Stampede

“The next day the huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Yes! The King of Israel!…The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, was there giving eyewitness accounts. It was because they had spread the word of this latest God-sign that the crowd swelled to a welcoming parade. The Pharisees took one look and threw up their hands: “It’s out of control. The world’s in a stampede after him.” -from John 12 (the MSG)

I’ve often read this portion of John 12, imagining people crowded in the city streets, relaying everything they’d heard about Jesus and eager to see Him face-to-face. Those who had seen Lazarus emerge from his tomb were exhilarated by the sight of death defeated and proclaimed this absolute miracle to everyone– what power, what authority, what divine favor rested on Jesus, son of Israel! With this man came healing and deliverance, provision and life itself — was there anything He could not do?

Maybe the men and women looked sideways at the Roman soldiers, thinking that their time of ruling the streets of Jerusalem would soon be over. Maybe they wanted to welcome in this man of divine power, believing that he would be the one to finally liberate their people.

They were looking for the fulfillment of God’ s promises and hopeful that this man called Jesus was the One….their Messiah.

Knowing that some of these same men and women were likely the ones who cried for His death only a short time later, I’ve often thought about our own slippery allegiance…how our adoration can turn to accusation just like theirs. I’ve thought about the way I welcome Him into my own life on a day-to-day basis…do I invite Him in with praise? Do I leave everything behind to press in to His presence, wanting to see His face?

I’ve wondered what Jesus was thinking as the cheers of ‘Hosanna’ met Him. I wonder if He thought about how these crowds would soon betray Him. I’ve wondered if His spirit was heavy, even as the palm branches waved, because His people could not see that the Kingdom of God would begin in their hearts and not in political power. Maybe He looked ahead to the day when He would return and they would understand that He was King, not only of Israel, but of Heaven and Earth…

Yes, there are so many parts of that journey through Jerusalem that have intrigued me before, but something different stood out to me as I re-read the passage this morning.

It occurred to me that, of course, they didn’t understand the full revelation of who He was. They didn’t yet know just how far He would go to obey the Father, to bring life to sin-deadened souls. They didn’t yet know that He would soon intercede on our behalf at the right hand of God, taking all of our burdens and abiding in our hearts.

They hadn’t yet witnessed the full depths of His love — but, still, they knew that Jesus was no ordinary man. They knew the power that they had seen, the compassion and wisdom He’d shown.

They knew He was drawing near.

And that was enough to get them moving. In acknowledgement of what had already come to pass and in anticipation of what was yet to come–they spoke of their hope to everyone who would listen. They spread the news and so a crowd welcomed Him in jubilation and honor.

As I considered the way that those who’d followed Him ‘spread the word of the latest God-sign‘ so that the crowds swelled in eagerness to see the Jesus, I felt a question stir in my heart —

what about us?

Because we do have the privilege and honor of knowing the fullness of the Savior’s sacrifice. Not only have we seen His power, but we ourselves are filled with His Spirit and grace — if the eye-witnesses to Lazarus’ resurrection were excited, how so much (incomparably more!) was Lazarus himself amazed at his new life? We, who were once dead in sin, are now alive! We are the walking/talking miracles, signs of God’s power and mercy!

And don’t we believe that He is returning to us, just as He promised?

So are we so over-joyed, so thankful, so eager for His return that we can’t stop sharing our latest ‘God-sign’? Do we share how He’s moved in our lives?  Is there no stopping our adoration? Does satan try to keep our testimonies quiet to no avail?  Are we so excited to welcome Him that we seek Him and bring along the crowds, with praise ringing bold and true,–a ‘stampede after Him‘ — until the enemy must throw up his hands in despair because it’s out of his control? 

I pray that this becomes our story…I pray that we renew our passion…I pray that we will learn to open up and speak His hope…I pray that we, who are so blessed with the truth of His gospel, will not fail in spreading the Word.

When He returns again, there will be no question as to Who He is. On that day, the King of Kings will come with might and power…every knee shall bow and tongue confess that He is Lord.

And, until that day, in the here and now…it is up to us, the family of God, to lead the way to worship. It is up to us to share the miracle of life we’ve been given. It is up to us to declare the truth of who this Jesus is — although the Jewish men and women didn’t know it on that day they gathered in the streets, He is the fulfillment of God’s promises. The true Messiah, the Lion and the Lamb, the King of our hearts. His love is the greatest miracle and it’s for whoever will receive it.

By the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of our testimonies, will you pray with me that we will speak of His love to all of those who need Him? Will you pray that we will see our ‘world stampede after Him’?

 

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Prayer

Wild wonder, that I can enter into Your presence…this is holy ground, wherever I call Your name and find You with me (and so everywhere is sacred, for “where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”) Who is like You, Lord, in love or in power? No one can compare to Your majesty…and yet You, King of all Kings, have numbered both my tears and every hair on my head. This heart runneth over and over (and over again) in thankfulness for who You are…

…and, still, there is bluster and noise. Life presses in and I allow this and that and the other to take up space in my heart that rightfully belongs to You. Oh, I am weary of forgetting You and the sand-spurs of sin sticking to my skin…falling so short of what You’ve called me to be, I can only say that I’m sorry, in need (again and again) of Your grace.

Who could stand in the light of Your holiness? I am breathless with gratitude for the gift of Your Son. “Behold, what manner of love is this?” Love so lavish, extravagant, divine that He would give His life for me, become my righteousness and the reason I whisper Your name–Abba-Father— and You know me as child, adopted and joint-heir in this kingdom…me, so unworthy and somehow still chosen…

Please sing me awake with Your love song so that I can’t close my eyes to You…You are worthy of only my all…and my all doesn’t seem like enough and my faith somehow still falters, but frail beginnings grow in Your hands and so I offer to You: me. (How can it be, that this is what You desire? How wide, how deep, how long, how high is Your love…)

Lord, give me strength enough to ask You to mold me–not on my terms, but Yours. Will you interrupt me, change me, sanctify anew, move in this place ? (oh, I want to trust Your heart enough to hold nothing back!)…I believe– please, Father, help my unbelief…for my soul, it is so thirsty and my heart full of yearning for the Water and Bread that satisfies…

…because we are in desperate need, all of us, in the noise and the chaos and the pain — these generations searching and searching, needing something True and something Good…needing You, only You.

I am humbly before You…asking for Your Spirit to re-define us so that we will be Your hands and feet, a holy people set apart for You…isn’t it time that we hear Your Word and follow Your heart? Lord, this I know to be true: Your compassion can overwhelm this darkness, Your love cast out all fear. Fill us more and more with Your love until it is overflowing, a mighty river flowing from Your heart to our hearts to every single heart on this earth…

This waiting-time, it’s not forever — and until You come again, Lord, this is the time and the place –now, today, wherever we are and wherever we go– to be Your good and faithful servants…transform us until we are like the moon, reflecting Your life-giving Light. And I know that You will guide us, bring us safely and forever home to You…in the fullness of time, our eyes will see Your face, at last — Your presence our only dwelling-place…and this is eternal wild wonder, this is awe and this is blessing.

This is my heart left only with simple praise.

Thank You, Abba-Father.

My Prayer for a New Week

“Grant, O Lord my God, that I may never fall away in success or in failure; that I may not be prideful in prosperity nor dejected in adversity. Let me rejoice only in what unites and sorrow only in what separates us. May I strive to please no one or fear to displease anyone except Yourself. May I seek always the things that are eternal and never those that are only temporal. May I shun any joy that is without You and never seek any that is beside You. O Lord, may I delight in any work I do for You and tire of any rest that is apart from You. My God, let me direct my heart towards You, and in my failings, always repent with a purpose of amendment.” ~St. Thomas Aquinas

Relentless

I love this song — “You Won’t Relent,” by Jesus Culture.  It’s one of my favorites and as I was listening to it again today, I really thought about the words I was singing.  “You won’t relent until You have it all…my heart is yours….come be the fire inside of me, come be the flame upon my heart until You and I are one…” 

It’s amazing to know that we are pursued by a holy, powerful God. It’s overwhelming to think about Him going as far as giving up His own life so that we can be one with Him.  He gave His all. And so He wants our all, too.  God is relentless in His pursuit of us.  Because He knows what He created us to be, He wants to mold us.  He wants us to grow. He wants us to be fully in love with Him.

And with that knowledge, it can be easy to sing “my heart is yours…”  and to pray for God to be in charge of our lives…but I think that, sometimes, we speak words such as these without really considering what we’re saying. 

Because we say that we want God to be the most important part of our lives and then…when circumstances come about that begin to strip us of our comforts and what we’re used to having, be it people or financial security or routines, what do we do? 

If you’re anything like me, then you might begin to panic.

Because when you’re in the midst of change — when you’re on the brink of stepping into the unknown or change of any kind, it doesn’t usually feel like a story-book adventure.  

It feels, more than likely,  like the world is falling apart.  

Think of all the great men and women in the Bible who took leaps of faith to fully follow and obey God. They did not do so without pain.  Consider Noah becoming the joke of the pre-flood world, Abraham’s heart ripping to shreds as he submitted his son’s life to God’s will, Peter jumping out of the boat in faith and then sinking in fear.    These men didn’t change the world for God with an easy-peasy stroll down a flowering lane.  They took risks. They stepped out.  They took their desire to be one with God  and put it into their every-day actions.

And in reality, when you seek God and want Him in charge of your life, things are gonna’ change.  In the (paraphrased) words of a preacher I heard this past weekend, when discussing the guys that put a hole in a roof to get a sick man to Jesus — “When Jesus came to town, everyone got nervous. Because when Jesus came to town, that town got wrecked. If you invite Jesus in, He’s going to wreck your house.”

He doesn’t do this to hurt us. He does it so that we will become stripped of what holds us back in this world. He changes us so that we will be more like Him.

And maybe it feels frightening. But if we continue to surrender to Him and take these steps in faith, that fear will be replaced by His peace. When you trade just talking about working for God for actually physically doing work for God, you’re going to see God move and your trepidation will give way to victory.  And believe me, He’s not going to ask anything of you that He wasn’t willing to do FOR you.  Jesus didn’t walk an easy road, either. He left heaven, then left his earthly family, endured scorn and mockery, betrayal, etc. And finally, his desire for us was so strong that He sacrificed everything on the cross. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t back away from your journey when things get daunting.  This is the time to relentlessly press on because it is when we feel weakest, when we know we can’t handle it on our own — that’s when we see God show up and awe us.  That’s when we get ourselves out of the way and leave room for God to be the Great I AM.

“When you come looking for Me, you’ll find Me. Yes, when you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” ~Jeremiah 29:13 (the Message)