PALM/PASSION SUNDAY OF LENT
If you have not watched today's worship service click the buttom above to be taken to our Facebook page where you can view the service and listen to the sermon.
Rest and Reflect: Today, rest in God’s goodness as you attend worship.
What is one thing you heard in the sermon that inspired your heart?
Over the last few days, I have realized anew how much we as human beings rebel when we are told not to do a certain thing. For me, this rebellious spirit rises in me because I question whether or not this restriction is in my best interest. Today at 5 p.m., we will begin a statewide stay-at-home order. For some, this will not change what they have been doing for the last two weeks, but for others, this will be hard to handle.
Let us remember that we are doing this to keep ourselves and others safe; let's have faith in this process. The Psalmist is describing his faith in the face of great trouble, but he is also surrendering control of his life over to God. Today our challenge is to align our hearts with the words of verses 14 and 15: "But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, You are my God! My future is in your hands." Each one of us has this capacity of faith, so may we let the worries we have today be the seeds that grow our belief and hope in God tommorow.
What aspect of your future do you need to place in God's hands?
The idea of your friends being afraid to come near you may seem a little crazy, but in the day and time when this Psalm was written, it was common for friends to fall away when it appeared God had withdrawn his blessing from an individual. In reality, this may be more common today than we realize or are comfortable admitting. We have felt the pain of knowing we are the talk of the town, that rumors were going around about us.
All of this pain was the reality of the psalmist, and it was even worse because he had people plotting to take his life. During the season of Lent, one thing to remember is that Jesus felt all of these feelings as well, especially as his betrayal and death approached. Sometimes all we need is a shift in thinking. Today's reading offers an opportunity to move from stinking thinking to a Kingdom perspective. No matter how bad we have it, for most, it is nothing compared to the pain and trouble the psalmist faced. This shift in perspective can change everything for us. This shift can wake us up to the goodness of God's grace and help to set us free from the bondage that seeks to control our lives with fear.
How can you break out of your stinking thinking? Does reading this Psalm help with that at all?
(By clicking on the button above it will take you to the Bible Gateway website where you can read today's Biblical passage, or feel free to read it in one of your own Bibles.)
As we draw close to the beginning of Holy Week, I want us to return to the book of Psalms. This book was designed for use in worship by the people of Israel. However, this a book full of language which cries out to God in heartache and suffering. This painful crying out to God may be hard to read at times, but it serves to teach us that God is always there to hear us when we reach out for help in moments of suffering. Now, let us take a closer look at verse 11: “even my friends are afraid to come near me. When they see me on the street, they run the other way." Sometimes the Bible gets a bad rap for not being relevant to the problems of the current day. However, I suspect that right now most people can relate closely to all of these verses. In light of the social distancing we are currently experiencing, verse 11 stands out to me. The Psalmist is talking about something different here, but we can still relate to these words. You may be enjoying the slower pace of our lives these days, but some, myself included, find this to be a real struggle. I find comfort in knowing that when I struggle I can call out to God in distress and so can you. Let us not hesitate to do so.
In what ways have the past few days been a struggle for you? Do you feel like you can relate to the words of the Psalmist today? How so?
Matthew 22:23-33 NLT
Wow! Jesus blows a hole in your whole belief structure in one fell swoop. Did you catch that sharp comment from Jesus?
"Your mistake is that you don't know the Scriptures, and you don't know the power of God."
I do not know about you, but for me, I hope I never hear those words from Jesus. I know for sure that I have spoken from a place of ignorance regarding the scriptures, and I am thankful for God's grace when I have done so. The Sadducee's problem, however, is different because they believed and taught that there was no resurrection from the dead. This mistaken belief doesn't just come from a lack of faith in eternal life. Jesus points this out with the words, "you don't know the power of God." Their issue with the resurrection is not about this belief; it is about them doubting the power of God to do this fantastic thing.
Today we live in a world in which we need to have faith in God's power. As I face the problem of COVID 19, I need God to be powerful enough to raise the dead. I do not ever remember questioning the resurrection, yet in recent days, I have worried about how this virus is affecting our world. I imagine you can relate to that feeling. Something I cling to today is a man with an unclean spirit who, when asked by Jesus if he could believe, said, "I believe, help my unbelief." Dear Lord Jesus, we believe; help our unbelief!
Where do you struggle to believe? How can you continue to ask God to help your unbelief?
Ephesians 2:1-10 NLT
If you tend to be hard on yourself, aware of all of your flaws and how much you mess up, then you most likely relate well to the first couple of verses in today's reading. At times we can all have this perspective, and when we do, we need to remember how God sees us. Paul seems to be reminding the church of that in verses 4-7, and it is not that we are so great but that God-loving grace is so amazing that it becomes our new identity through Jesus.
I once had a friend who, after returning from basic training for the military, said that he was worth a certain amount of dollars because that was how much money that the U.S. government had invested in him to become a soldier. Too often, we underestimate our value in the eyes of God. It is not that we are that special, but instead because of what God has done for us, we have much worth. With this value comes potential, the potential to do good deeds in response to the mercy we have received. We perform these deeds not to earn the gift of salvation but to show another person their value in God's eyes.
What is one good deed that you can do to show God's love to another person today?
Acts 20:7-12 NLT
Death by preaching. Yes, apparently it has happened at least once before. Poor, young Eutychus—he didn’t come prepared for an all-night revival, and he chose a dangerous seat in the window. A bit of background is useful here. Paul was on one of his missionary trips and was leaving the next day, so this house church had a late-night meeting to allow Paul to share his message with this community. Paul wasn’t a bad preacher, but it was a very late night. We get distracted by all of that when the real purpose of this story is Paul’s ability to raise Eutychus from the dead. God was not punishing this young man; accidents happen. However, God uses this situation to reveal his power through his servant Paul. This might have been a long and not so interesting preaching message by Paul, but his message was powerfully revealed at the raising of Eutychus. Today, let us be reminded of the saving power of God’s love which leads to eternal life through Jesus.
How can this distinctive story in Acts encourage your faith today?
Luke 24:44-53 (NLT)
"44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,[a] beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things.
49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”
50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God."
Today's reading reminds me of an important truth that we are all having to deal with during this time of social distancing and isolation. We, as Christ-followers, have been known to worship outside the temples and high holy places since Jesus’ ascension. The church is having to relearn how to worship God outside of our typical places of worship, but that is okay because our God does not live in a building. God is present with us wherever we go. God is with us in our living rooms, on our back porches, and in our kitchens. Although our sanctuaries are certainly important for worship, they are not a requirement for our worship. In many ways, our current situation is a return to how the early church worshipped in house churches and in the ordinary places of everyday life.
Find a holy place in your house or outside where you can spend some time in worship today.
Revelation 11:15-19 NLT
"15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven:
“The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”
16 The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped him. 17 And they said,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty,
the one who is and who always was,
for now you have assumed your great power
and have begun to reign.
18 The nations were filled with wrath,
but now the time of your wrath has come.
It is time to judge the dead
and reward your servants the prophets,
as well as your holy people,
and all who fear your name,
from the least to the greatest.
It is time to destroy
all who have caused destruction on the earth.”
19 Then, in heaven, the Temple of God was opened and the Ark of his covenant could be seen inside the Temple. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and roared, and there was an earthquake and a terrible hailstorm."
Readings from the book of Revelation can be hard to understand and even scary at times. In my ministry, I have encountered people who were heavily interested in this final book of the Bible and others who avoided it at all costs. Both groups of people, and even those who fall somewhere in the middle, need to remember that the central message of Revelation is hope. That was the message for the early church, and it is still the message for us today. These verses remind me that God is God, and I am not. The only proper response for me is to worship and trust him. Let us have faith and be encouraged by this message of hope today.
Reread today's passage. How do you see the message of hope revealed in its words?