Thursday, March 31, 2016

10 Incredible Results of Easter

"The cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuits God's wrath to Christ. so that only the light of His love remains for believers." 
A.W. Tozer

Please tell me you didn't skip over that quote. It's one of those that needs to be read at least three times. Believe me. It gets better each time. The cross. The resurrection. Where would we be without this beautiful Gospel?

With Easter season come and gone, I've been pondering the effect that the gospel has on my life. You see, around Easter, it can all become a little too "cliche-ish". (I probably just made that word up, huh?)  We sing the Easter songs and watch the skits and shed tears about Jesus' suffering. But how long does that last? Does it actually pierce our hearts?

I've been taking notes of my own life and it scares me. I. forget. so. much. I fail to realize the lies that subtly replace His truth. I profess something so grand, but often don't live in the reality of it.

So, here it is. I've scratched down 10 truths that I need to remember. 10 incredible results of this precious gospel that I forget. Often. I'm hitting the print button on these right now, so that I can stick them in front of my face everyday and read them. Over and over, if it'll help. Anything to keep me remembering these truths.

     1) There is only love for me now.
          Yeah. Say that one several times. Breathe it in, because that is GOOD NEWS, people! I am a sinner deserving punishment. But because of the cross, I will only, ever, for all eternity know the love of God. No more anger. No more wrath. I could stop right there at #1 and that'd be enough to think on for the rest of the year. Goodness!

     2) Christ has authority over the bondage of sin, every weapon of hell, and the inescapable bonds of death. He is not weak or incapable. Am I living, praying, acting like it?
          If somebody looked at my life, would they say, "Yes. 100% yes, she believes this"? Or would it sound more like, "Well, she says she believes this, but the way she lives in fear over ______ or still is addicted to _________ or can't let go of ___________- it doesn't really match up"? Oh Lord, help me.

     3) Jesus didn't just free me from the penalty of my sin, but the power of it. 
          How often do I focus on this? I'm saved from death, I'm saved from hell, I'm saved from the punishment I deserve. Yes and amen. Those are amazing gifts. But the gospel doesn't stop there! The same power that rose Jesus from the dead is living in me to be victorious over sin today. We might hear that all the time, but seriously. Do we realize what we're saying? "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:14)

     4) I am as accepted in Christ now, as much as I will be in heaven. 
          I struggle with this one, friends, I really do. I wish I could pound this one into my heart and never believe the lie that His sacrifice wasn't enough. There's NOTHING extra I could do to have Him love or accept me more. Nothing. His love is complete, full, and unconditional. Hallelujah.
     5) His grace is free, but the cost was not. How dare I live with a light regard of sin. It cost Him everything.
          Flippant. I really hate that word. Especially when it defines my attitude toward sin. When compromise is easy and comfort is more important than holiness. Dear God, remind me of the great cost.

     6)  The cross bids me come and die. Surrender. Not I, but Christ. I give up my rights to rule my own life.
          What does Paul tell us? "..He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." (2 Corinthians 5:15) The Christian life isn't about finding "my best me". We've been liberated, set free from our old ways - the "me" way of life. And the only true freedom now comes from laying our lives down and submitting, bending, surrendering our feisty wills to His. That's where true life is found.

     7) The curtain was torn in two; that means no more separation. I'm invited to go boldly into the Throne Room of God Almighty.
          I know this sounds uber obvious. But step back and look at this. Do you put up barriers in your prayer life? I know I can, without even realizing it. Those barriers named Failure or Feelings or Fear. I don't "deserve" His love right now. I don't "feel" like praying today. What if He just ignores me? What if He never answers my prayer? 

     8) I didn't save myself. Am I allowing pride to steal His glory? And my joy?
          This is a biggie. That scoundrel loves to swagger right in and remind me of all that I've done, of how much better I am than all the other Christians around me. And then, my nose tilts up just a bit. A bit too much. But then, what happens when I fail? It all relies on me, right, so where does my joy go? Out the same door that Shame creeps in. It's a destructive cycle. But what sweet peace comes when we rest in His finished work and His promise of further sanctification.

     9) Christ is risen! That means He's alive. Why do I pray like I'm talking to a deceased relative?
          Do you find yourself in this same rut at times? My prayers can start sounding like I'm sitting at the grave site of a loved one. I wish You were. I wish You could help me with this problem in my life. I just want to know what You'd do in this situation. And then, I sigh and go back to my life, my problems, and my solutions (which usually stink). Friends, Jesus is alive! He's not powerless. He's not distant. It might feel like it, but what does He say in His Word? He's alive in me, He's promised to lead and guide me through ALL of life, and He won't ever leave or forsake me.

     10) When I question His love, look to the cross. There's no greater display of His affection. 
          Painful circumstances. Unmet promises. Crushed dreams. I could shake my fist at God and demand answers, question His love. But when I look back at the cross and see how God didn't spare His own Son for me - how could I question that? I might not understand what He's doing, but because of the cross, I can know that He'll paint every situation into a picture of His redeeming love.

So, which of the ten stood out to you the most? What do you find all too easy to forget in your life? I would love to hear...

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Day God was Silent

It's Saturday. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter.

The day we kinda just want to skip over. The day when Jesus was dead. In the grave. Gone. I mean, what is there to celebrate today?

Yeah, I know. This whole weekend is a celebration of the Resurrection. But put yourself in the disciple's shoes. They didn't know the end of the story. They didn't have the cheat sheet. All they knew was pain.

Saturday was the day God was silent. 

When death reigned and darkness seemed to have the upper hand.

When shattered hearts wept for their Messiah with no hope, no light, and no answers.

When confusion hammered into the foundation of belief and doubt clouded firm conviction.

Jesus was dead. And with Him, every hope that He was the One He claimed to be. What now? How could He be dead? I thought He was the answer. Where was God? Why would He allow His Son to be killed?

But why should we ponder all of this? Why does Saturday even matter to us?

Because we need to remember this in our "Saturday seasons". 

When tragedy strikes and the pain is suffocating.

When our faith is shattered and we turn to God with clenched fists and scream, "I thought you promised!"

When the unknowns are more numerous than the answers and Heaven appears to watch in silence.

It's in those moments, we need to be reminded. That this is NOT THE END of the story. Did you hear me, friend? This is only Saturday! Don't lose hope. Hold on to your God. Flood your heart with His promises. Trust, even in the silence, and know that He is working behind the scenes, unawares, and unseen.

Hold on. Because Resurrection Sunday is coming. 

He is not a passive God. His love is not cruel or unjust. He is using the pain and frustration and confusion of this season to grow and strengthen and mature you in ways He couldn't in the easy. And His love will not stay silent forever.

He is coming, dear one. In His time, He will wipe away your tears and bring healing to your heart. He will provide the answers. Fulfill the promise. Burst through the darkness with His victorious light.

And that's something to celebrate. Even on Saturday...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The King's Reign

Easter is only a couple days away. We tend the hear the same stories around this time of year, don't we? The triumphal entry on Palm Sunday or the Last Supper with Jesus and His disciples, the agonizing crucifixion, and finally the triumphant resurrection.

But I love how deep the word of God is. Do you know what I mean? Like, how you can read it year after year, and new truths and concepts stick out to you at different seasons/times in your life. It's like digging for treasure. Sort of. Except without all the sweat and dirt and back-breaking shoveling. But, you get what I mean. Right?

I was reading the story of the triumphal entry this past Monday (confession time...yes, I was a day behind). Instead of stopping at the end of that story, I kept reading. And it led me right into another interesting passage.

Somehow, I forgot that Jesus went directly from being hailed as the Messiah and ushered into Jerusalem with celebration, to entering the temple courts and cleaning house.

He entered Jerusalem on a donkey's colt, which was a symbol of royalty and the fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy in Zechariah. The crowds were going wild. Finally, the Messiah had come to free them from the oppression of the Romans! Hosanna was their chant, which literally means "save now!" I can just imagine the excitement, anticipation, and ache for it to be true. The longing for the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies was centuries old and driven deep into the heart of every Jew. Could this Jesus really be the One?

Do you think the people of Jerusalem expected Jesus to establish His earthly rule on that day? To gather His disciples around Him and set up positions and military plans and smuggle weapons? Can you imagine the excitement of the disciples in that moment? After three years of following Jesus, it was finally going to pay off. Who would be Jesus' advisor? Who would be His military leader? If I expected this Jesus to be the Messiah, I would have expected Him to show some sort of military agenda. But what does He do?

"And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers.." (Matthew 21:12)

Wow. He pushes through all of their preconceived ideas and reminds them that His reign is spiritual, that His kingdom is heavenly, not physical. That He wasn't there to get rid of the Romans. He was there to sanctify His bride.

If I was in that crowd, I'd be really disappointed. Like, what was that? Did we just get distracted on the way to overthrowing the entire Roman empire? What's the big deal with a couple of salesman in the temple?!

But isn't that how I can often be? I can sing the worship songs and get excited about certain passages of Scripture. I can do ministry and _______. But when the Holy Spirit puts His finger on those certain areas of my heart - those dark, dusty corners that I've kept hidden for so long, I shirk away and try to protect myself. The attitude I've grown accustomed to, the lies I don't even realize I believe, the thoughts I would rather no one see.

When Jesus comes as King, He comes to reign. And a good king doesn't allow the enemy's fortresses, weapons, and laws to stay around in his kingdom. He comes to cleanse, to purge, to purify. He purchased every single nook and cranny of our lives with His blood. He has the authority to shine His light over every dusty, cobwebbed crack and corner. No matter how uncomfortable or painful it is in the process.

Because He's also coming to heal. 

Matthew 21:14, the verse directly after the temple cleansing, states: "And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them."

Really? The Messiah? The One, who just might be the Long-Awaited One? He might have been sidetracked on the temple cleansing, but now this? What is He thinking? A king doesn't associate with the outcasts of society! Doesn't He know the importance of His mission? We're talking about the Romans here. Not the sick!

Yes, this is Jesus. The Messiah. The Chosen One. And His reign is spiritual dominion and redemption and compassion. He reaches into the dirty and messy of our life. He moves into the dark to cleanse and heal and restore with the strength and authority of a king, but the care and tenderness of a friend.

Jesus could have just spoken a word and sent mass healing to all the sick, all the blind, all the lepers, etc. But what does He do? Throughout the Gospels, we see Him healing one-by-one, talking with the outcasts, touching the unclean, and liberating souls as well as bodies.

So don't fear His reign. Don't squirm away from His touch. He brings life. He brings holiness. He brings healing