Archives for March 2015

Journey to Easter: Waved Palms to Pierced Palms, Part 2

Easter is my favorite day of the whole year.  The day defines who I am and all I believe in.

Remember a few days ago when we were waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna” to Jesus?

Then came Thursday night. Jesus wanted to celebrate Passover with His disciples. During His ministry, including the last days before His horrible death and glorious Resurrection,  Jesus optimized every moment trying to teach, train and empower his dense, yet teachable disciples. What a Leader, the best Leader of all time. Jesus wanted to ensure He conveyed all He could. In His mind and heart, he knew it was the Last Supper.  In our minds and hearts, it was the First Communion, the first Lord’s Supper. He taught His disciples that the bread is “My body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19b NIV) That the wine is His “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28 NIV 1984).

How do you feel when you take communion?   Do you take it for granted?  May we prayerfully savor the bread and cup with deep gratitude each time we are blessed to take communion.

That same night, in a poignant scene in John 13 of unconditional love and humility, Jesus stooped down low to wash His disciples’ feet. They didn’t want Him to, mind you. Feet are gross. He was teaching them, sweetly, softly, tenderly, what it means to be a servant leader. To stoop down low to raise others high.  The upside-down leadership pyramid.

“I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:16 NIV).

Jesus then took his three closest disciples, Peter, James and John with him to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It is so difficult on my heart to see Jesus’ total transparency when He says, almost begs “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38, NIV).  Sadly, His three most reliable disciples all fell asleep, not even praying on Jesus’ behalf or showing support.  Jesus prayed three different times asking for the cup to be taken away if possible, for God’s will to be done.

Judas betrays Jesus and has Him falsely arrested, in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, just a day’s slave wages.  Jesus was in total control and knew this was God’s will.

Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin. Even with false witnesses, they couldn’t find evidence to convict Him.

Peter, also known as the “Rock,” denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, just as Jesus had prophesied to Peter. Peter wept bitterly and repented.

Judas said he had betrayed an innocent man. Notice he didn’t call Him the Messiah or Son of God. Judas still didn’t recognize Jesus’ sovereignty. He threw the silver into the temple, left and sadly hanged himself.  There would have always been an opportunity for him to repent, but Judas didn’t.

Jesus was then brought to Pilate, whose wife knew Jesus was innocent. The chief priest and elders gave the crowd a choice–to release Jesus or the notorious criminal and sinner Barabbas. Pilate thought Jesus would go free. The crowd wanted Barabbas released and yelled “Crucify!” to Jesus.

Guess what Barabbas means? “Son of Abba.” Barabbas means “Son of the Father.” Each of us is a son (or daughter) of the Father. That means all of us. We are Barabbas. Jesus was our substitute.

From the waved palms of the crowd singing “Hosanna!” to the peer pressured crowd crying “Crucify!” on Good Friday morning, resulting in the pierced palms of Jesus’ hands, may we deeply feel the matchless love and sacrifice God has for us, His children.

Stay tuned for a special Easter installment of “Pure Inspiration” this week. Happy Easter, friend.

 Reflect:

–What influence does a crowd make on decisions? Is the majority always right?

–Have you considered symbolically washing others’ feet? Are you a servant leader?

Renew:

–“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” –John 3:!6 KJV

–“All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!'” –Matthew 27:25 NIV

Recharge:

–How may we live more deeply for Jesus and show love to others?

–How will you embolden your Christian faith, even if you aren’t in a crowd or in the majority?

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Journey to Easter: Waved Palms to Pierced Palms, Part 1

As we approach Palm Sunday this week and Holy Week next week, my heart is tuned to the vignettes leading up to the most significant event in human history–the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. This week we will focus on the celebratory moments leading to Palm Sunday, the day of waving palm fronds and songs of “Hosanna” as Jesus entered Jerusalem.

What a week. What a Holy Week. Isn’t it amazing that the first half of the Gospel of John covers the first 33 years of Jesus’ life, and the last half covers one week?

Just six days before the Passover and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was invited to attend a dinner in Bethany in His honor, hosted by  Mary, Martha, and their resurrected brother Lazarus. Can you only imagine what a fun party that would be? For Jesus to have supper with Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead,  AND his two cool sisters?

“Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3 NIV.

Of course it was disciple Judas who complained that her gift to Jesus at the party was wasteful and too expensive. Judas was the treasurer and thief-disciple who would betray Jesus in just a few days.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended, that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” –John 12:7-8 NIV

The disciples were stubborn and hard-headed.  Mary got it. Jesus had been trying to tell the disciples that He would die and be raised. (John  10:15-18).

Mary gave Jesus the most valuable possession she had. As we prepare for these days leading up to Easter, what valuable possession of yours are you willing to pour out for Jesus and His Kingdom? Whatever we give to Him, He gives much more back to us.

People had heard of all of Jesus’ miracles. Crowds followed Him. They were ready to greet Jesus as a celebrity. On that famous Palm Sunday,  Jesus was welcomed like a rockstar into Jerusalem with people waving lush green palm fronds and singing:

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  (Matthew 21: 9b NIV).

Palm Sunday was and still is a joyful, respectful celebration of  Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus entered Jerusalem not on a military stallion as the world and its paparazzi may have thought, but on a lowly donkey colt, perfect for the humble, servant Savior He was, is and is to come.

May we remember, though, that the crowd, like us, was and is  fickle.  Ouch.

The same crowd who waved palms at Jesus that Sunday before, yelled “Crucify!” on Good Friday, just five days later. From the waved palms of the crowd singing “Hosanna!” to the peer pressured crowd crying “Crucify!” on Good Friday morning, resulting in the pierced palms of Jesus’ hands, may we deeply feel the matchless love Jesus has for us, His children.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Waved Palms to Pierced Palms” next week.

 Reflect:

–With whom can you relate the most in this story–Martha, Mary, Lazarus, Judas?  Please comment.

–What are you willing to sacrifice as a beautiful love offering for Jesus this week and for your whole life?

Renew:

–“Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘ Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.'” –Luke 19:39-20 NIV

Recharge:

–How may we live more deeply for Jesus and show love to others?

–How will you embolden your Christian faith, even if you aren’t in a crowd or in the majority?

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When We Feel Wilted or Discarded

Last year after Easter, I drove by the 300+-year-old church cemetery near my home and noticed a pile of about 20 or so Easter lilies, all wilted, sadly discarded, unloved, awaiting their trashly demise. I felt the same way the Easter lilies did.

I wheeled in, pulled over, spread out my yoga mat in my trunk and placed every one of those plants inside. You see, an Easter lily is a perennial. It will come back to life each year and bloom. So many people, so many churches, throw them away after Easter, thinking their purpose is done.  I hauled them all home,  gave some of them to neighbors who wanted to reuse/replant them. Mom and I planted the rest in my yard and some at the end of my street. It thrills my soul to now see them popping up from the ground, almost a year later. They are destined to bloom again.

Do you ever feel like a wilted, discarded Easter lily? I do. God looks at us as perennials. We may have our personal wilting, decaying periods, but He sees our potential. He knows when we are tended and nurtured, we will grow and bloom again and again.

Last year I learned yet another sweet lesson from my precious Mom, the horticulturist. She came over to my home to help plant some caladium bulbs, which we both love in our yards. She brought eight bags of bulbs, a total of 64 bulbs to plant. One by one, we dug a hole, scooped the soil in, planted the bulb, fertilized, and watered. We planted them all around my big oak tree in the front yard, then the rest along the front flower bed.

When we finished,  she did something I had not remembered her doing before. She offered to pray for them, for the newly planted caladium bulbs. As we both stood in the front yard, sweaty, knees covered with dirt from kneeling, she offered a prayer that I can still hear:

“Dear Lord, they’re in the ground now. Please help these bulbs grow well and thrive so that Danya and her neighbors can enjoy Your beauty. Thank You for creating even these bulbs that remind us of You. Thank you, Lord. We love You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

I had a lump in my throat as we picked up our yard tools and cleaned ourselves off inside the garage. I had no doubt those bulbs would come up, their elephant-ear faces smiling toward heaven.  They grew and flourished,  every single one.

Have you ever prayed over seeds, bulbs you’ve planted? Do you, do we pray before any endeavor?

Similarly, how do we plant seeds/bulbs of encouragement? I encourage you to start today. It could be smiling at the grocery store cashier, looking her in the eye and asking how she’s doing. It could be to pull your neighbor’s emptied trash receptacle to the side of the house, so that he/she doesn’t have to do it when he comes home from work. It could be inviting your neighbor or coworker to church or Bible study.

We are blessed with endless possibilities of ways to plant seeds of encouragement in people around us. Remember, the Holy Spirit germinates those seeds in His timing.   If you feeling wilted or discarded, be encouraged today.Remember, each of us is a perennial.

Reflect:

–Am I acting like an annual or a perennial?

–What (or whom) have you discarded, not realizing its potential?

–How can I plant seeds or bulbs of encouragement ?

Renew:

–“Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”  –1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NIV84

Recharge:

–Consider praying before every endeavor. Please comment.

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