Imagine for a minute a grand parade. It might be one of those that celebrates military might with tanks and rockets. It might have brass bands, flags waving and marchers goose-stepping in rhythm, with a dictator either clapping from a grandstand or even at the head of the parade. Then imagine some time later a mock parade with a popular religious leader riding a donkey, and instead of flags, people waving palm branches. That’s what Palm Sunday is all about. It mocks and challenges this world’s pride and arrogance. We often think of Jesus riding a donkey as religious not political, but we forget the implications for Caesar, Pilate and Herod.
Labels: Mark 11
Jesus taught that selfishness destroys us. How? Selfish people are combative because they always want things their way, so they lose relationships. Selfish people kill their own joy by complaining. Selfish people have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, so people don’t want to be around them. Selfish people can’t take criticism, but they constantly criticize others, so because of the negative atmosphere people walk away. Selfish people make love conditional upon serving their needs and so hurt others. Selfish people lie and manipulate, so they can’t be trusted. Selfish people believe they deserve the largest portion and don’t consider how others feel, and so drive friends and family members away.
Labels: John 12
In John 3:15 we read, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Ancient Israel was often critical of God. One one occasion, God punished them by sending poisonous snakes into their midst (Numbers 21:4-9). The people regretted their whining and Moses prayed and following God’s instructions made a bronze snake on a pole. Looking on the bronze snake that was lifted up, they lived. When we look to the cross and believe in Him, we too will live. The solution to a snake problem was a snake. The solution to the problems of man is the man who was lifted up on a cross.
Why do we get angry when a gunman attacks a school, precious children or the elderly are abused, or terrorists line up innocent people and cut their throats? Is it because within us is some measure of love for others? Perhaps we can understand then how a loving God is also an angry God? If God knows the long-term consequences of sin to hurt and destroy us, He hates sin and is angry when we choose to sin. If God created marriage as a blessing, He hates what destroys it. If God knows that only He can provide us true blessings, He hates the false idols and lies of counterfeit religions.
A Washington Post article declares "Meet Cheddar Man: First modern Britons had dark skin and blue eyes." This is preposterous! If it were statistics, we would mock and say that a sample of one proves absolutely nothing. But, these are the gods of science who may not be questioned, at least that’s how it’s reported. Perhaps true scientists are more humble than this nonsense! Sadly, we have the same ridiculous thing in religion, where dogmatism is used as a weapon. Dogmatism in science or religion can be a cover-up for lies or egotistical ignorance. When we say words like maybe, possibly, and I could be wrong, then we are truly honest.
Why is Christianity different to any other religion? We don’t need endless reincarnations, never attaining sinless perfection, working to reach nirvana. We believe in forgiveness, not to avoid forgiveness or to kill and terrorize. Christian history repeatedly fails this ideal, but no other religion offers a free pardon for our sins. We don’t earn our way into God’s favor. Forgiveness is completely undeserved, given to those who ask and are learning to forgive. We are not Christians because we are perfect like Christ. We are Christians because we participate in God’s kingdom of forgiveness and we are learning to be like Jesus and forgiving from the heart because we are forgiven.
What is a rare gift that we give others and ourselves? It’s the gift of forgiveness. It is hard to find this gift. Most people hold unhealthy grudges and refuse to let them go. We preserve resentment like a precious treasure. It’s not a treasure. It’s a stinking carcass that we safeguard and bow down to and kiss as we remember the past. It’s our egos and hurt feelings, and we refuse to let go of them. Instead of forgiving and getting over it, we imprison ourselves in bitterness and inward anger. Jesus said to forgive from the heart, because only by doing so will our hearts experience freedom and healing.
Are some people loners because they are deeply hurt and haven’t learned forgiveness? A healthy local church is the ideal place to heal and learn to love. Forgiveness does not mean trust. It is foolish to trust any human being, even ourselves (Psalms 118:8; Micah 7:5; Jeremiah 17:5; Psalms 118:9; Psalms 118:8-9). We must learn to trust the only One who is completely trustworthy, God. What we need to learn in church life is forgiveness. How wonderful it is when we are among a group of Christians where there is forgiveness. Human trustworthiness is an unrealistic expectation. Alone we don’t learn forgiveness. Forgiving churches are wonderful.
What if we refuse to forgive? God doesn’t give us that option. In Matthew 18:35 Jesus says, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Peter wanted a mathematical count for forgiveness, like seven times and then no more forgiveness. With hyperbolic language, 70x7, Jesus taught that compassion and mercy must last a long, long time from the heart. There is no room for lack of mercy. We confess our sins, remembering the great debt we owe God, and forgive those who trespass against us. Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.
What does the parable of the unforgiving servant teach us? A king’s servant borrowed a huge fortune (Matthew 18:23-34) and lost it all placing his whole family in slavery to debt. He asked for debt forgiveness. The king had compassion and forgave the astronomical debt. That servant then violently confronted a fellow servant, who owed him a very small amount, and had him thrown into prison. The king was angry at this lack of compassion. The king jailed his unforgiving servant and let him be tortured. This parable informs us how important compassion and mercy are to God. He demands that we, the forgiven, must also compassionately and mercifully forgive.