Sunday, April 20, 2014

What changed?

The stone was moved.
The burial shroud of Jesus
     was still wound up
     and discarded in an empty tomb.
And angels,
I imagine the very same ones
who announced to the shepherds,
            "He is here!"
now proclaimed,
"He is not here,
for He has risen,
             as He said."
We can read the Scripture accounts
     of what happened that Easter morning.
But there is even greater
         evidence of the Resurrection.
For behind locked doors,
   His disciples cowered in fear.
All was lost.
Jesus was not
     who they thought He was,
a political figure to overthrow the Romans.
        Jesus was not that at all.
Jesus came
         to overthrow sin.
People wanted a Messiah
    to rise up against political oppression,
and instead,
           Jesus rose from the dead,
delivering us from the oppression of sin.
Jesus did not proclaim political overthrow,
   but called for personal repentance,
an infinitely greater victory dance.

And therein lies
the most vivid proof of the Resurrection:
          the changed lives of His disciples.
They were transformed from cowards
                into martyrs.
No man willingly dies
for what he knows to be a lie.
But the truth of the Resurrection
                changed them completely.
Jesus was who He said He was
                                    after all.
And He proved it by doing the impossible,
            by defeating death.
And that changed everything.

The greatest proof of the Resurrection
was changed lives.

It still is.

Be proof.
Let the reality of the Resurrection
       be manifest in you.

Joyous Easter,
     in all you do and say,
in work,
and relationships,
and life,
not on a holiday in April,
but every day of the year.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter decorations

The outdoor Easter decorations this year are but a promise of what is to come.  Tiny buds line the boughs of trees like strings of lights not quite finished.  And the perenials buried deep in the ground are just now beginning to shake the long winter sleep from their heads as if teenagers not quite awake in the morning.

And inside the house, it appears I have but a half-eaten bowl of jelly beans displayed as a reminder of this holiday celebration.

This Saturday waits awkwardly between Good Friday and Easter, a day that marks the between-ness of the crucifixion and the resurrection.  It was the day when the disciples despaired and thought it was all over, this leader of theirs dead in a borrowed tomb, and they who ran away are now hiding behind locked doors.

And it is the day when satan rejoiced,
because he thought he had won.

But this day is not a time for hopelessness, but the shedding of our mourning clothes for that which is completely new, not what is to come, but the reality of who He is.

At Christmas,
celebrating the coming of our Lord,
we go all out decorating
and then take it back down again,
stored for another year.

At Easter,
bowls of jelly beans are consumed,
no leftovers
          but a ham sandwich or two.
What really remains
     is more than Easter finery
     worn for a day
  and hung again in the back of the closet.
For now we bear
          lives changed forever,
not looking for hope,
                     but living it.
There are no decorations to take down,
       but a newness within
                 His grace indwells,
       and the transformation begins. 
Nothing will ever be the same.

I came that they may have life,
and have it abundantly.
                   John 10.10

Friday, April 18, 2014

A nature path, butterflies, and what was redeemed

We meandered along paths shaded by enormous mangrove trees, and a great variety of tropical trees and bushes that created a tapestry of color and texture. Tiny lizards scampered across our path, and it appeared that hundreds of butterflies were throwing a party.  It was a nature preserve carved out in the middle of a town, a place of refreshment and delight.

And when we came to the end of the path, back to civilization so to speak, I stopped to read the signs alongside the trail.  And that was the wonder of it all.

This place of beauty had been the town dump for decade upon decade, not only for the disposal of reeking garbage but where raw sewage was dumped into its waters.  By 1953, it was the place of the dead, so putrid that it was declared a forbidden zone.

Decades later, a group of people declared that this place of blight need not be deadened in that way.  And they proceeded to redeem the land, restore the waters, reclaim the native plantings, and recreate it the way God intended.  It was the same place, but redeemed.

And as I left that place of coming back from the dead, I realized that is what resurrection looks like in our own lives, allowing us to realize how God sees us, so precious and beloved.  God redeems, restores, reclaims, and recreates.  That is what He does best.

if any one is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has passed away,
     the new has come.

                2 Corinthians 5.17

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tales of the Resurrection

Jesus often used parables to explain spiritual realities.  Stories of "real life" brought home the enormous truths of God.

Back in April 1988, I was in a very different season of life.  Focus on the Family published a true story about the resurrection that I have never forgotten.  Indeed, I still have the pages of that story in my file.

A few days ago, I remembered that article and found it in another online publication.  I hope that it touches your heart as it did mine.

Click here to read the story.

He is not here,
    but He has risen.

                 Luke 24.6

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Know your exits

It is hard to imagine wanting to voluntarily leave
     such a place of beauty and warmth.
But those who have been around
know what savage tropical weather can do
and what to do about it:
     hurricane shutters over windows,
     emergency water and provisions,
and knowing not just when to evacuate
                                    but how.

And at some point,
 everyone faces the storms of life. 

When trouble is bearing down,
there is no time to carefully evaluate.
Emergency plans are just knowing
                               ahead of time
         how to handle a volatile situation.
Panic distracts
                 and escalates itself.
Fear just trips you up.

Wherever God leads you,
        be aware of the exits,
not in a quitting kind of way,
but when the sweet-smelling breezes of temptation
lull you into staying in a place dangerous for you.
May your heart be trained
     to differentiate what strengthens
     and what destroys,
when to stand firm
                       and when to FLEE!

...for those who have their faculties
                trained by practice
     to distinguish good from evil.
                          Hebrews 5.14

Be aware of your surroundings
   but even more,
                      God's leading.
Sometimes God calls us
   to walk through an impossible Red Sea,
sometimes to stand in the breach
     where others dare not go,
sometimes to go forth and fear not,
and sometimes,
    God says, "Run for your life!"

Teach your children,
rehearse the scenes,
practice the words,
that they would know
   both the courage to intervene,
       and the freedom
              when to turn and walk away,
not if trouble comes,
                      but when.      

Know the evacuation routes,
know your exits,
        aware as the flight attendant says,
"the nearest one may be behind you."

It may save your life,
but even more so
    God may be intending for you
                  to lead others to it.

When life gets dicey,
unpredictable and potentially dangerous,
the Holy Spirit always provides
           a way through it.
And Satan always tries to make you think
                          all the doors are locked.

No temptation has overtaken you
that is not common to man.
God is faithful,
and He will not let you be tempted
                     beyond your strength,
but with the temptation
    will also provide the way of escape,
that you may be able to endure it.

                        1 Corinthians 10. 13