Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sanitized


Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter are some of my favorite celebrations and remembrances of the year.  Yesterday, I spent about an hour making crosses out of palm branches to give out on Sunday.  As I sat there, I was able to spend some time thinking.  One of the thoughts that crossed my mind was that I was glad we were giving out crosses and not the actual branch because our very active group of children would start running around and hitting each other with them.

However, as I reflected on the events of Palm Sunday, it occurred to me that children have been the same throughout the centuries.  I'm fairly certain the children 2000 years ago may have been rambunctious too.  The atmosphere was loud, noisy and celebratory.  More than likely the children then were also running around, shouting and whacking each other with palm branches.

How often do we sanitize these stories?  We make them solemn and full of religiosity.  Yet, the story of Jesus time here on earth was messy.  It wasn't pretty and solemn.  It is the story of God coming down in the form of man and getting dirty.

He spent time with the "untouchables"; the lepers, the tax collectors, the fishermen, the prostitutes, and the sinners.  He touched people who were thought to be unclean.  He went where respectable people weren't supposed to go.  He talked out in the open to those who were only whispered about.

The people who surrounded him were loud, obnoxious, common, and unclean.  They traipsed through grain fields, eating from the stalks on the Sabbath.  They crashed private parties to wash his feet.  They touched his robes when they should have stayed in the background.  They shouted "hosanna" not realizing that their enthusiasm was sealing his fate. 

Yet, we often celebrate these events in quietness and with much ritual.  We go through the motions every spring.  There must be palm branches which get brought home and discarded after a few weeks.  There must be certain songs we sing, only to be put back on the shelf until next Easter.  There must be certain decorations or it doesn't feel like Easter. 

These activities we keep so religiously do nothing but sanitize the Savior.  Let's remember the One who came, died and rose again in a way that truly brings honor to Him.  We do that by actually living out His words on a daily basis.  Celebrating by doing certain activities is fine as long as we remember His sacrifice the rest of the year too.

Jesus life was messy and involved reaching out to the unlovely, the unclean and the untouchable.  Because He lives we all can face tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Open the Eyes of My Heart


Mark 10:46-52 ~

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

The blind man sat day after day, hoping and praying for a miracle.  When he realized that Jesus was in the temple, he began to shout, "Have mercy on me!"  And Jesus did.  He spoke the words, "You are healed."  And the man could see. 

Did he run back home to family and friends?  No, these verses tell us he followed Jesus.  Immediately following this passage of scripture, is the narrative of Palm Sunday.  The crowds shouted and cried, "Hosanna!"   They were shouting for a king to release them from bondage.  They were looking for an insurrection.  Their cries of praise actually drove him to the cross as those in leadership looked on in anger.  The crowd was blind to who Jesus really was.

The blind man called Jesus, "Son of David" which was a messianic term.  In other words, he already saw who Jesus was before his physical eyes were opened.  His following of Christ on the road showed his devotion to the One who opened his eyes.

The contrast is amazing here when you get down into the details of the story.  It's a comparison between a blind man who saw with his heart and eventually with his eyes and a seeing crowd who were blind.  This crowd shouting praises were the same ones who shouted curses a week later.  Spiritual blindness can be a terrible thing.

My prayer is that my heart will see the One I worship.  That I won't shout praises one moment and yet, when things don't go my way I spout off anger and curses.  I don't want to be fickle as I follow Christ.  I have been given sight and I want to sing God's praises.  Following Jesus along the road led to the blind man to the foot of the cross.  And often it leads me to pick up a cross as I follow Him.

As I walk along the road, my prayer is that the eyes of my heart remain open.  That I will see what it really means to follow Christ.  But I also want to see people through His eyes.  So often, we look and think we see but we are blind.  The angry neighbor may be hurting inside.  The irritating person sitting next to me in the pew may be going through a severe trial.  That disruptive child may be acting out because of a home situation.  The rude clerk may have just received bad news. 

May I see with my heart.  May I see others as Christ sees them.  May my prayer be , "Open my eyes!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wednesday Words of Encouragement

I Timothy 2:1-8 (MSG) ~

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God.

Prayer is hard work and so often, we relegate it to a few hurriedly spoken words.  Yet, prayer is the primary thing we should be doing as believers.  The way to approach any situation or problem we face is through prayer.  But so often it is the last thing we do.

Facing a challenge this week?  Pray!

Dealing with difficulties at home or work?  Pray!

Burdened for someone who does not know the Lord?  Pray!

Struggling with people?  Pray!

Feeling joyful?  Pray and Praise!

Want something to change in your life?  Pray!

Prayer is absolutely the first, middle and last thing we should do.   More often than not, we like activity so while we may throw up a prayer, we still run around and try to fix whatever the problem may be.  We want to see instant results.  But sometimes the answer won't come right away.  In fact, it could take years for some things.  So should we give up?

No.  Keep on praying!  I want to encourage you today to take your burdens and cares to the Lord.  Put them in His capable hands and leave them there.  Allow Him to work in his timing.  Ask your Heavenly Father what He wants you to learn as you walk through your trial.  Give it all to Him today!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pruning

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John 15:1-8 (NIV) ~
 
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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.
 
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
 
SNIP 
 
Pruning is necessary to produce fruit in my life and yet, it hurts.  I don't like the trimming away of dead wood and leaves.  I want to shout, "Leave me alone!"  But the Lord knows what is good for me.  He sees the branches that need trimming. 
 
SNIP
 
Another branch falls to the ground and another bad habit or attitude is trimmed away.  "Lord, I don't like this."  "Why must there always be something that has to be cut?"  And he reminds me that he wants me to bear fruit and not just some fruit but MUCH fruit.
 
SNIP
 
Which is why I must be pruned.  As much as it hurts, it is necessary for my good.  I feel stretched and pulled outside my comfort zone and I truly want to climb back in my box.  I want to go back to my safety zone where it's familiar.
 
SNIP
 
But He continues to trim and chop away at the dead foliage.  He carefully cuts back the branches so that I will grow and produce and be fruitful.  It's hard and it hurts.  It is not a pleasant process but the end result is so sweet.  If I just allow him to prune, I will ripen and mature.
 
SNIP
 
My ripening glorifies the Father.  When I show fruit in my life, it points to Him.  Bearing fruit is a responsibility of all believers but that will only happen through the careful pruning of the vineyard keeper.  I will only grow when I allow the Lord to work in my life and reveal and cut away those rotting branches and leaves.  It's hard but worth it in the end.
 
SNIP
 
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hiccups


Back in January, I posted about deciding to pray and think about a word to focus on this year as a goal.  Along with the word and verse, I also came up with a list of goals I wanted to achieve.

Well, one of the problems I've always had is I make these wonderful goals and then as time goes on, I fizzle out.  So I've been revisiting them from time to time to make sure I'm staying on track.  I've been doing okay with the actual goals.  There are a few areas that I need to stay focused on, but overall not too bad.

However, this morning as I was thinking and praying about a situation I realized I haven't been focusing on my word very much at all.  The word was intentional and here is the original post about that. 

So I need to refocus, reevaluate and cut out the few things I've allowed to creep in which are keeping me from what I feel the Lord wants me to do.  I often get caught up in the moment of someone else's idea and find myself stuck in activities that are good but not necessarily the best for me.

It truly is a process, isn't it?  So after this hiccup, I'm hoping to get back on track.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Spring Will Come


In the icy grip of winter it is hard to feel as if anything green will ever grow again.  I try and remember the days of warm breezes, beautiful flowers and green grass.  But it's hard to conjure up those remembrances.

Day after day passes and they feel long and unending.  I often feel as if I'm in a daze and going through the motions.  The white, the gray and the dullness will never end.



And then gradually, I begin to realize the sunlight is lasting longer.  It begins to have a different feel.  My spirit starts to have an hour or two, or even a day or two of feeling lighter.  As I look at the calendar I realize spring is coming.

And beneath all that white, life has been pushing it's way to the surface.  Until it pops through the ground and there it is...green!  Once again, I'm reminded that the sun will shine bright.  The warm wind will blow and flowers will bloom. 


Spring always comes after the winter.  Without fail.

That's the way it is with our lives too.  When we walk through the winter and gray of a tragedy or a trial, it seems as if things will never get better.  Everyone is going on with their lives, while I am stuck in this endless dreariness and depression.

And yet, the truth is that the spring will come.  Green and life are there under the surface, waiting to appear.  But the winter must run its course.  It can't be rushed.  There will be setbacks.  While the crocus and daffodil shoots are pushing their way to the surface, we are expecting more snow.  But once I've seen that green it's easier to get through the next period of white.

When I begin to experience life after a struggle, the setbacks aren't so discouraging.  Because that is all they are: setbacks.  It may be a day or two of discouragement or sadness; but I know spring is around the corner.



Life is returning.  I will make it through the long winter of discouragement and despair.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wednesday Words of Encouragement: Taste

Psalm 34:8-10 ~

"Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." 

"How do you know you won't like it unless you try it?"  

These are words I spoke to my children many times when they were younger and they had pronounced they didn't like something I put in front of them.  The rule in our house has always been you have to eat what is put before you and they had to at least try something new.  If they really didn't like it then I usually didn't make it again, but they had to try the first time.  More often than not, they ended up tasting and finding out it was really good.

In this Psalm the writer is saying the same thing.  "Taste of the Lord."  "Try Him and you will see He is good."  Obviously, he is not talking of physical taste, but instead of trying all the other religions of the day, he wanted his readers to understand how good the Lord of the Universe really was.  The psalmist wanted them to spend time in communion with the Lord.

We have nothing to fear when we follow the Lord.  When we take refuge in Him we will find satisfaction and He will give us good things. Lions are a symbol of strength yet they will go hungry. However, the Lord’s eyes are on His children and they will not be lacking.

Do you spend time each day tasting the Lord? Do you seek Him consistently?  Look at the following verbs – taste, take refuge, fear, seek. These all imply a certain amount of time. We can’t take 5 or 10 minutes a day and feel like we’ve done our duty to God. Seeking Him and taking refuge in Him take time.  The more time you spend with the Lord, the stronger you will become.

Spend quality time with the Lord each day.  Find time to taste of Him, to take refuge in Him, trust and obey Him, seek Him and reverence Him.  Your life will be full to the top!