Passion Week – What Does that Really Mean?

By many, the week leading up to Easter Sunday is referred to as Passion Week. For some the word passion might be a confusing term, especially in the world in which we live.

For me that word has a much deeper connotations than just a sensual human response. One definition of passion says “having a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something”. Another is “intense, driven, mastering a feeling or conviction”.

I admire musicians who have true passion in the way they display a total surrender in the the way they perform. They can convey a message with such force that you are left with little doubt about the importance of the message. They just lay it all on the line with unfettered emotion. If you cannot sing with passion, why bother?

People are passionate about many other things in life too. They can encompass the entire spectrum of humanity. Even in the realm of business there are those who are totally engulfed with a passion for their goods or services. The truth of the matter is, if you bring a passionate zeal to your work or avocation, you will excel and exceed in whatever you do. Regardless of your craft, people will follow and respect you because of your depth of commitment.The intent of my writing today is to examine a passion that far outweighs all other human pursuits or desires.

There was a lowly man who took up residence on earth and walked among us. He was from humble beginnings and led a simple life. This gentle man of whom I speak had a calling and a purpose. He may not have been a master builder or a great musician of ability or craft. But his goal and purpose pushed him to the ultimate level of passion. His resolve was born out of who he was. He was bred as a servant. His DNA fully tilted him to love people with a unique passion unknown before he came. His strong resolve led to his ultimate demise very early in his life. You’ve probably guess that I am speaking of Jesus, the Christ.

When he looked people in the eye, his gaze went directly to their core. He saw them where they were, yet loved them in spite of who they were. He was a magnet to those around him. He exuded a passion for life, but it not his own. The compassion he had for people was powerful enough to make rugged fishermen drop their nets and follow him without reservation. He just commanded a presence about him that was inexplicable. And he still does now.

For those of you who know and follow this man Jesus, he still has that magnetic draw and power. To become like him empowers you. To walk with him encourages you. To know him changes you.

As we ponder this week of “passion” we should be reminded how far his care and concern took him. It led him to to an early grave as “religious” leaders declared him their enemy because he obviously had a greater influence than they. Those same people took him down, or so they thought. There’s more to this story. Stay tuned.

Scabs and Scars

I’ve personally been met with obstacles and challenges in my life that left me battered, bruised and broken. I bear scars of failure and defeat. Some wounds have been deep and lasting. Some battles I’ve faced seemed to have lasted for a lifetime. Then there are are those really tough events that defined my life, at least for a time.

The human condition gives us all episodes of life where we get punched and slapped and knocked down. It’s just life. Some battles leave you with evidences of your survival. Some skirmishes can leave you with nasty little scabs. Then there are those events that leave indelible marks on your life. Those seem to stay with you. Scars left behind can be reminders of failure and brokenness.

A few years ago I was at crossroads in my life. Failure and despair seemed to haunt me. That thinking seemed to be a new norm for me. I decided one day that I was far better at failure than I was at winning. Let me tell you, that is not a place you want to be. That feeling takes you captive and makes you its slave. It seems there is no escape from that dungeon.

But then I found some really wise counsel, from some very honest and godly men. They didn’t ridicule me, they didn’t shun me. They didn’t try to figure it all out for me. They came along side me in my pain. They prayed with and for me. They hounded me with compassion and care, in an humble yet strong kind of way.

It was a rather odd and new time for me. Men were taught to suck it up, take it on the chin and just deal with it. Don’t show your weakness, don’t display your pain. And whatever you do, do  not tell any other man your weaknesses or failures. If you do, your man card is cancelled permanently. Does anyone know who wrote those rules?

I can honestly say, at this point in my life, that I wear my scars as badges of honor. I know I am a survivor of the rarest kind. I’ve been in the trenches of life and am still here to tell of them. I have a marriage that has stood the test of time. I have folks around me that I’d willingly give it all up for. I’ve seen ugliness and pain yet I smile in spite of it all.

There’s nothing special or gifted about me, yet I’ve found the secret to success in life. It is not about reaching some pinnacle of fame or fortune, or reaching some lofty goal or getting some large reward.

I’ve learned to simply rest in what my God has shown me, in my pain. He’s a trustworthy teacher that takes you to the highest of places of submission and tests you to see if you really do trust him. When I’m shaken and thrown down I know that He still loves and cares about me, especially in my pain. It must seem odd to those around me, but I’ve been blessed beyond measure in some of the darkest places in life. Yet God is good. All the time.

 

James – Faith that Works Even in my Pain

Pain. We all experience it.
 
I’ve been following a book study about life’s trials. As I glean new things from this study I am reminded of things that I’ve learned in the past from personal experience about pain. New and unlearned things are objective and not yet understood fully until experienced. Learned things are events or seasons in life when we’ve experienced personally the truths that this study reveals.  

Here’s a question for you. Do you believe that God has a purpose for pain or trials that we experience in this life?

In the New Testament the book of James it tells us in chapter 1 that God wants us to bear up under trials. Trials in our lives come in many forms. Family, work, marriage, and financial issues, just to name a few all seem to find their way to our doorsteps. There are normal human responses to the various pains or pressures we are dealt. Faced with serious challenges, one of our first responses is to run or escape. Seems to be the best thing we can think of. Just run.

Secondly we often just moan and complain about our plight. For those of us who believe in the creator God, we usually file a complaint directed him. We ask him why he’s letting this event or situation happen?

A third common response to trial is to blame someone else or some other circumstance for our trial. We just can’t accept that we are stuck smack dab in the middle of trouble, when the trouble may have been brought on by our own wrong decisions. Deferring or projecting our pain onto someone else seems to ease our pain, but it then creates a bitterness in us that is projected to others.     

Humanly speaking we have these normal responses. But in the spiritual realm we can choose a supernatural response, as the book of James tells us to employ.  The passage from James tells us that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. Steadfastness is a big word for a number of things. The result of taking God’s route is that difficulty in our lives can “do its full work”. That means if we hang on, God will use the problem for our good. It seems to go against our nature. But following the advice from James will produce good is us.

 Benefits of staying the course include learning loyalty, faithfulness, commitment and dedication to completing tasks. Staying the course makes us stable and complete. I don’t know about you, but many times I don’t feel stable and far removed from being complete! The end result, James says, is that we can perfect, complete and lacking in nothing. That’s what it says! Read it.

Now for something from my own life.

I’ve had two separate and distinct seasons when I was in severe pain. Not physical pain, but emotional distress and tons of accompanying worry, fear and doubt.  These periods persisted for extended periods of time. The first was not of my own choosing and seemed to take on a life of its own that took me through very dark days. Regardless of how I tried to change or escape it, the problems just kept going and going. It seemed that my life would be changed forever and the pain would never stop. 

My second season of trial and pain was of my own doing. I just plainly took a wrong path. I wiggled, squirmed and tried everything I could to remove myself from the situation. But it seemed the more I tried to escape, again it only got worse. This trial lasted for an extended period of time too. My own devices and plans to change and escape did not work. God had to pry my fingers from this trial so that I could finally rest in his provision and grace.

Peace can be found in obedience. God gave us a book of instructions. But many times we just don’t take the time to find the answers already provided for us. We can have more fulfilling and complete lives when we turn to the book of the ages for help in times of need.

Life is hard, but God is good. He has a perfect plan for us, if we will only allow him to work. We must learn to remove our hands from the wheel and let our God drive and direct us. Seems only fitting that the God who created us, could be able and willing to lead us to a life of fulfillment and joy. Living like this is another example of Living Life to the Full.