Tag Archives: love

Death is Still Dead.

Death is still dead..png

I love Easter Sunday. Every Easter, I attend church with my family and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. There’s no shortage of singing or dancing (although there may be more or less of the latter depending on the denomination you may or may not associate with… Alright, bad joke). The point is: there’s hope. And there should be. Jesus defeated death, and we’re stoked about it. The resurrection is a fact of epic historical proportions that carries epic present and future implications. It’s the turning point of human history. Death has died. We are free.

But why did death come back to life after Easter dinner?

Many of us don’t actually feel free. We celebrate on Easter with our arms held high, our hearts captivated with the joy of the fact that Jesus ripped apart the chains of death and gave us true eternal freedom. But we soon recede back into the chains that bound us: chains created by sin, depression, and failure. Chains created by success, self-righteousness and earthly treasures. We drag them around in routine fashion as we re-trod back into the grave.

“Easter will come back next year,” we think.

Jesus has risen, and we know it. We sang about it on Easter Sunday. However, many of us quickly descend back into the everyday struggle of trying to earn salvation, a struggle that knows no success.  We try to make life better. We try again. We try harder and harder. The chains still bind us.

Maybe you’re one of us. I’ve been one of us. Sometimes I still am. Somewhere along the line, somebody told you the Gospel. It saturated your heart and mind, and you felt FREE. You had never known a joy like the one Jesus created in the entirety of your being. The Gospel had changed both you and your eternal destination. But somewhere in the more recent past, the Gospel became more like good advice than the Good News it is. You knew the facts, but they didn’t always seem real, or didn’t carry much weight anymore. The big, almost-exploding balloon of joy that you used to carry around had deflated. The resurrected life became a good idea rather than a reality. You longed to sense the real Gospel again, to feel real and pure freedom again.

You waited for next Easter. Next Resurrection Day.

I’ve got good news for you and for me. Good News, actually.

Every day is resurrection day. Jesus never went back into the tomb. He’s still risen. He’s risen on Easter and the day after. He’s risen next Sunday when church feels mundane and you’re feeling more fulfilled by the restaurant lunch you ate after church than the sermon you heard during it. He’s risen when death is all too real. He’s risen when depression chases your joy away. He’s risen when you accomplish something great, only to come crashing down from the temporary high success brings. He’s risen. It’s just a freaking fact.

So why do we forget it? Why is “He is risen” just an Instagram hashtag people use on Easter? Or even worse, just a bumper sticker? Why is the pure joy of Easter reserved for 1/365th of the year?

For me and many others, it’s because we simply have a hard time believing that the Gospel is unshakable truth. As we slip away from the understanding of our forgiveness, we begin to believe that God’s love is based on our successes and failures. In doing so, we shun the very Gospel that caused our Easter dancing. Our actions and feelings say it’s too far-fetched. We’re really forgiven? We’re really loved? Our sin taunts us, begging us to answer no to such questions and turn away from God rather than turn toward Him and repent.

On Easter Sunday my pastor quoted Brennan Manning, who once said “I am now utterly convinced that on judgment day, the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question, and only one question: Did you believe that I loved you?”

It’s a painful question to ask, but it reveals why many of us confine Easter’s truths to one 24-hour holiday. We simply have a hard time believing that the resurrection means we are truly free, free indeed. We simply struggle with accepting the truth of the Gospel.

What, then, should we do?

In John 6:27, Jesus says “The work of God is this: to believe in him whom he has sent.”

We should return to the Gospel. The Gospel is the answer to our failure to understand the Gospel. Sounds foolish, but doesn’t the Bible say the Gospel is foolishness? Foolishness of the absolute best kind. Life-saving, eternity-altering foolishness.

We must let the Gospel saturate our minds and hearts by the minute. How do we do that? By repeating it to ourselves relentlessly. By constantly informing others of its life-altering truths… even those who could produce a list of 10 literary differences between Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Even to those who have chapters and books of the Bible memorized. Even those who outwardly appear to be poster children for good Christianity, seemingly epitomizing holiness. Those people struggle to believe the Gospel, too. They’re in dire need of the Gospel every single day. They’re just like you. In fact, we’re all in the same boat. Each one of us desperately needs the redemption of Jesus Christ on a perpetual basis.

We just can’t believe the Gospel on our own. We’re simply helpless to do this without those around us. So I have a challenge to you. The next time you meet with a Christian friend, look them straight in the eye and tell them “God loves you so much that no matter how bad you’ve messed up, time and time again, you’re still forgiven. He will never fail you. He is so proud of you. He lavishes His grace on you. You are a child of God. You are infinitely cared for and worth it. You are seen. You are heard. Your sins are dead. You are free.”

I tried this recently. I tried this with a friend who is a model of Christian leadership and moral behavior. I mean, this dude has it put together…

But wait. He doesn’t. He needed to hear the Gospel in that very moment. And just as badly, I needed to hear myself preach it to Him. It refreshed both of our souls and we walked away feeling free of works-based righteousness, free of good advice, free of prescriptive behavioral fixing (should I get that term copyrighted?), free of what Matt Chandler calls “moralistic therapeutic deism,” or more simply, a lifestyle of upstanding moral behavior that we stamp God’s name on, but that ultimately serves to make us feel better about our sorry selves.

So have a Gospel conversation with yourself: “Jesus loves me. I am free. I can never be separated from His love, no matter what I do.” Then, do it again tomorrow. Repeat it to someone else. Before you try to fix somebody, look them in the eyes and tell them God loves them abundantly and infinitely and eternally. Heck, why shouldn’t every conversation be a Gospel conversation? We are ALWAYS in need of people to refresh our souls with the truths of the Resurrection.

Every day is Resurrection Day. The freedom brought into this broken world by the resurrection of Jesus is available to you now (and tomorrow, and on November 24, 2023). You are forgiven. You are free. God is too good and too loving for you to live in shame today. The Gospel is too freeing (and too REAL) for you to live in bondage today. Your life has been resurrected from the grave. If you believe in Jesus, you’ve been taken care of.

You, believer, are free. Yes, you. YOU. ARE. FREE.

 

Death is still dead. There’s a reason I titled this post “Death is Still Dead.” and included the period after ‘Dead.’ The period represents completion. The end of something. The end of a sentence… in this case, the death sentence of sin.

Death is still dead. He is still risen. Time to celebrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferguson: Love is the Strongest Weapon

Protesters take part in a peaceful demonstration against shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri

I am not here to tell you if justice was or wasn’t served by the acquittal of police officer Darren Wilson. I am not here to tell you that the people of Ferguson are or aren’t acting inappropriately in response to that acquittal. I am not here to tell you why I know that my opinion on the mayhem happening in Ferguson, MO is greater and more intellectually sophisticated than yours.

Instead, I’m here to deliver a quite simple message that it seems most people ignore when a controversial issue such as this surfaces.

This message is for those of you who claim to follow Christ, who trust in His name, who find identity in His transforming sacrifice. If you call yourself a Christian, this message is for you.

John 13:34-35 says “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” In Mark 12:31, Jesus lists “love your neighbor as yourself” among the two greatest commandments.

Jesus told us to love. In the same way that the ultimate example of love has transformed and continues to transform us, we are to love. Jesus has given us each unique gifts and called each of us to use them in unique spheres of influences, but our actions are to be dressed in love no matter where we are or what we do.

When things are easy, we are to love. When things are hard, we are to love. When it seems impossible to love, we are to love. Love is our purpose. Through our love, the Gospel speaks.

Jesus is love, and if we want to represent Jesus to others, we need to love them. In fact, love (and thus, the communication of the Gospel) should be our goal in any and every relationship we have. And even though it may feel indirect, you have a relationship with the people of Ferguson, Missouri.

Before you blindly reduce this relationship to a political one, as the minds of Americans have been so systematically trained to do, first pray for, at the very least take a second to mentally consider those affected by the events that have transpired in Ferguson. Take a second. Think about the family of Mike Brown. Think about Officer Wilson. Think about the people of Ferguson. Think about the police chief who is undoubtedly experiencing one of the most stressful times of his life. Think about those in the Ferguson community who fear for their safety simply because of the violence taking place around them. Think of the African-American community as a whole. Think of the human race. For a second, please drop your party affiliation and consider humanity.

The minds of Americans have been systematically divided into opposing groups that have left no space for the consideration of humanity. Groups that constantly fight back and forth for position, for power, for the ability to make changes. Groups that desire to be right.

We often fall victim to the lie that once we attain correctness, we have the power to make change. We must earn the respect of our peers and the general public by proving that our opinions are more consistent, more sensible, and more coherent than the opinions of those who disagree. We simply desire to be right. 

While being right may seem like a high calling, you are stooping to mediocrity if your actions display this to be your highest purpose. Jesus has called you to something so much higher – He has called you to a level of love that has the true ability to break the chains of injustice.

If you call yourself a Christian, please lay down your desire to be right and step alongside those who are hurting. This is exactly what Jesus did. Even when Jesus has disagreed with your actions, He has loved you and has shown you this through His grace. Please lay down your party affiliation and let your Kingdom affiliation do the talking.

Your party alignment will soon fade away. Be a beacon of hope, not an agent of argument. For goodness’ sakes, and for the sake of souls, love your enemiesThat includes your political enemies. The people of Ferguson are not simply political machines. Whether you agree with their actions or not, do not reduce them to objects of your mind. They are people with hearts, desires, and other people who care about them. Act and speak according to their hurt.

In your hurt, Jesus meets you where you’re at, even when you handle it the wrong way. In their hurt, meet them where they’re at, even if you think they’re handling it the wrong way. Even though you likely don’t know anyone in Ferguson or anyone directly involved with the issues at hand, you can display this love through fervent prayer – even for your political enemies.

If your political allegiance comes before your love of humanity born of Christ, something is disconnected. Are you first inclined to pray for those affected by the violence and treachery in Ferguson, or are you first inclined to scoff at those who don’t share your opinion for their supposed stupidity?

If it’s the latter, step back and understand that Jesus draws no party lines. When He took your sins to the cross, He suffered so that you would KNOW LOVE. Jesus put aside His differences with you, knowing and understanding that your actions would be insufficient to earn their way to His approval, because He loved you so much (and still does).

The least you can do for the people of Ferguson is put aside your differences with, whether those differences be of race or opinion, and love them. Love those with whom you disagree. It is this standard of love that will truly break down walls, something that the desire to be right is utterly powerless to do.

No matter how badly you want to be right and to tell others you are right, understand that people are hurting. Walk with them in their hurt. Love the brokenhearted. That’s what Jesus did for you. Settling for ‘being right’ would be settling for less than the standard of love that has salvaged your soul. Be a beacon of hope, not an agent of argument.

Remember, you carry the Spirit that has the power to change the entire world. This Spirit allows you to love those with whom you disagree. It is this type of love that will break through the chaos in Ferguson, MO and will cause the rightful death of injustice. It is this love, the true love of Jesus, that you are called to.

The desire to be right may be strong, but love means comforting those who hurt even if you believe they’re wrong. Love is the strongest weapon.