Walking to Jerusalem

jesus-on-donkey1

Sunday, March 29th
Walking to Jerusalem
Luke 19:29-44

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The Sabbath was drawing to a close as Jesus and His disciples walked toward Jerusalem where they would celebrate Passover together. Jesus sent two of His disciples ahead to bring a colt back. He was thankful they didn’t ask a lot of questions, simply did as He asked.

 

Walking along disciples Jesus listened to the other remaining disciples prattle on about mundane things. These men were precious to Jesus, walking faithfully with Him for three years. Jesus knew they were looking forward to the Passover celebration, yet they had no idea what this year held in store for them. He knew the challenges ahead would test them all and ultimately be too much for some.

 

The group stopped briefly as the two disciples approached with the borrowed colt. Placing their cloaks on the back of the colt and seating Jesus there they continued on the road to Jerusalem. Celebration was in the air as people spread their cloaks and branches on the roads shouting, “Hosanna!”. Children waved palm branches and sang to Jesus. Many of these people were present when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, following Him since. They shouted praises to Jesus and recalled the miracles He had done, praising God. They cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

 

Jesus took it all in yet He could not celebrate with them for as He looked through the crowd He also saw the unbelief. It caused Him to weep for the city of Jerusalem, knowing the time had come for His purpose on earth to be completed yet those in authority didn’t recognize Him. They exchanged the peace that comes with knowing Jesus as Lord for earthly power and recognition. Their desire was to be acknowledged by their peers more than embracing the truth that a better reward was in store for those who believed in Jesus.

Some of the Pharisees, very upset by this display, told Jesus to quiet His followers yet Jesus told them if they kept quiet the very stones would cry out. (Luke 19:40)

 

The procession reached the temple area in Jerusalem. Jesus looked around, saddened by what He saw. Since it was late He walked on to Bethany with His disciples for the night, preparing for the challenges of the days ahead. Jesus knew in just a few days many of the same people who were praising would desert Him. They wouldn’t understand the sacrifice He was about to make that would give them a new freedom and power that cannot be attained on earth.

 

As this Holy Week begins how is your heart? Will you go through the week declaring the miracles Jesus has done in your own life or will you be part of the crowd that causes Jesus to weep as He looks your way? Is the desire of your heart to serve Him and not seek the pleasures of this world and the power and pleasures of this earthly life?

 

It can be easy to praise God and welcome Jesus as leader of our lives when we see miracles and other good things happen. It’s also easy to turn away from Him when we don’t understand how He will bring good from a difficult situation.

 

As you walk through this week of remembrance and celebration, join me in allowing God to examine our hearts and intentions. Let Him erase your faults and cleanse your heart so you can cry, “Hosanna” to those around you with a sincere and joy-filled heart.

Prayer

 

Lord, the week ahead will be filled with preparations for Easter. The culture around me doesn’t celebrate You or Your resurrection. As I begin this week cleanse my heart, Lord. Examine me and expose any areas where I need to repent. Cause me to reflect on You and express Your grace and love to those around me. May I be a light for You, showing those around me that Easter is about more than colored eggs, chocolate bunnies and baskets filled with treasures. May I, through my words and actions show the real Easter treasure is You.

Walking With Jesus…

Jesus Hand

Walking With Jesus
To the Cross…and Beyond

Holy Week Devotions

 

For much of my life I thought of Easter as only one day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We had a Palm Sunday/Sabbath celebration where we remembered Jesus’ joyous entry into Jerusalem for the Passover Celebration. and talked a little about the events of the week leading up to Easter but not much emphasis was put there. It was so unlike Christmas. Weeks were spent anticipating that day of celebration, singing songs, reading stories and decorating in anticipation of the celebration of his birth.

Not so much with His resurrection. One day of celebration, dinner with the family, then we were done.

While I’m not suggesting we need to intensify the hype of Christ’s Resurrection I realized over the past few years that I want to experience it differently. I dug into the scriptures of the time between Palm Sunday and the Resurrection and I discovered that Jesus walked through so much in those few days that I hadn’t thought of before.

I’d like to share some of what I found with you.

Beginning tomorrow, Palm Sunday I will post a devotion each morning to help us walk to the cross with Jesus.

I hope these thoughts will help deepen your experience of the days leading to the cross and intensify your celebration of the greatest moment in Christian history – the resurrection of Jesus!

blessings and peace to you as we enter this Holy week…
Paula

The Golden Yardstick?

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12

This verse is well-known to most of us as the golden rule. It occurred to me today that it could be interpreted two different ways.

First, the golden rule could be viewed as an instruction – something to be obeyed. Most of us don’t like rules. They get in the way of living our lives the way we want to. We are a rebellious people, sinful at the core and it is not easy to follow rules, especially when it calls for us to put others ahead of ourselves (unless of course we are facing something unpleasant).

Secondly, the golden rule could be interpreted as a measure. If I asked you what this is:

ruler

most of you would reply, “It is a ruler”. And I would not argue with you. However it is also known by some as a “rule”.

rule
ro͞ol/
noun
noun: rule; plural noun: rules; noun: Rules

1. one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere.

2. a strip of wood or other rigid material used for measuring length or marking straight lines; a ruler.

So in light of that Jesus calls us to measure what we do to others by how we would measure what they do to us.

Do you ever think that becomes too romantic a notion? Can it be too easy to brush off an action because we tell ourselves we wouldn’t mind if someone did it to us? For most of us it’s not too difficult to deceive ourselves!

There are different types of rulers, or measuring sticks. They can be shorter or longer, metal, plastic or wood. We might call them by different names (ruler, yardstick, tape measure) and they might be used in different situations, but they all serve the same purpose, to measure.

Today I had to wonder if I use a longer measuring stick when I measure my own actions than when I measure those of others.

How would I measure my actions if I was doing it to myself?

Perhaps you don’t struggle with being selfish and egotistical as I sometimes do but I’ll admit that if something is going to impact me personally it can often result in different actions (or reactions) on my part. That’s not easy to admit, but I’m guessing many of you are right there with me!

Do you ever leave dirty dishes in the sink instead of washing them or putting them in the dishwasher right away because you think there’s a pretty good chance someone else will do it for you? Do you leave a project or chore to the last minute because you know someone else will pick up the slack if you don’t get it done?

Have you ever been deceptive by telling yourself you really wouldn’t mind if someone else did it to you? (come on, really?) Do you measure your own actions with a yardstick while measuring those of others with a 6″ rule?

measuring sticks

Maybe it’s a funny way of looking at the idea, but for me I honestly think that in some everyday, routine tasks the golden rule gets lost somewhere in translation.

I’m going to work on that.

Blessings and peace as you ‘rule’ your world today…
Paula

 

 

Stick With It

In our instant/have it now society it is sometimes difficult for me to work at something long enough to make it happen.

We have become so spoiled by microwave ovens and on-demand television and movie stations that waiting for something we want has become something we ‘re not used to.

microwave

We’ve heard it said the most rewarding things in life take work and I believe that’s true. They take practice and persistence. Becoming good at something requires us to keep at it even when we don’t feel like we are making progress and especially sticking with it when it’s not easy.

I don’t know about you but I struggle a lot with chasing after dreams I have because they take too long to come true. Do you share my struggle?

I was thinking today about a couple of dreams/goals I have for my life. They seem so far away and actually quite unreachable. When I’m honest with myself though I realize that in my quest to get to the goal line I can’t seem to be content with the mile-markers along the way I forget that each mile-marker gets me one step closer to the finish line.

Sometimes I find myself becoming so frustrated and discontented that I actually turn around and go back toward the starting line. It seems silly to put that into words for anyone to read, but that’s the reality I face.

This morning I was getting down on myself in this department, feeling like I can’t see anything through to the end or wait for the fruition of what I’m working on when in the midst of my pity party I started looking through the seed catalog.

I love to garden and know if I plant seeds properly, water and weed them and keep the woodchucks and other varmints away I will be rewarded by luscious fruits, vegetables and beautiful flowers. I will patiently wait all spring and summer, tending the gardens to reap the reward at the end.

Photo07071142

Suddenly I was encouraged and admonished at the same time!!

Why does it work with gardening when it doesn’t seem that way with other things in my life? Because I have experience in gardening! I know from my past how things will turn out in the end. That’s not to say it has always been easy. I have ruined plants with too much water, watched them shrivel up and die from a lack of water, and stunted their growth by allowing weeds to choke them out. But I learned from each error in order to become more successful the next time.

I know that I have to stick with it.

Sometimes we don’t know what a goal is going to look like exactly. It can be hard to chase a dream because we don’t have a clear or complete picture of what it will look like when it comes to fruition. And oh it can be hard for me to chase after something when I don’t know what I’m going to end up with in the end!

I’m encouraged when I think of Moses and Joshua. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to a land God promised was filled with milk and honey. Moses had never seen that land but he believed what God said was good and true. He continued leading a tribe of ungrateful, complaining people around in the desert for 40 years, trusting that what was ahead of them was good.

When Moses died, Joshua took over. They were at the edge of the Promised Land but still were not sure of what was ahead of them. He must have been filled with all kinds of emotions from excitement to fear as he met with the Lord. These are the words God had for Joshua:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

We may not feel like we are on the way to take over a new land but when we are chasing a dream that God has put in our hearts that is exactly what we’re doing. And I believe He gives us the same promise as Joshua to be with us wherever we go.

As we begin a new week, join me in sticking with it….whatever your it may be. Even if we can’t see the finish line, move toward the next mile-marker and not away from it for our own promise is waiting to be fulfilled.

blessings and peace to you today!
Paula

Giving Up ~ 3 Things to Consider During Lent

The Lenten season has begun.  For many Christian denominations the tradition of Lent marks 40 days (excluding Sundays) until Easter. It’s a time for reflection, repentance and remembering what Jesus did for us as He made His way toward the cross, culminating with Easter Sunday and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

As a child I was fascinated as my friends would come back to school after religion class with ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. It was a tradition we didn’t follow in my Baptist denomination and I was curious. The ashes symbolize purification and sorrow for our sins. Each of my friends also gave something up for Lent. It was usually candy, pizza, soda or some other food sacrifice. I remember it wasn’t easy for them to carry this out for 6 weeks but admired them for the effort.

candy cake

In the days leading up to Ash Wednesday this year conversations at work and among friends turned to Lent and who would give up something they enjoy during the 6 weeks of Lent. It got me to thinking about what, if anything, I should give up. I considered giving up chocolate, but that was quickly dismissed. Other considerations were candy, all sweets, or “junk” food. I even considered giving up social media. All were things I enjoy a great deal and often struggle with overdoing. Any would be a good choice and may help change some bad habits.

Somehow any choice I came up with seemed like it wasn’t enough. I feared it would become about me and not the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Would I think of Him each time I turned away from a temptation or would I simply be proud of myself for each little success? My desire is to go deeper and give up something that would impact not only myself but my little corner of the world.

I prayed and pondered, coming up with almost more than I bargained for as God showed me things He’d like me to give up for Him. Here are five of them:

1. Insecurity/Jealousy
Wouldn’t you think jealousy would have left us in our teen years? In reality it follows many of us into adulthood. It amazes me sometimes how often I wonder if someone likes another friend more than me or I catch a glimpse into another’s life and wish it was mine (not taking into account that I don’t see the whole picture, just one small slice)

I know many of my jealous tendencies come from insecurity. Maybe yours do too. At times when I am not confident enough in who I am in Christ or grounded enough in His love I become discontent and jealous. I focus too much on what the world thinks instead of keeping my focus on Jesus.

One of the Ten Commandments instructs us not to envy others or covet what God has given them either materially or through our gifts and talents. When we do we are sinning.

Wow. So if it’s not enough that jealousy and insecurity makes us feel miserable, it’s sinning against God and making Him very unhappy as well.

How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I focused internally on God’s desire for my life instead of externally on what everyone else has/does? How would yours?

2. Being Quick to Speak
Do you have someone in your life who always has something to say? When you’re with them you feel like they’re not listening to you but rather trying to figure out what to say next. It can be very frustrating to spend time with them, especially if you need someone to really listen and care.

I know sometimes I am quick to have something to say and will sometimes offer my opinion when it’s unwanted. Is this you too?

Scripture has something to say about this as well:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19

I am sometimes also quick to speak when it comes to prayer. I have so much to say or ask for that I don’t take the time to listen. In doing so I shut out the wisdom, peace and joy God wants to share with me and possibly through me. If I don’t listen to Him how can I offer others the thing they need most – the love and joy of the Lord.

How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I spent more time listening to others and to the Lord and less time talking? How would yours?

3. Overindulgence
AAAAAGGGggghhhhhh!! This is such a challenge for me! From chocolate to snacks and even with social media once I get started it can be difficult, sometimes impossible to stop!

Unfortunately along with overindulgence comes an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating too many sweets, snacks and fatty foods adds pounds and leads us down the road to likely early death. Too much time on social media and surfing the internet wastes time and possibly skews our way of thinking. Also it potentially opens us up to experience things we’d rather not and exposes us to things we’d rather not see or focus on.

When we eat ourselves into a food coma or immerse ourselves in social media we have less time for time in scripture, prayer or fellowshipping with friends and family members. We find our time and focus has been sucked away – time we’ll never get back.

Are there areas of your life where you struggle with overindulgence?

Scripture also warns against overindulgence.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

How would my life be different if for the next 6 weeks I set more limits on myself in areas I overindulge? How would yours?

This all seems like a tall order and more than I am capable of. Even one seems like a big challenge that would take much longer than 6 weeks to achieve. I’m really not sure that was God’s intention but instead to draw my focus more to Him and less on myself and my desires.

HHoutreach with butterfly

Over the next 6 weeks I’m going to try to give up more of my heart to God. I’m going to try to listen to Him more, waste less time that could be spent with Him, and allow Him to speak to me about my life and listen less to the world around me. I’m excited to see how my life will be different through the process.

Will you join me in the next 6 weeks to consider what God would have you give up as we remember what He gave up for us on the cross?

I’ll be praying for you!

blessings and peace,
Paula

Valentine Victory

It’s coming…only 3 days away. The day of roses and chocolates – another Hallmark holiday.

How I used to dread Valentine’s Day! For weeks before February 14th I pined and pouted, miserable at every commercial for jewelry and every comment from friends about what they would be doing to celebrate with their sweethearts. I didn’t have a sweetheart and it made me miserable. I wanted to be in love and for someone to be in love with me. I wanted a reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Over the years I stopped whining long enough to look around me. What I saw were many others who were alone on Valentine’s Day. Some had never been married like me, but others were alone because of divorce or widowhood. I saw them not only lonely without their loved one on Valentine’s Day but also with bittersweet memories that sometimes made the day even more difficult than mine.

I also discovered something else. While there are many happy marriages with sweethearts rekindling their love each Valentine’s Day there are many married couples who won’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day together. They are struggling to stay together and to rediscover their love for each other.The proclamation of a day of love will not magically fix things between them.

All of this observation has me looking at Valentine’s Day differently. Yes, I still wish I had a sweetheart, but not just for Valentine’s Day. A friend of mine commented the other day that if you’re in love with someone you should show it every day and you shouldn’t need a holiday to tell you to express it. I agree! And this applies not only to a significant other, but all of those whom our lives touch.

Now when I look towards Valentine’s Day I seek ways to brighten the day for others. I think about those around me who will be lonely and without celebration and do what I can to make their day better. .

Here are some ideas:

  • Mail Valentine’s to those who are alone.
  • Pick up candy, flowers, balloons, etc. and hand them out randomly to people who look like they could use a smile.
  • Pick up the phone and call someone who might need a friend.

Praying for others is also critical because where I can’t physically touch lives God can through His all-encompassing love.

There are so many options. Pray about what you could do, on your own, with your significant other or as a family.

 

If you have a sweetheart and look forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day I’m not suggesting you tone down your celebration or don’t share your love with others. Your relationship can be an inspiration to others. But as you look ahead to the big day I ask you to also look around. Find someone who may be alone or lonely in the midst of a relationship and reach out to them. A phone call, note or even a little chocolate heart can make all the difference in their day.

The greatest Valentine any of us can receive is the love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ who showed the ultimate love by coming to earth and living a perfect life, only to take the sins of all mankind when He died on the cross. If you don’t know this Love I pray that you will give your heart to Jesus and know the love that never fails not only on Valentine’s Day but every day of the year.

Happy Valentine’s Day to each of you. May this year be one of expressing love not only to your sweetheart but to each person you touch. You could be the missing peace to someone’s Valentine’s Day puzzle.

blessings and peace to you…

Paula

No Hope At All

Have you ever discovered that a bible verse you’ve quoted to yourself or others over and over has been somewhat incomplete and possibly misquoted?

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Many times I have quoted 1 Peter 5:7 to myself or someone else to ease the strain of anxiety or turmoil, either within or from without. I realize now that quoting it on its own takes it out of context and turns it into some kind of magic potion that is probably different from God’s intention for the verse.

You see when we take it out of context we omit a key piece to the peace that comes from casting anxiety on the Lord. Look at the previous verse:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that He may lift you up in due time.

Humble ourselves?

Is submission easy for you? For most of us it’s not. Whether it’s submitting to the wishes and plans of a family member or friend or taking direction from your boss when you disagree with them, we humans don’t really like to submit to others especially if it means we may give up something we want (or think we want) in the process.

Let’s face it. Our nature is to want things our way and live a life of comfort. When I am anxious about something I often try to find a solution or make it better and more comfortable for myself and others. I wrack my brain and strive to find an answer for the dilemma or figure out how to change someone’s feelings or attitude.

That’s not always God’s plan.

God asks us to hope. To have faith in Him and hope, for the present and the future.

And hope requires submission.

Romans 8_24-25Romans 8:24-25

Hope requires us to admit that we can’t solve the problems around us and submit to the One who can…in His timing.

We look at the world around us and see so much that’s wrong. Innocent people losing their lives because someone doesn’t know how to control his or her anger, leaders who do not fear God or look to the best interests of those whom they lead but instead to their own desires and those we look to for truth disappoint us. It can be so hard to hope for the good.

But hope must be exercised in order to grow stronger. Hope linked with faith is an unbeatable combination.

Think of when you start working out to strengthen your muscles, lifting weights or doing work on your abdominal/core. Do you feel strong the day after the workout?

weight_lifting

No, those muscles feel weak. The thing is if you allow that feeling of weakness to override the knowledge that good will come from consistently working those muscles and believing you will gain strength over time, nothing will ever change. But if you consistently work on those muscles, believing in what you cannot immediately see, over time you will realize things have changed.

I believe the same is true for hope.

Hope is something that must be exercised, and goes hand-in-hand with faith. (more on that in a future post)

Hebrews 10:23 tells us:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

As we submit to God and His will, admitting we don’t understand but hopeful that God’s promises are true today just as in the days of old we will be able to cast away our anxiety and allow Him to take over.

If you’re having trouble with this and need proof of present hope, look a little deeper. Perhaps we need to look a little farther out of our own circle. There are stories every day of God providing for people in need, healing the sick, even bringing miracles. Just because we haven’t seen what we hope for come to be just yet doesn’t mean it won’t. It means we need to continue to hope, and put our trust in the One who promises He will never leave us or allow us to walk through the joys or struggles alone.

This isn’t only true for everyone else it’s true for me, and for you. It’s easy to forget and be tempted to give up hope.

Don’t do it. In this puzzle of life the missing peace can only be found by humbling ourselves under God’s hand, trusting, and hoping for what we cannot see…

and casting our anxiety on Him.

 

blessings and peace to you!
Paula