Can’t Have One Without The Other

A Romanian Orthodox woman looks over the hilltop cemetery next to her church.
A Romanian Orthodox woman looks over the hilltop cemetery next to her church.

Sinatra originally made it popular, but Al Bundy made it famous. The song was “Love and Marriage” and it was the intro music for the show Married …with Children. Remember that one? I admit to watching it occasionally, but mostly when I was working at a Fox TV station that aired the show in syndication. Quality, family programming, huh?

One of my favorite lines from that song is “This I tell ya, brother, ya can’t have one without tha… other.” Although our culture today would definitely say Ol’ Blue Eyes was wrong about marriage (that’s another post!), it brings to mind the connected relationships of Lent and Easter. “Ya can’t have one without tha… other.”

On Ash Wednesday I saw a tweet that basically said that all we need is Easter. I remember a friend in high school who said Lent was works-based righteousness and that she wasn’t Catholic. I can see both perspectives, but that is only one piece of the equation. The Resurrection at Easter is the culmination of Jesus’s earthly ministry and His victory over sin and death. But we’re still in a struggle with sin and death, right? That’s what Lent is about.

At Lent I step aside from the routine of my everyday life to take a posture of reflection and repentance so that I can refocus and rededicate myself to my Savior. Without a humble attitude of repentance, I am doing nothing more than gazing at the cross as a passive observer. The cross was a place of shame, injustice, violence, arrogance, etc. Yes. I need Easter, but I need to leave all that junk there at Calvary so that Easter is the celebration that it should be! “Ya can’t have one without the other.” But there’s a bit more…

I’ll admit to my own shortsightedness of making Easter the “be all end all.” I said the sinners prayer. I’m good. But without understanding the man that I was, without seeing my need for repentance, without trusting the Lord to change my heart and transform my mind, my soteriology ends up being a bit flat. It also sells short the rest of one’s life and calling after that moment of justification at the foot of the cross.

Ultimately I think we have to see Easter as a new beginning to the story rather than the climax of God’s plan of reconciliation. Believing in Easter and giving our life to Christ starts the process/journey toward being made righteous/sinless. We can’t immediately stop sinning, but the Holy Spirit can give us the strength to turn our back on sin and selfishness and point our lives toward the center of the target.

And here is where I have also fallen short. Easter is not just about you and I. Easter begs the question, “So what!?!” If you have a reason to celebrate at Easter, what does the rest of your life look like? Like everyone else’s? Uh, it shouldn’t (I say that with as much humility and encouragement as I can!). If nothing has changed since your resurrection moment, it’s like gazing at the empty tomb as a passive observer.

The character Al Bundy form the series Married... with Children.
The character Al Bundy from the TV series “Married… with Children.”

So I hope that maybe my own shortsightedness can help you see more clearly the trajectory that you may be on. Leave your junk at the cross (Lent). Come celebrate what Jesus has done for you and everyone who accepts His gracious gift (Easter). Then get to work in your corner of the world, and live more and more like Jesus (reconciliation) …and less and less like Al Bundy.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! Keep looking above and loving beyond.SignJRGBlack300

For more information that is biblically based, I’d encourage you to explore what the Bible says about stuff like this. Check out Psalm 51, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Hebrews 12:1-13 and see Luke 22:1 through 24:12 for an account of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Making The Best Of A Vapor

Vapor-like clouds above Sitzenkirch, Germany
Vapor-like clouds above Sitzenkirch, Germany

It happened around the time I was 37.2 years old. How do I know that? …because I was on a spiritual retreat called and someone made a comment that the median life expectancy for an American male was 74.4 years. I did the math instead of listening to the speaker. Give or take a few days, my life was exactly half over! Sure that was only statistically, but it was a real wake up call for me. I barely heard anything else the remainder of the evening. I kept repeating in my head, “My life is half over. I only have half of my life left!”

It’s a humbling thought to consider how temporary and fleeting this life is. In James 4:13-15, the Bible speaks of our lifetimes as “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Even Sting the pop star has a beautiful song with the repeating chorus “how fragile we are.” I’m not sure where I heard it, but I say this phrase a lot, “Life is terminal.”

So am I a fatalist? Am I a Debbie downer? No. I’m really a guy who’s very hopeful and optimistic. Those of you who know me well… help me out here! Here’s what I’m trying to say. If your life is half over, what are you going to do with the rest of it? Pastor Chip Ingram tells of a retired church member who long outlived the 74.4 year average. This elderly gentleman showed his wisdom when he told his pastor, “If I would have known I was going to live this long, I wouldn’t have spent so much time working on my golf game.”

Valerie and I will both be celebrating birthdays soon. It’s not easy continuing this journey toward full-time vocational ministry. But every day remaining is a gift from God that we want to give back to Him. Yes. We’re another year older. Yes. My half-way marker was awhile ago. But I love the Apostle Paul’s words paraphrased by Eugene Peterson, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.”

2 Corinthians 4:16 [The Message]

No matter how young or old you are, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. Not a day. I hope that you will join me on my journey here, that you see God at work as I step from seminary into a new phase of ministry, and that you will experience God’s grace in your life making the most of every day you are given!

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! Keep looking above and loving beyond.SignJRGBlack300