Why did Jesus have to die?

What did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t he have just turned more water into wine? Or healed another person? Or just choose to forgive our sin? Why did He have to die?

I have wrestled with these questions as I seek to help others understand Jesus’ death and resurrection. Sure, I can logically deduct this. And even explain the rational for Jesus death and resurrection from the Bible. But how can I communicate the answer to these questions in a way that people get it? How can I communicate the significance of God’s sacrifice in a way that people feel it? That is a whole other challenge.

To answer this question, I believe we must first understand some basic assumptions.

1) God takes our sin a whole lot more seriously than we do. Whether we lie and call it a “white” lie. Whether we justify personal expenses on the corporate credit card as… “I’m not paid enough.” We constantly minimize our sin. We try to make it less than what it is, or we justify it way. But God doesn’t. God takes our sin so seriously that before the first sin was committed, He prescribed death as the punish for sin. Our sin is so serious to God that it requires death. God set the rules before the first sin was committed. And God lives by His rules.

2) Even though not all of God’s children have received His invitation to be part of His family, we must understand that both pre-Christians and Christians are children of God. God love’s all of his children. And is willing to do anything to prevent them from dying and being separated from Him for eternity.

Recently, my kids and their cousins were sword fighting in my back yard with pool noodles stuffed over PVC pipes. My son  watched this battle unfold when his unarmed sister took several cheap shots from her cousin. Immediately my son caulked his fits, got into an offensive Tae Kwon Do stance, started moving toward his cousin, and with a forceful and raised voice, definitively told his cousin… “If you hit my sister again you’re going to get hurt!”

I have a confession to make… my son got this from me.

If anyone tries to hurt my kids, I will do everything in my power to take them out even if that means die. And this response is natural. It is part of the survival of the fittest. It is a theme of creation.

Not long ago, I was spreading the branches of a bush to look at a nest of baby birds. I ignored the squawking parents in perched above in the tree until they started dive bombing me. These birds were crazy. They wouldn’t stop. And I quickly withdrew my position. The parent birds risked their lives to preserve the lives of their children.

We see this play itself out in all of creation – parents willing to sacrifice, even die, for the preservation, protection, and sustained life of their children.

God is the source of the natural phenomenon. This response is birthed from God’s nature. And is inborn at creation.

But God’s love for us for us is so great, that as the author of life, he wrote himself into the story of our lives in the character of man named Jesus. God came to earth as a man named Jesus and chose to satisfy the consequence for our sin by dying. God came to earth, as Jesus, to preserve and protect our lives by risking everything and dying. Through death, God satisfies, the punish for the sin of all humanity. And then proves His power and authority over death in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Jesus can do this because he is both God and man. Because of Jesus death we don’t have to live separated from God. Jesus can forgive us because he satisfies the consequences of our sin through his death and resurrection.

The question is… as children of God, will we receive the forgiveness that God offers through his death? By accepting God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we enter into God’s family.

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Footwashing

Footwashing“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5

The natural question is… why would Jesus wash his disciple’s feet? That seems odd. I wash my own feet. But I wouldn’t wash my friends feet. And I certainly wouldn’t my friends feet just before dinner at the dining room table.

Let’s understand the cultural context. There are no cars or bikes. So people walk everywhere they go. The landscape is sandy. The roads are unpaved and dusty. Donkeys, horses, and other cattle, used in the transportation of goods, are relieving themselves on the road and sidewalks that everyone walks on. The street is the sewer system. After walking a mile or two to get to dinner, the guests feet are a dirty, dusty, disgusting mess. With all sorts of crud squished between their toes.

It would be like throwing a house party and each of your guests stepping in a pile dog poop while walking to your front door. Are you going to let them in with their shoes on?

In Jesus’ day, a servant would wash the feet of each guest as they entered the home to remove the dirt and crap.

The first part of this verse says… “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God”

Catch this! The entire world – all of creation – is under the authority and power of Jesus. He is the President – King – Prime Minister – CEO – Lord over every government, civic group, business, and society in the world.

He has every right to be honored, revered, feared, and served. Jesus didn’t have to lift a finger to do anything for us. Instead, we should be asking, “What can I do for you?”

But Jesus striped down to his undergarment and picked up a towel, to help us clean up the mess we’ve made in life. He set aside his rights and privileges as God to become a servant to you and to me – to the people he created that should be serving him.

We don’t know why a servant wasn’t there to wash the guests’ feet. But regardless no one offered. No one was willing to sacrifice their greatness and play the role of a servant except for the guest of honor.

Jesus did at the dinner table what no one else in the room was willing to do.

Men’s Advance

It Keeps Coming!

Here is another amazing story of God speaking into people’s lives through Restore.

Last week, I attended a Celebrate Recovery meeting and met a woman who’s hurting emotionally, financially and mentally. Her husband walked out on her without notice. She came home to see a moving truck sitting in the driveway and the next day it was gone and so were all the things in the house. She came home to a completely empty house. Shortly afterward, she lost her house, her job and her everything she and her kids have grown accustomed to through the years. To make matter worst, she found out the day before that her husband’s involved with another person and the new gf is wearing and using things that belonged to her and her husband refused to give it back to her. Apparently he packed up everything in the house – including her clothes with him when he left.

While she was sharing, I felt the Spirit prompting me to to give her the debit card and a lil something extra from my purse. I recently went to the bank to withdrew some money to pay my bills and told myself that the money’s been called for, however, I felt a strong nudge of the Holi spirit to jsut do it and not worry about how I am going to make up the difference if I give it to her. So I took out some of the money and wrapped it around the debit card and “secretely handed to her and quietly whispered in her ears ” This is a little gift from my new church called Restore CC in Sterling and a lil blessing from God.” Upon recvg it, and without seeing how much it was, she started to cry and hugged me as if her life was dependent on it. She said ” Oh my Gosh! I can’t believe this. I don’t even have a penny left to my name and prior to coming her I was thinking I shouldn’t have come because I don’t have enough gas in my car to make it home if I went but you have changed all that. I can’t believe how good God is and what a blessing it is that he’s blessed you in my life. You have really made my day I can’t thank you enough.” I told her it’s all God’s doing, I had nothing to do with it. I am only doing what God asked me to do and is to be a blessing to you today. =0)

But, the most amazing this is not what God did for that woman that day, it’s what followed that blows my mind…Well, the day after I gave my money away, I got an email from a dear friend of mine telling me that a substantial amount of money was deposited into my account because my friend knew that I was still unemployed and could not afford to pay for repairs on a my car that my sponsor has given me over the summer. I was hoping to fix it up so my son will have a car to drive to college this fall. I rcvd enough money to pay for the repairs and a little extra left over for registration and insurance for him.

From this experience, I have learned so much about the God I serve and I am able to better see how awesome He is and feel how much he does love me and that He is a Keeper of promises – and most of all, I am able to see how true Jeremiah 29:11 is – which states “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I hope you will this testimony will inspire you and encourage you to do what God has called you to do in the NOVA area and to let you know how you and your vision of spreading God’s love and generosity has touched and transformed so many lives – mine included. I and my family have been so sincerely blessed by you and Restore these past months and I look forward to being a part of Restore family for years to come. I pray that God will continue to give you His special annointings, wisdom and protection and to bless you and your family abundantly as you are carrying out His will in your life.

God is good! ALL the Time!

Generosity Turns Heads

This is from one of our team members who helped deliver 110 holiday meals to families in need.

I was given the opportunity and pure honor to be able to help deliver over 110 meals to needy families in my neighborhood last weekend. I’m not saying that to be boastful, other than to be able to take pride in knowing I helped to truly make a difference in other people’s lives. My neighbor’s lives. When the food was delivered, people were honestly grateful. To see on their faces the sheer relief, the pure happiness, and the weight lift from their shoulders is something you never forget. One man thought I was kidding when I stopped at his house. “That’s for me? Are you sure?” One mom gave us a thank-you card, written in broken English. It was incredibly sweet, honest, and from the heart. It was real.

I delivered meals in my neighborhood with my son. People were amazing. Some were completely shocked I didn’t want anything in return. Others didn’t want to food for themselves-they immediately asked if they could pass it on to a friend they knew in greater need. Kids were even happy to receive the food, understanding even in their innocence what a gift it was. One gentleman who lives down the street from us was walking up to his door. Zach looked at him funny, because he was smoking and looked young. He looked like maybe a senior in high school or just college age. I called out to him.

“Hey! Would you like a free Thanksgiving dinner for you and your family?”
“What? Why?”
“No reason-my church is giving meals away. It’s a whole Thanksgiving meal, enough for 8 people or so. You interested?”
“Yo, yes!” “Do I have to pay?”
“No, man, it’s on us. Just enjoy the food.”
“Wow, thanks so much. This will make my mom so happy!”

He ran inside with the box like it was Christmas morning.

His homies were watching from a car, waiting for him to come back outside. As he got in the car, I overhead one of them say, “Dude, that was so cool. I can’t believe she just gave that to you, dog.”

Zach and I continued through the neighborhood, knocking on every door, anxious to give the boxes away. It was Saturday afternoon, so a lot of people weren’t home. Zach was getting frustrated. “Man, you can’t give away food in this neighborhood! Where is everybody?”

Another man came to the door. I could tell he had been drinking. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that he had on an old undershirt full of stains and holes. His pants were the same way-old, worn, and full of holes and rips. I wasn’t sure if this was his usual attire or if I just caught him on a day when he was working around the house or something. His house wasn’t too badly dilapidated, but needed some work. He’s an older gentleman, and I was wondering if he couldn’t do labor-type work any longer. It still made me sad. He couldn’t believe he didn’t have to pay for the food. His eyes lit up like he hadn’t received anything in a very long time. I was glad to surprise him and make his day.

As we were finishing up and heading back down the block towards our house, Zach said, “Mom, that was so cool. Do you have anymore boxes? We have a ton more neighbors.” He was actually disappointed when I told him we had given away all I had.

Generosity is cool. Very cool.

A Buddhist’s Journey

Restore Community Church in partnership with the Great Falls Optimist Club and Enrich NOVA delivered 110 holiday meals to families in need. Check out this email message coming from a Restore couple who helped serve. John grew up Buddhist and is still a pre-Christian.

“Thank you for giving John and I an opportunity to serve. John really enjoyed the experience and he said ” Now, I see how Christians share God’s love with one another and it made me realize that’s the different between Christianity and Buddhism.  When I was in VN, the Buddhist monks did not do such things to help the needy and the disadvantage, instead, they waited for others to serve them by bring their offerings to the temple. All they did was to pray over people and intercede between the evil curses on people by chanting certain spells/chants. Other than that, they don’t reach out to the people or educate the children about the God they worship.”

“What an amazing experience for John to see God! Praise God!”

“Again, thank you for being such a blessing in our lives!”

This is just one story of God’s leading people to forgiveness and grace as pre-Christians and Christians serve together.

Little Feet, Big Steps, God’s Mountain

This is from Stefani’s journal on October 25, 2009. It recaps our story so well, I feel it worthy of posting here…

At some point yesterday, I wondered if I had climbed a mountain – my feet were tired, my muscles ached, I was tired from head to toe. Yes, I had climbed a mountain. Today, I have spent time remembering what led to the climb. Here are some snapshots from my memories…

It was some time in 1998 – we were returning from a church leadership conference, Bill Hybles was speaking – Ron asked that scary question, “Did God say anything to you tonight?” I wanted to answer, but I wanted to hear from him first, “Yeah, but what did he say to you?” He wouldn’t go, I wouldn’t go, finally we both said, “God told me that one of these days, we’re going to start one of those churches that becomes the ‘Hope of the World’.” Looking at each other with bewilderment, we had no idea what that meant or when that time would come. Together we shared ideas of what that would look like – a church beyond walls, in the community, uniting people in generosity, sharing the extravagant love of God.

Flash forward to October 2006 – we were standing on a mountain in the Eastern Sierra – a beautiful place, full of majesty and splendor, focusing on the awesome creation of God. I looked at Ron and said, “God’s about to do something different with us, isn’t He.” We both knew – we just had no idea what ‘it’ was. Standing on the top of that mountain we knew there was a bigger one ahead of us – one we would climb – one we would probably have no trail map for –one that would require big steps out of our little feet.

Flash forward to August 2007 – we were again on top of a hill somewhere in TN that we had never heard of, somewhere that we never thought we would be – getting ready to go through the ringer at the Church Planting Assessment Center. Could this be the time that God had forecast so many years ago? Were we ready for this mountain? A resounding yes – in the form of affirmation from so many, including those who head CPAC. Only one question remained, “where?”

Flash forward to January 2008 – a moving van makes its way south along the I-95 corridor from PA to Northern Virginia. A place not known, A people not familiar with, A mountain with no map, A job with no income…

Who knew that the next 20 months would involve so many big steps – in raising funds, in building relationships, in establishing credibility, in unleashing generosity. Who knew that time could move so quickly.

October 25, 2009 Restore Community Church held the Grand Opening Celebration for Sunday Morning Services. And yet, the Church began long before that. And while most people see Church as this Sunday Morning thing, Restore is so much more – lived out daily in the community, as one person invests in another, as generosity is extended, as the extravagant love of Jesus is shared. Something tells me that the biggest steps are yet to be taken.