When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He was so famous for His astounding teaching and miracles that the people were wild to have him come. They cut branches from trees and laid their cloaks in the road so his donkey wouldn’t have to touch dirt. They shouted hosanna. They celebrated so much that the entire city was in an uproar. And within days, they were shouting for his death. What happened?
The most obvious reason for the change in attitude is that the Scribes and Pharisees were seeding the crowd with lies. They wanted Jesus dead so they incited a riot. Crowd mentality will follow the loudest voice, so when the cry went up, Crucify Him!, it was picked up willingly by those who wanted to be on the accepted side.
The second reason is that these were people who were not completely sold as to who Jesus was. He was a spectacle, someone who could put on a good show. Amazing things happened around Him and it was amazing to watch, but they never went past that. They never pressed in to find out who He really was. His teachings were hard to understand, yet they listened because He taught with so much authority. But when He was arrested, they joined the accusers because it must have come out that He was on the wrong side after all. If the Scribes and Pharisees said He was bad, then how could you argue against that? These were the people about whom Jesus said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? ” (Matt 17:17)
The third reason was that some truly believed He was the Messiah, but it didn’t go the way they thought it would . When Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, they cried out, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11: 10) They thought that David’s kingdom was going to be restored and Jesus would overthrow the Romans. When He was arrested, it shook them. It was as if He failed them, personally, because their understanding of His kingdom was completely flawed.
And so the crowd turned, but after the resurrection, things began to come together. His teaching began to make more sense. And those who cried for His death had to come to terms with the stunning gift of salvation that Jesus came to give.
When you think of Christmas, you automatically think of Christmas trees and Santa Claus. Never mind. Enjoy the holiday with your family. Give presents and have a nice meal. Ignore how the date was chosen and all the baggage of those long lost associations. What Christmas really means is that amazing moment when Heaven came to the earth.
Imagine that. The God of heaven coming to earth because He had a plan to love us and save us. Jesus is the Son of God, part of the magnificent Trinity, so yes, God came down to live with us. His plan was to teach us to love as He loves, to trust Him in all things, and to encourage us with blessing and hope for the astonishing future waiting for us. It was the divine appointment meant to set the plan of salvation into action. Next to creation, it was the greatest event to happen on earth.
What does it mean to us today? If we call Jesus Lord, it means a time of reflection that eclipses the tawdry commercialization of the season. It’s a time to wonder at the stunning blueprint written in heaven to draw us into the eternity of His love. You could lose yourself just thinking about how Abraham was picked to be the father of a people chosen to hear the voice of God; about the Godhead living as a child among a people who despised and ignored Him for generations; about the destiny He created for each of us if we honor and love Him with all our heart.
Christmas is when Heaven came to earth in the most divine, lavish demonstration of love we will ever know. Sing the carols of Silent Night, Holy Night and Hark, the Herald Angles Sing. Sing with the joy of thankfulness and wonder of what we celebrate. Heaven came to give us the greatest blessing known to man.
ISIS has a lot to offer a young man looking to find his way in life — a chance to be part of something big, something powerful and growing, something with tremendous impact. It offers brotherhood and camaraderie. It offers a way to become great.
But ISIS is not the only way to find those things. You don’t have to kill people to become great. You don’t have to kill people to be part of something powerful. You don’t have to kill people to belong to something big.
Most people joining ISIS don’t even understand the religious aspect of what ISIS stands for. God seems to be behind the ones with the guns and bombs and the ruthlessness to use them. My guess is that most people don’t want to kill, they want to matter. For those who want to make a difference without violence, there’s another way.
Looking for greatness in God is not entirely incorrect, just misguided in who to believe. Before joining ISIS, look to Jesus. See what He says. See what He has to offer. When we become believers of His grace, we become sons and daughters of the King of Kings, royal heirs. The God of the universe becomes our amazing Father. The life that Jesus lived on earth is a model for us to live today. Everything He did, we have the ability to do. Can ISIS raise the dead? Can ISIS heal cancer? Can ISIS restore broken lives and relationships? Does ISIS provide love, joy, peace, and kindness?
Carrying a gun does not make you great. Living the life you were meant to live with all your gifts and talents leads you into the greatness of God. Anything else will always bring pain and loneliness. Jesus can make your life matter in ways you can’t even imagine. I’m not promising that life will be easy. There is still evil in the world to contend with, but Jesus will always make a way. He will always be there when you need Him. He will be everything that you need Him to be.
All you have to do is ask Him into your life. It’s that simple. He hears you and He knows you. When you pray, you will hear His voice in your heart. Learn to trust Him, He knows how to take care of you. If you have questions, let me know. People care about you. You’re not alone.
What does Santa Claus, reindeer, and elves have to do with Christmas? Let’s face it, Christmas is no longer a religious holiday, it’s a retail holiday. But really, I’m coming to terms with that. God instituted feast days, holy days (holidays), for times of remembrance. There were rituals, special food, and gathering of family and community. I think He’s okay with having times of celebration. Christmas may have lost all true meaning of the birth of Jesus, but for the world where people have no honor for Jesus as Savior, it’s still a time of good will for all men. It’s still a time of family and feasting and festivity.
I’ve come to accept that Christmas is not really about God, so I just accept the fun part and enjoy it. And then I go into my room and stand before Abba Father in amazement. He knew, before the first word of creation was spoken that He would sacrifice His Son. He knew the humiliation and torment that would come. I have to ask Jesus, “How? How did You leave the Father? How did you do it? How did You leave all that was holy and bright with glory and praise? How did You come here? Not even as a king, but as an infant?”
And He answers, like He always does, “Because I love you more than you can possibly know. I love you, I love you, I love you. I loved you then. I love you now. And I will always love you.”
Such a weight of love is humbling and so full of life. He came to be born as a human because He loves me so much. It’s enough to make my heart sing and dance. So Christmas is fun for family and friends. It’s something to look forward to every year, even with the stress and frustrations of shopping. But the One who loves me like no other, I will celebrate every single day.
Every time I stop to think about God’s great plan for us, my heart melts. Think about it — He made the decision before the worlds were formed to be your God. He knew you and He made a way to be everything you need. He planned out the role of Israel to establish His name on earth. He planned to send His Son to make an atonement for our sins. And then He planned to send His Spirit to live in us so we could be all that we were meant to be. He thought of all that before He spoke the first word of creation.
Now think about this life you have in Christ. He knocked on the door of your heart and you let Him in. All of Him. He didn’t select some minor aspects of Himself to live in you. You didn’t get “The Human” version of the Holy Spirit. You got GOD. All that Jesus is lives in you. Christ in you, the hope of glory.
That should stun you when you think about that. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you. The same Spirit that spoke the worlds into creation lives in you. The same Spirit who brings wisdom, love, joy, healing, and peace lives in you. What on earth are you afraid of?
It’s a little scary how our traditions can slowly take on importance until we think we’re behaving Biblicaly when we’re not. For instance, you won’t find an example in the Bible of people being saved by saying a sinner’s prayer.
Yeah but, what about: …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:9) Good point. You have to start somewhere. You have to acknowledge that you need a savior.
But our entrance to heaven is not about words that we repeat, it’s about a relationship we have with Jesus. Jesus said: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27) If you repeat a prayer, but never learn to hear the Shepherd’s voice, you’re not part of the flock. You only learn to know His voice by spending time with Him. That requires an intimate relationship with Him, one where you love Him more than anything else in your life.
To work out your own salvation (Phil 2:12) is to take stock of your relationship with Jesus. If you are lacking there, then fix it. Repent for ignoring Him. Spend time in the word and prayer. Ask Him to renew your mind so you think His thoughts. Turn to Him with all your issues, hopes, and dreams. He’s there for you. Are you there for Him?
Do you ever get so caught up meeting deadlines, picking up the kids, and managing life that you forget that Jesus is coming back for us? It’s easy to do, even when you’re busy doing ministry. Jesus said to pray “on earth as it is in heaven”, so when we focus on living today with the quality of life that God wants for us, it’s still easy to forget about our future.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. (I Thes 4:17) That’s amazing to think about. Life on earth will change in a heartbeat and we will be with Jesus, forever.
I tend to agree with Paul — I’d like to go! But I know I have work to do here for a while. But I can’t help thinking about how awesome it will be to be in that meeting in the air and what eternity will be like.
Our thoughts about our future should not be about escape. If we’re living on earth as it is in heaven, then we should be enjoying the blessing and presence of God here. But it’s not bad to dream about how wonderful it will be when we see Him. I makes me happy!
We have way more control over our lives and emotions than we’d like to think. We wake up in a bad mood and assume that we have to live with it. We have a certain personality and assume that we have no choice in how we respond to the world. Jesus said otherwise: Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1)
You have a choice about how you want to live. If you don’t want to live with anxiety and fear, you don’t have to. If you are living in anxiety and fear, it’s because you allow yourself to. Jesus said to stop it. Don’t even allow yourself to go there.
If you believe in God at all, then you have to believe in Jesus — that He died for you so you don’t have to live in fear. He made a way to give you the authority you need to claim peace. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
He made the offer of peace. It’s up to you to receive it and live it.
Why did Jesus die for you? I know that you know. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. He so loved the world. We hear these verses for so long that they begin to lose significance. Sometimes we have to slow down and remember truth.
Go back to Genesis (3:8). God walked through the garden in the cool of the day. Why? Because He made Adam and Eve for a reason. He wanted to hang out with them. They weren’t a science experiment, they were friends.
Ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, God has been working to bring us back. He has always wanted to be friends with us. Now that salvation is available through grace, we can have what Adam had. We can be friends with God.
That is an extraordinary relationship to develop. God, who made all things, wants to talk to you and hear what you have to say. The things that are important to you are important to Him. Your dreams and hurts and frustrations all matter. Slow down and talk to Him. Hear what He has to say. Let Him help. He’s been waiting a long time to do that.
If you’ve been Facebook at all, you’ve seen those personality quizzes that have gone almost viral. I tend to not pay attention to them, but I got curious about the Which Bible Character Are You? I bit. But I wasn’t happy with the character I was given: Mary Magdalene. The description said, You are someone with a past. It went on to describe what a true and steadfast friend I was, etc.
But I didn’t like the inference that I had a “past”. Then I started to think about it. Of course I had a “past”. We all do. Mary Magdalene’s past may have been notorious, but sin is sin. My sin before I was saved still kept me from God. There is no righteous sin. We are all saved by grace.
Humility is a difficult lesson, but one that is a good to learn. What ever our past is, the blood of Jesus washes us clean. We are all in the same boat with the same needs for salvation. Once we start looking down our nose at other people, we forget our own need.
Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. I’m happy to be like her.