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Showing posts with label COVID 19. Show all posts
Showing posts with label COVID 19. Show all posts

Monday, April 6, 2020

Palm Sunday 2020

Introduction
Palm Sunday is the day Christians have celebrated for nearly 2,000 years.  It is the Sunday before Easter and celebrates the day Jesus entered Jerusalem while the crowds cheered and waved palm branches.  We traditionally remember the occasion by inviting young children to wave palm branches as they process into the sanctuary.  During our social distancing isolation, we showed a video of the children holding homemade palm branches instead.  It was great to see their faces on our video screens, even though we would prefer to see them in person.

The people waving palm branches for Jesus that day didn't know it was "Palm Sunday".  They knew it as another traditional day.  you could call it "Lamb Selection Day."  Exodus 12:3  [On this day] “…each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household.”  They were choosing the lamb they would roast for the Passover celebration.  

Passover is the most important holiday/religious festival for Jews.  It recalls the day God used Moses to deliver the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  To deliver them, God sent several horrible plagues to torment the Egyptians.  The last and most terrible was the Angel of Death.  God warned the Israelites the Angel of Death would take the life of the firstborn child of every household unless they marked the doorpost with the blood of a lamb.  The Angel of Death would "pass over" every house marked by the blood of the lamb. In this way, God saved the lives of the Hebrews firstborn and convinced the Egyptians to let His chosen people go free.

Every year, the Jews commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt with the Passover celebration.  And the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem, was they annual day everyone selected their lamb to be slaughtered for the Passover.  (A modern equivalent might be something like the day your family goes out to choose a Christmas tree for your home.)  

It is no coincidence that Jesus entered Jerusalem to great fanfare on “Lamp Selection Day”.  Though the people did not know what they were doing at the time, Christians soon realized after Jesus rose from the grave that Jesus was the Lamb of God that was chosen as a sacrifice to cover all our sins.  I 1 Corinthians 5:7b, Paul wrote,  “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.”  But let's review the Palm Sunday story.

John 12:12-19
12 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors 13 took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:
15 “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”
16 His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him.
17 Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, and they were telling others about it. 18 That was the reason so many went out to meet him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign. 19 Then the Pharisees said to each other, “There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him!”

Palms and Hands
Today is Palm Sunday. Obviously, palms refers to the palm branches the people waved as they praised God and hailed Jesus as the King of Israel. However, the story has me thinking about a different kind of palm that is so important—the palms on our hands. During the COVID 19 epidemic, we know how important hands are. We've been told to ash your hands. Don’t touch our faces or other people. The other day, I delivered something to a church members house wnd their young daughter, Jazmin, came running up wanting a hug. It broke my heart to turn her away saying, "It's not safe to hug right now."

While we've been told not to touch each other with our hands, others must do just that because their hands are deemed essential. Think about doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. They must use their hands to care for and bring healing to others. First responders are the first ones on the scene when there is an accident or emergency and they must use their hands, regardless of the danger.  And what about the person behind the counter at the grocery store using her hands to ring up your essential groceries or the truck driver using skillful hands to drive the truck delivering supplies to the store.  My daughter works for Taco Bell and uses her hands to pass food through the drive through window to people who need food.  And some jobs that require good hands are not very glamorous, but just as essential--like people collected and disposing of garbage (absolutely essential if we want to stay clean and safe and sanitary).

The hands of all these people are important; they (and others) have been deemed essential workers. While the rest of us are supposed to stay art home, these people are supposed to keep using their hands to serve. 

 It all depends on the set of hands. A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.  A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million. Two fish and five loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches.  Two fish and five loaves of bread in Jesus'hands will feed thousands.  It depends whose hands are holding it.  Put some nails in my hands and I might build a birdhouse.  Put some nails in Jesus Christ's hands and it saves the entire world.  You see, it depends on whose hands you have.   Who holds the world in His hands?  Whose hands are holding you?

Jesus' Hands
I want to tell you a little about Jesus' hands. Jesus' hands were carpenter’s hands. Just an ordinary man. I bet they sometimes were dry and rough (like mine are right now because I've been washing them so much). Jesus was flesh and blood like you and me. He built ordinary things with his hands--houses, furniture. Did he ever mash his thumb with a hammer and bleed?

And yet, this ordinary man's ordinary hands also laid the foundations of the world.  As John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning the Word [who is Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”  Jesus was a man, but He was also God. He created the world and everything we see. His hands were the hands of God.

Jesus hands were also a healer’s hands.  With his caring hands, he scooped up dirt from the ground and mixed it with his own spit and smeared the mud on a man's eyes to heal him.  The the man had been blind from birth, Jesus' hands made him see!  And Jesus used his healing hands to take another man by the hand, a man who was lame and could not walk, and Jesus lifted him to his feet and he could walk!  And Jesus also used his hand to touch people who were considered untouchable because they had leprosy, which was a contagious disease.  And Jesus touched them with the palms of his hands and they were made clean and healthy and whole!  Jesus hands were healing hands.

And Jesus hands are a Savior’s hands.  Reaching down from heaven into our broken world, Jesus takes hold of us and lifts us out of the miry clay of sin and puts our feet safely on the solid rock again.  Jesus rescues us from all those situations that threaten to destroy us or keep us from being all we were meant to be.

Jesus' hands are nail scared hands, for they were pierced to pay the price for our sins.  On the cross, they were pierced and bled for us that we could be forgive and made clean and restored to a right relationship with God.  Speaking of this hundreds of years before it happened, Isaiah prophesied, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)  When we look at the palms of Jesus hands, we see nail scars.  When Jesus looks at his palms, he sees you name.

Invitation
Today is Palm Sunday/Lamb Selection Sunday.  As we prepare for Easter, who will you select as your Lamb.  I pray you will select Jesus Christ.  For He is the only Lamb that is worthy.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Won't you select Jesus as your Lamb today?

If Jesus is your choice, I would invite you to symbolize this by tying a red ribbon on your door, your mailbox, you porch railing.  The red ribbon symbolizes the power of the blood of Jesus.  Just as the Israelites originally put blood of a lamb on their door post so the Angel of Death would "pass over" their house and leave them unharmed, we put the blood of Christ over our life so the Angel of Death passes over us and we receive eternal life through Christ, the Lamb of God.

Put up a red ribbon to show that Jesus is your lamb.  Take a picture of your red ribbon.  Post it on your Facebook page (share it with me too).  This is a witness to everyone that you trust in the power of Jesus' blood.  You have faith in Jesus & trust that He’s still in control and has the master plan during this worldly chaos.

For more information, join one or both of these Facebook groups:




Monday, March 16, 2020

I AM the Gate

Introduction
Today, we continue the Lenten message series “I Am” based on the seven I Am statements Jesus made in the Gospel of John where He told us who He is and about His mission and character.  We’ve already studied two statements: 
  1. I am the Bread of Life.
  2. I am the Light of the World.

Today, we will consider a statement that is very relevant to the Coronavirus outbreak we are facing in our world right now.  Jesus said,

John 10:9
Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

The Root of All Evil
You may have heard it said that “money is the root of all evil”.  That’s actually wrong.  The Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  Money is an inanimate object.  But love is an action of the human heart.  When one loves money, it produces all kinds of evil and suffering.

Love is the most powerful force on the planet.  When love is used properly as God designed, it produces tremendous good.  When love is used improperly against God’s will, it produces evil.  God designed us to love Him and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And when we do this, it produces all kinds of goodness.  But the problem is, more often than not, people do not love God or their neighbor.  Instead, we love ourselves and our own selfish desires or we love things like money or power or pleasure.  And when we love wrongly—the wrong things for the wrong reasons—it causes of all kinds of evil.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, teaches there was a time in the beginning when the world was perfect and people were lived in perfect harmony with God their Creator.  Genesis says the first people, Adam and Eve, lived in a garden paradise where there was no sickness or suffering or death.  And God gave them a choice to love and obey Him and remain in this paradise forever or to not love and obey Him and suffer sin and death and separation.  Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and they were cast out of the Garden of Eden.

Ever since the day Adam and Eve disobeyed God, all humanity has suffered from evil: Plagues of sickness, misfortunes of all kinds, untimely deaths, a planet that always seems ready to destroy us and be rid of us.  And always we have a nagging anxiety in the back of our minds that one or all of these things or something we haven’t even thought will one day come knocking down the door of our lives.  In the end, we know there is one thing that is surely true: Death will come for us all.

I Am the Gate
It’s a dark, hopeless picture.  But please, don’t turn me off or tune me out.  This is a message of great hope!  (And with all that’s going on around us in our world, we need hope right now!)  It is into this dark, dangerous world that Jesus came and said, “I Am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.”

Though Adam and Eve turned their backs on God, and though people have done the same throughout all history, God has never turned His back on us.  God loves us even though we are sinners.  1 John 4:10, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

The consequence of sin is death.  It’s just a fact of life.  But Jesus came to pay the price of sin for us.  Though we are the ones who sin, Jesus takes the consequences of our sin for us.  And instead of the death we deserve, Jesus gives us eternal life.  John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus said, “I Am the Gate.  Those who come in through me will be saved.”  Jesus lived in an agricultural society.  Sheep and shepherds were as common a sight for them as cars and the internet are for us.  So when he talked about sheep and shepherds and sheepfolds, everyone knew what he meant.

You see, it was very dangerous for sheep at night.  There were predators lurking in the countryside—wolves and such—that would try to sneak in through the darkness and grab sheep and drag them off to their death.  There were also thieves lurking who would try to steal sheep.  And the fact is, sheep just aren’t that smart.  And often they just wander off and get lost.  So, the shepherds built sheepfolds for protection.  They piled up stones to make a circular wall.  There would be one narrow opening in the wall (only one) through which the shepherd could herd the sheep.  Once inside the ring of the sheepfold, the shepherd would lay down across the entrance and become the actual gate of the sheepfold.  Nothing could enter or leave the sheepfold without going through the shepherd.  This made sure the vulnerable sheep stayed inside and the bad things of the world stayed outside.

Jesus said, “I Am the Gate.  Those who come in through me will be saved.” 
We’re not sheep.  But spiritually, we are a lot like sheep.  We are incredibly vulnerable. 
In good times, we may feel like we are invincible (or at least we are mostly safe).  But then a little virus comes along—something so small it can only be seen with a microscope—and suddenly we are filled with fear, because deep down in our hearts we always knew we were cursed and death is chasing us.  Even without COVID 19, we have all seen glimpses of our vulnerability.
When a young friend with his whole life ahead of him is maimed or dies in a motorcycling accident,
When a young mother loses a child only a few days after it’s born,
When a wife is struck down by cancer,
When a famous basketball player we admired dies in a helicopter accident.

And suddenly we are reminded of the fragility of life.  There are a lot of “wolves and robber” roaming around in the darkness.  And if you’re still out in the darkness, you are in great peril!

Come into the Sheepfold
Jesus bids us to come.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus invites us to come into the safety of the Sheepfold.  He is the only way in.

And we need not worry whether we are good enough for Jesus to let us in.  The fact is, none of us is good enough.  The fact that we aren’t good is the reason we need His help in the first place.  In fact, it is a requirement for entrance into the safe place that everyone who enters recognizes and admits that they aren’t good enough.  We must confess that we have sinned and that we deserve to be lost out in the darkness, but we are begging for God’s mercy.  And when we do this, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Now, some people are too proud for all this.  Some people are like that stubborn sheep that just won’t listen to the Shepherd.  “I don’t need God,” they say.  “I can manage fine on my own.”  When the Shepherd beckons them to come in where it’s safe, they run the other way.  When the Shepherd comes after them to fetch them, they run even faster.  In pride, they jeer, “You can’t catch me.  I do what I want, when I want.  Go back and tend those other dumb sheep.  That’s not me.  I’m smarter than that.  I don’t need you.” 

Any other shepherd would get frustrated and give up.  They would throw their hands up in the air and shout, “Fine then!  Stay out here and die you stupid sheep!  I don’t care!”  But Jesus is not like other shepherds.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  We’ll talk about that next Sunday.  Jesus never gives up.  As long as there is even one stupid, stubborn sheep still wandering lost and vulnerable in the darkness, Jesus will keep searching and chasing them. 

Invitation
Maybe Jesus has been chasing you.  Maybe this pandemic that’s got us all hunkered down in our homes has got you thinking, realizing the precariousness of all life.  What if death comes knocking at your door?  What then?

Friend, I don’t want to alarm you, but I need to tell you the Truth.  Death will eventually come knocking at your door—maybe not because of this virus or even this year, but—Death comes for us all at some point in life—whether it is now or tomorrow or 70 years from now.  It is inevitable. 

But we don’t have to be afraid!  Jesus says, “I Am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.  Through Jesus, there is eternal life after death.  But I don’t want you to think it’s only living in Paradise after this life is over.  It is that, but it is so much more!  It’s also living, truly Living, in this life.  It’s being free from the fear of Death even in this dangerous world.  It’s discovering what Truly Living is.  It’s finding the true meaning of life and living into the purpose for which you were created.  It give you the courage to love the people around you, even when it’s dangerous because you know nothing can separate you from the love of God.

So I invite you and Jesus invites you to come in to Him and be saved.  But there’s only one way in:  You must recognize you need God to save you from your sins, confess your sins, and ask Jesus to save you.  Won’t you do that today?

Prayer for Salvation
Friends let’s pray together.  If Jesus has already saved you, then I praise God for it.  You pray for those who are still left in our world who haven’t turned to Jesus yet.

And if you’re just not sure today if you are saved, if your not sure that if you died today that you would spend eternity with God in Paradise, then I invite you to pray with me right now this prayer.  This prayer is meant to guide you to ask Jesus to save you from your sins and welcome you into the safety of His Sheepfold.  You pray with me.  Repeat these words with me:

“Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sins.  I know that I am a sinner.  I know that I have not lived the way You want me to.  I’ve stubbornly tried to be in charge of my own life and to do things my own way.  Lord Jesus, please forgive me.

Today, I believe that You are the Great I Am.  I believe that you died for my sins.  I’m so sorry that my wrong behavior cost you so much.  And so, I make a commitment today to let you be in in control from now on.  Lord Jesus, please let me come in and be part of your flock.  Help me to love the other people here the way You love me.

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me today.  I will try my best, with Your help, to live the way You want me to. Amen.”

Closing
Friend, if you prayed that prayer, I’m so happy for you.  You are now saved for eternal life!  Whatever happens in this life—whether now because of this current crisis or many years from now because of some unforeseen trouble—you can be sure that God loves you and will welcome you to His side when this life I over.  But even greater than that, you can now begin to truly Live right now.