Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cross of Christ

The symbol of Christianity is the cross and I have heard some people ask why.

The cross signifies death. Brutal oppression. Beatings. It was for the good for nothings. 

Why choose that as the symbol? That's not a symbol of hope. Or, doesn't seem like it. 

Christianity believes in three major things:
1. Jesus was born, fully God, fully human. 
2. Jesus died on the cross.
3. Jesus was resurrected.

If one (the birth part at least) and two are true, but not three, then it is silly to have the cross as a symbol, because the cross without the empty tomb is not helpful for humanity. 

If three is also true though, that's game changer,

The cross expresses God's heart towards our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs.

Through Jesus, God gets us. He experienced a blended family, a mom questioning his mission, funerals, best friends turning their backs on him, etc. We focus so much on the God part that we forget the human part.

"The cross isn't just a reminder of the unique message of freely offered grace, but so much more than that: a symbol of the unimaginable cost that was required to purchase it" (Strobel: Case for Grace).

The cross is the symbol because of the humanity and humanness behind it. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Amazing Grace

"This is Amazing Grace" -Phil Wickham

I'm just now starting to realize that Jesus didn't actually have to die on the cross. Growing up, it was part of the story. It was the next scene. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. That's just how it goes. 

I didn't realize (and now I realize, yet forget) that it didn't have to go that way. I kept forgetting that one of the amazing things about the God I believe in is that he always gives people a choice. 
He doesn't demand. There is a choice. 

I've been wrestling with my role as a Christ follower and what that looks like with choices. And I keep coming back to, we all have choices. That's what makes our choices real. That's what makes our decisions authentic. 

I also recently read a somewhat similar thought, but in regards to Joseph, rather than Jesus. (You can read it here!)

Back to the choice of the cross. You can see some of the wrestling from Jesus in the Gospels. When I say Jesus didn't have to die on the cross, I don't mean there was an alternative to the cross--there wasn't. But I mean he didn't have to say yes. 

And all that realization does is make me fall more in love with Him. And make me realize how much he loves loving us. And how much he desires us. And how much he is reaching out to humanity. And how much he desperately and excitedly and passionately pursues us. 

The cross needed to happen, but only if people were worth the cost. 
And Jesus said, heck yeah. 


When I was younger, I had some major confusion about some things with Jesus. There are two particular things I have been thinking about recently: perfection and head/heart relationship.

I thought that being perfect meant that everyone liked you. That was essentially my definition of perfect and how to be perfect was to be really well liked by everyone. I was so confused for years because I was told two conflicting things: that Jesus was perfect and a lot of people didn't like him.

That made zero sense to me. It had to be one or the other, it couldn't be both. It didn't fit in my definition of perfection. And no one ever really explained it to me. To be fair, I doubt I ever really asked....But I had some serious concerns and even more serious just straight up confusion.

The other thing I struggled with immensely was the phrase that goes something along the lines of "you need to feel it in your heart". You know, basically mean what you say. But again, I didn't understand it that way, it wasn't ever REALLY explained, and I probably never asked.

So here is what I did EVERY WEEK for years, I'm sure. But I really do remember this, and I will be so honest and it's okay to laugh at me. Because I was a cute kid, sooo....

When I was told we need to make sure we feel it in our heart or however it's worded.. I would literally try to sit up really straight and hoped gravity would work. I'm not kidding. I thought, well, my thoughts are in my head, I need them to get to my heart. My heart is lower than my head. I put my hand on my heart to see if I "felt anything".

I've always been quite literal. And those are secrets that I have not ever shared with anyone, so there you go.

I think these experiences (and others similar to these) have helped me immensely in a lot of ways--

1. I realize now that I try to actually explain things and I take great pains to (probably over) explain things.

2. I look for questions and anticipate what people are confused about. I'm doing crisis intervention training right now and I was told one of my strengths during the role play was that I was good at staying ahead of the questions--I could figure out where the conversation was going before it got there.

3. It reminds me that I was a kid. I was a real kid, as this fits right into cognitive development theories of kids being literal and concrete. And that's important for me to remember.

4. Being perfect has nothing to do with other people, because I can't control other people. I'm only responsible for what I can control, which is only myself. Perfection (in Jesus' case) was about him, not about how others perceived him. It was about his humility, grace, boldness, goodness, gentleness, kindness, graciousness, agape love, justice, mercifulness with everyone and in every situation. That's why we can say He was perfect.

I started thinking about that because tonight, I randomly thought about meeting Jesus at a donut shop. And then I was like....I wonder if He would cut his hair. I wonder if he's feet would be dirty.
And then I realized "Oh gosh, does this mean he isn't perfect if I see things wrong with him?!!?" (Dirty feet and long hair isn't my style). And then I realized the whole perfection thing. And my friends love to tease me about Santa (that's as much as I'm saying), which makes me think of the head/heart thing.

Literal secrets for you.