For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Obedience is not an easy idea to surrender to and for many not something we are interested in. Who really wants to obey someone else? Who wants to live by someone else’s standards and/or expectations? I just want to do what I want to do!? It is hard for humanity to understand that obedience is actually the only way to truly find freedom and to live life to its fullest.
Take Paul for example. Paul was a man who started off doing whatever he wanted – which at the time was persecuting the Christians and trying to stop their movement from spreading. But, later, found a much more successful and free life through being obedient to God instead of trying to stop God. Paul left a life of doing whatever he wanted to a life of doing whatever God wanted. Why would he do that? Why surrender to God and do whatever God wants?
Paul saw in God something he never saw in anyone or anything else. He saw an incredible level of faithfulness. Paul had seen leaders come and leaders go. He saw humanity say one thing and do another – broken promises, lies, and manipulation. Through Christ he witnessed God make good on His promises dating way back to the days of Abraham (Paul knew his Old Testament). In Christ he witnessed faithfulness and love despite a total lack of faith and love on our part. All of this brought about faith in Paul’s heart, a faith that led to his obedience.
Paul obeyed God because he had faith in him. For Paul, and hopefully for us, Faith is not just an intellectual assent to a series of propositions but surrender to the One who asks us to trust Him. To surrender, to have faith, is to obey. Paul’s faith told him that God would always do what was best, He would never leave Him alone, He would never forget about him, and He would always love him. Who wouldn’t want to follow, to obey, someone in which you have that much faith and trust.
The question for us today is how is our faith? Is our faith deep enough to lead to our obedience? If we began living in obedient faith right now what would change? If we lived every day like that – where would God take us? I don’t know – but I do know the One leading the way and I know He always has my best interest at heart. Have faith – and obey.
Behold your King is coming to you, Gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.
The Sunday before Easter (today) is often referred to as Palm Sunday. It gets that title because it has traditionally been the day we remember Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem as He begins His journey to the cross. On that day as Jesus entered the city He was greeted with people praising Him and waiving palm branches, hence Palm Sunday. Today, I want to draw your attention away from the branches being waved and focus on the ride Jesus had – the donkey.
Most of today’s Bible translations will interpret the Greek word (hypozygion) as donkey. But, the word literally means a pack animal and is translated in a few translations as “beast of burden.” I find that translation to be incredibly helpful in looking at this day from Jesus’ perspective. From ours we usually describe it as an exciting day and the pictures we usually see that depict this day is one of celebration. Much like we think a parade is like. But, if we pay close attention to all the accounts of this day in The Gospel’s we can see that in the moment, it was a heavy day for Jesus.
Luke describes Jesus as looking out over Jerusalem and crying over it because He knows the destruction that awaits them because of the decisions they had made. John records Jesus as saying, just after the entrance into the city, that His soul was troubled. Then, here in Matthew He is riding a donkey. You know donkey’s do, right? They carry burdens, the stuff people don’t want to carry or can carry. They take the weight off during the journeys of life.
One of the things that strikes me in this is that on this day Jesus needed a beast of burden to help Him in this part of His journey. As Jesus entered the city He had the sin of the world on His shoulders. The human side of Christ had to be exhausted. So, He asked for a beast of burden to help Him carry the load. If Jesus needed help and wasn’t afraid to ask for it, then we shouldn’t shy away from it either. If we are overwhelmed with life and the burdens are becoming too much to carry, be sure to say, I need a beast of burden to help carry this load!
So, who is that beast for us? First and foremost the answer is Jesus. Before heading into Jerusalem He invited everyone who was weary and heavy-laden to come to Him so He could give them rest. He invited them to lay their burdens on Him and He would lighten their load. Unload on Jesus – our beast of burden! Let Him carry those burdens that you are too tired to carry. He wants them.
Palm Sunday is the day we celebrate the arrival of Jesus, our beast of burden, coming to our rescue. The moment Jesus embarks on the last leg of His journey to set us free. He isn’t looking for less of a burden, He is taking on more. He wants to free you from yours. Will you let Him?
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
Over 2,000 years ago Jesus announced the beginning of His church. Ever wonder what exactly that meant? The word “church” is understood in many different ways today (building, organization, group of Christians) and it also had various definitions during the time of Jesus too (a gathering of people for political reasons, a group of like minded people). It is interesting to note that it didn’t take on a predominantly Christian definition until after Jesus. So, when Jesus said He would build His church, it could have created some questions – what does He mean by that?
Jesus was primarily talking about the inauguration of a new community of people that would be scattered over the face of the earth to continue the movement He started. It is true that Jesus came to die on the cross and rise from the dead to pay the price for our sin and to extend to us the opportunity of forgiveness and salvation. But, that is not all He did. In Luke 4 Jesus declared, publicly, His mission to be “bringing Good News to the poor, proclaiming the release of the captives, healing the blind, freeing the oppressed, and declaring God’s favor had come.” (Luke 4:18-19). This community He was launching with Peter was to continue that movement and change the world.
Soon after the ascension of Jesus in Acts Peter does just that. He stands and proclaims the truth of Jesus to thousands of people and many come to believe in the Good News! The movement was continuing. All the great things Jesus taught and did would continue on through this church which no one could stop. The movement that is still moving and still changing lives today.
When Jesus announced the establishment of His church it wasn’t the beginning of a new organization or a new religion, it was the beginning of a new and better way to live life. As people all over the world have witnessed His mighty work and heard His amazing Truth the movement has continued to grow and reach people in all walks of life and in every situation.
What He started 2,000 years ago is still the best there is today. We have seen countless movements for many different things come and go in our society. Things that are trendy today might not be trendy tomorrow as everything just seems to be changing at an incredible rate. But, the one thing that has stood the test of time and remains just as true today as it was the day it started is the church of Jesus Christ. Being a part of His movement, of His family, is still the best way to live life. Is still the best and only way to experience true freedom, healing, and life transformation. It is a movement not even the powers of hell can stop. The best news of all – everyone is welcome to join the movement – have you? Will you?
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven….God has made everything beautiful for its own time.
King Solomon was very wise and picked up on some things that we are still trying to figure out today. In Ecclesiastes 3 he writes about the struggle of the good and bad in life. It seems like there is a time for everything and we cannot escape it. He says, there is a time for life and a time for death. A time for pain and a time for healing. A time to mourn and a time to celebrate. He covers a lot. Plainly put – life isn’t easy. It is full of beautiful and it is full of ugly. The trick – paying more attention to the beautiful than to the ugly.
One thing that strikes me in Solomon’s struggle is the way he just lumps everything together. There is no clear timeline, not clear delineation between the good things he lists and the bad things. It just all seems to be jumbled up together. When life gets messy like that it gets really hard to see the beauty in it. The tragic and painful always seem to overshadow the good. So, while we are in the tragic, we often find ourselves looking off into the future for the good to come. Its easy to get frustrated and stuck when we do that. Just sitting in the mess, waiting. Maybe even convinced better isn’t coming.
Solomon, however, is quick to point something out. He says, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” The way I understand that is in the midst of every season we can find beauty. Even if we are in the season of pain, death, lose, or mourning. Even in those times there is beauty – a beauty that God is there, present, and at work. God makes everything beautiful – even the most tragic and ugly.
God has been at work since Genesis 1 bringing beauty out of darkness. At creation God took nothing and made it into something. It wasn’t just something – it was good. It was perfect. God took darkness and void and made it beautiful. If we pay close attention we are still able to see that beauty even though evil, sin, as made a mess of it. We see it, because God hasn’t given up on us. He is at work making things good again, making things beautiful. That is what He does.
Jesus proves it. The cross reminds us of it. God sent Jesus to enter into our ugliness and save us. God sent Him here to make us beautiful again. We have this hope that better is coming because Jesus has come, because God entered into the darkness of our world to breath life back into our deadness. He sealed that decision with the cross of Jesus.
God took the most ugly, painful, and feared method of torture and execution of the time and made it into a beautiful symbol of love and forgiveness. The cross today stands as a reminder that God can, and does, bring beauty, from our pain and suffering. God is with you today in whatever you are facing. Trust in Jesus to bring the beauty back. There is a time to be loved, redeemed, and forgiven – thanks to Jesus.
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What would you say are the scariest things facing humanity right now? The war in Ukraine? Nuclear war? Are these the things we should fear the most? What would you say is destroying our lives? I am sure we all could come up with a pretty lengthy list of things that are destructive and problems for the world. We would probably agree on almost all of them. Drugs, violence, politics, gas prices, and on and on we could go. But, what if we dig deeper into those things? I think we would find a common thread that runs through them all.
Drugs destroy – but people do them because it takes away pain and gives some momentary comfort. Violence brings about a feeling of vindication or even of protection and safety. We can come up with reasons these things exist – but the terrifying fact about them all, that common thread, is they are all built on lies. Drugs can’t provide true comfort or really bring about any kind of solution to our struggles. Violence doesn’t really do anything but bring about more violence. But, every day millions of people live into these lies and countless others. The biggest and scariest things facing society today is lies.
This battle isn’t new, in fact it is very old. It started in the Garden of Eden and it led to death. Human kind allowed evil into the world when it fell into a lie told by Satan – the father of all lies. Our real enemy, isn’t against people, it is against that serpent of old. His main objective is to destroy us and he knows the best way to go about that is to get us to not just believe lies, but to actually live them.
We all know the best way to counter a lie is with the truth, right? But, how do we find truth and who do we trust to give us the truth? Ultimately, there can only be one truth and His name is Jesus. Jesus came to combat the lies of the enemy with the truth. The amazing thing is he didn’t just come to tell the truth, He came to embody truth. Jesus came and made truth personal. He made it possible for us to live in truth by living in relationship with Him.
In John 8 Jesus has a very upfront conversation with some Jews (some believing and some not believing). To the ones that were not believing He told them they were of their father, the devil. They had no room in their hearts for His truth because they were too caught up in living the lies the devil had told them. If they ever really wanted to live free and know truth, they would have to become a part of God’s family.
Today, the same is true for us. If we want to live in freedom and not live in bondage to the life destroying lies of the enemy then we need to come to know and surrender our lives to Jesus. We need to ask God to clean our heart of the lies so He can fill it with His truth. Living that truth is much better than living any lie!
Live in the truth of Jesus today and experience freedom!
Then Jesus went over to the Pharisees’ synagogue and they asked Him, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath….Jesus said, “Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:9-14 (Paraphrased)
We face decisions every day – we spend a lot of time trying to figure out which is the right and which is the wrong one. Some of those decisions are obvious. Murder is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Those big ticket items we don’t have to think too hard about. But, what about those grey areas? “Most of us feel as if we are fighting our way through a jungle of endless bad choices looking for the one good choice we are supposed to make. When we talk of doing God’s will, we speak as if his will is elusive, and perhaps even unattainable. We work from the assumption that every choice we make outside the one choice that is God’s will for our life is a wrong choice. No wonder so many of us feel paralyzed, terrified to act. The likelihood our choices will be wrong—or even sinful—is too high to risk. We’ve come to believe that God’s will is like walking on a high wire. Any misstep, and we’ll go plummeting to our death.” (Erwin McManus, “The Genius of Jesus”)
This is the kind of life the Pharisees lived – paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong – of breaking a law. It blinded them to what God had for them – to who was standing right in front of them. It is not the life we were meant to live.
Jesus told them, yes, you can do good on the Sabbath. Jesus took their question about right or wrong and made it about good. Good is what God wants. He doesn’t need us to be right (or to not be wrong). What we often forget is that we can’t be right enough. We could keep every law, never be wrong, and still never be right and never do good. In other words we could keep the Sabbath holy but never heal the withered hand. In doing that we have failed at the greatest commandment – to love God and love people.
We don’t need to be right. Jesus is right. It is His rightness (righteousness) we need to be saved. We cannot save ourselves by avoiding wrong. We can only be saved by choosing Jesus. He then picks up our slack and accomplishes for us what we can’t. In His righteousness we are free to live – not however we want – but in goodness.
Paul says, “Christ has truly set us free. … For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
You are free from the burden of avoiding wrong and free to the life of good. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave to make you right. All we have to do now is live in that freedom and allow that love to flow through us to others – do good and you won't be wrong.
You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
What do you think of when you think of power? Who do you view as the most powerful person ever – and I don’t mean your favorite super hero (we all know superman is the best anyway!). Typically power is defined by might, strength (militarily or financially), control, and maybe even influence (even if that influence is due to fear or force). The biggest issue with that kind of power is that it is often oppressive and enslaving. Yet, when we try to find freedom from that power we end up using the same kind of power against it. Then, we just get stuck in this cycle of enslavement and oppression – the only change is who holds the power.
This is the cycle Jesus was born into. Alexander the Great had set the standard for power and dominance expanding the Greek empire and influence through his military power. Then along came the Roman empire that was exercising their power over the Jewish people during the life of Christ. Everyone wanted to be on the top, everyone wanted to control the power! So, when Jesus showed up the people were thinking it was finally their turn, now the Jews could have the power.
But, Jesus, the most powerful person to ever walk the face of this earth. The Son of God, the Creator, who could heal the sick, forgive sin, walk on water, calm storms, and raise the dead was here. Surely He was going to kick butt! But, instead He came with a different idea of power and freedom. He came and showed the people that no matter who thought they had the power, no one could ever really take it from them if they didn’t let them. They were always free. In fact, it was in this power of servanthood that Jesus drastically changed the world.
Erwin McManus says, “Never allow anyone else’s actions to lead you to be less. Their use of power reveals who they are, and your response to power will reveal who you are. Whatever power you may feel your oppressors have over you, they are powerless when it comes to your character. Only you can choose who you are and who you will become. You can step into a freedom they are incapable of understanding, and stand in your power in such a way that they are powerless to stop you.” That’s the power Jesus displayed all the way to the cross. That’s the power that truly changed the world. Live in that power.
"Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house."
Have you ever embarked on a journey or started in on a project you knew wasn’t going to be easy but knew it would be worth it? That’s right where these 72 disciples were. They were about to go on a great adventure to tell people about God’s Kingdom and heal all kinds of people but it wasn’t going to be easy. As Jesus said, they were lambs being sent out into the wilderness were there were going to be wolves. Intimidating and scary, but so worth it.
It is often easier for us to focus on the scary – but for just a minute focus on the rest of what Jesus told them. Yes, there would be wolves, but there would also be these people that Jesus referred to as “men of peace.” These were people the disciples would want to hang out with, people they could find safety with, and people that would show them hospitality. So, who are these people and how do we find them?
This is the only place were they are mentioned specifically. Based on what we know about them here Matthew Henry (a great commentator on the Bible) describes them as people who’s hearts have been made soft as wax and are ready to receive the impressions of God’s grace. They are ready for God to do a work in them and then to carry that work on to others.
We see a couple instances of these people in Scripture. One was an adulterous woman who gave Jesus some water and the other was a demon possessed man who told every about the healing power of Christ. These are people that come from all walks of life and who have allowed God to fill them with His grace which always brings about transformation.
Today, we can focus on the wolves or we can focus on peace and the people that are living in it. I don’t know about you, but people of peace sound better than wolves. Take a minute today to allow the grace of God to do a work of transformation in you. Maybe you can become a person of peace today.
The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields…. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’
Luke 10:1-2, 9
This past fall my kids and I were driving past a field that had been growing what we assumed to be some kind of zucchini or squash. For months we had been watching it grow and wondering what it was. Then, one day, two buses showed up full of people ready to go work in the field and pick whatever it was. It was a lot of people out there working. I think of this when I read this verse – sending workers into the field when the harvest is ripe.
I also think of the scenes from Kentucky just a month or so ago when they were devastated by storms and tornadoes. Hundreds of people showed up to search for people and to do everything they could to save lives. People were found, rescued, and saved. Recently I started to think about this scene when I read this passage.
We often read this story of the sending of the 72 as a call to share the Gospel – a call to do Kingdom Work. But, let’s read this from a little different perspective, what does this verse say about God? It tells me He is sending people on a search and rescue mission and He is looking for more help. It tells me God cares for us so much He is not willing to leave us stuck in the rubble and brokenness around us. He doesn’t want us to stay in the sin and darkness. He is coming for us and recruiting as many people as possible to come do the work.
Jesus sent 72 people to about 25 different places (assuming they only went to the places Jesus visited) and He still told them to look for more. He told them to enter these places and to heal their sick (save them) and tell about the Kingdom of God (offer them hope). That sounds a bit more like search and rescue and not just pick the fruit.
I am thankful that God cares about me that much that He is willing to send a rescue team out into the darkness to find me. He doesn’t want to lose me. He doesn't want to lose you. He has sent a team, Jesus being the head, to search for you and to rescue you. I am thankful for His mission and the miraculous saves that happen every day!
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
When have you felt the most joy in life? What caused that joy? How long did that joy last? Why did you stop experiencing joy (if you have)? What would you do to get that joy back?
David, known as a man after God’s own heart, had experienced tremendous joy in his life, even when running for his life and hiding out in caves. He knew what it was to live a life of joy – not a life free of trials or trouble, but a life of joy. But, eventually David would become King and begin to lose his focus resulting in some really bad decisions. It was adultery and murder that stole David’s joy.
The biggest joy stealing culprit in our lives is sin. It doesn’t have to be adultery or murder, just about any kind of sin will do. When we try to live life on our terms it almost always ends up in selfish and sinful decisions. That sin will take our joy. Leaving us with the question what do we want more – the sin we have been living in or the joy we have been living without?
David was tired of living without. He wanted that joy back. To get it back he was willing to take responsibility for his sinful actions. He was willing to come before God humbled and broken confessing his sin and recommit himself to a life of obedience. His life needed to be, once again, not about him but all about God.
The joy David was after couldn’t be found anywhere else. His massive kingdom couldn’t provide it. All of his military victories couldn’t give it to him. His wealth, his power, his success – none of it came close. So, he cried out God – return to me the joy of YOUR salvation. What he wanted only God could provide.
Many of us want joy – a joy we cannot find anywhere else. To get there and experience it we need to become like David. We need to repent of the sin in our life and be willing to leave it behind. We can’t blame anyone else, that’s one us. Confess it and leave it. With that burden gone and barrier out of the way joy can come in.
When the angel announced Jesus’ birth they said He would bring great joy to all. God wants you to have joy. He wants you to live in joy. Jesus is ready to give it to you. But you can’t have sin (which breaks that joyful relationship with Jesus) and joy. We must choose. Let’s choose joy.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.