What’s So Good about Good Friday

What’s so good about “Good Friday?” after all it’s the depiction   of the worst death a man can endure.  For the Roman soldiers were experts in humiliating and torturing their victims and this particular Friday the condemned had already suffered numerous beatings.   So what’s so good about seeing a bloodied, tortured, mutilated, and naked body hanging on a cross on Friday morning?  Furthermore, why would the victim who seemed to have all the power at His disposal months prior is allowing Himself to be treated this way?

In order for us to understand this scenario we need to go to the beginning of time and comprehend what let Him to this point in time. 

God creates man and woman and they were perfect.  Their relationship with each other and God was amazing.  Notice how the Bible describes them:  “The man and his wife were both naked, but they were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)  Naked, with no sin, no shame, no problems!  But unfortunately disobedience births sin which results in brokenness between all the parties involved; Man, Woman, and God are now alienated.  Genesis 3:9-11 describes this terrible situation in this manner:  9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 The man replied, “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 11 And the Lord God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  For the first time in the creation story we see man ashamed of being naked.  Interesting to note that God makes mention to the nakedness that man and woman feel.   Disobedience has now caused two things to occur which God never intended for man to feel, ashamed and fearful.

So how does God bring a solution to this epic problem that man has put himself in?  God created us to be in communion with Him, in other words, He created us for Himself and now we are separated due to sin.  Our first father Adam failed miserably and because of his failure we are all destined to die.  What would be the plan?  2 Cor. 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  The plan was a simple but yet complex.  The first Adam failed so there was a need to send a second Adam that will deliver the world from their sins and reconcile them back to God.  The complexity of it all is that it would have to be the Son of God since only The Creator can save the created.  1 Cor. 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

The apostle Paul sums it up well when he writes:

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.  (Romans 5:6-11)

So what’s so good about “Good Friday?”  In one word, RECONCILIATION!   Jesus while hanging on the cross was reconciling the world to himself.   While the first Adam hid naked and ashamed from his sin Jesus, the second Adam, showed the world that he is not afraid to hang naked and be ashamed for our sins.  He loves us so much that “He would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you.” – Max Lucado.  It’s all about relationship.  God desires to finish what he started in creation and through Jesus we are now reconciled and made anew in Him.  So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.  1 Cor. 15:45

THANK YOU JESUS FOR OVERCOMING FEAR, SHAME, AND GIVING US A NEW LIFE IN YOU. 

THANK YOU FOR MAKING AND ORDINARY FRIDAY INTO A  GOOD FRIDAY!

MEN OF VALOR: ONE NATION, UNDER GOD

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.   Galatians 5:13

One Nation, Under God

Independence Day celebrates July 4, 1776, when brave patriots signed the Declaration of Independence. They founded “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

With the hand of God as their guide, our founding fathers set forth unprecedented freedoms for Americans, including speech and religion. The divine inspiration has given us historic opportunities like no nation on earth.

What does it mean to be an American?

Many majestic images come to mind as symbols of our precious freedom: the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, the bald eagle.

Many spectacular places serve as reminders of our country’s natural beauty: the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park and the Smoky Mountains.

But being an American is more than an image or symbol. It’s something real. It’s the blessed opportunity to pass along the teachings of a precious Savior, who counts on us to love one another and serve one another.

We really are like no other nation on earth.

 

Today’s One Thing

Celebrate Independence Day with your family. Thank God for your freedoms and for the blessings.

Copyright © 2013 Family Life Communications Incorporated

Campfire

Proverbs 10:26

Growing up around camp fires, I learned to always try to sit upwind rather than downwind. On nights when the wind was gentle, the smoke would often shift without much notice catching us and stinging our eyes. Squinting helped, but nothing really took away the sting. But event the sting didn’t stop us from sitting around and poking, cooking marsh mellows and listening to the crackle.

We all have someone in our lives who gets lots of eye-rolls when they let us down again. They just can’t seem to rise to any challenge, even when given many chances to do so. They consistently fail to carry out even the most fundamental tasks. Their word is worthless. They promise, but never come through on their word.

We notice this most when we have “given them one more chance” one more time. We trusted them again in hopes that “this time will be different,” but it wasn’t. And they don’t really get how much it hurts us when they let us down. We really want them to succeed. In fact, we probably want it more than they do! Maybe that is part of the problem. We want their success more than they want it. We have more invested in them than they have invested in themselves. We care more than they care.

Our text tells us it is like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes. Neither of these experiences is pleasant. Each has its own pain. Once we have been hit by either feeling, we try to avoid it in the future. The burning is something you want to avoid.

So what is our text trying to tell us? Is it saying that we should not extend grace to those who let us down, the sluggards in our lives? I think it is telling us two things.

First, expect the disappointment if you extend grace. Don’t let it take you by surprise. One way of doing this is to not expect anything in return. Instead of lending money, give it freely without any obligation. If it is given this way, when it isn’t returned, you had no expectation of the return so you are not disappointed.

Second, and perhaps a more painful lesson is that you might have to let them fall. Rescuing them has not worked. If you don’t want the pain if disappointment, don’t extend the help. Give the grace of natural consequences. Let them experience the pain of their laziness. Don’t listen to their guilt-trips and emotional manipulation.

Fortress

Proverbs 10:15-16

Long-term growth is better than quick gain. Investing in things that last a long time is better than buying disposable items. These statements smash into the values that arose after WWII. The suburbs were grown out of nothing. The automobile allowed people to spread out across a vast area and still get to work. And advertising pushed the lust for the newest and the greatest. “Keeping up with the Jones” became a way of life.

In ancient times the home security system didn’t dial an emergency call center. Security came when your house was inside a walled town, or you could retreat inside the walls of your town. The only way to afford to build such a town was to have extra at the end of the year for many years. Crops had to have sufficient water at the right time. Livestock needed pasture and water. Protection from raiding parties had to be successful. Disputes had to be settled in a satisfactory way for all the people involved.

So when our text says that the fortified city is a symbol of wealth, we can understand why. There were no ‘get rich quick’ schemes. If you look at the source of the richest people in America, most of it originally came from a questionable source. Because they were at the right place at the right time with a healthy dose of hard work, they were able to cash in on life. But their wealth came at the expense of others. The wealth didn’t grow out of nothing. Other people made them rich. Wealth was voluntarily transferred.

In contrast to earthly wealth, the righteous receive life. Unlike a fortified city, life continues with us after the grave. When we die everything stays here. “You can’t take it with you when you die.” This is the reason righteousness is a much better pursuit. Righteousness and life go hand in hand.

Now I don’t want you to think that I haven’t dreamed about being rich, or at least richer than I am. Riches help take away some of the stress of life. It can be very difficult to live on the edge, paycheck to paycheck. STRESS! So enough to make ends meet is nice.

I am getting ready to live on less than half of what I am used to. It will be interesting to see how I handle it. I could easily get stressed if I don’t make the immediate adjustment to my wants and desires. I won’t have disposable income. What I make will be accounted for in some category of “necessary items.”

But I am investing in righteousness. Its value will not diminish when I retire. In fact, I will have more free time to pursue it in greater ways. I won’t feel rushed when I hit a sweet spot in my devotions. I can sit and linger.

Ruin’s Invitation

Proverbs 10:13-14

These two verses give us a simple picture of the results of wisdom and folly. We can take them together because there is a parallel between the first and forth lines, and the middle two lines. The outside lines deal with what each says, and the middle lines deal with what each gains. So let’s look at each.

What wise people say is contrasted with what fools say. What we are on the inside comes out of our mouths. Our true character spills out. The fool “is asking for it.”

The text says that the fool “invites” ruin. Why would someone invite ruin into their lives? I can think of many people who make choices, dumb choices, and then try to talk their way out of the consequences. They justify their actions, often by blaming another person. Someone who drinks too much alcohol is inviting ruin. If you spend more than you earn, you are inviting ruin. Eating too much of the wrong things invites ruin. Neglecting the important relationships in your life invites ruin. With each of these, and many more, the fool will excuse their behavior and they do so with their words.

The wise person gives out wisdom by the very words spoken. Their lives match their words. It is not that the wise person is pretending or being fake, it is that what they have put into their lives spills out. They have taken the time to discipline themselves and fill up on God’s wisdom. What they have put is comes out. Of course it takes effort to fill up on wisdom. The pursuit of wisdom is a long term project. It doesn’t happen overnight. And it is a process that is never finished. The wise continue to learn.

The fool ends up getting disciplined for his actions. The rod is a symbol and sometimes an instrument of discipline. We tend to not use physical punishment in this country. People go to jail rather than getting a public beating. But we tend to punish and not discipline. Discipline is intended and designed to bring about a change of heart. Jail is about making the public feel safer. We put the “bad guys” behind bars. But little is done to change the heart.

In the end the wise person has something to show for the path he has chosen. He has stored up knowledge. I remember a professor at college who exemplified this concept. When you were around him he just overflowed with a joy that was contagious. Without even trying he gave out wisdom. And his life matched his words.

Are you storing up knowledge or inviting ruin?

Hospital Gown

Proverbs 10:12

One of the hardest things for a new couple is their first fight. How they move toward each during and following the fight makes a big difference. When we are able to move toward the other person, hear and understand their position, their hurt and pain, the better our relationship becomes. If we end up feeling alone, we can be headed for trouble.

We all know people who love stirring up trouble. At the root of that stirring is hatred. They would probably not state it this way, but that is the reality. Hate puts us in the lashing out mood. We want to strike at anything that seems to get in our way. Hate is often indiscriminate about where and when it strikes. It doesn’t need justice to step over the line, it isn’t in charge at that point. And as a result, hate often strikes the innocent.

Hate is like a stick poking at the embers in a campfire, hoping to get a bit more flame to rise. Hate doesn’t even need to be in the fire. It is often content to get other people fighting. So if you see conflict, take a look at the sidelines. Perhaps the hate is throwing the punches, but poking the embers.

By contrast, love works to resolve conflicts. It does so through forgiveness and reconciliation. Love brings people together rather than pushing them apart. Love is always seeing the best in other people, perhaps deeply buried best.

Love isn’t about pacifying people. Love doesn’t bury wrongs, it covers them.

I remember being in the hospital for an operation. You know those hospital gowns that let the world see your backside, well I had one of them on. I had to walk down the hallway for a test. I covered my backside to hide my private parts. I didn’t want others to feel shame at seeing me exposed. My private parts were still there, just covered. It was not that I was trying to say they didn’t exist, but that I didn’t want other people having to divert their eyes to keep from shaming me. I didn’t want my nakedness to distract people’s attention away from other important things.

Love covers the wrongs so that they don’t get in the way of relationship. If we hold onto wrongs, soon our arms are filled with them, and we can’t experience the world without the wrongs overtaking it. We cover them so that our gaze can look beyond them to a better future, in hopes that someday the wrongs can be made right.

Fountains

Proverbs 10:10-11

Sneaky! This is one of those traits that you love to hate. You love it when someone else gets the brunt of the joke, but when you get the bucket of water on your head, it becomes a different story. These subtle deceptions, lies that seem harmless, are the high end of a category of actions condemned by God. We are supposed to be exuding life.

We are living in an age when deception makes some filthy rich, and leaves the rest of us just getting by. I think of a former Vice President who touts a “Green” agenda because of his “concern” for the warming of the earth, and yet flies around in a private jet. His life betrays his real beliefs. He becomes filthy rich when he sells his largest asset to the very people who profit from destroying his “Green” agenda. He is “Green”, alright (wink, wink).

Or the members of Congress who voted to change the law to encourage sub-prime mortgages now pointing fingers at the banking industry for getting us into a mess. “It’s their fault.” (Wink, wink) We will fix it this time. (Wink, wink) All the while there are backroom deals that create millionaires who represent us. (Wink, wink)

How about the dad who says, “I’ll be at your ball game,” and then doesn’t show up. Or the mom who is “meeting with the girls” to carry on an affair. Or the child who says, “I clean up my room” and then does nothing.

When we set ourselves on the path of deceit we are set up for failure. Our speech will betray us over time. People can’t help but tell their story. Just give them time and they will tip their hand. They will show you what is on the inside.

For the righteous, life is about sharing the life we have in Christ. Life flows from someone who obeys the LORD. They become a fountain. When we were traveling in Italy we were drawn, like so many before us, to the many fountains that flow. There is just something refreshing about sitting beside a fountain, listening to the splashing water and feeling the gentle mist touching your skin. And on a hot day it is like air conditioning.

So it is with someone who lives a life of obedience. When people are around us, the sense the Life we participate in living. They can be refreshed just by being in our presence.

Are we a chattering fool or a refreshing fountain?

Swiss Cheese

Proverbs 10:9

Living on the edge! Risk-taking! Rush! We certainly live in a world where thrill-seeking has become the new Olympic-sized sport. It is almost as if the brain gets stuck in high gear and nothing at normal pace ever feels normal.

I am a very different type of person. I like not falling off cliffs. I like staying in the middle of the road. I don’t like the possibility of pain. I think pain is God’s way of saying, “Cut that out!” It is a warning system that keeps us from hurting ourselves. I don’t believe the saying, “No pain, no gain.” But then again, I am a little odd. I like walking on steady grown.

When we lack integrity we walk on uncertain ground every day. Walking without integrity is like walking around in an abandoned, unfamiliar building at night. You never know when the floor is going to give out. Will this step be the one that gives out? Will I be caught this time?

I love to see people slow down below the speed limit when they see a highway patrol on the interstate. We are allowed to go the speed limit! They slow down because of their guilt. They hope they weren’t caught.

But the person who is consistent in every area of their life doesn’t have to worry about their day to day decisions. He knows what to expect and how to react. He has been on that path before. He won’t be caught doing something that doesn’t fit with his internal character.

Someone who lacks integrity is often called two-faced. You see different actions in different circumstances. You never know exactly who is going to show up and any given moment. In fact, often, they don’t know who will show up either. They live in fear of being discovered.

Someone with integrity has thought through what they will do and why. They have put the pieces of life together into an integrated whole. They are not like Swiss cheese. There are no potholes just around the corner.

Unfortunately, none of us has complete integrity. We all have some holes in our lives, places that we don’t want other people looking into. But the more we walk according to God’s Word, the more integrity we will have.

So when you notice those holes in your life, fill them with God’s Word. Allow Him to bridge the gap in your integrity.