Passion Devos

Passion Week marks the events
that surround the last week of Jesus' life on this earth.  
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David Scruggs
Growing up, I loved sports, but now I'm old enough to face the reality that my love and passion for sports didn't always translate into skill and success.  I can remember the classic school yard team picks.  One by one the captains would choose their friends and the best players.  Often I was either at the end or close to the end.

It's no fun being left out.  It's really no fun to be left out because you know that your previous failures have followed you and are being remembered by others.

On this Easter Sunday ... we have a lot to celebrate!  At day break, just after sunrise, some women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body.  When they arrived, the stone had been rolled away!

As they entered the tomb, they saw an angel that told them that Jesus was not there!  He was alive!  They were overjoyed!

I love what Mark 16:7 says, "But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

That line ... "Go tell his disciples and Peter" stand out to me on this Easter day!  Peter, who was with Jesus for His entire ministry, who claimed at the Lord's Supper that he would die for Jesus, who cut off a guard's ear at the arrest ... denied Jesus three times in the courtyard as Jesus was being put on trial.  

I'm sure that Peter felt like a failure.  I'm sure that he thought that this moment of denial would follow him the rest of his life.  He probably felt like the other disciples would never pick him to be around them again.

However, the angel specifically instructs the women to make sure Peter is included in hearing the great news of the resurrection!

On this Easter, I want to encourage you to know that no matter what you've done.  No matter what is in your past.  No matter how unqualified you feel, Jesus loves you and He wants you to be included in receiving the message that because of His resurrection, you can experience hope, forgiveness, mercy and grace!

Happy Easter!
Becki Diaz
Youth Pastor
Have you ever had someone make an empty promise to you?
For many years my father would promise me that he would stop drinking. That he would sober up, and make some life changes. For many years he broke that promise. Every weekend actually.

For all those years my family and I prayed that he would stop.  Each time we prayed there was this silence.  Maybe you have these silent days too. You know the silence that comes after the prayer and before the answer.  The silence between the struggle and the solution. It felt like the silence would last forever.

When I think about this weekend, I find myself thinking about the followers of Jesus.  After they witnessed Jesus do all that He did; the parables, the stories, the miracles. Only to watch the same man get killed during a holiday that celebrates God keeping His promises for His people.
Wasn’t He supposed to save them?  Wasn’t He supposed to set them free? Now they sit in silence as Jesus’ body was laid to rest. I think to myself Their one day of silence probably felt like my 14 years of waiting.

So, what do we do now? What do we do when it’s silent?

Acts 2:22-26 MSG "I saw God before me for all time.  Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side. I’m glad from the inside out, ecstatic; I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.  I know you’ll never dump me in Hades;  I’ll never even smell the stench of death. You’ve got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around. "

We need to be like Jesus and TRUST GOD. Jesus knew God wasn’t finished at the grave. We need to be patient and pitch a tent right there in that silence and know that God heard us, and is with us and He isn’t finished with us either.
We need to remember that God’s word is never wrong, broken or empty. We need to remember that the only thing that will ever be empty is the tomb.
Michelle Scruggs
Fridays are a day that bring lots of joy to people as we know we have reached the end of the week.  We often hear it called “FRI-yay”! On Fridays, there is a moment that comes to bring a break to the craziness of the demands that come about within the week.  There is something just beautiful about reaching that moment on a Friday afternoon when you know that your responsibilities are finished.

Yet, many Fridays ago, Jesus knew that His responsibilities were just getting started.  Jesus had been up all the previous night after being arrested in the garden.  He had stood Trial in front of both Herod and Pilate, while crowds of bystanders were shouting for him to be crucified.  Jesus had carried His cross to the place where they would pierce his hands and feet with spikes. Yet, in those moments while in all His pain and agony, He took a moment to have an important conversation with the thief on the nearby cross to secure a forever destiny in paradise.  Also, while on the cross, Jesus took a moment to give instructions to John to take care of his Mother.  He also asked God to forgive all those who had done all these things to him.
Then, around noon it suddenly became dark.  I imagine that in those moments, everyone began looking around.  They might have been confused as to what was happening.  Some might have been convinced that a storm was coming their way.  Even though darkness hovered over the earth for three hours, it must have felt like an eternity.  At the end of those dark-filled three hours, Jesus calls out again to his Father to ask why He had forsaken him. And, then, Jesus died.

Many feel that there is no reason to call this particular day a “Good Friday”.  Perhaps there have been days filled with moments like that for you.  Days where nothing seemed to go right.  Moments where others were accusing you of things that you had not done.  Days where darkness seems to crowd around you, causing you to feel all alone.  Matthew 27:51 tells us that “at that moment the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.”

Take confidence in knowing that the MOMENT when Jesus Died, the temple curtain that had once been a physical barrier between God and man was TORN from the TOP to the BOTTOM.  That MOMENT tells us that our Heavenly Father desires to have communication with US …with YOU.  At that Moment on Good Friday, Jesus made a way for us to have communication with God the Father, a relationship with Him, and an undeniable peace from the Holy Spirit.  No matter what MOMENT you may find yourself in, know that You are so important to God that He moved Heaven and Earth to be involved in all the moments of your life.
Faith De Zort
Lead Team
I have never been one of those people that are able to stay up all night long. Even as a teenager at a youth group lock-in, I would reach a point where I was simply too tired to stay awake. I remember finding a spot on the floor under some chairs (I think I was afraid of being pranked if I slept out in the open) and crashing until it was time to go home. Because of this, I have always been sympathetic with the disciples who were asked to stay awake while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. I mean, they had already had a very long day and they couldn’t even rely on coffee to help them stay awake. To me, it was only natural that they would keep drifting off. I never really understood why Jesus was so upset when he came back and found them sleeping. That is until I stumbled across a random verse in the book of Exodus.

You’re probably thinking you read that wrong. I mean, what does Exodus have to do with Jesus praying at Gethsemane? A large part of the beginning of the book of Exodus deals with the deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Their last night of captivity was the very first night of Passover. When God is giving Moses the instructions for this very important feast, He says something that I think is key to understanding Jesus’ actions in the garden. In Exodus 13:42, God gives this command: “Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them (the Israelites) out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the LORD for the generations to come.”

Did you just have an “aha” moment? I know I did the first time I read that verse. God had commanded the Israelites “for the generations to come” to stay up and keep vigil the first night of Passover. Jesus was following this command when He went to the garden to pray. And it also makes sense why He expected the disciples to do the same. This was a command they should have been following their entire lives. They should have been in the practice of staying up and praying the first night of Passover. While this command does not necessarily apply to us today, I believe there is a really good Biblical truth we can learn from it. God holds us accountable for our actions and our inactions. James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” I would encourage you today to take some time to pray and ask God if there is an area of your life where He is calling you to take action or to do the good you know you should be doing. No matter what it is, our response should be that of Jesus as He prayed in the garden, “...not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Derek Cone
Heart & Soul Coordinator
“Did anyone watch the show last night?” This was the go-to conversation starter being 12 years old. Pro-Wrestling, sports, video games, and friends. I had it all. In 7th grade, if you cared about these things, we could have been best friends. Five days a week, we would ask wise and thoughtful questions about life: “Do you think Hulk Hogan is going to come back to wrestling? Did anyone hear they’re making a PlayStation 2!?” Life didn’t have so many twists and turns. Friends could stick together at this age. At least, that’s what I thought. Being 12, and having a good friend betray you, is painful.

In the early 90’s, my brother and I collected baseball cards. That thrilling pack opening experience created an interest into buying other types of collection cards. In addition to sports cards, there were superhero cards, pro-wrestling cards, and Pokémon cards that became a big thing in the 90’s. I had the three ring bingers, with the Ultra-Pro 9-Pocket pages to protect the exquisite treasure of my 12 year old’s heart. These combinations of cards were worth as much as my dad’s truck or my mom’s jewelry. That’s what I told myself. I invested so much time into studying the cards, keeping them organized, and protecting them. One night, one of my best friends stayed over with me. Like any normal sleepover that age, we stayed up too late and we ate too much. The next morning, I said goodbye as he was getting picked up. Within a few hours I went back to my cards, since we were talking about the newest and coolest I recently picked up. I ruffled through my pages and … it was gone. My newest card, the shiny one, the holographic one, the one with the name I couldn’t pronounce …. was gone. I called my friend and asked him if he accidently taken it. He denied it. Days later at school, I found out from another good friend that the card was taken by my friend who stayed over.

Jesus had twelve really close friends. On this Wednesday, there was a spy amongst the disciples. Someone who found greed and selfishness more important in a moment, than friendship and future. Matthew 26:14-16, “Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” I don’t want to pretend a friend stealing a Pokémon card is even in the same ballpark as turning Jesus over to the authorities. However, 12 year old me was crushed. I asked myself questions like, “Why?” “Was this a real friend?” “Is this how much our friendship is worth?” “Should I confront him?” “What’s next?” I envision Jesus asking himself similar questions once he knew Judas’ fate.

Maybe you’ve been the friend who has betrayed someone. You did something that you’re ashamed of. Something you don’t share with people because of the guilt, the embarrassment. You believe that if you ask for forgiveness, you won’t be forgiven. You believe if you share with people what you’ve done, people will say things you never wanted to hear. They’ll never trust you again once the cat is out of the bag or the skeletons fall out of the closet. I encourage both sides, the betrayed and the betrayer to reflect on Psalms 139:23, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

We can use today as a time to reflect. I’m praying that we all pause today and examine ourselves. Where have we chosen selfishness over righteousness? What Pokémon cards have you taken, now wishing you could return? Can you extend forgiveness today? When pressure mounts, and there is a twist or turn in your story, stand strong and be faithful. Jesus’ story wasn’t over at this point in the week, and neither is yours.
Jeff De Zort
Hope Group Coordinator
Have you ever trusted someone and then had the wool pulled over your eyes? I sure have . . . multiple times in fact. One of the more embarrassing times was when my wife Faith and I were newly married and our insurance agent approached us to schedule an insurance “review.” Our agent whom my family had trusted for years wanted to schedule a meeting with Faith and I after we got married and settled as a couple. He even offered to come over to our apartment! Oh how thoughtful! What we thought would be a review of our auto and renters insurance turned into a sales pitch for life insurance. . . . well I know this NOW! At the time all I could remember was nodding my head a whole lot. Hook line and sinker. I had NO clue what I was getting into and it wasn’t until we got our first month’s insurance bill that I realized what was going on. What?! Why are we paying this extra money? How do we pay this extra money? We were led astray, mainly because we didn’t know what was coming.

Preparing for this devotional I realized that on Tuesday of Holy Week, three of the four Gospels record a teaching that Jesus shared with His disciples about the end times. Jesus was teaching in the Temple and made the claim that the Temple was going to fall and not one stone be left unturned. This was shocking and inconceivable! So much so that the disciples asked Jesus privately after the fact when these things would occur. Instead of answering their question directly, Jesus says these words: “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.”

Jesus is sharing with His closest followers that false teachers would be coming and they would be coming in His name. Using the reputation of the great teacher, these false teachers would begin to lead people away from the truth for their own glory and their follower’s destruction. But Jesus in His great mercy gives warning. He says “Keep an eye out! People will be coming and they are going to try and sell you something that you don’t want. They will even come under my banner and use my name to get themselves in the door. If you aren’t careful they will deceive you and you are going to lose more than a monthly insurance bill.” (Jeff’s paraphrase)

Jesus was teaching the disciples and us to be prepared and know what is coming. He is encouraging us to store up God’s word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him. My wife and I hadn’t done any research on life insurance and because we didn’t know the truth we were easily led astray. The same can be said about us spiritually. If we don’t make spending time in God’s word and with Jesus a priority, we won’t be able to recognize the difference between Jesus and an imposter. The more time that we spend with Jesus the easier it is for us to discern the truth from the lies and Scripture says that truth will set us free.
This Easter season ask yourself, “Would I be able to recognize Jesus’ truth?”
Alysha Cone
Lead Team
Growing up from the age of 5 through middle school I had a best friend. We did everything together. At one time we were inseparable. When it comes to personalities, I have a pretty go with the flow attitude. This friend was pretty controlling. It got to the point of being jealous of any other friendships I had. I remember one day as a teenager, I made a choice to distance myself from her. This was not a healthy or fruitful friendship.

Today on Holy Monday, there are two uncharacteristic stories involving Jesus. We read about Jesus cleansing the temple and then later cursing the fig tree. It’s important that we recognize the connection between these two stories.

In Matthew 21  Jesus enters Jerusalem. Jesus entered the temple courtyard. He began to drive out all those who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of the people who were exchanging money. He also turned over the benches of those who were selling doves. He said to them, “It is written that the Lord said, ‘My house will be called a house where people can pray.’ But you are making it ‘a den for robbers.’  Matthew 21:12-13 NIRV

When I read this verse, my mind tends to focus on ‘a den for robbers.’
We can find this term used in the book of Jeremiah as well. I believe this can help us gain insight in the way Jesus was referring to people in the temple.

“While you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my name, and say, ‘we are safe’ – safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my name become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! Declares the Lord” Jeremiah 7:9-11

The den of robbers is not necessarily where the theft is taking place. Jeremiah is sharing that this is where the robbers go to shield themselves from the consequence of their behavior. During this period, Israel had adopted the mindset that the temple’s sacrificial system covered all of their iniquities.

 On the surface, it appears Jesus is trying to reform the behaviors of the people in the temple. If that were the case, they would be back selling again hours after Jesus left. This was much more that. This was a prophetic judgement on the temple that Jesus later explains to his disciples.

Later, Jesus leaves the city to go to Bethany. The next morning is when we read of where Jesus curses the fig tree. This is my favorite part!

"Early in the morning, Jesus was on his way back to Jerusalem. He was hungry. He saw a fig tree by the road. He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Right away the tree dried up." Matthew 21:18-19

In Mark 11:13, the story says it was not season for figs.  When we look at the crop cycle for a fig tree, the tree first produces fruit then leaves form. From afar, the tree looks lush and full. But, upon inspection it was fruitless. It had the appearance of fruitfulness.

I believe there is a connect between the fig tree and the temple. The tree had the appearance of fruitfulness, but was fruitless. Being in the temple had the appearance of fruitfulness, but the people were fruitless. Not only is Jesus calling out the hypocrisy, he was living out the parable and the cleansing of the temple that would soon come.
Just a little side note, did you know that the cursing of the fig tree is the only destructive miracle Jesus performed? I find that fascinating.
Just like my childhood friendship that looked good on the outside, it was not producing fruit on the inside. Just as Jesus cursed the fig tree because it was fruitless, I ended the friendship for the same reason.
Examine your life today. Is there anything in your life that is not producing fruit? Do you need to get rid of it? Are you in a season to bear fruit? Look to Jesus this week when you need to make a tough decision.
Orlando Diaz
Youth Pastor
Growing up, the one situation that always made me uncomfortable was being in line at the grocery store and my mom telling me that she forgot something. As I placed the groceries on the conveyor belt, I thought: Where is she? I don’t have money for this? Where did she go? Panic set in. Eventually she would return just in time, and the weight of the world would be lifted off my shoulders. But it didn’t take away the fact that the situation was uncomfortable.

As we start our journey towards Easter, I am reminded of a situation that was very important but also put the disciples into an uncomfortable spot.

Matthew 21:1-8 "When Jesus and his disciples came near Jerusalem, he went to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives and sent two of them on ahead. 2 He told them, “Go into the next village, where you will at once find a donkey and her colt. Untie the two donkeys and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks why you are doing that, just say, ‘The Lord needs them.’ Right away he will let you have the donkeys.” 4 So God’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, 5  “Announce to the people of Jerusalem: ‘Your king is coming to you! He is humble and rides on a donkey. He comes on the colt of a donkey.’” 6 The disciples left and did what Jesus had told them to do. 7 They brought the donkey and its colt and laid some clothes on their backs. Then Jesus got on. 8 Many people spread clothes in the road, while others put down branches which they had cut from trees."

Look at this bizarre moment. Jesus sent his disciples into a village to steal a donkey. As Jesus was making his Triumphant Entry on the back of the donkey, never once did this donkey think this celebration was about him. The donkey is certainly important here, but he must have known that Jesus was the star of the show. He was just a willing vessel and vehicle. Whenever you do some good in this world, make sure it’s all about Jesus. Don’t help someone in the community and look around waiting for the glory: it’s all about Jesus. Don’t drop $100 in the offering and hope someone noticed: it’s all about Jesus. Don’t read your Bible for the first time in two months and spend half the time taking a good Instagram photo. It’s all about Jesus.
God does not call us to a life of convenience. He calls us to a life of obedience. I’m sure the disciples felt awkward but they obeyed anyway. That uncomfortable moment for them led to a glorious moment that began Holy Week. 
We need to be the donkey and carry Jesus into our world. 
Jesus preached that He was preparing a new Kingdom. One that was built on humility, service, and love. We have the opportunity to carry the Kingdom wherever we go. It is our responsibility to carry Jesus into our schools, cities, communities, and workplaces. We get to BE THE DONKEY. So carry Jesus into this week wherever you go.