Easter is Always Coming

Today is Maundy Thursday. If you are unaware of what maundy means, it basically means “commandment.” Today is the day that we commemorate Jesus’ last supper with his disciples almost 2000 years ago. While they were eating, Jesus said to his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). That is the reason as to why we call the Thursday of Holy Week Maundy Thursday. I’m actually not going to expound upon that commandment. If you wish to hear my thoughts on it, then you can pick pretty much any other blog post on here, and you’ll be likely to find them. 

What I want to talk about today is what the disciples must have been thinking on this day a couple of millenniums ago. They had had an eventful week leading up to this point. On that Sunday, they walked with Jesus as he entered Jerusalem as a king. The following day, they watched as Jesus caused a ruckus at the Temple because of the corruption and exploitation of the people that was being done by the money changers and those selling sacrificial animals. Tuesday and Wednesday were much quieter. They relaxed and listened to the promised messiah teach. That brings us to Thursday.

An important thing to know is what the disciples, and other Jews, thought that the savior was going to do. Their belief was that he was going to come as a military leader and lead a revolution against those who oppressed Israel, which at this time was Rome, and would establish Israel as the dominant kingdom in the world for all eternity. Given what the disciples had seen at the beginning of the week, they must have assumed that they were at the precipice of this happening. Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman rulers, and they were his chosen soldiers. This, obviously, is not what happened, but they could have never foreseen the way in which Christ would establish God’s kingdom on earth.

They would go on to have one, final dinner with their rabbi. He washed their feet, told them to love others, and offered the bread and wine that was symbolic of his body and blood. There is no way that they could have imagined that this was the last time that they would share a meal with the man that they had been following for three years. After they had finished eating, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. That is the place in which the disciples watched as their leader was arrested— thanks to the betrayal of one of their own. This had to shake the foundations of their beliefs. Whatever hope that they had left must have been dashed as Jesus was nailed to the cross that next day. 

They had in their minds what life with Christ would be like, but that all came crashing down. We can only surmise what they must have been feeling. I think that we can assuredly assume that heartbreak and confusion were the chief emotions that they were feeling. He was supposed to be God, but he died just like any man would have. Was everything that they placed their faith in false? Had they wasted the last three years of their lives? Where in the world were they to go from there? Every question that they had would be answered three days later when Jesus emerged from the grave a victor over death and sin. 

I say all of that to offer encouragement. There are times in our lives that we have no idea what God is doing. We have plans that he seems to not be too interested in following. We have expectations that he is not meeting. Our own hubris tends to supersede the Holy. If we can learn anything from the week leading to Easter Sunday, it is that we can always take heart and trust that Jesus is doing exactly what he should be doing in our lives. The disciples were not spared heartache and hardship between Thursday night and Sunday morning. God did allow for things to go much differently than that they thought they should. Of course, God had much bigger and better plans for them. 

Life will not always go the way that we envision. Things will fall apart all around us, and we will be left with more questions than answers. Our faith will be shaken from time to time. Those are our own Maundy Thursdays and Good Fridays (the day of Jesus’ crucifixion). Those are the times when we’re left confused and not knowing what God is doing. I can assure you of this, there will always be an Easter Sunday. Just as Christ returned back to his disciples, he will always show up in your life. When he does, he will bring about something bigger and better than you could have ever imagined. He will not leave his followers. Yes, there will be times of heartache and hardship, but Jesus will always be the risen Savior who returns to his people to set them free of whatever it is that is oppressing them. Take heart, there is always an Easter on your horizon. 

A Dream Come True

Today’s post is going to be different than normal because I have a really cool, personal announcement to share with you. This is honestly life-changing news for me. Back in December, I started secretly writing a book. The reason that I didn’t tell anyone, aside from a select few people, was because I wasn’t sure where it would go. I didn’t know if I would ever actually finish it. It would not be the first project that I started that I didn’t see through until completion. On top of that, based on everything that I had read, it is very difficult to get a book published. So, I thought playing my cards close to the vest was the best strategy for me. All of that being said, I am excited to announce that I will accepting a publishing deal this week!

My book is called How Great A Love: Faith, Forgiveness, and the Father. The title is taken from 1 John 3:1, “Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are!” The entire theme of the book can be summed up in God loves us, and Christ died for us. This is also an extremely intimate work with lots of stories taken from my life- some wonderful, some painful. I use those stories to relate scripture and God’s love to our lives. If you want to be reminded of God’s deep affection towards you (or maybe read it for the first time), then this book will be one that you will want to read. 

I am still at the beginning of the publishing journey, and I do not have an official date for when the book will hit the shelves. My hope is that it is by the end of the year. I am excited to see what God has in store for me and my writing in the future. He has already done far more with it than I really believed was possible. The fact that God has orchestrated my book getting published is a dream come true. When I look at all that he has done in my life, I should be used to him making my dreams come true by now. 

613

613 was the number of laws that the Jews had to follow in Jesus’ time. While many are stated in the Old Testament, mainly in the first five books of the Bible, the majority of them were created by the Jewish religious leaders. The whole day-to-day of their religion was about following the rules. It was all about the dos and don’ts. Their chief concern was that they avoid displeasing God by breaking one of the hundreds of rules. Could you imagine trying to remember 613 rules, let alone follow all of them? Heck, we struggle to follow the two that Jesus laid out, love God and love people. Just imagine the pressure that they would feel and the constant worry that they would unknowingly break one of the laws.

            Unfortunately, that line of thought has managed to trickle down into modern-day Christianity. The notion that God exists as a prodding principal that makes sure everyone is standing in a straight line and not talking out of turn has yet to dissipate. There are many preachers who delivered a sermon this past Sunday that did nothing but brow-beat the congregation and drive home the idea that our relationship with God is centered entirely around our obedience to the rules. Now, I need to offer the caveat that we should be obedient to God and the Word. I do believe that the difference is the heart behind the obedience. If the motive is to earn God’s love, favor, and blessing, then the motive is mistaken. That was all taken care of for you by Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

            The reason that we should seek to be obedient to God is out of our relationship of mutual love. My favorite image of God is as our heavenly father. Think about your parents when you were growing up. All of them had rules in which you were to follow. Now, I do know that some parents have abused their authority, and this can conjure up negative emotions and hurt. I was blessed with loving parents, and they certainly had their rules that I had to follow. Why did I choose to adhere to them (most of the time)? It was because the love and respect I had for them. Of course, there was the desire to not get into trouble, but, if I am being honest, I could have gotten away with a lot more than I did. However, the greater drive behind this was that we had a great relationship, and I trusted that they had my best intentions at heart. This is the reason why we should follow God’s word. It is because he loves us, and always has our good in mind. 

            It’s not about the rules. Jesus says in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” That is freedom from the yoke of having to obsess over following the law, which the Pharisees and Sadducees used to oppress God’s people. This freedom was bought for us with Christ’s life. We are to not abuse it by hurting others, freely giving ourselves to sin, or to get personal gain. We are to use the freedom to build a true and meaningful relationship with our heavenly father. He does not ask us to follow 613 laws. All that he asks us is to love him, love others, and be loved by him. It’s not about the rules; it’s about our relationship with him.