Good Friday: Easter 2018

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Photograph by Donna Harris

Today is Good Friday when we have the privilege of fixing our gaze on the giver of life, our Redeemer, the one who has rescued us from ourselves. He came, God-incarnate, to save us to the extreme, as man to die our death. Herein is love to the utmost. For God so loved the world he gave. “Herein is love; when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to himself.”

In a world of created changeable things, only God alone remains unshaken, unchanging. Only God alone remains true to his promise, for what he says, he will do.  He struck the head of evil. He has not left us here without grace. The cross still stands. The grave is still empty.

Where do we begin to offer our gratitude, love, and praise in response to what Jesus did for us on the cross? We refer to today as, Good Friday yet we cannot fully fathom nor comprehend the immense goodness of His love for us.

Good Friday 2018 2

Photograph by Donna Harris

While on the cross, Jesus cried out for God to forgive us as He took all of our sins upon himself. He became sin for us, that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.  (2 Cor. 5:21). The vast goodness of this day is that we are fully forgiven because Christ was fully forsaken. Open your heart to see Him as Savior, to believe quickly…receiving His grace and a living hope just as He promised the robber hanging on a criminal’s cross next to him.

He came to rescue us, to give us life by giving up His. “It is finished,” he cried. The old has passed away and the new has come. There’s nothing more to be done, concerning our salvation, once and for all, perfectly and fully, we have been reconciled to God.

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Photograph by Donna Harris

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“It’s Friday — Sunday is near” Watercolor painting by Donna Harris

 

Quotes to think about:

I’ve never understood why people call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.” What was good about it? It looks like a tragedy to me. You’re right, up to a point: If all we had to celebrate was that final Friday when Jesus was put to death, there certainly wouldn’t be anything good about it. In that case, the term “Good Friday” would be a mockery. Instead, that final Friday would be the greatest tragedy in the history of the human race. Satan would have won, and any hope the human race might have had for the future would be ended.

But that Friday was not the end! Two days later, the tomb was empty, and Jesus was alive! And that’s why we can call it “Good Friday” … because on a day that first seemed tragic, something incredibly good happened … Christ gave his life for our salvation. [1]

Many of us, as we learn to know Christ in his sufferings, can only begin to have the moral imagination, the faith, to truly recognize that it was our sins that caused his death and necessitated the utter and absolute separation from his Father. Those of us who have been brought to the end of ourselves through life’s difficulties, personal failure and providential discipline can appropriate, by faith and repentance, the full measure of Christ’s redeeming grace. [2]

Still & quiet & bow slow & see Him now…
By His love — you are held,
By His mercy — you are washed clean,
By His relentless grace — you are saved.
And by His wounds — you are healed. [3]

[1] Billy Graham | [2] Adrienne Shore | [3] Ann VosKamp

 

The Confession | Sunday Respite 

Sunday Respite
Blessed Jesus, you offered us all your benedictions when you announced…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”
but we have been rich in pride.
“Blessed are those who mourn”
but we have not known much sorrow for our sin.
“Blessed are the meek”
but we are a stiff-necked people.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
but we are filled to the full with other things.
“Blessed are the merciful”
but we are harsh and impatient.
“Blessed are the pure in heart”
but we have impure hearts.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
but we have not sought reconciliation.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness”
but our lives do not challenge the world.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”
but we have hardly made it known that we are yours.

We plead with you to ask the Father to grant us forgiveness and give us the blessedness of your righteousness.

— Matthew 5:2-12 (ESV)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

40 Gifts of Lent  | Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

Come Away and Rest

Gift 9 Rest

Solitude is very different from a ‘time-out’ from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other. — Henri Nouwen

You are in God’s care, no matter what.
He is in control, not us.
He knows what being afraid feels like and tells us not to fear.
He has promised you will know His care and comfort.
He will not abandon you in your time of need.
He will let you rest. [1]

Gift 9

40 Gifts of Lent | Come Away and Rest: Gift 9 | [1] Emily Gibson,  https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/lenten-meditation-i-will-give-you-rest/

When Children Pray

The Prayer

“Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This evening, my four year old granddaughter asked if she could say the prayer before our meal. As we held hands while she prayed, I was grasped by the sweetness and simplicity of Gods love and grace for her and our family. The faith of a child is rich and unencumbered by worries or unbelief. She set the bar high for some tired weary adults.

I’ve been reading the remarkable biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Mataxas. While reading today, I discovered the context of the above, well known quote. I was surprised that Bonhoeffer said this in response to the prayers of children. I was awed by this primarily because I have devoted most of my work life to children’s ministry and can relate to being grasped by God when children pray.

Bonhoeffer was about to leave Berlin and embark on a new mission as a vicar of a German congregation in Barcelona, Spain. He presided over his last children’s service at the Grunewald church and later wrote this account in his journal:

I spoke about the man with palsy and especially about the assertion that your sins are forgiven, and tried once more to disclose to the children the core of our gospel; they were attentive and perhaps a bit moved, for I spoke, I think, with some emotion. Then came the farewell … The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness. [1]

I am encouraged by the gift of prayer from my granddaughter and yes, even the children that I spend time each week in the beautiful place that is church. Where a people prays … there is never loneliness.

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40 Gifts of Lent | When Children Pray: Gift 8 | [1] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Mataxas; Chapter 5.

The Increase of Faith

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…“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 {NLT}

“Faith is a footbridge that you don’t know will hold you up over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out onto it.”
― Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

Let faith stride forth in giant power,
and love respond with energy in every act.
I often mourn the absence of my beloved Lord
whose smile makes earth a paradise,
whose voice is sweetest music,
whose presence gives all graces strength.
But by unbelief I often keep him outside my door.
Let faith give entrance that he may abide with me forever.

May I be made rich in its riches,
be strong in its power,
be happy in its joy,
abide in its sweetness,
feast on its preciousness,
draw vigor from its manna.
Lord, increase my faith.
― The Valley of Vision, Faith and the World

the faith

40 Gifts of Lent | The Increase of Faith: Gift 7

The Work of Art

The Artist
Create in me a pure heart, O God. Psalm 51:10

You are a masterpiece. A real work of art. Created in the image of God. How much better can it get? We take for granted how much the master artist loves us, the master creator of life and all that is good and right.

Does your soul long to move in unison with the rhythm of grace?  What do you do when the pain of your broken chaos stabs like a dagger? Face the fact today that you’ll never outgrow your need for grace, no matter how much you try on your own. [1]

The way to begin to celebrate the grace that God freely gives you every day is by admitting how much you need it.

I enjoy watching my grandchild paint colors on a blank canvas. Neither one of us knows exactly what the painting means, yet watching her add color to a colorless page brings a smile and contentment to treasure.

When your life is full of the hardest peace or the hardest contentment or the hardest joy, you need the master artist’s touch to create a work of art in your life. Think of yourself as a blank canvas and God is making all things new. You may not understand why the hard stuff is happening and you may not know for a while what his finished work in your life will look like. Just know that you are loved by the master artist.

So ask God for it!  Ask God to create his work of repentance and surrender in your life. To paint a new beginning … a new creation in Christ.

The work of art is God shaping a new beginning from the chaos of your life. Rest in his peace, his contentment, his joy. This is a beautiful gift.

“Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”  Psalm 51 {The Message}

Isla

This work of art was created in the midst of chaos

40 Gifts of Lent  |  [1] Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional

When Grace Intervenes Our Troubles

Psalm 50:15

“Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God says in Psalm 50:15. “I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.” God desires praise from our lives … but the only way fresh praise and glory will come is as we keep coming to him in times of need and difficulty. Then he will intervene to show himself strong on our behalf, and we will know that he has done it.

Are not we all prone to become over confident and think we can handle things just fine? But let some trouble come, and how quickly we sense our inadequacy.

For some reason we want to carry on by ourselves.

The devil is not terribly frightened of our human efforts and credentials. But he knows his kingdom is damaged when we begin to lift up our hearts to God. [1]

I’m asking God to come fill this place … my soul with more of him. The gift today is acknowledging my weakness and claiming my strength in Christ.

This is a song I’ve played a few times this morning. Here are the words and the music.

Fall Afresh | Jeremy Riddle | Album: The Loft Sessions |Bethel Music
Listen here: Fall Afresh | Bethel Music

Awaken my soul, come awake
To hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
And do as you did, at first

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow
To overflow

Awaken my soul, come awake
To worship with all your strength

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow

Come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade
Spirit come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow
To overflow

The Weakness Gift 5

40 Gifts of Lent  | When Grace Intervenes our Troubles: Gift 5 | [1] Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala, page 57