Quality vs Worth: The Value of Life

Lately, I’ve had some questions from some readers, they are usually variations of this: “Jared, how do you stay so positive with all that is going on that is negative?” 

Sometimes they’re closer to “how do you do it? I don’t think I could keep going if I had ‘x,'” but I assume that, rather than suggesting I should off myself, these questions fit in with the first.

So I want to take a minute to address this question.
First, as is the nature of social media, you don’t often see the lows, if for no other reason than that when I’m really struggling, the last thing I want to do is to write. This is normal, by the way, which is why if we look through the Facebook pages of our high school classmates, we can reasonably assume that every one of them is financially successful, purely joyful, and traveling the world on peace missions, in short, that everyone but ourselves have found the key to happiness. And maybe some have, but I expect that a poll of those people would show that most of them feel like the world is in various stages of collapsing around them, while everyone else has it together. This is the lie of Facebook.

You, as the reader, don’t see nights I spend silently weeping to myself because I’m exhausted to the point of collapse, but am kept awake by the intense pain in my back and or nerves. I try to hide those low moments, even from my wife.  You, as the reader, don’t see me desperately, but without success, try to wake myself up once I’ve finally fallen asleep because the drug induced, hallucination like night terrors. You, as the reader, don’t see me curled up in a ball desperately wondering what the point of it all is. You don’t see the state of my house (that’s no accident…) because I can’t keep up with my chores.

So what is the point of it all? How do I stay positive? Well, the short answer is that I’m not always positive. I’m often angry and bitter about my lot in life (it’s not a lot, but it’s a life… Yuk yuk yuk). But it’s critical to understand the end goal. Life is not made to live from one moment of temporary excitement or high to the next: life is is about happiness, not excitement. But more importantly, life is meant to be a trying test.

This may not really answer the questions, in truth, the thought isn’t really well developed. I don’t struggle with the bitterness of depression, so I can’t speak to the power that it holds over the sound of its victims… Except I have felt that depression. My first buy of advise for those of you dealing with overwhelming depression, or depression that never goes Away (maybe it waxes and wanes, but is always present… Like a stupid song in the back of your mind….) first things first: speak to your doctor. I’ve found it helpful to write down my thoughts before a doctor’s visit (and I have lots of the ) – this helps me not forgot anything. Depressive disorder is crippling, but it’s also not just you: it’s a real medical condition and it can be treated. Please, if I’m describing you here, never free of the blues, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. It can be better.

But assuming that one’s chemistry is under control, we have to look at some of the other causes of misery: at the risk of sounding like a preacher, often we feel like bad people because, well… we are…. if we are living our lives free of the bother of moral compass, we might (or should) feel bad about ourselves. That’s not depression, it’s conscience. When I have not been right with my wife, or with my kids, or with my Lord, I have not been more than temporarily happy. It’s a feeling that I can’t shake, and no matter how great I may feel for a moment, it always fades back to a disappointing base. So we spent last week preparing for Resurrection Sunday – we repented of our sins, and we sought  to make amends to those whom we have wronged. If you didn’t follow us on that journey, it’s not too late: begin the process of being right with God. If you don’t believe, then at least make sure that you are right with everyone else (not quite the same, but a big first step).  

Next, forgiveness is critical. Again, I’m sure, I sound like a preacher, but not without cause. Once we’ve repented of our sins, we need to move on. We need to trust God that He has forgiven them. Sometimes the memory of that sin can come back to bite us a long time later- especially if it was particularly egregious, but trust isn’t a one off type of thing: I don’t just trust my wife once: I trust her always. The same is true with our heavenly relationships: we don’t just trust God to forgive us once, we must actively work toward the trust that He continually forgives us.  Sometimes the people that we have wronged don’t forgive us, even when we have truly repented. I’d love to say “move on, they aren’t worth your time anyway.” But I’d be lying… At least with some people. Unlike the Father, we are not perfect, and being forgiven isn’t guaranteed with our fellow man like it is with Him. If we have really repented, however, we recognize and accept that their non-forgiveness may be a consequence of our actions. We just move on the best we can. And finally, we need to accept and forgive ourselves. I’ve found that no one holds a grudge against me like I do. I find myself loathing actions from decades ago: “couldn’t I be a little kinder?” “Couldn’t I have responded better.” – but moving on with our lives means that we have to forgive ourselves, after we have done everything we can to correct the problem. 

If we have are chemically balanced correctly, we have a clean conscience, and we have accepted the forgiveness of God, sought the forgiveness of others (and accepted whichever response they chose) and forgiven ourselves; once we have done all of those things, then we can tackle the rest:

Life sucks. There. I said it. Life is full of pain, misery, sorrow, weakness, impossible choices, dirty laundry, and burned dinners. All of those things happen even if we have been forgiven, are making righteous decisions, and aren’t depressed. So what’s the point?

I wanted it share an analogy complete with home video. I even found the old 30 second clip in all it’s 144p glory (from my first camera phone…) but sadly the sound is corrupted, and without my shrieks of agony, you’d never be able to see from the video only that you were watching me get tazed (oops, spilled the beans on that one.)

But how do we answer the point of this life? Simply put, just as I willingly was tazed because I needed to understand the power of the tool, we willingly agreed to this life so we could have the experience of it: dirty socks and all.

How the do I stay positive despite being in constant physical pain? How do I sit in my chair (I’ve been unable to sleep more than an hour of three in a bed for years), shivering because I have the window open to the sleeting cold in order to counteract the sweats of the medicine and leather of my chair? How do I find joy despite being unable to move for a great portion of the day? How do I feel whole despite being broken in every significant measurable physical measure (and many mental measurements)? How do I live when living is without… Wait, turning off the country music station on Pandora… Okay, better: how do I have a sense of humor despite… Well… Everything?

I agreed to this. Well, maybe not the dirty laundered or the damnable spiders, the laundry is just par for the course, and the spiders are the tools of the devil… But the rest, I agreed to. I stood with the he host of heaven and trusted my Father when He told me about His plan: I cheered when he told me that I could come to earth, obtain a body, learn, live, marry, and have children. I cherished the opportunity to be like Him. And whether you believe it or not, whether you know it or not, heck, whether you know me or not; so did you.

We knew what challenges would face us, maybe not in detail, but how do you really understand something without experiencing it? I might have had a different opinion had they told me about the spiders (“I’ll just stay here, okay?”), and had I known about the laundry, my cheers might have been a bit less exuberant… 

But we also knew we would sin. We knew that we would fall short of the perfection needed to live with God in His Glory. We knew we would damn ourselves (auto correct just put that to ‘dang ourselves,’ you think it knows I’m a Mormon?) and most importantly, we accepted all of that risk and pain because we trusted the Father’s plan: we trusted His Son and the promised atonement which would cleanse us of our sins.

So how do I keep on? I simply do it because I always have. I started out a long time ago trusting God. I started out a long time ago with the end goal in mind: Salvation and Eternal Progression with my loving Father in Heaven. I began this journey a long time ago, and while I hadn’t yet experienced the misery of dirty underwear, I knew that all the laundry in the world was worth the prize.

And do you know what? So did you.

So despite my aching legs and churning stomach tonight, I want to share with you my joy. Life isn’t always great, but it is always worth it. If you ever doubt that, please reach out to someone for help. Be chase while we knew that we’d have a lot of muck to slog through, we never have to slog alone. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. I love you, even if we’ve never met. And with the greatest love of all, our Savior and our Father love you.

Life is always hard, but it is always worth it.

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Resurrection Sunday, Celebrating Life, and Defeating Death

Thank you for walking through Holy Week with me. The final mortal week of the Son of Man started nicely, and just got worse. I’d say, I’ve never had such a rough week. But it ends well. That’s the spoiler here: it ends well for the King of Kings. And perhaps more importantly, He’s made it so it can end well for us, too!

Because of the approaching Sabbath, when the Savior’s body had been laid to rest, it was done in haste. So on the third day, which would be Sunday, Mary Magdalene and other faithful women returned to the tomb so that they could more appropriately prepare the body of Jesus for its final burial. As they walked, they pondered how they would do this thing. “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” Likely they didn’t know of the Roman guards standing watch at the tomb.

Imagine the shock when they found the tomb empty. An angel told them “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” They went and told some of the Apostles that the tomb was empty. It seems that the grieving women missed the important pronunciation that “he is risen,” for Mary was distraught.

She returned to the garden, and crying, was approached by men. They asked her “Woman, why weepest thou?” Her reply was full of despair: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” And another man asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” Again, thinking this man to be responsible for the missing body of her Lord, she begged, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

In his single word reply, she must have finally recognized His voice: “Mary,” He said. Her tears of despair and sorrow changed in an instant to joy and unbelief as she declared in her happiness, “Rabboni!” Or, beloved Master.

It is perhaps instructive that He first appeared to Mary rather than His apostles. But we will leave it to this: He informed her that she must not touch Him yet, as He had not ascended to His father.

Later, however, as He showed Himself to His Apostles, He invited them to feel the wounds still in His hands, and still on His side. Doubting his own seeing eyes, it wasn’t until he had felt these wounds for himself the Apostle Thomas believed. 

Over the coming weeks the Master spent substantial time with his Apostles and disciples, teaching them and preparing His Apostles to lead His Church, and teach His gospel. But today, this Resurrection Sunday, finished the Atonement, and broke the bonds of death. Because He had never sinned, death held no power over Him. He was the first fruits of them that slept. And most importantly, because He lives, we will live again.

So today, this Easter Sunday, I raise my voice in praise for Him. I join my voice to the countless others who have sung it before me: Hallelujah! Praise to God in the highest!

Let us not forget His Atoning Sacrifice. Let us not forget His burden and trial in Gethsemane. Let us not forget His silence in the face of damning opposition. Let us always remember that the Plan of the Father recognized our sins; that He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all creation, the Savior, the Redeemer, and our Lord, to make a path for us to return to Him. Because He lives, we will live!

Saturday, the Spirit World, Salvation, the Son of God, and a Call to Act

Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, and broken in Spirit, the disciples  and apostles spent the day mourning their fallen Lord. 

Having died, just as fully as you and I will, The Son of Man’s spirit left His holy, but now lifeless, body. One must wonder where His spirit went in the days after His death. Fortunately, we have that answer: like all dead souls, His spirit went into the spirit world, wherin one awaits the resurrection. The Sinless one, burst the door between that prison and the spirit world, and entered paradise. So he had promised to the repentant thief, “today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Here he taught the deceased who would listen. Some assume that in this time, He had returned to the throne of His Father, but tomorrow, we will see, He affirms that he “[had] not yet ascended to my Father.”

Ever the Teacher, Christ ministered to both the spirits in paradise and those in prison. As Peter declared, decades later: “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient…”

As the day of rest, the Sabbath is a day fitting for the Lord’s body to be unmoved and forHis spirit to do the work of the day: bringing souls peace, joy, and preaching the Gospel of Christ.

So the day went by with little action, at least visible to the mortal man. But they prayed, and the mourned, and they mentally and emotionally prepared for the next day, when they planned to return to the Holy Body, and give Him the proper burial robbed Him by the short time on Friday.

So must we prepare for tomorrow. So must we pray, but our preparation is different than our brothers of the past. We prepare instead to celebrate the greatest day in human history: a needed relief from the day mourning the the worst in human history.

Yesterday I learned of something that grieves my soul. And I ask your help:

We know the barbarism currently falling on the followers of the Messiah in the Middle East. It has officially been labeled a genocide. Following the butcher of 15 million souls less than an hundred years ago, we as a people have vowed “never again.” Sadly, we have broken that vow, and stood by during repeated genocides and butcherings in the years following. 

I served the Chaldeans Catholics on my mission, though having fled this same persecution for their testimony, they were wary to accept to the Restored Gospel, as to them it felt like abandoning those left in their old homes. I am personally invested in these people. It is their families and friends who are now facing death in Iraq. Preparations have been made for over 1000 souls to retreat from the Islamic State, and to find new homes in safe counties. Our own country has refused these refugees, but a place had been found for them throughout Europe.

Following the deadly and dastardly attack in Brussels last week, however, the doors were shut for these people of the Cross: they are not being allowed to flee the death camps and beheading axe that they face now. They are literally in imminent peril. The symbol of the Arabic ‘n’ has been painted on the doors of the believers to mark them as followers of the Nazareen. This mark is literally a death sentence: “convert, pay the price of subjection, or die.” Most have died or fled rather than deny the testimony of the Lord.

The funds are there for their rescue, the homes are there for them to retreat to, these impoverished and desperate followers of Christ are ready and hopeful to leave; but the doors to their rescue have been shut.

So I beg you, as you prepare for tomorrow’s feasting, celebrations, and time with family; pray for a miracle. Pray aloud, pray with your families, and pray in your heart. The very lives of our brothers and sisters are at stake. Pray that the hearts of world leaders will be softened. Pray that the doors that were open will once again open in their behalf. For the love of Christ is charity, and it is not enough that we accept that love, if we don’t have it for others.

Pray, remember, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. For the love of God and His people, pray with me!

Good Friday, the Road to Galgotha, and the Broken Law

Following His trials, which lasted the night, the Sinless One was scourged. They took a cat of nine tails, a brutal whip with nine ends, each laced with shards of bone or pottery, designed to tear the flesh, and break the spirit of those on the merciless receiving end. He was given 39 lashes, a process which frequently ended in death for the whipped.

While he was beaten, the Roman soldiers bet for his clothes, and when they were done brutalizing him, the gave him new raiment: they clothed him in a purple robe, symbolizing royalty, and a crown to mark his Kingship. But in the mocking fashion of the blasphemer, they had fashioned the crown of biting thorns. As the pressed the ring onto his forehead, it undoubtedly took flesh with it.

The Romans made their bleeding and broken Lord carry his cross through the streets to the hill of crucifixion. The streets were lined with a deriding mob, who shouted, and mocked and spit on their Redeemer. The very man who, just hours before, had taken their every sins upon himself. Mixed in the crowd were the meek and broken of spirit who wept as they watched their Master carry the burden that He had chosen but certainly did not deserve.

Jesus stumbled and fell under the weight of cross, unable to carry the weight any more.

The Romans forced another to pick up the cross and they continued on. I wonder what the man thought. Was he one of the bitter and angry crowd? Or was he one that the Healer had made whole? Did he resent the burden? Or did he weep knowing that he was helping the Man to his death?

The writers of the Gospels had few words to describe what happened next, because of the monstrous and barbaric act that followed, few words can describe the horror: “and they crucified him.”
They buried nails in his hands, wrists, and feet, and raised the cross on the hill of skulls, called Golgotha. Here men were left to die. It could take days as the men would die slowly, not of their wounds, but of starvation and thirst. The merciless Romans would give water to the dying to prolong their death. Of the few things the Innocent One said while on the cross, the first was a plead for drink, which was granted in the form of vinegar.

In his pain and agony, He prayed to the Father, asking for forgiveness for the Romans, who “…know not what they do”, as they crucified the Son of the Living God.

He asked John to care for His aging Mother.

He spoke to one of those dying with him.

And again alone, He cried “why has thou forsaken me?”
As 3:00 in the afternoon approached, the sky darkened and the ground shook. The veil separating the courtyard of the temple from the Holy of Holies was torn in two, as the Father rejected the the Covenant People in their wickedness, and the the Son of Man died as he uttered the words “it is finished.” The very earth recognized the death of its creator, and tore itself asunder, burying cities in the sea, and sinking valleys with the mountains. The whole of the New World was reformed, killing many. And darkness covered all the land for days.

The Romans were astounded by the speed of his death, and to confirm the death, stabbed him through the ribs right into his heart. It gushed water and blood; it was broken.

The Lord of all creation had died. The consequence of sin, the just reward of sin, is death; but the Sinless One had died unjustly: thus, the law was broken.

History has come to know this day as Good Friday. His death was unremarkable: the Romans had crucified countless before, and would crucify countless after. That He died was remarkable, because He, unlike any before him, or any after, was free from the need for death. Having never sinned, the law of death did not bind him, but He died anyway. The Atoning sacrifice that had begun in a garden was nearly complete.
The spirits of His disciples were as broken as His body. I imagine their voices to be hollow as they asked the Romans to bring him down so that they could bury him. With the Sabbath approaching, the apostles, Mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene, had to act quickly to prepare the spiritless and lifeless body for burial. Joseph of Arimathea, one of the Sanhedrin itself, offered his tomb for the burial of the Christ.
The day ended with the burial of the King of Kings. Fearing His body would be stolen, the Romans ordered his tomb to be sealed, and guards to watch it.

The hopes of countless Jews died with the Carpenter from Nazareth.

One other died this day. The traitorous coward Judas Iscariot, knowing his own sin, used the 30 pieces of silver to buy a plot of ground, where he hung himself from a tree.

This was the darkest day in human history. A day where the Covenant People killed their own God.

The faith of many died with Him.

And if the story ended here, hope should have died too.

But it doesn’t end here. Tomorrow is the Sabbath for the Jews, and tomorrow we will learn what the Savior of Mankind did millenia ago on that Sabbath.

As we remember the cross, as we remember the Holy Death, let us know why He died: he died as a sacrificial Lamb, making atonement with the Father on our behalf. He is the Lamb of God. He is Savior of mankind. He is the Redeemer.

As we prepare for Easter, who’s very name forgets the Master of All, let us never forget. Let us ponder His sacrifices in the Garden and on Golgotha. Let us remember as we have broken the law, the law was broken by Him.

Remember. Remember.

The Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Condemning the Innocent One

On Thursday of the Holy Week, in preparation for the Passover feast, Emmanuel sent his apostles to obtain a room wherin they would eat the Paschal meal: they would eat a sacrificial lamb, as well as unleavened bread, and the following 8 days would be spent without leaven in their diet.

Though the beginning of the Jewish Friday, for our reckoning, it would have been Thursday night that He gathered His chosen 12 into the upper room of a prepared house to break bread with them. Here, the Apostles prepared for an annual feast, but the Lord prepared for His last mortal meal. I imigine some solemnity appropriate to the celebration, but the most astute of the 12 might have noticed an additional sorrow permeate the room.

Here they ate together, and in His true prescience, Jesus declared that he knew that one of his chosen would betray him. In an audacious attempt to further cover his evil design, Judas asked “is it I?” Christ’s reply, “thou hast said”, would undoubtedly have been as cutting to Himself as it was to the traitor. 

Here it was that He introduced the sacrament of the last supper, and the ordinance of washing of feet. Here he taught that the greatest must become the servant of all. Here Peter, misunderstanding the ordinance, and zealous as ever, argued that he would never allow his Master to debase himself by washing Peter’s feet. Christ warned him, “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” Peter cried “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” The Lord’s gentle rebuke showed the nature of the ordinance “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” The Master continued “and ye are clean, but not all,” showing again that, while his chosen 12 allowed him to cleanse them and make them pre, 1 remained stained in his heart, preparing even now to complete the sale of his soul and commit the final act of treacherous murder and betrayal that he kept hidden in his heart… And Jesus knew it.

Soon after, they men sat again to eat, ““I speak not of you all,” Jesus said, “I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” Understanding his meaning, Peter motioned John, who sat with Jesus, to ask who it was that was the traitor: Jesus told John, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.”

In the Jewish tradition, it wasn’t uncommon for the head of the table to offer a dipped piece of bread to a guest at the table, so when the Head offered the Sop to the traitor Iscariot, Judas took it. To him, Christ said “That thou doest, do quickly.” Surely, the bulk of the followers understood Christ as sending Judas on some pre-arranged task, or they would have tried to stop him. But imagine the dismay of the zealous Peter and the beloved John who watched as the betrayer, having been identified as such by the master, skulked into the night to fulfil his malevolent plans. John comments darkly “and it was night.”

Following the exit of the evil one, the Teacher shared his last sermon to his brothers. He prayed with them, and for them, that “they may be one,” pleading unity among the leaders that he had ordained. Then they departed, as planned, to a garden, for Jesus to pray.

In Gethsemane, Jesus set his remaining 11 to guard and watch over him as he wrestled in the Spirit. We cannot know, we cannot fathom the burden that the Lord carried. For centuries the Jews had symbolically banished a goat into the wilderness carrying the sins of the Children of Israel. Since the beginning of man, they had sacraficed pure and perfect lambs to redeem them and atone them with the Farher. Here, in the garden, the Lamb of God prepared himself to take take all of those roles upon himself, to fill the Plan of the Father, and to end the symbolic sacrifices forever.

It was here that He bore the sins, the sorrows, the pains of all mankind from the beginning to the end, on his own shoulders. Here, he who was with the Father in the beginning, struggled with the load he had been given. Here he plead with his Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” 

Having never sinned, the law of death did not bind him, he could have chosen to walk away, saving himself and damning us forever, but instead surrounded by trees and oil presses, he bore the weight of the infinite atonement, and as the olives are pressed for their precious oil, he was pressed until he bleed from every pore.

Again he pled “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”

We often remember the cross as the place of atonement, but it was here in the garden that the Master of Creation, the King of Kings, took upon himself the consequence of sin, and began the redeeming atonement that saved all mankind from death, and all who would follow him from damnation.

Still later, the traitor returned with the Jewish guard, and, having shown them the sign by which they would recognize the Master in the dark, condemned his Lord with a kiss. Ever zealous, Peter prepared himself to give his own life in defense of the Savior, but was stopped, and Jesus mended the soldier’s wounded ear. Did the healed guard turn away in shame? Or had his hate already filled his heart?

Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin, where he was condemned for daring to speak the truth: that he was, and is, the Son of the Father. Enraged, they sought his life, but fearing the Romans, sent Him to Pilate for his sentencing, for while blasphemy was punishable by death (though he had not blasphemed, they convicted him of that crime, and in so doing, committed the very act of which they accused him), capital punishment needed to be pronounced by the Romans for violating Roman law. So they sent him to the Romans and accused him of treason, stating that the King of Peace was trying to insite rebellion against the Empire.
Through the night he was passed from one coward to another, and the Lord of All was humiliated and beaten, scorned and shamed. Having prophetically seen the atrocity, Isaiah wrote about the horrors of this Thursday night:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

As we remember the Great Reedeemer, and walk with Him on his road to the cross, let us remember that He bore our sins. It was because of His love for us, His obedience to the Father’s Plan, and His infinite mercy that he suffered the presses of Gethsemene, that He submitted to the traitor’s kiss, that He allowed the abuse of those charged with watching over Isreal and the looking for His coming. 

Let us allow Him to carry our burdens, lest we scorn His sacrafice. If you have once believed, but are lost: come home! His arms are outstretched still! If you have yet to feel his endless love, accept it! For it there for you, no matter your sins or sorrows. If you have already accepted Him, then use today as a chance of reflection and repentance. 

Jesus Christ is the Promised Messiah, the Lamb of God!

Conspiring in Darkness, and the Light of Truth

In the days leading up to the Festival of the Passover, the leaders of the Jews sought diligently ways to destroy their King. The decided to take Jesus covertly to avoid public knowledge of their treachery. It was while they plotted that the disenfranchised Judas, one of the Lord’s twelve announced Apostles, appeared to them. Asking for the price they would pay if he would deliver his Master to them, they promised 30 pieces of silver, the lawful price of a slave. He promised, in turn, to take them to him while he was away from the adoring masses. It was this betrayal that allowed the Savior to be captured at Gethsemane.

The coming days would show his betrayal to his Sovereign, and to his peers, but for now his evil, and the evil of the Sanhedrin where covered by both proverbial and literal darkness.

In order to not get ahead of myself, I won’t go into detail about the capture, yet. Instead, I want to point out that it was on this night, not later, that Judas betrayed his Lord. It was tonight that he made the decision to act; and it was tonight that he premeditated his murderous actions. From this point onward, even had he recanted his evil intent, and protected his King, he would have suffered the wrath of the leaders of the Jews for his failure. We will see, however, that he did not make that decision.

It is not without reason that this Wednesday has become known as ‘Spy Wednesday.’ And as this week leads to the darkest of days in the world’s history, surely it will come with the actions of evil men. And it is fitting that, though they sought to keep that evil hidden, even now we know them. The name Judas has become synonymous with betrayer, even nearly 2000 years later. 

“Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?””

It is the nature of man to seek to cover his sins. It is our desire to hide our evil from knowing eyes.

But the Lord knows everything, and all darkness will be exposed to the light and “everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

We must learn from the treachery of Judas that our sins cannot remain hidden. As we walk the road toward Galgotha this week, we must look inward and expose our sins to ourselves first; then we seek reparations to those whom we have sinned against. No secret will remain secret, no sin will remain hidden. As we follow the Redeemer let us heal the sorrows of those whom we’ve wronged. 

This week, let’s seek out those who hurt because of our choices, and seek forgiveness. If we’ve determined to sin, it’s not too late to choose the right. Today is symbolic of the decision to sin, but we are not bound by the choice of Judas, we must choose the King, and not the silver.

The Cursed Fig Tree, Whited Sepulchers, and Selfish Hypocrisy

Traditionally, Tuesday of the Holy Week marks several important lessons from the Master Teacher. One lesson that has struck me, is the lesson of the fig tree.

As the Master traveled with his companions, the grew hungry. There was a fig tree, brightly bearing its colors before the season, suggesting that it carried fruit ready to eat. Hungrily examining it, He found it to be barren. “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever,” he said, and Peter noticed “Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away!”

Jesus used the opportunity to show is wondering apostles of the power of faith. And lest I challenge His lesson, I reiterate His teaching that “when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” If we have faith, and our prayers are acceptable to God, we will receive the answers to our prayers.

But in combination to another of the Master’s lessons, wherin He condemned the teachers of the Jews, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness!”

The fig tree in our first story, is condemned, but not because it didn’t have fruit when the Lord was hungry, as none of the other trees did either, but because it wantonly displayed itself as having such, while being no more fit for feeding the hungry travelers than its fellows. 

Like the hypocritical leaders in the second story, the Lord condemned its pretension; we then, are to be condemned of hypocrisy and unearned claims of righteousness and holiness.

This week, as we walk daily with the Lord, let us remember to be humble, never claiming ourselves to be more or better than we are, and remembering Him who purifies us.

Let us remember that as we invite others to come and eat, it is Christ who fills men that they never hunger, and we are but messengers of His feast.

Perhaps we might enjoy a fig or two to remember this lesson as we feast on Sunday. Perhaps we can learn from the ostentatious tree how not to behave, and remember, yet again, the power of the Master.

Holy Monday, Cleansing the Temple, and Cleansing Our Hearts

Traditionally, on the day following his Triumphal Entry and the praise of Hosanna, Christ found himself in the Holy Temple.  Dedicated as the House of the Lord, it was, in truth, His  house. It was here that the Jews taught the Law, sacrificing and blessing, intending to keep the Children of Israel faithful in preparation to receive the Higher Law.

Sadly, the Jews had defiled the Holy House, filling the courtyard with animal sellers and sacrificial animals, which noisily brayed and squawked as the sellers shouted their prices and bartered with the nearest worshippers. Because the temple was attended from many lands, money changers filled the courtyard, exchanging money’s of foreign lands for the coin of the Jews, all for a nominal price, of course. Surely, the courtyard had become a buzzing center of both trade and corruption. 

Here, as He prepared for the upcoming ultimate sacrifice, the Lord entered His house, no doubt seeking solace and peace, but found again the tumult of the corrupt. For the second time during His public ministry, he overthrew the tables of the money changers, drove out the animal sellers, and forbade the laborers from using the temple as a shortcut while carrying their burdens. “It is written,” he said, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The Lord taught us the importance of keeping the Temple clean and free of the cares of the world, free of sinful corruption, and free of worldly labor. But further, he taught us to keep ourselves clean.

As we prepare this week to celebrate the triumph over death, let us cleanse oyrselves of the sins and burdens that keep us from being holy vessels for the Spirit of the Lord. Let us be worthy of being called His, that He may dwell in us and find peace. Let us repent that He may be able to do His work in our hearts.

Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry

In Catholisism, Palm Sunday is an important holiday… Or maybe pre-holiday? Not sure exactly how it’s defined, as I’m not Catholic. While I have many doctrinal differences with the Catholic religion, (maybe I’ll write about that some day…) I don’t deny that there are some things I can learn from them.

Rather than re-hash my previous post and share why I don’t like the traditions surrounding Easter, let me share some of the things I like to think about going into the holiday.

WHAT IS PALM SUNDAY?

Despite the dangerous and rebellious atmosphere in Jerusalem, and against the good advise of His Apostles to stay away, Jesus risked the wrath of the Romans and returned to Jerusalem in the days leading up to the Passover. The Romans were wary of insurrectionists and were arresting anyone they thought were trying to cause rebellion. The leaders of the Jews had already deliberately daughter to paint the Savior as a leader of rebellion, and so his return to the Holy City was dangerous. Combined with the influx of celebratory Jews, the city was bursting with anxiety, rejoicing, and even rebellion. 

When he came, he rode on the back of an ass, the kingly mount of the ancient Jews, and his followers laid palm leaves at his feet before him, rebelling and shouting in praise, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

Jesus was indeed a leader of a rebellion, but rather than political insurrection, he led a rebellion against the natural man: urging His deciples to wholy reject the sinful world, and follow him in His perfection. Here he declared himself as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and the Heir of David. Here the throngs of Jews proclaimed His holy name, and blessed his coming.

So Palm Sunday celebrates the triumphant return of the Savior to the Holy City, and introduces the week leading to the most horrific day in human history, and culminated in the breaking of the bonds of death.

This week, prepare to celebrate Easter, let’s think less of the eggs and bunnies, and remember He who is worthy of our praise. With those in Jerusalem, let us cry “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

Egg Laying Rabbits and Cute Chicks

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, which kicks off the week that culminates in, arguably, the most important day in Christendom. Sadly, I was unwell yesterday… Very unwell. I had intended an introductory post Saturday, followed by one a day through the end of the week, but pain is an effective writers block. So I’ll try it anyway, 3 posts today, pain allowing, and one each day this week.

Easter is an important holiday for Christians, but here in the States, I fear we put our focus on the wrong things. Easter, for example, rather than focusing on the Savior, recognizes Eastre, Goddess of Spring and fertility. Most other languages use a name more associated with passover, but we retain the names of Spring.

While my passions are greater than I intend to show here, I am more of a proverbial grinch toward Easter than toward Christmas, which is saying something.

Many faithful followers of Christ try to justify  the symbolism of the eggs, rabbits, chicks and general springtime feel of the holiday by saying that the celebration of new birth and spring are representative of the resurrection, a surface explanation that, in truth, doesn’t outweigh the pagan origins of the symbols.

Understand that I believe that the most common symbols of the holiday represent and celebrate fertility and procreation far better than they could ever represent the atonement and resurrection of the Savior. The rabbit is known for its… abundant? Frequent? Prolific? Yes. …for it’s prolific procreation. The egg is an obvious symbol for birth, and for fertility. 

But most of all, the resurrection is not a re-birth, it is an overpowering of death. Unlike our Hindu brothers and sisters, we Christians don’t believe in reincarnation, but rather in resurrection. And the ancient pagan symbols of the grove don’t fit in our Holy worship of the Almighty.

For this reason, other than my routine hard boiled eggs, I have not  participated in an egg hiding ceremony for my children. Do they miss out? Maybe, but we still buy them candy and such, after all, I’m not suggesting that we needent celebrate this joyful week, just that we aught to keep our focus on that which is important, rather than follow the example of our Israelite ansestors and worship the Grove and Baal, even if only by our symbolism.

So this week, I intend to share some thoughts that help me keep my mind focused on my Savior, and to remember His last mortal week. It begins with Palm Sunday, and ends with the Passover.