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Staying Connected

Yesterday, I encountered a huge blessing.  I had the opportunity to enjoy a lunch with some saints from our church.  And part of the lunch was the celebration of communion together.

The occasion that prompted this particular gathering was to say “see you later” to one of the couples around the table.  They have been active pillars of our church since 1966.  Raymond and Betty will celebrate 70 years of marriage this summer and this weekend they are moving from our city.

Over the years, this couple has served in too many roles in our church to even count.  But the one area that rises to the top in my mind is their role in ministering to children.  They have given selflessly to make sure children had a safe and welcoming place to experience the love of Jesus.

I didn’t ask this question, but I believe they would say that working with kids has kept them young.  The both of them are an inspiration.   As times have continued to change, they have worked hard at staying connected to the younger generations.

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I think we need to learn something from their example.  If we are to make sure that future generations grow up to follow Jesus, we must always strive to connect with them.  Raymond and Betty have done a great job doing just that.  In fact, one of the highlights of our time together yesterday was when we lined up to take a group picture and I heard Raymond say, “hang on, I’m trying to take a selfie.”

Raymond and Betty may be moving from our city but they will always be part of our family!

There is a connection that will never be lost.

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Encountering Jesus

We find ourselves today living in the wake of Easter.  It is easy for us to celebrate the empty tomb and then get back to our daily lives – our schedules and commitments and all that life brings.  But I want to remind us that the resurrection changed everything.  In one wonderfully cosmic event, life as we know it changed.  Jesus overcame death securing for us the assurance of our own eternal life.

Jesus taught that if we will be first we must become last and if we are to truly live we must die to ourselves.  When we surrender our desires and plans to him, we are, in a very real sense, dying to ourselves and being resurrected to live for Jesus.

Easter should be a reminder for us to live resurrected lives each and every day.  We must seek to encounter Jesus each day not just at Easter.

One of my favorite accounts in scripture is the Emmaus Road encounter.  Two of Jesus’ followers were reeling from the events of his passion.  They had heard of the women who had gone to the tomb earlier that day and found it empty.  They were talking to each other trying to make sense of it all as they walked the road.  As they walked, Jesus joined them on the journey but they did not recognize him.

He spent time with them, instructing them on how the scriptures had foretold what would happen to the messiah but even through his teaching, they did not recognize him – at least not yet.  It wasn’t until they sat down to eat together that their eyes were finally focused on who was sitting there with them.  When they realized this stranger at the table was Jesus, he vanished from their sight.

As the two of them discussed all they had just experienced, they asked each other, “were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened scripture to us?”

There is so much power packed into that simple question!

When we encounter Jesus, our hearts burn within us.

When is the last time you experienced an encounter with Jesus that rekindled your inner flame.  Jesus is in the business of igniting passions within us to make a difference for him.

That is what it means to live a resurrected life.  It is to live a life of passion for the King!

May our hearts burn within us today because we have encountered Jesus!

We Remember

We remember.

We stand at the foot of the cross, or kneel.

The draw of the exuberance of the empty tomb pulls at us but your words to your disciples to stay – to remain awake – to stay near compel us to pause.

We remember your words, even as the wafer touches our lips – “This is my body, given for you.”

Lord Jesus, we remember.

Cross in Communion Cup

As the cup is raised to our mouths we look to the cross and we remember.  This is your blood that was spilled out for us.

We remember.

Lord Jesus we remember!

We are not worthy of your sacrifice.  We do not deserve the gift of eternal life you made possible on that cross.  But we do remember.

And we say thank you!

Pause At the Cross

Here we are in the middle of the holiest of weeks.  I make it a habit each year to remind our church family (and myself) to take time to pause at the cross before moving to the empty tomb.  We set aside Easter Sunday each year to celebrate the resurrection of the savior and we should do just that!

Jesus, over two centuries ago, began a movement that has changed the world.  But his movement has had far more of a crucial impact than on social reform alone.  In fact, the social implications are minor compared to the eternal spiritual difference he has made.  Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death and conquering sin.  Without the resurrection, there would be no hope for us.  We are given the opportunity to live resurrected lives when we choose to die to our own desires – to humble ourselves and submit to Jesus’ leadership.  That is good news and only possible through the resurrection.

Looking Up at Cross

So it is right to celebrate an empty tomb!

But let us not rush past the cross on the way to the empty tomb.  There would have been no empty tomb had there not been a horrific cross.  Jesus paid a debt we could not pay – our debt!

On this Silent Wednesday (silent because scripture does not record any activity of Jesus on this day of that final week), reflect on the cross.  Meditate on the weight of the sin of the world coming to rest at one point in time on one man.

Pause at the cross and remember.

In one of my readings this morning, I ran across a reminder that should inform and shape each day of our existence here on Earth.  In Luke 10, Jesus sent out 72 of his followers in pairs to prepare the way for him in the towns he would visit.  He gave each of them authority to heal and cast out demons.

When they returned they were exuberant with excitement over being able to cast out demons.  While Jesus rejoiced with them, he cautioned them and reminded them to keep a proper perspective.  He said to them in verse 20, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

His words remind us that what happens here on Earth does not matter nearly as much as our eternal destiny.  We can have great “success” here but it will not matter much if our eternity with the Father is not secure.

As I have reflected on this thought I realized that the opposite is also just as important – even when things go terribly wrong here and we experience struggles and tragedy, we need to remember that our eternal destiny far outweighs what we endure here.
Blinders

We tend to live with blinders on but we need to expand our perspective.

My reflection moved me to write this note to myself and I share it with you in hopes that it can serve as a reminder for you as well:

We must strive to gaze at the eternal panorama and not allow ourselves to stare at the temporal snapshot.

Remember that today!

Easter Is Coming

Over the past few weeks I have talked with so many people who are carrying such heavy loads – more than normal.  I have been more sensitive in our weekly worship gathering to see hollow looks and stressed-out faces.

The reality of life is that we all pass through moments or days or even seasons of difficulty as we journey along the Way.  It is a mis-conception to think that by giving our lives to Christ and living for him as best we can, we are no longer going to experience struggles.  In fact, most often, the struggles are amplified in some ways because we live in a world in which those of us who strive to honor Jesus with our lives are looked on with condescension or even condemnation.

But I want to encourage you fellow travelers in two ways this morning.

The first is that you are not alone!  You are part of a huge family made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life and all parts of the world that are on the same journey and are experiencing the same struggles you face.  Sometimes it is helpful to know you are not alone.

But even more important to remember today is that no matter how bleak things may seem today . . . Easter is coming!Easter Poster 2018

Jesus walked this Way 2000 years ago and he was treated with condescension and condemnation.  He was pushed to the outskirts of acceptable culture and when he would not go silently into the obscurity, the leaders of his day killed him.

But that was not the end.  He rose from the dead and when he did, he conquered death and defeated sin to show us once and for all that we are more than conquerors when we live our lives for him.  His triumph gives us hope that he is bigger than any temporary struggle we face.

So today, if you are feeling like there is little in your life that offers hope remember that you are not alone and Easter is coming!

You Are Loved

Monday morning reminder: 

You are loved!

You Are LovedSometimes we need to remember that fact.  God sees you as a soul worth saving – not because of anything you have done but simply because he created you and loves you more than you can ever truly comprehend.

We often allow the circumstances we face or even people in our lives to prevent us from realizing his true love.  We listen when we are told we aren’t of any value or just not quite pretty enough, or smart enough or strong enough.  But those voices are not from God.  He loves – unconditionally.  Before you were born, he felt you would be worth the sacrifice of the life of his own son!

May this day be filled with glimpses of the evidence of his love for you.  You ARE loved!

Prayer for the day:

Father, today, in this moment, shine your light into my life and allow me to see myself as you see me.  Give me the strength and courage to live into the life you see for me today.  Amen.