Month: April 2014

Easter… Just Live It

So tonight as I was winding down from an incredibly beautiful day at my in-laws and playing with my grandsons. I really wasn’t going to write any thing but then I thought more about how I pressed pause during this week of Easter to reflect on the grace that was poured out on Good Friday and the hope of Easter Sunday.

I started asking myself on how do you wrap this up?  How do you put a bow on all that we’ve examined and reflected upon?  What is the truth that you take away and apply until next Easter?

I thought more about what to say, how to say it and how to wrap it all up.

It was then when something so simple came to me.

“Just Live it.”

As I reflect on those three words a bit, I think what it means is that if we don’t accept the grace we’ve been given and live it outLive it each day, it doesn’t mean much.  Imagine if we all “lived out” the grace we’ve been given and applied it to those we impact each day.   Imagine if our words and our actions were grace giving.   I can think of no better way to honor the gift of grace than to give it away.

We celebrated a risen Savior that is very much alive and interceding for each one of us. Today we celebrated a grace we’ll never fully understand this side of heaven.  Let’s do our best to walk out that grace as our way of saying “thank you” to the one that paid it all.

Christ is Risen.

God is Not Dead!!!

Easter 2014 has come and we celebrated the Resurrection. When you think about it, there’s a little bit of Easter in every single day. We wake up to a new invitation to begin again – whole and healed… shameless, courageous, empowered, and loved… A divine do over, but this time with a wisdom we didn’t have before, and help we could never afford. Ours, if we only ask, believe and just live it.

That is Amazing Grace.

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty

It’s the day after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

empty-crossThe cross is empty, He no longer hangs there suspended between heaven and hell. The tomb is still holding the body of Jesus Christ.

Many people were celebrating His death, they were happy that this man who had claimed He was God’s Son was gone.   However, there were a few people who were not so happy that Jesus Christ was gone.  They had witnessed the miracles and they sat under His teachings and now they were confused as to what was going to happen next.

I try to imagine what it was like for those who were so close to Him after they  witnessed such an atrocity.  Imagine the isolation and hopelessness that all those close to Jesus felt on that day so many years ago. I am sure seeds of doubt were sprouting in their minds and hearts.

The shock of how quickly it happened, they just had dinner with Him a few days ago and now He is gone.  I imagine their fear.  With every unknown  noise they would hear where they were hiding would be the sounds of them coming to get them and they too would be next to experience crucifixion. 

Everything they had hoped for was gone. They were now in hiding. They were scattered and their plans were shattered. They had given up everything for a man that was now gone.

What now? Where do we turn? How do we begin to rebuild? All they had left was their thoughts and their fears.  They spent this day all those years ago in reflection.  Remembering the words of Christ and wondering what was going to happen next.

I don’t know about you but I’ve had days similar to this as well.  My hopes came crashing down.  How I thought things  would be turned out to be nothing but isolation. In this life, there will be days like that. There will be moments when nothing seems to be as it should and I wonder what is going to happen next.

What those that were in hiding the day after the crucifixion forgot was that the death of Jesus Christ had paid the debt of sin for all of mankind.  No other sacrifice was needed. God was in control. He had a plan and Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and we were given a way to have our sins forgiven and be reconciled back to God. Welcome to the day of Grace. We received a gift we didn’t deserve. We were given the opportunity to find grace.  All you have to do is accept it. Grace declares us not guilty for our sins.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  – Ephesians 2: 8-9

To find this grace all you need to do is acknowledge that you are a sinner. You need to believe that Jesus Christ was your substitute when He died on that cross.  You have to believe that thgracee blood that was shed, his death, burial and resurrection were for just for you.  Confess with your mouth that you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and you need forgiveness of your sins.  Ask to receive Him into your life as your Savior.  That is how you find salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is what He did on the cross that provides this grace and salvation.  All of your good works mean nothing.  We cannot work our way to heaven.  Again.. Grace declares us not guilty for our sins.  This opportunity to receive this salvation is because of the grace that was given at the foot of the cross. 

I accepted this grace on November 7, 1970.

Make today the day of salvation in your life.  A new start… a new day of hope… a new way to live your life.  All given because of God’s Grace.

I have taken a journey through some deep personal thoughts this week.  As I sat in church last Sunday I felt like it was what I needed to do.  Grace was needed for my salvation but that did not make me perfect.  I still sin.  I still have struggles. I needed to spend this week reflecting on grace that was poured out not only to me but to all mankind.  I needed to reflect on how I walk as a follower of Jesus.  And as reflected on the years of my life, I found that I’m not as good a follower of Christ as I need to be.  When it comes to me giving grace to those who I need forgive, I am not amazing.  But as I begin to feel the weight of my failure and sin,  I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

The reality is that I have a pile of failures in character.  I have a pile a mile high of my failures in extending love.  Words can’t describe my pile of sin.  It’s not pretty.  Not pretty at all.   When I reflect on the story of my life,  I feel the weight of it all.   It’s then that I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see.   I’m not talking about appearance, that ship sailed long ago.   I’m talking about the mirror of my heart.  I’m talking about my mind and what it thinks.  I’m talking about my eyes and what they see.   I’m talking about my ears and what they hear.   I see the heart and what it should beat for and what it rarely does.  When I look in the mirror, I feel the weight of it all.   It’s then that I remember that I have accepted His grace and I hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

Today is a day of reflection. If you’re like me, I reflect on all that I’ve listed above. That list was nailed to a cross that wasn’t his.  If you’re reading this, it wasn’t just mine, it was yours too. Because of that sacrifice, each of us  that have accepted His grace and salvation can stand in the court of God and hear…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

We still need to ask God to forgive us for our sins… because God’s grace declares us not guilty for the penalty of our sins, we still need to make sure our relationship is where it needs to be with him.  We have to continue to work on being the believer He wants us to be.  We will never be perfect and we will always have something to work on in the quest to be a servant that God is please in.

On Sunday morning, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We will celebrate His victory over death.  For those that have accepted Jesus Christ into their life will know that hope and eternal life is captured by this resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

But today is the memorial and the reflection.  Take the time to consider what your relationship with Jesus Christ is. Today can be the day of salvation for you.  If you know Him than prepare for the remembrance of His victory over death. 

Hold on friends.   Tomorrow is the celebration.

Sunday is a stone’s roll away. 

Because of our Savior’s death on the cross…

God’s Grace Declares Us Not Guilty.

And that truly is Amazing Grace.

Sacrifice Accepted

Jesus fell on his face in prayer. 

The magnitude of what He was facing and the weight of the eternal destinies of the world fell upon His shoulders. Eleven remained then, they were sleeping a stone’s throw away.   But soon there would be none. Not one friend Parying in Gardenwould stay.

“Let the cup pass,” he cried. “Father, if possible, let the cup pass!”

The Father gazed lovingly at his Son and the Son stared back already knowing his destiny.

“Your will be done, Father,” whispered the Son.

Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus saw the line of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. The mob arrived.  Judas kissed.  Friends fled.  Soldiers arrested.  And Jesus’ world suddenly became a swirl of torment and mockery.

Judas, the betrayer, would soon hang pale and gasping swinging from the end of his belt under the limb of a tree. The flames of hell already lapping at his feet, it would have been better if he had never been born.

The trial of Jesus Christ was a sham as liars lied and mockers mocked. God claimed to be God, and it was called blasphemy. And the face that Moses longed to see — the face that he was forbidden to see — was slapped and spit on.

They leveled their charges. Pilate stared intently at Jesus. He questioned him. And found no guilt. Neither did King Herod. So Pilate offered to release Jesus to the swelling crowd. But they chose freedom for the murderer Barabbas instead.

“Then what should I do with Jesus of Nazareth?” Pilate shouted to the mob. The mob thundered back: “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  And their voices prevailed.

Pilate washed his hands and delivered the Innocent One to death.

Next, Jesus was stripped and his hands were tied above his head to a post.  The Jews would have been more merciful — no more than thirty-nine lashes.  But the Romans extended no such mercy. The scourging was a horror that few survived.  Fearing they had gone too far and killed Jesus before it was time, the soldiers cut him loose. He fell in an unconscious heap at their feet.

reflections on Christ - crucifixionAs Jesus came to he was forced to stand. A purple robe, a mock scepter and a crown of thorns were all forced upon the Savior. Jesus is bowed and bloody, heavy lumber is strapped across his shoulders. The weight of the rough wood proves too much as it grinds against the lacerations left by the Roman scourging.  Pain explodes like light in Jesus’ brain. And he crumples under the beam. He no longer can carry the beam.

Jesus looks up and holds the soldier captive in his gaze. The victim’s eyes do not pierce the centurion with the hatred he expects. Instead, he finds love in those eyes. Love mingled with pain, yes — brokenhearted love — but love nonetheless. And not a love excited by one mere act of kindness. This love preceded the moment. This love preceded his existence. This love preceded the existence of the world.  Somehow the centurion knows that these are the eyes of Eternal Love.

Jesus holds the soldier’s gaze as long as he can. But the blood that dripped off the ends of his hair to the ground when he was bent low under the beam now drops into his eyes. The blood mixed with sweat stings, and Jesus blinks.

It’s nine o’clock in the morning, by this time on this dark day, Jesus was all too familiar with the sting of pain.

Then Jesus is led out beyond the city gates.  He sees several posts fixed in the ground. Three of those poles stand ready to receive their cross beams and the tattered body of Jesus and the two criminals carrying their own beams behind him.

Jesus now lays naked in the dirt on the hill called Golgotha.  Two men take hold of his hands. Eternal Love shines forth again, as the hammer comes crashing down.

Flashes of the soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns and the blood on the ground beneath him all eternally etched into the minds of the witnesses of this fateful day.

Dark clouds gather above.rsz_jesus_on_the_cross_john_3-16_

Jesus is lifted on his crossbeam to the post.  His left foot is now pressed against his right foot. Both feet are extended, toes down, and a spike is driven through the arch of each.  Jesus immediately pushes himself up to gasp for breath and to relieve the pain in his outstretched arms. He places his full weight on the spikes in his feet and pushes against the pain.

Jesus is now held there suspended between heaven and earth by spikes in his wrists and feet.

But it wasn’t the spikes that kept him there… it was his love.

Quickly waves of cramps overtake him — deep, throbbing pain from his head to his toes.  Jesus can exhale, but he cannot inhale.  His compressed heart is struggling to pump blood to his torn body.  He fights to raise himself in order to breathe and in order to speak.

He looks down at the soldiers now gambling for his clothes. He pushes himself up through the violent pain to pray aloud, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.”  Then he sags back into silence.  But the crowd is not silent, though he can barely hear their taunts through the din of his pain.  “He saved others, let him save himself! If you’re the Christ, come down off the cross! Save yourself, King of the Jews!”

It’s noon now. The rain falls harder and the clouds blacken. Jesus looks down through wet strands of hair into the familiar face of a woman.  It’s his mother.  She’s sobbing so hard that her breathing is as labored as his. Without words she looks into his eyes and begs to know why. He longs to hold her and to tell her that it’s all for her. He pushes upward and says, “Woman.” Then he looks his friend John in the eyes. John is standing behind her supporting his own weeping mother. “He is now your son.” then to John, Jesus murmurs, “And she is now your mother. Take her away from here.”

And he sags back into silence, back into countless hours of limitless pain.

As the sin and weight of the world crashes down on Jesus, God the Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself.  He looks away.

Jesus pushes himself upward and cries to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Silence.

Separation.

Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished.” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on it_is_finished-FramedJesus.

It’s three o’clock and Jesus finds one more surge of strength.  He presses his torn feet against the spikes, straightens his legs, and with one last gasp of air cries out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

And he dies.

The merciful centurion sees Jesus’ body fall far forward and his head drop low. He thrusts a spear up behind Jesus’ ribs—one more piercing for our transgression—and water and blood flow out of his broken heart.

In that moment mountains shake and rocks spilt; veils tear and tombs open.

And the merciful centurion looks up at the lifeless body of Jesus and is filled with awe. He drops to his knees and declares, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

 Sacrifice accepted.

But that’s not the end of the story…

Finding Grace at the Foot of The Cross

Let me start off tonight’s posting on grace with a couple of thoughts.

First of all, I admit that I have issues with forgiveness which I’ll explain in a minute.

Second, I have issues with feet. I am not a fan of bare feet. I don’t like touching feet or feet touching me.  I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those things.

Forgiveness and feet are just two of the MANY things I have issues with.

I’m just being honest here. I know we’re supposed to forgive and I really do wrestle with situations where I should.  I’m working on it and God’s not done with me yet. 

Now what do these two issues have to do with grace?

In John 13:1-17 we see Jesus do the unthinkable.

He is just days away from dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world.  He’s with his closest frithe-last-supperends eating dinner. He knows them… He know what is going to happen.  He is with the very men that will soon scatter.  They won’t have His back.  One will betray Him outright.  Another will deny he even knew Him.

If these people were in my life and I knew that they were going to walk away, betray me and deny they even knew me, do you think I would want to share a meal with them? Would you?

As if the meal wasn’t enough, He goes far beyond the call of duty.  He takes the role of a servant and washes their feet.

He washed the feet of friends that would bail on him.  He washed the feet of the man that would betray Him.  He washed the feet of the man that would completely deny knowing Him.  He knew exactly how it would all happen.

These men didn’t deserve the forgiveness of the Savior.  They didn’t deserve the act of humility given to them by having their feet washed by God’s Son.  No…  they did not deserve these things but that is what Jesus Christ gave them.

That is Grace.

When I thinkfeet-wash3 about this act of grace and the one which would soon follow, I am ashamed of my inability to forgive.  I am saddened by my lack of grace in situations.  Should I wash the feet of those I may have issues with?  Could I even do it?  Could I wash the feet of those I need to forgive? Is an email saying “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” a modern-day version of that?  Could a phone call be like filling that basin and kneeling before those I need to forgive?  I think so but I am not sure. 

This I do know… I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong.  That needs to begin this week.

Jesus was placed on the Cross for our sin. This is a critical point that cannot be missed – Have you accepted His grace?  Have you accepted Him as your Savior? Maybe today is that day. Maybe this week is a week to finally accept the grace that is found at the foot of the Cross.

“…And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the one we have hurt, to wash ours.” – Max Lucado

That is Grace.

Amazing Grace

I never thought God could use a trip to Seattle to teach me a lesson about grace.

A few years ago I had a meeting in Seattle, Washington.  I arrived in Seattle on a Monday night around 11pm.  I was weary from a long dayseattle and ready to check into my room at the Holiday Inn express. It’s not my hotel of choice, but it’s where my meeting was being held early the next morning. Like is or not, it’s where I was staying. Or so I thought…..

The nice people behind the counter at the hotel kindly informed me that all of the rain they recently had damaged a number of their rooms and I was going to be “walked to the Hilton.”  The next thing I know, I am given directions to my next destination. When I walked into the lobby, it was pretty clear that this was certainly not the Holiday Inn. From the valet parking at the front door, to the lobby big enough to land a plane in, as the man behind the counter said

“wow, this is quite an upgrade from the Holiday Inn.”

When I finally got to my room, the square footage of the room seemed to be larger than my house, robes in the closet, Starbucks coffee on the counter, even a telephone next to the toilet in the bathroom. This is the kind of place you see in movies and never dream of paying for. I was like a grown up version of the kid from Home Alone. The most amazing part came in the morning when I got my bill. It literally read $0.00. That’s right. No charge. Free. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The Holiday Inn had paid the bill in full.

You probably see what I am getting at here. Isn’t that something like the grace we have been given by God?

I had a debt to pay. A large debt. I did not earn this place. There was nothing I did, could have done, or will do to ever have made that possible. Someone else paid my price. All I needed to do was gladly accept the offer, and follow the directions to Paid_in_Full[1]get there. Even though my original plans were “damaged,” someone had noted my situation and provided a better way.

That alone would have been worth it all. But remarkably, they also paid my price in full.

We all have a debt of sin that we need to deal with.  We all need someone to pay the debt for our sins.  There is nothing we can do to earn the payment that needs to be paid.  All we need to do is to accept the payment for our sin that Jesus Christ made for us on the Cross of Calvary.  It was free… no charge. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It was this free gift that allowed you and I the ability to have our sins forgiven. All we have to do is accept this free gift of Salvation.

Now that really is, as they say, Amazing Grace.

He’ll Take Care of the Rest

If you watch the news it’s easy to panic. The world seems out of control and panic, fear, worry are all emotions that come when it seems anarchy is imminent.

But it’s ok….God IS in charge.

Nothing is out of control, it’s ok.

As I read scripture there is one thing that is very clear…  God is sovereign and all the chaos you see is not God’s doing, but He is sovereign over it all. Rulers are placed in their roles by Him (see Daniel 11), nations have their existence because of Him, the events of history do not catch Him by surprise….He’s a “hands on” God, fully capable to handling the world’s problems.

panicThe world we live in is in full panic mode because it seems “wicked men” rule and chaos is looming near, but don’t forget….it’s ok, God’s in charge. Even the apparent wicked ruler you see in different places around the globe is there by divine appointment to accomplish His will, His plan, to bring glory to His Son.

Relax, God has everything fully under control…..the government, the leaders, the weather, global warming, prices at the pump, your job, your life, you future…all of it….God’s in charge.

So what do we do????

We need to share our relationship with Christ and make disciples, be ready when He comes and present to Him a life of trust and obedient response to His one command to His disciples…the final words…go into all the world and make disciples. That is His goal…the redemption of the lost man and He has given us that one task.

Why are we so busy with so many other things He never told us to do? 

Why are we worried about all the rest? It’s ok, God’s in charge, focus on the one thing he has told us to do and don’t worry… He’ll take care of the rest.

So… sit back, relax and listen one of my favorite songs by the incomparable Keith Green.