The “Good” in Good Friday

three-crossesMost of you know that on “Good Friday” Christians remember the day a little more than two thousand years ago when the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died an unimaginable death on a wooden cross. Why in the world would we call it “good”? Why not “black” Friday or “bad” Friday?

We call this day Good Friday simply because it was the first of a three-day weekend that initiated the most unimaginable “good” the world has ever seen—good that was accomplished by the death and burial of Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins . . . and then His glorious resurrection!

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

You see, that Friday was so good simply because we are so bad! The good news is nowhere near as good without unless we understand the bad news. The bad news is that we were dead in our sins and trespasses. We were on the run from God. We had no interest in things above because we were consumed with all things here below. We hated what was good in the eyes of God and clung tightly to what was evil. We did what was right in our own eyes. We were enslaved sinners in desperate need of a Savior who could free us from the reign of sin and death.

And how do we know these truths? Through the Law of God!

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” (Romans 7:7)

The Law made it clear that we were in bondage. The apostle Paul admitted that he would not have known what sin was apart from the law. And once we understand the Law, we quickly realize that we cannot keep it, no matter how hard we try. The Law crushes our conscience and drives us to the cross.

But at the cross of Christ we encounter the good news of the Gospel of God’s grace—we receive His rescue for our ruin. God poured out His wrath and judgment on His precious, sinless Son, who took our place as our Substitute. On that first Good Friday, God demonstrated that he was both “just and the justifier” of all those for whom Christ died. What looked at the moment like a victory for the devil was actually his crushing defeat.

On Easter morning, God gave His stamp of approval on the cross work of Christ. When Jesus was raised from the dead and walked out of that tomb, He became the death of death. His resurrection on that glorious day points to the resurrection of all who have trusted in His saving work.

This weekend—and every other day of our lives—let us keep all the “good” of Good Friday in constant view.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Has Your Family Altar Altered Your Family?

FamilyMembers of our congregation often ask me about how to have family times of prayer, Bible study, and worship in the home. What they are inquiring about comes under the heading of “family altar,” which is a “spiritual” way of referring to family devotions—Bible study, prayer, and worship in the home.

Now, as a pastor I would like to tell you that this is a daily practice and routine in our home . . . but I cannot. Oh, we were quite regular when we had our first child all alone for 20 months. When our second child joined the mix, we still did quite well at having regular devotions. Four years later, our third child arrived, followed in 17 months by our fourth.

Today, Brock is 17; Jenna is 15; Katie is 11; and Tank is 10. Their activities, both before and after school, in town and out of town, have made our family altar time somewhat inconsistent. It is still easy to corral the younger ones and spend time together in the Word, in prayer, and talking about the things of God. But with the older two, Kim and I have needed to do the best we can and simply trust in God to use our frequently feeble efforts.

Some might say that our kids’ faith probably get more than enough feeding simply because we are church planters and all four are plugged into service at The Cross. Brock is actually leading worship in our two Sunday morning services. And to be sure, all four of them get massive doses of all things divine throughout the week. But I need to tell you that nothing can take the place of the “family altar” for altering your family! God made that point crystal clear:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

What was good for Israel back then is just as good for us today. God’s unchanging Word is the guide for every Christian family living in a changing world. We must make every effort to come together at the family altar before we start counting on God to supply the increase.

Kim and I have varied our methods over the years and have always worked to make devotions a part of our daily living. Children’s books of Bible stories and the “Veggie Tales” videos have been an important part of the Boland family altar over the years. The kids eventually knew the stories and videos by heart; without realizing it, they began learning the Bible lessons taught as we talked about them.

We made a point of never creating an environment where the kids felt forced to endure. Often we simply made it part of the activities of the day, like driving in the car. I would make up Bible games and call our vehicle the “Bible Bus,” asking the kids questions as we went to school in the morning. Often we would play worship songs in the car and sing along, which would often lead us into conversations about God. We even tried the singing from the Trinity Hymnal at home, but I must confess that we never gained much traction with that plan.

We even brought our family altar to our sport activities. One year, due to field availability, we were forced to hold our Little League Baseball practice for Brock and his team on Sunday afternoons. We prayed long and hard about being involved in this league, but after prayerful consideration and good, godly counsel, we set up the practice time so that the entire family could gather for a picnic and time on the park playground. The entire family was together on Sunday afternoon, and it was great fun for us all.

So, if your family altar is going to alter your family, you will need to be creative and flexible if you’re going to make it work. If this is a new or renewed activity for your family, have all the children provide as much input as possible. Ask some of your Christian friends how they are doing it—what’s been working and what hasn’t. And then do whatever you can to establish your family altar, trusting God to alter your family for the good of all of you and for His glory.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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An Equal Share To All The Saints

scalesSometimes we have a tendency to weigh the efforts of others on our own scales and believe we know best what everyone deserves. In our human economy, merit is the measure of what is meted out. Certain levels of performance demand certain levels of compensation. In other words, those who do more get more!

But in God’s economy, everything has been turned upside down. Take a look at this wonderful example from the Old Testament of God’s mercy overriding man’s merit, which is revealed in David’s battle against the Amalekites.

David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Ravine. They came out to meet David and the people with him. As David and his men approached, he greeted them. But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”

David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:21-24)

This should be a wonderful word of comfort, regardless of your station in God’s kingdom. I often think about those “senior” saints who simply no longer have the physical vitality to engage in the more physical aspects of expanding God’s kingdom, but who are continually on their faces before our God, asking the Lord to protect His saints and equip them to continue to expand His kingdom. Our congregation at Cross Community Church is blessed to have many such warriors of the Word who spend hours before the Throne of God!

Who is more valuable in the expansion of the kingdom of God: those who are actually in the battle or those who “stayed with the supplies” and guarded them? In the eyes of both David and God, those who were “too exhausted” to participate in the battle were every bit as much true soldiers as those who actually engaged in the fight.

Make no mistake, not everyone can be on the front lines. But everyone can and must engage in the battle—doing his or her individual part, as God has ordained.

Perhaps you are a saint who has been providentially prevented from participating in the actual physical work of expanding God’s kingdom because of . . .

  • Old age
  • Injury
  • Sickness & Disease
  • Circumstance

What a wonderful truth to take with you today! An equal share for all the saints, regardless of their station in the battle to expand God’s kingdom.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Body Building By The Book

personal powerAs weight training and sound nutrition are for building a sound physical body, so the “one-another” commands in Scripture are for building a healthy spiritual body—the body of Christ! Let’s take a look at just a few of them:

  • John 13:34                           Love one another
  • Romans 15:7                        Accept one another
  • Galatians 15:14                    Serve one another
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11          Encourage one another
  • Hebrews 10:24                    Stir up one another to love and good works

To love, accept, serve, encourage, and stir up one another means we are more focused on others than we are ourselves. And this is body building by the Book—the Book—that is, the Word of God. The Gospel tells us that we not only have been given the ability to be “other-oriented,” but we also have been given the responsibility to be this way.God in Christ has given each of us great gifts in our vertical relationship with Him (mercy, grace, acceptance, love, strength, etc.), and we are directed to pass these gifts on to all others in our horizontal relationships with one another.

In physical body building, if we neglect a part of our body, it will lag behind all the others. When I worked as a fitness trainer, it was not uncommon to see men with well-muscled upper bodies and weak, underdeveloped “flamingo legs.” The same is true in the body of Christ. If we neglect someone or a group of people, we will all lag behind what God is calling us to be as one body with many members.

So . . . how are you doing with your current body building program? Are there any underdeveloped “flamingo-like” areas that could use a bit more focus? Let’s close with another “one another” command from the pen of the apostle Paul. Since the greatest of all our spiritual gifts is love (1 Corinthians 13:13), let us heed Paul’s reminder to heed our calling to Body Building by the Book!

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Romans 12:10)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Losing My Mind

losing mind“Honey, have you seen my car keys?”

“Kids, do you know where I put my wallet?”

Sorry, I forgot to get the milk at the grocery store.”

What are some of your favorites? To echo the late Jimmy Durante, I’ve got a million of them, and they are often followed by the statement, “I’m losing my mind!”

If this tracks with you a bit, I have a word of comfort for you today. As he was nearing the end of his life, John Newton told a friend,

“My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things:

that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”

WOW! There really is nothing as important as these two truths to remember, is there? Even after we are saved, we are still great sinners in need of an even greater Savior, who continually covers and cleanses us with His blood. John Newton wrote the great hymn “Amazing Grace” with this in view.

What would keeping these truths in view do for you? Perhaps you won’t write a great song, but you will write a great story, where Jesus is the hero and you are the one He is rescuing from danger, moment by moment.

There is another thing to remember that will be a source of unimaginable comfort, especially if you are as forgetful as I am at times. Even if you do lose your mind, you can never lose your Master!

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

What a wonderful truth! There is so much we can lose on this side of the grave . . . except the One whom we cannot afford to lose: Jesus. And if we can’t lose Jesus, it really doesn’t matter what we might lose, including our minds . . .  even our lives! To know that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39) is to know enough to keep us going when facing any kind of loss.

So . . . do you wonder if you’re losing your mind? No worries! Just remember Newton’s two truths… “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN! 

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All In The Family

all in the familyIf you’re old enough, today’s title might well call to mind the popular 1970’s sitcom starring Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton as Archie and Edith Bunker. Well, the Bunkers are not the focus of this word of encouragement; rather, it is my prayer that we catch a glimpse of the truth proclaimed by Galatians 3:28 . . .

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In other words, we are all in the family! You see, we are called by God not just to “believe” but to “belong” to the One who called us and to belong to all those whom He has called. As my friend Steve Brown likes to say, “All those who belong to Jesus belong to all those who belong to Jesus.” In other words, we are all in the same family!

The Bible knows nothing of the solitary saint. To be sure, we are all saved individually, but we are saved to community, which means we are part of something bigger than ourselves; we are members of God’s family of faith. As part of the same family, we are to go beyond simply being consumers to becoming contributors who are committed to making a difference in the lives of others—all others—regardless of cost or circumstance!

The primary mark for making a difference in the lives of others is love.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)

So . . . how visible is the love you have for all of your family members? Would those closest to you consider you to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Look at it this way: you are going to spend eternity with your family of faith. So it’s probably best to get used to them on this side of glory! The only way to truly demonstrate that we are “All in the Family” is to simply be … “ALL IN!”

May that be the confession of our lives.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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The Sun Stood Still

sunUnder the command of Joshua, the Israelites were conquering the nations of the land that God had promised to give them. Scripture records the prayer Joshua uttered to God during the battle against the Amorites and the results of that prayer:

On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.  (Joshua 10:12-13)

You might be thinking, how is it possible that the sun stood still? Well, the answer is simple: the One who made the sun also made it to stop in the middle of the sky in answer to Joshua’s prayer. With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

So . . . what miracle are you hoping God will send your way? Have you been praying to God for your deliverance from . . .

  • Stress in your marriage?
  • Strain in your parenting?
  • Silence in your singleness?
  • Struggles at the office?
  • Shortfall in your finances?
  • Strongholds in your thought life?
  • Sickness in your health?

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)

Is there anything too hard for a God who can make the sun stand still in the middle of the sky? I THINK NOT! God is in the miracle business, and He delights in answering our prayers. But we must be willing to come before the throne of grace—and keep coming—trusting in God to answer our prayers in His perfect time and in His perfect way . . . which means His answer may not always look exactly like what we were asking for, but it will be for our ultimate good and God’s glory. You can be certain, it will be the BEST answer!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN! 

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