Month: March 2013

He Went Willingly

Crown of righteousnessI can’t seem to get the thought out of my head that Jesus went to the cross, all the while knowing what was ahead of Him.  The Bible said He went gladly “for the joy ahead” but I see in the garden a dread as well, a dread of what He would suffer.

I don’t know about you, but knowing what awaited me (if I were Jesus) would have had me looking for a way out and yet He went willingly.  There was such a love for mankind, for you and me, in His actions that he faced the death with anticipation.

I wonder, as He stood before Pilate, silent while being accused, I wonder what He thought.  

Did He look ahead to the joy of the victory?  

Did He rejoice in God His Father?  What were His thoughts?  

Was He thinking of you and me?  jesus

I believe He was…

Thank you, Jesus, for accomplishing my salvation through the cross.  I am so thankful that the dread of the cross did not change your path.  I’m so glad that with joy you looked ahead to the salvation you would accomplish.  Thank you.  I look forward to the day when I can bow in your presence and praise you for your great love.

The Tragedy, the Glory and the Hope Found in Jesus Christ

jesus-christ-on-crossIt’s ironic to me that the week ahead is the greatest celebration of the Christian world as we remember the greatest tragedy of all time.  I struggle for words to describe how I can celebrate with joy a time of great tragedy and loss, but I do, we all do if we know what that terrible day meant.

In the week ahead we will intentionally remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, His burial, and finally celebrate His resurrection.  All events of time and history.  All critically important not just for the church, but for the world He came to die for and save.

There is an interesting passage found in Colossians 1:15-28 that gives a panorama of these events in such a unique way.   It has long been a favorite passage for me as I celebrate the gift of life given to me by the death of Jesus Christ.  Here is Paul’s grand overview of the tragedy, the glory and the hope found in Jesus Christ:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

The Creator becoming a Man, dying on a cross by the hands of His creation, risingTomb again and providing forgiveness and life for the very ones who crucified Him. The empty tomb provided us the hope of life and an eternity with our living  Savior.  It’s an amazing picture of the great love and grace of God…that He would do all of this because He loves us.  How could we ever doubt His love once we have looked at the cross?  How could we doubt His power when He rose from the chains of death?

And finally, at the end of time, there will be a day when He will be worshipped by all of humanity from every nation, tongue and time as we all bow and declare this hope:

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:  Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

What a wonderful God!  How amazing that he could take the greatest tragedy of time and turn it into the greatest glory anyone will ever see.

Thank you, Jesus, for what you were willing to do to save me and show me the love of God for me.  Thank you for the gift of eternal life that is found in You.  My hope is built on nothing less than Your death and resurrection.  You turned Tragedy into Glory and gave us all Hope.    

Too Much “Stuff”

I’ve been thinking about the clutter of my life…the things that are around me that I bought or gathered to make life easier. It seems to have actually made my life harder!

 too_much_stuffHow is it possible that things accumulated over time can actually make life harder?  It’s the clutter of things that most of us try to maintain, that most of us really enjoy, and yet I’m realizing that my “stuff” has become my burden as well…all the stuff I have gathered now has taken over certain areas of my life. 

This week, a few of us at work talked about the desire to “have things”.  Not just about the desire to have things but to have that which we never use.  There are so many things that I wanted and thought I needed only to realize that I have rarely used that item I coveted.   With the accumulation of all those things we find life harder, more difficult.  I thought about it this morning and realized I have boxes in my garage that haven’t been opened since I moved into our house 14 years ago!  Why do I keep this stuff?  What’s in those boxes?  What stuff is hiding there for me to discover anew?

All this to think about the challenge of our discussion…the challenge to “deaccumulate” our lives.  I wonder how much of the stuff of my life I could actually do without? I wonder how many things I really “need”?

I thought about the fact that you can tell what’s important to a person by what they do when they know they are going to die.  As we close in on Easter and spend a few days reflecting on what Jesus did,  I wondered, what is it that Jesus did before he entered Jerusalem during His last week?  He knew that He was going to die and one key story that is told in the Gospels, right before Jesus declares to the disciples that He is heading to Jerusalem, is the story of the Rich Young Ruler.

Luke 18:18 The rich ruler asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by telling him he must keep the commandments. The rich ruler tells Jesus he has kept them all. Then Jesus says, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Then the rich ruler became sad because he was so rich and did not want to let go of his material possessions.

Jesus was making His preparations to give up everything for you and I on the cross.  Jesus also wants us to give Him everything.  He wants us to give Him total control of our life.   If He asks you, are you willing to give up all that you have for Jesus?  

Jesus typically pushes us out of our comfort zone.

For most us, our comfort is found in how much money we have.   If it’s not money then it is related to money, like possessions or other things money can buy.   Are you willing to give God your possessions?   What about your title at work?   What about your dream to be a famous musicispiritual-spring-cleaningan, sports star, investor, writer, etc.?   Are you willing to give God a percentage of your money?   Are you willing to give up your success?   Are you willing to give God your retirement funds? 

Jesus invited 12 men to leave everything and follow Him.  That same call is given to each of us today. 

What “should” we let go of today?  What “can” we let go of?  What “can” we live without?

I can’t answer for you… but I know my life (both physically and spiritually) needs a thorough Spring Cleaning.  I need to get rid of the “stuff” that keeps me from being what God wants me to be. 

“And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”     Luke 9:23-24

Peeling the Onion

                                                                    

peelingOnionThis past week I was making my World Famous Stuffed Pepper Soup.  The words, “World Famous” is a joke.  I joke about that because it is neither known around the world nor is it famous.   Anyway,  one of the ingredients that I add to my soup is onions.  As I was peeling the onions a thought crossed my mind.

I began to think about the fact that forgiveness is a funny thing . . . it doesn’t happen all at once. It comes in layers, like an onion. First, you peel off a layer and shed a few tears, and you think you’re done. Forgive and forget, right?

Wrong.

Then out of the blue, after a few days or weeks perhaps, something reminds you of the offense and you realize you haven’t forgotten it after all. So again, you have to choose to forgive. You peel another layer off the onion. And shed a few more tears. And think, Whew, finally I have forgiven that offense.

Nope, not yet.

Because months later, you might discover that an unwanted root of bitterness is springing up within you (Hebrews 12:15), and you’ll be peeling off another layer of that onion, shedding a few more tears, going back through the process of forgiveness all over again.

And again.

And again.

Allow me to clear up a possible misunderstanding out there. Yes, Jesus taught us to forgive those who hurt us (Mark 11:25-26). And yes, the New Testament is replete with commands to refrain from anger and to love our enemies and to pursue peace with all people. Forgiveness is absolutely essential to a Christ-centered life.

But Christians who say that we should be able to forgive effortlessly those who hurt us, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, are CRAZY. 

Forgiveness is not natural. It’s hard. It requires the intentional focus of every part of your being–your thoughts, your speech, your actions. You have to practice a LOT of self-control. You have to release a LOT of hurt. You have to keep bringing your broken heart to the One who heals you.

In other words, you can‘t do it alone.

You need Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness is NOT for the faint of heart.  Contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is NOT a sign of weakness.

If you’ve ever been betrayed or offended, you know that it is a much times harder to forgive than it would be to seek revenge.   It is mush easier to tell the world of your hurt. To vindicate yourself.   To get people on “your side.”   To make the offender suffer in some way.

Because let’s admit it: to be unforgiving is clearly the easy choice.

When the apostle Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”, I wonforgivenessder… do you think it’s possible that Peter was thinking about how often he had to forgive the SAME offense over and over?

Now to Peter’s credit, seven times was pretty generous.  Jewish law at the time said you only had to forgive someone three times. (Three strikes, and you’re out!)  But Peter… he doubled that and added an extra one for good measure.  SEVEN TIMES!   I get this vision of the apostle’s burly chest swelled with pride at his astonishing pronouncement of his own ultra-spirituality.

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied (can’t you imagine Peter’s smirk fading here?), “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Seventy times seven?  A whopping 490 times?

This isn’t a math problem. (We shouldn’t keep score.)  It’s Jesus’ way of saying that there should be no end to our forgiveness.  Like the parable Jesus told next in Matthew 18 to illustrate His point, the offenses people commit against us–however heinous or malicious or painful–are infinitesimally miniscule compared to our sins against a holy God.

To have a right understanding of forgiveness, we need a right perspective of God’s holiness. 

So as those forgiven by God, we are commanded to forgive others.  

YES… Even if that forgiveness is for the SAME offense. Over and over. Peeling off layer after layer. Pouring out tears upon tears.

Every time that offense comes back to haunt us or hurt us, we can–and for our own sake, we must–choose to place it, with God’s help, into the nail-scarred hands of Christ.

Again.

 And again.

“When we forgive someone, we’re not minimizing the harm they caused nor condoning the sin they’ve committed. We’re simply choosing to place the offense into the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ.”        –David Jeremiah

 

Mindy McCready, Bob Babbitt and the Footprints We Leave Behind

As most of you have heard by now, a few weeks ago marked the passing of Mindy McCready. 

Last night, I read a few online news stories as the details of how her life spiraled out of control which led to her taking her life.  A sad tale of such tragic proportion.

Though death is a cause for remembrance and celebration of lives well lived. 

How does one celebrate the tragic life not-so-well lived?

I then began to read some of the obituaries of more celebrities who have passed in the last year.  Some passed with hardly any notice while the tabloids continued to plaster Miss McCready’s picture up  with headlines of scandal and horrid stories of drug addition and abuse.

Bob BabbittSome that passed with hardly any notice.  Like that of Bob Babbitt. 

Do you know who Bob Babbitt was?

Anyone who really knows me, knows that I am a huge Motown fan.  I grew up listening to CKLW out of Detroit  and at the time it was the “Motown Sound” that shaped the world that I lived in.

Well, Motown bass player Bob Babbitt, whose work lit up a host of hits in the ’60s and ’70s, died this past year.  He was 74.  Very few people noticed.

You have heard Bob Babbitt more than you know.

At Motown Records in the late ’60s, Babbitt’s thick, fluid bass lines drove the groove on songs by the Temptations (“Ball of Confusion”), Stevie Wonder (“Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours),” Rare Earth (“Losing You”), Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (“The Tears of a Clown”) and many others.

Babbitt was born Robert Kreinar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and as a child took up the double bass and studied classical music.  As a teenager he played in clubs and was offered a place at the University of Pittsburgh. However, his father’s sudden death meant he had to earn a living, and in the late 1950s he moved to Detroit, where an uncle had found him work in the construction industry.

He adopted the stage name Babbitt and was soon immersed in Detroit’s rich music scene. He joined a group called the Royaltones and his prowess landed him a job with Del Shannon.

He soon became a key member of  Motown’s renowned Funk Brothers studio band, he often moonlighted for other Detroit labels and studios — including United Sound and Golden World — performing on tunes such as the Capitols’ “Cool Jerk,” the Parliaments’ “(I Wanna) Testify,” and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”  Other work in the ’60s included sessions with hometown star Bob Seger, at United Sound, and with rocker Jeff Beck.

Like many studio musicians of the era, Babbitt wasn’t always publicly acknowledged for his work. It wasn’t uncommon for Babbitt’s role to be omitted — or even actively hidden — on record credits.

He remained a go-to session musician and tour bassist in the 1970s, notching hits with artists such as the Spinners, the O’Jays and Gloria Gaynor. Though heralded for his soul chops, Babbitt was versatile enough to land work across a variety of styles, performing on such top 10 pop hits as Jim Croce’s “I Got a Name” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.” Other hits that he played on were, “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross, “Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick, Elton John’s “Mama Can’t Buy you Love” and “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips. 

All in all, Bob Babbit earned 25 Gold and Platinum records by playing bass on over 200 charting Top 40 hits during his career.  No scandals… No tabloid articles of drug abuse or suicide.

Quite an impressive resume if you ask me and he left footprints for others to follow.

Yet most of you reading this have no clue who he was, but I would venture a guess that all of you heard about Miss McCready’s death. 

The Country singer and mother-of-two shot herself on the porch of her Heber Springs, Arkansas home almost a month after her boyfriend David Wilson did the same thing.

She had just checked out of rehab where she was ordered into a mental health substance abuse program after admitting in court she had ‘indulged in too much alcohol’ trying to cope with her boyfriend’s death.  The tabloids have been relentless and had pretty much made up or shared every horrid detail of her life in free-fall.

Her suicide marked a brutal end for a singer who had once been among Nashville’s brightest stars before a toxic spiral of reckless relationships, arrests, addiction and family fights played out publicly for nearly a decade.

I realized that the end  of this life presents us with a very real challenge: What will others say about us when our time on earth is over?  What footprints are we leaving for others to see?

Her obituary is filled with words of scandal, drug addiction and worse.  Would you want any of these words forever written in your obituary or etched into your tombstone?

But then again, what will my obituary say? Am I living in such a way that the ones I leave behind will be encouraged, enlightened, and emboldened by my example? Or will my passing from this earth be a cause of relief, regret, or—worse yet—unnoticed by those I hold most dear?

It’s a sobering thought. But thankfully, it’s never too late to finish well.

I don’t know about you, but after watching the news this week, I really, really want to finish well. I want to be able to say, like the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7).

But the longer I walk with God, the more I realize with startling clarity just how far short I fall from His glory. With fifty-one years behind me and only God knows how many more ahead, I have to cling tightly to the God’s promise that His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:15).  I am increasingly grateful that the Lord’s steadfast love never changes, and His mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22–23).

And someday, hopefully years from now—when the Lord calls me home, I hope my epitaph will say something that will bring honor to my God, my wife and my family.

What about you? Are you finishing your life well?  Have you considered what your epitaph will say?