Things Are Not As They Appear

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 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. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “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.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 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!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this? The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Matthew 21:1-11 NIV

At the beginning of the week when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, his followers could never have imagined how that week would end. They could not have envisioned that in a few short days all their hopes and dreams would be dashed and they would be left wondering what had just happened. When the week began the emotions were high, this was their time, it was their day of rescue, it was the moment they had all been waiting for. But in what became an unseen turn of events for them, not for Jesus, left them in a place of desperation, brokenness, and a sense of utter abandonment.

When we try and lay out the way God is working and think that we have it all figured out we will find ourselves a place of being shaken. God does not often work in the way we think He should, but don’t be lulled into thinking that just because He is doing something different than we thought does not mean He is not working.

While the disciples were shaken and rattled to the core over the disappointment in what seemed to be unfolding, they were failing to see an eternal plan of salvation was being worked out for all mankind. What they seen for themselves and for their generation, God was doing for all generations, and all mankind. What seemed like the end for them of all they had hoped for was actually the beginning of life for all who would turn to Jesus and allow Him to be King of their lives.

Our present moment can cause us to focus on what appears to be and if we become narrow sighted in the present moment we too could miss how God is working in our world today. This triumphal entrance of Jesus that began a week of change and shifting for His disciples was not the absence of God working, but God truly working in a way that was greater than our minds could ever grasp. Maybe, today He is doing something similar. Not in the sense of sacrificing for mankind because that has already been done, but in the sense that things really may not be as they appear. Maybe He is doing a great thing that will only be seen to those who can look beyond the discomfort and keep their gaze upon the One who is always working for His chosen ones.

The week that started out wonderful and packed full of dreams ends with a crucified Saviour who died on a cruel cross. It ends with his followers running away and following from a distance. It brings one of His greatest followers to a point of denial and reveals the weakness of Peter’s heart. Yet, in all of that, God continued to work. He does not give up on us in our weakest places but rather intercedes for us that when we come through we will become strong men who follow Him fully. Maybe this present moment could bring about something we never imagined in the church, in the world, and in our lives personally.

In closing, I leave you with three questions to consider:

1. Could it be that the present situation is a display of His mercy calling us to seek Him?

2. Could it be that what looks like fear of the future could become a place where faith causes the church to arise?

3. Could it be that that which looks like weakness could be the seed that purifies the church?

Could it be? I pray that it truly be….


  1. Reply
    Karen Elaine Fuller says:

    I took the three questions at the end of your message and searched the scriptures toward the goal of bringing myself encouragement. Be encouraged (as I was).

    (KJV was used this time)

    1. Could it be that the present situation is a display of His mercy calling us to seek Him?

    1Kings 3:6 “…..showed Thy servant David…..great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee…..” Take away: my heart is at the “heart” of great mercy.

    Psalms 85 (A prayer of the returned exiles) with special notice to verses 6,7,8 and 10. Take away: when He revives us again……rejoicing, salvation, and peace arrive……and V10 “mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other”…..no more social distancing 🙂

    Even Daniel took time to prioritize his situation by seeking the Lord God….Daniel 9:3-6. First for himself (v3, 4a) and for others (v4b, 5, 6)
    [Other verses: Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:7; Luke 12:31]
    Sadly, my humanity usually is played out in Philipians 2:21
    However, my son-ship requires me to live out Colossians 3:1-2

    At the beginning of Christ’s ministry he asked: “WHAT do you seek?” John 1:38
    *three years of ministry*
    At the end we read his new question: “WHO do you seek?” John 18:4

    Take away: after years of being a believer, have I moved from seeking “what” I can receive to “who” I can receive?
    During this time I choose to SEEK HIM!!!!

    2. Could it be that what looks like fear of the future could become a place where faith causes the church to arise?

    Ezra 9:9 “For we were slaves; yet our God that not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations of it…”

    Psalms 5:7 “But as for me I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy……”

    Take away: in order for the church to arise I must arise and REPAIR (which implies I work in community, not independantly), living out MESSY GRACE even with social distancing.

    3. Could it be that that which looks like weakness could be the seed that purifies the church?

    2 Cointhians 13:1-5 “…..examine yourselves….” Paul exhorts us.
    The many hero’s of faith in Hebrews 11: 32-40 were weak ….verse 34….BUT “were made” strong.
    HOW? I am so glad I asked…….
    1 Corinthians 2.1-5
    2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

    Take away: my weakened state opens up space for JESUS. And JESUS IS ENOUGH!!!

    Keeping things simple is what Yahweh and Christ were all about (get to know me/follow my example).
    It is us humans that keep asking for the complicated (laws/rules/judgements/doctrines/theologies).

    Hosea 6:6 ” I desire mercy NOT sacrifice; the knowlege of God more than burnt offerings” ( repeated in Matthew 9:13)

    Micah 6:6-8 Micah 6:6-8 “With what shall I come before the Lord……..what doth the Lord require of thee, but to DO justly, and to LOVE mercy, and to WALK HUMBLY with thy God.”

    • Reply
      Sue Holmes says:

      Karen, I love your line “my weakened state opens up space for JESUS. AND JESUS IS ENOUGH!!!” I have often allowed myself to be frustrated by the Gospel being complicated by so many obstacles & ‘red tape’. My spirit resonates when you said that Yahweh desires to keep things simple … only Jesus. Thank you for the encouragement.

      • Reply
        Karen Fuller says:

        GOSPEL…..GOOD NEWS OF JESUS…..not Karen, Pastor ____, Pope ____, Evangelist ____, …… you get the point.

        But does Karen #1 seek this Jesus and #2 trust this Jesus with “her” life (the good, the bad and everything in the middle)?

        I have been taking the time (which I have in abundance now) to dive into scripture for HIS words on topics/issues that have been “floating around” my mind for some time now. And surprise, surprise…..HE has been there before and there are words that speak directly to the topics/issues. I don’t have to just rely on another persons intrepretation, I don’t have to bury my head in the sand, I don’t have to worry…..HE was already there before me, HE (and HIS SPIRIT) is here NOW, and He promises to be there in the future. This is all I need…….Jesus is ENOUGH.

  2. Reply
    Sue says:

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)
    When I try to apply “Things are not as They Appear” to our present situation in winter/spring/summer (& maybe longer) 2020 these words in Isaiah come to the forefront. Could it be that God sees beyond my limited sight? I sure hope so!
    I am reminded of someone who, for a time a few years back, used to carry a coiled up length of rope with her wherever she went. It served to remind her that, “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) Or more simply & concisely put, what I am going through now is just a small dot – temporal – compared to the glory of eternity.
    So, the three questions …

    1. Could it be that the present situation is a display of His mercy calling us to seek Him?
    We find ourselves on this resurrection weekend with our world turned upside down. We are separated from each other under the threat of monetary fine or worse. We are ordered to stay inside our homes away from friends & family. Our church buildings sit empty on a weekend when they would normally be the most filled. The formality of funerals, weddings & other social gatherings are put on hold. And conspiracy theorists thrive on almost every corner.
    But … could God have slammed the brakes on our fast moving & busy lifestyle? Does He have a much bigger picture for us? “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. “ (John 17:3)
    What scares me a bit is that He has to take us away from everything we have considered to be ‘normal’ & comfortable in order to reset our focus on Him. He wants us to know the real God. It scares me because I have to ask myself. ‘Can I drift that far from the real Jesus & not know it?’ I also have to ask , ‘Am I willing to step away from the comfortable & (supposedly) safe in order to get to know the God of my salvation?’ How could I say ‘no’ to His mercy?

    2. Could it be that what looks like fear of the future could become a place where faith causes the church to arise?
    I haven’t yet determined whether fear feeds off our circumstances or if it feeds our circumstances. I think the latter is closer to the truth. But either way, apart from God, fear gets a foothold & it grows. Fear paralyzes & can cause me to become stagnant in our faith when my eyes are no longer fixed on my goal … Christ. It can keep us from taking that step forward in faith. Our Father wants us to grow in faith & reject fear.
    So, my thoughts go back to question 1 … is He calling us to seek Him? What the enemy has meant for evil God is turning around for our good. He is giving us a ‘time out’ to replace fear with faith. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
    I love the words spoken in Isaiah 30: 15 “You can be saved by returning to me. You can have rest. You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting me.” But the next line is sobering … “ But you don’t want that. You’ve said, “No, we’ll flee on horses.” So you flee.”
    I’m thankful to be in a place where I am forced to “be still & know He is God”. (Psalm 46:10) I think I will keep my horses in the stable until my relationship with Christ is as firm & stable as it should be.
    The words in verse 18 of that same chapter should melt the heart of any believer who uses this time to allow faith to overcome fear … “Therefore the Lord waits [expectantly] and longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who long for Him [since He will never fail them].”
    “So we say with confidence, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)

    3. Could it be that that which looks like weakness could be the seed that purifies the church?
    I am the church. You are the church. And so are so many surrounding us. What to us looks to be so much against God’s word to us I believe can be the very thing that brings us to the feet of the Head of the Church.
    The writer of Hebrews instructs us to, “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10: 24-25)
    Doesn’t this seclusion in our homes defy that scripture? I would challenge thoughts along that line. I would venture that on a spiritual level I am only as far away from the members of the body as I am away from Christ Himself – the head of the body. I can put on a convincing composure & appear every Sunday & maybe a few times in between. But if my relationship with Christ is lacking, then so will be my relationship with the body. We often focus on the “not neglecting to meet together” part & lose sight of “consider how to stir one another up”. In the quiet of this ‘isolation’ we are blessed with time & opportunity to discover how God would want us to stir one another up.
    I believe that the words spoken by God to the apostle Paul can apply today to His church, ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) At that point Paul was probably recalling the words God spoke in Isaiah so many years before, “ So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And King David proclaimed, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9: 9-10)
    I can’t think of anyone more qualified to submit our weaknesses to. He is merciful in calling us to truly KNOW Him. To know His strength & to know His name. I can’t think of any One to be in isolation with than the Trinity of God. Moses spent time in the desert before leading the Israelites out of bondage. John the Baptiser spent years in the desert before his ministry started. Jesus spent time in the desert in isolation with His Father. Paul spent years in isolation with Christ before starting his ministry.

    He uses the weak & foolish of this world to accomplish His purposes. So He can use my submitted weaknesses & foolishness to bring glory for Himself & cause His Church to rise triumphantly … just as He rose triumphantly on that resurrection morning so many years ago.

    Happy Resurrection Day fellow Bethelites! We serve a Risen King who has gained victory over the grave & is returning for His own. I am looking forward to seeing what He will do through Bethel & her desert/wilderness experience as we are each in isolation with Him.

  3. Reply
    Karen Fuller says:

    Sue, your phrase: “I can put on a convincing composure & appear every Sunday & maybe a few times in between. But if my relationship with Christ is lacking, then so will be my relationship with the body. ” resonated with me. I would add that if I know that my relationship with you is lacking, then I am not in RIGHT relationship with the body.

    Both of these point to a heart issue and ALL THINGS GOSPEL point to that area. The gospel is about our heart first and foremost which then and only then will motivate our works/actions.

  4. Reply
    j.Holmes says:

    Shadows … Appear They As Not Are Things

    We walk by faith and not by sight. One way I might express this is to walk with spiritual in-sight. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. That is, true faith comes from the Word which does not return void, but accomplishes, that for which it has been sent to do. Faith without works is dead. If you never have called out to God, then I encourage you to cry out to Him from the depths of your heart. This act (work) , your cry, that comes from your heart (trusting God for an answer)

    2 Cor. 3:6 says “For it is God who Commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

    The scripture speaks as regards to the fact that the god of this world had blinded those who do not believe the gospel. The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing. However, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away and so receive the light of the gospel. 2 Cor. 3 and 4

    Our physical senses dominate in the areas of sight, hearing, and touch. In many ways to walk in the spirit is like being blind, deaf, even dumb… not relying on feelings along with learning to hear God’s voice, seeing with the Father’s heart, and doing what you would see Jesus (and the Father) do …learning dependence upon God.

    Things are not as they appear. As one who “has turned to the Lord” you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. You become aware of the contrast between light and darkness, love of God and hatred for God, Truth and deception…. Your values change. You begin to understand that what is are temporary and shadows of reality. You discover purpose … that there is a plan for your life.

    God has placed a high value on your life and mine. He has purchased us…saved us….through His death on the cross. It would not appear that death could be the answer to our personal dilemma of sin which is death… that is, it took the death of another who knew no sin, to be our substitute… paying the penalty for our sin.

    Considering answers to (1) facing the unknown of or present situation, we are drawn to the One who by his mercy saved us… loves us, cares so deeply for us. As we grow in the knowledge of Christ, He increases our faith, is the author of our faith…to which fear gives way for (2) the church to know that He holds the future, that the church rests in Him, and Jesus in them. When we are (3) weak, we learn understanding…to have compassion and mercy… God is good… He gave His all for us…so we too want to be the church He wants us to be…holy, pure…

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