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The Resurrection – What’s the Big Deal?

Empty Tomb

From time to time across my life, the Lord has granted me the grace of some “new” understanding of Him, of me, of “stuff” relating the two… of Him and the world… just… “something”… on Easter morning. This effect is always the most profound when He guides me along some “path of preparation” (rather reminiscent of John the Baptist’s “prepare ye the way of the Lord… Make straight paths…”) during Lent.

I put the word “new” in quotations opening this post, because what I learn is often not “new” at all… It is something, some word or phrase, that we ALL know… that we’ve ALWAYS known… maybe all our lives. And yet, the learning opens before me with unimagined depth and breadth, such that it seems I had never heard or seen it before.

This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday just past, has been one of those times and, to be perfectly frank, I’m still “recovering” from it.

I awoke, gently… quietly… and the Lord spoke just one single word. “Resurrection”

That’s all He said. But…

I could not even move from my bed before He just “unfolded” that word before me… took me inside of it… let me watch in an entirely new way what HE means/meant by it… that it felt as if I lay there for two hours, though it may have been seconds, minutes, or half the day. Time just stood suspended.

Jesus, sitting up naked, clearing Himself of His winding sheet in Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb? Yes. That was there. But… but… there was just so much MORE! I had never thought about the actual technical “meaning” behind the word “re-surrection”. It means… “breathing again”. It became this “coming-again-to-life” of not only Jesus, but all of mankind, and all of the fallen world, and all of the Cosmos, all of Creation.

The Re-surrection was, is, the “Fresh Start of Life”, buried with Jesus in His death, raised again in Newness of Life…

Not just Him, not just “us”, but ALL!

Is that a big enough deal?

How about this, then?

Two things, ONLY two things, denote the Christian… the one translated from domain of darkness to kingdom of light, Kingdom of God… to trust and acknowledge that The Father sent Jesus, the Son… and raised Him from the dead.

Why is that “all we need to know”? Because within THAT, all else is contained and subsumed.

How many times have I heard the protest, “Being a Christian is too hard. I go to Church and I don’t know enough. Everybody in Sunday School knows all this ‘stuff’ and I feel like an ignorant fool! And the Bible is too complicated, all these rules, verses, books, stories. I just don’t get it. I’m not SMART ENOUGH to be a Christian or go to church!”

Oh, the pain in my heart at such words!

What did the APOSTLES require of a “new church” just “getting with the program” in the First Century?

Three Things: (1) No fornication. (2) No eating the meat of strangled animals. (3) No eating meat sacrificed to idols.

I mean, they had a big MEETING about it and everything! And that’s what they settled on. Now, how “complicated” is all that for a Church Covenant?

There wasn’t any Bible at the time to impress one another with, or make gentiles memorize.

Paul repeats time and time again, he preaches(preached) only Jesus, and Him crucified!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Christian life should never get so complicated, Gentle Readers.

Believe in the Father, His love, His provision. Believing in the Son sent from the Father, born true man, living as true man yet truly God son of God. Believing in the Passion, the Cross, and… AND… the RESURRECTION!

Life, pulled from the maw of death… destroying death and darkness once and for all in the glory and power of Life and Light!

Love God, love neighbor, love self. Love as Jesus loves…

Complicated? Hardly!

But this word, Gentle Reader… the Power of this Word… Resurrection!

When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in Jesus of the Cross, and Jesus of the Gospels, and Jesus of the Manger. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God the Father who raised Him. We believe in God and the Old Testament, and the Covenant God made with man, to care for him as his God, and receive him as His people. When we believe in Jesus of the Resurrection, we believe in God who walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, and who fashioned man in His own image, and who fashioned Adam and Eve as created He them.

Many many peoples have worshiped gods who bring death from life. Many peoples have worshiped gods who demand sacrifice in payment for their blessing and good will. Many peoples have worshiped gods who generate fear to constrain and rule men.

Our God is none of that. Our God brings Life at the destruction of death. Our God sacrificed Himself, to feed and bring blessing to men. Our God generates Love that conquers fear, and has removed punishment having taken that upon Himself.

This is not complicated. We need not make it so. This is simple relationship. And we can decide… each of us individually… whether or not we CHOOSE to TRUST in such relationship. And… we can invite others to do so, generally in words of nearly one syllable.

God is so urgently, so intently, so intimately present… right here, right now… seeking relationship of touch and immediacy with His children…

One friend I had used to put it this way:

  1. Do you believe that Jesus truly lived, and was sent by Our Father, God?
  2. Do you believe that Jesus truly died, hung on the Cross?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus truly rose again, resurrected by the Father?
  4. Has he ever died since?
  5. Then He must be alive right now!!!

Let us all be Resurrected, freed of deadness, numbness, decay, atrophy. Let us all be made alive! Wonderfully alive! Totally Alive! As only HE knows and makes Life!

It’s just not that complicated, is it? Be joyful in the grace of New Life!

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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Easter as Father’s Day

Empty TombI just want to post this quick note on this incredible and special day.

If you follow this blog at all, you know that lifting up Jesus is my passion, and I’ve talked of Him and the Cross often in these recent days.

But I’d just like to note a thing that rankled on me one day a while back. I listened to a very Christian preacher who I love dearly, share from the pulpit on an Easter Morning. He intensely shared his heart that he felt that all the Resurrection stuff focusing on Easter was misplaced. That the Cross was the important element, and Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross was where we should focus. That all the attention paid to Easter somehow took something away from Good Friday and Jesus. To Him, Easter was the “day Jesus was absent”, and therefore not of the great importance Christendom placed upon it.

Um… be proud of me, Gentle Readers… if you know me very well, that is… because I SAID NOTHING about this to him, either then or thereafter. This is the first time I’m mentioning it, and it was years ago!

Now, any of us might critique that underlying theology, given that Paul declares the Resurrection to be of singular importance to Christian faith and witness. But, besides that, I found myself a bit “squirming” and uncomfortable about the lack of recognition or appreciation of the FATHER’s role in all this.

Even today, to be truthful, we all tend to focus almost entirely on JESUS in the Resurrection. But this much my friend had right in his diatribe… Jesus… did not perform… the Resurrection.

Good Friday, the Crucifixion and all the Passion that led up to it, is indeed an unspeakable tableau of love, grace, and courage as Jesus walked through inconceivable suffering to pay the price of our redemption. No doubt of that at all.

The other day I wrote of the extraordinary Trust involved in the Cross. But throughout this wondrous time, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, even today.. Easter, Resurrection Sunday… I seldom hear the Father addressed or appreciated at all. And really… Friday was Jesus’ day to shine and be glorified… today is the Father’s.

Look:

Acts 2:24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

Acts 3:26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Acts 5:30  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.

Acts 10:40   God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible,

Acts 13:30 But God raised Him from the dead;

Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

Romans 10:9  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

Galatians 1:1  Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),

Colossians 2:12  having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

1 Peter 1:21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Now, I ask you, who is the “God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory”? Jesus did not raise Himself. He could not. Not once He died. He had given up His authority and life, and cast His fate entirely upon the Father in faith, hope, and love.

“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” [John 10 17-18]

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. [Luke 23:46]

Anyway, rest assured, Resurrection Sunday is a tremendous testament and glory to Jesus Christ. His resurrected self, the testimony of witnesses and angels, make this an altogether spectacular day in our worship of Him and His grace in our redemption.

But I just feel like I want to raise and flap a little pennant here on behalf of the Father as well! So often that “God”, as presented in the Old Testament, is seen as the dour stern judge that Jesus has to RESCUE us FROM! We deal with this all the time. So many Christians I know can readily accept the reality of grace at the hands of Jesus, but really struggle to envision that from the Father. Even though Jesus has said that to see Him is to SEE the Father, or that He (Jesus) only speaks the Father’s words, and only does His works.

But right here, on Easter Resurrection Sunday, we see THE FATHER move in grace. He, and He Alone, raised Jesus from death to life. He fulfilled the plan they had carried out now for 33 years, which they had drafted from the Fall of Man.

I love Easter Sunday. I love Resurrection Sunday. But in large part, I love it in recognition of another name it could go by…

Father’s Day

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Smart Enough for the Gospel?

Last week I faced a middle-aged married couple seeking God.

The husband, clean but grizzled with gray wiry crewcut standing straight up as if gelled, proudly stated that he often went to a church down the street whose name he could not remember, but that he had lived a bad life and wanted Jesus to receive him but wasn’t sure if He would… he still sinned sometimes. He wanted his wife to go to church with him, but she was afraid. She stood there, scruffy clothes, straggly gray hair shoulder length, shamefacedly looking down at her toes.

I took their hands, smiled, and said… “That’s GREAT!” I said that God loves them so much, He is delighted that they sought Him, and He was totally willing to receive them. What seemed to be in the way?

Grace was moving powerfully in the moment, and though we were surrounded by crowds of people, it seemed like we just calmly sat all by ourselves in a quiet park.

They both answered with their most direct responses. The man said, “I’ve done so many wrong things, and I still struggle so… I’m just not what a Christian should be.” His wife answered in turn, “I’ve gone to lots of churches, and been at lots of Bible studies, and it’s just all too complicated. I don’t know enough. I don’t understand the Bible. And it’s all so hard, so much. I’m not that smart… I can’t even understand all it takes to be a Christian… and even if I understood it all, I know for SURE I can’t DO it!”

My heart did a strange thing in the same moment. It broke for the pain these people were feeling, and it soared with the realization of what we were about to do.

I thanked them so much for speaking with me this day… for trusting me with their hearts and spirits in this way. I said I could readily understand and agree with their concerns. Sometimes it is very hard to believe that God, as good as He is, as love as He is, is really big enough to forgive and cleanse us from all the wrong and stupid things we’ve not only done in the past, but that we STILL do, when we should know better. And that I, too, have walked into many churches and listened to sermons that made me feel like I needed a college degree to “get it”. Sometimes it is easy to feel out of place in a Bible Study or Sunday School Class where everybody seems “on the same music” except us.

(I remember a 45 minute Bible Study filled with mature Christian churchmen, where 20 minutes was spent in discussion of the Jewish belief that the soul hovered above a corpse for 3 days, thus explaining Jesus’ delay in returning to Lazarus when He was notified of His friend’s illness. Seriously! That discussion seemed overwhelmingly important to the teacher and classmen on that morning… allowing everyone to display their attainments at having “studied to show themselves approved” as Biblical scholars!)

So here we were, the three of us, as I paused a moment to reflect and pray within myself.

Then I said, “Sometimes, the Christian life can seem very demanding, or very complicated and confusing. But, let’s bring it to some simple basics for a moment. You are parents, aren’t you?”

They brightened, starting to speak of their three grown children…

“Great!” I said, “Now, for just a moment, I want you to do me a favor and cast your mind back to when you first held your baby… Take a moment, think back, imagine him in your arms, and feel what your heart felt for that child. Do you remember it? The tenderness? The love? The desire to care for him? To protect him? To see him grow up strong, healthy, and good? Do you remember your heart that day?”

Both of them, thinking back as I’d asked, smiled gentle smiles and nodded, lost in the memory for a moment, then looking up at each other and smiling with love.

“Well here is the most important thing for you EVER to know about God… THAT is His heart towards YOU! In fact, what you felt was only the teeniest tiniest grain of HIS very heart towards your son. You didn’t manufacture that love, you can only reflect it from Him. And He feels exactly that way about you!

“Being Christian is not a matter of not having done wrong, stupid or sinful things… behaving well enough for God to receive us. Being Christian isn’t a matter of studying enough theology, memorizing enough of the Bible, or being smart enough for God to receive us.

“Being Christian is a matter of adoption into God’s family. It is a matter of relationship. It is knowing that God loves us, has made the way for us to be united with Him, and receiving and accepting HIM. It is to accept and acknowledge God as our Father, Jesus as His Only Begotten Son who saves us by His own loving sacrifice of His sinless self in our place, and receiving His Spirit into ourselves to provide life, light, and love. The issue isn’t HIM receiving US, with all our flaws and imperfections. It’s US receiving HIM with all that He offers and provides, knowing that we cannot provide those things for ourselves.

“Are you willing? Are you BOTH willing… to let Him adopt you fully as His children? To accept and receive Him as Father, King, Savior, Rescuer? Provider of life, light, breaths, and heartbeats?”

They said yes, they both wanted this very much.

I said then we would ask Him for this in a moment, and their agreement would seal their covenant with Him. All it took to do this, was to know… absolutely… that it was available to them, and agree to it. Did they believe, absolutely, and KNOW… that God truly loves them, that Jesus is God, Son of God, truly and actually came from heaven, was born as a fully human baby, lived a sinless life, was condemned, tortured, executed, crucified, died (truly died), was resurrected three days later, and ascended to heaven, again seated at the right hand of God the Father? That He thereby took their sins from them, paid the price for them, and opened the way for their adoption as joint heirs with Him?

They agreed throughout, as this was said slowly and carefully.

Did they agree and acknowledge that they had, indeed, done wrong things in their lives… sinned… as have I… and had need of Jesus redemption and cleansing for making reunion with God a possibility?

Yes, they did.

So, together, we prayed and affirmed all of this, sealing it in our souls together.

Afterwards, we talked a bit more, and I pointed out that being Christian was our relationship with God in Christ, “inside stuff” (as one friend of mine puts it), not “outside stuff” like behaviors, memorization, dressing up, and church forms. BUT!!! Once adopted as the Father’s children, He raises us… trains us… teaches us… and as we walk that, all that “outside stuff” WILL change! It’s not that we “have to do all that religious stuff to be pleasing to God”. It’s that the more time we spend with Him, the closer we walk with Him, the more our “outside stuff” conforms to Christ Himself, and the more “Christian” we look.

But just like any child grows up a bit at a time, you don’t expect an elementary school son to draft a presentation on quantum physics. We learn from basics to more complex stuff. There was nothing necessarily “wrong” with the Churches or Bible Studies they had visited, but perhaps they needed to find something more geared to younger, newer, Believers… and mature their way along to more complex studies.

We parted in great joy as God affirmed in their hearts His total enfolding of their lives. I encouraged them with all my heart to find other Believers who could walk with them and help them along. A Church home that would receive and help them develop at their own pace. There was no question that a local Church family would provide the support this couple needed, and without one they would struggle much more than they had thus far.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So many times, Gentle Brethren… so many times I’ve heard this same refrain… “I don’t KNOW enough yet to accept Christ! I’ve gone to church after church and each of them say the others are wrong! I don’t want to get this wrong! How do I know which one is right? I open the Bible and it’s so complicated I don’t understand it! I don’t know what to do!”

Do I despise theology? NO! I’ve spent much of a lifetime acquiring a fair-to-middling understanding of it! Do I despise upright living, or seeking to walk in the footsteps of Christ? Absolutely not! My heart yearns to walk pleasing to Him at each and every moment. Behavior, self-discipline, constraint… are all important components of the Christian life.

But beneath all of this… fundamental to all of this… is RELATIONSHIP! To know, first and foremost, that I am the Lord’s beloved and adopted child, creation of His hands, being raised… loved… trained… taught… with infinite patience and mercy to live out my life and Kingdom role as vessel for Him and His love.

And here is a place where it is all too easy for a Seeker, one who desires salvation and its assurance, to experience Churches and Public Christians as “obstruction” to Him, rather than “vehicle”.

This realization is leading me to “study down” in these days. I am coming to see, and will begin to write here, some of these “simple fundamentals” of Christian life as I’ve come to walk it… I find this often helps others, especially those feeling “overwhelmed by public Christianity”. No one, ever, should feel they are “not smart enough” to grasp the Gospel! That… is just NOT… OK. Ever.

Pray for me, Gentle Reader. Very much a work in progress! Blessings and grace to thee – Little Monk

 
 

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The Hidden Agenda

Gentle Readers,

It is Resurrection Day, and I cannot yet begin to describe what I awoke to this day. Wondrous, incredible, God is soooooo…. Grace-Filled and Filling…. only words I can find. Still sorting things out a bit, but here’s a joyful laughing lesson I can share with you for sure! You probably realize by now… (cough)… I am a bit “old”. Not like, decrepit-hopeless-hobbling-around kind of “old”… but “old” like, “How do those kids not just fall flat on their faces with their britches down around their knees like that?” (said with a tone of true confusion and wonder) – kind of “old”.

Anyway, here’s the thing… I went to church today pondering this wondrous new life and new day… and they played this Track, this Contemporary Christian (*cough* REGGAE… song)… and the lyrics PERFECTLY EXPRESSED this incredibly profound truth that God broke on me today about Him, and about His Name! But… but… this isn’t a “hymn”. It isn’t even PASSINGLY CLOSE to a “hymn”. It’s… it’s… well, you’ll just have to listen and judge for yourselves!

And the ARTIST! I learned this incredible Theology Lesson today in church, through this song… I learned, once and for all, EXACTLY why I was created! I KNOW now, absolutely and positively, God’s entire AGENDA for Creation itself! And how the Resurrection fits, and how all of scripture fits… the awareness, the Truth of all this just kept rolling and rolling in on me, filling me with total joy and amazement!

So I came home, and found this cut, this recording, on YouTube… and I SAW THIS GUY!

You’re KIDDING ME!

Soul patch! Long hair! Baseball cap on cockeyed!

Really? REALLY???

Just HAD to share this song with you… Had to praise a God so incredibly patient with me… Had to thank this unbelievably talented and obedient Theology Teacher who has now blessed my life with this revelation of God through the gift of his song!.

And you know what? I just HAVE to wonder, if he sometimes wears his jeans so loose he struggles not to trip! But quite clearly, God doesn’t care a bit… and from now on, neither do I.

NOTICE: This will open the song in a separate window. All that follows this link to the song, are the lyrics. But JUST LISTEN and marvel with me!

https://www.youtube.com/tv?vq=medium#/watch?v=LrT7sqV14_E

Made To Love Lyrics

Artist:TobyMac

Verse 1
The dream is fading, now I’m staring at the door
I know its over cause my feet have hit the cold floor
Check my reflection, I ain’t feelin’ what I see
It’s no mystery
Whatever happened to a passion I could live for?
What became of the flame that made me feel more?
And when did i forget that…

Chorus
I was made to love You
I was made to find You
I was made just for You
Made to adore You
I was made to love
And be loved by You
You were here before me
You were waiting on me
And you said you’d keep me
Never would you leave me
I was made to love
and be loved by You

Verse 2
The dream’s alive with my eyes opened wide
Back in the ring You’ve got me swinging for the grand prize
I feel the haters is spittin vapors on my dreams
But I still believe
I’m reachin out, reachin up, reachin over
I feel a breeze cover me called Jehovah
And Daddy I’m on my way
Cause I was made to love…

Chorus

I was made to love You
I was made just for you Made to adore you
I was made to love and be loved by you

You were here before You were waiting on me
And you said you’d keep
Me never would you leave
I was made to love and be loved by you

Bridge
Anything I would give up for You
Everything, I’d give it all away
(Repeat 3x)

I was made to love You, I was made to love You
I was made to love You, I was made to find you
I was made to love You, Made just for You
I was made to love You, Made just for You
I was made to love You, Made just for You
I was made to love You, I will love by you

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Hopkins Poem – Ah…

That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection

CLOUD-PUFFBALL, torn tufts, tossed pillows ‘ flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs ‘ they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, ‘ wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long ‘ lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous ‘ ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed ‘ dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks ‘ treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, ‘ nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest ‘ to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, ‘ his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig ‘ nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, ‘ death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time ‘ beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping, ‘ joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. ‘ Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; ‘ world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, ‘ since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ‘ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. 1888 Dublin

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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