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An Easter Reflection

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“It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.” Luke 23:54

Isn’t it interesting that the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the Sabbath?

It’s Saturday, a holy day. For the Jewish people, Saturday is the Sabbath. People go to the temple and there is no work done.

Jesus is dead. He’s been crucified. Just a few short days before, people were shouting His praise on Palm Sunday. He was their King come to save them. And over the course of the week, everything changed.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday everyone is going about their business. The Passover is coming and there are preparations to be made. Jesus is still teaching and His messages are bold and convicting. He appears steadfast and confident, unwavering in His purpose. Of course He’ll succeed. The Jewish people will soon be freed from their oppression.

Thursday comes and Jesus is betrayed and arrested.

“Wait. What’s going on? Who’s been arrested? How can that be? I thought…”

By Friday, Jesus has been convicted. He’s nailed to a cross to die a criminals death.

“NO! This can’t be happening! He was supposed to become King. He was supposed to save us. How do we move forward? How can we move forward? Everything we had hoped for is gone. Is there even any hope left?”

Saturday comes and so does the Sabbath. Nothing can be done. And even if something could be done, they can’t do it. The law doesn’t allow it. All they could do was seek God, go to the temple and wait.

Did the disciples of Jesus go to the temple? Or did they remain in the upper room, quiet and afraid, uncertain of their fate should they show their faces?

Regardless of where we are or where we go, one of the most holy things we can do is seek God and wait on Him. When everything is falling apart around us, or seems to be, we seek and wait. We pray and trust.

On Friday, Jesus said, “It is finished.” And He’s right. There’s nothing left for us to do, but rest.

And then Sunday comes. Answered prayer. Truth revealed. A miracle. Hope is restored in a way even better than we could have imagined!

Too often though, we want to skip from Friday to Sunday. We want instant answers and results. And while the truth of what God does on Sunday solidifies the foundation of our faith, our faith is grown on Saturday. And sometimes, Saturday lasts a long time, much longer than we like.

This is a constant pattern in our life. Everything is great. We see a bright future ahead so we go about our business assuming we know how it will all work out. Then, out of no where, we are blindsided. We don’t know what’s going on, how it happened, or what to do next. Time passes. We do what we can feeling like it’s not enough, feeling like there’s no end in sight. And then, God breaks in. Something changes and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is renewed.

As Christians, this week, Holy week, is our state of living all wrapped up in each day. We know Jesus is King and has come to save us. We go about our business in this world steadfast and confident, unwavering in our faith, boldly teaching and preaching through the power of Christ in us. We prepare because the hope on which we wait could come at any time. And when times get tough, almost unbearable and there’s nothing else we can do, we seek God. We rest in Him. We pray, trust and wait.

Sometimes the weight of God’s word, His glory revealed through His word is heavy. I can’t speak. I can’t think. I can’t process. In the presence of the Lord, Isaiah recognized His sinfulness. He thought for sure He was done for. Daniel lost all strength and felt completely helpless. He trembled in the presence of God’s messenger. Saul, on the road to Damascus, fell to the ground at the flash of light and the voice of Jesus. Even the Apostle John, who had walked with Jesus on earth, fell as though dead in the presence of the transfigured Christ.

This is my struggle: to get the words out when the weight of God’s word overwhelms me. It is so good, and it is so, so important. I had meant to post this going into Good Friday. Maybe it’s good that I didn’t. Maybe it’s good that we don’t just get on with our day once Easter is over, the dishes are done and the crowds have gone home. Every day is Holy. Every day is an opportunity to consider and reflect on what “Sunday” will bring.

Something to Consider…

As you think about the different days of Holy week, where do you find you spend the most time?

  • Are you looking to the leaders of the world to solve your problems?
  • Are you going about your business assuming you know how things will turn out?
  • Are you feeling like your unsure of what’s happening in your life, like you’re trying to hold on, but are losing control?
  • Maybe you’ve lost hope and feel defeated. You don’t see a way out.
  • Maybe you’re unsure of what to do next, where to go or what to do.

Jesus is returning. A new Sunday is coming. How does this truth affect how you spend your time? How does this truth change the day in which you live?

May you know and believe, seek and trust, while finding your rest in Jesus. We can live every day in the reality and truth of Easter.

 

No Comparison

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

© DepositPhotos/pitrs10

There are several situations in my life that, while going through them, I wondered how I’d make it to the other side. Would I? Now, I look back and they don’t seem as bad simply because I know the outcome.

In Christ, we know the outcome.

In Christ, Paul says everything we go through is momentary. He even calls them “light”.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

He also points out that everything being achieved through these “light and momentary troubles” are bringing about for us an eternal glory. This glory, which we will experience in the presence of our God will far outweigh them all. And it’s all the sweeter when we know and trust God in the middle of our troubles, not just once He’s seen us through them.

He is growing deep roots. Every trouble is an opportunity to trust in, rely on, and lean into Him more. They are opportunities to show people how good our God is. He is bigger, stronger and better than this problem. He is worthy of our hope and trust no matter how bad things get. His peace guards our hearts. Even though they may ache in the moment, they don’t have to break.

He is bringing about something new, something better.

Romans 8:19-25 speak to the fact that all of God’s creation, the entire world feels the frustration of sin: bondage, brokenness and decay. Our hurt is not surprising. Our frustration in our problems is to be expected. We were not meant to live in sin and our souls long to be released from its effects.

God has put it in our hearts to want more than what we have. And the choice we must make is, where will go to find the “more”? Because we will go somewhere, to someone or something. We will try to fill the empty and hurting space.

Christ is the only one who can satisfy our desire fully. There is no comparison between Him and this world.

Creation waits for its time of frustration to end. It moans and groans and gives way as if in the pains of child birth. Do we trust the new life that is birthed in Christ? Do we really believe, completely and without a doubt that God is birthing something new and we will be part of that salvation plan?

The hope we have speaks the truth of our faith. We don’t wait anxiously and troubled. No, as we wait, we wait eagerly and patiently. Expectantly.

Our expectation and hope doesn’t mean that we don’t understand the reality of what we are going through. It simply means that we know and trust the ultimate outcome. And in our waiting, His glory is revealed in us now. There is no comparison between our present sufferings and eternity with our God.

Something to Consider…

Our attitude and focus can be affected by everything from simple daily irritations to full-blown, life and death realities.

How do you respond to different situations within this spectrum?

What kind of impact can your reaction to life’s troubles have on those around you?

How is God working in your current situations to grow your roots deep and draw you closer to Him?

Transformed

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

© Depositphotos/cascoly

One way this verse gets interpreted is this: “God, I love you so I know you are working in all things for my good. Change this situation, work in that person’s life. I trust you to work this situation out for my good so my life is better.”

But really, if we want to understand the fuller meaning behind it, we also need to read Romans 8:29.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:29

The “good” God works for those of us who love Him is not so much about our situations, comfort or convenience; it’s about our character. It’s about our personal transformation.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about growing deep roots. Our ability to grow deep roots will be determined by our source. Where do we put our trust, find our hope and seek our satisfaction?

If I put my trust in the world and other people, I will be disappointed at some time. We are flawed human beings with a skewed sense of satisfaction. We will eventually let each other down. We can be trusted only so far.

If I find my hope in the world and other people, but ultimately know I can’t always trust them completely, my hope will be in question. My hope will turn into good wishes that may or may not come true. I may even begin to believe that it’s nice to think about such things, but they will never really happen.

And, if I look out to the world and other people for my satisfaction, my roots will grow out, not down. I will be looking for what I can get from the world. My roots will remain shallow seeking what is temporary even if I believe God is the one bringing the good.

Because what happens when my situation, circumstances and relationships don’t change? Where’s the good God is supposed to bring?

I may begin to ask, “Does this mean I don’t really love God? Are my circumstances a reflection of my love for God? His love for me?”

But, on the other hand, when I ask God to work in me, transformation begins to take place. I ask Him to work in my heart so I can respond appropriately to my circumstances, so I can love those in my life who are difficult even if they never change. If I ask Him to help me be a blessing to others, not be the one who’s being difficult; this will require my roots to go deep! This will require me to let God work the soil of my hearts.

And where there is work, there is at least some pain.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to send the email, the text, make the phone call and tell the person just how frustrated I was; how hurt and angry. I want to know and control my environment and then when everything is just right, it will be good.

But with God, I can know it already is.

Something to Consider…

It’s easy to say we trust God. It’s easy to say we hope what He says is true. And it’s even easier when things are good to say, “God, you are all I need.”

Take some time to consider in what situations do you worry? In what ways or areas of your life do you question the truth of God’s word, doubting or explaining away what He has said? What causes you to become angry and want what you don’t have?

As you are honest with God, let Him work the soil of your heart. As you do, He will bring good according to His purpose. His transformational work will begin.

For Those Who Love God

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

© Depositphotos/Abigail210986

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children.

Now, if you asked them, they’d say there’s plenty I wouldn’t do for them. And they’d be correct.  This statement is only half the picture. The truth is there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my children as long as it was good for them. In the moment, it may not seem good to them, but as their parent who has lived through many more experiences, I may have a better idea of where things are leading and what is good for them.

There are times I offer help and there are times I wait for them to ask. There are times I take care of a situation completely and there are times I won’t touch it. It’s theirs to see through to the finish and then we can reassess if needed. Sometimes I (try to) teach a lesson and others when I let them learn on their own. In some circumstances, I make the decisions and in others I give them the reins. In all of this, I’m right here. Watching. Waiting. Ready.

And I always pray for them to know the Lord. I pray that Jesus would be at the center of and in all that encompasses their lives. It matters what they believe and who they go to for guidance, direction and understanding. It matters that they know their true value and that they believe the truth of who He says they are.

I pray this for myself as well. In this life, I will never arrive at the place of perfection as an individual or as a parent. I seek His wisdom and guidance in raising my children because without Him I would fall short of His best for me and for them. And even with Him I make mistakes, miss the mark, don’t quite understand and sometimes, admittingly, refuse to listen. I know that I’m an imperfect parent.

It’s one reason I’m so grateful that God knows, sees and understands all things. He can make something good come from my shortcomings. He can work things out according to His good purpose even when I misunderstand. In every situation and in all of my character traits and flaws, I can seek His will rather than my own and allow Him to change me according to His purpose.

As His child, there are times when He helps without a word from me and there times when I need to let go of my pride and ask for help. There are situations in my life where I have no control and I can trust that He is in complete control. Then there are times when He says, “You need to do what you can do first.” It’s how I know where I end and He begins. God teaches me lesson after lesson as I read His Word and experience His wisdom through others who know Him well. I love when He breaks into my day to give me a glimpse of who He is right in the middle of some mundane task that appears to have no purpose. Or when I can’t imagine a more excruciating pain from rejection or a deeper love for another and He says, “I know. I’ve been there. It’s a reflection of my love for you.”

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. But we also know this is only half the picture. God has a great purpose in the good that He works.

Something to Consider…

As you’ve come to love God, how has your perspective of what is considered “good” changed?

When you struggle to trust God’s good purpose, what can you do to remember that He knows and sees what you can’t yet understand?

How does knowing His heart for you help trust Him more?

A Tree Planted

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

©Depositphotos/picsbyst

 

I’ve walked in step with the wicked and stood in the way that sinners take. I’ve also sat in the company of mockers. I tried to find a place to fit in wanting to puff myself up so I didn’t feel so small and inadequate.

Instead, I felt empty and dirty. I didn’t like what was coming out of my mouth nor the feelings I harbored in my heart. I was not kind or gentle, but rather harsh and belittling.

Understand, I had friends. I laughed and loved, cared for and enjoyed time with people who I honestly thought of quite highly. The problem was that for those I didn’t like, those who I didn’t consider friends, I could be quite mean-spirited. I didn’t necessarily say anything to their face, but behind their back it was no-holds-barred.

A friend of mine once said, when talking about something her husband had said or done, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. In other words, it was okay that she was breaking his confidence by telling us what had happened.

That was a turning point for me. I realized that he trusted her and even though she didn’t agree with his thinking, she had belittled him. She mocked him behind his back. And if we’re willing to do it to those we love and care for, or are supposed to love and care for, how much worse are we willing to treat those we don’t like or even know?

Choosing where to be planted

Psalm 1:3 says that the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord, the person who meditates on Him and His word day and night, that person is blessed. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water. They yield fruit in their season and do not wither.

Consider for a moment that we are trees, but unlike real trees, we can plant ourselves wherever we choose. Also imagine that the soil is the condition of our hearts and the water is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Where we choose to plant ourselves will determine our overall health because the condition of the soil and the source the soil feeds on will allow us to either have healthy or unhealthy roots.

Planting yourself in the world

According to 2 Peter 1, the worldly nature is corrupt and deceitful. Ephesians 4 adds attitudes and behaviors such as speaking falsely, unwholesome talk, stealing, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and every form of malice. The list goes on and on throughout Scripture.

Not many people think they would choose to plant themselves in these actions or feelings, but we do it all the time. When we don’t forgive, we may be holding onto a grudge, feeling resentment or bitterness toward someone. We experience a form of malice when we are happy or relieved that someone who has hurt us is hurt themselves. We’re glad they’re getting what they deserve. Twisting the truth is a lie. Gossip can cause someone to see another in a bad light.

By planting ourselves in the world, we separate ourselves from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. We live in a place where we are mostly unaffected by the work of the Spirit and the soil, or our hearts, will remain hard and unyielding. Our roots will grow out rather than down to find what we need. They will remain shallow as our hearts look to the world to meet our needs, rather than the Spirit within us.

Planting yourself in Christ

On the other hand, when we plant ourselves in soil that is rich with the Holy Spirit, our hearts will become softer and more pliable to the work of the Spirit. We yield more willingly to the Spirit. This doesn’t mean there’s no pain in the movement of the soil. There may be places that are not as saturated, places we’ve kept closed off to the Spirit. Once we’ve experienced the goodness of God’s work in our lives, we become more willing to let Him into the deeper, darker and dryer places.

2 Peter 1 and Ephesians 4 also give us some information about the behaviors, attitudes and motivations that cause our roots to grow down rather than out. When we speak truthfully building others up with words that benefit them, work hard sharing with others, and are compassionate and forgiving, we make space for the Spirit to work in our hearts.  We can persevere with self-control loving others as we trust God’s will over our own.

We we dig deep letting the living water of the Spirit saturate our hearts, our roots grow deep. We look to Him to lead, guide, correct and encourage us. We find our peace and satisfaction in Him as our source rather than the world.

 

Something to Consider…

Where do you tend to plant yourself – in the world or in Christ? To whose voice do you tend to listen? Be honest with yourself and with God. He already knows the condition of your soil and roots.

How have your thinking and actions changed as you’ve let God have more space in your heart and life? In what places do you need to seek Him above the worlds influence?

As you spend more time talking with God, reading His word and responding to what He’s saying to you, you will find His company better than any other.

A Work in Progress

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6

© Depositphotos/weerapat

© Depositphotos/weerapat

In Christ, I am a new creation. In Christ, you are a new creation.

And yet, we are still a work in progress.

Perfection is still some time off. The attitude or mentality of perfectionism says I must get it right. I must be fully capable before attempting because otherwise, I will mess it up. I’ll make a mistake. When we think we need to “get it right”, we often try to do this in our own power. When we miss the mark, we condemn ourselves and think this is how God must see us as well.

But we can and need to give ourselves permission to be a work in progress. As Philippians 1 says, the good work being done in us is a result of the power of Christ. God has drawn us toward Himself. He has deposited the Holy Spirit within us so we can know Him more and rely on His power within us.

God knows the healing that needs to take place in your life, in your heart. He knows the habitual patters of how you think, act and respond. God knows what needs to change in you so that you can be transformed into the new creation He  has already created you to be.

You may realize over time that some things are just different about you. You didn’t think much about it, but you see things or do things in a new way. Things you used to do have lost their appeal, while you are drawn to other things, other people, places and activities. Maybe you respond to situations with a new sense of peace or clarity.

There are also thoughts, attitudes and desires that God brings to your attention. He reveals issues and conditions of your heart that need to change. Knowing what God has shown you, with the knowledge and understanding of what He says about it, you now have the opportunity to do it differently going forward. God’s revelation is not a condemnation. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance of old ways and helps us choose to follow His new ways.

As a new creation, you have everything you need to live a life pleasing to God. Be patient with yourself as you trust Jesus to bring forth what He has already planted in your heart.

Something to Consider…

In what ways has God already made you a new creation? How has your thinking, attitude or desires changed since coming into a relationship with His Son, Jesus? Spend some time praising and thanking God for what He has already done.

How is God doing a work in you? In what new ways would you like to experience His work in your life? Be honest with God about what you know needs to change. He already knows and wants to help you make these changes.

As He reveals areas of your life where He wants you to follow His way rather than your own, choose to cooperate with His Spirit and be obedient to what you know He’s calling you to do.

Great and Precious Promises

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

I don’t know one single person who’s kept every promise they’ve ever made. I know I haven’t. As much as I want to, sometimes I don’t. People break their promises and we can get accustomed to being disappointed at some level.

How great is our God who keeps all of His promises!

Maybe this is why Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.” Matthew 5:34-35,37a

Our making an oath, or a promise, in the name of God carries with it a heavy weight. We are saying our promise is backed by God. Then when we fail, it appears He has failed. But there is really no comparison when we consider the promises we make and place them next to His.

God doesn’t lie. God doesn’t change His mind. God doesn’t retract His promises. Some promises are guaranteed; some promises are conditional based on our response. But when God says He will, He means it.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

The list goes on.

Why is it so important that we understand the significance of God’s promises and not misrepresent Him in the course of making our own? Because not only are God’s promises great and precious, they have a great purpose. They are the reason we can live transformed lives in His power.

There are people I know who break their promises regularly. The only thing I believe when they say, “I promise”, is that an excuse for breaking it is imminent. Their promises hold no weight, no value and no expectation of trust.

God’s promises on the other hand carry the full weight of His character. They are so valuable that they are considered precious to those who hear them and receive them. God is completely trustworthy so when we walk in and live out a godly life based on what He promises is true, we will operate, think and behave in a way that is contrary to the world and completely in line with His kingdom.

Through His divine power we have everything we need to live a godly life and participate in the divine nature. Because we know Him, we can trust Him. And because we can trust Him, His promises change everything.

Something to Consider…

What promise do you need to hear from God today? That He is your peace, your strength, your refuge? That He gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding? Seek Him and know His promises for you are true.

How is God calling you to move from your old way of thinking or living to His way of thinking and living? What do you need to know is true in order to be able to make the change? Ask Him to show you the truth about what stops you so that you can move forward in His promises.