Category: Pastor Tim’s Blog

Risen

RISEN
By Tim Maynard

Death defeated.
Light. Life.
Grave clothes cast aside
Stone rolled away.
Breathless running.
Breathless wonder…He’s alive?
Earthquake rumbles, veil is torn.
“He is risen, just as He said.”
Can it be?
Questions, fear, doubt.
The sun is rising; the Son has Risen!
Soldiers silenced, night of fear.
Confusion, shock, disbelief.
“He’s alive?”
An empty tomb.
The Son is set free.
“Mary!” “My Rabbi!”
Jerusalem awakens.
The dawn brings new life.
Sin has been forgiven.
The grave is overcome.
Christ the Lord is risen today!
Hallelujah!

Dying

Jesus died. “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” The Spirit of Jesus left His earthly body. The body, placed in an earthly garden tomb, hastily wrapped for burial, waited the “what’s next” of resurrection.

There seems to be great uncertainty about where the Spirit of Jesus went when He bowed His head and “gave up His Spirit.” We certainly see in this that Jesus was in complete control, even of the moment He died. But He died in as true a way as He suffered. His death was no pantomime. He experience death for us.

But then, where did He go? He told one of the thieves who died with Him that afternoon that he would be “with Him” in paradise. We don’t know for sure where that would be or what those words meant.

We do know for certain, that Jesus did not go from the cross to spend three days in hell being tormented, as some believe. That is absolutely impossible, since to hold that view means that Jesus was not able to accomplish all that was needed for our redemption at the cross; something more was needed.

He did not go to purgatory. There is not a place like this in Scripture. But what we can know for certain is, wherever He went, He went in victory and not to endure more punishment.

And as His bruised and crushed body breathed its last breath and exhaled His Spirit, the last blow to defeat death was accomplished. All that was left was the celebration coming…

…on Easter morning.


And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” And having said this, He breathed His last.    Luke 23:46

Father, may we as Jesus commit all that is in our living… and all that is in our dying, to Your hands. May we equally trust You with them both. Amen.

Finished

“It is finished.” (John 19:30). The battle is over. The war’s last shot has been fired. Jesus was preparing momentarily to surrender the last breath of His life to the Father. Nothing was left to accomplish. “Finished.”

What a blessed word! To finish with a grueling race; to finish the long course of a graduate degree (or, for that matter, high school). To finish with a prescribed course of chemotherapy or radiation. Finished.

For Jesus, this word carried more than meaning just “the end.” There is another Greek word for “the end” which He could have selected. Instead, He chose “tetelestai;” it is finished. It meant, “the debt is now paid in full.” “Nothing else is owed.” With His own blood He wrote in large letters over the “certificate of debt that was against us,” IT IS PAID IN FULL.

The Roman prison system was largely a debtors’ prison. Bad debts were not be forgiven lightly. Prison cells were reserved for those in debt over their heads with no other means to pay what they owed; no family to sell into slavery; no goods to barter.

Bankrupt. Busted. Broke. No hope. Just as we stood before God before our debt was paid on the cross. No way out. Freedom was gone. When a prisoner was locked in his cell, a “certificate of debt” was nailed over the door signifying how much was owed and how long the sentence would be. When the fine and penalty had been paid, the judge would take the certificate of debt and write the word “tetelestai” over the debt.

For most, that certificate never came. It was often a life sentence to pay what they owed. Unless, that is, a benefactor stepped up to pay it for them.

Do you understand that is exactly what Jesus did for us? He stepped in to pay a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay. With His own blood He canceled the “handwriting of ordinances (offenses) that were against us and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

And before He died, He reminded us that this is what He did. The debt is paid. We are free.

“Tetelestai.” It. Is. Finished.”


Heavenly Father, we are thankful as Easter approaches to be reminded again of the great debt that was cancelled by Jesus’ payment on the cross. Our souls would have been locked forever in a debtor’s punishment but because of Jesus the door has been unlocked and we are free. May we never outlive our gratitude to you for that great gift. In Jesus we pray, Amen.

Thristy

“Thirsty.” That’s the only word Jesus really uttered. We have added the “I.” Dehydration was one of the cruelest aspects of the cross. Long hours of exposure to the Middle Eastern sun, loss of fluids due to perspiration and severe blood loss and the simple absence of compassion that would have offered Jesus even a drink of water during the long hours of trial after trial.

“Thirsty.” (John 19:28). The Water of Life… needing water. What a picture. The humanity of Jesus on full display. The One who filled every ocean with water; who caused the flow of cavernous rainstorms and who at one time, with a word, flooded the earth with water… thirsty.

Some merciful person ran to get a sponge filled with weak, soured wine and lifted it to moisten His lips and give a momentary relief to His parched tongue. His body had now been almost completely drained of life. Just a few more moments remained of His earthly incarnation before the end.

We want to turn away from this moment. We want it not to be true. The Son of God begging for a sip of liquid. How humbling, how humiliating. But how like our Savior who emptied Himself of Divine rights and privileges… of His ability to have washed Calvary hill away with a deluge of what He was asking from the hands of His tormentors.

But He chose to ask. And to wait. And I suppose had they refused, to have died without it. “He was made like His brothers….” “In all points like as we are, yet without sin.” Even to the point of being dependent on water.

“What wondrous love is this?”


Our Father, our minds are inadequate to grasp the depth and height and width and breadth of your love for us. Please open the eyes of our hearts and enlarge and awaken the capacity of our minds to absorb more deeply the truth of Your love for us. And thank You, Father, that because of Jesus we need never thirst again. Amen.

The Condemned Men

Two men hung alongside Jesus on this day. Condemned men. Given the practice of the Roman Empire, they were not surprised to be there. They both well knew the price of breaking the absolute law of Rome. And the price for their crimes would be extracted from their flesh.

They were dying. Perhaps their souls drew back at the sight of the execution party awaiting their arrival at Golgotha hill. But within moments of their brutal but scientific placement on the Roman’s cross, both were begging for sweet death to take them.

Life was ebbing away. One of the thieves, we are told, took up the taunting and cursing the crowd was directing toward Jesus. Maybe he was relieved that the attention of the cruel crowd was turned somewhere but at him for a moment.

What makes the scene bizarre is the fact that none of the three men hanging there as the Palestinian sun burned through the sky could breathe or speak without great effort. Surely he knew that only a few words were left to escape his mouth before death snuffed them out. And yet, he chose to curse. And to taunt. Peer pressure? Perhaps. Desperation for the claims of Jesus as the son of God to be true? “If you’re God’s Son, prove it! Prove it now!”

But hardly belief, or saving faith in Jesus. Just guttural, desperate and profane words coming as quickly as he could draw his breath.

Jesus never responded. Never answered. Never defended Himself. “As a lamb before its shearers is silent….” He heard the man. He heard his words. But no reply was coming. Only death for this man.

On the other side, however, was a conversation that caught Jesus’ attention. A man in the same spot… the same desperation… the same death sentence… spoke to the other man, defending Jesus. “Can’t you see this man has done no wrong?”

And then, the sweetest words Jesus could have heard that day on Calvary’s hill: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I don’t know what the man had seen of Jesus; maybe he had watched Him do miracles on the street. Maybe he simply observed the way Jesus suffered. Sometimes, this is our greatest witness to the reality of God.

“Remember me….” No theological proclamation about Christology or soteriology or theory of atonement. Jesus, remember me.

And it was enough. Jesus responded with four words in Aramaic: “Today… with me… paradise.” With that the nameless thief continued the hard work of dying crucified. But now he turned to the task, not in despair but with hope.

And with the salvation of this nameless, former thief, the first victory of Calvary was…

won!


“The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away.”

“There is a Fountain”
William Cowper

Woman, Behold Your Son

What mother wouldn’t go? She gave Him birth, rocked Him to sleep, changed His diaper and fed Him from her own breast. Like mothers do, she believed her Son could do no wrong. (Well, in this instance she was absolutely right!)

Her Son, this Divine gift that appeared in a womb that had never known a man, was now being ripped from her arms in the cruelest form imaginable. She watched as merciless hands accused, slapped, cursed, whipped and stripped Him and ultimately hung Him on Roman timber to die a death gasping for air, for water, for relief.

Jesus now occupied the place for which He had come. A cross between two thieves, falsely accused, blood flowing, sweat mixed with blood from a crown of thorns pressed painfully into His brow; an ironic form of mockery. He deserved a crown. We gave Him thorns. He made all the water on the earth. He was not given even a taste.

He was crucified. Not known even by His loving mother Mary, He was dying for her. But maybe this one indignity was more than the God-man could bear. She heard the old prophet Simeon in the temple speak the harsh words at His presentation in the temple as an infant, “A sword will pierce your heart.” And so it was. This was the day of the sword. Her heart was pierced and torn to pieces.

And so, even as every form of human dignity and decency was taken from Him, and every nerve of His human body set afire by unimaginable pain, Jesus thought of this woman who said to the angel Gabriel, “Let it be unto me as you have said.” She never imagined it would mean this day at Golgotha.

But Jesus spared her the worst. He left it to her imagination on this day of suffering. He saw His friend John standing near His mother and with gasping breaths spoke these words, “Mother, behold your son. Son behold your mother.” John knew what he heard. He knew what Jesus was saying.

And so weeping, Mary left the cross with her new son. Legend tells us he cared for her until her death in a little house outside of Ephesus.

Jesus didn’t see even the extremity of this moment or the eternity-altering mission He was undertaking as a reason to overlook the needs of those He loved. In a day when people are easily abandoned because of the inconvenience they bring, Jesus brought the needs of His mother to the forefront.

What wondrous love is this?


“When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, `Woman, behold, Your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Son, behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” John 19:26-27

Our Father, as Jesus taught us with His dying breaths, may we love and give care to those among us who need it most. May our compassion be like His, and never lack. Amen.

7 Words that Shaped Eternity (part 3)

We are called to forgive. Sometimes that is an easy thing to do. The injury wasn’t great; we sustained no permanent loss. Life was not altered in any negative way.

But certainly there are circumstances where the call to forgive presents a challenge.
Life was taken. A spouse was stolen away. A child was abducted. You were abused. You were falsely accused and fired from a job. These injuries linger. They are filed away deep into our memory banks, and begin to intertwine themselves with normal life. Life is, in fact, altered.

And yet, the call to forgive lingers. And with it sometimes some falsehoods also linger.
We hear these things, repeat them to ourselves or have them repeated to us, we hear them in songs, or see them acted out in a movie. And they become real, and true and inviolable.

Let’s take a careful look at a few:

Falsehood 1: “I cannot forgive because I cannot forget what happened.”

This false statement assumes that, if forgiveness truely has taken place, we will not remember the injury any more. The truth, however, is that the only time the human mind forgets something is when it’s malfunctioning. We are made to remember… everything. That doesn’t mean we can immediately call a name, or a place, or a memory back to conscious thought immediately. But it’s in the file room… somewhere. For the Christian, remembering an injury and the reality that we have forgiven it stands as a reminder of the power of the Gospel.

Falsehood 2: “I cannot forgive because I don’t ever communicate with the person who hurt me.”

The truth is, forgiveness only takes one person: You. You may no longer have a relationship with the person who offended or hurt you. That is no matter. We are commanded only to forgive, not to reconcile. Now reconciliation would be an ideal ending, but the truth is some people will not reconcile with us… and some relationships should not be restored again… and some people we need to forgive aren’t even alive.

We must forgive to set OURSELVES free, but the only way that can happen is to set the other person free from our debt collection activities. We cannot hold on to the injury they did to us and find the freedom we need to move forward. Forgiveness only takes one person. You.

Falsehood 3: “I cannot forgive because they never asked me to forgive them.”

There is no necessity in a person coming to you begging your forgiveness as a prerequisite to forgiveness. While that may happen, the mandate and command to forgive overrules even the offending party being aware they have hurt you. Our desire to collect a debt we feel they owe us is what drives this last falsehood. We want them to feel embarrassed, to feel shame, to feel some of the pain that we felt. But if that’s how we truly feel, then we have not yet forgiven. They don’t need to ask you for your forgiveness to be offered.

With that, it is also worth noting that you are not required to tell them you forgave. As stated above, some people who need your forgiveness can’t ask since they’re dead. Others are persons you may not even know how to contact. While the day may come that you will face them, telling them what you’ve decided to do in forgiving them is not mandatory for true forgiveness to be offered.

The truth is, we will be injured in life. The test of forgiveness will be a test all of us will at one time or another (maybe multiple times) have to face and pass. But each time we do, the grace that fills your heart will spill out more easily…

…and you’ll know you are free.


“Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Our Father in heaven, we have been forgiven so much by You. Our debt to You was far greater than anything we could pay, even if we spent an eternity trying. But with the blood of Jesus, You washed us clean, made us pure, and created a new heart within. Thank You for the cross, for Your Son who died as our sacrifice there, and for the full and free forgiveness You now offer us. Through Christ who is our Savior we pray, Amen.

7 Words that Shaped Eternity (part 2)

I’ve done it. You have too. You know, that thing we do. I’m talking about holding a grudge. Actually, it isn’t true to say we hold a grudge. Grudges are not “things,” but states of mind… attitudes of heart.

Grudges can’t be held, but they can be nursed and nurtured; remembered and rehearsed. You know, that slight they gave you. That item that was borrowed but never returned. That word of gossip that slipped out about you. The promotion that was given to an under qualified bosses pet.

These people took something from you. Your money. Your dignity. Your tool. The injury hurt. The slight stung. The spark of gossip grew into a firestorm of falsehood. Maybe your injury is more longstanding. The person that took your childhood. The man who promised he’d marry you but didn’t.

They let you down. They disappointed you. They bruised you with their words or their oversight. They never said thanks for the kind deed you did. They deserve your wrath… your ire… your displeasure. They OWE you and you won’t rest until the last ounce is repaid.

And so you take up the mantle of a record-keeper. Your job, nay your FOCUS OF LIFE Is to balance the books; to right the scales of justice. A pound of flesh was taken-a pound will be repaid. After all, doesn’t the Bible say, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?” It’s right there in… well, one of those old dusty books.

Yes, it’s very human to “hold a grudge.” To seek to even the score, to make them pay. But as Christians, another mandate looms larger. We are to forgive.

We forgive because we must. If we do not, unforgiveness will destroy us. It is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.

But even more, if we do not the Gospel is not released in all its power and glory in our circumstance. The power of the cross exists for just such occasions. To cover over sin… to help us release not only our own sins, but the sins of others committed against us.

In reality, you can’t hold a grudge. But it can hold you. It can blind you to grace, and obscure the vision of the crucified Savior to you. It can hamper your steps moving forward into the future, and distort the image of Christ in you that others see.

So today, walk away from the grudge. Allow the love and grace of Jesus to embrace you instead. I promise you, you’ll like yourself better in the morning when you don’t wake up next to the grudge!


“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Father, once again we come to you and as we come we confess to you our imperfections, and flaws, and we acknowledge that at one time we owed You far more than any person could ever owe us. Our sins were over our heads, and we were drowning in guilt and shame. But through Jesus, You released us. You chose not to hold sin against us any more, or ever again. May we prove our knowledge of that each time we refuse to live in the grip of a grudge. As Easter draws near, we praise the Name of the One Who paid sin’s penalty for us… Jesus. Amen.

7 Words that Shaped Eternity

If we had to choose only one word to characterize the follower of Jesus, for me that word would be “forgiven.” To be forgiven means that sin has been carried away… a debt owed has been paid in full… an injury caused has been fully restored.

To be forgiven captures the emphasis of words like “grace” and “peace” and “mercy” and “reborn.” And at the cross of Calvary, forgiveness was accomplished in full. Nothing was left behind. No pieces were left to be picked up at a later date. All can be forgiven.

But forgiveness, while freely offered, was not freely purchased. The cross was not an exercise in cheap grace for a costlier penalty. It was the full payment price for debts incurred. The cross did not just lightly cover over the sins committed. The blood of Jesus shed there for us was full atonement; complete satisfaction of the Father’s wrath against sin.

This begs a question: If the Triune God of the Universe, our Creator and only wise God is satisfied with the sacrifice of Jesus, how can we look for another way? There is only one way for sin to be taken out of the way; for debts to be fully repaid. And that way is “by grace through faith” in Jesus’ sacrifice.

As Easter draws nearer, take some time again to linger at the foot of the cross. Bring the sins that still torment you, the lingering guilt and regret and shame over sins long ago forgiven, and allow the blood of Jesus to cover them once and forever.

Because of Jesus, we are forgiven. Our debts are paid. Our sacrifice offered to a Holy God. There is none greater. There is no rival. There is no other.

Trust. Jesus. Today.


“Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Our Father, we stand amazed in the presence of Jesus. How grateful for His obedience to You, His love for us, and His complete atonement for our sins. As Easter draws nearer, we remember again as we need to be reminded daily that Jesus paid it all. Amen

Same but different

In November of 2001, I made my last trip to Moscow, Russia before moving back to the states. Moscow is a beautiful city and I always enjoyed visiting, was grateful for those called to serve there, and content to arrive back home again.

On the last night of my visit, in the cold twilight, I walked across Red Square for what I anticipated to be the last time. It was magical. A light snow began to fall. The lights from Lenin’s tomb (btw, he’s still there, unlike Jesus) caused the snow to sparkle in the growing darkness. Walking past the Kremlin walls toward St. Basil’s Cathedral, I felt as if I was stepping into a John LeCarre or Ian Fleming spy novel – Bond, James Bond.

I remembered a conversation I had with a colleague from the IMB a couple of years before. He told me that the late fall was always a wonderful time for new missionaries as they moved to Moscow. For many, snow and cold weather was a novelty. They saw the beauty of the city to which God had called them. However, the second fall was very different for many. It was difficult, as they knew, the second time around, how long, cold and dark a Russia winter can be. And snow is not nearly so beautiful in the spring thaw, revealing the mud beneath. To cope, they needed to gather together with others who had walked the journey before for encouragement and support.

I’ve reflected on this experience much in the last few days. Joan and I are approaching a season of life when our kids are again out of the house. It feels a lot like last time. There was excitement and joy as we anticipated the experiences that were to come for them. Today, we have the same excitement and joy over what is to come for them. Yet, having been here before, we realize how much time and distance will separate us. We can’t help but be a little melancholy.

This morning, we meditated on Hebrews 10:24-25: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. We were reminded how much we need one another and how much we need a relationship with others. Meeting together habitually to be encouraged and “stirred” up and assured that regardless of what is to come, we are not alone.

I’m thinking about Easter now. The disciples had experienced the death of family and friends before. They knew the heartbreak and loneliness that is present in loss. The Bible says they had gathered together. Likely to mourn and grieve because they “knew” what to expect. But this time was going to be different. Imagine the ladies rushing into the room in excitement and joy. Imagine Jesus suddenly standing among them even though the doors were locked. Imagine their surprise when they realized the truth of the statement, He has risen! (Mark 16:6) He is not in the tomb (unlike Lenin). He is alive. And that message continues to stir us to love and good works today.

So, as you head again into an experience that feels like last time, don’t ignore the difficulty that you experienced before. But don’t get overwhelmed. Expect God to show Himself in new ways. And make surrounding yourself with others a habit.

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