Tag Archives: Cross

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

Blog - Holy Week - Good FridayPhoto Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Jesus’ mockery of a trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the rangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

Good Friday from popgodblogPhoto Credit: popgodblog.com

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming – S. M. Lockridge

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross – Day 1 of Holy Week

Blog - Palm Sunday & CrossPhoto Credit – inexplores.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

For anyone who considers herself a critical thinker, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter your religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything you may think of God. You will better understand the core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known to you as Christian. For in the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, you will see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

{Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. I encouraged them to study each one, 1) trying to put themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures when available), and then 2) to break down each belief/tenet of faith critically. We all benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; none will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

He knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. – Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt as Jesus predicted his own death. They loved him and all pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Jewish prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowds did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dust before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who knew him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday would change to cries to “Crucify!” just five days later. Jesus had no ambition to please the crowds; he was resolutely on task to redeem those who could not redeem themselves – the whole world.

[Each day in this week, the posts will mark the journey of Jesus of Nazareth through the last week of his earthly life. Join me please.]

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

Holy Week Timeline

Look, the World Has Gone After Him: Prelude to Palm Sunday – Jon Bloom

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What?

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts, as well as buying them ready-made.

Worship Wednesday – Forever He Is Glorified – Kari Jobe

blog-fix-our-eyes-on-godPhoto Credit: GodsWordImages

Last night, I watched all 90 minutes of the vice-presidential debate. If these two public servants were running for president instead of being the vice-president candidates, my voting choice for this Fall’s election would be much simpler. Watching them actually gave me another window to see into the convoluted soul of politics. As is their job on debate night, they sparred relentlessly over issues and, both of them, successfully  continued to expose the weaknesses of the other’s running mate. Nothing new there.blog-election-vicepresident-debatePhoto Credit: ABC News

What was different last night was the obvious discomfort each had with some of the issues that, because of the nature of their jobs, they had to legally support even when, in doing so, required them to go against their faith. The death penalty, for one, and partial-birth abortion for the other. I couldn’t imagine. Something else that stood out was their respect and regard for each other which had to be put aside for the sake of the required rancor of the evening’s spectacle. They both hammered away at the other’s presidential running mate…knowing the attacks had to be personal to them as well. Such is the nature of political debate.

Both the presidential and vice-presidential debates zoomed in on some of the terrible brokenness of our nation and the world. The racial and cultural divides in our country. Syria. Political unrest around the world. Corruption. National debt. Syria. Abortion. Displaced and marginalized peoples. Syria. Nuclear armament. Wars. Poverty. Energy. Immigration. Syria. Our Supreme Court.

Like those who chose not to watch the debate or turned it off early to use their time differently, I can’t bear to watch too much cataloging of the world’s woes when it “seems” there is so little we can do. My tendency is to go to fear…for our nation and for all nations.

Then I’m reminded:

God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7blog-worship-wednesday-spirit-of-fear-achristianpilgrimPhoto Credit: AChristianPilgrim

In watching the whole debate, I saw two men, not just posturing politically…they were two men of faith trying to make sense of brokenness and with the hope that a political party in power can make a difference against it.

That, however, is not what I take hope in…especially this year.

Will there ever be an American President for all the peoples anymore? If there ever was. However, there is a God who sees and who loves us all…every single one of us. 2 Corinthians 4:18 (in image at top of page) comes into focus for me.

Fixing our eyes on God doesn’t mean we close our eyes to the realities around us. The mandate is to do whatever we can to apply a counter-pressure against the warp of sin in this world. The Scripture is clear.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. – Isaiah 61:1

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – JesusMatthew 25:34-40

This election year, more than any other, I cling to a God who is not finished with us yet. A God who from forever has set a course to be in relationship with as many of us as will turn to him. A God, who through Jesus, came after us….and continues to do so. Today, I don’t cling to a political party or a world power to right the wrongs…I cling to the cross of Christ.

Fixed on Him (moment by moment, sometimes, wrestling myself out of the grip of fear), I am confident that whatever happens in this election, God will be forever glorified…as we see His story (history) completed and our lives redeemed.

Worship with me. Also if you would take the time, watch the YouTube video linked below of Kari Jobe singing the song Forever with a short spoken word message by Isaac Wimberley. Powerful.

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon Him

One final breath He gave
As Heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeatedblog-empty-tomb-lionlambbowmanvillePhoto Credit: LionLamb-Bowmanville

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive

We Sing Hallelujah
We Sing Hallelujah
We Sing Hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive*

*Lyrics to Forever written by Kari Jobe, Brian Johnson, Jennifer Johnson, Gabriel Wilson, Joel Taylor, and Christa Black Gifford

YouTube Video -Kari Jobe Forever (Live) – with spoken word by Isaac Wimberley

Explore God – Is Christianity Too Narrow? – Podcast, Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

Worship Wednesday – At the Cross – with Chris Tomlin

Blog - Worship Wednesday - At the Cross 2Photo Credit: YouTube

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.1 Peter 2:24

The holiness of God and His love for an unholy people required an act that only He Himself could accomplish for us to be restored to Him. A perfect sacrifice. A sinless Savior. God Himself in the person of His Son taking our sins upon Himself. Because of that death, that cross, and His resurrection that followed, we can know our debt of sin is paid and death has no claim on us. Amazing!

It leaves me without words every time I think about what God did for us to restore us to Himself.

Fortunately, God gives words to songwriters to express what we want to express to Him…our wonder, our gratitude, our love.

Worship with me:

There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
Jesus

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God
And forgiveness

Where all the love I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You saved my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow

At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
I owe all to You, I owe all to You
Jesus

Blog - Worship Wednesday - At the Cross - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Lyrics: At the Cross (Love Ran Red) written by Matt Armstrong, Ed Cash, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – At the Cross (Love Ran Red) – Lyrics & Chords

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – Story Behind the Song At the Cross (Love Ran Red)

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 007 (2)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

Blog - Holy Week - Good Friday

It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.

Jesus’ mockery of a trial, crucifixion, death, and burial are all recorded with great detail in the four Gospels. They are riveting accounts of this terrible and triumphant day – Matthew 26:57-27:61, Mark 15Luke 22:66-23:56, John 18:28-19:42.

Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.

The outcome of all the rangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaiphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.

Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.

Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.

Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross.  Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, , in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.

Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not really…for that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!

There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him.  John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, in his own tomb.

So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*

Good Friday from popgodblog

Holy Week – Day 6: Good Friday’s Trial, Crucifixion, Death, Burial

YouTube Video – It is Finished – Matt Papa

YouTube Video – Forever – Kari Jobe

YouTube Video with Lyrics – The Wonderful Cross by Chris Tomlin & Keith Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

YouTube Video with lyrics – Lead Me to the Cross – Hillsong

*YouTube Video – It’s Friday but Sunday’s a Coming

YouTube Video – Skit Guys – Good Friday

It Wasn’t Nails that Held Him to the Cross – Blog by Michele Perry

Good Friday – Bible Study

Photo Credits: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com and popgodblog.com

Malta – a Tiny Mediterranean Country with a Huge Holy Week Celebration

IMG_0002

 While living in Tunisia, and as part of the process of establishing residence, we needed to do an exit/re-entry trip. The closest, cheapest option was a quick trip to Malta. It was a surprising cultural experience, a very different one after our first months as foreigners living in North Africa.

Right when we entered the exit hall of the Malta airport, we saw an enormous sign with the word, “Jesus Saves”. Having grown up in the USA’s Bible Belt, we would see that sign all along the highways, but it was a breath-taking sight in an international airport.

During our few days in the tiny island nation of Malta, we stayed in a the lovely fishing village of Marsaxlokk (thanks to the recommendation of friends). The Maltese people were a blend of all the cultures who, over centuries, populated this strategic island in the Mediterranean Sea. The language is fascinating – a Semitic language (similar to Arabic and Hebrew), phonetically written in Latin script. We actually understood a lot of what was said as it was a mix of Arabic and Italian (we knew some of the Arabic, Italian not so much). English was the second language which made it really easy for us to find our way around.IMG_0004The kids loved it as much as we did. The bed-and-breakfast where we stayed had a hearty breakfast (ham and eggs, thick slices of homemade bread, and cornflakes as well). We spent all the days outside, exploring, visiting the street markets, and eating local food. The “food truck” hot dogs we devoured as we walked along the seawall were the best I remember. They may also remember that it was in Malta where we started their Playmobil collection – buying several little characters in one of the street markets. So much fun.IMG_0007

Malta is so small that we could visit any town easily via the public bus system. We spent a couple of days in the capital city of Valletta. I probably don’t remember this correctly, but it seemed all the streets flowed down to the sea. There were Catholic churches everywhere. We even found The Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck which was built sometime in the 1570s. It honors Jesus’ apostle Paul as Malta’s spiritual father. Paul first arrived there quite violently through a storm and shipwreck, as a prisoner of Rome. The story of this shipwreck is recounted in great detail in the Bible, including a description of the kindness of the Maltese people toward Paul and every single ship passenger miraculously saved.IMG_0008

The most intriguing events we encountered in our visit to Malta were the Good Friday processionals. There were parades, passion plays, and countless other displays memorializing the crucifixion of Christ. Church bells rang constantly across the island through that whole day. Every single church, it appeared, participated in some sort of ceremony marking the Via Dolorosa (Jesus’ “way of suffering”). We were watching a parade, and, quite remarkably by accident, found ourselves at the front of a huge cathedral where a processional had just begun. IMG_0013

Life-size statues depicting the fourteen stations of the Cross were being carried one by one, out of the cathedral, by several men dressed in white. These pall-bearers must have been members of the church and, by their faces and posture, took their role in this ceremony very seriously. Not being Catholic ourselves, we were still keenly aware of the spiritual import this had to those around us. We felt very privileged to have happened on such a large display of their reverence…especially to Jesus.Blog - Holy Week - Malta

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It was a Good Friday that I will never forget. We had long talks as a family over supper that day as the children had seen things they’d never seen before. What things we as Protestants and Catholics disagree on paled in comparison to what we agreed on, regarding that day. Holy God, the one God of the universe, made a way, on that day centuries before, for all of humanity, estranged in our sin, to be restored in relationship to Him. It was indeed a Good Friday.

Holy or Black Saturday (as it’s called depending on one’s tradition) was a quieter day for us. It’s the day between Good Friday and Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) – separating the sorrow of the death of Christ and the joy of the Christ risen from the dead. In Malta that weekend, my memory of the day was that it was more subdued. Our time away from Tunisia was winding down also.

On Easter Sunday, the church bells rang again. This time was different from the Good Friday bells, chiming darkly as a funeral dirge dark. This day, the bells rang out, all through the towns and villages, with a joyful noise, somehow full of expectancy. Right before we returned home to Tunis, we worshipped that Easter Sunday, in a very small Baptist church. After all the pageantry of the Catholic celebrations, our worship in this little Protestant church may have seemed meager in comparison. It was just right for our little family – on an Easter Sunday, far from our home church in the US and our new life in Tunisia. Worshipping together, in a language somewhat familiar, we celebrated God’s victory over death and the life He offers to us, through the risen Savior. Hallelujah!

Easter in Malta – A Quick Guide to Holy Week

Good Friday in Malta – Fourteen Stations of the Cross

The Fishing Village of Marsaxlokk, Malta

Live Cam from Marsaxlokk, Malta

The Maltese Islands – At a Glance

The Culture of Malta Explained

3 Important Influences in Maltese Culture

Language of Malta – Malti – a Semitic Language with Latin Script

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Worship Wednesday – You Love Me Anyway – with Sidewalk Prophets

Blog - You Love Me AnywayBut God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:32

Not knowing what is ahead can be a very uncomfortable place to be. Sometimes, it could be better than knowing, but the uncertainty of not knowing sits like a rock in the pit of our stomachs. Will I have a job after this company reorganization? Will I pass this exam? Will our church survive this downturn? Will my struggling friend find her hope again? Will we ever know that we did enough…that we were truly faithful in loving God and our neighbor?

What a morning! As I was wrestling with God through these actual right now situations, and looking up the song I had planned to use for today’s Worship Wednesday…You Love Me Anyway came up in the search list.

“You love me anyway.”

David Frey and Ben McDonald of the Christian band Sidewalk Prophets wrote this song about how our sin, that of every single one of us, was borne by Jesus on the cross. Such love! He loved us knowing us completely –  every impure thought; every selfish act. He loves us anyway.

As I listened to that song, it wasn’t condemnation that brought tears to my eyes; it was the amazing truth of His love…a love that sets us free…in Him. Though we struggle with situations facing us that seem more than we can bear, what He bore for us should give us enormous confidence…and peace.

The not-knowing about jobs, exams, church, relationships is still in front of us, but peace has returned to my heart right now. The puzzle of have I done enough or will I do enough isn’t meant for me to solve. The answer to the question I didn’t ask is that “He’s done enough.” He loved us always and He loves us still…no matter what. It is the love of God through Christ that lifts our heads (Psalm 3:3).

Now…in this moment, with perspective restored, “I count it all joy” (James 1:2), and “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16) Beyond the cloud of these days of uncertainty shines an every-present Light – the glorious Person of God who speaks the truth of His love into every dark place of our lives. Hallelujah!

Worship with me:

You Love Me Anyway*

The question was raised
As my conscience fell
A silly, little lie
It didn’t mean much
But it lingers still
In the corners of my mind

Still you call me to walk
On the edge of this world
To spread my dreams and fly
But the future’s so far
My heart is so frail
I think I’d rather stay inside

(Chorus)
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
You love me anyway
Oh Lord, how You love me
How You love me

It took more than my strength
To simply be still
To seek but never find
All the reasons we change
The reasons I doubt
And why do loved ones have to die?

Chorus

I am the thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
I am the nail in Your wrist
But You love me anyway
I am Judas’ kiss
But You love me anyway

See now, I am the man that called out from the crowd
For Your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground
Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace
And then alone in the night, I still called out for You
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life

Chorus

You love me, You love me
You love me, You love me
How You love me
How You love me
How You love me

YouTube Lyric Video – You Love Me Anyway

YouTube Video – You Love Me Anyway – Sidewalk Prophets

*Lyrics to You Love Me Anyway – Writers: David Frey & Ben McDonald

Story Behind the Song – You Love Me Anyway

Sidewalk Prophets Website

YouTube Video – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Thou, O Lord

Photo Credit: maxresdefault.jpg for YouTube Lyric Video

Blog - Sidewalk Prophets

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – A Lenten Devotional by Jim Denison

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim Denison“An evil spirit of this kind is only driven out by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church became any sort of meaningful in my life. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a better life of meager means and lavish love. It was then that we responded to an invitation of neighbors, and a weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God. In fact, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I thought it would only be about Christianity.

My first experience with Lent was seeing my best friend on a Wednesday long ago, after she had disappeared from our usual routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons on Lent – on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking is changing. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God and my own need for Him more clearly, then I want to integrate Lenten practice into my life.

That said, Jim Denison has written a beautiful 40-day devotional for this year’s Lenten season. It’s entitled Transformed – How Stories of the Cross Are Changing the World*. A dear friend gave me the paper copy, but I encourage you to take advantage to the free download and start reading, praying, and fasting (as God leads) today.2015 Blog on Easter Lenten Devotional & American Idol 004

Corporate month-long fasting has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail for me. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of my Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

For the past several years, during Lent, I read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was also a gift from a good friend. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle, from our side, with prayer and fasting. This is a strength in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, I will be reading Transformed; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering to pray and reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

Denison Forum

*pdf 2015 Lenten Devotional Transformed – How Stories of the Cross are Changing the World by Jim Denison

Why is Lent Relevant for Evangelicals? by Jim Denison

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Lenten Observances – Eastern & Western Traditions

The Coptic Church and Worship

A Catholic Homily for this Ash Wednesday in memory of the Coptic Christians killed last week [Beautiful blog – I do not believe in praying to anyone except God; still I appreciate the call to all of us to remember others caught in the cross-fire of evil in this world. Praying for their families and for those who are unfortunately enemies of the church.]

Photo Credit – Ash Wednesday – Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org