Palm Sunday Musings: Moving Beyond Great Expectations

Today, Sunday 4/17/11, is Palm Sunday. It is the day that we remember and celebrate Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem where people placed palm fronds before Him. Palm fronds historically mean triumph and victory[i] and the act of laying them down before someone was a common welcome for a coming king or hero.[ii] The crowd was anticipating Jesus arrival. Part of the great anticipation stems from the resurrection of Lazarus. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Church recognize the Saturday prior to Palm Sunday as Lazarus Saturday with belief that Lazarus was raised from the dead on that day.[iii]  The palm Sunday account in John 12 does suggest that the resurrection of Lazarus was fairly recent as the crowd and followed him and those conspiring to kill Jesus also want to kill Lazarus. 

 So the scenario is that Jesus shown Himself to have power over death in resurrecting Jesus and approached Jerusalem.  The crowd was rife with anticipation. Jesus showed himself to have power over death. Expectations soared. The thoughts had to be The Messiah had finally arrived as who else has power over death. Finally the Son of David is coming to claim the throne, set all things right, and set them free from home and establish the reign of David.  They expected great and big things.  God’s plans were quite different.  Soon the crowd would turn.  Many who proclaimed “Hosanna” later proclaimed “Crucify Him!”  What changed? 

God’s plan was not what people expected.  They were expecting immediate relief and victory. They were focused on this life and the political tyranny they lived under.  They looked with eyes of this world, not eyes on the eternal world.  They looked for a conquering king, not a lamb to be slain. God ways did not meet the human expectation. Even those who did not join in the refrain to kill Jesus did not get it.  So the retreated and withdrew not having a clue what was going on.  They gave everything to follow Jesus, for what? To see him die?  They didn’t sign up for that, even though told over and over that was the plan, they didn’t get it.  No rather, on Palm Sunday, expectations were great.  Lazarus was alive and who could stop Jesus. He will bring victory.  

Guess what, we often still do not get it.  We have expectations. We get caught up in this world. God does not do things the way we expect. We fail to see His way and His victory. We often get angry when God doesn’t match our expectations or withdraw when we have no idea what God is doing as it does not match how we think things should play out.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  God did bring victory. He used the events to follow to redeem all that will surrender to Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Jesus is making all things right, but still we can miss it. We can still get distracted with the ways of the world and what we want God to do in this world, in the here and now. Life can be focused on what is going on “immediately” and the varied “tyrannies of suffering” we live under. We want all made right and want to see God working now.  Ah, but God asks us to surrender in spite of all before us.  Whatever pain, whatever struggle, whatever is going on in this life. The call is to trust Him and surrender to Him.  This is day to day moment by moment. We each need to get past our great expectations and surrender. 

And here is what is worth focusing on today, and the true celebration. Jesus is soon coming to make all things right.  He will be coming back as the Lion of Judah.  He will be coming to set all things right. He who has power over death is coming and will conquer all. Every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord above all Lords, King above all Kings.  At that point, it will be truly Hosanna in the Highest, for there is none like the Lamb who was slain who comes forth as the Lion of Judah, He above all others.  He who is both Lamb and Lion.  The time is coming, rejoice. Set aside the thoughts and expectations of self, for God has His ways. In Him alone is victory.  Look to His life, and let go of whatever you hold onto. While it is still Today, let go and surrender, for there is no other way.


Reflecting on the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Today is the Feast of Trumpets, the Jewish New Year, one of God’s Holy days.   Sadly, it is a day that most Christians know nothing about other than a name that appears on a calendar in the fall and known as a Jewish Holiday.  Well, it is not just a Jewish Holiday; it is the Jewish New Year.  It is a day established by God for celebration.  As all things established by God the day has specific meaning about what has happened, what is going on today, and what is to come.  The point of this article is to examine some principles of this day a little deeper. Admittedly, this article is written not from personal experience, but upon examination of the documented elements of the day. Certainly there is plenty of information out that can give much deeper insight into the day. One article that has been helpful in understanding the elements of the day is found here: http://brenda.ratcliffs.net/07Trumpets.pdf.  

This Holy day is a day of transition.  As such it is a day of paradox. It is a beginning and an end. It is a day of celebration and introspection. It is marked by a transition of a waning moon to a new, full moon.  It is a day of joy and can be a day of fear.  The fear comes as the day is the start of focusing on God judgments. According to Jewish thinking it is the day when God writes folks in the book of life, the book of death, or sort of a yet to be determined state.  Thus there is fear of judgment and sober reflection.  As followers of Jesus the Messiah who as made us clean, there is no need of fear of judgment but sober reflection is beneficial.  I think it is very important to note there is a day that reflects beginning and end, as this day clearly points to Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, where everything starts and everything ends. He is the one who brings about all changes and by His gift our name is assured of being in the book of Life. And this Holy day is a day for reflecting on this fact.

One element to reflect on is that the Holy day of Rosh Hashanah is a day that does point to the past. It points to the beginning of all things. It points to God as the creator.  There are other events that may well have taken place on this Holy day. One is that is the most likely day that Jesus was born. There are also suggestions it also was the day of his baptism and the day he was led to the wilderness. So this day has been a day of prime importance to God, one that He has seen fit to be a day he has chosen for some beginnings.

If we look at this Holy day for what it what it means to us today. It is a day to look both at what has changed from the past year and what it is ahead. It is a day to focus on what God has been doing and to note what comes ahead.  For Jews, there are two greetings on this day. One is “May you be inscribed and sealed (for a good year” the other is to wish others a year of sweetness and joy.  Well, every year is a year of sweetness and joy when we live a life of surrender to Jesus.  When we accept Jesus as the one who saves us and the one to whom we submit it bring a complete wholeness that is sweet and joyous. And the fact is that with that relationship to the Messiah, we are sealed and inscribed.  A follower of Jesus is sealed with the Holy Spirit and his name is assured of being written in the Lamb’s book of life.  There is no greater joy than that fact, as for the follower of Jesus there is no fear of judgment, just the need to continue to grow and be cleaned and purified.

Now, the day is certainly one about the end. While Jesus may have been born on this day, there is another day coming. It is a day of Jesus coronation as coming King. A day he establishes his government and authority and begins the judgment.  This day is a day established by two witnesses because it may be missed because of clouds and obscuring darkness.  Those who have turned to Jesus for salvation and call Him Lord are to be having a mindset of preparation and watchfulness. We his followers are his servants and bride. He is coming to claim his bride and reward faithful servants.  We are to be about His business. We are to watch. We are to prepare. We are to be sober and alert.  This day, is a day that reminds us of all these things.  It is a day to examine what gets in the way of walking in surrender and being faithful servants. It is a day for the bride to be cleaned and prepared for the groom.  So on this day and the days that follow is a day to take a close look at self and listen to God’s direction to learn what needs to change in the year ahead.  It is an ongoing process until the day of the great Rosh Hashanah when the King of Kings comes and his throne is established.  It is a joyous and dreadful day, for judgment is coming but Jesus will put all enemies to flight and then there is true joy and rest.

So, there is much to reflect and learn from on this day.  Take some time and learn more about the Feast of Trumpets, for the day is soon coming when the trumpets shall resound and it will be a day unlike any other day.  A day from which forth the whole of creation will resound with “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” and “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Passion Week Musings: The Last Passover Supper

After the Olivet discourse the events documented in the Gospel’s really focuses on events of preparation leading up to the Last Supper which was a Passover meal.   Prior to that meal there are two other significant documented events.  Jesus was anointed with perfume by some woman, which Jesus described as his being prepared for burial.  During this same time the other event described in the Gospels is Judas making a deal with the religious leaders to betray Jesus.   Up until the last Supper all the tensions were mounting and the crescendo was building.   As Jesus spent time preparing both himself and his disciples for what is coming there had to be an emotional storm building in Jesus.  The anticipation of what was to come had to far more intense than anything any of us have gone through.  Tomorrows post on the Garden will touch a bit more on the emotions of Jesus.  Here the focus is really about the preparation and Jesus pointing ahead and trying to prepare his disciples for what is to come while the pieces were moving and being set into play.  Jesus focus during that last Passover supper was all on what is to come.

After all the pieces were in place, Jesus and the disciples had the Passover meal and celebration. Now if the reader is not aware, the Passover points to the night Israel was delivered from Egypt with the tenth plague, the death of the 1st born males in Egypt.  There was instruction to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doorpost, resulting in being spared having the first born killed.   The Passover meal reminds us of sin and bondage and points to God’s once and for all sacrifice in Jesus.  Jesus declared himself the “Afikomen” when he directed his disciples to eat the bread. He declared himself “salvation” when he drank the third cup.  He really told the disciples about what was coming and it would be for salvation.   Jesus also spent time giving the disciples words to remember and a significant object lesson of serving and loving one another.  His actions were all about preparing the disciples for what was ahead, even though he knew they did not understand that they could not possibly understand. When Judas left the meal, after likely dipping the parsley at the same time as Jesus and announced as a betrayer, imagine the confusion and shocked the disciples experienced.  I can imagine the indignation the disciples felt as they were told that they would all falter.  Imagine after the resurrection, the disciples talking and discussion the events of the Last Passover Supper with a new grasp and understanding that had failed them in the midst.  The point that really hits home today thinking about this, is the Jesus and the Father both spent a lot of time preparing the disciples and those around for the events that were to unfold.  The essential point here is God does prepare us for what is ahead. 

Now our being prepared is not something that we are fully aware of at the time.  We like the disciples may be confused and lost in the midst.  We wonder the who, what, when, where, and whys of things we do not grasp. Yet, God does go before us and prepare us. God is in control.  Sometimes many pieces come into play that converge, but God is not caught off guard or surprised by anything and he gives us what He knows we need, which is often different than what we think we need.  Jesus spent personal time with his disciples during an important and meaningful time to prepare them for what is to come.  As what was to come in the next few days was an apex of darkness before the point of victory occurred.  The time leading up to the Last Passover supper was all about preparation,  it was the “middle” part of the story that at the time seems insignificant and can even get  bogged down but really is the essential time as it was the time the pieces moved into place, the character moments established that build to the climax, which in the cause were the death and resurrection to come. 

In this day and age, when pieces and events seem to be moving us ever closer to the second coming, it is important to know that God has us undergoing times of preparation. Whatever we are doing and going through, it really serves to build us up and prepare us for what is yet to come.  God is working in each of our lives to give us the teaching, training, and growth needed for what is yet to come.   Each day is a day closer to Jesus return.  Just like the cross, the moment of victory will be preceded by a time of great darkness and the appearance of victorious darkness. Yet, Jesus is coming and Victory is assured.  God has prepared us for what is ahead and will go before us and lead the way.  We just need to stay the course, be sober, be alert, and remain awake.  God is and will test all claiming to be in the faith. Lines are being drawn, pieces are moving, and we are nearing the end.  It is both a terrible and glorious day.  But worry and fear not, because it is God that prepares our hearts and minds, it is he that enables us to stand firm.  Just seek and pursue truly loving God and others, walk the path God directs and points you and trust that God will prepare you for what is ahead.

Musings on the pain of separation and relationship to feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Well this last Saturday was Rosh Hashanah. If you haven’t read last years article on the subject I hope you take the time to do so, it focused on the alarm and awakening aspect of the first trumpet. Now while I have some other thoughts related to Rosh Hashanah for another article I want to first attend to thoughts related to my experience which happened to fall on Rosh Hshanah.  The day for me was a traveling day.  Me and the wife were in the midst of traveling to visit family in Brazil.  In this process we needed to leave our little dog, Bella, behind.

Now we left her in good hands with my mother. She will be treated more like a dog and will have the company of my mom’s dog.  Yet, leaving her behind was very difficult.  As we left her friday night, the sadness was great.  The worst part was when we left and she followed us right to the door expecting to leave with us and having to see her watch us leave not understanding what was going on. My mother reported that whole first night she kept looking for us to see if we were returning.  She has now settle into the routine of that house but clearly she missed us.  Now, me and the wife feel this way over our little dog. I cannot yet imagine what it is like to be separated from a child you love. 

Thoughts that came to my mind during this time centered on how much pain God experiences over separation from us. There are two thoughts related to this.  First of all is the separation of sin.  The choosing to turn from God that goes back to Eden had to be devastating for God. God was enjoying his fellowship with his creation and then choices were made that brought on lasting separation.  This separation is so severe that God refers to it as death.  God certainly felt an intense amount of grief over that choice.  In the same way each time we go our own way, chase after whatever idol seems to satisfy, God is in great pain. He wants be with us.  He wants to be with us so much that he has taken whatever means necessary to reconcile the relationship.  He pursues connection and for each rejection, He has great pain.  The thought of such pain of separation draws me to examine myself and turn from that which separates me from the love of God. It is important to note, that once reconciled with God, there is nothing that we do that brings back that separation of sin. God has made it so that pain does not have to be experienced again.  Nothing will ever separate us from his love again.

The second thought the pain of separation brings to mind is about the joy of reuniting.  During this trip we are going to spend time with the wife’s family. Several of them we haven’t seen in five years.  When we landed the family members that were present were literally jumping with joy.  It is of great joy to be reunited with those you love after separation.  The same is true with God’s relationship with us.  There will be nothing of greater joy than when Jesus is able to end the separation and return to be with us.  The first trumpet is a call that says the time is truly near and Jesus is coming soon.  Now regardless of end times theology one subscribes, the fact is the first trumpet signals the soon and coming return of  Jesus. It is a time of exceeding joy.  The time of the pain of separation is over, and the joy of fellowship returning.  

Another thought that crosses my mind is that when there is separation we always have something to look back on with memory. For our dog we left something behind with our scents on it.  We have pictures, videos, and our memories to ease the times of separation from those we love.  God did not leave us without means of relationship.  He left us two things.  The Bible and the Holy Spirit.  The bible gives us God’s words and gives us pictures, memories and directions on how to live until his return.  Yet, he did not just leave us with his Word but also has indwelt us. While Jesus has left, we do have the Holy Spirit dwelling within.  God is truly with us.  For me it may seem like interacting with God on similar levels to communicating by phone or internet.   We have that direct connection but yet it is not quite the same as full physical contact with another body.  Yet, God even left us a third piece to deal with that separation.  We are the body of Christ. When we interact with one another, we  are able to step into the void of seperation. We reflect and demonstrate pieces of God’s love. 

So for each Christian, we eagerly await the soon and coming return of Jesus.  We long to hear that first trumpet blast that says the time is rapidly approaching.  God left us the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and each other to help us in this time of separation. But the time is soon coming when we will no longer be longing for the return of Jesus and experience the joy of His return.

Election Day Admonition: Fear Not!

Today is a day where the citizens of the United States choose there elected representatives.  We have watch and observed a highly intense political season filled with much vitriol.  In terms of the battle for the highest office in the land much has been said on both sides.  Each side has expressed anger and fear about what would happen if the other side wins. 

       Today, perhaps this morning, we will learn who is the next president of the United States.  Barrack Obama or John McCain.  Many believe the decision is pivotal for the future of this country, and perhaps that is true.  What I do know is that God is in control and what is ahead is nothing to fear.  If Barrack Obama or John McCain win and push the country down their respect paths, ultimately neither one will deter from what God has set in motion.  Regardless of appearances, Satan is already defeated.  Sure,  there is promises of pain and suffering ahead for many as the end approaches and the return of Jesus draws ever closer.  Yet, any believer in Jesus as Messiah should not fear, there is no real reason to do so. 

      We need to take our mind and focus off of the political and onto what Jesus asks of each of us.  Political moves and changes come and go. They impact us and this country. There are consequences ahead for the choices we have made.  None of this is reason to fear.  We each need to put our faith not in politics or some politician, but in God. We need to examine ourselves to see where we are or are not surrender to the King of Kings. 

      Many of you will read this well after the election is determined.  Regardless of who has won, FEAR NOT!  Place your faith in the one true God and walk in the ways God leads you.  Focus your mind on things above, focus your mind on our Fathers will, not on the temporal things of this life that come and go.

The Final Biblical Festival: Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles/Booths)

Yesterday was the start of Sukkot. Sukkot goes for seven days and is followed by a Holy Sabbath day (Shemini Atzeret) on the eight day.  This festival is one of celebration and rejoicing.  It is thought to serve even as a starting point for the Pilgrims celebration of Thanksgiving.

      This festival appears rich with meaning and points both back to Israel’s wandering in the desert and forward to Jesus return and establishing His kingdom on earth and the millennial reign.  It is the festival celebrating the final harvest. 

     The festival emphasizes temporary shelters which points to the temporariness of this life.  It points to far better things ahead. The festival is also one the requires a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  This requirement is a reminder that this world is not our home, and there is greater things ahead. 

      Now according to several articles, the most likely time of Jesus birth was during Sukkot.  So in essence, the biblical festival of Sukkot is also the true celebration of the birth of Yeshua as well as the culmination of the second coming when the final harvest occurs and the marriage with the Bride occurs.  Those of us who have missed in learning and celebrating Sukkot and the other Biblical festivals miss out on a lot that God has designated to point to what is ahead as well as what he has done.  Another interesting not is that Jesus referring to himself being the living water and the light of the world points to ceremonies involved in Sukkot.

      Sukkot is also marked by the performance of seventy sacrifices. Articles point  out that seventy is the number of existing nations at the time of the foundation of Israel.  It is to point to people from all nations and tribes being part of the final harvest and entering into the Kingdom of God.

     There are many, many things to learn from Sukkot. The articles I have examined have been interesting.   Ultimately, we all should be celebrating God’s provision, our redemption, and the coming kingdom of God.  A study of Sukkot make very clear that any who preach the Church needing to take dominion before the return of Yeshua is preaching a different gospel because such a concept does not fit with the imagery God set forth in the Sukkot festival. 

     Also in examining this and the other fall festivals, it is clear that in the modern church with our Celebration of Christmas and Easter and ignorance of the Biblical festivals truly miss out on what God has for us. In this case, Sukkot is essentially a week long party celebrating what God has, is, and will do.

Reference articles:

http://www.bridgesforpeace.com/pics/_TeachSukkot.pdf

http://www.ourfathersfestival.net/about_the_festival

http://followingtheancientpaths.wordpress.com/2006/10/06/sukkot-aka-feast-of-tabernacles/

http://www.messianic.ws/sukkot.htm

http://www.tikkunministries.org/newsletters/mm-oct08.asp

http://www.localaccess.com/Pari/sukkot.htm

http://www.thewatchman.org/en/sukkot.php

http://www.bethhillel.com/sukkot.htm

We all need to get ready!

My first blog post talked about how I finally got to the point of doing something God has been asking of me for some time.  Exposure to Lakeland and the subsequent discernment of it’s falsehood played on role. In terms of my waking up and reprioritizing my focus to move in surrender to Jesus, there was another aspect that really encouraged me to refocus. 

During searching out truth and researching Mr. Bentley I ran across some post and threads detailing varied prophecies, in particular about the United States. I had reasons to distrust what I read but really had no real discernment regarding what is true and what is false.  Mainly because to be assured of false prophecy, what they prophesy doesn’t come to pass. 

            Well, I read a lot of stuff prophesying impending disaster in the United States, including an old prophecy in the 1950’s from a old woman in the Netherlands. Granted, I have a tendency to be curious and a sin pattern of “wanting to know.” So I read varied accounts out there.  I noted that while some varied prediction’s were consistent, it was not consistently consistent. There were always things the same and things different.  However, if anything those prophecies said were true, times can be getting difficult. It is a sobering thought to even consider what would happen if the world as we know it changed. If as several suggested,  sudden collapse and catastrophe came to the whole nation.  Very sobering thoughts.

I prayed about this information I had come across and essentially God directed me to “Get ready, and be prepared.” We need to be treating each day and season if it be the last.  We need to stay sober and alert and seek God. An important Biblical passage regarding this is Matthew 24:32-51 which describes how things will be on the Lords return and the importance of keeping watch and being ready. The central verse of this passage for me is Matthew 24:42 (NIV) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” 

Getting ready and keeping watch has nothing to do with the veracity of professed prophecies, but more to do with the state we should be in continually.  I need to be continually seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, versus my own.  I needed to be surrendered to him and not just trying to keep self entertained and simply surviving. 

            Does this mean I go seeking after “knowledge” or “prophesies?” By no means!  I believe anytime we seek after anything other then surrender to Christ we are opening ourselves up to deception. End time prophecies and predictions have come and gone.  Words once spoken are reinterpreted.  Always though, God’s Word stand. We all understand in part. We are all to do as says in Proverbs 3:5, 6(NIV): “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  This again involves submission, setting ourselves aside. 

            We are to treat any prophecy seriously and soberly.  As it states in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22(NIV): “19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.”  This passage essentially directs us to test everything, keep to what is good, avoid all evil.  So we need to listen, watch, observe and above all test.  Keep the good, throw out the bad. This should be our attitude and actions. 

            So regarding the times we are in and what happens.  We need to be ready, be on the watch.  Look for what the Lord of Lords is doing but above all seek to trust in the Lord with all our hearts.  Whether calamity or judgment comes tomorrow, ten years from now, or a hundred years from now, we need to be alert.  We need to keep to the steps God directs all the while watching, praying, and attending to the direction God leads, all the time testing to be assured we are following His path and His kingdom and not our own or that of another.  So the question is are you ready?  I think the Larry Norman lyric’s are a good way to close this post.  Feel free to make any comments, ask questions, or challenge anything I say. 

I Wish We’d All Been Ready

By Larry Norman

 

Life was filled with guns and war,

And everyone got trampled on the floor,

I wish we’d all been ready

Children died, the days grew cold,

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold,

I wish we’d all been ready,

There’s no time to change your mind,

The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

 

A man and wife asleep in bed,

She hears a noise and turns her head, he’s gone,

I wish we’d all be ready,

Two men walking up a hill,

One disappears and one’s left standing still,

I wish we’d all been ready,

There’s no time to change your mind,

The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

 

Life was filled with guns and war,

And everyone got trampled on the floor,

I wish we’d all been ready,

Children died, the days grew cold,

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold,

I wish we’d all been ready,

There’s no time to change your mind,

How could you have been so blind,

The Father spoke, the demons dined,

The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.