Taking Up The Cross

Unbreakable Love

Unbreakable Love

We have all missed the mark! Each and every one of us has stumbled and made wrong turns. Sometimes we feel like we’re the only one who has failed. Sometimes we have the false notion that everyone else has their act together. But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. The apostle Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fallen short” (Romans 3:23).

The question is not “if” we have stumbled, but rather, what we do when we have stumbled. How do we view ourselves in that moment, as well as in the moments that follow – and more importantly, how do we view God? Are we too ashamed to turn to Him? Have we allowed our guilt and shame to distort our view of Him? Are we allowing our shame to keep us from experiencing His unbreakable grace, mercy and love? 

There is a somewhat obscure reference in the resurrection account of Jesus in the Gospels. If i was to ask you to whom Jesus appeared on the day of His resurrection from the tomb, you would probably respond with a familiar list….

What A Beautiful Name

What A Beautiful Name

As we gathered in worship this past Sunday, we sang the song “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong (lyrics below). As we sang those words, i was reminded of a glorious confession of truth that we would all do well to embrace.

The lyricists write: 

Death could not hold You, The veil tore before You
You silenced the boast of sin and grave….
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

More often than not, we think of those words in light of Christ’s bodily resurrection on Easter morning. And there is no question that should cause us to rejoice. But there was reason for rejoicing even before that occurred. When Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30 NLT), He also said, “Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands” (Luke 23:46 NLT). Let us not forget that Jesus was as much man as if He was not God at all. At the moment of His death, His soul and spirit immediately departed from His physical body – which is the exact same thing that will occur for you and me at the moment of our deaths (if Jesus doesn’t return before then). 

We would do well to remember….

A Firm Foundation

A Firm Foundation

Where do we put our trust when the road ahead is uncertain? What do we build our lives upon when the ground beneath us is shaking? Where do we turn when the world around us is seemingly spinning out of control?

Peter had just been restored by Jesus to walk in the way that the Lord was placing before him. He had confessed his undying love for his Savior. But Jesus had just also explained that Peter would follow Jesus to his death – a death on the cross. Then Jesus said, “Follow Me.” It wasn’t the first time that Jesus had told Peter to follow Him – and it wouldn’t be the last. Jesus would remind him – and encourage him – to follow Him every day – regardless of what was in the path ahead – and regardless of what was going on around him – until his journey on this earth was completed. This moment may have been the last that Jesus stood in front of Peter physically and told him to “Follow Me”, but He would continue to do so through His Spirit. Peter’s journey with Jesus was not ending there on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:18-23), nor would it end a few days later at the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:1-11) when Jesus ascended into heaven one last time. His journey with Jesus would continue throughout eternity – for a finite period on this side of glory – and for an infinite period on the other side of glory….

A Very Personal Encounter

A Very Personal Encounter

This Sunday we celebrate the day that Jesus arose from the grave. It was a very busy day for Jesus – He covered a lot of ground that day. It was an emotional day for all of His followers – they experienced the full range of emotions. But it was also a very personal day for at least one of His followers.

Mark and Luke tell us that early in the morning Mary Magdalene, Mary (the wife of Clopas), Salome (the wife of Zebedee), Joanna (the wife of Chuza) and at least one other woman arrived at the tomb with their ointments and spices planning to complete the burial preparations of the body of Jesus. They were the first to discover the empty tomb. Without even stepping into the tomb, Mary Magdalene immediately set off to find Peter and John to tell them that Jesus’ body had been taken. She left before the two angels announced to the other women that Jesus had risen from the dead. 

Having found Peter and John, Mary Magdalene returned with them to the tomb. John and Peter ran ahead to see for themselves. Neither Peter nor John appeared to be running toward the tomb expecting that Jesus had risen. Rather, they were questioning the accuracy of Mary Magdalene’s report and wanted to confirm whether or not His body was still in the tomb. Upon their arrival, they too confirmed that His body was gone. John tells us in His Gospel that it was then that he believed that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead. The Gospels do not tell us that Peter had that same conviction. As a matter of fact, whether it was because he was still devastated over his denial of Jesus or he was still so overcome by sorrow, he appears to have left the tomb with his heart being even heavier now that Jesus’ body had apparently been taken.

Why Simon?

Why Simon?

Simon was a popular name among first century Jews. We see a number of men by the name of Simon mentioned in the Gospels. To name a few: Simon, the fisherman who Jesus renamed Peter; Simon, the zealot who also became a disciple; Simon, the Pharisee who hosted Jesus for dinner; Simon, the healed leper who also hosted Jesus for dinner (who John may have called Lazarus); and Simon, from Cyrene who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross. Let’s look at this last Simon – and what all of us can learn from him.

Mark records, “A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)” (Mark 15:21)

According to Roman law, one who was found guilty and condemned to death was required to carry his cross, or at least the cross beam, to the place of his crucifixion. Jesus left the Praetorium bearing His cross, but along the way the Roman soldiers conscripted Simon the Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross.

Let’s look at why …