Holy Monday, Jesus Cleanses the Temple

After Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday did you ever wonder how he spent His final week in ministry?  What did He do until His crucifixion?  On Monday He taught His disciples a parable about faith when He cursed a fig tree that did not produce fruit. Do you remember that one?

They had been out walking and were hungry when they saw a fig tree with many leaves.  After they looked for the fruit, none could be found. It was barren. Many believe the tree being cursed represents God’s judgment on those that are spiritually dead.

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This story of what Jesus also did might be more familiar.  Jesus also went into the temple and cleared it out of the dishonest money changers.  They were cheating people and making a mockery of the temple.  He went through overturning tables and saying: “Scripture says ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer’, but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” He drove the money changers and their animals out restoring order and respect.

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What has stayed with me about this story for many years is that Jesus stopped and braided a whip so that He could think about what He was going to do before just charging into the temple.  He didn’t fly off the handle but took time to think about the situation. Maybe He prayed.  I would imagine He did.

“So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” John 2:15

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Could you do this? I can’t tell you how many times I have flown off the handle in anger. Acted quickly without thinking things through. Not so with Jesus. His righteous indignation toward what was happening in the temple was just. It needed to be done. He waited to think clearly and make certain it was done correctly.  How many times have I wished that I had done things like that?  Many!

Jesus had one week left with his disciples before his crucifixion and resurrection.  Everything was done in the right way without rushing.  Even in a time of righteous anger He still slowed down and gave Himself time to cool off and think with a clear mind.  What a beautiful example for all of us.

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Can You Imagine the First Palm Sunday?

Today is Palm Sunday.   This celebrates the day Jesus triumphantly enters the city of Jerusalem.  It marks one week before Easter. Here in Southern Indiana Palm Sunday can be a beautiful day or it can be snowing.  It is very unpredictable.  What isn’t unpredictable and remains unchanged is the Palm Sunday message.  “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:12-13.

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Scripture tells us that Jesus rode into the city on a young donkey. The streets were lined with people who threw clothes and palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage and respect. This was what people did for kings. They were treating Jesus like royalty. Using palm branches symbolized peace and victory. Jesus was coming in peace, triumphantly. The crowd of people shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Can you imagine what it was like to be in that crowd? Jesus had come to save the lost, to secure their eternal life and salvation. He was the Messiah, long awaited.  Hearts must have been beating wildly at the anticipation of seeing Him. Thought we’re surely running all over wondering what to do – stand, bow, wave, kneel.  Did tears fill many eyes?  My eyes get glassy thinking about it.

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How amazing it must have been to see Jesus.  He was the one that raised the dead back to life and healed the sick. He was the teacher everyone spoke of so highly. Jesus changed lives. Jesus was God’s Son. What would we have done in that crowd?  Can you imagine?

It makes me think of Heaven and what I will do when I see Jesus. Like the Mercy Me song:

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by Your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When Your face is before me
I can only imagine, I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine, I can only imagine
I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine, I can only imagine

What will you do when you see Jesus? Can you imagine seeing Him face to face?

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Mammaw’s Forgotten Easter Cookies

Easter is rapidly approaching. We are at the ending stages of Lent.  It is the time to turn our hearts and minds to Jesus and His journey to the Cross. Being raised in a Christian family Easter was much more than egg hunts and baskets for me. It was Resurrection Sunday.

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I remember my maternal grandmother teaching me the Easter story over a cookie recipe one year. The cookies are good, but the story has stuck with me for decades.  Memories made in the kitchen are priceless and stay with people.

You might want to do an activity like this for yourself, children, grandchildren, or kids’ group. The message might just plant a seed that will grow into a bountiful harvest. Sometimes a visual makes the Easter story a little more memorable, too. Years down the road they might be recalling time spent with you and lessons from your kitchen.

Mammaw’s Forgotten Easter Cookies

2 egg whites

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

2/3 c. sugar

1 c. nuts

pinch of salt

1 tsp. white vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place pecans in resealable plastic baggie. Crush pecans into small pieces with a rolling pin. Read John 19:1-3

“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, And said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and they smote Him with their hands.”

Sprinkle salt into egg whites. Read Luke 23:27, 33

“And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him.”

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals—one on His right, the other on His left.”

Put vanilla into a bowl. Read John 19:28-30. “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, ‘I thirst.’ Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished’ and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.”

Right now this mixture doesn’t look yummy. Add sugar slowly. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.  “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.”  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Beat with mixer until frothy and add cream of tartar. Then beat on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Add in vanilla close to the end. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with Him.’ Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

“When the night was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and departed.”

Place cookies in the oven, close the door and turn the oven off. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

“Pilate said unto them, ‘Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.’ So they went, and made the tomb sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.”

Go to bed. Read John 16:20 and 22.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

In the morning open the oven and take out the cookies. 

Read Matthew 28:1-9.

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the tomb. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, ‘Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him: lo, I have told you.’ And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy; and did run to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘All hail. And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him.”

When you bite into the cookies notice they are hollow inside, empty, just like Jesus’ tomb.

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Ash Wednesday Thoughts

It is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a time of reflection and preparation.  Just as Jesus took forty days to do that in the dessert, Lent gives us those days to spend before Easter Resurrection Sunday preparing our hearts, minds, and souls.

After researching it, I found what I already knew to be true.  There is no mention of Ash Wednesday or Lent in the Bible.  We are not commanded to observe either.  However, we are to observe communion.  Taking bread and wine/juice in remembrance of Christ’s body and blood that was beaten and shed for our salvation.

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What love He had to do that!  Unfathomable, uneverlasting, pure love.  Mind-blowing love.  I can read about it and see movies, but I am certain it was much worse that I can ever imagine.  What about you?

Thinking about Ash Wednesday brings me full circle to creation.  Reading the account again in Genesis, I am awed at God’s power to mold and shape man in His own image and then breathe life into him.  Do you feel that way, too?  Think about it.  We are made from dirt, but after Almighty God fills us with His breath then we come alive!  Miraculous.

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“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”   Genesis 2:7  Genesis 3:19 says “for dust you are and to dust you shall return” reminding us that this body is temporary.

Even though we do not read about Ash Wednesday or Lent, the Bible does mention ashes and dust in several times. Ashes and dust represent human frailty, suffering, sorrow, and mourning.

The ashes used in Ash Wednesday services are normally from the previous year’s Palm Sunday’s services.  Taking the palms of joy welcoming King Jesus and turning them into ashes because of what was done to Him for us is one reason this is done.

Do you use Lent to prepare for Resurrection Sunday?  Are you fasting to remind you to pray and grow closer to Jesus?  Some churches participate while others don’t.  Same with people.  It is a personal choice.  Personally, I think it is good to stay close to Jesus every single day.

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Vacations are Nice, but I Yearn for Home

Have you been on vacation this year?  Most people take an annual vacation and often more than one.  Some people have a favorite spot to visit each year while others enjoy seeing new places. Me, I like both.  Seeing new places is great.  The sights, experiences, and tastes of somewhere I have never before been is an exciting adventure.  A new treasure could be awaiting me there.

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My favorite getaway is a cabin high in the Smokey Mountains with my family for the week.  I could handle that vacation at least once a year and probably more.  The majesty of God’s beautiful mountains take my breath away each time we drive to Gatlinburg.  Like a child I become excited when I see a chipmunk, raccoon, or bear off of the cabin’s deck while having coffee in the morning.

After vacation, there’s no place like home

Vacation, an extended period of recreation spent away from home or in traveling, is nice for a time, but after it is over it is nice to be home.  Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz emotionally repeats “there’s no place like home” and I agree.  No matter how good vacation has been, we are always happy to be home when it is over.

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My maternal grandmother often would tell me “you know, this old world is not our home.”  That was confusing to a child, but the older I got the more she explained.  Finally I understood.  Mammaw was talking about Heaven.  She would tell me her soul longed for “home” and to be with loved ones there.  When she spoke of Heaven it was beautiful and biblical.

“In Heaven there will be no sickness or pain, no tears, and affliction.  We will be whole with perfect bodies.”  She would laugh when I asked what we would do all day for eternity.  “Probably the same things we do now only better” she would brightly say and break out in song “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue….”

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What about you?  Do you ever feel like you are waiting to go home?  This world, like a vacation, is nice for a while, but your heart is yearning for someplace better.  It is homesick.  I know I am.  Vacations are wonderful.  This world is a nice place, too, but Heaven is our home.  Our Father is there.  Jesus is there.  Our family should be, too.  We have a home there.

Gather your treasures and pack for your trip home.  What will you take?  There aren’t a lot of things allowed.  The main thing on your list should be loved ones.  Make sure you have shared Jesus and His salvation with your family and friends.  You will want to see them after your vacation or theirs.

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“For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” Hebrews 13:14

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  John 14:2-3

 

Maundy Thursday

Today, Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday on Easter week. Do you know what Maundy means? Neither did I so I researched it. Maundy stems from a Latin word that means command. Jesus said “I give you a commandment to love one another.” (John 13:34) Jesus doesn’t just give a commandment and leave it at that. No, He explains it so we understand it and demonstrates it.

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. IMG_2319Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)

The disciples, John and Peter, had secured the Upper Room for the evening of the Passover. After sunset, they gathered with Jesus upstairs room for their meal. Don’t you wish you had been there with them? Jesus began first by washing the feet of the disciples. This was to demonstrate His great love for them and us. He wanted to show them that we are to love and serve each other. No one is too great to serve another or show love. Washing someone’s dusty, dirty feet was not something a higher class person or leader did. They had servants for that. By washing their feet Jesus demonstrated how even the Son of God and Man, had a love so intense he would do this menial task. Jesus did it kindly, lovingly. Can you imagine how humbling that must have been? I hate to get a pedicure from a mere person. To have my Savior wash my feet is unthinkable.

After the foot washing it was time for the meal. Are you familiar with a Seder supper? A typical Passover or Seder meal is symbolic in the retelling of the first Passover where the Jewish people had to hurry and leave.

This is what Jesus told his disciples before they ate: “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before My suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16) “Then He took the bread IMG_2324that was on the table, held it up, and gave thanks for it. Instructing His disciples ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”* This was when the first communion service began. After they had eaten the bread He took the cup and held it up saying: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”* (*Luke 22:19-20).

Our precious Savior, the Lamb of God, was hours away from fulfilling the true meaning of Passover. He would be giving His body and shedding His blood in sacrifice for our sins. We are instructed to take communion in remembrance of this great sacrifice. How could we forget? No one else has taken my sins upon Himself, paid my debt, been beaten, or died for me. How could I ever forget for one day that Jesus did? I do, unfortunately. Life gets busy and things happen. Whether at home or at church, Communion is a vital part of worship so that we do remember. We must partake, repent, and give thanks for His grace, mercy, and sacrifice. It is a sacred, holy moment – a time to spend in close fellowship with Jesus and remember what He has done for you and me. Will you remember? I will be better than I have.

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Spy Wednesday and Thirty Pieces of Silver

We all know about Easter week starting with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter. Do you know what happened the other days? Traditionally today is called “Spy Wednesday” because on this Wednesday before the crucifixion Judas conspired to give Jesus to the soldiers.  Judas became a spy, an agent for those wanting to hurt and kill Jesus. He made a deal to betray Jesus. Judas was paid, IMG_2232given silver, to hand over Jesus. Hard to believe but true. Have you ever thought of Judas as a spy?  We don’t know exactly why Judas did what he did, but some guess he was trying to force Jesus to use His power and take control.

Scripture doesn’t say what Jesus did on that Wednesday. Scholars speculate He and His disciples probably spent the day in Bethany resting up from the activities of the past few days. Most likely the all were exhausted and Passover was soon. He might have spent it with His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Earlier Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead and the people of Bethany believed He was the Son of God. Mary of Bethany went to Jesus and anointed Him with costly perfumed oil. Judas, the treasurer of the group, objected to the extravagance saying that the money could have helped so many poor people, hungry people. Jesus rebukes Judas and says Mary has anointed Him for His burial. Wow. That would make the room quiet and minds start to spin.

The disciples are saddened to think about Jesus dying and leaving them. They believe He is God’s Son, and they love Him. They don’t want anything bad to happen to Him. Scholars believe Judas was trying to force Jesus into claiming His kingdom now. They guess Judas didn’t believe anything bad would actually happen to God’s Son.IMG_2230 It is sad to see a follower betray his leader, especially when that leader is Christ. Ironically Judas threw down the money.  He didn’t want it.  Judas wanted Jesus to have His kingdom and power now.  Giving up control is hard but God’s way and time are best.  That lesson cost Judas everything.

Have you sold Him out for something? Do you try to change His time and replace it with yours? I am so guilty of that. Has something taken His place as first priority? Maybe you treat Him like royalty and the Son of God that He is. Sometimes it is easy to let things get in the way of worshipping Him. It is easy to put our own wants before what we really need to do.

Me? When I was younger it was easier to skip church. The desire to be outside with family seemed to outweigh being inside a stuffy church. Ahh, then my soul grew up. Now I need to worship our Savior. The One that suffered, was beaten, crucified, died, and rose from the dead so that I might claim eternal life with Him is the One I long to worship. My soul needs to sing His praises more than my body needs an extra hour of sleep or to be outside in the sunshine. I need Him to know He is my priority since I was His. His love is priceless.

“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him over to you?” So they counted out for Him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over.” Matt. 26:14-16

Teaching through Parables and by Example

Have you ever thought about what happened after Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem. That was on a Sunday, but what happened the rest of the week? How did He spend Monday and Tuesday?  He taught.

“Seeing a fig tree by the road, He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then He said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.” Mt. 21:19

Jesus spent much of His time teaching. On Monday He taught His disciples a parable about faith when He cursed a fig tree that did not produce fruit. Do you remember that one? They were hungry and saw a fig tree with many leaves. When they looked for the fruit, none could be found. It was barren. There was just leaves on the tree and no fruit. Many believe the tree being cursed represents God’s judgment on those that are spiritually dead.  Parables are an effective way to teach lessons.

Jesus also went into the temple and cleared it out of the dishonest money changers. Jesus went through overturning tables and saying: “Scripture says ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” He drove the money changers and their animals out of the temple. How angry He must have been, but Jesus took time to really think about the situation.  Before He acted Jesus made sure He didn’t just react.

“So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” John 2:15

What stayed with me about this is that Jesus stopped and braided a whip so that He could ponder what He was going to do.IMG_2191 He didn’t fly off the handle but took time to think about the situation. His anger was righteous.  Maybe He prayed. I would think He did. Asking for guidance and God’s will were probably foremost in Jesus’ mind.  Jesus taught us through His actions to think first before we jump into any situation, especially emotional ones.

Could you do this? Wait and cool off so that you reacted in a Christian manner? Make certain the anger you feel is real and not just a reaction?  I can’t tell you how many times I have flown off the handle in anger and later saw how wrong I was.  Acted quickly without thinking things through. My mama calls it having a short fuse. It is something I need to work on not doing. Not so with Jesus.  He reacted in a Christian manner toward what was happening. They were desecrating God’s holy place of worship and needed to be stopped. It needed to be done. How many times have I corrected things that didn’t need to be? Multiple. I would just go off on my own without asking Abba to guide me. If I waited, prayed and listened a lesson would have been learned.  My lesson.

Tuesday the disciples walked back by the fig tree. It was now withered and dead. Jesus used that to teach them about faith, true faith. A person or nation that does not produce fruit for God, do His work, will wither and die all the way down to its roots. The tree had leaves so by first sight it looked like it was producing. A closer look revealed no fruit. Then Jesus cursed it. Makes me wonder about our nation.  Are we producing fruit for God?  Ponder that for a bit.

Are you personally producing fruit? Are you leading people to God?  Helping them find salvation? Everyday is a new chance to teach and be an example.  Are you using the new day to share fruits of the spirit by being loving, kind, selfless, good, joyful, and peaceful to others? Don’t wither away. Grow tall and produce fruit. Increase in your faith. Flourish in your faith. You will be amazed at the things that will happen when you believe and have faith. You will a beacon to others longing for Him.

“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” My. 21:21-22