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Archive for March, 2013

We have arrived at that fateful day.  The darkest day in human history.  The day we killed Jesus.

That Friday, Jesus endured watching his closest friends and followers run and hide as he was led away by the soldiers.  He was paraded before the religious leaders and then back and forth between rulers, no one wanting to make a decision.  Finally, he was placed before a crowd of people, many of which were most likely along the road as he entered the city to the shouts of “Hosanna” just a few days before.
Given the choice between Jesus and Barabas (a known criminal), the voices rallied to release Barrabas.  So Jesus was sentenced to endure a beating and then to be crucified.  He was tortured, nearly to the point of death.  Then he was made to carry a cross through the city to a hill just outside the city gates where he was nailed to it to die.
We walk this road today listening to the jeers of the people, the shouting of the soldiers and the groaning of our savior.  Stay with him all the way to the end.
For you see, the reason Jesus endured all of the pain, abandonment and then death, was to pay the price of our sin.  It was our sin that put him there.  It was our selfishness and rebellion from God that made his sacrifice necessary.  Scripture says that even though he did not know sin, he became sin for you and for me.
Don’t turn away.
And just when you think you can’t take any more, remember – Sunday is coming.  The cross event has meaning and power because of an empty tomb!
Stay with him.
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By this point in the week, the tension was beginning to mount.  Followers were falling away.  What had seemed like a good idea when Jesus rode the colt into the city – the praising and celebration – began to look more like a mistake.

If this man was going to overthrow Rome, then why is he turning the religious leaders against him?  Didn’t he know that he would need this group to lead the new Israel?

Confusion.  Frustration.  Tension.

In the midst of the swirling emotions, Jesus pulled his disciples together for one final Passover meal.  With full knowledge of what would happen in just a few short hours, he took a basin and towel and gave the disciples one of the most powerful lessons of his ministry.  He explained that he would not be with them much longer but they must carry on by serving and and loving one another.

Can you sense the anxiousness in the hearts of the disciples.  They knew something was about to happen.  But what could it be?

After that supper, the group headed into the garden to pray.  Some stayed with him longer than others, but one by one they all dropped out.  By the end of the night, even Jesus’ most vigilant follower would turn and run.

Will you stay with him?  Will you walk with him to the cross?

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Jesus was in and out of the city that week.  He spent some time in the Temple courts observing, teaching and calling the leaders to account.

One of the most vivid stories from this week is the story of Jesus running the money changers out of the Temple courts.  The Jewish religious system had become a business in many ways.  People didn’t have to come to the Temple with sacrifice in hand any more.  Now, they could simply walk into the outer Temple court and step up to a sacrifice “vending machine” and select the sacrifice that fit their need for forgiveness – and, for a surcharge, viola, they could have their sacrifice to carry to the priest.

This sacrificial system had become big business.  So Jesus called the religious leaders onto the finely woven Persian rug.  He got their attention by turning over the tables and running the people out of the Temple.

All of the sudden, the people who shouted “Hosanna” a few days before became very confused.  Was this the same man who was supposed to come to town to rally the people to overthrow Rome?  Why is he jumping all over the religious leaders?  Doesn’t he know that this is how we do things?  His focus should be on the Roman soldiers and Caesar, not the priests and Pharisees!

Things began to turn.

And all along . . . Jesus saw the cross coming ever so quickly.

Stay with him a few more days.  Walk with him along the path to the cross.

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I got up early this morning.  I couldn’t sleep and felt compelled to go and sit and pray.  Nothing earth shattering happened – I saw no visions or heard no voices.  But as my mind raced with all the things I need to get done this week to be prepared for our three Holy Week services and of course, Easter morning I began to get anxious about all the little details.  Which is normal for me by the way.

But then it hit me.  I absolutely cannot let myself be so pulled into the work that I forget the meaning and significance of this week on the Christian calendar.

This is the week we remember.  We remember Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem.  We pause to think about that scene and utter hysteria of joy as the people welcomed the messiah to the city (all the while Jesus knowing what lay ahead at the end of the week).

This week, we need to think about Jesus’ journey to the cross.  He knew his mission and calling and there was nothing that would weaken his resolve.

Take time to walk with him this week as each day gets us closer to the cross.

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Give It Away

What brings fulfillment?  Where do you find meaning?  Is it landing that job you have wanted for months or even years?  Is that when you will be satisfied?  Or maybe when you get that degree and get that schooling out of the way.  Once you have that diploma, will you be content then?

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist survived the Holocaust and lived to write about his experience with the human condition.  He authored several books but the one that still sells today is Man’s Search for Meaning.  In his book, he came to the conclusion that the way to find the meaning for your life is to help someone else find the meaning for theirs.  Jesus had said something similar almost 2,000 years before when he said, “if we will lose our life for his sake we will find it.”  In other words, life – true, meaningful and purposeful life – only exists when we give it away.  It is in committing ourselves to a cause or another outside ourselves that we find meaning.

What I have found is that when I go looking for meaning, it is like trying to hold water in my hands – illusive and impossible to grasp.  But when I seek to focus my devotion on loving and serving God – meaning finds me.

If you would have fulfillment, you will find it in serving.

Go be a blessing today!

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Last week I was silent here.  I did not post, I did not Tweet and I didn’t do much with Facebook.  I was virtually unplugged.

The reason?

Last week, a group from our church and a sister church in a neighboring town made a trip to the El Paso area to do a little construction.

I have to tell you.  I have led many trips over the years, 8 of which have been specifically construction trips.  The team that God assembled for this most recent trip was one of the very best I have ever had the opportunity to work along side.

We took 14 very able, very dedicated and very passionate folks to get this building done.  We arrived on Friday, March 8, at 4:00 PM, and this is what we saw:

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We drove away at 7:00 PM on Monday, March 11, and this is what we left behind:

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God is good!  Only one minor injury (you know how to define a minor injury don’t you – when it happens to someone else).  We had one gentleman catch a nail from a nail gun with his thigh.  At first he thought something hit his pants leg.  But he soon realized the nail went a bit deeper than the denim.  But after a little triage, he was back to work in about 20 minutes – that’s a real man!

Seriously, God did amazing work protecting and strengthening.  There is no way a project like this can happen as smoothly as it did without God’s divine intervention.

I thank God for taking care of us and I thank the folks that went as part of the “Weapons of Mass Construction” team.  What an honor and privilege God afforded me to be a small part of this effort.

God’s Kingdom will be extended through the work you provided!

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I wrestle with things a lot.  If you have been stopping by Clay In The Hands for much time at all, you have probably figured out (at least I hope you have) that I try not to take things at face value or just accept things and move on.  I have always been that way.  I want to know why. I want to know what makes things tick.

Just about every week I read somewhere that our world today is as spiritual – or maybe more so – than ever before but while being very spiritual, the world is very anti-religion.  I have to tell you – I wrestle with this idea all of the time.  And I have to admit, I agree.  I see it in the fact that few people are “joiners” anymore.  When I go to denominational meetings, I am usually one of the youngest there (and I am not all that young any more).  I serve with an ecumenical organization for church administration and we see it there as well.  This generation does not see the point in “joining” an organization – or of being a part of something bigger – at least not something that has been established for any time at all.

This wrestling inevitably leads me to the question, “Why?”.  Why is it that people don’t see being a part of a local church as important?

Today, I ran across this verse that I think sheds some light on the situation.  1 Corinthians 1:23 says, “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

This is not a new problem.  The apostle Paul explained that to those outside the faith, this stuff just seems foolish.  But as I continue to dig, I can remember a time in my own short 47 years that it was not so.  I mean, I know there have always been those that just don’t see the point.  But I can remember a time when being a part of the church was the accepted and almost expected norm in a community – at least here in the Bible belt.

So what happened?  I think I can sum it up in one word – relevance.

Our society is a consumer based, “me” driven culture.  The prevailing question is always, “What do I get for that?”  If I invest my time and effort and commitment, what do I get in return?

This prevailing attitude is a subject for another post.  But this is the reality in which we find ourselves.

So what is the answer?  I wish I had a three step strategy that would turn our world around – I don’t.  But I do have an idea.  As “Sunday School” as this answer sounds, the answer is Jesus.

Wait, don’t quit reading yet!  Yes, that is the easy answer but hear me out.

The answer is Jesus and what he has done in your life.  You see, if we are going to show the world that this Jesus stuff is not foolishness, the only way to do that is by showing the difference Jesus has made in your life – to tell your story.  It’s a matter of relevance.  If a person does not see how something applies to them, they won’t give it a second look.

But when they see changed lives and they can relate to how that change could impact them, then all of the sudden, this Jesus stuff seems like it might be important.

We have become complacent and satisfied with the status quo and it is killing the church.

What has Jesus done in your life?  Show that difference today in the way you live.

It is really hard to stare a changed life in the face and call it foolishness.

Tell somebody about it! 

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