Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Dec
06

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The holidays can be hard for some people for various reasons. It is good for us to be aware of this and to do what we can to help. Here are some things to be on the lookout for this time of year.

Lonely – Some are lonely because they don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with. This could be a person who is single, widowed, or is living away from family. You could help by including them in your holiday plans. Invite them to a party or have them over for a meal. Make sure no one spends the holidays alone.

Grieving – We tend to think of the holidays as being a time of joy, but for some, it is a time of sadness. The holidays are difficult for people who have recently lost a loved one. Be mindful of this and considerate to those who may not feel like celebrating. Let them know it is ok to be sad. Be present with them as they grieve.

In Need – There are families in every community who cannot afford a Christmas meal or gifts for their children. If you know of such a family, help them out. This can be embarrassing, so try to be discreet. Do as Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 6:4 and give in secret. Leave an envelope underneath the door, send an anonymous letter, or drop off some wrapped presents on their doorstep.

Overspenders – One of the reasons some people feel burdened is because they go into debt buying presents for everyone. It is crucial that presents not become the focus of the holidays. Things such as spending time with family, sharing a meal together, and focusing on what God has done for us are much more important than presents. If you know someone who feels pressured into buying presents, free them of this burden by letting them know it’s not necessary.

Tense Situations – The holidays are the only time some family members see one another. This can be a joyous occasion, but it can also be a tense one because of hurt feelings or other unfortunate circumstances. Be a peacemaker. If it is possible, work to mend broken relationships. Listen to those who have been hurt. Be a calming presence if a situation becomes tense.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

Dec
04

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Sectarianism is defined in various ways. One online dictionary lists factional and separatist as synonyms. Christianity has boundaries that we must uphold, but a sectarian is someone that sets up unnecessary boundaries. They purposefully separate themselves from others who faithfully profess the Christian faith.

There are parts of the Bible that are plain and simple, but there are other parts that are difficult to understand. This is apparent in Acts 8 when Philip encounters an Ethiopian Eunuch.

“Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?'” (Acts 8:30-31)

The Ethiopian Eunuch was a court official who could read. This means he had an advantage over most of the people in his day, and yet he needed assistance in understanding the Bible.

Our approach towards Scripture needs to be a humble one. We should always be striving for truth, but at the same time, we must recognize that there is the possibility that our understanding of a passage or doctrine might not be complete. Scripture is infallible, but our ability to interpret it is not. There are some beliefs for which we can be sure, but there are others for which we must be graceful to one another.

The sin of sectarianism is that it doesn’t allow room for grace. It lacks humility because it says I have everything right and there is no possibility of me being wrong. It seeks to divide rather than unite. It bases unity off of a person’s interpretation of a passage or passages rather than the foundations of the Christian faith.

Sectarianism is often associated with those on the right, but it is alive and well on both the right and the left. Sectarianism on the right often looks like legalism. The only way to be a “faithful Christian” is to agree with someone’s interpretation of various passages and doctrines. Disagreement on even one issue might mean expulsion.

Sectarianism on the left looks a little different, but at the core, it is the same. Rather than agreement on a variety of doctrines, sectarians on the left are looking for agreement on a few doctrines that are important to them. The main one of these doctrines is egalitarianism, but others sometimes include acceptance of the LGBTQ lifestyle, an open stance on immigration, etc. If you are not in agreement with one or more of these positions, then you are labeled abusive, hateful, oppressive, or something worse. They see no room in Christianity for a viewpoint that is different from their own. They claim to be tolerant, but they are only tolerant of people who are in agreement with them.

Sectarianism is contrary to the desire for unity that Jesus expresses in John 17. There are times when taking a stance on a particular issue is necessary. Christianity is not without boundaries. There are beliefs that place one outside of the faith, but sectarians go beyond what is clearly revealed in Scripture and make their interpretation a matter of fellowship. This behavior is divisive and should be called out for what it is for the sake of the unity of the church.

Nov
13

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You might mistake the trailer for Instant Family as the third installment of Daddy’s Home or some other shallow comedy that offers a few laughs with very little substance. If you did, you would be wrong. Instant Family is a lighthearted comedy, but it is one with some depth. One of the things that makes this film different from others that are similar is that it is loosely based on the life of Sean Anders who directs the film. Instant Family is a passion project that focuses on adoption and family.

Instant Family is the story of Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) who decide to start a family through foster care adoption. They take in three children, including a fifteen-year-old girl. They quickly realize that parenting is difficult, but their eyes are also opened to the joy of caring for children. They are assisted along the way by Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro) who work for the foster care agency. There are many opportunities for laughs as Pete and Ellie learn the ins and outs of parenthood.

What makes Instant Family unique is that it is a movie with heart. It is evident throughout the film that this was a project that meant a lot to Sean Anders. Mark Wahlberg, who is open about his faith, also gives it his all and turns in a nice performance. Instant Family does not rise to the level of art, but it is an entertaining piece of work with a message. We need more films like Instant Family. There are many important art films made each year that challenge us, but the viewing public has little interest in these films. There are also a plethora of meaningless movies that do nothing more than rob us of the time we spend watching them. These movies are often popular, but they have little or no value. They do not benefit us culturally or intellectually. Instant Family is a popular-level film that will make you laugh, engage you emotionally, and make you aware of a vital issue in the world.

Some nights people are not in the mood for a serious film about some weighty subject. I get that. Instant Family is a wonderful option if you are looking for something a little lighter but still has something to say.

Hopefully, the message of this movie will resonate with audiences. There are many children in our country who are in need of a family. Fostering a child or children is not something to be taken lightly. It is a demanding sacrifice, but as Instant Family reminds us, it is one that is worth it.

Oct
23

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“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.'” (Genesis 2:18)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

According to researchers and medical professionals, we are in the middle of a loneliness epidemic. People of all ages and backgrounds are experiencing loneliness at higher rates than before. This stems from people being less involved in groups and clubs, as well as a decline in church participation. Families no longer invite people into their homes and entertain as they once did. As the average size of homes has grown, families are spending less time eating together, conversing, and spending time with one another.

What can the church do to address this crisis? First, we must embrace the fact that we are a counter-cultural movement. We are called to live in the world, but not to be of the world (John 17:15-16). There are patterns in society that are causing the loneliness problem in our country. We must resist these patterns. This will not be easy. What might this look like? Here are a few suggestions.

* Eat together as a family.
* Place limits on technology use.
* Invite people over to your home.
* Prioritize attendance at worship, Bible class, and other church activities.
* Arrive at worship early and don’t rush home after the closing prayer.
* Get to know your neighbor.
* Be purposeful about developing and fostering friendships.
* Mentor a young person.
* Participate in service projects with your church.

Oct
16

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This is a guest post written by Peter Horne.

Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone about worship. Suddenly, it

dawned on me how much my thought process differed from other worshippers.

  1. There are some people who come to church each week asking “Will they sing the songs I like?” “Will the sermon meet my needs?” “Will my friends by there?” “Will my prayers be answered?” “Will my life be improved?”
  2. Then there’s another group of people who come wondering who God will bring this week. They’re praying for opportunities to speak encouragement into someone’s life. They’re looking around for people they can meet and serve, and hoping that some first time guests will attend this week.

At first glance I hope that #2 seems more spiritual, more godly, more mature. Generally speaking, I agree. But generalizations have exceptions. We should bear in mind that we all have times in our lives where we need to receive rather than give. We need to be served rather than serve. Additionally, at some point almost all of us walked through the doors of a church as guests with a list of questions asking whether this was the right church for us.

We were seekers seeking.

Some of us knew what we were seeking. Others found the object of our search only when we stumbled upon it. We were all seeking.

Jesus asked a crowd of people a similar question in Matthew 11:2-15. Jesus’ cousin John has been imprisoned by Herod and sends messengers to Jesus. It seems that John wants confirmation that his ministry and now suffering were for the right reason, that they were worthwhile and that they mattered.

Jesus responds by giving a list of examples from his ministry, such as “the blind can see” that can be connected to messianic prophecies in the book of Isaiah such as Is 61:1-3. But then he turns to the crowd and asks this important question:

“Who did you go out into the wilderness to see?” Who were you seeking?

Matthew 3:5 records that, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan river.” That’s a lot of people going to see and hear John the Baptizer. Now, some years later Jesus asks, “Who did you go out into the wilderness to see?”

He gives some choices: “Was it a reed, blown in the wind, waving this way and that?” “Was it someone in fine linens who’d make your life more comfortable and prosperous?” “Or did you go to see a prophet.”

Jesus knew well that people came to see him for a variety of reasons: Entertainment, financial gain, truth seeking, overthrowing the Romans, or protecting the status quo.

This blog series challenges us to reconsider our motives as we follow Jesus.

  • Do we participate in his kingdom out of obligation or passion?
  • Does our status as adopted children of God seem real to us, or a theoretical concept?
  • Do we worship to please others, or because we love God?
  • Do we desire to participate in expanding the borders of God’s kingdom, or do we like our church the way it is?
  • Do we long to grow our relationship with God, or are we comfortable with our current level of knowledge and commitment?

What are you seeking? Really?

Imagine you had the opportunity to interview Jesus like you might interview the leader of a church you’re considering attending. What would you ask him?

  • Jesus, will my relationship with God be restored if I follow you?
  • Jesus, will my relationship with my husband be restored if I follow you?
  • Jesus, will my family finally accept me if I follow you?
  • Jesus, how much (or little) money do I need to give you to make you happy?
  • Jesus, will I still get to do the things I really enjoy doing?
  • Jesus, can I keep my friends?
  • Jesus, how much time will I need to give you each week?

Without putting on your holy hat, what would you ask Jesus? What are you seeking…really? Will you take 10 minutes and make your list? When you’ve done that, pray over it. Read it to Jesus and see how the Holy Spirit moves your mind.

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Peter Horne moved to the United States from Australia in 1999 to pursue training for ministry. Having filled the roles of children’s minister, youth minister, and college minister in various locations around the US and Australia, he now gladly serves as the minister for the Lawson Rd Church of Christ in Rochester, NY. You can find more of his writing on his blog: www.aussiepete.wordpress.com. He also writes to equip multi-ethnic churches at www.culturalmosaic.org.

Sep
20

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The participation of the worshiper in worship has varied over the years. In the early church, worshipers were engaged in every aspect of worship, but nowadays it is possible to attend a worship service where nothing is expected of the worshiper. This raises an important question. Have we worshiped if we have not participated in worship?

What has changed? There have always been worship leaders, but we have gone from a house setting where all were likely seated together to one person being on a stage and everyone else seated below. This setting is familiar to us. We find the same arrangement when we go to a concert, play, performance, or movie. We know what to do. We take our seat, and we watch the show. Nothing is expected of the audience. It is not surprising then when we do the same for worship. We take our seat in the pew, and we watch as whoever is leading worship performs what they need to perform.

I am not advocating that we sell our buildings or get rid of our stages, but we do need to be aware of the arrangement. We can encourage participation in every aspect of worship with the arrangement we have now, but we are going to have to be purposeful about it. We must understand that a visitor walking into our sanctuary for the first time is going to recognize the setting of a stage and seats for an audience and probably assume they are there to observe rather than participate.

How did the early church participate in every part of worship? Some acts of worship are easier for everyone to join in than others. The Lord’s Supper is something one must refuse if they do not want to participate. Giving actively involves the worshiper. What about prayer? Nowadays, it is often the practice for one person to stand before the congregation and say a prayer while everyone else sits silently waiting for it to be done. The only way to participate is to silently focus on the words that are being prayed. In the early church, there were several different ways the congregation was engaged in the practice of prayer. One would be if they recited the Lord’s prayer together (Luke 11:2; Didache 8:3). The other was the expectation of the congregation to say Amen together at the conclusion of the prayer. This practice is evident in the writings of Justin Martyr and Paul.

“Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the ruler in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen.” – Justin Martyr, First Apology 67

“And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen.” – Justin Martyr, First Apology 65

“Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?” – 1 Corinthians 14:16

The practice of saying Amen as a congregation could also be practiced at the conclusion of a sermon. It serves as a reminder that a prayer or a sermon is not the act of a single individual performed for the benefit of a human audience, but that it is a part of worship to God in which every worshiper participates.

Worship is a time for us to show adoration to God. Someone else cannot do this for us. We must be active participants in worship.

Aug
02

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Adults can become frustrated when children do not retain the lessons they should, but on occasion, adults can be guilty of the same thing. Grownups can grow so preoccupied with one thing or another that they forget what is important. One of the purposes of art is to remind us of beauty and other things that are eternal. Christopher Robin, a film that focuses much time on stuffed animals that talk, does just this. It is a magnificent wake-up call to an adult world that has lost its way.

Christopher Robin is the fictional story of a boy with a vivid imagination who grows up and leaves his childhood behind. Ewan McGregor plays the adult version of Christopher Robin who now has a family and works tirelessly for a luggage company. Christopher Robin’s wife and daughter do not receive the time and attention they deserve because his boss demands that he work all the time. One weekend while Evelyn and Madeline Robin are away, Christopher is visited by his childhood friends, Winnie the Pooh and company.

Similar stories have been told before, but not many have been told this well. Christopher Robin is beautifully shot. The scenes with Pooh and others sometimes take on an artistic feel. At the same time, Pooh and his friends retain the same qualities that endeared many of us to them as children. They are childlike and funny. Christopher Robin accomplishes the rare feat of appealing to both adults and children. It might be too much for small children, but my nine-year-old son who is into video games and Goosebumps’ books loved it. That’s because it is an entertaining film with a story that touches all ages.

Christopher Robin reminds us to focus on what is important. Although it is set in a time shortly after World War 2, it is being released in a time when we need it most. As many parents nowadays stare at their phones while their children are right in front of them, maybe a film like Christopher Robin can encourage us all to set down the phone and pay attention to the child in our midst. We can easily forget what it was like to be a child. We can forget what it was like to have childlike wonder. We can forget what it was like when we were a child for a parent or adult to take an interest in us. Christopher Robin helps us to remember.

Jun
12

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Over the years, I have noticed objections from Christians regarding the use of certain words. One of those words is the word sacrament. I use the word sacrament because I believe it is the best word out of all the words available in the English language to describe certain God-events in the life of a Christian. What amazes me is that this is even a controversy at all. Arguing over what word to use entirely misses the point of the God-events being discussed. Here are a few brief thoughts on the word sacrament.

A sacrament is an event where heaven and earth meet. It is a physical activity where spiritual things are also happening that we cannot see (e.g., water baptism and remission of sins). It has been famously defined as a visible sign of an inward grace. All Christians agree there is such a thing as sacraments. What is not agreed upon is how many there are or what to call them.

“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” (1 Tim. 2:14)

Alexander Campbell in The Christian System asserted, “As the calling of Bible things by Bible names is an important item in the present reformation, we may here take the occasion to remark, that both ‘the Sacrament’ and ‘the Eucharist’ are of human origin.” Campbell’s reasoning is typically sound but in this instance, he is mistaken. Sacrament is derived from the Latin translation of Ephesians 5:32. Eucharist comes from the Greek word meaning to give thanks. It is found multiple times throughout the Bible, and early Christians called the Lord’s Supper the Eucharist because this was a meal in which to give thanks. Everett Ferguson in his book Early Christians Speak traces the use of Eucharist as a reference to the Lord’s Supper all the way back to the second century (Early Christians Speak 3rd Edition, p. 94). The use of sacrament or Eucharist is no different than our use of baptism, apostles, deacons, etc. These are words that have been transliterated rather than translated.

In most cases, the objection to words like sacrament or Eucharist is rooted in anti-Catholic sentiment. Other words are preferred because they are words not used by Catholics. Of course, this is absurd. Our reasoning should never be that we cannot do something because someone else is doing it. If this were taken to its logical conclusion, then we would also have to abandon preaching, praying, Sunday school, VBS, and many other honorable Christian practices.

I prefer the word sacrament because it is tied to the text. Others have used the English translation mystery which is fine as well. There is nothing wrong with using either of these words. It is a problem when others create laws where there are none and begin to forbid the use of legitimate words. We must heed the words of the apostle Paul and not create silly arguments over words.

Mar
27

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From the autobiography of R. C. Bell.

“Under the influence of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding, I soon saw that Paul’s description of some who would hold a form of doctrine, but deny its power, fit me. Especially, Brother Harding’s living, magnetic, contagious faith in God as a real personal friend matched the wavelength of my spirit. I slowly enough imbibed his enthusiasm for God’s fatherly care of individual Christians, for Christ’s brotherly sympathy and fellowship with them, and for the empowering Holy Spirit’s residence in them. In other words, for Brother Harding’s conception of Christianity as a “divine-human encounter,” in which spiritual communion between God and man, the sweetest of human experiences, was enjoyed.”

“I gradually came to realize, however, that the spiritual power of the church was contingent upon the actual personal presence and working of the triune God in and through Christians. More and more the conviction grew on me that Brother Harding’s interpretation of Christianity, which was Paul’s too, was needed to save the church from being merely a human organization with a formula to follow, a prayer to recite, and a dull, demagnetized program to render; with professional preachers in her pulpit mechanically saying dead words detached from the living realities of which they spoke, dealing in trite moralizing, threadbare platitudes, and heartless preaching about the heart and passion of Christ. This kind of a church instead of being the divine organism, instinct with the life and power of God, as designed by her Founder! In short, Brother Harding’s interpretation was needed to save the church from changing divine dynamics to human mechanics.”

Mar
26

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The soldier walked up to the condemned man’s side 

To test his wounds to assure he died 

When his spear came up the sky it cried 

The earth moaned and split open wide 



I can’t explain everything I saw 

When the water fell I felt it fall 

I held the feet of a Nazarene 

My hands are stained I want them clean

- Mike Mangione, Hands Are Stained

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) These are powerful words uttered by the apostle Paul. Think about being so devoted that you are only focused on knowing one thing. Paul understood the significance of the cross of Christ. He understood that everything else is meaningless without the cross. The cross shapes our lives as Christians. It is a lens in which we see the world. It is the means of our salvation. This is why we say the cross is central to the Christian faith. Without the cross there would be no Christianity.

Since the cross is so vital, it is important to consider how we view it. Scripture speaks of the cross in different ways. Jesus is glorified on the cross. When he is lifted up, he draws all people to himself. Our salvation is dependent upon the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice is the greatest act of love this world has ever known. At the same time, it is also a torture device, a cruel means of punishment. Those who hang on a cross are cursed. The cross reminds us of everything that is wrong with the world. An innocent man was crucified because it was the will of the people. The cross can be viewed in different ways depending on which Scripture is being emphasized. The beauty of the cross and the ugliness of the cross are both important. We learn important lessons from each of them, and we must be mindful that we do not neglect either view.

In our culture, we tend to emphasize the positive elements of the cross. We see it as a symbol of salvation. We wear it as jewelry, and we decorate our walls with it. Many people probably look at a cross nowadays and never think about death. They may not even realize that the cross was once a torture device. We don’t like to think about death or suffering. We would rather focus on all the blessings we get from the cross and skip over the pain and agony that Jesus endured. There will be ministers in America that preach on the resurrection this Sunday without ever mentioning the cross. How is that possible? The reason Jesus has to be resurrected is because he was crucified on a cross. The two events go hand and hand, but some people are so focused on the positive that they will not mention Jesus dying for the sins of the world. This is a problem. There is no gospel without the crucified Savior.

Before we hear the good news of the resurrection, we must spend time meditating on the sacrifice of the cross. One of the greatest meditations on the cross was written before Jesus ever took on flesh and walked this earth.

He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:3-5)

These are strong words. Jesus was despised and rejected. Think about that. The God of the Universe was despised by the people he came to save. The Creator was rejected by his creation, and yet that did not even stop him. His love for us is so great that he continued with his mission. He died for us, and we need to recognize the pain and agony Jesus endured on our behalf. From the cross, he cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the cry of one who has been rejected, one who has been despised.

Jesus’ cry from the cross is a lament. Isaiah says Jesus is a man of sorrows. Jesus came face to face with everything that is wrong with the world. He was an innocent man that was put to death. The cross shows us what humanity is capable of. We will torture an innocent man. We will put to death the very person who comes to help us. I say “we” because we are all implicated in the death of Jesus. He died for our sins. When we read the accounts of the crucifixion, we should picture ourselves in the crowd as they chant “Crucify him!”

As Jesus looks out upon this scene, he becomes a man of sorrows. These people who bear the image of God have turned their backs on the living God. They have spit in his face. They have mocked him and called for his death. The despised and rejected Jesus laments what has happened to humanity. He grieves what the world has become. This is a terrible scene, but it’s not the only scene like this. Humanity has not gotten any better. This world has not changed much in 2,000 years. Jesus continues to lament the circumstances of our day, and sometimes we are even a part of it. We are responsible for the ugliness that is present in our world. We sin. We fall short. This does not cause Jesus to love us any less. Paul tells us in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Jesus loves us no matter what, but he laments when we do not live as we ought to live.

Jesus does more than lament. Isaiah says he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. One of the most radical things to ever happen was that God took on flesh. He was born. He walked this earth. He had a physical body just like you and I. This was difficult for people to wrap their mind around in Jesus’ day. One of the first heresies the church had to deal with was the belief that Jesus did not come in the flesh. This heresy pops up while there were still living eyewitnesses to Jesus, people who touched him and ate with him. Why would people deny that Jesus had a physical body? It is easier to explain a spiritual god, than it is a God who bleeds and dies. This was mind blowing to the ancient world. We have grown accustom to this fact, but it is still just as incredible. God bled for us. He was pierced for us. He died for us.

Jesus was aware of what was going on while all of this cruelty was taking place. If this were to happen to one of us. We would object. We would protest. We would scream and fight. Jesus does none of this. He is despised and rejected. He is beaten. He is nailed to a cross, and what does he do? He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) All of this is an act of love. The cross is both horrific and beautiful. When we meditate upon the cross, we should feel the weight of our sins. It was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross! We are responsible. We are guilty. We had a hand in the greatest act of injustice this world has ever known. How can we live with ourselves? We can live with ourselves because as we are overwhelmed with our sin, we also remember that it is at the cross that our sins are taken away. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, but it was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that takes them away. Jesus’ love is greater than our sin.

The cross also helps us overcome our sin because it reminds us how we are to live. Why do we sin? What is the cause of most of our sin? It is selfishness. We are thinking of ourselves rather than thinking of others. We choose our desires and pleasures over love. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate act of love. It was complete and total unselfishness. Jesus gave himself. He gave his body for you and me. Becoming a Christian means we receive the benefits of the cross, but it also means the cross becomes our way of life. We give up our sinful ways. We turn away from selfishness and we begin to live for others just as Jesus did. The cross gives us a brand new lifestyle. It invites us to live for something bigger than ourselves. This new mission brings us joy and happiness because we transition from being inward focused to being outward focused.

It is important that we acknowledge the suffering and death of Jesus because if we don’t, we miss out on one of the greatest blessings of the cross. When we think of the cross, we often focus on salvation. On the cross, the Father was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Salvation is central to the message of the cross, but it is not the only blessing associated with the cross. Jesus suffers and dies and because of this he enters into our own suffering and death. This means we are never alone.

One of the greatest questions ever posed is “Why do we suffer?” This is a question that all of us ask at some point in our life. We all suffer and we all want to know why. This is a difficult question to answer. It is a complex question and it deserves a complex answer. It is not to be taken lightly. At the same time, we must recognize that the answer to the question of suffering is not an answer but a person. Jesus enters into our suffering. Whenever we suffer, he is there. He is present with us. He understands our pain. He knows what it is like. We never suffer alone.

The cross is good news, but it is also important that we spend time reflecting on everything Jesus did for us. We must not skip over the pain, rejection, and death just to get to all the benefits. If we move too quickly, we miss out on all that Jesus has to offer. We know too well that life is not a bed of roses. It is a journey with peaks and valleys. We need to know that Jesus walks with us no matter if we are on a mountaintop or in the valley of the shadow of death. Reflecting on the cross will prepare us for the moments of pain and suffering that we all face.

Isaiah says that Jesus was a man of sorrows. This was not the only emotion he felt, but it was one of them. Too often in our modern culture, we try our best to avoid sorrow and lament. Although the psalms are filled with laments, they are absent from our hymnbooks. The people of God have sung laments for thousands of years and we have only recently decided they are not necessary. Lament is an important part of our faith. We experience suffering and tragedy that deserves our lament. We know there are things not right in our world and this should cause us to lament. On the cross, Jesus turns to Psalm 22, a lament.

As we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection, I think it is important that we first focus on the events that lead us to that glorious moment. We should reflect on what those early believers felt as they watched Jesus being crucified. We should meditate on the wounds of our Savior. We should spend time thinking about the cross, so that when we come together on Sunday what we experience will be a true celebration.