Impact Church

Passionately serving God and His people

Tag: Easter

Seen

 “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer.” 1 Peter 3:12

My three-year-old son attended his first soccer practice this week. As he stood center field, sporting his lime green soccer cleats, I noticed him watching me. Every few moments he made eye contact with his momma, ensuring I hadn’t moved from my designated spot on the sideline. He maintained this rhythm for the entire hour of practice. He was striving to keep my attention, but, oblivious to the fact he already had it. I hadn’t taken my eyes off him.

Dear ones, we can live assured, God hasn’t taken His eyes off us. We are never overlooked, alone, or insignificant even in the seasons we feel like we are. Feelings can be poor indicators of truth. Following the fall of Adam and Eve God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Before we knew we needed saving the Lord had already scripted our rescue plan. He looked more than 2,000 years into the future, saw us, and knew we were in desperate need of a Savior. The truth is this – we were completely seen, lavishly loved, and meticulously “prepared-for” long before our arrival.

Believers across the world gathered, yesterday, in joyful celebration of the single greatest event in all of human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death, burial, and resurrection will forever be the culmination of all that our hope hinges on. Romans 5:25 says, “He was handed over to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised back to life to prove that he had made us right with God!” We gaze at the cross and empty tomb and are filled with awestruck wonder.

He saw us so He came.

He saw us so He died.

He saw us so He rose.

Every move was a part of His beautiful plan to redeem, reconcile, and restore. We no longer have to wonder if we matter to God. One glance at the cross and empty tomb tells us we do. We have always had His attention. In fact, there is never a moment when God is not paying attention to us. God, completely, meets our need to be noticed. He sees us when we are washing dishes, folding laundry, and tucking in babies. He sees us when we rise early, punch a time card, and work to provide for our family. In both the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life we can be confident that the eyes of the Lord are on us. Hear Him tenderly whisper today, “Yes, beloved, you are seen.”

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The Hypocrisy of the “Hosanna!” Crowd

“And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

The stage was finally set. Passion Week, the final few days of Jesus’ life on earth, had arrived. The God-Man who had withdrawn from the spotlight and had preferred to keep His ministry rather quiet until then knew that His time had come.

Sometimes we picture the mob hailing Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as simply sweeping the Master onto a donkey’s colt in a whirlwind of frenzied excitement, spontaneously flinging down palm branches and their garments in front of Him. But the Gospels tell us that the Messiah — who had intentionally avoided such public displays before — orchestrated the event in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy 400 years earlier.

Rather than mounting a horse as a conquering earthly king would have done in the First Century, Jesus fulfilled Scripture by sitting on a lowly colt, a sign of meekness, humility and peace instead of war.

Few Christians today realize that when the crowds shouted “Hosanna!” they were actually quoting from Psalm 118, where the original Hebrew word meant “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord!” It was the beginning of Passover Week, and Passover always reminded the Jews of the time God delivered them from Egyptian oppression and slavery. News apparently had spread fast from Bethany, a small village just a couple miles outside the City of David, that Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead and was making quite an entry into Jerusalem when the city streets would have been filled with perhaps 2-3 million feast observers.

“This is the One we’ve been waiting for!” the crowd undoubtedly buzzed. “He will save us,…He will rescue us,…He will deliver us from the Roman oppression! HOSANNA!”

Sadly, the same crowd who cried “Hail Him!” would, just five days later, cry “Nail Him!” The same mob who shouted “Crown Him!” on Sunday would shout “Crucify Him!” on Friday.

Why? Because they wanted God on their own terms. They wanted to make Jesus a political and military leader who would use His power to overthrow the government. They couldn’t understand that the Messiah’s kingdom was a spiritual one where He wanted to reign in their hearts.

Think about it. Every time Jesus heard someone shout “Hosanna!” it must have hurt His heart. Indeed, it was during Passion Week that the Messiah wept over the City of David because of the people’s unbelief. He heard their “Hosannas,” but He saw their hypocrisy and their selfish motives.

The Master reserved some of His strongest rebukes and teachings for the final days of His life as He exposed and confronted the scribes and Pharisees, the Herodians and Sadducees for their blatant hypocrisy:

  • He compared the religious leaders to the barren fig tree He cursed because it bore no fruit.
  • He overturned the tables of the moneychangers who corruptly “fleeced the flock” with unfair exchange rates when converting Roman currency to Temple shekels. He literally lashed out at those with a whip who would take advantage of worshippers and forget the primacy of prayer.
  • He blistered the Pharisees for saying but not doing, repeatedly blasting them as “hypocrites,…blind guides,…fools,…a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).
  • He rebuked Judas and others who criticized Mary’s extravagant worship when she poured an alabaster box of precious perfume over her Lord’s feet and intimately dried them with her hair. (When was the last time your worship was so lavish, costly and unbridled that it offended people around you?)

Many Christians want to hurriedly get past the hard-to-swallow parts of Passion Week so that we can celebrate Resurrection Day! Won’t you join us this week as we take time to read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final days on earth and make it a time of self-examination? Are we willing to surrender to God on His terms, not ours? Can we examine our religious motives and get serious about forsaking all facades and getting real with our faith?

If we can and will allow selfish intent and hypocrisy to be nailed to the cross of Calvary, the joyous celebration of Resurrection Sunday will reach a whole new level for us!

Real Scars Don’t Always Show

Isaiah 52: 14b …his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men…

Galatians 6: 17. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of The Lord Jesus.

2Cor 4: 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of The Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal body.

Penned by the prophet Isaiah many centuries before the sufferings of Christ were ever realized, these prophesies became essential confirmations to those who looked for the promised Messiah. For had it not been for the forewarned cruelties that’d be placed on the One the Father would send, few would have ever believed Jesus was the true redeemer of Israel and the world. The Jewish mind could not fathom degradation as an essential element in determining a true Leader. To the natural mind, respected governmental systems and military might were the prerequisites of any deliverer; and any thought of a national leader being subject to the detestable Romans would be inconceivable and unconscionable.

Yet, Isaiah’s prophetic words and their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, create a new reality for all who believe. The Spirit of God used the pain, suffering, and persecution of this world to demonstrate His virtues of love, wisdom, and righteousness- not in cultures of beauty, but in environments contrary to them. In essence, the elevated and marred body of Jesus became the deepest declaration of God’s love and grace towards humanity’s sin-induced enmity. His love exceeded our hate, His kindness transcended our antagonisms, and His mercies overcame our judgments. And in His crucified body carried the marks and wounds of both worlds- from above, the height of His love; from below, the baseness of our sin. His was a willingly sacrificed life, yet sacrificed willingly upon the whimsical altars of evil, violent and earthy men.

So that His body became the quintessential battleground for good and evil. And though in His death darkness appeared to have won- in His resurrection every element of darkness- sin and death- were emphatically and eternally overcome! Simply put, His body became expendable so that, 1) the promised spiritual relationship of the Father and His children would be a reality; and 2) in His resurrection He would eclipse temporal mortality with our corresponding resurrection of immortality!

Furthermore, the Apostles also carried in their bodies the indicators of heaven’s compassion and earth’s callousness. History records in detail their testimonies; and with the exception of John, all ended with the sentence of death. And countless others who dared declare the Gospel after His resurrection, bore the marks of horrific persecution. And many others through martyrdom became heaven’s greatest ambassadors! Their faith never failed, their testimonies still inspire, their Savior still lives! And now, so does ours!

So how do we answer the bell in our generation? How do we engage with our culture without compromise? How do we penetrate the ever encroaching darkness, knowing full well the costs of being invested in heaven’s interests? Read the rest of this entry »

Holy Week

Holy Week is one of the oldest Christian observances we know. The first recorded celebration of it comes from a woman named Egeria who traveled to Jerusalem as a pilgrim in the 4th century A.D. There she witnessed Holy Week ceremonies and recorded them in her diary (see Egeria’s Travels, 1999), which means Holy Week observances are at least 1,700 years old.

In the days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, we see the final week of Jesus’ life on earth. This week was so important that the Gospel of Mark devotes about 40 percent of its pages to this one week. This was the great climax of our Lord’s ministry on earth, when He came to Jerusalem to reveal His most crucial teachings. And in the ensuing conflict with Jerusalem’s leaders, He was crucified. But on the third day, God raised Him from death. Holy Week begins with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and ends with Jesus’ resurrection (Easter).

Take time this week to reflect on these great events. We are including passages that detail Christ’s activities this week to be read each day leading up to Easter. Pay attention to where God may be leading your thoughts. Turn this week into “uncommon time”—time that is not ordinary or common; time that is set apart, and time that anticipates the church’s great celebration of Easter. Our preparation during the week can completely change our celebration next Sunday.

Palm Sunday – (Triumphal Entry) Mark 11:1-11/Matthew 21:1-11

Monday – (Confrontation in the Temple) Mark 11:15-33/Matthew 21:33-46

Tuesday – (Anointed for Death) Mark 14:1-9/John 12:1-8

Wednesday – (Teaching in the Synagogue) Mark 12:28-34/Matthew 25:31-46

Thursday – (The Last Supper) Mark 14:12-31/John 13:1-30

Friday – (Crucifixion) Mark 14:32 – 15:47

Saturday – (Holy Saturday) Psalm 22

Sunday – (Resurrection) Mark 16:1-8/ John 2