Sunday, March 27, 2016

When You Know This Future, It doesn't Just Change Your Future. It Changes Your Right Now

Do you know what movies I really like?  I really like the movies that have a cool twist at the end, one you don’t even see coming.  That’s why I went and saw 10 Cloverfield Lane.   I wanted the twist at the end.  It was a pretty good one.  But I gotta admit.  It couldn’t hold a candle to the ultimate movie twisted end.  

That end scene I will never forget.  Bruce Willis sees his back in the mirror, and then he gets it.  But not only does he get it, we get it.    Have you ever seen the movie, The Sixth Sense?   If you haven’t, I’m not going to spoil it for you.  But with that movie, you don’t really get it until you’ve seen how the movie ends.   And when you see that ending, everything you’ve watched before makes sense in a way it didn’t before.   After seeing that ending, you can never watch that movie in the same way again.
When it comes to Easter, it’s the same.   You don’t get Easter fully, what it really means, until you’ve seen the end.   And Easter is not the end, no, not at all.  At Easter, you are still living in the middle of the story, granted the climax of the story, but still the middle.   But if you want to understand the Jesus story, if you want to understand your story, if you want to understand the story of everything, then you’ve got to know the end to which Easter points.   Only then will you get it, really get it.
And what will you get?  You will get a power for living that nothing can shake.  You will gain a hope in the future that enables you to live in peace right now. You will realize maybe for the first time, exactly what time it really is.   How does that happen?  In these next words, God shows the way.  Let’s listen and hear what God has to say. 

When the writers of the Bible talk about Jesus and his resurrection, do you know what they call the risen Jesus?  They call him the first fruits.   What does that mean?   It means that the risen Jesus is only the beginning, the beginning of something so much bigger.   For the last two thousand years, we’ve been moving toward that ending.  And here in the words you just heard, God gives you a picture of it, of what is to come, of the glorious ending that awaits.

And when you grasp what God shows you here, it will change everything from how you view Christianity to how you view your future to how you view yourself. 

Too many folks think the whole point of the Gospel is to get you up there, to get you to heaven.   But do you see what God shows us here?  Nobody is going up anywhere.  No, instead God is coming down.  A new heavens and a new earth are coming down.   God is not leaving the world behind.   God is restoring it, transforming it, healing it.   When Jesus rose, he didn’t rise as some spirit floating through Galilee.  He rose in flesh and blood.  He even munched down on fish with his buddies.  

When the end comes, do you think that you’ll be floating around on clouds playing harps?  Forget that. 

Have you ever had a memory of a place that you remembered as so amazing, so wonderful?  Then you get there, and it just didn’t live up to the memory.  It seemed so much better in your mind.   Have you imagined what some new experience will be like, a meal at a certain place, a concert, a time with friends.  Then, whatever it is, it just doesn’t meet the vision.  It may come close, but something is missing.   What are you longing for in those moments?  You are longing for what will be, for what God is even now bringing, the new heavens and the new earth. 

Think about the most joyous moments you’ve had in love.  Think about a great party, an amazing meal, a piece of music that rocked your world, the joy you felt.  Think about the wonder of a magnificent waterfall, or a mountain or the sea the joy it gave you.  Where did that joy came from? The books or the music in which you thought the joy was located…it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through was a longing….They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower you have not found, the echo of a tune you have not heard, news from a country you have never yet visited. (C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory).  As one writer put it, “All beauty in the world is either a memory of Paradise or a prophecy of the transfigured world,” (Nicholas Berdyaev) the new heavens and earth that Revelation proclaims.  In that transfigured world, you will experience THE waterfalls of which all other waterfalls are just hints and echoes.  You will experience THE party of all parties, THE song of all songs, THE family of all families, THE joy of all joys.    

And when you realize that, it changes everything.   It gives you a power right now to live your life that nothing can shake.   What do I mean?   Who was John writing these words to?  He was writing to people who were facing a dangerous, even terrifyingly hostile world.   The Roman Empire had begun to notice Christians, and they were not amused.   Christians were dying.  Leaders such as John, who wrote this letter, were being sent into exile.  Over the next two centuries, the church would live at the mercy of an empire that would veer from bare toleration of their existence to campaigns to wipe them out completely.   Yet in the midst of that, what happened?   Followers of Jesus grew into the millions, until their presence dominated the empire.   They changed a cruel and brutal culture, into one that began to care the most vulnerable.   Where did hospitals and orphanages come from?  Christians created them.  Before Christianity, they didn’t exist.  And what enabled the revolution to happen?  The Christians had this.  They knew the end of the story.   And, knowing that future gave them the power to change their present.   

Think about it.   Knowing your future doesn’t simply affect you in the future, it affects you right now.   Imagine, two people get a job, some mundane job like fitting widgets into wodgets.  But one person gets told that in one year, he’ll get a raise from 20,000.00 a year to $25,000 a year, but the other gets told that in one year, he’ll get a raise from 20,000.00 a year to 20 million.  Who do you think is going to come to work every day with more enthusiasm, the 25 grand guy or the 20 million one?   But get this.  They are both experiencing the same circumstances.  But they are experiencing those circumstances in two very different ways. (Tim Keller)   Why?   Because, what both believe about their future is changing the way they live their lives right now.    

Last week, we heard the African American spiritual, Soon I Will Be Done.  Did you notice what that song was about?    It sang about the future, a future where death is no more, where God brings freedom and peace.  Most of the spirituals have that focus.   Why?  It was that future that helped them get through the horrendous years of slavery.   As Howard Thurman, the great African American scholar put it,   “This sung faith…. taught a people how to ride high in life and look squarely in the face those facts that most dramatically argue against all hope and to use those facts as raw material out of which they fashioned a hope that their environment with all its cruelty could not crush.   This enabled them to reject annihilation and affirm a terrible right to live.”    In the midst of a horrible situation, these slaves found dignity, strength, even power, in a vision of a future where God makes all things right.    And their persecutors and owners could not touch it ever.  Why?  It lay in the future.  But that future hope gave them power right in the present moment. 

What sort of future do you believe in?  Do you believe in One where God makes everything right, where all creation becomes what God intended it to be, that you become all that God intended you to be?  Or do you believe when you die, that you push up the daisies, and that in a few billion years everything burns up, and therefore nothing really ultimately matters?  What you believe about the future changes the life you live right now. 

You will hopefully never face servitude or persecution, and thank God for that.   But right now, you are facing challenges that make you anxious; possibilities that worry you (maybe the news from Brussels), problems that weigh you down, relationships that you fear won’t make it.    But history shows us that people who carried this living hope triumphed over all that and far worse.  Why?  They knew the end of the story.  God wins.  Love wins.  When you realize that the worst you can face cannot hold a candle to what God has in store for you, for this world, it changes you.  It changes you right now.  It gives you a hope, a power, a peace that nothing can defeat.   

How do you get this hope, this power, this peace?  How does it live in you?   It lives in you when you believe the gospel; when you believe that Jesus did die for you; that he did defeat death for you.   That’s the water of life, water that Jesus gives as a gift; water that meets your deepest needs, that gives you a strength that nothing can defeat.   And for Jesus to give you this water, he gave up his life.  He gave up everything.   He lost heaven and earth so that you might receive it now and forever.   He cried tears of blood so that he could wipe your tears away.   He suffered unimaginable mourning and crying and pain so that you might one day suffer those things no more.   He ended his life, so that you can have a new life, more wondrous and blessed than you could imagine.   This life doesn’t begin out there somewhere, it begins right here, right now. It gives you a hope that nothing can defeat, not even death.

Many years ago, a pastor named Donald Barnhouse losthis wife.  Their little girl, Margaret was only ten years old.    Barnhouse yearned to help his little girl cope with this huge loss. One day, as they were getting ready to cross the street, a truck speeding by startled her, even scared her a bit.   As he comforted her, Barnhouse had an idea.   He said “You know Margaret how sad we are about mommy?  And she said. ”Yes, we’re sad.”   But let me ask you.  “Did the truck hit you?”  No.  What hit you was just the  shadow of the truck, and it scared you, but you’re ok.   Well, death didn’t hit your mom.   Only the shadow of death hit your mother.   But death hit Jesus.      And because death hit Jesus, and we believe in him, now the only thing that can ever hit us is the shadow of death, and the shadow of death is but our entrance into glory. 

The resurrection doesn’t just give you hope for the future.  It gives you hope right now, a power, a peace that nothing can defeat.  Why? Because you realize the truth, the reality of what Jesus has given you, You get what time it really is.   You get.   It’s not give up on the world time.  It’s God is bringing a new heaven and earth time. It’s not evil has the last word time.   It’s always love has the last word time.    It’s never give up hope time.  It’s always live in hope time.  It isn’t death time.  It’s new life time.   It isn’t crucifixion time.  It’s resurrection time. 

And when you know what time it is, it changes you.  It changes how you see the future.  It changes how you live right now.  It opens you, by God’s grace and love, to becoming the person that God dreamed for you to be, a person who has a hope that nothing can defeat, not even death.   Because you know, even when death comes, only its shadow touches you.  Because you know it’s not give up time.  It’s get up and live time.  It’s never evil wins time.  It’s always love has the last word time.    It isn’t death time.  It’s new life time.   It isn’t crucifixion time.  It’s resurrection time.   And when you know that it changes everything, not just in the future.  It changes it right now.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

God Wants To Marry You. Seriously...God Does, and Once You Get That, You Will Never See Yourself or God the Same Way Again

Every time my mom offered, I jumped at the chance.   I didn’t care who it was.  I just wanted to be there, but not for the worship.    I couldn’t have cared less about that, except that it was usually pretty short.   I wanted what came after, the fancy nuts, the butter mints, the tea sandwiches, that amazing punch with the green sherbet floating in the middle.   That so rocked. 

I was ten years old and I already loved weddings, ok, wedding receptions.   And as a pastor’s kid, you scored a lot of receptions.   But at those old style Southern affairs, I had no idea what I was missing.   In the South where I grew up, even the fanciest receptions weren’t much more than a generous cocktail hour.   And most of them weren’t that.   You didn’t get much at a Southern wedding reception – nuts and crackers, punch and cookies, and maybe if you were lucky tea sandwiches.

So when I moved north as an adult, it blew me away.   You had these elaborate cocktail hours, sit-down dinners, open bars, and a DJ; sometimes even a whole band.   Now I still love the receptions, but I love the weddings too.    As a pastor, I usually have the best seat in the house.  I can see how big the groom’s eyes get when he sees his beloved walk down the aisle.  I catch the tender looks between the bride and groom that others can’t see.  I look out at parents teary eyed with pride and bittersweet joy, friends and family beaming with smiles.  I still love the receptions, but I now love the weddings more.  How about you?  Do you love a good wedding? 

On a wedding day, nothing seems impossible.  You feel.   Love will make a way no matter what this couple faces.   And you know that hard times will come.  Every relationship has them.  But on that day, it’s all about the joy, the possibilities; the adventure that awaits.  

But weddings don’t simply show a beautiful picture of human love.  They point beyond. They point to God’s love, to the tragedy of that love, to its ultimate triumph.   The story of God’s connection to us isn’t a morality tale.  It’s a love story.   And until you know that, you don’t really get God or what God desires at all.  But once you do, it changes everything.  It opens you to a relationship with God more intense, more amazing, more incredible than you might ever have imagined. So listen and hear the ending of the ultimate love story, the love story that lies at the heart of everything.  

When you come to the end of the Bible, what do you find?  You find a wedding.  That’s how the story ends.   And in that ending, if you didn’t see it before, you get what God desires.  God doesn’t want to relate to you as a ruler to subjects or even like a shepherd to sheep.   God wants to relate to you the way lovers do in a marriage.  God wants that level of intimacy, that deep and binding a commitment.   God wants a wedding.    In no other religion will you find a God who desires you like that.   And once you see that, you’ll never look at God or yourself the same way again.            

First, you’ll see what lies at the heart of the human problem.   What does?   Human beings have become unfaithful lovers.   At the heart of every human moral failing, every sense of disconnection from God, from others; even from yourself, is this painful reality.  You’ve fallen away from your one true love. 

It’s why again and again the Bible’s writers describe God as a spurned lover, God’s people as a faithless spouse.  So how does this happen?  How do we cheat on God so to speak? 

Imagine this for a moment.   A woman’s beloved proposes to her.  He gets down on one knee. He offers her this beautiful ring.  But then she is so captivated by the ring, she forgets about him.    She just walks away.  She doesn’t even hear her lover’s proposal.   Now you might think.  Sheesh, that must have been some ring.  But do you get the point?    It was never ever supposed to be about the ring.   The ring only pointed to the relationship, to her beloved’s desire to be with her for the rest of his life.    Yet she missed that completely. 

It reminds me of a couple I knew in college.   They had been engaged to be married, when she broke it off.   But she decided to keep the ring, even wore it around campus.    She just wore it on her other hand now.  She said that just made it a regular ring.    But did it?  I gotta tell you.  No one I knew thought so.  We were all appalled.   Why?   You couldn’t look at that ring without thinking about the man that had given it.   No one could separate the ring from that relationship, a relationship from which she had walked away. 

Yet, that’s what we do.  We’re that woman wearing the ring. God showers us with gifts, but we get so focused on the gifts that we forget completely about the giver.    And then we wonder why we don’t feel fulfilled, or why things that we know shouldn’t matter to us end up mattering so much?    What’s going on? We’ve held on to the ring and walked away from the relationship.

How can you know what rings you’re holding onto?    What do you think about when you are alone, when your mind wanders?   What do you worry about?   What do you find it easiest to spend money on?    Answering those question will give you an idea of where you unfaithfulness lies.

This unfaithfulness not only brings God incredible pain and heartbreak, it brings you pain and heartbreak.  Why?   Whatever ring you’ve run after can’t give you what you need, what you yearn to have.   You weren’t made for the ring.  You were made for the relationship.  Yet, whatever your ring is, it ends up binding you.  You thought you owned it, but in reality it starts to own you.   And it pulls you further and further away from the love you desperately need.  

So if this is who human beings are, those who have broken God’s heart and lost our true love. So how do we get back together?  How does the wedding even happen?  

God does what we could never do for ourselves. In love, God rescues us.   Why do you think human beings create story after story with just such a plot?  The princess lies under an enchantment.  The dragon holds the damsel in distress.  Then a hero comes from outside, and at the risk of his life, he rescues her.  He wins her hand.  Why do we create those stories?  We are sensing the ultimate story that lies behind all those stories, the ultimate story that lies at the heart of everything.    

But in this ultimate story, the hero doesn’t risk his life, he gives his life.  He gives his life to bring us home, to restore the relationship, to make the wedding happen.  When we hear the words here, marriage supper of the lamb, that’s what they mean.  In Jesus, God became that lamb, the sacrifice that makes us right; that brings us to the wedding.

From the beginning Jesus knew that was why he had come.  That’s why he said some very strange words at his first miracle, when he turned water into wine at a wedding.    Jesus’ mother finds out that the happy couple has run out of wine.   She knows what a crisis that is, what an embarrassment.   So she reaches out to Jesus, to do something.  And what does Jesus say?   He tells her.   Woman, it is not my hour.    What does he mean?   If you read further, you will hear Jesus say that same phrase again and again, and each time, he is referring to the hour of his death.   So why did he say it at this wedding in Cana?   Jesus was thinking like lots of single folks do at weddings, about his own wedding day.  But Jesus knew his wedding day would be like no other.   He knew the prophecies, how God had proclaimed himself to be the groom of his people.   Jesus knew.  He had come to be that groom.   But he knew that for the wedding day to come, for us to be able to drink that cup of joy, he would first have to drink the cup of sorrow.    He would need to give up everything for the love to be restored, for the wedding to happen. 

And Jesus did.  He drank the cup of sorrow so you might drink the cup of joy.   He entered into ultimate darkness to bring you into the light forever.  He delivered you from the rings that bound you so that you can have the love that frees you.   He rescued you for your wedding day.

And what does it mean this marriage with God?   It means the same that any marriage does.  First, it’s a legal thing.   If you are poor and marry a rich person, then you’re rich.  And when you accept God’s proposal in Jesus, God’s righteousness, God’s holiness becomes yours too.

Like marriage, it’s a comprehensive thing.   It encompasses everything.  I remember how stunned I was when I realized that what I wore needed my wife’s approval. But then she explained, if you wear something awful, they won’t blame you.  They’ll blame me.  How could she let him go out in something like that?   Marriage affects absolutely everything, even your clothes.  And with God, it’s not all that different?  If you are a Christian, when you put on judgment or arrogance or have  failing, they don’t just look to you.  They look to God.  After all, that’s who you represent.

And this relationship is an intimate thing.   It ain’t marriage unless there is contact, unless there is intimacy.   In this union, God pours his love into you, and you return that love right back.  What does this look like?    In the 19th century, a famous preacher named D.L. Moody led a church in Chicago.  But when the Great Fire hit that city in 1871, his church building and many of his members’ homes burned down in it.  It threw Moody into despair. In the midst of this depression, he visited New York to raise funds to rebuild, and he pleaded with God there in his despair, please let me know your love.   And he recounts what happened next, “One day in the city of New York, on the streets of New York, Oh what a day, I can hardly describe it.  I seldom refer to it.  It’s almost too sacred an experience to name.  I can only tell you this.  I had such an experience of his love that I had to ask him to stay his hand (to stop).  I would not now be placed back where I was before that experience if you should give me all the world.”   Moody fell into God’s arms, and it changed him forever.  And you can do the same. 

And as with any marriage, if you have intimacy, you usually have children.  Your marriage has fruit.   And so in the same way, as you grow in intimacy with God, you bring fruit into the world, love, joy, peace, patience, what the Bible calls the fruits of the spirit.  You come more and more like Jesus. 
And finally like marriage, this relationship is a consoling thing.   A good marriage gives you a refuge in the world, someone with whom you can share your burdens.    And in Jesus, you find the ultimate refuge, who took your failings into his arms so that you need never weigh you down again.   He gives you a love without limits, a love literally with no end.   As great as any human marriage is, this is the marriage that you need, that every human being needs.  This is the only marriage feast that will feed you till you want no more.  

And it all awaits you.   All you need to do is say yes.   Jesus has his hand outstretched to you, a hand literally pierced for love of you.   All you need to do is take it, to receive his never-ending grace, his undying love for you.  So, Jesus is asking.  What are you going to say?  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Don't Look for Happiness. There's Something Way Better.

Have you ever been to a buffet that was ever as good as you expected it to be?   At first, you might have looked at all the food, and thought.  This is going to be amazing!   It may have even started out that way.  But the thrill fades doesn’t it?    The more you eat, the less thrilling it becomes.   By the time you’re done, forget feeling thrilled.  No, you feel a bit queasy and uncomfortably full.  

Nothing really lives up to its billing, does it?  It may bring some happiness, even a lot of happiness, but does it last?   It’s why they came up with the term, buyer’s remorse.   When you bought it, it seemed so awesome, but now weeks later, not so much.   Or it could be worse.  You could look at it, and say to yourself. Why did I buy that?  What was I thinking?  But it’s not just stuff you buy, it’s anything.  At some point, the feelings fade.      
All of that disappointment shouldn’t surprise us.  Nothing can ever sustain our happiness forever.   In fact, likely, something that really makes us happy, at some point, will also make us sad, maybe even angry.    Think about it.   Your spouse may make you happy, but doesn’t he or she drive you nuts at times?   Or even think about a sports team you love.   At some point, the Dolphins probably made you happy, but haven’t they also made you sad, even angry.   Yet, here’s the crazy thing.   People keep looking for all of those things to give them happiness both now and forever.   And yet it never happens, nor can it ever happen.

So why do people look?    They sense that something like what they’re seeking does exist.  And here’s the good news. They’re right.  It does.   And if you want to find it, in the words we’re about to hear, God shows the way.  So let’s hear what God has to say. 

Why do people look for happiness?  They believe it exists; that somewhere out there the way to happiness can be found.   Yet, here’s the problem.   Happiness, at least the way most define happiness, can’t be found.  But something deeper and richer can be.   What you and I truly need is not happiness.  What we need is joy.   And here in these words, Paul shows us that joy comes not because we gain it.   Joy comes when we realize that God has already graciously given it.  

But before we look at how God gives it, let’s look at why we need it, why joy gives so much more than happiness ever could.   To see that, you need to ask first; what do I mean by happiness?    If you are like the vast majority of people, happiness means you want to feel good.   And why do you feel good?   Your life is going well.  You have good health.  What you want to buy, you can.  You don’t have a lot of stress or worry.  As the psychologists put it, “your happiness is all about drive reduction. If you have a need, a desire -- like hunger -- you satisfy it, and it makes you happy.   You become happy, in other words, when you get what you want.
But come on now, how often does that happen?  Even Mick Jagger said it.  You can’t always get what you want.  And if you do get it, it still doesn’t really do the job, does it?  It’s why even a buffet can’t fully satisfy.  But still people think.  A better buffet must lie around the corner.  And if I got that one, then I’d be happy.   Here’s the truth.  It doesn’t, and you won’t.  
Happiness depends on our circumstances, and rarely in life will your circumstances so line up so as to give you the happiness you want.   And when they do line up, how long do those circumstances last?   What you need, what everyone needs is something that doesn’t depend on circumstances, something that you can rest your life on, no matter what life brings your way. 
And that’s where joy comes in.   Look at what Paul says.   Paul writes.   Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings.   How can you rejoice in suffering?   Because when you have joy, not only will your suffering not take your joy away.   Your suffering can cause your joy to grow deeper.   How does that happen?   Because in the midst of the pain, your heart grows stronger.  Your character grows greater.  Your hope in God goes higher than before.  And why does that happen?  Because God’s love becomes more real than ever.   You find God pouring his love right into your heart.     
Many years ago, I had a woman break my heart.   We were engaged to be married, and she walked away.   I was devastated.   I was about as far away from happy as I’d ever been.   In the midst of that, I remember talking to my cousin, Martha.   About five years before, her marriage had ended due to her husband’s unfaithfulness.  And this is what she said to me.   I will never forget.   She said, “Kennedy, I envy you.  I remember in the midst of my heartbreak, how God came near.   I had never felt God’s closeness and presence like I did then.”    And as she said it, “I knew exactly what she meant.”   I did not have happiness.  But I had discovered joy.   In the midst of my pain, the intimacy I experienced, the sense that every moment God was loving me, comforting me, standing by me.   I will never forget it.  Over 15 years later, I cherish those months as some of the most precious of my life.   And countless others have recounted similar experiences throughout history.     
What was going on?  In the midst of my heartbreak, I couldn’t rejoice in my circumstances.  I hated my circumstances.  But I learned.   I could rejoice in God, and God was not susceptible to my circumstances.  God could lift me above them.   I still felt pain, sadness, unhappiness, but underneath it all, a current of joy flowed through me, a joy that nothing could take away.
And, when you seek for happiness, this is actually what you’re seeking, something that goes this deep, that cannot be shaken by anything.   But often when things are going great, you can’t see this.   Your good circumstances almost anesthetize you to your need.  They dull your senses to what you truly hunger for.   It’s almost like they act like junk food.   They fill you up for a while, but they don’t give you what you really need.   But when joy comes your way, then you realize.  That’s what I was looking for all along.
But that’s not all of it.  Joy, Christian joy, not only brings you an assurance that God will never leave you nor forsake you.  Christian joy assures you that in the midst of all you face, God is bringing you forward into greater beauty, greater love, greater joy than you could ever imagine.   It’s what Paul means when he says.  We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.   That’s the hope of the glory of God.  You don’t have it yet, but joy has given you a taste.   And so you know whatever happens, it’s simply a bump on the road, the road that leads to the fulfillment of all you yearn for life to be.   
The writerC.S. Lewis put it this way.   Let’s say you are lost in the woods.   So when you see a sign post, it’s a huge deal.  Finally something that gives you some direction, some hope.  You might even stay and linger beside it.  After all, you don’t know when another will appear.    But when you’ve found the way, then sure, you note the signpost.  You’re grateful for the authority that put them up. But it’s not that big a deal.  Why?   You’ve found the road.   So even if the signpost is gorgeous, engraved in silver and gold even, you don’t linger beside it.   After all, you want to get where you are going.      
Food, drink, friends, success, acclaim, popularity, all the things that you think if I have that, that will give me the joy.   Those are simply signposts.  Enjoy them.  Some of them are awesome, engraved in silver and gold even.  But they’re only signposts pointing to your ultimate destination, to life with God forever.   Knowing that frees you.  You can enjoy all the good things of life but you place your ultimate trust in them.  You know what they are.  They’re simply signposts pointing you to where you were created to be.   

So how do you get this joy?  How do you know that God will never leave you or forsake you?  How do you experience the certainty of the beautiful, glorious destiny that awaits you? You realize what God has already done for you.  And what is that?  Paul tells us here.  While we were still helpless, lost, Christ died.    Even when we had so radically missed the mark, God still gave up everything for us.   God in Jesus took the death that rightly belonged to us.  And in that death, God made it right.  God made us right.  And when you really see that, oh, then the joy comes.  When you see, Jesus went through infinite suffering so that you can have infinite joy; that Jesus lost more than you can ever comprehend, to give you a life, a destiny more beautiful than you could ever imagine.   That’s where you live.  You live on the other side of the cross, of that radical gift.   That’s what the cross proclaims, that stunning, breathtaking gift for you.   And as you get that, what that cross brings into your life, then you’ll know the love; you’ll feel it being poured into your very heart.  And in that love, joy will come, a joy that nothing can shake, a joy that leads you day by day into the glorious future of the children of God.   So enjoy life but rejoice in the One who was broken for you so that you might be made whole now and forevermore Amen.