Saturday, March 30, 2013

Embrace the Cross (Part 2)

When I titled my last post (Part 1), I had a particular idea in mind for what to write next. While I still hope to share some of those things later, it seemed that this post needed to go in a different direction, and today (Saturday, the day before Easter) would be the perfect day to write it.

When we think about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can easily jump from one to the other without giving much pause to the day in between. Today is the perfect day to do just that, but it really has so much application for our lives in so many areas, not just today.

My mind and heart have been drawn to how those who loved Jesus must have felt after he was crucified and buried. Their lives had completely changed when they began to follow Him. They saw miracles, signs, and wonders beyond what they could ever have imagined. They knew there was no one like Him, and they truly believed He was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of God.

But after seeing him beaten and hanging on the cross, so many of their hopes and dreams must have died with Him that Friday. And imagine the depth of hopelessness and despair that was settling in by Saturday. Think of all the questions, the doubts, the fears. Couldn't God have stopped this? Were we wrong all along in following Him? But what about the other miracles? What do we do now? The list could go on and on.

They didn't realize that in the midst of the most hopeless-looking scenario they could ever imagine, God was already working a bigger miracle than they could ever begin to hope or even think to ask for. The plan was still in place. Nothing had thrown it off. God was still in control. And their minds were about to be blown like never before.

The thing is, Jesus had told them ahead of time what would happen, but they didn't get it. They couldn't comprehend what He meant when He said, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life." (Matthew 17:22b-23a)  They were grieved on hearing those statements, but they really had no idea what would happen. They didn't understand His words enough to hold on to that hope after the devastation of the cross.

How often do we find ourselves in situations where we can relate? He tells us ahead of time. He gives us His promises. But sometimes it can be hard to fully take them in.

  • "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  We know this. . . But do we really take in that it includes ALL things, even this thing? (And my "this thing" could be different from what you would guess. And your "this thing" could be different from what I would ever guess...)

  • "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Corinthians 4:17)  Can we begin to fathom this glory that will eclipse all our afflictions? (Now I'm thinking of that line in the song, "How He Loves". . . Ah, love that song!)

  • And Jesus said-- "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Truly He has overcome. The celebrations and focus of this weekend always stir my heart. But the fact that He has overcome can allow us to take heart every day. In all our "Saturdays" where waiting and not understanding can start to weigh heavy, we can still trust and "wait in hope" for the Lord, for the One who brings the miracle of Sunday, for the One who already has a plan, for the One who is still working in everything, and working for our good.

Sunday is coming! We will praise Him then, and we can praise and thank Him now. He is worthy!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Embrace the Cross (Part 1)

Spring is in the air today, and it has me thinking about Easter a little more than usual. It will be here before we know it. Really, if you're involved in choir or children's ministry or much of anything at church, it comes to the forefront of your mind pretty much as soon as Christmas is over (if not sooner). And I like it that way. Easter is at the center of the gospel we proclaim every Sunday, and hopefully every day we live as Christians.

There is a song in the Easter musical our choir will be singing this year that has words so rich that hearing them just once as we sing feels not enough. I wanted to share them here so you can fully take them in line by line as they so beautifully express a glimpse of what the cross of Jesus Christ means to us. And I pray it can be an encouragement for you in whatever season you may be experiencing right now.

Embrace the Cross

Embrace the cross where Jesus suffered,
Though it will cost all you claim as yours.
Your sacrifice will seem small beside the treasure.
Eternity can't measure what Jesus holds in store.

Embrace the love the cross requires.
Cling to the One whose heart knew every pain.
Receive from Jesus fountains of compassion.
Only He can fashion your heart to move as His.

O wondrous cross our desires rest in You.
O Lord Jesus, make us bolder
To face with courage the shame and disgrace
You bore upon Your shoulder.

Embrace the life that comes from dying.
Come trace the steps the Savior walked for you.
An empty tomb concludes Golgotha's sorrow.
Endure then till tomorrow your cross of suffering.

Embrace the cross,
The cross of Jesus.

written by John G. Elliot
Copyright 1989 Universal Music - Brentwood Benson Publishing (ASCAP)
from the musical "O What a Savior" arranged by Russell Mauldin

Every line is so rich I could write something about what each word means to me, but I think what keeps standing out the most to share is that Jesus, on the road to the cross and dying on the cross, felt our every pain and took on our every sin so we can be saved and also so we can receive from Him "fountains of compassion" no matter where we find ourselves. He knows. He understands. He bore it all for us. We can simply receive what He freely pours out. And give Him thanks.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  -Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV84)

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."  -Psalm 68:19 (NIV84)

P.S.  If you're still reading this far. . . I wrote (part 1) on the title purposefully to make myself come back and write something else, hopefully soon!