EASTER: Dare to Look

When I opened up Office.com Images to find an illustration for this post, colored eggs, chickies, and cherry blossoms popped off the screen. Easter! Spring! Love it, love it.

Beautiful to behold. Unlike what came before Easter–the Cross. That is hard to behold, at all. But one day I did, and here’s what I saw.

Three crosses On the Cross

Read Colossians 1:21-22; Luke 23:26-46.

There’s a reason why the Cross is the primary symbol of the Christian faith. On the Cross, Jesus gave his life to redeem mankind from sinfulness and rescue us from the tyranny of the evil one. It was the turning point of history on this planet.

In remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice, I have worn a cross around my neck, taken Communion, and fasted during Lent. But I never had the courage to look squarely at Jesus suffering on the Cross.

That is, until Cheri Brisbin, my “Life and Teachings of Christ” instructor, caused me to look. As she described the scene, I saw a Man big enough to bear the Cross and still support Peter, and the women of Jerusalem, and his executioners, and the thief on the Cross, and his mother…and me.

I kept looking at the Cross, and I wondered how Jesus’ sufferings and demeanor on that day affected his disciples. Peter had marveled when Jesus had said they were to forgive seventy times seven times. But after Calvary, I’m sure none of the disciples ever again wondered if that was possible: they saw Forgiveness incarnate, Love that could not be offended.

And then there was the matter of servanthood. Jesus’ washing of their feet was startling enough that the disciples probably finally got the picture that love and service were the ways they would have to operate to please him. However, that was insignificant compared to the demonstration of servanthood they were going to witness in the next 24 hours.

He gave his very life; and even in the midst of his agony he did not allow the pain to keep him from reaching out to the last few people who needed his encouragement and salvation. Truly, when we perform great labors of love and suffer for Jesus’ sake we are still like children helping their daddy: our work is small compared to his. He did, and still does, most of the work. And our part we can do with grace, because he’s right there to help.

I used to think that it was the strictly the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that made lions out of the disciples who had scattered like sheep at Jesus’ arrest. But now I can’t help but think that some backbone was put into them at the sight of Jesus taking the worst that hate and evil could dish out, behaving like a prince, and coming out a victor.

Instead of being afraid to look at Jesus’ agony, let’s look—and weep—but catch his love and his courage. In the light of the Cross, let us see the pettiness of sin and carnality and accept the grace to live as he did.                               Celia Willard Milslagle

9781425978358_cover.inddFrom Streams of Living Water: A Daily Guide to Devotional Meditation on God’s Word  by F. Burleigh Willard Sr. and Celia Willard Milslagle.

 

 

Back on Track

Does failure throw you for a loop? Should it? The answer is “No,” if you take Rev. 3:15-20 to heart. That’s the bible passage Monday’s blog was about. In it, Jesus tells the members of the Laodicean church he’s not at all happy about some certain faults. But then, he says,

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:19-20). 

Monday’s blog focused on the great realization that God rebukes then “hugs” and encourages his children. But, you know, this story can be taken another way. It also shows us the attitude we can take toward ourselves, when we mess up. We don’t have to kick ourselves for our failure for days on end, becoming more and more discouraged and full of self-hatred. Instead, we can quickly choose to forgive ourselves and let God help us get back on track—or even step up to a new level of maturity.

Does this healthier way of responding to failure sound good to you? If so, you’ll want to consider two principles that will help you quickly get back on track after failing. One is a healthy, proactive mindset (as opposed to an unhealthy, reactionary mindset).

An unhealthy, reactionary person reacts to failure with emotions, angry remarks, sulking, avoiding anyone who knows about his failure. As long as his embarrassment lasts, or as long as anyone seems to remember his failure, he seems powerless to regain a grip on his life.

A proactive person responds quite differently to failure. She does not allow her emotions or the attitudes of others to have such a strong effect on her. She takes responsibility for the situation and—in spite of what she feels or others are saying—takes some forward-thinking actions that will get her back on the road to success.

It is especially easy for a Christian to be proactive. All he needs to do is “open the door” to the Lord who is ready to encourage and enable him to change course.

The other principle that helps a person quickly get back on track after a failure is humility. We might think that wallowing in regret is a sign of humility, but it is not. It is a sign of pride. If we are that shocked about our failures, we have too high an opinion of ourselves! A humble Christian knows that “nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom. 8:18). A humble Christian knows that the whole secret of Christian living is “not having a righteousness of my own . . . but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Phil. 3:9). The humble Christian is more concerned about getting back in right relationship with God than she is about saving face.

Steve Gray, pastor of the church in Smithton, Missouri, which experienced such revival in the 1990’s, made a statement when visiting our church which utterly melted my heart. Quietly he confessed the effect that revival had had on his heart, saying, “I’d rather be good than be right.” How relieved our Lord must be when we are more concerned about being good again, than grieving that our past attitudes and deeds weren’t right.

Just think of the potential for growth and maturity if we react to every rebuke from the Lord by quickly forgiving ourselves and allowing him to encourage and restore us! Think of how much better we will feel about ourselves if we see ourselves as Jesus does—as beloved children, who are not “bad” but promising works in progress.

Making It Personal

  • Does God’s readiness to forgive mean he is soft on sin or unconcerned about failure? [Hint: Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? . . . Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4).
  • Which do you suppose God prefers: for us to accept his forgiveness and encouragement to get back on track? Or to get stuck in guilt and hopelessness?
  • Which do you prefer?