Article copyright by Bob Rogers
In ancient times, a victorious king would ride into a city on horseback. But Jesus was a different kind of king; He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The horse was a symbol of war. The donkey was a symbol of peace.
Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The people spread their cloaks on the road in front of Him, and waved branches. John’s gospel says they were palm branches (John 12:13). Mark 11:9-10 records their words of praise and worship as Jesus made His entry into Jerusalem: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
“Hosanna” is Hebrew for “save us.” They were quoting Psalm 118 as they called on Jesus as Savior. They were worshiping with their whole hearts.
Unfortunately, a lot of people come to worship at church and act as if it is a Mardi Gras parade. In New Orleans, people line the streets during Mardi Gras, with bags open and umbrellas turned upside down to catch the trinkets and candy thrown from each float. They shout, “Throw me something, mister!” Do we come to worship for what we can get out of it, or do we come to give our whole hearts to a worthy God? Isn’t our God worthy of our worship, even if we receive absolutely nothing in return? As Jesus paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, the crowds didn’t cry “Throw me something,” they shouted “Hosanna.” Do we come to worship with the same attitude?
Palm Sunday, the day of triumph, teaches us to worship.
The Gospel of Mark spends six chapters, one–third of the entire book, describing what happened in just one week. The fact that the gospel gives so much attention to the final week of Christ should tell us how very important that Holy Week was. There must be important lessons for us to learn from these days.
So let’s review the entire week, and learn from God the holy ways from the holy days of Holy Week. Each day, starting with tomorrow morning’s blog post on Palm Sunday, I will share some thoughts on lessons we can learn from the events of Holy Week, from the Gospel of Mark. Look for it each day at bobrogers.me, and also a short video on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BobRogersThD.
ZOOM TEN COMMANDMENTS
1. Thou shalt not sit under a light with a fan lest thou incite others to have a seizure.
2. Thou shalt wear clothes if thine camera is on, cover thine nakedness.
3. Thou shalt mute thyself if thou art not speaking, especially if thou hast the sniffles or gas.
4. Thou shalt not sit in front of a light-filled window unless thou art in the witness protection program.
5. If thou shalt go to the bathroom, take not others with thee, love thy neighbor.
6. Thou shalt not private message someone gossip, the host and the Lord seest the transcript.
7. Warn others if thou art on a call lest they defile the meeting w/ an unseemly appearance.
8. Zoom not w/ someone else in the same room, the echo is an abomination.
9. Eat not w/ thine microphone on, it is an abomination
10. Be not content w/ screen time, face to face is better
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28, CSB
Romans 8:28 is one of the most beloved promises in the Bible. Most people focus on the words, “for the good.” Perhaps we should reflect more on the phrase, “work together,” because the verse is teaching that God can mix bad things in the life of a believer, and bring about good results, like roses on the end of a thorny stem. Let me suggest three kinds of thorns God brings from our lives that work together to grow roses: troubles, temptations and trespasses.
1) The thorn of troubles. God will allow troubles in our lives, to teach us to trust Him. When we have troubles, we are faced with our weakness. Yet, they work together for the good lesson of teaching us to depend on God’s sufficiency. As 2 Corinthians 1:9 says, this teaches us to “not trust in ourselvs but in God who raises the dead.”
2) The thorn of temptations. God will allow temptation in our lives, to teach us obedience. An athlete develops muscles and endurance by the pressure, weight and strain of exercise. Likewise, God allows us to be tempted, so that it works together for the good spiritual muscles that we develop as we grow stronger in obedience. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
3) The thorn of trespasses. By trespasses, I mean sin. God does not want us to sin, but when we sin, we must humble ourselves, repent, and ask Jesus for forgiveness. Scripture tells us to forgive, even as the Lord has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Those who have truly experienced the grace of forgiveness tend to be better at forgiving others. So trespasses– whether they be our own or the sins of others– work together to grow beautiful flowers of forgiveness in our lives.
After seven weeks of teaching my Bible class about dealing with pain and suffering, today I asked them, “What is the biggest take away you have learned about suffering?” As they talked, I began to summarize their thoughts on the whiteboard. Here is a list of their comments:
*We grow in faith through suffering.
*Suffering can be used as a testimony to glorify God.
*A diamond is formed under pressure; likewise, suffering develops character.
*Suffering is a process, and you have to let the process work you into a diamond. If you quit on God too soon, you just become a lump of coal.
*In the Holy Land, olives were pressed and crushed in a vat, making olive oil. Likewise, God allows us to suffer pressure, and God produces good things in our lives from it.
*We experience God’s presence in suffering– it draws us closer to God.
*Suffering forces us to make choices– will we be better or bitter?
*We must learn to see suffering in perspective: it is temporary and light compared to the eternal weight of glory God has for us (2 Corinthians 4:17)
*We are able to relate to others with similar suffering, and comfort them. (2 Corinthians 1:4).
*Suffering requires us to be obedient to share the lessons we learned with others, even though we might prefer to talk about other subjects. But when we talk about it, it helps others.
Jim Newheiser has a wonderful acrostic to help husbands and wives remember what Ephesians 5 teaches us to give to one another. He tells husbands to give their wives TULIPs and wives to give their husbands HONOR.
HUSBANDS, GIVE YOUR WIVES TULIPs:
Totally committed to her in love.
Unconditionally sacrifice yourself for her.
Limit yourself to her alone.
Irresistibly draw her with a love that purifies.
Persevere in meeting her every need.
WIVES, GIVE YOUR HUSBANDS HONOR:
Hold fast to the role God has given you.
Obey your husband’s leadership for the Lord’s sake.
Notice how you can be his helper and do good.
Organize your life around your responsibilities at home.
Restore your husband when he strays from the Lord.
Listen to the Newheiser’s teaching to husbands here.
Listen to Newheiser’s teaching to wives here.
Article copyright by Bob Rogers
As a hospital chaplain, I often meet people who believe in God but don’t believe in the church. Some are angry with the church, and many just don’t have any motivation to be connected to a church. They are fed up with the hypocrites. I get that– I have been one of those hypocrites, and perhaps you have, too. They are tired of church fights. I get that, too. One guy told me, “I can catch hell at home; I don’t need it at church.”
Yet I submit that we need the church. (I’m talking about the people, not a building. The early church met in houses, and many churches meet in homes today.) In fact, there are at least five spiritual practices that a Christian cannot appropriately do without the church.
1. We can’t use our spiritual gifts without the church. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers, but it is always in the context of the church. Romans 12:5-6 talks about how we are all part of the body of Christ as we have different gifts. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-12 that every believer is given a spiritual gift for the common good, because we are all part of the body of Christ. Prophesying, teaching, serving, giving, leading, showing mercy, and so many other spiritual gifts are either done among members of the church or together with members of the church.
2. We can’t show we are disciples without the church. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We are told to serve each other, teach each other, feed each other, pray for each other, encourage each other. I may know I’m a disciple but I can’t show I’m a disciple if I sit at home alone and don’t show love for fellow believers. No wonder Hebrews 10:25 commands believers not to forsake gathering ourselves together, but instead to encourage each other.
3. We can’t experience God’s greatest presence without the church. Matthew 18:19-20 tells Christians to agree together in prayer, and where two or three are gathered that way, God is there. God is real in private prayer, but this is a clear scriptural promise that God is present in a greater way when we pray together. No wonder the Psalmist proclaimed, “Better a day in Your courts, than a thousand anywhere else!” (Psalm 84:10).
4. We cannot appropriately pray the Lord’s Prayer without the church. Jesus gave us this beloved prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-6, as a model on how Christians should pray. The repetition of the words “our” and “us” throughout the prayer is constant reminder that Jesus taught us to pray with other believers and for other believers. While a Christian may certainly pray this prayer alone, we cannot continue to pray this prayer with sincerity and remain alone.
5. We can’t take communion without the church. By definition, the Lord’s Supper is meal of Christians gathered together to remember the body and blood of Christ given for us upon the cross. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, the apostle Paul continually uses the phrase “come together” to describe observance of the Lord’s Supper. It says in 1 Corinthians 10:17 observes that by sharing the bread of communion, Christians are expressing their unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Since we cannot take communion without expressing unity with the church, it follows that refusal to express communion with the church is a refusal to express communion with Christ.
Christ died for the church.
Christ is the builder of the church.
Christ is the head of the church.
Christ is the shepherd of the church.
Christ is the groom for His bride, the church.
Christ is coming again for the church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against His church!
Article copyright by Bob Rogers.
The Gospels contradict the “prosperity gospel.” The Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John directly contradict the Gospel According to Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Oral Roberts and Joel Osteen.
What do I mean by the “prosperity gospel”? Costi Hinn is the nephew of Benny Hinn, who made millions of dollars preaching this heresy (although he recently renounced it). Costi Hinn defines “prosperity gospel” teaching this way: God wants you to be healthy, God wants you to be wealthy, God wants your life to be comfortable and easy. If you don’t get these things, it is because of your “negativity” and lack of faith. (Costi Hinn, God, Greed and the (Prosperity) Gospel, Zondervan, 2019, p. 141). But is this what the Bible teaches? No! From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible teaches otherwise, but let me simply give five important verses from the Gospel writers themselves:
Matthew 5:10, NIV: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by reminding His followers that they might be poor, or mourn, or even be persecuted, but that will ultimately be a blessing in the kingdom of heaven. (The apostle Paul adds in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “everyone” who follows Jesus “will” –not might– be persecuted.)
Matthew 16:24, CSB: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’” (See also Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23). Just to clarify, Jesus is not talking about a 24 karat gold cross necklace.
Mark 10:21, CSB: “Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” That doesn’t exactly sound like Jesus always wants us to be wealthy, does it?
Luke 16:25, NIV: “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’” Uh, oh! According to Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, the “good things” in this life belonged to the bad guy, and the “bad things” belonged to the good guy. This inequality wasn’t corrected until the afterlife. Abraham reminded the rich man of it– perhaps Abe needs to also remind Kenneth Hagin.
John 16:33, NIV: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Could Jesus be any clearer than that? Of course, prosperity preachers will twist these words, implying that Jesus was promising you could “overcome the world” by getting healthy and wealthy here and now if you just send enough “seed” money to their ministries so they can buy a jet and go sell this to some more people. But the best interpreter of scripture is scripture, not Reverend Ike. Thus, Paul says, “It has been granted to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29, CSB).
Following Jesus doesn’t mean you have no problems– it means you have new problems from those who oppose Jesus. But Jesus encouraged us to take heart that we would overcome, not because we would get something now, but that later. Al Mohler said it best: “In the end the biggest problem with prosperity theology is not that it promises too much, but that it promises far too little.” We have overcome the world, because Jesus Christ is not focusing on this world: He has in store for His followers a new heaven and new earth, where there is no more grief, crying, or pain (Revelation 2:4). And that’s the gospel truth!
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
“We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,” repeats the beloved spiritual. “Every rung goes higher higher.” The last verses urge, “Keep on climbing, we will make it,” and finally asks, “Do you want your freedom?” I can just hear Southern slaves singing this as they pick cotton and dream of liberty from oppression. It must have seemed that God was not there, but they found hope in a vision of escaping one day.
Yet when we read the beloved story of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28, we find a reassurance not just for the future, but for right now. Jacob had left his father Isaac and mother Rebekah in Canaan, and was on a journey to see his relatives in Mesopotamia, and to find a wife.
Ancient pagans thought that a god only dwelled in the land where he was worshiped. If you left that territory, you also left that god. So what a surprise, when Jacob got a vision in a foreign land, of a stairway from the earth to heaven, and angels going up and down it. Then the Lord himself spoke, “I am the LORD (Yahweh), the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:13). The God of Jacob’s father’s was not limited to a territory! The Lord continued “Look, I am with you…” (Genesis 28:15.
In amazement, Jacob named the place Bethel, meaning house of God, and said, “Surely, the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).
What a reassurance to us when we feel that we are in a god-forsaken place, that there is no god-forsaken place, for God is omnipresent, always present, always here. He is not limited by time, place, or circumstances. Look around and see what God is doing right here, right now. Surely, the Lord is in the place where you are, but do you know it?
The Gospel of Matthew opens with the family tree of Jesus, from Abraham through Joseph and Mary. In typical Hebrew fashion, it lists the men, not the women, who “begat” (KJV) or “fathered” each son. Yet of the 42 generations listed, Matthew inserts references to four women other than Mary, the mother of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (who is only called “Uriah’s wife”). Why are these women mentioned?
Matthew is writing to a very religious Jewish audience, and by inserting these names in the genealogy of the Messiah, he is showing us two encouraging truths.
All our welcome. All of the women were foreigners: Tamar was a Canaanite (Genesis 38:6), Rahab was from Jericho (Joshua 2:1-22), Ruth was from Moab (Ruth 1:4), and Bathsheba was a Hittite (2 Samuel 11:3). To a Jewish audience, he was reminding the Chosen People that God welcomes all people to follow Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the world.
He came to save sinners. Three of the women were notorious for sexual sin. Tamar seduced her father-in-law Judah (Genesis 38), Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua 2:1), and Bathsheba committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11-12), which is why she is referred to by Matthew as “Uriah’s wife,” as a reminder of that adultery.
No wonder the angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”
I’m so glad Jesus’ genealogy included those four women, because it reminds me that He includes me, a non-Jewish sinner in need of a Messiah and Savior.
Charles Spurgeon said in commenting on Matthew 1:21, “The first link between my soul and Christ is not my goodness but my badness, not my merit but my misery, not my standing but my falling, not my riches but my need. He comes to visit his people– not to admire their beauties but to remove their deformities, not to reward their virtues but to forgive their sins.”
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
I recently had my annual check-up with my eye doctor. She said that my left eye needed a stronger prescription. The goal is 20/20 vision, so I got new contact lenses and eyeglasses. With the onset of the year 2020, I expect we may hear many people talk about having a “2020 Vision.”
One of the most popular verses in the Bible about vision is the promise of Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” While we may only see a sea of sorrow around us, in this verse God says that He sees hope over the horizon– a seashore where we will safely land. Knowing this future is coming gives us hope to hang on.
However, there is a danger of taking this verse out of context. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus promising to hand out candy-coated lives without consequences. He is a holy God calling us to repentance. Notice that after the promise of “a future and hope” in verse 11, we read some requirements for its fulfillment in verses 12-14. The Lord says to call on Him in prayer, and He says to seek God “with all your heart,” and then you will find God and He will “end your captivity and restore your fortunes.” Thus, the vision is for those who seek out God and follow Him. In fact, Jeremiah 44:27 warns those who rebel against God that the Lord will be “watching over them for harm, not for good,” the exact opposite of Jeremiah 29:11.
In addition, the first part of this chapter gives a broader perspective to the vision of verse 11. God is not a quick-stop dispenser of immediate happiness; He seeks faithful followers who run the race of faith like a marathon, not a sprint. Notice that the earlier verses in Jeremiah 29 say that they would be going into exile in Babylon for 70 years—so long, in fact, that God told them to settle down in that new place, for they would be there a long time. Yet after telling them that the immediate future looked bleak, God said that He had plans for a hope-filled future! The same God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt after 400 years would rescue them from exile in Babylon after 70 years, and He will rescue you and me at the right time.
Don’t let this bigger picture of Jeremiah 29:11 leave you feeling in the dark. Instead, throw open the windows of your heart and mind to the light of a greater vision of what it means. It means much more than a surface-level promise for fleeting fun—it is a deep, abiding promise for an eternal faith in the Eternal God who has promised eternal life through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). That is “a future and a hope” worth waiting for and living for, in 2020 and beyond
Keller, Timothy. God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotionals in the Book of Proverbs. New York: Viking, 2017.
I loved this daily devotional! I have read Keller’s devotional through Psalms, and I find this one to be an excellent companion to it.
Keller wisely (pun intended) groups the devotionals into topics, rather than trying to go through Proverbs chapter by chapter. By including verses from different parts of the book in a day’s devotional, he gives a greater balance and thoroughness to each, as he often includes wisdom sayings that give different perspectives on the same topic, or give further elaboration and illustration on the same topic.
Keller also includes some selections from other wisdom books, especially Ecclesiastes and Job, and ends during the Christmas season with insights from the New Testament and how Jesus is our ultimate source of wisdom.
I highly recommend this daily devotional! It will challenge you to think deeply and live wisely.
Copyright by Bob Rogers
Jesus blessed the food and gave thanks for it when He fed the 5,000, but the Bible doesn’t tell us the words that He prayed. So what should you say when you pray before a meal? That’s up to you, but in case you would like some ideas, here are 27 prayers that I have collected over the years. Where I know the source, I list it in parentheses:
CLASSIC, TRADITIONAL PRAYERS
“Lord, bless this food to our nourishment, and us to Your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” (Traditional prayer I heard in my Baptist family.)
“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive, through Thy bounty through Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.” (Traditional Roman Catholic prayer.)
“Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for Thou art holy, always, now and ever, and to the ages. Amen.” (Traditional Eastern Orthodox prayer.)
“Thank you, Lord, for the food we are about to receive, and for the nourishment to our bodies. For Christ’s sake, Amen.”
“Humble our hearts, Oh Lord, and make us thankful for these and all our blessings. In Christ name Amen.” (Shared by Brenda Holloway and Darren Thomas)
PRAYERS MENTIONING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
“Heavenly Father, bless this food, and bless our friends and family who’ve come to dine with us today. Amen.”
“God, we give you thanks for the delicious food on our table, for the loved ones gathered around, and for you, who make it all possible. We are humbly grateful. Amen.” (Norman Vincent Peale, A Prayer for Every Need)
“Dear Lord, we’ve gathered to share good times, good conversation, good friends, and good food, which we thank you for all. Amen.”
“Bless the food before us, the family beside us, and the love between us.” (Shared by Lynda Easterling Stinson)
PRAYERS REMEMBERING THOSE IN NEED
“Give us grateful hearts, O Father, for all thy mercies, and make us mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (1928 Book of Common Prayer)
“For food in a world where many are in hunger; For faith in a world where many walk in fear; For friends in a world where many walk alone; We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen.” (Huron Hunger Fund, Anglican Church of Canada)
“Oh Lord, make us grateful for this food that we are about to receive, as we remember those who do not have enough to eat. Amen.”
PRAYERS MENTIONING THOSE WHO PREPARED THE FOOD
“Thank you, Lord for this food, and bless the hands that prepared it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (Traditional prayer I heard in my family.)
“God, many hands made this meal possible. Farmers grew it. Truckers drove it. Grocers sold it. We prepared it. Bless all those hands, and help us always remember our dependence on you. Amen.” (Norman Vincent Peale, A Prayer for Every Need)
“You are mighty Lord, and all providing. We thank you for this food we have been given for nourishment and delight. We ask a special blessing to those who prepared this meal with love and care tonight. Amen.”
“God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands, we are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” (Traditional children’s rhyme.)
To the tune of Frere Jacques (“Brother John”): “God our Father, God our Father, We thank you, We thank you, For our many blessings, For our many blessings, A-men, A-men.”
“ABCDEFG Thank you, God, for feeding me.”
To the tune of Superman Theme: “Thank you God for giving us food. Thank you God for giving us food. [Both hands pointed up.] For daily bread, that we are fed. [One hand moves to the hip on ‘daily bread’ and then alternate with other hand on ‘we are fed.’] Thank you God [hands up], for giving us food” [hands move to the hips and voice deepens.](Shared by Joseph & Beth Copeck)
“Thank You for the food we eat, yum yum! Thank You for the friends we meet, ho ho! Thank You for the birds that sing, a-ling a-ling! Thank You, Lord, for everything, Amen!” (Robin Anker Peterson of Perth, Scotland, sang this happily to his young children.)
PRAYERS IN OTHER LANGUAGES
“Some hae meat and cannae eat. Some nae meat but want it. We hae meat and we can eat and sae the Lord be thankit.” (Some have meat and cannot eat. Some no meat but want it. We have meat and we can eat and so the Lord be thanked.) (Scottish blessing.)
“Alles das wir haben (All that we have), Alles ist gegaben (All of it is a gift), Es kommt, O Gott, von dir (It comes, O God, from you), Wir danken dir dafuer. (We thank you for it.)” (German blessing.)
“Cristo, pan de vida (Christ, bread of life) Ven y bendice esta comida. Amen. (Come and bless this food.)” (Spanish blessing.)
WITTY, PITHY PRAYERS
“Good food, good meat, good Lord, let’s eat. Amen.”
“Lord, bless this bunch as they munch their lunch.”
“Grace in the kitchen, Grace in the hall, please O God, don’t let them get it all.” (Shared by Buddy Wasson)
“Lazarus rose, Moses led, Noah built, Jesus fed. Amen.” (Debbie T. Alsup)
What prayers do you pray before meals? Please share one in the comments below, and I may add it to the list. After all, we need to keep our prayers as fresh as the food we thank God for giving to us.