Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not the King We Expected

|| "So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'" -John 12:13 ||

When I prayed, I just wanted the problem to go away. I wanted God to fix the situation. I wanted things to go back to how they were.

I prayed for months, but things just got gradually worse until things couldn't get any worse. Never had I wanted something so bad. Never had a loss wrecked me so bad. Sometimes I couldn't sleep over it. Any time I thought I would finally be okay, it would come around and hit me again. Why didn't God just take it away?

When Israel prayed for a messiah, they wanted a king. They wanted a leader who would take away their sicknesses and oppression. 

For hundreds of years, Israel begged God for a savior. When He came, they welcomed Him to Jerusalem with praise. The called Him king. Rightfully so. They believed He would take away their struggle. They believed He would break the chains of an oppressive, bad government.

Before the week was over, they believed He deserved to be crucified.

They wanted a King. They got a Servant.

I think it's so interesting what Jesus does in John 13. He gets down on His knees and washes the feet of his disciples. The twelve men who had followed Jesus, who served Jesus, were being served by Him. Peter couldn't stand it.

|| "No," Peter said. "You shall never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (v8) ||

Peter didn't want the king to wash His feet. Peter wanted to be the one serving. In his eyes, Jesus was supposed to be king, not a slave. He was supposed to save, not serve. He was supposed to be the triumphant ruler, not the humble redeemer

Later that night, Jesus told Peter he would deny Him three times. Peter demanded that he would never.. He would never betray his leader like that. But when Jesus was arrested, Peter began losing faith. He cut the ear off one of the guards who came to take Jesus away, but Jesus told him no. He let Himself get arrested. If He was the King of the Jews, how could He let Himself be taken like that?

That early morning, Peter denied His King three times. I imagine he felt hurt and betrayed and fooled. Why had he followed someone who was weak? Had he been tricked?

Peter, like all of Israel, was expecting a powerful King. Not a man who would humble himself to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Not someone who would submit Himself to the most humiliating, shameful death possible. They wanted a ruler.

They got a savior.

God doesn't work the way we expect. Jesus didn't save the world by overthrowing a government or giving the people the freedom they demanded.

"Hosanna!" They cried out in the street. "Save us! Save, now!"

Jesus didn't change the government. He didn't change the country. He didn't change the world.

He changed people.

I ask God to take away my problem. I ask for redemption of my situation. We ask Him to fix our country, our families, our churches, our lives. But Jesus doesn't offer a quick fix. He offers a new heart.

|| "I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart." -Jeremiah 24:7 ||

Yes, God heals. God redeems. God hears our prayers. But sometimes He doesn't fix the situation. He uses the situation to bring us back to Him.

For they will return to Me with their whole heart.

Jesus wasn't the powerful, reigning king the Jews expected. He was the salvation they needed. Salvation from their sins. Reunion with God.

Not the King we expected.

But the Savior we need.

Friday, March 18, 2016

this funny world

Whenever the subject of broken families is brought up at my youth group, I get overwhelmed.

I go to two youth groups, and within both of those I know that there are students there my age whose parents are divorced or split up. I can't imagine the way that feels, the hurt that brings. But I know that too many people are in the same situation.

Whenever I think too long about the hurts the people in my life are experiencing on a daily basis, I get overwhelmed. At church, at youth, at speech and debate. We walk around, acting like we're 'all right.' We carry shields so others don't see the struggle. No matter what's going on. No matter how bad it hurts. It seems safer to hold up the shields than face rejection and judgement.

Sometimes I start researching. I start researching the crappy things in the world that are accepted in the mainstream. Abortion. Pornography. Sometimes I just come across crap. Objectification. Hatred.

There's so much crap in the world. So much brokenness in so many ways. From divorce to high school breakups, from the loss of a friendship to the death of a family member. There are mass shootings in places where children should be safe. There is betrayal in places where trust should be a value. It's overwhelming. The pain is unbearable at times. Insecurity. Fear. Shame. Hurt.

|| "I'm a little girl, and I'm just trying to figure out this funny world. It's so big. It's got me running around. I just wanna be found by You." -Britt Nicole ||

There are moments where I'm so overwhelmed that all I can do is cry. I don't know how to pray about these things. These things are so much bigger than me, so much wider than my reach. I feel small and weak and insufficient. How could anything I say or do make a dent in the hurt? How could I even hope to begin filling the cracks in the walls?

Overwhelming is the only word I know to describe the damage the people in my life face. I hate it. I hate it so much. And I have no way to end it, to do anything to help it go away. I am overwhelmed and devastated. There's no end to the cracks in the walls and floor and ceiling. Everywhere I turn there's something else that's screwed up and I can't stand it.

I get so lost in all the insanity, in the hugeness of it all. The only way I can stand up straight is get on my knees. In the overwhelming brokenness, there is breathtaking peace.

|| "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:6-7 ||

Those verses are hard to buy into when everything feels so wrong and so unstable. And things are wrong and unstable. The foundation the earth is built on is cracked all the way through. But Jesus came to heal. But Jesus came to give hope. But Jesus came to offer mercy. Jesus came to give peace we can't understand.

When everything is wrong, we can hold on to hope. We can hold on to what is true.

When everything is wrong, there is hope.

We just have to be brave enough to hold onto it.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Coming Home

There are moments when I realize I've slipped away.

I've stopped reading my bible every day. I've stopped praying intentionally. I haven't been to church in a week or two or three.

I keep telling myself I'll get around to praying, around to reading.

But another distraction, another obligation moves to the front of the line.

I'll read a chapter in the Bible, then forget what I read an hour later. I'll forget to pray until right as I'm going to bed, and then I fall asleep.

Small things, biting away at my relationship with God. I want to wait until I have time to really catch up on my reading, or really pray for everything I need to. Then I spend way too much time on Twitter, or watching TV, or listening to Tori Kelly. I end up frustrated with myself. I crave connection with God, but block it at the same time. 

A week will go by, and then another. And I get more and more frustrated with myself. The more time that goes by, the more time I have to make up for. Life becomes cluttered. I neglect my quiet time in favor of an extra half hour of sleep, or extra time to do my hair, or extra time to do anything else.

A couple of months ago, I was at a Sunday morning hang out my youth group has before church. We were having a morning of worship in our newly refurbished building. The senior pastor of our church heard about it, and decided to stop by. Note: I go to a church with multiple campuses, meaning that every week the message is preached at the main campus and shown on screens at the other campuses. Our senior pastor was at our campus in person that week because the refurbished building was having its grand re-opening.

I've been going to this church for several years. That morning is the closest I have been to the senior pastor of my church (it seems weirder than it is. Or maybe I've just gotten used to it). The point it, I paid attention to what he chose to say to us. He's a globally respected pastor, and there's a reason the church he founded has thousands of members.

I could practically see it when he walked to the front of the room. His love and relationship with God was evident. I wrote down the gist of what I remembered him talking about.

The time you spend with God is time you'll never regret. It's the greatest, most important, more valuable time we spend. It keeps us humble. It reminds us of His greatness and our smallness. He leads us to be leaders. He leads us to serve.

For the next month, whenever I questioned whether I should read my Bible, spend time praying, etc, or if I should hang out on Twitter, I went back to that first sentence. "The time you spend with God is time you'll never regret."

Sometimes I forget that.

Time with God isn't always flashy, thrilling, or appealing when put up against my favorite TV show or sleep. But I know that I've regretted time I've spent staring at screens or lying in bed for an extra five minutes  (or an extra hour). And I know I've never regretted time I spent praying, reading my Bible, listening to God.

But when I've been away from that for a couple of days, a couple of weeks, I'm afraid that it'll take time, or at least a great worship service, to get back to where I was.

The thing is, my God is a God of grace.

We only need to take a step towards Him and He comes running to us. 

|| "'I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." Luke 15:18-20 ||

All we need is to humble ourselves, turn around, and head towards home. In those moments when I've slipped away, I only need to turn my face back towards God, and He'll come running for me.

He already pain the price for us. He already values us.

He just wants us to come home. And that's what's up.