Most all of us have an image of a cross somewhere; may be on a shirt, it could be on earrings or a necklace. I have one on my Bible, you may also or possibly on a notebook. I don’t have one on the bumper of my car, but a lot of people do as well as on key chains or even hanging from the rear view mirror. There are probably other places that I am overlooking, but the image of the cross is all over and for many it has become a fashion statement.

This positive image of the cross wasn’t always there. Galatians 3:13 tells us that anyone who has been hung on a tree (which is a reference to the cross) is cursed. It is an Old Testament concept that predated Jesus’ crucifixion by hundreds of years. The concept then was to show you had conquered someone by hanging their body on a tree or the city wall as a form of humiliation. We see how, out of respect, soldiers who were loyal to King Saul took down his and Jonathan’s bodies that were hung out when they were defeated. So when Jesus came along walking the roads of Israel, the idea of hanging on a cross was anything but positive.

Another less than positive aspect of the cross was what it was used for. It was an instrument of torture. Yes, there was the humiliation already talked about, but in those cases it was a dead body that was displayed. In Jesus’ day the body wasn’t dead when first placed on the cross. Yes, there was the display of humiliation and the example for others to tow the line or receive the same punishment, but even more –there was incredible pain. The Greek word is “a well known instrument of most cruel and ignominious punishment”. Torture, unfortunately has been something man has always been good at, and in the case the Romans, crucifixion was a very effective torture they had learned from the Phoenicians.

Though we have the nice image of two pieces of wood placed together to make a cross, that wasn’t the original design. Basically it was an upright stake or pole. It wasn’t until the late second century that the “T” shape was used and five hundred years later that the cross we know of today was used. And throughout these time periods and today, there has always been the tempting problem of worshiping the image, rather than what it stands for.

The original idea of the cross was shaped somewhat different than we have today and it was a long way from the fashion statement we see it as. But as we push all of that aside, how can we not be grateful when we see the image of a cross, regardless of it’s shape? It is where my sins were nailed. It is where the divide between me and my heavenly father was removed. It was where the ultimate act of love was displayed. It was God reaching His hand down to me through the body of His Son. So regardless of how it looks or what it’s purpose was in Rome, it is something to be thankful for. At this time of year when we focus on thankfulness, let’s not worship the image of a cross, but be thankful for the gift that took place on it.

Thankful for the Cross,

Randy

I know the current weather makes us think more of hot chocolate than lemonade, but I was thinking about lemonade this week. How does the old saying go, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Not sure why lemons got such a sour reputation (yes, that is a groaner), but they did. I tried to find out where the saying originated from, but couldn’t. If you find out, please let my curious mind know. Regardless, it is a saying we are all familiar with.

I’m not sure if Paul was familiar with it or not or if he was given lemons, but what we call his second missionary journey does make me think along that line. In Acts 16:6-10, Paul wanted to go into what we would call northeast Turkey, in his day it was called Asia. His plans, his thoughts of going in this direction were stopped. That, however, brought about what we call the “Macedonian Call” and a tremendous ministry opened up. He was able to reach people in what we now call Greece, including the towns of Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth—communities and churches we are well aware of. Now things hadn’t gone how Paul planned, but that didn’t stop him from serving God. And God blessed this service.

At different times in my life, things have happened that I did not understand and were not what I was praying for. After initially questioning God, then submitting to the fact that He is more knowing than I am, I made lemonade. Sometimes the lemonade that was made was plentiful and sweet, sometimes less plentiful and not as sweet. But in all cases lemonade was made. I question events that happen less nowadays, though I still talk to God about why sometimes. I try to go forward looking how to make the best lemonade I can with what is presented to me. Am I perfect at it, no, but I try.

The other aspect of lemonade that I thought of this week referenced back to an article I had read a couple of months ago. A lady who happened to be a nurse was traveling along when she came upon an accident. She got out to assist those that were injured, members of the Milwaukee Iron Biker Group. A few months later her daughter decided to have a lemonade stand, like most of us have done at sometime in our childhood. Being a good mom, she posted it on social media to help her daughter out. You are probably already ahead of me, yes someone from the biker group saw it and well, it was a good day at the lemonade stand.

A bad situation turned into a heartwarming event. If you get the change google Milwaukee Iron Biker Group and Lemonade, the video is great. We go through life and we experience bad things, lemons as it be. When faced with seemingly bad situations, we need to get out the sugar: or in the spiritual sense, get down on our knees and pray. I don’t know what God will do. I do know that He has blown me away in the past with what He can do. I always hold onto that, because who knows who will show up at the lemonade stand.

Making lemonade,

Randy

Though I have my strong--and in my opinion, correct--political views, I really try to keep them separate from my Christian views. This is a little more difficult when it comes to dealing with society, the place where we live our lives. I am not saying I always handle this topic correctly, but I try. Regardless, it is important to make sure how we live our lives in the society we live in, enhances the kingdom of our Heavenly Father.

There was a great example of this in the news a couple of weeks ago, though it was interesting how something like this even made the news. Former President Bush was a guest at a Dallas Cowboys’ game and the camera caught him enjoying himself with the person to his left. As a matter of fact they seemed to be enjoying the time together, though we don’t know if the positive expressions on their faces were the result of a play that happened on the field, or just the conversation they were having. Regardless something that really didn’t seem to be newsworthy suddenly was.

Now if you are familiar with the situation you know I am talking about President Bush who was there with his wife and the person he seemed to be enjoying a conversation with was Ellen DeGeneres who was there with her wife. Yes, she lives a different lifestyle than what I am led to believe would fit with President Bush’s Christian views. And yet here they were enjoying a football game, and a conversation together. At least that’s what the ensuing Twitter explosion would indicate.

Jesus gave us examples of living in this world without condemning those we come in contact with. Remember the woman caught in adultery? No, Jesus did not say “Oh, it’s ok, this just seemed to be a trap and you were set up.” He also didn’t toss the first stone, which He could have condemning her for the lifestyle she lived (John 8:1-11). There was also the rich young man who didn’t want to give up his money and the power that comes with that, walking away when asked to follow Jesus. Though the account of this encounter is in multiple gospels, I like what Mark brings out, stating that Jesus “looked at him and loved him”, as he walked away (Mark 10:21). There was no condemnation of the man or where he was, only a desire for him to be closer to God. Jesus was very committed to His Heavenly Father and what was right, while still showing love to those He came to save.

I am not saying that we should overlook sin in the world or the lifestyles that go against our Heavenly Father. If we lose our contact with God or His word, we have lost our way. What we have to make sure we do is keep in mind people, because isn’t that what it is all about? We live in a country that allows us to freely express what we believe. We also live in a kingdom that is much greater than the country we live in. Remembering this helps us focus not on a person’s lifestyle, but the Life given for that person. I will gladly keep my views to myself, but I will not keep God’s grace to myself.

Remembering what’s important,

Randy