Be Still

I was honored to have my talented sister-in-law, Lisa Pruitt offer to write this week’s Journal Post. She loves caving more than anyone I’ve ever met. She is the adored older sister of my wife Heather and the adoring mother to my wonderful nieces, Chloe and Camile. Thank you Lisa!

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10.

Today’s reading: Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7–8

Imagine with me we are in a cave. It is a landscape beneath the landscape. Some enter caves with trepidation and fear. But a cave – to me – is the very essence of God’s work right before our eyes. Caves are a fragile ecosystem, dark, damp, flowing water, the pungent smell of earth. Caves are our final frontier and they contain indescribable beauty.

I am drawn to caves, not because they are dark and scary but because it is a place where I can experience God in a new way. I can be still there in the dark and quiet, my senses are tamped down. When I turn off my headlamp, sight is absent, taste is minimal, I can touch the cool damp rock and smell minerals and soil. I can hear the delicate musical and echoing sounds of water dripping somewhere. It is a perfect environment for meditation, for prayer.

The Celtic Christians appreciated a concept known as “thin places”. A thin place is where the divide between our earthly world and God’s kingdom are narrowed, where we can experience a glimpse of God’s majesty, feel his love in surround sound. Sometimes I experience a cave as a thin place. It is not a place of fear but a place of beauty, a place where I know that God is at work, molding and sculpting hard limestone into natural art. As written by T. Augustus Forbes Leith, “from the star-spangled canopy of heaven to the far bottom of the majestic ocean, created earth is teeming with wondrous beauty”.

I went with a group of people to a cave in Mexico a few years ago. We went in single file, walking and talking quietly in the dark, our voices echoing. We walked about 15 minutes before encountering water. We slowly and gently entered the water and got acclimated to our surroundings and the unfamiliar feeling of swimming and floating in a very dark cavernous space. The water was warm and so clear that it appeared to be only 6 or 7 feet deep but it was actually 60 feet deep. There were extravagant formations everywhere I looked, hanging from the ceiling, along the walls, some emerging from the edges of the clear deep water – as if an artist had placed them there. I felt so peaceful, so blissfully happy, so overwhelmed with all my senses – that I began to weep. I experienced a thin place that day.

When I read the scriptures for today, what I continued to ruminate over was Psalm 8. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” God has set his glory in the heavens and the earth. When I consider the tangible and visible things that God has created, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, the innumerable bugs – so colorful and specialized, high mountains, deep oceans, the rebirth of spring, the delicate soft features of a baby, the miracle of unfolding life, flowers, fungus, and the amazing array of colors our eyes can perceive, I am humbled. Our God is majestic.

Appreciating the beauty of our natural world around me reminds me of the Lord’s majestic name! Anytime I can stop and notice, anytime I can be still and think of God’s love, I am reminded of God’s majesty and I experience a thin place. Sometimes the cave’s environment facilitates my experience of a thin place, sometimes it’s a mountain top, other times it is when I lie in the grass at night and allow the grandeur of the night sky to flow into me.

These profound thin places are not experienced by me every day for they require 1) the right environment, 2) the proper state of observation by me and 3) most importantly – my willingness to be still. What I know is that without Jesus at my side, even at times when these three ingredients converge, they would be meaningless and would not coalesce into a thin place without Jesus, because I would not be worthy of the familiarity of a thin place. I would be there but could not reach out to God, could not feel Him.

The indescribable beauty of all that God has given us on this earth is majestic but it is nothing compared with the gift of Jesus.

One Goal

Compass with needle pointing the word mission. Conceptual illustration part one of a company statement Mission Vision and Value.

Today’s reading:  Judges 20; Acts 24; Jeremiah 34; Psalms 5–6

In Acts 21, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem for preaching about Jesus.  Because a group of men were plotting to kill him on his way to court, Paul was transferred to Caesarea.  Today’s scripture has us in Acts 24, the account of Paul’s trial before governor Felix.

The story begins with Tertullus, the lawyer, acknowledging the period of peace the nation has experienced under Felix’s leadership.  He compliments the governor by directly attributing years of peace to Felix’s programs of reform.  The charges against Paul are recorded in verse 5 – he is accused of being troublemaker who has been stirring up riots all over the world.  Acts 24:9 says, the other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.  Does this sounds like a pile on to you?  A case where one person begins with an accusation, then others (whether they truly have been wronged or not) begin to transform their experiences to fit the argument.  Sounds something like this, “yeah…and I saw him do this…I heard him say that…did you notice that he didn’t say this…and he definitely doesn’t care about that…”.  Situations like this frustrate me to no end.  They almost always make me want to fight the accusations against me, whether they are truly accurate or not.

Notice how Paul responds.  He asserts his innocence, “and they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me” (Acts 24:13), but he doesn’t stop there.  He steps out and presses the issue.  In verse 14 he confesses to be a “follower of the Way”.  Then in verse 21 he actually suggests to them a time when he charges may have been valid, “unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today’”.  What?  Based on what I know about court proceedings, this certainly isn’t how defendants are counseled to respond.  Shouldn’t Paul just be answering the questions asked, no more, no less?  Anything he says can be used against him.

Felix doesn’t issue a verdict in this case.  Rather, he pends it until Lysias the commander will be present.  Verse 24 tells us that Felix and his wife visited Paul a few days later.  What a perfect opportunity for Paul to discuss with the governor and eventually convince him of his innocence, right?  Nope.  Paul didn’t talk about himself, he talked about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment.  This is just like Paul.  It was never about him.  His singular focus was on leading others to faith in Jesus Christ.  Every time.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).

What is your one goal?  Are you crafting conversations with others to lead them to Christ or to accomplish some other objective?  Are you willing to sacrifice your selfish desires in order that others may know salvation?

God, we can’t accomplish this on our own.  We need you.  Will you wrap our hearts and minds around one goal – using every opportunity to lead others to you?

Righteous

Righteous: acting in accord with divine or moral law :  free from guilt or sin. Unrighteous: not righteous :  sinful, wicked (Merriam-Webster)

Judges 19; Acts 23; Jeremiah 33; Psalms 3–4

We’ve got another binary pattern here. We can be either righteous, or unrighteous. As sinful humans, on our own we become unrighteous. Since God is perfect, just, and righteous he cannot tolerate unrighteousness or sin. Knowing that we are sinners in need of a savior, he sent Jesus, the righteous Branch to save us, to forgive our sins so that we may become righteous through him before God’s throne.

The following verses are prophecy pointing to Jesus Christ and in line with Isaiah 11:1. Jesus is referred to as a branch in various places throughout the Bible.

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 33:15-16)

Will you take time and pause to reflect on how Jesus was, and is righteous and how he can make us righteous today? Along with that, here’s a good prayer to call out to God and honor him for his righteousness.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
    You have given me relief when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1)

Jesus can be called righteous because he is perfect. He never sinned and that made him the perfect sacrifice to take our place. Do we take it for granted that Jesus rose from the dead? He rose from the dead. Say it with me… Jesus rose from the dead. He voluntarily subjected himself to betrayal, torture, and a brutal death, but the grave couldn’t hold him. The one who has power over the grave has power over all things in our lives; sin, pain, depression, emptiness, brokenness, as well as all the great things such as joy and love. We praise you God for all these things!

Next week (Friday 8/12), Cooper Wilken will be a guest author in my place. Cooper is a fine young man; strong in his faith, has a great personality, and is mature beyond his years. Please welcome and encourage this brother in Christ!

Vacation

long lakeJudges 18; Acts 22; Jeremiah 32; Psalms 1–2

Today, I sit atop a hill overlooking a beautiful lake in Northern Minnesota. Despite my surroundings, there is a risk that I waste my vacation. You see, I have a tendency to bury myself in activities that occupy my mind and consume my time.  Ironically, these are the same distractions that I find at home. In the end, they are pointless and unfulfilling. How then, do I overcome my tendency to escape life and replace it with a fruitful vacation? Today’s scripture provides the answer. Psalm 1 invites me to spend my time pursuing God. One step in doing so is to,

delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law, meditate day and night. (Psalms 1:2)

Instead of using my week to escape reality through books, television and the internet, I am choosing to spend some time delighting in the laws of the Lord.

  • Reflection

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,my shield, and the horn of my salvation,my stronghold and my refuge,my savior; you save me from violence.I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,and I am saved from my enemies. (2 Samuel 22:2-4)

  • Beauty

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

  • Silence

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalms 46:10)

  • Gratitude

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

As I connect deeper with the word of God, I find refreshment, restoration, and, yes, vacation.

The Will of the LORD Be Done

Today’s reading: Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30–31; Mark 16

August 3rd, 2016

In Acts 21 Paul ends up in Caesarea staying with Philip, the evangelist (Acts 21:8). While Paul was there a prophet from Judea came and prophesied that the Jews of Jerusalem would bind Paul and hand him over to the gentiles (Acts 21:11). Because of this Luke and those with Paul began to entreated him not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12).

Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. – Acts 21:13

After they realized Paul would not listen to them, they submitted:

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. – Acts 21:14

Reflecting on today’s reading from Acts has me asking myself these challenging questions:

  1. Do I desire God’s will or my own? Is my will wrapped up in this world?
  2. Am choosing God’s kingdom over one a kingdom of my own in this world with the things I am thinking, saying and doing? Am I today? Will I tomorrow? Who can hold me accountable in this? Have I asked them to? Do I really want them to?
  3. Am I able to discern my LORDs will from my friends advice? How can I hear God’s voice? Am I listening for it? Do I desire to hear Him separate from my desires of this world?

What other questions might we consider in applying today’s reading the things we think, say and do?

Powerful Planning

August 2, 2016 

One of my favorite verses that I read today is Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Today’s ReadingJudges 16; Acts 20; Jeremiah 29; Mark 15

I’ve read, written, and quoted this verse many times to myself and to others. At first to me it was a reminder that God has a plan for all of us. In His plans, and according to His timing, we will be taken care of in both good and bad moments. These encouraging words can provide you with boundless hope you need to conquer any agenda, task, or adverse circumstances that at first may seem impossible. You can rest on the fact that God is with you the whole time. In our stress, pain, and hard times God has a glorious conclusion for us.

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

These next two verses is a reminder about us calling upon Him. That the plans we want may not always be the plans He has set for us.  So in our minds when we’re asking, “Why did this happen?” submit to the plan God has given to you and find ways to bless others. This is a tough one for me to swallow since I spent most of my life to this point doing everything for me.  Self confession, its not about me its about God.

In researching various interpretations to Jeremiah 29:11 I’m sent back to Jeremiah 29:1 where you will see these verses were part of a letter Jeremiah wrote to surviving elders, prophets, priests, people who had been exiled.  This exile based on their disobedience lasted for 70 years.  Imagine the wait now.  In our instant gratification world its hard to wait 70 seconds let alone 70 years. It also is a heart check to see where our obedience is.  In today’s reading God has a plan for Samson and the Philistines, Paul and Eutychus, Nebuchadnezzer and all the exiles in Babylon,  Joseph of Arimathea, and us.  Jeremiah 29:11 can be a reminder.

These Israelites were sent to exile because of their idolatry.  Exodus 20:5 tells us that he is a jealous God and how we should only focus on Him.  – God is Just

Despite the fact of their sins and ours God gives us hope that he will take you out of your current situation when we call on Him and according to His time.  – God is full of Grace

Through history you can see all the promises our Lord has fulfilled. We can trust that God will follow through on the promises made to us. The promise that we can receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life.  – God keeps His Promises

So today…

  • Ask yourself, Do I continually seek Him?
  • How do I respond when God’s plans are not always the plans I desired?
  • Am I still being a blessing to others when His plans are not according to my timing?

Dear God,

You alone are our God. Please help us to focus on this throughout our days. You go before us and have divine plans set for us. Equip us to continually bless others in the midst of this day you have set before us. Help us to grow closer and closer to you as we seek you continually. Allow our responses to be full of Grace just like you have given to us. Thank you God for this day, let us follow the plan you have set for us. Amen

But What You Will

Today’s Readings: Judges 15, Acts 19, Jeremiah 28, Mark 14

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

I’ve read Mark Chapter 14 over a few times this week. It’s dark, it’s desperate and the more time you spend with it, the more visceral it becomes. I’m not sure that I’ve ever taken the time to just read this text and absorb it. I began the week with lots of notes, scrawls and scratches in the margins everywhere. I wanted to really “bring it” today as I feel that this is one of the most important moments in the Bible. I decided though, this morning that I’m not going to bring it all. I can’t. Instead, I want to invite you to get on your knees and pray how Jesus did.

Now.

So really, join me. Stop what you’re doing and get to your knees. Say it in Jesus’ words:

Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.

When I consider Mark 14, I really identify with Peter. Poor Peter, so earnest in his pursuit of total devotion to Jesus Christ. Jesus predicts it. He tells him flat out, you will betray me. And Peter, so sure of himself, so sure of his commitment says:

“If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (Mark 14:31)

When I read that, my heart is in my throat. You see it’s not that he is lying here. He is so sure of himself, so sure that nothing can take him from the side of Jesus. But then… How many of us can see the reflection of Peter in ourselves? How many of us are so sure on Sunday morning, hands outstretched to the heavens only to back away, hands hanging, head down on Monday morning. Me. That’s me. So often we hurt the people we love the most. Hurt and betray the people we’ve promised “only you” for life. There’s only one person that has the power, the strength the grace to keep his promises. It’s Jesus.

Marks shares with us this tiny glimpse. Like a beam of light, shining like a sliver on the floor of a dark room. He shows us a vulnerable Jesus. A Jesus that has no one in the dark night but his Abba his Father. In a few short words, he surrenders. He knows what’s to come and he accepts it. He asks to be relieved of the pain and the fear but then he turns it all over. I think for me as a growing Christian it’s so important to pause at this point and realize that God didn’t take Jesus’ suffering away. In fact, there really is no noticeable transcendent answer to his pleading. We know what comes next. We know that Jesus walks willingly into his own death on the cross. What a valuable lesson for us. God doesn’t answer our desperate prayers immediately, but he hears them.

Yet not what I will, what you will…

Jesus overcame fear and hesitation in the garden at Gethsemane. As that night wore on, his disciples betrayed him but he was not alone.

Abba, Father, give us strength to stand strong at the side of your son Jesus. Hear our prayer this week that it isn’t what I will but what You will. Give us long-range vision. Help us to understand in our darkest moments that you hear us and that in our surrender to you we’ll find rest.

Contrast and Choice

Life leads to death, but from death comes life.

Contrast is how we evaluate things. Usually this is on a relative basis. We compare one thing to another and it is easy to tell the difference. If we try to compare too many things we are easily confused. The bigger the contrast between things the easier it is to choose one thing over another — but not always.

Everyday we make choices. By comparison deciding between one thing or another and by contrast we are able to make our clearest choices. Sometimes the contrast between two things is so stark that it seems impossible to miss the importance of the distinction.

Comparison and contrast is usually easier if we consider things in pairs. Sort of like having our eyes examined. Discerning something clearly from a large group can be very difficult, but when we can get two things side by side it is much easier to select our preferences, even between things with subtle variation. By comparison, starker contrast make our choices even more certain, harder to miss.

Having recently been away from home for a couple of weeks, living in a big city for most of that time, I was amazed at the sharp contrast as I drove back to Bloomington from O’Hare Airport. imageWe had been living in a rooftop apartment in Paris, undoubtably one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Still, it was good to be heading home. Past the Chicago Metro fringe, at that perfect time in the early evening when the stark contrast of the green fields under the big blue sky seemed unreal.image

We had been living in grey’s and brown’s of limestone and marble. Now I was bathed in the beams of new light that opened my tired eyes. As we drove southbound Interstate-55, I looked toward the expanse of the heavens, to clouds painted by the fluttering of the wings of angels. Majestic thunderheads building before patterns of scattered cirrus, shaded with the pastels of the setting sun and twilight shadows. I’m not sure I have ever seen more beauty in that prarie I’ve called home for the last twenty one years.    image

In today’s reading, what stood out for me was Sampson’s riddle.“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” Eating honey from a lion’s rotting carcass certainly represents an extreme contrast. It made me think of how Jesus was born from a rebellious nation, one that rejected God’s prophets and incredible blessings, often turning towards their own understanding. The savior of the world reflected the contrast of God among us, in the midst of people so confused and broken that they rejected and crucified the very source of love and creation. But this didn’t stop Jesus from transforming the lives of believers and He is still doing it today.

The contrast of a changed life is extraordinary. A life filled with love, patience and peace, once filled with strife, anxiety and self seeking is hard to ignore. The contrast of sin and its destructive emptiness when considered against the healing power of God’s grace shows us who we are, with and without God. It shows us who God is. It opens our hearts making us long for perfection.

For me it wasn’t until the latter stages of my life that the light of truth began to shine and despite my imperfection and brokenness it continues to get brighter.

I thank God for His truth everyday. In His grace I am bathed in forgiveness and the power to continue to change. Jesus I praise your holy name. You are the way, the truth and the life.

Judges 14; Acts 18; Jeremiah 27; Mark 13

Do you have the fortitude to follow?

Bible Stories: Illustration of Samson and Delilah

Today’s reading:  Judges 13; Acts 17; Jeremiah 26; Mark 12

fortitude:  noun.  Courage in pain or adversity.  Synonyms include courage, bravery, endurance, resilience

Following along in the book of Judges, we continue to read about various groups or clans:  the Ammonites, the Ephraimites, the Gildeadites, the Israelites, the Zebulunites, the Baals, the Ashtoreths and more.  At times, all these names are confusing (we almost need a family tree or an org structure to keep track!)  Some of these clans follow God’s plan demonstrating their fortitude and some “do evil”.   Some are patient for a very long time, but then fall away from his word as we read about on Wednesday this week in Judges 10:

11 The Lord replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites[c] oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

In this passage, God clearly says I saved you but yet again you have gone astray.   Then, on Thursday, we read about God helping Israel in overtaking the Ammonites.  God supported those who believed.  Can you imagine back in that time how hard it might have been to fight for your land?  Can put yourself in their shoes?  How about Paul and his time in jail?  How about the story yesterday of seventy years of captivity?  Yet these people listened and followed God’s direction. They demonstrated great fortitude. 

Today in Judges 13, we read about Samson.  We know the story of Samson and Delilah and his famous hair.  I personally did not remember hearing about his parents.  It sounded a lot like Mary and Joseph before Jesus’s birth.  The angel appeared to Samson’s mother, a women from the Danites, and said:

…“You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Wow.  Whoa.  Unbelievable.  Whatever describes your vision of an angel appearing and telling her she will bare a child.  She believed!  Then, the angel appears again to Manoah to tell him the same thing (just in case he doesn’t believe her?).  They bow down, humbled by what the Lord has said.  They want to do everything right so that this miracle can be performed.  They even want to know how to raise Samson and start to ask for more help.  They are true believers and want an exact plan for this child’s future.  We too want an exact plan for our children, but God doesn’t always clearly lay out that plan, nor did he for how Samson would eventually change once he was confronted with the evil Delilah.  But, Manoah and his wife believed.  They did exactly what they were told. 

I thought to myself as I have been following along in Judges, if they could do it, so can we, right?  It’s not the easy.  We have many distractions.  We have many forces working against us.  We have evil we see in the world and question the path forward.  We don’t have “angels” appearing at our doorstep on a daily basis to tell us exactly what we are supposed to do in tough situation.  We “hope” that things will work out instead of trusting in God.  He does have our path forward and does try to guide us along the way.   

Fast forward to today and the troubling situations we read, hear about and even experience.  From Orlando to Munich, people are going astray.  They are making bad decisions; they are “do(ing) evil”.  Yet, God asks each of us to follow his path.  Isn’t it hard sometimes?  How do we stay the course each day?  How do we help others who might want to give up?

Throughout this past year, God has give us numerous examples in our bible journals and our daily readings to set examples for how he wants us to carry out his word.  He gives us the Ten Commandments, he demonstrates his word through parables such as our verses in Mark Chapter 12 today, and he performed many miracles from healing to feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000 as we have read about through our bible journal.  He shows us compassion when we go astray.  All we need to do is follow and believe. 

Let us pray together:  Dear Lord, please grant us the fortitude to fight the good fight.  Let us not go astray from your word and your teachings.  Help us to see our path forward and stay strong, knowing you are with us along the journey.

Extra credit:  Samson and the “Hall of Faith”.   I refreshed myself on the story of Samson and Delilah by reading through these heroes in the “Hall of Faith”.  Take a peak and think about the fortitude these heroes demonstrated:  

http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/tp/Hebrews-11-Heroes-Of-Faith.01.htm

Bittersweet

Don’t you love the story about Jesus riding into town on the donkey, being praised and worshiped? See Mark 11:1-11 for the full story. I remember it from childhood and our kids have heard it many times in Sunday school.

Judges 12; Acts 16; Jeremiah 25; Mark 11

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10)

There were people praising him for who he is, publicly acknowledging Jesus as he fulfills Old Testament prophecy from Zechariah 9:9.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

Today I’m reading this story under a different light. Jesus, being God in the flesh knew that this earthly worship and party wasn’t going to last. He knew that in a very short time he would be crucified. Wasn’t this victory ride bittersweet to Jesus? Did he know some of the people who were praising him would betray him and call out for him to be crucified? Did he know they would choose to set free a known vicious criminal, a murderer (Matthew 27:15-23) instead of him? I believe he did. What was on his mind as he rode? It is easy to praise King Jesus, but what about when he doesn’t meet “our” expectations, when obedience isn’t on our terms, when following costs us friendships, social status, jobs, or even our own safety? Even though Jesus knew they as well as us, would betray him he continued on because of his love for us and his commitment to the Father’s plan.

This next verse seems really simple on the surface but I ask that you join me on a journey through the eyes of Jesus. He was just celebrated, it is getting late, and he goes into the temple. At this time of day temple attendance was likely sparse. Picture Jesus looking around at everything, saddened over the forthcoming betrayal, and saddened as the temple had become a “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). Perhaps a last look since he knew what was to come? I’m envisioning this to be something like when a person is saying goodbye to a place or people they love and adore, picking up photo albums and looking at them fondly but yet with concern for their loved ones.

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. (Mark 11:11)

Father God, you are above all things. We praise you for who you are; for loving us, for your perfect plan, for being patient, merciful, and forgiving. Like Jesus looked around at everything in the temple, we ask you to look around at everything in our hearts. Please forgive us for the times when we have praised you with our lips but yet our actions are that of betrayal of your son Jesus. Everything your son did, he did for us so that we may have life with you. He lived a perfect life all while knowing he would suffer on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Show us where on the outside we seem pure and just, but on the inside we attempt to harbor secret sin; we have no secrets from you God. You know all, you see all. Please help us, please save us. Amen.