Lent Devotions Day 37: “Kiss of Death”

“Kiss of Death”

by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

“And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”” – Mark 14:18

“While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus said to him,“Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” – Luke 22:47-48



Have you heard the saying, “With friends like that, why have enemies?”  I am assuming that [perhaps] this saying was birthed out of the Judas narrative.  I mean, this has to be the only singular moment in the history of humanity where someone was betrayed by a person in whom they trusted.  Right?  I mean, now a days this doesn’t happen.  No one has alternate motives.  Jesus was the only person to whom anything remotely close to this has happened.

Maybe not.  Maybe you can place yourselves in this situation, where you’ve placed your trust in someone and you’ve been betrayed.

But I’ll submit that for Jesus, this betrayal is different.  You see, Jesus, while a man, was the Savior of humanity.  He had performed miracles.  He had rescued.  He had healed.  He had delivered.  He was the Son of the Living God.  He was Messiah.

And yet, for a few coins, Judas betrays Jesus with a symbol of his affection towards him.

we are

Time to flip the script.  You see, while this has happened to us, the truer reality is that we have done this.  We’re Judas in this story.  We’re the ones that, at the sight of something earthly and temporary have thrown Jesus into the hands of the world and have turned our back on him.

what now?

It’s time to get real.  Jesus is about to get crucified for our sin.  Will you let him hang on the cross like that?  Take time in prayer today to see the coins  you have accepted in Jesus’ place.  It’s time to repent and turn back to him.

Lent Devotions Day 33: “Fitting Room”

“Fitting Room
by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Col. 3:12

For the sake of transparency, I have gained a few pounds over the last few months. The other day I was trying on a shirt at the store. Whaddya know… it didn’t fit.

In my defense, it was incorrectly placed. It was too small for me even before the slight addition to my natural body warmer (lol). It didn’t fit.

It was a nice shirt too… At least how it looked. But it wasn’t made for me.

This passage admonishes us to put on ourselves a different kind of clothing. Lets face it. We do not always choose to pick these up. Instead we walk about with the pants of anger, the shoes of bitterness, the shirt of impatience, and the jacket of pride. It looks like it suits us, but try as we try, these will never fit. We will always be out of sync when wearing the,. Why? Because we were not created for them and they were not created for us.

what now?

Think of today, and maybe yesterday as well. Ask The Lord to show you where you clothed yourselves in the articles in that passage. Then, ask him to show you where he offered you the opportunity to do so and you wore something else instead. Let’s pick up what fits us best.

Lent Devotions Day 32: “Smoke”


by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator


“After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.” – John 21:1 ESV

This week, much of the world was drawn to their television sets and smartphone devices. Whether Catholic, Christian, Atheist or Muslim, many were waiting for the smoke to exit the chimney of the Sistene Chapel, announcing whether or not a new pope had been selected at the Conclave.  On the second day, white smoke emerged, and an hour later the official announcement, “Habemus Papam.”

There’s something to be said about the long-standing tradition of the white smoke signaling to the people that the [Catholic believer’s] holy one had been appointed.  It was their way of revealing the news.  In the hour that it took for Pope Francis to emerge from inside, while not knowing who the pope was, everyone knew that he was there.  There was no more need to look for smoke.

Sadly, we’re not the same when it comes to Jesus.  The passage above was not the first time that Christ had appeared to the disciples post-resurrection.  This happens after the well-known “doubting Thomas” passage.

Jesus had just defeated death, already appeared to them, and yet he appears to them again.

what now?

God defeated something on your behalf.  God told you something.  God is leading you somewhere.  And yet, while he has revealed himself to you time and time again, you still wander looking for more white smoke.  Ask the Lord the places in your life in which he has evidently spoken / worked / guided.  Are you doubting it’s Him?  Are you still looking around for what He has already revealed?  Stop looking and start celebrating.  Jesus defeated death.  He is here.

Lent Devotions Day 31: “Extra, Extra!”

 Extra, Extra”

by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

“Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son.  This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.”  – Brennan Manning


The potter was working on his next piece.  He was carefully molding the clay as he fashioned the object out of what was originally a lump.  As it began to take form, the potter’s eyes grew wider and wider.  He knew what the piece would look like in the end, although it had far to get there.

Unfortunately, as he built the clay upward there was a defect in the piece.  The potter had a choice.  He could continue building it up.  In his foresight, however, he knew that if he continued that small defect would be detrimental to the piece later.  He chose to start over.

If the clay could talk, can you imagine how much of a failure it may have felt like?  To have been in the hands of the master potter, only to be crumbled down by the defects it had?

The key to remember is that there’s nothing the clay can do to fix itself.  It is fully dependent on the potter to remove the deficiencies and restore it to its best potential.

what now?

Think about the areas in your life in which you continue to try to manufacture yourself into a masterpiece.  Ask the Lord to lead you and show you how to allow Him to finish the work He began in you.

It is not by anything we do… it is through Him… it is through His love… He is the one who restores us.  THAT is the Good News.

Lent Devotions Day 19: “Healing – Free for the Taking!”

“Healing – Free for the Taking!”

by Isaac Watson, ATS Graduate Intern


“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” – Matthew 10:8


There’s a Mennonite community in South America that supports itself by selling homegrown vegetables at a farmers’ market. A few years ago, a man broke in and stole all of their money. Eventually the man was caught, the money was returned and he was sent to jail. Rather than insisting he get the maximum sentence, the community requested he serve the minimum time. While the man was in jail, the Mennonites began construction on a new home on their property. Upon his release, the Mennonite community found the former thief and offered him the newly built home. Touched by the offer, the man accepted. Now he is an active member of the community, having made a 180-degree turnaround and become a welcomed help to the farmers’ market and a valued member of the community.

The Mennonite community is a faithful one: to the man who had stolen, they offer the forgiving grace Jesus has extended to them, reminiscent of Jesus’ interaction with the thief who asked for forgiveness on the cross found in Luke 23. Sickness manifests in so many ways; so does healing. The Mennonites offer healing to the former thief by forgiving him and providing him with a home. Rather than responding in a vindictive way, which would have been the supposed “realistic,” “normal,” “acceptable” response, the Mennonites took the “unrealistic” and “unexpected” route, providing the ex-offender with much-needed forgiveness and shelter.

what now?

Extending the grace of forgiveness like the Mennonites did is the antithesis of the vengeful selfishness that the world is full of. It is up to us to offer to others Christ-like grace in all forms. The result will be many people experiencing holistic healing and coming into relationship with Christ. Transformation! We have received freely from the hand of our generous God; let’s likewise freely give to others, becoming world-healers — like Jesus — in the process.

Lent Devotions Day 1: “He Gave”

He Gave”

by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator



“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  – Romans 6:23

“…who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,…” – Galatians 1:4

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

““Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” – Joel 2:12-13


One of the most vivid depictions that I have seen of what the scriptures tell us that Jesus endured is shown in Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ.  Watching it a the theater I knew how the story went and knew how it ended.  There is a difference, however, with reading something and seeing what it possibly was like.

He was flogged with whips to the point of exposing flesh.  He was beaten to the point of nearly being unrecognizable.  The crown of thorns they placed probably had 2-inch thorns that slowly and painfully pierced the skin on his head as they pushed it further and further onto his scalp.  He was embarrassed; having to traverse the ‘Via Dolorosa’ with a cross on his shoulder as they mocked him and spit on him.  His hands and feet were nailed to the cross as he was hoisted up.  They pierced his side and they waited.

The truth is that it should have been you and me.  I know that might seem like a cliche phrase that you’ve heard have-a-thousand times, but it’s the reality… that the sins of humanity… that our sin… that your sin… that my sin were the reason he died.  That is what our contribution in this story was.  But that’s not how the entire story goes.

Our penalty for our sin was death.  But Christ gave himself freely, bearing our sins on the cross, so that we might have life.

“‘Even now’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’

Rend your heart… Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate,”


what now?

In the coming weeks, we will journey together, as a community, preparing our hearts.  It’s a time of prayer, repentance and fasting.

Lent is about preparing ourselves to receive that which He gave to us… His Son.  God gave himself, for you… for me.  He sacrificed his very life so that you and I could live.

As we begin this journey, what is the Lord asking you to give?  It isn’t about not having, it’s about willingly surrendering yourself to Him to receive something better in return.


… and we wait… 

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