Scripture highlights: John 12:12-19; 23-27; Luke 19:28-44; 22:31-35
I’m late again this week getting out my blog on this bright sunny Monday – it’s not because I’ve been out enjoying it! Neither rain nor hail nor sunny day will keep me from getting done, eventually.
We celebrate on Palm Sunday, what we generally call the triumphant entry. Jesus entered Jerusalem with a fanfare of shouts, people waving palms (As we would wave a giant foam finger shouting, “You’re number one!”), and laying their coats in his path like a red carpet of welcome and adulation. Jesus week leading up to Easter started off that way, but the week would not continue with such jubilance. There would be a lot turns that were unexpected by the people around him. Betrayal, beatings, crucifixion, and death will follow.
We have all been there. Everything started off with great promise then life went sideways and the unexpected has put you in a crisis. With this message I felt an accumulated sense of burden for people facing great difficulties in life. A job that promised security that was lost or one that promised a satisfying occupation that turned into a hated drudgery. It may have been a friendship that turned bitter. For you it may have started off as your year, then your health failed. Many live the heartache of a child that has turned away and is lost in dangerous behavior. Some of you remember a wedding day filled with excitement but now wonder how you ever could have gotten into this situation. Unexpected endings.
1. What is your unexpected turn of events? How did it start with hopeful promise and how did it turn into a terrible challenge? What did you do to navigate it?
Sometimes we imagine that if we just knew the future we would be able to go forward in a strong and fearless manner. But that is not assured. Even though this is a common prayer, we do not always accept God’s will when it is revealed. Jesus knew what lay ahead and he even tried repeatedly to tell the disciples, but every time he did the disciples responded with confusion or argued with him. The greatest obstacle to knowing the will of God is our willingness to debate God, rather than obey God. Jesus knew the future and yet he proceeded. He was willing to suffer and die for our sin. In fact, when Jesus saw the city of Jerusalem he was moved to tears. But his tears were not for himself. He looked into the future of his people and that city and wept over them, not himself. His longing was to was to draw us into his embrace. He wanted to simply reach out and get his arms around you and pull you in close.
2. Many wonder, if Christ loves us so, why would he allow us to go through crisis? I have found that people who best navigate crises with faith are those who have a well cultivated, daily walk with Christ. How is your daily walk with Christ preparing you to live in all circumstances?
Jesus encouraged his disciples at one point during the last supper by asking them to remember the way they went out on a mission journey and God provided completely. Remembering is key to hope. Remembering what God has done is the source of light that shines on your present moment to give you hope. God has provided. God has restored. God has healed. God can meet the present need, will guide me through, and has an answer. That light from behind is what shines forward to give a pin dot of light in front of you to lead you forward.
3. What challenges are you facing? Create a list of past providence, a list of the times God has come through in the pinch. Give thanks. Make it a daily practice to give thanks. Hope will follow and faith will emerge stronger.
Sometimes when facing overwhelming challenges, temptations, and battles the only option we have is simply to obey God. I am very open with the fact that Janice and I are not perfect (She is closer to perfect than me, of course!). We are strong personalities and sharing life together is not always a smooth ride. Either of us can be selfish. I thank God for his presence in our lives! He is our deliverer. In the midst of times when conflict could take over and destroy our relationship, God interrupts. God’s word, the Holy Spirit, and his salvation in us demands certain things of us. A good dose of the fear of the Lord can be good medicine. God requires of me that I love and lift up my wife! God interrupts my selfish, self pitying, self serving fat headed attitudes. He forces me to stop, listen, care and respond to my partner. Without that outside intervention, we could be lost. Our response, is not conditioned on feeling like, it is obedience.
4. In Philippians 2, we are called on to have the attitude that Jesus had. Jesus was humble and obedient, even to death on the cross. Are you humble before God? Does that humility produce obedience? How has obedience opened the way to God’s greater blessing? Has obedience allowed God to be your deliverer?
Jesus wants to just get his arms around you and draw you in, remember that. At a critical turning point in our oldest daughter’s life, she let her walls down and let God in. Her description of that moment was that it was like God wrapped his arms around her and gave her a great bear hug. In the midst of your crisis, God may be shaking you, waking you, demanding your attention, but nonetheless, he will not let go. Let God get his arms around you today.