Today, Jesus cleaned out the temple for the second time in His ministry. Tables are knocked over and benches are sent flying. Jesus's righteous anger is justified because of His passion for His Father's temple. It is to be kept holy because it is the Father's dwelling place among His people.
That temple is now gone, not because it was destroyed by Israel's enemies, but because it is no longer needed. God no longer dwells in a building. For those who belong to Jesus, their bodies are now the temple where the Holy Spirit of God resides. Jesus expects that they,too, be kept holy.
The question for us today is this- what tables need to be overturned in our lives? What do we need to allow Christ to drive out of our hearts so that our temples might be kept holy?
Today Christians celebrated Palm Sunday. Did you know that the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey was a very important day even before it ever became known as Palm Sunday?
The Jews called that particular day in the Passover week, “Lamb Selection Day.” On that day, Jews would come to Jerusalem to select a Passover lamb, one lamb for each family. According to Jewish historians, the lambs were brought from Bethlehem to Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. In the late afternoon, each family selected a lamb and took it home where they cared for it until it was slaughtered for the Passover meal. (Exodus 12:3-6)
But, on that particular day, while palm branches were waving in the air and people were shouting “Hosanah”, while Jewish families were selecting their Passover lambs and taking them home, God had selected a special lamb and had sent Him to Jerusalem. His lamb also came from Bethlehem, and He also arrived in Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate in the late afternoon.
This perfect lamb would be the very last blood sacrifice that God would recognize. And because of the greatness of this lamb, God would accept the blood of this one lamb for the forgiveness of the sins of all who would place their faith in Him. No more sacrifices would ever be required. This was the last Lamb. This was the very Son of God.
So “Lamb Selection Day” became Palm Sunday because God did the unimaginable and chose His only Son to be the final sacrifice for us.
Have a Blessed Week!
What do we do when our circumstances become so difficult that they threaten to steal the last thread of hope we have left? Rebekah Yoder has been there. This is her powerful story. I know it will encourage you!
Rebekah is married to Caleb Yoder and they live in Sumter, SC.
Here is a great article from www.desiringgod.org about dealing with the disappointment when God's answer is, "No." It's a great follow up to the blog we posted last week. Click on the link below.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. - Proverbs 16:9
One week ago, today, I received the phone call I’ve been waiting on for eight years. The call was from the Principal of a 3A High School offering me the Head Football Coaching job. I was shocked; I really could not believe it. It seemed to be an answered prayer from God. While I was somewhat nervous about the task, I was inwardly swelling with pride thinking about becoming a Head Coach at age 26. This was it; all that I had worked so hard for, prayed so hard for, and dreamed so much about was finally going to happen for me.
The reason I say that I thought this was an answered prayer is because two hours before the principal called me, I was sitting in my office at Sumter High School having my quiet time. I felt very burdened. I fell on my knees and I begged and pleaded with God to send me something, anything that would allow me to “move up” in my career. My heart wanted so badly to have the opportunity to lead my own football program and begin to accomplish things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. Exactly two hours later, that call came.
I’m blessed to have some very wise people in my life, so I began talking to some of them about the job, it’s problems, and what I could do to overcome them. While I still had some doubts, I was sure that God was in control and He would work out all the details. I worked diligently to prepare for my meeting with the high school principal that was scheduled for the end of the week. I was looking at houses, watching film of last year’s team, thinking about how I wanted to arrange my coaching staff; you name it, I was on it. I didn’t know how I was going to make it all work out, but I was absolutely determined to make it work because it was what my heart wanted more than anything else in the world.
Friday finally came and I was nervous because I wanted everything to go right. The principal and I began talking and for the most part he was saying “yes” to every single thing I was asking for. The more we talked, the more I really believed that this was it. We finished our conversation and I took a tour of the facilities and went to my hotel to gather my thoughts. I spent Friday night wrestling with the few problems that were going to come with this job.
Saturday morning, my wife and I woke up early and began our quest to find a place to live. As we began searching, it became apparent that finding an affordable place to live might be tougher than we thought because the cost of living in the area was so expensive. We found a house, but the rent was double what our current mortgage was! Still, even knowing this, I was determined to make this job work.
Just before I left Saturday to head back home, my wife and I were ready to make the call that would officially make me the Head Football Coach. We decided to give it until Sunday afternoon, maybe by then we would feel just a little more confident about taking the job and God would send us a firmer peace about this decision.
On the ride home I began to feel conflicted. The questions that I had been asking all week suddenly became a heavy burden on me. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling like taking the job might not be the right thing to do. Certainly the Lord would not have given it to me if He didn’t intend for me to accept it. I became keenly aware that by me accepting this particular job, my wife would have to make some huge sacrifices.
I got home and the burden became heavier and heavier, I was beginning to have a lot of doubt about whether or not this whole thing could work out. Even with every burdensome thought that came, I was nowhere near willing to let this opportunity slip by me. I was going to become the youngest Head Coach in the state. I was going to turn this program around, and by age thirty, I was going to have a “big” job, one with big lights, big community support, and big money. I was finally going to raise that big state championship trophy high in the sky at Williams Brice Stadium… the same one that had twice been denied to me, once as a player and once as an assistant coach.
On Sunday morning the burden was so heavy I felt as though I might not be able to carry it. I convinced myself that I must need to find a way to fill myself with more faith in God. I went to church thinking, “Surely God is going to speak to me this morning. He will calm my spirit, and give me this overwhelming peace that all these people keep talking about.” As I sat through the sermon, I was doing a very good job of twisting the words of my pastor into pretty much telling me that I should call the principal right after the service and accept the job, after all, I had worked hard for eight years and I deserved it.
After church, I was at home attempting to make myself as busy as possible so that I wouldn’t think about all of the problems that would come with the job. Problems that I knew God could and would handle for me. After all, He was calling me to this job; He had answered my prayer. My mom, whom I am very close with and am told by most everyone who knows both of us that I am “just like”, came by my house. She wanted to share something God had laid on her heart with me and give me a book she was reading. She thought I needed to read a chapter in the book before I made my final decision. In my mind I thought, “Great! This chapter will talk about having strong faith, it will talk about all of the rewards we get when we follow God’s plan.”
What the Lord would reveal to me over the next three hours would rock me. I had fallen so far, I wasn’t even aware of where I really was in my life. I had made for myself an idol that I had built so big it had consumed my whole entire life. The reality is that I have woken up every single day for at least the last four years wondering what I could do to become a better football coach, so that I could become a head coach. I woke up every morning trying to find what steps I could take that day towards becoming a Head Football Coach. I dreamed about it, I thought about it all day, I talked about it most of the day, and every day I asked God in heaven to give it to me because I wanted everyone to see me as a Head Football Coach. I wanted all of the glory, honor, and praise from man. That is the ugly truth behind my story to this point. In an effort to shorten this story, I called the Principal at the High School and turned down the job that I had wanted so badly for so long.
So, exactly one week later here is what the Lord has shown me:
When I walked into my office this morning the Lord began revealing to me all that He had been doing during the previous week. When I fell on my knees one week ago, I was not asking for my Father to lead me and be Lord over my life. I was asking, in fact begging with all of my soul, for Him to make me a Head Football Coach. I was on my knees asking him to give me my idol. I was much like the Israelites who begged God to send them a King because God being their King was apparently not good enough for them. I was behaving much like them except I wanted to be a King. I wanted to be a head coach more that I wanted to be close to the Lord, more than I wanted to serve him, and more than I wanted to love him. So, God gave me exactly what I had been asking for. I imagine He got sick and tired of me asking to be a Head Coach instead of me asking what I could do to be more like Him or how I could serve Him better. So, as only He can do, He gave me what I wanted even though it was not what he wanted for me; at least not right now. He used this as a test for me to see if I was willing to put my idol on the altar and sacrifice it to him.
What God taught me (with the help of my mother and Tony Evans in his book Dry Bones Dancing) is this:
“I can say with absolute certainty that you will be tested on that which your heart clings to. I guarantee it. He will test your willingness to sacrifice something that represents one of the most valuable things in your life, something that’s as precious to you as Isaac was to Abraham.”
“The test will take every bit of spiritual reserve we have to pass because He’s ready to move us up to the next level in our journey of following Him and growing closer to him.”
“Is there something God wants you to now put on the altar? If you. Like Abraham are in the middle of a test that you can’t figure out, then the one place you want to be is at worship. Approach his heavenly altar where the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, has opened the way for you into the presence of God. Worship the Lamb and worship God on his throne, even though you don’t understand what He’s taking you through. Worship even though you can’t begin to figure it out. Follow through in sacrificial worship. And there at the altar God will show you his way. He’ll come through for you.”
“The passion of our lives must be for God and not merely for his blessings and gifts. He’s interested in responding to people who are in active pursuit of his heart and who’ll make the appropriate sacrifice in order to experience it.” (Dry Bones Dancing by Tony Evans)
In order for me to please God and truly follow him, I MUST be willing to put my idol on the sacrificial altar of the Lord and be at peace with the possibility of never receiving that idol back. Not all stories end the way the story of Abraham and Isaac did. We must understand that there are times when we place what we love most on the altar and the Lord does not entrust it back to us. We must be at peace knowing that they are sacrifices we will never see again, and that it is for our good. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if our desire is truly to please God, it becomes so much easier.
Yesterday at this time I would have rather died than be told that I would never be a Head Football Coach. I now realize that I was put on this earth to praise, honor, and worship the Lord, not to be a Head football Coach. So, this morning when I walked into my office and saw an image of myself, only one week earlier, on the floor begging for that which my heart most desired, I smiled and knew that I had finally found the “overwhelming peace” that comes from following my Father in heaven with my whole heart and having no idols before him.
Now on the other side, I am so overwhelmingly thankful to my Father in heaven for sending me this test. I recognize that it was only by the grace of God who used a complete stranger, an old friend, a mentor, a wife, a mother, a father, and a pastor to save me from myself that I was able to pass the test.
My family vacations near this high school every summer. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that God used a school located in a place where I will visit one time every year, right before the beginning of football season, as the place for this test. God chose this specific place to establish a “marker” for my walk with Him. For the rest of my life, I will remember the day and the time that I truly laid my idol on His altar and decided to let nothing be bigger in my life than He who created me.
Assistant Football Coach
Sumter High School
All this, David said, ―I have in writing as a result of the Lord‘s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan. -I Chronicles 28:19
Absorbed in my bible study, it took a few minutes for the sound to register and make me aware of my surroundings again - the unmistakable sound of our dog pawing at the back door to go out. As I got up and start walking in that direction, her anticipation was so over-whelming that she was literally dancing and jumping about. I opened the door and she bounded out as fast as she could, directly to the three palm trees that stand close enough to each other that the squirrels bound back and forth in their branches from tree to tree. You see, she loves to chase the squirrels in her yard. She has not caught one yet, praise God, but she has come very close. Finding them and then chasing them is the highlight of her days.
As I stood at the door watching her, I could not help but chuckle at the fact that because she was so focused on the trees where she has had “success” in finding them before, she completely missed the 5 squirrels that were on the ground. A couple no more than fifteen feet from where she sat staring up into the tree branches.
Then it occurred to me, by prompting of the Holy Spirit I am sure, that often times I run through my life like that. So hyper-focused on a person, a place or a situation that has brought “success” before that I miss all of the blessings my Jesus has placed around me now. I am so consumed with the path that I have set out on or turned back to that I neglect to see the favor God has for me out in plain sight if only I would change my focus.
Makes me think of horses in parades that have blinders on. Those blinders are for protection; protection for the horse, rider, and audience. Sometimes the horse cannot handle that much chaos, distraction and activity without it causing anxiety and panic.
But the blinders I tend to wear are not protecting me at all. Quite frankly, they do just the opposite. They keep me focused on my own chaos, distraction and activity that it causes anxiety and panic for me.
If I take the blinders off, I am able to see and therefore receive all of the gifts God has for me in this world - my squirrels, as it were. Gifts such as a Godly husband that loves me deeply. Gifts of healthy children that call me mom. Gifts of loving parents and sisters, and in-laws who call me their own. Brothers and sisters in Christ that speak truth into my spirit and a church that I call home.
There's also the beauty of His creation that He made just for me! He even puts flowers on “weeds” so when I, with my black-thumb, kill off all of the “good” plants in my yard it still looks pretty. His blessings and gifts and bounty goes on and on and on.
Please Lord, help me to look up from my path, take the blinders off and receive all that you have for me. Help me to stay focused on You as You direct my path. I pray that it will become my daily posture to come, on my knees, to You to calm the chaos, distraction and activity that so often causes anxiety and panic. I want to see, receive and enjoy all that you have for me daily so I can be all you designed me to be. It is in the mighty, loving name of Jesus that I pray. Amen
Special thanks to Laura Crain for sharing with us!
–branches dreamstime.com,blinders blogspot.com/blinkers,blessings linkedin.com/pulse/countless-blessings-ray-w
Abby Johnson has always had a fierce determination to help women in need. It was this desire that both led Abby to a career with Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, and caused her to flee the organization and become an outspoken advocate for the pro-life movement.
During her eight years with Planned Parenthood, Abby quickly rose in the organization’s ranks and became a clinic director. She was increasingly disturbed by what she witnessed. Abortion was a product Planned Parenthood was selling, not an unfortunate necessity that they fought to decrease. All of that changed on when Abby was asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. She watched in horror as a 13 week baby fought, and ultimately lost, its life at the hand of the abortionist. At that moment, the full realization of what abortion was and what she had dedicated her life to washed over Abby and a dramatic transformation took place.
Desperate and confused, Abby sought help from a local pro-life group. She swore that she would begin to advocate for life in the womb and expose abortion for what it truly is.
She is a frequently requested guest on Fox News and a variety of other shows and the author of the nationally best-selling book, Unplanned, which chronicles both her experiences within Planned Parenthood and her dramatic exit.
The Lord has certainly reminded me that He is constantly updating and rewriting my story. He is the Author and I am a character who often needs to be reminded of my place in His script. Looking back on my journey since 2011 a lot of lessons and verses come to mind.
I was lost and searching; now I’m standing tall on the Rock!
…Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him!!
We are so excited to welcome Ashley Cook to our PSF team.
She married her high school sweetheart and together they have three children. In addition to raising three busy children, she also serves part time as Children’s Director in her home church where she also sings on the Praise and Worship Team.
Ashley confesses that she has wanted to be a writer since elementary school and she uses blogging to fulfill some of that desire. She has a love for storytelling, photography, and music. She loves to help people find humor in the craziness of life and she is passionate about making God’s grace and love tangible for people.
Visit our Mom 2 Mom page to read her blog, Resolutions, Rambles & Roles.
I love the manger scene that I set up every Christmas. I spent several years looking for just the right figurines. Once I found them, my Dad made the stable for me so it is especially dear to my heart. When I set it up each year, I drape moss over the stable and situate all the figurines just so. When I’m done, it looks so warm and cozy, just like the picture I have in my mind of how that night must have looked. A smiling mother and father, a baby all bundled up in warm cloth, lying in a beautifully rustic manger with sweet clean animals all around. Such a beautiful scene… it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
After I finished setting it up this year, I stood back to look at it. Perfect. Everything in the right place, just like that night…or was it? As I thought about it, I realized that my manger scene was not reality. Reality is that an already exhausted and frightened Mary was forced to deliver her first child in a smelly, damp stable of some sort. She then wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a feeding trough. Jesus was born in deplorable conditions all because there was no room in the inn for His parents.
I found myself disgusted with the innkeeper. What kind of person would turn a nine-month pregnant woman away? Who would do such a thing? Did his wife know what he had done? Probably not. Was he too busy making a profit to care about a woman in labor? If Mary and Joseph had been wealthy, I bet that the innkeeper would have found room for them. He had no idea who it was that he turned away that night.
The more I thought about the innkeeper, the more my heart softened towards him. I’m sure he was busy. Bethlehem was a very small town, but because of the census, it was packed. He probably had no idea things would be so crazy. I’m sure he himself was exhausted. If he had known that Mary was carrying the King of Kings, I feel certain that he would have made room.
I think maybe we have more in common with the innkeeper than we are comfortable admitting. This time of year is so busy, much like it was those many years ago in Bethlehem. There are gifts to buy, and gifts to wrap, and decorations to put up, and drop-ins to attend, and the list goes on. When Jesus looks into our lives, does He find that there is no room for Him in our hearts? Are our days so full and our lives so cluttered that there is no time for Him?
Unlike the innkeeper, I do know who the baby in that manger is, and because of that, I am going to be very intentional about making room for Him. If you want to join me, here is an idea that you might be interested in trying, maybe even encouraged the rest of your family to do it with you.
For the next few days, think about a special gift that you will give Jesus on Christmas day. No one else needs to know what it is. It needs to be a gift that cost you something – a sacrifice of sorts. It could be the gift of setting aside time every day for the next year to spend with Him. Maybe the gift of forgiveness extended to someone. Perhaps you could give the gift of turning from a habit that interferes with your walk with Him. There are plenty more gift ideas; pick the one that He would like most from you. If you’re not sure, just ask Him what He wants from you for his birthday.
Write down the gift on a slip of paper and wrap it, then place it under the tree with the rest of the gifts. On Christmas morning when everyone one is unwrapping presents, unwrap Jesus’s gift. Spend some time sharing what each one is giving Jesus for His birthday. Ask the others to help hold you accountable. If it’s too personal, just tuck the slip of paper some place where you will see it often throughout the coming year.
Have a wonderful Christmas!
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." Luke 2:7
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