The Easter celebration is filled with powerful images. The crown of thorns shows us the sheer brutality and ironic sensibilities of Jesus’ executioners. The Via Delorosa is marked by the stations of Jesus’ ascent to Golgotha. And the cross is a vivid reminder of the pain caused by God turning away from Jesus.
What I love about the Bible is how everything is interrelated. One of the most obvious interrelations is the unity between the Garden of Eden and the place Jesus died. I have heard it said that Genesis 3 gives the very first prophecy concerning Jesus. After Satan successfully leads Adam and Eve into sin, God says this, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heal.” That he is a man born of a woman. That he will not succumb to temptation, live a perfect life and crush the head of Satan.
The he is Jesus. Satan strikes Jesus with the pounding of a pike through his feet on the cross. And Jesus deals a mortal wound to Satan’s head by overcoming Satan’s most powerful weapon…death. Therefore, the death of Jesus sets off a chain of events that cannot be reversed and the doom of Satan is secured.
It is certainly true that the work of Christ on the cross (the Atonement) is marked by a number of important effects. One effect is imputing our sin upon Jesus and simultaneously imputing his righteousness upon us. But another effect is the ultimate destruction of that vile snake that has hounded the righteous since the first rays of the sun.
Since the children have flesh and blood (us), he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil… Hebrews 2:14
This Easter season, let’s remember not only our undeserved salvation, but also the deathblow dealt to him that would take away our salvation.Read More
There are two guys who love baseball. One is an extremely knowledgeable student of the game. He can rattle off all sorts of facts and statistics about players and teams. He also spends lots of money going to professional games and traveling to the different ballparks. But he never actually plays the game except for one year of baseball in middle school.
The other guy doesn’t go to professional baseball games. He doesn’t know much about all the professional players. But he plays baseball with a group of guys every week. He loves the smell of the dirt and his glove. He loves the feeling of pulling off a double play. Playing catch with his daughter is one of his favorite things to do.
Now which person would you say knows baseball better? The gentleman who has facts but hasn’t picked up a baseball bat in 20 years? Or, the gentleman who doesn’t know who has the best batting average, but can’t wait until Saturday to put on his cleats for a ball game.
The one who spends his time playing has better knowledge of the game. The simple reason is that baseball is a game with the fundamental purpose to be played. The fundamental purpose of baseball is not entertainment or the memorization of facts (although that is an extremely fun element to the sport).
Jesus at one point, rebukes the disciples for not allowing children to come near to him. He says in Luke 18, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
What Jesus is saying is that the fundamental purpose to the kingdom of God is not having a vast knowledge of the kingdom, but rather being close to someone…Jesus.
Children are our teachers when it comes a simple faith. Adults worry that they are doing the right things, saying the right things and acting in ways that are holy. When all the while, children just want to get close to Jesus.
Receiving the kingdom of God is not knowing about Jesus, but rather getting close to Jesus. The kingdom of God is a matter of proximity (which leads to true knowledge), not an amount of knowledge (which leads to distrust).Read More
Imagine you had a really terrible memory—I mean really really terrible. So terrible, you forget everything every 30 minutes. Simple things would become difficult and potentially dangerous. For example, let’s say you hike a mountain. You get to the top: you look around and love the view. Seeing as you cannot stay at the top forever, you consider your descent. But you don’t remember how you first ascended the mountain. Your memory is so bad that you are not concerned with the dangerous position you find yourself in, and you start walking down the path that you find most preferable.
The “most preferable” is not necessarily the right way to get back home. The “most preferable” is simply the way you choose based upon whatever criteria you want. Since there are any number of ways to get off any mountain, you are probably in serious trouble.
Revelation 3:2-3 says, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
In other words, we tend to have memory problems. How quick do we forget what God has done in the past? How often to we pray that God leads us forward when we forget how He led us here? How often do we negotiate descending a mountain without considering how we arrived at the top?
As we progress in our faith, sometimes we fail to see the connection between where God has led us and where God is leading us. It’s almost like every prayer request starts at square one—devoid of any connection to the work God has done in your life.
I’m convinced when God works in our lives (miracles or an answered prayer or the salvation of a close friend), he wants us to listen. He doesn’t simply work so that we can get back to “business as usual”. He works so that we might change. He works so that we specifically don’t go back to “business as usual”. When God acts, we are supposed to listen and not forget.
How has God lead you to where you are? How does that affect where you are going? What is “business as usual” to you? Is God fine with your “business as usual”?Read More
This week I draw your attention to these wise words from Randy Kilgore of “Our Daily Bread” :
Former US President Harry Truman had a rule: Any letters written in anger had to sit on his desk for 24 hours before they could be mailed. If at the end of that “cooling off” period, he still felt the same sentiments, he would send the letter. By the end of his life, Truman’s unmailed letters filled a large desk drawer. How often in this age of immediate communication would even 24 minutes of wise restraint spare us embarrassment!
In his epistle, James addressed a universal theme in human history when he wrote about the damage an uncontrolled tongue can bring. “No man can tame the tongue,” he wrote. “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8).
When we’re gossiping or speaking in anger, we find ourselves outside the lines of what God desires. Our tongues, our pens, and even our keyboards should more often fall silent with thanks for the restraint God provides. All too often, when we speak we remind everyone of our brokenness as human beings.
When we want to surprise others with the difference Christ makes, we may need to look no further than restraining our tongue. Others can’t help but notice when we honor God with what we say—or don’t say.Read More
I have a confession. I take entirely too much time worrying about what others believe and what others do. Translation: I worry that others do not know they are wrong and I am right. And when they are wrong, my beliefs—and lo, my very self—are being invalidated.
There are a few problems with worrying so much about others. 1) Often our worry sifts focus away from our own issues. 2) We want to impose our will in a situation of which we have no control. 3) We begin to see problems everywhere we look. 4) Our knowledge becomes the plum line by which all else is measured. 5) We graduate and become the ultimate Christian hall-monitor knowing exactly what is wrong. In other words, we can quickly spiral into a mindset that everything and every one needs constant correction.
At one point Jesus says the entire Old Testament (law and prophets) can be summed up in two commands. 1) Love God. 2) Love your neighbor.
I wonder how much time we waste in mentally correcting others, while forgetting the 2 most important commands.
Where does your mind go when it is free to think? Honestly, I regularly have to fight thoughts that are sour, resentful and jealous.
There is, however, a benefit to worrying about others. When someone comes into your mind, it’s a great opportunity to pray over them—especially if you harbor negative feelings towards them. Pray and love those with whom you struggle.
When we worry about others, do we worry about them for our own sake (which makes us defensive and resentful)? Or, are we worrying about them for their own sake (which is what Jesus means by “love your neighbor”)?
Here is a challenge for you: the next time “that person” pops into your head, consider that it’s the Holy Spirit telling you to pray for them. So instead of doing the normal make-yourself-feel-better-by-
Talk about a funk. The Olympics are over. We are in the heart of one of the worst winters on record. But at least gas prices are going up.
I don’t know about you, but I can certainly get into mental funks. When I’m in a mental funk, I spend too much time thinking negatively about things, people and problems of which I have no control.
In a sick way, I kind of like my funk. Somehow it makes me feel above-it-all, like I know something no one else knows. The sad reality is, my mental funk is nothing new, and it doesn’t make me unique. Another word for mental funk is discontentment, and the world is the highest producer of discontentment.
Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
In other words, one of our primary goals is to renew our minds with the transformative gospel. We, therefore, spend our mental energy praying, dwelling on the Word and compassion for others. If we do not renew our minds every day, we conform to the pattern of the world—discontentment i.e. mental funk.
When you renew your mind a miracle happens. You again see the wide-open spaces of the Gospel. You are then recommissioned for your work in building God’s kingdom. And those problems become a good excuse to speak to your Father in heaven.Read More