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Good Friday

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

John 3:16-17

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Matthew 26:2

“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

Mark 8:31

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Matthew 27:27-31

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Luke 23:33-34

33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Matthew 27:45-54

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

palms

Is Palm Sunday relevant today?

Many Christians view Palm Sunday as a quick time out before the clock expires on Lent.  Some see it as the start of Holy Week.  Others see it as a day that Sunday school children will dress up and lay green palm fronds on an altar prior to the worship service.  And some will see Jesus as a faithful and suffering servant, making his journey to the cross.

The answer will ultimately depend on how you view Jesus.

Palm Sunday is all about the final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem.  He enters with the reception of a hero.  Palm branches are cut from the trees so that people can wave them and lay them at the feet of Jesus.  The crowds shout with joy and excitement as he arrives.  Some hope for a military solution to their suffering and see Jesus as the right leader for a rebellion.  Some want a new government established where better leadership can be found.  Some desire an economic solution where wealth and riches will fix the needs of their nation.  And a portion of the crowd just desires deliverance through the Promised One of God, the Messiah.  They desire redemption, restoration, and salvation.  A Savior who will wipe away their tears and forgive their sins.

By the end of the week, many in the crowd will be disappointed.  They did not find the expected fix.  The crowd did not find the general, politician, or ruler they had desired.  Only a small portion of the crowd will follow Jesus to the end of the week and they too will ultimately leave his side.  But later, they will see an empty tomb and realize the truth.  God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, and whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.

Palm Sunday is relevant because of the cross.  As Jesus moves closer and closer to His own crucifixion, it demonstrates the magnitude of His love for us.  That is the reason we sing on Palm Sunday.  We sing to celebrate Jesus, the Lamb of God.  We celebrate the One who journeys into Jerusalem, knowing that it will take Him to a cross, but that it will take away the sins of the world.

If we see Jesus for all that He has done, there is reason to worship, sing, and rejoice just like the first century crowds in Jerusalem.  May our voices ring out in acclamation just like theirs, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna, in the highest!”

Celtic Trinity Knot

trinity knot1

The Celtic Trinity Knot is a tradition Celtic symbol representing God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Celtic knots are perhaps the most recognizable artwork in Celtic history.  They are an iconic symbol of Ireland and a popular feature in Celtic art dating back to 450 A.D.  Trinity knots are frequently used in Insular art.  Insular art is believed to have originated from the Irish monasticism of Celtic Christianity in the early middle ages.

trinity knot2

Trinity knots can also have a circle incorporated into the symbol.  Depending on who you ask, the circle represents eternity, eternal life, or the love of God. Regardless, the knots are a beautiful way to communicate a spiritual truth.  In each knot, there is no beginning and no end.  So is the timeless nature of our Heavenly Father, who showers us with mercy, grace, and love.

God bless your Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

A Time for Tulips

snow tulips

Most of America has snow on the ground.  People are inside, trying to stay warm. Recently, I looked out my window at home to see a dozen tulips poking through a snow drift.  I marveled at the strength and power that made those plants grow in such harsh and demanding conditions.  I didn’t want to go outside because of the freezing cold, but the tulips pushed through the layers of dirt, soil, leaves, and now several inches of snow.

We forget it, but people are like those snow covered tulips.  Folks can push through tremendous difficulty and hardship.  We often grow during the most difficult times in life when there is an inner strength guiding us forward.

Scripture provides a picture of this in 2 Corinthians chapter 4.  Paul writes to the church and says, “do not lose heart.”  There is an inner strength in you that the world will not understand.  While it may be confused with personal strength, it is a “treasure in jars of clay.”  This extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  It gives the ability to endure, maintain, and move forward even when life gives us the worst conditions possible.

Paul also shares how resilient believers can be because of God strengthening us in times of sorrow. In verse 8 he shares that God provides so well that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . . .”  The Lord who helped Israel endure the desert sands will also strengthen you during the challenges of today.

God provides a covering that shelters us during the storms of life.  He also allows His Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us when we only see darkness.  The inner strength protects us and allows us to move upward, beyond the dirt and soil of difficulty.

Don’t lose heart.  Remember what God can do with snow covered tulips.  He renews their inner strength day by day, allowing momentary afflictions to prepare them for a greater reward and a new season of life.

 

lent journey

Lent is an important time where Christians focus on personal sacrifice and ready themselves for the celebration of Easter.  On the liturgical calendar, Lent runs six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  It is a religious observance where Christians focus on fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from different foods, acts, or luxuries.  Others will observe the season of Lent by adding a spiritual practice to grow closer to God.

No matter how you decide to take this six-week journey, focus on where it ultimately ends; the Son of God on a blood stained cross for the sins of humanity and an empty tomb proclaiming his resurrection.  May God bless your journey and the path that takes you there.

Costly Christianity

cost

The brutal slaying of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS this weekend serves as a grim start to the season of Lent.  While Lent is often celebrated as a time of sacrifice and inflection, today it seems more of a reminder that there is a price for our faith.

As our hearts are heavy and our prayers go out to the families of these 21 brothers in Christ, let us also focus on discipleship.  Let the Church hear this message again and again. There is a cost to discipleship.  There is a figure for service to the Savior.  There is a price when one decides to follow Jesus.

These tenets are not new.  Jesus teaches His disciples that they will be ridiculed, reviled, and rejected.  There is a hard road for us to travel as we grow stronger in faith.  Matthew 10:22 shares, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

Those are not easy words to hear, but they allow us to focus on what is truly important and to keep our perspective.  While there is a great price to pay in service, one will also find value in the salvation of Christ.  There is something greater than all my hardships and struggles.  There is something bigger than all my troubles.  The value of Jesus.

The point becomes clear in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”

As hardships, struggles, and difficulties come your way remember the examples we see in Scripture; hold on to your confession, stand fast in the truth, and endure to the end.  The value of Jesus will soon be clear.

 

Marriage Heart Health

Do you have a five star marriage?

People want to stay at the best hotels and resorts when they travel. These hotels earn a five star rating because they consistently deliver excellent service, provide great amenities, and offer that special touch of class like little chocolates on your pillow. They go the extra mile. People instead settle for a two or three star establishment because of proximity, cost, and time. We often settle for less instead of striving for the very best.

This is also true in marriage. We can have a great relationship with quality time together, kind words toward each other, and sacrificial acts of service. But too often we settle for a mediocre marriage with little strength, support, or commitment.

How can we flip the switch?

Couples need to honestly evaluate the relationship with their spouse. Are your expectations being met? When expectations are not met, we are disappointed. Disappointment often carries with it frustration, anger, and isolation. If our reality is less than what we expected, then the reality equals a disappointed spouse. Share expectations with each other so that you are both on the same page and can work toward mutual goals.

Couples need to focus on each other. I can tell when my wife is upset, stressed out, or angry. Most of us know that look or phrase from a spouse. There is a cue that reveals his or her inner thoughts. That is a signal to ask questions, share an encouraging word, help around the house, fix a problem, take the kids for a walk, or just listen. Don’t ignore the cues and signals that your spouse sends you. Take notice. Respond and act to support each other.

Couples need time together. Husbands and wives are great at making time to discuss problems, schedule school events, and play taxi service for the kids. While this is important, couples also need to spend quality time together. They need to get away, go on a date, and make time for their one true love. Don’t lose the fire and energy that brought you to the altar in the first place.

February 7-14 is National Marriage Week. Use that time to evaluate your marriage and strengthen your relationship. Check out their resource page at http://www.nationalmarriageweekusa.org and discover how a few simple steps can improve any marriage.

No matter where your marriage is today, you can build a stronger relationship that will last for the rest of your life. Make a five star marriage part of your life today.

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