The Curse of the Law

Bible:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:10-14 ESV

[Moses said:] “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 ESV

Reflection:

In ancient Babylon there was a king named Hammurabi, who developed a code of laws for his people. There were laws for many different kinds of things, including murder, attack, divorce, adoption, debt, merchant’s fees, farming practices, and even disputes over the brewing of beer. For people who broke the laws, the punishments they were to receive were also part of the code. The punishments were often very harsh. The death penalty was given even for stealing something from a temple or the palace, or for shielding a runaway slave. King Hammurabi wanted the kings that followed him to continue to obey his code of laws, and he put a curse on any king who would try to change his laws. Part of the curse reads: “Anu, the father of the gods, the one who designated me to rule, will surely remove from him the splendor of sovereignty, whether that man is a king or a lord or a governor or a person appointed to some other function, and he will smash his staff and curse his destiny.”

God’s law carries a curse for anyone who doesn’t obey it perfectly, and that curse is death and eternal separation from God. King Hammurabi could put to death people who broke his law, but he couldn’t do anything to them after that. He tried to put a curse on people who came after him who might change his law, but only God can really put a curse on someone and make it come true. None of us could ever obey the law perfectly, but God has had mercy on us and put our curse on Jesus. Under God’s law, anyone who was hanged on a tree was considered cursed, and Jesus was hung on the tree of the cross. When he hung there, God punished him for the sins of the whole world, and Jesus took away our curse for us.

We can’t earn God’s love or favor by obeying his law, no matter how hard we try. Instead, God’s love and forgiveness come to us as a gift that is ours by faith. God the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith so that we trust in what Jesus has done for us, and because of that God sees us as righteous. A righteous person is someone who has kept the law perfectly, but our righteousness is a gift. God gives us Jesus’ righteousness, and he sees us through Jesus, his holy Son who obeyed the law perfectly for us and took away its curse when he died on the cross.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking the curse of the law away from us and for giving us your righteousness instead. Amen.

Source:

https://www.livescience.com/39393-code-of-hammurabi.html

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Come Now, You Rich

Bible:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. James 5:1-6 ESV

[Jesus said:] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

Reflection:

During the Industrial Revolution, things that once used to be made by hand were made much more quickly and efficiently by machinery in factories, but the people who worked in the factories worked in terrible conditions. People who owned factories made the wages for workers as low as they possibly could, and people worked fourteen or sixteen hours a day six days a week. The factories were poorly lighted, and in some cases the machines let out smoke that covered the workers with black soot. The working conditions and long hours caused many people to get sick. The machines also weren’t safe, and there were many accidents. Children also worked in factories instead of going to school, and they often had to do very dangerous jobs. Rich factory owners only seemed to be concerned about making as much money as possible, and not about the well-being of their workers.

When James wrote his letter, there weren’t any factories, but there was the same kind of selfishness. Rich people hired workers for their fields, but they weren’t paying them what they promised to pay. The field owners grew very rich through the poor people who worked for them without caring about the needs of these workers. James warned the rich people that God heard the cries of the people who were being mistreated in this way, and that God’s judgment was coming. People might save up all the money they can possibly get and look forward to a luxurious future, but James talked about the day when all their fine things become rotten and moth-eaten and corroded. All the riches people have piled up won’t do them any good on the day of judgment, but instead these riches will be evidence of their terrible sins.

Whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, God doesn’t give us the good things we have just for ourselves and our own enjoyment. He expects us to care about others and to share what we have with people in need. When the Lord gives people riches, he also gives them the responsibility to be generous and to care for the well-being of other people, especially those who work for them. Jesus had all the wealth of the universe, but he came to live among us, and he set aside his power and glory for our sake. Jesus died on the cross to pay for all our sins and to make us God’s people. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us learn to help others instead of being selfish, and to trust God rather than riches for the good things to come.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive us for our selfishness, and help us to share your blessing with other people. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://firstindustrialrevolution.weebly.com/working-and-living-conditions.html

A Magician Becomes Blind

Bible:

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Acts 13:4-12 ESV

Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told. Psalm 40:4-5 ESV

Reflection:

Barbara was an extremely beautiful young woman, and her father shut her up in a tower to protect her from men who wanted to marry her. While Barbara was in the tower, she became a Christian, and this made her father very angry. He even wanted to kill her, but Barbara escaped from the tower by a miracle and ran away to a mountaintop. Two shepherds witnessed this miracle, and one of them told her father where she had gone. In punishment, this shepherd was turned to stone and his flock of sheep was turned into locusts. When Barbara’s father caught her, he cut off her head with his sword, and as soon as he had done this he was struck dead by lightning.

This is only a legend. There are often people who try to hurt Christians, but God doesn’t usually punish them in the way it happened in Barbara’s story. But something a little like this happened when Saul (who starting using his Roman name Paul at this time) came with Barnabas to the island of Cyprus. They met a man named Elymas, who claimed to be a magician, and this man tried to stop the Roman official on the island from listening to Paul. The official, whose name was Sergius Paulus, was very intelligent and was interested in hearing what Paul and Barnabas had to say, so he called them to come and talk to him. Elymas kept arguing with everything Paul said, and finally Paul scolded him sternly and called him a son of the devil. He said that Elymas would be blind for awhile, and immediately the magician was struck blind, and needed to find people to help him find his way around. Sergius Paulus was so impressed by this and by the teaching about Jesus that he became a Christian.

People who reject Jesus will know God’s judgment in the end, but God is also very patient and wants people to turn away from their sins and to come to him for forgiveness. We can expect that there will be people who cause us trouble for Jesus’ sake, but we can also be sure that the Lord will be with us and will help us. We have good news to tell about the love Jesus showed us on the cross, and the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of people who hear the good news and brings them to faith in Jesus. We can leave things in God’s hands and let him take care of people who cause us trouble in his own way. We all deserve God’s judgment, but Jesus died for the sins of everyone, and we hope everyone will come to know God’s love.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Please help us to share that love even when people cause us trouble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://scalar.usc.edu/works/exhibiting-historical-art/saint-barbara-legend

The Road to Damascus

Bible:

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Acts 9:1-9 ESV

[Paul wrote:] I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. I Timothy 1:12-17 ESV

Reflection:

Sam Slater was a terribly mean man. He owned some animals, but didn’t always feed them, but instead let them roam freely to find food, even onto his neighbor’s farm where the animals harmed their crops. When the neighbor family built a barbed-wire fence, Sam cut the wire so his animals could get through it. Sam also stole a calf from the neighbors and branded it with his own brand, and he poisoned the neighbors’ mule. When there was a prairie fire, he didn’t do anything to help put it out, even though the schoolhouse burned down and the neighbors’ house was threatened. Sam also wasn’t kind to his own family. He drank too much and gambled their money away and was sometimes gone for days at a time. But one day a traveling preacher came and stayed at the Slater’s house and warned Sam about his sinful life. Sam heard the preacher’s warning, and the Holy Spirit helped him to turn his life around.

Saul was even meaner than Sam Slater was. He dragged men and women to jail and tried to make them turn away from Jesus. But one day Saul was traveling on the road to Damascus with letters giving him the authority to find people who followed Jesus and arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem. While he was traveling, suddenly there was a bright flash of light, and Saul fell to the ground. He heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul didn’t know who was talking to him, but the voice was Jesus’ voice. The people who were with him didn’t see Jesus, but they realized something had happened. Saul had become blind, and needed to be led into the city. Saul spent three days without having anything to eat or drink, thinking about how terribly wrong he had been about Jesus. He knew that he didn’t want to live the same life of rebellion against him anymore.

God called Saul to repentance because he is a loving God who wants to show mercy to sinful people. This is good news for us. We also are sinner who rebel against God in many ways, but he warns us through his word that there is judgment for sin. He also sends us his Holy Spirit to help us turn away from our sin and come to him for forgiveness. We know that God will have mercy on us, because he sent Jesus to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. Because of Jesus, we can be sure of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and with his help we turn away from sin and follow his ways.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for calling us away from our sins and showing mercy to us through Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

Lenski, Lois Strawberry Girl Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1945.

The Stoning of Stephen

Bible:

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:54-60 ESV

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21 ESV

Reflection:

The old Norse legends tell stories about a place called Valhalla, a wonderful land where brave warriors get to go to after they die. The roof of Valhalla is made of shields, the rafters are spears, and the seats are made of breastplates. The entrance to Valhalla is guarded by wolves, and eagles guard the skies above. The warriors in Valhalla spend their days fighting and doing brave and exciting deeds, but in the evening all their wounds heal completely so that they can get up and fight again the next day. They spend their nights eating the finest food and drinking the finest drink, while beautiful maidens called valkyries wait on them. Norse warriors hoped to be strong and brave in battle so that they could go to Valhalla when they died.

Jesus has promised that his people will go to a wonderful place after death also, and this promise made Stephen strong. After he had sternly given the council of religious leaders words of God’s judgment, they became furious with him. But Stephen saw heaven opened, full of the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, ready to welcome him home. Nothing else mattered to Stephen when he saw that. He told the council what he saw, and they were so full of rage that they yelled and covered their ears so they wouldn’t have to listen to him any more, then they rushed at him and grabbed him and threw him out of the city. When they were outside the city they threw big stones at him until he fell down dead. But before Stephen died, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He was ready to be with Jesus, and the thought was so wonderful to him that he even prayed that Jesus wouldn’t punish them for their sin of killing him. Just as Jesus had prayed to his Heavenly Father to forgive the soldiers who were crucifying him, Stephen prayed for the forgiveness of the religious leaders who were stoning him to death.

We also have the promise that we will go to be with Jesus when we die, and being with Jesus is what will make heaven wonderful. We don’t have to earn our place in heaven by doing good and brave things, but instead Jesus won our place for us when he died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. We know that heaven is a beautiful place, filled with the glory of God, and knowing that we have the Lord’s promise of eternal life gives us hope and courage when things get difficult for us on earth. Jesus helps us to live lives of courage, and to forgive others the way he forgives us every day.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for the forgiveness and life you’ve won for us, and the promise of heaven with you. Amen.

Source:

https://norse-mythology.org/cosmology/valhalla/

You Do What Your Fathers Did

Bible:

[Stephen said:] “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53 ESV

[Jesus said:] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” Matthew 23:29-31 ESV

Reflection:

There’s a story about the way the prophet Isaiah died. When a wicked king named Manasseh came to the throne of Judah, Isaiah was afraid for his life. He ran and hid inside a cedar tree, but the fringes of his robe stuck out a little bit and gave away his hiding place. King Manasseh ordered the tree to be sawn in half, and Isaiah was sawn in half along with the tree. That’s the way the king got rid of the prophet who spoke God’s words of judgment to him and his people.

There might be some truth to this story, but the main truth is that the people of Israel were always rejecting and persecuting and killing the prophets that God sent to them. When Stephen was brought before the council, he preached a long sermon telling the history of God’s people, and of all the ways through the years that they had turned away from God and rejected the prophets who spoke the word of the Lord to them. Stephen said that the people who were judging him were just as bad as their forefathers had been. They had rejected Jesus and put him to death, and now they were persecuting his apostles and other leaders. They were stubborn and resisted the work of the Holy Spirit, and refused to see that the law they thought they were obeying was meant to point them to Jesus, the one they had sent to the cross.

There will always be people who reject Jesus and resist the good work of the Holy Spirit, and they will sometimes hate and try to hurt Christians. Jesus reminds us through his word that he died so that we could be forgiven and have life with God, and he calls us to follow him through whatever suffering or hard times we have to go through. We might suffer because we believe in Jesus, but we can be sure that he will never leave us. He will give us the strength to be faithful to him and not to lose our courage when times are hard for us, and in the end we will live with him forever in his heavenly kingdom.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, please stay with us through hard times and give us the strength and courage to stay with you. Amen.

Source:

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8235-isaiah#1

A Great Fear

Bible:

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. Acts 5:7-11 ESV

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. I Peter 5:6-11 ESV

Reflection:

Many years ago a painter named Nicholas Poussin painted a picture called Et in Arcadia ego. The painting shows some handsome, strong young shepherds in a beautiful countryside called Arcadia who have come across a grave. The title could mean that the dead person in the grave was once happy and alive in Arcadia also, but it could also mean that even in a beautiful place like Arcadia, there is death. Either way, the shepherds are puzzled and very sad as they look at the grave. They had been so happy in their beautiful countryside that they hadn’t thought about ugly things like death, but now the shadow of that grave will haunt their life and their happiness.

The people in the early church must have felt the same way when they heard of the deaths of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. She came in a few hours after her husband had died, but she hadn’t heard what had happened. She repeated her husband’s lie to Peter, and God’s judgment immediately fell on her also, and she died. The Bible says that a great fear came upon the young church when the people heard about this. Everything had seemed so wonderful. People were hearing about the love of Jesus and more and more people were believing in him, and rich people were sharing their wealth with poor people, and everyone seemed to love and care for each other. But even in this lovely time and situation, there was sin and evil and death. It must have been very hard to understand.

The Lord warns us that as long as we live in this world, there will be sin and death and evil. He tells us to be on our guard and to resist the devil and the sin of this world. We don’t need to be surprised when we run into ugliness, even in the church, because we will be haunted by sin and death until Jesus comes again. But the good news is that Jesus defeated sin and death when he died on the cross and rose again from the dead, and he stays with us to help us and defend us when evil attacks us. We are not free from trouble and sorrow yet, but we have the wonderful promise that someday we will be. Because of what Jesus has done for us, someday we will live in the perfect paradise that we all long for, and that God has prepared for his people.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for conquering sin and death for us. Please stand by us and help us when we struggle with trouble and evil, and bring us to your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

Source:

Beckett, Sister Wendy The Story of Painting London: Dorling Kindersley, 1994, pp. 218-219.

The Death of Ananias

Bible:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. Acts 5:1-6 ESV

I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.
I will make people more rare than fine gold,
and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
and the earth will be shaken out of its place,
at the wrath of the Lord of hosts
in the day of his fierce anger. Isaiah 13:11-13 ESV

Reflection:

Gardeners and farmers always have to be on the lookout for pests and diseases that can ruin an entire crop. The earlier they can detect something wrong, the more of their crop they can save by getting rid of what is hurting it. Good farmers walk through their crops with magnifying glasses to be able to see even very small insects or their eggs. They carry jars or plastic bags so that they can gather specimens to test what they find. They carry strips of cloth or flagging tape so that they can mark the plants that are infested, and also a notepad and pencil so they can write their findings down. Sometimes farmers also set traps for insects so they can catch them at times when they are not able to monitor their fields. They might use sticky paper or containers of water and molasses and dish soap. All of this work makes the farmer able to do what has to be done to protect the crops.

Today’s Bible reading tells the sad story of the way God’s judgment fell on Ananias. It might seem as if God was very harsh, but he wanted to protect his young church from the harm that sin would cause. Ananias was rich, and he sold one of his fields as other rich Christians had been doing. Then he kept some of the money for himself before he gave the rest to the apostles. Peter made it clear that Ananias was free to not sell his field and to keep it for himself. He was also free to keep some money for himself and to not give all of it to the church. Ananias’ sin was lying by saying he was giving everything when he really wasn’t. His wish for everyone to think he was better than he really was caused him to lie to God the Holy Spirit, and for that reason God caused him to fall down dead.

Sins of lying and of pride can hurt the whole church. These sins are dangerous because they make us start thinking that we can earn God’s love and blessing by the good things that we do. Sometimes people try to prove that they’re better than others, and instead of remembering that we are all sinners who need God’s forgiveness, we start lying and cheating and trying to make others look bad instead of loving and helping each other. Jesus died for these sins, too, and there is forgiveness for them, but he warns us to be very careful to not turn away from the love and grace he has for us. Jesus wants his church to be a place of forgiveness and care for all people, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us never trust our own work or cleverness but instead to keep trusting him for everything.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, please help us to remember our need for your help and forgiveness every day, and to not fall into sins of lying and of pride. Amen.

Source:

https://www.echocommunity.org/en/resources/78ba129d-56a3-43b6-abd9-dc963495f235

An Earthquake and an Angel

Bible:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, . . . there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. Matthew 28:1a, 3-4 ESV

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
he makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire. Psalm 104:1-4 ESV

Reflection:

Lightning is an amazing and powerful thing, and it can be very beautiful to watch. Most lightning flashes between one cloud and another, but sometimes lightning moves from a cloud to the earth. It is caused by electrical imbalances between clouds, or between clouds and the ground. Sometimes lightning looks like a bead, a rocket, or a ribbon, but often it is a sheet from a distant cloud that seems to light up the whole sky. Many people are afraid of lightning, and in fact lightning can be very dangerous. Each bolt of lightning that hits the ground can contain up to one billion volts of electricity. Lightning is also extremely hot, and a flash of lightning can heat up the air around it to five times hotter than the sun’s surface! This makes the air expand and vibrate, and it’s what causes thunder.

Early on the first Easter morning, while the soldiers were standing guard at the tomb, some awesome and powerful things happened. There was a strong earthquake, and then an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled the stone away from the tomb. The angel had clothes as white as snow and looked like lightning. This was very frightening to the soldiers. They could see the power of God at work, and they were so scared they weren’t able to move. They might have looked inside the tomb they were supposed to be guarding, and seen that it was empty. The Lord had done the most amazing and mighty thing imaginable, but the guards couldn’t see its beauty. All they knew was fear.

When we see the power and glory of God at work, we are often afraid as well. We know that we are sinful people, and God’s glory and power can show his righteous judgment against our sins. But Jesus’ resurrection tells us that God did his most powerful act in love for us. Jesus conquered sin and death so that we don’t have to be afraid of dying or of facing God’s judgment. When we see Jesus’ empty grave, we see the power of the love of God, and the beauty of the salvation Jesus won for us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the beauty and power of Jesus’ resurrection, and for the life with you it won for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/lightning/

He Descended into Hell

Bible:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. I Peter 3:18-20 ESV

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15 ESV

The Lord God said to the serpent, 

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:14a, 15 ESV

Reflection:

When I was on the track team in high school, whenever our team won a meet, we would do a victory lap at the end of the meet. This idea comes from auto racing, and it means going around the track one more time to celebrate a victory. After a victorious track meet, our whole team would jog around the track together to show everyone that we were the winners and to enjoy our triumph. I was actually not a very good runner, but I shared in the victory of the whole team because I was one of them.

After Jesus was placed in the grave, he went down into hell. The Bible only tells us about this in one place, and many people have different ideas about it. However, we know that before Jesus came, God took his people to be in heaven with him when they died because of their faith in the promised Savior, and that Jesus didn’t have to set them free from hell. Jesus didn’t have to suffer in hell or to wrestle with the devil, because he had already finished his work of salvation on the cross. And we know that all people face their judgment when they die, and that there is no second chance after that. The rebellious people in hell, especially the ones who hadn’t listened to Noah’s warning, saw Jesus, but it was too late for them. When Jesus went to hell, it was a little like doing a victory lap. When the devil saw Jesus die on the cross, he really thought he had won, but he was mistaken. Jesus had won the victory on the cross, and he went to hell to show himself as the winner.

Because Jesus has won the battle over death and hell, we don’t ever have to be afraid of dying. We will always be safe with Jesus because of the victory he won for us on the cross. The devil and all his forces of evil can never hurt us, because Jesus has shown that he is much stronger than they are, and he is always with us to protect us and help us when they try to hurt us or trick us. We are weak, but we share in Jesus’ victory because he has made us his own people, and we win our battles because of his strength and power.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for winning the victory over death and all the forces of evil, and for making us a part of your victory. Amen.