The Cross On Good Friday Was and Is Enough!

(Writing has been hard for me lately. There’s been so much going on in my heart and my head that words just don’t seem enough to express it all. It seems like God has me in a season of reflection on where I have been in my Faith, where I am now, and where I am going. It’s all good, just hard to sort through at times. Part of these reflections are what I am writing today. )

Filipino in Pampanga Province allowing self to be crucified for penance

There’s an image from years ago that’s been on my mind. I usually remember it during Holy Week. This year it has some particular meaning, because when I look at the pictures I see how I have often done myself. The province of Pampanga in the Philippines has an annual reenactment of Jesus’s crucifixion every Good Friday. It’s not the kind of reenactment of symbolism alone. It is literal reenactment where devotees are nailed to wooden crosses with 4 inch nails in their wrists and feet. They also beat themselves with whips and crawl on the ground for great lengths to pay homage at the local church. They believe in paying penance to God this way, their prayers for healing and blessing will be answered.

How often I have found myself more or less doing the same thing. If I do “x, y, z”, then God will … Performance based Chrisitianity… once installed inside of you it is hard to shake. Whether through a legalistic church or an outright cult, it is easy to fall into it’s clutches and the damage done can affect your view of God for years. The events on Good Friday that happened 2000 years ago were not meant to be repeated. Jesus said it Himself when He hung on the cross, “It is finished”. The sacrifice that gives the right for us to stand in right standing with God was completed and done on that day. Often we are the ones convinced it isn’t enough, a lie conveniently placed by our enemy, the devil. If he can keep us busy trying to measure up and do all the right stuff, something we cannot do on our own, he has us distracted from doing the one thing that Jesus, Himself, said was the work that God has for us, “to believe”. (John 6:29) and in all of our wallowing in our unworthiness, the devil paralyzes us with the “I have to fix myself” cycle. God’s full intention was for us to enjoy being His childrren, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12) Living a life given by Him that is abundant. (John 10:10)

Every time I feel that I need to do something more for God to approve of me, I am no different than the poor Filapino devote who goes to the extreme of being nailed to a cross. Every time I wallow in unforgiveness to myself for past mistakes, I too have taken a handmade whip and beat myself as those in Pampanga do. Every time I think if I muster up a little more kindness, give a little more time, sacrifice a little more of myself…, I too am crawling in to the presence of God looking for a crumb to fall from His table of grace. Grace that is freely given and freely received in abundance if I only open my heart to it.

That is what makes the Holy week so special and Good Friday so Good. Jesus did what I could not do so I could be with Him, a place I do not deserve to be. We are not meant for a “to do” list of Christianity. We are meant for a transforming relationship, where God takes what was broken and stained by sin, us, and washes it clean in the blood of Jesus poured out for us years ago and healed by the very stripes that broke Him on that day. I can stop trying to do it all… and let Him do it all in me, the very things He had planned from the beginning. (Ephesians 2:10)

Filipinos self flagellating with whips on Good Friday

I can drop my four inch nails and my whip for self-flagellation. The Sacrificial Cross on Good Friday was and is Enough.

Anxiety vrs The God Who Fights for Me

Sometimes life is bigger than me. Actually, a lot of times life is bigger than me… My problem is admitting that little fact. Admitting weakness is not something that comes easy for me. I guess I come from a long line of the “never let them see you sweat” type. So not letting you see me sweat is my specialty. Not asking for help is one of my mantras, not necessarily a good one, but definitely one. So laying this out there is a little uncomfortable, but needs to be said. Mainly because I’ve been stewing on it for about a week. So someone probably needs to hear this…

You’re not alone. I know I need to hear that from time to time too.

A few days ago, I hopped in my car and opened my Amazon Music app. I figured I needed to find something new to listen to and one of the suggestions was Bethel’s new album, “Revival’s in the Air”. As I was listening, I was struck by the song “Egypt” with Cory Asbury. I’ve found myself listening to it over and over. As one who struggles with anxiety, I found the words comforting.

“You’re the God who fights for me
Lord of every victory
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You have torn apart the sea
You have led me through the deep
Hallelujah
Hallelujah”

I’ve tried a lot of different things to try to bring peace while fighting the war inside of me through the years. Not that I don’t ever experience the peace, but the fears, the feelings, the thoughts, sometimes become more than I know how to fight. As an outspoken lover of Jesus, this seems to be a contradiction to some to admit that there are times that what I fight becomes bigger than my ability to see Him clearly in all my situations. Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I fear. Sometimes I hide. Sometimes I struggle with guilt over things beyond my control. That’s why these lyrics resonated so clearly with me this week. I am clearly weak, but “in my weakness He is made strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 God is not surprised by my struggles, or yours for a matter of fact. He is the one who steps in where we are at and fights for us against the foes that are stronger than us, even if that foe is waging war between your ears- in your mind. The battle right now may feel greater than what you are able to endure, but He does not leave us alone in it. God assures us that “His grace is sufficient for us”.

Looking back over the years of my life I can see that God truly is the one “who fights for me, and He is the Lord of every victory.” He’s done it time and time again, and He will do it many more times. He’s not in the business of leaving us alone in disgust, because of struggles. He is the one who sees, hears, and moves on our behalf.

My favorite Psalm is Psalm 40. Especially verses 1-3, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him..” More than once, I’ve found God faithful to take me out of situations beyond me and set me in a place of security. He did not fail me then, and He will not fail me now. His faithfulness extends beyond what I’ve experienced. He has abounding Grace not only for me but for you where you are against your foe that is bigger than you. He will step into your Egypt!

Pour Out Your Heart to Him- He Already Knows What’s Inside

I’ve often thought that the Psalms of David in the Bible are perfect examples of how God does not expect us to live in denial for the sake of “Faith”. David had this way of taking the good, the bad, and the ugly to God. At times, his writings were gut wrenchingly honest. He told God about his fears, his doubts, his trials, his anger, etc…and still God commended David not for how perfect his faith was, but how in all things David pursued Him and was “a man after God’s own heart.”

This morning I have been contemplating Psalm 62:8.

I am a “stuffer”. I’ve been one for a long time. Adversity hits and I try my best to push down the feelings that arise from dealing with it. I’m not British, but the whole “stiff upper lip” thing would be my mantra if I could only achieve it, but quite honestly, that isn’t working so well for me. Apparently “stuffing” oozes out after awhile, whether it be in depression or anxiety, or both. After awhile it begins to take it’s toll. It’s the little things, like lack of sleep, loss of interest in activities, etc. that start to add up to the big things and boom, you’re overwhelmed. That is where David’s words written thousands of years ago offers wisdom for a “stuffer” like me. “Pour out your heart to Him”.

I’m not sure what makes the proposition of telling God exactly what you’re feeling so scary. He already knows it. He’s God. Letting it out and leaving it in the open gives Him the opportunity to work with it. Stuffed away it is held on tightly by ourselves and He’s not going to barge in and rip it from our hands to work with it.

Mark 9:14-29 is an account of a man who brings his tormented son to Jesus. He had brought the boy to Jesus’ disciples prior, and they were unable to deliver him from the demons that haunted him. The man says something that does not fit comfortably in the circles of some schools of thought regarding faith. He says, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” to Jesus. Jesus responds with, “If you can?… Everything is possible for one who believes.” The man then says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I don’t know how many times I have sat in this man’s shoes. I’ve tried everything I know to fix a situation on my own. I find myself at Jesus’ feet, wanting to say “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”. All the while, I know Jesus can do anything. I believe, but I need help to overcome my unbelief. The comfort I find is that in this man’s honesty he did not find Jesus turning him away saying, “You didn’t believe right. I cannot do anything for you.” Instead, Jesus cast the spirit out of the boy and brought wholeness and healing to a seemingly helpless situation. The man “poured out his heart” to Jesus. He did not hide what was inside, and Jesus responded.

The words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 have been rolling around in my heart as well this week.

The Passion Translation really struck a chord in me, “Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” “Tell Him every detail…” that includes the areas of struggle, fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, etc. Letting God in on everything, letting the “stuffing” out is the key to peace and answers for the struggles and questions we face.

Tough times are upon us: Nationally, Spiritually, and the daily stuff as well. To be honest, tough times are upon me. Denying the struggle does not make it go away, but taking every aspect, “every detail” to God and telling Him is the key. Letting the feelings out so I can let Him in: His answers, His peace. It is only at that point that I can experience God the way David did, as a “refuge” from the storm and the winds of adversity that blow and rest in His peace.

Judge Janet Judges Janet

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is a judge that sits in the courtroom of my mind. She scrutinizes every move I make. Her raspy little voice shouting down all the imperfections, misjudgments, and mistakes with the occasional bang of her gavel keeps me constantly in a state of trying to avoid her gaze. Her name is Judge Janet, and her game is judging Janet. Judge Janet is a lot harder on Janet than any other judge in town. She sets the standards so high that achieving them is only a pipe dream, and her constant critique after all the accusations is “You will never be enough”.

It’s bad that in a world full of critics we often allow our own selves to be the most highly critical one of ourselves and in that judgement, we always find ourselves lacking, guilty, bad, or wrong. My inner critic is the most brutal judge of me, and unfortunately it is often the voice I pay attention to the most.

Paul, in the Bible, must have experienced wrestling with his inner judge. Because he made a statement about judging that pointed to a person he did not judge anymore himself. He had fired his inner judge. He said “I do not even judge myself. “. He also said that there was “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul left the judging of self to God, who looks at those in Christ as being just that “in Christ.” He didn’t have to judge himself. He left that to God, and God at His judgement, had spoken to him just as Jesus did the woman caught in adultery: “Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.””
‭‭John‬ ‭8:10-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬ Jesus was the only one who really had the power to condemn, and He was the one who didn’t.

Recent news has reported that another famous Judge has recently retired, Judge Judy. Occasionally, I’ve caught episodes of Judge Judy. Her style of confrontation and crassness has caught my eye from time to time. Judge Judy can sure rip a good one into the party she senses to be in the wrong. She holds nothing back. Her style is compatible with Judge Janet. There’s no mercy when she’s on her judgement seat judging Janet.

While on a walk today, it occurred to me that Judge Janet needs to retire too. She needs to step down from the bench and let God be the judge. I’m pretty sure His judgements are fair and He is far from condemning. He’s about freedom in Him and walking without the condemning little voice nagging me. God is quite capable of letting me know what areas I need to change and what areas I need to leave alone. Judge Janet hasn’t got a clue. So letting her retire and leave the broadcasting air of my mind would be a nice change of programming. Playing the programs of truth God designed to be broadcasted from the beginning is the change that I need.

Leave It All Behind

Genesis 12:1 MSG “God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.”

While growing up in the 70’s/80’s, one of my favorite TV shows was “Little House on the Prairie”. If I listen closely in my mind, I can hear the theme song starting up with the view of a covered wagon being pulled along. The TV show is a classic. I could watch the reruns over and over. There’s something about the Ingalls family arriving out in the vast openness of unsettled territory and building something of their own against opposition that strikes a warm feeling in my heart. The bravery and unity makes it a novelty to the adventurous side of me. Leaving it all behind and starting out fresh. That’s an adventure.

The Bible is full of stories of people who left the familiar behind to pursue the extraordinary. From Abram, later Abraham, to Moses and the Jews, to the disciples and their fish nets, to the prostitute brought to Jesus to be judged and then executed, but was told to go and sin no more. Leaving behind is a concept that God championed from the moment Adam and Eve decided to pick up sin in the Garden and began the burden carrying of the human race. It would take a “leaving behind” of sorts to really be free.

I’ve often thought of the courage it took to hop into a covered wagon with husband and kids and traverse such a long distance that seeing family and the town you grew up in would become virtually impossible. That is truly leaving it behind. That’s the kind of courage that Abram needed to get up and leave all the familiar to pursue the promises in the vastness of the Call of God. Abram did what God wanted with full assurance that the One who called him out was taking him to a better land. He believed he would see a “city whose architect and builder was God” Hebrews 11:10.

There are places, in our minds, that are very hard to “leave behind” Anxieties, Guilt, false responsibility, fears, etc. I have wrestled with walking away from them on the daily. I try to imagine how it would be if I were to hop on a covered wagon and travel for days to a new place far away from them. It would be impossible to pick them up or entertain them in the least. I would be “forced” to entertain the factors of the New Life. The truth of the matter is that I do have a New Life, and I am not “forced” but invited to leave behind and travel far away from the land of captivity I have lived. I can leave behind the anxieties and pick up trust. I can leave behind the guilt and pick up my freedom from fault. I can leave behind all the false responsibility I have carried and accept what is truly mine to maintain. I can leave behind the fears and pick up the courage to accept what is. I can drop off the chains because I am free.

When the crushing weight of what I was never meant to be tries to weigh my mind down, I can get out from underneath it all. Because I am a new creation that is free.  God has called me out. 

I love Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” God wants us free. He wants us to know a life without the burdens we carry, some self-imposed, some others imposed. As it says in Psalms 40, God has lifted us from a pit and set us upon a rock. He has filled our mouths with a new song of praise to God. So that many will see just what God can do and put their trust in Him. Our leaving behind the old to pursue the vast newness of God’s Freedom Frontier is a testimony to all those behind us struggling in their own pits. It speaks of how you can be pulled out and move on to the Land of the Blessed Life that Jesus died to give. The land of freedom for which Christ in His great love has set us free to explore and enjoy.