Sunday grace

Very early in the morning . . .

The night is over and the promise of a new day infringes upon the darkness. Just a glimpse of dawn-breaking at first light, but the sun will have its way.

Mary and the women came expecting death wrapped in linen. They found an empty tomb.

Peter, who denied three times, wondered where he would go from here, but he was found by the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep.

Disciples, fearfully hiding behind closed doors, could not believe the reports they were told until He gloriously appeared to them.

Thomas, waiting a full week later, sees, believes and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Evil did not triumph. Death was not the end. A tomb could not contain and hold the majesty of Heaven.

On the first day of the week, a new day dawned, a new covenant completed, the law of love becoming the seal of commitment.

Nothing in history equals it. No other man ever consummated such a magnificent plan. It was conceived in the mind of the God-head, designed before creation, predicted by the prophets, and accomplished through a Savior.

The Suffering Servant became the Victorious Champion, the Great High Priest who invites unto the very presence of a holy God.

 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” — John 20:31

He lives! Celebrate His victory over death, hell, and the grave. Believe and accept the life He offers to whosoever will.

There is life in Jesus’ name.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green[photo by MaRanda Green]

And it was dark

It was a dark night.

For Judas who walked away from the Passover, into his own passion for something other than he’d been offered, who left the Light of the world at the table of communion, it was dark.

For Pilate who came face to face with Truth and didn’t recognize Him, who asked the questions but could not grasp the answers, who washed his hands of the only One who could cleanse his heart, it was dark.

For the Jewish leaders and authorities who refused to believe and accept the one sent from God the Father, who were determined to go their own way, work their own agenda, it was dark.

For the eleven disciples and others who loved Him, who saw Jesus arrested, convicted and crucified, who did not understand the plan of God, it was the darkest of nights.

Jesus came to bring light, but for a while it seemed the light had been extinguished forever. Those who hoped He was their promised Messiah were left in their own prison of darkness.

Judgment must come.  Sentence would be passed and punishment meted out.  The prince of the world would be cast out.  Darkness veiled the earth for a time.

Those who will not believe, who choose to worship something other than the Christ,  remain in the darkness still.

Resurrection day will come at break of dawn.  The Light of the world will arise and shine once again. His glory will be revealed throughout the world.

 

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Those who accept the Son and the Father who sent Him, will walk in the light of day.

And we will never be afraid of the dark again.

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Revised and reposted from March 2016

The Friday of Passover week

We call it Good Friday. Two days before Easter Sunday. It seems an odd description for the original day.

Researchers differ about the origin of the term Good Friday. The one that seems most reasonable is that “good” related to “holy.”

It was a Holy Friday.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, would not have thought it a good day as she watched her son suffer an agonizing death, this son proclaimed by an angel to be called the Son of God, an heir to the throne of David.

The disciples would not have called it good since by this time they had scattered like scared rabbits. They were disillusioned, disappointed, fearful, and confused.

How could the people of Jerusalem have thought the events of the day were good? The city was in an uproar. Barabbas, a proclaimed dangerous criminal had been turned loose. Pilate was under pressure from the Jewish leaders and was concerned about his political position.

There was a crucifixion occurring during the week of Passover, the festival of freedom. And the prince of darkness appeared to be on the winning side.

But there was something holy happening.

The plan of redemption was at work on a hill called Calvary.  A perfect spotless Lamb offered Himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice. The sins of the world were being carried to the cross.

Trespasses were forgiven.  The debt we owed was paid in full. Spiritual dark rulers were disarmed.

Christ on the cross brought great anguish to those who watched Him suffer, knew Him intimately, had learned to loved Him, and hoped He was their Deliverer.

They could not see any good on a Friday when the sun was darkened.

But there was something holy happening that day, something that would change everything.

It was a good Friday for me.

the cross

 

The hidden things

Jesus unceasingly taught the disciples during their three years together. At every opportunity, He was teaching, sometimes in plain language and sometimes in parables. Whether they were listening, and more importantly whether they were understanding, is something altogether different.

It seemed there were some lessons that needed to be repeated. Like loving one another and the first shall be last and the one who leads shall be servant to all.

Sometimes they seemed to grasp the message and sometimes not. Perhaps they didn’t always want to. Perhaps they wished Jesus to be who they wanted Him to be,  made in their image, to accomplish their goals and desires.

I’ve been there.

Toward the end of the Gospels, I read how Jesus told them what was ahead, how His earthly life was coming to a close, that He would be lifted up on a cross. They didn’t get it.

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. — Luke 18:31-34

Sometimes the messages in life are hidden from us.

I think of people I care about who are dealing with such hard things, disease, brokenness, troubled marriages, wayward children, death. And we don’t understand. I wonder what good can come from trials that crush us. I have walked in those uncomfortable, even painful shoes myself, where there are more questions than answers.

The reasons are hidden from us for a season.

I would like to know why two pregnancies ended too early. I would like to know why my mother died when I was in my 30’s. I would like to know why many health issues have wrecked havoc on us. I would like to know why my heart has ached from longing that felt physically disabling. I would like to know why some of my prayers seem to go unanswered.

I would like to know why. But I don’t. And so my faith reaches for the unseen, reaches beyond the veil of this life into the spiritual realm. It stretches me to strain for what is invisible, the substance of what I hope for, the evidence of things not seen.

After Jesus’ death and then His resurrection, God’s heavenly purpose finally begin to be clear. But the disciples suffered agonizing despair for the days of mock trials, crucifixion, and a dead body in the tomb.

On the other side of resurrection day, the Son rose and light shined and the minds that had been shrouded by darkness began to comprehend. The disciples lives were changed forever. In fact, the world was changed forever.

One day my faith will be sight. All things will be clear. The face of my Savior will be glory like I cannot even imagine. And it will all be worth it

The uncertainty will be certain. All sickness will be healed. Every broken heart will be mended. Strained relationships will vanish in the beauty of God’s presence.

And I will understand that the tapestry of life includes dark threads as well as golden ones.

I may not get all the answers I hunger for here while I trod this earth, but there are reasons and there is a purpose. It is God who sovereignly rules and reigns and will cause all things to work together for good, according to His divine plan.

One day I will know as I am known. When I see Christ, it will be worth it. In the meantime, I will trust Him who knows all the hidden things now and forever.

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Sunday grace

These day I observe the Passover moon grow full and circular. This year’s Passover celebration begins tomorrow.

The Gospel writers, all four, pen their description of what we call The Triumphal Entry, Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey just days before their Passover began.  The event is weighty with significance.

Jesus on donkey

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  — Zechariah 9:9

The Jewish community would be picking out a lamb for their own Passover festivities, a lamb for a household, to set it aside from the flock and examine it for imperfections. For only a perfect lamb was suitable.

And on this day, a day triumphant, Jesus rode into the city as the Lamb of God chosen and marked for sacrifice. From the foundation of the world He is the One.

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  — Matthew 21:9-11

This is Jesus, the Word made flesh, the One who showed us the Father’s love. He came with intention and for a purpose, to take up our pain and bear our suffering, to receive the punishment for our sins. And through His wounds we are healed.

Rejoice daughters and sons of God, your King has come and He has been victorious over death, hell, and the grave. He revealed the strong arm of our God who saves.

Shout Hosanna in the highest heaven. Blessed is He who has come in the name of the Lord!

Sunday grace.

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Those Pharisees

As I read the Gospels, I am perplexed by the Pharisees.

They are the learned men, the ones who study the law and the prophets. They are held in high esteem for their pious lifestyle, working hard to keep themselves from becoming contaminated by worldly things.

Their response to Jesus, His words and His actions, disturb and trouble me. Why didn’t they recognized the One prophesied in the Scriptures they proposed to know so well?

The name Pharisee has come to mean hypocrite, self-righteous. I’m pretty sure I have been one.

As Jesus gets closer to His final week of life on this earth, those men in their dignified robes become more angry with Him. They hate what He is doing and saying. They lash out with their words and try to trick Jesus with questions. They feel threatened by Jesus’ popularity and condemned by His pointed critique. He sees right through their strict adherence to the traditions while they ignore the intent of the law. The law that is love.

Several places the writers say the Pharisees feared Jesus. They feared His popularity with the people, feared their position of power was threatened, feared the Romans would take away their temple.

They lived in fear rather than living in love.

Jesus perceived their thoughts and what they hid from the rest of society – their hearts.

Jesus always see into the heart of the matter, past the forms of godliness, the pretense of having it all together.  He does not put up with facades and deceptions. He calls it out.

And so I confess to having been a Pharisee, a rule-keeper, trying hard to be good, getting it all right, keeping up the image. It was exhausting.

In love Jesus called me out on it. The gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit was convicting and convincing. I was living in fear, the fear of not measuring up, of not being good enough.

Change started when I saw my sin and confessed. I am a work in progress, the ongoing process of pruning and nurturing and staying connected to the Vine. Jesus talked with His disciples about that on their walk to Gethsemane.

The more I understand the riches of God’s grace toward me, the more easily I am able to extend it to others.

It is freedom to live free. Recognizing that God loves me just as I am, not for all the rules I try to keep or all the things I refuse to do. His love is higher than the heavens and nothing I ever did or ever will do changes that fact.

I live in a robe righteousness these days, but it is not my own. It is the righteousness purchased for me by Jesus Christ.

It’s no fun being a Pharisee, living in a state of criticism and fear instead of love. Christ came to give abundant life to those who choose Him. And I have chosen Him and want to live my every moment with Him.

If only the Pharisees could have understood.

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Lessons from the heart

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

Imagine being a young woman who exercises regularly, eats healthy food and is about to give birth. And then your heart stops.

Those are the events in the life of author Julie Manning in her biography My Heart. She didn’t know the muscle that pumps blood throughout her body was failing.

my heart

After the birth of her first child, a boy, she was given the devastating news that she was in heart failure, a diagnosis no young, first-time mother expects to hear. But this became her life.

And it changed everything.

Mrs. Manning’s story is gripping as she walks through the days after her son’s birth and the years that follow, always wondering if her heart will last long enough for her to see that sweet baby boy grow up.

She writes honestly about dealing with the shock of her health condition, wrestling with her faith in God, wondering about her and her family’s futures. Through the struggle she came to a place of acceptance and began living each day with purpose, grace and thanksgiving.

“. . .  What if women spent more time looking into the eyes of people around them and had conversations about Jesus, reading through the Bible together and praying to the One who is worthy above all else?  . . . What if we chased our children around the park and on the way home tell them that Jesus is chasing after them, and He never runs out of breath like Mommy? What if we stopped calling our minivan a taxi and begin seeing the opportunity for discipleship of the souls that are buckled into their seats with no place else to go? What if we actually shared the gospel with our children instead of rushing them through life?

“May we turn into a generation of women who live with constant intentionality. Not just for the sake of being intentional but for the sake of living like Christ. May we also be a generation of women who dares to dream of how God might just use our lives tomorrow while we are in the trenches of today.”

My Heart is a gripping story. It made me look at my own soul-heart, to examine my motives for living out the rest of my days.

I want to be part of that generation of women who lives with intention and purpose, investing in the lives of people around me.

It will not happen accidentally.  It is a choice I must  make.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of My Heart, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

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