My cup of juice from the Seder Meal, Andover, KS

If Good Friday were the end

Have you ever noticed that people don’t seem to appreciate what they have until they don’t have it anymore? I’m counting myself in that generalization because it’s true.

I’m perfectly content to just rock along in life without really thinking about all the wonderful blessings God has given me, and then one day I wake up because everything that made my life easy is suddenly gone. And I didn’t even realize that those blessings were a gift instead of a privilege. It took losing them to appreciate them.

Why are we like that? Why do we have to lose things before we realize that we’re taking them for granted?

My cup of juice from the Seder Meal, Andover, KS

My cup of juice from the Seder Meal, Andover, KS

Today is Good Friday. Today is the day that Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago to pay the price for my soul and the soul of everyone who has ever lived and ever will live.

And I can’t help but put myself in the shoes of the Disciples. How crushed they had to be! How much they must have despaired! Not only because their friend was gone but so was their hope, even though Jesus had told them what was going to happen. (But we can’t be too hard on the Disciples because God tells us what’s going to happen and we don’t listen either.)

Normally I try to be positive and uplifting in what I post on here, but for once I really just want to take a moment and imagine what it would have been like if Christ hadn’t come back from the dead. What would have happened if He died on that cross and didn’t resurrect? What would have happened if Good Friday ended everything?

There was talk in the early Church about resurrection and whether or not it was true, and Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

If Christ stayed dead, our hope died with Him. His death on the cross paid the price for our sins, but His resurrection proved He was God enough to accept the charges.

If Christ stayed dead, we have no hope, we have no life, we have no purpose, because if He didn’t come back, the Bible is a lie. And the Disciples were liars. The Apostles were liars. And Jesus Himself was a liar.

If Christ stayed dead, what would your life look like? Have you ever taken the time to think about it? If you haven’t, do it. Think about all the times you faced difficulties and challenges and relied on His love or His strength to get you through, and then take that away. How would you have made it without Him?

Too often we take Him for granted. And it’s not that we shouldn’t expect Him to show up. He wants us to expect Him. But there’s a big difference between expecting Him to be there and thinking we deserve His presence in our lives.

Today, think about what your life would be like without Christ, and when Sunday gets here, you’ll see it differently. It won’t just be another Sunday. It won’t just be another Easter where you get to dress up and hunt for eggs or eat ham with your family. It will be a true celebration of the return of hope because that’s what Easter is. Easter celebrates the hope and life we have in Christ because He didn’t stay dead.

Iris in the sun at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

He looked death in the face and didn’t flinch

Today is Good Friday. Today, nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus would die–and not just die, be brutally tortured, put on display, and allowed to suffocate until he died.

This month has been about endurance, and I’m not sure that there’s a better example of endurance than what Christ did on the cross for us.

I don’t usually put up entire chapters, but Isaiah 53 was calling to me this morning. I’ve posted it in the Message version, which is a paraphrase, but it really makes you think about it. I’m not going to post a commentary this morning. I’m going to let Scripture speak for itself.

And I’m going to sit back and be thankful and amazed and silent in shock that Jesus would love me enough to do this, that God would love me enough to do this for me.

Iris in the sun at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Iris in the sun at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Isaiah 53

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.

He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people. They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain. The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it. Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins. Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors— Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Loving like Jesus when it doesn’t make sense

Christians are supposed to live the way Jesus did. Every “good” Christian knows that. Actually, every “bad” Christian knows it too. So why is it so hard to accomplish? Well, yes, Jesus was perfect. But there is nothing that we have experienced in our lives that He doesn’t understand.

I think we get caught up this time of year remembering Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which is a good thing to remember. It’s everything. If Christ hadn’t come and allowed Himself to suffer for our sins, we would have no hope. If He hadn’t died and risen again, He would be like any other world religious leader. But so many times I think we focus on the fact that He is God that we forget that He was a human being just like we are. And He didn’t just come to die and rise again; He came to show us how to live.

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 5:2.

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Living a life of love is a lot easier said than done. Loving unlovable people takes some sacrifice, if we’re being honest about it. It’s a lot more convenient to just ignore them, but that’s not what Christ did.

He loved unlovable people. He forgave unforgivable people. He healed incurable people. If anyone was a lost cause, Christ gave them a reason to live and a purpose. He worked more than just physical miracles; He changed people. He still changes people today.

Granted, He didn’t waste much time on fools. And He didn’t concern Himself with the religious leaders who were already sufficient in their own righteousness. But the people who knew they needed help? They flocked to Him by the thousands, and He never turned anyone away.

So how does that example affect my life? How do I live the way Christ did? How do I love the way Christ does?

Jesus doesn’t discriminate. He loves everybody. It doesn’t matter where people came from. Even when Jesus was on earth, He healed everyone, regardless of nationality or race. Or even religious persuasion, if you think about it. Jew. Gentile. Neither. If they came to Him and they believed in Him, He helped them. Whether they were difficult people or kind people, quiet people or loud people, talented people or not-so-talented people, it didn’t matter.

It’s so easy to put labels on people. It’s comforting to be able to categorize others so that I know how to control them or how to handle them, but labels don’t really help. Putting labels on people puts them in a box that I don’t ever let them out of. Jesus didn’t label people. He loved them.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to live for people He loved. Jesus came to die, yes, but He also came to show us how to live. He sacrificed years of His life in service of people around Him.

Many of us are willing to die for the people we love because we know that we’ll go to heaven when we die, but what about living for people you love? That’s a bigger sacrifice. Because you have to give up what you want out of life to live for other people. And that’s difficult.

In our culture today, love is a cheerful happy feeling that swells in response to happiness. But that’s not love. Love is a choice. Love is action. Love is sacrificing yourself–your finances, your future, your job, your wellbeing–for the sake of someone else. And in our self-centered world, love is difficult to find.

Love isn’t easy. And real love is even harder. Jesus is the only one who had it figured out, and I’m thankful for that because as much as I try, I’m not there yet. I’m still pretty selfish myself.

But the only way to please God is with faith. And faith means taking God at His word. So if God says that I’m supposed to love people the way Jesus did, that means I should choose to do it even if it doesn’t make sense, even when it’s difficult.

That’s what Christ did. So that’s what we’re supposed to do. It’s never easy, and it doesn’t always feel good. And anyone who tells you differently hasn’t ever tried it. But nothing worth having was easy to obtain. And God’s got it under control. God knows what He’s doing, He never makes mistakes, and He always keeps His promises.

A thought on Good Friday

Technically, it’s Saturday now, but I had this thought yesterday at NewSpring’s first Good Friday service ever . . . . It was a very different kind of service for NewSpring. Usually we’re pretty excited and wild and loud and crazy; it’s a lot of fun. But this service was very somber. Solemn. Dark. Sad. It was a wonderful representation of how people must have felt when Jesus died.

As the service progressed and we sang and listened to the last words Jesus spoke before He died, I was overwhelmed with the realization that even if it had just been me, He would have done it all again. He died–suffered the way He did–for the whole world, but it was personal. He did it for me. Because of me. I can’t help but wonder why when I think about how I’ve thanked Him for His sacrifice.

What stuns me into shocked silence is remembering that He knew I would betray Him. That He knew I would disappoint Him and let Him down and break His heart . . . again and again and again . . . Even before He saved me, Jesus knew I would fail Him. But even then He chose to never fail me.

I don’t understand love like that. I mean, a part of me does. I guess. I have many friends I know who have disappointed me time and time again but I’ve never given up on them–mainly because Jesus never gives up on me. I would still gladly give up my life for any one of my friends. So maybe I do understand to a certain extent. What I really don’t get is why Christ could love me so much, when I know I don’t deserve it. When He knows I don’t deserve it.

Love like that makes me tremble inside with tears I don’t dare let out becuase they won’t ever stop. Knowing that He loves me even though He knows I’m still going to screw up and that He’ll forgive me even then. Knowing that no matter what I do or where I go, He’ll never forget me or leave me alone. Knowing that no matter how much I disappoint Him, He’ll always be there for me. That kind of safety and security is more than comfort. It’s everything. How could I live without it? How could I make it through a day without knowing that He’s there, listening to me, laughing with me (and probably at me), loving me so intensely?

I’m thankful. So thankful.

Last night was wonderful to sit in a room of over a thousand of my brothers and sisters and remember Christ’s death. But I’m very excited for tonight and tomorrow when I’ll join them all again to celebrate the fact that Christ didn’t stay dead. That’s what Easter is all about. Not a shared spirit of humanity .  . . . I saw that on a news blurb this morning. Not bunnies or candies or baskets left on doorsteps. Easter is hope, knowing that this crazy life isn’t all there is, that there’s something bigger and better coming and that we can be a part of it.

I have to say, if you want to see a party . . . . click on this link at 5:00 pm or 6:30 pm today . . . . or at 9:30 am or 11:15 am tomorrow. You want to know what Easter is all about? Click.