Pause – Day 40
Reading – Matthew 27:50-55
Access to Presence

As a pastor, scratch that, as a man, I have said multiple times, “hell does not scare me.” Growing up in church, the theme of “fire and brimstone” was common in sermons. I’d listen to the message, run to the altar, and give my heart to Jesus for the 107th time. All to escape the fiery pits of eternal punishment. If there is any Biblical idea driving me to the altar today, it’s the presence of God. I not only want God’s presence in my life, I need it. The truly frightening aspect of hell or an eternity without Jesus isn’t the fire, it’s the separation away from His presence. God made this presence available to each of us at the exact moment Jesus died on the cross when the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

Matthew 27:50-51a And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

According to the ancient rituals God passed down to the Israelites (beginning in Exodus 25), they created a room within the tabernacle and the temple as a resting place for the presence of God. This room was known as the “Most Holy Place.” God’s actual presence sat on top of the Ark of the Covenant. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter this room, and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice, asking for forgiveness of the sins of Israel. Once a year. Only one person. Allowed into the room with the presence of God. But then Jesus…

Can you imagine what it was like for the Priests working in the Temple and the courts surrounding it? Feeling the ground shake in the temple and watching the sacred curtain tear! As Jesus took His last breath, gave up His spirit and died, the curtain surrounding the Most Holy Place tore in two. But what I find interesting in this moment is how it ripped, from top to bottom. This thick curtain, denying access to the presence of God, was now opened! I see God reaching down from heaven, receiving the ultimate sacrifice Jesus just had given, and making access to the presence available to all!

Pause with me one last time. We’ve taken time to reset and reflect these last 40 days leading up to tomorrow, Resurrection Sunday. Today, I just want you to rest in the idea when Jesus died, He gave you access to His presence. I personally don’t want to live this life or eternity without it. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, gave you access to presence, no longer requiring a priest to offer a sacrifice to forgive your sins. What Jesus did, gave each of us access to His salvation and forgiveness through His blood. Pause. Reset. Reflect. Rest. Resurrection.
Pause – Day 39
Reading – John 19:28-30
Paid In Full

Have you ever asked this question; why call Good Friday, good? Did the disciples get up on Passover and think to themselves, “today is really going to be a good day for Jesus.” How about Mary, Jesus’ mother? How much anticipation did she have looking forward to this day knowing her Son just went through a trial and condemned to be put to death? Perhaps it was good for the Pharisees and Priests who had begged for Jesus to be crucified for blasphemy. They were getting what they had requested. But ask yourself, what makes this Friday worthy of being called good?

As Jesus was hanging there on the cross, excruciating pain radiating from his arms and legs, His body reacted physiologically and He became thirsty. With the loss of blood, the hot middle eastern sun, and to fulfill prophecy, Jesus needed a drink. Lifting a sponge up to Him, the soldiers offered a cheap vinegar flavored wine. This was the moment Jesus took one of His last breaths and said the words, “it is finished.” The price He paid for our redemption was “paid in full.”

John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

While I truly struggle with the idea of this day being “good”, I understand the meaning. What Jesus did for us on the cross and enduring the shame, paid the price for our sin. The Greek word Jesus spoke when He said, “it is finished”, is Tetelestai. It’s more than just dying or being done; this word had several uses in the Greek way of life. Tetelestai was a word Greek artists would use when they finished their masterpiece. Or you could see this word stamped on a receipt from a Greek merchant when you fully paid for your purchase. What Jesus was saying to the world with those three words was the “debt is paid in full.” Jesus canceled our indebtedness by nailing it to the cross! Good doesn’t seem to fit what this day really means. It’s more than good or great, it’s priceless.

Colossians 2:13b-14 He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

Pause with me on this Good Friday and realize your debt has been paid in full. The masterpiece has been painted and you are no longer in debt! Jesus’ blood stamped your life with the word, Tetelestai. This forgiveness is truly invaluable and as I sit here and type, I am unable to calculate what I owe Christ for His sacrifice. I choose to give back my life, knowing this is what makes this day good.
Pause – Day 38
Reading – Luke 23:26-27
Carried Behind Jesus

I remember the first time I watched the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”, Mel Gibson’s movie of the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life. It was a moving rendition of what Christ went through. The scene I had the most trouble watching wasn’t the nails or cross, it was the flogging of the Roman guards. This on-screen reenactment of Jesus being beat and whipped, ripping the flesh off His torso, was almost too much to watch. I sat there in the theater weeping realizing what Jesus endured for my salvation. As the movie progressed, I sat there knowing Jesus was about to carry His cross to Golgotha for His crucifixion. Less than 7 years later, I walked that same path in Jerusalem.

The Via Dolorosa, Latin for “Sorrowful Way” or the “Way of Suffering”, is the historical path, taking you down the streets Jesus walked while He carried His cross. It’s a very humbling half mile journey leading you to the place of the skull. On this walk, one of the stops we took was called the Chapel of Simon of Cyrene. It was the location where Jesus collapsed under the weight of the cross, He was carrying. Three of the four Gospels mention this moment when Simon was told to carry Christ’s cross.

Luke 23:26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Can you imagine yourself in Simon’s position? How would you have responded to the Roman soldier’s request? Did Simon understand what he was doing or who he was carrying the cross for? Or did Simon simply do it out of obedience knowing he could’ve been punished for not following the Roman’s orders? What my hope for today is each of us pausing to realize we are called to carry our own cross.

I want you to go back and read Luke 23:26 one more time, paying careful attention to the last four words of this Scripture. Carrying the instrument of torture that would soon take Jesus’ life, Simon, walked behind Jesus. As I have read this Scripture again and again, the picture I keep seeing in my head is Jesus’ request to His disciples in Luke 9:23. Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Is there a desire in your life to be a disciple of Jesus? Carry your cross. Do you want Jesus to be your Teacher and learn from His life and sacrifice? Carry your cross. Do you want to experience freedom and forgiveness of sin? Carry your cross. Does eternity in the presence of Jesus encourage you to live a life for Him? Carry your cross. Understand this isn’t a burden or a “cross to bear", it means you are willing to die to your own desires, plans, wants, needs, and live for the one who carried the cross.
Pause – Day 37
Reading – Matthew 27:11-26
Washed His Hands

Over the last few years, I’ve read many different articles about how covid affected the church. Nearly every congregation in America is still feeling the impact of losing members due to sickness, death, and fear of the virus. I can’t tell you how many times we wiped down every surface in the church. If it could be prevented, we attempted it. We wore masks, washed our hands, practiced social distancing, canceled over 1/3 of our Sunday morning services in 2020, and became experts at utilizing online church. Even with the loss of loved ones still present in our hearts and minds, we have continued to move forward with life following the pandemic.

Washing our hands during covid became an important habit for so many people. It’s amazing what this simple act can do to reduce germs. According to the Center for Disease Control, washing hands can reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses by over 20%. Our reading today actually gives another definition of hand washing, purifying oneself from guilt.

Matthew 27:24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

At this point in the crucifixion narrative, Judas is now dead, and Jesus is being taken to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. It was a custom for the governor to release a prisoner during the Passover, so he gave them a choice, Barabbas or Jesus. Barabbas was a well-known criminal and Jesus was being accused of blasphemy. As Pilate questioned Jesus about his guilt, his wife sent the governor a message telling him she had a dream about Jesus’ innocence. This is when Pilate gave the choice to the crowd. They wanted Jesus crucified instead of the criminal. Pilate then took a basin of water, washed his hands, and declared his own innocence in the death of Jesus.

The washing of the governor’s hands has more than one meaning in the resurrection story. Though the governor was declaring his freedom of guilt in Christ’s death, his cleansing represents the purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus died, shed His blood, suffered through the beatings, just so you can find freedom from the guilt and punishment of sin. 1 John 1:9 says that when we confess our sins, we are forgiven and cleansed! The Greek word for cleansed (katharizō) in this Scripture literally means to free from guilt! A literal washing away of sin!

Pause with me right now and consider this last thought today. Jesus died for Barabbas. Not only was Jesus substituted for this criminal’s capital punishment, He took Barabbas’ sin on the cross! Jesus went to the cross willingly for your sin to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and bring you freedom! Now, go wash your hands…
Pause – Day 36
Reading – Matthew 26:69-75
The Rooster Crows

Rachel and I have raised chickens for over 10 years. We have about 20 or so egg producing hens and a couple of roosters. I love going into their coop and singing the chorus of “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor. Don’t ask me why, but it’s the song that comes into my mind every time I’m around the chickens. Our roosters are loud and beautiful birds. We have black Orpington rooster who goes by the name of Darth Maul and an Americana rooster named Roy G. Biv (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet). Every day these roosters let us know they are rulers of the roost by crowing their cock-a-doodle-doos at the top of the lungs!

Matthew 26:75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

I love Peter, even more than I love my chickens. He seems like the most relatable of all the disciples! Full of zeal, willing to protect at any cost, and a fierce defender of his relationship with Jesus. Can you imagine what it was like to be told that he would deny his Savior? As Jesus was sharing with His disciples, He quoted Zechariah 13:6 “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” Wanting to prove his loyalty, Peter said to Jesus, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” As soon as these words came out of the mouth of Peter, Jesus prepares him for what he is about to do; “before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

After Jesus faced the Sanhedrin and they declared he was worthy of a criminal’s death, we experience Peter’s denial. First, a young girl approaches him and said, “you were with Jesus of Galilee.” Peter denied knowing Him.” The second young girl approached Peter and said to the people around him, “this fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter denied for the second time of knowing Jesus with an oath! The third and final denial came from Peter’s Galilean accent. The crowd told Peter it was a dead giveaway. At this point, he was so adamant in his denials that he began cursing to prove his innocence. It was at this moment the rooster crowed.

Pause with me for a moment and put yourself in Peter’s shoes. Would you have had the same response? Maybe you would be bold like Peter and say something like, “even if everyone denies Jesus, I won’t!” Perhaps fear would strike deep into your heart realizing you could be crucified next. How easy would it be to deny Jesus based on fear? For me, what’s more important is Peter’s response to the sound of the rooster, “he wept bitterly.” This response of repentance is genuine. I also believe this moment defined who Peter was about to become…the preacher and prophesier of Acts 2! I’ll finish with this thought…it’s in our weakest moments in life when we find out who we really are.
Pause – Day 35
Reading – Matthew 26:53-65
Worthy of Death

I have a long-standing wisecrack I share with people when we talk about favorite foods. I refer to it as my “death row meal.” I’ll ask the question in this manner: “If you were on death row, about to eat your last meal, what would choose?” I know everyone in their right mind would obviously say “tacos” because who doesn’t love tacos? I’ve even ranked my death row meals in order: 1. Tacos; 2. Steak & Potato; 3. Sandwich. Those are my top 3 favorite meals. I pray no one reading this is ever in the position to have to choose a last meal.

Capital punishment, the death penalty, is a hugely controversial practice in the world today. As of 2023, only twenty-seven of the states here in America still legalize the use of execution. Last year alone, 24 people were put to death for their crimes. I’m not going to attempt to debate or convince you in either direction, but rather ask you this question: Was Jesus worthy of the death He experienced on the cross?

Matthew 26:63-63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.

As we come into the last week before resurrection Sunday, I want you to wrestle with this idea…was Jesus worthy of death? From all the articles I have read about crucifixion, this Persian invented death penalty is the most painful and excruciating form of dying ever conceived by man. Was Jesus worthy of death? To be beaten for being the Messiah. Was Jesus worthy of death? To be mocked, spit upon, beard pulled from his face, and crown of thorns driven on to His head. Was Jesus worthy of death? To have nails driven into His hands a feet and then be suspended in the air on the cross. Was Jesus worthy of death? To hang there for nearly six hours, with every breath a struggle to strain against the pain of being nailed. Was Jesus worthy of death? To have soldiers mock Him as He was hanging and then gambling over His clothing. Was Jesus worthy of death? To ask His Father to forgive those who condemned and crucified Him. Was Jesus worthy of death?

Pause with me for a moment and ask yourself this question…are you worthy of death? Have we received the just payment due for our penalty of sin? Whatever your answer may be, read this verse. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin requires a sacrifice that Jesus freely made on our behalf. He took our punishment of all sin so we can experience forgiveness and eternal life! Was Jesus worthy of death? You alone were valuable enough for this sacrifice, worthy of Jesus dying…
Pause – Day 34
Reading – Mark 14:43-50
Everyone Deserted Him

In the summer of 1989, I was given the opportunity to go to the Soviet Union for nearly a month and represent the people of the United States. The group I traveled with toured all over the country in Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia, and the Scandinavian Countries. While in Leningrad (known as St. Petersburg today), I had the unique opportunity of finding myself all alone. Not just separated from my group, but it an uncomfortable situation for a 16-year-old kid. While taking the elevator in the hotel we were staying in, it broke down while I was between the 2nd and 3rd floor. Not one for cramped or small spaces, I had a few moments of concern, followed by anxiety, which then led to all out panic! If I had been in America, I would have just pressed the alarm button. But in a Russian elevator, you needed to speak Russian to know which button to press and how to speak to the emergency technician! After nearly two hours of being alone, stuck in an elevator in a foreign country, I finally found my freedom. The technicians were able to pry open the elevator doors and I crawled out a free man!

Mark 14:50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.

As Jesus finished praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas, showed up to betray Jesus. Armed with clubs and swords, the crowd came to arrest Jesus and take Him to the chief priests and elders. Judas walked over to Jesus, betrayed Him with a kiss, and Jesus was seized and detained. In an attempt to rescue their Teacher, the disciples began to fight against the crowd. Peter even pulled his sword and began hacking at the captors, cutting off the ear of one of them. If you know the rest of the story, Jesus commands them to stop and heals the ear of the man who was injured.

I think what surprises me the most in the passage of scripture is how the disciples appear to go from warriors to weaklings in a matter of seconds. They literally abandon Jesus, leave Him alone with those who arrested Him. Both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark used the word, “deserted.” They left Jesus, alone. Was it fear, anxiety, or panic that caused these men to run? Were they afraid they were next in line for arrest, torture, and possible death?

Pause with me and ask yourself how would you have responded in the garden with Jesus? I find it easy as a man to say, “I’d fight”. But the reality was Jesus told the disciples to stop. He could’ve called on twelve legions of angels to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53), but Jesus knew it was time to walk the rest of this path alone. Alone to the trial, torture, and cross; but He walked this path, alone and deserted, for you…
Pause – Day 33
Reading – Matthew 26:36-46
Not My Will

Years ago, I had the opportunity to walk through the Garden of Gethsemane. We were told the some of the Olive Trees in this garden were over 2000 years old and still producing oil. As I journeyed through this area in Jerusalem, you couldn’t help but feel the heaviness of what Jesus experienced in these final moments of His life. This garden was where I believe we see Jesus’ human nature in the purest form.  

The actual word, “gethsemane”, means oil press. It is generally made from two large stones that are used to crush the olive and extract the oil.” As Jesus went to go pray, He told His disciples that His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Jesus was literally feeling the weight, or the crushing of what He was about to experience. The burden of all sin being placed upon Him on the cross.

Isaiah 53:5 “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.” (NIV)

Have you ever been faced with a situation you really don’t want to experience? Walked through tragedy with a family? Suffered loss? Or make a decision that would not only impact your life, but the lives of everyone around you? This is what Jesus was enduring in the Garden of Gethsemane. As He walked into the garden, praying to His Father, Jesus said these words, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. But not as I will, but as You will.” In a second moment of prayer, Jesus went on to speak these words, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

This cup Jesus was taking on, wasn’t an ordinary cup. It was the cup of suffering He was about to endure. God’s wrath was about to be poured out on the cross, and Jesus was willing to endure this experience. But in His humanness, Jesus asked His Father if it was possible there could be any other way. This is why I believe we are seeing Jesus’ human nature in its purest form. Who on earth would want to go through this torturous experience? But Jesus knew it wasn’t about what He wanted; all that mattered was laying aside His will and desire and take on God’s. “Not my will, but Yours be done…”

Pause with me and just take on this garden moment with Jesus. Try to feel the weight of the crushing Jesus was enduring for you. Know that He willingly laid aside His life for yours. What are we willing to offer in return?
Pause – Day 32
Reading – John 17:1-25
Look Toward Heaven

After today’s devotional, we are going to spend the rest of the 40 days we have left sharing about the Garden of Gethsemane and Christ’s crucifixion. But for this devotional, I want you to sit back and realize you could be reading the greatest prayer ever prayed by the greatest man who ever lived! The entire 17th chapter of John is Jesus’ prayer; over Himself, for the Disciples, and Jesus praying for you! Over 2000 years ago, Jesus took the position of servant, looked toward Heaven, and interceded for you!

The knowledge of Jesus praying for the believers of the future is powerful. Jesus knew the impact His life, death, and resurrection was going to have on you and I! So, Jesus said these words as He prayed; “those who will believe in me.” What do you think was of such great importance that Jesus took time to pray over us future Christians? Jesus prayed for unity. For a church to be healthy, those who are a part of it should find themselves gathered for a purpose that bring them together. To follow the mission and vision the Lord has asked our church to pursue, we need unity for its success. Jesus prayed for it!

Not just us, but Jesus also prayed for His disciples. If you read the passage in John 17, what do you think was so important for Jesus to pray over these men? Protection and Joy! Think about this with me, these men were the first people who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus knew what was ahead with the trial, beating, and crucifixion. He even knew the struggles Peter was about to face in his denial. How easy could it have been for these men to abandon their beliefs from the fear and persecution they were about to experience? This was Jesus’ purpose in prayer for protection. But Jesus also wanted them to maintain their joy! Joy in the journey of what was ahead for them in their life as they continued to proclaim the Good News of Jesus!

John 17:1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

I realize I’m running backward in this explanation of John 17, but I wanted to finish with our eyes on Jesus. Pause with me and imagine what His prayer looked like. Gazing toward heaven…Jesus knew where His Father was, so He took the position of looking up. It’s in this moment, Jesus asked God to glorify Him to accomplish His purpose. The One who knew no sin was taking on the sins of the world! The One who loved His disciples and you, died to take on the punishment we deserved! Jesus not only died for you, but He prayed over you as well!
Pause – Day 31
Reading – John 16:8-15
Guide Into Truth

Last July and August, my wife and I took our 25th Anniversary trip and spent two weeks in Alaska. The first 5 days of our trip were all inland. We started in Fairbanks and worked our way down through Denali, Anchorage, and ended the 500-mile land tour in Seward. When we originally talked about going, I wanted to forgo the guided tour and drive through Alaska ourselves. Thank goodness my wife talked me out of it. Without the guide we had, I truly believe we wouldn’t have experienced the landscape or enjoyed the history of what we were experiencing.

While in Denali National Park, we took a bus tour with the intention or hope of seeing Mt. McKinley, the highest elevation and tallest mountain in North America. Unfortunately, only about 33% of the visitors get to see the mountain due to cloud cover. Disappointed, we journeyed through the park and still experienced the beauty it offered. As the tour was ending, Rachel spotted an adult male, Yukon moose. According to our guide, it was the largest one he had ever seen in nearly 15 years of giving tours. We were within 10 feet of this amazing animal for nearly 20 minutes! Not being able to see Mt. McKinley was frustrating, but hearing the excitement in my wife’s voice as she spotted the moose was worth the entire journey.
John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

As I was reading through John 16, this idea of the Holy Spirit being our guide flooded my mind with all the wildlife encounters we experienced in Alaska. The moose was the first of many, but included brown bear, whales, caribou, orca, otters, and eagles. Would we have seen or experienced these unforgettable moments without a guide? How much do we miss when we deny Holy Spirit the ability to guide our journey of life? Not only does He guide us in truth, but Holy Spirit speaks only what He hears from God!

As Jesus was finishing up his conversation during the last supper, He made sure to share with His disciples who and what the Holy Spirit IS and DOES. This idea of a “guide”, comes from two Greek words, ‘Hodos’ and ‘Hēgeomai’. Hodos is a traveled road or trail, it can even be a journey you are on. Hēgeomai, is one who leads, goes before, and has authority. Pause with me right now and realize Jesus gave each of us a “guide” to lead us on the trail or journey we find ourselves on. I can’t think of a better guide than Holy Spirit who not only leads us in truth, but only speaks what He hears from the Father!
Pause – Day 30
Reading – John 15:26-16:7
Leaving for Sending

Can you imagine the tension in the upper room at the last supper? Jesus has now revealed to the disciples He was going to be put to death. And at the end of John 15, He tells the disciples the world will hate them because they hated Jesus without a cause. But Jesus wasn’t finished sharing all the bad news yet. Not only was He leaving them and dying, but Jesus also informs them the world would reject them, kick them out of their places of worship, and persecute them because of their love for Jesus.

Who is ready to sign up?

I often wonder if we knew what was ahead in our life, would we bother to believe in Jesus? If you knew every step you would take, every mistake you would make, every tragedy you would endure, and every moment of joy you would experience, would you still have faith? If you knew the end at the beginning, would you sign up for the journey? What’s interesting though as followers of Christ, you do know the ending. In reading John 14:2-3, Jesus was leaving to prepare a place for us, and that He is coming back.

As a believer with my faith still intact, I’m thankful of what Jesus did. Not just the sacrifice on the cross for our sins, but what His leaving gave to each of us. The “why” of Him going away was revealed in John 16:7. Jesus was leaving for the sending. Read these words of Jesus from this verse out of the Amplified Version; “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].” The Greek word Jesus used in this verse to describe the Holy Spirit is ‘Paraklētos’. What the Amplified Version does is give all the possible translations. Jesus is leaving so He can send His Holy Spirit! We are the beneficiaries of His sacrifice!

Pause with me and reflect on what you’ve just read. How is the Holy Spirit impacting your life today? Are you allowing Him to strengthen and give you comfort during your tragedies? Are you taking Holy Spirit’s counsel and help for the steps in life you walking through? What about the mistakes you’ve made? Are you allowing Him to be your advocate and intercessor? Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood for your sins. But He left so He could send His Spirit. Leaving for Sending…
Pause – Day 29
Reading – John 15:1-17
Remain In Me

We live in a world where we are present but have little or no presence with one another. Our tiny computers in our hand keep us distracted to the point where we miss out on the ones who are sitting right beside us. If you’re curious, between the Apple Store and Google Play alone, there are over 5.5 million different apps available to download for your distraction pleasure. Facebook and WhatsApp, the two largest social connecting apps, have over 2.5 billion users world-wide! If you want to connect, the availability is out there, but is this the kind of connection Jesus was encouraging in His last moments before His death? Let me begin this devotional by asking you this question: How are you connecting with your family? Children? Spouse? Friends? or with Jesus, and His Word? Or maybe I should ask, what app are you using?

When I started this intentional pause, my purpose was to stay connected to Jesus for the 40 days leading up to the celebration of His resurrection. While people all over the world choose to give something up for lent, I wanted to give something back. It’s been a positive challenge to wake up early in the morning, read the Word, and write a devotional in 500 words or less each day. I am viewing it as my opportunity give back, to use appropriate apps, connect with you the reader, and for myself, to stay present with Jesus.

John 15:4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

As Jesus sat at the table of the Last Supper, He challenged His disciples to stay connected to Him. Depending on the version of Bible you read, the word “remain” or “abide” are the most common translation of the Greek word, menō. This idea of remaining was evidently important to Jesus because He used this Greek word 12 different times in our reading today (John 15:1-17). The word menō has several definitions, but the one that hit my heart is “to continue to be present.” Jesus knew the difficulties His disciples would be facing in the days to come. So, in preparation, He’s encouraging them to stay connected to the vine and continue to be present.

Pause with me right now and ask yourself the question again. How are you being present with Jesus? What intentional time are you taking with Him? If the purpose of staying connected to the vine is to bear fruit, then maybe that is the question needing answered in your life. Are you bearing fruit? Are you impacting lives by connecting people to Jesus, or are you living for the likes on your social media apps? Stay connected to Jesus. Remain in Him. Be present with those you love!
Pause – Day 28
Reading – John 14:15-18
God In Us

The theology of the trinity is one of the most complex ideas in Christianity. How can 3 be or exist in 1? In my earlier years of pastoring, I’d use the example of water existing in 3 different states: liquid, solid, & gas. The problem with this analogy is it leads to a thought that God can “change” His form when needed, depending on the circumstance. God isn’t a Skrull who can take on any form (Marvel fans know what I am talking about), He is three distinct individuals in one! If you want to do a deep theological dive on why the water analogy can lead to a false understanding of the Trinity, look up the word modalism.  

One of the best examples in Scripture detailing the Trinity is found in the Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16-17. Jesus, “God With Us”, is in His physical human form being baptized. Then the Father, “God Over Us”, speaks from heaven and said, “this is my beloved Son.” And as Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit, “God In Us”, descended upon the Son! The entire Godhead was present at this moment. (PS. They were all present in creation as well.)

So why the reflection of the Trinity in our pause leading up to Easter? The gift of salvation and forgiveness of sin comes from the sacrifice Jesus gave on the cross! But as Jesus sat at the table with His disciples, He began explaining what was coming after His resurrection! In John 14:16, Jesus told them He was going to ask the Father to give them “another” who will never leave. The Greek word for “another” means ‘one of the same kind’. Jesus, asking the Father, to give the Advocate (Holy Spirit) is one more Biblical example of the Trinity in one verse! The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit are One of the same kind!

John 14:17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive Him because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know Him because he lives with you now and later will be in you. (NLT)

Pause with me and realize what Jesus is declaring in this verse. As Emmanuel, which means “God With Us”, Jesus is sitting there in the flesh with His disciples preparing them for what He is about to give. Holy Spirit, “God In Us”, is literally waiting for the moment for God to pour out His Spirit and for you and I to begin experiencing what Jesus spoke, “and later will be IN you!” God In Us! The question I want to leave you with today is this; which group of people are you in? The ones who can’t receive Holy Spirit because they aren’t looking for Him or do not recognize Him? Or are you part of the “IN” crowd who love the God who leads us into all truth?

Pause – Day 27
Reading – John 14:1-12
Who is My Hope

Over the years of being a pastor, walking with people through tragedy or difficult situations is still one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling aspects of being in the ministry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into an ER or a home with the intention of bringing some level of comfort to a family or person experiencing loss. What I’ve learned and am still trying to put into practice is what I refer to as the “ministry of presence.” Too often, I have seen people try to explain the tragedy and the attempt really offers no hope. Just being present with people and a willingness to listen is one of the greatest gifts we can offer in these intense moments.

The statement you are about to read has a deep truth associated with it; there is a distinct emotional experience between an expected and an unexpected loss. For instance, when my maternal grandmother passed away, we sat around in her room singing old hymns as she entered eternity. We sang and cried because we were the ones who were missing out on the hope she was experiencing with Jesus. We were present at her expected passing, and it brought a level of comfort to our family. Unexpected loss is felt much differently! It can overwhelm the person experiencing it emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The hardest moments of grief I’ve ever witnessed were the unexpected loss of a child, spouse, or parent.  

As Jesus sat around the table at the Last Supper, He began speaking about His expected death. His ministry of presence with his closest friends is a beautiful picture of Christ’s love. John 14 begins with Jesus bringing hope to an uncertain situation by using these words; “don’t let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus knew what was ahead, pain, anguish, abuse, torture, and death. But in this time with His disciples, Jesus looked beyond the cross and spoke about eternity. He knew that even in death, there was a moment coming that would change the history of the world, His resurrection! Jesus not only gave hope, but He revealed to us that He is hope! Hope isn’t just a “what”, or a “where”, Hope is a “Who”!

Pause with me right now and ask yourself these questions, ‘what is hope?’ There are two different definitions I use on a regular basis when describing this word: Wishful Thinking or Divine Expectation. Jesus was giving His disciples an expectation of what they had to look forward to. Is eternity a wish you are making or a reality you are expecting? Now, answer this question, ‘where is hope?’ King David answered this question in Psalm 62:5 by saying “my hope comes from God.” The Hebrew word used for hope in this verse is “tiqvâ” and literally means expectation! The last question I want to encourage you to answer today is this, “Who is My Hope.”
Pause – Day 26
Reading – John 13:21-35
Choosing Forgiveness

One of my favorite questions to ask couples in their premarital counseling sessions is this: ‘Is love a feeling or a choice.’ What I enjoy about this question is they will generally pause, look at each other, give a silly smile, and say ‘feeling.’ In these beginning moments of their relationship, it is all about feeling. They feel deeply because they haven’t had to experience being woken up at 3AM because of your husband’s obnoxious snoring. Or the scary-haired, bad-breathed, sleep-deprived wife the husband will wake up next to in the morning! For those of you who are married, you know what I am talking about! If I were asked the same question, my answer would be “both”. I believe love is a feeling and a choice. After 25 years, I would choose my wife again and I still feel a deep love for her.

Enough mushy love stuff, what about forgiveness! Let me ask the same question; ‘Is forgiveness a feeling or a choice?’ A good psychologist would tell you that forgiveness is a deliberate choice to release harmful feelings toward a person or situation, regardless of whether they deserve it. There are harmful feelings associated with unforgiveness. We identify them as grudges, bitterness, hurt, resentment, hostility, or being offended. The choice with forgiveness is do we hang on to those feelings or choose to let them go! Deciding to forgive does more for your spiritual and mental health than the person who caused the offense. But by forgiving the one who hurt, it releases them to make a choice towards reconciliation and gives you the opportunity to heal.

By the standards our world is projecting today, Jesus should have been offended by Judas. A man chosen by Jesus, who spent time with Jesus, witnessed the miracles and teachings of Jesus, still chose to betray Jesus. Yet we see no resentment or bitterness from Jesus. Do you think it could have been because Jesus chose to forgive even before Judas chose to betray? The betrayal was prophesied in the Old Testament book of Zechariah. Any God-fearing Jewish person knew the Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus not only realized He was going to be betrayed, but that it was going to be His friend and disciple, Judas. Jesus chose to forgive.

Pause with me for a moment and reflect on the new commandment Jesus gave to us in John 13:34. “Love one another; as I have love you.” If Jesus chose forgiveness over feelings of offense, are you capable of following in His steps? Even if the betrayal comes from someone you love. As followers, we get the choice to choose how we will show our love in the middle of offense. Let’s follow the way of Christ… “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”, John 13:35 (NIV).

Pause – Day 25
Reading – John 13:12-17
Who’s Washing Feet

Unless you live under a rock, my guess is you have seen the “He Gets Us” Superbowl commercial aired this year of foot washing? Perhaps you took it upon yourself to get into theological debates on the different social media platforms regarding the theology of washing feet. Maybe you spent time discussing the 80+ forms of fungus which grows between your toes? Either way, the commercial and the idea of foot washing caught the attention of millions and millions of people.

It's an interesting fact, but I’ll throw it out here for the sake of throwing. The only feet that Jesus washed were His disciple’s feet. There’s no other record of Christ washing any other foot than His closest companions. As I stated a few days ago, Jesus took on the role of a servant and modeled it for the disciples. When He finished, Jesus got up and asked the rhetorical question, “Do you understand what I’ve done for you?” I know they understood, but do we get it? Jesus went on to say, “You should also wash one another’s feet.” So, let me ask the question found in the neatly thought-out title, “Who’s Washing Feet?”

If I’m honest, I really don’t see much actual foot washing these days. Perhaps our idea of serving isn’t just for the sake of feet. Maybe you are serving in a local food pantry or teaching children on a Wednesday night. You could be washing feet by checking in on the elderly or volunteering in your local church or giving food to hungry children. If you aren’t serving, are you following the example Christ set? Maybe now is a good time to pause and answer that question. Not just the “who’s washing feet” question, but one that begs for self-introspection to determine how you are taking the role of a servant.

If Christ led with the example at the Last Supper, pause and ask yourself who’s feet should we be washing? How do you show love in a world that needs the love of Christ? How do you share truth in situations needing the truth of Jesus? The answer I keep coming back to is how we started this 40-day intentional pause; stay connected to the source. Jesus, being both fully God and human, had the unique ability to be love and truth at the same time. In John’s explanation of the incarnation (John 1:14), he reveals that Jesus was full of both grace and truth. It’s this grace and truth of Jesus we so desperately need as we wash the feet of people who need to know Him! Who’s washing feet? Whose feet are you washing? What love are you sharing? What truth are you revealing? Go wash feet; literally and figuratively.
Pause – Day 24
Reading – John 13:2-5
Betrayed by a Friend

Born in the early 70’s and with an affinity for all types of Sci-Fi, I fell hard for the original Star Wars trilogy. I was the kid who wanted to have every action figure and collectible available. Christmas and birthdays were a guarantee of an X-Wing Fighter, or the Millennium Falcon and allowances were used to buy countless figurines. I can’t tell you how many new adventures I had with Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewbacca in my head. In fact, I acted out these scenes hoping George Lucas would discover the genius of my little Star Wars brain! Well, he never came calling and what’s left of my Star Wars collection currently sits in the basement of my house. Thankfully, the second generation (my kids) were able to enjoy and have adventures with those valuable action figures!

Of all the Star Wars franchise, Empire Strikes Back was my favorite. Without boring you with anymore of my childhood memories, let me share this one idea. In this movie, Han Solo was betrayed by his friend, Lando. It was a devastating moment in cinema, especially seeing Han frozen in liquid carbonite. I just couldn’t shake the thought of how a friend could betray someone they cared about. The question I often ask is this, would Han Solo have gone to Cloud City knowing Lando would betray him and turn him over to Darth Vader? Maybe the real question I am getting to is this; why did Jesus wash the feet of Judas knowing he would betray him?

In our reading today, you will see three ideas Jesus knew going into the Last Supper. First, the devil had already prompted Judas for the betrayal. Second, He knew that His time had come. And third, Jesus was returning to the Father. With all this in His mind, Jesus got up, poured water into a basin, and began washing His disciple’s feet. I can only imagine what the disciples were thinking in their minds as Jesus became the servant. They had been arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest, and in this moment, Jesus showed them a greater importance.

Pause with me for a moment and answer this in your mind; have you ever experienced betrayal? How did you respond when you found out? Was your first thought to get up, take on the role of a servant, and attend to the person who was unfaithful to you? If you are like me, it’s easier to hold a grudge or build up a wall of protection than it is to forgive. Knowing Jesus is our ultimate example of how we should live, He also serves as our example when we are hurt by those we love. In my heart, I have this picture in my head of Jesus giving Judas one more opportunity to make the right choice as He washed his dirty feet. What are we losing by not offering the same choice to those who have hurt us?
Pause – Day 23
Reading – John 13:1
Loving to the End

For the next 7-10 days, our intentional pause will begin focusing in on the Last Supper of Christ. In the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, then begins some of His most important teachings in chapters 14-16. Jesus finishes in John 17 by praying for Himself, His disciples, and before He is arrested, takes time to pray for you!

John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

As a pastor, I’ve seen some of the greatest acts of kindness and love performed at the end of life. I’m not only thankful watching families care for their loved one but am so incredibly grateful for the ministry of Hospice. Our Scripture today could almost be their mission statement, “Loved them to the end.” But isn’t it interesting that in this instance, instead of the living caring for the dying, the One who is about to give His life is taking on the role of caregiver and serving the living disciples by washing their feet.

I want you to pause with me for a moment and place yourself into this scene in the Gospel of John. In this culture, there was a common practice of washing feet. When a guest would arrive at a home, a servant would be in position to care for the visitors. Walking on streets of dirt in sandals led to feet needing cleaned. Without a servant available to perform this duty in the upper room, Jesus took on the role and ministered to His disciples. I’ve tried to imagine how I would’ve responded, and I think I would’ve been like Peter, refusing to allow Jesus to wash his feet.

In the original Greek, the phrase “to the end” (‘telos’) has a unique meaning. The translation means to the ‘full extent’ or to the ‘utmost’. In the act of washing feet, Jesus was demonstrating to His disciples of how they should live their lives as servants. The full extent or utmost of His love’s demonstration was shown in His death on the cross. I think the Apostle Paul stated it the best in Romans 5:8. Christ demonstrated His love “to the end”, while were still sinners, He died for us. While were broken, hurting, sinful, and most likely undeserving, Jesus gave His utmost! How can we respond to this act of loving until the end? Go wash feet, literally or figuratively is up to you, but just take time to serve…
Pause – Day 22
Reading – Matthew 21:14-17 & Matthew 19:13-15
Faith of a Child

When we sat down with our architect years ago, we had a simple goal in mind, building a church for the next generation. Our children’s ministry team had long outgrown our current facilities and we knew we had one opportunity to do it right for the kids. I can’t tell you how many times I ran a tape measure in the basement of the old church to make sure we would have enough space in our new building. Today we have 5 classrooms, a children’s sanctuary, a mother’s comfort room, 5 bathrooms, a kitchen, and an entire team of volunteers so the next generation can connect with Jesus. I believe it’s one of the most important ministries within a church. Without the next generation, the church will cease to exist.

In Matthew 19, parents begin bringing their children to Jesus. They seemed to have a sense of urgency and a desperation to have Christ bless them and pray over their life. I still find it odd when I read this that the disciples were blocking the way and rebuking parents for their attempt. What I want you to grab was not just how Jesus responded, but what He said in Matthew 19:14. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Jesus wasn’t just giving children access; He stated His kingdom belonged to them. Does your church reflect this attitude of Jesus?

Hopefully you are wondering what all this reflection on children’s ministry has to do with the last few days of Jesus. Let’s go there. Did you ever stop to think there were kids in the court while Jesus was flipping tables? Those children were watching Him make room for all nations to have opportunity to pray. Did you realize He was making room for the kids too? After Jesus flipped tables, the lame and blind were healed while the kids stood and watched…because there was room. Then in this moment, something precious began to happen. The children began to repeat what they had heard the day before, “Hosanna to the son of David”. They were praising Jesus…because He had made room for them! Are you making room for children in your church?

Pause with me for a moment here and realize one more time, the Kingdom belongs to the next generation. So, when these little ones began praising Jesus, who tried to step in and make the kids be quiet in “church”? The priests and teachers of the law! I can hear it in my head. “We need these kids to be respectful and mind their manners in the temple! Please make them be quiet!” Can I tell you what our churches need today? The next generation running around, making noise, worshipping Jesus, and experiencing the Holy Spirit! “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” (PS – That’s a Jesus quote.)
Pause – Day 21
Reading – Mark 11:15-17 & Isaiah 56:6-7
Flipping Tables

Imagine going into a church today, being greeted at the door, and entering the foyer. There you see people chatting, laughing, sitting on couches, just enjoying the feel of home. Over to the left you see a quaint little coffee bar and you stroll over to get a cup and begin to make your way into the sanctuary. As you enter, you notice a wall, running from side-to-side, right through the center of the sanctuary. It’s not a tall wall; its short enough to see over and onto the stage, but it’s still a barrier. A barricade preventing people from getting up to the front half of the sanctuary. You think to yourself, “how odd is this little obstacle? I wonder why it’s there. Why are some people allowed on the front half and others aren’t?” So, with your cup of coffee in hand, you make your way closer, determining the purpose. Just as you approach the barrier, a large, manly-looking guy, with a great beard and security badge approaches you, smiles, and then says; “I’m sorry, only true believers are allowed pass this wall.”

As odd as this wall may seem to you, there was one just like it in the temple during the time of Jesus. Its purpose was to divide Jews from Gentiles. Only individuals from a Hebrew lineage were allowed into the temple to worship. Anyone else had to stay behind the dividing wall and pray in their designated area called the “court of the gentiles.”

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Following the Triumphant Entry and Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, we read about a surprising act that looks incredibly aggressive. For the second time in His ministry, Jesus enters the temple courts and begins to turn over tables of money changers and sacrifice sellers. In fact, if you Google, “Jesus Flipping Tables”, you will see artistic renderings of a raging, angry man, but let me try and share the “why of flipping tables.”

Pause with me for a moment and reread Mark 11:17. In this verse, Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7: “My House will be called a House of Prayer for all nations.” Jesus wasn’t just kicking out the sellers and money changers, He was making room for “all nations.” These tables of transactions were set up in the “court of the Gentiles” and preventing people from prayer and worship. This act of Jesus wasn’t just the angry rant many people believe it to be, but rather, Jesus was making a way for “all nations” to access the presence of God. Jesus’ death destroyed the barrier and broke down the dividing wall, giving “all nations” access to the presence of God! Thank Jesus for making this access available to every one of us! Let’s stop building walls of division…
Pause – Day 20
Reading – Luke 19:41-44 and Nehemiah 1:3-4
Weeping Over Jerusalem

Over a decade ago, I received one of the greatest opportunities in ministry, a fully funded trip to Israel. For 10 days, we explored the land of the Bible and walked where the patriarchs walked. We experienced a fierce storm as we sailed on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, stood on Mt. Carmel where Elijah called down fire, and drank from the creek where Gideon chose his mighty 300 men! There were somber moments too, as we walked the Via Dolorosa all the way to Golgotha, the place where Christ was crucified. Standing on the Mt of Olives was quite an experience as well, knowing someday Jesus would stand on this same location, returning to the earth for His second Advent. Today, as I read the Bible and preach, I still see the landscape and those ancient communities in my mind’s eye. I will forever be impacted by that trip.

As part of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, He came down the road from the Mt. of Olives and through the Kidron Valley. It was in this moment, Jesus looked up to see Jerusalem. This community He loved, was built on Mt. Moriah. This was the same mount Abraham climbed to sacrifice his Son Isaac and where God provided the ram. The same mount where King David purchased the threshing floor from a man name Araunah and eventually became the site of the Temple of the Lord. As Jesus looked up, He knew what awaited Him in this city. It was in this moment Jesus began to weep knowing so many of these people had missed His first Advent!

In your readings today, you will notice two different times in Scripture where a man weeps over Jerusalem. Nehemiah wept because his home community was in ruins from the Babylonian destruction. Those who remained there were not safe because the city’s wall and gates were destroyed. Jesus looked up and wept for two reasons. The first was so many missed recognizing Him as the Messiah. The second was prophetic knowledge of the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Jesus knew there was a siege coming to this community that would be one of the worst of its kind. So, Jesus wept…

Take a minute right now and pause. Ask yourself these questions. When was the last time you wept over your community? Have you ever driven out into the country late and night to see the lights of your town? What about during the day, driving out far enough to see the water tower or grain elevators that dot the Kansas landscape? When was the last time you prayed over your community, the place where God has placed you? Are there people in your community who are still missing the opportunity to know Jesus? Are they recognizing the time of His coming? Go pray and weep over your community, but don’t stop there, share Jesus with those who need Him the most. He’s returning…
Pause – Day 19
Reading – Luke 19:37-40
The Rocks Cry Out in Worship

If you’ve attended a funeral I’ve led, there’s a good chance this story I’m about to share is familiar. Over the last 15+ years, it has become a staple during the interment at the graveside. I’ve heard from countless people how the “rock” story is engrained in their memory and the “gift” is a reminder of their loved one.

When I was in high school, my grandfather asked if he could take us fly-fishing behind the Rio Grande Reservoir, near Creede, CO. It was a place he had fished for decades, and he wanted to share the experience. The streams we waded and cast our flies flow into and form the head waters of the Rio Grande River. Hours upon hours of casting multiple flies into Pole Creek, catching trout and about every bush or branch on the sides of the waterway. I remember the scene in my mind like it was yesterday, almost like it was our own version of the movie, “A River Runs Through It”.

As our day progressed, my Dad, Brother, and I fished, but curiously watched my Grandfather bend over, pick up rocks from the creek, and toss them back into the flowing water. In my mind, I can’t remember him fishing, just picking up rocks and casting them back into the water. As the sun went down behind the San Juan Mountain range, we made our way back to the campsite, our tents, a warm fire, and the smell of freshly caught trout cooking in the embers.

As the four of us sat around the fire in the stillness of the mountains, my grandfather began to share the purpose of the trip. He knew the difficulty of getting into the location and said this would be his last time making memories of Pole Creek. As he shared his fishing stories of the past, my grandfather reached into his pocket and pulled out three rocks. Handing one to each of us, he told us that he wanted us to take a memory of this day. The rocks were a simple memorial to this moment, but it became more than that in my heart. Over 3 decades later, I still have my rock from Pole Creek.

As Jesus strode into Jerusalem, riding upon the donkey, the people cried out and worshipped Him. They praised Him saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The religious sect known as the Pharisees were furious and told Jesus to make the people be quiet; “rebuke your disciples”. These men didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. Knowing what was ahead, Jesus looked at the overly religious group of men and said, “if they keep quiet, the rocks will cry out.” Pause with me right now and realize the intensity of the moment. If someone told you to stop worshipping, would you? I love my rock from Pole Creek, I just don’t think it should do what I was created for…worship.
Pause – Day 18
Reading – Matthew 21:1-11
Untied for Worship

Every year on Passover, crowds would gather in the streets of Jerusalem to get ready for the great parade. The roads would be lined with people expecting to see their king ride into the city. Legions of Roman soldiers would lead the way, carrying their weapons of warfare; shields, swords, spears, and decorated in their armor. Chariots would rumble through, pulled by teams of horses, all displaying the might of the Roman army. Finally, the king would arrive, sitting on top of a majestic warhorse, with the intent of demonstrating who was in command and his ability to crush any opposition to his kingdom! This king was not the King of kings, but rather, King Herod Antipas, the man responsible for the death of John the Baptist. Here's a question for you to take a moment and pause on: How would you have responded seeing Jesus, the true King of kings riding in on a donkey, rather than a warhorse like King Herod? Answer this question before you read further.

After a short visit, meal, and meaningful time with His friends, Jesus knew the time had come. Time to make His way into Jerusalem and endure the suffering and pain of the cross. The next day, Jesus gave instructions to His disciples to go into the next community. There they would find a donkey with her colt, tied up. Jesus told them to untie the animals and bring them back to Him. This act of riding into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilled the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9.

After borrowing the burro, they brought the animal back to Jesus. The disciples placed their coats on its back to give Him a place to sit. Then the procession began. Rather than soldiers and chariots leading the way, Jesus entered the city to the shouts of the people. They shouted, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” What I find so interesting at this moment is many people were confused. This parade caused an uproar in Jerusalem because it wasn’t the one they were expecting. This wasn’t the king sitting on a warhorse, with soldiers and chariots. No, this entry was different. A man, sitting on a donkey, with people crying out, “Hosanna”, which meant, “save us”. How was this donkey riding, supposed king, going to save them?

If I am wrong on this idea, feel free to correct me…but I believe most of us get so tied up in life we forget to pause and just worship Jesus. Is it possible you just need to have this King untie you from the burdens you are carrying? Perhaps you relate to this donkey, bound up in the daily grind, just waiting for someone to free you from what’s holding you back? I think all of us need the King of kings to untie us and be used for His purpose! If this resonates in your heart today, why not pause right now, and ask Jesus to release you. I’d rather be a donkey for the King of kings, than a warhorse for a temporary one!
Pause – Day 17
Reading – John 12:1-8
The Fragrance of Worship

A few years ago, my kids helped me build an outdoor kitchen. The idea was born out of necessity because I was tired of dragging my smoker and flattop grill in and out of the garage. Since its construction, we’ve spent countless hours gathered around kitchen, with all the different succulent smells of smoked meat filling our nostrils and rising up into the atmosphere. My favorite smell of them all is the fragrance of a simple wood fire. It fills my mind with old campfire memories and provides a sense of calm and connection to what matters most.

Six days before the Passover, the day of the Jesus’ crucifixion, we find Him in the home of His closest friends: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Several disciples, along with the family, are taking time to honor Jesus with a meal. I’m sure there was good conversation around the table as they ate, especially since Lazarus was there. Can you imagine the excitement of the discussion of being raised from the dead? While Martha was serving, Mary had slipped out of the room. When she returned, she was carrying the most expensive thing she probably owned, a bottle of costly perfume. What Mary did with the bottle of nard caused quite a stir in the household.

As Mary walked into the room, I’m sure the eyes began to focus on the tension of what was happening. Taking the perfume, she opened the jar and began to pour it out on the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. As the oil flowed out, the fragrance of the nard filled the entire room.

Enter criticism… “Why waste this perfume? We could’ve sold it and given to the poor?” Jesus corrected the disapproval by saying, “leave her alone.” This was Mary’s act of worship while Jesus was still with them. Let me ask you to think of this criticism in a different manner. “Why waste time on worship when we could be serving people in need?” I believe it comes down to this one thought, as we pour our lives out in worship, the presence of Jesus fills the room! Thus, allowing us to continue to pour out our lives to others and connect them to Jesus!

Let me leave you with a couple of thoughts for your pondering pausing pleasure. Do you realize there is no one more worthy of our worship than Jesus? Mary poured out costly perfume on Christ’s feet. Jesus poured out His life on the cross. What are you pouring out? The second idea I want you to Pause and reflect on is Mary didn’t hold anything back from her act of Worship. Jesus held nothing back from His act of sacrifice on the cross. Is there anything holding you back from worship?
Pause – Day 16
Reading – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Remember the Resurrection (and Beyond)

For the last 15 days, we’ve been taking an intentional pause in preparation for Easter. Using the story of King Hezekiah’s Temple reset in 2 Chronicles 29, the hope was for you to remember your purpose and walk through a rededication, like what we read in Scripture. Today we are beginning a 3-week reflection of the life of Jesus leading up to His crucifixion and resurrection. As Easter Sunday approaches, my prayer is each of us be ready and in anticipation of what God wants to do as we remember and celebrate Jesus resurrection!

Transparency moment. As a pastor, I’ve never been too fond of Easter Sunday. Now please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I love the story of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for each of us on the cross. Where I lose interest in Easter is the performance side of it all. Should we have an Easter Egg hunt? Do we attract people to come to a pageant displaying Jesus’ on the cross? The reality of March 31st is there will be people in our building who only come once or twice a year. What I wrestle with is presenting a service that’s different than who we will be two weeks after Easter. Authenticity is the key! Here’s a question for you to ponder: Is the intention of Easter Sunday attracting someone to church or connecting them to Jesus?

Please don’t think I’m being cynical! I’m just an older preacher grappling with purpose. As I said, I love this story in the life of Jesus. If you were reading His story like a book, the last week leading up to the cross and His death would be considered the pinnacle! Or is it? Let me list my top 5 moments of the Easter Story: 5. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet; 4. Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane; 3. The veil in the temple tearing in two at the exact time of Jesus’ death; 2. Discovering the empty tomb of Jesus; 1. Jesus empowering His disciples with His Holy Spirit.

As I wrap this devotional thought up, I want you to consider two ideas; one is a thought, and the other is a challenge. First my final thought today; the story of Jesus isn’t complete because we are still living it out. You are the living, breathing narrative of Jesus’ sacrifice! The challenge: would you be willing to pause for a minute and write down your top 5 favorite moments of the Resurrection story of Jesus? If you’d like, feel free to let me know what your top 5 are? I’d love to see and read other people’s thoughts on this subject!
Pause – Day 15
Reading – 2 Chronicles 29:27-30 and 35b-36
Restoration and Rejoicing

One year ago, about a hundred people gathered in the dusty sanctuary of our new building. The walls had been sheet rocked and mudded and we stood there on bare concrete. Our worship pastor and I had our guitars and a very simple sound system spread out on a newly laid wooden stage. The goal of the evening was dedicating the space, worshipping in the new building, and spending time in prayer.

When we organized the service, we had planned for about an hour of worship. It was February, it was cold, and the HVAC systems weren’t in place. What we learned that night was time didn’t matter in the presence of the Lord. The longer we stayed, the more intimate the time became. What I will remember the most was the declarations and dedications made that evening in our soon-to-be facility. The moment gave us a renewed excitement for what God was doing.
2 Chronicles 29:35b-36 So the Temple of the Lord was restored to service. 36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly.

What took our construction teams nearly 20 months to complete, only took King Hezekiah and his team 16 days. Granted we were building from the ground up and the young king and his team were cleaning and restoring the temple. But what I want you to notice in our reading today is when they were finished, they took time to worship. I loved 2 Chronicles 29:29, “then the king and everyone with him bowed down in worship.” It didn’t matter the position or title you held in the kingdom, everyone worshipped. Our night in the uncompleted church facility was no different; everyone was engaged in worship.

Pause with me in the moment and ask yourself this question; what does your worship look like today? Are you actively engaging God with your time or is it an afterthought? Is your worship limited to just a Sunday morning, or are you actively seeking Holy Spirit each day? Would you be willing to sing praises in a cold and dusty room, standing on hard concrete? Or do you need the comfort of a heater, carpet, and soft chairs to spend time with Jesus? Often, when people come to me as a pastor and say they don’t feel connected with Jesus, my first response is this: how often are you reading your Bible? Jesus is the Word. The Word is the Bible. I’ve found the more time spent in the Word the more I am connected to Jesus. Time in the Bible with Jesus is essential for Reset. I promise it will lead to Restoration and Rejoicing, just like King Hezekiah and the people experienced when they finished the Reset in the temple of the Lord!

For the last 15 days, we’ve been experiencing Reset in our 40-days of intentional pause. Starting tomorrow, we will begin part two of Pause, Reflecting and Remembering the days leading up to Christ’s crucifixion.
Pause – Day 14
Reading –John 3:14-17, Numbers 21:6-9, and 2 Corinthians 5:21
Remember the Cross

On day 2 of our Pause, I shared about our life out in the middle of nowhere in Hodgeman County, a creek, and a tree. Those memories are still vivid in this 51-year-old brain. One of the bravest gifts my parents gave us boys was a pair of Yamaha 3-wheelers. It was pure freedom to roam and be the Dukes of Hazard on three wheels (and sometimes two). Also, we might want to forget about the wreck that put me in the hospital for about a week! (Another story for another time.)

One sunny summer day, my brother and our cousin came running into the trailer and in a pure panic about a snake. They were out riding the 3-wheelers and knew that had seen the largest, deadliest, rattlesnake in their entire short life. Inclined not to believe these young story stretching minds, my dad went out with us to find the culprit. Sure enough, the boys were telling the truth. My dad, with one swift chop of the shovel, took the head of snake clean off its body. Not to waste an opportunity, we skinned it, fried it up, ate it, had the head encased in resin, and my dad spored a fancy headband on his cowboy hat of the now infamous rattlesnake!

John 3:14-16 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 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.

Every time I read this passage of scripture, it reminds me of how easy we can jump over a word, phrase, or even an entire verse. How many times have you read John 3:16 without even realizing the context of John 3:14? And why would Jesus say we would lift Him up like the snake in a wilderness? Inquiring minds want to know? Here’s my answer; in our weakness, we all sin, but in God’s mercy, He has provided His Son to remove our sins. For the Israelites, God had Moses create a bronze serpent representing their sins. All they needed to do was look at the bronze statue and be healed. But for the world, Christ became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), was hung on a pole, so that we may find forgiveness and an eternal relationship! Just as the Israelites were given freedom from the penalty of death, we are saved from Spiritual death when we reset our lives with Jesus.

In our intentional pause, the point of these 40-Days is to shift our attention to Jesus and the sacrifice of the cross. Remember the cross and what Jesus went through for you! But even more important to reflect on is this idea; Jesus is no longer on the cross. Don’t let the cross become an object of your worship; it was an instrument of torture and excruciating death. Lift Jesus up, but remember He is alive, sitting at the right hand of God, and interceding for you!
Pause – Day 13
Reading – Numbers 21:8-9, John 3:14-17, and 2 Kings 18:4
Removing the Sacred Cow – Pt. 2

As a kid, I loved walking up to the front of the sanctuary in the church I grew up in. I was a 4th-generation family member in the same church, and you could see my family’s handprints throughout the building. The baptistry was built into the stage utilizing heavy pipe from my grandfather’s manufacturing business. You almost needed a crane to get lid lifted off so you could do baptisms. The tongue and groove pine ceilings were stained by my father and grandmother, his cousins, and aunts. But I loved walking up to the front and seeing communion table and pulpit with my grandfather and great-grandfather’s name on a little bronze plaque: “This was dedicated in memory of…” As a young, impressionable boy, it gave me a sense of pride realizing the importance of generosity in the church.

(Here's the rest of the story from yesterday's devotional.) Years ago, when I first moved the “registry table” up to the stage to utilize as a pulpit, I wasn’t ready for the reaction I received. You would think it was because I moved the old, massive pulpit off the stage, but that didn’t create the fireworks that ensued. No, it was because I had accidentally offended the person whose family name was engraved into one of those cute little bronze plaques. I’m pretty sure I heard a steam engine locomotive noise as she marched up to the front of the stage. One finger pointing straight at me, shaking it in frustration, and letting me know the err of my ways. “That was dedicated in the memory of my family to be a sign in table for guests!” Honestly, I had a temporary, “frozen in time” moment. How was I going to respond to this accusation? I paused, looked up, and in a moment where the right word was going to be invaluable, I said; “yes, but now it will have the Word of God preached from it!”

In Numbers 21, the Israelites were in their 38th year of roaming the desert. Aaron had just died, and Moses disobeyed God by striking a rock and lost his opportunity to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Now, they found themselves in the middle of a very long walk from Mount Hor to the Red Sea. Ironically, God had just told shown them the borders of the land they were about to inhabit. As they grumbled and complained about their predicament, venomous snakes began to bite the Israelites. Many of them died. This is when God told Moses to build a bronze serpent, place it on a pole, and have the dying people look upon it for healing. I won’t try and attempt to explain all of this today, but this bronze serpent soon became a bronze plaque to the people of Israel. It was their “sacred cow” of healing. This is why centuries later, King Hezekiah destroyed it.

Six months ago, our church completed a massive building project. I’m still in awe of how people sacrificed their time and finances to see it built. But what I am completely thankful for is not one person has asked me to put a bronze plaque with their name on it. No pulpits or guest registry table.  Not in the nursery or in an office. There aren’t any on a communion table or chair. I don’t want my successor to deal with those sacred cows and angry fingers pointed their way. But just for the sake of this moment, I’ll ask you this question again; what sacred cows need to be removed from your life? Are you worshipping an image or a memory rather than the Living God?
Pause – Day 12
Reading – 2 Kings 18:4, Numbers 21:8-9, and John 3:14-15
Removing the Sacred Cow

When I first started pastoring our church in Larned, I had a massive pulpit! The kind you would see one of the great preachers of the past standing behind and giving an oration in perfect King James lingo. I wasn’t much for standing behind this grand wooden structure, but it had a sacredness to it. Eventually, I made the bold move of moving it off the stage completely. Of course, I had a few complaints, but I still allowed the dust to settle on the idea (and the old pulpit). Where I truly got into trouble was the day I moved the guest registry stand onto the stage in the old pulpit’s place. I’ll never forget the look on a certain church member’s face. She went from bright pink to raging red from the moment she walked in the front doors and noticed the guest registry was gone. Apparently, it had been given in the name of her family to be used in this manner, but not as a pulpit!

For the last 12 days, I’ve been sharing the idea of reset from the life of King Hezekiah. At the end of this week, I’ll begin part 2 of our 40-day intentional pause: Reflect. But today I want to challenge you with a thought. What is in your way of Jesus? What “sacred cow” or idol is keeping you from a full reset with Christ? Is there something you are having a difficult time laying down or letting go? If you’ve never heard of the concept of a “sacred cow”, let me try and explain it. A sacred cow is an element of church life that has been elevated to such a position that it cannot be touched, changed, or challenged. But truth be told, if this element was removed from its place, the church would most likely continue to operate effectively. I bet you could think of several sacred cows…

I want you to know I really wrestled with this devotion. I kept asking Holy Spirit if I really needed to share this thought. My desire was to skip over this idea of idols and roll right into the last part of Hezekiah’s reset which is restoration and rejoicing. That sounds much tamer than what I am tackling here. But what I see so often in church today is we have elevated some styles (how we worship or preach) and or physical attachments (pulpits and organs) over our true calling of worship. In our pastoral team, we refer to it as “Preference over Presence”. What is more important to you? The song you sing, the instrument used, or is God inhabiting the praises of his people?

In 2 Kings 18:4, Hezekiah removes all the pagan shrines and articles of false worship his father set up. But if you read quickly, you’ll miss that he also removed the bronze serpent God instructed Moses to build. Why would Hezekiah destroy what God instructed? The answer is simple, people began to see the bronze serpent as the healer instead of the actual Healer! What are you worshipping? Trust me, I want to get to the end of the temple reset when worship was restored, but for true reset to take place, what sacred cow in your life needs removed?
Pause – Day 11
Reading - 2 Kings 18:1-6
Remain Faithful

2 Kings 18:6 He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. (NLT)

I hope by now the story of King Hezekiah is becoming meaningful and you are gaining wisdom for your personal reset. Over the years, I have used this passage of Scripture as a map for our church revitalization. There is so much to learn in how this young king reset the temple and brought worship back to the people of Israel. What I admire the most is what was written about Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18:6; he remained faithful. What a powerful statement about life lived in the service of the Lord. Pause with me right now and ponder this question; how are you remaining faithful in what God’s asked you to do?

10 years ago, Rachel and I moved into our current home. We love living outside of town, raising a few farm animals, and the ability to fish and hunt on our property. When we first came into the house, it was very evident the former owner cared for his home. He came from a generation that didn’t throw items away, you fix them! We can still walk around the property and find his handiwork. One of our home’s most nostalgic features included kitchen appliances that remained faithful. The oven, stovetop, and hood were original to the house when it was built in 1963. If only they were built to last like they were 60 years ago. I’m happy to report that we did do a kitchen remodel a few years ago, but our hands were kind of forced into the deal. We could no longer find parts to fix what had remained faithful for those 6 decades.

As a pastor serving nearly 21 years in the same church and community, I’ve seen many things come and go throughout the years. The average lifespan of a minister is between 4 and 7 years. There’s always a honeymoon phase followed by conflict, generally occurring from change. If a pastor stays through the difficult season, it can lead to a period where you see stability in the church. If a pastor can push pass that 7-year mark of remaining faithful, research shows you will most likely experience some of the best opportunities for growth. It’s tragic most don’t stay long enough to see revitalization in their church…remain faithful!

If the Lord has been giving you insight into this idea of reset, let me encourage you one last time to “remain faithful”. Be a Hezekiah in a generation that would rather throw away than repair. Stick around long enough to reopen what has been closed. Stay in the place where Holy Spirit is leading you and remember your calling. The reset is worth the tension!
Day 10 - Pause
Reading – 2 Chronicles 29:18-19 and Acts 9:1-6
Reset Leads to Rededication

One of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible is Acts 9. I love the story of God meeting Saul on the Road to Damascus and changing the direction of his life! A man intent on persecuting Christians and a vision to wipe out all believers, met Jesus, face to face. This one encounter with the Savior transformed Saul’s life purpose and dedication. Instead of Persecutor Saul, he became the Apostle Paul! This reset with Jesus led him to a rededication of his life and a redirection in his purpose! What could one encounter do in your life? Over the years I’ve spent as a pastor, I’ve seen time and time again how God changes the trajectory of people’s life. Addictions dropped, marriages healed, purpose reimagined, all from encountering Jesus. I’ve watched lives transform, emotional trauma and hurt healed, and spiritual breakthroughs in prayer, all from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We worship a life-giving and life-changing Jesus!

Pause with me for a moment right now. Let’s go back to our story of the king of Judah. Can you imagine what it was like for Hezekiah to take on the demands of being the king, let alone the desecration his father left behind? How was this reset even possible? The idea that fascinates me in the story of 2 Chronicles 29 is the dedication Hezekiah had for the temple reset. Within 16 days, the temple was ready to be rededicated for the Glory of the Lord! Can you imagine how excited the Levites had to be when they told their king what they had accomplished. Their purpose had been changed because of the former king, but on this day, they were ready to return to the place of their calling! “We have cleansed the entire temple of the Lord” and “we have recovered all the items discarded by King Ahaz” and “they are now in front of the altar of the Lord, purified, and ready for use!” (Summary of 2 Chronicles 29:18-19, NLT)

How could one encounter with Jesus change your life? How would it impact the purpose of the people around you? If you’ve read up to this point today, answer this question. How can a reset with Jesus, redirect your life, recover the purpose He has for your life, and return in to use? Are you stuck in your past and afraid to move forward? Does the enemy remind you of who you’ve been, more than you allow the Holy Spirit to show you who you are? Do you live in the past desecration more rather than a present dedication of your life to Jesus? Then let me challenge you to rediscover who the Holy Spirit is! Recover what the enemy discarded in your life and return them to use in just like the Levites did in 2 Chronicles 29:19.
Day 9 – Pause
Reading – 2 Chronicles 29:12-17 (feel free to skip over the names)
Let the Reset Begin

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Of all the quotes and wisdom in the world today, this is my favorite. It’s a simple formula for accomplishing vision. Too often we look at the immense task before us and lose sight of our “why”. Over the course of building our new church, I often found my mind drifting to all the tasks needing to be done. It was overwhelming at times, and I felt myself drifting away from the vision. As Saint Exupéry noted, when we focus on the wood or the tasks needed to build the ship, it takes our heart away from the immensity of the sea. The idea that brought the focus back when the stress seemed to overwhelm was remembering the “why”. Why are you building this ship?

What was Hezekiah’s “why”? Why perform this reset in the temple? Why go through all the trouble of fixing what his father destroyed? Didn’t he have other dreams and visions to accomplish as the king? We read the answers to these questions when Hezekiah shared his concerns in 2 Chronicles 29:8-10. This young king had enough wisdom to connect the devastated condition of his country and the desecration of the Lord’s temple. But was that really his “why’? The actual reason for the reset appears in 2 Chronicles 29:11 when he challenged the those doing the work to remember. It was a four point sermon of “why”: to stand in the presence of the Lord, to minister to Him, to lead people in worship, and present offerings to the Lord.

The reading today brings us to the moment in the story when the reset begins in the temple. The men have been gathered, the declarations made, the plans are before them, the purpose is evident, and the “why” has been stated. The beginning of 2 Chronicles 29:12 sets the tempo; “then the Levites got right to work…” What the former king destroyed over the last 16 years, Hezekiah and his crew accomplished the reset in 16 days! How long does it really take to build a ship? Or reopen a temple? Or reset your life? I think the answer or key to those questions is remembering your “why”.  
Day 8 – Pause
Reading – 2 Chronicles 29:8-11 & Colossians 3:17
Remember Your Calling
I think I was about 15 years old, attending a Youth Convention in Salina, the first time I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to pursue the ministry. Over the next few years of finishing high school and moving onto college, I began to argue with the idea of becoming a pastor. Wrestling through the belief that I could be a minister in whatever career path I chose, I pursued psychology and eventually earned my license to practice as a therapist.

Beginning in 1996, I began my career in counseling and honestly loved what I was doing for the first few years. Then the burden hit. I felt like my hands were tied and I couldn’t speak about the one thing I believed people needed: Jesus. It was an issue of ethics that kept me from placing my beliefs on my patients. After two years of dealing with the dissonance of wanting to see a healing of the mind and spirit, I finally gave up my license and became a Pastor in February of 2000, exactly 24 years ago.

As we have studied through the reset King Hezekiah had for the temple of the Lord, we read today about the moment the workers were commanded to remember their purpose. The king looked at them and said these words: “My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.” Can you imagine what it was like to be called to minister in the temple, but rejected by the former king? Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz, ruled for 16 years. During his reign, he prevented people from experiencing God’s presence, destroyed the items used for worship, and shut the doors of the Temple of the Lord. These Priests and Levites, gathered there on the courtyard, were finally getting the opportunity to pursue their purpose. They had been chosen to stand in the presence of God and lead people in worship. Finally, they were able to minister the way God had intended and equipped them for.

As you read this devotional today, I want to encourage you pause as you remember your calling. What do you need the Holy Spirit to remind you of? What is the purpose God created you for? You may not be called to into a full-time, pastoral ministry; but all of us are called to share Jesus and show His love. It might be on the worship team or serving dinner to 80 kids on Wednesday night. Maybe the Lord has called you to be an intercessor and pray. Whatever it is, pursue and remember the calling God’s placed on your life as you walk through this reset.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)
Day 7 – Pause
Reading 2 Chronicles 29:3-7
Reset and Repent
The idea of reset has been the topic of our pause for this first week. As I’ve mentioned, a reset is returning to your original purpose. If this devotional was talking about our smart devices, there are two types of resets: soft and hard. A soft reset will shut down the applications and allows your phone to stop running and take a break. It’s a simple rebooting of your phone and won’t affect any of your data. Most of the time a soft reset occurs when we “restart” our phone. A hard reset, also known as a factory reset, will essentially delete all your personal data, pictures, apps, and return your phone to the original state it came out of the factory in. If you keep your phone after the hard reset, you must reinstall any of the applications you want to continue to use.

Is it me, or does this devotional sound more like an instructional video for tech support? As you read this, you might be thinking it sounds a little odd comparing ourselves to a phone. So, let me engage you with a couple of questions. What kind of reset do you need? How many apps are running in your brain? What have you allowed into your “internal system” that is affecting the purpose of which you were created? Have you opened yourself up to so many good applications that you’re no longer running effectively? Or is it possible you’ve allowed a virus or two into your heart and created a sin issue? Perhaps it’s time to reset and repent?

In our reading today, King Hezekiah has now reopened the temple of the Lord. He gathers the Priests and Levites into the courtyard and begins to give instructions on how they will perform a “hard” reset in the temple. Their ancestors had gone into the Temple and had done evil in the sight of the Lord. Hezekiah’s father had abandoned the place of worship and led the kingdom in turning their backs on God. The entire country needed a reset. But what I find so fascinating about Hezekiah’s instructions is this; before the Priests and Levites are allowed to go into the temple, they must first perform a reset on themselves: “Purify yourselves and purify the temple of the Lord…”

If we look at the world around us, or even the country we live in, I think we can all give reasons why a reset is needed. Too often, we try to start at the top and work our way down. But before Hezekiah allowed these men to reset the temple or their kingdom, they first purified themselves. Can you just pause right now and focus on Jesus and how this is idea of reset is speaking into your life? What is the Holy Spirit leading you to do? What apps need to be deleted in your life? What sin needs to be confessed? How can you engage in reaching a world that needs Jesus without personally engaging Jesus first? Maybe it’s time for a personal reset…
Day 6 – Pause
Reading – 2 Chronicles 29:1-3 & Isiah 61:1-4
Repair What is Ruined
For some of you, the question I am about to ask might be a stretch or a challenge to your memory, but please, give it a moment of thought. What were you doing when you were 25 years old? Perhaps you’re reading this, and you haven’t even aged through your teens. If that’s the case, what do you want to be doing by the age of 25. If I look back on my 25th year of existence, it was a wonderful year for me. I had just met a 22-year-old, beautiful woman, by the name of Rachel and started dating her. In fact, our first date was at the Kansas State Fair, a few weeks following my 25th birthday. Good memories, but there is no way I could have ever wanted to step into the role of a king.

Never serving in a leadership role of that magnitude, I can’t imagine Hezekiah’s first few days of surveying his kingdom and determining the vision he needed as the king. As a child growing up in the palace, Hezekiah experienced firsthand what his father, Ahaz, did to Judah. How his dad, destroyed the temple of the Lord, prevented people from experiencing the presence of God, and established a false worship system to pagan gods. But it didn’t take long to institute the reset! Within the first month, Hezekiah began to repair what had been ruined by his father.

Let’s jump ahead a few thousand years and reflect on Jesus. Following His baptism, Jesus took an intentional 40-day pause. Led by the Holy Spirit, He went into the wilderness and fasted, prayed, and utilized God’s Word when the enemy attacked Him. The exercise of these Spiritual disciplines led to over 3 years of life-changing and life-giving ministry. Following the pause in the wilderness, Jesus preached His first sermon in his hometown of Nazareth. Reading from Isaiah 61, Jesus announced the purpose of His time as a servant leader: bringing good news, liberty to captives, healing the blind, giving freedom, and declaring the Lord’s favor had come. Jesus’ Kingdom brought a necessary reset, and His life, death, and resurrection gave back the original purpose God began in the garden. Jesus became the New Covenant, and we are the benefactors and recipients of this gift of love and grace! Because of Christ’s sacrifice, you and I are the “they” Isaiah is referring to in Isaiah 61:4; rebuilding and repairing that which is ruined.

Isaiah 61:4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.
Day 5 – Pause
Reading – 2 Chronicles 29:3 and 1 Chronicles 16:23-27
Reopen the Doors
Today is day 5 for our intentional pause. If you missed yesterday’s devotion, don’t worry, you really didn’t miss it. We are intentionally taking a break on Sundays so that you can focus on worshipping and hearing the Word at church.

Over a decade ago, I went to an estate auction of a family friend. At that point in my life, I loved going on “treasure hunts” to see what kind of deal I could find. As I walked through and inspected all the items, a credenza caught my eye. It was dirty and it appeared as though someone had started painting over the wood. Covered in mud dauber nests, I carefully opened one of the drawers and noticed it was made of solid walnut. All this piece of furniture needed was someone who could restore the wood and bring it back to its former glory; it’s original purpose.
In the story of King Hezekiah, he had taken on the task of cleaning up what his father intentionally destroyed. The entire temple needed to be reset and returned to its original purpose. Why do you think Hezekiah first chose access? In verse 3, it says he “reopened the doors of the temple of the Lord.” For years, this building, designed by King David, was used to worship God (1 Chronicles 16:23-27). Ahaz did all he could do to destroy the purpose of the design and kept the people from honoring God.

As we pause for these 40 days leading up to Resurrection Sunday, what doors in your life need to be reopened? Where do you need to give God access to help you reset and find restoration? I want to encourage you to find time to worship today. Go turn on the radio or Spotify, select a few of your favorite songs, press play, and take a pause for worship. Reopen your door for honoring God through being still, singing, or just focusing on Jesus.

Like the credenza made of walnut, all we need is someone to recognize its value and our purpose. As the auctioneer approached the furniture, no one would bid on the one item I wanted. I casually raised my hand, offered one dollar, and loaded up a piece of solid walnut furniture into the back of my truck. Today it’s in our basement, fully restored, and has a greater value than the dollar I paid for it. God looks at you in the same way. He doesn’t see a broken, displaced, or destroyed individual, He sees the person He loved enough to send His Son, Jesus, to die for. God knows your value, your purpose, and why you were created. As you take time to reset today, take time to reopen the doors of worship in your life. Worship is in our DNA. It is who we are and created for.
Pause - Day 4
2 Kings 18:1-4
Remove the Profane
When I bought my pick-up a few years ago, Rachel and I thought it would be a wise investment to purchase an extended warranty. My hope was that if something went wrong with the engine during the time I had it, it would be covered. As of today, my truck has been at the dealership for 24 days and is still in major disrepair. The turbos went out, along with a slew of other engine issues I don’t have the mechanical knowledge to repeat. What I do know is this, I am now at the mercy of my wife for rides to work and the defective parts in my engine need to be removed and replaced. I am writing all this to ask you a question; what needs to be removed in your life? If a reset is the goal, what needs to be removed and repaired for you to function more effectively?

In the reading for our intentional pause today, you will notice there is a new king in Judah. His name is Hezekiah, and he is the son of the former evil king, Ahaz. In 2 Kings 18:3-4, we read about the nature of this new king: Hezekiah did what was pleasing to the Lord and removed all the pagan articles his father brought in for people to worship false gods. King Hezekiah knew there needed to be a reset in all of Judah, so he took the initiative and began the work. He removed the profane!

The word reset means to take back to the original purpose. The purpose of the temple in Judah was for worship. Ahaz desecrated the temple, but his son, Hezekiah, led through a reset and returned the temple to its intended purpose. When was the last time you thought about your purpose? What was the reason God created you? Maybe you read these few verses about Hezekiah and his father, Ahaz, and you can relate. Perhaps you grew up in a home that didn’t know Jesus or with a father who wasn’t a Godly example. Or on the side, you could’ve grown up in a caring home with parents who introduced you to Jesus. What I do know is this, your relationship with God isn’t dependent upon your past or how you were raised. This is your intentional pause to relate to Christ. Today, pray for direction and ask the Lord to reveal what needs to be removed from your life for this reset. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in this moment as you pause.
Pause – Day 3
Reading: 2 Chronicles 28:22-25
Don’t Reject the Reset
A couple of weeks ago, one of my kids came to me with an electronic issue. Their computer was running incredibly slow, the programs weren’t opening like they were intended, and they thought they had contracted a virus. After a little detective work in the task manager, I realized they had so many apps open on their device, it wasn’t able to properly function in it’s intended purpose. I took the computer, performed a soft reset, and instantly the issue was fixed. All it took was to shut down the computer and allow it to return to its original settings. Do you realize we are no different to a computer at times in our life? We have allowed too many applications to run our life and we need to pause long enough to reset.

In the reading from 2 Chronicles 28, the King of Judah, King Ahaz, had allowed a major virus to infiltrate the infrastructure of his kingdom. Rather than the purpose it was set out for, King Ahaz allowed the world to influence his leadership. This ill intended king took what God had declared sacred and made it into a place of profane. Ahaz took the items used in the temple, broke them into pieces, and scattered the remains. What was intended to be a place of worship was now locked up. The access to God was denied. If that wasn’t enough, this evil king offered sacrifices to false gods and set up pagan shrines throughout the kingdom of Judah. 2 Chronicles said it best in verse 22; “King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord.” (NLT)

Here's a couple of thoughts regarding reset: 1. I realize you’re not a computer or a phone, and 2. You’re probably not rejecting God at the level of King Ahaz. But here’s a few questions I would like you to answer: is your internal hard drive speaking to you right now? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to lead you into a reset? Would you let Him guide you on what you need to intentionally shut down? Maybe there are issues in your life that you’ve allowed to infiltrate your temple and you see the futility of mixing the sacred with the profane. What virus from the enemy is slowing you down? Have you removed important aspects of your life that used to lead you into places of worship? If you answer these questions honestly, I believe you’ll see the need for reset.
Pause - Day 2
Reading - Jeremiah 17:5-8
Go back with me in my childhood for a few moments today for our intentional Pause. For about 3 years of my life, my family lived on a half section (320 acres) about 15 miles north of Dodge City, in Hodgman County. Our family of 4 lived in a single wide trailer pretty much in the middle of nowhere. What I remember about our home wasn’t the cramped feeling of sharing a bedroom with my little brother, but rather the ability to run and explore the outdoors.

Our little piece of the Kansas prairie had a stream running through the property called the “Sawlog Creek”. My brother and I spent hours swimming, catching bullhead catfish and frogs, and even messing with the snapping turtles in the creek. We would load up our flippers, snorkel, and mask, and float down the creek exploring every nook and cranny. The waterway was our place of adventure as young boys! My favorite spot on the entire creek was this large cottonwood tree planted firmly by the water. In fact, this was the only tree on the entire property. What I remember is the shade it provided on those hot summer days of adventuring. I am sure we both sat under the leaves, shirtless, with a piece of Kansas prairie grass sticking out of our mouths.

When was the last time you went and sat under a shade tree and did nothing but ponder? Or has life just taken you to the extreme and you can’t slow down long enough to enjoy the simple shadow offered by a mature tree? Is it easier to sit in your living room or office and stare at the beauty of this world from a screen rather than exploring it in person? If you are getting what I am saying, then maybe it’s time you took an Intentional Pause with Jesus.

In this reading from Jeremiah, the prophet is comparing humans to a shrub in the desert and a tree by river. Those of you relying on your human strength for this life are prone to experience seasons of drought and difficulty. Jeremiah even writes these types of shrubs see no hope for the future. But the tree planted by the water’s edge has roots that extend into the water. When the heat and dry moments of life come, the tree isn’t bothered by the heat. In fact, its leaves are still green, and the tree will even produce fruit!  

Let me challenge you with this idea; maybe it’s time to do a Reset in your life? When my phone or computer gets too bogged down from all the open apps, I give it a breather and perform a reset. Do you need a reset with Jesus? Come hang out with me tomorrow as we start exploring what a reset looks like from 2 Chronicles 29.

Pastor Ryan's Introduction to "Pause"

Pause – Day 1
Reading – Psalm 1:1-6
Tuesday morning, I awoke from a vivid dream. It was so realistic, I sat up in bed a drew the picture I had just seen in my mind. Unfortunately, I am not the artist my daughter is, but I’ll use my words to describe it. In my dream, I saw a beautiful tree planted by an easy flowing river or stream. It was the kind of tree you could go and sit under, throw your fishing pole out into the water, and take a nice long nap in the shade. However, connected to the tree were multiple extension cords, going out from it in every direction. These cords were plugged into the base and trunk, taking the energy, and using the resources of this tree. What kept the tree from dying was the substantial root system that was connected to the stream. If it wasn’t for the roots, the water, and the sun, the tree would not have been able to support itself and grow.

I am convinced we are living in the busiest time in the history of our world. If we aren’t at work, or school, or involved in some activity, we are generally staring at the screens on our phone or TV’s. The average American spends 7 hours a day, nearly 40% of their waking hours on their phones or devices. We have literally become disengaged and are constantly looking for resources to recharge our devices. When was the last time you put your phone down and took an intentional pause to just be with Jesus?

After I pondered the dream, I finally had the courage to ask God what the dream represented. The tree was me and the cords represented all the roles, situations, and people in life that I am a part of. I realized in this moment how often I try and fix issues only Jesus is meant to complete. He is the source of life we all of us need to grow and flourish. My transparency moment is realizing I can’t be the one who brings life, fixes, or restores, it must be Jesus. Each one of us is a tree, with the opportunity to be planted by a stream of life.

If you understand what I am saying and writing, or if you can see yourself as this tree, maybe it’s time to Pause. Perhaps you need an intentional break from all the distractions in your life. As we approach Resurrection Sunday, would you be willing to take a 40-Day Pause with me, just to focus on Jesus and the sacrifice He made? Let’s Pause together…