The Cross

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#Lent#32

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Today, April 10,2020 is Good Friday. A day of sickness and death for many, but for people all over the globe it is a day with a different meaning,

From Darkness to Light.

From Pitch Black to Blinding Luminescence.

From Dark Rumbling Clouds to Glorious Sunshine.

From Hatred to Love.

From Loss to Gain

From Loser to Winner.

From Death to Life.

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s Coming!

#Lent#31

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Not growing up in a religious tradition that observed the traditional trappings of a holiday like Easter is a learning experience. No, I did not grow up as part of the Jehovah Witness cult. I grew up in an independent Christian Church that had two pastors from Moody. So you might as well say I grew up Baptist. However, I went away to a college from the independent group after getting a new pastor who favored that tradition (denomination), but claim no allegiance to anymore.  While I had heard of Good Friday and we often went to Good Friday services our church observed with other churches in the community, there were still some phrases and “special days” I was ignorant of.

I had never heard of or observed Lent. To me, lent was something you did for someone else. They wanted to borrow something so you “loaned” it to them.  You lent it to them. So when I got deeper into church work, I heard of Lent but still never made a big deal about it.

Speaking of Lent, how about Ash Wednesday? That was a new one to me as well. I do remember being in high school and one of my teachers, Mr. Bano, had this smudge mark in the middle of his forehead. I can remember sitting there wondering, “Does he know? Should I tell him?” The wiser Bill said to keep my business to myself. I reckon that was a good thing. He was Catholic and that was part of his tradition…but I didn’t know.

Today is a day called Maundy Thursday. What in the world is that? I found out it was the day Jesus washed the disciples’ feet during what is known as the Last Supper the night He was betrayed.  Maundy is from the Latin word which means “command” and finds its meaning in when Jesus told His disciples “A new command I give you; Love one another.”  Okay, sounds plausible although I still am lost as to why that has been made into a holy day.

Then there is Good Friday. As if the crucifixion can be seen as “good.” But you and I know it can and will continue to be for all those who know Jesus. While some skeptics call it cosmic child abuse, I call it “essential.” Without that cross, I have nothing. No forgiveness of sins. No answer to my shame. And then there is…

Resurrection Sunday!! Now THAT I know! Without it I have no hope, no purpose, no reason to live. So no matter what tradition you belong to-one that observes all the holy days of the last week of Jesus or one that doesn’t (like me then and now), the resurrection is the game-changer.  We are drawing closer to that celebration. Keep your eyes looking ahead. In fact, maybe you might want to keep one eye on the sky as well.

#Lent#28

Monday, April 6th, 2020

There has been and always will be a difference in the work and motives of God and the work and motives of Satan. God works for good; Satan (the enemy) works for evil.

Take Jesus’ death for example. Satan saw it as an opportunity for evil, to get rid of his sworn enemy. But God saw it as an opportunity for good, to have a sacrifice in the place of sinners to bring about the salvation of those sinners. I like the way John Piper put it much better than I just did:

The heart of the Bible is not an explanation of where evil comes from, but a demonstration of how God enters into it and turns it for the very opposite-everlasting righteousness and joy. (p.118)

Ironically, Jesus had to endure evil and suffering in order to overcome evil and suffering. It still amazes me that He was willing to go through all that evil and suffering in order to declaw them. It’s like what Paul asked at the end of I Corinthians 15: “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?”  (verses 54-55)  Declawed for good. No Energizer bunny here.

#Lent#Why?

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Talking about the death and crucifixion of Jesus is not a popular subject, not even among those who claim to follow Jesus. The idea of a crucifixion is seen as absurd. There are those who find the idea of a sacrifice absolutely repugnant. Whether we are talking about an animal sacrifice (I can hear PETA right now) in the OT, or Jesus on the cross, it is a subject we would just as soon avoid. Believe it or not, some see the crucifixion of Jesus as cosmic or divine child abuse. Seriously?

But for those who follow Christ, the cross is essential to the Gospel. Without it, there is no gospel. It is empty. We often ask the question why when it comes to our life’s circumstances being not what we would like them to be. (Current situation included). That question often goes unanswered.  However…think this one through: when speaking about the death of Jesus, while we may ask, “Why?” the question does not go unanswered.  One can hardly find a better Scripture passage than the one from Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in answer to that question.  Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

“This is one of the chapters that lie at the very heart of Scriptures. It is the very Holy of Holies of Divine Writ. Let us, therefore, put off our shoes from our feet, for the place whereon we stand is specially holy ground.”

My sermon Sunday is part of a two-week series I’ve entitled More Than a Man. My focus this week-as you can imagine-is on the crucifixion of Jesus.  Sadly, like many across this country and around the world, we will not be able to meet together as a church body. Least in one building. But we will be meeting all around our town and in other parts of the country.  If you would like to join us at 10:00 EST please request to become part of the church’s FaceBook commuity. It is private so you must ask to join and then be approved.  Keeps the trolls away. And those dorks who post they made so much money by working at home. Can you say, “Scam?” Anyway, I digress. 🙂

These are interesting times we live in. We are hoping to make the most of it. Please join us online or at least in prayer. Thanks.

#Lent#27

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

A distinction has often been made (and rightly so) between happiness and joy. Happiness has been described as something you have because of your circumstances; joy is something you have in spite of your circumstances.  In other words, one is dependent on good things happening that make you feel good; one is not dependent on good things happening.

The striking words in Hebrews 12:2 ring loudly. Speaking of Jesus, the writer says, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Emphasis mine). What kind of joy could be so strong that Jesus would go to a cross and endure it? I am grateful for John Piper’s thoughts on this. He says “the joy set before Jesus had many levels”:

  • The joy of reunion with His Father. Ps.16:11
  • The joy of triumph over sin. Heb.1:3
  • The joy of divine rights restored. Heb.12:2
  • The joy of being surrounded with praise by all the people for whom He died. Lk. 15:7

Think about this for a moment. If the hope of joy enabled Jesus to endure the cross, just think about what that same joy holds for us. To suffer, to endure = to experience the same joy as Him. Sometimes that is all that makes sense in this world gone mad.

Thoughts on joy by John Piper from The Passion of the Christ. 

#Lent#27

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

I have said in the past, “I was saved by grace; I am being saved by grace; and in the end I will be saved by grace.” Paul put it this way: “This grace by which I stand.” (Rom.5:2)

You see, the whole idea of salvation relates to the past, the present, and the future. Using what I said earlier, I could say, “I have been saved; I am being saved; I will be saved.”

Take the death of Jesus. His death saved; His death saves; His death will save. He paid for all sins of the past. He paid for all sins today so I can know I am saved and secure in His grace. He paid for me to know my future home is waiting, kept in heaven for me. 

I’m rejoicing this Easter season that even though there is a quarantine (2020) that will keep us from meeting publicly as a body, nothing can damper the promise of forgiveness of sin-past, present, and future. His shed blood is a stamp guaranteeing eternity for me. And it can be for you as well.

#Lent#25

Monday, March 30th, 2020

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumblingblock to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (I Cor.1:18, 22-24)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Romans 1:16)

“For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received: that Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture.” (I Cor.15:3-4)

There should be no question what we should be teaching and preaching. Not politics. Not “feel good.” Not spirituality. Not health/wealth. Not NAR garbage (gold dust falling from heaven? Grave sucking? You have go to me kidding me!).  Not hype.  Not Miracle Spring Water (seriously?).  JESUS. THE GOSPEL. THE CROSS.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Gal.6:14)

#Lent#19

Friday, March 20th, 2020

A stone or a cross.

That’s one of the ways I see this time of the year.

By stone I mean the Law.  The Law’s purpose, according to Galatians 3:24, is to be a tutor, a schoolmaster, a guardian to lead us to Jesus. It was in effect until Jesus came and then we moved from there to justification by faith. The Law was a stone around our neck. There was no freedom.  No escape.  All the Law really offered was demands and condemnation.

On the other side of the coin is the cross. Whereas the Law brought demands and condemnation, the cross brought love and freedom. The cross was far superior in every way to the Law. Instead of outside works being associated with righteousness, we are now declared righteous by the blood of Christ.

You could say a stone was used in judgment of someone when thrown; the cross was used to take away that judgment and placed on Someone else. I’ll take the cross.

#Lent#18

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Have you ever noticed how some verses get a bad rap? Hear me out please. By bad rap I don’t mean kicked-to-the-curb-bad.  Instead, I’m referring to the fact that some verses are so close to another that stands out, that one verse is almost glossed over, even forgotten.

For example, Romans 8:29. Ask people to quote verse 28 and they’re on it!  Ask them to quote verse 29 and they most likely will stutter and stammer. Look closely though.  Verse 29 gives good traction and clarity to verse 28. All that happens is designed to conform us to the image of God’s Son.

Another one is in John 3.  Tell me what John 3:16 says.  That one is easy to spout off.  Some will know verse 17 if pressed. Okay, how about verse 15? We scramble for our Bibles to look it up.  Let me save you some time.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” BAM!

Powerful verse!  It finds its root in Numbers 21:5-9 where the Israelite people found life by looking at the serpent lifted up by Moses.  Life is found in the “lifted up” Christ.  That is a definite picture of Jesus being lifted up on a cross. There we find life. And it certainly isn’t a verse we can forget or leave out!!

Look up and live!

#Lent#17

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Winter time brings the “excitement” of riding my bike on an indoor trainer. (Please note sarcasm; no joy in that statement).  Hours upon hours of riding in one place, bored out of my gourd, as they say. The only redeeming quality besides the fact that at least I’m getting some exercise, is I’m also getting to catch up on movies. This past winter I watched the Back to the Future trilogy (again); Titanic; all 5 Transformers movies (I forgot I had Bumblebee); and the director’s cuts of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Watching them all brought back a lot of nostalgia and the reason why they are my favorites.

In the LOTR trilogy, one of Gollum’s favorite expressions was to call the ring, “My Precious.” (Sort of like the meme I saw the other day with him saying that and holding a roll of toilet paper). But I digress. 🙂  The ring was evil and had so taken over his life that he was no longer Smeagol. It had changed him; ruined him. In the Hobbit,  Bilbo had found the ring and Gollum was so controlled by it he knew no peace and went to great lengths to get it back. Thus the trilogy; the need to destroy the ring; and Gollum’s demise after finally taking it from Frodo.

“My precious.” Such was my thought as I read I Peter 1:18-19

Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”  (emphasis mine).

It wasn’t silver or gold that drew Peter’s attention, but the precious blood of Christ. That word “precious” conveys infinite value. Just as the ring was of infinite value to Gollum, so is the blood of Christ to every follower who has been washed in it.