Susannah Baker

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Sunday – Mary: Resurrecting Love

On April 4, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With 3 Comments

Our journey with Jesus to the cross ends today at an empty tomb with Resurrection. His passion is a picture of our own – all suffering, if buried with Christ, is raised in everlasting life. It’s not just a myth of fairytale or far-fetched dream. It’s a promise – a promise for all those who entrust their hearts to Him. Join me this last day of the journey with a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

John 20:1-18

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

Former prostitute, demoniac, now follower of Jesus, Mary had watched the Teacher she loved endure beatings, mocking, mutilation, and finally crucifixion. At first light on the day after the Sabbath, she quickly went her way to Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body with spices for burial.

After discovering an empty tomb, running to find Simon Peter, and running back to the tomb, Mary finally stops to weep. Distraught, exhausted, weary to the point of an emotional breakdown, desperate to make some sense out of all the suffering, she weeps so much that she apparently misses the fact that the two men in verse twelve are angels. 

Enter Jesus. Ready and waiting, He is poised to give one of His closest earthly companions the unexpected gift of the resurrection. When He sees her weeping and hears the desperate nature of her request (to single handedly carry the weight of a dead man’s body probably twice her size through the garden), He breaks. “Mary.” At the sound of her Shepherd’s voice, Mary turns, and experiences incomprehensible surprise and sweetest reunion. It is a meeting of old friends who endured brutal separation, yet now are bound to one another for eternity through the blood of One and the faithful love of the other.

This morning, Christ wants to surprise you with the power of the resurrection, and just as He did with Mary, He wants to call your name. All that is dead in your soul from the trials and sorrows of life, He is waiting to resurrect. For as theologian J. Montgomery Boice writes, as we see with Mary, when love remains through the passion of the cross, not only are faith and hope resurrected, but love blooms in even greater strength.

Whatever passion you have born in this life, whatever sorrows you have suffered, whatever deaths you have endured, take heart. Jesus has overcome death and stands ready and waiting at the mouth of an empty tomb to call your name and hand you the gift of the resurrection.

Rejoice, for He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! 

Pray:

Father,

We thank You for the journey of the Passion Week, the triumph of the cross, and power of the resurrection! May we live our lives in joyful thanks and anticipation for Your love and redemption. You are worthy to be praised!

In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

Practice:

Spend time today in corporate worship, thanking and praising God for the reality of the resurrection.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.

Saturday – Nicodemus: The Transformation

On April 3, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With 4 Comments

To help us journey with Jesus towards the cross, each day this week I will post a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

John 3:16; John 19:31-42

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

The first to hear the familiar words of John 3:16 were not the disciples, nor a crowd of people on a mountainside, but Nicodemus, a leader in Israel, who came to meet with Jesus under the secret cover of night. In John 19, we see him again several years later helping Joseph of Arimathea carry the dead body of Jesus from the cross to a nearby tomb.

The transformation we see in Nicodemus from John 3 to John 19 is staggering. In chapter 3, Nicodemus is struggling and searching to understand the law with his head but lacks all connection to his heart. Jesus even asks him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?” 

But in chapter 19, Nicodemus’ head and heart connect in a powerful way as he confronts the bruised, bloodied body of his Lord. The words of John 3:16 must have come alive under the dead weight of Jesus’ body – God gave His one and only Son – in a way no one, least of all he, ever expected or imagined. No other reason explains why this prominent Pharisee would be willing to be seen with the crucified Jesus, forsaking the Law by handling the body of a dead man and becoming ceremonially unclean, particularly during Passover.

The cross transforms all true followers of Jesus. It calls us out on our questions, it confronts our concepts about church and religion, and it paints vivid, often surprising pictures of the God who loved so much that He gave us His Son Jesus Christ. We can no longer hide in the shadows for fear of identification. Like Nicodemus, we become willing to risk it all – our reputations, our lives, our wealth, our careers, our questions, our traditions – as we confront the God who so radically gave. 

What about you? Are you holding back from following Jesus from fear? From pride? From the distractions of wealth, career, and a hurried, busy life? From unanswered questions? My friend, like Nicodemus, today is the day to give your life to the God who gave you His one and only Son. Don’t want a minute longer to surrender your life and give your heart, your all, to God. If you want to take the next steps to give to God what He alone can fill, please watch the video below.

Pray:

Father,

Thank You for giving Your one and only Son. May our hearts, like Nicodemus’, be transformed by the power of the gift of the cross and all that You gave. 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Practice:

Spend ten minutes in prayer today, reflecting on the God who gave. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to give – your reputation, your career, your questions – in response to Christ on the cross.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.

Friday – The Centurion: Words of Power

On April 2, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With 4 Comments

To help us journey with Jesus towards the cross, each day this week I will post a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

Mark 15:1-41

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

To speak at all while hanging on a cross was a phenomenon in and of itself. Each phrase spoken by the victim was costly. While pushing up against the nails that held his wrists and feet in place and slowly exhaling, the victim was able to speak, and as he spoke, his lacerated back from prior scourging was drug roughly over the cross’ wooden, splintered exterior, causing pain to shoot up and down his body.

If a victim was to speak at all, he usually spoke in curses, expletives, and anger. So when Jesus expended precious breath to say, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), or when He paid no attention to the blasphemous thief on one side but told the repentant thief on the other, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), or when He had the selflessness and presence of mind to say to Mary, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27), the Roman centurion at the foot of the cross took notice.

A common centurion, on a common day, during a routine crucifixion, encountered an uncommon man with uncommon words. And when the centurion “saw the way He breathed His last,” Scripture tells us he knew this man was the Son of God.

The words of the cross are words of power, for they are words of an unearthly, heavenly kingdom, even as Christ was suffering at the hands of an earthly, brutal one.

Think, today, on the final words of Christ. Let them mark you, change you, and if they were so costly for Jesus to give, find out why they mean so much. 

Pray:

Father,

Let us listen to the Man of Sorrows whose death gave us eternal life. Humble us through His words. Change us through His suffering, humility, power and glory.

In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

Practice:

Consider giving up a meal again today. Use that time instead to meditate and pray through Jesus’ last words. Do not forget to thank Christ for saving you from the wages of your sin and the price He paid for your redemption. Thank Him for the cross.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.

Thursday – Mary His Mother: Facing Real Sorrow

On April 1, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With No Comments

To help us journey with Jesus towards the cross, each day this week I will post a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

Luke 2:21-35; John 19:25-27

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35). For years Mary must have pondered Simeon’s words. She must have thought about the sword, how it would pierce, and when it would strike. But most of all, as a mother, she must have thought about the prophesied pain of her firstborn Son. Yes, He was God in the flesh, bigger than life, but He was also hers. 

At the foot of the cross when the sword finally fell and its point finally pierced her soul, how did Mary respond? Did she reach up to touch Jesus’ face? Did she try to wipe His brow? Did she stand as close as she could, offering what relief she could? Or did she have to look away? And as she heard His cries, did she think on His first cry? Did she long to hold Him once again in her arms?

In the midst of all the uncertainties, we know one thing for sure – Mary stayed. When it would have been easy to run from her pain, Mary stayed by Jesus’ side. 

It is in the very midst of her pain that Mary shows us where to turn. When the sword pierces our soul, she shows us that we, too, can stay at the foot of the cross. For no matter how hard it is to remain, when all circumstances tell us to flee, the cross is the only place we find true comfort and strength.

Pray:

Father,

We dread the swords of life that pierce our souls. But, like Mary, show us the only place for our pain is at the foot of the cross. By her suffering Son’s side is where we find the mercy, grace, peace, and surrender needed to carry on.

In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

Practice:

Take an extra fifteen minutes today of solitude. Go for a walk in a park or close the door to your office or bedroom. Think about the specific sorrows and suffering you are carrying, and then prayerfully bring them to the foot of the cross where our only true comfort is found. Linger in Christ’s Presence at the foot of the cross, and draw on the comfort and strength He alone provides.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.

Wednesday – John: Beloved Friend

On March 31, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With No Comments

To help us journey with Jesus towards the cross, each day this week I will post a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

John 19:1-30

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

As much as John must have feared the events of the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, his love ultimately won out over his fear. Whereas Peter fled, John stood fixed at the foot of the cross. One can imagine John soaking in his last moments with Jesus – one last look, one last touch, one last moment with his teacher and friend. 

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, John was known as “the disciple Jesus loved,” and in His last few breaths, Jesus even trusted John with the care of one of His most treasured possessions – His mother.

Do you have a friend like that? A friend who, when every other friend has fled, remains? A friend who, when the skies are blackest, comes to sit beside you to take care of any requests or needs? Few people know friendship like that. But, surprisingly enough, just like John, we are called Jesus’ “beloved” and “friend.” 

The night before He died, Jesus told His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…” (John 15:15). 

Friendship is what the cross was for. Through the cross, Christ pulls us close, draws us in, and we too become privy to His requests and needs. We hear His cries and see His heart, all because, through His sacrifice, He has called us “friend.”

Over the next few days, stand with John at the foot of the cross. Spend time walking, talking, praying, and listening. Just as with John, intimate friendship with Christ is waiting.

Pray:

Father,

Through the death of Your Son, You pulled down every barrier that stood between us and friendship with You. Let us learn to walk with You, delight in You, and talk with You, as much as we would with our most beloved friend.

In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

Practice:

To focus on friendship with Christ, spend an extra ten minutes to an hour today (whatever your time allows) reading Jesus’ last words to His disciples in John 14-17. Turn off your phone, screens, or any other distractions. Focus, for that time, on hearing His voice. Hear Him call you “friend.”

Tuesday – Peter: Facing Your Fears

On March 30, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With No Comments

To help us journey with Jesus towards the cross, each day this week I will post a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

Mark 14:53-72

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

Brash, bold, confident Peter froze as soon as the sounds of violence began. He had followed the chained and handcuffed Jesus all the way to the high priest’s courtyard and inched as close as he could to the trial inside. And although it’s not clear what Peter heard from his fireside position, we know that whatever it was must have put ice in his veins. For once the sounds of Jesus’ abuse started, the denials of even knowing his Lord came quickly – once, twice, three times – before he even had time to think.

Would we have fled from the pain of the cross like Peter? Would we have denied Christ by the smoking fire in the courtyard of the high priest, with sounds of the beatings and blows of our Lord echoing throughout the darkness below? Perhaps.

But most of us flee every day. We look at the cross in the fullness of its power and pain and say, “No thank you. I’ll take the easy way out.” Yet daily we are to pick up our cross and follow Him, no matter where the path of Passion leads. Daily we are to die to self and rise to walk in the life only Christ can give.

Tradition has it that Peter died a martyr’s death by crucifixion – upside down. So somewhere between Jesus’ crucifixion and his own, Peter overcame his fear of suffering and pain. And like Peter, we must eventually come to the place of saying, “Yes, Lord. I have shirked the pain before, but I am willing to die every day from here on out. No matter the cost, I want to follow You.” 

Pray:

Father,

The thought of suffering for You scares us; we want to avoid pain at all costs. Yet in spite of ourselves, give us a desire to walk Your road, no matter the obstacles or the persecution in the way. We want to follow You.

In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

Practice:

Instead of eating lunch today, consider using that hour to spend with the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to show you what fears hinder you from walking the road of the cross. Let Him show you how to let go and walk in the freedom and secure love that comes from following Christ.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.

Monday – Two Thieves: What is Your Response?

On March 29, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With No Comments

To help us journey with Jesus towards the cross, each day this week I will post a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

Luke 23:33-49

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

Common criminals. Thieves. Insurrectionists. The two men crucified on either side of Christ were most likely common, petty thieves, prone to violence or the equivalent of modern-day guerillas who hid in the nearby hills, wreaking havoc and taking revenge on the hated Roman government. Either way, they were men living on the edge, eking out a living, barely able to scrape by for a piece of bread or for their cause. Yet in their last moments on earth, they were crucified next to an innocent man who forgave His enemies, suffered silently, and refused to insult or curse those who cursed Him.

The meek and humble manner in which Christ faced death infuriated one thief. “Who,” he wondered, “while being reviled…did not revile in return; while suffering…uttered no threats” (I Peter 2:23)? Who, this thief must have concluded, but the guilty. Therefore, he joined with those around the cross and hurled insults at the seemingly weak, broken man.

The other thief, a common criminal, recognized what the rulers and Pharisees standing around the cross could or would not – here beside him, cursed and hanging on a tree, was the Son of God. And the humility of Christ brought forth the humility and the repentance of the criminal.

We too cannot “Behold the Man” and turn away without giving a response. Encountering His silent suffering forces each of us to make a decision as it did the two thieves. Either He is guilty and He deserves His suffering, or He is innocent and He is Lord. This week of Passion, gaze upon the broken and bruised Man hanging on a tree, uttering nothing but forgiveness, kindness, and humility. And decide…what is your response? 

Pray:

Father,

May our response to your Son this week ultimately glorify You. Do not let us turn aside from the cross without the appropriate response of repentance, brokenness, and humility. Thank You for the cross, dear Savior, Lord, and Friend. 

In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

Practice:

To turn off distractions and focus on Christ, consider turning off all music, radio, and podcasts in your car. Use your time instead to focus on your response to the Man of all Sorrows, broken and bruised for you.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.

Sunday – Simon of Cyrene: Carrying Your Cross

On March 28, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With 2 Comments

To help us journey with Jesus towards the cross, each day this week I will post a scripture to read, a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect, a prayer to pray, and a practice or suggested discipline to carry out.

Read the Scriptures:

Luke 23:26-32

Reflect on a Face of the Cross:

Simon of Cyrene walked the journey of a lifetime. A foreigner, probably a visitor to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, Simon was hidden in the crowd among a sea of faces, most likely wanting only to blend in to the mass of humanity around him. But suddenly he was jerked out of his anonymity into a murderous march of death amidst an angry, volatile crowd, all to carry the cross of a man he probably did not know. 

Simon’s journey in carrying the cross was exactly that – a journey. A process. Long, slow, laborious, steps behind a man who was headed towards eventual execution. But his journey was not a choice. Ours is, with full recognition that the journey of the cross isn’t for everyone – it’s just for an obedient few. 

The week of Passion, we, like Simon, stand on the brink of a journey. While looking at the crowd, taking in the violent opposition around us, and beholding the bloodied, beaten man in front of us, we face a choice – do we take up the cross and join in the journey, or do we walk in the other direction, leaving passion behind? 

This week, join in the journey. Take up the cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24). The road is one of sorrow and suffering, but resurrection is waiting. Are you ready for the journey?

Pray:

Father,

We stand at the crossroads, on the brink of the most significant week in all of history, and hear the question, “Are you ready for the journey?”

Enable us in obedience to lay our lives down, pick up the cross, and follow You on Your road of passion. 

In Jesus’ Name we pray, amen.

Practice:

To keep your feet moving in the direction of the cross today, consider fasting from screens. Put down your phone, turn off your favorite shows, and spend extra time in the Gospels reading about the journey of Christ and the cross. 

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.

Journey to the Cross

On March 27, 2021, Posted by , in Easter, Lent, With No Comments

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the day that begins “Passion Week,” Jesus’ journey to the cross.

“Passion,” to borrow Christian pastor and author Louie Giglio’s definition, is “the degree of difficulty we are willing to endure to reach the goal.”  In His final walk to the cross, Christ gave the world the ultimate demonstration of single-minded, whole-hearted, God-centered suffering and passion.  Yet in the joy and celebration leading up to Easter Sunday, Christ’s journey of passion is often one we tend to forget. 

Traditionally, the week before Easter, Passion Week, is part of what is known as Lent, a season of preparation and reflection known in the Orthodox church as Bright Sadness.  This season is sad because it is a time of reflecting on the depth of our sin and what it ultimately cost Christ.  But it is also bright because we know that beyond the cross lays the empty tomb. 

To help us enter into the significance of this week, each day I will post:

  • a Scripture to read
  • a face from the journey of the cross on which to reflect
  • a prayer to pray
  • a practice or suggested discipline to carry out

Walk the road of Calvary as Simon of Cyrene carries the cross, listen as Peter faces his fears through the cross, and watch as Nicodemus is transformed by the cross. Prayerfully, each step of passion will take us closer to the joy of Resurrection Sunday.  Walking through the sadness of this final week will make the brightness of Sunday morning dawn with that much more intensity.

This week, join me in the journey to the cross.

Easter Nests

On April 26, 2014, Posted by , in Lent, With No Comments

Meet my sister-in-law, Haley. She homeschools her two boys, grows a garden in her backyard, cooks excellent meals, is a born-and-bred-nurturer, and always makes the running of her household seem like a smooth and easy task. She is prepared for every holiday at least two days in advance, while I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Think Ma from Little House on the Prairie (minus the girdle), and you’ve pretty much got the right picture. Plus, she is beautiful to boot.

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(She’s the last one on the left!)

So it comes as no surprise that she had the best idea when it came to making Easter baskets….she introduced us to the Easter Nest.

The Saturday night before Resurrection morning, she takes her boys out to the grassy area behind my in-law’s ranch house and helps them build their Easter Nest with rocks and grass. The next morning the boys awake to see what the Easter bunny has left in their nests.

For the past three years, Aunt Haley has helped my girls build their own Easter Nest, and the tradition has stuck. Who needs wicker baskets and bows when rocks and grass make a much cozier spot for the Easter Bunny?

This year, the image of the nest and the grass brought to mind the words from the prophet Isaiah: “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

So on Easter morning, my girls awoke to find the words to Psalm 19:7-11 in their Nests:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.”

Most of the gifts we will give our children this year will fade. Most of them will break. Or get lost or thrown out or worn out.

But one thing will never fade or wear out or burn out, nor will your children ever tire of its beauty or its reward: The Word of God.

We will build lots of nests for our children this year. We build them nests to come home to after a long day at school. We build nests for them on sports teams or in a special interests or hobbies. We build nests in the vacations we take and in the fun outings we make. But are you building them nests, day in and day out, that house the Word of God in their lives?

One day, when they have homes of their own, and tragedies of their own, and struggles, triumphs, joys, and tears of their own, will they have nests of the Word planted deep within them?

Do not make the mistake of satisfying your children with building them the nests you think they want; build them the nests they NEED and fill them with what will LAST.

“The grass withers.” Just look at our Easter Nests now, gone with the heat of the sun.

“And the flowers fade.” Just look at the lilies from our table on Easter Sunday, brown with uprooting.

“But the Word of God stands forever.” The Scripture that is planted in their hearts yesterday and today will abide in their hearts forever, springing forth into eternal reward.

As Easter People, sitting at an Easter Table, build Easter Nests, filling them with the Word of God, which will last forever.