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The Credentials of the King

“Is this you?” I must admit, I was puzzled by the question and asked for clarification. “Is this you?” the clerk asked a second time as she held out my credit card to me. The lightbulb finally lit up and I realized what she was asking.

Five years ago, I lost all of my hair due to illness and it never returned. I am completely bald down to my eyebrows and eyelashes. However, the picture on the back of the credit card showed me with hair. It had to be at least 6-7 years old. My credentials didn’t match my identity.

Prior to his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus predicted his death for the third time (Mark 10:32-34), taught that greatness is based on service (10:35-45), and gave sight and salvation to the blind (10:46-52). Now, as he enters the city, Jesus presents further credentials as to his identity. Some recognize and acknowledge him, some resist him, and others ignore him completely. All are faced with the question, “Who is Jesus?”

Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is one of the few events recorded by all four of the gospel writers (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19). Weaving the four accounts together provides us with a unique chronological perspective of what took place that day.

Jesus makes preparations for his entrance into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-3, 6, 7a; Mark 11:1-7a; Luke 19:28-35a; John 12: 2, 12). Some people have the idea that Jesus was a victim of circumstance. He got caught up in the celebration and was swept away by the emotion of the people. Contrary to that opinion, we see that Jesus was establishing his credentials. He demonstrated his omniscience by knowing details about the donkeys. He showed his authority by saying, “The Lord has need of them.” He sets the stage for a public display for the first time in his ministry. Through all the events of the day, Jesus revealed that he was in control.

Jesus starts riding toward Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4, 5, 7; Mark 11:7b; Luke 10:35b; John 12: 14, 15). As Jesus mounted the donkey and rode into Jerusalem, he fulfilled the prophecy about how the Messiah would enter Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9). If we were in charge, we would have scheduled a ticker tape parade with a stretch limo or at least a majestic war horse. But a donkey? What we don’t realize is the kings of Israel rode a horse in times of war and a donkey in times of peace. Riding a donkey revealed Jesus as the king who brings peace.

People accompanying Jesus from Bethany spread their outer garments on the path, while others cut branches from the trees to help pave the way (Matthew 21:8; Mark 11:8; Luke 19:36). This was the first-century version of the red carpet treatment.

Pilgrims already in Jerusalem who had heard about the raising of Lazarus join in the celebration (John 12:1, 12, 13a; 18). During the Passover celebration, the population of Jerusalem swelled to 4-5 times the normal size. Estimates range as high as 2 million people who may have been present. Among the crowds were people who had already arrived, those who were traveling with Jesus, and people who had heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

As the two groups meet, the enthusiasm mounts (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9, 10; Luke 19:37, 38; John 12:13b). As people climbed the road into Jerusalem for the Passover, they traditionally sang the psalms of ascent (Psalms 113-118). Now they add high praise for the Messiah, “Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus does not correct them but rather accepts their worship.

The excitement reaches a climax as those who had seen the resurrection of Lazarus tell the story (John 12:17). People cannot stop talking about what they have seen Jesus do.

Beside themselves with envy, the Pharisees appeal to Jesus to stop the celebration (Luke 19:39, 40). The praise police show up and demand that Jesus stop the parade and silence the people. Jesus answers by saying that creation itself will shout his praise if the crowds are silenced. Which do you prefer, praise from people or praise from rocks?

Upon seeing Jerusalem, Jesus weeps for the city (Luke 19:41‑44). Jesus is overcome with emotion and weeps for Jerusalem. The Jews had misread the calendar laid out in Daniel’s 70 weeks which showed when the Messiah would arrive. Jesus knew that the people’s praise would turn into scorn and they would cry for his death in a few short days. Jesus knew prophecy that said that in a few short years, Jerusalem itself would be destroyed. No wonder he wept!

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, the entire city is stirred (Matthew 21:10, 11; Mark 11:11). The crowds are confronted with the question, “Who is Jesus?” Some view him as the Messiah while others believe he is a prophet. Throughout his ministry in general and this day in particular, Jesus demonstrated his credentials. He is the suffering servant of Isaiah. He has the power over sickness and death. He knows all. He is Lord of all. He fulfills prophecy. He is the King who brings peace. He accepts worship. He is compassionate and caring.

Jesus is the Sovereign King who brings salvation.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 30, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Great Stories about Great Women

Seven WomenBook Review: Seven Women: And the secrets of their greatness, by Eric Metaxas

In 2013, I was introduced to Eric Metaxas inspiring book, Seven Men: And the secrets of their greatness. In this volume, I read about several men I was unfamiliar with. I found the book both informative and challenging.

Metaxas has now written a companion volume profiling seven women of high character and leadership. He makes it clear in the introduction that he is not trying to compare the women to the men. Rather, he chose women who

… were great for reasons that derive precisely from their being women, not in spite of it; and what made them great has nothing to do with their being measured against or competing against men. In other words, their accomplishments are not gender-neutral but are rooted in their singularity as women. All of them existed and thrived as women …

The seven women he profiles are women of great leadership in Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions of faith. All of them believed in the realistic presence of Jesus Christ in daily life.

Joan of Arc – As a teenager, Joan of Arc heard God’s command and led the French army to a mighty victory over the British. Joan’s innocence, purity, and holiness helped make it possible for her to do what she did. Her vulnerability and womanly virtue stunned and inspired the rough soldiers in a way that no man ever could do.

Susanna Wesley – Much of the dramatic social advances of the nineteenth century came as a result of the unprecedented outpouring of faith during the Wesleyan Revival, led by the brothers John and Charles Wesley. While their evangelism and service to the poor, disenfranchised and hopeless changed the world, their lives were shaped by the woman who raised them.

Hannah More – Hannah More was a best-selling playwright and author, a woman of boundless charm that everyone wished to be in her society. As a contemporary, friend, and collaborator with William Wilberforce, she played a crucial role in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

Saint Maria of Paris – Saint Maria was the one I had not heard of previously. She was canonized by the Orthodox Church in 2004. Born in Latvia and raised in Russia, she was considered to be a radical nun whose life “remains an indictment of any form of Christianity that seeks Christ chiefly inside the walls of our churches.” She challenged the Orthodox Church “to serve Jesus Christ with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and body—that is to be the church of Jesus Christ.”

Corrie ten Boom – Corrie ten Boom is probably the best known of Metaxas’ profiles. She risked her life to hide Dutch Jews from the Nazis in World War II and somehow survived the horrors of a concentration camp. Years later, she survived her greatest challenge—forgiving one of the prison guards who tormented her.

Rosa Parks – Considered the mother of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks’ God-given sense of justice and unshakable dignity helped launch the twentieth century’s greatest social movement.

Mother Teresa – Mother Teresa is also a well-known figure best known for her commitment to live out the commands of Christ: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. She deliberately made some of the poorest people on earth her nearest neighbors.

Like his previous book, the brief biographies of these women are well written and inspiring. They whet one’s appetite for a longer book on each person. The book would be a great gift for a high school or college graduate and would hopefully inspire a young woman to pursue greatness through sacrifice and service.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2015 in Books, Quotes

 
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Another day to enjoy God’s mercy

Lamentations 3-22-24

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Photos, Scripture, Sunrise

 

We need more creative teachers like this!

If you haven’t caught the West Des Moines Iowa teachers flash mob singing their version of “One Day More” from Les Mis, here’s the link. The event took place at a district-wide welcome back meeting, where the group sang about the One Day More they had left of preparation before classes started on Monday. It is very creative and inspiring. We need more teachers who pour their heart and creativity into their classes and lessons.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Passion, Videos, News stories

 

Jeremiah is the master of the object lesson

Every preacher has their own unique style of proclaiming the truth of God’s word. While I agree with that statement, especially since I wrote it, I would change the word “unique” to “distinct.” Rather than being a unique style, mine is a composite of many others. In that sense, I stand on the shoulders of many preachers who have gone before me. Each one contributed a nugget or principle that I incorporated into my style.

If someone were to question my multisensory approach to preaching and trying to blend PowerPoint, props, videos, pictures, and comics into my sermons, I would defend my approach by pointing to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was the master of the object lesson.

When God commissioned Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry, he responded with the age-old excuse, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (1:6). God sweeps aside those words with the explanation, “I have put my words in your mouth” (1:9).

Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah not only preaches, but he follows God’s instructions and does so in a colorful, memorable fashion.

  • Ch. 13 – Jeremiah is instructed to take his belt or sash and bury it in the bank of the Euphrates River. Later, God told him to dig it up and he discovered the sash was rotten. Jeremiah uses it to illustrate the futility of chasing other gods.
  • Ch. 18 – Jeremiah visits the potter’s house. In the same way a potter has control over the shape of the clay, so God plans and shapes the future of his people.
  • Ch. 19 – God instructs Jeremiah to buy a flask and then break it in the sight of the people to signify that God is breaking the nation because of its sin.
  • Ch. 24 – Jeremiah has a vision of two baskets of figs, one good and one bad. The good figs represent the people who will be restored to the land while the bad figs represent the leaders who will be judged.
  • Ch. 27 – Jeremiah is told to preach while wearing the yoke of an ox. This represents that the nation will be carried into captivity.
  • Ch. 32 – Jeremiah is told to buy a field in the midst of captivity. This provides a picture of hope that God will restore the nation back to the land.

Not every one of Jeremiah’s messages is accompanied by an object lesson. They are spread throughout the book, adding spice and variety to his messages. They encourage me to keep doing what I am doing as well as to pursue even greater forms of creative expression.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Books, Prayer, Scripture, Videos

 

Is Lasting Change Possible?

An old man from the mountains took a trip to the big city. For the first time in his life he found himself standing outside an elevator. He watched as an old, haggard woman hobbled on and the doors closed behind her. A few minutes later the doors opened and a young, attractive woman marched smartly off. Amazed, but realizing the possibilities, the old man turned to his son and said, “Boy, go home and get your momma so I can run her through that thing.”

Don’t you wish change was that easy? Many of us approach change like my favorite theologians, Calvin & Hobbes.

Calvin & Hobbes - change - make others change

We want to change others. But it is much more difficult to change ourselves. We struggle with our addictions, anger, fears, frustrations, bad habits, gambling, drugs, poor attitudes, our relationships, language, lusts, pornography, secret sins … and the list goes on and on. We say we want to change. We may even try to change ourselves. We say things like, “I am going to turn over a new leaf. I am going to try harder. I am going to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I am going to get my life out of the ditch. Things will be different this time. You wait and see.” But ultimately our best-intentioned attempts at change are fleeting and unsuccessful we find ourselves right back in the ditch where we started.

In Mark 10:46-52, we meet a man named Bartimaeus. He was a blind man who sat on the side of the road in Jericho, begging for the meager and chance charity of passers-by. He had long since given up hope on being able to change himself. But then Jesus came to Bartimaeus’ town. Blind Bartimaeus knew it was time for a change and he knew Jesus was the only one who could make it happen. Bartimaeus didn’t miss his chance for change.

Bartimaeus provides us with an example of how to experience real change. Through his encounter with Jesus, we discover that Jesus Christ has the power to change our lives. Jesus has the power to heal and to save.

Helen Keller was once asked, “Isn’t it terrible to be blind?” She responded, “Better to be blind and see with your heart than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” While Bart may have been blind, he had insight. He understood that Jesus was the Son of David, the promised Messiah. He knew that Jesus was his only hope.

When the critics tried to silence him, Bartimaeus cried louder. When some people reach the end of their rope, they give up. Others are like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. They like living in a garbage can because it is familiar. Blind Bart was not like that. He was desperate to receive mercy. He desperately wanted to change and he knew that Jesus was his only hope.

Despite the press of the crowds, despite being on a mission, despite being headed towards Jerusalem and the cross, Jesus makes time for one man. He stops and calls for Bartimaeus. Blind Bart throws off his cloak, sprang up, and comes to Jesus.

Jesus responds with a curious question, “What do you want me to do for you?” You’d think it would be obvious. The man is blind. He wants his eyesight. While Jesus knows our needs, he waits for us to acknowledge them. He doesn’t impose himself, but waits for us to ask for his help.

After Bartimaeus asks to recover his sight, Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well.” The word, “well,” is used elsewhere in the New Testament to mean “saved.” It indicates that Jesus has the power to heal and to save. Bartimaeus’ life is transformed and he becomes a disciple of Jesus.

Where do you need God’s power in your life? Do you have any bad habits you want to get rid of? Do you want victory over addictions, anger, worry, frustrations, profanity, alcohol, gambling, pornography, secret sins, broken relationships, doubt, or workaholism? Are there any good habits you want to start—Bible study, prayer, witnessing, generosity, serving, increased faith? Do you want a stronger marriage or family? What is holding you back?

Since Jesus has the power to heal and to save, let him change your life today! Admit your need and ask God to demonstrate his power in your life.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church on August 23, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Don’t let your love for God turn into legalism

The danger of legalism is around us and within us. We can switch from delight to duty at the drop of a hat. Joy can become a burden if we do not guard our hearts. Our love for God can easily turn into legalism if we are not careful.

Author Cliff Graham vividly portrays this tension in Song of War, the third book in his Lion of War series, his series of novels about King David and his mighty men. He writes about a conversation between King David and Shammah, one of “The Three.”

Shammah walked across the sand and stood next to his king. He stole a glance at his face. The amber eyes were searching for something. Always searching. As though a great secret was beyond the hills, and David alone knew of its existence, but was troubled because he could not answer it.

“Thank you for telling the men of the ark.”

David blinked and turned to him. “You tell them of the ark all the time.”

“But the way you say things… When I say it to them, it comes across as anger.”

David patted Shammah on the shoulder. “You love the ways of Yahweh more than most men I have known, my friend. Just make certain you don’t love the ways of Yahweh more than Yahweh himself.”

Shammah looked at Moab as David did. He heard laughter behind him. He closed his eyes. Felt the sand under his feet. Thank you, Lord.

Don’t allow your relationship with God become a religious activity. Don’t allow your love for rules and rituals to overshadow your love for the Savior.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Books, Passion, Personal growth, Quotes

 
 
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