Holy Week is a Week of Passion

It is holy week! Or as Ann Voskamp has been calling it, Passion week. I think that one is my favorite. Yes it is a holy week, but it was His passion for us that took Him to the cross! It was His passion that made Him want to take on all our shame and sin so that we would be held back by those things no longer. It was because of passion that He was beat and stripped and mocked and hung on a cross to die. It was for passion and for glory, because in the end what brings more glory to God than when His son won’t and can’t stay dead. What brings more glory than when on the third day He rises, because even Death couldn’t hold Him.Victory over sin, victory over death. Those are the things that this week of passion celebrates. And I am grateful. So so grateful.

He died, willingly, a horrible, painful, and degrading death. He hung on a cross like a criminal. People whipped Him and mocked Him and placed a crown of thorns on His perfect head. He never fought back, His love for us never wavered. He could have made it all end, He didn’t have to endure it, but at the same time He knew He did have to endure it. Not because He couldn’t free Himself, but because He loved us and He knew that this was the only way. A perfect sacrifice to cover our sins.

I’m not sure words exist that will properly describe what this means to me and for me. That the savior of the world would die for me is just incredible and difficult to grasp. In my devotions I’ve been reading through John with some other women over at IF:Equip, and we are currently at the crucifixion. And in church we are going through Mark, and last Sunday we read about the crucifixion. To read about the agony of our God is agonizing for me! My heart hurts as I read about the pain and the mocking and hatred. Why God? Why would you do this for me? I sin against you, I am so unworthy of the gift you give… and yet… you so freely give it. Without fighting or defending, you go and suffer and die. And I am broken because I did that to you! It is because of me that you hung on that cross. It is because of me. And yet…for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. The joy. That jumps out to me. Who or what was that joy? We are. We were. With the knowledge that we would be free to live in community with Him, He endured the cross. Knowing that His death would bring our freedom, He endured the cross. CRAZY!! It is for me (and you) that He could hang on that cross and look past it with joy. To know and live in that love and that joy produces freedom and thanksgiving. He hung on the cross because of me, for me, because He loved me. And you. And us. He died, and the veil was torn from top to bottom to symbolize that God no longer needs to separate Himself from us. His son died to make us righteous, and righteous we have become. It  is because of passion and the ultimate, perfect sacrifice that we are set free from the chains of sin. It is because of passion and sacrifice that the veil was torn.

But that wasn’t the end. Oh my sweet friends, I’m so glad it wasn’t. On Sunday we will celebrate and rejoice, but that isn’t because of your death Jesus. It is because you defeated it! Not even the sting of death could hold You. In three days you rose. You died for our sins and rose so that we might live! And live we will. Through the freedom that your death and resurrection brings may we throw off the sins that so easily entangle and ensnare. Let us run with endurance the race set before us. And let us never forget the death that bought our freedom. The sacrifice that made us clean. May our hearts break over our sin and rejoice over the resurrection that freed us from it!

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Lessons from a tree

Tonight my husband and I decided to take advantage of the incredible day and go for a walk around our neighborhood. The weather was literally perfect. The sun was shining, their was just enough breeze to keep us comfortable, and we were seeing signs of spring popping up all around us. There is nothing quite like the first signs of spring after a long winter, and we had a very long and cold one this year. Just seeing flower buds was exciting. As we were walking down the main road we came upon a cluster of blooming trees with small white flowers. They were beautiful and sang to us the song that means that spring has officially (hopefully) come to stay. The winter has gone, and with it the snow and ice and chill that seemed to invade every room of our home. In it’s stead is sunshine and warm weather. Our frozen world is thawing, and we all, collectively, sigh with relief.

As we walked along the street it dawned on me. The tree with the small white flowers is like me… and you… and us. In the winter it is barren. No flowers, no leaves. It is frozen in winter snow and ice. But then, in triumphant victory, spring arrives. The ground thaws, the flowers begin to grow and the tree that once was barren begins to bloom. What was once ugly and dead, is now filled with the prettiest flowers you’ve ever seen, and it is beautiful. I am that tree. Winter comes in my life. Hurts and disappointments harden my once soft heart, and in some ways my life begins to feel like that barren tree. Barren of joy, and peace. Barren of the beauty that those things bring. The winter in my heart has been long and cold, but spring is coming. I can feel it! The ice is melting, joy is entering. Inspiration, and joy, and love, and compassion have been changing my heart of stone into one of flesh, and I am beginning to bloom. Life has been hard for a few months. It’s been wonderful in a lot of ways, but it’s also been tough and painful. I’ve been stretched and pushed, and I know that God is trying to grow me. But I have resisted, oh how I have resisted. And as a result winter came. The dry cold season lasted longer than I’d like to admit. But the breeze of spring is blowing through my life, and I am experiencing new life. God is working.

“Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” The words of Isaiah 43:19 echo in my mind. I look at the tree, and I look at my life and I think we are the same. New life is here, God is doing something different. He is making roadways in the wilderness and rivers in the deserts. He has been preparing me for this place. Even the desert had it’s purpose.

So I bloom, and for the first time in a while I breathe freely, without fear or worry. I am beginning to feel like myself again. And I see the river flowing in the places of my heart that were one dry like the desert. I see the roadways being built, and the dreams coming to pass when I was beginning to believe they never would.

Friends, maybe you too are like the tree. Maybe you still feel like it’s winter even when the sun is shining. Maybe your heart of flesh is coated in a layer of ice. But fear not, He has not left your nor forsaken you. He is working the winter, and desert time for your good. There are blooms and rivers and roadways awaiting you on the other side. Behold He is doing something new. Do you see it? Do you believe it? Will you receive it and walk in it? I’m learning to. I’m learning to walk on the roadways He builds, and drink deeply from the river of His presence.

“The winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” (Song of Solomon 2:11)