Easter Off The Page

When I was a teenager, my friends and I took part in our city’s production of the Passion Play during Easter week. We practiced for months for the week long performances in which we were part of the crowd that both welcomed and condemned Jesus. We began by waving palm branches and finished with the shaking of our fists. We stood at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion scene and slowly changed our mockery to grieving as we realized just who this Jesus was. As the theatrical lightning and thunder were set off and the temple curtain split, our role was to run down the aisle and out in sheer terror. We would get to the back of the auditorium and collapse in the lobby. Barefoot, in our little ‘Jerusalem frocks’ as we called them, we would just sit and watch the rest of the last scene play out – and that’s when my favorite part of the whole night would come to pass.

You see, the man who played Peter was my favorite. He had a way with this role. He was a rather large African-American youth pastor with a voice that just commanded attention. He was also one of the most gentle souls I had ever met. His role as Peter consisted in being by Jesus’ side, falling asleep in the garden, and denying his Savior three times. He ran out in utter shame before the crucifixion, but Peters role was not finished yet.

As the women arrived at the empty tomb, there was an incredible message waiting for them via a “young man clothed in a long white robe”. (Can we just pause for a moment and recognize how amazing this in itself is?)

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Mark 16:6-7

Did you catch that? “And Peter…”

This always fascinated me. He singles Peter out, even though he is certainly one of the disciples. The one who ran out in shame is being called back. By God Himself. By name.

As the women ran from the tomb to go and tell the fearful disciples the news, our Peter would stand in the back of the auditorium pacing and wringing his hands. Every night. He would pray and weep as he prepared himself for the grand finish, and we would sit on the floor weeping with him because we knew what was coming.

As the music changed from slow and mournful to faster and louder, our Peter took his place at the back entrance. Like a bride waiting to make her entrance, he stood in the door wiping his eyes praying out loud for the Holy Spirit to fall. Hundreds of people were about to hear the greatest possible news.

The music paused, and he tore up the aisle like a kid on Christmas morning, screaming “He’s alive! He’s alive!” I still remember the sight of hundreds of people simultaneously jerking their heads to see this unexpected sight. Our Peter never fully got out the words without crying. I never once watched it without weeping with joy. People in the audience would jump to their feet with hands held high. The story we all had heard countless times was jumping off the page right into our hearts.

I miss those days when Easter comes around. I long for people to get that excited about the story. I cried yesterday telling my boys this story because it’s still that fresh in my memory. We are all Peter. We fall asleep, deny, and run. How amazing that Jesus calls us back by name and invites us back to the table He has prepared.

Easter is so much more than wearing our best outfits to a lovely Easter service. I hope your Easter is far more than just “nice”… I hope it leaps off the pages and becomes a truth you carry all year long.

Happy Easter peeps!! ūüź£ He is Risen!

(For more amazing reading on Peters restoration, check out when Jesus returns and asks him three very important questions in John 21)

The Results Are In… Now What?

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It’s been a week since the election, and we are still here! Praise indeed.

It’s been a draining week, an emotional week, and I for one have never felt such an acute ache for God’s presence to just come and soak through every fiber of my being as I did these past seven days.

We said we’d feel better once this was over, but I’d venture to say that most of us just felt a kind of ‘shift’ from one unknown to another. The anxiety of not knowing the outcome has simply been replaced with a new kind of restlessness now that we have our end result.

So what now? Half the country nervously awaits, biting their fingernails and hoping the guy they voted for doesn’t completely blow it and prove them to be incredibly foolish in their choice of candidate. The other half are shaking their heads, woefully disappointed at best, completely unhinged at worst, skipping work and demanding a re-do.

We are living in two Americas. Heels are dug in solidly on both sides and nobody is going to move. Politics have become our religion and religion has become our politics. Focus on it too much and too long and it will finish you. Anyone with a Facebook account will tell you this past week has been trying on the soul.

This election cycle boiled us all down to the sum of our labels. Republicans are (fill in the blank). Liberals are (fill in the blank). Feminist. Socialist. Libertarian. Can I be brutally honest? None of them mean anything unless and until we know ourselves through the One who created us. I can not sing “Hail To The Chief” until I first sing in my soul “Hail Jesus You’re My King” and mean it. We will support our leaders but also speak up for injustice as needed. We are not blindly following any party or person. We are first and foremost the Church of the resurrected Christ, both ¬†with a capital “C”.

Christ-follower. That’s the only label I remotely desire at this point.

We are more than a political party, we are a BODY. We are here to elevate truth, to speak it with conviction and love. I’m not afraid to dip my toe in the political waters, but I need to make sure I have first immersed myself in the fountain of LIVING WATER that only Jesus offers.

Church, we need the Truth now more than ever. Regardless of where it lands us on the map of political correctness, people are desperate for it. It may earn us the label of “ally” and it may get us branded as the “enemy”, but please don’t let it hinder your voice. At times it will be lonely, but we are never alone. Let’s not put all our hope into a party or platform or human being… let’s pray for our nation and put our hope in Jesus because the truth is, He has already overcome it all. Woefully lamenting our circumstances and shouting gloom and doom isn’t worthy of our position as believers. It’s never going to be perfect in this world, but we must remember to take heart, because we follow the One who has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

We are strangers in a strange land and it would serve us well to remember that fact. The world is going to ebb and flow as it always has. We serve a God who will never change, and that must be our firm foundation.

“A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous, they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck… Our heart longs for joy as we bow before One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose.” Charles Spurgeon¬†

Position is Everything

imagesBlessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3

The giver of ALL our earthly and spiritual blessings HAS blessed us… it’s a done deal. Just like our salvation that was bought before we were even born, Christ has provided for us everything we need to thrive. We have the very power of the resurrection living inside of us based solely on what He did for us and our having received that gift.

But we don’t feel that way. We don’t act that way. We spend our days asking God for MORE… more understanding, more faith, more patience, more “fill in the blank”…

What if we stopped fighting to get more and realized we already have everything we need? What if we started to fight for what we already have?

There’s nothing we can do to make God love us more (or less for that matter). His love for us is more than we can imagine, and no performance on our part can change that. We can’t earn or lose any of the forgiveness Christ accomplished for us on the cross. It’s all there – right now. In the same way, so are our spiritual blessings. Healing. Joy. Faith. Everything.

So instead of begging, pleading and asking God for something He has already blessed us with – what if we changed our stance and simply started to receive what He has already provided?

Paul prayed this amazing prayer in Ephesians;

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

Paul is praying for us. He is praying for believers. He’s essentially asking that we would come alive to the truth of what Christ has already done for us. He prayed that what was given to us would be recognized and used!

He goes on to say that we have within us the same power that raised Christ from the dead;

…”what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19-20)

 

It doesn’t get any more powerful than that. So instead of wasting our time asking for more… shouldn’t we learn to appropriate what is already in us by His power?

Would it make a difference if we prayed from a place of victory instead of defeat? I think for sure it would! Instead of starting from a sad, defeated position, telling God how empty we are and how we need more of (…..), what if we came from a place of fullness and confidence? Not ignoring our trials, but addressing them in a different way. It isn’t our job to “make” God act. We don’t have to muster up enough faith and hope God will hear us and have pity on our situation. That’s legalistic faith and it bears no fruit. No person on earth could ever meet that high standard.

How about… instead of trying to get¬†God to respond to us, we respond to HIM? If we know the truth of what is available to us – all the righteousness, peace and joy we could ever handle – we should be walking in that!

As believers, we are already standing in a place of victory. The battle has already been won. So when the enemy comes up against us, we need to ACT like victors. We need to defend what is already ours. Instead of crumbling in the face of adversity and claiming how weak and helpless we are, we should be proclaiming the truth of who we are in Christ and because of Him.

Your position changes everything! It’s so much easier to defend something you already have than to have to go out and fight to get it. We are blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing – lets believe it and act like it!

Where is Your Jesus?

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A few years back, we took a family trip to Germany with our then 4 year old son. We had lived there a few years earlier (before children) and were excited to go show him all our favorite places and introduce him to a new culture. I love Europe. My favorite thing to do is go inside old churches and chapels – I love the smell, the way the light shines though centuries-old stained glass, the faded paintings. I could literally spend all day looking over the details and wondering about the people who put them there.

Needless to say, this is not the favored activity of a 4 year old. You have to be quiet in churches. Running up and down the aisle is frowned upon. He preferred playing with little German kids in the park. He preferred playing in the rocks outside. Anything was better than walking through an old church with mom whispering about art!

One morning, we drove up to a vineyard that had a little chapel. I peeked through the door and saw mostly darkness. It was a sad little place. No big windows to let the light in. No paintings on the walls. Just a crucifix hanging above a little altar. I went in and sat down for a minute. Pretty soon, my little guy came and sat down by me. We looked up at the cross, a most Catholic-looking Jesus hung there, bloodied and with a look of excruciating suffering on His face. It occurred to me that J had never seen this Jesus before. He had seen the storybook Jesus, holding a lamb and frolicking with children in a field. He knew Jesus had died for him on the cross, but how much does a 4 year old really get? ¬†My first thought was, “crap…he’s totally going to be traumatized by this and have nightmares about a scary Jesus!” ¬†I pondered getting up and going back to play in the rocks. But then he said something that I will never forget. He looked at me and said “mom, it’s a good thing Jesus isn’t still on the cross, huh?”

I was totally taken aback. “Yes! Oh my goodness, yes it is a good thing!” I asked him to tell me more about what that means. “Jesus is alive now. He isn’t there anymore, he is in our hearts.”¬†If ever there was a parenting moment of glory, this was it for me. He got it. Four years of Bible stories, celebrating the resurrection at Easter and talking about Jesus living in our hearts had come to this. When faced with a suffering Jesus on the cross, he realized that Christ now lives in us.

We talked about how none of our crosses had Jesus on them – and how virtually all the crosses we saw in Europe had an image of a crucified Christ. I had always just chalked it up to Catholic/Protestant differences and moved on. This taught me so much more.

The crucifixion of Christ is of utmost importance, not to be ignored by any means – but what if that is all we ever see? A sad, suffering Jesus? He died so that we may live! The work is finished. We are forgiven. I began thinking about how I was living. Was I walking in the resurrection power of Christ or was I living like He was still up on that cross, striving and under the burdens of all my shortcomings?

Praise God the tomb is empty! Jesus didn’t stay indefinitely on the cross suffering in misery. For the rest of our trip, we would walk into a church, see Jesus hanging on the cross and my son would whisper with a sly little grin on his face, shaking his head, ¬†“He’s not really up there anymore mommy!” He spoke with authority, like he was in on a special secret that not everyone understood.

So where is your Jesus? ¬†In America we don’t often see this version of a suffering Jesus in our churches. In Europe, this is the only Jesus I ever really ever encountered. We need to know them both. They are the same God.

But lets remember one thing: we are forgiven and the work is done!

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. Romans 6:9

I want to live like that, to tap into that power. I want my kids to know where their Jesus is. He isn’t stuck on a cross and neither are we. He is not defeated and neither are we!

Live in it!!!