Good Friday

www.bible.com/1713/psa.22.1-3.csb

As Jesus hung upon the cross, this Psalm was on his mind, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” As lonely as this quarantine feels, it isn’t nearly as lonely as Jesus was upon the cross. His friends had nearly all abandoned Him. Only John, His mother, and a few of the women stood at the foot of the cross to be with Him. Despite some that would spend this time with Him, He alone would suffer for the sins of the world.

I’ve wondered what it would have been like standing at the foot of that cross. What did it mean to John, who had witnessed miracles, amazing wisdom, and the sheer power and presence of the Son of God, now to stand at the foot of this cross and watch Him die. What was that like? To think at any moment, the authorities who look his way and possible add him to the roster of those crucified that day.

What was it like to be there on the cross and see yourself surrounded by hosts of haters, catcalling and insulting you, mocking you, when you had all the power in the world to call down 12 legions of angels at any moment, both to rescue and execute judgment?

What was it like to be His mother, seeing the boy you raised hanging there and helpless to do anything about it?

There is a famous painting, I don’t remember the artist or the name of the painting, but it was a painting of the Crucifixion. Remarkable about the painting was that the artist included himself in the crowd. I think everyone single one of us was in that crowd. Each of us has passed judgment on the Son of God, and each of has mocked Him for the futility of His sacrifice, that is, until we knew how much He loves.

Standing at the foot of the cross on this Good Friday, I see all these things, the crosses, the guards, the mocking crowd, and the weeping friends and family. And I find my voice alternates between joining the crowd and weeping with His friends. He is dying for my sins, as well as for the sins of the world. Upon His shoulders lay my misdeeds and malfeasances. Upon Him, my sins are laid, to be paid for by His blood. I too survey the wondrous cross. I too grieve at what my sins have done to my Lord and my God. But what love is that that would shed this blood so freely? What love would give so generously for me? I know who I am and what I am worth, and I am not worth the spilling of this blood. Thankfully, His opinion differs from mine, because in His eyes, stained with tears and sorrow, saw me standing there, and paid for my sins.

Dear Jesus, I cannot repay what gift you’ve given to me. I cannot return to you an equal gift. But what I have is yours. If you would have me. All that I am is yours. It’s all I have. Thank You Jesus for giving Your precious perfect life to save someone like me.

May God bless you this Friday.

 

Humbled to Death

www.bible.com/1713/php.2.7.csb

He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!
(Php 2:8)

These two verses form a chain of progression, from heaven to the cross along the path of humility. Jesus, who lived in heaven, humbled Himself by becoming a man, and then as a man, humbled Himself further by being obedient to the will of His Father and submitted to the cross. It was no light thing He did. Each step was taken with careful deliberation and certainty of will. Jesus knew the stakes. He knew how much of a bet this was to convince men and women to believe in Him for eternal life. He knew how risky it would be putting His own life on the line to show His love, His Father’s love for the whole world. And this was in the days before the internet, before mass media coverage, before newspapers. He knew that what He was doing would be so profound, so meaningful, so impactful, that we would still be talking about it and celebrating it 2000 years later.

What other events from ancient history do we celebrate every year? The Jews celebrate Passover (the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt 3500 years ago), Hannukah (the oil in the Temple that continued to burn while a new batch was being prepared, about 2200 years ago) and some others. But the rest of the world? We celebrate the founding of our nation 250 years ago. We celebrate and remember events from recent memory, like 9/11 or maybe Pearl Harbor. We celebrate Christmas not because Christ was born, but that He died and was resurrected.

Celebrating Easter is our connection to the ancient world, a time when swords and sandals won the day, when the Romans ruled the world, and a small group of Jewish men and women celebrated the return of their Rabbi from death, the Son of God. This one event, in a Roman backwater, far from the seats of power and influence, has changed the whole world. We don’t remember the name of the Roman Caesar of that day (Tiberius) as well as we do the name of Jesus. What man sees as insignificant, God plans for His glory.

As we prepare our hearts for Easter this week, Whether alone or with family, lift up the name of Jesus in your conversation. Lift up the name of Jesus in your work. For this Jesus who died is alive again. He was crucified, but He has risen. Let us rejoice and praise the name of Jesus!

Lord Jesus, let me not forget what Yoru resurrection means. Though we are separated from the events of that morning by two millennia, Your Name still rings in our ears. May we ever sing Your praises, Amen.

The Gospel in a Nutshell

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.3.16.csb

Well, that what my Dad calls it anyway. I used to resist what my Dad taught about Scripture, figuring myself the one who went to Bible college and learned stuff. But as I’ve grown up a bit, I find that everyone possesses a bit of wisdom when it comes to Scripture. Everyone brings their own life experience to the Bible, and the Bible reflects that back to them, speaking to each in a way each understands. Two people can read the same verse and find different emphases that touch them in different ways. Both are equally valid, and when shared, can be helpful to both.

One thing that strikes me about this verse is the “only” in front of “son.” I have two sons. I would not want to give up either of them. I certainly wouldn’t want to give them up to save someone else. Being a father myself, I know something now I didn’t when I was young. Fathers love their sons in ways they cannot know before they become fathers. This son is a reflection of your being and personality. This new person sometimes reflects your best qualities, sometimes not. Sometimes he is wiser than you. This person has your face, and eventually, your voice. This person is a younger version of you, and you have hopes for him you didn’t know you had. You want him to succeed. You want him to pursue things you did not, to overcome regrets you had for yourself. It isn’t fair to lay such a burden on him, but we do it anyway, if only subconsciously.

So to have such a person before you, and then to send that person to go and die for others. Sorry, that’s more love than I have. To send your special, unique, only son to die for a host of recalcitrant children who don’t care? This is the kind of love God has for us. This is the gospel in a nutshell, condensed into one verse. And I am so grateful that Jesus chose to fulfill this task, or I would not know the Father who so loved. I would not have known that kind of love without Him. Thank You Lord Jesus for showing us that love.

As we prepare our hearts for the Easter season, remember the love that was spent for you. Remember the One who loves you. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Lord God, help me today remember Your sacrifice of love on my account. You loved me so much that you gave your unique, special, only Son to die for my sin on that cruel cross. You in your infinite knowledge, despite knowing every ounce of agony of your blessed Son, still thought it worth the price of seeing me and my brothers and sisters into the Kingdom. Despite this, we still falter. We still sin. We still forget. Lord help me remember. Thank You Lord Jesus for your love for the brethren, to be made like us, to suffer for us, to rise again to lead us in hope into Your Kingdom! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Death to Life

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.5.24.csb

What would you say to Jesus after He said this to you? Yeah right? We know what death is. You can’t come back from there. I’ve seen too many die. No one came back. There’s no life after death. What does it matter what’s in your head when you die or what you believe in?

But what does Jesus do to earn your trust? He dies. He puts this theory to the ultimate test and does in a horrific fashion, in a way that there is no question, He is dead. We walk away from Him, saying it’s too bad such a good person died. The good die young. He was too good for this world, and in that, we are smarter than we know.

Jesus dies on a Friday. He lay in His grave all that night. He lay in that grave all day Saturday. He lay in His grave through the early morning. And then ”up from the grave, He arose!” He passed from death into life. No, you can’t keep a good man down.

And all of those who believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. All of those who will listen to Him and believe in Him will die, but that death will only be of the flesh. Every believer will pass through physical death and receive eternal life in a new body. How do we know? Because He proved it by Himself. We trust in His ability to raise us up by truth of His own resurrection.

But more than this. We can have life while we live this life, and that life more abundantly. You can have a fulfilled life, not one that looks forward to death, but one that looks forward to what lays beyond the portal of death. We are not like those who have no hope. We have hope in this world, making it much more livable, and hope for the next.

Heavenly Father we thank you sincerely for the example taught to us by your son Christ Jesus who showed us the path from death to life, that we need not fear it. Thank you, Jesus, for setting the example, being the author and perfectly of our faith. May you continue to lead us day by day and show us how to live. Thank you for bearing the weight of all our sins and giving us life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A God-Shaped Hole

www.bible.com/1713/ecc.3.11.csb

There it is. This is why we are never content. This is why we keep looking for the next thing. This is why without God we are never happy. Paul once said “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Why? Because few there are that find it. Without God Life is just a great black hole sucking joy out of all things. God designed with an eternity-shaped hope, a hole only He can fill of we will let Him.

Solomon in his vast wisdom knew this. But this book of his isn’t finished until the end of his life, after he’s made his mistakes. He realizes now towards the end of his life that he really has nothing without God. The world itself cannot fill the vacuum of our heart. And Solomon could certainly have explored every avenue and venture there was in His time. Every pleasure and lust he could invent were his to explore. He did everything there was to do. And he still recognized that none of it was enough. He still felt the god-shaped hole in all of us.

As we come to the close of another year, perhaps you are feeling the same thing. You’ve done everything you can do to fill that hole. You’ve dumped everything you can think of into it and you still feel empty. You’ve tried everything to be happy, and you come to this time of self-reflection and see nothing but dread for the new year.

You have a god-shaped hole in you. You can’t fill it. Nothing you do or experience will ever satisfy that deep hunger for something more until you accept Jesus as your Savior. It may sound like cliche, but Jesus is the only One that can fill your heart because your were designed for Him. That hole is there because He built you that way.

There are places in your life that only your parents can fill, good or bad. The same goes for children. We know how these feel when suddenly these holes are empty. We know the grief and the loss after losing a loved one. We are familiar with these kinds of holes. So it is with this God-shaped void in us.

I urge you today. Don’t turn to a bottle or a syringe to fill that hole. Don’t rely on friends or even family to fill it, because they are not enough. Decide today that you will accept Jesus as your Savior, and be filled.

May God bless you as you go into your new year!

What’s So Special about Us?

www.bible.com/1713/psa.8.3-4.csb

This is the value of the Christmas season. If you stop for five minutes and examine why Christmas is a celebration, you realize that Christmas is all about God taking on human flesh. It is all about the incarnation of Christ into a living human being. The date is not important, since no one knows for sure what the date actually was. But the event of Christ’s birth is certain. We know He lived because He died.

So why does that make us special? God did not come into this world as a dog, or an elephant, or a whale. None of those things are nearly as accessible. He did not come as a cat, or a zebra, or a tree. The only vessel that could close go represented who God is is a human being, because we are made in His image. We are the only fitting verse for His presence. Even then, we could not hope to contain His presence, so He limited His essence to fit into a human body. But this is the miracle of the Incarnation.

Since Jesus has come to be like one of us, He offers the invitation to come and be like Him, a child of God. He went and died on a cross for you, so that you would believe in Him and be like Him in His resurrection. What a marvelous and wonderful gift.

Merry Christmas on this second day of Christmas. There’s just too much to celebrate for just one day.

He Will Save

www.bible.com/1713/mat.1.21.csb

From our perspective, Jesus has saved the world from sin, all those who would be saved. From Joseph’s perspective, Jesus will save, as he had not been born yet in this passage. But from Jesus’ perspective? Jesus has seen the entire narrative from beginning to end.

Consider that as God’s Second Person, Jesus has seen his entire story, his life as a man, play out from beginning to end. He knew what choices He would make before He made them. He had already seen Himself die on the cross, be buried, and be risen again. He knew this without any doubt while He was still in Heaven. He could have said that He has saved the world from the beginning. Since for Him his foreknowledge of time and space was a foregone conclusion.

However, what Jesus has not done was to actually carry it out. He knew Judas would betray Him and that Peter would deny Him, but He has not experienced how that would feel as a human being. That was new. And as much as His omniscience as God could prepare Him, He still begged His Father for another way in Gethsemane, if there might be another way to avoid the suffering of the cross. He knew there wasn’t and there had never been another way, but His human experience begged all the same.

Jesus knew from the day he was born when He would die. That knowledge is a terrible burden. Jesus is the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” He knew from the very beginning. But He still loves us enough to carry it out. Can you comprehend that kind of love?

May you feel God’s love for you this Christmas. All of this is for you. Merry Christmas.

The Light of Men

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.1.4-5.csb

I want to give credit to my pastor this morning at Better Life from whom I am borrowing this morning. In His message he said that God has not given us a map. We are not given a destination, so we don’t know how it’s all going to work out for us, who we will marry or what career path we will choose. Instead, He gives us a direction. Or more specifically, He gives us a star, just like the Magi. The star gives us a direction. That star for us comes in the form of His word, for his word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

This light shines into the darkness of o ur lives. Our darkness can not overcome His light. Even in our darkest selves, the light still speaks to us and convicts us. This light exposes the deeds done in darkness, which is why the darkness despises the light and does everything it can to blot it out.

But the darkness can not overcome the light. The light will always be stronger. He will always be stronger. That’s why we follow Him.

May this encourage you this season. Merry Christmas to all!

But Wait, There’s Myrrh!

www.bible.com/1713/mat.2.10-11.csb

Three gifts arrived at the home of Jesus’ family 2000 years ago. Whether they came from three “Kings” is impossible to tell. We don’t how much of each of deposited, or if several brought the same thing. Tradition says “three” Magi were involved, but that is based entirely on the three kinds of gifts. (Note: There is a church which claims to hold the three skulls of these men, but collecting relics was a very popular pastime 17 centuries ago.)

All three items were extremely valuable: gold for obvious reasons but the others for the difficulty in extracting them and their fragrance. Frankincense was often used for anointing royalty while Myrrh was usually employed in funerary practice. All three were royal gifts, fitting the narrative that these Magi believes they were looking for the next “King of the Jews”. Odd that we don’t read anything about them coming for any of the Herods. They show up for this one King and disappear.

There is some speculation that Daniel’s role as leader of the Wise Men of Babylon had something to do with their expectation of this King. If right that would be a remarkable amount of star-watching and expectation. But perhaps they were showing up the priests of Judaism by doing so, since the Jews practically had the address of Jesus’ birthplace in their OT Scrolls. Daniel has predicted to the year when Jesus would appear, and Micah predicted the place He would be born. Anyone with reasonable math skills should have known to set up a lookout post in Bethlehem. Even when the Magi appear looking for the child, the priests take little time reporting Jesus’ prophetic birthplace.

Did they think they had plenty of time before they had to get ready? Jesus’ own people, who had specific prophetic indications when Jesus would appear, failed to be ready, and had to be reminded by Gentiles. Hmm. Sound familiar?

Many who allege to belong to Christ today are not ready for His return. They know He is coming. But are they ready with their life and work? Do we not know that we will be judged not only for accepting or not Jesus Christ, but also by the works we have done for Him? Christian consider this a warning. He is coming back for you. You need to be ready. Your life needs to reflect your passion for the Savior and your gratitude for your salvation. Getting baptized is not something to check off the list and wait for pickup. It is a necessary part of Jesus moving into your life. You need to grow and mature in faith so that at His coming He may say to you, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

The Magi brought gifts to the child Jesus. What spiritual offerings do you bring?

God bless you today.

Becoming Flesh

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.1.14.csb

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (Joh 1:14)

A simple word: “became.” But the process behind it is beyond our comprehension. How did this “Word” pour Himself into flesh? How did the Second Person of the Trinity shed all of his glory and take on a human nature? This has occupied the minds of theologians for centuries and volumes have been written on the subject, so there is very little I could add to the discussion here.

Suffice it to say that how the Word became flesh is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. The only way I can understand it is to understand that each of us has a soul, a spirit entity attached to our bodies that we call “me.” It is this soul that inhabits the organic hardware of our flesh and is our bridge between the material world and the spirit world. It is this soul which gives us spiritual awareness, and what leaves this body when the body dies.

I believe that instead of a normal human-sized soul, Christ possessed His eternal nature within His flesh, powered-down so-to-speak to fit within the hardware of his human body. A very limited version of His Second Person Spirit was what we got to see walking around. But it was this combination of flesh and Spirit that gave us Christ.

But instead of shedding His bodily form at death, He instead chose a renewed body at His resurrection, one capable of handling His true nature. Jesus’ resurrected body has become a permanent part of Him, identifying with us for eternity. It is as if Christ bound Himself to His creation permanently by wearing our form forever as our High Priest and Intercessor. And upon this body He bears the wounds of the cross. They too are a permanent reminder of what He suffered.

For the God who does not change, the Word accepted great changes on our behalf. He is no longer limited in power, but the God who had no form we could behold took on our form so that we could relate to Him and have relationship with Him. This is not a God content to sit in Heaven and wait for us. He reaches out to us, reveals Himself to us, so that He could day to Philip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

Blessed be the name of the Lord. God bless you today.