Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter Sunday - Where Hope Meets Hate and Humiliation

So many people today are "waiting for a miracle." Some refuse to believe in a higher power unless they see a miracle for themselves. Sadly, the biggest critics are the ones who don't believe, even when presented with the most convincing evidence. Others are whole-heartedly awaiting a miracle, searching for something real in this world.

I believe that the enemy has used amazing advancements in the movies and technology to desensitize us to  the "unbelievable" and "impossible." Think about it. We are not amazed by the special effect dinosaurs in Jurassic World (don't get me wrong, I saw it twice in theaters and now own the DVD.) Even Bryce Dallas Howard referred to this when she explained that children aren't scared of their attractions anymore, so they need something bigger and scarier. We watch horror movies and we are not horrified. Five minutes into a thriller, we can foresee who will die first. We are becoming harder and harder to impress. And we know that behind every impressive thing is a catch, or just really advanced CGI.

Everything nowadays is being sold to us, and many times we reject things just on this principle.

I challenge you to recognize this fact, and shed the effects that this world has on you for a few moments. Because if you handle Jesus like you handle Jurassic World (again, one of my faves...), you will miss the out on the greatest miracle in history, the most important dose of reality.

On that first Good Friday, Jesus was brutally executed.

I remember watching The Passion of the Christ as a 14 year old. I had to leave the theater, overcome with emotion. I have gone back and forth on how I feel about that controversial film. Is it healthy to attempt to portray the greatest and most complex murder in history? Should I appreciate the outreach to a generation that craves wow factors and sensory overload? Either way, it's important that you read the story of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection with a prayerful heart. Asking the Lord to reveal the truth, the depth, the importance, and the emotion that surrounded His death, burial and resurrection. Because only Jesus can fill that void in your spirit that craves to be astounded. 

He was buried. The most final act in a person's life.
But, remember, Jesus wasn't merely human.

His life ended with the most humiliating of deaths - death on the cross. He was killed by those with nothing but hatred in their hearts. But the humility and hate was the key to the next part of the story. Nobody wanted Him dead as badly as those that killed Him. That made His resurrection from the dead that much more impressive! They made sure His body was mangled and torn before nailing Him to the cross. This was proof to the many, many people who met Him after He arose, untouched except for the piercing in His side and the marks in His hands and feet. There was no mistake that He was the same One who was hanging almost unrecognizably on the cross three days ago.

Hope was given, not just despite, but because of the hate and humiliation. 

If you live in shame, Jesus can give you hope, not just despite yourself, but all the more because of what you have suffered. His hope is designed for that purpose.
If you have hate in your heart and desire something bigger than you to overcome it, Jesus died just for that purpose. He wants to give you the same hope. Yes, you.

We all want to see bigger dinosaurs. We want to be awed. We even want to be scared and taken out of our comfort zone. My challenge for you is to go to the Bible instead of the big screen. Believe me, it can be scary to step out of your comfort zone and follow Jesus. But He has already experienced everything you will ever experience, so take ahold of His hope and prepared to stand in awe.


"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead. And, behold, He goeth before you into Galilee. There shall ye see Him. Lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, and did run to bring His disciples word."     - Matthew 28.1-8

"And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, they came not the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away, for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment, and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified. He is risen. He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee. There shall ye see Him, as He said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre, for they trembled and were amazed, neither said they any thing to any man, for they were afraid."     - Mark 16.2-8

"And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found no the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. As as they are afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seeketh the living among the dead? He is not here, but He is risen. Remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered His words."     - Luke 24.2-8

Friday, March 25, 2016

Seeing Love Through the Eyes of a 7 Year Old: The Story of Good Friday

I was 7 years old, doodling on a piece of scrap paper as I listened to my Sunday School teacher talk about Jesus. Yes, even the 7 year old Caitlin had trouble focusing on just one thing. I always enjoyed going to church. But something was different about this Sunday.
7 year old Caitlin on Easter Morning

He was describing God's love for His children. It's easy enough to explain love to a 7 year old. No one experiences love as purely and completely as a young child. But putting the love of our Lord, the Creator of the universe, into words is a daunting task regardless of your audience. So he got on our level and compared God's love for us to our parents love for us - "You know how much your Dad loves you? Jesus loves you EVEN MORE!!!!!" What?! No way. Not possible.

Maybe he noticed in my facial expression how my mind was trying to contain that thought, so he asked me how my Dad shows that he loves me. I told him about how Dad always kisses us goodbye a million times and tells us he loves us over and over again, even when we are just going to Walmart! "Can you imagine God loving you even more than that?"

That is when I decided to give my life to Jesus. To become a child of God as well as His creation. I became a Christian.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."     - John 3.16

I know why that is such a popular memory verse for young children. Kids know Love. They get Love. Somehow the older we get the more abstract and complex Love becomes. And that's sad.

Maybe you were not given the opportunity to experience the genuine love of a father, or even a mother. Can I invite you to lay aside the conceptions you have of earthly Love, even those that are buried deep in hurt or shame or guilt? If you will, I can tell you a story of Love that can heal all your wounds and replace them with your own personal story of the moment you met Jesus.

Jesus had just come into Jerusalem, and was teaching the people the Word of God. The Passover came, then Jesus went to the garden where he prayed and cried and sweated drops of blood in deep agony, knowing what would happen a few hours later. He prayed first for God to find another way, but finished His prayer by asking for God's will to be done.

See, Jesus was completely human. Remember this as you read the story of His arrest, torture, and crucifixion.

As He looked up at the Cross, He could have said no. If He were merely human, He would have said no. But just as He experienced all the humanity that we do, He was also fully God, full of Love for each one of us that we can never understand. No matter how purely we have experienced Love. No matter how damaging worldly love has been to us. But aren't you glad that the depth of His Love for us is not dependent on our capacity to understand it? 

He died on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven. Without forgiveness of our sins, we can never go to heaven. Now the price is paid, all we have to do is pick up that payment. Receive it. Pray and ask the Lord into our lives because we believe He paid our penalty.

You don't have to understand the extent of His Love. And praise God it's not based on our ability to reciprocate it. Because as humans we fail. But Jesus paid the price knowing all of this, didn't He?

What's your story? How did you come to know Him?
You don't have a story yet? Jesus began your story on the cross on that first Good Friday. Take His hand and complete that story. I can't wait to see how it ends :)

Happy Good Friday! 

My Challenge for you is to read the story of Good Friday - Matthew 27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 13-19 - and put yourself in the shoes of a disciple. What do they see? What do they feel as they watch Jesus being crucified? Look out for the next post on Easter Sunday - Where Hope Meets Hate and Humiliation.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

How To Make History: The Story of Palm Sunday

They found a young donkey, just big enough to carry one man. With no money to purchase a saddle for their Guest of honor, they placed their own coats on the donkey's back. The streets of Jerusalem were dusty, so the crowd placed their garments on the ground to make a suitable path for the procession to come. They waved palm branches, an ancient symbol of victory, to show their loyalty to the King who would soon enter their capitol and restore their kingdom...though this victory would take a very different shape than they imagined. 

They couldn't have had less to offer, but no one could have offered more devotion than these disciples.

Jesus rode through the streets of Jerusalem to the tune of the Israelites crying "Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord!" Then His disciples came to the realization that they - these poor men who just months before were fishermen, lawyers, and sinners - had just made history!

These things understood not His disciples at the first, but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him (the prophesy that Jesus would come to the Jews in a humble way, riding on a donkey), and that they had done these things unto Him.     - John 12.16
At the time, His disciples were just doing what they were told. But after the fact, they realized they had actually helped fulfill the Jewish prophecy that their nation had been awaiting for hundreds of years! All because they were willing to give their time... and their coats.

This is a significant point since these were not guys who had a coat to spare. Jesus told them to "Take nothing for your journey... neither have two coats apiece." (Luke 9.3)

So, what if they had not been willing to give up their coat??
They would not have had the honor of being part of God's perfect plan.

We also have the opportunity to contribute to the fulfillment of the next prophesy.  Jesus is returning for His church, just like he returned to Jerusalem to save His chosen people.
... and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.     - Luke 21.27
We also have the opportunity to spread our coats on the ground, preparing the way for Jesus to enter in. We can do this by sharing with others the truth of who Jesus is. Showing them what He has done for you.
Just like the Israelites who were looking for a powerful political figure to save them from oppression, our friends may be looking in all the wrong places for the peace that passes all understanding. They may be working their way to heaven instead of simply giving their life to Jesus. We can wave our palm branches by telling others of the victory we have found in Jesus, the gift of eternal life.

As His disciples, it's our honor and privilege to pave the way for Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 31.25 says, "Strength and honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come." 

Let's be willing to give of our time and even our material possessions. Let's be known for the strength our Lord gives us and the honor we bestow on Him. Because we have a reason to rejoice in time to come!

Happy Palm Sunday everyone! Let's make history!

My palm branch cross given to me by a homeless man in exchange for  a bag of grace.

My challenge for you this week is to read the accounts of Jesus' entrance and ministry in Jerusalem  in the gospels: Matthew 21-26, Mark 11-13, Luke 19-21, John 12.

Watch for blog posts on Good Friday and Easter Sunday!