29 03 2013

Never has emptiness shouted more loudly. A stone rolls away revealing God’s greatest joy. It is finished. And it is just beginning. The empty tomb of Jesus testifies to the most amazing truth of all – Jesus is alive. Death, with all of its finality, with all of its horror, with all of its relentlessness, fails to keep Jesus prisoner. Life wins. Light pierces darkness. Hope rises. Love triumphs. Grace surges forward.

Jesus is alive. Breathe. Soak it in. Let the tears flow. Grin. Laugh out loud. Be quiet. Fall to your knees. Worship. Jesus is alive.

Because Jesus is alive, we can experience everything it means to be alive as well. Here are five gifts that He gives us because He is alive.

A – Always – Always takes on a richer significance in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. Always is fueled by the power that brought Jesus out of the tomb. We have always promises on which we can build our lives – always love, always presence, always peace, and always faithfulness.

L – Life – Jesus conquers death and gives us access to life. Not just any life. Not a so-so, half-hearted, bland life – abundant life, eternal life, life to the full, life lived within the power and purpose of His life.

I – Immeasurably More – Jesus lives and opens the door for God to work in our lives in ways beyond what we can ask or imagine. Immeasurably More is God’s dream for our souls that finds its roots in the resurrection.

V – Victory – The power that surges from the empty tomb makes us conquerors. We can live victorious lives. The finish line has been crossed. The battle has been won. He allows us to claim His victory as our own. We walk in triumphal procession through this world proclaiming the good news about a cross and an empty tomb that changes everything.

E – East from the West – Here is the rich promise of everything that took place two thousand years ago. Forgiveness, grace, mercy, and salvation are ours because of Jesus. The cross paid the price. The resurrection ignites a firestorm of grace that consumes our sins and transforms our souls.

My Jesus Resolution today is to celebrate being ALIVE! Jesus lives! Jesus reigns! Jesus loves! Jesus forgives! All the exclamation points in the world will never capture the stunning, startling, amazing reality of the truth of His resurrection. Because He lives, we are called to live exclamation point kind of lives. Lives that proclaim His name. Reveal His power. Showcase His grace. Tell His story. Sing His praises. Imitate His life. Live in the truth that because He lives, we are ALIVE!

Not Yet

27 03 2013

Sunday will find disciples hiding, angels descending, ground shaking, stones rolling, women rejoicing, and an empty tomb echoing. But not yet.

This is a day of sorrow, regret, and resolve. The wounded, lifeless body of the Savior is being lowered from the crossbeams. Tears flow as hands that refused to be counted in life gently carry His body in death. Anxiously watching the darkening sky, two men hurry with their burdened hearts toward the tomb. Wrapping Him in strips of linen, they press spices into the cloth, a fragrant offering that now serves as a final tribute to His love.

The tomb of Jesus is a waiting place. Death has done its worst, but God has yet to do His best. Seventy-two hours of sorrow must pass before the dawn will break with joy. The disciples grieve. The women weep. God alone knows the promise that Sunday morning holds.

Sometimes we live in a not yet place. Things get very dark. Suffering, pain, sorrow, and fear eclipse the light. We can’t see God’s solution beyond our tears. The burial of Jesus speaks to the absolute certainty of His death and the miraculous truth of His rising. It also reminds us that not yet places are not always what they seem to be. For those who loved Jesus on that day, their hearts ached because they thought it was the end. For those of us who love Him today, we know it was just the beginning.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pick up a stone. I am going to carry it with me until Sunday morning. I am going to let it remind me that what I see as final, impossible, and over may be used by God to reveal His glory and the perfect timing of His not yet plan. In many ways, life itself is a not yet place. Because of the tomb and what comes next, we live with a hope that infuses today with the joy will we will experience tomorrow. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)  Soon, but not yet.

Father, Forgive Them

25 03 2013

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The quiet of the dark night is broken by the rough footfalls of soldiers with torches and clubs. A kiss betrays innocence, and the world is turned upside-down. God goes on trial before the people who were supposed to welcome Him with joy. A human government sits in judgment of the Creator of the universe. A death sentence is handed down. A cross is carried through twisted streets. Nails pierce the hands of the Carpenter.

The Son of God hangs on a cross…for you…for me.

When the world walks into this moment, all they can see is a broken man hanging on two pieces of wood. They mock Him, revile Him, spit on Him, and sneer in His face. Forgiveness is the last thing on their minds. It is the only thing on Jesus’ mind.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34

In a moment that the world would view as one of complete weakness, Jesus reveals His absolute strength. Weakness lashes out, takes advantage, and seeks revenge. Strength sacrifices self, absorbs the cost, and extends grace.

My Jesus Resolution today is to stand in the shadow of the cross. The forgiveness that was extended there reaches out for me today. The blood that was shed there washes across my soul in a cascade of grace. The strength displayed there has the power to transform me. The words spoken there should pierce my soul. The love released there heals me through and through.

Among the Olive Trees

22 03 2013

We walked up the narrow road in the city of Jerusalem. Having been through the Kidron Valley, we climbed the hill to the east of the temple mount. The street was filled with cars, and we scrambled to stay out of the way of oncoming traffic. The sidewalk met a wall and we had to walk single file as we continued to walk uphill. Finally, we reached a gate with a small bronze sign. Gethsemane. We were on the Mount of Olives. This was the place where Jesus prayed.

The gate is open and all are welcome to come in and sit in the shade of the ancient trees. Gnarled limbs stretch out across the sky. Olive trees can live hundreds of years. Their twisted trunks and knotty branches tell a story of endurance, patience, and determination.

Walking in the garden, the world faded away. Turning to Mark 14:32-42, the words of Jesus seemed to resonate through the quiet. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Touching the olive trees, it was easy to imagine Jesus’ hands rubbing the rough wood. Kneeling to the ground etched a deep picture of Jesus’ suffering on my heart. There is no way to stand among the olive trees and remain unchanged.

And that is the purpose of Gethsemane. Jesus left Gethsemane surrendered and even more determined to walk in His Father’s will. Going to Gethsemane has the power to do the same for our hearts as well. It doesn’t matter whether you go through the gate or through the door of scripture. Standing among the olive trees calls us to commit to fully living out God’s purpose for our lives.

My Jesus Resolution today is to kneel in the garden. I am going to imitate my Savior, humble myself before my God, and put myself in His hands. I have tears I need to cry there, prayers I need to raise there, worship I need to give there, and surrender I need to make there. Among the knots and gnarls of the old trees in Gethsemane are little pieces of paper. Prayers tucked into the branches by those who have visited. Today I am going to write “not what I will, but what you will” on a small piece of paper. I am going to tuck it into a hidden spot somewhere that is a place of struggle for me. I am going to take Gethsemane with me and remember the power and promise found when I kneel among the olive trees.

Who’s the Greatest?

20 03 2013

Who’s the greatest? Ask that question at a party or in a group and the debate will begin. We are a people who like rankings. We like to make lists of who’s the smartest, who’s the prettiest, who’s the wealthiest, who’s the most influential, who’s the most popular, who’s a failure, who’s most likely, who’s a rising star, and who’s fading fast. There is a whole book dedicated to who’s the fastest, tallest, oldest, biggest, skinniest, fattest, and has the most hair.

We are fascinated with those kind of rankings because of the importance “Who’s the greatest?” plays in our everyday lives. We are constantly jockeying for position. It starts with who plays with whom on the playground, sits by the “right” people at lunch, and has the highest class ranking. It moves on into job titles, corner offices, portfolio sizes, vacation destinations, square footage, and fashion choices. We always want to know who sits below us and who is right above us in the rankings of life.

“And a dispute arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” – Luke 22:24

How Jesus answers this question should catch our attention. The cross is close. He knew that a parable wouldn’t teach them the answer. A lesson on prayer wasn’t going to cut it. Even a miracle wasn’t going to help them see the truth. Instead, Jesus “rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet…” – John 13:4-5

Lists disintegrate when the Savior holds my dirty, mud-caked feet in His hands.

My Jesus Resolution today is to stop playing the “Who’s the Greatest?” game. The game is about position, power, and prominence. Jesus tells us that life is about love, humility, and service. I can kill myself trying to “one-up” those around me or I can die to self and let my value, worth, and self-image be defined by Jesus. I don’t want to be a game-player. I want to be a glory-giver. So today, I am going to pick up a towel and imitate the Servant. When someone asks, “Who’s the greatest?” I am going to say, “Jesus.”

Spring Cleaning

18 03 2013

Are you a spring cleaner? There is something wonderful about having a sorted, organized, scrubbed, sparkling house. The truth is I love the results. It is just the process that I am not crazy about.

As the days move forward and the cross looms larger, Jesus enters the temple courts in Jerusalem. But the sounds that greet Him are discordant. Instead of praise, people are thirsty for profit. Instead of sacrifice, there is selfishness. Instead of repentance, there is reimbursement. Instead of prayer, people are promoting their wares. They have taken what is consecrated, and use it for the commercial, the crass, and the common.

Jesus moves into action with emotion and determination. He drives out the animals, overturns the tables of the moneychangers, and upsets the benches of those selling doves. The place where God dwells must be defined by worship, wonder, joy, humility, and praise. It is to be the place that most transparently shines with His glory.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. You are not your own.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19

I have to sit here and quietly wonder what Jesus would do if He walked through my soul. What would He see? What noise would He hear? What motives drive my heart? What would He need to clean out?

My Jesus Resolution today is to let Jesus do some spring cleaning. My heart is His temple, but too often I let the world take up residence in the place where God should dwell alone. I worry instead of worship, complain rather than confess, forget rather than focus, and drag my feet instead of delighting in His presence. I want Jesus to throw out my selfish tendencies, my mixed-up motives, and my unholy habits. I want a heart scrubbed clean by His grace, made fresh with His mercy, and sparkling with His glory.

I Wish to See Jesus

15 03 2013

Their request always touches my heart. Some Greeks approach one of Jesus’ disciples and make an appeal. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21b)

As the cross nears and the cries that yesterday sang praises fade into whispers and suspicions, the request of the Greeks shines with simple faith. Seeing Jesus is at the heart of who we long to be and what we want to do. Every day should pulse with a desire to see His face, be in His presence, and experience His nearness. The Greeks do two things that teach us how to make these simple words a frame for our hearts.

First, they had a desire to see Jesus. The word ‘desire’ speaks to a longing or a craving. It is more than a passing idea, a whim, or a nice thought. A desire is something that develops from a hunger within us. What we desire speaks volumes about our priorities, our perspective, and our plans. We build our lives around our desires. We take journeys, spend money, invest time, develop talents, and make sacrifices in order to fulfill a desire. Desires are fed by our thoughts, our loves, our imaginations, and our attitudes. Our focus determines the intensity of our desire.

Second, they asked for help. They wanted to see Jesus, and knew that the best way to draw closer to Him was to ask someone who walked with Him daily. If we want to see Jesus, we need to follow their example. Too often, I hold my longings for a deeper relationship with Christ inside rather than asking for help. Maybe it is pride, busyness, fear, or inexperience, but I hesitate to approach those who I see walking closely with Jesus. It seems like too much of a risk to ask them to share their faith lessons with me.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask to see Jesus. I want to develop a desire to see Him that burns away every other desire in my heart. I want the longing to see His face to drive my choices, my words, my priorities, my motives, and my focus. I am going to take a deep breath and ask for help in making this desire to see Him a reality in my life. I am going to tap into the wisdom of those whose Christ-like walk inspires me to be like Him. Today, I am going to pull on someone’s sleeve and whisper, “I wish to see Jesus.”

Never Silent

13 03 2013

It is the last Sunday before everything changes. Jesus approaches Jerusalem with a heavy, but determined heart. Every plan made within the God-head comes to a focal point this week in this city in the Judean countryside. The massive temple mount dominates your sight, no matter from which direction you approach the ancient city. God stands in the center of His people. Many are unaware that He also walks in their midst.

Riding on a borrowed donkey, Jesus makes the journey down the Mount of Olives into the City of David. The people crowded into the area for the Passover celebration line the road, and begin to spread their cloaks on the ground before Jesus. In a moment almost echoing the angels who welcomed Christ at His birth, the multitude begins to praise God with a loud voice exclaiming, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” For these few minutes, the crowd surrounds Jesus with the praise that He is due. In a few days, they will be screaming for His death.

The Pharisees cannot let the moment go unchallenged. They push through the rejoicing mob and call out to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus, who I imagine must shake His head, replies, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Read through the Bible and one of the things that jumps out is that nature is never silent. It cycles through a continual song of praise that glorifies the One who made it. Rocks, trees, mountains, animals, stars, and even the sky join together into a chorus that declares the majesty of God. Man is the only one who has a choice about whether or not to join in.

My Jesus Resolution today is to never be silent. I want everything about my life to be a song of praise to my Redeemer. I want to live within the melody of His love. I long for my thoughts, words, actions, choices, relationships, work, and play to be in harmony with His nature and character. I want to sing. I want to sing loudly. When I do, others will either join in or criticize. Whatever they do, I am going to imitate the stones and never be silent.

The Gift

11 03 2013

Six days left. Jesus nears Jerusalem and the shadow of the cross looms large across the horizon. Jesus relaxes at a dinner given in His honor. His friends are there. Martha serves a meal, finding joy in being near her Lord. Lazarus reclines near Jesus. Every breath he takes testifies to the amazing power of God. Mary, the quieter sister, searches for a way to express the deep emotions that fill her heart – gratitude, awe, humility, surrender, joy, and love. Most of all, love.

She picks up the small jar, carrying it into the room where Jesus sits. She pours a pound of expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus. The fragrance quickly fills the room. Anointing the Master, she undoes her veil, loosens her hair, and wipes His feet with her long tresses. This is an act of pure love.

Can you smell the aroma of the Mary’s perfume floating in the air? It reaches out to you and me today with a question and an invitation. Her act of devotion challenges me to wonder – what am I willing to break open and pour out before Jesus? I tend to keep things bottled up inside me. I want to hold onto what is important, valued, and precious for the “right” time. I hang onto the gifts I could pour out today, always imagining that tomorrow will be better.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pour out my gift before Jesus. Mary invites me to join her at Jesus’ feet. The fragrance of her gift challenges me to break open what is best and treasured and cherished, and pour it out at the feet of Jesus. Today is the day to honor Him. I am not going to put it off, hold onto control, or hang on for a better time. I am going to follow Mary’s example, and loosen my pride, unfurl my spirit, and bow low at His feet.

Jesus is Coming

8 03 2013

I actually heard him before I saw him. In the middle of the noisy foyer, a little voice proclaimed boldly, “Jesus is coming!”

A mop of curly hair brushed past my knee. I looked down just in time to catch a glimpse of the little dark-headed angelic messenger. He was coming out of Bible class where they had spent the hour talking about the arrival of Jesus. His big brown eyes were focused on his task. He held a paper cone to his mouth, determined that everyone should hear the good news – Jesus is coming!

I smiled at the way he persistently kept calling out the message. He was resolute that everyone should soak in this remarkable news. I giggled as I watched his grandfather try to catch up to the little guy. So unwavering was he in his task that I half expected to hear “Jesus is coming” in the quiet moments during worship.

Maybe we need to.

The truth is Jesus is coming. The good news that He had arrived on earth was announced by a multitude of heavenly beings praising God and sharing a glimpse of His glory with those who had eyes to see and a heart to listen. Today, God leaves the sharing to the company of His people. Every day, we get to reflect the glory of God and encourage people with the news that Jesus is coming.

My Jesus Resolution today is to tell someone Jesus is coming. I want to imitate the little boy who imitated the Savior. I want to be bold in proclaiming the good news of Jesus. The good news of Jesus is always a message of grace, a call to follow, a plea to surrender, and an anthem of hope. I want my life to resonate with the truth that He is coming.  I want others to see Him in me and catch a glimpse of the astonishing, stunning nature of grace. “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” – 2 Peter 3:11-12