Monthly Archives: April 2015

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 7

Road Less Travelled Spring trees roadway 3 forks area 4-15-15In 1916, Robert Frost published a poem titled, The Road Not Taken. It helps to illustrate the fact that life really is a journey and that we have a variety of options. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by. / And that has made all the difference.” Jodi and I both love that poem, and the many parallels to life that can be drawn from it.

Sometimes the little choices we make in life that really do make all the difference. Had it not been for a mutual friend, or the fact that I chose to attend a particular church youth event as a teenager, I might never have met Jodi. Naturally, we seldom realize the importance of those little choices and decisions at the time. Because we never see more than a small snapshot of the entire roadmap at any one time, we are prone to be shortsighted. That makes it even more important to stay close to Jesus and walk with him so he can show us the way. It can be a tall order.

The Apostle Paul reflected on this challenge in 1 Corinthians 13:12. He wrote, “Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now” (nlt). Here he contrasts our present blurred vision with the future clear revelation in heaven. When we see Jesus Christ face-to-face, we will see everything else with clarity. Even in this life, the more clearly we see Jesus, the more clearly we will understand the meaning of the here and now.

The Easter story provides the foundation for our faith in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God. Before the resurrection came death and despair. Jesus’ followers were scattered and shocked. You can read Luke’s version of the story beginning in Luke 24:13. All of Jerusalem was in an uproar. The disciples of Jesus were in hiding. There was serious talk of disbanding their group. They were about ready to close the door on the New Testament church for the last time. Little did they know that they were really only forty days away from the grand opening of the church doors on the Day of Pentecost!

Without Jesus, they couldn’t go on. Their hopes were crushed, their dreams shattered. As far as they could see, their leader was gone. But was he? Strange reports from some of the women and a firsthand account by Peter told of an empty tomb, grave clothes lying wrapped as though the body had just evaporated from them, and an appearance by angels announcing a resurrection.

As two friends walked on the road to Emmaus (a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem) they discussed the situation. We know the name of one, Cleopas (possibly a male form of Cleopatra). His name meant “the glory of being called a father.” A name like that would identify him as a leader. Obviously both Cleopas and his companion had been closely associated with Jesus and the twelve disciples. Perhaps they were part of the larger group of seventy that Jesus had sent out.

We don’t know why they were walking to Emmaus. Maybe they lived there. Maybe they were escaping Jerusalem for fear of losing their own lives. Maybe they just wanted to walk and talk and try to sort things out in their minds. Whenever we have problems, it helps to talk things over with a friend. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle and the greatest event in history. Yet, from day one it has generated a lot of questions—for many people more questions than answers. That’s the way it is with miracles. Reason asks questions. Our mind wants a resolution to our questions, our hearts want ato believe for that which seems impossible. Faith simply believes the impossible is possible.  Keep believing.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question: Part 6

Ghost Tree Middle of Cottonwoods Meadowbrook Farm - Nostalgic Purple 4-16-15Sometimes God uses this life’s greatest losses to bring about heaven’s greatest gains.

Perhaps like Mary and Martha in the Bible who lost their brother Lazarus, you have experienced the death of a loved one and been deeply grieved. Grief is a process and it takes time to process our feelings of grief and loss—tempered with the comfort of the Holy Spirit and hope of heaven.

The story of Mary and Martha’s grief at the death of their beloved brother draws me into the drama of the situation. And that is where I discover what has become one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It also happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible—the go-to verse for those who are not gifted with a good memory but want to remember a verse in the Scriptures.  John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”  If you are not familiar with the context, this verse begs the question, “Why?”  Why did Jesus weep?

Jesus wept because of the grief he saw in the lives of his good friends Mary and Martha after the sudden and untimely death of their brother Lazarus. I love this chapter because it provides so many of the answers to the “why?” questions about life and death. Here are a few of the lessons I learn from this:

  1. John 11:5 tells us that “Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus:” Despite our circumstances, we should never forget that God loves us and wants what is best for us.
  2. John 11:19 tells us that Mary and Martha’s friends gathered: We learn that friends can help us process our grief and bear our burdens.
  3. It is normal to have questions when death suddenly takes a loved one: Mary and Martha were grieving – and they sent for Jesus while their brother was still alive, but Jesus did not respond to their request until after Lazarus died. Naturally, they were disappointed, and somewhat angry. So much so that when Jesus finally did arrive with his disciples, Martha (always the one associated with action) goes out to meet him and rather accusingly exclaims, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.”
  4. Martha showed her belief and hope when she said, “Even now, you could do something.”
  5. What followed is an important lesson for us about life and death and belief in Jesus: John 11:23-27 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
  6. Martha shared the good news that Jesus had come and sent a secret message to her grieving sister, Mary. “The Master is here, and He is calling for you.” (Matthew 11:28)
  7. We tend to tell ourselves a story to accommodate our pain and resolve our incredulity at our circumstances.  Mary rehearsed the same speech her sister Martha had given. “Jesus, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” No doubt they had said this over and over. If only. . .”
  8. Jesus cares about our grief. Upon seeing Mary and the weeping, grieving crowd, “Jesus wept.” This is perhaps one of the most poignant verses in all of Scripture. It lets us know that Jesus really was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
  9. Others recognized the compassion and power of Jesus.  Yet, they still searched for reasons and asked questions:  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
  10. Jesus was moved by their compassion, in spite of their questions and reasoning. John 11:38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.” Where He proceeded to call Lazarus from the grave!

A final takeaway from this:  When other people see our faith in Jesus, despite our grief and questions and reasoning, they will be drawn to Him.

“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” (John 11:45 NIV)

Because sometimes God uses this life’s greatest losses to bring about heaven’s greatest gains!

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 5

Seaside beach grassy sandy foreground 4-11-15When do most people buy a home or business security system? They do so after they or a neighbor have been robbed. The feeling of being violated breeds an environment of distrust and a sense of urgency. An event motivated us to ask questions and discover solutions so we can take action. Why?  Because something  happened to us that is out of our control. We believe we can get back in control and establish a sense of security by installing a security system.

Whenever something traumatic happens to us, we ask questions in our quest to regain some sense of meaning and security. And our biggest questions usually are God-sized questions that we would like Him to answer. And the biggest question of all is, “WHY?” The why questions always accompany challenges and remain the most lingering and persistent questions. It is a persistent question because it is a question about insecurity and angst – feelings we all experience. We long to make some sense out of events that shape our lives, and gain some sense of security in the process. So we long to know why.

John records a situation where Jesus and his disciples passed by a man who was born blind (John 9:1-7). This disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Their question revealed a common belief – almost like the idea of karma. If something bad happens, then it must be somebody’s fault. Jesus set the record straight – this man was born blind for God’s purposes, not because of something he or his parents had done.

While we are looking for somebody to blame, Jesus is looking for somebody to bless. But when something bad happens to us, long after we have answered the “who, what, when, where, and how” we still seek understanding, thus we ask “Why?” Our insecurity screams out for something secure to provide stability to calm our chaos of emotions.

After the death of their brother Lazarus, when Jesus did not arrive as requested and anticipated, Mary and Martha asked, “Why didn’t you come when we needed you?”

In the next post, I’ll explore how Jesus responded to their inquiry. He never did directly answer their question. What he did do turned their demand into delight and their grief into gratitude.

But until then, remember this:

Your best security system is Jesus! 

 

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 4

Sunset Snoqualmie River looking west from Meadowbrook Way SE BridgeJesus is the master teacher. He often taught by asking questions, and sometimes answered a question with a question. So what was Jesus teaching us when he asked the ultimate question of suffering?

Jesus’ final words on the cross reflect the over-arching question of the human race, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” If Jesus could ask God such a persistent question, I think we can honestly do so as well.

The answer may not be what we expect—but silence is an answer. Silence does not mean God is hard of hearing. It often does mean that we are not prepared to listen, or hear the real answer. Or it means that we will understand later.

Someone said, “Life must be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” So we search for answers and keep moving forward. Often, the understanding does come later as we gain more clarity to the sequence of events. As the picture becomes clearer, the meaning of our pain, suffering, or questions becomes evident. Or not–either way we must learn to wait and trust and learn.

In the 13th chapter of John, Jesus is in the process of washing the disciples feet. Peter does not understand why Jesus would do such an undignified and servile task. He asks, “Lord are you going to wash my feet?”

We can be sure Jesus was not just doing this because he didn’t like the disciples’ dirty, stinky feet and wanted them cleaned up. There was a deeper reason, and the Bible tells us the sequence of events, even details like the timing of the last supper, a basin of water, and a towel.

Peter’s question was a plea for understanding mixed with a bit of embarrassment and indignity that Jesus would do such a thing. This scenario remains a good reminder for us when we question God’s dealings in our lives, wonder if He cares, and ponder the big “Why?”

Jesus responded to Peter’s question with this very important principle – one that we would all do well to remember:  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 NIV)

Now. Do not understand. Later. Will understand. This sequence applies to learning about almost everything. Foreign concepts at first seem incomprehensible to us. Later they make perfect sense once we understand. Good teachers know there are no “dumb” questions, especially at first. And Jesus is the best teacher.

Jesus did not scold Peter, and he did not embarrass him. He also did not fully explain or answer all of Peter’s persistent questions. But Jesus did establish this principle that applies in so many situations of our lives:  Life can be understood backwards, but must be lived forward.”  In other words, our perplexing questions about today may well give way to understanding later when more of the picture is revealed to us.

Until later becomes now, we have to keep believing and exercise our faith when we do not see or understand, and wonder, “why?” After all, that is what faith consists of, “The substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 3

Eagle soaring closeup Skagit County 3-26-15“Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”       -Isaiah 40:31

Wait. How we hate to wait! The word may spark anxiety in your heart, but the grieving process takes time. And that flies in the face of our “why wait?” culture and personal orientation when it comes to relief from pressure, anxiety, or desire of any kind.

Whenever you suffer a significant loss, you grieve. And the loss may seem insignificant to others or inconsequential in the big scheme of things. But if it was a big deal to you, if it made your heart feel pain, if it left you anxious and afraid, then you are facing grief. And working through the stages of grief takes time. You will get better. I know, you’ve heard it before. But you will get better. YOU WILL GET BETTER!

Denial. Anger. Bargaining.  Depression. Acceptance. How this process of grief plays out, and the length of each stage differs from person to person. It takes time–you just don’t know how much time. But you will get better. YOU WILL GET BETTER!

If you have read this far, you might think I am over-simplifying things, and if you are grieving your mind may have already circled back to the “Why?” question again. Well, you’ve come this far.  Why stop now? There, I did it–found another use for that most persistent question. And how about another?  Why not? Why not, indeed?

Why not learn from a fellow traveler on the road of suffering who had his share of disappointment–both giving it and receiving it. His name was Peter – and yes he is the one who cursed and denied that he had ever heard of Jesus (after promising that he would never do such a thing) at the moment Jesus needed him the most. Ouch!  Like I said, he understood disappointment. The Bible tells us that following that stellar performance, Peter went out and “wept bitterly.” This was such a big deal that both Matthew and Luke reported his bitter tears in their Gospels (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62).

When Peter speaks about suffering and disappointment, perhaps we should listen. Many years past that painful event, Peter, who had been transformed by Pentecost and the working of the Spirit in his life over time, shares some advice for fellow pilgrims who wonder, “Why me?”

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.  (1 Peter 4:12-19 NIV)

So did you catch what Peter said? I understand that he was writing to first century Christians who may have been facing persecution and even martyrdom for their faith–unlike anything most westerners are likely to face today. However his words provide meaning to all people in all places for all time.

  • Don’t be surprised by suffering.
  • Rejoice in your relationship with Christ.
  • Don’t think you are suffering for Christ if you are just being a jerk.
  • You may be suffering, “according to God’s will” despite those who theorize that God always wants you to be happy.
  • Commit yourself to our Faithful God.
  • Continue to do good.

This begs the question, “Why is it so difficult to apply this to my life?” Let’s begin with baby steps:

  1. What surprises you about your situation? The word “incredulity” means, “I can’t believe this happened to me!” What would it take for you to get over your shock that it did happen?
  2. What blessing can you discover to rejoice about today?
  3. What can you do to commit your ways to God? I like to pray and personalize these verses from Psalm 37:3-5 “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.” (NIV)
  4. What is one good thing that you can do right now as a next step toward “continuing to do good”? Go for it. You can do this!

And always remember:  When you think you won’t, YOU WILL GET BETTER! Have a great weekend. After all, why not? More about life’s persistent question and another relevant story about Peter next week.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 2

Snoqualmie Trail along Snoqualmie River Mt Si Background 3-20-15For most of us, the quest for answers continues long after the storm has passed. And that lingering, most persistent question consistently nags at your heart and soul. At a time when your troubled soul pines for consistency and order, you instead experience a chaos of emotions and the only consistent thing seems to be a flashback to traumatic events accompanied by the search for a cause: “Why?”

Long after you have organized the pertinent details (the who, what, where, when, and how) into a tidy corner of your mind, you just cannot seem to find an adequate compartment to fit the enormous tension contained in that tiny three-lettered word, “Why?”

  • Why did this happen?
  • Why did this happen to me?
  • Why didn’t God prevent it?
  • Why couldn’t I have seen it coming?
  • Why was I so careless?
  • Why didn’t someone warn me?
  • Why can’t I get over this?

Don’t get me wrong. Why is an important question. Maybe life’s most important question when asked in the context of, “Why am I here?” Defining the answer to that question helps provide purpose in life–an essential ingredient for a fulfilling existence. And as Simon Sinek reminds us in his best-selling business book, Start With Why, if you don’t know why you won’t know how, and may not fully understand what, either.  This truth pertains to individuals as well as businesses and organizations.

Why explores the reasons behind what we do. Why searches for intent and motivation. But why can also indicate a quest for placing blame or shame. And that is frequently the application when it comes to dealing with the grief of disappointment, catastrophe, or loss. We want a reasonable explanation for the chaos in our hearts and lives. We want to know who is responsible, to resolve our own angst. Once that is settled, we are on the path toward acceptance. This is where we can place the answer to “Why?” in its proper compartment and move on, and eventually the sharp edges of that memory will no longer cause the same kind of prickly pain we initially experienced.

So, what are the persistent questions you are dealing with in your life? How are you dealing with them? Why are you still stuck? Who can you confide in? What are you afraid of? What will it take for you to move on? What is God asking you to do?  And above all, remember this:  YOU WILL GET BETTER. THINGS WILL CHANGE. We’ll explore this further in the next post.

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 1: Post-Easter

Sno Ped Bridge Near Sunset 3-20-15Following the heartwarming hope of Easter Sunday may come the disturbing doubt of an ordinary Monday. Perhaps you have wondered about suffering and death—maybe wondered if God really cares or has a plan. And perhaps like Mary and Martha in the Bible who lost their brother Lazarus, you have experienced the death of a loved one and been deeply grieved. Grief is a process and it takes time to process our feelings of grief and loss—tempered with the comfort of the Holy Spirit and hope of heaven.

The sudden loss of a loved one or other tragedy leaves us with questions, and we long for answers, for some resolution to the tension and emotional pain that we experience. While we believe our loved one is in a better place and can rejoice that for now his or her struggles of life are over, we have a difficult time imagining how our own world will be a better place without them. In essence, we are struggling with the questions of suffering that all human beings deal with.

Questions of suffering include a quest for details and information. Once we learned the who, the what, the where, the when, and the how surrounding a tragedy, we are left with life’s most persistent question:  Why?

Like trying to fit together the pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle, our minds try to solve this puzzling question. Why, we ask? To solve a really perplexing puzzle takes time, and it takes time to process our grief and quest for the answer or reasons why. Perhaps a better “why question would be to ask, “Why do we sometimes expect our journey with Christ will only lead us on happy trails filled with warm feelings, good light and road signs every mile or so explaining the conditions ahead?”

Is it possible that the path of suffering might provide moments of mystery where our own faith could grow? Could those dark shadows cause us to cling ever closer to Jesus? Might our faith muscles stretch and develop through the twists and turns of an uphill climb when we don’t know exactly what lies around the next corner? Could the mystery of those moments cause us to speak with a little less certainty about our own ability and instead trust more fully in God’s? And is it possible that we are better for those mysterious moments because we can now encourage fellow travelers to keep climbing, keep pursuing, and keep moving forward because we have felt the hand of the Good Shepherd leading us through the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death?

Inquiring minds need to know, yet there are times when no easy answer comes. Ask Jesus. His plea from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” was met with silence on earth. However, that was not the end of the story–even at that moment. Although unheard on earth, there was applause in heaven as they were preparing for the return of God’s only begotten Son.

“Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11 NIV)

He understands the moments of mystery you face. And you don’t have to face them alone. I’m praying for those of you today who are suffering from a Post-Easter letdown based upon the reality of your present circumstances. Remember that where you are right now may only be a detour for your own provision and protection that you will later look back upon and understand more fully. Keep believing.

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 8 Easter Sunday

empty tomb easter = hopeEaster is all about hope. Hope when things seem hopeless. Hope when life’s challenges hit you like an avalanche of trouble that freezes your ability to move forward by its icy grip. Hope when your dreams are shattered. Hope when your confidence is shaken. Hope when your faith is hanging on by an invisible thread to the only life preserver keeping you from drowning in a sea of despair. Hope that does not deny reality, but sees beyond the current circumstances to a time when your shattered dreams and shaken confidence will be resurrected with fresh vision and vitality.

Hope will sustain you during moments of crisis and seasons of suffering. It will provide you with determination to overcome disappointment. It will instill courage to keep you talking that next step on your detoured pathway. And it will inspire perseverance to keep believing in your destiny despite the persistent questions that troubling circumstances throw your way.

Above all, hope in the resurrection of Christ provides a narrative and context for every situation of life. It provides an over-arching and eternal perspective on every puzzling picture we view and try to interpret this side of heaven.  Faith in a risen Savior makes all the difference. “Because I live, you shall live also” Jesus said (John 14:19).

Paul put it this way:  “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:18-19 NLT).

Maybe you have watched the television series, Resurrection. In it, people in a small Missouri town are amazed to discover people walking around who had died years ago, looking just like they did before they died. One of the main characters was a pastor, but there isn’t much theological or biblical truth in the show. In typical Hollywood fashion, the resurrected people will probably turn out to be aliens.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a fable about aliens, and it is not just a story that history forgot. It is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago because Jesus rose from the dead and lives today. Peter was an eyewitness to those events, and his testimony provides encouragement and hope to us, despite our circumstances, to keep believing:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV)

HAPPY EASTER!

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 7 Silent Saturday

Green-Wood CemeterySaturday of Holy Week was a Sabbath of silence. And silence can be deafening. Grief is best articulated in sobs. Peter wept bitterly and suffered in silence because what he said secretly by cursing and denying Christ was the exact opposite of his stated public intention. His friends having silently scattered, few were left to witness Jesus’ death on the cross. The astonishment of incredulous circumstances left them mute to ponder their own silent questions in secret.

Silence provides time for reflection. The din of constant twenty first century noise creates a chronic state of auditory anxiety that many people accept as normal—so much so that some cannot sleep without ambient noise from a television or radio. Finding a place of silence may require intentionality, and no place is as silent as a graveyard. The death of Jesus had created silence and left Jesus followers alone to reflect on the events of the past days and their own actions. Silence, solitude, and Sabbath are necessary components of spiritual formation. If we don’t create these opportunities on our own, God may allow interruptions to our plans and schedules in the form of disappointments and detours which require cessation and silence for a season. Thus, we often suffer in silence and in secret during these opportunities for grace and growth.

But silence and secrets are sometimes interrupted by the urgent need for speaking and action. Jesus’ body was hurriedly prepared for the tomb because of the approaching Sabbath. The disciples having fled, Joseph of Arimathaea went to Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus. Each of the Gospel writers record this fact and more:

  • Matthew (27:57) tells us that Joseph was wealthy and a disciple of Jesus who wrapped Jesus in a clean new cloth and placed him in his own newly prepared tomb for burial while two women (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) watched.
  • Mark (15:43-45) records that Joseph was a member of the Jewish high council, and that he courageously went to Pilate and requested the body of Jesus.
  • Luke (23:50-54) states Joseph was a good and just man, and he had not agreed with the decision of the high council to turn Jesus over to the Romans for judgment.
  • John (19:38-42) provides even more detail, calling Joseph a “secret disciple” and revealing his partner Nicodemus (another secret disciple who came to Jesus by night -John 3) helped him retrieve and prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

Silence gives way to song.  The silent suffering of incredulity was interrupted by the dawn of a new day and with it the resurrection of Jesus. Seeing Jesus alive and well turned on the light of revelation and dispelled the doubts of incredulity and grief. Followers of Christ have been singing about it ever since, not in secret silent solitude, but in open jubilant communal praise and worship.

During the Easter season of 1874, while having his devotions one evening, Pastor Robert Lowry reflected on the events associated with Christ’s resurrection, especially with these words recorded in Luke 24:6, “He is not here, but is risen.”

Being a musician, Pastor Lowry sat down with the pump organ so common in homes of that era, and wrote the inspired words and music of “Christ Arose.” The silence of Saturday’s Holy Sabbath gave way to the lyrics congregations have joyfully sung on Easter ever since:

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus, my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus, my Savior; vainly they seal the dead, Jesus, my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord!

Refrain:

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 6 – Good Friday

three crossesGood Friday. A good day for remembering Calvary and the events that happened there 2,000 years ago that changed the world forever. Three crosses for three men, all condemned to die. Two of them deservedly so, for their life of crime had paved the road to this place of execution. Along the way they had no doubt suffered many disappointments and disappointed many family and friends, yet had managed to escape the strong arm of the law thus far. Now their past caught up with them, taking them on an unexpected detour. A detour leading to their final destiny called Golgotha or Calvary, “the place of the skull.”

However, the third man had committed no crimes, had violated no laws.  Many were offended by Him, to be sure, otherwise He would not have been there.  But He was no sinner.  He was the Son of God, hung to die between the two criminals. He had no debt to pay to society, yet as God’s spotless lamb He willingly suffered and died, paying the penalty for the sins of the world (John 1:29), and thus changing society forever. Jesus suffered the ultimate injustice so we could obtain mercy.

One criminal was unrepentant, dying as he had lived—cynical, sneering—fearing neither God nor man.  The other, realizing the error of his ways and the reality of his mortality upbraided his comrade in crime and reminded him that this other man, Jesus, was no sinner. “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:41-42 NLT).

“Remember me.” I’m sure there were many episodes in his life he wanted to forget.  I’m sure he had accumulated numerous frequent flier miles in his flights from the scene of a crime.  These he wanted to forget, just as we do, for we are all sinners in God’s sight. In coming to Christ with his sin, Jesus saw beneath the outward appearance. Jesus saw a repentant heart, and did what He does best, He forgave.

Simple words: “Remember me.” They call to mind another biblical promise: “For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Jesus’ response?  “Today, you will be with me in paradise!”  Paradise, for a criminal, a sinner?  Paradise?  Isn’t that what the thief had longed for, plotted for and stolen for?  To get a piece of paradise for himself?  And now, in his final moments this detour on his road to hell has led unexpectedly to the One who could make his dream a reality.  And the best news of all, he did not need to plot, plead or connive. His humble request was all it took. “Remember me.”

Paradise, heaven, eternal life, however you wish to describe it—was offered to that first century sinner as a free gift, just as it is offered to twenty-first century sinners today of every description. Thinking about such a gracious offer from such a righteous God to such unrighteous people must have prompted the Apostle Paul to write:   “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV).

Prayer:  Lord, make us grateful for your wonderful and enduring promise of eternal life for us who deserve, like the thief on the cross only eternal damnation. Thank you for Good Friday and what you did on that day.

©2015 Don Detrick