After the greatest act of love ever committed, Jesus lay dead in a donated tomb. His loyal companions and followers were stunned, sickened by what they had witnessed. But beyond the gory details of this death, they were hit with the uncomfortable thought that perhaps all they had known the past 3 ½ years was a lie, fake, delusional. This man Jesus they had trusted and loved was dead. He died like everyone else. There was no last minute fire from heaven to kill the Roman soldiers or the angry mob of his own brethren demanding his death. There was no angelic rescue team to pull him off that dreaded piece of wood. He was dead. For real. No one was coming to save them from the Roman rule. They would not be sitting on anyone’s right hand in the new government. They had seemingly been duped. Now what? Well, three days later, it was imperative that the risen Jesus convince them beyond a shadow of doubt that all he had promised was REAL and was happening. His followers needed to be 100% convinced and energized to tell the Good News at any cost to all who would listen. The man Jesus was gone forever, but the spirit Jesus would have life within himself, and power to restore all of mankind back to his Father. They needed to urgently tell that story to you and me. How did they go from feeling ultimate betrayal and grief to absolute certainty and joy?
Thinking about the death of Jesus always produces a variety of emotions. On one hand, we feel a deep sense of gratitude, hope and praise, for without his willing sacrifice and ignominious death, we would all remain under the sentence of sin with no possible way out. In short, we and the entire human race would be doomed to destruction. On the other hand, when we think of his death we feel the dull, persistent aching pain of sadness, because we know Jesus was an entirely innocent man who was subject to the most unfair and devious kinds of deception, mistreatment and torture. Did you ever wonder what was behind the events that brought Jesus to the point of crucifixion? Did you ever think about who did what and why to position the Savior of all mankind as an enemy of the state?
We make choices every day. Some are easy choices that we don’t even need to think much about and there are others that require some on-the-fly time and attention. Then there are the choices that can be difficult and even agonizing. These are the choices that can make or break a life or shape a destiny, or at the very least, alter the near future. These are the biggest choices we face, but they may not necessarily be the most important ones. We probably don’t think about how often our really big decisions end up being a sum total of many small and seemingly irrelevant choices we have made without much thought. The point is that all of our choices carry a measure of importance! So, what guides us in the choices we make? Are we most often influenced by how we feel about things or by what our friends or family will think? What are the most important factors in successful Christian decision making?
When you think of compassion, what do you picture? Perhaps you see Jesus healing the multitudes or volunteers caring for victims of some natural disaster. Perhaps you see an individual patiently working with a disabled person or a soldier protecting children in a war torn region. Perhaps compassion makes you think of Doctors Without Borders or food drives for the hungry. Whatever it is, thinking about compassion probably makes you think about the best of humanity – it probably makes you think about that glimmer of hope that says we can get along. Now, when you think about compassion do you ever see yourself in the role of the compassionate? Wouldn’t you like to be in that role? Just what does it take to become a truly compassionate person and most importantly, what are the limits of compassion? Are there times when compassion is NOT appropriate?
Did you ever notice that there never seems to be enough time? For some reason or other, we are always rushing around to do the things we need to do and we seem to scarcely be able to even take a breath in between this and that. Our lives are often harried, and as a result we tend to feel unfulfilled and empty at the end of a day. So, how are we spending our time? What are we doing – or not doing - with that precious commodity of time to either fulfill or fritter away our lives? As Christians, are there different and specific guidelines for spending and investing our time than for others? Are there ways to simply and efficiently reorder and reclaim our time? Where do we start? What do we do?
Raising children is different than it used to be. Somehow or other the lines between parents and children have become blurred. Somehow or other the very idea of firm discipline has become associated with beatings and abuse. Somehow or other our children’s feelings have become the foundation for our parental actions and responses. What happened to parents unequivocally “ruling the roost?” Is that now wrong? What happened to parents being authoritative and firm? Is that now wrong? What happened to the clear lines of right and wrong being the solid foundation for parental decision making? Is that now wrong? Have we begun to approach the point where we assign so many rights to children that we as parents are inherently wrong? What do children need and how are we supposed to know what they need and how to give it to them?
Jesus loves you! This is a true, simple and potentially life-changing statement. Once we accept what that three-word sentence actually means, it can become a steering mechanism for everyday of our lives, pointing us to righteousness, godliness and self-sacrifice. Jesus loves you. Pointed and refreshing, but what does it really mean? Does Jesus’ love for us guide us in our everyday experiences? Yes! Does his love for us mean that he wants the best for us? Of course! Okay, so if he wants the best for us does that refer to comfort and abundance in our lives? Does Jesus’ love for us bring us to better living conditions, more financial stability, a much better present and a brighter future? The answers to these questions will vary wildly depending on whose brand of Christianity you look at and this just confuses the matter. Instead of asking different Christians about the role of comfort and abundance in a Christian’s life, let’s find the answer from Jesus’ own teachings and the Apostle’s own words.
Fear is a life dominator. When fear wells up within us we are often physically paralyzed, speechless or at a loss for cogent thought. When fear strikes we run, we hide or we cower before it as our new and merciless master. When we see fear in others we can easily be drawn into its overwhelming grip and become hapless and helpless in our ability to see clearly and find our way. Because fear is such a powerful dominating emotion, it has always been a preferred tool of Satan. What better way to gain control of the masses of humanity than to instill fear? While fear can occasionally save us, fear is most often a pathway to dysfunction, a weapon of despair and a tool of defeat. So, what do we do to conquer fear? How can we learn to feel fear but not be afraid?
We are so shortsighted. Most of us can only see as far as the next phone, tablet or computer screen and we really don’t think much about we are seeing – we just want to see it, to have our minds toyed with and occupied, never giving thought to what is beyond and what is lasting. In our obsession with the occupation of our moments, we have completely lost one of the greatest things that we could ever personally bring to our world. We have lost the value of LEGACY. Legacy by one definition is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” You see, we have the ability to leave a lasting and positive impression on our world, if we would only realize that potential and act on it. Elijah is a great example of legacy. In fact, Elijah left one of the most unique and powerful legacies of any Bible hero. What legacy did he leave? How did he do it?
“The best things in life are free.” That certainly can be true, but as always there is more to the story. Take love - the love that is between a husband and a wife as a for instance. While this love certainly should be free – freely given and freely received, it does have a maintenance schedule attached to it. Funny thing is, we never hear much about love’s maintenance schedule as it can be difficult, demanding and even daunting. The good news is that if we stick with the schedule, the results will literally last a lifetime and the love that we were freely given will have become a most valuable admired and cherished part of our lives! So, how do we get there? How do we learn what to do and how to do it so our love will last a lifetime?