Oh, How He Loves Us!

iStock Photo by B-C Designs
iStock Photo by B-C Designs

What was the awesome power that kept Jesus, the Son of God, nailed to a weathered piece of wood, with spikes piercing his hands and his feet?

How was it possible for angry human hands to lay hold of Jesus, the Christ? How were they able to capture Him? What strength was available to those mocking soldiers with their furious faces? Even the sun was stunned, so traumatized by spitting scorners, cruel taunters, and the sight of a wounded Savior that it turned off the brightness of the afternoon and summoned midnight.

When He was captured in the garden, Jesus reminded Peter that He could have asked the Father for thousands of fighting angels to come to His defense. But we know why He did not. He who is King of Kings and worshipped by angels allowed those gritty human hands to subject Him to the cross. He did it because that was God’s plan. In their classic 1993 album, The Mississippi Mass Choir put the answer to our questions to music when they sang: “It wasn’t the nails that nailed Him to the cross. He could have come down, but my soul would still be lost. The ransom was so high, only He could pay the cost.”

Love held Him there. Christ volunteered to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet, His great love for us does not grant us immunity from life’s tragedies or disappointments. I encounter people every day who ask relevant, real-world question–even in the light of the victory of the cross. “If Christ loves me, why did He allow my spouse to die?” “If He loves me, why is my financial situation so hopeless?” “If He loves me, why did I lose my home?” Why did I lose my job? Why didn’t He save my child?

I sat in a chair in the kitchen today chatting with my daughter as she shared the story of the sudden loss of a colleague’s wife. Inexplicably, someone who was there is suddenly gone. And this is a family of believers. “What do you say?” she asked me. These are questions that confront us, even on Resurrection weekend when we celebrate the deep love we embrace as Christians. How do we understand the cross; how do we understand a life of victory in a world where unfathomable pain is possible? How could hundreds of Christians be murdered in Kenya? Why are there one hundred individual stories of mistreated children, innocent people incarcerated for decades, the working poor robbed by unscrupulous predators…why?

Jesus chose the wood, the nails, and the thorns. He did it for our victory. He did it because, no matter what we encounter in life, He assures us that we win. We win over sin and death. We win over pain and grief. This victory replaces any darkness that threatens. We can stare it down. We have undefeatable joy and an anointing that prevails. After the crucifixion comes Resurrection Sunday. Amen, and Thank God!

Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.–Hebrews 12:2 NCV

Sweet Beginnings!

Here we are.  Day #2 in what I have declared as “The Year of Opportunity!”

The past is our cherished history.  Tomorrow holds the great promises of God for a wonderful future, for accomplishing great things, and for fulfilling the purpose God has designed for our lives. Sweet!

There is nothing like a plate full of pancakes to make the sweet start of a brand new day. When my spiritual daughter, Kim, first came to visit me in Nashville, we left the airport and headed straight for Pancake Pantry. Not only is it a great place for celebrity watching, but also I have decided that one of the best eating experiences in the city is their sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon syrup.  Somehow, I think, that dish will be on the menu for at least one feast in Heaven.

In honor of sweet beginnings, I have decided to believe that this is the year.  Join me in affirming that every tomorrow comes bursting with wonderful opportunities. I will always cherish the past and hold on to the richness of memories, accomplishments, and dreams that have come true. However, the fact that I am still here is, to me, a sure sign that there is more in store.

What I envision for you in 2013 includes all of this: greater understanding, more days jam-packed with everyday joy, super-abundant opportunities, greater doors leading to fulfilled dreams, bigger triumphs, and enough prosperity that you can support cherished causes.  You can even become a grander “you” than you ever dreamed possible.

You must be more alert than ever of the negative force called “procrastination.”  It may be the one villain holding you back.  You may discover that the reason you didn’t accomplished the great things you set out to do in 2012 was that you kept postponing them. One of my biggest challenges is looking at a task, deciding it is too enormous, and then putting it off until tomorrow. Commit to doing something—anything—towards your biggest goal, doing it every day, and allowing nothing or no one to get in your way.  Start now. Failure is not an option.

This is the year to dream new dreams. At this very moment, God is putting fresh ideas into your mind. We are all very certain that God has a purpose for our lives. When we put ourselves into His hands, totally and confidently, the BIG dreams will come from Him. Do not be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone. Be willing to stand still and watch God do the impossible.

You are on the brink of a promised victory. Just follow the advice of Moses; watch God perform a wonder. The problems and obstacles that looked so fearsome are about to be removed from your face forever!

Moses told the people, Fear not; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians you have seen today you shall never see again.—Exodus 14:13 (Amplified Bible)

What Are You So Anxious About?


D
o not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~

Philippians 4:6 (New International Version)

Anxiety!  It appears to be a commonly accepted illness of our age. Everyone is anxious. Or, at least, everyone has anxious moments. We are nervous, we are worried. We are concerned about everything. We fret. We’re fearful. We choke up, feel nauseated, get migraines and can’t sleep…all because of some very real (or imaginary and anticipated) troubles.

The great psalmist, David, must have been intensely familiar with anxiety. In writing the 139th Psalm, he expressed the assurance that God saw him, knew where he was and knew everything he was going through. David acknowledged the certainty of God’s presence.  To paraphrase, he said:  “If I am up high or down low, asleep or awake, in darkness or in the brightness of day, God, you are there.” But, in that same poetic expression, he pleaded words that can only come from a troubled heart.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. ~ Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

I have not completely escaped this malady. Today, I am taking my own medicine. I can imagine wild disappointments. Thankfully, most never materialize.  I have those moments, when I woefully predict, like Job:

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.~ Job 3:25 (NIV)

In those times, you must make a conscious effort to trade anxiety for peace. There is a peace of God which passes all understanding. And it is available, just for the asking. Next time you feel yourself drifting into one of those moody, hand-wringing moments, stop and remember your past victories. Yesterday’s fears never came.  Speak words of peace and calm to yourself. Make a list of your favorite scriptures for joy, victory and peace.

Replacing negative thoughts must be an aggressive strategy. The Word of God gives us tremendous coping skills. If you take the Word, like medicine, your joy and peace always win!