What Makes Good Friday “Good”?

Given that it’s Good Friday, I dug up this post from the past, essentially asking the question, “what’s so good about Good Friday?”

The Lowedown

When you think of the full Easter story, it seems the good part is on Sunday, when Jesus is resurrected.
Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered why Christians refer to the Friday before Easter as Good Friday? I never quite understood that myself growing up as a kid even though I went to church and heard the Easter story every year.

Think about the Easter story as a movie. The good part is at the end, when Jesus comes out of the tomb, resurrected! It seems to me that Friday is bad, at least if you’re looking at Jesus as a hero figure. On Friday, he’s dead. How is that good?

To answer that, I want to first ask a different question. Why did Jesus have to die? To put it another way, what was the purpose of Jesus’s death?

It’s an honest question…

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How Jesus Responds to Doubts

Matthew 11

1When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went off teaching and preaching in towns throughout the country.

2John the Baptist, who was now in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3“Are you really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

4Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen—5the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6And tell him: ‘God blesses those who are not offended by me. ’”

7When John’s disciples had gone, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “Who is this man in the wilderness that you went out to see? Did you find him weak as a reed, moved by every breath of wind? 8Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? Those who dress like that live in palaces, not out in the wilderness. 9Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 10John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,

‘Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way before you.’

11“I assure you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the most insignificant person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! 12And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people attack it. 13For before John came, all the teachings of the Scriptures looked forward to this present time. 14And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. 15Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand! (Matthew 11:1-15, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Matthew 11 contains a very strange passage about John the Baptist. While Jesus is preaching and teaching in towns throughout the country, John the Baptist hears about all the things Jesus is doing and then he sends his disciples to go and ask Jesus if he’s really the Messiah.

What’s going on here? If anyone should know the true identity of Jesus, you would think it would be John the Baptist. Remember back in Matthew 3 John was out in the desert baptizing people and he told the crowds that while he baptized with water, one would come after him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John said this person would be so much greater than him that he would be unworthy to even be this person’s slave.

Immediately after that, Jesus shows up and is baptized by John, after which the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove while the voice of the Father affirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. I previously wrote about this baptism event here.

John had been born for the purpose of preparing the way for the Messiah. He had prepared his whole life for that moment of introducing the Messiah to a lost and dying world. He had known Jesus since birth and Jesus’ identity and mission had been confirmed to him and all those present at Jesus’ baptism.

So why is John the Baptist suddenly asking Jesus whether He really is the Messiah? If you think about it, you have to wonder why this passage was even included in the text at all. It doesn’t appear to add any new information of value to what we already know about Jesus. What then is the purpose of this odd interaction?

I think this passage demonstrates a universal phenomenon that we all deal with.

Doubt.

Imagine that. John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, the way-maker appointed for preparing a path for the coming Messiah, the one who first identified Jesus as the Messiah and the Lamb of God to the crowds, the one who baptized Jesus and was a witness to the affirmation of Jesus by the Father and the Holy Spirit, is suddenly doubting whether Jesus really is the Messiah.

Why would he doubt?

I think a couple of things are happening that might help us understand.

First of all, John the Baptist had been arrested fairly soon after Jesus was baptized. In Matthew 4, Jesus goes out into the desert after His baptism and undergoes 40 days of temptation. The text says that after Jesus heard John was arrested, he began to preach (Matthew 4:12-17). So Jesus really doesn’t even begin his public ministry until after John is arrested.

Being in prison means that John cannot be a personal witness to the things Jesus is doing.

The bottom line for John is that things are not going the way he expected. He was not expecting to be imprisoned and he likely was also not counting on being sidelined while others had a front row seat as eyewitnesses to the many miracles and the public teaching of the Messiah.

When life doesn’t turn out the way we expect or hope, doubt can set in. Doubt can be so powerful that even the most stable, fundamental truths to which we’ve always held can suddenly be questioned.

Jesus’ response to John’s doubt is quite revealing.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t get angry or impatient. If it were me, I’d probably respond with a derisive, “Really bro? You know me. We grew up together. You were there when I was baptized. Remember that? And don’t you remember the dove descending and the voice from heaven? Why you gotta be a hater? C’mon man!”

Jesus is not upset and he’s not rattled. He simply responds to John’s disciples by quoting from Isaiah 29, Isaiah 35, and Isaiah 61, passages which describe what the ministry of the Messiah would look like. It just so happens, these are the exact things that Jesus is doing in His ministry.

Notice too that after John’s disciples leave, Jesus speaks glowingly to the crowds of John the Baptist and his ministry, calling him the greatest of all the prophets who had ever lived.

Jesus is not phased by John’s doubt. Jesus is not threatened or concerned by John’s doubt. Jesus does not use John’s doubt against him.

If Jesus can handle the doubt of a guy he called the greatest prophet who ever lived and who knew Jesus personally, He can certainly handle my doubt and your doubt.

It’s ok to doubt. Doubt is an expected response to unforeseen and unexpected circumstances.

But like John the Baptist, we shouldn’t wallow in our doubt. Instead, we should seek Jesus out, share our doubt with Him and allow Him to lovingly remind us of all the ways in which He has demonstrated who He is by the things He’s done in our lives and in the lives of others!

Reflection

What are some common reasons or circumstances that you think cause people to doubt?

What is a time in your spiritual journey where you doubted? What were the circumstances? How did you deal with that doubt?

What has been your response to others you know who have doubted God or Jesus or Christianity?

What are some helpful resources or steps you could provide to someone who is experiencing doubts in their faith?

 

Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

The Implications of Belief in No God!

Psalm 53

1Only fools say in their hearts,“ There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; no one does good!

2God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if there is even one with real understanding, one who seeks for God.

3But no, all have turned away from God; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not even one!

4Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread; they wouldn’t think of praying to God.

5But then terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.

6Oh, that salvation would come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel! For when God restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.

(Psalm 53:1-6, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In this Psalm, David is pondering the moral implications of life without God.

Two observations are worth noting.

First, David plainly states that only a fool says in their heart that there is no God.

It’s interesting to notice that the fool doesn’t conclude God’s non-existence through reason or evidence but what makes a person a fool is that they say “in their heart” that there is no God.

What exactly is meant by this phrase “in the heart”?

I think the best way to think of the heart is the will – the control center of a person’s life. Your will, which equates to your desires, will motivate and compel you to act in ways that are contrary to reason and what you know is right. If you decide “in your heart” that you want to pursue a certain course of action (whether good or bad), nothing will convince you otherwise.

So in this context, the fool is someone who has decided that there is no God, despite whatever evidence may be presented. Reason and facts don’t matter because he or she has already made a decision of their will (a decision of the heart) what they intend to believe and how they intend to respond and move forward.

David says that belief there is no God is foolish. Why? Because it is a denial of that which is observably apparent, namely that we exist and the universe exists and that something grander and larger and much more powerful than the universe must have created it.

The second thing that David addresses is the moral implications of believing in no God.

Without God, there is no moral foundation. Hence, the actions of the atheist ultimately devolve to evil. It doesn’t mean that people who believe there is no god are not capable of doing good – they are. It does mean, however, that without the moral foundation that God alone provides, there is no anchor to call anything good. Therefore, moral values can easily shift, where things that were once considered evil are now considered acceptable, even good.

The implications of this are huge. David says that when God looks down on the human race he cannot find anyone who is truly good. This certainly contradicts the prevailing view on morality in today’s culture.

In our culture today, it’s popular to hold the belief that people are generally good and only do bad things because they are exposed to evil, corrupt or unfair environments.

These verses (particularly verse 3) explicitly refute this ideology, affirming that NO ONE is good. This does not mean that people are incapable of doing good things. What it means, however, is that no one is able to meet the standard of goodness as defined by God.

What is God’s standard of goodness?

God’s standard of goodness is himself – perfect righteousness. Humans are not able to meet this standard. Hence no one is good, not even one.

By the way, those who claim that people are good and only do evil things because of the influence of their environment, never explain how those environments were able to corrupt people in the first place.

In other words, if man is basically good, how did the environment that supposedly caused his negative actions become bad enough to influence his negative actions? This is never explained by those who believe in man’s goodness.

So to summarize, David says that a fool is someone who makes a decision of the heart to believe in no God. It’s foolish because it defies logic and reason and that which is observably apparent.

Secondly, without God, there is no basis to call anything good and therefore, people will make their own standards for what they think is right and wrong. These standards will be constantly shifting and fall far short of God’s standard for goodness, which is Himself. As a result, God says NO ONE is good. NOT ONE. We are all sinful and corrupt and have turned away from God.

As I look at the culture we live in today, I’d say David’s words look more like prophecy than ancient poetry.

Reflection

What has been your standard of goodness that you’ve used to evaluate your own life?

What is your response to the idea that someone who decides “in their heart” that God doesn’t exist is a fool? 

How would you respond to someone who makes the claim that people are basically good but they only do bad things because of the negative influences of their environment?

What would you say to someone who doesn’t believe in God but believes that they can be moral?

 

Photo by Dave Lowe

About Online Interactions

You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT)

Is it just me or do people seem angrier and more polarized these days?

Two hallmark characteristics of Christianity are love and forgiveness. Jesus raised the bar by telling us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to forgive others an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:22). Yet even among Christians it’s sometimes difficult to see these qualities of Jesus expressed.

Social media, in particular, has contributed to an environment where it’s easy to argue with and even slander others with whom we disagree. If you spend any amount of time on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor, you’ll quickly see conversations devolve into the equivalent of a digital junior high food fight. It often seems as if kindness and civil discourse no longer exist. We can often fall into the trap of arguing with others to prove our point.

Alan Jacobs, in a 2017 blog post (https://blog.ayjay.org/vengeance/) warned about the dangers of vengeance and vindictiveness online:

When a society rejects the Christian account of who we are, it doesn’t become less moralistic but far more so, because it retains an inchoate sense of justice but has no means of offering and receiving forgiveness. The great moral crisis of our time is not, as many of my fellow Christians believe, sexual licentiousness, but rather vindictiveness. Social media serve as crack for moralists: there’s no high like the high you get from punishing malefactors.

Paul’s words to Timothy are especially relevant to us today. Given the environment in our culture and on digital platforms, it’s often easier to look like the people Paul describes than the people Jesus invites us to be.

Reflection

In what ways do you find yourself mirroring the people Paul describes?

What would help you to maintain the loving and forgiving posture of Jesus in your interactions with others?

As we enter 2021, my prayer is for an extra measure of self-control so my  engagements with others will be seasoned with grace, love and kindness!

Crossing an Unknown Bridge

Have you ever had a task that you dreaded doing but the end result made it worth it? As I write this, I’m thinking about how I need to mow my lawn.

Yay! The Family photo. My most favorite thing in the WHOLE world!

Taking our family photo is one of those tasks that we dread. The mere mention of it to my family elicits a collective groan, and for good reason. Trying to find a time to take the photo and then coming up with an inspiring location is exhausting. Not to mention the task of trying to figure out what we’re all going to wear.

REJECTED PHOTO 1 – Joshua (right) looks like he’s half asleep.

And we know it’s not going to be a quick endeavor. Once we get to the location, we have to find the right spots and take numerous photos, adjusting for lighting, positioning, closed eyes and awkward smiles.

You promised me this wouldn’t take long. YOU LIED!

And someone (probably me) is certainly going to get frustrated that things aren’t going quickly or according to plan. Tensions will rise and patience will be tested. It’s the same every year. Who wants to go through all that?

REJECTED PHOTO 2 – I really don’t want a doggy poop bag in the photo

But afterwards, when the photos are all downloaded off the camera and edited on the computer, we’re always glad we did it.

This year we decided to take our photo at a local park near us. Based on online reviews, I thought it would be an interesting location with plenty of scenic backdrops. After walking around and taking a few photos, Jen suggested we pose on a short bridge that extends over the Oso Creek.

REJECTED PHOTO 3 – Now Jacob is asleep and Jen is looking at the dog. Dave is not even in the photo.

Bridges are interesting because of what they symbolize. Bridges not only help us get to another destination but they help us overcome obstacles that can make the journey more difficult. In our photo, we’re standing in the middle of a bridge, not quite yet to the other side. I think that truly depicts where we’re at in this season of life.

As you know, our boys are seniors in high school and they have been busy applying for schools and preparing for the next step in their educational journey.

United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland

For us, we’re keenly aware that at this time next year, we may very well be empty nesters. Our boys are busily preparing to leave; they have started to cross the bridge, but they’re not yet on the other side.

A few weeks ago, our entire family boarded a redeye flight from LAX to visit the Naval Academy, which is one of our boys’ top choices for next year. It was a whirlwind trip but it was fun to see the campus, meet the Cross Country coach and even see a former high school friend who is a current cadet. We don’t know for sure if our boys will end up at the Naval Academy or somewhere else, but it was another reminder that we’re on a bridge, headed for something new.

Jacob (left) and Joshua at the U.S. Naval Academy, where they met their friend Cameron Hurd, a current cadet who was a senior at their high school when they were just piddly little freshmen.

Jen and I are doing our best to enjoy this season, attempting to live in the present moment while peering to the other side of the bridge.

I’m reminded of message I heard recently in which the pastor urged us to celebrate each day and be grateful for each moment. He quoted Psalm 118:24, which says,

“this is the day which Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

We are so grateful for you and your prayers for us. Please pray that we would accept each day the Lord gives us and rejoice!

PHOTO SUCESS! Everyone is smiling and looking at the camera (even the dog). And nobody is in the background. I guess it was all worth it!

Empty But Full of Promise

Recently, I came across a tweet from the Orange County Register that illustrates the spiritual condition of Millennials in Orange County. The tweet linked to an article and said, “Empty, but full of promise: Look inside some of O.C.’s most spectacularly vacant buildings http://bit.ly/20HXpXW.”

The article highlights 3 vacant Orange County buildings, each of which, in it’s own way, depicts a spiritual reality of life in Orange County.

One of the buildings is brand new and is one of the tallest buildings in Orange County. From the top floor one can get an amazing 360 degree view of South Orange County. Yet this building sits vacant, devoid of life.

A second building highlighted is the Bay Theater in Seal Beach. According to the article, this theater was the favorite spot for Steven Spielberg to watch a movie while he was a student at Long Beach State. Yet this historic theater, a memorial to a bygone era, shut down in 2012, giving way to more modern multiplex stadium theaters.

YMCA Building in Santa Ana, California
The YMCA building in Santa Ana was built in 1923 but has been vacant for over 20 years.

The third building highlighted in the article is the YMCA building in Santa Ana, which has now been vacant for more than 20 years.

So what do these buildings tell us about Orange County? What’s the spiritual connection?

I thought about the new modern building with it’s stunning panoramic views. From it, you can see the ocean, the mountains and all that life in the OC has to offer. In a way, this view represents how many Millennials live life here. Many will give their lives trying to make it to the top, achieving the kind of success that would allow them to experience everything that the OC has to offer. But inside, there’s no life. It’s a fleeting pursuit that cannot deliver the kind of fulfillment and purpose that we all desire deep down in the pit of our being.

The Bay Theater represents the simplicity and purity of mid-20th century America. Progressive thinking and technological advances have brought with it the desire for more. The desire for bigger and faster has made us busier and less connected, which has unwittingly deprived us of what many of us need the most – solitude and the opportunity for personal reflection.

The third building in the article is the Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA) building in Santa Ana. Built in 1923, this building has been vacant now for over 20 years. Ironically, this building represents the post-Christian culture in which we now live. Once a mainstay of the community, shaping young men to live lives of character and influence, this building stands as a relic to the influence Christianity had at one time in the community.

Millennials are the largest segment of American culture and yet they are the least churched. Sometimes referred to as the “Me” generation, they long to experience life to the fullest and see the world changed. Yet as a whole, they’re spiritually empty inside. Imagine if we could reach this generation for Jesus and tap into their potential for a lasting impact on our communities, our country and the world! Millennials are truly empty, but full of promise.

Thank you for partnering with us and praying for us as we seek to reach Millennials in Orange County so that they can achieve their true purpose and fulfill the promise of their spiritual potential!

San Diego State Destino!

After several years of prayer and attempts to start a Destino ministry in San Diego, we were able to get a Destino ministry started in 2013. Check at this video, where students share the need and their vision for Destino in San Diego.

Good Times in San Diego

Since 1995, we’ve spent the week after Christmas in San Diego for our annual Winter Conference. This year, we spent an additional weekend in San Diego for our Epic conference.

Combined, over 1000 students were exposed to intimate worship, challenging messages and an opportunity to surrender their hearts more fully to God’s purposes in their lives.

SDWC-Say

At the Epic Conference over MLK weekend, we had an opportunity to meet several student leaders from the University of Arizona. It was exciting to hear their story of how the Lord had been working in their own lives to prompt them to start Epic. It was encouraging to hear them share how 40 students had shown up at their first weekly meeting just a week or so before.

Praise God for how he works in students’ lives at these conferences.

To read these stories through our newsletter, the Lowedown, click here.UA-Epic

Destino at Chico State

Visited Chico State last week. Check out this cool video their students produced while I was there where they share a little bit about Destino at Chico State.