May 7, 2017

"The blood will never lose its power"

Why is life after Easter different?

Christian tradition and Holy Scriptures teach why the crucifixion was more than a political or religious execution. It was more than a good man's unjust death. It was more than a sudden end to a political movement.

The resurrection celebrated as  Easter was more than a fable-type happy ending to a sad story. The ascension was more than an easy out to a story that might have ended in another death--this one from old age or because of an accident.

Christian songwriter Andrae Crouch ( 1942-2015) wrote about the sacrificial elements of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection when referring to Jesus' bloodshed experience: "the blood that Jesus shed for me will never lose its power."

What does this mean?

Christ's death is an image of and actually fulfills a "payment in full" for our rebellion against the God-created order. This rebellion can also be labeled as "sin." The greatest evil of sin is not that we do "bad things." The greatest evil of sin is we become "lesser spirits", ones that are unable to interact with and communicate with our creator. We are unable to live up to our potential or live up to our inner dreams of goodness or greatness.

We sin because we are crippled and weakened by our separation from God. In turn, we commit acts considered (by God) as "sinful" because we are lost from living in a higher and better way. We are lost from living the lives we were created to live an enjoy.

Jesus' death of sacrifice cancels our crippled state and creates another pathway for life--a path that's open to all people in all times and places of history.

Why isn't this more obvious, and why hasn't everyone accepted this?

One element of our higher state that wasn't completely destroyed by sin was our ability to make a choice for many elements of life.

Without choice, there is no freedom.  Ironically, we are now free to be stumblers or we are free to be high level, loved followers of God.

We have options, thanks to Jesus. We can choose his way--repentance, redemption, and restoration--or we can choose the stumbler's way: self-directed, self-defined, self-identified, self-powered, and self-focused. We even have the option of trying both paths in a single lifetime.

When you look around the world and see the injustices, the pain, the suffering, the living death, you are observing the stumbler's way multiplied millions of times. You are observing the proof that humans are not naturally good. You are observing the proof of our inability to solve our deepest problems.

My hope is you have in some way been touched by a true lover and follower of Christ. Perhaps you have known one personally. Perhaps you have known one through some form of media: books, articles, blogs, music, film. Perhaps you have known one through the pages of Scripture.

In these lovers and followers, you have will a look at the Jesus Way: repentance, redemption, restoration. In this way, the weaknesses that often masquerade as sin can be cleansed from your soul. You can then achieve and practice the ability to speak up when necessary, to stay silent when it's wise to do that, to stay focused and on task, to see possibilities and opportunities in every experience, to sleep peacefully each night and wake up filled with hope each morning.

You can choose to allow the sacrificial, debt-paying death of Christ--along with his resurrection and ascension to world managing heights--to carry you out of the stumbler's path.

His sacrifice will never lose its power to bring you from where you are to where your soul longs to be: at home with God in this life and in the life to follow.

April 15, 2017

#EasterVigil Lesson

Yes, you absolutely can recover from the loss of life's familiar structures and patterns.

The disciples on Holy Saturday:  hiding out, dreams crushed, identities warped, "fearless leader" killed by oppressive state powers which were guided by jealousy and envy.

The disciples after the Resurrection:  surprised beyond belief by the emergence of supernatural good, enfused with a positive mission, focused and determined, full of faith even when challenged or in danger or meeting death.

Yes, you can recover. When Jesus restores, he takes less and makes more.

There is a life worth living, even after the deepest darkness and the most piercing pain.

April 12, 2017

#Lent2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #8

From Hebrews 12:2: "...Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross..."

What was that joy?

After all, isn't the world a pretty miserable place? Hasn't human history been filled with war, disease, oppression, and dishonesty---even among those who claim to be "religious"  or "spiritual"?

Even when we find happiness and contentment within our circles of family, friendship, church, or work, we cannot remain isolated from the wider world.

In spite of the pain that has lined human history, God has always lived in the hearts and minds of those who follow him in love.

Although we cannot see the full picture of the souls committed to love and serve God, these souls are visible and known to him.

These souls bring him joy!

In the midst of sadness and injustice of every kind,  there are those who continue to trust in the love of God. Some are alone in their faith. Others worship in a church or other gathering.

Some are ill. Some are healthy and fit. Some are wise and intellectually powerful.  Others struggle to function at a basic level.

Some are wealthy. Others make ends meet with much effort. Some will travel across continents several times each year. Others will never leave the town or village where they were born.

The "joy set before him" was the certainty that so many lost souls from so many corners of humanity would come into fellowship with the God who loves them. No matter how or where or when those souls entered the world, they would be able to spend their lives and all eternity loving the God who loves them from forever to forever.

For this, he endured the cross.

April 5, 2017

#Lent2017 Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #7

Jesus offers freedom.

Freedom is the will and ability to act upon the higher elements of your gifts, temperament, and personality.

What's stopping you?

Very likely,  you are stopped by some combination of fear, peer pressure, and self-doubt.

You can be free of these, but freedom won't come easily or instantly.

Begin. Begin now.

Follow Jesus.

April 4, 2017

#Lent2017 Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #6

Fatigue often accompanies the struggle for renewal.

Choosing to go against "the grain", against an established pattern, calls to the deepest parts of our hearts.

Rest, a coming away from daily demands and routines, is a requirement for growth. There is no virtue in refusing to accept and embrace a time of renewal and refreshment.

Jesus, the God-Man, regularly stepped away from the crowds for a time of prayer and quiet reflection.
In this practice,  I will follow my leader.

April 3, 2017

#Lent2017 Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #5

"Jesus wept". It is the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35).

Jesus was acquainted with grief. He didn't live in grief, but he knew and understood it. That should be our formula as well.

If we live honestly and see what's around us, we will be acquainted with grief. Then, we will move on. We will not bury or deny our grief. In fact, if we have been deeply wounded, some part of us will be changed--perhaps forever.

When we reach that place, we can choose to welcome and engage Jesus the Resurrector. He restores life.

There are no guarantees he will restore the life we had, or the life we'd hoped to have. He may restore us to something wildly different from what we'd imagined. It will be good.

His call to follow comes with a single promise: come with me and allow the life of God to live in you. See and experience fear, then deny and crush it. Come to the end of yourself in sadness and pain and learn a new way to live.

Allow Jesus to resurrect you into the life of truth. But first, you must be willing to let go of what you think you know.

April 2, 2017

#Lent2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #4

Jesus always encourages us to face our fears. Then, he says "fear not."

He's telling us not to be consumed by fear, not to hold the energy of fear within us, and not to accommodate our lives to the things we fear.

When we go with Jesus, there is always some stress involved because we are constantly uncovering and defeating our fears.

We don't do this alone.  He goes with us because we chose to go with him. It's a journey of love: a loving God teaches his beloved creature to live beyond fear.

Beyond fear, there is only love.

April 1, 2017

#Lent2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #3

Yes, there are easier journeys.
There are journeys requiring less change, journeys of fewer challenges, journeys filled with ease and comfort.
But when God calls you to walk with him, there is no finer road to walk.
The journey brings the vision to life. There is nothing better.

March 30, 2017

Lent 2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus #2

When I journey with Jesus, I choose his companionship. I also choose a preference for his companionship. No one is in competition with him for my love or devotion.

March 29, 2017

Lent 2017: Going to Jerusalem with Jesus

The human and divine parts of Jesus chose to take the long view. After Gethsemane and Calvary: Resurrection and Ascension.

Am I willing to follow this pattern?