Fickle Followers

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Today, March 28th, 2021, Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday. On this day we remember what is known as the ‘Triumphal Entry,’ as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, welcomed as the long-awaited Messiah. You can find the depiction of this event in Mark 11:1-11.

The gospel writer makes full use of the symbolism at hand. First, Jesus instructs his disciples to bring Him a colt to ride on. The Lord mentions that this animal is one that has never been ridden, thus making it an appropriate mount for a king.

It is also important to keep in mind that at this climactic time in Jesus’ ministry, He is wildly popular among the ‘every day’ folks He has been ministering to and teaching. These people had been living under the oppressive rule of Rome and had been waiting many generations for the promised messiah to lead them to freedom. By seeing the miracles and the healings, many had concluded that this Jesus was the one who would lead them to freedom.

The culmination of these events happens as the annual Passover Celebration is nearing. This feast commemorated God leading the Jewish people out from the bondage of Egypt. It is no great leap then to see how this remembrance would enhance the expectation of what Jesus was going to do for them, that is break them out from the dominion of Rome.

Mark’s account of this first Palm Sunday tells of the great excitement and expectation of the crowd that has gathered along the road leading into Jerusalem. I can picture it like a modern day parade, with folks jammed in shoulder to shoulder, craning their necks for a better view of what is happening. The crowd cheered for Jesus. They shouted praises, throwing their cloaks on the road in front of Him to pave the way for this heavenly royalty. The air was electric as the promised King who was going to make all their troubles go away passed by.

We, living on this side of the events of biblical history, know how quickly the great expectations of the masses turned to anger, despair and disillusionment. A mere four days later this soon-to-be king was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. The crowd that had so enthusiastically cheered His coming now raised their voices to have Him crucified.

Those now pleading for the death of Jesus were no doubt some who had been awed by the sights they had seen: Thousands fed from almost nothing, diseases healed, demons cast out and even the dead brought back to life. The glitter of these events was very bright, but when they stopped happening, what was left? For many, I suppose they felt empty and a bit sad that they had been ‘taken in’ by what they had seen. But now the showmen was arrested and about to die, this certainly was no messiah. The anger and disappointment boiled over into a mob calling for this charlatan’s death.

Well, that would never have been me, I comfort myself with. Surely I would have stayed to the bitter end. Not so fast Charles.

If I am to be honest, there are times in my life even now where doubt seems stronger than faith. When the earnest prayers of the faithful seemingly go unanswered, a part of my heart wonders why. As the world falls deeper into darkness and hopelessness, I cry out to God to make Himself known to many. Yet, the many do not seem interested.

As I contemplate these things, it occurs to me that I must be vigilant when it comes to faith. I can do this in a number of ways. First, I must recall that any faith that I have is a gift from God and that I do not generate it on my own. (Romans 12:3b). Because this faith is a gift from God, it is meant to be lived out in trust in Him. In Him means who God is, not necessarily what He is doing.

This was the flaw of many of the original audience on that first Palm Sunday. They had put their belief in the tremendous things they had seen, not in the One who provided the power to make them happen. Once the ‘show’ seemed to end, so did their own belief.

You and I must be vigilant here as well. As wonderful as it is to see firsthand the power of God at work, this should only enhance our faith, not be the basis for it.

We are so incredibly blessed to be living after these biblical events happened. We are privy to how the story played out. We can understand that the miracles of Jesus were to draw people’s attention to God; but it was God and not the miracles they were to place their trust in.

Let us all who recognize what the gift of faith truly is raise our voices today (and everyday) to proclaim the greatness of God. May we live our lives as examples of His saving power that is still at work in the world. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, may we all be faithful, not fickle, followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Don’t Hesitate, vaccinate!

I was asked to participate in an effort to promote getting vaccinated against Covid-19 by the Regional Health Equity Task Force. I sat down with them recently to shoot this video and if you listen closely, you will hear Betsy and I singing our National Anthem in the background

CHUCK COPPS – YouTube

Thanks for watching and please don’t hesitate, vaccinate!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

The Appeal of Christianity

Does the person who cut me off on the highway know I am a Christian.  Did my one-fingered salute clue him in that I profess to follow Jesus? Do the folks around me at a hockey game experience my love when I loudly disagree with the referee’s call? Does my wife see the love of God displayed in me when I grudgingly agree to help with a project around the house? No, no and no.

Looked at in this light, I am missing by a wide margin the command Jesus gives in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV).

The word love in these verses is God’s all-encompassing love.  It is the love given to us that we are to express back to Him and others.  Another place in Scripture tells us that, we love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

How do I do this? On my own, I can’t.  I/we can only exhibit the love of God if it is in us.  In order to obey this command, we must believe Jesus to be the Son of God who gave His life for all sinners and was raised from the dead to give the final victory over death.

Ok, I do believe that; why then do I have trouble obeying this command? The answer comes down to understanding the sacrificial nature of Jesus love.  More than understanding, I must become willing to supplant my wishes in favor of others.  That means I have to grow to be less selfish as I live my faith out.

Allow me to share some insight into what I see as the lack of appeal in today’s Christian to the outside world.  My current ministry has me visiting different churches in our area as I fill in for vacationing  pastors or as I help my wife lead worship when there is a need.  These churches have some things in common.  One, the people that are there seem genuinely glad to be there.  Second, there aren’t many of them.  The churches we help out at always seem to be more than half, if not two thirds, empty.

Why is this? Why are there more empty seats than warm bodies present on any given Sunday (except for Easter and Christmas)?  The answer, as I see it, is that going/belonging to a church has lost its appeal.  What has happened in the relatively short period of time from the commitment of  my parent’s generation to weekly attendance to the mass exodus from church today? I understand we live in a busier world today, with each of us seemingly being pulled in multiple directions constantly and that Sunday morning for many is the only chance to catch up on sleep.  There is also soccer and hockey and a myriad of other activities going on these days that never were on help on Sunday morning before.

Ok, I get it; folks are busy, stressed, or just too tired to even think about church.  This has resulted in a generation of people who are not necessarily anti-Christianity, they simply have not had any exposure to what a life of faith is all about.  The majority of this group has formed their opinion of what a Christian is based on how it is portrayed on television sit-coms.

This my fellow-believers, is our fault.  Somehow, in the busyness of our own lives, we have lost the attractiveness of what being a Christian should be.  Many of us, myself included, tend to ‘love others’ at our convenience.  In so doing and ever so subtlety, we have traded the command to love everyone for the desire to love ourselves first.  Said another way, once our wants our met, we can see to the needs of others.

When we profess faith in Christ, yet live with a ‘me first’ attitude, we fail miserably at obeying the Lord’s command to love others.  Our love of self limits our ability to experience the love God gives us.  With this restricted flow of heaven-sent love in us, we become far less appealing to the hurting world around us.

If we find ourselves falling into this trap, there is but one way out; ask God to forgive us our selfishness and restore to us the joy of His salvation.  This allows us to see our relationship to our Creator more clearly.  As we do, we bring our weakness in to the light; His light!

Remember, God is not a about condemnation when we screw-up.  What He is always doing is inviting us to enjoy a deeper life of fellowship with Him.  As we accept this invitation, we will find our ‘wants’ list to be greatly reduced in size as we realize our utmost need is being met.  Living in this freedom then allows more of the Father’s love to flow in to us, thus making us better able to love the world around us.  That appeals to me and it is what will make the life of obedience to Jesus appeal to others.

It’s simple really, just not easy.  But it is so wonderfully worth it! Let’s all make today the day we will take the Lord’s command to heart and love others as He has loved us.  In this way we can best make our appeal to those who don’t know Him yet.  For my part, I will pray blessings on that next driver who cuts me off, I’ll acknowledge the referees good work at the hockey game and joyfully join with my wife in our next project.