The Gift of the Cross

30 03 2015

“Jesus did not die just to save you from hell. He paid the price to give you all of heaven.” – Carlos A. Rodriguez

This week Christians around the world turn their eyes to the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus. Easter is a historical reality. The cross was raised. The tomb was empty. Jesus died, and Christians have spent every day since that first Sunday morning spreading the good news that the resurrection is real and He is alive. The cross is a gift. Because of the cross, we can look at the world differently, look at ourselves differently, and look at our past, present, and future differently.

Here are ten gifts that Jesus gives us because of the cross:

  1. Grace
  2. Courage
  3. Access
  4. Peace
  5. Joy
  6. Perspective
  7. Purpose
  8. Freedom
  9. Belonging
  10. Life

My Jesus Resolution today is to embrace the gifts of the cross. These gifts are the present reality of Jesus in my life today. The world presses hard to challenge these gifts to my soul. It will tell me that I’m not worth it, the gifts aren’t true, or that I have to earn them to deserve them. The truth is that Jesus died on a cross because He thinks I am worth it. These blessings are more than I can imagine. Each one is a gift, pure and simple. A gift to be enjoyed, savored, and celebrated because of the cross.

Spelling Words

27 03 2015

Second grade spelling words can be tricky. I was with my little friend as he and his mom were practicing for the big test. There were words with different kinds of endings, double consonants, and silent vowels. He spelled, giggled, tried creative variations, and practiced extra on the words he missed the first time. He will do great, but it took diligence and practice to help him become proficient on this week’s list.

Spelling is about more than memorizing the order of letters. It involves learning the rules of language, the patterns of speech, and the rhythm of letter combinations. Over time and with practice, these spelling fundamentals become engrained so that we don’t have to stop and process through each rule before we spell a word. The rhythm becomes a part of the way that we think.

Listening to my little friend and his mom practice his words gave me a glimpse into how we can help each other look more like Jesus. First, they practice together. She put the words in silly sentences, he listened and laughed, and then spelled his word. He didn’t struggle on his own to figure it out. They walked the road of ‘ing’ endings and silent ‘e’s’ together. Second, they are creative about learning. Sometimes, my little friend writes the words on a white board. Other times, he spells out loud. He can write it in sand, use sidewalk chalk on the driveway, or call and spell on the phone. Third, cheering, encouragement, and celebration are essential. Mom is always honest when he misspells a word, but then they work to get it right. When he does spell a word correctly, cheering erupts and celebrations are planned for spelling tests proudly posted on the refrigerator.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be inspired by my little friend. I have so many things to learn about Jesus. I want His nature and character to become engrained in who I am. It is going to take diligence and practice. I need to remember the three fundamentals. Practicing together is always best. Creativity opens doors for learning that help the message stick. Encouragement and celebration fuel transformation in miraculous ways. Sometimes, I need extra practice. Sometimes, I don’t get it right. But learning to look like Jesus is a lot like practicing spelling words. Just keep at it and it will become a part of who you are.

Thin Places

25 03 2015

The Celts have a tradition that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places the distance is even smaller. Thin places are spots where the threads between heaven and now are stretched and sheer, allowing us to catch of glimpse of God’s glory. They are the moments when we catch our breath in wonder, and experience the grace-filled reality that fills the other side.

There are thin places in nature. Places of such intense, raw beauty that we can’t help but cover our mouths and stare. Awe makes us rub our eyes as we soak in the splendor of a vista that boldly, persistently proclaims the majesty of God. These are places where it is hard to leave, to tear our eyes away from the truth that God is in this place. We walk away humbled, eyes wide open, our sense of how we fit into the universe realigned. Thin places.

There are thin places in time. Moments when we feel God’s presence in an almost tangible way. Some of these are times of vivid, overwhelming joy. Others are marked by the intensity of grief or pain. Sometimes it is a quiet whisper that catches our ear, encouraging us to stop and pay attention. These thin places in time come like a streak of lightning, illuminating, for just a moment, a different reality than what we usually see. Thin places.

Sometimes thin places are found in people. Someone who shows you Jesus, extends grace, offers a hand, reminds you that you are loved, or helps you take the next step. In watching them walk with God, we catch a glimpse of His face, hear His voice, or feel His love. Spending time with them leaves us both hungry and satisfied. With them, we have moved a little closer to heaven, hearing angel wings. Thin places.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look for a thin place. I am convinced that they permeate our world. Places where we are allowed to see glory, witness majesty, experience beauty, and let heaven touch the here and now. The thinnest place of all is found on a hillside planted with three crosses. The one in the middle holds back the fabric of earth and invites us to peer from this world into the one beyond.

The Message of Springtime

23 03 2015

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” — Martin Luther

Spring is writing its story as the leaves unfurl from winter bare branches, flowers reveal their God-made glory, and the birds fill the air with song. As you enjoy the warmer temperatures and smile at the evidences of nature proclaiming the praise of the Creator, remember the observation of Martin Luther. As trees move from brown to green and the earth is pushed aside so new plants can reach for the sun, we get to see the reality and possibilities of the resurrection play out over and over. Every sign of new life is meant to remind us that transformation is not only possible, but God’s purpose for our hearts.

The resurrection enables us to live lives that display the truth that Jesus has conquered death and ignited the abundant life within those who wear His name. The decay caused by sin fades as the resurrection life takes hold of us and unleashes His glory and His purpose in our souls. Each time we see springtime releasing winter’s hold on the earth, we are witnessing the power of the resurrection in ourselves.

My Jesus Resolution today is to celebrate the coming of spring. I want each new leaf to remind me of the way God is transforming me for His glory. I want the sunshine to draw me closer to the Son. I want to see more than the changing of the seasons as the next few weeks unfold. I want to see the changes He is making in me.

Happy Happiness Day

20 03 2015

Today is a holiday. In 2012, the United Nations declared March 20 to be the International Day of Happiness. It is a day to encourage the social, economic, and cultural stability needed for people to experience happiness in their lives. The UN resolution was introduced by the Himalayan country of Bhutan, who are considered to be among the happiest people on earth.

Wouldn’t it be neat if Christians were seen as the happiest people on earth?  

Christians have a hope that helps shape how we view the circumstances in which we stand. We have access to peace and assurance that allow us to face our days with confidence. Rejoice is a command. Fear is vanquished by limitless love. Shame and guilt melt in the vast expanse of His grace. Our lives have an eternal purpose. We never walk alone. We face struggles and hardships, but the cross empowers us to face them with trust and thanksgiving.

Our lives should have less worry, fewer grumbles, more joy, greater peace, and a deeper sense of contentment than those in the world around us. In our words, actions, choices, and priorities Jesus should come shining through. When people see Jesus in us, they should see hope, healing, and happiness.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be happy. I am going to focus on the blessings God has poured into my life. I want to make room for the abundance that He longs to pour into every moment of my day. It is easy to focus on the negative and let unhappiness settle over me like a cloud. Jesus is the light that changes the shadows into smiles. Have a happy day!


18 03 2015

It sits outside my window, in the midst of my flowers. A purple yard cross with bright flowers settles in among the yellow, red, and pink blossoms, proclaiming ‘Rejoice!’ I purposely placed it right in my line of sight. It is too easy to see the reasons to grumble, complain, worry, and be fearful. I need the reminder that God’s command to my soul revolves around joy.

Here are ten reasons to rejoice today:

  1. Jesus wins.
  2. The gospel is true.
  3. Hope is real.
  4. You are loved.
  5. He is here.
  6. Grace is yours for the asking.
  7. He keeps His promises.
  8. His peace > my fear
  9. Prayer works.
  10.  The cross unlocks joy.

My Jesus Resolution today is to rejoice. Rejoice is a verb, an action word, which calls me to move from worry to worship. No matter what I am going through today, no matter how hard things get, or how dark the horizon appears, these ten things are always true. There are always reasons to rejoice because God is always good, always faithful, and always pouring out His love on those who seek His face.

The Sound of Silence

16 03 2015

It is an unlikely hit. A 12th century church in East Sussex, England decided that they wanted to share the peacefulness of their ancient building with the world. They set up recording equipment in their empty building, capturing thirty minutes of silence. The CD sold out on the opening day, and church members are now filling orders from people as far away as Ghana.

We live in a busy, noisy world. Noise permeates every part of our day. From the time we get up to bedtime, we are surrounded by sound. Music, television, phones, alarms, and even people create a wall around our souls. That wall makes it hard to hear God. If we want to be people who listen to His voice, we have to be thoughtful and deliberate about stilling our hearts and welcoming silence.

Perhaps that explains the popularity of the CD. If you intentionally hit play on thirty minutes of silence, you choose to stop the noise, step back from the world, and let quiet fill the space in your soul. That silence helps us regain our balance, refocus our perspective, and realign our priorities. God doesn’t scream. He whispers. Being silent makes it possible for us to hear Him.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be silent for at least thirty minutes. That sounds like a long time, but I am going to take my cue from the CD. It almost seems wasteful to set thirty minutes aside for silence when there is so much to do and my list is so full. My goal, however, centers not around doing, but being who God wants me to be. Silence is an investment in transformation. “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” – Isaiah 32:17

Potential Goggles

13 03 2015

I wish I was an inventor. Inventors get to look into the future and dream. They think outside of the box, imagining a world that looks very different than the one in which they stand. Today, I don’t want to create new and improved things as much as reinvent my eyes. I wish I could develop potential goggles – glasses that would help me see people as they can be with God’s grace.

Right now, I only see externals and I miss so much. I want to see the homeless man on the corner with eyes of compassion and hope. I want to look at a shy teenager and watch the power of God’s love help her bloom. I want to see what the young adult in handcuffs would be like after experiencing the reality of grace. I long to see hospital rooms transformed, schools bright with possibilities, homes overflowing with joy, and workplaces infused with integrity. The potential is already there because God is there. I just need eyes to see it.

We live in a world in which the brokenness of sin is evident all around us. Sin’s shadow blocks us from seeing the potential in each person we meet. God, however, never fails to see the full potential in every soul. He knows what we can be when we stand in the full strength of His love and purpose. Jesus saw it in every sinner He forgave, every sick person He healed, and every hungry heart He taught. This is why He keeps whispering to His people, “Love them.” When we love, our eyes are transformed.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask God for potential goggles. I want to see the people I meet today with His eyes. I don’t want to see them just for who they are, but who they can be in Him. I want to walk around with my eyes wide open, impressed with the power of mercy and singing the praises of the One who lives to make me better than I am today. Jesus came to heal the sick, mend the broken, and chase sin’s shadows away with His light. I want to see that world. I can, and I don’t even need to invent potential goggles. Jesus has already made it a reality.

Wet Wipes

11 03 2015

We sat behind the sweetest young family at church on Sunday. Mom, Dad, and their little angel of a girl, not quite a year old, with bright red hair and wide blue eyes. She is busy, curious, and learning what it means to be with God’s people in worship. We love sitting by them. It reminds us of who we are, the power of grace, and the joy of being family.

As I sat behind the little girl, I watched her wiggle, laugh, read books, pull on mom’s sleeves, rub dad’s whiskers, stand up in the seat and grin mischievously, sing, hold a Bible, and play with her quiet toys. (I really was paying attention to the worship service too, I promise!) Finally, it was time for a snack. She settled into mom’s lap, while mom fed her bits of a fruit and cereal bar. At first, she was content to let mom put the bites in her mouth, but it didn’t take long for her to become determined to feed herself. Mom broke the bar into small pieces and her little fingers delighted in squishing them and then finding their way to her face. I’m sure some of the food made it to her tummy, but her fingers and cheeks were sticky as well.

In the midst of protests because the snack was all gone, mom reached into the diaper bag and pulled out a packet of wet wipes. Within moments, the evidence of the mess was gone. The sticky was unstuck, the stains were wiped clean, and the little one was ready to explore the world. Wet wipes are marvelous things. And they helped me see Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be thankful for the way Jesus cleans up my messes. The wet wipes reminded me of the way the blood of Jesus makes me clean. Over and over, I get sticky with sin, grimy with guilt, and stained with shame. Each time, Jesus faithfully washes me clean, enabling me to face the world with joy and confidence. Today when I see a wet wipe or use a napkin, I am going to remember the way that Jesus moves to help me face life with a grace-cleaned heart and a mercy-scrubbed soul.

He Got Up

9 03 2015

It is one of those mornings. You know what I mean. A stay-under-the quilts, hide-your-head-in-the-covers, don’t-want-to-see-anyone kind of day. Some days it is rough. The bruises from yesterday’s encounter with the world haven’t even started healing, and it is time to go do it all over again. Maybe it is a difficult relationship, a financial struggle, a job hardship, a health problem, an overload of busyness, the empty sting of loneliness, or a worrisome fear that has crept down deep into your soul. Whatever it is, hiding sounds far better than getting up and facing it.

Jesus understands. He was misunderstood, misquoted, and mistaken for a demon. People used Him, abused Him, and became furious with Him. He preached love, but was hated for it. He spoke of peace, but was treated with injustice. He invited anyone with a heart for God to walk by His side. In the end, He was rejected, mocked, ridiculed, and murdered. But, and this is a big one, but He got up. On the third day, He got up.

Because He got up, you and I can get up too. Someday, we will get up from death, entering His presence with more praise than we can imagine. But that isn’t all. Because He got up, we can get up today too. We can get up, facing the monsters, the uncertainties, the worries, the struggles, and the fears. Getting up, we can face today with confidence, peace, and hope. We stand in victory because He is victorious. I know it is overwhelming, pressing in so hard you can hardly breathe. But He got up! Never forget that. And because He did, you can too. You can face this. You can get through this. And you can look like Jesus as you do.

My Jesus Resolution today is to get up. I have to admit that there are days in which I just want to throw in the towel. This life isn’t easy. Jesus never promised easy. He does hold out His hand, the nail-scarred one, and asks me to take a step of faith. That step of faith will usher me into a world I can’t imagine. One of hope, healing, comfort, love, presence, power, and perspective. Pull the covers up or trust His love? He got up, so I am going to get up too.