Good Friday in the Gospels: HOPE

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My God, My God…Why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34

It’s a mournful day, so it always seemed odd to call it “good.” But I get it – without this day, without HIS SACRIFICE, none of us would have the hope and the future that we do. Without this day, there is no Easter.

This week, I’ve been reading the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in each of the four gospels. Let me just say honestly…it’s depressing. I have not read on to His resurrection, and without it, the story of His death is lonely and heart-breaking. I cannot wait to spend time on Sunday reading through the resurrection stories and reminding myself of the glory and hope Jesus’ death and resurrection have provided us.

I don’t know where you are at with Jesus today. I don’t know if you think Jesus-lovers are wacky, or if you wish you were one of them. I don’t know if you have a relationship with Jesus, or if you’re searching for one. Regardless, I encourage you to read the stories of Jesus’ death today. Even just one of them. And all of these stories have others leading up to them, and they jump into the story and different points, so if you have the time, I recommend backing up a little bit. But if you just want to read one chapter from each story, read these!

Matthew 27

Until I read this the other night, I did not know that Judas hangs himself…did you know that?! I guess they leave that out in Sunday School…

Mark 15

Here it says that Jesus cried loudly when He breathed His last breath…The other chapters portray it more gently, saying simply that He breathed His last breath, or gave up His spirit. This chapter just seems “louder” in general.

Luke 23

I love this story, because here we get the conversation with the criminals on either side of Jesus. It so clearly paints the difference between a believer and a non-believer perspective of death and heaven.

John 19

I love the image of Jesus taking care of His family (25-27), telling John that he is to be a son to Mary now. Our families should always be our first priority! Also, Jesus’ death is less dramatic in this story – it doesn’t talk about the darkness in the sky or the tearing of the curtain. He doesn’t cry out, “My God, My God…”

There are many more similarities and differences among these stories. I feel like all of these versions together truly paint the picture of Jesus’ death, even though they come from different perspectives. It really goes to show that our relationships with Jesus are all unique, but still have the same underlying story: Hope.

Joy

On Monday night, Julia and I ventured out to a VBS for women. I’d heard it advertised on the radio, and we figured, why not? We really enjoyed the speakers, and I took away two major messages that I am now trying to remind myself of daily.

The first is that JOY is a choice. Some of you may say, “No it’s not – it depends on this and that and these.” But no matter your situation, you can choose to be joyful. And you GET to be joyful when you put your trust in the Lord. If you really trust Him, really know that he has you in His hands, how could you not be joyful?? Well, as humans, we often lose sight of what really matters and get distracted by our circumstances and situations. But it is such a wonderful feeling when we can remember joy is a choice, and God is the source of that joy.

The second message is this: God knows how to get the best out of you. It is so temptingly easy to look around and ask “Why does she have it rough while I have it easy?” or, more frequently, “Why do I have it rough while SHE has it easy?” We compare our situations and ask why a certain circumstance is happening to us today. But it’s because God knows how to get the best out of us. He puts us through the good and the bad because he knows how to shape us in just the right ways.

The main speaker that night was Denise Hildreth Jones, of Reclaiming Hearts Ministries. Another was a woman, a minister, with an incredible story of overcoming an incredible trial. These women were women of strength, who knew their place with God, and knew that joy is a gift given to believers from an incredibly loving Father.

On The Bright Side…We ARE Nashville.

I know that this has already had oodles of media coverage, but I just can’t help but write more about the flooding here in Nashville.  Let’s talk about some positive developments that have come up since Monday.

We are finally receiving some national attention: the president has declared us a disaster area, which means we will be getting some FEMA aid.  And, since the insurance companies wouldn’t sell flood insurance to most of the victims (since they “weren’t in a flood plain”) people without flood insurance are also being allowed to apply for individual FEMA funding.  This is all very, VERY good news.

Meanwhile, our city is banding together like crazy… 

  • Clinics are offering free tetanus shots for anyone who has been volunteering;
  • Restaurants are donating proceeds and offering discounts to people who have given to the cause;
  • The community is conserving water;
  • People are writing amazing blog posts;
  • Hands On Nashville, which has been coordinating volunteer efforts, has had over 11,000 volunteers sign up…that’s all within 48 hours.  Like, their system has shut down multiple times because it’s been so overloaded with people.  How awesome? 

I also can’t help but think of the news reporters, construction workers, police officers, firefighters, electricians, city workers, and general handymen who are working nonstop.  My dad instilled in me a deep love and respect for these people long ago, and I admire the amazing work they do everyday, but especially these days.

If you want to keep a more informal eye on the goings-on here in the south, I recommend reading The Nashvillest or following them on Twitter (@nashvillest).  If you want to give, we’ve been told to give directly to Hands On Nashville instead of the Red Cross to ensure that it’s being used for immediate needs.

 Ok, that’s it for now.  Just asking for prayers, donations, time…any love you can send our way is needed! And, on the bright side, We Are Nashville.

Ash Wednesday

I must admit that some years, I make a much bigger deal out of Lent than other years.  It is meant to be a time of sacrifice and repentance, honoring the 4o days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness.  Many years I’ve given up sweets or soda.  Some years I haven’t given up anything, too caught up in the surface-level worries of my life to think much of it.  I’ve had friends who have given up elevators, cars, televisions, and other modern conveniences.  Other people add something: they have devotion time every day or stick to a strict work out routine or dedicate time for family each day.

No matter what I give up, I can’t say that I have ever focused on that item as a true sacrifice in honor of Christ.  Yes, I’ll say, “Oh, I can’t–I gave up dessert for Lent” even when I’m dying for that chocolate, but how often do I relate that choice back to the REASON for the sacrifice?  Do I ever let God carry me through the difficult times or moments of weak will power?  Rarely.

This year, my “sacrifice” is as minuscule as all the rest: I’m giving up chips and sweets.  But I want to use this time to really get back on track in my spiritual life.  It’s not that I’ve been too far away, but right now everything in life is running pretty smoothly, and that is something to be truly grateful for.  I know I don’t deserve the grace I’m given, and the least I can do is take time to focus on infusing my life with the peace and love that only Jesus can provide.

I challenge each of you (and myself!) to think of God this Lenten season every time you have to turn something down or add something in, whatever your personal “fast” may be.  Let us be more peaceful people because of it!

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

-Philippians 4:13

Giving your life to Jesus

I hear that phrase a lot: “I’ve given my life to Jesus.” It can be found especially frequently in the stories of those who have risen out of dire circumstances, and become admirable citizens of life.  They have flipped their lives around, committing to goodness and hope.  I love hearing these stories and drawing inspiration from them.  I am especially awestruck by them because though I believe my life is the Lord’s, I could not tell you when it happened, how it happened, or what my ah-ha life changing moment was.  I never had one.  I was raised in love and I am beyond blessed that love is what I have known.  I’ve had some small hardships, but even in those times I always had my hope.  It took a few of those low times before I realized that I always make it out of every low time–and never alone.

All that said, something always strikes a chord with me when I hear someone talk about “when they gave their life to Jesus.”  I love that they had that moment.  But what about the people who never had to pull their lives out of the depths of despair?  What about the people who are good and honest and loving?  Those people might not feel like they need God.  I can see how easy it would be to disregard Him when you are living a good and healthy life.

So what does God add to a good and healthy life?  What can He bring, even to you?  Sure, we know that Jesus brings eternal life, but what about this life?  Would you follow Jesus if you knew there was no heaven or hell?  Well, to me, he brings the definition of eternal love.  He shows us what it means to love unconditionally and passionately.  What it looks like to give up our lives for another.  He teaches us that a full life is always more than we think it is without Him.  I want that kind of love.  No matter how great my life is without Him, I will always need more of that true, passionate, unconditional love.  It is in that love where I place my hope.  And I cannot imagine this life without it.

Truth and Hope

My Truth:

The reason I have felt so indecisive about who to vote for in this election is because I honestly believe that no matter who gets into the office, things will get better.  No matter who we have for president, he will make mistakes.  No matter who we have, he will upset people.  No matter who we have, he will earn praises.  And, our system is one of checks and balances.  It seemed like supporters of both sides felt the opposing candidate would take away their families or something.  We have to remember that there are several decision makers who work together to make our policies. 

My Hope:

I cannot place my hope in this country or its leadership.  When we place our hope in people, or in a country, or in a society, we turn those things into idols.  We will inevitably be disappointed by these things from time to time, and will lose our hope.  Lost hope is never good.  So pray for them and be hopeful for them, but let’s all try to remember to place our hope in the One who is truly always faithful.