A Good Friday To Remember

Happy-Good-Friday-2016-CardToday is Good Friday, and it’s a day that I focus my thoughts on the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world.  The essence of Good Friday and the hope of Easter is clearly stated in I Corinthians 15: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (3-4).”

In the death of Jesus, we see the innocent dying for the guilty.  Bill Crowder has said that “…death was not Jesus’ penalty; it was His destiny. It was not His lot in life; it was His mission. It was not His unavoidable fate; it was His purpose statement for coming to earth that first Christmas: ‘Born to die.'”

The crucifixion was an open display of the love of God for sinful man, and John Piper has commented: “The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, to the least deserving. That’s what God did.  At the loss of His Son’s life to the totally undeserving, God gave the best gift –the display of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”

When Jesus spoke of His impending death, He would also speak of His resurrection.  In regard to His death and resurrection, Watchman Nee said, “Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.”

On this most somber day of Christianity, I ask you: What is your history with Jesus, and what is your future without Him?

Easter: What’s Left?

475EF8AB-342D-4D51-885D-64659421391BWhen the last Easter egg has been found and eaten, and the kids have said “good-bye” to their sugar high.  What remains?  I hope it is more than chocolate stains and a few extra pounds that were added by way of the calorie-packed candy, and other Easter delights.

One thing that will always remain is God’s Word, and it is a unique book.  The uniqueness of the Bible is seen in its unity. This book is a collection of 66 ancient documents that were originally written in 3 languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Even though 40 different authors, wrote over a span of 1,500 years the theme and message of the Bible is consistent.

In my Easter sermon yesterday, I mentioned Jesus’ encounter with two disheartened disciples as they walked down the Emmaus road.  To help them understand the events surrounding His crucifixion, Jesus, began “at Moses and all the Prophets, and He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).”

The life of Jesus fulfilled multiple prophecies.  Long before He was born, it was predicted that He would be flogged; die with the wicked; and, He would be buried like a rich man.

Prophecy is important because it confirms the claims of Jesus.  Here are just a few of the many He fulfilled:

  • Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10)
  • He would be from the line of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
  • He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • 700 years before Jesus was born, the Prophet Isaiah predicted in graphic detail the manner in which Jesus would die (Is. 53).

The Bible has stood the test of time; and, when it comes time for you to be tested, it will stand with you.

From Yesterday to Tomorrow

kenyan_aaMaybe it’s the Kenyan AA, the Costa Rica by the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Company, the Three Continent, or perhaps it’s Tully’s Hawaiian Blend, that does it to me.  I’m not sure if it is the coffee or something, but there are some mornings that I become acutely curious about the mental path my mind travels.

When I find myself wondering about the wandering of my mind, and I question the wisdom of the words that travel from my neural pathways to the tip of my keyboard, I may need to think about my drink:  Does the blend of coffee influence my thoughts?

My first cup of coffee this morning was Kenyan AA.  As I was sipping it, I thought about the Beatles and the resurrection.  Did this best blend of coffee from Kenya ingest a strange correlation between England’s Fab Four and Jesus?

Yesterday is one of the better-known songs by the Beatles, and a line in the song says:  “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far way . . .” As I thought of those lyrics, I thought they might have been the exact words of Jesus’ disciples immediately following His arrest.

I took another sip and “yesterday” was my thought in a little different context.  I wondered about a couple of things:

  • How did the disciples think about “yesterday” the day after the resurrection of Jesus?
  • I wondered about Paul McCartney’s words: “I’m not half the man I used to be . . .”

Because of the resurrection I’m not half the man I used to be: I’m a whole person due to the fullness of Jesus.  This relationship is clarified by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!

Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!

Glory down all the generations!

Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

I’m not sure how your “yesterday” was, but I do know the hope you can have tomorrow through the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.

Friday: A Day of Signifiance

6187141-crown-of-thorns-hung-around-the-easter-crossIf you could travel back in time to history’s most important Friday and relive that day in 33 AD, what would you hear as you walked the streets of Jerusalem? The city had swelled in size because it was Passover, but the conversation was not the annual rites at the Temple.  No, that significant sacrifice was overshadowed by the crucifixion of Jesus.   As people contemplated the events, they exclaimed:  Finished!  Epic life ended!  Last chapter of a miraculous life has closed with a tragedy!

The Messiah you have been following has been nothing more than a grandiose dreamer with Messianic aspirations, and your dream has ended in a nightmare.  In stunned silence and in a state of shock, you wonder:  What now?  How could all of this happen?  How could so many people have believed a lie?

A cloud of despair hangs heavily on your doubting heart as you try to make sense of the disaster that has disrupted your life.  Friday has been an arduous day, but at least there has been a lot of activity.  When you woke up Saturday morning, you hoped that yesterday was just a bad dream; however, when you looked into the sunken eyes of your fellow disciples, reality buckles your knees:  Your Hope has been crucified; Jesus is dead; and, Saturday drags on and seems like it’ll never end.

From that Friday of 33 AD, to the Friday of today, there is a perceptional gap that is every bit as deep as it is wide in years.  All the disciples of 33 AD had was a form of spiritual PTSD and the stench of death, but you have the benefit of history.

You know the story doesn’t end with that dramatic death on the cross. You know there is an encore to what the disciples thought was the final Act, and it was announced to those few devoted women who went to the tomb:  He is not here; He has risen!

The fact of the resurrection turned men of cowardly hearts into courageous soldiers of the cross, and in a few short years the infant church shook Rome.  This is the mobilizing power of the resurrection and the proof of what can happen when a group of people are infused with hope . . . people just like you.

I encourage you to share the hope and live the message as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Sunday.

Who is Jesus?

easter01This is a momentous week in the life of the church.  Because it has been framed by two monumental events of history, it is the week traditionally referred to as “holy week.”

It’s a week that began with Palm Sunday, and it will end this Sunday with the celebration of Easter.  Palm Sunday is associated with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and Easter is the joyful recognition of His resurrection.

There’s a three word question that was asked by those who observed Jesus on Palm Sunday. As He rode a white donkey through the narrow and dusty streets of Jerusalem, they asked:  “Who is this?”

The Gospel of John presents a group of witnesses that offer a line of testimony that answers this question:

  • John testifies that Jesus turned water into wine at the marriage supper of Cana.
  • The nobleman gives a detailed account of how Jesus simply spoke and his dying son was healed.
  • The man who had been crippled for 38 years jumps in the air and clicks his heels together to show the miraculous manner in which Jesus healed him.
  • The little boy holds up an empty lunch pail and says: “It had just enough food for my dinner, but Jesus blessed it and there was enough to feed 5,000 people.”
  • The seasoned fishermen relive the moment when they thought their boat was going to sink and they were going to drown: “The Master appeared out of nowhere, walked on the waves, commanded the water to be still, and we were saved.”

After listening to all the testimony, a man rises and says:  “May I speak?  I think my evidence is conclusive.  You see, I was dead, but somehow I heard the clear and loud voice of Jesus:  ‘Lazarus come forth,’ and I shook off the chains of death.  I’m living proof of who Jesus is.”

Who is this?  Jesus is:

  • The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
  • The Bread of Life.
  • The Light of the world.
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  • Resurrection and the life

Who is Jesus to you?

TGIF

good_friday_1000004443-120613intToday is Friday, and across the nation people write or shout TGIF—Thank God It’s Friday. An ordinary Friday comes once every 7 days, but this extraordinary Friday comes just once a year. The story of this Friday began in the Garden of Eden and the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

The moment Adam broke the rules established by God, he ran from his Creator. Before Adam was even out of breath, God began pursuing him; and, this was a game of hide and seek that Adam wasn’t going to win.
While Adam and Eve hid in fear, God pursued them in His mercy. Freshly embarrassed by his awakened conscious and bare body, Adam tried to cover himself with fig leaves, but this wouldn’t do. God extended His grace and clothed the first couple with animal skins.

The very first ounce of blood that was spilled on creation in its infancy was by the eternal hand of our holy God. He did not withhold His grace because of their sin; instead, grace was given in spite of their sin. Years later, Paul wrote: “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because Adam and Eve had sinned innocent animals (probably sheep) had to die.

Year after year, the significance of this day was hidden in shadows and symbolism until about 33 A.D.—Good Friday. This day was announced 3 years in advance by John the Baptist when he said: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Today is the Friday that we remember His death, and this Sunday will be the day we celebrate the resurrection and the hope of Easter.

Yes, TGIF is an appropriate expression for today.

A Hapless Hare or the Hope of Easter

easter_110002101-012814-intThe spring has come unwound in San Diego. Like a Slinky that can only go in a downward fashion, San Diego County parks has reached a new low as they bury historic traditions. County Parks Director Brian Albright, has kicked the Easter Bunny on his keister.

In a quest for cultural diversity, at the expen$e of historic authenticity, the Easter Egg Hunt has been renamed the Spring Egg Hunt. According to Michael Workman, county communications director, this is just the “Sign of the times,” and “the prudent course of action. Our goal has always been to include all in the communities we serve.”

It may be the “sign of the times,” but I for one think it is a rather sad sight. Call me “old, stubborn, hard-headed,” or whatever you like, but I’m tired of the subtle attack on cherished traditions. Changing Easter Bunny to Spring Bunny and Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays is more than mere semantics. It is a subtle and purposeful attempt to strip away the Christian distinctive that’s clothed our nation for centuries.

You may think I’m splitting hairs over this rabbit, but it is important that you understand how a change in terminology cleverly influences emotional response.

• People don’t worry too much about a jungle or a swamp, but call them rainforests and wetlands and see the excitement grow.
• Most everyone is concerned about the welfare of a baby, but label it a fetus and there is a more detached response.

Take away the hope of Easter and all that’s left is a hapless hare. What about Christmas? Happy holidays is nothing more than debt-ridden consumerism, while Merry Christmas remembers that Jesus IS the reason for the season.

Gene Autry had it right when he sang of Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail—“Easter’s is on its way.”

Why Friday is Good For You

goodfridayCrucifixion was as repulsive as it was hideous. It was a torturous form of death that had been practiced and perfected by Rome to silence the Empire’s detractors.

Death by crucifixion was an effective form of execution in every instance except one. When Jesus said “it is finished,” He did not say “I am finished.” The moment Jesus died, the chains of those who were bound by death began to rattle.

Three days later when Jesus rose from the grave, Paul says captivity was led captive: Jesus took all believers who had died before Him and led them from Paradise into the glories of heaven.

What about the cross? Eyes of disbelief see it as defeat. The spiritually deaf, hear “It is finished” as the last gasp of a dying martyr.

The cross is not the coffin of Calvary. To the millions who have been embraced by His love and set free by His forgiveness, the cross is an emblem of compassion and a symbol of victory. The cross is best understood when seen through the lens of awe and reverence, for this gift from was God was His Son lifted up for us.

John Piper has written about the significance of the cross: “Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. What was once foolishness to us—a crucified God—must become our wisdom and our power and our only boast in this world.”

If you only think of the cross as something that was done “for” you, you are mistaken. The cross was “because” of you. Jesus did not die for His sins. He died for your sins and the sins of the world, and this is why Friday is good for you.

While you may wear it as a piece of jewelry around your neck, make sure its peace surrounds your heart.