Monday’s fire at the famed cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris riveted the world, as television outlets broke into regularly scheduled programing to show the devastation unfold in real time.
As my friend and former Focus board member Dr. Al Mohler reflected, “What burned was not just a tremendous loss to architecture, it was a tremendous loss to western civilization, and it points to an even greater loss: A spiritual loss that came before the architectural loss.”
Dr. Mohler continued:
“The fact that the national symbol was also a cathedral was itself a reminder that you can’t tell the story of western civilization, you can’t even tell the story of the Reformation or the modern age without talking about the age of the cathedrals. The architecture of Notre Dame cries out: Christianity is at the center of our civilization.”
This is precisely correct, of course. Christianity isn’t just one of many world religions. As Dr. Alvin Schmidt wrote in his book, “How Christianity Changed the World,” it has transformed the centuries. Yet even more profoundly personal, it has transformed me.
The sight of a sacred cathedral burning is jarring, even upsetting. At the same time, we’re reminded that nothing on this earth is permanent – and that God often uses suffering, setbacks and disappointments to shape and mold us.
You might be waking up this morning with a heavy heart, burden by a wayward child, a loveless marriage, a dead-end job or maybe even a debilitating physical infirmity.
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I am regularly reminding myself that adverse circumstances, while inevitable, are not God’s final plan.
Yet, I believe He allows us to endure them at times to teach us something – whether about Him, ourselves or for some reason beyond our mortal understanding.
For those readers who are not believers, you should know that Christians began the celebration and commemoration of Holy Week this past Palm Sunday. It’s the most sacred stretch of time for followers of Jesus, a Middle Eastern carpenter from the small, obscure town of Nazareth in Galilee. The celebration begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – and ends withHis crucifixion and then Resurrection from the dead just 7 days later.
Another important part of the Passion drama involves the apostle Peter, in some ways a mess of a man who many of us can relate to. A fisherman, Peter was one of Jesus’ impetuous disciples, who, after promising that he would never deny his master, did just that only hours later – all in an effort to save his own skin.
Yet, was Peter ostracized and cast off by the man he himself rejected?
No. He was fully restored and became one of the earliest and most enthusiastic leaders of the Christian Church. His failure was not final, nor fatal.
So, if you’re struggling today, whether in a relationship or some other circumstance, consider the fact that your condition or situation can quickly change. In fact, if you ever needed an example of the difference a few days can make, just consider the contrast of the Friday Jesus died with the Sunday when He walked out of the tomb.
It was a weekend for the ages.
As we head into the sacred and sober remembrances of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday this week, I hope we will be reminded that Easter is the foundation of Christianity, the day that God saved humanity in a way it could never save itself. It’s about new life rising from the ashes, it’s about overcoming death to life eternal.
The people of France will rebuild the cathedral of Notre Dame, though the question of Christianity’s prominence in the City of Lights remains an open one. Nevertheless, Easter is a reminder that Jesus’ Resurrection makes our salvation secure. If you’re not familiar with what the Bible teaches about our path to Heaven, I would encourage you to enjoy our free online booklet called, “Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God’s Family.” The question of where you’ll spend eternity is too big to leave unanswered.