Rivers of Living Water


Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:2, 37-39 ESV

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47:1-3, 7-12 ESV


During the time when the second temple was standing, there was a special ceremony, called the water libation ceremony, that took place during the Feast of Booths. Every day of the festival, at dawn, a priest would go down from the temple to a spring called Shiloach, while all the celebrating people followed him. The priest would carry a special golden decanter and fill it with water, then he would carry this container of water back up to the temple. The people would follow him back up to the temple and watch as he poured the water over the altar where the burnt offerings and other sacrifices were made. There was a special hole in the altar for the water to be poured into, and it would drain down through that hole.

Jesus went to Jerusalem and celebrated the Feast of Booths, and he would have seen the water libation ceremony take place and rejoiced with the other people there. On the last day of the feast he called out that if anyone was thirsty, that person could come to him and drink. He talked about the living water that would flow out of that person’s heart, which was a picture of the Holy Spirit he would give to everyone who believed in him. The people who heard Jesus say this would have been thinking about the water libation ceremony, and they might have remembered the vision the prophet Ezekiel had about the river that flowed from the temple and brought life and healing everywhere it flowed. Jesus was saying that his people would become temples of God, and the Holy Spirit would live in them and bring healing and life to their hearts.

We who believe in Jesus have the precious gift of the Holy Spirit living in our hearts. He gives us the life and healing that Jesus won for us on the cross when he washed our sins away and made us his people. The joy and comfort of the Holy Spirit is like living water that gives us new life and healing, and it flows from our hearts to other people around us whenever we share the good news of the love of Jesus.


Dear Jesus, thank you for washing away our sins and giving us the gift of your Holy Spirit. Help us to share your love with others. Amen.




Excuses, Excuses


As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home. Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 ESV

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. II Corinthians 6:1-2 ESV


When a student didn’t have his homework done, he told his teacher:

I started on my homework
but my pen ran out of ink.
My hamster ate my homework.
My computer’s on the blink.

This kid went on to give more excuses as to why his homework wasn’t finished. For example, he said that he had dropped it into a pot of soup, and that a tornado had blown his notes away. His excuses kept getting sillier and sillier, until he said:

Some aliens abducted me.
I had a shark attack.
A pirate swiped my homework
and refused to give it back.

But his teacher didn’t accept any of these excuses!

Some men said they wanted to follow Jesus, but when Jesus told them what it would cost them, they turned away. In their own minds they had excuses for not doing it. The first man said he’d follow Jesus, but when Jesus said that he was an outcast with nowhere to call home, the man changed his mind. The second man said that he’d follow Jesus, but he wanted to wait until his father died first. Jesus said that he shouldn’t wait for his father’s death before he worked for God’s kingdom. The third man said that he’d follow Jesus after he went and said goodbye to his family. But he knew that his family would tell him not to go with Jesus, and so that would be a good excuse for him. Jesus told him that looking back for his family’s approval was like trying to plow a straight line while looking back at something else!

We often have excuses for not following God’s ways and not living our lives for the kingdom of God. We might think it doesn’t matter very much if we disobey God or do things our own way, and think of excuses that seem like good reasons. We might say that we’ll get another person upset, or that we’re too busy doing other good things, or that maybe we’ll do better tomorrow. But Jesus calls us to follow him today, and to put him first in our lives. Going our own way and giving excuses for it are sin.

Jesus followed God’s ways perfectly, even though it led him to the cross. He took our sins of disobedience onto himself and paid the penalty for them, and because of that God forgives us for going our own way. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us live lives of trust and obedience.


Dear Heavenly Father, forgives us for disobeying you. Help us to follow Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.


Nesbitt, Ken “All My Great Excuses” Revenge of the Lunch Ladies Philadelphia: Running Press Adult, 2007.

No Fire from Heaven


When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. Luke 9:51-55 ESV

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13 ESV


Capaneus was a very strong man, and he was proud of his strength. He fought as a warrior against the city of Thebes, and he boasted that he would climb to the top of the city walls and carry on the battle from there. He bragged that no one could stop him, not even the powerful god Zeus. But Zeus was angry with Capaneus for his boasting and his pride, and as Capaneus began to climb up the city walls, Zeus hurled a bolt of lightning from the sky that knocked him down and killed him instantly. Zeus punished the proud man for his disrespect and arrogance.

This is only a story, but when a Samaritan village was disrespectful to Jesus, his disciples James and John thought that Jesus should punish its people like that. They were ready to help him by calling fire down from heaven to destroy the village and everyone in it. Jesus had begun a journey to Jerusalem, and he and his disciples were traveling through Samaria. He had sent messengers ahead of him to arrange for them all to stay in one of the villages, but the people in that village remembered the old feud between Jews and Samaritans, and they wouldn’t welcome a group of Jewish people on their way to Jerusalem. This made James and John angry, and they wanted the Lord to punish the people, but that wasn’t what Jesus did. Instead he scolded James and John, and then they went on to stay somewhere else.

The time for God’s judgment was coming, and that’s why Jesus had set his face to go to Jerusalem. He knew that he would die on the cross there, and take all the judgment for the sins of the world onto himself. Because of what Jesus has done, there is mercy and forgiveness for all people. The only people who will know God’s judgment are those who turn away from the blessings Jesus has won for them, and until that final judgment, God calls us to be people of mercy. He wants us to remember the mercy and forgiveness he gives us every day, and to share it with other people, so that they will know the love of God as we do.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing us mercy through Jesus, our Savior. Help us to share that mercy with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.




Endless Forgiveness


Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35 ESV

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15 ESV


There’s a story about a fox who was getting into a farmer’s fields and eating his crops. The farmer became angry with the fox and tied a rope to the fox’s tail. Then he set the rope on fire. He wanted to get revenge on the fox for the damage the fox had caused, but the fox was afraid of the fire and tried to run away from it. He ran through the farmer’s fields and set all of the crops on fire, and the farmer lost everything. His desire for revenge caused him terrible pain and loss.

Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples that not forgiving others puts us in danger of losing all of the love and forgiveness God has given us. Peter wanted to know how many times he should forgive someone who had sinned against him. He thought that seven times would be enough, but Jesus said that he should forgive seventy-seven times. The idea is not to count, but rather to give forgiveness and love as completely and freely as God gives it to us. Then Jesus told a story about a servant who owed such a huge debt to his king that he could never hope to repay it, and the king was about to throw this servant into jail. When the servant begged for mercy, the king forgave him the whole debt. But after this, when the servant met another servant who only owed him a little bit of money, he demanded to be paid, and wouldn’t show any mercy at all. When the king heard about this, he became very angry with his servant and threw him into prison. This is a picture of God, who forgives all of our sins every day, but wants us to forgive others who hurt us. Jesus warns us of God’s judgment for those who will not forgive others.

This is a very hard teaching of Jesus. It isn’t easy to forgive others when we feel hurt and angry. When someone has done a bad thing, we don’t want to say that it wasn’t bad or that it was okay. But forgiving means that we leave everything in God’s hands and let him take care of it all. Forgiving means that we hope that God will change the heart of the other person and work for good through anything that is wrong, and also that he will heal our own sad and angry hearts. Forgiving is just letting the Lord be in control of the situation instead of letting our anger destroy us and cut us off from God’s mercy. Not forgiving someone is saying that we want to take care of everything by ourselves, and soon we will think we can take care of our own sins all by ourselves. That’s when we turn away from God’s mercy and say that we don’t want it.

Jesus came to show us how great and wonderful God’s mercy is. He took all of our sins and paid for them at the cross, even though it cost him his life and caused him terrible pain. We can take all of our sins to the cross and find God’s forgiveness there, and we can take the wrongs that other people have done and leave them at the cross too. God’s mercy is great enough to cover it all, and his love is wonderful enough to give us the healing and help we need.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your great love and mercy. Please help us to forgive others the way you have forgiven us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Who is the Greatest


And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” Mark 9:33-37 ESV

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil  thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? James 2:1-5 ESV


Alice Adams was a young girl who wanted to be considered part of the rich and important set of people in town, even though she wasn’t. A rich young man named Arthur became interested in her, and Alice started to tell lies so that Arthur would think she was more important in town than she was. Her mother tried to get her father to make something of himself, even if he had to do it dishonestly, so that Alice could make her dreams come true. Alice’s mother even planned an elaborate dinner to invite Arthur to, and she hired some servants for the day so that Arthur would believe that the family was very rich. But everything went wrong, and in the end Alice and her family remained poor and humble. Alice had to go to work to help support her family, while her romance with Arthur came to an end.

Jesus’ disciples tried to do whatever they could to become the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They even quarreled with each other about it, and tried to get the advantage over each other. Each disciple wanted to have the power and the prestige that he thought would come by being at the top of Jesus’ circle of friends. Jesus had to tell them that in his kingdom things were different than they were in the rest of the world. Fighting and trying to score points over each other isn’t the way to be great for Jesus. Looking at other people in the world’s way, seeing important and powerful people as those who can give the best advantage if they are on your side isn’t the way it works in God’s kingdom. Jesus taught that the way to be great is to be humble, and to help and serve the others instead of trying to get ahead of them. He also taught that serving and helping people such as little children, who aren’t important or powerful, is more important than using others to get ahead.

Jesus set aside all his glory as the Son of God and came to us as a human person. He didn’t try to get ahead by making friends with rich and powerful people, but instead he loved and served the poor and the sick and the outcast. Jesus went all the way to the cross and poured out his life there so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be God’s children. He says that when we love and serve even a little child in his name, it’s the same as if we were loving Jesus himself, and to love Jesus is to love God, the Heavenly Father who sent Jesus to save us and make us his own people forever.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus, our Savior, to love us and to die for us. Help us to love and serve others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Tarkington, Booth Alice Adams New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1921.

A Cruel Evil Spirit


And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:14-29 ESV

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. I Peter 5:8-10 ESV


When David Copperfield was a little boy, his mother married a cruel man named Mr. Murdstone. David’s stepfather did everything he could to make David miserable. He stopped David’s mother from giving him any love or comfort. He beat David often for any little thing, and he was so harsh when he taught David his lessons that the little boy couldn’t study or learn well, and then his stepfather would beat him for not doing well with his schoolwork. Later he sent David away to a school where he was also cruelly mistreated, and after David’s mother died he took him out of school and sent him to work in a factory. Mr. Murdstone seemed to hate David and to want to hurt him in any way he could.

Jesus and his disciples met a little boy who was under the cruel power of an evil spirit who also wanted to hurt him in any way he could. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that this little boy had a disorder called epilepsy, and the Gospel of Mark that we read says that this evil spirit had also made him unable to hear or speak. The demon was using these physical disorders to make life miserable for this little boy. The child would have seizures that would make him fall into fire or water, and the evil spirit often tried to destroy him that way. The father desperately wanted his son to be free from this terrible trouble, but Jesus’ disciples weren’t able to do anything about it. The father begged Jesus for help, and Jesus scolded him for not believing. The father said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Jesus had love and compassion for this man and his son, and he set the boy free from the evil spirit and told the spirit to leave him alone and to never come back. The little boy was healed completely. Jesus later explained to his disciples that in order to cast out demons they needed to put their trust in God through prayer, and not trust their own power or efforts.

We were all under the power of Satan and all the forces of evil, and Satan tried in every way to hurt us. He tried to keep us away from the love of God, our Heavenly Father, and to keep us under the power of sin and death. But Jesus had love and compassion for us, and he came to set us free from everything that was hurting us. Jesus died on the cross to defeat sin and death, and he rose again in complete victory over all the forces of evil. He sends us his Holy Spirit to bring us to him for healing, and he helps us to put our trust in him every day to keep us his own people, now and always.


Dear Jesus, thank you for setting us free from all the forces of evil. Help us to trust you forever. Amen.


Dickens, Charles David Copperfield London: Bradbury and Evans, 1850.

A Vision of Glory


Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:28-36 ESV

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. II Peter 1:16-21 ESV


King Codrus was the last king of Athens, and while he was ruling, the Dorians attacked his state. The king knew about an oracle that had said that Athens would fall to its enemies unless its king were to be killed in the enemy camp. King Codrus loved his kingdom, so he decided to disguise himself as a poor peasant and go into the camp of the Dorians. He killed an enemy soldier, and then this soldier’s comrade quickly killed him. The death of King Codrus saved Athens, and it didn’t fall to the Dorians. The king saved his people by his death, just as the oracle had promised.

This story from Greece is a lot like what Jesus really did for us. He knew we were doomed to the power of our enemies–sin and death and the devil–but God had sent his prophets to foretell the promised Savior who would save his people by his own death. Jesus disguised himself as a human person, but one day he went up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John, and they saw something amazing. They saw just a peek of the glory of Jesus, as his face was changed and his clothes shone a dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and talked to him about what was going to happen to him, and then a cloud of the glory of God came to cover them all. The voice of God came from the cloud and told them that Jesus was his beloved Son. Peter and James and John never forgot what they saw and heard. There would be dark days to come when Jesus went to the cross, but in time they understood that Jesus had fulfilled everything that the law and all the prophets had foretold, and that the humble Jesus they knew had hidden the glory of the Son of God.

Often God’s glory is hidden from us as well. We live in a world of sin and fear and death, and we can’t always see or understand how God is with us and is working through all things. But God gives us his word to cling to–the word of the law and prophets and the apostles–to show that in the darkest of times God is in control and working out his purposes. We see this most clearly when we see Jesus on the cross. It seemed like a terrible, dark day when Jesus died, but we know that this had been God’s plan all along, and that Jesus’ death saved us from all our enemies. We not only see the sorrow of the cross, but also the glory of Jesus’ resurrection, and we know that a wonderful day is coming when we will see the glory of Jesus forever in his heavenly kingdom.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us, and for the glory of his resurrection. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.



Take up Your Cross


And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 ESV

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:5-11 ESV


Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt was a man from New York City, who was sailing on a ship named the Lusitania in 1915 while World War I was raging in Europe. The Lusitania had almost reached England when it was torpedoed by Germans from a U-Boat, and it began to sink. Mr. Vanderbilt didn’t seem to think of himself, even though he couldn’t swim. He and his valet, Ronald Denyer, helped as many people–women and children–to the safety of the ship’s lifeboats as they could. A steward on the ship saw him and shouted, “Hurry, Mr. Vanderbilt, or it will be too late!” but he only smiled and continued to help others. He made no effort to push his way through the crowds of people who were hurrying to get into lifeboats. Mr. Vanderbilt died when the boat sank. He gave up his life to save others.

Jesus told the people who wanted to follow him that they would have to take up their cross to do that. He said that people who wanted to save their lives would lose it, but people who were willing to lose their lives would save it. Jesus calls his followers to put others’ needs before their own, and to give ourselves in service to others. He calls us to die to the sin that is in our lives, and to go God’s way instead of our own. Our soul is more precious than anything we could possibly gain in this world, so no matter what we lose in following Christ, it is better to do that than to be ashamed of him and to turn away from following him. If we become ashamed of Jesus and reject him, we will lose the eternal life he came to give us.

These teachings of Jesus can be scary, because we always struggle with selfishness and wanting to do things our own way. But Jesus came to die for all our sins, including our sins of selfishness. He forgives us and helps us every day. He helps us to put our trust in his forgiveness rather than trying to earn our way to heaven by our own good works. Trusting Jesus instead of ourselves is the biggest way we deny ourselves. The Lord sends us his Holy Spirit to help us continue to trust him, to turn away from sin, and to learn to live a life of service to others.


Dear Jesus, please help us to take up our cross and follow you every day. Amen



The Way of the Cross


From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:21-23 ESV

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV


Mark was a very smart young man, and he was going to college to become a doctor. When Linda started dating Mark, she had all kinds of happy dreams about getting married to him. She imagined herself as a rich doctor’s wife, and the lovely house they would buy, and the expensive car she would drive, and the nice clothes she would wear. She started to think about giving fancy parties for the new friends they would make who would be rich like them. Linda became upset and angry when Mark told her that he planned to go and be a doctor in a poor part of the world where people didn’t have any medical care. Mark planned to live a life of hard work in a small house among people who were poor and needy. Linda tried to talk Mark out of the life he had chosen for himself and to make him change his plans so he could live the life of a rich, successful doctor instead.

This is a little like what happened when Jesus started to teach his disciples about what was going to happen to him. Jesus knew that the time was coming when he would be arrested and mistreated and whipped and mocked and finally be put on a cross to die, and he told his disciples what they could expect to happen. This upset all of his disciples very much, because they believed that Jesus was the Messiah God had promised to their people, and they expected him to become a great king and to drive the Romans away from their country. Peter was so upset that he took Jesus aside and tried to tell him that he shouldn’t go the way of the cross, but instead that he should go the way of triumph and power. But Jesus scolded Peter very strongly. He even called him Satan! He said that Peter was thinking about things in a human way instead of in God’s way. Jesus wouldn’t let Peter turn his away from his road to the cross.

Jesus went to the cross because of his great love for us. We had turned away from God and gone our own way, and Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven and we could come home to our Heavenly Father. He set aside all his power and glory and let himself be killed for our sake, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Peter and the other disciples missed one thing that Jesus told them. He said that on the third day he would be raised again. God’s way for Jesus started with sorrow and pain, but it would end with triumph and joy. We also will someday know the full joy of Jesus’ resurrection when our dead bodies are raised and we enter God’s heavenly kingdom forever!


Dear Jesus, thank you for going the way of the cross for me. Amen.

On This Rock


Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. Matthew 16:13-20 ESV

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord‘s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:19-24 ESV


Francis Xavier was a missionary who first brought the Gospel to Japan in the middle of the 1500s. He and other missionaries were able to establish many churches in Japan, but soon trouble came. The Christian church in Japan faced terrible persecution, and it soon seemed to disappear. Japan sealed itself off from the outside world, and it wasn’t until 250 years later that new missionaries were able to return to Japan. A few of them built a church building in Nagasaki, but no Japanese people came to its dedication. A few weeks later a priest was looking at the building when he saw a group of Japanese people standing in front of the door of the church. The priest opened the door, and the people quietly followed him in. He knelt down to pray, and then a woman came close to him and whispered, “All of us have the same heart as you.” During all those many years of hardship and persecution, God had preserved a few people in Japan who believed in him!

When Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was, they told him that some of them thought he was John the Baptist come back, or Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Then he asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter spoke for all of the disciples when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus said that Peter had learned the truth about him through God, our Heavenly Father. Having faith in Jesus is a gift from God, and not something that we decide for ourselves. The same God who gives us faith makes us his church, built on the rock that is faith in Jesus. Because we are built on Jesus, no matter how bad things get, even if it seems as if all the demons in hell are fighting against us, Jesus promises that he will always keep his church safe.

Jesus said he would give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and these keys are the forgiveness of sins that Jesus came to win for us. He died on the cross so that all our sins could be forgiven and that the gates of heaven would be open to us. God speaks to us through our pastors and teachers to give us the words of forgiveness and life, and when we hear and believe the good news, we know that heaven is open to us, now and always.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us faith in Jesus, our Savior, and for building the church and keeping it safe. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Moffett, Samuel Hugh A History of Christianity in Asia, Volume II New York, Orbis Books, 2005, pp. 502-503.