Holy Week Musings: Palm Sunday- Evaluate Expectations

Today, 4/1/2012, is celebrated as Palm Sunday. It is the day Jesus made is triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a colt and people laid palm fronds before Him proclaims Hosanna. Jesus came to Jerusalem for Passover and excitement was buzzing. He had raised Lazarus from dead and taught from the Mount of Olive. People were excited about what Jesus was about to do. They eagerly expected that the tyranny of Rome would be shaken off and that Jesus would take his place on David’s throne to rule as Messiah. On that day, many years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem in the way that scripture prophesied Messiah would enter Jerusalem. The buzz that day had to be immense and it culminated in a huge spontaneous celebration. Palm Sunday was in essence really the first flash mob, only there was no planning involved, it just happened. People were excited. God was about to change everything and life would soon be better for all. Unfortunately, they missed the reality. Yes, God was about to change everything, just not in a way that matched expectations. Rather, God moved in a greater way that was beyond improving our life now, but rather making a way for all to be made right, fully. For Jesus did not lead a revolution or take the throne. He did not destroy Rome and life was not going to be any different. Now certainly the throngs and cries of the people had to bring temptation to invoke the plan of doing whatever to make life best for now. He could have taken the throne and undid of Rome but that would have missed the point of undoing what had been done. Adam had put all of creation under a curse of sin by one action. Jesus by one action made the way of restoration and redemption. He made it possible for man to be in direct relationship with God. He suffered greatly to bring freedom.

People expected and wanted one thing but God had something else in mind. Today, often times we are not any different than the Palm Sunday crowd. We want God to make our life best in the moment. We are focused in what God is doing for me know. We get upset if God doesn’t somehow bring circumstance to our liking. Personally, I have had my own expectations shattered at times and it did lead to periods of great anger and sin. God didn’t do things the way I thought He should. See our expectations are dangerous things and are usually wrong. Our expectations are based on our view of the world and what we think is best in the moment. Our expectations come out of our selfishness. Life doesn’t play out in accordance with what we think is “our best life now.” Things do not work out in accordance with what we want. And if we get what we want, the how we get there is usually not the way or path chosen on getting there. The story that plays out in life is never what we expect and always filled with surprises. There are many reasons for the many twists and turns of life that run contrary to even the most honorable of expectations.

So does that mean we should not have expectations? No, but we need to be constantly evaluating our expectations and desires. We need to continually be submitting whatever we expect or want before God. We need to exam self and the motives behind what we expect. We need to continually pursue God and his truth and change our own perspective to line up with His perspective. We need to move beyond the momentary and temporary and be open to whatever greater has in store. Ultimately, God meets our wants, desires, and expectations. When God does act, He acts in ways that far exceed whatever we could hope or imagine. Just like God’s plan of redemption truly met the needs of all who are willing to accept it. God had a better way. This remains true to this day. So, take time to examine where you are at, what you expect of God, what you expect with others, and what you expect of self. Examine all in light of scripture and ask God to direct paths and steps, even if things to do not go the way you expect. For Gods ways always exceeds expectations, even if we do not grasp it.

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Passion Week Musings: Palm Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday. It is the first day of what is celebrated as Passion Week, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Grasping the events of the week really starts with this day, know as Palm Sunday. It is interesting to consider the symptoms of Jesus entry into Jerusalem. An interesting article, http://www.answers.com/topic/palm-sunday, indicates palm fronds were a symbol of victory and triumph. The book “Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible” edited by J.I. Packer and M.C. Tenney indicated that palms were also symbolic of righteousness. It also is reported that palm fronds serve as the covering during the Biblical feast of booths. This symbolism is important for us when considering the events of Palm Sunday. Jesus was recognized as coming royalty, acknowledged for righteousness, and prophetically pointing to Jesus serving as our covering as that covering was laid before his path. The aforementioned article also referenced the riding in on a donkey as being symbolic of entering in peace versus entering on a horse which would symbolize war. So take some time to think about that symbolism while taking time to read the Luke account of the Palm Sunday story. Feel free to also take time to read the account in Matthew 21: 1 – 17 and Mark 11: 1 – 11. After reading the passage will offer brief commentary on three reactions that occurred during Jesus approach to Jerusalem.

Luke 19:28-44 (ESV): Luke When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side
and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

Now let us take a look at three reactions to Jesus entry. First there was the reaction of great expectation. Jesus was recognized as the coming Messiah. The crowd in their response declared Jesus as Messiah, the coming Son of David, with the expectation of deliverance from oppression and living a time of victory and peace. The anticipation and expectations were high. It was seen the time had come for Messiah to act and bring freedom.

The next reaction is that of Jesus. He understood the reactions, and the expectation. He recognized that they did not grasp that for him to become the true covering, to offer true freedom from oppression, to be able to being true peace, he would need to be sacrificed and suffer much. Jesus knew what they were blind from seeing and understanding. Even though the celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread and Passover, they did not grasp the meaning. So Jesus wept for he knew the full extent of what was to come. He knew the consequences that would result. He knew that it was necessary for the bringing of true peace.

The third response was that of the religious elite, those in power in Israel. The saw the reactions, heard the proclamations and acted in fear. The conspiracy to bring about Jesus death took full shape and they were not going to rest until they solved the threat to their power and control. They were comfortable with their position and power, Jesus coming and taking over was the last they wanted. What made it worse is Jesus came not giving the honor for faithfully administrating Torah and the people, but rather challenged them at every turn, yet while remaining righteousness an honor. Jesus actions and words brought the shame; they could not have that, so the only way to remove the threat was to see to Jesus death.

The end result of the responses is what lead up to the ongoing events of Passion Week, the very elements that took place so that all may be brought to peace and free of oppression. For true peace is only found through the sacrifice of the innocent and redemption by the power of blood.


 

Palm Sunday Musings: Examining Expectations

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. It is the day that commemorates when Jesus road into Jerusalem on an un-ridden colt. People placed their coats and palm fronds in front of the coat as he entered Jerusalem proclaiming “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!” Many of these same people, later in the week to come would scream “Crucify Him!” So the question is what changed from shouts asking for salvation to shouts demanding death. The answer comes in that Jesus did not meet their request in accordance with expectations. The people were looking for Jesus to come and remove their political suffering and oppression at the hands of the Roman Empire. They were looking for immediate results. Jesus did not meet those expectations. The failed expectations led to increased anger and hostility. Jesus death was called for because while he came to save, he did not come as a political savior, rather he came as a servant and sacrifice. Today, we still have many faulty expectations as to how God will work in our lives. We want God to meet us on our terms and in our way. If we have pain, we want immediate relief. We want God to give us advantages at the expense of others. We in general often approach God from our perspective and do not take time to consider what God’s perspective may be. Personally, there have been times of great anger toward God, because God allowed or didn’t intervene in what were harmful choices by others. Others have gotten angry at God for allowing a young person to die. Basically, what we ask of God and what we expect revolves around what we consider to be good for us. We can even make our own plans and ideas and then give them to God and ask God to bless them. It is our own wants, desires, and expectations that often distort our view of how God is operating in our life and in the world. So ultimately, each of us, while crying for God’s salvation, can easily turn and shout for his death, if God fails to meet our expectation. Each of us needs to engage in self-examination and ask God to reveal areas in our life we are holding to faulty expectations based on our own wants and desires. We need God to bring our will, thoughts, and heart toward His perspective rather than our own. We need to daily walk in trust and faith, even when times are most difficult. The reason being is ultimately God is in control and works all things together for His glory which is always good, even if sometimes very painful.

If you consider this line of thought even further, it is failed expectations and thoughts about relief from assorted types of suffering that pose a barrier to people accepting God’s gift of salvation.  The focus is often on why there is not immediate suffering relief and that the greatest evil is the ongoing prevalence of suffering. The question is that of “what does God allow pain and suffering and still be loving?”   It was such a mindset that led folks from cries of Hosanna to cries of crucify Him. In other words we attempt to define what God should do by our own concepts of justice, goodness, peace, and love.  All of our own concepts are faulty and what God has in mind and in store is far greater.  All that is needed is turning the self over to God and letting God truly save us in accordance with His will and His plan, not ours.

Josh Hamilton dream a reality!

Well, I wasn’t supposed to be home during the home run derby. I had an appointment who ended up rescheduling. I was able to watch the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby and see Josh Hamilton’s impressive performance. True, Justin Morneau ended up “winning” the contest due to the rules. I am happy about that as a Minnesota Twins fan, but the real story is Josh Hamilton.
Josh hit 28 home runs in the first round of the Derby, breaking the previous record of 24. He hit 3 homeruns over 500 yards. The performance is what people will be talking about. Prior to the homerun derby Josh indicated that he previously had a dream. A dream that he would have his voice elevated related to the home run derby to speak what is on his heart. What is on his heart is Jesus the Messiah, his Lord and Savior.
Josh had been out of baseball for three years. He hadn’t made it to the major leagues previously, his highest level being AA baseball. He is a man who took is draft signing bonus and turned to drugs. Heroin and Cocaine were the drugs of choice. He became free from his addiction by turning his life over to Jesus the Messiah in surrender. Josh will be the story people talk about, only in Minnesota will any attention be paid to his ‘winning.’
There are important lessons to be learned here from Josh’s story. God can and does use us as He will. Josh was touched by God and set free from addiction. He still is cautious and knows full well the lure of temptation, but he has been set free. He was on a primetime stage and performed memorably. He performed so memorably his story will be remebered and told. Sure, some people will give glory to Josh’s natural abilitles. However, Josh has turned the attention directly to Jesus the Messiah. Praise God.
I want to point out that God dealt with Josh Hamilton, not at some big healing revival, but in the still, small quiet moments. God is still at work and moving in peoples lives and you don’t have to travel to Lakeland, to Jerusalem, to Timbuktu, or to the South Pole to meet with God or see God work. God meets you where you are, no need to go chasing some external manifestation. Another thing noteworthy, Josh has deep regrets over tatoos he got while using drugs. (Interesting to compare that with a certain revivalist who got tatoos after being saved and then lies about it. )
An interesting side note, the winner Justin Morneau barely was invited to the contest. He was the last person people expected to win. He clearly brings home the last shall be first principle.

Movie Commentary: Bella

From time to time on this blog I will make comments on movies, television shows, or other culturally significant issues. When I make comments on a movie I am not going to censor content. So if you do not want content spoiled it is best to read my thoughts after viewing said movie.  If I think a movie is not worth viewing I will state so up front.

            This weekend I watched the movie Bella with my wife and mother.  I had heard good things about this movie and heard it had a strong positive pro-life,  even pro-God/Christianity message. 

            In watching the film, I found the message to be rather straight forward. In terms of the message of the film I found it to be a mixed bag.  On the positive side, the movie definitely has a strong pro-life message. It stresses the importance of relationships and the value of life.  I did find the movie to contain more elements of kharmatic thought over essential Christian themes. 

            The main character essentially saves the life of a child, in essence undoing the life he cost.  It came off as promoting the good done to replace the bad. Some elements of it would seem to fit into an episode of  My Name is Earl without the humor. 

            It do admit that the movie does have a strong positive message. It does a good job of showing a character moving beyond being wrapped up in self and reaching out to others but again it comes off more as kharmatic versus essential Christianity. The main character even is shown with a guru-like, messiah type persona. Perhaps you could stretch the presentation to have allegorical references but the essential themes of the film do seem to fit kharmatic line of thought.

            In terms of the pro-life message I did find it to have value. However, I look at the content of the film and the emphasis on the life of the child and I see the persistent cultural theme of having a child is the apex of humanity. The film does a good job of contrasting selfish pursuit versus looking out for others. However, I do not see complete selflessness in the film. 

            The film did have some moments referencing God, including a blind-man interacting with the two main characters with a sign behind him stating “God made me blind so that I might see” (any errors are do to my faulty memory.)  If anyone who reads this blog and has different thoughts please share them. Am I missing something in this film?  Is the value of this film simply the pro-life message?  I would appreciate any comments.

Lessons from a game called werewolf/mafia:

Lessons from a game called werewolf/mafia:

 

            Over the past three four years one of the ways I engaged in entertaining and distracting myself is a game called werewolf, also known as mafia.  It is a game about deception.  Basically there is a team of bad guys trying to deceive others and folks who are trying to figure out who the deceivers are.  This post isn’t about the dynamics of the game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafia_(game) but some important lessons that can be learned.

            One important lesson is that no one is beyond being deceived. The most skilled people at spotting varied ‘tells’ or spotting the deceivers can fail or falter. No one is beyond being deceived by someone else or even themselves.  In applying this lesson, we each need to be aware and acknowledge that no one is beyond deception.. Anyone that thinks they are beyond being deceived is fooling themselves.  We need to continually engage in prayerful self-examination and ask God to show us the ways we have been deceived and to show us truth. 

            Another important lesson is that people prefer to follow.  I have seen this play out on numerous occasions. As soon as someone displays proficiency at finding the deceivers, others tend to follow them.  It is much easier to follow then to examine facts and details and search for the truth on your own. If someone exhibits apparently greater skills it is much easier to follow rather then examine facts for yourself. It works out well when the person is right but when the person is wrong, the results are not satisfactory and often assist those looking to deceive.   

In applying this  lesson to life and exposing deception we need to be willing to examine and test things on our own. We need to not just simply trust the words or actions of others, no matter how often they have display accuracy.  Blindly following others is detrimental, particularly if a person relies on others for the word of God and not spending time spending time and studying the Word.  Also if we spend more time reading Christian authors and others interpretations of the word, we leave our self vulnerable to be deceived or follow error.

Another important lesson is that the greater the distractions, the easier it is to be deceived. Time and time again I witnessed where people couldn’t sort through multiple information even when there were clues to what is true and what is false. The simple application to this lesson is the greater amount of distractions; the harder it is to assess truth.

            A surprising but important lesson is that when looking for deception it is easy to become paranoid. This means we can easily see lies and deception in people that are being truthful.  Now while such paranoia can make for interesting game play, in life it makes  things confusing.  God doesn’t offer confusion but we can sure generate a lot of it on our own doing. Given how easy it is to become paranoid this stress the importance of depending on God and leaning not on our own understanding. We can easily find lies and deception where there is none, just as much as we can fall prey to lies and deception. The enemy loves when we do become paranoid and find lies in the truth.

            In watching multiple games played out another sure lesson is that deceivers have no problem ‘eating their own.’   In order to gain trust, exposing someone else engaging in deception can be a way to gain trust and greater deceive others.  The last game I actually played, it was done to perfection when one member of the team of deceivers was exposed after another with even easily sorted out lies being spoken ultimately resulting in trust for one person who ended up winning the game.  Such tactics breed pride and over-confidence as well as stimulating trust. So while “the house” may be “divided against itself” the goal is to lay ground work for other lies or deceptions to be accepted or a deceiver to be trusted. In our lives, we need constant evaluation and with the light of scripture. We need to test all things continually and be wary. 

            The last lesson I want to discuss is that any time someone discovers a tell or a pattern to sort out the deceptions in the game, once the deceivers are aware the deceptions and game play the strategies and lies adjust to take them into account.  If lies always followed the same pattern, they can be easy to spot, but eventually there comes a time when what you used to rely on is ineffective.  Of course, with God, His discernment is always accurate, and always ahead of the enemy.  For each of us though, of our own strength and power, it is easy to be deceived and trust others based on confidence in a “technique” or “test.”  The enemy is crafty, and will adjust!

            There are probably more lessons I can take from the game but the essential point is we are all easily deceived and of our own effort finding and exposing deceptions is ultimately impossible. Our enemy, Satan, is the master of deception. Each of these things I have observed about deception is but a drop in the bucket of Satan’s tools.  We need to live in surrender and dependence to God, we need to repent of relying on our own strength, we need to Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, we need constant exposure to the Word of God, and we need to the grace of Jesus the Messiah to cleanse us from our self-effort and failures.  May we all grow in truth and be sober and alert lest we become embroiled in deception.

The beginning, finally.

Hello and welcome. This blog has been a long time coming. I have been felt read to start sharing and writing thoughts about the Church, the world, and whatever God puts on my heart for some time.  I have been negligent in following through with this call until now.

I have been negligent because I have been to wrapped up in distractions and self-pity over events in my life.  I put myself above what God was calling.  I had many excuses and many reasons why not.  I did not surrender fully to God.  And yet now I start.  Finally! Time to surrender!

So what brought me to this point of surrender?  Well, it was a wake-up call from God.  There has always been a part of me that has wanted to see God actively moving in people’s lives.  I yearn to see people healed of deep wounds and set free from bondage.  I want to see people brought into True peace.  In that  yearning, I ultimately was made aware of what is called the “Florida Outpouring.”

                When I first learned of it I tuned in, watched it for the duration.  First, I was glad to see people seeking after Christ.  However, as I watched I had several checks in my spirit.  I observed the “laughter” Mr. Bentley was exhibiting and it seemed to me a faked forced, laugh.  I watched Mr. Bentley take testimonies of miracles and saw him fishing and twisting for connection to the “Lakeland outpouring.”  The third thing of concern was he made a comment stating flat out “You’re going to give me all your money.”  It was a disjointed statement at the time, and I wondered about it. I believe soon after that he began speaking on “seeds of faith” giving, always a red flag for me.  His teaching that night talked about four levels of healing. Nothing seemed off regarding that teaching at the time.  However, in retrospect, it was all about receiving the “healing” and very little about surrender to Jesus, the Messiah.

                I had failed at the time to attend to the red flags. Sent emails out to some family and friends pointing out the revival and initially made some posts defending Mr. Bentley on a Christian forum.  I sadly sent a prayer request for my wife’s health to a pastor of the church sponsoring the event, because I hate how my wife has suffered and want to see her set free.   Well, I went to bed that night and woke up with a heavy feeling in my spirit.  I prayed to God about Mr. Bentley and what was happening and began to research further.  What I found was that Mr. Bentley was not serving Christ and was deceiving many. 

                In making me aware of the deception, God also made me aware that I had put much ahead of Him.  The chief of which is my own entertainment and pleasure. How I had not placed God at the top and that I needed to wake up and surrender to Him.  I needed to take my eyes off the things of this world and focus on Christ.  There were other parts of the wake-up call but in this initial post it is not the time to go into such matters, but God made it perfectly clear .

                In think God’s move in my heart is best summed up in the verses in Ephesians 5:13-16 “13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

            So now that you are a little aware of what finally got me here, blogging, let me share with you what I hope my posts on this blog will do.  First of all and most important is to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh and bring others to a place where they submit wholly to Him.  The second thing I hope to do on this blog is to shed light. I haven’t totally fleshed out what that means, but a key verse God has been directing my life with is “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and Glorify God in heaven.” Matthew 5:16  In time I will expand more on what shedding light means.  The important thing is for me to start posting and let God draw to the sight, those that we will. 

May God’s Grace and Peace illuminate your heart and may you be drawn in surrender to Him.

Timothy G. Blake, Peacebringer.