove yourself completely among the trees, some of which were likely there that night. He prayed for strength and perseverance. He prayed with sweat-drops of blood and, finally, with surrender. 

Not My will, but Yours be done.

The disciples should have prayed, too. If they had, they'd have been prepared for what came next, but they didn't. They slept. When Jesus was arrested and tried, they scattered. They denied. They panicked.

Steps leading to Caiaphas' house

Jesus was arrested in the garden and taken to Annas, (Caiaphas' father-in-law) who bound Him like a common criminal and sent Him to the High Priest, Caiaphas. Those steps you see in the picture are the very steps up which Jesus was led by the soldiers. 

Steps and the courtyard at Caiaphas' where Peter denied Jesus

Caiaphas didn't want to miss the Passover feast, but he didn't want to let Jesus go, either. He was sick of the troublemaker, Jesus, and he saw his chance to be rid of Him. Caiaphas sent Him to Pilate at the Praetorium. 

The Lithostrotos where Jesus' trial was held and where he was mocked and scourged

Mocking and scourging Jesus were not enough to satisfy the blood lust of the Pharisees. They demanded His death. Pilate listened to the accusations against Him and, three separate times, declared Him innocent. He wanted to release Jesus, but feared the crowds. 
Feared a riot in the city. He caved to the pressure and allowed Jesus to be condemned to death by crucifixion.  

By the time He was led to Golgotha, Jesus had been beaten and scourged almost to the point of death. He started out with His cross on His back but collapsed under the load. When He finally finished the climb to the Place of a Skull, Golgotha, nails were pounded into his hands and feet to secure Him to the cross. It was raised into place and He was left to die.

His followers watched in horror. They expected an earthly kingdom. They expected a throne. Stately robes. Wealth. Power. The One on whom they had staked their hopes and future was hanging from nails on a cross. As His blood dripped from His wounds, their hope dripped away, and their faith with it.

He wasn't God after all? He didn't have the power we thought? Why can't He save Himself? He wasn't the Messiah? I believed a lie?

Questions roared through their minds. All they knew for sure was what they saw. What they had believed seemed to be nothing more than fantasy.

That's where the first Good Friday, that dark and terrible day ended for the disciples.

But Sunday was coming. The Resurrection would rock the world and change everything.

For today, we'll stop at the Sacrifice Jesus made for us, because it's vital that we understand these things happened. It's real. I've walked those steps and seen those sites. 

Sin always comes with a price, and it must be paid. Jesus died for us. For our Sin. 

He did it because giving us the Law hadn't helped. We wouldn't obey. Giving us prophecy hadn't helped. We wouldn't listen. Giving us discipline didn't help. We wouldn't change.

Finally, God did the only thing that would help. He gave Himself.

Even now, we don't want to obey. We don't want to listen. We don't want to change. 

On that terrible day so many years ago, Jesus did the only thing that could be done to save us. He gave Himself and left us with a choice. Will we follow Him or not?

In case you missed part of this series, here are the links:
Holy Week day 2: The Betrayer
Holy Week day 3: Instant Obedience
Holy Week day 4: Jesus' Last Week
#easter #goodfriday #Jesus #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Week: Day 4: Jesus' Last Week

Expectations were running high when the disciples returned with the colt for Jesus to ride into the city. In a way, that colt ride represented the arrival of a king. The disciples and the crowd knew it, and they could feel the tension of the moment.

It was a kingly arrival. There was tension. They were right. Their interpretation of what they saw and felt was not right, however. 

They expected an earthly kingdom and the defeat of their Roman conquerors. Jesus had come for something much bigger than they could even imagine, much less expect. 

He was about to enter the worst battle of His life, the one for which He had come. Jesus would set them free from their lifetime conquerors, Sin and Death. He would set up an eternal heavenly kingdom, one that would extend even to us.

Jesus knew that the donkey ride was just the beginning of a week that would seem to spiral out of control. It would leave his followers reeling in despair before only a few days had passed. 

He knew the pain and the fear and the agony He faced. He dreaded what was to come, but He climbed on that donkey anyway. 

He listened to the crowd's celebration anyway. 

He walked, and talked, and ate with His disciples anyway. 

Even though they had almost everything wrong.

Within a few days, He would make things clear, but for those terrible few days, He poured as much teaching into His followers as He could, despite His dread. 

He taught about the power of prayer, the kingdom of God, and His coming death, burial, and resurrection. He spoke of it in more ways than one, but no one understood. 

He continued His march to the cross anyway.

The sacrifice of Jesus was not dependent upon anything the crowd or the disciples did. It was only dependent upon the Loving, Merciful Sacrifice of our Suffering Servant Savior.

Early that week, Jesus spoke these words: 

But the greatest among you shall be your servant, 
And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
Matthew 23:11-12 nasb

That's exactly what He did. He humbled Himself, even to the cross. Because of His obedience, God the Father exalted Him.

Jesus didn't start that weeklong march to the cross with exaltation. He started with fear, dread, humility, and obedience. Despite all that, He went on anyway.

As we approach the celebration of His death on Good Friday, the horrifying Silent Saturday when it appeared that all was lost, and His glorious Resurrection Sunday, let's pause today and remember that, despite His own fear, His own dread, He persevered to the cross for us.

He set us free, but we choose to live in bondage anyway.

All too often, I choose sin over freedom anyway.

All too often, I choose failure over the Victory of Jesus anyway.

We all do.

This day, let's begin to choose something different. Let's choose obedience. Freedom. Victory.

Christ has redeemed us. He has set us free. Let's live like we believe what He accomplished on the cross. 

Let's live free. 

It was for freedom that Christ set us free...
Galatians 5:1 nasb

In case you missed part of this series, here are the links:
Holy Week day 1: The Scandalous Act of Love

Holy Week day 2: The Betrayer
Holy Week day 3: Instant Obedience
#holyweek #jesuslastweek #livefree #linesfromleanna #leannahollis

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holy Week Day 3: Instant Obedience

There were two people who had a significant impact on Jesus' last week, but Scripture doesn't tell us their names. I call them the Unnamed Obeyers. What's important about them is not their names. It's their instant obedience.

We don't know if they were believers or not, but I think they might have been, because, when the disciples said, "The Lord has need," the Unnamed Obeyers said, "Yes. I'll be glad to help." (Leanna Paraphrase)

Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem would not have fulfilled prophecy without the never-ridden donkey. Jesus' last Passover meal with the disciples would not have been the same without the upper room. 

When Jesus approached Mount Olivet, he sent two disciples to the opposite village to find the colt. They were to untie it and bring it to Jesus for His triumphal entry. If anyone asked why they were untying it, they were to say, "The Lord has need of it." 

I am always surprised by what happened. The disciples found the colt, untied it, and someone asked them why. They said just what Jesus said to say. "The Lord has need of it." 

The owner of the donkey colt responded instantly. "Okay. Go right ahead." (my words) He didn't complain or tell them no. He just let them take his young colt for the Lord.

It was the same with the Upper Room. The disciples asked Jesus where they were to prepare the meal. "Go into Jerusalem and look for a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him to the house and tell the owner, the Teacher says, 'Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?'" 

This surprises me, too. Peter and John went into the city, found the man with the pitcher, and followed him. They told  the owner what Jesus said, and the man led the way to a large, furnished upper room. It  was perfect for their feast.

In both instances, as soon as the Unnamed Obeyers heard the need of the Lord, they responded with instant, willing obedience. They didn't argue. They didn't count the cost. They recognized the request was from the Lord and they obeyed. Instantly.

I wish I obeyed as readily. 

The disciples said exactly what Jesus said to say and nothing more. I'd have wanted to embellish the story, but they didn't. Jesus' words were enough. They obeyed him exactly.

The Unnamed Obeyers didn't argue or complain. They simply said, "Yes, Lord." 

I don't always obey as quickly. Once I know for sure what God requires, I'm happy to do it, but being sure isn't always instant for me.

The Unnamed Obeyers had one chance to provide the colt, one chance to provide the Upper Room. Delay might have given the opportunity to serve, and the blessing, to someone else. 

We don't know the Unnamed Obeyers, but their acts of willing obedience are still remembered more than 2000 years later. 

I'd like to have that kind of obedience, wouldn't you? 

When the Still, Small Voice whispers to us, let's obey without delay. When our Lord calls, let's respond instantly with, "Yes, Lord." 

Whether unnamed or not, I want to be remembered as an Obeyer. Don't you?
*** Be sure to check the updated Prayer List. I have added Brussels to our list. 31 dead. 187 wounded. Airport closed. 200 flights cancelled.
#obedience #holyweek #JesusChrist #linesfromleanna #Leanna Hollis

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Holy Week, day 2: The Betrayer in Us That Needs To Be Removed

The woman with the alabaster vial, who lavished her gift at the feet of Jesus, performed a lovely deed of worship that's still talked about today. (John 12:1-3) In the margin of my Bible, next to the passage in Matthew 26, these words from a sermon by Bryant Barnes some years ago are recorded:

"Love's desire is to give to the uttermost limit. 
There are times when the commonsense view of economics 
must be overruled by the economics of love."

Unfortunately, not everyone who saw her gift of love had her same desire for "uttermost" giving. Judas, the one who said "this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor," (Matt.26:9) was a thief (John 12:4-6) Money, not Jesus, was his god. 

I don't know Judas' primary reason for following Jesus, but one of the reasons he chose to be in the group was because of the offerings Jesus received. Judas liked to pilfer the money box. When the woman gave her gift of love to Jesus, Judas resented it, and the enemy of our souls used his greatest weakness (the love of money) to advance his advantage.

Let's pause for a moment and consider our own greatest weakness. Where is the point at which the enemy most often attacks us? What tactic causes us to stumble? 

We can speculate about Judas' motivation for his next action, but the truth is that one of Jesus' closest friends went directly to Jesus' worst enemies and offered to betray him. Judas was only willing to betray Jesus for money. "How much will you pay me?" he asked.

The chief priests paid him thirty-three pieces of silver, as prophesied in Zechariah 11:12-13. 

In Exodus, this same amount of money was to be paid to the master of a slave who has been gored by an ox. (Ex 21:32) In a way, Judas set himself up as the "master" of Jesus. The chief priests paid in advance for their opportunity to "gore" Jesus with a fatal blow. 

Two people acted upon their feelings for Jesus. Mary poured out her love with lavish abandon. Judas demonstrated the depth of his love when he grabbed for all the money the chief priests would pay for his betrayal.

Thirty pieces of silver bought Judas. 

What would buy our betrayal? For what would we deny Jesus? 

They're sobering questions, aren't they? 

Luke 6 describes Judas Iscariot as the apostle "who became a betrayer", but he could have as easily written my name in that spot. "Leanna, the woman who became a betrayer." Maybe he could have written your name, as well. 

I'd like to think I would never betray my Lord, but my mouth, my attitudes, my actions sometimes do. 

As we move through Holy Week, let's pray for cleansing that removes all the betrayal from our hearts and changes a heart of greed into a heart of giving, a heart of anger and hate into a heart of love and forgiveness, a heart of turmoil into one of peace.

Love gives to the uttermost. That's what Jesus did for us. We can do no less.

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Pleasing Jesus With a Scandalous Act of Love

#betrayal #holyweek #JesusChrist #Judas #linesfromleanna #Leanna Hollis

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pleasing Jesus with A Scandalous Act of Love

The week before the cross was hard for Jesus. 

Jesus knew He was headed toward crucifixion and death, and His heart was heavy, which is a major understatement. 

He prepared the best way He knew how. He ministered all day, then went to Olivet to pray. He agonized every night. All night. 

Have you ever dreaded something so much that it made you physically sick? Kept you awake night and day? Ate at you non-stop? That's how Jesus felt.

In the midst of that horrible week, a woman who understood the depth of her sin and her need for a savior, demonstrated her love for Jesus in a scandalously beautiful way. It must have been balm for His soul.

When Jesus decided to stop in Bethany, the betrayal of Judas had already been committed. The plans for his death were well underway. 

He was in the home of Simon the leper when this uninvited (and unwanted) woman arrived with an alabaster vial of expensive perfume. Jesus was seated on the floor with his feet behind him. She approached from behind, intent on a beautiful act of love and worship. 

The woman wept so much that her tears wet his feet. She used her hair to dry his feet, then anointed them with the costly perfume. 

The lovely fragrance of the perfume filled the room.

People grumbled. 

Judas complained because the perfume could have been sold for money, which he could have stolen. 

Simon complained because she wasn't a "nice" woman, as if Jesus didn't know. 

"If this man were a prophet, He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." Luke 7:39 nasb

Jesus knew everything about the woman and her sin. He also knew about Simon and His sin, about all of us and our sin. 

If I'd been Jesus, I wouldn't have been as kind to Simon. I'd have been exasperated, especially since I was about to die for an arrogant, judgmental man who still didn't get it. 

Not Jesus. He loved Simon, too. 

Jesus told him a story about two debtors. One owed a huge debt. One owed a small debt. The lender forgave both debts. "Who will love him more?" Jesus asked Simon.

"I suppose the one whom he forgave more."

"Do you see this woman, Simon?" Jesus asked him. 

Of course Simon saw her. How could he miss her? In his eyes, she was a scandalous sinner woman making a spectacle of herself.

In Jesus' eyes, she was a forgiven sinner who had been washed clean. She had squandered her love and her life, but all that was past. She humbled herself and gave Jesus the very best she had.

"Her lovely gift will be told everywhere the gospel is shared," Jesus told the people there that night, and it has been. All four gospel writers included it. Preachers have shared her story thousands of times since that night so long ago. 

Most people thought she was scum of the earth, but not Jesus. 

He didn't just see her sin, He saw what she could become when she was freed of her sin. He loved her right out of her old life and into the new life He gave her. 

She spent the rest of her days lavishing her love on Christ.

That's exactly what Jesus did for me. He saw me in my sin and loved me anyway. I hope I never get over it. 

I'd like to be the woman who poured out all she had at the feet of Jesus. I'd like to be the woman whom loved Jesus most.

Of course, I'm not. 

I sin. I fail. I do what I don't want to do, and don't do what I want to do.Despite my many failures, I hope I never lose sight of all Christ did for me, one of the worst of sinners.

Today, let's spend some time remembering our life before Christ, recalling the sin for which He has forgiven us, the freedom for which He set us free. 

We'll be walking the road to the cross this week, but it won't mean as much if we don't understand why we needed Him to do this for us. 

Do you remember the great relief of being forgiven?

Can you recall loving Jesus like this woman did?

Are you overwhelmed with gratitude for His cleansing? His peace? 

I'd love to hear your story, so feel free to share it.

"and they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) because of the blood of the Lamb 
and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life 
even when faced with death." 
Revelation 12:11 nab

(If you're reading this on the mobile version, scroll down and click on "view web version". At the bottom of that page is a place for comments. You can leave your "word of testimony" there.)

* * *


Want more? I've written about this woman's gift of love several times before. You can read a few of them here: (Click on the links)
The Double PortionWelcoming SinnersApproaching from BehindThe Intimacy of Her HairSee-Through AlabasterTranslucent versus TransparentGo in Peace
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: When the Church Decides There's No Place for Grumbling and Complaining Here
#holyweek #scandalousactoflove #alabastervial #faithlife #linesfromleanna 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Blessing or Curse: We Can Choose

My reading this morning was in the last few chapters of Deuteronomy, where Moses sets a choice before the people. That same choice is available for us today.

Moses told the people they could have either blessings or curses. The choice was  theirs, but it would not be made with the words of their mouths. Their choice would be made with the actions of their lives and the attitudes of their hearts.

"Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, 
being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, 
the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 
And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you..." 
Deuteronomy 28:1-2 nasb

I love the idea of being overtaken by blessings. Imagine blessings you can't outrun. Blessings you don't pursue, but that pursue you. I want to be that blessed, don't you? 

Overtaking blessings can be ours, if we are willing to carefully obey the Lord. 

Every area of our lives, children, business, home, weather, peace, even our battles can be blessed. Moses said the blessings would be so evident that our enemies would be afraid to attack us.

Obedience brings blessings. It's that simple. 

"But it shall come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you." 
Deuteronomy 28:15 nasb

Curses can also be ours, if we so choose. 

Who would choose curses? You would think no one would, but that's not the case. When we choose to go our own way, to disobey God's commandments and statutes, we, in effect, choose His curses. 

Moses wanted to be sure the people understood, so he listed all the areas of their lives on which the curse would rest. Home. Children. Business. Battles. Weather. Pestilence. Health. Mind. Relationships.

God would smite them with "madness, blindness, and bewilderment of heart." The diseases they feared in Egypt would come on them.

Overtaking curses will be ours if we choose the way of willful disobedience. 

Disobedience does not bring blessings. It's that simple.

If we want the blessings of God, we can have them. All we have to do is obey God. 

The blessing of God does not mean we will be incredibly wealthy and everything we do will turn our perfectly. If you don't believe it, take a look at Job. Sometimes we have circumstances that teach us lessons we need to learn. That does not mean there's no blessing in our circumstances. It means there will be enough, even in hard times.

God is the ruler of the Universe. He is the Generous Giver, and we can (and will) be His Ready Recipients. We decide, by our actions, which kind of Ready Recipient we will be.

As for me, I want to be a Blessing Recipient, so I choose to do what must be done to receive those blessings. I choose to obey.

No matter what we say, the way we live our lives will reveal our choice. 

Blessings or curses. Which will you choose?
Be sure to check the updated Prayer List 

 #blessingorcurse #decisiontime #faithlife #linesfromleanna #leannahollis