Good morning – I know we’re all so happy today! It’s time change weekend - you didn’t need that extra hour of sleep! We got snow! It cost me $75 to fill up my gas tank! My dermatologist removed a suspicious place on my face this week just to be safe and I’m afraid it may ruin my natural good looks…
But it’s great to be back. If anyone was wondering if I had already retired, I have not! Although I have been very busy this past month - traveling, spending time with Donna in South Carolina, seeking counsel from close friends, and preparing for the next assignment as your ambassador - which will be helping other pastors. I needed to get away to do some thinking and listen to God as I shape my final months here. Donna and I, along with JT and Kelly, also attended a megachurch pastor/wives conference at the end of February. The gathering was in Las Vegas!
It was a wonderful time. Donna and I toured the Grand Canyon, saw the fountains at the Bellagio and the Blue Man Group. We did NOT hike on a mountain like JT and Kelly. We did something much more spiritual – we went to the casino! And even though I have never gambled before, a buddy of mine gave Donna a $100 bill to take to Vegas and said to find Wheel of Fortune and use it there. So we did! I was actually determined to win! But it took only about three minutes for that $100 to turn into $1.55.
Apparently, I am no good at gambling! So I had to inform my benevolent friend that I lost nearly all of his money. One of my pastor buddies told me it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me – that God smote me so I wouldn’t be tempted to gamble ever again. I think it worked! But so good to see you again…
Today, we launch a brand new series that will walk us through all the emotions of Jesus in the final week of His life leading up to Easter and the Resurrection. And what a huge run of celebration we have planned for you heading up to Easter. On April 17, we will celebrate Easter together as a church family right here and online, then on April 21 our friends, Big Daddy Weave will be returning to worship with us (grab your tickets at the info desk or online), and on April 24 we will give the opportunity for anyone who wants to surrender to Jesus' call, to go All-In with baptism.
It's going to be a FULL WEEK of community, prayer, and worshipping together that we are bundling together for the best Easter week ever! But before we get there, we have to start way back on day one of Jesus' final seven days. And it starts with him being TORN…
To understand the context of the emotions of Jesus we need to understand that Jesus was living in a torn world. The Jews were in a Roman-occupied Jerusalem. The Jewish people were torn on how they should live in that world vs. rebel against it, their leaders were torn in how God would save them, and in the middle of all this, Jesus was walking through his last days knowing he would soon tear down the dividing wall of religion to bring relationship back to God and all people.
He saw the temple and the way of the old covenant knowing he would tear all of that down to establish a new way. The veil in the temple was even torn to symbolize that. Every moment in Jesus' final week was a reminder of the torn physical and spiritual reality of the world. Jesus' heart was torn long before his body was on the cross. Yet Jesus models for us how to have harmony and health in our hearts and emotions.
As humans, we are torn between Good and Evil. I was torn in Vegas between attending the pastor’s sessions and playing the slot machines! Our duality is in opposition with each other, but Jesus' duality is the example of how to bring Hope and help to our own world that is Torn. He had all the emotions of both Son of Man and Son of God - Lion and Lamb, King and Servant, Beginning and End.
As Jesus was going through his last week, he was seeing the wreckage around him and he was torn. His community of origin in Palestine was torn and ravaged by war, chaos, and occupation. It would look and feel familiar to Ukrainians right now! Speaking of that, we want to pause again this week and pray for Ukraine...
JT and I have a pastor friend named Glen Elliott that we talked with in Vegas who served in Ukraine for a while. He said he has a Ukrainian pastor he’s in contact with, who is risking it all to serve the people of his community. The Ukrainian pastor said their church people rescued 50 babies in the Kyiv capital that were abandoned at a hospital in Ukraine last week. He said, "It's a strange mixture of things – every day you live life in a drawn-out cycle - shooting, bombing, serving, singing, laughing, dying, hugging, crying, helping, hoping, going on..." He is being for THE ONE by all means right now.
I will share His prayer requests as we now pray… I invite you to pray with me…
-Pray for a miracle to stop the war and killing of innocent civilians.
-Pray for ALL people involved right now, believers and non-believers, who are courageously sacrificing to serve those in need. All are exhausted.
-Pray for believers to share the good news of Jesus through ACTION and word.
-Pray for safe humanitarian corridors to open in order to get needed supplies to people.
We know God that you said in the last days there would be wars and rumors of war before you come again… AMEN
We are torn by the brokenness of our world. Jesus was too, and even though Jesus was torn, he was also "DETERMINED" – our word and emotion for today. And we see it evidenced with what we call the Triumphal Entry. Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:39-44…
As Jesus entered Jerusalem, it wasn’t the City of David that was once the greatest in all of Jewish history. It was occupied by the Romans. It was full of chaos, corruption, and division. And consider the collision of emotions Jesus was experiencing here.
Think about the pathos/ethos of this moment. Jesus is on the way to his own crucifixion (funeral) and people are applauding. Pilate likely would have heard all the people shouting hosanna and praising Jesus and wondered about all this - which may have been why he questioned the people so much when they called for his crucifixion. What a fickle crowd – one day they wanted to coronate him as king and the next day wanted to crucify him!
One of my favorite verses and snapshots of Jesus though is found in Luke 9:51… It’s the pivot… The hinge – and big doors swing on small hinges! Athletes pivot in basketball and golf. Businesses and churches have pivotal moments, individuals have a pivot point that changes the end of their story. And here in spite of the internal and emotional moment, Jesus pivots.
A fascinating word used here – resolutely. All of us are determined about something, but the specific word here means to proceed steadfastly, set like flint, determined, having already made up his mind. Purposeful, unwavering, courageous, unshakable, tenacious, and unflinching. Kinda like the Delhi Skirt Game organizers showing up at the Delhi Council meeting last Wednesday night! They were resolute and determined! Say Yes to the Dress! When I first moved here to Cincinnati, someone invited me to go to this thing called the Skirt game… I thought it was effective but odd!
I also inherited an odd church culture when I showed up here. Unhealthy hearts and habits, but the elders and members were resolute about making needed changes to get and keep us healthy. We just refused to quit. I stayed just to spite some people who told me it couldn’t be done! We set our faces resolutely toward Cheviot and Rt. 128! You’re welcome! And guess what – I see in JT and our staff and elders that same kind of gritty, passionate, won’t back out/down resolve. Game recognizes game!
When Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem, it was with death/Golgotha fully in mind. It was game time! And the motivation or driver, that spurred such determination, was Love. Compassionate, consuming love for US that motivated him to overcome the fear of death. "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
Jesus had done everything he could do over the previous few years, but now his hour had come! He was now totally focused on his real and ultimate goal. There was no more I’ll stop and go to this house, do this miracle, or play the slot machines in Vegas. It was time to do what he came to do. What God had purposed for Him before the creation of the world.
And it seems to me that Jesus’ determination for us, should spur our own determination for Him. Jesus' journey to Jerusalem is our journey, and if he set his face to go there and die, we must set our face to also sacrifice and die to self with him. We are called to follow the nail-scarred feet of the King of kings on the Calvary road.
This is a series on emotions. His and ours. And how to channel those emotions and feelings to bring heaven to earth in my home, my relationships, in my backyard, my community, and my world. So this series on Jesus' final week will help us right-size and focus those emotions for His glory and our good. The WAYS of Jesus – His reactions, responses, and actions are what emotions and feelings look like when they are fully surrendered to the Lordship of God.
All of us are determined about something. But what if we tweaked that determination to be more aligned with what Jesus was determined to do... Determined to love the world - all people, sacrificially - even to the point of death to rescue them. Are we that determined? So what's one small step you can take this week to flip the script, so your emotions reflect HIS emotions. So that His passion becomes ours.
I’ve been joking about Vegas, and it was fun, but honestly, there was a part of Vegas that was dark and broken that tugged at our hearts. I was torn with what I saw. So as we start this series, let’s recommit - as we start moving with Jesus toward the Resurrection, to see the brokenness he saw. To feel what he felt, and then set our face resolutely to change that by restoring and redeeming what has been torn.