21 As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. 2 “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”
4 This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
5 “Tell the people of Jerusalem,
‘Look, your King is coming to you.
He is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.’”
6 The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it.
8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting,
“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”
10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked.
11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
This story is very powerful, inspiring, and intriguing. As Jesus was preparing Himself for the very painful journey of the cross that was ahead of Him, He performs an act that reveals His thoughtfulness, intentionality, and commitment to destiny.
In Bethphage, there was a village that had a donkey and its foal that mattered to Jesus. A donkey is an animal that is symbolically and literally a beast that bears burdens. Donkeys can carry heavy loads and tread on difficult paths while being submitted to their owners.
Jesus picked an animal that was used to carry and bear burdens for people as a symbol that He had come to bear the burdens for humanity. As the disciples placed their cloaks on the donkey and its foal for Jesus to sit on, He was reminding us that He was mantled and graced for this heavy and great burden ahead of Him.
The donkey and foal were tied up and may not have known what was going to happen to them in the future, but Jesus had a plan. He was going to liberate both of them, and no one was going to get in the way of it. He specifically gave the disciples instructions, in case someone questioned them. Their response was to say “The Lord has need of them, and He will send them right away”.
If Jesus can incorporate an animal in the story of redemption to symbolize how attentive He is to the details of destiny fulfillment, why are you questioning the details that God keeps unveiling in your life about how much He wants to use you?
Imagine if the donkey and the foal resisted and kicked the disciples causing them to come back empty handed. Of course Jesus would have found an alternative, but the donkey and its foal would have never known the honor of deliverance from a Savior who understands and feels the weight of carrying heavy burdens.
The donkey and its foal walked on roads covered with cloaks and branches from trees as the crowd honored Jesus. They could not honor Jesus without honoring the donkey and the foal that were with Him. Do not resist the moment Jesus calls for you. His desire is to bestow love and grace on you. He is not one to hide you, but desires to walk with you through the journey, and ensure honor is bestowed upon you.
This week, think about the moments Jesus has pulled on you whether through prayer, His word, or a decision that He asked you to make. Why have you not obeyed? What expression of love from Jesus are you blocking when you resist Him? Isn’t it time to try pure freedom and experience what it feels like to have a Savior who understands and loves you? A Savior who has the power to loose you from every hold and bondage? He will not leave you there, but will walk with you until you fulfil the prophetic word He has spoken over your life.
If Jesus cared about a donkey and its foal, give yourself some credit and acknowledge He cares and has great plans for you. It is not a matter of if He is able, it is all about when you yield and obey His call. He is a loving Savior with open arms who desires to bless you and deliver you, to walk through this life with you in liberty and grace. It is time to answer Jesus. He has been calling for you for a while.
Today I am grateful for your kind heart, your intentionality, and ability to plan ahead with my life in mind. A lot of times, I behave as though you do not know me, but you do. Nothing changes your mind about me. Help me to see myself from the perspective of love that you have for me. Incline my ear to be sensitive to your calling. Forgive me for when I have resisted you because of fears that who I was or what I have done is too much for you. You have come to lift up every burden in my life.
I yield to you and desire to receive the honor of walking in freedom with you. This is my portion and I choose to walk in it by faith.
(RNS) — The middle of a war that is grabbing the world’s attention may not be the best time to reflect on climate change. But the latest report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that one crisis is not taking a pause while we settle another.
The news from this sixth IPCC assessment, unsurprisingly, is not good.
As The New York Times summarized it, “The dangers of climate change are mounting so rapidly that they could soon overwhelm the ability of both nature and humanity to adapt, creating a harrowing future in which floods, fires and famine displace millions, species disappear and the planet is irreversibly damaged.”
Nowhere does the future appear more harrowing than for the inhabitants of small islands, from the Caribbean to the South Pacific, whom rising seas threaten to literally wipe off the map. But as imminent as the physical danger is, how the inhabitants reckon with what they are facing is often at odds with the scientific understanding.
In a chapter on small islands, the IPCC report to its credit recognizes that “material and non-material symbols that express collective meaning” are “often overlooked in adaptation policies and plans.”
As it happens, many of these communities are composed largely of Bible-believing Christians, and what they believe matters because “(e)xternally-driven adaptation efforts in rural small-island communities that exclude community priorities, ignore or undervalue IKLK (indigenous knowledge and local knowledge), and are based on secular western/global worldviews, are often less successful.”
In other words, it is important to know where the affected communities are coming from — not least, religiously.
Take the outer Fijian island of Ono. When Amanda Bertana, a sociologist at Southern Connecticut State University, went there to study relocation plans, she found a devout Christian population that believes that rising sea levels are the result of God’s disapproval of their immoral behavior and, at the same time, that they won’t be flooded into oblivion.
Why not? Because in the ninth chapter of the Bible’s Book of Genesis, God promises Noah after the waters recede, “Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of the flood.”
For Bertana, this rejection of the secular narrative of coastal degradation is “a form of emotional self-preservation” — one, to be sure, that undermines efforts to get them safely relocated. This comforting promise not to flood the Earth again has been widely embraced among sea-level-threatened islanders.
But University of Oxford geographer Hannah Fair, also working in the South Pacific, has found alternative climate-related interpretations of the Noah story.
Some Fijians see in Noah a model for disaster preparation. Others, in a less orthodox interpretation, regard Noah as a villain who used his wealth for self-protection and those who drowned as victims.
Meanwhile, on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, University of Texas anthropologist Brent Crosson found that the Afro-Christian denomination of Spiritual Baptists has adopted a biblical understanding of environmental destruction based on a (mis-)reading of Psalm 24.
That psalm begins, in the King James Version, “The Earth is the Lord’s.” But since the English creole spoken in Trinidad does not employ the possessive apostrophe-s, the Spiritual Baptists say, “The Earth is the Lord.”
This has led them to see the Earth as God’s body, suffering harm from human activity. That includes the activity of oil companies, which despite providing Trinidad with significant wealth nevertheless are considered vampires consuming the planet’s lifeblood.
Writing in a forthcoming collection of essays, “Climate Politics and the Power of Religion,” Crosson sees in this interpretation of Scripture an “ethics of injury” that “forms the basis not only for empathy but for new legal regimes that, despite many challenges in implementation, define the Earth as a person with rights.”
Those who track religion and climate change tend to divide the world into Pope Francis-type progressives and white evangelical deniers. But there are more environmental theologies in heaven and earth, dear reader, than are dreamt of in their philosophies.
(The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)
6 So King Darius issued orders that a search be made in the Babylonian archives, which were stored in the treasury.2 But it was at the fortress at Ecbatana in the province of Media that a scroll was found. This is what it said:
3 “In the first year of King Cyrus’s reign, a decree was sent out concerning the Temple of God at Jerusalem.
“Let the Temple be rebuilt on the site where Jews used to offer their sacrifices, using the original foundations. Its height will be ninety feet, and its width will be ninety feet.[a]4 Every three layers of specially prepared stones will be topped by a layer of timber. All expenses will be paid by the royal treasury.5 Furthermore, the gold and silver cups, which were taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar from the Temple of God in Jerusalem, must be returned to Jerusalem and put back where they belong. Let them be taken back to the Temple of God.”
6 So King Darius sent this message:
“Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province west of the Euphrates River,[b] and Shethar-bozenai, and your colleagues and other officials west of the Euphrates River—stay away from there!7 Do not disturb the construction of the Temple of God. Let it be rebuilt on its original site, and do not hinder the governor of Judah and the elders of the Jews in their work.
8 “Moreover, I hereby decree that you are to help these elders of the Jews as they rebuild this Temple of God. You must pay the full construction costs, without delay, from my taxes collected in the province west of the Euphrates River so that the work will not be interrupted.
9 “Give the priests in Jerusalem whatever is needed in the way of young bulls, rams, and male lambs for the burnt offerings presented to the God of heaven. And without fail, provide them with as much wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil as they need each day.10 Then they will be able to offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the welfare of the king and his sons.
11 “Those who violate this decree in any way will have a beam pulled from their house. Then they will be lifted up and impaled on it, and their house will be reduced to a pile of rubble.[c]12 May the God who has chosen the city of Jerusalem as the place to honor his name destroy any king or nation that violates this command and destroys this Temple.
“I, Darius, have issued this decree. Let it be obeyed with all diligence.”
There is a powerful thing that happens when God is honored and revered. Honoring God’s presence in a city, country or human life, provokes God to move. King Darius in Ezra 6:1-12 declared the construction of the house of God to be built with his full endorsement.
He covered the full expense from the royal treasury and ensured the work would not stop until completion. As a man of authority, he recognized he was limited to what he could do. We see his humility in Ezra 6:10 where he requests for prayers for his wellbeing and his sons.
Many times, we limit God’s provision because we prepare our hearts to receive rejection. We take on this posture to avoid feeling disappointed. However, there are seasons in our lives when God sends people who have the ability to change our lives completely by their influence, authority and endorsement.
God sent providers are not concerned with how many years you have been dealing with your trial, or test, all they want to see is success move in your life and a fast pace. God desires to send great men and women who recognize His sovereignty but are humble enough to admit their need for Him.
God responds to honor from anyone. Sometimes we struggle with the fact that we serve a God who is not biased. I would dare ask you, would you desire for your breakthrough or blessing to have bias? It shouldn’t matter how God helps you, all you want is the manifestation of what God has for you. That is the power of honor.
Honoring God reminds us that He will use anyone or anything to accomplish His will for our lives. Our posture is to keep our heart and minds in a place of humility, and prepare ourselves to move quickly when the blessing or the answer is provided.
As you believe God to make a way for you, deal with any bias in your life that would make you sabotage answered prayer or quick manifested breakthroughs that show up in an unexpected way.
The answer is coming, the provision is coming, believe God and expect. When it shows up, as an act of faith, move in diligence and watch God be God.
I believe, I am in the season of sudden surprises and miraculous breakthroughs. Deal with any fears or disappointment in me that would cause me not to believe you. Remind me that you know where I am and just as you used King Darius to honor you, you will touch great men and women to bless me and turnaround my life. I stand in faith and begin to prepare for that beginning today,
Pastor Anthony Carter, the author of On Being Black and Reformed, is a part of a growing number of pastors, academics, and faith leaders who espouse what could be called a “Big God” theology. (Photo Credit: epointchurch.org)
Last year I participated in one of the most memorable worship services of my life. Pastor Mike Campbell of Redeemer Church in Jackson, Mississippi, preached a biblically sound and passionate sermon on Titus 2:11-14 to a mixed congregation of hundreds of white and black believers in a visible demonstration of what he called “Big God” theology. Pastor Mike told of his journey into Reformed theology and explained that he was attracted by the glorious picture of God. I find that this phrase – Big God theology – encapsulates the essence of Reformed theology and why the African American community needs it.
I am black and Reformed, part of a small but growing number of African Americans finding the Big God of the Bible through this theology. To be clear, Reformed theology is not equivalent to the gospel. God is God, and no theological system can fully encompass or ever replace the Almighty. Yet Reformed is still a useful banner that captures essential teachings of Christianity carefully derived from the Bible.
Unfortunately, Reformed theology often gets reduced to its views on salvation. Big God theology says that God is the king of the universe, and as part of his royal power he determines – yes predetermines – who will be judged according to his own works and who, by grace through faith, will be judged according to Christ’s work. Numerous biblical passages point to this reality (Rom. 8:29-30, Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:4-5), but there is more to Big God theology than election.
What attracted me to Reformed theology is the centrality of God. I went to a Catholic school for my undergraduate degree, but I was never a Catholic. Although I had been an active leader in my Baptist youth group, college was the first time I had to explain my Protestant beliefs. I remember reading books by John Piper and R.C. Sproul, and I was taken by how they kept God at the center of their theology. God is the sun in their theological solar system, and all aspects of life revolve around him, held in orbit by his gravitational pull. I have found no other comprehensive doctrine derived from the Bible that gives me the same sense of God’s bigness that Reformed theology does.
I have spent years attending black churches and witnessed the harm caused by mishandling the Word of truth. Many black churches have wandered far astray from the sound teaching of the Bible, but we do well to remember that there are reasons for this departure. Many of the colleges, universities, and seminaries equipped to teach accurate understanding the Bible were not open to blacks in the past. The leaders of these institutions were steeped in the prevailing ideas of race and culture in their day, and many of them failed to apply Big God theology to their admissions practices.
The only schools African Americans could attend did not honor the authority of the Bible in the same way that Reformed theology does. As a result, human-centered ideas like legalism and prosperity theology infiltrated the pulpits and pews of black churches. The damage is evident as African Americans stumble and sometimes run toward sin and folly.
I lived and worked as an educator in the Mississippi Delta for seven years. The black community there is bruised by generational poverty, lack of education, poor health care, single parent homes, apathetic men, and nearly every other social ill. Yet the norm for my students and their families is to attend church.
As I daily encountered the fruits of these dysfunctions I asked myself, “Where is the gospel transformation?” I wondered if there were others out there like me: those who had grown up with a picture of the gospel but who could also experience a new surge of love for God and neighbor by learning of Big God theology.
I do not advocate any form of theological imperialism – indeed Reformed theology has much to learn from the black church tradition. My passion is simply to see African Americans reshaped by a bigger vision of God.
Only the God-centered gospel of the Bible has the power to renew individuals and whole communities. Reformed theology helps us understand that the gospel is all about a God who is vaster than we can possibly grasp and more personal than we ever realized.
Big Problems, Big God
My hope and prayer is that more African Americans would awaken to the reality of a Big God who cares enough to save sinners like us and who wants to have a relationship with us now and for eternity.
Rev. Mike Campbell, senior pastor of Redeemer Church in Jackson, Mississippi, and a mentor within the African-American Leadership Initiative at Reformed Theological Seminary. (Photo Credit: Reformed Theological Seminary, AALI).
For this reason, I have been privileged to work with my seminary – Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi – to launch the African American Leadership Initiative (AALI) that includes a scholarship as well as mentoring in African American, multi-ethnic, and urban ministry. Several Reformed organizations have also partnered to host the African American Leadership Development and Recruitment weekend (AALDR) that brought together experienced ministers and black seminary students to communicate that there’s room in Big God theology for people of all races. I also co-founded the Reformed African American Network (RAAN) on Facebook and Twitter to bring together Reformed thinkers – black and white, male and female, representing denominations and networks -to publish articles from a Reformed and African American perspective.
No system of doctrine is immune from critique. Those who call themselves Reformed must be willing to accept the criticism – some valid, some not – that goes along with the label. Yet for all of its shortcomings, Reformed theology provides an accessible route, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for men and women to be captivated by as true a picture of God as we can get through Scripture. Many segments of the African American community live in the grip of big problems, and only a “Big God” theology is sufficient to help them see Christ as their Savior.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address at the steps of the United States Capitol. The eighteen-minute speech outlined his public policy priorities, invoked the Declaration of Independence, and attempted to strike a balance between liberty and equality. A video of the President’s remarks is embedded below:
Today, the Washington National Cathedral hosted an inaugural prayer service to seek the blessing and guidance of God concerning the nation’s welfare. As Christians, we can turn to Psalm 72 for instruction on mixing faith and politics. This psalm is the quintessential prayer of Scripture for political authority. It affirms God’s sovereignty and asks that the King of Israel would rule with judgment, equity, and protection for the oppressed. The text is composed in the context of Ancient Near Eastern norms of monarchy; it explicitly mentions the King as the agent to implement divine imperatives of compassion and equity.
The psalm, however, contains enduring relevance for every system and style of government. Christians ultimately trust that God will deliver his creation from the pervasive and pernicious influence of sin. But our legitimate penultimate expectation – our hope in the time between the first and second coming of Christ – is that political leadership governs justly by defending the poor, rescuing the children of the needy, and protecting all who are oppressed. Thoughtful Christians will disagree on the best way for a democratic society to carry out this biblical triad of social responsibilities. What we should all affirm is that poverty, the well-being of children, and the needs of the oppressed should be at the center of our nation’s public affairs – in and out of electoral season. As we move into the second term of Obama’s administration, let’s focus on the political wisdom of Psalm 72 and prioritize prudential conversation about poverty, children, and empowering the oppressed over ad-hominem attacks and excessive partisanship.