Resurrection Day Meditation 2014

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3

Crown of Thorns

The verse at the top of this post came to mind during yesterday’s Good Friday service. So many of the things I fight for, cling to, and otherwise desire I see Jesus give up during his passion. So I took the invitation to consider him in his suffering hoping to learn from him.

Consider him…

When he needed his friends to pray with him, they fell asleep.

“Get up and pray,” he encouraged them.

When imminent suffering scared him, he prayed.

“Please take this cup of suffering from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”

When betrayed by a close friend he did not try to stop him with all kinds of arguments.

“My friend, go ahead and do what you came for.”

When abandoned, he faced what was coming with resolution.

“This is happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.”

When lied about in court, he remained silent.

No need to justify himself.

But he acknowledged the truth knowing its consequences.

“…you will see the Son of Man sitting at God’s right hand”

When his best friend denied ever knowing him, he prayed for him.

“But I have pleaded for you…that your strength should not fail. So when you have repented…”

When mocked, he did not return the insults.

He was quiet.

When beaten, he bled but did not lash out.

He accepted the lashes.

When unjustly sentenced to death, he carried his cross to a hill outside of town.

They called it Skull Hill.

When soldiers pierced his hands and feet and affixed him to that rugged piece of wood, he forgave them.

“Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.”

Even when his deep, heartfelt cry to God was misunderstood, he did not complain.

No. He merely died.

He had no sin in need of atonement.

But he was broken for it.

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 

Where does Jesus’ example meet you?

For me, it’s in the tendency to get defensive, to fight when attacked, to argue when falsely (or even justly) accused. Jesus deserved better but did not need to defend himself. Ever wonder why?

I see two reasons for Jesus security in the Passion narratives. First, Jesus trusted his Father completely. His trust oozes as he prays “Father, you can do anything you want…” and when he instructs Peter, “I could ask for 1000 angels and the Father would send them.” My insecurity about myself betrays a lack of trust in God and the person he made me and is making me into.

Second, Jesus knew the Scriptures and understood from them that the Messiah had to suffer. He determined to do the Father’s will not his own and the Scriptures told him what God’s will was. He accepted what that meant for him. I take comfort from the fact that even Jesus didn’t want to do what God asked of him. It’s highly unlikely that God will ever ask me to suffer half as much. So what am I so afraid of? What are you so afraid of?

If you want the security Jesus demonstrates, you’ll have to get to know God. You’ll have to trust him. You’ll have to stop gripping what he calls you to lay down. It may not be your life. It may be a defining characteristic of your life like fear, worry, insecurity, or faithlessness. By losing your life, he promised you would find it.

Are you weary or losing heart this Resurrection Day? I admit sometime I am and I do. Consider him who endured such opposition…

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When You Imagine Jesus (And I Know You Do), Who Do You See?

Jesus doesn’t seem very manly to me. Using only the mental images planted in my skull-full-of-mush as a Sunday School regular circa 1982-1990, the Jesus I’m looking at pets lambs, is surrounded by little children, and wears a dress.

Jesus With Kids
See what I mean?

Fashion trends aside, how we think about Jesus – even the imaginary picture in our heads – is important. A.W. Tozer wrote in The Pursuit of God that what you think about God is the most important thing about you. Jesus, being fully God and, in fact, the ultimate revelation of God (see Col. 1:15) is an especially crucial piece of the God puzzle. That’s why it’s so good for us to see the whole picture, the final and triumphant picture of Jesus, and not let our mind’s picture of him be too skewed in any direction.

For example, at Christmas we think of Baby Jesus:

Joseph totally smells it.
Joseph totally smells it.

Baby Jesus is the definition of meek and mild (queue Away in a Manger), at least in the 10 minutes he’s depicted in Christmas pageants the world over. But when is the last time you imagined Baby Jesus crying when he needed a diaper change or nursed? Sure, he was perfect but even God-incarnate babies have limited communication channels. I find that if I forget the humanity of Jesus, the terrible two, poopy-panstsed, skinned-knee humanity, I deprive myself of the whole revelation God intended to give.

Then there’s Walk on Water Jesus:

Holy Jesus
Jesus really is holier than thou…er…you (and me).

The walking on water scene in Matthew 14 has entered many of our heads as an event that shows Jesus having unattainable perfection and gets abused as a holier-than-thou epithet. No one likes someone who walks on water or seems to think they do. This attitude bleeds into my imagination as I marvel more at Peter’s faith (wavering though it is) than Jesus’ trust in God that makes walking on water possible.

Who is this guy, anyway?

Which leads me to Voodoo Healer Jesus:

file000586776839
Believe it or not, there aren’t that many pictures of Jesus healing people on the internet.

Even in his own day, people tried to project onto him their idea of what he could/would/must do for them. Jesus was often confronted by many who just wanted him to solve all their illnesses and problems like he was some kind of mysterious, voodoo healer-man. And he, interestingly, often obliged. The Gospels give us glimpses of him bum rushed by townspeople, wading through them to the point of sheer exhaustion. But he was also careful to clarify that he wasn’t about the miracles and anyone who seeks him – then and for all time – for the miracles misses the point (see John 6:22-44). Whatever my illnesses are, real or imagined, Jesus is willing to heal them but there’s so much more to him.

Finally, Broken Jesus:

Cross Jesus
“And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

This is the tough one, right? “This is my body, broken for you” is an integral part of our faith. Every Good Friday (and every time we take Communion, or preach the Gospel, etc.) we rightly remember that he was stripped, beaten, broken. The last thing I would say is that we should not enter into his brokenness to marvel at it and let it change us.

But I find something happens if my image of Jesus stays here. He was broken to heal my brokenness. The powerful part of the story is the love dramatically displayed in Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die. His love, not my brokenness, is amazing.

Eternal Jesus

Do you have any pictures of Jesus stuck in your head? I’m guessing that you do. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice. Keep your images. Season them with a little reality. Love Jesus as you encounter him in the scenes you imagine.

But never forget those scenes are for a purpose:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called

Faithful and True.

With justice he judges and wages war.

His eyes are like blazing fire,

and on his head are many crowns.

He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.

The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.

Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.

“He will rule them with an iron scepter.”He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.

On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS

Revelation 19:11-16

Put that in your imagination and smoke it.

Eyes of fire, robe dipped in blood (his own, incidentally), and a thigh tattoo. Now that’s a manly Jesus.

This is Conqueror Jesus who:

  • Became a human baby to show you and me how to be human
  • Trusted God to the point that the wind and the waves, even water molecules, obeyed him to show us that we could trust God, too
  • Gave himself to healing the multitudes even when it wearied him and gives himself to you today
  • Suffered incredible amounts of pain, scorn, and derision that we should never be afraid again

Baby Jesus, Walk on Water Jesus, Voodoo Healer Jesus, and Broken Jesus have their moments of relatability. But all of that experience is wrapped up in Conqueror Jesus.

All of those moments, and stories happened so that he could claim the title Conqueror Jesus.

Is Conqueror Jesus able to handle your guilt? He paid for it.

Your shame? He was shamed and came out vindicated.

Your sorrow? They called him Man of Sorrows.

He didn’t get so fierce by living a cushy life.

Could Conqueror Jesus be worth trusting with your hopes and fears, dreams and losses?

When you imagine Jesus, and I know you do, what Jesus do you see?

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Christianity & Pop Culture Collide

In the past two weeks, the Christian faith burst into popular consciousness in a way it seldom does. And yet, remarkably, I hear people complaining. No kidding! On Facebook and the comments to this fine piece of writing, Christians are demonstrating a staggeringly short-sighted  understanding of the opportunity this exposure brings.

"Part of what we hoped to accomplish with the series was to show the Bible is not simply a collection of unconnected stories which are often discussed and analyzed in snippets with chapter and verse numbers. Instead, we wanted to show how the Old Testament connects seamlessly to the New Testament. How they are one sweeping story with one grand, overriding message: God loves each one of us as if we were the only person in all the world to love." Roma Downey and Mark Burnett in On Making The Bible

Two spotlight caliber events shined on our faith in the past two weeks and I’ll take them in turn:

First, Pope Benedict XVI resigned and his successor was chosen. Now, I understand that we Evangelicals have a peculiar glee in our rejection of papal authority. No harm there as far as I’m concerned. Jesus is head of the Church not some grandfatherly figure dressed like he just stepped out of 1430 in a funny hat. I get it.

But we must at least show some concern about who is chosen as Pope. Whether we like it or not, all Christian lineages go through the Roman Catholic Church. Do we agree on every doctrine and interpretation? No. But we do agree on much. And, if you haven’t noticed, it’s been a few centuries since Roman Catholics were the ones persecuting Evangelicals. The battle lines have shifted over the past 500 years. It’s time to start acting like it. Rome is our ally in the culture wars. Pope Francis I, from what I’ve read, has the potential to be a powerful one and his life shows it. Why should we reject him before he has a chance to prove himself as some are doing?

Second, the Bible has come to life on the small screen. Remarkably, I’ve seen Christian people complain about the History Channel series. Before we go any further, you need to know about my theory of genre.

The Nevins Theory of Genre is really nothing more than an arrogant attempt to slap my name on ideas other people dreamed up. (Hey, everyone wants to be remembered for something!) Here is is: If a movie (or book, or other piece of media) lives up to the rules of genre then it is good. For example, think of your favorite superhero movie. As long as Batman (or your own favorite tight-wearer) fights crime, uses cool gadgets, gets into a seemingly unsolvable pickle and still manages to save the day then I’m happy. The movie entertains and therefore serves its purpose.

The Bible series is similar. There is no way possible to include every little nuance in the 66 books of the Bible. Accordingly, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey included the broad strokes of the Bible. The editorial decisions they made serve the larger purpose of bringing the Bible to life. Here’s how Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey put it in a recent Huffington Post article:

It is our prayer that the same message of God’s love permeates The Bible series.

So, the proper way to evaluate The Bible series is to ask whether it serves its intended purpose. Is God’s love demonstrated throughout it? In my presently-indignant opinion, the answer is yes. Complaints, then, are needlessly damaging and useless.

Rather than being disappointed that the series didn’t include Jacob or Joseph, or a detail in a story you love, how about we be happy that the message of God’s love is generating so much interest around the world? How about we get off our lazy rear ends and seize with both hands the opportunity the Holy Spirit has afforded us these last two weeks to share the message of love which God so dramatically, amazingly, fantastically displayed in the cross of Christ?

Stop being so short-sighted and look at the potential harvest.

The Spirit is whetting the appetite of the world.

Are we ready to do our God-given part?