I feel like a prayer failure

I believe in the power of prayer. I believe all of the verses that promise my prayers are heard, are Powerful and effective. But often when I am praying the”BIG”prayers, I wonder where I have gone wrong.

I have to stop every now and then to avoid a full blown pity party. God has blessed me so much. He does answer my prayers. And I often feel His presence with.me. On those occasions when I am in His will, I even hear His voice.

But over the years I have prayed a number of really BIG prayers, prayers for healing and church growth. In fact right now I am constantly bombarding heaven, coming boldly before the King on behalf of my mother-in-law. I watch expectantly for these prayers to be answered. Even leaving room for God to answer In whatever way He thinks best. I am just praying that she will have an abundant life.But I just don’t see it happening.

So my only conclusion is that my prayer must somehow be lacking. obviously God is not lacking. He has not changed. He ls still omnipotent. I am firmly convinced He always does what is best for the Kingdom. In fact I am positive that right now He is doing just that. I only wish I could get my prayer more in line with His will.

Welcome!

I was recently invited to visit another church for a special event. When I arrived, the folks that had invited me weren’t around yet, but I didn’t know that.

I went in and several people said hi as they passed by. Many folks smiled and nodded, but even more didn’t acknowledge my presence. Worst of all after about 10 minutes I was actually starting to get a little anxious. What if I was in the wrong place or something? I know I seem pretty confident, but I’m really less comfortable in new situations than you might imagine, and in this instance I was just starting to think about bolting when I finally saw a familiar face.

While I waited a lot of thoughts went through my head. Obviously some of them were centered around myself and my feeling of being alone. But others were focused on how others would feel if they were in my place.

Had I been someone who didn’t know Christ, I’d have left. In fact, even knowing Christ had I not have been meeting someone, I may have deserted the place. I didn’t know what room to go in, and not one person stopped to see if they could help me.

Then my thoughts turned to Sycamore Tree Church. As far as I can tell, this wouldn’t have happened at Sycamore Tree, but what if I’m so comfortable there, I don’t notice this kind of stuff.

I try to make sure I welcome every new face and even as many regulars as possible. But I’m up front early, in Sunday School late and often not available to greet folks, so as good as my intentions might be, I can’t make sure every person is greeted all by myself. And the truth is, I’m not supposed to. We are “the body of Christ.” We’re called to work together to welcome people into our family.

So, I created these four steps to welcome. Anyone can do it! I’ve shared them with my home congregation, but I thought if anyone stopped by my blog, they might be helpful for them too. So, read on and don’t forget, you may be the person who makes a difference in that visitor’s worship experience!

First, STOP! I know that seems evident, but most of the folks I saw who were very nice, nodded and smiled, but they didn’t bother to stop.

Second, offer a hand of friendship. Yep, just stick out your hand!

Third, tell the person you’re name. Maybe you’re afraid you’re welcoming someone who already comes to church. Don’t worry about it! If you don’t know their name, they probably don’t know yours.

Finally, ask “Are You finding everything alright.” See, it’s a simple question. Make sure they know where the donuts are on Sunday morning. If they’re looking for someone who usually comes, help them find him (or find someone who knows that person if you need to).

You don’t need to make it difficult or complicated. You don’t even have to draw it out a long time. We just have to make sure that everyone feels welcome. It’s what Jesus would do.

Blessed

I have been truly blessed. Many folks struggle with their in-laws, but mine have been wonderful. There have been times we haven’t seen eye to eye, but my mother and father-in-law have always been tremendously supportive and never interfered with raising the girls.

In 2011, Dad went to be with Jesus. His heart had been bad for a while and he was plagued with macular degeneration. I spent a good bit of time in his last year taking him to his eye appointments. It was during that last year that Dad especially began to notice Mom was having trouble remembering things.

I personally think it all started when their youngest daughter discovered she had a third type of cancer. Mom has always been pretty quiet, never really sharing her feelings. I’ve always felt as though the stress of watching Rosie struggle is what triggered her memory loss. By January of 2010 when we’d lost her, the symptoms of memory problems had just begun. It was in mid-Spring that we had to take over dad’s medicine and early fall when dad asked me to take over the check book. Dad was on about 20 different meds, some he took once or twice a day, others three or four. I’m assuming she was terrified everyday that she would give him the wrong medication. Dad said after we took over those burdens, her memory seemed to be better, but by the time we lost Dad in 2011, the signs of memory loss were getting much worse.

Mom still drove for about a year, but between her own macular degeneration and the memory loss, she pretty much gave it up by the middle of 2013. It was about that time that I started going down to the house every Friday to take her to her hair appointment. Before that I’d call her on Friday morning to remind her of her appointment, and she would walk downtown. But she started to forget to go immediately after my call.

During the Summer of 2014 she even moved in with us for a few months, but after being with us for a while she began to get better and wanted to live on her own. Unfortunately, being alone and worrying about the people she saw because of her macular degeneration really took a toll on her. During the winter it was finally impossible for her to live alone and after a few months of living with her other daughter, she moved in with us.

Mom has been here for about a month now and there are a lot of things we’ve learned about her condition. Much of it might be unique to her, but I thought I’d blog about my daily adventures with her so that others who might be dealing with the effects of dementia or altzheimers might be helped.

My first offering of tips can be found HERE. I wrote this page when mom moved in with us last time. Keep checking back to find even more things we learn as we go.

Good Friday – Sermon Preached on 4/3/2015

John 18:1-6

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.
2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Picture with me for a few minutes Jesus and eleven men walking a path into the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a quiet night and the moon is full (did you know the moon is always full during Passover?) Jesus had just predicted that one disciple was about to betray him and another deny him, so it may have been a bit quiet and contemplative during the ½ mile walk from the gate of Jerusalem to the spot where Jesus prayed.

John doesn’t mention Jesus’ prayer in the garden, but we know from the other gospels that He was prayed with such agony that He sweat drops of blood as John and Peter and the other disciples slept. It was very late by the time Judas came into the garden with about 300 guards and some representatives from the chief priests. I’m not sure why the chief priests thought they needed that many soldiers. Jesus had always been peaceful. And obviously if He’d have wanted to escape, He could have; because just the acknowledgement of who He was caused the whole company to fall to the ground. But Jesus didn’t use their moment of weakness to escape. Instead He asked them again . . .

John 18:7-11

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they said.
8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”[a]
10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

All the gospels tell of the high priest’s servant losing his ear, but only John names the disciple whose sword was the culprit. Perhaps John wants to redeem Peter since in the very next passage we’re going to hear the familiar story of Peter’s denial. Maybe John wanted us to know that when this disciple who disowned Jesus around the fire, he was confused because Jesus had scolded him for attacking when the soldiers had come to take them away. I think John wanted to remind us that even though Peter gets a bad rep for disowning our Savior, he was really one of the bravest disciples. Peter was ready to die in the battle. But like us, when things didn’t go the way he planned, it caused him to become discouraged and afraid.

We are all so familiar with this part of the Good Friday story. Almost everyone has put themselves in the place of Peter as he stood outside the gates of the high priest’s house.
John 18:12-18

12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.
15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.
He replied, “I am not.”
18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

Yes, this same man who we know as the denier of Christ is the disciple who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. We tend to remember Peter as a coward, but John reminds us that Peter was ready to fight 300 soldiers to defend Jesus. Unfortunately, like us, Peter’s wonderful plan wasn’t in Jesus’ plan. He forgot to consult Christ before He lunged into battle.

But there’s one other interesting detail of this story that is only found in John. Only John shares the servant’s name, Malchus. I often wonder if John was the only one who knew this servant’s name, or perhaps the only one who knew it well enough to repeat it.
If we look a little closer at verse 15, we see John calling himself “the other disciple” who was known to the high priest. And not just “known”; he was obviously in pretty good standing with this local celebrity, because the high priest’s servant girl, the one on duty at the door, knew John well enough that she was willing to let John AND Peter into the priest’s courtyard. Considering the reason they were at the priest’s home to begin with, I’m guessing John was more than a mere acquaintance. Jesus wasn’t really on the high priest’s list of “friends and people of influence.” It’s the middle of the night! I can’t imagine two friends of this man who had just been arrested for treason being allowed to enter freely unless at least one of them had a pretty good reputation with the priest.

So, we can assume that the reason John shared his name was because He knew Malchus better than any of the other Bible authors. John had probably chatted with Malchus on more than on occasion. They may have even been friends. But there’s one more fact of the night that even John omits. I personally think it’s one of the most important, but for some reason it’s only Luke, the only one of the four gospel writers who wasn’t there that day, the man who had to investigate, probe, and ask questions to find out his information that tells us. Perhaps it’s because he was a doctor that he found it so amazing.

Plus I can’t help but wonder who it was that told him about it. Maybe it was Peter or John. Perhaps it was Mark, who ran away without his clothes when the guards tried to grab him. Luke doesn’t reveal his source, but I’d like to think he interviewed Malchus as part of his investigation into the life of Jesus Christ. Because, of everyone in the garden that night, I’m pretty sure it’s Malchus who could never forget what happened.

It’s only Luke, the doctor, who adds this fact:

Luke 22:51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

As quickly as Peter had lopped it off, Jesus reached up and put it back on. Luke goes on to tell us that as quickly as He healed that ear, Jesus told the entourage who’d come for him to go ahead and arrest him, and in spite of the three second healing service, the soldiers seized our Savior and led him off to a farce of a trial and crucifixion.

Every year we put ourselves in the place of one of the men or women of scripture. We’ve imagined what it would be like to be Peter, denying Christ, not once or twice but three times. We’ve examined our lives to make sure we aren’t more like Judas, betraying our friend, the one who loves us in spite of our sin. We have put ourselves in the place of the crowds who shouted “Crucify Him,” and we can imagine we’re the women at the foot of the cross or how it might have felt to have been one of the disciples who ran for their lives instead of defending the One who would lay down His life in our place. But tonight I’d like for us to step into Malchus’ shoes for ten or fifteen minutes.

Malchus was just following orders that night. I imagine when those servants and guards got the word that they were to go arrest Jesus in the Garden, they anticipated a quick arrest with very little skirmish. They’d seen Jesus preaching. They had heard Him avoid a riot with His wisdom when He’d said to “give to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s.” The priests saw Jesus as a threat to their role in government, but if I’d have been Malchus that night, a servant with no political agenda, I’d have wondered why they were arresting the guy. Three hundred soldiers was a bit much for 12 guys, most of which had never held a weapon, let alone trained with one. So I picture a group of soldiers and servants with their guard down.

Stop and think about it. This group couldn’t have gone up on that hill with thoughts of a battle. Otherwise, a fisherman would never have been able to get in the first slice. But Peter did. And the stunned Malchus just stood there with his hand over the place where his ear used to be looking at his ear on the ground. Or perhaps, depending on Peter’s skill with the sword, it may have been dangling by some skin there on the side of his head. But I want you to put yourself in Malchus’ shoes for just a moment and imagine sharp iron running along your head taking off your ear. To say that you’d be startled would be an understatement. I imagine the man being stopped in his tracks unable to move from the shear amazement of it; the pain delayed for just a moment because of the shock and the adrenaline. And, not that I want to get gory or anything, but imagine for a moment all the blood.

I looked it up, and when Van Gogh cut off his ear there was blood everywhere. For just a moment, the millions of thoughts that can run through a person’s mind had to run the gamut of “What just happened here?” to “I wonder if I’m going to bleed to death” to “I can’t believe the pain.” But it only lasted for a second before Jesus takes matters into his own hands, and He reaches out and fixes Peter’s hasty mistake.

As I put myself in the place of Malchus, I’m guessing that standing there in the garden, it all happened too fast to process; because no sooner had his ear been restored than the soldiers tied Jesus’ hands together and began leading Him back into Jerusalem. Without a struggle, Jesus allowed them to lead Him back into the city. The eleven disciples along with Mark scattered in fear, and somewhere in the crowd on the road back to Jerusalem was a confused servant named Malchus.

Put yourself in Malchus’ place tonight. The thoughts running through his head on the ½ mile walk back into the city must have been all over the place. He’d been sent to assist in the arrest of a traitor. What he’d found instead was a man of peace. He’d been told that Jesus was a blasphemer of the Almighty God, but what he’d found was a Healer. All of the lies that Malchus had been told about Jesus Christ crumbled in that moment when his ear went from the worst pain he’d ever experienced to completely made new. If it wasn’t for the blood all over his shoulder, he might have thought it was just a dream. In that walk back to Jerusalem, did all the stories he’d heard about this man from Galilee come flooding into his mind? Did he start to believe that Jesus really did feed 5000 men and their families with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish? Did he begin to know the truth of who Jesus really was?

When they got back to the priest’s house, I wonder if Malchus was nearby when Peter was denying that he knew the man from Nazareth. Did he want to run over and chastise Peter? I can just imagine him thinking, “Are you kidding? First you cut my ear off, then you deny that you know the man who healed it for me?” I wonder if Malchus agonized because he didn’t have the courage to rush into the trial room and tell everyone what Jesus had done?

As the servant of the high priest, there’s a good chance that Malchus would have been in the company of those who took Jesus to Pilate and then on to Herod. This man who’d lost an ear would have had a front row seat to every person who questioned Jesus. In fact, it may have been Malchus who later told the disciples and Luke what happened inside those rooms at Pilate’s and Herod’s palaces.

The events of Good Friday moved fast. What started on Thursday evening ran all through the night. I doubt the servant would have had time to leave his duties to change his blood covered clothes. And each person he encountered would have asked about all the blood. What could he say? If he told the story of Peter cutting off his ear, he’d also have to offer an explanation of why his ear was back in place. Would he have risked giving any glory to the man they were about to crucify? And the real question tonight is . . . would you?

Malchus probably knew the soldiers that threw the dice for a chance to win the robe that Jesus’ mother had hand stitched with love for her son. Did a part of him want to rush in and rescue the garment to return to Jesus’ mother, explaining to her how grateful he was for the healing?

Is Malchus the servant who was sent to stand witness to the crucifixion? Did the high priest ask him to make sure the traitor was dead before they took him down? Did the man with the healed ear have to stand and watch as they whipped Christ and tore his back open with the scourging? Did he stand by helpless as the soldiers pounded the nails into Jesus’ feet? Was he almost numb as he watched that thorny crown be pressed down on Jesus head? Did he ache to cry out, “STOP,” but just didn’t have the courage to defy the powerful Sanhedrin? Were there tears in his eyes as he desperately wanted to tell the crowds his unbelievable story and thank this Man they were crucifying?

In my mind, I see Malchus standing there near the cross. I imagine him being able to get just a little closer than the crowds because of his position in the high priest’s household. I see him cringing as the soldiers mocked the Man who just hours before had held his ear in His hand. I hear him quietly cheering as the thief hanging there next to Jesus acknowledged the Christ for who He really was, secretly wishing he could be brave enough to do the same.

For more than three hours, Jesus hung in agonizing pain, and as Malchus watched, I imagine the events of the last eighteen hours playing over and over again in his mind, every scenario going back to the garden. As he watched Jesus pray on the cross, did he reach up and touch that ear? As he heard the groans of our Savior, did he glance at the blood on his shoulder and remember?

I picture Malchus standing close enough to hear Jesus say, “Forgive them, Father, they don’t know what they do.”
And I wonder if that statement made Malchus break down . . . ?

I want to be clear tonight that everything I’ve told you about Malchus is speculation. This servant’s name is only mentioned one time in all of scripture. The only thing we know for sure is that Peter cut off his ear, and Jesus put it back on. But when I put myself in Malchus’ place, these are the things I imagine.

Would I have had the courage to speak up where Malchus didn’t? Would I have denied the miracle of healing by my silence? Would I have followed the events of the night without saying a word? What would I have felt standing there at the foot of the cross, hearing the man I’d helped arrest say, “I forgive him.”

For Malchus, everything about Jesus became personal. Jesus was about to be arrested, but He took the time to heal Malchus’ ear. And even though Malchus obviously never made a big enough splash in Christianity to have his name recorded twice in the Bible, the man was never the same. Like Malchus, we need to make what Jesus did on the cross personal. Each of us needs to say, “Christ died for me.” In the midst of His darkest hour, Jesus healed Malchus, even though he was the only one who needed healed that night. In the same way Jesus died on the cross . . . even if I had been the only one who needed Christ’s death on the cross, He would have died. It was just for me.

We don’t know anything about Malchus, but we can assume that he could never touch his ear again without thinking about that Man in the garden. We don’t know if he accepted Christ’s death on the cross as payment for his sins. And perhaps that’s why we don’t know the rest of Malchus’ story. This way each of us can put ourselves in Malchus’ shoes.

Because whether you remember it or not, you have a Malchus’ ear. Each of us have a moment in our life when Christ touched us, but we get to write the end of the story. Like Malchus, often the touch of Jesus comes in just a moment, easy to pass off as a dream or coincidence. Some of us here tonight will write the end of the story as just that. When we reach up and grab our ear, the miracle will be forgotten. We’ll dismiss it. The gift of the cross will be lost on us, and we’ll continue living the drudgery of a servant.

But some of us will write the end of Malchus’ story with glory. We’ll be grateful for what Christ did, and we will refuse to pass it off as too small to talk about. We won’t care that others think it’s impossible or explainable. Every time we touch that ear, we will praise Christ for what He’s done, and the hope of Easter will allow us to call this Friday, Good.

Tonight I want to ask you to make Malchus’ story your story. I want you to go back to that moment when Jesus touched you. Like Malchus, it may have only been a split second touch, it may have been so brief that you left the memory of it in the garden, but it’s important that we never forget it.

You see Jesus’ death on the cross is much like the healing of Malchus’ ear. Malchus didn’t deserve to have his ear restored, and I don’t deserve to have my sins forgiven. Malchus did nothing to merit Jesus touching him, and I have done nothing to merit Jesus blood cleansing me. So I celebrate Good Friday as a reminder.

Tonight I encourage you to get a reminder, perhaps a pocket cross. Just like Malchus was forever able to touch his ear and remember what Christ had done for him, I want to have something like a cross, something you can touch that will remind you of the blood that flowed on that Friday we’ve come to call good. I want you to have something to hang on to that will forever challenge you to tell the world your story.

“Good” Friday

Somewhere in the midst of the dinner, prayer and the garden, Thursday turned into Friday. Whether you count days like the Jews, as if the day began at sunset, or you account for time like we do today, marking the beginning of Friday at midnight, either way the change of days is just a blur. And how much more it must have been for Jesus and the disciples.

As that garrison of soldiers embarked on the garden, I’m pretty sure you could never have convinced any of the men with Jesus that the day was “good.” There are so many things I wonder about that night/morning:

    Did Peter mentally beat himself up that he slept and didn’t keep an eye out for the soldiers?
    What did the disciples think when they saw the drops of blood as Jesus prayed?
    Why did the high priest see a need to send 300 some soldiers and servants to arrest Jesus?
    What was Peter thinking when he drew that sword? Did he really think he could take on a whole company of soldiers?
    When the 300+ who came to arrest Jesus all fell down when the Messiah revealed who He was why didn’t a few of those guys decide that arresting Him was a bad idea?

And that’s just the questions that the garden scene raises!

A middle of the night trial by the Sanhedrin just SOUNDS wrong, and Pilate and Herod not doing a thing to make it right (even after a warning from Pilate’s wife) makes it even worse. I have put myself in the shoes of many people in this Thursday/Friday story, and in every scenario, I can only hope that I would have been standing with the minority. Even running away would be a better alternative to me than being in the crowd that shouted “Crucify Him.”

I have imagined myself as Peter, John and any of the twelve, Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas or the Sanhedrin (which always begs the question, “Were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea invited to the impromptu trial and then silent, or was their notification conveniently delayed because they were known sympathizers?”) I have pictured myself as the soldiers and the servants, as Mark running away naked and the women at the foot of the cross. I have tried to put myself in Jesus’ mother’s sandals, and have even speculated what Judas may have felt like.

Every picture makes me ask myself, “Would I have stood up for Christ or held my tongue for fear of being killed myself?” I’d like to think I would have fought for Him, but if all of the disciples ran away in fear, how can I think I would do better?

By daybreak on Friday Jesus had already been condemned. Before the morning was over, the governor and the tetrarch had both questioned him and sentenced Jesus to death. Soldiers beat Him almost unrecognizable before they took their lunch break, and then a man whose sons would later become followers of the Messiah was forced out of the crowd, probably at random, to carry the cross of the One they called a traitor.

Not once did Jesus fight. We never hear a word of disrespect leave His lips. He didn’t act like a rebel. And if anyone along the way would have paid attention, they’d have noted that there were many moments when Jesus could have just walked away, one being in the garden when all of the soldiers and guards had fallen down at the mention of His name. Maybe many of them noticed, but every one was afraid to be the one who brought the notion out in front of everyone else.

By noon, most of the excitement was over. The exhausted Jesus, the man who’d been up for at least 30 hours or so and endured ridicule, lies, floggings, beatings and nails driven through His hands and feet, was now just waiting to die. It was only a matter of time. And from everything I’ve read, it could have been a LONG time.

Again, the story raises questions . . .

    Did the sky going black cause anyone to wonder if they were making a mistake?
    Did the tearing of the thick cloth between the Holy and Most Holy Place cause any of the priests to have second thoughts about murdering this Man the people loved?
    Did the soldiers regret their part when they heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them.”? What kind of guilty traitor says that right before He dies?

But God out of love for His Son did not allow the agony to go on as long as it could have. Everyone was surprised to find Jesus dead as quickly as He was. (although the 3+ hours on the cross and the floggings and more before are more than I can wrap my brain around).

Friday was a hard day. I felt very alone most of today, so I can’t imagine how much more so Jesus must have felt. He had been deserted by all of His friends. All the people He had healed and touched, fed and blessed, and no one bothered to stand up for Him. He may have been fully God, but the fully human part of Him felt the separation from His Heavenly Father. Carrying my own sin is hard enough, my heart begins to feel heavy and burdened when I picture Jesus carrying the weight of my sin also. It’s difficult for me when I think about the fact that my sin is what caused the words, “Father, Father, Why have you forsaken me?”

Friday is only “Good” because of the gift that the sacrifice is. In no other way can it be classified as good. The loneliness and pain that Jesus felt can not be humanly imagined. The reality of what happened that day is sort of surreal. I want to embrace it, but I think I embrace the truth of it more than the reality of it. The reality of the day more than my mind can comprehend. It is unfathomable that so many people could let it happen without a fight, yet I truly believe God gave none of them the courage to enter the battle because Jesus, in His humanness, begged His heavenly Father that none be lost. And had any of them had the guts to stand up for Jesus, I’m pretty certain they would have lost their lives.

So, tonight I can only Praise Jesus for hanging there for me . . . for taking my pain, for wearing my sin. I can never thank Him enough, but I can live every day trying!

Maundy Thursday

It’s Thursday . . . the first day of a happy celebration on the Jewish calendar. Jesus and his disciples will eat the Passover on the opening day of the festival. The day probably consisted of preparations. Someone had to get the Lamb ready, others prepared the room. At least one may have made sure the room was free of yeast. It was a busy day for sure.

Then evening came. I can’t imagine being in the room with the disciples. They all knew the routine. The Passover dinner was the same every year. All twelve men knew exactly what to expect. I picture laughing and joking with Jesus a little quieter than usual. Under normal circumstances, I’ve always envisioned Jesus to be one who threw His head back and laughed as hard as anyone. But today, I see Him chuckling at the things He would have generally belly laughed and smiling where he would have normally chuckled. A bit more subdued is my vision of Jesus at this dinner that would come to be known as “The Last Supper.”

But when Jesus messed with the ritual blessings, I’m confident our Savior finally had the disciples’ attention. By the time He got to the end of the evening and predicted the betrayal and denial, the twelve men may have finally begun to believe that the end was near. Judas, of course, already knew that Jesus would die soon, but I wonder if the change in the ritual dinner brought to his mind Jesus’ words at the beginning of the week, “on the third day He will be raised to life.” Is this dinner what brought Judas to the place where he felt the need to commit suicide? We read about Peter’s reaction to the foot washing, but I wonder what was going on in Judas’ mind as the Messiah knelt before him like a servant and washed his dust covered feet.

When Jesus told Judas, “what you do, do quickly,” and he left the dinner early, was he choked up? Was the traitor finally in too deep? His act of throwing the coins back at the priests makes me wonder if this dinner and the foot washing changed his mind.

Depending on the gospel, we read about a lot of prayer on this day. Some before they walked the half mile or so to the Garden of Gethsemane and more after they arrived there. One thing we do know is that the line between Thursday and Friday gets very blurred in the events that follow this dinner. Except for the nap in the garden while Jesus was praying, the Messiah and His followers didn’t get to go to sleep that night. In fact, by the Sabbath, the eleven may not have even really known what day it was.

Thursday must have been very difficult for Jesus. The end loomed so close and no one really understood. I imagine Him feeling very alone in the midst of His friends.

The Day of Silence

WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK

This is the day that the theologians call the day of silence, but somehow with Jesus, I picture it more as the unrecorded day. We can only speculate what really went on during this ominous Wednesday.

We know that just before bed last night Jesus was anointed with oil probably for at least the third time (once in Luke 7 at the home of a prominent “Simon”, once on Saturday evening at the home of Lazarus, and here on Tuesday evening at the home of Simon the Leper”). Jesus told the crowd it was for his burial. Whether or not anyone in the room understood his very “in your face” description of the anointing is even more questionable than Jesus’ plans for Wednesday.

Luke tells us that He taught in the temple everyday. So, I wonder if many of the lessons the gospels refer to as Tuesday’s teachings were really part of Wednesday’s story. It’s extremely plausible to think that Jesus came back into Jerusalem on Wednesday and taught in the temple again. With so many last minute lessons to share with His followers, an extra day of teaching seems likely. But it’s only Luke that says Jesus taught every day. That seems like it could be a detail that many years later as others told the story to Luke could have turned “on Monday and Tuesday” to “every day.” With all of the lessons Jesus shared, it may have seemed more like three or four days of teaching. Between the parables and the truth about the last days, Jesus’ message was deep, controversial and long enough to be spread over more than two days.

However, an intimate day with His friends in Bethany seems equally likely. We know, like Jesus knew, Thursday is gonna be busy. There’s not going to be a lot of time for chit chat as the disciples get the room ready and make arrangements with a priest to stop by to collect the blood of the lamb and say the holy stuff priests say over Passover Lambs.

So, I wonder if Wednesday was the day that Jesus spent with His friends, the day that was too personal and private for any of them to write down. I picture Jesus resting just a bit. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday had to have been very taxing with so many people asking questions and those in authority watching His every move. I see an exhausted Jesus. The realization that He had less than 48 hours with these men He loved so dearly had to weigh on the humanness of Christ. Perhaps Jesus spent the day enjoy the twelve and the company of his hosts, Lazarus, Mary and Martha of Bethany. Did our Savior take this 24 hours to rest so He’d have the strength to endure the next 48?

The one thing the scriptures are not silent about is that it’s probably this Wednesday that Judas met with the chief priests and religious leaders. We don’t know for sure the day, but we do know that it was right after the woman anointed Jesus at Simon, the Leper’s, home. I guess I picture this right after the evening meal, so I see Judas heading alone to Jerusalem first thing Wednesday morning to talk to the guys who wanted to kill Jesus.

The priests and teachers had originally said, “not during the feast.” I wonder what Judas said to them to convince them otherwise. Was it just since the perfect opportunity presented itself, they decided to go with it. One of the saddest parts of this whole story is that the riots and uprising that the religious leaders expected never happened. Where were the 10,000+ people that Jesus had fed on the mountain? Where were all those who’d heard Him teach in the temple, the crowds that welcomed Him into Jerusalem?

Jesus had enough support that the leaders were afraid of the masses. But we know that on Friday those folks were no place to be found. I’m guessing fear had them hiding in their homes and some may have even bowed to pressure and been in the crowd that yelled, “Crucify Him.” Wherever they were, we know where they weren’t, and that’s fulfilling the religious leaders’ worst fears.

I wonder if I have enough courage to make the highly religious nervous . . .



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Tuesday of Holy Week

I read this scripture early this morning, but circumstances have prohibited me writing any thing until tonight. On the way have from Praise Team practice, I reflected on my day compared to Jesus’ Holy Week Tuesday. My day was pretty routine. I had to get some groceries, and a couple of the girls came over for dinner. Rehearsal was a little longer than normal because we’ve got some new songs for Easter and Good Friday, plus we were rehearsing for two services.

In contrast, on that Tuesday before His crucifixion, Jesus was busy teaching some of the most important and most controversial lessons of His ministry. He begins the day telling His disciples they can do anything if they have enough faith, goes on to challenge the priests and religious leaders and by the end of the day had silenced those who were constantly trying to trip up the One who everyone was calling the Messiah.

I wonder if Jesus felt an urgency to teach during these last days. So much to say, so many lessons to teach and only 72 hours left. No one else realized how fast the hour was approaching. The chief priests had specifically discussed waiting until after the Passover feast, but those few words of scripture only serve to prove that God was in complete control of the situation, even when it looked as though there was no hope.

The Day after the Palms

I want to do something different this Holy Week . . . Something that will help me focus more on Christ and what He did for me. So this week, I’ll be reflecting on Jesus last days.

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MONDAY OF HOLY WEEK

After a nice evening with Lazarus, Mary and Martha, it was time to head back into Jerusalem. This Monday morning entrance had no spectators. There were a few palms left alongside the road, but the cloaks were gone, and the donkey had been returned to her owner.

I can’t help but speculate what Jesus and his disciples talked about on the forty-five minute walk back into Jerusalem, and my mind always wonders at the logistics. For instance, where did 13 extra guys sleep in a small home in Bethany? Maybe Lazarus had a stable, or perhaps they just all took a spot on the living room floor. It’s impossible to know, and maybe no one else even asks those questions, but they do run through my mind.

It was less than two miles from Lazarus’ home into Jerusalem. Did the disciples ask Jesus questions? Or were they still in shock at everything Jesus had been telling them lately? Were they still pondering how Jesus knew that donkey would be waiting? And the crowd from the day before . . . I’m pretty sure those people were unanticipated.

Maybe Jesus used this time to share some of the parables that Luke mentions. I’m certain Jesus was using every spare minute to give His followers their last minute instructions. He knew He only had a few days left, even though the disciples seemed completely oblivious to the facts of the situation. It’s not like Jesus hadn’t told them what was going on, but denial has been a human trait since the beginning of time.

I see Jesus being very human on this trip to Jerusalem. He obviously had missed a meal or headed out when He should have had a snack. Maybe with thirteen people invading Lazarus and his sisters, He hadn’t wanted to put them out. We’re not sure why Jesus was hungry, but somewhere between Bethany and Jerusalem, they found a fig tree, and the hungry, human Jesus went looking for a snack.

It’s here at this tree that I see some of the stress Jesus must have been feeling. Jesus knows He’s heading toward His arrest, beating and crucifixion. The promise of being joined with His Father in heaven again, can’t be enough to diminish the anguish of the pain He knows is coming. It’s in this moment, at a tree that the disciples tell us was not in season for fruit, that Jesus’ humanness shows.

I know in my own life when I’m feeling stressed by something major, it doesn’t take much to get to me. Hunger is definitely something that can push me to the edge of my frustration. That’s where I see Jesus as He curses this tree that had no fruit through no fault of its own. It’s this moment in Jesus’ walk to Jerusalem that helps me see Jesus as fully human and tremendously relatable.

When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the gospel writers tell us that he went directly to the temple. I always wonder how much Jesus knew ahead of time while He was here on earth. As we’ve already seen, He was truly human. And although we can say with confidence that the Holy Spirit gave Him a heads up about His death and resurrection, I can’t help but wonder if there were some things that Jesus found out the same way you and I do.

The buying and selling at the temple, for instance. I imagine Jesus heading to the temple to worship. My mind seems Him seeking strength in the house of His Father to make it through these last trying days. With the rage our peaceful Savior showed when He walked into this House of Worship, I often wonder if those folks selling and cheating were somewhat of a surprise to Him. Or perhaps He knew they’d be there because they always were, but today, when He just wanted to have some quiet time in the presence of His Heavenly Father, they were especially offensive to His Spirit. Whichever the case, we know that cheating the followers of God right there in the place He’d chosen to be worshipped was more than Christ could take on this particular Monday.

But once the sellers were gone, Jesus must have taken a moment to worship and get out of His humanness because the gospels tell us He spent the rest of the day teaching at the temple. With parables and words of wisdom, Jesus shared with anyone who would listen. Even after the priests and teachers of the law challenged Him, Jesus kept right on sharing the lessons of His heavenly Father.

With only a few days left to live on this earth, we can see the urgency in Jesus’ message. My mind still wonders if He ever got something to eat, or was He hungry when He headed back to His friends’ home for the night.



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Like the Disciples

Sermon Preached on March 15, 2015

Luke 6:12-16 – One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

These few short verses tell the story of the first guys Jesus picked to be leaders in His church. We remember them as Peter who was brave enough to be imprisoned for his faith and John and Matthew who, between them, wrote five books of the Bible. We know them as Philip, the guy who saved an Ethiopian and started the church in Egypt and Thomas who got labeled the doubter. When we read about them in Acts and beyond, it’s hard to imagine we could ever be like any of these guys. But those stories outside of the first four books of the New Testament tell about guys who had been empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s not how they were when Jesus hand-picked them.

I think we often need reminded that when these guys met Jesus, they were just everyday ordinary men. More like you and me than you might imagine. For instance, according to Matthew 4 and Mark 1, Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen. Philip was from the same little town on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, so he may have been a fisherman also. There’s probably a really good chance they weren’t a formally educated bunch. Like most fishermen today, they were probably very intelligent men who used their backs more than any book learning they may have been privileged to have at a young age.

And you may have thought that Matthew being a tax collector and dealing with all of that money would have been chosen to be the moneykeeper for the group. Instead, Judas, the one who would eventually betray Jesus, was the man chosen by the group to be more trustworthy than Matthew. We know that Nathaniel (aka Bartholomew) didn’t consider Jesus to be of much worth when the others tried to convince Him to follow, and we can speculate that the other five were not much more educated or important since we don’t really ever hear much about them.

These are the twelve guys that Jesus chose to get the Christian faith started, twelve guys that are a lot like you and me. Think about it. Have you ever felt like those apostles? Have you felt like you don’t know enough or don’t have a good enough job? Maybe you’re like Matthew and you feel as though people don’t really like you that well, or like those last five, and you’re just too obscure for anyone to even notice you.

The thing is it doesn’t matter how you feel about yourself, as long as you aren’t like Judas, the one who will cheat Jesus, go behind His back and side with the enemy and complete betray Him, Jesus can use you. You see, Jesus saw those twelve men for what they could be, not what they were. God did it throughout Scripture.
• People saw old people when they looked at Abraham and Sarah, but God saw potential for a beautiful baby.
• His family saw Jacob as a mama’s boy, the youngest twin and the one who deceived his brother, but God saw the father of many nations.
• Joseph’s brothers saw a lazy dreamer, but God saw the ruler of Egypt.
• Samuel saw a short shepherd when he met David, but God saw the King of Israel.
• Moses had a speech impediment, Isaiah was afraid he wouldn’t know what to say.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Over and over again we read about people who were nothing, nobodies, but God saw who they could be.
And that’s how He sees us. 1 Samuel 16:7 says that “People look at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” He knows what is deep inside of us, and He sees us by what we are capable of, not what we’re doing.

So, how can you become all that Christ has created you to be?

The first three steps are things we tell you about all of the time.

1. We need to be worshipping Christ here and through prayer every day

2. We need to be learning about God by reading His Word every day and

3. We need to spend time with the people of God as often as possible.

So, today I’m going to focus on the last two things we need to do.

1. The first thing we need to do is to allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives. That’s what set the 12 apart. That’s the thing that made them strong, that enabled them to do those things we admire outside of the gospels. The Holy Spirit is what turned Peter from the one who lied about knowing Jesus to the one who sat in prison because He defended Him. It’s the Holy Spirit that took Phillip, the disciple who was never mentioned much to the guy who God used to save Egypt. It’s the Holy Spirit that caused John to change from the one whose main concern was getting a good spot in heaven to being the one who really told us about the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:13 tells us “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Have you asked Jesus to pour His Holy Spirit out on you? Have you given His Spirit permission to empower you?

After you ask Him to be your Savior, the Spirit of Christ is the beginning of truly living the abundantly full life that Jesus promised in John 10:10. But there’s one more step to really being all you were created to be.

2. Finally, it’s time to step out. And you might have to do that BEFORE you feel like you’re full of the Holy Spirit. Peter did it. He stepped out of the boat onto the water at least a year before He knew the fullness of the Spirit. But the disciple heard Christ call Him and He went. And for those of you who just thought, “Yea, but he also sunk.” You are right! But it’s OK, because Jesus grabbed his hand and rescued him.

What is Christ calling you to do? Who is He calling you to care for? How are you being called to serve Christ? You won’t believe the amount of growth and trust that comes in the middle of serving. So what is it? And what’s keeping you from doing it. Is what you feel like you should do something that you are sure you are not qualified for, educated enough or have the right personality to do? Maybe you think you don’t have time. Did you know that when you say those things you are really telling God that He doesn’t know what He’s talking about? If God leads you to it, He will walk with you through it. And Peter proves that even if you fall flat on your face in the middle of it, Jesus won’t let you drown.

Maybe God is calling you to something inside the church, like leading children’s church or a small group. Perhaps He’s been asking you to arrange a mission trip or take on something that we haven’t even dreamed yet. There’s really no limit as long as it’s God’s idea and not just our good ideas.

I want to challenge you today to step into service. Maybe you’re already serving. Then I challenge you to make sure you are still doing what Christ has called you to and not stuck in a training place that He prepared for you.
Don’t ever think you aren’t smart enough or don’t know enough. Not good enough and not enough time are NOT good reasons.

Our mission statement is “Celebrating the Life of Jesus Christ and Helping others find Life Abundant.” I want you to have life abundant. You are missing out on blessings when you aren’t serving. Don’t wait another minute. Don’t believe those lies that say you aren’t old enough or aren’t young enough. The truth is God sees the real you, not the you that you see and not the you that others see. Trust that He knows you better than you know yourself and step out of the boat.