Posted in Easter, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Hard Day–Good Friday

Jesus knew that His mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to His lips. When Jesus had tasted it, He said, “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:28-30

Good Friday.  What an unusual name for such a hard, hard day.  Imagine with me as slowly the light increased over Jerusalem.  It was another early morning in spring and men were going to die.  The Romans regularly crucified criminals–it was business as usual for them.  But this day, well this day, would be different.  Three men would die on crosses–two criminals and one perfect human being.  His name was Jesus.

As the light increased so did the sounds.  If you had been there you would have heard the sounds of a crowd–a mob really.  Some were crying, some shouting, some angry, some broken.  You would have heard the sounds of struggle–anguish as a man carried a cross too big for even the healthiest of men.  At the top of a stark hill the sounds intensified.

You could hear without trying the sound of metal on metal as hammer meets nail.  Cries of humanity suffering as three crosses are lifted skyward.  The message was clear.  You don’t mess with Rome.  Scattered around are the sounds of women crying and men in anguish.  Stares of disbelief filled the eyes of many.  Listen now–there are words.

The Man in the middle–the perfect One–is speaking and what He says is almost beyond belief. “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they are doing.”  Forgive them? —Forgive the very ones who passed the judgement–who drove the nails–who lifted the cross? Wait, for there is more.  One of the criminals is mocking Him but the other is begging Him.  “Remember me,” he says.  And Jesus responds “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.”

There are more words.  Lean in–strain to hear. The Man in the middle–the perfect One–is asking His friend John to take care of His mother.  And then there is the cry of brokenness as He cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  He knows why.  The Man in the middle–the perfect One–has become sin and His Father can’t look on sin.  There’s a price being paid, and it involves wrath and death.  And He is willingly paying it.

As His end draws near a silence begins to fall over the hill.  The women are cried out, the soldiers are bored, and the crowd confused.  And then they all hear it.  “Tetelestai.” It’s a common word really.  It means finished.  An artist would say it when the last stroke is applied to a masterpiece.  A carpenter would say it when the last peg is driven in a newly built table. A farmer would say it when the last sheave of wheat is harvested.  But when the Man in the middle–the perfect One–says those words, everything changes.

“It is finished.”  The mission is accomplished. The price for sin has been paid and atoned for.  The wrath of God for sin is satisfied.  What justice demanded He has paid. And what He promised the criminal becomes a reality for any person. My sins, your sins, our sins, can be forgiven and you can be with me in heaven.

So, then He dies.  Actually, He wills himself to die for no one could take the life of the Man in the middle–the perfect One.  He could give it, but they could not take it.  Rocks crack, thunder rolls and then in the distance a tearing, ripping sound is heard as the massive curtain separating man from Holy God is torn from top to bottom and God–God hangs out the welcome sign for the first time ever.  And it’s all because of the Man in the middle–the perfect One.

In any other story that would be the end, but you see it’s only Friday.  The final act is coming on Sunday. Friday ended with His followers discouraged, defeated, and afraid. Maybe like some of us. But if you lean in again…if you listen closely…you can hear the Father saying, “Rest in Me. Wait till Sunday.  I’ve got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Thursday To-Do List

“As you go into the city,” He told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with My disciples at your house.’ ” Matthew 26:18

Well, it is Thursday.  Several years ago, something happened that changed the way I do business—do life.  I’ve done the pastor thing now for almost four decades.  Even as I write that, it seems hard to believe.  Anyway, there were a couple of things that pastors do that I never quite got the hang of.  First, they always carried a little calendar.  You would ask them a question and they would say, “Let me check my calendar.”  You would tell them you were having open heart surgery a week from next Friday and they would say, “Let me put that on my calendar.”  There was a problem.  Try as I may I never could get into the calendar thing.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to remember important dates—I just couldn’t remember to grab the thing when I left the house in the morning.  And honestly, I didn’t like having it stuffed into my pocket.

I hate to admit this, but it was the same deal with a pocket Bible.  Every pastor seemed to always have a little Bible stuck in their pocket. Not me.  It just didn’t work.  I mean I loved the Bible, but it just didn’t work.  Well, the solution for both of these lapses occurred kinda together.  First, along came the smart phone.  The smart phone is a little computer that you can easily carry.  Nice and flat, it can be stuffed to the gills with information, but it never feels bulky.  It wasn’t long after the advent of the smart phone that you could read the Bible on the thing.  Boom!  Just like that I had a Bible when I needed it.  It got better.

A couple of years later a friend introduced me to my new best friend—gmail and their calendar.  All of a sudden, I could pull out my trusty phone and not only check my calendar but quickly add things to my calendar.  It was a big deal.  It was a game changer deal.  Now I am not one of those folks who are “married” to their phone—in other words there are times when I forget it.  If I do, I kindly ask the person to shoot me a text and when I get to my phone there is a reminder to add what I needed to add.

So, being somewhat of an organized person, these tools were a great help.  I like knowing where I am going and when I am supposed to be there.  Somethings I don’t need to put on the calendar…I just know to do them.  They become part of my “to-do” list.  Thursdays are study days for the next week’s message, finalizing the worship event in the YouVersion Bible app, making some visits and a host of other small administrative details.  It is a catchup day.  As days of the week go…Thursday is usually a lighter day but of course as a pastor that can change quickly—very quickly.

I wonder if Jesus kept a “to-do” list.  I know—probably not.  But if He did, I wonder what it would look like.  In one sense it would be short—love God—love people.  But in another sense, it would be long as He was always doing something, and it was always what His Father wanted. Thursdays might have been one of His lighter days too.  But not this Thursday—not the Thursday before He died on a Roman cross on Friday.  That Thursday, the Thursday we celebrate today, was jam packed with incredible things.

His list would include celebrating Passover, His last Passover, with His closest friends in an upper room.  That was a must.  He also designed and planned an event that we call “The Last Supper,” “The Lord’s Supper,” or “Communion.”  He needed to give His followers something to help them understand what was about to happen and then remember it—forever.  Oh, and then He did something kinda unusual—He washed everyone’s feet.  Boy, that was a big one.  He did it to teach them, and us, about humility and service. He wasn’t done yet. In fact, there wasn’t an end to Thursday—it just bled over into Friday.

There was an important prayer meeting in a garden where only a few were invited.  He needed to talk to His Father about Friday.  He invited His friends along to help, but they were tired so He had to go it alone.  That would happen a lot as Thursday became Friday.  His “to-do” list also included healing someone’s whacked off ear and being arrested.  It also included that awful feeling of desertion when all of His friends left Him. And then, somewhere in the darkness, Thursday became Friday.

I know it isn’t possible for us to fully understand what those days were like for Jesus.  We do need to remember, though, that He experienced them as God but also as a man—a man who knew spiritually, emotionally, and physically where it was going.  And, amazingly, He did it willingly and He did it knowing the cost.  So today, as we walk our Thursday, let’s remember His Thursday and be grateful. He was a Man of details—of destiny.  He told them, “As you go into the city, you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with My disciples at your house.’ ” Yes, a Man of destiny—a Man of details.  A God-Man who had that—and who’s got this—no matter what that may be.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s Wednesday

For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

It’s Wednesday…not just Wednesday but Wednesday as in two days before you die.  Not just die, but die what the Romans called the death of deaths.  Not just die, but die a death so horrible it was outlawed for Roman citizens.  So, if you knew Friday was coming, what would your Wednesday be like?  What would your attitude be like?

The scriptures don’t actually say, “On Wednesday before Jesus died on Friday Jesus got up and did this or that.”  We do know this.  His actions were not dominated or determined by dread or fear.  His actions were governed by His desire to please His Father and driven by His love for us.  He wanted to please the Father and He wanted to save us.  Let that soak in.  He wanted to save us.

Jesus knew the full awfulness of the cross.  He understood the awfulness of experiencing the wrath of His Father for our sins.  In John 12:27-28, He says, “Now My soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” He understood that if He was rescued there could not be a rescue or redemption for us and without redemption, you and I are burnt toast.

So, what did He do?  The author of Hebrews gives us a glimpse.  He says, “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Do you see it? “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross…”  Jesus handled the awfulness of the cross by looking beyond the awfulness to a time when He would be returned to His rightful place in heaven right beside His Father. He handled the present by looking to eternity.

That is really good advice for these days—actually, for any day.  We can be shortsighted and only see the craziness around us or we can look toward better days.  Now I want you to track with me. Many of those better days we dreamed about last year are already here.  Last year we mourned that we couldn’t worship together on Palm Sunday and Easter.  Last Sunday we did and this Sunday, Lord willing, we will.   Yay.  Last year we were longing to minister and serve others as a church family. This year we are or at least we can. And just like these things came to pass, so will the others.  We will have jobs again. We will have family parties again. The Cubs will win the series again.  Well, let’s not stretch it.  But you get the idea.

And by the way, one day, if we place our faith in Christ, we will have a reserved seat in the longest, greatest celebration of all–heaven.  None of the earth junk will be there. In fact, according to Revelation 21:4 “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.” Wow–no grief, crying, pain, or death.  No funeral homes, nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, fear or any number of things that give us gray hair or no hair.

So, some of the better days are here and many more are coming–some sooner–some later.  And the same thing that got Jesus through can help us get through–the joy set before us.  We learned in a message recently that Biblical joy can be defined as “a deep sense of well-being based on our faith in God and trust in His sovereign will.”

As we trust Him the fear fades, the sun rises, and we can face today, and tomorrow. In fact, we not only can face it–we can embrace it with the confident assurance He is in control. Knowing that–rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Rubicon

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.” Luke 22:42

It was a Saturday morning, and it was my rubicon. I was reading an email this morning and it used this word—rubicon.  I had seen the word many times plastered on the side of a special edition Jeep and that is why the email and this word grabbed my attention.  I wondered, “What does it mean?”  Well, as it turns out there are two definitions but the one that mattered to me was this:  a point of no return.”  I guess for the Jeep owners it means that their Jeep is designed to go to and past that point.  In the email it meant more.  It meant that Jesus was willing to go past His rubicon—His point of no return—even though He knew what that meant.

Back in 2018, I had a rubicon of another sort.  Back in those days, I was walking 5.25 miles a day at a pretty brisk clip.  It really was quite an accomplishment as I had been doing it for many months.  But something was happening.  In October of that year, it was just getting harder.  I had put on a few pounds and I was sure that was the reason.  Each day I would arrive back to the house exhausted, my heart rate a bit higher than it had been running and worse—it wasn’t coming down.  I would walk five days a week and each day was the same—hard.  Then came Saturday.

Saturday, October 6th, I reached my rubicon…my point of no return.  After my walk I literally collapsed in a chair in my backyard.  A guest staying in our Airbnb, who happened to be a resident medical student, asked what I was doing.  I told him I was trying to breath and then humorously added that he might want to stick around as I might need him.  Turned out I was a prophet.  That day, I ended up in the hospital and it turned out the following Tuesday, I had a heart cath where they discovered a 90% blockage in one of the arteries of my heart.  All of a sudden, things began to make sense.

You see, the high heart rate and the shortness of breath were symptoms that something was wrong.  Each morning, my body was sending me a message—something is wrong—something is coming—-do something.  I am sure the Tuesday before my rubicon was like this Tuesday morning, a normal day.  I am sure that day I got the warning message and that day I excused it away.  But what if I had known?  What if I had known that Saturday, I would reach a point where going was not an option.  Would it have changed things?  Honesty, it probably would have…but I ignored the warnings.

This week, as we look forward to Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, think about the fact that all the signs were there.  Jesus, as the Son of God, knew His rubicon had come.  It was time to fulfill the mission for which He was sent.  It was time for Him to suffer and to die.  Unlike me, He knew what was coming and pressed on.  The reason was simple.  It wasn’t that He loved the thought of enduring the abuse and suffering of the cross and the events leading up to it—no not at all.  But He was in love with something else—us.

Jesus knew full well all of the details of His rubicon and went on because He loved us.  It was love that led Him to cross—it was love that caused Him to place one foot in front of the other—each one leading to a Roman execution. It was love that caused Him to go all the way.  Growing up,  when I did something that had difficult consequences, my mama would tell me that I should have known better.  Jesus knew better—and went anyway.

This week, ponder and think about the days leading to the day when Jesus died—His rubicon.  Remember that He did it for me and He did it for you.  When He prayed in the garden Thursday night that if there was any way this thing might pass—He knew full well it couldn’t.  That is the reason He kept on praying, “nevertheless, not My will Your will be done.”  In other words, He would say, “bring on the rubicon because that is why I came.”

If your week, this week has any unpleasantness or difficulties, just remember the week when He marched forward knowing full well what lay ahead—and remember He did it just so you and I could call God, Abba Father or Dearest Daddy.  How amazing is that? He was able to do it because He trusted and loved His Father.  And we can do it for the same reason.  No matter what, we have the confident assurance that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, thankful, wisdom

Resurrection

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10

Like it or not…it was time.  Every spring and summer, my wife and I are blessed to have one of the most beautiful yards on our street.  Some people say it is one of the most beautiful yards in town.  When we moved to 217 West Poplar Street, it was a blank canvas.  There were literally no flowers and no flowering trees.  Judy, who has a green thumb, over the years has made our yard into several beautiful gardens.  She plants it and it grows.

Well, every fall, as the temperatures fall, some things go to sleep and some things just die.  The perennials go to sleep to be awakened the next spring and the annuals die and will have to be replanted or reseeded. Fall and winter leave a carnage of dead stems, leaves, and blooms and before the perennials can be awakened, last year’s carnage needs to go.  There’s where I come in.  She is the “make it happen” person and I am the “cleanup the carnage” person.  So, every later winter or very early spring, I have my work cut out for me.

Last week, I would come home from work and select a section of the yard to cleanup.  Using my string trimmer (hey, don’t laugh…it works), my rake, my loppers, and a couple of other tools for good measure, I would wack, cut, trim and rake my way through each flower bed.  When I was done, I would have a pretty clean slate for the coming spring.  If you saw all this when I was done, it would look pretty empty.  You would think, “Nothing is gonna happen there.”  But you would be perfectly wrong.

You see, beneath the soil, all those perennials (plants that come back year after year) that have slept all winter, that for all practical purposes seemed dead, are about to spring (no pun intended) back to life.  Green sprouts will be pushing up everywhere.  Before long what was bare is filled with new life and what is filled with new life will soon be filled with the beautiful blooms of spring and summer.  It really is quite amazing.

Well, let me just tell you.  For five days, I went out, two or three hours a day and did my carnage removal thing.  And, at least for this guy whose job has him sitting at a desk studying, it was hard work.  My arms were tired, my shoulders ached, and I was thoroughly and completely—pooped.  Somewhere along the journey, I lost my vision. All I knew was I was tired and that there seemed to be no end to the carnage of last fall and winter.  But then it hit me, and my focus returned.

It wasn’t just work. It wasn’t just something that had to be done.  I was on a mission.  I was preparing for…resurrection.  My work for those five days, was a work with purpose.  As I cleared away the old, I was making way for the new.  And because of my faithfulness in late winter or early, early spring—the resurrection could happen.  Already, tiny green sprouts are breaking through the dirt and reminding me that my work was not in vain.  It has a purpose.

In a few weeks, we will be celebrating another resurrection and this one is the biggie.  We are going to celebrate the fact that two thousand years ago, a man—the God-man—willingly died on a Roman cross to pay the price for the sins of the entire world.  That day the sin for every man, woman, and child was atoned for, making it possible for those same people to have forgiveness, power to live this life, and live forever in heaven.  Anyone who is willing to believe and choose to follow Him can have the privilege of calling God—Father. But He didn’t just die.

See, anyone can die on a cross and claim anything.  Jesus didn’t stay dead—He physically, really and completely came back to life.  He resurrected and one of the reasons He did?  He did it to prove that He was Who He said He was and did what He said He would do. His death shouted, “I love you” and His resurrection shouted, “I am victorious over death.”  Wow.  So, here’s the deal. 

Remember I mentioned in a few weeks we were going to celebrate the “biggie?”  Well, this is what I was talking about.  And these weeks are like my time preparing the gardens for their resurrection.  These weeks are a time for us to prepare our hearts and minds for the big event—Resurrection Sunday.  The more I prepare the gardens for their resurrection, the bigger the celebration of life as they sprout and bloom.  And guess what?  It’s true with Easter.  The more we prepare, the bigger the celebration. Like Paul, said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know [to celebrate] the power of His resurrection.”

Each evening after work I had to make a conscious decision to prepare the gardens for resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just wouldn’t cut the mustard.  It is time for us to prepare to celebrate His resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just won’t get the job done.  We have to decide to prepare—for the resurrection.  It’s a reason to celebrate you see because He lives—we too can live.  So, start today, get ready for the biggie—the resurrection of Jesus.  Need help in preparing? Not sure how? No problem.  The One who made it all possible is a great party planner.  Just ask Him.  He’s got that, too.  Bro. Dewayne