Palm Sunday Reflections

Have you ever felt on top of the world one minute and in the lowest depths of the earth, the next? I often think of the wild swing in emotions that were in Jerusalem during the passion week. It went from Jesus on palm Sunday riding into Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowd shouting “Hosanna!” to Jesus being beaten and killed on a Roman cross by the end of the week.

Jesus and his disciples started a week filled with just about every emotion in the book. The joy that came on Palm Sunday would be replaced by grief on Friday and then joy again on resurrection Sunday. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. No wonder his disciples struggled with how to respond properly. I would have likely responded just a they did – bewildered at the week’s events.

The Triumphal Entry, as it is labeled in my Bible, was a culmination of three years of teaching and miracles surrounding Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had been working many signs and wonders among the people for years and his reputation was growing in popularity. The zenith of his three year tour would be found in this passion week and it all started with a parade.

It’s interesting in some ways that this is called the Triumphal Entry. Jesus certainly had not won a war, which is what this tradition sometimes calls back to, but like Solomon (1st Kings 1) he was being anointed king and this was his coronation parade (and his enemies were to be defeated after his victory parade). The people recognized this as well, for they ran ahead of Jesus and shouted “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

The issue was they didn’t see the kingdom in the way that Jesus had been describing it over the years. He had painstakingly took the time to detail this coming kingdom. It wasn’t going to come with a massive battle where he would cast out the Roman army. No, it was coming like a grain of mustard – small at first, but growing into a giant tree. Yes, the king was here and yes, the kingdom had arrived, but it wasn’t what the people thought it would be. That’s why they could sign the praises of Jesus on Palm Sunday and yell “crucify him” just a few days later.

It’s interesting how quickly our attitude changes toward God when He doesn’t do things exactly as we want Him to do. The kingdoms of this world were falling, but they didn’t fall over night. Many thought Jesus was going to tear them down immediately and this march in the Jerusalem was going to be the start of the revolution. It was, but not they way they pictured it. Jesus was going to use the kingdoms of this world to bring about his purposes. He would use them to achieve his greatest victory.

The kingdoms of this world were being cast down, but they didn’t know it. As a matter of fact, they would participate in their own demise. Rome would nail its own fate to that tree on Calvary. They thought they were mocking Jesus by putting a crown of thorns on his head, but in reality, they were crowning him King of the World, not just King of the Jews. God is not mocked.

So while the world mocked, the disciples mourned. While the rulers of this world divided his bloody clothing, Jesus was clothing us in new garments that made us white as snow. While they were beating him and leaving stripes across his back, He was healing our sicknesses and diseases. The cross is a glorious paradox of victory in defeat. Yes, Jesus died, but the story doesn’t end there. Death was not the end, it was truly a new beginning.

A rollercoaster of a week, started and ended in triumph.

Three Ways To Halt Your Spiritual Growth

A new podcast episode examining the three ways that you halt your own spiritual growth. Be sure to check it out and share it with a friend!

You Are Called Everyday Jesus

In this episode we look at whether everyone has a distinct calling and purpose with God or if that's just something for pastors.  http://www.everydayjesus.net http://www.facebook.com/everydayjesuspodcast Music from http://www.hooksounds.com  
  1. You Are Called
  2. Pregnant With The Wind
  3. Having a Revival Mindset
  4. Seek And You Will Find…
  5. Three Ways To Halt Spiritual Growth

What Should I Do When My Heart is Troubled?

What do you do when your heart is troubled? What do you do when things are falling down around you? Life can be very difficult. Things don’t go the way you want them to go. As a Christian, how should you deal with that?

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all of my sins.”

Psalm 25:15-18

The Psalmist, David, starts Psalm 25 with a request from God to “teach me your paths (verse 4).” What is it about following God that brings so much stress and conflict into our lives? I know some preachers promise that once you come to Jesus, everything will be sunshine and roses, but that hasn’t been the case in my walk with Christ.

In my walk, it seems that every time I get the least bit comfortable, some situation arises and it prods me out of my comfort zone. One minute everything is fine and the next, everything is falling apart and with seemingly little to no warning. Just boom. Everything is coming against me.

What I’ve found is that when I’m comfortable, I’m not growing. I’m not growing closer to God. I’m not growing spiritually. In order for me to grow, I have to get out of my comfort zone.

Getting out of your comfort zone is not pleasant. I picture it like the baby bird being kicked out of the nest in order to learn to fly. You are either going to fly or you are going to hit the ground with a THUD! When we are pushed out of our comfort zone, we have the same choice – fly or fall. More often than not, I fall. I fall into depression or loneliness or anxiety.

David and I have a lot in common. He says in verse 16 that he is lonely and afflicted. Basically he feels like he is being beat down and he has no one with him to lift him up. I don’t know about David, but I feel like this even when there are people around me, who may even be encouraging me. In some ways, it’s like my ears are shut to their encouragement. All I can hear is my loneliness.

“The troubles of my heart are enlarged,” says David. And I concur. When we are lonely and afflicted, it’s almost as if all of our troubles are much larger than they really are. They have grown. Our troubles seem larger than we are. What a terrible place to be!

What is the answer to these woes? What should we do when we find ourselves in such a place? Here are three steps:

Continue reading “What Should I Do When My Heart is Troubled?”

Deny Yourself or Deny Jesus

Our society is backwards. We are told constantly that we need to look after ourselves. We need “me” time. We need to “find ourself.” You have to focus on you, because nobody else will, the saying goes. But this is all backwards to kingdom thinking.

In the kingdom, Jesus is asking us to deny ourselves. He is commanding us to take our focus off of ourself and put it on the cross. While others are feeding into what your flesh wants to hear, Jesus tells us that our flesh has to be crucified.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

Jesus didn’t cut corners with his disciples. He told them exactly what they needed to hear and that message was simple, if you don’t deny yourself, you can’t follow me. Jesus knew that the denial of one’s own interests, hopes and dreams was a difficult ask. He knew that our flesh would fight against that line of thought. After all if you don’t look after you, who will?

Denying yourself is more than just saying no to yourself, it really is a death sentence as Jesus describes it. We deny ourselves and then we join him in his crucifixion by taking up our cross and following Him up the hill to Calvary. Denying yourself means you have to die to everything. And if you don’t deny yourself, you will most certainly deny Jesus.

Continue reading “Deny Yourself or Deny Jesus”

The Bridegroom Is Calling…

Have you ever been slow to respond to the Lord? Have you ever delayed in your response to His calling? Today I was reading from Song of Songs 5. Listen to what it says.

I slept but my heart was awake.
Listen! My beloved is knocking:
“Open to me, my sister, my darling,
my dove, my flawless one.
My head is drenched with dew,
my hair with the dampness of the night.”
3 I have taken off my robe—
must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet—
must I soil them again?
4 My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening;
my heart began to pound for him.
5 I arose to open for my beloved,
and my hands dripped with myrrh,
my fingers with flowing myrrh,
on the handles of the bolt.
6 I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.

Song of Songs 5:2-6

This morning as I was reading this, I was struck by the fact that the bride hears the voice of her bridegroom, who is calling for her and waiting for her to open the door for him, and she doesn’t immediately respond.

How often do we hear God calling for us and we delay in opening the door for Him? I can think of several times in my life where I have heard His voice and not immediately obeyed or I have been slow to respond.

When we are slow to respond to the Lord, we can actually miss Him. This is what happens to the bride in this song, she delays in her response to him and by the time she gets up to answer, he is gone.

What slows our response to our bridegroom?

  • Lack of patience – Look at the first verse, she says she was sleeping, but her heart was awake. She had stopped waiting for her bridegroom to return and had fallen asleep. We sometimes sleep on the promises of God. We think that He will never come for us. That He has forgotten about us.
  • Comfort – The bride had gotten comfortable. She says that she’s already taken off her robe. She had gotten into the bed and gotten comfortable. There was a bit of laziness about her. We sometimes get comfortable with God and don’t respond quickly to His calling because we have grown apathetic towards His voice.
  • Excuses – The bride begins making excuses. She says she has already washed her feet. Sometimes when God calls for us, we begin to make excuses as to why we can’t do what He is calling us to do. We are too busy. We don’t have everything we need financially. We makes excuses even though He is standing at the door.

When God calls for us, we should be quick to respond. We should be waiting on Him, but too many times, He is the one waiting on us. We aren’t where we are supposed to be. We are asleep at the wheel. And yet, He continues to call out to us.

In this song, the bridegroom even puts his Hand on the latch of the door. Notice he doesn’t bust the door down. He doesn’t try to break in. He is a gentleman. He is so close, but yet still waiting for his bride to respond. As the bride of Christ, we need to realize that He is waiting for us to open the door. He won’t open the door himself. He is waiting on you. He will stand at the door and knock. Will you open for Him? (Revelation 3)

So many times when we hear that familiar verse from Revelation, we immediately think of salvation. We’ve heard many preachers use that verse out of context. But the the verse was in a letter to a CHURCH! Jesus is waiting outside of the church and he is knocking, but no one has let Him in! That’s crazy! This isn’t about salvation, it’s about apathy in the church, because earlier in the letter, Jesus says the church is lukewarm.

“I know your works: you are neither cold, nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16

When we are slow to respond, when we are apathetic, when we become lukewarm, we miss God. Our complacency is what kills us. We must wake ourselves. We can’t sleep and miss Him! Arise O sleeper! We don’t want to be like the bride in this song. Look at the result of her slow responses to her bridegroom’s calling:

I opened for my beloved,
but my beloved had left; he was gone.
My heart sank at his departure.
I looked for him but did not find him.
I called him but he did not answer.

Song of Songs 5:6

The bridegroom had left. He had called for her. He placed his hand of the door. He had praised her. But she did not open to him until it was too late. Then she calls for him and he doesn’t answer. I never want to be in that position. I want Him to answer when I call for Him. I want Him to still be at the door. I don’t want to be slow to respond. Lord, help me. I hope that is your prayer too. We are encouraged by the Scriptures to seek Him while he may be found. You should not delay…

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”

Isaiah 55:6

Two Things You Need To Know

There are two things that can derail you in your walk through this life. Think of it like taking a trip. You have to know where you are and you have to know where you are going. You would be surprised how many people are going through life and can’t tell you where they are or where they are headed. It seems simple and it most certainly is, but most of us spend little time thinking on these two subjects. Instead we are simply positioned and lead by external forces. Wherever the wind is blowing is where you will find me type of thing.

Where you are matters. If you don’t know where you are, how will you ever get to where you are going? If you go on to any gps device, it has to have a starting point. It’s got to know where you are starting from. Where exactly are you? Because of you think you are in one place, but you are actually in another, guess what? You won’t get to where you want to be. You have to know where you are starting from. Some people are scared to know where they are starting from. Why is that? Because you have to admit that you aren’t where you want to be.

There is a confession in the fact that you haven’t “arrived.” And for some of us, this is a hard confession to make. We’ve spent most of our lives trying to prove to others that we have arrived, that we know what we are doing. We spend most of our lives not being honest with ourselves that we haven’t arrived. Confession is good for the soul. You need to be honest with the fact that you aren’t where you want to be. If you can admit that, then you can start to be honest about discovering where you are.

In discovering where you are, you need to have clarity of thought. If your thoughts are clouded and lost in the fog, you won’t be able to see the markers telling you where you are. I see this a lot with people who think they are farther down the road than they actually are. They know which road they are on, but they are simply confused with how far they have to go. When looking honestly at ourselves, we have to come to the realization that we may actually have a long ways to go in improving ourselves or in our walk with God. We need to be able to read those road signs.

Continue reading “Two Things You Need To Know”

Leadership 101: Partial Obedience Is Not Obedience

Several weeks ago, my daughter and I were having a conversation. Earlier in the day, I had asked her to clean her room. She disappeared for a while and when she came back out of her room later on, I asked her if she had cleaned it. She said she had. When I went to her room to check it out, I found that while she picked up a couple of her toys out of the floor, the room was largely still a mess. I expressed my disappointment that she did not obey me.

“But I did obey you Daddy,” she said, “I cleaned most of my room.” It was at this point, I knew that I needed to sit her down and talk more. I kindly explained to her that partial obedience is not obedience. Obedience means that you have to listen and complete every command to the fullest extent. If you only partially obey, that means you are also partially disobeying.

Following God is no different. We cannot partially obey God’s commands. We either obey him or we don’t. There is no middle ground there. God expects our full and complete obedience. This is one of the reasons why we need a savior. We are a disobedient bunch and we need His Spirit to give us the ability to obey fully.

Continue reading “Leadership 101: Partial Obedience Is Not Obedience”

Christians Were Created to Thrive

Check out the new episode of the podcast where I talk about how Christians were created to thrive, not just survive!

You Are Called Everyday Jesus

In this episode we look at whether everyone has a distinct calling and purpose with God or if that's just something for pastors.  http://www.everydayjesus.net http://www.facebook.com/everydayjesuspodcast Music from http://www.hooksounds.com  
  1. You Are Called
  2. Pregnant With The Wind
  3. Having a Revival Mindset
  4. Seek And You Will Find…
  5. Three Ways To Halt Spiritual Growth

Contentment Versus Complacency

A few weeks ago, I was giving a lot of thought to stagnant water. Perhaps all of the rain we have had over the past few months was finally getting to me, but I found myself staring at a little ponding of water near the end of my driveway. It had no where to go. The hole was created when someone drove off the road and into my yard as they came into our neighborhood.

This hole had filled with water, but because of it’s shape, it had nowhere to go. No groove existed for the water to escape out. It just sat there. Some leaves leftover from the fall had found their way to this hole and dirt had colored the water a dark brown. It looked gross.

It’s easy for us to picture how unhealthy it would be to drink out of a puddle like this. Most of us would instinctively know that you wouldn’t look at that dirty puddle and go grab a straw. But how many of us drink from stagnant waters in our spiritual lives?

Many of us have what I am going to term, “Complacency of the Soul.” To define that, Complacency of the Soul is when our spiritual life has become stagnant and we have become satisfied with things that are less than God’s ideal for our lives.

Now, this is different that being content. God wants us content. The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi and tells them that he has learned to be content in whatever situation he has found himself in.

Continue reading “Contentment Versus Complacency”

Leadership 101: Leaders Are Tested

One of the things I’ve said before is that all of us are leaders. Some are leaders in the family, others leaders in their employment. Even if you don’t have a “title” or “position”, you can still be a leader.

Leaders are those that take initiative and keep going when everyone else stops. Godly leaders know that it’s not good enough to simply know the truth, you have to put the truth into action. You have to be a doer of the word, not just a hearer only, as James writes.

What I have found in my life is that when I put a biblical truth into action, I am tested. It seems like it’s almost immediately in most instances. I grab a hold of a new truth that God has given me and suddenly, there I am in the furnace of testing. God wants us content with his truth, but not complacent with it.

So we are tested.

When we enter into a time of testing, most of us think that we have done something wrong. For myself, I immediately start taking inventory of my life. “Where have I sinned?” But God doesn’t need us to sin to test us. He tests us for our own good. He already knows how we will respond when the furnace is turned on; it’s for our good that he flips the switch on us.

I am reminded of God’s servant Job. Job had it all, but it was all taken from him. You want to talk about being tested? Job was tested. His family, his friends, all that he owned…Job was being tested in every area of life. Most of us would not survive a testing like Job went through. But Job went through it, so we could learn from it.

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth like gold.”

Job 23:10

Job understood testing better than anyone and I love his bold statement here… “I shall come forth like gold.” Job understood the purpose of testing. He understood that God wants to refine us in the testing. He wants to get the impurities out. These impurities are thoughts and actions that only bubble to the surface in the refiner’s fire, in the testing. Job understood this.

Where are you today? Are you being tested? Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Take heart. God has not abandoned you, even if you feel like it. Job knows how you feel. In the midst of the trial it can feel like you are alone, but you are not alone. God is with you.

This is the life of all of His leaders. If you desire to lead others, you will be tested. You will have times where things don’t go the way you want them to, but it’s only a test.

I recently came out of a time of testing and I wasn’t sure I would make it through it. My emotions were all over the map, one minute I could sense a victory over the situation and a few minutes later, I felt nothing but defeat. When you are in the fire, you cannot trust your feelings. Lean into His word. God assures us that He doesn’t leave us. Hold on to His promises. True leadership is forged in fires like these.

The best analogy that I can come up with is that of an airplane flying into a storm. When the pilot flies into the storm, he can’t trust his gut. He can’t trust his feelings. He has to trust his instruments. Those are his guides. He can’t see where he is going. The storm is all around him. It’s easy to get turned upside down if you don’t follow your guides. The instrument cluster on the plane tells you where you are going and how far off the ground you are. As the pilot you have to trust those gauges. As a godly leader, your instrument panel is the Word of God. When the storm rages, check your instrument cluster and make sure you stay the course. God gave us these tools. Use them!