Take Up Your Cross

standard March 29, 2018 Leave a response

The old rugged cross.
Calvary’s tree.
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light.

These familiar words found in our beloved hymnals bring comfort to those of us who are Christians. But I wonder, can the familiarity of these words cause us to forget the magnitude of what happened on that Good Friday? And more importantly, does it inadvertently cause us to downplay what our role as a follower of Christ actually entails?

Jesus told his disciples that in order to be a true disciple they must be willing to do three things: deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. (Matthew 16:24)

Again, all of this feels very familiar and comfortable to us as 21st century Christians, but imagine living in the 1st century as a disciple. You have left EVERYTHING (your family, your fishing business, your comfortable bed) to follow this controversial Jesus from town to town. So far, it’s all working out pretty well because He’s healing the sick, turning a boy’s lunchbox into a catered party for 5000, and don’t forget that time at the wedding when water was turned into the best wine anyone had ever tasted.

However, now Jesus is giving some radical instructions, first being to deny ourselves. Which is okay with us because we’ve already stepped out in faith, leaving the comforts of our homes.

But the music stops when we hear “take up our cross.” Wait a minute. The cross is for criminals and we are not criminals, nor is Jesus. He is the long-awaited Messiah; the Anointed One who has come to reign on David’s throne. Why in the world is He talking about taking up a cross??

And that, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road. Remember, at this point Jesus had not died on the cross nor had He been resurrected and defeated death. Yet when we read these instructions from Jesus, it’s easy for us to forget the magnitude of what is involved simply because the word “cross” is so familiar to us. It would be like Jesus telling us to pick out our own electric chair and follow Him! Now who’s game?

However, that is exactly what the disciples did. They did pick up their criminal’s cross, and they did deny themselves, and they did follow Him. Did they do it perfectly? No, but they were obedient to follow Him, even to death. And aren’t we so thankful that they did? Because had they not, you and I would not know of the Wonderful Cross and all that it represents.

The question is, are we willing as Christ-followers to do the same in our everyday lives?

Will it be uncomfortable to deny ourselves of some things in life? Absolutely. Will we be ridiculed for carrying around our cross when the rest of the world is seemingly footloose and fancy free? You bet. But will it be worth it in the end to follow the one true Messiah? Oh, a thousand times YES, it most certainly will be.

Similar to the disciples, we won’t get it right 100% of the time, but if we are faithful and obedient, the rewards will be eternal. And perhaps it is that someone else’s eternity depends upon if we are willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him!

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light. Now it is time to REFLECT THE LIGHT.

Jesus, thank You for the magnitude of what You accomplished on the cross on that Good Friday. It is a gift that I don’t deserve and it is hard to understand why You would die for a sinner such as me. Yet You did and now I will pick up my cross and follow You. Help me when I fail, Lord. Extend Your mercy and grace as I attempt to point others to the cross.

The Marvelous Cornerstone

standard April 12, 2017 2 responses

Last fall I sat on the Southern Steps in Jerusalem. These steps are remains of the Temple, God’s dwelling place on earth. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had butterflies in my stomach, sensing the Lord’s presence, knowing that I truly was on holy ground.

(The Southern Steps leading up to where the Temple would have been.)

(Part of the original wall. The first layer is almost as tall as I am.)

(Ruins of the Temple.)

These were the same steps that Jesus and other Hebrew boys would have climbed as a child to sit under the teaching of a well-respected rabbi. They are the same steps where the Jewish Pilgrims would gather to sing the Song of Ascents, moving up step by step as their lips sang the praises of Psalms 120 through 134. And they are also the same steps that supported Jesus’ feet as His authority was challenged by the chief priests, scribes, and elders within days of His crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus. God in flesh. The maker of heaven and earth who spoke creation into existence. This very same Jesus is now being disrespected on the steps of His very own Temple.

And in response Jesus tells a graphic story of a man who owned a vineyard. The man makes all the necessary preparations in order to have the vineyard succeed and he then leaves the vineyard in the hands of capable farmers. When the man sends one of his slaves to collect a portion of the harvest, the farmers beat him and send him away empty-handed. This happens again and again until eventually the farmers start killing the slaves until the man is left with only his beloved son to send. He thinks, “Surely they will respect my son.” But, of course, they didn’t. They killed him and threw him out of his own vineyard. Despised and rejected.

As you and I read this story from Mark 12, we have the hindsight to know that this exact thing will happen to Jesus just days later and we want to shout to the chief priests, “Don’t do it!! He’s the Messiah! He’s come to save you, His chosen people.” But the actual audience doesn’t get what Jesus is telling them. However, He knows just how to get their attention…by quoting Scripture. Jesus asks them point blank, “Have you not even read this Scripture:

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

And immediately the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders would have known that Jesus was quoting Psalm 118. It’s a Psalm that they would have known in its entirety. Listen to what it says and allow the magnitude of Jesus’ point to register within your spirit:

This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
This is from the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:20-24, emphasis mine)

How many times have we woken up to a beautiful day and said, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,“? I know that I’ve used it thousands of times, especially when trying to wake up my children. And on another note, I’ve always wondered why Good Friday was called “good” when it was the day that our Savior was brutally killed and thrown out of His own creation. But I never thought to put the two together. How could the day that Jesus died on the cross be a day worthy of rejoicing?

Sitting there on those Southern Steps is when I finally realized that the day that the Lord has made, the day that was worth rejoicing over, was in fact Good Friday!! Yes, it was the day that the cornerstone was rejected, but it was also the day that salvation came for all people. And it was totally the Lord’s doing. This is so profound!

Jesus Christ alone is that cornerstone, the firm foundation on which we place our hope. The cornerstone should not be your parents, or your spouse, or your kids, or your friends, or your job, because Lord knows they will let you down and your foundation will crumble. There is only One who will never let you down and His name is Jesus. Don’t be like the chief priests and reject the very One who gives life. Put Him at the center of your life and build around Him.

As we prepare to celebrate our risen Lord this Easter weekend, I pray that we will remember the magnitude of the rejected stone who endured so much on that Good Friday. It truly was a day to rejoice and be glad.

Because that chief cornerstone was rejected, you and I have an opportunity to receive our salvation. Because His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, you and I are able to enter through the gate of the Lord. Because of the Lord’s doing, you and I have a reason to rejoice. And the cornerstone that is Jesus Christ is so very MARVELOUS in our eyes!

(A replica of a cornerstone in Jerusalem.)

An Easter Hangover

standard April 8, 2015 Leave a response

This Easter weekend was a whirlwind of activity for the Rodgers family. We had two different sets of company staying with us Thursday through Monday, one set being a family with four children under the age of eight (Lord, bless them)! There were multiple Easter egg hunts to attend, dinners to cook, a visit from the Easter bunny to prepare for, dresses to press and matching shoes to be located, and not to mention a Greek passage to translate.

(I would also like to add that I attempted the popular Resurrection Rolls.  A recipe of buttery crescent rolls and sugary marshmallows with a spiritual application in that when the rolls are baked the marshmallow disappears and it represents the empty tomb/resurrection of Jesus. Well, I must not have wrapped the rolls properly around the marshmallows and “Jesus’ body” ended up oozing out and being a sticky mess in the bottom of the pan and the spiritual principle was completely lost on the kids. It was an epic Pinterest fail to say the least.)

Normally I enjoy a jam-packed schedule, but this weekend I found myself a little overwhelmed and disappointed that I only thought of our risen Lord maybe once or twice during the whole hoopla.

Suddenly the weekend was over and I was sitting in my New Testament class on Monday with a dazed look on my face while the professor asked a deep theological question pertaining to the book of 1st or 2nd Corinthians…I really can’t remember which one. When no one answered, he looked around the room and asked us, “What’s wrong? Y’all have an Easter hangover?”

Now there was a question that I could answer.

“Yes, Prof, I do have an Easter hangover. A major one. And my five-year old has a belly ache because she ate too many dyed boiled eggs, and I thought it was our turn for snack week at school, so I ran to the Neighborhood Wal-Mart on my break and bought Cheetos in mass quantities only to find out it’s our turn next week, and I’m pretty sure I managed to get four hours of sleep last night in between being woken up twice in the night, and I’m refusing to think of the state of my home at the present moment or the mountain of laundry that needs attention. I’m sorry. What was the theological question again?”

But, thankfully, as this week progresses and the sugar high subsides, the pounding in my head becomes less prominent. I take deep breaths and realize that none of this matters. What does matter is that our home was used as a blessing to others, we had plenty of food to eat and friends to share it with, and the name of Jesus was spoken freely and reverently throughout the weekend.

So as I sit here today in my backyard, gazing at the beautiful azaleas beginning to bloom, enjoying a hot sip of coffee in the peace and quiet, I am humbled and thankful for the life that God has given me. And even though my faith is far from perfect, I am reminded that my walk with the Lord is not limited to one Easter weekend out of the year. No, I live a privileged life. I get to walk with the Lord daily and His mercies are new every morning.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Beautiful Savior

standard April 1, 2015 Leave a response

I’m not sure why, but this video of David Garibaldi painting Jesus brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. Maybe it is the passion with which Garibaldi paints, or the powerful words in the song “The Glory of It All” by the David Crowder Band. What I do know is that when the painting is turned right side up and the face of Jesus is revealed, I simply lose it.

It’s not that His face is extraordinary, for Isaiah 53:2 tells us that “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. But I can’t help seeing His face as beautiful. I can see the kindness in His eyes, but I also see the anguish in the creases of His face as He endures physical pain. However, it is not His outward appearance that makes Him beautiful to me. Rather, the reason I see Him as beautiful is because He bears the weight of my sin and He sacrificed Himself for me. It should have not been Him on that cross; it should have been me. What did I do to deserve such a gift? Nothing. I never did and I never will.

Yet this free gift is in front of me and I reach out to accept it. I am washed in His blood and my sins are no more. I am made new; white as snow.

When I see this beautiful face of His I imagine myself in a spotless wedding gown, walking down the most gorgeous aisle filled with every sort of colorful flower, meeting my Savior face to face, joining the others in the church as the bride of Christ.

I am ruined and I am saved all at the same time. He has redeemed me. I will never be the same. Everything has changed! No, I will never be the same.

 

Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:17