Cleaning House

“Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone ….”

Mark 11:15 (MSG)

At first glance, this seems like the strangest image of Jesus you might ever picture. It certainly isn’t the way you would think the meek and mild Savior would respond to those attending church at the Temple. While Jesus was always meek, there is no passage that describes Him as mild. He was no milk-toast preacher. In fact, the word meek literally means “strength under control.” It’s the word picture for a Roman soldier’s horse that is trained for battle. That fits a better description of Jesus in my mind.  Getting beyond the mental image this scene creates, you have to ask yourself why? Why would Jesus react in such a radical way when He entered the Temple of all places? Jesus was reacting to the abuse of His Father’s House. He knew God’s Divine purpose for the Temple and taught the people what they seem to have forgotten in the midst of their religious practices. Quoting from two Old Testament prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Jesus said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17 NLT) You might say Jesus cleaned house that day. He wanted to restore God’s purpose for which the Temple was made, to be a place where people could connect with God. According to the New Testament, today, our bodies are now the Temple of God. He has come to make His home in us, to dwell with us. Through us He seeks to make His presence known to others so that the purpose of the Temple remains to be a place where people can connect with Him. As with the Temple then, there are times Jesus may come and radically clean house in us. He wants to remove any distraction in us that would prevent others from connecting with Him. Here’s a highlight from Holy Week. Ask God to reveal any distractions in your life that may hinder His work within His Temple, your body. Be severe in removing whatever it is that He may show you so that through you He may connect with others this Easter. Let them see the risen Christ in His temple today!

The Way to Peace

“How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.”

Luke 19:42 (NLT)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowds were shouting with excitement in the anticipation that their Messiah had finally come! While they were seeking relief and deliverance from Roman oppression, they missed the real purpose of His coming! It wasn’t to establish an earthly kingdom as they had hoped. It was to offer them something far greater. He came to offer them “the way to peace!” Often while we anticipate receiving answers to our prayers, God may very well answer them in a different way than we had expected. If we’re not careful, we could miss the answer just as the crowd did that day. Luke tells us, “As Jesus came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, He began to weep. How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42 NLT) It grieved the heart of God that His people, whom He came to redeem, missed the very way to peace He came to offer them. Here’s another highlight of Holy Week. Don’t be so fixed on what you want God to do that you miss the greater work God came to do. Had Jesus come to fulfill their desires, they would have only had a temporary political peace. He came to offer them and us peace with God and the peace of God! It’s a peace, the Bible says, that passes all understanding! It’s a peace we experience in the midst of the storms of life. Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT) This Holy Week receive the way to peace. Receive Jesus and experience His peace despite whatever you’re going through.

Highlights from Holy Week

Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.”

Zechariah 9:9 (NLT)

Prophecy is one of the great evidences for the validity of Scripture. There are more than 300 prophetic predictions in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Jesus. One of the Minor Prophets predicted the first major event of what we call “Holy Week” today. The week began with Palm Sunday. Zechariah predicted more than 500 years before it would happen that Israel’s King would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s colt. The Gospel of Matthew records the triumphal entry of Jesus riding into the city on the colt of a donkey. (Matthew 21:1-5) Jesus demonstrated both His messianic royalty as well as His humility as He entered the city. This verse is one of the few passages where the Gospels record that Jesus’ glory is recognized on earth. The crowds went wild! They shouted “Hosanna”, an exclamation of praise that literally means “saved now!” They had been expecting a Messiah to come and deliver them! The prophets had foretold His coming. Many had seen and heard about Jesus’ miracles, and the expectation had grown to a climax among them that He must be that Messiah. Crowds were gathering in the city at the time in preparation for the annual feast of Passover. Those who had not met Jesus had surely heard about Him and longed to catch a glimpse of Him. As Jesus rode into the city, they shouted quotes from the Psalms, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our ancestor David!” (Mark 11:9-10) The crowd correctly saw Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies, but their expectation was in an earthly kingdom, and a Messiah who would deliver them from Roman oppression. They didn’t understand that His Kingdom was not of this world. It was a greater, eternal Kingdom. So, when Jesus did not meet their expectation as a political deliverer to establish their kingdom, this same crowd that shouted His praise quickly changed their tune to “crucify Him” less than a week later. Here’s a highlight from Holy Week. Guard against superficial devotion to Jesus. Like those whose hopes were in Jesus to deliver them and gladly shouted His praise, we have expectations of what we think Jesus should do for us. If those expectations aren’t met, how do we respond? Am I following Him or asking Him to follow me? Looking back, aren’t you glad that He came for so much more than a political victory? He came to establish His Kingdom in our hearts and offer us victory that overcomes this world! He rode into Jerusalem, not on a horse prepared for war, but on a beast of burden to bear our burdens and offer us peace! Thank God for such a Savior!

Second Half

“So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life

even more than in the beginning.”

Job 42:12 (NLT)

Second halves offer opportunity for great comebacks. We’ve all seen or heard about amazing comebacks in the second half that led teams to victory from a defeated first half. Job’s first half was devastating! You can’t get through the first chapter of his book without seeing a man lose everything. He lost all his wealth in one day. The same day all ten of his children died. If that were not bad enough, the next day he lost his health. It would seem as if Job was done! Yet, the Bible says Job was blessed more in the second half of his life than in the beginning! I’m so thankful his story is recorded in the Bible. It gives me hope when I experience unexplained and unexpected problems. Job teaches us that every great comeback requires a setback. Setbacks in life can be difficult to navigate. We feel like giving up. What’s the use in going on? Job could have never imagined what God had in store for him. His story reminds us that God alone writes the final chapter. We may think our story is over when God is just beginning to write a new chapter that will contain more blessing than we’ve ever known! Perhaps Job’s story was in the mind of the New Testament writer who said, So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT) When you’re going through a setback, don’t give up. Remember what a pastor friend told me, “What you’re going through is a season of your life, not the end of your life. If you’re not dead, God’s not done!” Trust God to write the last chapter. At just the right time, you will reap a harvest of blessing!

The Grace of Giving

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”

2 Corinthians 8:2 (NIV)

It was the grace God had given these Christ followers that motivated and enabled them to act contrary to what you would have expected. Joy overflowing out of the most severe trial is not natural. The same grace generated a rich generosity out of extreme poverty! That is grace giving! The Apostle Paul uses their example to motivate us. “… see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” This wasn’t “guilt giving.” There’s a huge difference between giving out of guilt and giving out of grace. Once you’ve experienced grace, you’re never the same! The description of these grace givers is amazing. Look at the next few verses Paul writes about them. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” (Vs. 3-5) Notice who is doing the pleading. It wasn’t a preacher pleading for them to give. They were pleading for the privilege to give! I’ve met people like that! They’re different! Are you a grace giver? The secret of grace giving is found in verse five where we are told, “…they gave themselves first to the Lord….” Once you’ve given yourself to God, other things do not appeal as they used to do. The grace you’ve received motivates you to give extravagantly. Like the woman who anointed Jesus with the perfume worth a year’s wages or Zacchaeus who paid back four times what he had taken from others, grace givers know that nothing they give could measure up to what they have received! Have you received such grace? If you have, no one will have to guilt you into giving. You’ll look for opportunities to invest in what God is doing in the lives of others around you.