He Did Not Give Up. Why Do We?

♥  Jesus was a working class carpenter. He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus was not accepted. He was mocked and called out publically. He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus asked his most trusted friends to pray.  They slept.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus heard both Peter’s promise of camaraderie and his denial of relationship.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus asked God to rethink the painful plan.  Upon hearing no confirmation, He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus was tortured and publicly disgraced by men claiming to be godly.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus was prepped for death while Barabbas walked away.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus watched His mother weep, His friends disperse, and mankind scheme.  He did not give up on us.

♥  Jesus felt forsaken by God and Father.  He did not give up on us.

♥  The tomb door sealed tightly.  Jesus came to save, the saved abandoned Him.  He did not give up on us.

We believe that we can create a rift between God that we cannot ever make our way back from.  When we start down this thought pattern it would be wise to think through what it means to give up.  It means to quit.  To stop.  To move forward no longer.  To cease having the ability to succeed.  To forfeit.  Jesus did NOT do this.  Simply, He is still pursuing us.  He still loves us.  He still desires us.  He still forgives.  He still saves.  He still redeems.

God is love.  Penned in the Bible’s definition of love… it keeps no record of wrongs.  If you are sinner like me, you have a gift from the cross of Jesus… hope.  If you are a great sinner like me, you have a gift from the blood of Christ… freedom from the bondage of evil.  If you are an unbelievable and shameful sinner like me, you have a gift from the tomb of our Lord… A new life.

Embrace your new life with Jesus by doing what He does so well… forgetting your sins and making a new covenant with Him.  Jesus destroyed the term, “Can’t”.  In Him, that word no longer exists.  Through Him, you absolutely CAN.  Even you!  Praise God, even me!  You either will or you won’t.  He is pursuing you and awaiting your response.

 


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Do We Worship in HD?

I just returned from a trip to New York where I was privileged to attend a Hillsong conference.  Upon return, the questions are very similar:

“Wasn’t the worship just amazing?”

“That was a completely different experience, wasn’t it?”

“It’s hard to go back to ‘normal’ church after that, isn’t it?”

They aren’t necessarily bad questions.  I understand the intent.  I would ask the same.  But I think it tends to mask an inherent misunderstanding of how worship works.

First of all, I should mention the obvious, and the reason for the questions.  It was amazing.  It was in the Brooklyn Barclays Center.  So several thousand voices were lifted in unison to our God.  How could that not be awesome?  With such an arena comes logistical niceties.  The sound was impressive.

Each time the drums kicked I could feel it in my chest.  With a steady beat, it felt like I had an involuntary pacemaker keeping me going.  I wondered if, when the next song ended, would my heart continue on its own, or would it just give up and let the sound system do the work for it?

Seeing people throw off man-made divisions in both humanity and in the scriptures and rally behind the name of Jesus alone was something I wont soon forget.

But there is a temptation to think that worship, actual worship… was better, or different, or deeper than it was at any other location in the world at that given time.

The Spirit of God was there.  But He didn’t ride on the subway all by Himself.  He didn’t hail a taxi.  He didn’t descend through the rafters into the midst of a special venue.  He wasn’t there waiting on believers to show up.

He walked in through the doors wearing bluejeans, leather jackets, baseball caps, and monogrammed t shirts.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)

All over the world the Spirit entered sanctuaries, synagogues, churches, living rooms, coffee shops, and with the voice of man praised God the Father and Jesus Christ, our victorious sacrifice.  Did it mean more in one location?  Was the price of salvation less in Texas?  Did the Prince of Peace suffer less for Canadians?  Do Egyptians have less to be thankful for?

There is one God.  There is one King.  There is one Savior.  There is one Christ.

He is worthy of honor, glory and praise.  It might sound different.  It might look different.  But the power behind the worship…  The impact of the lowering of ourselves while lifting Him up… That happens on another level, and everyone, everywhere has access to that.

Crying out, “God I need you!” means the same in Brooklyn, Nashville, Albuquerque, or on your knees in the closet of your home.  It involves the heart.  It includes the soul.  It’s communication to God bypassing all third parties.  The power behind prayer… The awe of worship… the humility of self reflection… the honoring of God… those are tied to the cross.

The cross happened once.  It is finished.  It does not happen again in Detroit on a Tuesday because someone planned for it to.  It’s eternal.  It’s all reaching.  It’s for everyone.  And it means the same everyday.  It’s power is not diminishing, nor is it enhanced by the works of man.  And how that affects you, is not based on your location or your event, or your titles.  It’s only impact is a direct result of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Was the conference amazing?  Yes it was.  Will worship be any less next Sunday?  Not a chance.  The same God, made the same sacrifice with the same Son, and even though I’m a sinful and unworthy person, I will call on that same trinity to accept the gift of forgiveness, adoption, and eternal life with a living God.

It was awesome to see thousands of believers singing to God.  In truth, millions do it every day.  I love to imagine the angels roaring in cheers over baptisms and souls gained.  What I can’t wait for is the worship with all believers united in song.  All of us.  Together.  The whole world over.  We don’t need to travel to a sports arena to make this happen.  It happens every moment when we reject the flesh and tune in to the Spirit.

It’s nice to have New York experiences.  It’s nice to have mega churches.  It’s nice to have thumping sound systems.  It’s nice to have tons of space for lots of seats.  But none of that changes worship.  The Spirit doesn’t change with your budget.  The Spirit doesn’t change with location.  The Spirit doesn’t change to be what we want.  The Spirit is ready for worship.  Any time you are ready.  And the magic… the miracle… the awesome… That already happened.  Our thankfulness for it, our praise, it should reflect the gifts received the same every morning day and evening.

The enemy wants you to wait for the right song.  He will tell you the building isn’t ready.  He is known to whisper about quality, volume, people sitting near you, leadership issues, tittles, and all manor of reasons to not worship.  Excuses.  Delays.  Lies.  We have a direct connection to God and a life changing eternal experience awaits our choice to properly use it.  Bluntly put, if coming before the Lord and worshiping is a ‘downer’, or it isn’t ‘fun’, or it’s not quite ‘awesome’ enough… you haven’t been worshiping.

Thinking of worship in terms of quality is like thinking of God in terms of quality.  It’s our direct praise to Him.  It’s our level of appreciation for Him.  It’s positioning ourselves in the correct place in direct relation to His place.  So can He waver in terms of God-likeness?  Is God in HD one day and SD the next?  Does God sour?  Was the cross an 8 out of 10 because it was cloudy and too many people showed up?  Very, very bluntly put… worship is either everything we have from us to God all of the time… or its sacrilege.

You want a New York experience?  Do you want a Jordan River experience?  Do you long for something powerful and life-changing?  For most of us, its about 3 feet lower than we stand.  Those things happen on our knees… and nothing challenges their ‘amazing’.

Bad news… You Won

We can forget what victory means to Christians.  For us, our victory came from the cross.  Jesus has asked that we pick up our cross and follow Him.  It’s a bit confusing because He took our place, but only from the guilt of our sins.  We still have to travel in His footsteps and that journey has its ups and downs to say the least.

So in seasons like this one, we celebrate moms around those who have lost their moms, or had bad relationships, or were abused, or any number of other painful memories.  It’s important to find the cross in these circumstances.  That doesn’t mean to try and pretend there is happiness where sadness overwhelms.  God promised that all things work together for the good of those who believe in Him.  Does that mean your pain is good?  no!  But what is important is that we find that healthy ground where we build our lives on the foundation of God and not on life’s tragedies.

Jesus died for us and we thank Him.  We praise Him.  We worship Him!  But oh what pain He endured.  That pain allowed us everything we hold dear today.  The reason God can straight face to us that all things will work for good is because He endured the worst of it… and it was for OUR good.  We will have our moments.  God never said, ‘I will make life easy for you’.  In fact, there is quite a bit of scripture that alludes to how difficult being a Christian truly is.  Why?  Because we will be attacked by the enemy on top of everything else life throws at us.

But we can find the cross in those moments.  Instead of loathing the past, we can count each scar as a lesson learned.  Instead of bottoming out in loneliness we can tribute loved ones and incorporate their great characteristics in our lives.  Here is what happens if we don’t get a handle on our lives during the bad times.  We end up living around the holidays.  And there are a lot of holidays.  Someone died on my birthday, I was injured at Christmas, I was robbed at Thanksgiving, etc. etc. etc.  We can shut down, isolate, and run from each and every important date for the rest of our lives….

OR… or we could accept that what is important is God.  We made those dates important for our own means.  God doesn’t make us more sad on Mother’s Day.  It’s just another Sunday.  We immortalize the date and subject our souls to personal torment that we create.  Find the cross in that day.  Yes you have endured much.  But next year, there is reason to enjoy the day.  We are over-comers.  We can’t be victorious if we let dates defeat us each year.  Another tool of the enemy is the over dramatization of certain days or times that we give more meaning than others.  They have only the meaning we allow them to have.

We can find ways to honor the fallen, learn from the wicked, grow from neglect, persevere through pain, and triumph over all that does not come from God.  But to do that, we need to see the cross.  That moment when pain and defeat turns to hope and eternity.  When “it is finished” turns into “it has just begun”.  When the sign over the tomb turns from “do not disturb” to “vacancy”… this is when we find our moments of the cross.  This is what the cross does for us.  It says that Christians win even when they seemingly lose.  It means that even death is not defeat.  God’s love has saved us no matter how lost we become.

I felt the need to remind us of two things that keep circling back to each other.  As Christians, we will face hard, hurtful, seemingly impossible moments.  We should not be shocked or disappointed when these times come.  We often mention tests or trials from God.  I do not believe that God does mean or hurtful things to those that He loves (to those that He gave His son for).  Rather, God will help us and while He does so, we can learn from those moments.  And the second thing is that we always have a way back into the light.  Look to that empty cross.  Recall that empty tomb.  And ponder the throne that is occupied.

With God in our corner, today does not have to be a day of sadness.  Sadness is not wrong, but its meant to be temporary.  If you are in pain every year, every holiday, at every solemn memory… find the cross.  There is victory to be had.  There are healthy, proud, confident ways to move forward in honor of the past.  Don’t concede your future based on today’s pain.  If we do not come to terms with our past, it will consume our future.  Whatever pain on whatever day, I pray you plead to God for help and seek His out on this side of heaven for the same.  We want to celebrate with you the victories that you can turn your near defeats into.

Jesus Didn’t Come to Win

The world doesn’t understand how Jesus lost for us.

We understand victory.  Triumph.  Splendor.  The cross was a dirty mess and it’s not in our nature to know what to do with that.

If you were a movie producer, how would you tell the story?  Whether it includes explosions, great speeches, or slapstick comedy, most of us would put a happy ending on the matter.  Just before the whip was raised… right as the crown of barbed thorns was lifted up… before the first nail was struck…

Something would have happened.  This wouldn’t even constitute a plot twist, it’s only natural for things to work out in the end.  Killing an innocent man is not a generally accepted principal.  Soldiers would have rushed in.  Angels would have descended.  The earth would have shook.  Supernatural.  Massive.  Epic.  Awesome.  We would have easily accepted these things.  But this story isn’t a fairy tale.  It doesn’t compete with summer blockbusters.

In this story, the innocent is brutally murdered… but the target was us.  He didn’t sacrifice Himself and then pull off an amazing, out of no where, attack scheme that allowed Himself to live too.  This is where we break away from the movies.  We didn’t all meet up afterwards for celebration.  We all didn’t make it.

God’s triumphant plan was not to blow the enemy away.  He came to save the lost.  This was more of a search and rescue.  And as the dust settles, we learn that we are saved through Him.  We learn of His sacrifice  We learn of His love.  And then we realize, He wasn’t just tortured and killed… He took our place.

And so we are left in this moment of miserable joy.  So happy that we are saved, so devastated that our sin held such a cost.  So excited that we serve someone willing to pay this price and yet so mournful of the horrible events endured by the one so loving.  We cheer, we cry, we laugh, we surrender to our knees and tremble.  How could someone do this for me?  What value am I?  And this holy, loving, perfect, one-true-God, He says, ‘this is what I’m willing to do for you… to reach you… to get through to you… to have you near me’.

The world doesn’t understand it because although many have died at the hands of the enemy, the body count still remains at one.  Jesus’ death is the one that ‘counts’.  Our sins are on Him.  For everyone else the price has been paid.  Our death is where the victory occurs.  And we really struggle understanding that sometimes.  We are so used to the phrase, “and they all lived happily ever after…”.  That only works by ending the story before its all over.  For us… because of Jesus… our story starts to get really good in the ‘end’.

And so those that believe sing that God is a “good Father” and that we are “Loved by Him”… perfectly defining the relationship.  A protective Father that loves us and is willing to sacrifice greatly for us.  And we, those deserving of a horrible fate, bask in His love for us.  We are not any adjective.  We are not our professions.  We are not the sum of our status’.  We are defined by God’s love for us.  We are a character in a story told about this amazing triumphant victory.  But that victory has to be chosen by the recipients.

It’s difficult to explain this amazing story where the Savior came to lose.  It takes time to wrap our heads and hearts around the fact that He came to lose for us.  In our place.  Instead of us.  Because He is a good Father and He loves us.  And we are loved by Him.  For 3 days Satan celebrated a short lived and greatly misunderstood victory.  Every day since is a celebration for us.  I think the important take away is that we can’t simply explain this story to others and have them accept it.  We have to show it to them.

They need to see the Savior.  We need to live like Him.  It’s a love story.  For God so loved the world… It’s a story that doesn’t make sense and it greatly needs an interpreter.  We can live those words.  We can share that love.  We can choose to be thankful for God’s gift and respect him with our actions.  We can show love.  We can show sacrifice.  We can teach through our choices.  And when we look enough like our Savior, the world will rejoice in the gift they find in Him.  After all, Jesus didn’t win in the traditional sense.  He didn’t come to win.  He came to love.  He came to serve.  He came to sacrifice.  You could argue He won by defeating Satan, but technically we can still choose to side with either one.  Which means we still have work to do. And its imperative that we learn to love the way Christ taught us.

 

Christ didn’t gamble on us

Perhaps it may help to understand the mind of Christ when He came to earth.  Or, to be more precise, where His mind wasn’t.  A quick glance in Isaiah 53 can clear this up for us.

“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we counted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This was written in scripture quite some time before Jesus came to earth.  In fact, this was the scripture He came to fulfill.  The point i want to make today is very basic.  Jesus didn’t come to us on a bet.  It was NOT a gamble.  He and God didn’t have a disagreement about mankind.  Jesus didn’t leave heaven exclaiming, “You’ll see!, they will change!”.  He didn’t come to earth, first with a goal of saving us, and the cross was merely His backup plan.  The sin had already been committed.  The cross was already the ONLY plan Jesus had.  And if you are sitting there thinking, “Well, duh!”.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Jesus still came.

We sing about Him on the cross and how he could have called 10,000 angels to set Him free from his torture and death.  But we rarely realize that this was not Jesus’ first introduction to the plan.  The cross wasn’t an ‘uh-oh’ moment for Jesus.  The cross was His destination all along.  He knew, from before birth in the manger, that His life here was about pain, humiliation, backstabbing, manipulation, and death.  All from the folks He loved and wanted to save.

He still came.  In other words… humanity did not disappoint.  God knew blood had to be paid, and who better to handle that?  Like clockwork, we found out Jesus was better.  He was holy, he was pure, he was unwavering in His faith.  And we knew very quickly He had to die so we could get on with our corrupt lives.  We all performed God’s plan to perfection that day.  Jesus showed up, prepared to die.  And the sinners showed up, prepared to kill the innocent Savior.

This isn’t revolutionary, but I hope a change in perspective might help with the magnitude of what Jesus did for us.  His trip to earth wasn’t a mission gone south.  The cross wasn’t the result of poor timing, missed opportunities, or misinformed planning.  The cross is EXACTLY what was planned in response to our refusal to honor God.  And we made it possible.  In fact, we carried it out.  He knew.  He knew our hatred, our greed, our corruption, our pride, and He still came.  He also knew God.  He knew God didn’t bluff.  He knew God loved mankind in spite of our actions.  He knew God wouldn’t send him here with a hidden agenda or with a secret plan B.  He knew His mission was the cross.  He knew when He carried it on His bloody back, He knew when He was adored by cattle and wise men in the barn.

So my question for today is… now that we KNOW what He did for us and what we did to Him.  What will we do today in response?

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