Tag: praise

Praise to Hatred, Celebration to Resentment.

Praise to Hatred, Celebration to Resentment.

Last weekend, many of us would have read/ heard the events of Palm Sunday. There are few different passages in the bible that refer to these events and lots of different versions of the bible but this is the one I read and like the most:

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”’ – Matthew 21:1-11

On this day all those years ago, the people were rejoicing and celebrating Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem but a short time later, those shouts changed from ‘Hosanna!’ and ‘Blessed is the Lord!’ to ‘Crucify him!’ (Matthew 27:15-23).

When I was thinking about this blog post, I was trying to work out what this passage has to say to us today, in the current situation and I was immediately reminded of the last two Thursday evenings when at 8pm, clapping and shouting and sounds of praise and celebration rung out from the houses and streets around me in recognition of the NHS and other key workers. Just days before this, I saw multiple posts and articles on social media, and other media outlets, ‘slating’ the NHS and it’s services. I am aware that those complaints are not generally directly aimed at the people in the face to face roles, but during my hospital appointments and stays, I have experienced many situations in which people have been delayed or disappointed in some way, have become angry or aggressive towards doctors, nurses and other staff in the proximity.

We are all humans, even the NHS staff (though they appear to be superheroes, particularly at times like these), so they are not perfect – none of us here on earth are. Most of the time, they will be trying to do their best for everyone they are looking after, and sometimes there just isn’t enough people, finances, equipment, time or energy to do that for everyone – you can bet that when this happens, that the staff and volunteers involved are going to be emotionally affected by it too.

Jesus was perfect and for a moment, the people recognised that. They knew He was the one who could save them, and He was worthy of praise because He is the Son of God. However, the waving palm leaves turned to thorns and flogging, the praise turned to shouts of anger and hatred and the cries of ‘Hosanna!’ changed to ‘Crucify him!’.

I hope you will continue to praise the key workers every Thursday at 8pm (in the UK) as we recognise and celebrate the hard work they are putting in day after day to look after our friends and loved ones, but I ask that you also remember these moments of adoration in 3 months when your hospital appointment is delayed, the medication you were promised would be ready isn’t there or a nurse forgets to bring you your dinner as an inpatient. We can deal with problems like this by asking nicely, reminding politely and being thankful rather than turning our praise into anger, just like the people did on that first Palm Sunday.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Luke 19:28-40

This is it, there is no denying it now. We are much into the traditional Easter story instead of the Christmas one now. This is where things get less pretty, and more intense, full on and emotional…

Christmas is an exciting, fun time for myself and many others, full of great food, presents, laughter, joy and love. It’s easy to get distracted and forget the reason we are even celebrating is because a baby was born. Not just any baby though, the Son of God!

This passage in Luke 19 reminds us that not only should we be remembering and celebrating the moment Jesus was born, but also the moments after that in which He went into Jerusalem, got arrested and died on a cross, knowing that it was required in order that we might be able to live with Him in eternity.

Death and pain are not things we like to think about at this time of year, but this one was special. He didn’t stay dead, He rose from the dead later on, proving who He was and what He was born to do.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, His followers shouted out, praising Him for what He had done, and even laying down their coats and leaves to make a path for Him (and the donkey He was on) to ride across. If you know the Easter story, you will know that these cries of Hosanna soon changed to be boos of hate.

It can be easy to love Jesus when things are going well and we are surrounded by happy people and good things but when things in life are challenging, Christmas is over and we go back into the ‘real’ world, are we still celebrating Jesus the King? Do we continue to worship Him when He is no longer a baby? Do we lift our voices or hands and give thanks to Him when the cross feels far too heavy for us and life isn’t all tinsel and bells and glitter?

I wonder how many of the people present on this day in Jerusalem, who seemed committed to worshipping and praising Jesus, continued supporting and loving Him when the crowds had to choose between Him and a murderer? How many of them still saw Him as their Lord and Saviour when He died on the cross? How and why would our God allow His Son to die a death like that? Surely it can’t really be Him!?

When Christmas is done, are you still going to be there beside Jesus when life is rough? Or are you only there for the good parts, the celebration? It’s a challenge for us all to make sure we don’t get life get in the way of recognising Jesus in everything and not giving up on Him when things don’t pan out the way we want.

Jesus’ power is from God

Jesus’ power is from God

Luke 11:14-23

There are some situations in which Jesus heals people from physical ailments by casting out demons inside them. Not all physical conditions were or are, caused by demons or other spiritual matters, but this one was. The man was mute as the demon inside him was mute, and in Matthew, we are told he is blind too. That must have been scary for this man and those around him.

In the last week, a broken tooth that I have been waiting to be taken out, has become very painful as an infection has started to build up in there – gross, I know! It doesn’t compare to being made bling and mute by a demon, but it is majorly distracting and nothing seemed to be making it better, so I prayed and asked God to take the pain away until I can get it seen to and get the pain managed with medications and antibiotics to stop the infection spreading. You might be wondering what this has to do with Jesus casting out a demon, but I promise I am getting there!

I have been chronically ill for more than 5 years. For the first few, I prayed that God take the conditions away, but He didn’t do that. Instead He brought me peace and contentment in my situation and gave me great doctors, friends and family members who have helped me in a variety of ways. Since then, I have prayed only for symptom control. For higher pain levels to be lowered, for energy to be increased and for my body to be able to get through a busy day, so when my tooth started hurting really badly, I prayed to God and asked Him to control the pain. I felt Him telling me to be patient, Then I fell asleep. When I woke up the next morning, my pain was 10 times better, and my regular medication controlled it well. I immediately thought of God and how He must have answered my prayer, but then I realised that if my tooth isn’t in pain, the root must be dead, otherwise it would still hurt.

In the events that unfolded in Luke 11:14-23, the people saw a man with a demon inside him making him mute, but then Jesus came along, and cast the demon out, and the man could speak again. Though they had seen this take place, they still thought Jesus must have used the power of Beelzebul as only he could command a demon out.

In my situation, I asked Jesus to remove the pain, and believed He could, yet when He did, I made up a reason for why it got better without involving Jesus in that. When Jesus came through, I didn’t think it possible. Why did I do that?

Somehow, I don’t think I am alone in this. Miracles don’t happen in spectacular ways in my world in the same way they did when Jesus was on earth (or at least I am not aware of them!), but they do still happen. We need to remember that, so when God does something for us like removing tooth pain, giving us more energy, or providing food when we need it but can’t afford it, we recognise it and thank Him for that.

No Shame in Lament

No Shame in Lament

If you follow YouBelong on social media, you will possibly be aware that our founder has been experiencing more crashes, which have left her unable to get out of bed or do anything more than sleep and rest. Each time, these have occurred at the weekend, at the end of a busy week meaning any plans out of office hours had to be cancelled.

If you experience good and bad days with your health, you will likely be aware how frustrating this is. I am not good at expressing how I am feeling (I take myself away from people when I am in pain and when I go to A&E, I am the one making the doctors laugh because my happy instincts kick in despite having not eaten or drunk anything for 48 hours or more, thrown up multiple times over that period and been in horrible pain from spasms). I guess that’s just how I am. Sometimes it’s a positive, as it acts as a distraction at times and ensures that those around me don’t get too worried about me but it also means I struggle to express just how bad I am feeling when I am asked by a doctor, and therefore, am not always taken seriously.

I feel that sometimes, I approach God in the same way. I don’t want to show Him how I am really feeling. ‘There are people worse off than me’, ‘God’s got more important things to deal with’, and sometimes even, ‘He can’t be listening/ care, otherwise He would have done something by now’. We know that is not true. God listens to everything, He even sees our tears and counts them as prayers (Psalm 56:8). Even Jesus wept. That was it. When Lazarus died, Jesus, the Son of God, didn’t have words. He cried. Lament is not far from this. Slightly more than crying, it is about sharing our anguish outwardly with God – ‘expressing grief, pain, suffering or frustration.’

‘And it has a unique purpose: trust. It is a divinely-given invitation to pour out our fears, frustrations, and sorrows for the purpose of helping us to renew our confidence in God.’ – Mark Vroegop
https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dare-to-hope-in-god

There are texts of lament in Lamentations and in the Psalms. It is not solely an act intended only for the Old Testament era though as Jesus Himself uses one of the Psalms to cry out to God (i.e. lament) when He is on the cross – ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ This Psalm in the original context of Psalm 22, goes on to turn into praise for God, but Jesus stopped there. No praise, just a simple expression of sadness and pain.

I couldn’t imagine lament as a type of prayer. When I read these parts of the bible, I would view them as humans revealing their imperfectness and Jesus, His human-ness. I certainly never viewed these moments in people’s lives as times of prayer and seeking God. My idea of prayer was, Thanks, Sorry and Please (otherwise known as TSP prayer), where was the lament part in that?! But I was wrong. Crying out to God isn’t wrong. It isn’t attention seeking or unnecessary complaining. When we are suffering, upset, frustrated or grieving, God wants us to go to Him. As our Father, He cares about us and wants to be there to comfort us. He understands. At the same time as dying on the cross, He lost His Son at the hands of those He created and understands our emotions better than we do!

So if you are having a bad day or week due to a flare up of symptoms, the loss of a job, friends, a loved one or frustration at not being able to attend church, visit family or friends or just get out of bed, lament! God is listening. Some of the Psalms end with praise when the Psalmist finds God is with them and they recognise His goodness, but Jesus just did the crying out part. If all we can manage is the crying out, and you are aiming it at God and not just grumbling, know He hears you, and it is as valuable to Him as a carefully planned out, 15 minute, TSP prayer. There is no need to hide our feelings from God. He knows what we are thinking and feeling, He knows every hair on our head. Let us allow ourselves, and our generation of ‘stiff upper lippers’, to grieve and share our pain and suffering with God. It is what He wants us to do and you can bet He will be right there with us, even if you don’t feel Him there at the time.

Palm Sunday – the revised version

Palm Sunday – the revised version

Here is my Palm Sunday 2019 experience, from the perspective of someone with chronic illness…

I walked into church, sat down and held my head. The music was loud, and every beat made it hurt more but taking medication for that now would mean less medication to be taken for potentially worse pains later and the side effects also needed to be considered as the fatigue was already bad and would be made by taking some pain relief. I was spaced out and dizzy and nauseous but I wanted so badly to be there. The start of Easter and my first chance to be back in church in many weeks.

After a few minutes, I decided I would need to take something to get me through the service but the medication takes a while to take affect so I continued to sit whilst I waited for the headache to fade. As I sat there and listened to the words of the songs being sung, tears filled my eyes. The people around me were fully immersed in worship and seemingly, whole-heartedly believing every word — ’cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day’. I didn’t feel strong at all. In fact I felt the complete opposite. I felt so weak. This sudden rush of emotions swept over me as I looked at people in their 70s and 80s stood up praising God with their voices, standing and raising their hands and yet here was I, a 26 year old woman, sat in a chair, lost in a crowd with my head in my hands, pain relief working its way through my system and wondering why I don’t feel God’s strength like they do. Just as I wiped the tears away, we were instructed that if we were able, to come to the front, collect a palm cross and follow the procession outside and around the church and back in again. This was just about too much for me as I watched the majority of the church collect a cross, follow the crowd and walk outside, singing and praising God. My first thought was, ‘Why God? Why can’t I do that? Why won’t you let me praise you like they do?!’ Then my mind went to the first Palm Sunday — Jesus entry into Jerusalem. I wonder what people like me did then?

The Triumphal Entry

(Mark 11:1–10)

11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 Off they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Additional revised verses: And those who could not see, could not hear and could not walk, sat at the road side, a great distant from the crowd and from Jesus, unaware of what was going on, unable to get too close and participate. They loved Jesus so much and knew He could do amazing things in their lives but those with able bodies blocked them from getting near enough or didn’t offer them a way to express their love for Him in a way that suited their needs.

Obviously, we don’t know what really happened on Palm Sunday for those people who were disabled or chronically ill but we do know from other passages in the bible that in Jesus’ time and society, lepers were outcast, the blind were forced to be beggars and the lame were considered useless as they could not earn money to provide for themselves or their families. Today should be different than it was 2000 years ago, and it is in many ways. We have laws that enforce a certain level of equality but there are certain things that mean that either have yet to be made better or simply cannot be accessible to every single person. But the Kingdom of God is.

With the big focus in the UK being on politics and specifically, Brexit, at the moment, this is particularly relevant. In Heaven, there are no nations, but one Kingdom, and one over-riding, almighty, powerful King — Jesus. We might not have the power to control our circumstances but Jesus does and that was my mistake at church. I thought that God had given up on me. I wanted to praise Him and be strong and stand with my church family to worship Him but when I found that I could not, I gave up and got angry at God for my situation.

We are told in Luke’s gospel that when the Pharisees asked the disciples to stop shouting their Hosannas and Hallelujahs to Jesus, He explained to them that if they didn’t shout out, the stones would. This tells us that there is a close connection between the natural world and redemption. Paul said the entire creation groans for redemption, and from the beginning we see how creation was twisted and thorns infested the ground because of sin and the same can be said of illness and suffering (although please do not misunderstand this as me saying your sickness or disability is due to your sin, but rather because we live in an imperfect, fallen world).

Whilst those around Him were praising Him, we read in verse 41 that Jesus, was crying! Jesus is probably the only person weeping in Jerusalem that day. Why does He weep when He is surrounded by a crowd that adores Him?

Jesus wept as He took in the faces of the crowds of people who were spiritually blind to the Son of God. God is with them but they don’t recognise Him so they crucify Him, thinking they have done right by God! Jesus weeps over lost souls, defeated lives, people in the chains of sin without hope.

Let us not let our ailments, problems, disappointments on earth affect where we spend eternity. We need to give our stony places to God and praise Him for who He is and not what He has (or has not) done in our lives. He may be the King, but He is also the suffering servant who understands our situation and one day, will free us of our pain and suffering. All we need to do until then is wait on Him and recognise Him as our strength giver, provider, healer, friend, Father, Saviour, King, and Holy Spirit who is always with us.

When we stop singing because we have lost hope, the only way we can go back is to start singing again. So even if you don’t feel like, start singing and shouting praises to God and He will show up! That’s a promise.