Dear Friends - The events in Jerusalem from Palm Sunday through Friday conclude Jesus’ ministry on earth.
Jesus had traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Along the way a crowd joined him and the twelve. These people had heard Jesus’ words, seen the miracles, tasted the bread and fish.
When Jesus reached Bethany he mounted a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. The prophet had foretold the messiah would come on a donkey. Jesus, as Old Testament prophets did, put God’s word into action so all could hear and see it. The Messiah has come! The crowd saw the sign and sang in joyfully praise, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jesus entered the Temple, drove out merchants selling sacrifices, sat down and began to teach. As they had so often before, the blind and broken came and Jesus healed them.
Every day that week, Monday through Thursday Jesus went to the Temple to teach. At the same time, priests prepared the lambs for the Passover sacrifice. Each lamb had to be carefully inspected. If it had any imperfection, sign of illness, wound, or scar, it was rejected.
In the Temple courts Jesus, too, was examined for any defect. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar,” asked some Pharisees. Jesus couldn’t say No, or the Romans would arrest him. He couldn’t say Yes, or the crowd would desert him. It was the perfect trap. Would Jesus have a perfect answer? “Give Caesar what is his,” Jesus said, “and be sure to give God what is his.” Jesus eluded the trap, and reminded them and us to love God with all we are. Flawless! Even Pilate would agree. “I find no fault in him,” he would say.
Thursday night Jesus ate Passover with his disciples. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. Friday morning they led him to Golgotha and nailed him to a cross. Even here Jesus was faultless. He forgave his executioners. He assured the penitent thief of life in the Kingdom of God. He did not save himself so that he might save others. He commended his soul to his Father, and breathed his last breath.
And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The way to the Father was opened by the sacrifice of Christ.
They buried him in a tomb carved into the limestone, one which had never been used. And they sealed the tomb with a stone. And the world went on about its business ...
Wait a minute, preacher, that’s not the end!
No, it sure isn’t!
~ Pastor Byron
Do you recall the story of Saul (who becomes Paul) in the book of Acts? Saul began as a foe of the Christian faith, of the church, and of Jesus Christ. He approved when Stephen was stoned to death for blasphemy when he preached Jesus (Ac 7). Saul then began an organized persecution of the church, seeking out believers in Jerusalem and all the way to Damascus to arrest, imprison, and even execute believers.
BUT Acts 9 records Saul’s conversion, and immediately Saul began to preach Jesus as crucified and raised from the dead. What a huge change!
For the rest of his life Saul, now Paul, gave himself to preaching Jesus - because “Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
That concept is probably very familiar to you. Certainly the idea that Jesus saves is. But since this statement is true, so new questions come to my mind.
Why the cross? Was there no other way?
How can the death of one man save all men and women from sin and death?
What does the cross have to do with me?
How am I actually saved through the cross?
Paul was absolutely certain of his own salvation. How can that be given all the things he did?
Can I be so certain? Should I be?
There are tremendous answers to these questions in God’s word. As Lent begins on Wednesday March 6 and continues through to Easter, April 21 this is a perfect time to think about the sacrifice of Christ, and what it does for me and you. So I plan to explore all this in messages during the Lent season.
I’m not sure I can answer every question, but I bet we can figure out a lot together as we study the Bible. I hope you will come along on the journey.
As I said, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6. As Jesus fasted for 40 days before he began his public ministry, Lent is 40 days. The length of the season reminds us that in all of life we are following Jesus Christ our Lord. We can fast and pray, study and heed God’s word and be changed to resemble Christ even more.
So I hope you will mark Lent this year. You can fast (that is take no food only water) or abstain (eat limited and simple foods) one day a week during Lent. You can also adopt a practice of service during the season: visit home bound friends or Grace’s shut-ins, help a family with small children with a meal once a week.
And then, study God’s word. I think you will be blessed as you hear and follow God’s voice.
~ Pastor Byron
For several weeks we’ve been talking about writing a spiritual goal or theme to guide us through the year. You are probably ready to move on to another subject. But let me say one more thing before we do. Let’s Get Started!
I was reminded several weeks ago about the acronym for a well- conceived goal. It’s S.M.A.R.T.
Wikipedia lists multiple expressions of SMART. These are the ideas I like.
S= be specific: You should be able to break it down into smaller steps.
M = be measurable: Can you determine when you have reached it.
A= attainable: You should be able to reach the goal. Learning a new language
in one day is unattainable but in one year more attainable.
R = relevant: do I care if I reach this goal? It has to matter at least to me.
T = Time-bound: You have a deadline.
I’m interested in that first letter, S - how can I break my goal down into smaller actionable steps? You’ve heard the adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Small steps are what get us to the big goal. Have you thought about the steps that will get you moving toward your goal?
Here are some helpful thoughts on developing smaller steps.
First, break the big goal into Milestones. Some steps might be: Gather Resources, Ask for Guidance, Build a system of Support and Encouragement, Implement what you Learn from the Resources. The milestones you outline will depend on your goal and your starting place so they will vary from person to person and from goal to goal.
Second, develop a task list for the first milestone. You don’t have to have a task list for every milestone, but develop it for your first one. If you are gathering reading resources you may want to identify the best sources, obtain them from a library or purchase them, and schedule time to read and study.
Third, complete the tasks on your list toward your milestone. That’s pretty straightforward.
Fourth, evaluate. Did you spend too much time on this aspect of your goal? What was most helpful? What have you learned? How will the list help in reaching your next milestone?
Fifth, develop task list for the next milestone and repeat.
It’s good to have a direction for your spiritual life. I’m praying you will write yours and strive toward your goal and discover God’s blessing as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
~ Pastor Byron
Click here toDear Friends -
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28:20)
The Bible frequently and emphatically repeats God’s promise of his gracious presence. The Lord says to Joshua “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9) Hebrews 13:5 reads, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
You might notice that in Matthew and Joshua, God’s promise is directly connected to his command to us to obey. In Matthew, Jesus commanded us to make disciples. It ends with, “I am with you to the end of the age.” Joshua is about to lead Israel across the Jordan River into the promised land. They will face many dangers and temptations, but the Lord says, “Don’t be afraid. I will be with you wherever you go.”
In other words, the Lord gives us these promises to encourage us to trust him while we strive to live for him. The Lord has said, “I know that obeying me won’t be easy, or without risk. You will have to live in a less self-focused way, by taking up your cross. BUT, the risk will not overwhelm you, the challenge won’t defeat you, and taking up your cross will lead you to life, because I am with you.”
With Christmas the old year ends and we enter a new year, reminded that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. None of us knows what this year will be like, but if we belong to Christ, none of us will live it without Christ with us.
So let me encourage you to live by faith. Face the challenges that may come, with the confidence that Christ Jesus is with you, Emmanuel. Live life looking for ways to intentionally serve Christ. You can step outside your comfort zone because Jesus is with you, Emmanuel. Lead your family in such a way that there is no question among your children or for your spouse that you are following Christ, and remember there will be wonderful results because Jesus is with you, Emmanuel.
Your feelings will not always match the reality of Christ’s presence, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there. If you ride a roller coast you feel the rush of fear, that’s why you are there. But you are still safe. You would not have gotten on the ride if you thought otherwise. Christ’s presence is more sure and much stronger than the restraining bar holding you in your roller coaster seat. Hold on to him.
Let’s live in Emmanuel. January is a great time to evaluate and recommit ourselves to him.
Happy New Year,
~ Pastor Byron
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.