HOLY WEEK & EASTER SCRIPTURES

PALM SUNDAY

Philippians 2:5-11 (CSB): Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.

For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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MONDAY

Isaiah 42:1-4 (CEV): Here is my servant! I have made him strong. He is my chosen one; I am pleased with him. I have given him my Spirit, and he will bring justice to the nations. He won’t shout or yell or call out in the streets. He won’t break off a bent reed or put out a dying flame, but he will make sure that justice is done. He won’t quit or give up until he brings justice everywhere on earth, and people in foreign nations long for his teaching.

TUESDAY

Isaiah 49:1-4 (NIV): Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”

But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

SPY WEDNESDAY

Matthew 26:14-16 (CEB): Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I turn Jesus over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on he was looking for an opportunity to turn him in.

MAUNDY THURSDAY

John 13:12-16 (ESV): When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.

GOOD FRIDAY

Isaiah 53:1-5 (NIV): Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of  the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

HOLY SATURDAY

Romans 6:3-11 (NLT): Have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

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EASTER SUNDAY

John 20:1-9 (VOICE): Before the sun had risen on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made a trip to the tomb where His body was laid to rest. In the darkness, she discovered the covering had been rolled away. She darted out of the garden to find Simon Peter and the dearly loved disciple to deliver this startling news.

Mary Magdalene: They have taken the body of our Lord, and we cannot find Him!

Together, they all departed for the tomb to see for themselves. They began to run, and Peter could not keep up. The beloved disciple arrived first but did not go in. There was no corpse in the tomb, only the linens and cloths He was wrapped in. When Simon Peter finally arrived, he went into the tomb and observed the same: the cloth that covered His face appeared to have been folded carefully and placed, not with the linen cloths, but to the side. After Peter pointed this out, the other disciple (who had arrived long before Peter) also entered the tomb; and based on what he saw, faith began to well up inside him! Before this moment, none of them understood the Scriptures and why He must be raised from the dead.

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REBLOG: 26 Things That Happen When You Grow Up In An African House By Kovie Biakolo

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1. Your parents are basically demi-gods. It doesn’t matter if you learned that the sky is blue. If your parents say the sky is orange, the sky is in fact, orange. At least, in their presence.

2. Your parents will seldom ever admit they are wrong. And if and when they do, you will be too stunned to even believe it.

3. Your grandparents are the only people who can put your parents in their place. (And you will enjoy those moments.)

4. Your house is a free for all. At some point a relative, twice-removed, will be invited to stay for an extended-period of time.

5. You will likely be raised the old-fashioned way -“you spare the rod, you spoil the child” kind of old-fashioned way. In your adulthood, you’ll largely be grateful for it and you’ll always be able to tell the difference between people who were raised the same way and people who were not.

6. God help you if you’re living under your parent’s roof and you yell at them, slam a door in anger, and/or curse in their presence. Yeah, God help you.

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7. The youngest child will be blamed for everything….until he or she is able to talk.

8. The oldest child will be blamed for everything that the younger children do.

9. If you cry while being accused of something, it is assumed that you are guilty.

10. Your parents will call you from upstairs, downstairs, outside, etc., to hand them something that is literally 10 centimeters away from them.

11. You will not leave your parents’ home without learning how to cook.

12. Religious attendance and practice is not an option.

13. Everyone who is older than you is your “auntie” or “uncle.” Calling them by their first name is basically a crime against humanity.

14. You will probably never meet all of your extended family because there are just so many of them.

15. Doing well in school is not an option and by doing well, parents have expectations that you will be the best at everything. Example: If you get a 98%, they might ask, “What happened to the other 2%?” If you get a B, your parents will likely ask, “The person who got an A, do they have three heads?” Just do well in school.

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16. Your friends better greet your parents first when they see them or that friendship is pretty much over. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is H-U-G-E.

17. Sleepovers at friends’ houses are mythical tales or basically only happen when your parents have known the family’s family since the beginning of time.

18. Another mythical tale – being in a serious relationship with anyone when you’re in your teens. And until your parents believe you are of, “courtship age,” they will refer to anyone you are dating as, “your friend.”

19. You will still be expected to have a traditional engagement/marriage regardless of where the person you’re marrying is from. (Have fun explaining the details of that to all your significant others!)

20. Your parents will talk to you in a lot of proverbs and metaphors. For example, when I was 12, I spent half a day trying to figure out what my dad meant when he said, “When I talk to you and advise you, do I talk with water in my mouth?” I eventually got it.

21. You will have maybe 3 conversations about sex with your parents – one when puberty starts to take its course, the second one when you start secondary school Biology, and the third one when you are about to leave home. The will all surprisingly sound like the Mean Girl’s quote, “Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die!” followed by “Do not bring shame to this family!” Got it parents, I can’t start dating until I’m married and I can’t have sex until after I’ve had children.

22. Your siblings will be the first people to bully you. Later on, you’ll realize that they were preparing you for a big bad world out there.

23. If your entire full name is being called, and your native language is also being spoken, the day shall not pass without tears.

24. Soda in the fridge? Either your parents were in a REALLY good mood or there are visitors coming over.

25. Alcohol is a hit or miss with African parents. It depends on the set that you get. My dad drinks, my mum doesn’t (at all).  

26. You won’t realize how incredibly hilarious and somewhat bizarre your upbringing was until you reach adulthood. And you’ll burst out into tears of laughter when you’re sitting next to an African woman who is telling her child who probably just got a B, “So the person who got an A, do they have three heads?” Hang in there kid, they secretly boast that they have the best children ever, just not to your face. 

God is L-O-V-E!

God is love

I John 4:8-10, “God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Limitless

LIMITLESS. God’s love is limitless. God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is indiscriminate. God loves all people, everywhere. There is nothing you can do to make God love you. He already does. He loves you in spite of you. He loves you no matter what you have done. He loves you no matter who you have become. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do anything. He loves you just because. Absolute. His love is genuine, and complete. People may love you for your possessions or your beauty. God loves you unconditionally.

Romans 8:35-39 New International Version (NIV)

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[
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37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Love Ocean

OVERABUNDANT. God’s love is deep, bottomless, wide. It’s deeper and wider than any ocean. The waves of God’s love cover all kinds of sin. The deep ocean of God’s love washes all sins away. His love is boundless. His love is overabundant. His love does not run out.

Psalm 36:5-7, “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

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VERIFIABLE. You are and I are proof God loves us. The incarnation of Jesus is the verifiable truth of God’s love. Jesus left the splendor of heaven to come die for us. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

You are the evidence of God’s love. Look at your life. Had it not been of God’s love, you and I would not be here today. Had God not loved us, where would we be? Look at His miraculous provisions. Consider the love He has shown you through salvation? God loves you. Your existence, and your salvation are verifiable truths of God’s love for humanity.

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ETERNAL. God’s love is everlasting. God loves has no beginning nor ending. God’s love is forever. God loved us, God loves us, God will always love us. Hallelujah! He wants us to be with Him forever. He will be our God. People may have turned on you. People used to love you, but not anymore. God is not like people. His love is eternal.

Psalm 136:1-3, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.

God’s love is Limitless, Overabundant, Verifiable, and Eternal!

Do you have His love?

Do you struggle to receive God’s love?

 

Who’s Your Buddy?

Friends

At a recent Pasadena Tabernacle Band rehearsal, Jim Sparks shared a challenging devotional on the value of friendships. He read the Scripture, Mark 2:1-12. This is a story about a paralytic man whose friends believed that Jesus could heal him. At last they found a way to get their friend to Jesus by opening the roof and letting him down by ropes attached to his bed. The four men risked much to get their friend to Jesus. Jim asked the questions, “Do you have four close friends you can call when you need help? Do you have four friends you count on to be there when life’s challenges seem insurmountable?”

All humans crave intimate friendships. We all need a friend who loves us when we are unlovable. We all desire to have a friend who can be there for us during our darkest moments. Friends play a critical role in our lives. Friends determine our destiny. We become like those with whom we spend time. We copy and imitate our friends – peer pressure! The friends we chose determine the trajectory of our lives. Choose wisely. We all need a loyal, trustworthy friend. How many of us have friends who inspire us to seek God more? How many of us have, at least, four spiritual friends who can take us to Jesus when life gets tough? Better still, are you a trustworthy, loving, loyal friend?

Friendship

Here are ways you can develop deep, meaningful friendships. Here is how you can be a loyal, trustworthy friend:

  • Pray. Ask God to direct you to the right person. Pray. Ask God to help you be a good friend.
  • Smile. To have friends, be friendly. Grumpy people are often lonely people. To develop friendships, be pleasant.
  • Take the risk. Get to know someone. Step out of your shell.
  • Listen. A good friend listens. Learn to listen to people.  Listen not just hear. Do not just talk about yourself.  Ask questions. Listen “between the lines.”
  • Show up. A good friend is there for others. Celebrate with your friend.  Remember and do something special on your friend’s birthday or anniversary.
  • Family. A good friend becomes family. Good friends befriend the entire family. One of family members once thought my friend Robbie was part of our family.  Robbie was always around for important family events.
  • Understand. A good friend is sensitive. A good friend looks out for you. When no one else can understand you, your friend will.  Your fiend is one person who will walk up and say, “You are not you today. What’s going on?”
  • Communicate. Good friends stay in touch.  These days, we can utilize various channels of communication that are available.  You can keep in touch in person, by phone, handwritten letter, Facebook, Facetime, text, Skype, and so forth.
  • Give gifts. When thinking of ministering to your friend – be creative and thoughtful. It does not always have to cost money.
  • Rekindle your old friendships. I dare you to reach out to those uncultivated, dying friendships.
  • Accountability. Keep each other accountable. Develop your relationship so much that you can speak life into each other’s life.  Learn to receive encouragement and honest feedback from your friend.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Your friend is one person you can trust to watch your back, to point out your blind spots, and stand with you at all times.

 

Here again, are Jim Sparks’ questions: “Do you have four close friends you can call when you need help? Do you have four friends you count on to be there when life’s challenges seem insurmountable?”

To have a good friend, you need to be a good friend.  What are you doing to cultivate good friendships?

Self-care: Finding Rest in a Busy World

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Psalm 46:10, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I thought I was going to pass out. I felt faint. My body was weak. My knees struggled to support my frame. Sweat droplets glistened on my forehead. My heart rate beat as fast as is if I had been running a marathon. I stumbled a little. Then I leaned over a table to support myself. I sat down at that table, while taking gulps of cold water. What was going on?

Noticing something wrong, Rutendo came over to check on me. I told her I was OK. I just needed time to sit down and rest a little. I had not slept much in the past eight weeks. I had been working over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I had been busy fundraising, preaching, teaching, and carrying out all other good ministry duties. The life of a Salvation Army Corps Officer. To me, sleep and rest were overrated. Who had time for that? Sleeping slowed me down. There was so much to do. There were so many toys to collect. Many Christmas bell ringers needed to be hired, and driven to their work sites. So much to do, so little time. However, the fatigue was catching up to me. I was running on fumes. I had run my body into the ground. For the past week, woke up in the middle of the night, sweating; my heart racing. I had ignored this feeling, thinking it would also soon go away.

Rutendo called a local pastor, whom I respected. The pastor came to where I was, shaking his head. He challenged me to go to the hospital. I told him I would go after my speech that was scheduled for that evening. He walked away. Within a few moments, I saw an ambulance pull up to the front of the building. The EMT’s came towards me. My pastor friend smiled and confessed. “I called 9-1-1. You need to go see the doctor,” I glanced over, and saw Rutendo crying. What was going on?

Soon, I found myself in the Emergency Room, hooked up to the EKG. The doctor came in to announce the diagnosis. He told me I was suffering from exhaustion – an extreme case of fatigue. My body was trying to tell me to slow down. He asked me what my profession is. After telling him my story, I kind of chuckled. The doctor reminded me I cannot save the world by myself. He challenged me to observe the Sabbath. He insisted I take a day off work each week. The doctor chided me to take a vacation each year. His prescription was I should take care of me so I can be effective in taking care of others. The prescription was simple, yet revolutionary.

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Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint, he said. As ministers, we leak. We give out physical, emotional and spiritual support. We need to refill ourselves, lest we run on fumes. Ministry duties demand much of our attention. As ministers, we are on duty 24-7. If we do not take care of ourselves, we run ourselves into the ground. Many hard-working, gifted ministers quit the ministry due to fatigue and burn out. Many churches lose competent, dynamic ministers who left the ministry due to exhaustion and burn out. Do not let this be you. Develop a plan of self-care today.

Are you a victim of the tyranny of the urgent?

Are you enslaved to busyness, hurry, rush and adrenaline?

In what ways have you neglected caring for your health, your body, your relationships?

How might Jesus be inviting you more deeply into some area of self-care?

Are you experiencing exhaustion and burnout?

How have deadlines, timelines and bottom lines affected the pace of your life?

What sort of power have you given to these imaginary lines?

What options do you have?

What do you need to cut or change so you can take a handle of your life?

How can you replenish yourself?

What steps do you need to take to refresh your soul?

self-care

Time for reset

 

Venza

I drive a beautiful, blue, cross-over Toyota Venza.  This car runs smoothly, and is comfortable.  Recently, the dashboard of my Venza lit up.  Many orange lights were flashing.  These included the check engine light, the oil change light, and the flat tire light.  I panicked, as I did not understand what was wrong with the vehicle.  I drove the vehicle to a nearby car repair shop.  The shop owner told me to leave the vehicle at the shop so they can run some diagnostics on it.  The next day, I received a call informing me they would need to order some parts to fix the car.  Two days later, and a couple of hundred dollars later the vehicle was repaired.  So, I thought. A few days went by, and then the dash board lit up again.  The lights would not stop flashing.  I thought they had fixed the problem, but the vehicle was still acting up.

I took the vehicle to a different shop this time.  They informed the sensors in the vehicle were malfunctioning.  They would order new sensors, and install them.  I left the vehicle at this shop for a few days.  When I went to get the vehicle, the flashing lights had stopped.  Everything was working well.  I paid, and drove away.

Toyota Pasadena

A few days later … you guessed it …  the dash board lit up again.  The bright orange lights were flashing.  I was frustrated. Someone reminded me that since I drive a Toyota Venza, I must take it to a Toyota dealer.  The manufacturers know exactly what’s wrong with their product.  I drove my car to the Toyota of Pasadena shop. The helpful, courteous technicians asked me to wait as they ran diagnostics on the vehicle.  After a few moments, the technicians told me to come back after a few days.  When I returned, the car was as good as new.  No more flashing.  I asked the technicians what had been the problem.  They said cars these days have computers which need to be reset occasionally.  They simply reset the computer, and the car was fine.

In our lives, we all face challenges.  We all go through moments which drive us to seek help.  Life just does not work well at times.  Finances do not add up, children go rebellious, or relationships go sour. We sometimes face health problems, depression, sin, or death of a family member. We seek help which might temporarily fix the problem. Yet, we still feel empty, lost, confused, or frustrated.  Positive thinking, good vibes, or following the inward light, does not fix the problem.  Human effort, new age thinking, or self-help books come short.

We are the creation of the Creator, God.  He knows what’s best for us. He knows our function.  He knows our purpose. When life does not work, we need to go back to the Creator, to be reset.  We need to take what’s not working back to God. Our souls need to be refreshed by God.  When you have tried it all, it’s time to take yourself to God.  When all is not working, call on God.  Whatever challenges you are facing, take them to God.  He has the remedy.  He has the solution.  He is the remedy.  He is the solution.

This is Why I Do What I Do!

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It was at the end of a long, tiring day.  With the remote in my hand, I was TV channel surfing, as I reclined in my comfortable favorite chair.  The toll of days packed with leading social services programs, music ministries, women’s ministries, youth programs and seniors Bible Study activities was weighing me down.  Suddenly, Rutendo interrupted me with what she called the best news of the day. I thought this was her gimmick to get me to listen to all her stories that never seem to end.  I did not listen to hear although I could see her lips move.  All I wanted was to relax.

At the corner of my, I noticed tears streaming down her cheeks. “This must be a serious story,” I thought.  “Wait a minute, start from the beginning again.”  I pretended to have been listening, and was just wanting to see if I heard correctly.  On other days, this is when I would have gotten the lecture on how much I do not listen.  Today was different.  In-between sobs, she smiled as she began to relay the great story.  Before she concluded her story, I, too, was in tears.

What had happened to make us both cry?  Gabby is a 10-year-old girl who started attending youth programs through the advertising in our area.  Although Gabby smiles and laughs like all kids, she and her sisters miss their mother.  They 27-year-old mother incarcerated, and she is pregnant with twins.  Gabby and her little sisters live with their aging, ailing grandmother.  The girls witness various men visit the house to drink, smoke, and engage in diverse illicit activities, with the girls’ uncle. No one Gabby’s family is gainfully employed.  No one in Gabby’s family has finished high school.  There are no positive role models for Gabby.

Sunbeams

On this Wednesday, Rutendo showed Gabby, and the rest of the Sunbeam girls, our wedding pictures.  Gabby stood up, in front of the whole Sunbeams group and said, “I would like to have wedding like yours, Captain.”  She went on to say, “Also, I want to go to college to study to be a lawyer. I do not want to have children before I get married. I do not want to get married before I finish college!”  How can Gabby have such a dream when her background works so much against her? We, at The Salvation Army, are her role models.  This is what The Salvation Army does best – giving hope and dreams to children like Gabby.  I will do whatever it takes to prepare the future for Gabby.  I might not be there to see Gabby walk across the stage to receive her Law degree someday.  I might not be there to see Gabby get married in a glorious fashion, but I can help her attain those dreams by setting an example for her.  Jesus is in the business of transforming lives – Gabby’s is just one example.

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“Pass me the Kleenex,” I said to Rutendo as I tried to look away from her.  I praise God that I am a Salvation Army officer who has been entrusted with the dreams, hopes and futures of such children.  This is why I do what I do. I am a conduit of grace to God’s children like Gabby.