Mom Fail #854 and Why Forgiveness Matters

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 9.05.17 AMI am a dance mom failure.

Last year, I wrote down the wrong day of my daughter’s dress rehearsal for her dance recital. We missed it completely, and I was mortified.

This year, I had it on the family calendar AND in my phone. I planned when we would begin to get ready, calculated how long it would take to get there, and laid out and made sure all elements of the outfit were together – including various and sundry hair products – so there would be no surprises.

It was perfect… until I got a text at 4:35 asking if we were almost there.

But my calendar said 6:30, and no, we weren’t almost there. My awesome and perfect process had only just begun. It was for 6:30, not 4:30!

I freak out, and think so much for the process. I let them know we can be there in 20 minutes.

But they had to start the rehearsal.
My daughter was supposed to perform in the FIRST act.

So
we
missed
it…

AGAIN.

F-A-I-L-U-R-E.

The dance studio was wonderful about the whole thing.

The “daughter fall out” however, was horrible.
It was a Massive. Epic. Meltdown.

I felt like crying as hard as she was. I was embarrassed – I felt like “THAT” mom– and hated the whole situation ever happened.

I don’t know about you, but I find it easier to forgive others than I do myself.

If someone else messes up, I can move on and not blink twice. But if I do something wrong it is hours – or days – of questioning, pressure, embarrassment, and inward groaning.

I preach about God’s grace all the time. I want others to experience it because it brings freedom, and relationship, and a deepening of our faith from the ultimate Grace-giver.

I’m working on consistently applying that concept to my own life.

The Hebrew word grace is Chen, from the root Chanan. It means to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior.

In the Bible, when the word grace is used, it is a picture of God bending down out of his kindness to help meet our need. It is one way our Creator connects with us in a personal, gentle, heart to heart way.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:14

Jesus came to earth full of grace.

That grace is God’s kindness in action.
That grace is seen on the cross and in the empty grave.
That grace is where we find our forgiveness.

2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

When we are slow to offer grace to ourselves, insecurity rises to the top of our lives. We become self-focused and not God focused. We lose the value of who we are in Christ because all we see is the mistake.

But God’s forgiveness matters. We need to live in God’s grace, and grab his hand when we are flat on the ground. We must let Him lift us up, dust us off, and help us back on our feet.

So stop beating yourself up and start being aware of God’s grace. He wants to show you His kindness and peace in your life. And then watch as you dance off on your merry way.

Forgiveness: If You Can Take It, You Have to Dish it Out

baby cryHave you ever had anyone spew venom at you?

I was relatively new at the church. The secretary told me a youth parent was on the phone. I didn’t really know her, but her children were great.

How the conversation started is fuzzy, but it wasn’t pretty. For five minutes straight in a flat, calm, evil tone – without coming up for air – she said some of the meanest, vile, and offensive things I have ever heard.

And it was all about me.

She told me I was ineffective.
She said I was ill informed.
Iniquitous burning words oozed out like lava on how my adults hated me, they would not follow me, and that I needed to quit.

It was all I could do to not burst into tears on the phone. It all was so random.

And I, the youth pastor who preached love, joy, and forgiveness, had a choice. I could practice what I preach, or retaliate in the pain of hurt, anger, confusion, and unforgiveness.

I find it interesting people focus on the importance of forgiveness when they are in the wrong and need it given to them. However, the same people – who were so passionate about forgiveness when wronged – can hold a grudge for a long, long time.

I didn’t want that kind of spiritual dualism in my life.

I needed to focus on forgiveness. But she hadn’t apologized. And she wasn’t sorry. If I didn’t begin to attempt forgiveness, bitterness would set in. Was I going to remember what she had done, or try and forget it?

Psalm 25:7 says, “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.”

At first glance this verse almost contradicts itself. It says don’t remember, but yet remember. To our modern Western thought that’s gibberish. But the Bible was written in the Hebraic culture and thought of the day. We need to understand it in the times it was written.

In English, to remember is to recall information. To forget is to be unable to do so.
In Hebraic thought, to remember implies an action.

The Bible tells us God remembered Noah on the boat, and remembered Hannah when he gave her Samuel. When He remembered them He blessed them.

When God remembers sin, negative consequences occur. Jeremiah 14:10 says, “This is what the Lord says about this people: “They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the Lord does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.”

Again “to remember” is an action, not just a thought process. The same thing goes for “not remembering”.

Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots outyour transgressions, for my own sake,and remembers your sins no more.”

“To forget” in Hebraic thought is different than “to not remember”.

To forget means to ignore, neglect, or disregard something or someone. In the Old Testament, the word forget is almost never paired with sin. That is reserved for “to not remember”.

The Hebraic term “to forget” is to intentionally blow off something, like God and His ways.

Deuteronomy 4:23 says, “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden.”

The Israelites in the dessert continually “forgot” God’s laws. Does this mean they genuinely couldn’t recall what he said on the mountain with the smoke, loud noises, and fire?

Not on your life.
That’s not an experience a person would forget.

When we “forget” God, it doesn’t mean we don’t know what is right and wrong. It is an act of the will to defy Him and do what we want. That’s what the Israelites did, and it is what we do today.

In spite of the saying, to forgive does not mean to forget. Some things are much too horrible for that. We don’t always have to restore a relationship. Some relationships are abusive and should not be restored.

But if we want God to “not remember” our sins, we need to “not remember” sins done to us.

This is forgiveness. When people “forget” to treat others the way God wants them to, we should not seek revenge through physical, emotional, or social “punishment”.

It took me a while to get over that phone call. That woman who called? Her marriage had just collapsed. I didn’t know that at the time – I barely knew her at all.

She never apologized.

Knowing that “hurting people hurt people”, and finding out her situation a few days later made it easier for me to take baby steps on the road to “not remembering”.

I’m glad forgiveness is not a feeling. I didn’t feel like forgiving her.
Forgiveness is not an emotion. I had a lot of other, stronger emotions to deal with at the time.

Forgiveness is an act of the will.
It is “not remembering” to treat them differently.
It is “not remembering” to harbor the pain, embarrassment, or wrong in our lives that brings a hardness to our hearts.

Forgiveness is what God wants us to do because it sets us free from bitterness.
God wants us to forgive because it is what He has done for us.

When we make room for forgiveness, we ultimately make room for love to grow again. It helps to remember we all are sinners, and we all have wronged people in one way or another.

To accept forgiveness, but not offer it, is “to forget” what God has done for us.
It is selfish.

Forgiveness is an act of faith, and living out the knowledge that you have been forgiven. If we take forgiveness from God, we must also dish it out ourselves.

Easter and a Jewish Holiday: Why They Go Hand in Hand

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.47.12 PMIf you’ve been following my Easter series, you know Passover corresponds in numerous ways with Jesus death on the cross. (Read here for more.)

We also saw how the cleansing of the temple paralleled with The Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Read here for more.)

It should come as no surprise the day Jesus rose from the grave also has a Jewish holiday to coincide with it. And, like Passover, Jesus ultimately fulfilled the purpose of that holiday.

It is called The Feast of Firstfruits.

For Firstfruits, a sheaf of barley was given as a Thanksgiving offering by each family to the temple. It symbolized the whole spring harvest belonging to God.

The people were giving their first “fruit” of the Harvest to their Creator.

When the people arrived at the temple, there would be flutes playing to bring the traditional reply of everyone from Psalm 150, “Praise God in His sanctuary”.

Inside the temple, choirs of the priests would sing Psalm 30. You should read the whole thing, but verses 1-3 says, I will exalt you, Lord,for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.Lord my God, I called to you for help,and you healed me.You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;you spared me from going down to the pit.

Yes, that was sung over and over the day Jesus rose from the grave.
That’s right – BOOM.

In Jesus day the first of almost everything was dedicated to the Lord. Agricultural produce and its products like wine, oil, grain, and even fleece were seen as belonging to the Lord. Firstborn male animals and even firstborn sons had to be redeemed by going to the temple and giving a certain amount of shekels.

Jesus is the first and only to be raised from the dead that did not die again. He is the Firstfruit who made it possible for us to live eternally with God.

Paul refers to Jesus as a Firstfruit in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22.

It says,  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 

Just as Jesus fulfilled the prophetic meaning of Passover, he also fulfilled the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Firstfruits. He IS the first to rise again, and to defeat sin and death.

You turned my wailing into dancing;you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12

3 Things Jesus Said on the Cross (and What they Mean)

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.49.48 PM1. “I Thirst”

You need to know some background.

You are aware Jesus ate the Passover Seder the night before he was betrayed. (If you haven’t read my blog on that, read it HERE.)

Jewish days are different than our calendar today. They begin at sunset and last until the next sunset. Passover lasted from when they ate the meal until the sunset of the day Jesus died on the cross.

The Passover meal isn’t the only thing the Jewish people were required to do to commemorate the holiday. Every family went to the temple and sacrificed a lamb.

This sacrifice redeemed them from sin and made them right with God.

The lamb sacrifices started at 9:00 in the morning and lasted until around 3:00 in the afternoon.  It has been estimated there were as many as 40,000 lambs… an hour.

Jesus, The Lamb of God, sacrificed himself for us on the cross that very same time period.
This is no coincidence.

Around 3pm, the High Priest would sacrifice the temple lamb for all the people as the final lamb. After the last lamb was sacrificed, the high priest in front of the people would announce, “I thirst”.

This statement got people’s attention, and had them listening for his next proclamation. He would wet his lips with water, and then proclaim…

2. “It is Finished.”

Not only did Jesus say this before he gave up his spirit, but the high priest said this after the final lamb.

It signified God had accepted their sacrifice.
The people had been redeemed from sin.

3. My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

This is the most misunderstood statement Jesus said on the cross.
What it means will

Blow
Your
Mind.

Again, background first.

Jesus was a Rabbi. There was a common rabbinical teaching method where the Rabbi would state the first verse of a Psalm or chapter of the Bible. His disciples at that point were expected to catch on, and quote the rest of the verses in the chapter.

When Jesus said My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me, he wasn’t crying out because God had left him. God did not turn his back on His Son.

That would be horrible, and I’ll tell you why.

If God turned His back on His Son when he needed Him the most, he could turn His back on you when you needed him the most.

But He didn’t.
And He won’t.

He’s not that kind of God.

Our God promises to never leave or forsake us.
That promise is for us, and was for Jesus.

When Jesus cried these words, he was quoting scripture. This is unattested with Theologians all over the world. Please tell everyone you know about this, because it changes everything. Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, which is a Victory Psalm.

That’s right… a Victory Psalm.

We know he was quoting the whole Psalm because there are too many things that correspond with what Jesus had been/ was going through. And it is important to note that when David wrote this Psalm the idea of crucifixion wasn’t around yet.

Here is Psalm 22, a Psalm of David… (NIV)
(I have bolded parts that correspond with the cross, and italicized parts that proclaim victory. )

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.[b]

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.[c]
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

This Easter Season, make sure you understand what Jesus was saying to you on the cross.

I Thirst signifies the sacrifice is complete.
It is Finished means we are redeemed in and through Christ.
And My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

It is a proclamation of Victory.  HE HAS DONE IT.

The Brutal Reality of The Crucifixion

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 9.29.48 PMEaster is near, and as much as we all like the pictures of the far away cross at the top of the hill, it just didn’t happen that way.

As odd as it sounds, to better understand the cross, we need to better understand the Romans.

The cross was a Roman execution device. It was brutal, inhumane, and used as a way to keep people in line. The Romans would never intimidate from far away. They got in your face and shoved fear down your throat.

When Jesus was crucified, the Roman presence in Jerusalem had been ramped up. The Jewish Passover was being celebrated, and every devout Jew from all over the known world was coming to the Temple to worship.

They weren’t worshipping Caesar, which proved to be problematic to Rome. They worshipped their own God and were celebrating freedom from oppression that occurred with the Exodus.

Rome was currently oppressing the Jews.

The Romans allowed the Jews during Jesus day to worship as they pleased, but they were wary of anyone who might get the idea to start a rebellion and try to overthrow Rome. No one wanted Jewish nationalism to get out of hand.

To combat this spirit, the Romans showed their power in the most torturous way they knew how – crucifixion.

Crucifixion wasn’t for petty criminals.
It was reserved for those who attempted to go up against Rome.

The Romans set up crosses on main roads right outside the city gates. As people went in or out, they couldn’t help but see the power of Rome, and its treatment for anyone who would dare to go against it.

People literally had to walk right beside the crosses. They could see the pain. They could hear the gasps for air. They could smell the stench of death.

And those hung had their feet only inches from the ground. This was a part of the torture. As the pain increased, so did the mental torment. They would begin to feel if they could just take one step down they could breathe, or not have their weight hanging by their hands.

Our English Bible tells us Jesus hung with two other people. The NIV calls them rebels. The New Living Translation calls them revolutionaries. Holman Christian Standard calls them criminals, and the New American Standard and King James calls them thieves.

The Greek word used is lēstēs, or the plural lēstai. This is important to note, because in the first century it was a technical term for insurgents.

These were not ordinary criminals.
These were criminals who had dared to go up against Rome.

Think back to the Triumphal Entry. If you haven’t read my blog on it, please do so here. Jesus the “Messiah” had come into the city with people yelling “deliverance!” and praising the King of Israel.

This put him on the Roman Radar as a person of interest. Too many Jews were excited to see him.

On Jesus’ cross, he was charged with the crime of being “King of the Jews”. When the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus it wasn’t because it is what the Jewish leaders wanted. At that point, they were inconsequential.

The soldiers mocked Jesus because they thought he was a rebel trying to overthrow Rome.

Jesus died in place of a rebel. He probably took Barabbas’ cross.
But we rebel too.

Not against Rome, or even a government.
We rebel against God when we sin.
When we lie.
When we cheat.
Or go against God’s ways.

We are rebels.

And Jesus died… for us.

9 Things About The Last Supper

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 7.07.52 PM1. When Jesus ate The Last Supper, he was celebrating the Jewish Passover.

The Passover symbolizes deliverance.  To the Jews, it is deliverance from Egypt. But to Christians, it is deliverance found in Jesus Christ.

The Passover is symbolic not only of the Exodus, but also of what Jesus has done for us.

2. The Passover meal is called the “Seder” (pronounced Say-dur).

It comes from the Hebrew word meaning “order”.  It has followed a precise ceremonial layout for thousands of years.

3.The Last Supper is symbolic.

The Seder/ Last Supper was (and is today) organized around four cups of wine. Why do you think the disciples had a hard time staying awake in the garden? It was late – the Seder can take hours – and they had consumed a lot of wine.

The four cups of wine represent the four “I will” statements from Exodus 6:6-7.

Those four statements are:
“I will bring you out”
“I will rescue you from bondage”
“I will redeem you”
“I will take you as my people”.

Jesus was about to do all these things with his death and resurrection!

After the first cup of wine the leader (which would have been Jesus) recites a prayer called “The Kiddush”.

It is a blessing to God, which ends with “Blessed art Thou O Lord our God… who has preserved us, and has enabled us to reach this season”.

4. There is a “Washing of the Hands” part of the meal. This is when Jesus would have washed the disciples feet.

Immediately knowing this makes that act seem much less random, doesn’t it?

It never made sense to me Jesus would just randomly decide to wash some nasty feet, and no one would think it was odd.

What Jesus did was a variance of this part of the Seder.

The Hand washing was an act of purification for the meal. When Jesus washed the disciples feet, he was showing them he would be the one to purify them from sin.

5. Unleavened Bread is wrapped in linen and hidden away in the house to be found later.

Remember, Leaven represents sin. (Click here to learn more).

They took “sinless” bread, wrapped it in linen, and found it later. Jesus, the sinless Bread of Life, was once wrapped in linen to be seen again as well…

6. Jesus handed Judas bread dipped in “bitterness”.

At a specific point in the meal, horseradish is put between bite-sized pieces of unleavened bread. It is dipped in an apple mixture and eaten. This is a reminder of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. This is the part of the meal when this happened:

…Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” (John 13:21-27)

At the most bitter part of the meal, Jesus had to acknowledge Judas’ bitterness, and what he was about to do.

7. The third cup of wine will sound familiar to you.

It is called the Cup of Redemption. Luke 22:20 says, In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

This is called the cup after supper because this was the cup of wine after the lamb, the main part of the meal.

Our modern “communion” comes from here.

8. Jesus refused to drink the forth cup of wine.

The fourth cup is called The Cup of Acceptance. It corresponds with the Exodus statement we talked about earlier, “I will take you as my people”.

Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 26:29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus knew the time of his acceptance as the Son of God was yet to be realized. He was about to die and make it possible for us to be with him in “His Father’s kingdom” forever.

9. After the meal they quoted scripture.

The Bible tells us “they sang a hymn and departed”. It wasn’t random songs, but certain Psalms. Traditionally, it is Psalm 115-118. Here are some excerpts of what Jesus would have said RIGHT BEFORE he went into the garden.

The cords of death entangle me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Psalm 116:3

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Psalm 116:13-14

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord… Psalm 118:22-26

To learn more about the Passover, check out the book, “The Feasts of The Lord” by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, Thomas Nelson Publishers. It was a great resource for this blog.

Do You Know What A Gethsemane Is? (Easter Series Part 5)

gethsemaneJesus could have gone anywhere to pray in the last hours of his life. He chose to go to a place called The Garden of Gethsemane.

It is important we realize this location is filled with symbolism because of what a gethsemane is.

I don’t know if we are supposed to pick up on the parallel or not. But wouldn’t it be just like Jesus to never stop teaching, even when his darkest hour was approaching?

The Garden of Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives. This mountainside facing Jerusalem is a mile long from top to bottom. Jesus traveled this route down the mountain during the Triumphant Entry.

Even today the mountain gives you the perfect view of the temple. I may have zoomed in a bit taking this picture, but here’s what people see when standing in the Garden of Gethsemane (sorry for the omega, I was trying to be poetic!).

Israel206omegagoldengate

In Jesus day, the Mount of Olives was full of Olive trees and probably functioned as an olive orchard. The Greek word for “Garden” found in the Gospel of John means “a cultivated piece of land”. Thus, we see its not just olive trees growing in the wild.

The Greek word for “gethsemane” comes from a similar Hebrew word meaning “an oil press”.  A gethsemane is an olive press that turned olives into olive oil.

A gethsemane would pulverize olives using a huge stone that was pressed and turned in a stone basin. The picture for today’s blog is of a gethsemane. The olives would be crushed to a pulp, and the oil would be squeezed out of the fruit.

Do you see the parallel? The Gethsemane would use a heavy weight of stone to change olives into oil by crushing them. Jesus changed our lives forever when he took on the weight of our sin and chose to be crushed for us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Do you see the connection? Do you think Jesus went here so we could draw a parallel?

For more information on today’s blog, go to http://biblehub.com/topical/m/mount_of_olives.htm