- 2014Apr 17
It’s Good Friday…and a lot of people wonder why, on the day the Savior of mankind was brutally murdered…we would call this Friday “Good.” For me, the answer lies in an encounter Jesus had with a rich young ruler; he was a community leader who believed he was doing everything right: living well, keeping the law to the letter. He struts up to Jesus, and says, “Good Teacher! What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Well, knowing who the guy really was, Jesus first asks, “Why do you call me ‘good?’ Only GOD is good.”
This was that young guy’s chance to say, “but you ARE God,” and if he did, that would have been the answer the rich young ruler was looking for. Recognize Jesus for Who He Is, and that’s called faith—you win! That’s how you gain eternal life! When it became clear that the wealthy young dude believed he had EARNED his way into heaven, Jesus said: “OK, here’s what you have to do. Sell everything you own and give it to the poor. Then, take up your cross and follow me!” Well, the rich man could not give up his stuff, and walked away without the affirmation he was looking for.
Now, does that mean WE’RE supposed to sell everything and give it to the poor, in order to gain eternal life? Of course not! There’s nothing you or I can do to earn or deserve heaven. It wasn't about how much the young ruler had to sacrifice. It’s all about having FAITH that Jesus Christ IS Who He said He Is! Believe in Him, and simply receive the free gift of grace. Amazing.
So the GOOD in Good Friday, is that GOD forever conquered death for those who would simply believe, and put their trust in Jesus for eternal life! I could spend an hour giving you minute detail on exactly what Jesus suffered that day physically, and we’ll NEVER grasp what He dealt with spiritually, but suffice it to say that neither you nor I could have lasted as long as He did. After being brutally beaten to the point of death, He was nailed naked by His hands and feet to a tree, and suspended on that cross in such a way that His arms were pulled out of joint, and He had to push on the nails in his feet just to extend His diaphragm enough to take a breath. That’s what killed you, when you were crucified. it wasn’t the blood loss, or the injuries. You simply couldn’t push up anymore, and you suffocated. And if it took too long, the Roman guard would simply break your legs.
Now, imagine how you’d feel if you endured all of that brutal torture, AND you were completely innocent of any crime? What would be the first thing YOU said to your punishers? Well, in the SIX HOURS He hung there, He spoke only 7 times…and the sum total of His words adds up to less than 30 seconds. Obviously, His ACTIONS spoke louder than any words He could say. But what DID Jesus say, before He died?
“Father, forgive them.” He asked for forgiveness for the people that were killing him!
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Imagine you had committed a crime so great, the government had decided that you not only had to DIE, but had to suffer every moment until you drew your last, ragged breath. That’s the sentenced pronounced on Jesus, and the two criminals who hung on either side of Him. One of them professed his faith, and—just as it COULD have been for that rich young ruler—the criminal secured his place in Heaven.
Jesus said to his mother: "Woman, this is your son." Then he said to the disciple: "This is your mother."
A touching, heart-breaking, revealing moment. Purely out of love, Jesus remembered the needs of his aging mother, and assigned His friend John to take care of her.
“I thirst.” Jesus is fully God, but fully human. Like I said, the spiritual toll was enormous, beyond our wildest imaginings…and this is the first expression of physical need Jesus communicates. It stands as a reminder that He knows what it means to be in need.
"It is finished." The Koine or common Greek word is tetelestai, and it means a lot more than simply, “it’s over.” Merchants in Jesus’ time would write that word on a bill of sale, to designate that a debt had been paid in full. No more needed to be given; the obligation was over! For us, the meaning is clear. We don’t have to give a certain amount of money, or do a certain number of good deeds, or say the right number of prayers to be enjoy eternal life! Our sin debt is tetelestai! Jesus paid it all.
With that we come to His final words on the cross: “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Obedient to the end, Jesus utters one more prayer, and breathes His last. In doing so, we see that Jesus practiced what He preached: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends."
If YOU’D like to be counted among His friends…ask a Christian family member or coworker, or maybe a pastor...or simply ask me. I'd be thrilled to walk you through the process! And I can assure you this…when you finally do make that decision...you too will always call this Friday “good!”
- 2014Mar 31
In the wake of the marital split between actress Gwyneth Paltrow and rocker Chris Martin, the psychotherapist who coined the term—Katherine Woodword Thomas—defined what “conscious uncoupling” means, as she guested March 31 on NBC News’ Today.
“…[a] conscious uncoupling is a breakup characterized by good will, by generosity and by respect. It is a process that leaves both parties feeling valued and appreciated for all that was shared…”*
But since when is divorce supposed to be a positive experience, where two people show “goodwill, generosity, and respect,” and where both parties feel “valued and appreciated?” Divorce is supposed to be messy—AND painful. Our kids, our society needs to see that marriage is nothing to be entered into lightly, or dissolved without great consideration for how many lives will be shattered by that breakup. It’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E; you can call it whatever you want, but you can’t remove the pain. You can only run from it, or numb it for a while.
Pain is an essential component of living and learning. We can wrap ourselves—and our kids—in gauze, hoping to outsmart life as we live it. But at the end of the day, we all must experience pain, because it’s part of the fall of man.
What does the Bible say about suffering—especially for CHRISTIANS?
Romans 5:35 (ESV) …we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 8:18 (ESV) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
In Hebrews 2, the author talks about how Jesus was “made perfect” through His suffering. Had He not a complete understanding of human pain, how could we accept Him as our High Priest, the One making intercession on our behalf?
Christians who believe their confession of faith should somehow merit a life free from suffering have not encountered Christ on the cross. Anything we do that God hates should cause us pain, so—just like touching a hot stove—we learn from our misery, and NEVER DO IT AGAIN! It’s hard to watch someone we love suffer, but it's inevitable, especially for believers. Does Jesus understand? Absolutely. He’s been there. You can trust Him with your pain.
- 2014Mar 24
My wife said it this morning, and it resonated with me immediately. We were watching another Today Show story about a celebrity and his much-retweeted “selfie,” and my wife said, “Selfie! Could there be any more descriptive word for the culture right now?” (I KNEW I love that woman!)
Anyway…if you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere…missed the Oscars on TV…or, simply don’t care about pop culture, a “selfie” is a photo you take of yourself with other people, or in some well-known location, or doing something you’re sure is interesting to EVERYONE! I’ve take ONE “selfie” in my life—at “Harvest America”—and only because the MC told me to.
What my wife was alluding to, however, is spot on. Partly because of social media, and largely due to sheer narcissism, millions of Americans are convinced that the world breathlessly awaits an update on WHAT I’M DOING RIGHT NOW! It’s the very sort of navel-gazing that prompts theologian David F. Wells to write in his latest book, God in the Whirlwind, that our self-perceived uniqueness inclines us to “each have his own perspective on life and its meaning…none of it framed by absolute norms.” God says the same thing, essentially, in the book of Judges, “at a time when Israel had no king,” and “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”
Christians, we have a king! His Name is Jesus, and He gives us clear marching orders: Love God, and love others and much as you love yourself. If you’re faithfully loving the Lord and your neighbor, you probably won’t have time to obsess about your…“selfie.” :)