My Poor Little Zinnias!

zinniasI decided to start zinnias from seed this year. Yesterday, I transplanted them.  I was amazed at the length of their little roots! They had sent them down as far as their shallow soil would allow them to go and then made a sharp right and started crawling along the bottom of the tray! So, I scooped them out and transplanted them into their own little pots; and this is how they look this morning…

Poor little fellas! I wonder if this is how the disciples felt this morning! It’s Saturday—the wonderful once-a-year Passover celebration culminates today! They should be excited, but you see, Jesus had uprooted them out of their comfortable, several millennia of traditions, and they didn’t even know it until this past week. Even though He told them what was going to happen, their eyes and ears and hearts were blinded to understanding His purpose.

Had my little zinnias known what was coming, they might have hunkered down and said, “No! We’re fine here! We’re not moving.” But if they could have done that, they would have eventually died. They would never have produced any flowers. They would have looked pathetic.

Do you ever feel like that?  God has pulled you up by the roots out of your comfy, cozy spot and put you into unfamiliar surroundings.  They seem harsh and unforgiving. You just want to lie down and die!  But wait! There’s something nice about this new place. Mmmm! My toesies have so much room!  I can stretch way down! And this new soil is really nice. I think I’ll just reach my little leaves towards the sun and GROW!  I’m so glad this happened!

Can we say, “I’m so glad this happened,” when life falls apart?  Better yet, can we say, “I’m so glad God did this?”

I would say most of us do not remember what happened on November 5th, 2017. If I mention Sutherland Springs, Texas, some of us might recall the infamous event. That day, 26 people who went to church to worship God, praising His name with their families and friends. But God had other plans.

How do we cope with something like that?  How do we grow through what would seem to be a dry and barren land? Here are some thoughts:

  1. We fall back on what we know: God is ALWAYS good. This step is so foundational to any further steps we take. Anything less will lead us down the wrong path. “ And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” ( Deuteronomy 6:24).
  2. We draw closer to God and learn of Him. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Titus, James, Peter… these men experienced firsthand the almighty power of God! They have so much to tell us, and since it is really God’s Word and not theirs, it is a well so deep, it will never run dry! ” Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
  3. We gather strength from others: This is why a network of believers is so important. (Recommended: flesh and blood. Social media is great but it can’t give hugs!) We go to the huddle known as church and we learn and weep and pray, drawing strength from each other. “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
  4. We take one step at a time. One of my favorite pictures is of the Guardian Angel,41 portraying an angel watching over two small children while they cross a torrential stream via a very rickety bridge. Just like those children, we walk “circumspectly,” testing each toehold to be sure it will hold, avoiding the pitfalls of pity, anger, bitterness, doubts, fears… the list is endless! (BTW, those are all “fiery darts” and you know who is hurling them!)

The apostles would never be the same. In fact, this dark, distressing week was only the beginning. It would pale in comparison to the testings and trials that were coming their way. BUT, Sunday made all the difference!  Jesus’ resurrection changed them, forged them into great heroes of the faith! Oh, to think that our trials as well are designed to kill us… so that we too can truly live!

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

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Desperate vs. Curious

p_0006As Jesus was approaching Jericho, He and his followers pass by Bartimaeus, a blind man who sat by the road begging. When he was told that it was Jesus passing by, he cried out even louder. The disciples told him to be quiet, but he couldn’t be silenced. Prior to this meeting, Jesus had dealt with so many people: the children whom the disciples also tried to turn away, the rich young ruler who would not give up his riches to follow the Master, Lazarus whom He raised from the dead, and James and John who asked to sit next to Jesus in the Kingdom Age. All the while, He tells his disciples of the upcoming events, but they do not understand.

The religious leaders are scheming, the people are gathering in Jerusalem for this Holy Passover week, and Jesus takes the time to hear the plea of yet another blind man. This man not only receives his physical sight, but he receives spiritual sight as well.

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.Luke 18:43

A desperate man, seeking sight and finding eternal life through the Son of God. Even though the crowd wanted to push Bartimaeus away, he continued his desperate quest and is even now with Jesus for all eternity!

Lesson: How desperate am I to know Jesus, to see His way more clearly, to have my focus be 20/20 on Christ? Will I seek Him even when others think I’m strange for being so desperate to “see” Him better?

Jesus met Bartimaeus on his way into Jericho, and while walking through Jericho, he finds another man–a curious man named Zacchaeus. As we all know, Zacchaeus was a wee little man, only about four inches high. (Just kidding, but isn’t that the motions we usually do with our fingers?) He was curious, and his curiosity led him up a tree and to Jesus because Jesus was also looking for him! We have a little more information about Zacchaeus than we do about Bartimaeus. When the others criticize Jesus for eating with sinners, Zacchaeus tells about his heart change. How do we know that his heart change was genuine? Because we read of a tax collector restoring what he had stolen! Only a heart touched by God could do that! If this study compared Zacchaeus with the rich young ruler, we would see another obvious contrast: the rich young ruler allowed his love for money to rule his decision, but Zacchaeus had found a better Master!

Desperate vs. Curious–could either of these adjectives be used to describe you? Are you desperate for a changed life? Jesus says, “Come.”  Are you curious about Jesus? Do you know someone who seems to really know God while you only think of Him on occasion?

When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I must admit it was out of curiosity. A young man from Bible College had sent me a Gospel tract in a letter. I was curious because we had talked about God, and he had left the church denomination that I was in—not only in but pursuing a career as an organist! As I read the tract, I heard myself saying, “I believe that too,” in a somewhat defiant voice. But when the tract spoke of asking Jesus to be my Savior, I realized that I had never done that.  God took my curious heart and washed it white as snow through the blood of His Son!

No matter the reason for your seeking, Jesus can answer the call of your heart!

Holy Week

holyweekThis week is a very special time for born-again believers. Even those who are not Christians will recognize the week in various ways. Religious people may spend more time at their churches.  Folks might purchase chocolate bunnies and Easter candy, never giving any thought to the real sufferings of Jesus Christ or His redeeming resurrection.

He lives! And His last week while here on earth was filled with many events, interaction with others, and timeless truths to embrace.

I don’t usually post every day, but for the rest of the week, I hope to do just that–each day concentrating on a different character. I hope this little group of posts will be a blessing to you as you aim to focus on our risen Savior!

Tomorrow, we will begin by comparing two individuals who met Jesus while on his way to Jerusalem. But after looking back to the events prior to  Jesus’ meeting with one of these characters, blind Bartimaeus, I found a lesson! So, let’s back up a bit and recap all that has happened in Mark 10 leading up to our passage.

  1. Vs. 1 – 12: Jesus is teaching the people when the Pharisees ask him about divorce.
  2. Vs. 13 – 14: “Suffer the little children” passage, which begins with these words: “But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased.”
  3. Vs.17 – 27: Rich young ruler passage, which ends with the camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle comparison. Jesus ends the discourse with, “for with God all things are possible.”
  4. Vs. 28 – 31: Peter declares that they have left all to follow Jesus, and Jesus assures him of rewards in heaven.
  5. Vs. 32 – 34: While on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples what will soon happen.  He would be:
    • Delivered unto the chief priests and scribes
    • They would condemn him to death
    • They would deliver him to the Gentiles
    • He would be mocked, scourged, spit upon
    • They would kill him
    • He would rise the third day
  6. Vs. 35 – 45: James and John ask to sit next to Jesus in the Kingdom age and the ten are grumbling. Jesus answers by telling them to have servant’s hearts.
  7. Vs.46 – 52: The healing of blind Bartimaeus

I’m not certain of the timeframe for all these events, but we do know that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with His disciples.  He also knows what else will happen; however, the disciples have no clue. Whether the Father blinded their eyes or they were blinded by their own agendas, they completely missed what Jesus is saying. You can see that He tells them in great detail what will happen! We know because it is all recorded in the Bible, but these were future events, and, sadly, the disciples have formulated in their minds other plans for Jesus.

Last evening, we participated in a Seder meal, the Passover meal observed this evening by Jewish people all over the world. It was very fascinating and informative.  Much of this Old Testament ritual points to the Messiah’s coming; in fact,’ Jewish people believe that the Messiah will return during Passover and faithfully look for Him every year.  The last words spoken at the end of the Seder refer to a hope that they will celebrate Passover in Jerusalem next year, which would mean Messiah came and ushered in His Kingdom.

So, when the disciples are heading to Jerusalem, they truly believe that this is the year, Jesus is the Messiah, and that the Kingdom age will begin… now! Jesus would show Himself to be the King of kings and overthrow Rome’s tyranny! Certainly, Sunday’s palm entrance would only solidify their thoughts! When you keep this thought in mind, everything takes on a different understanding:

  • Peter’s promise to never forsake Jesus—of course, he wouldn’t, they would be in the Kingdom age ruling together!
  • Their lack of urgency in the garden—such excitement would have exhausted them, and prayer seemed unnecessary.
  • Their overwhelming amazement at the cross—this was NOT supposed to be happening!
  • Even James’ and John’s quest for top rank makes more sense because in their minds it was happening immediately!

Here we are, 2,000 years later, still looking for our Messiah and Savior to return and begin  His clock to ticking again. We’ve been “stuck” in the church age for 2,000 years! Do you hope for His return to be soon, or are you comfortable in your little world just the way it is? It’s a good question to ask to gain a clearer perspective on reality—God’s reality!

As I sit here typing, knowing that the Jewish Passover is this evening, I wonder, what if this was the night that Jesus returned? Depending on our age, our thoughts go several different directions:

  • Teens—But I want to get married and have children
  • Young Adults—But I want to see my children grow up
  • Middle Age—But I want to see my grandchildren grow up
  • Older—Come ahead, dear Jesus!  I’ve lived my life and I’m ready to go!

Granted, I’m fast approaching the last category, but may I share some really good news for every age? Look at the following timeline:

  1. Rapture – this is the next event on God’s eternal clock
  2. Great Tribulation (seven years) – for the unsaved, this is really bad news. There will be so much deception and horror in these seven years (especially the last 3 ½) that no one would survive if God did not keep it short! (Matt. 24:22), but believers will be with Jesus in heaven!
  3. Battle of Armageddon – which isn’t really a battle because Jesus just speaks and the wicked are destroyed (interesting opposite to God speaking everything into existence at Creation!)
  4. KINGDOM AGE (MILLENNIUM) – One thousand years here on earth under Jesus’ earthly reign! We will be here! So, if you are afraid of the Rapture, don’t be! You will be trading in a few years on this sinful earth for a thousand years in a Christ-ruled world before entering into eternity! Hallelujah!

So, what’s the point? Well, there are several. First, as I look at Mark 10, and mentally follow Jesus just days before his suffering, I’m challenged with several thoughts:

Am I as blinded to Jesus’ true agenda for my life as the disciples were?

Am I a challenge or blessing to my Lord? Does the way I’m living my life please Him, or am I being short-sighted?

Open our eyes, LORD!

Second, am I looking for His coming?

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8

May this week change each of us to walk just a little closer, a little more circumspectly, and a bit more focused on the One who suffered so much for each of us!