This is Holy Week, the week that we reflect on and commemorate the events that led up to the resurrection of Easter. In many big churches, they gloss over or ignore Holy Week, but I think that is a mistake. Holy Week is important because Holy Week is the countdown, the context and the emotion that makes Easter worth celebrating.
This year we are offering a Good Friday service at 6:30 pm (we hope you will join us) as we remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Some people struggle to understand why we call this day "good" because of all the pain, all the suffering of our Savior. You may not think it a "good" day, and I get it, but you can't deny it was an important day. Without the death of Jesus on Friday, we can't very well celebrate his resurrection on Sunday can we?
I think Holy Week matters. That countdown, the drumbeat toward his death matters, because we know that Jesus knew what would happen to Him and yet He did not run, He did not hide...He marched on toward Jerusalem and toward His death. Holy Week allows us to march with Him, to relive those events with each day as we get closer and closer to the cross.
I encourage you to read along this week, grab your Bible and read (start in Luke 22) the events that led Jesus to the cross. You'll feel that countdown, that drumbeat, as each moment and each word and each event takes Jesus toward his death. It's good to remember and will make the empty tomb even more powerful to you.
I look forward to celebrating with you on Easter; but first we must understand how we got there.
Our culture says, "Follow your heart's desires"
Jesus says, "Follow me."
It's no secret that the world we live in today has its fill of things to enjoy. From sporting events to buffets, we are constantly being bombarded with entertainment, food, and countless other pleasures that trigger the dopamine in our brains. Let me be the first to say that enjoying these things isn't inherently wrong (unless the thing being enjoyed is an explicit sin) but when we don't regulate how much of it dominates our time, then we tend to lose focus on the things in life that really matter.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it...."
Sometimes, the very thing holding us back from being the best we can be are life's simple pleasures. This may not be the case for everyone, but sometimes, a good demolition is required to get back onto the right track. For me, it was video games. Throughout most of high school and even some parts of college, I was addicted to video games. The games weren't inherently bad, but I allowed them to stop me from being effective in my calling to a disciple-maker. It wasn't until after I took a full 3 month-long break from games that I was able to reset my focus on God.
Whatever distractions may be inhibiting you from God's calling on your life, if any, I pray that God will guide you out of them and back on track.
Jesus did miracles in the Bible, lots of them in fact. He showed he had power over illness, power over nature, power over hunger and power even over death. His miracles caused awe among some and anger among others; but none could deny the miracles witnessed by thousands or the evidence of the miracles.
Yet one miracle has a small, but important detail that you might pass over. In Matthew 8 Jesus gets in a boat with his disciples and tells them to cross to the other side. This lake was well known for having storms come up quickly, so most stuck close to the shore; but Jesus tells them to cross and so they cross. Jesus is tired and so he lies down in the back of the boat to rest while his disciples sail on. As they feared, a storm comes up; Matthew calls it "a furious storm" that was so powerful that the waves start to sweep over the boat. The disciples, many of them experienced sailors, believe they are going to die and rush to wake Jesus.
At this point Jesus does a few things. He rebukes his disciples for their small faith. Next he rebukes the wind and the waves. In Mark's gospel he tells them "Quiet, Be Still" (Mark 4:39). Here is the detail. Matthew tells us that it became "completely calm." Jesus didn't just stop the wind, he also stopped the waves. Jesus didn't just end the storm, he ended the effects of the storm. Normally the waves would have continued for some time before the water became still; and yet with Jesus the storm and the effects of the storm ended immediately. Isn't that amazing? That little detail, so easily missed, changes our understanding of who Jesus is.
What does this mean for you? Well, you may have a problem that you are praying about and hoping that God will change the situation...but don't pray too small. The disciples in the boat would have been satisfied with the wind ending; they would have been glad to bounce over a few waves...but Jesus stopped the wind and the waves. Pray big because God has power over the issue and the effects, the problem and the what would come from the problem.
So if you find yourself in fear; cry out to the one who has the power to calm the storm...waves and all.
Not too long ago I was in the drive through line at Chik-fil-a (delicious by the way, but no pickles for me) and when it was my turn to pay, I was told that the car ahead of me had paid for my meal. I was surprised by that, gave a little wave and honk to the car and then I offered to pay for the car behind me; which I did. The kid who was helping me kind of smiled a funny smile and I asked how long this chain of kindness had been going to which he said, "12 cars in a row, now sir" and of course when I thanked him replied "my pleasure."
I am not saying this to gain your admiration, it was easy to give to another person, even a stranger, because of the blessing that had been given to me. Once we receive a gift, it becomes easier to give a gift. Once we are blessed, it's easier to bless others...to pay it forward so to speak. But here is the thing, someone has to go first. Don't just wait for the car ahead of you...be the first car to give. Don't just pass on a blessing, start the blessing chain.
Luke 6:35 says to "do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return."
Can you bless others, not because of what you will get or have gotten, but just to be a blessing? This could be paying the bill of the car behind you in the drive through or a thousand other ways (make a meal, give a gift, write a note, pray a prayer, send some flowers...). You can be the one who gives and maybe starts a chain of blessing for others.
Let's be a blessing today because we are blessed by the love of a God who gives abundantly.
This week I became an Uncle, again. Sweet Morgan May McDermid was born to my brother and sister-in-law and is a precious tiny bundle of joy. Thanks to COVID, I haven't gotten a chance to meet her in person yet, but I've been getting a steady stream of pictures and videos from the hospital of this tiny blessing.
Isn't it amazing how something so small can bring such joy? Morgan can't do anything of value, and yet she is of infinite value. She can't be helpful to us in any way, and yet she is a blessing to all of us. She is small, but our love for her is enormous.
That's how God loves you. He doesn't love you because you are good or useful or valuable. He doesn't love you because of what you can do or what you bring to the table. He loves you because you are his precious child.
In many places in the Bible we are called children of God, but Galatians 3:26 makes it clear that we are "children of God through faith." We didn't earn our way into this family, we believed and trusted our way in. We are God's children because we have faith in Him as our loving Father.
You are loved because God is love. You are loved because you are His child. You are loved because He is good and gracious. His love for you doesn't make sense...it's beyond our understanding and so all we can say is "Thank you God!"