Here Comes King Jesus

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John 12: 12 – 19

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

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

 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written,

 15 “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”

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 16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

17 Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. 18 Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

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This short passage marks a significant turn in the life of Jesus and His ministry on earth.  Up to this point, whenever Jesus had performed a miracle, He kept asking the people to remain quiet concerning His identity.  Now Jesus knew who He was, the Son of God.  But He wanted people to know that there were many other aspects involved in who He was.

John accomplished this in his gospel account by using a number of “I am…” statement by Jesus.  Such as “I am the Good Shepherd,” “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  Each of these statements gives us more insight into the nature of who Jesus is, and what He can do for those who believe in Him.

John’s gospel also began with a statement made by John the Baptist, who said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)  And now we see Jesus being hailed by the people as “The King of Israel”.  Are these two ideas in conflict with each other? We know a lamb was brought to an altar to be killed as a sacrifice, and a king comes to a throne to rule.

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The incredible thing about Jesus is that He was both the Lamb and the King at the same time.  Once His first mission was accomplished of raising up a group of followers who believed in Him as their Messiah (the One whom God had chosen to save His people), then Jesus turned towards Jerusalem to be “crowned” as the King of Israel.

Notice His humility though as He rode in calmly and quietly on the back of a donkey.  He knew that what would await this new King of Israel would not be a throne, but a cross where He would be crucified.  The way He would lead His people would be through the road of sacrifice and death to self.  As verse 16 says above, even Jesus’ disciples, His closest friends and companions did not realize at that time what was happening that day, or in the week to follow.

But the people who welcomed Him into Jerusalem saw their hope of a new era to be ushered in for the Jewish people.  Many times before this passage, the religious leaders in Jerusalem had threatened to kill Jesus, and they had issued orders to the general populace that they would be thrown out of the Temple and synagogues if they followed after Jesus.  But even this threat could not stop the praise of the people on this “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem.

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What I think is worth commenting on now at this point is to consider the things that people offered to Jesus as they worshipped Him as their coming King.  I heard this in a sermon recently, and I think it’s worth passing along.  We know from the other gospel accounts (see Matthew 21:1-11 for example) that the disciples went ahead of Jesus to ask a man who owned at least two donkeys to give them up for Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem.

We can suppose that this man was wealthy, or at least well off, having multiple domesticated animals.  And so out of his wealth, he gave to Jesus as a way to honor His arrival.  Then we see a number of people taking off their outer cloaks and spreading them on top of the donkeys and on the road before Jesus as He rode along.  They gave out of what they personally owned that had value.

Some people had come to Jerusalem ready to celebrate the coming of the Passover Festival and had not brought anything extra with which they could offer something to Jesus.  What were these people to do?  Did they have anything they could give to Jesus?  And the answer was yes, according to Matthew.  They went into the fields and cut down palm branches to wave over Jesus and spread on the road to make it a smooth ride for Him as he entered Jerusalem.

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And how about you?  Have you recognized Jesus for who He really is?  He is the Lord of Life, and Sacrificial Lamb who gave His life in order that we could live eternally.  And He is the Coming King, for He will come again one day to gather all those who believe in Him.

And all of us have something that we can offer to Jesus, even if we do not feel like we can offer much.  The most important thing we can offer is our own lives, being obedient to Him as our Lord.  In addition though, we all have some resources nearby, like those people who found the palm trees, that we can give to God as an act of worship.  And God is pleased with whatever it is that we give to honor Jesus, the King of the Universe.

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Make Your Life A Testimony – Pt 1

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We have come to the last chapter in our book that we have studied together this year on The Listening Post.  The title as many of you know is “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” by Mark Atteberry.  We have journeyed together with the children of Israel through their wilderness wanderings until they came to their Promised Land.  But we have also journeyed together with reflections on life with one another and seen that the God who fulfilled His promises to the Israelites is the same God who fulfills His promises to us in our lives.

This book has had such a profound impact on my life as I have been on my own personal hard road journey living with my muscle disease that flared up 3 ½ years ago.  There have been many difficult days for me along this road.  Even today, I am not feeling well as I have not had a good sleep and battled pain and fatigue for four days now.  But then I remember that my commitment to God is to serve Him, not complain to Him.  And I also remember that God’s promise is that when I am weak, He is strong.  And reflecting on that brought an old hymn below to my mind.

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Before I gave my life to Christ at age 12, I was only concerned about Me.  (But isn’t this the attitude of all children?)  Yet I wonder what kind of adult I would have turned into if Christ had not become my Lord.  I shudder to think about how self-focused and self-serving I would have become.  So I praise God that I heard the Gospel message when I was young and responded to that call.

And it was only a few years after making that decision to make Jesus my Lord that He showed me that my life was to be fully dedicated to serving Him in mission work around the world.  I have never thought of my years of service for Him to be my “duty” or my “repayment” for the salvation He offered me. Rather, it has always been my joy and privilege to offer my life as a thanks offering back to Him.

1.  Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

2.  Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

3.  Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

As I consider the years that I have been in ministry and mission work up until my disease become evident, I feel that my commitment to serve Christ was in some ways easy for me. Like the first three verses of this hymn mention, I gladly gave Him what was not difficult to give.  I would go, I would reach out, I would sing for Jesus.  And I would enjoy myself as I went along on this adventure in life.

But it in these past 3 ½ years, I have found that serving the Lord had to become a regular choice, as I could choose to give in to the disease and decide the effort to go half way around the world to do our mission work was not worth it.  Even more basic than that, I had to choose to praise God and thank Him for each day that I woke up, no matter whether I “felt” good at the start of the day or not.  Living for Christ is giving all of me over to Him, my mind, my will and my heart.

4.  Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

5.  Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

6.  Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

I found that my world shrunk for me all the way down to little more than my living room.  With little to do, and little ability to do much more than sit in my recliner chair and become even more attached to my computer, I could have literally turned into a “couch potato”.  But God was not finished with me yet.  Through encouragement from my wife and others, we found ways for me to still serve God, even sitting in my own living room.

Through modern technology, I am still able to work on translation projects that are on the other side of the world.  With modern medicine to manage the pain, and rapid transport to get me to other countries, I set myself up in a different recliner and keep on being active in this mission ministry.  But God also opened up this ministry of blogging so that I could encourage others to believe that if God can use me and bless me as He has in spite of my limitations, then He can do this for anyone.

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Back to Atteberry and his last chapter, he tells us that when we have broken through from the barren wilderness of our hard road experience, we need to set up a memorial, as a testimony to others that God is faithful and will carry us through.  And I believe that is what this blog site has become for me.  I sit down and write three articles a week and memorialize all the good things that God has done for me and is still doing for me.  My prayer is that my writings, my memorial stones, have brought honor to God, and been an encouragement to all my readers.

Speaking Words Of Praise

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The Plinky Question for this week is:  “Remember that one time on the bus, when…”

Oh yes, I certainly do remember.  My mom and I were going somewhere in town, and seeing as we did not have a car, we naturally caught the local transit bus.  I was the youngest of the four children, so it was not unusual that I was taking the bus alone with mom as my siblings were either in school, or were old enough to be at home alone.  So taking a bus was a part of life, and meeting people on the bus was also a part of life.

Now when we would get on the bus, mom would pay for the ride and walk down the aisle to get us a seat which would leave me to take my time to slowly walk down the aisle and greet people as I went along.  You might think that I am, and was, an extrovert, always greeting people.  But actually, I am an introvert who is, and was, fascinated by people.  And so I would “socialize” while at the same time I would “analyze” all the people I met.

This would take me quite a few minutes.  And on this particular day, since the bus was mostly full in the front, my mom found a place for us on the bench at the back of the bus.  By the time I had finally got to the seat and was about to sit down, the driver had to slam on his brakes for some reason.  Meanwhile, I had pulled my head down a bit in order to sit down, and guess what happened.  The sudden deceleration caused me to fly forward, but since my head was down and I was a small boy, I literally rolled like a bowling ball all the way up the aisle and landed beside a very surprised bus driver.

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Before I continue with this story, I want to interject a thought which I just read from the site “Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life which I get every day:

Nurturing the Fruit of Praise

Posted: 29 Aug 2011 12:00 AM PDT

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36, NASB).

Praise is reshaping our lips (and our living) around the glory of God. We use our words for everything else. We practice speaking for work, for school, for interacting socially. We must also practice (and that sacrificially) to honor God with our words. The text speaks of the “fruit of lips that confess his name.”

Fruit begins in a blossom; then it takes time to become full-grown and ready for harvest. Fruit doesn’t develop quickly, but over time, given the right conditions—the right soil, the right moisture, the right amount of sunshine, the right amount of care, pruning as needed, just enough fertilizer—all this and more. The fruit of praise must be nurtured and cultivated in the garden of obedience.

–Taken from Power Praying (Hearing Jesus’ Spirit by Praying Jesus’ Prayer) by David Chotka

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Now back to my bus story.  What happened to me certainly caught the attention of everyone on the bus.  After all, it’s not every day that you see a little boy roll down the aisle like a bowling ball.  Everyone was so concerned and worried for me.  But hey, I was just a little boy!  So I quickly bounded to my feet, dusted off my clothes, and went down the bus for the second time and greeted everyone and said hello.

I wish life could have always remained that simple.  And I wish I could have retained that personality of mine of being a “socialite introvert”.  But life suddenly became hard for me once I entered Elementary School, where being “nice” to everyone is not always appreciated.  In fact, for a number of reasons, I became the laughing-stock of the class and was regularly picked on by kids both in my grade and from some who were older than me.

The result of this was that I painfully learned the lesson in life, that it was better to be quiet and not say anything to anyone.  The budding skill I had on the bus to be kind to strangers and say something nice to others was squashed in public school.  By God’s grace though, He came and found me in Grade 7 and I was able to use words of praise and thanks once again as I began my journey with my best friend, Jesus.

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But with regards to people, it took me a lot longer to relearn the skill and the joy that I had begun as a child to reach out to other people and try to bring a smile to their faces.  In fact, even into my middle 30’s I was not as tuned into people as I ought to have been.  And my narrow world of self-centeredness hindered me from really seeing and appreciating people around me.

It wasn’t until we lived in the village in Papua New Guinea for five years that I really learned how to sit down with someone for hours and talk about basically nothing.  But just being willing to sit there and let people talk, I was finally once more maturing my blossom of being others-centered.  And now I find it easy once again to say hello to strangers, and to try to leave them with a smile on their face.  One thing has changed though.  I have no desire to do any encore of rolling down the aisle in front of others.  🙂