Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


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When hope seems pressed thin

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We wake up to terrible news again … more violence and bloodshed, and we are saddened for Europe and the world. I imagine the European airport where my family will enter and depart in a few months, and my heart shrinks a bit. How do we live in this world – when despair feels overbearing and hope is pressed thin?

As I read about the final earthly steps of our Lord, I imagine Him in Gethsemane where He went to pray through the agonizing anticipation of the Cross. Gethsemane, which means “place where the oil is pressed,” was at the foot of the Mount of Olives. There, our Savior said yes to His Father’s will, that He would suffer the unthinkable weight of our sin and judgment in our place.

Olives were pressed under the weight of a millstone until the oil flowed out from the crushed pulp. The imagery of Gethsemane is fitting in light of Isaiah’s prophecy:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain … Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted … he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53: 3 – 5).

Jesus endured suffering and shame because of His love for His Father and for us. And He did it for joy. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Because of the joy awaiting him, (Jesus) endured the cross, disregarding its shame.”

Scripture indicates that oil is a symbol of purity, light, healing, and the joy of God’s presence.

 

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Like an olive crushed for its oil, Jesus’ suffering yielded a precious treasure. Again, Isaiah’s prophecy points us to Jesus:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me (the Messiah), because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning…” (Isaiah 61: 1- 3)

The living Savior invites us to a joy-filled life, the kind of joy that comes through fellowship with Him, even in – especially in – suffering. It is a joy that is marked by surrender, by the willingness for self to be pressed out and replaced with Christ.

To the Son, God says –

Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
    You rule with a scepter of justice.
You love justice and hate evil.
    Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you,
    pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else. (Hebrews 1: 8 -9)

Jesus hurts with us in these times of grief and trouble and brokenness. He draws near to those who are crushed in spirit. But Jesus is drenched in joy because He endures.

He is Risen is still the news of the day, of everyday. Jesus rose from the grave to resurrect our joy, not necessarily a cheerful joy, but a resolute knowing that He has the final word. Because of Jesus, there is no weight of desperation that can hold us down. In Him, we can have the kind of joy which overflows and overcomes.

 “The Savior looks upon the redeemed with an unspeakable delight, thinks of what they used to be, thinks of what they would have been, thinks of what they now are, thinks of what he means to make them in that great day when they shall rise from the dead; and as his heart is full of love to them he joys in their joy, and exults in their exultation … There is a joy of our Lord into which he will give his faithful ones to enter, a joy which he has won by passing through the shame and grief by which he has redeemed mankind.

The oil of gladness is abundantly poured on that head which once was crowned with thorns.” Charles Spurgeon

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126: 5 – 6

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30:11

 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Psalm 51:8

When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. Proverbs 21:15

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.

And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.

 No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,

   and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away ~ From Isaiah 35


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A prayer as we experience Easter with sorrow and joy

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Color and warmth finally emerge from the starkness of winter, and we are grateful. Sometimes the soul, though, isn’t on schedule with the seasons. This lovely spring day has a full portion of hurts, disappointments, and weakness as unyielding as January’s soil. Fluffy bunnies, flowers, fancy dresses, and pastel candy appeal to our senses but our souls need Easter in its full and rich meaning.

Holy Week invites us to follow You through the depths as well as the heights. Draw us to Your steps, we pray, and let us not shrink back. Lead us to linger at the Cross. It is the only place where suffering has meaning and hope.

Give us grace to embrace fellowship with Jesus, even in His rejection, His sorrow, and His death. Draw us into Your experience because You entered firstly into ours. The bridge is constructed with Your flesh and blood. You give us peace, even when our hearts are torn between grief and joy, because You mysteriously make them one.

Man of Sorrows, You invite us to intimacy, to come honestly from our hurting places. And so, our Easter prayers are most true when we come with our thorns, our loneliness in Gethsemane, our let-this-cup-pass.

When we are willing to go there, You walk us through the mysteries of Your wisdom and time, to the other side – to the joy, the peace, the Your-will-be-done. As we approach Holy Week, set our hearts on a pilgrimage of prayer where we follow our Savior through the one story that gives life through death.

Lord, let us remember how You set Your face toward Jerusalem. Your friends misunderstood Your mission, but it was radical, selfless, intentional love that compelled You to Good Friday. May we journey with you, accepting the Calvary road not as a path to power or prosperity but to the most soul-satisfying companionship we will ever know.

Lead us to a table where we handle the bread and wine. Remind us that one day we too will eat our last meal and sip our final drink. As we touch the physical, temporary elements of the Supper, remind us that You were broken and poured out so that we may drink freely of eternal life.

Draw us to the table with people who look different than we do, for You paid a precious price for unity with You and with one another.

When power seduces, pull our knees low before a basin of pure water. May the humble kindness of our Savior wash over our hearts down to our towel-draped hands.

When we are hard-pressed by our trials, help us to fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the weight of sin and suffering. At Gethsemane, where the olive is pressed until it releases its precious oil, our sinless Savior willingly poured out heart and will to the point of blood. When we are soul-weary, enfold us in such compassion and unstoppable love.

Teach us that You send grace to drink whatever cup is ours. May our lives be fountains of obedience.

The voice of culture is dissonant with the call of the Crucified. If others reject us, You understand and welcome us as Your own. When we are tempted to reject You, tune our spiritual ears to the rooster’s crow. Rouse our sluggish souls from the lullabies of convenience or people-pleasing or conformity.

When hurt lures us toward bitterness, may we have a heart like yours for the Roman soldiers and the thief on the cross.

Because we are so sinful, we treasure a Savior who was tempted in every way yet lived without sin. And because You, not knowing sin, became sin for us, we are free and forgiven. When shame hurls accusations, let us take the Cross as our shield – before us, behind us, above us, within us, beneath us.

In seeming hopelessness, help us remember that You have the final word. Despite the Romans’ defensive efforts, neither seal nor stone could confine Jesus to the grave. We need You to break loose those areas where we have been discouraged and defeated. Remind us that sealed-shut dreams can be trusted to the One who overcame death.

He is Risen! is an anthem that quakes rocks and our unbelief. Lord, as we give You our hearts, fill every empty place with the certainty of the empty tomb. Your Resurrection robs any circumstance of its hopelessness. And if we find ourselves again on the Emmaus road, with souls disappointed and confused, open our eyes and make Yourself known to us. For You are beyond all our hopes, and Your love is stronger than anything, even death.

Come, Lord Jesus.

 

 

 

 


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What Does an Empty Tomb Mean for Sealed-Shut Dreams?

Easter Sunday is a cheerful day on social media feeds, with affirmations of hope, victory, and resurrection life (and spiffy family photos).

Of everything that made me smile or rejoice on Easter Sunday, this tweet was my favorite:

When a few men tried to confine the Creator of the universe, here’s what happened:

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard (Matthew 27: 62-66).

Obviously we grasp what the Pharisees and Pilate didn’t. The ridiculousness, the futility of confining the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last!

But as I scoff at them, I recognize myself …

I think about dreams which I once cherished and vulnerably placed before people in authority, those who had power to bless or deny.  Each “no” felt as if a door slammed shut, with a stone set into place and stamped:

Impossible.

You’re done.

Forget it. Move on.

And each time I believed it, feeling a bare inkling of what the disciples must have felt on that in-between Saturday.

What now?

Has this been for nothing?

It is finished.

But in view of Sunday morning, we understand that Good Friday – when Jesus uttered “It is finished” – wasn’t the end. Yes, it was the culmination of His unjust, brutal suffering. Yet Jesus’ statement meant so much more. With mere hours remaining before His arrest, Jesus prayed to the Father with the conviction of “having finished the work You have given me to do” (John 17:4). Only God in the flesh could cancel mankind’s debt of sin. The Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, meaning “paid in full.”

Despite Pilate’s protective measures, a stone and a seal could not hold Jesus in the tomb. As Jesus’ death means access, a new and living way of salvation, His triumph over death means authority. By being raised from the dead Christ proved to be the mighty Son of God (Romans 1:4).

The enemy must have rejoiced at Friday’s “It is finished.” But on Sunday the tables were turned, and Satan’s delight was as short-lived as his demise is eternal. Jesus’ resurrection secured everlasting hope for those who trust in Him.

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The resurrection is our Easter rejoicing. Even as early as Monday morning, however, I must ask myself if the resurrection anchors my everyday reality. How will I respond to rejections, broken dreams, brokenness in myself? If I confine hope to what seems reasonable, humanly possible, and hedged against disappointment, I have nothing more than wishful thinking.

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But Easter as an everyday reality breaks wide open the confines of situational hope.

“We are the Resurrection People who know that hope can rise from dead places … Us bound in that sin that’s always been, us with that heartbreak that just won’t take a break, us who feel locked up in these patterns and someone’s thrown away the key — we’re the people who’ve seen that the stone’s been rolled away … We’re the Resurrection People who walk in strong hope because we’ve seen the strong stones moved and Hope come right out to meet us and move us.” Ann Voskamp

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Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday shows us that Jesus has demonstrated His love and proven His power. Everything that comes to pass – or not – in life is consistent with these truths, and that’s why I’m learning to trust Him on Easter Monday and beyond.

Rest is found, not in understanding your life, but in trusting the One who reigns over all the things you didn’t plan and don’t understand.” ~ Paul David Tripp

If our dreams have seemingly died, God is able to revive them. And if that’s not His intention, He can redeem our disappointments and set our hearts toward a path where opportunities – more than we could ask or imagine – await.

Of course now I give thanks that I didn’t marry my high school boyfriend … But I look back more recently to broken dreams that I don’t yet understand. Not yet having the kind of perspective that hindsight offers teaches me acceptance – not necessarily in the situation itself but in my Father’s sovereignty and strengthens my trust – not necessarily in the circumstance itself but in my Father’s character.

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And even as my soul tremors from time to time with disappointments, I’m anchored in His love which ultimately secures and satisfies me.

Sealed-shut dreams and seeming dead-ends can be trusted to the One who defeated death.

The empty places of the heart can be filled with the hope of the empty tomb.

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Lord Jesus, seal in desires in me that reflect Your purest, most perfect plan for my life. Help me to trust that You have given me Yourself – how much more will You freely give what is good? Thank you for Your wisdom, with love, to ordain what is truly good for me. Break loose those areas where I have been discouraged and defeated. Where I have boxed you in, I pray for a resurrection of faith in my heart. I thank You that You have sealed my soul forever in Christ, and there is nothing that matters more.

Amen …

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Beautiful words from Ann Voskamp on “The Truth You’ve Got to Know About After Easter:”

What’s been wearing death clothes in a life can get up and walk, what we’ve felt as wounds, by His wounds, are being healed, what’s being burnt to ashes will birth beauty. He is Risen indeed – because I want Him to be risen in me.”

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Psalm 138:8 – The Lord fulfills His purpose for me.

Philippians 1:6 – I am confident of this – He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus.

Psalm 57:2 – I cry out to God, to God Most High who fulfills His purpose for me.

Job 42:2 – No purpose of God’s can be thwarted.

Romans 8: 28 – 32 – 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. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?


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The Redeemer’s Reversal

Recently my husband came home with a dozen white roses, and as I received the lovely gift, a thorn punctured my finger. Wincing, I thought of the saying about the choice we have to grumble that roses have thorns or to rejoice that thorns have roses.

Two days later, I thought of thorns again while reading in Exodus about the construction of the tabernacle. One of the freewill offerings that God asked the Israelites to contribute to the tabernacle was acacia, a dense and durable wood that came from bushes covered in thorns.

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All of the structural features of the tabernacle, including the ark of the covenant and the altars, were constructed from acacia and overlaid with gold. As I sit with this lesson about the framework of God’s holy place, my heart swells with awe for the unity and intentionality of God’s Word. God makes His Son known to us as He weaves redemptive foreshadows within the books of the Bible, even – especially – the ones before the Gospel of Matthew.

I’m learning to see the Bible as more than a collection of heroes, scoundrels, and Sunday School stories; when I behold its connectedness – take thorns, for instance – I’m awash in the realization that mere men couldn’t compose depth and significance such as this. Truly, this is a Divine, living, active, past-present-and-future story with the power to change lives.

The first mention of thorns, Genesis 3:17 – 18, introduces these sharp intruders as a part of the curse:

“Cursed is the ground because of you (Adam);
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you.”

When I pull weeds in my garden and inadvertently latch on to a shoot of briars, I remember that the world is filled with pain and ugliness not intended in the Creator’s original design. But thorns appear later in Genesis when a ram is caught in a thicket, a briar patch. Through this male lamb, God provided for Abraham a substitute sacrifice in Isaac’s place. Further in the story of God’s chosen people, Moses beheld God’s presence in the flame of a sineh, Hebrew for “thorn bush” (Exodus 3:2). From the curse of thorns to God’s intervention for Isaac and His appearance to Moses, we see something transformative happening. To Abraham, God revealed Himself as Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide.” To Moses, God identified Himself as “I AM.”  Out of the thorn bush, God spoke words, not of curse but of comfort: “Here I am (Exodus 3:4)… I have seen you (3:7) … I will deliver you (3:8) … I am with you (3:12).”

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The tabernacle’s design, detailed in Exodus 25 – 27, is a picture of God’s desire to dwell with His people. Through wood taken from acacia trees and covered with gold, God transforms an element of the curse into a symbol of reconciliation. Through thorns, we see a purpose that is higher and greater than their punitive origin; we see a God who is not deterred in His love and His plan.

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As I think about the children of Israel who brought the acacia wood to the tabernacle, I wonder if this offering was costly to them. Was it painful to wrap arms and hands around a thorn bush? Surely it must have been. And I picture myself as a child, bringing my hurts, my thorns, my scars to Jesus. In my humanness, I can’t understand what He can do with them, except I see that He covers them. The Lamb of God covers my wounds with the purity of His own blood and transforms my brokenness into an offering that He can use for His glory.

Jesus, who made Himself flesh and blood, knows the kind of pain that punctures not just the skin but the heart. And when we see Him wearing a crown that Roman soldiers unknowingly fashioned from the curse, we behold Jesus as Jehovah Jireh, as I AM, as the mercy seat in the tabernacle, the One broken and beautiful, the unstoppable, undeterred Lover of our souls.

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God’s Son wore the thorns, the curse embedded into His brow. As God looked upon the tabernacle frame of acacia wood, He saw the purity of gold and He filled it with His presence. Because of Jesus, the true & living tabernacle, God looks upon our fragile, scarred frames and He sees the covering. He sees purity. He sees His Son and He fills us with His Spirit.

Because Jesus bore the curse, His death and ultimately His resurrection proves that He has authority to nullify it. The resurrection is God’s verdict, transforming a shameful crown of thorns into a royal crown of victory. What the soldiers intended as ridicule, the Son intended as reversal.

My friend, may you live this day in Jesus’ transforming grace and power. May you present your hurts and scars to Him, with full assurance that His intent is never to curse you but to bless you with the covering of Jesus’ righteousness and the indwelling of His Spirit. May every intrusion of pain into your soul bring you into deeper fellowship with Him who was pierced for you. And let us all hold steadfastly to the hope that our Redeemer took a curse and made it His conquering crown. One Day our thorns will be transformed into His triumph. He is risen!

Blessed Easter, dear friends.

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Hope Wins

Daddy lived his entire life in a town known for its trees. As a lumberman, he was well-learned in the characteristics of maple, oak, and pine. Yet dogwoods were Daddy’s favorite.

I ask my daughter to walk with me in the neighborhood so that I can show her the dogwoods up close. As we step up to a tree and hold the blossoms in our fingers, I show her the shape of the cross, the pure white interior, the pointy crown in the center, and the crimson edges on each petal. At Easter, Daddy’s favorite tree presents a picture of our Savior’s shed blood, a hopeful reminder that His love is stronger than death.

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A few days pass, and my daughter doodles pictures of dogwood blossoms. I smile, knowing that she’s thinking about it.

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As Holy Week continues, my girl and I look at pictures and talk about what it was like for me, at her age, to stand at Golgotha – the “Place of the Skull,” the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. “It must have been fascinating and frightening,” my girl says, ” … like disturbing and wonderful all at the same time.”

Alternative Crucifiction Location

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In the past few months, my girl has witnessed a lot of heartache. But it sounds as if she’s beginning to understand that a life of faith doesn’t shield her from the messy and mysterious. The crucifixion is disturbing and it is wonderful, and the Way of the Cross is filled with such paradox.

Joy comes through suffering.

You must lose your life to find it.

Blessings come through insults.

The greatest in the Kingdom is the least.

God chooses the foolish over the wise.

Strength comes through weakness.

One day my little girl will suffer a broken heart. Perhaps a doctor will answer her questions with a shake of the head and a solemn voice. She’ll wrestle with rejection as a friend walks away. Her faith will be met with sneers. A door will slam shut on her dream. She’ll sit at a grave. But maybe she’ll remember the time we held the dogwood blossoms and she’ll think about how those little red stains add beauty and meaning to the flower.

Maybe she’ll think upon His tree; and how her Savior’s blood turned it from a method of murder into a means of mercy.

She’ll remember that He said, “It is finished” and she’ll trust that life in Him has no end.

Joy comes through suffering.

You must lose your life to find it.

Blessings come through insults.

The greatest in the Kingdom is the least.

God chooses the foolish over the wise.

Strength comes through weakness.

Love is stronger than death.

Hope wins.

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This is a picture of me stepping out of the empty tomb beside Golgotha (1983, I think).

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

The Bible doesn’t specify what kind of tree was used for Jesus’ cross. The “legend of the dogwood” isn’t taken from Scripture. It’s merely a symbolic depiction of Jesus’ sacrifice seen in a dogwood blossom – http://www.visualforces.com/christian/photography/nature/the-dogwood/


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The Joy Set Before Him

The concept of living intentionally has been popularized in recent years, and I too want to live with awareness and purpose rather than just making it through. Like cycle class at the Y, for instance, where I could spin the flywheel on the bike all day long if I didn’t use resistance to challenge me. My legs would be moving with the pedals, but mostly because of momentum and not because of my effort or power. The instructor can coach me for 50 minutes, but I decide where to set my gears. More resistance makes me stronger. Do I enjoy a climb with heavy gears? No way. Even when (or especially when) I cycle outside, I’d prefer to go for a ride along the path of least resistance. But the instructor will often say (or shout) something to the class along the lines of “Remember why you came!” Being intentional is motivating.

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During Holy Week, I think often about Jesus’ intentionality on the way to the cross. Even as the crowd praised Him as a King on Palm Sunday, He knew the reason He came. There would be a cross before a throne. It was the Father’s intention all along. We can see His purpose all the way back in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15 when God spoke to the serpent – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This verse is called the “proto-evangelium” – or the “first Gospel.” Charles Spurgeon says, “This verse contains the whole gospel and the essence of the covenant of grace.” Although the enemy strikes God’s people, he is a conquered foe. There will be war, but Jesus will deal the crushing blow.

God’s story, as revealed throughout the Bible, is all about Calvary from the very beginning. People often think of Jesus’ death as an injustice, and He certainly did nothing to deserve death, but the Cross was in God’s plan all along. We see this in Luke 9 as Jesus foretold his death to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (verse 9).

Luke 9 also tells us that “when the days drew near for Him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to Jerusalem.” He knew that just outside Jerusalem’s gates was a rocky hill with the appearance of a skull – Golgotha. Our Lord was resolute. He knew that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint” (Isaiah 50: 6 – 7).

In John Piper’s Holy Week devotion, Love to the Uttermost, he writes of the intentionality of the Cross: “If we were to look at Jesus’ death merely as a result of a betrayer’s deceit and the Sanhedrin’s envy and Pilate’s spinelessness and the soldier’s nails and spear, it might seem very involuntary….Jesus was not accidentally entangled in a web of injustice. The saving benefits of His death were not an afterthought. God planned it all out of infinite love to sinners like us, and He appointed a time.”

This morning I read this devotion from The Wonder of the Cross by Chris Tiegreen: “The painful cost of redemption was not paid grudgingly, a reluctant last-ditch effort to salvage what He could of His broken creation. It was planned from the foundation of the world – with pleasure.”

With pleasure? The horrible agony of the cross? The Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:2 that Jesus endured the cross for the “joy set before Him.”

When Jesus set His face to the cross, He set His face toward joy. Jesus willingly, intentionally, and joyfully made the ultimate sacrifice in redeeming you and me.

Blessed Redeemer! Precious Redeemer!
Seems now I see Him on Calvary’s tree;
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading,
Blind and unheeding—dying for me!

“Unheeding” means paying no attention, consideration, or regard. This makes me think of Philippians 2: 6 – 8 ~

“(Jesus), being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

Jesus intentionally turned a blind eye to His own advantages and the pleasures of Heaven when He set His face upon you and me.

As Chris Tiegreen asks, “Do you realize that His love for you prompted Him to pay extraordinary costs to bring you into His fellowship and that he did it gladly? Most Christians know that intellectually but don’t believe it deep in their hearts. They see God as a reluctant, obligated lover. But that’s not how He portrays Himself. He’s delighted to sacrifice for your love.”

This is the heart of God. This is why we remember the Friday of Holy Week as “Good.”

The Cross was not plan B. God always has a plan and He brings it to pass. Just as He didn’t look at Adam and Eve’s sin and think “oops, now what?” He doesn’t look upon any circumstance in our lives and think “uh oh, what happens now?” No, He is already there. He has already been there, working according to His purposes and promises.

If Jesus was delighted to make a way for our greatest need – our salvation – we can trust Him to meet every other need. Calvary demonstrates that God is not reluctant to pour out His love and grace. Although circumstances didn’t look so good on “Good Friday,” in His heart and plan, it was good.

Luke 9 teaches me something else about intentionality. After foretelling his death, Jesus spoke these words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (verses 23 – 25).

It’s my turn to be intentional.

Taking up my cross means that I will be unheeding. I will turn a blind eye to whatever I might gain from the world and I will follow the Source of deepest joy. The Cross bids me die yet truly live.

Oh, Lord, let this be. And may my motivation spring not from duty but from a heart that delights in You. As you pour Your love into my life, let me offer it back to You. I realize that it’s an offering far too small, but take my love, my life, my all.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12: 1 – 2).

So many times my good intentions haven’t turn out as planned. I’ll fail again, many times in fact. I’ll ditch the climb and choose the easy gears. I’m not perfect, but I have a “perfecter of faith.” So I will follow my Savior in choosing the cross and the joy set before me. I hope you’ll join me, and let’s race together, fixing our eyes on Jesus and remembering why He came.

Resources:

Charles Spurgeon – The Redeemer’s Face Set Like A Flint, sermon – August 4, 1901. http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols46-48/chs2738.pdf

Chris Tiegreen – The Wonder of the Cross Devotional. March 28 entry.

John Piper – Love to the Uttermost Devotion for Holy Week. Free PDF – http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/love-to-the-uttermost


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The Keys

When I was little, I thought my dad was the coolest guy in the church. He wasn’t a pastor, a teacher, or a speaker. But he held the keys. It was his job to open the church building on Sunday mornings, and I got to tag along. Our church had several exterior corridors, and Sunday School rooms were accessed from the outside. So with Daddy’s giant key ring, I loved opening all the doors and entering into places where kids didn’t usually go. I thought it was such fun to peek into the baptistry, choir room, and offices. Because of my Daddy, I thought I was special and important.

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As I’m thinking about Good Friday, I remember that my Heavenly Father has given me access because His Son holds the keys. On the day that Jesus gave His life, the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). Only the high priest could go beyond this curtain on one day of the year – the Day of Atonement. The tearing of the curtain (historically described as four inches thick) signified that Jesus’ sacrifice opened up a “new and living way” for us to come to God. Access to the presence of God is no longer only a privilege of a high priest. All those who believe in the Son have access to the Father.

This incomprehensible truth is much, much more than I can ever fathom. The size of the universe is mind-blowing (consider that the farthest thing in the universe that has been measured thus far is 13 billion light years away, and a light year is 5.88 trillion miles long!) And yet Scripture tells us: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6).

And this is the God who made the way for us to become His children. He listens to our prayers. He gives us a peek into eternal glory. He understands and loves us beyond our imagination. And He invites us to call Him “Daddy” and to come to Him freely.

He holds the keys to your eternity, and forever begins now. Enter with Him.

Revelation 1:18 – (the voice of Christ): “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the Living One. I am He who was dead, and now you see Me alive for timeless ages! I hold in my hand the keys of death and the grave.”

Ephesians 3:12 – In Him (Christ Jesus) and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Hebrews 9:12 – He (Christ) did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Hebrews 10: 19 – 22 – Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…

Romans 8:15 – The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.”

Resources:

The New and Living Way” by Ligonier Ministries – http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/new-and-living-way/

I Am Not but I Know I Am – written by Louie Giglio