Tag Archives: cross

Son of the High Chief

A friend of mine shared this story recently.  My friend is part Samoan and part Hawaiian.  He was born in Hawaii but moved to Samoa during his childhood.  Adjusting to the new cultures in this high-context society was difficult for his brother and him, but they made a friend in one of the locals.

Their friend, as it turns out, was the son of the High Chief.  We might expect the son of a high-class family in power to be arrogant and dismissive of foreign-born, mixed race kids who were new to the area, but he was anything but.  He was friendly and took a personal interest in helping my friend and his brother adjust.

He taught them local customs, like cooking the family meal on hot stones outdoors every Sunday.  He taught them local culture, like the need to show respect for elders.  He taught them the local language, and he helped them to fit in.  He was a good and faithful friend.

One day, the town drunk appeared as the three boys were playing outdoors.  Children knew him to be a violent and abusive man, and they avoided him whenever possible, but today, he caught the boys by surprise.  My friend could tell he was drunk again, and he could see the rage in his eyes.  This day, he had come for the two foreign-born boys.

But just as he moved to attack them, the son of the High Chief stepped between his friends and the man.  The man’s anger snapped, and he began to beat the boy mercilessly.  Several times, he knocked the boy to the ground, but each time, the boy would stand again, blocking the way to his friends.

My friend and his brother asked each time he fell if they should go for help.  Should they go to get the townspeople, who would come and rescue their friend, the son of their High Chief?  The townspeople wouldn’t allow such a crime to happen to their leader’s family.  In fact, they might have even killed the drunken man for what he had done.  But each time, the answer was, ‘No,’ and the boy would stand again to take the beating.

When the man’s anger had been spent, he left them alone, and the boy was taken to the hospital to treat his wounds.  My friend and his brother visited him the next day.  His face was unrecognizable under the bruising, the cuts and the swelling, but he was alive, and he would recover.  The boys looked at their bandaged friend and asked him to solve the mystery that troubled their hearts, “Why wouldn’t you let us go for help?”

He looked at them as the teacher who patiently tries to birth a new way of thinking in the minds and hearts of his students.  “I have taught you so much… This is what it means to be the son of the High Chief.”

The boys couldn’t have asked for a clearer picture.  Their friend, knowingly or not, had shown them an image of what Jesus Christ did for each of us when He went to the cross.  He stood between us and the evil one, who wanted to hurt us.  He took the beating that was meant for us.

Had Jesus wanted, legions of angels would have come to His rescue, yet he refused to call for them.  Each insult, each beating, each whip of the lash, each thorn of the crown He accepted as an act of love for us.  And each time He fell on the road to Golgotha, He stood again.  His purpose was set; His mind was determined; no matter the cost, He would stand in the gap for us, because This is what it means to be the Son of the High Chief.


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Something Special

I once managed a call center, and we employed many colorful personalities to answer the phones.  One day, I walked up to the cubicle where a representative named Roz was sitting.  Pinned to the cubicle wall next to her and right at her eye-level was an 8″x10″ glossy glamour shot of herself.  I waited until she finished her call and then asked, “Roz, what on earth is that?”

She looked at the photo and then at me and said, “Michael, you’ve got to surround yourself with the ones you love!”

I loved Roz.  She was completely self-absorbed, but she knew she was self-absorbed and never tried to pretend that she was anything different.  And she had the right idea.  We should love ourselves.  Not to the point of narcissism but to the point of a healthy self-love that recognizes that we are created in God’s own image.  Remember, when Jesus told us to love our neighbor, He said to love him as we love ourselves.

God doesn’t make junk; He makes masterpieces.  Each one of us is a unique masterpiece of His creation.  Demeaning and defeating self-talk and the accusing lies of the Enemy are all are aimed at discrediting the work of  God’s hand.  We shouldn’t tolerate them for even a moment.

Give yourself permission to love yourself.  You’re awesome!  You’re wonderful!  Jesus loved you so much He went to the cross for you.  You must be something special!

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Earn vs. Return – Part 2

In a previous post, I shared that we shouldn’t do good works to earn God’s love (we already have it!); we should do good works to return His love (out of gratitude).

This is key, because so many of us are trying to earn something that we already have.  God takes pleasure in us because of WHO we are even when what we DO is disobedient, sinful and evil.  When we try to earn His love, our heart is in the wrong place.  We are starting with the wrong motive.
Take a look at this model. When our heart starts from the wrong motive (i.e., trying to EARN God’s love), there is never a good outcome. If we succeed in our good works, we tend to get prideful and self-righteous. If we fail to accomplish our good works, we are filled with guilt and self-condemnation. (This is the “bad guilt” that keeps condemning us even after we have repented of our sins, and it is often the motivation for our works when we are doing them for the wrong reasons.)

However, if we start from the right motive in our hearts (i.e., trying to RETURN God’s love), both our successes and our failures are pleasing in God’s sight. If we succeed, we are grateful to God for allowing us to do the good works. We rightly understand that we could not have accomplished them without God’s provision and grace, and we commit to serving the Lord in even greater ways.

If we fail in our best intentions, though, it leads us to humility and repentance. These are pleasing to God, and He uses them as a tool to shape us more in His likeness. No Christian should expect to succeed in his good intentions all the time. Failure is an important part of the shaping process. There is an aspect of guilt here, but it is “good guilt” – the kind that leads us to recognize our sin and repent of it. “Good guilt” never continues after repentance.

When our good works are motivated by love, the outcome will always be that we draw closer to God. When they are motivated by guilt and a desire to earn His favor, they will always draw us away from Him – even when we think we must be getting closer. (Consider how far from God the Pharisees were despite their meticulous tithing and obedience to the letter of the Law.)

There is nothing left to earn. Christ paid that debt fully on the cross. We have His holiness and His righteousness. It’s 100% done! All we can do with our own efforts is show our appreciation.

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Trust Walk

At summer camp each year, we end our week with the kids with an activity called a “Trust Walk,” where we blindfold them and lead them by the hand around the camp, providing an example of how Jesus leads us through life when we put our trust in Him. My first year, I led my two campers in and out of trees, up a hill and finally to a place where they could sit. After removing their blindfolds, I pointed out the obstacles that we had come through. Then, it was their turn to lead me.

My entire face covered with handkerchiefs and a child holding each hand, I worried just a little bit about what I might have done to an unsuspecting adult guide had I been the eight-year-old boy in this situation on the last day of camp . . . I think they led me over about three-quarters of the camp before telling me that I could sit down. I felt around the ground until I found a rock to sit on, and then I pulled off my blindfold and looked around. My kids had led me to a six-foot, brown wooden cross in the wooded area of the camp.

My first thought was, “Yes! They got it!” Somehow, they had silently agreed that this was the spot where they would lead me. They recognized that the cross was important, even if they didn’t know exactly how important. I had decided earlier in the week to just let the Holy Spirit do His work in His time, and I felt incredibly blessed just to witness the planting of seeds in their hearts.

Immediately on top of that thought, the Holy Spirit showed me that all week, I had been spending time with these children, loving them and praying for them, hoping to lead them to the Cross. And although I didn’t realize it until just that moment, at the same time, God had been with me and loving me, and He was using these children to lead me closer to the Cross. As I sat on a rock at the bottom of that tall, wooden cross, I knew Jesus in a way that I had never know Him before. He touched my heart through two beautiful children and showed me the joy of joining God where He is working. That’s living!

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We were spiritually dead and stinking in our own sin. Satan had us trapped, locked up, in prison with no hope for escape. But then…

Jesus gave His life for us on the cross. When He rolled away the stone on His own grave, He rolled ours away, too. Death could no longer hold us. We were free but still dead in our sin. But then…

Jesus called our name! He called us, and we responded! The most glorious words in the Bible may be, “the dead man came out” (John 11:44). Our sin could no longer hold us. It had been paid for in full. But then…

We realized we were still in bondage. Alive, but not quite free. When we were dead in sin, Satan had wrapped us up pretty tightly. He tied our hands and feet and veiled our faces. Why?

  • Because with our hands, we do God’s WORK.
  • Because with our feet, we WALK with the Lord.
  • Because with our face, we bear WITNESS to His glory.*

Many of us are alive in Christ but still living as if we were slaves to sin. We keep letting the same old sin tie us up and keep us from our Work, our Walk and our Witness. We’re like Lazarus when he emerged from the tomb…alive but still wearing his grave clothes.

It sometimes takes a long time for us to recognize our freedom, and we often need the help of our godly friends. Share your struggles with those God put around you. They are there for a purpose. God sent them help you get loose from your grave clothes.

Re-read John 11 today with new eyes. You are Lazarus!

* There are at least three important veils in Scripture. Moses wore his veil to hide God’s glory when he came down from the mountain, because the sinful people couldn’t stand the bright holiness of God. But when Jesus died, the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom because all could now have access to a holy God through Christ. Satan wants to keep us veiled like Lazarus, but it’s no longer necessary to hide God’s glory.

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