I See The Monstrous Cross

Beginning with Christians in Samoa and ending with believers in Hawaii (unless some live on Midway Island), Christians around the globe with observe Good Friday on April 14th.  It is the day when Christ-followers mark the crucifixion of Jesus.  It is "Good" because that tragic day turned magnificent as Jesus declared "It is finished," and thus defeated death by His death.  Over a decade ago I composed words as I reflected upon His gift to me and to all who will receive.  I invite you to read that reflection. 

I See The Monstrous Cross
by Mark T. Goodman

I see the monstrous cross waiting for Jesus, and I call out, “Jesus don’t go!  Not for me, save yourself.  I don’t deserve you.”
Then I remember that He already submitted to death.  He did choose to go for me.
As I recall His death, I hear the words of His Father,
                “This is my Son, whom I love…”
Here conviction falls.

Holding my sin up next to that monstrous cross, I see that the former is the more monstrous.  While the cross is mere timber, my sin is composed of far sicker things.
Hate lashes quicker than whips;
Pride beats harder than clubs;
Anger cuts sharper than thorns;
Greed pains deeper than nails.
The cross did not choose to hold Jesus, yet I through my sin, chose to burden the shoulders of the Son of God.
Dare I curse the nails and not the greed?
Dare I call anyone “the crucifier” other than me?

I, through my sin, killed the One whom the Father loves. 
                “This is my Son, whom I love…”
These words torment my soul.

I see the crucified Christ dying on the tree, and I call out, “Jesus don’t go!  Surely you are the Son of God.  Save yourself!”
As I see His death, I remember His words,
                “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”
Here amazement calls.
I, through His grace, receive pardon.  How could this be? 
                “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”
These words save my soul.

I see the risen Lord departing from me, and I call out, “Jesus don’t go!  Don’t leave me alone.”
As I see His face, I listen to His words,
                “I will be with you always, to the end.”
Here solace calls.
I, through His love, welcome my Guide.
                “I will be with you always, to the end.”
These words comfort my soul.

I see the exalted Christ sitting on His throne, and I call out, “Jesus come!  Take me home.”
As I stare into the heavens, I hear His voice,
                “Behold, I am coming soon!”
Here joy calls.
He, through His promise, is returning in His glory.
                “Behold, I am coming soon!”
These words lift my soul.

By The Sea

While I didn't walk on it, just over two weeks ago, I swam in the Sea of Galilee (really, a large lake).  It was, even for an Alaskan, much colder than I expected. 

The next morning my wife and I sat by that same body of water and watched the sun rise, fish jump, and birds fly.  We, on the west side of the lake, could see across the water to the opposite side, the location of Jesus' casting of the demons into the swine of Gergesa.  So, as we took in the sites in reverent awe, I thought about Jesus' power that He displayed just at the Sea.

  • cast out demons
  • spoke to wind and waves and calmed them
  • walked on water
  • provided professional empty-netted fishermen with a miraculous catch
I smiled.  I wept. 
We prayed.  We praised. 
We sang.

I sang along to the iTunes in my ears as the talented musicians of Bethel led me in "Be Enthroned."

We've come to join the song
Sung long before our lives
To raise our voice along
Heaven and earth alike

We've seen Your faithful hand
Your mercy without end
A King who bled and died
A God who sacrificed

Be enthroned upon the praises
Of a thousand generations
You are worthy. Lord of all
Unto You, the slain and risen King
We lift our voices with heaven singing
Worthy, Lord of all

All through this life we lead
And onto eternity
Our endless praise, we'll cry
Jesus be glorified

Be enthroned upon the praises
Of a thousand generations
You are worthy. Lord of all
Unto You, the slain and risen King
We lift our voices with heaven singing
Worthy, Lord of all

Highest praises
Lord of all

Be enthroned upon the praises
Of a thousand generations
You are worthy. Lord of all
Unto You, the slain and risen King
We lift our voices with heaven singing
Worthy, Lord of all

We sang to the King of kings, Lord of the Sea, as possible relatives of the disciple-caught fish leapt in the water.  I remain amazed at the majesty of the maker of heaven and earth.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
John 1:1-3 (NIV)

Jesus, be enthroned. 
Jesus, thank You for displaying Your power. 
Jesus, thank You for sunrises, calm water, and leaping fish.
To You, and You alone, belongs my praise. 
Be enthroned!

Love 101 - Part Two

“Truth is, you and I are in constant need of lots of help.” – so concluded my words in last week’s blog.   

We need help in our quest to love – to love as Jesus loves. 

In John’s first epistle he proclaims that, “God is Love.”  He continues with, Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

God is productive.  We see that from the beginning of the biblical record.  Therefore, He works to produce great things in the lives of those He indwells.  He dwells in you to produce LOVE.

I thank God that when I was a new believer in Christ, my family and my home church took the time to instill in me the understanding that God loves me too much to leave me alone in following Him. 

God loves you too much to leave you alone in following Him. 

Therefore, this week, and maybe even today, as you encounter those who strain your capacity, know that God, who is love, is with you - offering the strength for you to love the unlovely and to hug the prodigal who left home.

Several years ago, a homeless alcoholic man, for several weeks in a row, visited the church I pastored.  He was a commanding presence - taller than I (I’m over 6 feet) and about twice as wide (I haven’t measured myself in years).  He was dirty from head to toe and the stench of his clothing filled our wood-paneled building.  He came week after week; and to my delight, our members welcomed him with love.  

On one particular Sunday morning, Wendell (as I will call him) sat near the back and all indications revealed that Saturday had been a rough night.  He joined us in welcoming one another and singing praises to God.  Then everyone was seated and I began to preach. 

Ten to fifteen minutes into the message, “arose such a clatter,” as Wendell’s lack of sleep and reliance on the bottle caught up with him.  I was a young boy the last time I heard snoring like that; and that was from a cabin-full of whitetail deer, deep-fried eating, belly-scratching hunters named Bud and such.  Wendell put the whole deer lease gang to shame. 

Larry, one of our members went up to him to stir him awake.  His words and light shaking were of no use.  Instead of continuing the feeble exercise, Larry sat down right next to Wendell, picked up his head and placed it on his shoulder.  With Larry serving as his pillow, Wendell slept like a baby.  I did not need to finish my sermon.  Larry “preached” a profound message that day and he never said a word!

“Love is patient, love is kind . . .Love never fails.”

Love 101 - Part One

Several years ago a woman stopped me after a Bible study class to ask for some advice.  The young woman who was rather new to following Christ asked me for some Scripture texts that could assist her in learning how to love others.  She knows that her Lord instructs her to love and she knows how that instruction is often quite difficult to follow.  I respect her for her honesty with her difficulty and for her desire to improve.

I directed her to the words of John in his first epistle and to the words of the Apostle Paul.          

Am I safe in stating that the young Alaskan mother is not alone in her challenge?  Certainly each man, woman, and child reading these words today struggles to love when the recipients strain his/her capacity. 

In his book Parables from the Back Side, J. Ellsworth Kalas takes a look at the teaching stories of Jesus.  He devotes one chapter to one of Jesus’ characters whom Kalas calls, “The Prodigal Who Stayed At Home.”  You are familiar with the young man who despised his younger brother who ran away in sin.  You also know how the loving father threw a party, an occasion the “Prodigal Who Stayed Home” refused to join. Kalas invites the reader to ponder the reaction of the older brother; and, he tells us why.

We are usually so fascinated with the wonderful stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son that we miss the point Jesus wanted most to make:  What happens to the older brother?  That's a prime question for most of us, because many of us are like this older brother.  We live quite responsible lives, obey the basic laws, are generally moral, and probably work hard.  We especially work hard out in the father's fields - community projects, PTA, service clubs,voter registration drives, half-a-hundred church committees.  We're in a position to sympathize with the older brother.  We understand him.  It may be that we've even said at times that we don't blame him for being angry.  He had good reason to complain. 

Jesus loved this older brother, to be sure.  At no point does he speak harshly of him.  But it's also clear that Jesus was disappointed in him.  There is something very wrong with this older brother, but what is it? (Kalas 79-80)

What is wrong with the Prodigal Who Stayed Home?  Well, he did not follow his father’s example in extending love to his redeemed brother.  The father looked on the younger son and saw a repentant and remorseful child to whom forgiveness and love should be extended.  Conversely, the older brother saw a prostitute-loving, spendthrift to whom nothing should be given.

When Paul wrote his first letter to the followers of The Way in Corinth, he addressed a host of “Prodigals Who Stayed Home.” And, as we see from the context, they even struggled to love those who never ran away to a life a sin.  They had difficulty loving church members whom they saw every week.  Paul gives us a taste . . . they argued over whether Paul or Apollos was greater; they fought over food supplies; they sought recognition for their divinely granted gifts; and, they taught that some members of their body where more important than others.  A clear word of LOVE was desperately needed.

Inspired by God, Paul composed one of the New Testament’s most beautiful expressions of love (See 1 Corinthians 13).  If the Corinthians heeded the words that love takes no part in boasting, their debate over Paul and Apollos and their gift-comparing vanished.  If they listened while the church leader read the scroll, they heard that love is patient, thus providing the remedy to the food fight. 

As you read Paul’s description of love, notice the words that catch your eye.  You will find that those words serve you well as a training ground in maturing in your walk with Christ.  In a men’s Bible study, we followed the advice of our study guide and wrote out verses 4-8 with our names replacing the word “love”.  When I read, “Mark is patient, Mark is kind,” and so forth, I knew quickly my areas of need.  One of our men put a funny look on his face. Then he said, “If others look like this after you read your name in these verses, you know you need lots of help.”

Truth is, you and I are in constant need of lots of help.

For further reading:
Kalas, J. Ellsworth. Parables From the Backside. Abingdon Press, 2000.