Sunday grace

Spring break was glorious.  We visited our family-too-far-away with great joy in their presence, then experience that deep sadness when we said our good-byes.  Relationships are to be cherished.

I returned home to spring.  The greening of nature is a great delight.  All things are becoming new again.

On this day,  Sweet William and I will gather once again with church family to sing with hearts of worship.  We will give and receive hugs and welcome words.  We will open the Word and listen as pastor and teacher break the Bread of Life for us.

We can go through the motions or we can enter in.  Today I choose to enter in fully, freely, willingly.  Because I have been accepted fully.  I have been set free.  And it is God’s will to take me into His loving arms.

Sunday Grace, friends.  Enjoy this day you have been given.  Be thankful and bless His name.

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Spring Break

After many days of writing during our 40-day journey to Resurrection Sunday, I am taking a little break.

A Spring Break.

The flowers bloom.  The birds sing.  The weeds grow.  And my garden boots are waiting for me.

Enjoy the season, friends.  Get out of doors.  Sit in the sunshine.  Drink a glass of sweet tea.

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

The seasons remind me that God is in His heaven and all is right with the world because He lives and He reigns forever more.  Hallelujah!

lilies of the valley

Jesus is alive!

Our Journey has ended.  But it is not the end, rather it is the beginning!

Today my friend Robin takes us on a journey and ends at an empty tomb.  It isn’t just a story, however, it is truth and revelation.  It is what gives me hope and proves Christ is the conqueror over sin, death, and the grave.  Take this journey with me, won’t you?

“You have heard the stories of a Messiah since you were born.  At times you shrugged them off as simple stories passed down from your parents and grandparents.  Then, as you grew older and wiser, you began sharing the hope of your ancestors.  Someday God will send Messiah.

One day you begin hearing stories of this man who heals the sick, casts out demons and forgives sin.  The word on the street is that he may be the Messiah, but you just aren’t sure. Something in your heart wants it to be true, but reality sinks in and you begin to doubt.

The stories about this man continue to spread.  More and more people begin to believe he truly is the Messiah.  Your hope begins to grow as well.  Maybe.  Just, maybe.

As you prepare for Passover with your family you hear of the uproar caused by this man.  You enter the streets and see a mixture of emotions.  Some crying “Crucify!”  Others crying bitter tears as they watch one they love suffer.

The hope in your heart is almost unbearable now.  Could this truly be the Messiah?  There has never been such a fuss made over anyone before.

Then, as he carries the cross on his back through the streets, blood pouring from his body, it happens.  That one moment that defines who you are.  He looks at you.  Straight at you and no one else.  You feel as if the entire world has disappeared and you are alone with this beaten and bruised man.  He is looking at you.  His eyes.  His eyes penetrate your soul and you know, in an instant, He is the Messiah!

You take a step back to process things.  You go back home where it is safe and recount all of the stories and prophecies you have been told of the coming Messiah.  You cry.  You pray. 

Then, it’s over.  He is gone.  The man you knew in your heart to be the Messiah is dead.

This crushing blow causes your faith to shake at it’s core. You believed.  He made you believe. He looked deep in your soul and revealed Himself to you. 

Sleepless nights pass.  You can’t get the look of His face out of your mind.  You can’t stop crying over the loss of the hope that had grown deep inside.  The heartbreak is more than you can take.  You ask the tough questions and meditate on the prophecies.  You must find the answers.

Then you hear rumors.  Rumors of an empty tomb.  The hope that died on the cross begins to burn.  But you need proof.   So you go to the tomb where they laid Him. 

As you arrive the tomb is surrounded by guards, them questioning how a stone so large could have been rolled away.  They all speculate on the disappearance of the body.  And you wonder, could it be?

You walk closer, hoping for a glimpse.  An answer.

You step in and see the tomb is truly empty.  But still, no answers.  You are confused, but hopeful.

You cross paths with a man who is walking on the road.  You look up but words won’t come out of your mouth.  His eyes.  His eyes.  The man smiles and walks on.  You stop, frozen.  His eyes. 

You run back to the streets and begin sharing your story.  Your doubts, questions, fears and the answer.  Jesus IS the Messiah, and He has risen, just as He said He would, just as the prophets of old said.  The stories handed down from your ancestors are true and are now fulfilled. 

Death has lost it’s victory and the grave has been denied!”

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“Have you lost the excitement that used to flood your heart when you thought about the resurrection?  Have you lost sight of the victory Jesus has over death and the grave?  Have you heard the stories so many times they have lost their power? 

Go ask a young child to tell you the story.  Listen intently to the details she gives and the hope in her heart.  Renew your childlike faith. 

Oh, I pray this season is different. I pray the Lord renews the awe and wonder of His resurrection for you.”

—  Robin Howe”

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here, He has risen, just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay.” Matthew 28:5-7

“Do not be alarmed,” he said.  “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen? He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.”  Mark 16:6

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; He has risen!”  Luke 24:5

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!” John 20:18

He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.   You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24:46-48

Originally posted at  IGetUpTooEarly in April 2014.

Our journey ends – at the Resurrection!

Day 40 of 40 days to Resurrection Sunday

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus’ victory over death and the grave: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20.

Sweet William and I went to the funeral home this week. Another saint of God laid to rest.  Family and friends gathered to remember a life and to say their final good-byes to one who was loved.  Songs were sung.  A sermon was preached.  The hearse took the body to its final resting place.  And all left with only their memories.

I’ve witnessed the same ritual hundreds of times with countless relatives, friends, and friends of friends. It is always the same.  We leave the body in the grave and walk away. And I know that one day it will be me in the grave and my family will walk away.

But as a Christian, a believer in the One true God and His Son, Jesus Christ, I live in hope, not in fear, of death.

Jesus’ story, told by four men from different viewpoints and perspectives ends much the same.  Very early in the morning on the day after the Sabbath, after a horrible crucifixion, death and burial, the most important fact in history was discovered.

When Mary of Magdala and the other women went to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid for burial, they could not find Him there.  The tomb was empty.  They were distressed, confused, concerned. Where could the body be?  Had someone stolen it, hidden it?  What were they to do with no body to anoint and prepare with spices?

And then the discovery – He is alive!  At first it is hard to believe, but then it becomes a reality because they see Him.  He reveals Himself to them, eats with them, fixes them breakfast, talks with them as before, lets them view his scars, explains the Scriptures about Himself, instructs them and encourages them.

This is no ghostly aberration.  This is a living, breathing, walking-among-them God-man who has come back from the dead!

Resurrection!

The resurrection sets the Christian faith apart from all others.  Every  belief system has its prophet, its leader, the one in which people put their faith, hoping to get answers about life.  But none has a resurrection story.  None has a Savior who died and yet now lives.  All others have their grave sites where flesh and bone deteriorated and went back to the dust.  None have an empty tomb.

And this is what gives us hope.  His resurrection is part and parcel to the crucifixion story.  They cannot be separated.  Jesus died for our sins, but He arose and came back to life to show His victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave.  He proved once and for all that He is the Mighty Conqueror, and satan’s dominion has been cast down..

The gospel writers conclude with the resurrection story.  The remainder of the New Testaments writer reiterate it and bank their faith on it.  The church that was born in first century AD stake their lives upon it and willingly suffer and die for it.  They spread the word about it to the four corners of the earth.  John the revelator writes it in golden pen as He tries to describe the glory of the risen Lamb of God in His heavenly surroundings.  And the saints surrounding the throne of God are there with Him because of it.

The resurrection.  It’s truth astounds the scoffers.  But they cannot disprove it.  Too many eyewitnesses saw it and too many lives were changed because of it and too much history was affected by it.  And the story of it could not be silenced.

Our God is alive!  We worship One who lives today.  He lives so that we might live also and that is our hope.

And so though we cry at a death and what seems final, we rejoice as those who have hope beyond this life, beyond the grave, in the beyond of the moon, sun, and stars.  We look for a city whose builder and maker is God.  And when we get there we will see Him in all of His glory.

For our God is alive!

The journey is complete.  We are there!  Thank you for joining us on the journey.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad! Your God is alive!

The journey to the cross – the collision

Day 39 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus’ crucifixion: Matthew 27:27-66, Mark 15:21-47, Luke 23:26-56, John 19:17-42

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Today I defer to Oswald Chambers whose words about the cross of Christ stagger me.  His depth and wisdom about the event that impacted all of eternity are enough today.

Stand in awe at the price God paid for the redemption of your soul.

The Collision of God and Sin

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”  1 Peter 2:24

The Cross of Jesus is the revelation of God’s judgment on sin.  Never tolerate the idea of martyrdom about the Cross of Jesus Christ.  The Cross was a superb triumph in which the foundations of hell were shaken.  There is nothing more certain in Time or Eternity than what Jesus Christ did on the Cross.  He switched the whole of the human race back into a right relationship with God.  He made Redemption the basis of human life, that is, He made a way for every son of man to get into communion with God.

The Cross did not happen to Jesus:  He came on purpose for it.  He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  The whole meaning of the Incarnation is the Cross.  Beware of separating God manifest in the flesh from the Son becoming sin.  The Incarnation was for the purpose of Redemption.  God became incarnate for the purpose of putting away sin; not for the purpose of Self-realization.  The Cross is the centre of Time and of Eternity, the answer to the enigmas of both.

The Cross is not the cross of a man but the Cross of God, and the Cross of God can never be realized in human experience.  The Cross is the exhibition of the nature of God, the gateway whereby any individual of the human race can enter into union with God.  When we get to the Cross, we do not go through it; we abide in the life to which the Cross is the gateway.

The centre of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much.  The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened—but the crash is on the heart of God.

— My Utmost for His Highest, April 6th

The journey to the cross – the trial

Day 38 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus’ arrest and trial.

(Matthew 26:47 – 27:26; Mark 14:43 – 15:21; Luke 22:47 – 23:25; John 18:1 – 19:16)

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When I see the word “trial” above,  I must shake my head in disgust.  Jesus had no trial.  His doom was embedded in the hearts of evil men intent on having their way and getting rid of this rabble-rouser once and for all long before Judas ever struck a deal for 30 coins.

Jesus had disrupted their Sabbath services by healing the sick.  He had trashed their traditions by pointing to the true intent of the Law.  He had threatened their political clout and watered down their power by pointing people to a relationship with an Abba Father who loved them.

Oh yes, Jesus was in their cross-fire, and they would stop at nothing to accomplish their goal.  How little they really understood the Law and the Prophets and knew the God who spoke through them.

They refused to see God in the flesh standing there.

But others saw a glint of glory.  Pilate’s wife warned her husband to have nothing to do with this just man.  Pilate himself said he found no fault in him.  Even the betrayer returned with his contract payment and admitted he had betrayed innocent blood.

And one of the thieves on the cross, guilty as sin, saw a glimpse of a King about to return to His kingdom.

It was a mockery, this thing called a trial.  Yet, Jesus own words to Pilate reveal what was actually happening.  “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.

Then Pilate asked, “What is truth?”  The world still asks that question.  They are still looking for truth.

The Way, the Truth, the Life stood before Pilate, face to face, eye to eye.  This was Pilate’s moment to see, but instead he gave in to the crowd, he caved to their pressure.  He washed his hands and walked away from his moment of decision.

The same moment of decision comes to each of us as we determine who Jesus really is.  Is He a king?  Is He the Messiah?  Is he the One who came as a lamb to die for the sins of the world?

Examine His teachings, His actions, and His life.  You will see that Jesus was guilty of one thing.  He loved this world to death.

The truth you seek is embodied in the One called Jesus.

The journey to the cross – He prayed

Day 37 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read Jesus’ prayer for Himself, His disciples, and for you.  (John 17)

Once again today, Robin Howe visits from IGetUpTooEarly.  Listen and be amazed that Jesus prayed for you!

“We read often in the gospels of Jesus going off to pray by Himself. He took time away from His disciples to be alone in the presence of His Father.  He knew this time would renew His spirit and His flesh.

In John 16 Jesus told the disciples that they will be attacked, mistreated and abused by the world.  He encouraged them to take heart as He said, “I have overcome the world.”

Then in the next chapter, John 17, we see the heart of Christ.  He begins to pray.

First He prays for Himself.  He knows what He is facing and He prays that God will glorify Him in the upcoming days and that God will be glorified in Him.  

Second, He prays for His disciples, the men who have walked alongside of Him for three years.  The men who saw Him heal the sick and wounded, raise the dead, preach and teach the scriptures, love on sinners, and encourage the discouraged.  They have eaten together, slept on the hard ground at night, laughed with Him and cried with Him.  Jesus loved these men. And they loved Jesus.  So He prays for them.

Third, He prays for all of those who will believe after His death and resurrection, those in generations to come who will hear the gospel message that Christ is Lord and Savior.  He prayed for those who would believe without witnessing what the disciples witnessed.  He prayed for you and me.

What did He pray?  That we would have an easy life and everyone would immediately believe the gospel message as soon as they heard it?  That there would be no wars or fighting for all mankind?  That life would be a bed of roses and no one would ever suffer?

Quite the contrary!

When Jesus prayed for us, He asked our Heavenly Father to dwell in us, just as He was with Christ.  He asked God to bring unity among believers, that we will stand together for a common cause, to tell others about Christ.  He asked God to use us to show the world His glory.

Oh, let that soak in for a moment.

He prayed for us, those who had not yet believed because we were not yet born.

He prayed for us, that we would not be alone on this earth.

He prayed for us, that we would be one as a body of believers.

He prayed for us, that we would be used by the Father to real His glory to the world.

This, dear friends, is one of the last things Jesus did before He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to begin the end of His life on earth.

Why?  Because He loves us.

As we near the end of this journey together. let us see the events unfold before our eyes.  Look at the scripture.  Sing worship songs.  Attend Easter services and musicals.  Celebrate with family and friends.  But most important, remember the reason for it all.  Christ died for sinners.  And He prayed for us.”

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Revised and re-posted from April 2014