“But for the grace of God go I.” This phrase is often mentioned in AA rooms. It is a simple recognition of the fact that drunkenness or drug abuse would still plague us if it were not for the power of God’s grace to intervene on our behalf.
I joyfully profess that truth again today, May 3rd, 2022, as it marks the anniversary of the 31st year of my journey in recovery from alcoholism. I know in the very depth of my heart that it is God’s grace that has kept me sober all this time.
Yet it occurs to me today that this grace of God poured out for my benefit is not merely a defensive measure against picking up a drink. If it were so, I think one good dose of it back then would have been enough to set and keep me on this path. The grace of God is powerful enough to free a helpless and hopeless person like me so that recovery could happen and my drinking problem would stay in the past.
But I am discovering that God’s abundant grace is also a powerful and guiding force for life itself. Above and beyond recovery, as wonderful as that fact, the grace that pours from our loving God’s heart is constantly at work within us. It will transform us from selfish to being more selfless, if we allow grace more fully into our heart and mind.
Grace, by definition, is God’s unmerited favor. I/we cannot earn it and for my part, I certainly don’t deserve it. Still, God’s love is such that grace is offered to all; without condition!
The question/choice then becomes: What will I do with this awesome gift? For me, and over time, I am learning to allow this gift fuller reign in my life. As I do, I discover that God does indeed want only good for me. By allowing grace to permeate my heart, I find the direction and desire to follow God’s plan more willingly for my life. And why not? I have come to trust God without reservation to keep me sober, one day at a time. With this realization I am coming to know that God also has a plan laid out for me that if I choose to follow, with bring glory and honor to God and joy to me.
Be assured, there is absolutely nothing special or unique about me that has somehow broken the mold and earned God’s care and protection. God cares for and loves all creation simply because God is the Creator!
Because this love is equal to all, we all have the same opportunity to allow God’s grace to do its powerful and transformational work in each of our lives. One need not be an alcoholic or drug addict to experience God’s love. Rather, simply consider the possibility that God loves you, period. No past is so terrible to somehow stop God’s love from coming to you. It is only our reluctance to embrace grace that prohibits us from more fully knowing and living in it.
Today I celebrate not merely a milestone of time sober, but rather I give praise, glory and honor to the God who has brought me from death to life. I thank God for the chance to be more actively involved in living in grace. May you be encouraged to do the same!
I recently had the opportunity to preach a sermon based on the well known parable that Jesus taught of the prodigal son. (You can read it in Luke 15:11-31)
I have heard and now have spoken about this many times. Often the focus is on the younger (prodigal) son, who demands his part of his father’s inheritance to then only squander it.
The older son gets some attention at times as well. He sees himself as the unappreciated, hard working and loyal offspring who does all that he is supposed to do, but doesn’t seem to derive any enjoyment in doing so.
The father in the parable represents God. Again, much has been spoken about the loving forgiveness he displays as he welcomes his once ‘dead’ son back into the family. There is a wealth of wonderful teachings about God’s unconditional love for all contained within this story.
Any or all of the above would have served me well for my recent presentation. But as I thought, prayed, and did my study, I landed on an area I had not heard brought forth from this old account.
Those of you familiar with the prodigal son know that during a time of great desperation after his funds were completley depleted, he takes on the job of a swineherder, possibly the most repugnant thing a Jewish male could do during that time. And even though he has debased himself in this way, he is still starving.
It is at this point in the story that Jesus said, “He longed to fill his stomach with the pods the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.” As I thought about the people who would have been passing this young man by, I began to see another place we can learn from Jesus as we ponder this famous account.
This young man was in obvious distress. I think the picture at the top shows this quite well. How, I want to think jugmentally, could people be so cold and uncaring? I understand from reading the text that there was a severe famine in the land. This tells me there wasn’t an abundance available to share. But no one gave him anything?
Upon further reflection, as I stepped down from my high horse, I began to see with more clarity the possible motivations of those who passed the prodigal by; and in so doing discovered some not so pleasant truths abut myself and how I think/react when confronted with the needs of others.
First, self-preservation. I have barely enough for me and mine, I couldn’t possibly share anything. This is shamefully selfish thinking in my context today. I never have to wonder where and when my next meal is coming from. I need to live into this blessing of God to be ever more willing to share from what God has first given me. God has proved faithful in every circumstance, I can certainly trust that to continue should I give some money or other items to someone in need.
But more disturbing than that first thought is the judgment that wants to rear its ugly head in my head. Thoughts like, “He probably deserves what he is experiencing” is one that pops up. Or, “if he would only apply himself, he could make improvements in his life situation.”
Maybe as you consider this, some other thoughts come to your mind. If they do, please know that neither I or anyone condemn you for them. God’s grace and forgiveness is big enough for all!
What I am asking, of myself and you too, Dear Reader, is to take that extra moment when you are confronted with an obvious need of someone and in so doing, consider just what you might do in that moment to help alleviate someone’s trouble. There are countless ways we can do so in each of our own context. And hopefully as we act to help in an individual case, we might all be working toward ways to eliminate the social ills that can leave people in such vulnerable positions in the first place.
Starting something new brings out different emotions in different people. For some, new equals scary. The many unknowns tend to take the imagination in all sorts odd directions. Fear of failure can be nearly paralyzing. Sleepless nights as the new approaches are not uncommon, leaving one to want to stay snuggled in the familiar.
For others, new equates with adventure. The possibilities seem endless and the desire to get started has every nerve ending pulsing in anticipation. With different people to meet and challenges to overcome, a new project or direction is certainly not to be boring.
I find myself landing squarely in between these two examples. Being honest, there is some trepidation but also a pull to get started, to see just what God is leading me toward.
I share these thoughts as I begin a new chapter in ministry. Those who have been with me in the blog-o-sphere for a while know that I have been pastor of a home based, outreach oriented ministry. To be clear, this is not going away, but the realities of the pandemic have severely limited our access to so many we used to minister to.
Faced with this happening, I sought out God through prayer for direction. Faithful as He always is, a new path soon emerged. I have started this week serving as an intern on the staff of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Baldwinsville, NY, just a few miles down the road from our home.
Betsy and I have belonged to and worshiped at the Lutheran Church here in Fulton for a number of years. With the encouragement of the wonderful pastor there, I began to explore ways that I might become more active, in an official capacity, within the Lutheran Church.
This led to my being accepted into their Candidacy for Rostered Ministry program. Taking my education and experience background into account, those overseeing me suggested a take some courses at a Lutheran seminary (on line!) and to work on staff at one of their churches to learn the ins and outs of daily parish ministry.
Hence, the Here We Go at the top. The lead pastor at St. Mark’s is a blessing to that congregation and to me too! I have been welcomed with abundant grace. The details of my duties are still being worked out, but I am certain that God is in the middle of them all.
So there you have my update, Dear Reader. If you are a praying person, I humbly ask that you include Betsy and me in your prayers. We simply want to serve God and bring glory to His name.
Just a quick scan of the Bible reveals that God has quite the record of providing real food on a miraculous scale to sustain the body. In the beginning of Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel you can read about one of those times as Jesus fed over 5,000 people from just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread with leftovers that filled 12 baskets!
Jesus had worked this mighty miracle as a setting for a plain talk on His true mission in the world. “I am the bread of life.” By saying it that way, ‘I am,” Jesus was identifying himself with God.
While it is true that Jesus spent much time ministering to people’s physical needs, the real purpose of His coming into the world was to save people’s souls.
Hearing this, the people began to lose interest. As long as there is free food, great; keep it coming. Be our King and feed us every day like the Israelites in the desert under Moses. Jesus’ first audience were thinking only of their own physical wants and needs. How many of us still do this too?
More than just another meal
Jesus addresses those grumbling as He points out that the manna, (in verses listed at the top) miracle that it was, did not provide the eternal ‘food’ that we all need. After all, their ancestors ate it and still died in the desert. Jesus is so much more than just another meal.
The first of the I am statements in John’s Gospel
Jesus, “I am the Bread of Life.” What does that say to you? The original audience had trouble processing that claim. What do you do with it?
Maybe before we examine that, a more basic question needs to be addressed first: Who is Jesus to you?
Is He: a cosmic talisman you call on when you are in trouble?
Some far-off or aloof deity/someone you choose to keep at arm’s length?
Is He your Savior (the A answer!). Yet the text today seems to be telling us that the Lord can be something in addition to Savior. Please remember that Jesus is salvation, plus or minus nothing.
Jesus: “I am the bread of life.” (twice) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
Is He the Bread of Life to you?
When Jesus says you will never hunger or thirst again, obviously He does not mean physically. Rather, Jesus is telling us all that believing in Him brings with it a satisfaction that cannot be removed or replaced. It has been said that we are all born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled perfectly by Jesus. That hole is what gets filled when you take the Bread of Life. Jesus brings to you the wholeness that only He can.
Remember, Jesus is not just another meal
Jesus does not want only to help us sustain life. No, rather He is offering all humanity eternal life! You, me and the whole world. This is God’s grace as it is poured out to us each day. John 10:10b records Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have live; and have it to the full.” Jesus has come to save and to have the life He offers to the full.
We then must use each day’s grace for the purpose God gives it; that it nourishes us spiritually. All we have to do is merely acknowledge our need and accept what the Lord is offering daily. God knows your needs. Do you trust Him to supply that which you need, even if you do not understand it or can explain it?
Greetings in grace to you Most Appreciated Readers! I wanted to take this quick opportunity to check in with you all.
I realize I am not the most prolific blogger on WordPress. Yet even my less than regular jottings have been even more spaced out than usual. Hence the update.
As you may remember, I have gone back to my old painting job at Le Moyne College for the months of June and July in an attempt to help my replacement (who also happens to be our oldest son) get the thousands of square feet of dormitories and other living spaces re-coated before the new academic year begins in August. This effort keeps me more than busy during the week, as the 8+ hours of painting each day go speeding by.
Weekends are spend primarily doing the things around our house that get neglected during these weeks, thus leaving little time for blogging. I don’t know how it is for you, but the less I write makes me more aware of how much I enjoy sharing this time with you.
Even in these uber-busy times of my life, God is faithful. In fact so much so that He is presenting me with a new ministry opportunity. Beginning in September I will be joining the staff at a Lutheran Church just a few miles from our home. I will be serving there ½ time, as I also go back to seminary to tackle some courses in the Lutheran foundations. This tract will be leading me into full-time parish ministry so time down the road.
I will embrace this new chapter while maintaining my roots in the local church Betsy and I belong to, as well as seeing to the ministry opportunities presented to Lakeside Christian Ministries.
I realize that some folks get to my age and begin to slow down or at least start to look at the possibly of life after work. I say blessings to them.
But for me, it is full speed ahead (with God’s leading)! I am energized by what lies ahead while enjoying the blessings of the moment. God is so good!!
I hope to keep you all posted (a little more frequently) going forward.
30 years ago, May 3rd, 1991, was a Friday. Though I had no idea at the time, it was to be the anniversary of my new life in sobriety. As I have documented here before, I am an alcoholic. To be sure, I had no idea of that fact 30 years ago. In fact back then, I wasn’t looking for some way to stop drinking, I only wanted to get out from under the load of trouble I was in. My sick mind thought I might gain some sympathy if I could pass off the mess I had made of things, as in my own words at the time, “Maybe I drink a little too much.”
That may well be the understatement of my life! Yet, as AA has taught me, it is not the amount of alcohol that I consumed but rather what it did to me when I drank that is the problem.
The effect was that over 15 years I had become morally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. I was a wreck, on the fast track to an early grave and an appointment with eternity that would be spent apart from a loving God.
But on that Friday morning all those years ago, all I was aware of was how awful I felt physically. As bad as the stomach pain and shakes were, nothing compares with the devastation I felt as my Dad, with my wife riding shotgun, drove me the 90 minutes to the nearest treatment center that had an open bed. Not a word was spoken and I was left to my clouded thoughts of impending doom.
With my focus still solely on me, I had no understanding of the pain they were in or of their concern for the future. They were hurting at least as much as me. Blessedly, they jumped in fully to support me in the journey I was about to embark upon from the very start.
And what a journey! Of primary importance is this: In the small examination room I found myself in the detox were all sorts of literature from Alcoholics Anonymous. As I glanced at it, I saw the reference to a Higher Power. In that moment, the Lord revealed Himself to me as that Power by letting me know that He was with me and would see me through. I count May 3rd not only as my sobriety date (for I have not had a drop since, by the grace of God), but eternally more importantly as the date that Jesus Christ poured out His forgiving grace on me, thus assuring me of my forever home with Him.
Now that journey has completed 30 years. I lack the words to properly thank God for what He has done and continues to do for me. I started this day as I woke up asking Him to do for me what I cannot, that is to stay sober. Then I asked Him to help me see His will clearly today, that I may do and say things that bring Him honor. At days end I plan to thank Him again for what He has provided me.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful wife Betsy for her unwavering support of my recovery. I might have done it without her, but in no way would I have enjoyed it as much as I have. Her faith in God helped mine to grow. She continues to live that godly example out day by day, thus encouraging me to do the same.
To the many folks who have and are praying for me to stay sober, you have my deepest gratitude. Your belief in me has made me believe in myself.
To the countless friends I have, both past and present in AA, please know that I love you. Your sharing of life’s challenges and rewards have been a constant support for me as I too face them. I have found your willingness to be transparent about the struggles of life in recovery has shown me how to do the same. And for those times you have called me out, thanks so very much. You have cared enough to want to help me see the blind spots I sometimes put up, those times when I was being less than honest with myself and you. May the 30 years God has given me be an encouragement to you to hang in there for one more day.
30 years, wow! I remember clearly thinking in my early days of my AA experience about the long-term sobriety of some of the ‘old-timers.’ I was 31 when God set me on this path and I recall thinking at that time when one of these icons mentioned that kind of length of sobriety that I would be over 60 years old if and when I got there.
Well guess what, I’m there! And for whatever time God has left for me to continue on this journey, I pray that He will keep me ever hungry for more of Him, that I may grow in this life He has given me in order to give Him thanks and praise and to continue to share the Good News of His transforming love with all.
Thanks for reading.
Be blessed and be a blessing,
My name is Chuck, and I am an alcoholic. I am also a loved child of God, forever grateful for His overflowing mercy to an undeserving sinner like me.
According to the most recent statistics from hospicenews.com, the average length of time a person was under hospice care in the United States was 77.9 days during 2018. That is just a tick over 2 and a half months. I have always had an affinity for numbers, as I find they help me in my expectations and plans.
This is well and good for most of the mundane activities and sports that I enjoy. However, I have found that God pays little attention to the conclusions that we draw from our statistical findings.
Never up to this point in ministry have the words of St. Peter rung more true to me: But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)
This tells me that it is God who created time for us. He is outside of its restrictions and constrictions. But we, like all living things, need the passing of minutes, days, weeks, etc. to help us mark time for the things of this life. In His infinite wisdom God set time in motion the way He has for our benefit. He works to a far different schedule than us, hence the helpful description of time passing by Peter as mentioned above.
I mention all this as a little background as I now tell you about Mrs. M. She was one of the first patients I had as a Pastoral Care Provider for our local hospice organization. When we first met, she had been given the prediction from her doctor that she had 2 to 4 months to live, well within the established length of time for most hospice patients.
The thing is, this was going to be an great example of God not heeding our statistical knowledge. I was invited into Mrs. M’s home in March of 2018! I just received word late last evening that she had been called home to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Her expected 2.5 months of hospice care turned into just over 3 more years of life!
And please understand, she was not merely checking the days off as they went by. In those early months after I first met her, she was still mobile and enjoying many of the things in life. She spent time with her large and extended family members, went shopping and got out to play her beloved bingo as well.
But most importantly, Mrs. M. spent much of that time deepening her relationship with Jesus Christ. It was an honor for me to be a part of this.
To be clear, in my role as Pastor in hospice, my primary focus is to provide spiritual care for the patient and any family member that chooses to join. I am not to be overtly Christian in my approach, but rather simply listen with care and provide support in ways that are appropriate to each situation.
That is not to say I cannot share faith, but that I cannot lead with it. However, there are not restrictions placed on me should the patient have questions, thoughts or concerns about Christianity.
Mrs. M. made this abundantly simple for me. At our first meeting, after introductions around, she asked me, “What happens to me when I die?” Talk about an open door to expressing and sharing the love of Christ! As I began to explain what the Bible teaches us of our need for a Savior, I learned that she had trusted Jesus for her salvation by accepting His forgiveness for her sins some years ago. Like many folks, however, her knowledge of the possibilities of what that relationship with Jesus could mean to her in the here and now was limited.
From that point on, our once or twice meetings per week were mostly spent on exploring the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the Scriptures. What I was so honored and humbled to see was how Mrs. M. lived out these truths. As her many visitors stopped into chat when I was there, she never missed the opportunity to invite them to join us in discussion and prayer. The love, compassion and care she lavished on these folks, regardless of how she was feeling on any given day, continues to inspire me to be my best for God when I am given the chance to.
Watching God bless Mrs. M. in so many ways is one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me. As a matter of fact, after 12 months, the hospice agency re-evaluated her condition and released her from their care. She remains the only graduate of hospice this side of eternity I have ever known!
This ending with hospice did not cut our relationship short, thankfully. By this time, my wife Betsy and I were in there home on Sunday evenings leading bible studies and worship. As time went on, more and more family and neighbors were invited to join Sunday Night Church, as she lovingly called it. Again, the abundance of God’s blessing is incredible.
I have learned so much from her over these past 3 years with the single most important one being to follow the instruction of God: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.
I conclude these thoughts today by asking for your help in carrying the love of God forward as my dear Mrs. M. did without reservation. Please take the time today to let someone know how much you care for them. It does not need to be anything special, maybe just a call or a walk across to street to check in on a neighbor. Or perhaps there is a family member you are in tension with. With the love of God in your heart and mind, be the one to set the those issues aside long enough to simply let them know that you care about them.
Thank you and may you be inspired by Mrs. M. as I have been.
There are so many thoughts running through my mind this Resurrection Sunday as I consider again just what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for the world. The joy, awe and wonder are as fresh this morning as they were the many years ago when the Savior revealed to me His plan for saving my life, eternally. And yet, there is a sadness in me as well as I consider those near and dear to me who have rejected the love of Christ. Amidst the abundant joy in my heart there are sections that are broken for these people. In many of these cases I have attempted in my limited way to share what God has done for me with them in hopes they would grasp the availability of that same love for themselves.
But this is not a day for discouragement! Today my sole focus is on the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this in mind, I would like to share a list (by no means in total) of the things I am grateful for because of the saving power of God as it has been revealed through Christ’s ultimate victory over death. As you read, I ask you to do two things. First, reflect in your own way the ramifications of Jesus’ resurrection on your life. And secondly, be intentional about living out a life of thanksgiving for the incredible gift He has given you, so that others may be attracted to God’s light through you.
Where do I start such a list of things I am thankful for because Jesus rose from the dead to forgive us? The totality of His mercy shown to sinners like me (us) is mind-boggling. So in no particular order, here goes:
Thank you, Jesus, for taking my place on that cross. You bore my sin in your body out of obedience to the Father and your love for me. Because of Your resurrection, You have defeated death and offered eternal life to all. You knew that there was no earthly way I/we could earn or deserve the Father’s mercy. So instead you demonstrated grace saturated in love to bring us to God.
Thank you, Jesus, for the hope you bring to us because of the above. You have not only supplied, at great cost to Yourself, the way out of our eternal predicament, but because You have, I can be filled with hope in the here and now. I do not have to wait until physical death to be with You. Instead, because of Your love, I can be in a nurturing relationship with You now! This developing relationship carries with it the security of Your ever-present care and protection, for You have promised to never leave nor forsake those who follow You.
Thank you, Jesus, of your on-going obedience to the Father, even after Your resurrection. By appearing to over 500 people, You made it known beyond doubt that You had come back to life.
Thank you, Jesus, for fulfilling the promise of sending the Holy Spirit after You ascended to heaven. And thank you, Holy Spirit, for Your on-going fulfillment of the Father’s work here on earth. You make the Scriptures come to life and You encourage the Church to fulfill its part in God’s plan as well as You move individual members to walk in obedience to Him.
Thank you, Jesus, for the many, many people You have placed in my path that have helped me to see You with greater clarity. These Saints are far to great in number to list individually here, but if you are/were a part of my life in Christ, I praise and thank God for you.
Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunities to serve You and make Your name known in the world today. Please help me to always remember that obedience to You is a matter of great joy to You, as it should be for me as well!
And thank you, Jesus, for the Scriptures. They truly are alive and active, filled with the very essence of the Father. May I/we in our gratitude for them continue to learn from them.
As I said, this is by no means a completed list, but I do believe it gets to the heart of the matter: I/we owe a debt to our Savior that we cannot repay. Yet out of His ever-loving heart, He has paid it for us. May we, in the lingo of today, take this love and ‘pay it forward’ in humility, love and gratitude.
May the blessings of the Resurrection of Jesus be deeply known to you today,
No April Fool’s joke here, the Scriptures that describe the events leading to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus give us two examples of an angry Jesus.
When last we spoke, adoring crowds welcomed Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. The building excitement of His ministry seemed destined to conclude with Him being crowned King of the Jews. The events in the narrative of the following days do little to disprove the people’s belief that their earthly king was about to take his crown.
Picking up the story in Mark’s Gospel at Chapter 11, verses 12-19, we find evidence of an angry Jesus. It is now the following morning, and Jesus and His disciples are walking back to Jerusalem. Along the way, the author tells us Jesus was hungry and walked toward a fig tree, hoping to find something to eat. As He reached it, the Lord saw that it had only leaves and no fruit. Seemingly angry, Jesus then says to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Mark 11:14 NIV)
We see another example of an angry Jesus later that same day as He entered the temple in Jerusalem. If you will recall, these were the days leading up to the important celebration of Passover. Many Jewish pilgrims would have been in Jerusalem for this event, fulfilling their vows in the temple. Those travelers who did not have the appropriate animals with them for the sacrificial rituals would have to buy them from opportunistic sellers in the courtyard of the temple. Also, because these people came from some great distances, the currency they used in their home village would not be usable at the temple. Therefore, money-changers were also doing a brisk business there.
Jesus comes upon this scene and angerly disperses these merchants, saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17 NIV) It is not difficult to close your eyes and picture the scene: mass confusion as small animals, various coins and bewildered worshipers are scattered about.
I don’t know about you, my Most Appreciated Readers, but I rarely spend much time contemplating an angry Jesus. I would much rather picture Him smiling at small children, teaching in the countryside or performing one of His many documented miracles. Yet, there is no denying that the Jesus told of here in Mark Chapter 11 is an angry one. And as I was taught early on, “if it is in the bible, it is important.”
What, then, is up with an angry Jesus? One view might be that He simply was under considerable pressure. His earthly time of ministry was coming to a close with a horrible, painful death on the horizon. I know that when I am feeling mounting expectations, I often can act more rashly by lashing out at things and people.
This is understandable with me, a foible human. But what about Jesus, the Son of God. Why not quietly point out to the temple vendors the issues He had with them and for that matter, how about miraculously make figs appear on that leafy tree?
Allow me to share an opinion or two on these occurrences. With the fig tree, I believe it would have been self-serving of the Lord to feed Himself in this way. Jesus had the power of heaven at His command, and He had used it wisely throughout His time on earth as a means to point people toward God the Father. It simply would not have been appropriate to manufacture a ‘to go’ meal with this power.
Also, as we read on, we find that Jesus and His disciples walk the same path to Jerusalem the next day. On it they see the fig tree in question, and it is withered. Jesus uses this to point out that those who were merely doing ‘religious things’ for their own profit were like this tree; lifeless in spirit and producing mothing of worth.
By clearing the temple in the manner in which He did, I believe Jesus was sending a strong and clear message about how we are to worship God. As He expelled the merchants and bankers, Jesus left no doubt as to what the priority is to be for those who claim to worship God: He alone is worth our undivided devotion. The temple was not to be a market, but rather a place where the world is set aside in order that focus could be placed solely and properly on the Father.
These emotional outbursts, if you will, serve another important point as well. Earlier I mentioned how it is I normally picture Jesus. These thoughts and images are of a loving Savior, who willingly sets aside everything in order that He reach the hearts of people. While this is a true picture of the Lord, it is not a complete one.
Along with being all-loving, the Savior is also perfect and holy. His justice is perfect always. His character cannot be impugned, nor should anyone doubt the complete honesty and consistency of His actions in dealing with creation.
I believe it to be essential in our spiritual growth to maintain this more complete picture of who and what God is, for it is in His perfection that we can completely place our trust. As we consider more of His character, we become able to better understand His love for us.
Yes, He is all-loving. But it is in the completeness of His nature that this total love can best be seen. He is holy. There is no part of Him that can abide with sin in any form. Yet, He loves us infinitely.
This is a love we cannot hope to earn, and blessedly, we do not have to. God, in His total wisdom, knows full well that you and I can never perform enough pious acts to win our way into His grace. Therefore, because His loves knows no bounds, He simply loves us because we are His creation.
This universal love was/is on display clearly upon the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion. The fullness of deity is found in Jesus (Colossian 2:9-10). He was both fully God and fully human as He walked the earth. This fullness includes everything we have considered here today, and so very much more.
Please take a few moments this week as you prepare to celebrate the Resurrection to consider more deeply the full nature of the God who saves.
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.