Hosanna Procession

A friend entered eternity this week. She’d been an inspiration to me, her attitude toward life one of positive assurance that God would take care of her.

She’d reared three children after her husband left to find other women, had worked as a fraternity cook for nearly three decades, and had walked the cancer journey alone when illness struck later in her life. Her response to trials was always, “God has taken care of me in the past, he’s taking care of me now, and he will take care of me in the future.” Her unwavering faith in the face of hardship spoke volumes to those of us who knew her.

When I read of her death, I was warmed knowing she made her exit from this earth to heaven the same week we celebrate Palm Sunday—Christ’s glorious entrance into Jerusalem. He and his disciples were headed to the holy city to celebrate Passover. He knew, as he stood at the top of the hill leading to the main gate, he would not leave alive. Time for the fulfillment of his purpose had come. Mankind would forever be changed. Jesus would become the sacrificial lamb, offering anyone who believed in Him hope for eternal life in heaven.

In Ephesians 2:4-7 we are told: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

As I read those words and thought of what Christ did for us at the cross, I imagined my friend’s final triumphant walk into the arms of her Savior. Goodbye dear friend. Save a spot for me.

Renewal Awaits Us

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Not often do both Palm Sunday and the first day of spring arrive together, but this year they do. Both events represent renewal in God’s scheme of things.

Spring brings rebirth of the earth. Flowers awake from their slumber. Birds build nests for their young. Trees bud out, grass grows, the sun fills the sky more and more often. Rejuvenation is all around us as a sleeping world comes back to life.

Palm Sunday represents reawakening as well. God’s perfect plan would fall into place, the main players ready to act to redeem a world full of sin. One man would die, and thousands more would be transformed.

Rereading the biblical account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11: 1-19), I had to remind myself Jesus knew entering Jerusalem would be the end of his life here. To fulfill the scriptures and finish what he had come to do, he would be crucified. I can only imagine the thoughts going through his mind when he sent the disciples to fetch the young donkey colt waiting for him. Only kings rode animals into town. Just that act alone would raise the suspicions of the Pharisees and Sadducees toward him.

He had to know what conflict would arise when he entered the Temple and overturned tables, sending moneychangers scurrying for cover. He forbid anyone to carry wares through the building. “It is written,” he said, “that my house shall be called a house of prayer to all nations. You have made it a den of thieves.” Now the Sanhedrin plotted to destroy him.

All of the events led to God’s most sacrificial act—the death of his son on the Cross. We who believe have life eternal, all of us forgiven for our sinful natures because of Jesus’ blood shed at Calvary.

As you celebrate the coming of Spring this Sunday, and as you spend time in worship remembering the beginning of the events that led up to Christ’s resurrection on Easter, consider the meaning of renewal in your life. Let God’s miraculous act change you. For you He died.

Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

When Diety Triumphed Humanity

Courage to act when one fears what lies ahead is a circumstance common to man. We resist entering a room where unfamiliar faces wait. Mounting a podium before a live audience makes us tremble. Wearing a smile, when people who oppose us are present, challenges our resolve. If we could run the other way, we would, and often do.

Planning to celebrate Passover with his disciples more than two thousand years ago, Jesus arrived outside Jerusalem, knowing he would not leave the city alive. The people heard he was coming and lined the streets, waving palm branches and throwing clothing in his path. He rode a donkey through the crowd, greeting the citizens as a king might. This display of popularity angered the Jewish leaders and they sought ways to silence him. Though it was the middle of the night, they followed him and his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, dragging Jesus away to stand before the Sanhedrin and later Pilate.

Jesus could have said no to his fate, simply turning away from Jerusalem and celebrating Passover elsewhere. He could have continued his ministry in another part of Judea. He could have behaved in the same way most of us would have when confronted with difficult circumstances. But he was no ordinary man—he was God in human form. He’d been sent here to redeem mankind from its sin. The only way to complete his mission was to offer his life as the atoning blood sacrifice.

When the Sanhedrin later confronted him, asking if he was the Christ, the son of God, he answered with prophecy. (Luke 22:69)  “I am. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” His answer angered his accusers and would result in his being led away to be tried and convicted by Roman law, sentenced to die by crucifixion at Calvary.

As we enter this Easter season, remembering what was done for us at the cross, let us not forget Jesus lived among us as a man. He faced the day to day trials of human life to identify with us. He sweat drops of blood as he faced his destiny. He knew real fear as we would. But in the end he acted as the God he was that we might live for eternity with Him—conduct none of us could duplicate.

 

A Mountaintop Experience


 

 

 

I celebrated Palm Sunday at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center in Felton, California last weekend.  This was my fifth visit to the mountaintop retreat center in as many years and is, without a doubt, my favorite writer’s conference.

 Twenty three states were represented by attending conferees. Many came from as far south as Texas and the southernmost states while I met others from as far north as Minnesota and as central as Chicago. Another friend I’d made at a past conference came from Guatemala. The teacher of the morning track class I attended arrived from Florida by way of England where he lives six months of the year

.Considering what a diverse group of people this conference attracts, you would think that we would have difficulty finding common ground. Not so. The spirit of the campus is one of a united passion—finding ways to communicate to a lost and dying world the love and saving grace offered through Jesus Christ. The turmoil and chaos in our world today became a common thread of concern—from the keynote speaker, McNair Wilson, to the editor panels. 

The feeling of community is heightened by the communion service held on Sunday where editors, agents and authors alike meet together to worship at the foot of the cross. No other conference comes close to the spiritual emphasis that is maintained at Mount Hermon.

The Bible encourages us to come together and pray for one another. In Matthew 18:20 (KJV) Jesus says, “ 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

That sense of the Savior in our midst permeated every day of the five days we spent together. Thank you, Mount Hermon staff, for keeping the emphasis where it needed to be. Focused on the only one who can truly CHANGE the world. Our lord and saviour Jesus Christ.