Holy Week Days 1&2

Well everyone, I’m back and both baby and my wife are doing excellent!


 

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I thought that for this week we would look through the final events of Jesus’ life as we observe Holy Week. However, I am starting this a day late so we will be taking a look at the events of both Palm Sunday and Monday.

Palm Sunday

The events that happened on Palm Sunday can be seen in all four of the gospels. Jesus left Jericho early in the morning with his disciples. They traveled towards Jerusalem. When they reached Bethany, Jesus sent two of his disciples to get a donkey for him to ride into the city. They met on the Mount of Olives, and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. The people shouted at him, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel” (John 12:13), “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38), “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10),  and “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9, NASB); all of which echo the words found in Psalm 118:25-26. All of these things were done to fulfill a prophecy found in the writing of the prophet Zechariah:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you:
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
–Zechariah 9:9, NASB

After these events, Jesus went into the temple in order to have a look at the environment. However he soon left to go back to Bethany, which was were he and the disciples stayed during this final week of Jesus’ life.

Monday

After 3 years of ministry, today is the day that Jesus makes his final push for the people to come to realize the truth about God and His Kingdom. When he entered the temple, undoubtedly to teach, he saw a sight that he absolutely despised. He saw people, inside the temple, selling animals and other sorts of merchandise, and people who were taking peoples money either with taxes or exchanging currency. Jesus tells the people, quoting Jeremiah, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den.” (Matthew 21:13, NASB). He then drove them out with a whip of chords he made, and by turning over their tables.

Both of these days were also filled with teaching and healing. I think it’s nice to see the events of Jesus’ life as his time on earth came to an end. Join me tomorrow as we continue onwards.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 90

 

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Just Believe!

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I’ve had a few different Scriptures hit me like a ton or bricks over the past few days. The one I’d like to talk about today, everyone seems to know the first part: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”. But did you know that there is much more to that whole statement?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, That the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hate the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. Bu the who practices the truth come to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” –John 3:16-21, NASB

The quoting of John 3:16 is a good practice, but I feel that it’s changing the point of the entire passage. When I read that one verse, I get the message “Yay! God loves me”. Now this is a great message and is completely true, but in light of the following verses I’m not convinced it’s the entire message Jesus is conveying. We see that, as humans, our natural tendencies are towards evil actions (thanks a lot sin nature). Because of this, God has no reason to love me. He should despise me because of what we have done to His Creation. Have you ever spent a ton of time and energy into making something, let’s say a cake? You’re really happy with what you have done, but then the dog sees it and runs towards it. Before you can stop him, he’s destroyed the cake. How upset would you be? I’m sure God’s feelings are similar, saying that the people He created to care for Creation were the one’s ultimately to blame for it’s humiliation.

But God doesn’t hold it against us. He loves you and me in spite of ourselves. We deserve His wrath, but rather we get His grace! We simply have to believe in His son, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was saying in this section from John that we are only judged by whether we believe in Him, or not. Seems pretty simple. It was also a radical idea at the time, and it seems that it’s still pretty counter-cultural today. There is no series of steps to get grace, there is not rituals or prayers you have to say. All you have to do is believe. Believe in the one Son of God. Believe that He has come to save us from ourselves, and to take the punishment of our sin. Believe that God has made all things right between us and Him. All we have to do is believe!

As we go into the new year, I encourage you to take a look at your beliefs. Do you believe in all those things that God has done for you? If not, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and reading Scripture. Did you know that there is a prayer in the Bible written for unbelief. In Mark 9, a man asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus’ replay is that all things are possible if you believe. The man then prayed, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NLT). Jesus then healed the man’s son. This shows me that even if we don’t believe, God hears our prayers. But we have to be earnestly seeking Him and wanting to overcome our unbelieving hearts, if we expect God to do anything. The lesson here? Prayer works friends, even if you have problems believing it does.

If You Believe The Way You Say You Do

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I’ve been listening to a CD the last couple of days and a song has really struck me. The CD is Need You Now from the artist Plumb, and the song is Unlovable. It has struck me because it has gotten me to think about the way we, as Christians, tend to view people and treat them accordingly. This is especially a problem when they aren’t your typical Christian. For instance, the typical Christian would view a single mother, that was never married, much differently than a woman who had been married or is a widow. Why? Any one who believes in Christ should be treated the same as other Christians.

In Mark 2, we see Jesus eating at a table with sinners and tax collectors. These men and women were largely thought of by the Pharisees as non-associables. The religious leaders wanted nothing to do with them, and were shocked that a man who not only is a teacher, but a man claiming to be the Son of God would associate with these people. When asked he responds, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NASB). Jesus spent time with these men and women because he saw a need and sought to fill it. As Christians we should do the same.

I feel that in today’s culture, we get so hung up on how to live and doing the right thing, that we tend to push people away. People reject the gospel, not because of personal unbelief, but because of how a “Christian” acted. To me, this behavior is probably finger-pointing (it could be other things, but this usually what it has been). Putting people down, and showing them all the ways they have been wrong is not the best way to lead people to Christ. Yet, this seems to be the preferred way. I believe that the best way is through a conversation that shows all the good Jesus has done for us, not all the wrong we’ve done against God. It’s true, we’ve all done bad (Romans 3:23). We cannot maintain the high standard God has for us. But that is the point of Jesus. God knew that we couldn’t fulfill all His requirements, so He came to earth to fulfill them for us.

So we must think about the way we speak to non-believers about Christ. We can’t push people away that need our help. Christ came to help sinners like you and me, so we must also be here to help sinners like us. The lyrics that got me thinking about this were:

“Why me?
Why am I not welcome in your company?
Why do you treat me like an enemy?
If you believe the way you say you do
Oh, then why am I unlovable to you?
Oh, why am I unlovable to you?”
-Plumb, Unlovable

So let us perpetuate this faith that we say we believe and extend our hands to help those that come to us looking for help. It’s what Christ would do, so we should to.

Go! (Mark 16)

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HA HA! I bet you all thought that I gave up on this blog thingy! NEVER!!!!!! Unfortunately my family had a really busy weekend, and had to spend yesterday in the hospital with my mother-in-law. So no time for blogging :(. But now I’m back! So let’s finish up Mark!

In Mark 16 we discover the biggest reason to believe in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection!. In the last chapter, Jesus was crucified and placed in a tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin!). So the following morning after Passover, three days later, Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother Mary went to the tomb with spices in order to anoint his body (as per the Jewish custom). But when they arrived they saw that the tomb was open and empty, and a man wearing a white robe told them that Jesus had risen! When the women returned and told the disciples what they saw, none of them believe except Peter, who took off running to the tomb (Luke 24:11-12).

40 days Jesus spent on this earth after his resurrection. On the last day he gathered the disciples on a mountain and gave them a message, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (16:15 NASB). This is the statement that caused the disciples to spread out across the world after Pentecost (Acts 2). They were told to go, not stay there in Jerusalem (or Israel) and speak the gospel. That’s where (I believe) the Jews messed it up in the first place. God told Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). Yes, you can also show that this is part of God’s overall redemptive plan, but I also believe that God hadn’t given up on the Jews and gave them an opportunity to spread knowledge of the one true God to all the world. But since the Jews hadn’t done this yet, Jesus sent the disciples out to accomplish this goal.

In today’s church there is a problem. We don’t go out anymore. We wait for new people to walk in the door, and if we’re lucky, then we can make a new disciple. Yet when we think of Jesus’ command, we are the one’s supposed to take the risk. Not wait for people to come to us, but rather go after and seek them. Also the problem shows in our individual lives. Instead of speaking to a friend, co-worker, or family member about God and Jesus when they need it, we say “Nope, not in church”. Church and our personal lives cannot be disconnected from each other. In order to be disciples, we have speak about Jesus every opportunity we get. It is true that those opportunities become easier to deal with in church. But God doesn’t only exist in church, He lives within you! So everywhere you go, God is there!

The heart of God is for His people! So as a Heart Man, let’s start a revolution and seek out people to make new disciples for Christ. Let’s move outside of our churches and into the world that the people live in. Let’s be the light of the world and shine for Jesus Christ, and show the world the real Jesus. Not the one that the media makes look bad. He is our savior, and loves each one of us. God came into this world for me, and you, and all those other people who don’t know who He is. So let’s go and make disciples!

“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” (Mark 15)

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Well friends, we’re coming to the end of our study of Mark. Today’s chapter covers the entire process of getting Jesus crucified. It’s a story I’m sure we are all familiar with. Something I noticed though was that the other gospels recorded a few phrases of Jesus’ from the Cross, but Mark only records one statement. This statement is “Eloi, Eli, lama sabachtahni?” translated to “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (15:34 NASB). Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night , but I have no rest.
Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
All who see me sneer at me;
They make mouths at me, they wag the head says,
‘Commit yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delight in him.”
-Psalm 22:1-8, NASB

Not only was this relevant because of everything going on around Jesus, but I’m sure this psalm captures the way he was feeling. The theological statement here that I like is that this moment is when Jesus takes on the sin of the world. He shouts out this Psalm because this is the first moment in his 33 years of life that he has been separated from God because of sin.

But don’t we all get this feeling. Jesus was hanging on the Cross and felt as thought God had left him. I’m sure David felt this way when he lived in caves because he was being hunted by Saul. We feel it today when life hurts the most.

It is true what Moses says to the Israelites before the enter the promised land “… the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NASB). And also what God says in Hebrews, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NASB). There are lots of people who would say having the feelings Jesus, or the psalmist, expresses are a form of blaspheme. But I urge you to realize that if the feelings are expressed in the Bible, especially by Jesus Christ, then they are perfectly valid feelings to have.

I recently read a great book called Deeper Places. The author draws upon the feelings expressed in the Book of Psalms to teach about experiencing God. The biggest take away I had from the book was that if you have a feeling, talk through it with God. The problem arises when we feel that God has left us, we leave Him. But God will never leave us. Our sinful nature leads us to feel that God is gone, but sin naturally causes a barrier between us and Him. Work through it. Read your Bible. Spend time in prayer. Worship Him. Lead some worship if you can. Some of my biggest breakthroughs with God come when I’m leading others in worship, but I don’t feel like doing it.

I encourage you, no matter your feeling towards Him, seek God. Continue to seek him out and you will find him. God will come after you when you decide to seek him out. If you feel lost, read the psalms, especially Psalm 139. But God has not forsaken us, He is simply waiting for us to turn back to Him.

Who Was He? (Mark 14)

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Today’s chapter takes us to the final night of Jesus’ life. By the next time the sun sets, he will be dead. Jesus shares in the Passover meal and goes to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane before he is arrested. John’s account of this evening includes a final prayer given by Jesus (John 17).

After he was arrested, Jesus was taken to see Caiaphas and the rest of the priests in Jerusalem. They all raised testimony against Jesus. Most of them were false or inconsistent. But Caiaphas comes forward and asks Jesus a simple question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” (14:61 NASB). He was effectively asking Jesus, “Who are you?” Jesus’ answer to this question causes the priests to tear their clothes and say “Blaspheme!” Why? I believe this goes beyond Jesus simply answering the affirmative.

Jesus’ answer says more than just answering Caiaphas’ question. It is structured in a way that the Sanhedrin (all the priests) would fully understand what he was saying. It goes all the way back to Exodus 3. Moses is on Mt Sinai after he has been away from Egypt for years. God encounters him through the burning bush. Moses asks God essentially the same question Caiaphas asks Jesus, “Who are You?” They both answer, “I AM!”

This is why the priests react so much. Jesus effectively placed himself on the same level as God! This has become one of the basic principles of Christianity; Jesus was both fully man and fully God. This was not something understood by the priests at that time.

I recently read a book by an inspiring pastor called I Am Not But I Know I AM. In this book, he takes the story from Exodus 3 and claims that since God’s name is “I AM” ours must be “I am not”. This becomes a powerful reminder of where our standing is in relation to God.

However Jesus was able to take on the name “I AM” because he was God. This was something that the Old Testament priests couldn’t understand. So praise God today for all the things He has done for us. It even includes living a life as a human, to be rejected by humans, and killed by humans. He died a sacrificial death, so that we may live! There is no greater act of love than this. God loves you, Jesus loves you, now let’s spend some time loving on Him today!

Don’t Be False (Mark 13)

Poster ad from the video game Bioshock Infinite
Poster ad from the video game Bioshock Infinite

Today’s chapter was a little hard for me to find something to talk about. Mark 13 talks a lot about the end times and the return of Christ. This isn’t something that I like to spend a lot of time on in discussion simply because people can get insane over the topic of the “End of the World”. But Jesus did say something that is important for us to remember, even not during the End.

Jesus says “false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead [you] astray, if possible” (13:22 NASB). This relates to a post I made earlier. In that post I told you to be careful about what you say. In this one, you must be careful of what others say.

Jesus knew that without him to guide the disciples (and us later on), they would fall prey to people preaching about Christ, but didn’t fully understand. Something that arose in the early church was a heresy called Gnosticism. It was a belief that the physical world was evil and should be done away with, and we should only focus on the spiritual world. This belief influenced many early Christians to the point that many of the disciples had to fight against it, and Paul wrote several sections of his letters that allude to Gnostic beliefs in the Church.

In today’s world, Christianity gets put in a bad light, which I think is sad. Yet we knew it was going to happen. Jesus warned us that we would get persecuted, and honestly, the Church has been persecuted since day 1. But today, it is because of some members of the Church, not outside influence. There is a lot of hate going around in Jesus’ name. Hate that is unfounded, because Jesus preached a life of love.

This isn’t to say that God doesn’t hate things. He does. He hates sin. Sin is very simply the act of deciding that you know better than God, and you are going to decide what is right. I’m not sure how imperfection trumps perfection, but I am even guilty of the behavior. We all are. But some of this hate goes towards the people. God doesn’t hate the sinner, He hates the sin. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NASB).

So I guess my focus for today is that we not only be careful what we say and do, but also what are Christian brothers and sisters are doing. It is our duty as mature Christians to help those who aren’t as far along as we are. We must help the world to see the love of Christ and show that love through our own lives.

Give To God What is His (Mark 12)

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Today’s chapter has a ton of Jesus’ most well known teachings. This only makes sense because if the gospel writers knew anything, it’s that Jesus did a lot of good teachings during his final week on earth. Among these is Jesus speaking on paying taxes.

The Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes attempted to get Jesus in trouble with the Roman government by asking him if it was right to pay the poll tax. They clearly expected him to answer “No!”, but this is not they way he chose to answer. Instead he says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (12:17 NASB). While I feel as though most of the time this text is used to teach about submitting to authority, today we’re using it to show that we can’t hold anything back from God!

There are two things in this world; things of the world and things of God. They best way to tell the difference (to me at least) is to know what things go away with time. As the prophet Isaiah says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NASB). So God wants us to give to the world the things of the world, that must eventually fade away. However, He wants us to give Him what is eternal. To put it another way, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (12:30 NASB).

So while we can give our tithes and offerings, we can tell people about God and Jesus Christ, etc., what God truly wants from us is for us to give our whole hearts into worship. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 NASB).

Give the world what it deserves. Give it time at your job. Give it money. Give it submission to authority over you (so long as it doesn’t conflict with God). But never give it your worship! Worship is reserved solely for God. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7). It’s right there in the first Commandment. The second doesn’t even want us making idols so that we aren’t tempted to worship that instead of God! When Moses delivered the Ten Commandments, God was telling us that He wants and deserves our worship, nothing else deserves it more than Him!

So worship God today (What?! It’s Tuesday!). I love to pick up my guitar in the mornings and just sing Him a song. But even if you don’t play music, turn on some Christian music/radio. And even beyond that just read your Bible and pray. That is the most intimate kind of worship. Just praise God for all He has done for you. Even if it’s a hard day. Worship is most meaningful when we just don’t feel like it. Because what we are saying then is “No matter how bad I feel, or how angry I am with You, You are greater than all of it and worthy of my praise!”

The Answer to Prayer (Mark 11)

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We are coming to the end of Christ’s life. The beginning of this chapter is during what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, the beginning of Passion week and the end of Jesus’ life. I always find it interesting during Easter celebrations to take a look at the difference between the people’s reactions to Jesus on Psalm Sunday and on Good Friday. I might have to do that during Holy Week next year, but for now I will stick to Mark 11.

The next day after entering Jerusalem, Jesus curses a fig tree (this seems crazy but it’s used as a teaching moment). He then entered the temple in Jerusalem and drove out the money changers say “Is it not written ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den” (11:17 NASB). Then spent the rest of the day teaching. As the evening came, Jesus and the disciples passed by the fig tree again. This time it had withered and died! The disciples question Jesus about this and his response is, “I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (11:23 NASB).

WHAT?! If I pray really hard and believe I have it, God will give me everything I pray for?! No. I wish that were true. Honestly I really wish it were true. I recently had applied for a job, that I did not receive. I prayed really hard for it. I really wanted this job, but as I said, I didn’t get it. So how does this work in relation to the statement Jesus makes?

Well, honestly, it is hard to reconcile. But God gave me an answer today!

I was listening to one of my many podcasts this morning, and this episode was on ambition. The pastor being interviewed stated, “Sometimes God says no. But He never just says no. He says it because something bigger and better is coming for you.” Wow! I was blown away by that statement. This just means to me that that wasn’t the job God had in store for me, He has something better for me He wants me to do. I can’t wait to find out what it is.

So I encourage you to pray (like I do on almost every post). Pray with all your heart and believe that God will give it to you! However, if He says no, take heart in knowing that this wasn’t right for you and God has a better plan.

Trust in God (Mark 10)

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In today’s reading, there is a section where Jesus encounters a young rich man. The man asks Jesus what he has to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer is simple. After speaking on keeping the Commandments, he says “go and sell all you possess and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me” (10:21 NASB). However the man is unable to do as he’s told.

So what does this mean for us today? Not to become rich? Not at all! In the time of Jesus (and still somewhat today) riches were largely held to be the blessings of God. The problem in this story is that the man stopped trusting in God, but trusting in his riches.

The point is that our faith belongs in one place, and that is in God alone! Not even in his blessings. That was the message that Jesus was trying to pass along to the young man. His riches had become his god, and stop trusting in the Lord. So Jesus’ statement has nothing to do with whether we should be rich or not. Instead it is about placing our trust in Him, and following Him with our lives.

So place your trust in the Lord. He endures forever, and will not fail you. The things of this world always fade away. The grass withers, money runs out, and things never go they way they are supposed to, except with God. So my prayer is that you can find a way to trust God even more.