Take a few minutes today to read the four Gospel accounts of the Triumphal Entry and try to imagine what it would have been like to be standing and singing in that crowd:
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem
A Christian worker’s greatest need is a readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn. This is not easy, no matter what our experience has been. This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn. The greatest need is not facing our beliefs or doctrines, or even facing the question of whether or not we are of any use to Him, but the need is to face Him.
Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle— we must be spiritually real.
If you are avoiding the call of the religious thinking of today’s world, and instead are “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), setting your heart on what He wants, and thinking His thoughts, you will be considered impractical and a daydreamer. But when He suddenly appears in the work of the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. You should trust no one, and even ignore the finest saint on earth if he blocks your sight of Jesus Christ.
“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16
I had just landed in Phoenix for some meetings when the clerk at the rental car desk told me they were all out of cars except for one expensive luxury car that he would give me for the compact rate.
Admittedly, I was a little worried that someone seeing me drive up in this cool over-the-top auto would think that I had lost any sense of good stewardship. But it was, take the car or walk. So I took the car! And, I must admit, I loved driving the car—until my trip back to the airport.
Gliding down the highway in style, I heard an ominous thumping noise and knew immediately that it was a flat tire. I was stuck, and regardless of how nice the car was, I was going nowhere and would probably miss the plane. You probably know the feeling. You need to get somewhere and suddenly you’re stuck in a snowdrift or a muddy ditch—or you get a flat tire. No matter what, getting stuck is not a good thing.
And as bad as it is when you’re traveling, it’s even worse if you get stuck spiritually. You probably know what it’s like. Someone special to you wounds you with their words or actions, and rather than forgiving and turning the other cheek you get stuck in a fight with them only to realize that the more you try to get even the more stuck you become. Or perhaps in the midst of difficult circumstances, seeds of disappointment and bitterness take root and you get stuck in discouragement land. To say nothing of the fact that the spiritual blow of unconfessed sin can completely immobilize us.
All of this makes me love what I read in Hebrews 11: 6-16 . Real people, living in a world like yours and mine, refused to get stuck by the disappointing and discouraging circumstances of their lives. The common thread woven through these individuals is the fact that they saw themselves as “aliens and strangers” in this world, on their way to a “better country—a heavenly one.” Simply put, they caught sight of the fact that they were on a journey and that something greater awaited them. Nothing, or no one, would deter them from keeping their eyes on where they were headed. They refused to get stuck! And in Hebrews 11:16, we get a glimpse of God’s pleasure and delight in the way they persisted in their journey when we read that He is not “ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
So, the next time someone’s words or actions threaten to mire you down—the next time life’s circumstances give you an excuse to blow out and get stuck—remember who you are and where you’re headed. There isn’t a person or thing in your life that is worth getting stuck for! You’re headed home. They can duke it out by themselves if they choose!
MARCH 27, 2015
Real Love Bleeds
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (ESV)
Once while attending a conference I found myself browsing through the vendor section.
Most, if not all, of the vendors had products available where the proceeds would be invested directly into a ministry or mission project designed to change the lives of people near and far.
The idea that my purchase could in some way be a small contribution to Kingdom work propelled me to actively seek something that I wanted to wear, use or display in my home.
I paused in front of a table featuring art prints with various inspirational quotes and verses. It was like a sea of words.
I figured that somewhere on that table were words I would want to display in my home. Words that would inspire me and spur me on to be the person God wanted me to be.
I found those words. But they weren’t the warm and fuzzy words I was looking for. The kind that would make me want to smile when I walked by them in my home.
Instead I found words that cut deep and convicted me beyond my expectation. Words that inspired me … but solemnly. Words that did not yield a cozy experience, but certainly lit a fire within my heart and soul. The print said:
“Real love bleeds.”
I bought it.
Loving people can be hard work. It can be even harder when the love you give requires the very essence of who you are to flow through wounds inflicted by the ones your heart beats for.
When I read these three small words penned by this artist-turned-missionary, I stopped in my tracks because I knew I had been doing exactly the opposite in my life.
Instead of being willing to “bleed” for the ones I loved the most, I had slipped into full-on apathy.
Why? Because sometimes caring for and loving others doesn’t feel good.
Sometimes, it’s easier not to love.
Over time, and unbeknownst to me, I had become an expert at self-preservation and pain avoidance.
Anything that hurt, I didn’t touch — including the people I loved the most.
I grieved as I realized that the very love Jesus continually offered me — the same love that came at His own great personal discomfort and eventual agony — was unfortunately the kind of love I’d become unwilling to consistently offer.
Why? Because sometimes loving others hurts.
As I stood there and pulled out my wallet to purchase the simple yet beautiful print, I realized that great love comes at a great cost — as evidenced by the example of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for my sins, which we see in today’s key verse.
I remembered His illustration of love for me and recalled His command that I follow in His steps: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34, ESV).
Now, let me concede this. I am completely aware that everyone who causes us pain should not be an automatic recipient of our deepest level of sacrifice. However, I am acutely aware of my own need to assess my willingness to love like Christ loves me and to sacrifice for those to whom I am called.
What I know for certain is this: There are times when the love I have for others is not a matter of feeling, but rather a matter of my decision to be obedient to Him — and it won’t feel good.
The question is, when real love results in my personal discomfort or even a heart-wrenching level of pain, am I willing to love well anyway?
Streams in the Desert
Consider the lilies, how they grow (Matt. 6:28).
I need oil,” said an ancient monk; so he planted an olive sapling. “Lord,” he prayed, “it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.” And the Lord sent gentle showers. “Lord,” prayed the monk, “my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray Thee.” And the sun shone, gilding the dripping clouds. “Now frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues,” cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparkling with frost, but at evening it died.
Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. “I, too, planted a little tree,” he said, “and see! it thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. He who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not ways or means. ‘Lord, send what it needs,’ I prayed, ‘storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou hast made it and Thou dost know.'”
Yes, leave it with Him,
The lilies all do,
And they grow–
They grow in the rain,
And they grow in the, dew–
Yes, they grow:
They grow in the darkness, all hid in the night–
They grow in the sunshine, revealed by the light–
Still they grow.
Yes, leave it with Him
‘Tis more dear to His heart,
You will know,
Than the lilies that bloom,
Or the flowers that start
‘Neath the snow:
Whatever you need, if you seek it in prayer,
You can leave it with Him–for you are His care.
You, you know.
From: Through the Bible
Deuteronomy 8:3-4 (NIV) 3He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.
God tested Israel in the wilderness in order to know what was in their heart. It was not as if our all-knowing God couldn’t see their hearts. They needed to see how faithless and proud their own hearts were. So do we! Because of our sinful nature we get the ridiculous idea that we are independent creatures. We think we can take care of ourselves. That is why we are taken through wilderness experiences.
When the LORD sets his love upon you, the most gracious thing He can do for you is to show you truth. The truth is that you are a dependent creature, dependent upon the word of God for air, water, food, ability, and life itself. God alone is ascient (self-sustaining). How do you think Moses survived two forty-day fasts without water? The Word of God sustained him. How could the nation of Israel live for 40 years in a desert? The Word of God brought water from the rock, bread from the sky, and kept their clothing from wearing out.
When we realize this fact of total dependency, we are humbled. Jesus knew it to be true. He said, “I can do nothing by myself.” As a man, He knew He had become dependent on the Word of His Father, and so He spoke and acted what He heard and saw of the Father. The affect of the humbling truth that we are totally dependent on the Word of God should change the way we speak and act if we are to accomplish anything of lasting value. Recognize the reality of how needy you are.
Consider: The trials of life are to humble us and show us our need.
Matthew 25:38-40 (NIV) 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
At the final judgment, every man will appear before the King to give an account of the things done during their life. The Son of Man will divide them into just two groups. He doesn’t ask them about theology. There are no quizzes. The deciding factor is how they lived. Did they meet the needs of their fellow man? Or did they ignore the pain and suffering around them? One might argue that the only way a person is willing to give of themselves out of unselfish motives is that the Spirit of Christ indwells them. Indeed, these who did meet the needs of others seem to be unaware that they did so. They did not boast about all the good things they had done, but instead asked when they did them.
Notice, also, that Jesus says they did it to Him. They ask how that could possibly be, and He explains that doing it to one of the least of His brothers is the same as doing it to Him. This reminds us of the Good Samaritan story.
I once asked the Lord how I could wash His feet. He showed me that washing the feet of His children was the same as doing it to Him. As I proceeded to do so, the realization that I was washing Jesus’ feet on my brother overwhelmed me. Can we see our brothers’ need as Jesus’ need?
There is a story about three Catholic priests whose church was in continual decline. They asked a traveling Jewish rabbi if he had any ideas. The rabbi told them that he had heard Jesus was among them. Each of the priests suspected it was one of the other priests. They began to treat one another as if they were Christ. They began to prefer each other with great respect. The congregation began to grow again and its fame spread throughout the country. It is just a story, but it contains a great truth. Jesus lives in our brothers.
Remember: Let us treat one another as we would treat Jesus. He’ll honor that. His life in us makes that possible.