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Bringing The Cross Back Into Focus

cross equals love

Man of Sorrows…I sat down this afternoon to do some reading and came across this theme in two different, randomly chosen readings. As I reflected on the significance, or possible coincidence, I was struck by one thought. I feel like I have been missing an important piece on this journey lately. It’s just that I lost sight of it somewhere along the way. I have discovered a lot about myself on this Journey to the Cross but today I realized that while I have been focused inwardly on creating a more Christ-like character, I have dropped my eyes from the destination that we started out towards, the cross. This season is not just about reshaping me into a better person. It is about preparing my heart to understand the true sacrifice and ultimately horror of the cross. I know that sounds like a harsh way to put it but in truly understanding what happened that day, there is no other way to describe it. And the celebration occurs because that isn’t where the story ended. It’s the juxtaposition that only God can achieve when he takes the atrocity of the cross and changes it into the most beautiful and loving act ever known to mankind.

Today I bring you this reminder of the cross. A reminder of why we sacrifice as well as the undeserved grace and love that were poured out on our behalf at the cross. If you drop your defenses enough to allow these words and their implications into your heart, you absolutely cannot be affected.

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
2 My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
3 He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.

4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

7 He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
8 Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
9 He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

Read that through again if you need to. Absorb the words. To the cross he was nailed, weighted down with my weakness, my sorrow, my sin. He was pierced for my rebellion, beaten to make me whole, whipped so I could be healed. Yet I have strayed away. This is the sorrow that must be suffered before the celebration of the resurrection. We can’t gloss over it or page through it because it makes us uncomfortable. We can’t skip to the celebration of Easter without understanding why we are celebrating. Yes, Christ was raised from the dead after three days, a miracle unlike any other. But why was he crucified in the first place? Because we put him there! We must understand what was done on our behalf. Understand the value of the gift that has been offered to us. It pierces my heart and I want to be drawn closer, to worship at the foot of the cross with an unabashed joy and unashamed love on Easter morning with an understanding of why.

Hillsong writes this companion to go along with their song Man Of Sorrows (which you can listen to here. I would highly recommend it.)

“We have so many pictures of Christ – a beautiful baby, a skillful carpenter, an amazing teacher, a loving and gentle healer, a miracle worker, demon destroyer, and a up-turner of tables. Kind, forgiving, good, and compassionate, yet also bold, fierce, and a Pharisee’s worst nightmare.

One of the clearest of all pictures is that of a sorrowing Savior, suffering for us as he was crucified. The image burns deep. It is a cutting, cold, and callous reminder of our sin paid in full, refreshing our appreciation by giving us a perspective from the foot of the Cross.

The Cross, like a stake God uses to lay claim to the earth, is the focal point for every Christian. It is the starting point of a journey; the place where we see Christ for who He really is. He had no appeal or striking appearance to draw attention to heaven’s love, only a relentless determination to pay the price for our sin. It is the clearest picture of his deity cross-beamed with his humanity. Rejection, unbelief, disregard and dismissal pay a terrible toll in sorrow.”

The cross…all for you…all for me…what an amazing love.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Glorious Ruins


I am like a little kid waiting on Christmas morning.  The very first, hard-copy proof of my book will be delivered any day now and I am so excited!  I stalk the mailman, waiting and watching to see what they will have for me each day. Seeing this “project” through to completion over a decade has been such a personal journey.  Sharing in such a transparent way has been a very significant step in growing my faith, one which doesn’t come naturally.  (And it continues through the hand of my Lord, as I ramble and rant on my virtual home here.)  This feels very much to me like the ruins coming to life, rising up from the ashes and destruction.  Something beautiful and encouraging coming to life out of disease and death.  The picture painted in Isaiah 61.  “Just as the ashes, symbolic of mourning and loss, are transformed into a crown of beauty. God works our struggles into beautiful stories of good triumphant over evil. When we are shattered, God lovingly restores our lives, putting our brokenness together again.  When the harsh desert sun beats down, we find shelter in God’s protective span.  It is time to turn up the volume on the powerful message of hopeful chaos, beautiful ashes and glorious ruins.  When we ask, “Where are you, God?” we’ll surely see that our loving Father is right here with us as we are revived in a salvation story of redemption and restoration.” (Glorious Ruins Small Group Study excerpt) AMEN!

I want to share with you the passage of scripture that I have hid in many times when life has gotten to be too much.  Use it as the basis to form your own cry to God for redemption and refuge and rescue.  Cease striving and allow the words of Psalm 91 to soothe your weary soul…

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.

If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”