What is so good about Good Friday?

As a child it was a question that baffled me for a few years. Every year that day would come with predictable regularity. But what is so good about Good Friday? Why do we call it good? When I asked them, my Hindu Punjabi family did not know. When I would ask the English teachers at school none of them seemed to have an answer either. it appeared to make no sense.

154885550So I concluded Good Friday was good because it was a public holiday! Yes it had something to do with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, but why should such a horrific and brutal death be called good? The day marking the death of no other major religious leader is described in terms of being a good event. On the surface it does not appear to make much sense at all.

However, the more you look into it the more interesting and surprising it becomes. The death of Christ commemorated on Good Friday is good because it was ordained by God Himself. As brutal, undeserved, unjust  and horrific as it was, it was no accident. But most of all it is good because of what it achieved.

Chapter 53 from the book of the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, written 700 years before Christ was even born says in verses 10-12:

“Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will give Him a portion among the great and He will divide the spoils among the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

One of the many surprising things about this passage is that the word translated ‘will’ from the original Hebrew in verse 10 is also translated elsewhere in the book of Isaiah by the word pleasure. With that in mind now read this translation of verse 10:

“Yet it was the LORD’s PLEASURE to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the PLEASURE of the LORD will prosper in His hand.”

So the surprising thing Isaiah is prophesying over 700 years before it happened was that on the very first Good Friday it was not just God’s will for crush and kill His Son, but it actually brought Him pleasure! it actually pleased God for His Son to be crucified. This seems to be getting more confusing!

What Isaiah is saying to us is not that God took some kind of sadistic pleasure in Christ’s death. When God the Father saw Jesus bearing the wrath of God in His body against mankind’s rebellion and sin, yes His heart would literally have been broken. This was the only time in all eternity when the deep friendship of love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was torn and broken. Jesus’ death on the cross caused God the Father unimaginable pain.

So why did Jesus’ death cause God great pleasure? What is so good about Good Friday?
The point is that God took no pleasure in the suffering of His Son, but God took great pleasure in what that suffering would achieve.
God knew that the death of His Son would have enormous and eternal consequences for Jesus and for us.
In the next blog post we will look at what the cross achieved for Jesus and what the cross achieved for us.

For a taster of that and more on Good Friday also see A Day That Changed The World and 4 Personal Implications Of The Resurrection.

For more on the identity of Jesus Christ and the prophet Isaiah see What Is The Message Behind Christmas?

What do you understand about the good behind Good Friday?

How do you handle people stronger and better than you?

He is regarded as one of the greatest  all time world leaders. He was no stranger to personal tragedy and he suffered deeply with depression. Yet  his strength of character powerfully moulded the United States to become an eventual world super power. (For more on his personal life see here).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe was able to overcome his inner limitations (see What Are 3 Barriers To Your And My Growth?) so as to turn around a country ravaged by a civil war.  For modern day examples comparable in brutality and blood shed just think of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia or Syria today.

How could those violent countries of today be transformed if their leaders took to heart the life and example of Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln deeply understood how forgiveness and reconciliation coupled with empowerment of others, even enemies, could transform the United States. He had the vision and foresight to see that overcoming the bitterness of the past could transform the United States into a country for huge good in the world.

There is a story of how he was challenged by an elderly lady for gently calling the Southerners who opposed him as ‘fellow human beings who were in error’. She described them as ‘irreconcilable enemies who must be destroyed’. Lincoln’s response is as powerful and as relevant today:

“Why, madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Such a statement was not just powerful rhetoric, but was lived out in Lincoln’s life and relationships. By 1865 with the end of the civil war in sight,  the country was in huge turmoil.

Rival groups and factions were strong and simmering. And that was not surprising considering 10% of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30% of all Southern white males aged 18–40 were dead. The potential for decades if not centuries of hatred and animosity was huge. (Think of Afghanistan or Iraq today).

In this context Lincoln was able to bring together a group of leaders who would bring strength through diversity and mutual challenge. Here is how Lincoln biographer, Benjamin P. Thomas put it:

“For a President to select a political rival for a cabinet post was not unprecedented; but deliberately to surround himself with all of his disappointed antagonists seemed to be courting disaster. It was a mark of his sincere intentions that Lincoln wanted the advice of men as strong as himself or stronger. That he entertained no fear of being crushed or overridden by such men revealed either surpassing naiveté or a tranquil confidence in his powers of leadership.”

There is arguably no better example of Maxwell’s 12th law of leadership – The Law of Empowerment.

Lincoln’s ability to handle potential rivals who were stronger and more able than him was the secret to his success in bringing true unity to the country. He made clear to those around him of his confidence in them and the full authority to make decisions he was giving them. An example of that is from 1863 when Lincoln put the command of the Army of the Potomac into the hands of General G. Meade. This is a part of the message he sent him within hours of appointing him:

“Considering the circumstances, no one ever received a more important command: and I cannot doubt that you will fully justify the confidence which the government has reposed in you. You will not be hampered by any minute instructions from these headquarters. Your army is free to act as you may deem proper under the circumstances as they arise…… All the forces within the sphere of your operations will be subject to your orders.”

Lincoln had sufficient self-worth and inner security to give credit to others when things went well as well as take the blame when there were setbacks or missed opportunities.

His ability to choose the right leaders and then get out of there way is what made him a great leader. By enlarging them he himself became larger.

For me Lincoln’s example challenges me to take the higher ground and not be intimidated by petty squabbles or relatively minor differences. Or in the words of Bill Gates of Microsoft, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

How does the example of Lincoln in this regard of handling people stronger and better than you speak into your own life?

In memory of Abhishek Banerjee (Bunty)

It has been exactly one year since the sudden and tragic loss of our dear friend Abhishek Banerjee (Bunty)

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 21.11.46Abhishek was very thankful for the multiple gifts and talents he had been able to develop through his own privileged upbringing and education. This included, among many other things, a love of literature, a talent for technology, physical fitness, musical ability and team collaboration all centered around his deep personal faith in Jesus Christ. (To read more on Abhishek’s life see here).

As friends and family we have for some time wanted to do something tangible and life giving to remember him by and to pay tribute to him.

Abhishek was originally from Kolkata. Following discussion with his parents and wife, Jayshree we would like to encourage those who were touched by his life to support the expansion of a project run by Emmanuel Ministries Calcutta called Anandoloy (pronounced ANAND –OL-OY and meaning “place of joy”).

We cannot bring Abhishek back, but we can ensure that the impact of his life is felt and experienced by those who are much less fortunate.

Anandoloy is a residential home set up to rehabilitate children living on the streets and railway stations of Kolkata. Many of the children Anandoloy serves have been abandoned or have run away from dysfunctional or abusive family situations. They live in a sub-culture of their own where exploitation, drug abuse, crime and gang rivalry are all too common.

The Home is a sanctuary for street children driven to drugs and alcohol. After a drug-free period they are welcomed into the Home, slowly weaned away from earlier habits through special, non-formal education, and eased into a family-style community living. Sports, outings and a regular schedule make the Home a symbol of security, acceptance and affection. Finally, with vocational training, hope returns for the future, building them up as responsible citizens of India.

We would like to encourage friends and family to give as generously as they can in memory of our dear friend and to bring life and hope to those who have so little.

For those in the UK you can give tax efficiently through the giving page set up here.

For those in the United States please contact:

Beyond the Horizon
P.O. Box 828
Forest Hill, MD 21050
Tel: 443-677-7660
Fax: 410-452-8785
Email: Lking@BeyondtheHorizon.us

For those in India please see here.

We would like to request that you mark any donations as for Anandoloy Project (Abhishek).

Our apologies if your country is not represented here. In that case if you wish to make a donation, please send your gift to whichever office is appropriate to you.

Below are some happy memories of Abhishek that I am sure he would want us to remember him by.

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“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
(C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle).

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are 3 barriers to your and my growth?

To bring the best out of others I need to be able to empower them. What do we mean by the word ‘empower’? eco-green-empowermentAccording to the dictionary it is:

- to give someone the right or power to do something.

- to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

Here is how Theordore Roosevelt put it:
“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

But this does not come naturally or easily.

The life of Henry Ford illustrates that (see the previous post – How Secure Are You?). John Maxwell’s 12th Law of Leadership says that only strong leaders have the confidence to give power to others.

In India there is a phrase about how people as they seek to rise in companies can have a  tendency to “kiss up and kick down.” One of the problems with that philosophy is its the same people who you meet when you go down as well as when you go up! They say if you collect crabs in a container you do not need to put a lid on the container as the crabs will automatically prevent any one of their group form escaping by ensuring that they are dragged back in! We humans can act like crabs to each other as well.

But the fact is only when we empower others can we and our organisations reach their  full potential.

Empowering others is actually an inside job first and it means overcoming at least 3 barriers:

How secure are you?

That is a tough question to answer! Until our foundations are shaken it is very difficult to determine how secure in ourselves we actually are. You only know how deep down your roots go when either the challenges and storms of life come or when there is success. By then it is often too late. (For more on dealing with the storms of life see here).

TMW_-_Ford_Model_T_2The 12th law of leadership from John Maxwell says that only secure leaders give power to others. When we are not secure in ourselves it is very easy to look at others with an attitude of inferiority or of lack. To feel that their progress or advance is a threat to my value or self-worth.

How often have you said to yourself, “Its much easier if I just do it myself. I know what is best and right and no one else can or should interfere.” I know I have and it can be a sign of insecurity.

A case example of the Law of Empowerment is Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. In 1903 the main form of transportation was the horse and cart with longer distance travel by train. In towns and cities the horse and cart dominated streets. One of the big public health questions was how are we going to cope with the amount of horse manure on the streets – if it keeps on increasing at its present rate we will be literally drowning in the stuff!

It is in that context Henry Ford made the following statement:

How Actually Expressing Your Gratitude Can Be Beneficial To Your Mental Health

The following 7 minute video powerfully illustrates why when we take the time to actually show someone how much we appreciate them the effects can be truly transforming. I would encourage you to take 7 minutes out of your day to watch this video. I don’t think you will be disappointed and it may well make your day.

What the video shows using real live human scenarios is that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in your life is how much gratitude you genuinely show and express to the important people in your life. This has been scientifically proven in a study by 3 psychologists (Seligman, Steen and Peterson, 2005). You can pick up the study if you are more interested directly from the video. Here is a brief synopsis.

Making Sense of God, Money and Happiness

We tend to think that money brings happiness (who wouldn’t be happy to be offered a million pounds or dollars?).

Coins and happiness

Yet there is something about the achieving of financial wealth that does not ultimately satisfy. Rather than listening to me, here are some quotes from five wealthy men of history that powerfully illustrate this:

John D. Rockerfeller: “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”

W.H. Vanderbilt: “The care of $200 million is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.”

John Jacob Astor: “I am the most miserable man on earth.”

Henry Ford: “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.”

Andrew Carnegie: “Millionaires seldom smile.”

And yet at the same time I do not want to give the impression that wealth per se is a bad thing……

The Surprising Connection Between God, Money and Happiness

The combination of God, money and happiness may not at first glance seem to go together, but it surprising and intriguing how they are linked.

Wilting flowerIn fact it is quite remarkable how much the Bible has to say about money. The following statistics illustrate this in a dramatic way. There are approximately 500 verse in the Bible on prayer and another 500 on faith. However, when it comes to money and possessions there are a staggering 2,350 verses! Apparently 15% of Jesus’ words are on money and possession – that is more than he spoke about heaven and hell! Of Jesus’ 38 parables, 16 (over 40%) are about money. Why should that be? It is surprising to think that a spiritual book should say so much about money. What does money have to do with spirituality?

Here is how Richard Halverson puts it:

Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because, when it come to a man’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character. All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’ s character and how he handles his money.”

To help us think about this further I want to focus in on the words of James, the blood brother of Jesus in what was almost certainly the first book of the New Testament to be written around 45 AD (or just over a decade after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Here is the paraphrase from the original Greek in chapter 1 verses 9-11:

“When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.”

2 Further Ways That Money Can Buy Happiness

As we continue to look at how money can actually buy happiness, we come to 2 additional ways from the book by Dunn and Norton. (For the first three see 3 Ways That Money Can Buy Happiness).

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

4. By paying first and only later consuming.

There is something about anticipating and looking forward to an event or a purchase that enables us to enjoy it more. On one level that seems common sense. If I get everything that I want right now then I am more likely to take it for granted and keep looking to something else for gratification and pleasure. But common sense is not common practice. And even more so in our technologically driven, easy credit culture where almost everything can be made immediately available. There is something powerful about being able to anticipate the future in a positive way.

Quoting from the book:

3 ways that money can buy happiness

We have all heard the saying ‘money can’t buy happiness’ and there is truth in that – especially when we place too high an expectation on what we think we can achieve with money. Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

However, according to Dunn and Norton in their book ‘Happy Money: The New Science of Smarter Spending’ there are some principles  behind how we can use money that can dramatically affect our overall level of happiness.

I am not sure I agree with all that they say in their book, but here are 3 of their 5 principles about how money can actually buy happiness. I supplement their observations and research with my own reflections: