Sunday, April 5, 2020

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday, a day that marks the beginning of the week that ends in Easter.  Here is the Biblical account of why we call it Palm Sunday.

And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here.“And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’ ”


So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them.  But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” 

And they said, “The Lord has need of him.”  Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him.  And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.
 
Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:

“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
 
And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”  
 
But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Luke 19:28-40 NKJV
 
As the week goes on, these very same people who were praising him were shouting to crucify Him. 

When I think of our current situation, the only thing I have to compare it to is 9/11.  After 9/11, people were flocking to God in droves.  I realize that people can not flock to church, but I rarely hear any mention of God through this. I hear fear, I hear anger at those who do not obey their version of social distancing, and I hear frustration.  I hear this even among believers as we all cave to fear and not to Truth.  We forget that God is in control.  We forget that no matter how or why or where this virus originated, it was allowed for by God and for a purpose.  The question should be not what we can do about the virus, but what purpose is there in God allowing it?  

Think about how this passage and how it relates to society today.  Has society upheld the Truth?  Has society chosen what God says is right instead of what is right in our own minds?  Have we rejected God?  Today, instead of upholding what God has said is true, we upheld what we think should be truth.  In today's world, loving God is called hatred and is some places the Bible is called hate speech.  We have no god but ourselves and that is reflected in that we all do what is right in our own eyes.  We were once a society that praised God but now we are a society that ridicules those who do.  
 
I am not writing this from a standpoint of fire and brimstone.  I do not believe that God is judging the world.  When judgement does come, it will be a lot more certain and a lot more harsh than this (for some in the Bible it was literally fire and brimstone).  I am writing this from a standpoint of grace.  Easter is about the judgement of sin, but in the person of Jesus Christ who bore those sins for us.  It is about a new life we can have in Christ and a God is always calling us back to him no matter how far we have strayed or how hard we have fought him.  No one can run so far as to escape the love of God and no one can out-sin the grace of God.  No matter where you are, no matter what you have done, no matter how much you have rejected God, no matter how much you have persecuted the church, and no matter how much you have insulted and hated God yourself, Jesus paid for your sins and that free gift of salvation is available to you. 
 
If there is a purpose to this, and I believe there is, that purpose is for us to turn from our rejection and back into His love.  His love brings peace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ brings eternal peace in the assurance of our salvation through His sacrifice.  
 
In closing, there is a certain irony to the Easter story and a great illustration of God's love for us.  The people who rejected Jesus and shouted to crucify Him were all part of the plan.  If Pilate had released Jesus as he wanted to, he never would have laid down his life not just for our sins, but for the very people who shouted for His death.  That is how big the grace of love of God are.  
 
If you are a believer, today is a day to praise Jesus as King.  The virus does not rule the day, God does.  Just as Jesus had Palm Sunday under control and all lined up, so does He have today under control.  I urge you, do not sit in fear of what may or may not happen or how the virus seems out of control, but praise God that He does know and He has EVERYTHING under control. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV
 


 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Anxiety

Today I want to write a little bit about anxiety.  It is something we all deal with.  I deal with it myself, when I focus on how big this thing is we all deal with.  But then I think about God and how much bigger He is.  As I said the other day, our level of peace and anxiety are directly related to what we choose to dwell on.  All everyone can think of is the virus as it has altered the reality we all live in. 

The anxiety is pervasive as it is aggressive.  All we hear from most news sites is bad news and worst case scenarios.  All we think about is that how crazy someone is when they try to think positively or look at good news.  I wonder if this is how the other apostles felt when Peter stepped out to walk on the water.  A moment ago, they were all freaking out because of the storm, and now here goes Peter going to walk on the crazy wind-driven rough water. 

But Peter did walk on the water, at least for a little while.  Unfortunately, despite the miracle he was a part of, his focus again was shifted to the wind and the waves, he became scared, and he started to sink.  He came to his senses and cried out to Jesus, and Jesus pulled him and to safety and stopped the storm.

The message for us in what is going on today is simple.  We can choose to focus on what is going on all around us or we can choose to focus on Who is ultimately in control even of this storm.  We can walk on water in the peace in the faith that God will get us through if only we would believe and take the time to look to Him.  If we do, the news may get the best of us sometimes and we may begin to sink again.  If that happens, just shift your focus again and God will pick you up.  If you continue to focus on the waves, it will drag you down, if you cry out to God, He will lift you up.  Those are 2 absolute truths.  And that same God who picked you up will carry you through and when its purpose is complete, God will end this storm. 

Take heart and believe, God is in control. 

But the boat was now in the middle of the sea,[fn] tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous,he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  Matthew 14:24-32 NKJV

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Hope

We are living in a time like no other.  Very few see any hope, many are sick, some will die, and some have already lost someone near and dear to them.  We hears news reports daily, seemingly in competition with one another of who can give the most bad news.  Whenever someone does say anything with any bit of hope, talking heads line up experts to say why that hope is wrong.  Tragedy gets people to tune into the news, and their machines are in full force right now.  We are all in the middle of a slow-motion catastrophe, and we have no idea when it will end.  To make matters worse, we are forced to isolate from our support systems as we face unimaginable fear and uncertainty during this worst of times.  There is no comfort in those places we tend to get our comfort from.  There is no escape, there is no place to go. 

Today I want to share a little bit of hope.  While what we are going through rightly seems so big to us, there is something, or Someone, who is even bigger.  It is time to dust off those Bibles and return to that God you have spent so much time running from.  As big as this pandemic is, God is bigger.  As out of control things seem to have gotten, it is not out God's control.  Turn to Him and He will lift you up.  Lean on Him, and He will carry you through. 

It's easy to live in panic and fear when that is what we spend out time dwelling on.  The heart feels what we fill our mind with, and this is no different.  For today, I would hope that you all take the the following verses to heart and use it to fill your mind with the good, and your heart will follow.  Think of the family you do have, the ones living with you, the sun shining, the fact that this will end, and that God will carry you through even this. Don't think of the great tragedy that is dragging you down, but pray to the greater God who wants to lift you up. 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.  (Philippians 4:6-8 NKJV)