It’s personal…

It might be easy to look at the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and be shocked and disappointed about the betrayal by those who had a role in this agonizing and heartbreaking moment as it unfolded.

How could they?

How could God?

Jesus’ disciples, friends, and family had a front row seat. I can’t imagine watching it all. It’s easy to point an incredulous finger and have a look of disgust. But I have to remember that even though this took place before I drew my first breath, God’s plan was laid out…

…for me and my rebellion…

….for you and yours…

It’s personal.

God’s love came down and took our sins on as His own.

God provides all that we cannot: love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and salvation.

The time is coming…

Sometimes we get a heads up and we are able to prepare for things coming up. In my opinion, there is a fine line between what is enough time and what is too much time. I always temper my anticipation of positive things with the reality that it might not really work out. But when it comes to events that will be difficult to walk through, I imagine all the scenarios so my mind and heart are prepared. Too much lead time is just too much for my personality. I am a possibility person, and when that comes to positive things, that’s great. When it comes to negative things, it’s definitely overwhelming.

When I read through the teachings of Jesus in Matthew and leading up to the coming verses, there is a lot to digest. All of the parables, the side conversations, the plotting, and the movement are hard to absorb because it is, as you know, a busy week in history. There are so many highs and lows and gut punches. Our own life drama is incomparable, but it’s what we have: our highs and lows and gut punches. And our anticipation of God’s promise being fulfilled, through Jesus, for the world and for each of our lives.

The time is coming…

Jesus said, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.” Matthew 26:2-13 NLT

Lord, when did we see you?

This is a great question for someone looking for a loophole or the letter of the law and not the spirit of it.

Lord, when didn’t we see you? When were our eyes focused on ourselves so much that we didn’t see you in the faces of those who go hungry, are mentally or physically ill, are homeless or are in prison. And don’t forget those exhausted parents of young children, immigrants to our country, and the elderly.

If we take time to look around for those who have needs, we will surely see. Sometimes the easiest person to spot is that person who is an earlier version of ourselves. May God open our eyes today to see our neighbor in need and open the door to a connection.

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.” Matthew 25: 31-46 NLT

Tricky questions…

The tricky questions make you stop and think. Sometimes the answer is so very simple. Other times it is complex.

Imagine being one of those Pharisees, always trying to “catch” Jesus in a loophole. They spent so much time in their rituals, intent on their own way of finding God. They were face-to-face with Him but never knew it.

It’s unbelievable!

Until we see ourselves as a Pharisee. We chase after God with our own rituals and insistences. We try to trick Him with our questions and we are amazed by His answers. And then we walk away until we are really ready to hear Him.

As you read the following excerpt from Matthew, think about the scenario: What might you have heard in that first meeting? As they hatched their plan, what were all the side conversations? Who ran the meeting? What commentary might you have heard as they headed off with Herod’s reporters to meet with Jesus? And who was bold enough to speak? Who was the lead Pharisee? Who had the confidence to address Jesus? And what happened when Jesus answered them? Did anyone in the group start to wonder about their own place in the unfolding of this incredible story? Or did they just continue on in their insistence? Surely someone in the group started to question whether this was actually Jesus. But to go against your peers/community is not easy.

Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply amazed them, and they went away. Matthew 22 15:22 NLT

The highs and the lows

Today is Palm Sunday!

“Hosanna in the highest!” they shouted.

And the week continues with so many highs and lows. There are many private and public moments and so much heartache, pain, and disappointment.

This Holy Week, I encourage you to imagine you are in each scenario. What does today’s celebration feel like? Where are you in the crowd? What do you see and hear? What’s the weather like? What kind of scents do you smell? Are you getting jostled by the crowd? Has someone stepped on your sandaled toe or pushed up against you to get a closer look?

Step into this week as if you are a part of it. There is a lot happening. Be a part of it.

And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David!

Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!”

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it. The two disciples did as Jesus commanded.

“Tell the people of Jerusalem,‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt.’”

This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”

“Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. Matthew 21 NLT

The storms…

The storms will come. They might be literal ones like we saw last night ripping through Arkansas, Illinois, and Indiana. But there are always those times in life when things happen that rock us to our core; the figurative storms.

They will come. They do come. They are coming. And sometimes they seem to come one after another. I love this quote from a song by Scott Krippayne, Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child.

I don’t know what you have been through, what you are in the middle of, or what is coming down the pike for you. Life is not easy for anyone. But I take courage and hope that God is with me when the storms come. He holds me close, He provides peace, comfort, and, most importantly, rest for our hearts and souls. He is my shelter in the storm. And I pray you find He does that for you, too.

If you have anything specific you would like me to pray for, let me know!

Enjoy the song.

On high alert…

If you have lived with someone who has intense medical needs you know what it means to be on high alert. You have to sleep lightly, ready to come to their aid…

Or you need an organ transplant and you are on the list, waiting and, theoretically, ready…

Or you live near a creek or rover that routinely floods during the Spring rains and your house or animals are too close to the banks…

Or you live near the various wildfires, never knowing when the wind will shift and it will be your turn to evacuate…

Or there are layoffs in your company and the entire process is taking a year or more and you are waiting, not knowing, when or if that day will come…

Living on high alert is exhausting. We aren’t meant to be able to do it long term. When God tells us to rest, He means it. As our Creator, He knows how He made us.

Where, when, how, and how often do you rest?

Midnight promptings

When we sleep, we are more relaxed and our minds release the struggles of the day. Rest is so important for our bodies and our minds and our spirits.

Sometimes, the busyness of the day has fallen away, but the mind hasn’t unwound enough before sleep. There are times when rest is interrupted by a midnight prompting.

For me, a midnight prompting is a situation I need to pray for. I may not know any specific need for this person or situation. But I know God knows what they need, so I ask God to cover their needs and be with them during this time. I might follow up with them during the week to check in on them, but I don’t always. I probably should follow up more than I do, but life gets crazy and I get distracted.

Have you ever received a “midnight prompting” to pray for someone? Did you pray? Did you follow up?