On Sunday of Holy Week, our Lord entered Jerusalem, offering the Jews of Jerusalem the Blessing of Salvation, promised to Abraham, to be offered to all the families of the earth. Most of the people refused to receive it, and Jesus wept.
On Monday, Jesus entered the temple and cleansed it, showing us the importance of cleansing the temple of our own bodies.
Now it is Tuesday, and Jesus is teaching. He is teaching on a subject of great interest to His followers and to us. Before this day, Jesus has not taught often or much about this. But on Tuesday of Holy Week, He teaches a whole lot on the End Times.
If you know me, you know that the End Times is one of my favorite Scriptural studies. I gained a love of it as a young pastor, studying my way through the Book of Revelation, verse by verse. I will, however, resist the temptation to unload all that I have come to believe about how the events of the End Time will occur.
Nevertheless, we ought not miss the point of Jesus´ teaching on the End Times in the heart of Holy Week. Jesus was intentional about everything He did, and there was purpose in the timing of this teaching.
His initial point is very timely for us at the moment in that we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic with COVID-19. But the first point Jesus made in Mt. 24 was that pestilences, wars, and earthquakes would come upon the earth, but they were not the marks of the End. They were just the beginning of sorrows.
There was a common theme throughout all that Jesus taught that day about all the events we call the End Time. That theme was Live for the End. Live today as if you know the End was coming later today. Live ready for the End.
Specifically Jesus told us
While I am not one to disparage the study of End Times, I would certainly say it is far more important to live now in readiness for the End Times than it is to get all the events in the right order in our minds. I like to tease some of my pastor friends who have a different perspective of the End Times at points, that when we all get to glory, I am going to say, “I told you so!” The truth is that I suspect there will be plenty of points for which they will say the same words back to me.
Concerning the details of the order of each event, even the most astute scholar of End Times chronology will probably get something wrong. But how much more important it is to get the preparation right!
I pray, “Lord, I do not want to be found lacking in the sharing of the gospel or in knowing and believing Your Word. Holy Spirit, who lives within me, constantly remind me to be watchful, ready, faithful, and wise. Jesus, may I be so continually engaged in ministering to ‘the least of these’ that when You call me to rise and meet You in the air, that will have been a calling recently engaged.”
Although I do think the End Times are approaching soon, I do not think the Coronavirus pandemic signals its beginning. No doubt, such a world shaking event makes us think about the truth that the End Times are closer than they have ever been.
May we live ready! May we live for the end!
A lot of people have a distorted picture of Jesus. They think of Him as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.” It is not improper to use any of those words to describe our Lord. He could be and often was gentle. When the Pharisees were about to stone the woman caught in adultery, Jesus protected her, spoke to her with tenderness and love, and sent her on her way to live a new life.
Jesus was certainly meek, but not in the popular sense of the word. Biblical meekness means power under control like the power of a stallion who has been broken and trained. But the world often equates meekness with weakness, and this is the quality too often wrongfully attributed to our Lord. And His words were often mild. When others spoke harshly and rashly, He spoke tenderly and kindly.
So I do not find fault with those particular words used to describe the Master, but with the picture some are trying to create with their combination. Some use these words to paint a portrait of our Lord as timid, a never kick up any dust kind of guy. People who think Jesus fits this mold have never done any serious reading of the gospels. These perfect records of the life, work, and words of our Lord show Jesus as the God-Man who in the man portion of that expression was a real man’s man. He was everything God created man to be and more than any other man has ever become because the stain of sin never touched His body or His soul.
As we look at Monday, the second day of Holy Week, we clearly see a picture of the strength of Jesus in body, soul, and spirit. We see a clear portrait of the perfect Man Jesus was. But we also see here a portrait of God that a lot of people miss in the Bible or deny is a part of the character of the Almighty. We see here a glimpse of the holiness of God and His resultant wrath against sin.
Jesus perfectly displayed God’s character. In Him we see the love of God and the mercy of God. But in Christ, especially on this day of Holy Week, we also see the character of a Holy God offended by sin and the wrath that stirs within God’s heart because of iniquity and wickedness. This is not necessarily an enjoyable vignette to watch, but one that is sorely needed in our day and time. For we live in a world where many people believe that if there is a God that He is nothing more than a great big granddaddy in the sky who loves everybody and everything and what we do does not matter one whit to Him. That is the devil’s lie, and this Monday in the life of our Lord, the second day of Holy Week, exposes that lie for what it is.
Matthew 21:12–13 (NKJV) Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”
The problem here was not just that there was commerce in the temple courtyard but that many of those doing business there were selling their animals to use as sacrifices for prices that amounted to thievery. They were supported by dishonest priests who refused to allow any other animal than those sold in the temple courtyard to be used as an offering to God. Jesus cleansed the temple of greed, dishonesty, and fraud.
What if Jesus were to look into our temple? Oh wait a minute. He does look into our temple because our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. So when the Lord looks within what does He find? Is there anything within us that displeases Him?
In these early days of Holy Week, let us join the Lord in His cleansing work in our own lives and purge heart and soul of any impurity within.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Holy Week, that very special eight days in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He completed the work the Father sent Him into the world to do, paying the penalty for the sin of mankind through His death upon the cross, and rising from the dead to offer forgiveness of sin and eternal life to us all.
One thing the Coronavirus has done for us all is to change our schedules. Frankly, we are not happy about most of these changes, but let me suggest one that I believe is positive. We all have more time to focus some of our attention upon this very special time of year and consider what all the Lord did for each of us on each of these eight days.
As a staff, we all are working together to make Holy Week this year, beginning tomorrow, the most special observance of Holy Week any of us have ever experienced. Here is what we are going to do to partner with you and your family to still make times of contemplation, meditation, Bible study, and worship available even during a time that we cannot physically meet together.
Tomorrow, I will preach on Jesus´ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was the day He offered the blessing. Be sure to join us online to see what the blessing was … and is! You can worship with us by going to our Facebook page – St Andrew Baptist Church or to our website, sabc.org. Please plan to start your observance of Holy Week in online worship Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.
As an extra blessing, Fox 28-1 is going to broadcast our worship service from March 22 on their TV channel from 8 to 9 a.m. If you have friends or family you want to invite to watch, especially folks who cannot or who will not stream a service, let them know.
Then daily, beginning Monday, in this blog, I will remind us of what happened in Jesus´ life on that particular day and some of its implications for our lives today. During this week I will offer my thoughts as a short video to watch or in print to read, whichever you prefer.
You will find this posted each morning when you get out of bed, even if you rise to greet the morning before daylight. They will remain on the site so you can access them later in the day or later in the week if you miss one. I hope, at least for this week, that you will access this brief devotional and use it as a help to focus your own thinking and meditation on the Lord and what He has done and is doing in your life.
On Friday, Good Friday, two things will happen.
In my morning blog where I will try to prepare us to consider the day that Jesus was crucified, I will explain why Good Friday is called good. You may be surprised by the reason.
Secondly, at 7 p.m., we will have a Good Friday worship service online, available the same ways our Sunday morning service can be viewed. It will be a short service, a half hour or less, but a very special time of worship.
And then of course, next Sunday, April 12, we will celebrate Jesus´ resurrection from the dead, what happened that morning, and what it means for each of us today. That of course will be during our regular worship time at 9:30 a.m. on our Facebook page, on Boxcast, or on our website, sabc.org.
Join me please in giving some time each day of Holy Week to remember what the Lord did for each of us.
Quarantined for two weeks!
Stay at home for 30 days!
School out for two to three months!
Seems like a long time for trials and trouble to last! How about 40 years wandering in the wilderness? That´s how long the trouble lasted for Israel before they were given a second chance to enter the Promised Land.
What was God doing? Was He just angry?
No, God was working according to His purpose and for the good of His people. God was using adversity to motivate them to re-evaluate their priorities – to get things in their minds, in their hearts, in their lives in the right order.
Near the end of their wandering, God appointed a new leader to replace Moses. His name was Joshua. The Lord said to him.
Joshua 1:8 (NKJV) This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Proper priorities bring success.
Such was true also for King Uzziah.
2 Chronicles 26:5 (NKJV) He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.
Wrong priorities bring trouble.
Psalm 107:17, 19 (NKJV) Fools, because of their transgression, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted... 19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses.
What is happening around us is forcing us to back away from some things that have become a very regular part of our schedule. It is a good time to re-evaluate our priorities in our lives, being sure that our relationship and walk with the Lord Jesus is preeminent!
We got more bad news yesterday. The state of Florida will be under a “Stay at Home” order beginning tonight at midnight. When I heard the news, I was so disappointed. As a staff we spent hours Tuesday planning a Good Friday evening service online that would include doing the Lord’s Supper.
To make the elements of the Supper available to all, we worked out an elaborate plan for a safe “drive thru” distribution at the church and delivery for those who needed it in Good Friday Bags! We were all excited about doing it!
Then the news came yesterday afternoon. It meant we could not do the drive thru, hence we could not get the grape juice and unleavened bread to most of our people. We can and will still be doing the Good Friday evening service online at 7 pm, April 10, but we cannot do the Lord’s Supper. I was bummed! I felt like my own faith was being tested!
And probably it was! Another goal God often has for us in times of adversity is to purify our faith.
Why does our faith need to be purified?
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
1 Peter 1:6-7 (NKJV) In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
There are two ways trouble can help purify our faith:
James 1:2-3 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
I had to repent of being irritated at something God allowed for my and others good and for His ultimate glory. And I came out with a purer faith and MORE PATIENCE!
Job, who had his Ph.D. in trouble from the School of Hard Knocks said, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Lately, it seems that all of us around Panama City have had to deal with great loads of difficulty resulting first from Hurricane Michael and now from the spread of the Coronavirus.
The first question I asked about this situation was “Why?” We looked to the Scriptures for an answer, and that was the subject of the first eight blogs.
Now we change questions. Now we ask “What?” “What are God´s goals in the midst of our difficulty?”
The first one that I think of spoken in God´s Word is that God desires to give us victory in the spiritual battle. The Holy Spirit tells us that the real underlying battle is spiritual.
Ephesians 6:10-12 NKJV 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We often see things only from a surface point of view. God says there is a spiritual battle underneath the physical battles that torment us day by day. God wants us to win this spiritual battle against Satan and all of his demonic host and have victory! God wants us to win this battle sufficiently to move Him to give us weapons for this spiritual warfare.
Ephesians 6:13-17 NKJV 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
All of these weapons are defensive weapons to protect us from the devil´s attacks. The Lord gives us a single offensive weapon: Prayer!
Ephesians 6:18 NKJV praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints--
Difficulty is often the visible evidence of invisible spiritual warfare.
I started these blogs asking why the God Who loves us would allow the Coronavirus to spread so broadly and kill so viciously. I have suggested from Scripture seven reasons why the Lord allows adversity and trouble to befall us. Any one or all of them could be the reason for each of us.
I find one other reason in the Scriptures as to why God sends or allows trials to come to followers of Christ. This reason is not just one of many. It is one reason that should always be on the list of why God does or allows anything at all to come into our lives.
This is God´s constant purpose for us. Read
Romans 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
God´s continuous desire for each of us who have trusted Jesus as our Lord and Savior is that we should increasingly be conformed to the image of His Son.
Therefore, when adversity comes, we should examine to see if there is a need in our life in one of the first seven areas mentioned, and if so, respond and cooperate with the work of God in those areas. However, even if none of the first seven apply, we should always look for the ways God wants to use the time of trouble to make us more like His own dear Son.
As I look back on the watershed points of my life, those moments in my timeline that made everything different for the rest of my life, I think of five:
Each of those God ordained events were used by the Lord to bring about much needed transformation to make me a little more like Christ. I have so very, very far to go and not nearly enough time remaining to make the progress needed. But I am grateful that God has been faithful to work in all things to accomplish good in my life.
Not all, but most of those watershed/transformational times came during a period of adversity. Right now, I am asking, “God, what do You want to do in my life in this season of world-wide plague to make me more like Jesus?” Would you ask also?
Crying as a release of emotion can be good for any of us. I cry more easily now that at any other time in my life. I hope that is because my heart is more sensitive, but honestly, I don´t know if that is the reason.
However, that´s not the kind of crying I want you to think with me about today. Here is the crying of our conversation:
Psalm 34:17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
This is like the cry of a child scared in the night.
This is like the cry of someone injured and needing help.
This is like the cry of a person hurting and pleading for relief.
This is like the cry of any of us in need of something we cannot provide ourselves.
This is the cry to God!
And God promises that He hears those of us who are His children through faith in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14–16 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest …, Jesus the Son of God, … Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If dealing with the Coronavirus and the threat of Covid-19 does nothing else for us (and I hope it will do many more things for us!), surely it is causing us to cry out to the Lord more often and more fervently than ever before.
The Lord hears the prayer of those made righteous through trusting in Jesus. He delivers us when we cry. His deliverance may not come in the exact way we thought it would nor at the time we desired. But it will come. He promises!
Because of our High Priest Jesus, we are welcomed into the throne room of God at any moment on any day. There we always find grace, mercy, and help.
Together, dear people of the Living God, let us cry out to our Maker and our Savior!
Given the choice of what I want between weakness or strength, I would go with strength every time. I am super-competitive – too much so. I want to be strong in every single thing I do. But I am not!
I have many weaknesses. Early in our ministry in the second church I pastored, the Lord showed my wife Karen and me the same painful truth He showed to Paul. Listen to his testimony.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
This weakness for both of us became many of the things Paul described in the above passage: sometimes a reproach, always a need, at times it even stirred up persecution. It constantly held us in distress. We could not fix it or heal it. We prayed, far more than three times, for God to take it away.
Reluctantly, to be honest, we finally accepted the answer the Lord gave Paul. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Even publicly, we embraced our weakness and the promise of the Lord to make us strong.
After years of struggling and hurting with this weakness, we found that God began to lead people to us who were also struggling with the same or similar weaknesses and distresses. They came to us because they knew of our battle and pain. Out of our weakness, God developed a ministry to others to show them the strength of the Lord made perfect through our weaknesses.
What has this to do with the reasons our Loving Heavenly Father would allow the Coronavirus to so ravage our planet? Because …
Lord God, while we continue to pray that You will remove this plague and heal the afflicted, until You do, while we are still weak, let us be strong in the power of the Lord.
I´ve never spent much time in front of the mirror because I´ve never been crazy about what I see. That has become more and more true as I age. I don´t think this is a problem because I don´t need a mirror to fix my hair!
However, we all need a spiritual mirror. We all often need to see our inward selves, truly understanding how and what we are. The Scriptures will do that for us if we give them opportunity. The key word in that sentence is IF.
There is no question that God encourages such self-examination.
Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
Giving us major opportunity to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in a thorough inward search might just be one of the reasons God is allowing this in our lives.
Let´s not miss the opportunity!