Tag Archives: Easter

Tuesday Picks ~ 4-18-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

A brief review of a book I’ve been wanting to read…

Between Heaven and the Real WorldDarryl Dash
170418I would have read this book simply for its entertainment value, but it did more than entertain. It gave hope. It pointed to the beauty of the gospel in the middle of difficulty and tragedy. It’s a book that shows the beauty of a life that’s been touched by the grace of Jesus.

I haven’t seen Chapman perform in almost 17 years. But now I’ve seen something more valuable than a concert. I’ve seen, through this book, his life, and that life has shown me Jesus. And for that I’m grateful.

We can rest in the finished work of Christ, but we can’t coast…

The Coasting ChristianAaron Earls
bike work Christianity coastChristianity is a daily faith. It is built on choices each day that become habits and disciplines. It must be lived out, not simply remembered.

Our faith is an outworking of our relationship with Jesus. Coasting only becomes an option in our minds when we forget we are trying to draw closer to a person.

One day, we will feel the fresh breeze on our face as Christ declares over us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Then everything around us will be drawing us toward Him. Gravity will be working in our favor. Our coasting will only take us deeper with Him.

Until then, however, we cannot coast. No matter how far you’ve come or what you’ve previously accomplished, you cannot take your feet off the pedals.

Yes, there are many good things about it…

What We Gained When We Lost the HymnalTim Challies
A few weeks ago I wrote an article titled What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals… I meant to point out that there are consequences in shifting from one medium to another—in this case, shifting from hymnals to… projection. It is true of every new technology that it brings benefits and drawbacks. Neither hymnals nor PowerPoint are exempt from the rule.

Where that article focused on what we lost when we shifted from hymnals to projection, today I want to focus on what we gained. When our churches turned away from hymnals to instead sing lyrics projected on a screen, here is some of what we gained…

Living Easter every day…

Do You Really Know This Story?Melissa Edgington
So, here is the challenge in the days after Easter… Are we living, on the Tuesday after the resurrection, as if we really know this story? Are we… content to settle into the joy and the hope of it, the sheer love of a Savior who says that no casket can hold us? That it can’t hold our dearest ones? Are we trusting in the God of Easter morning to handle whatever is coming?

We must live this short, troubled life with a resurrection mentality. With a soul that never stops smiling over Easter morning. With a mind that remembers that the risen Savior proves that death and sin have no power here. With a faith that can stand at the foot of an open grave, knowing this is not the end, not even close. I know this story, we will whisper with a smile, and we will lean on our risen Savior. He is alive forever, and so are we.

The unseen damage of cat videos…

Empty Tomb = Living Jesus

I love Easter.

http://www.christchurchcathedral.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/easter-lilies.jpgI love the smell of Lilies when I walk into the worship center early on Easter Sunday. I know some folks whose allergies cause a much different reaction, but still…

I love the energy of the larger than normal crowd. I love the way we always try to put our best foot forward on Easter: we kick the creativity up a notch, our musicians work overtime getting it right, our guest services teams are on the alert to make sure all our guests have a great experience.

Mostly, though, I love what it is we’re celebrating.

Jesus rose from the dead!

He told his followers over and over that he was going to do it, and he did! He pulled it off! Death, the universal enemy of every single human throughout all time, has been defeated! No one had ever done it before, and no one has done it since. It is a unique event in human history.

This fact deserves to be celebrated in every way we can possibly imagine.

Sometimes, though, I’m afraid there is one aspect to this that we have a tendency to overlook.

It’s so simple and obvious, I’m a little embarrassed to point it out.

But here it is:

If he rose from the dead, he’s still alive.

I came face to face with this simple but powerful fact several years ago in one of the most powerful Easter services I’ve ever experienced. Our church had recently launched a new ministry to help those who are dealing with “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” called Celebrate Recovery. We wanted to raise awareness of this much needed ministry. The decision was made to feature it on Easter Sunday morning. In fact, we ended up devoting a large block of time in the service to personal testimonies from a few of the participants. Yes, we figured that some of our more traditional folks would complain that Easter Sunday wasn’t what they were expecting. But we also thought that this ministry, and the message of hope for those dealing with addiction that it provides, was worth absorbing a few complaints.

This may sound odd coming from me, but I have no memory of what music we did that morning. What I do vividly remember is listening to people, real people, tell stories of deliverance. Deliverance from addictions. Deliverance from abusive relationships. Jesus was working in their lives. He really is alive!

This is what Easter is all about!

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_NCj3G3s300/VZq0b-dmhVI/AAAAAAAAQTY/L0Ed1ecYU7Q/s1600/Picture4.jpgYes, it’s important for us to look back to the events of over 2,000 years ago. Let’s do our Bible drama reenactments. Let’s try to imagine the astonishment of Peter and John as they ran to look into the empty tomb. Let’s put ourselves in the humbling position of Thomas who repented of his doubt and knelt before the risen Christ proclaiming, “My Lord, and my God!”

But the best way to imagine that astonishment is to come face to face with the living Jesus ourselves. Today.

That’s what I experienced that Easter Sunday morning.

We were prepared for a few complaints about this service from our most traditional folks. But I was dismayed by the reaction of so many who seemed to miss the point. Were they at the same service I was? How could they not encounter the risen Lord when his presence was so obvious? How could they be so disappointed about not getting to feel nostalgic about Easters past that they miss the living Jesus?

To be honest, I’m still a bit puzzled by it.

But I think the problem stems from separating Jesus’ resurrection in history from his life today.

If he rose from the dead, he’s still alive.

The tomb is empty. You can go and look. In fact, you could search every tomb and every grave site around the world and you won’t find him.

Which only begs the question:

Where is he?

I’ll tell you where he is.

Just look around.

He’s in the home of a young family doing their best to raise their kids in a culture that seems to fight them every step of the way. He’s helping a man who is struggling with all his might to NOT take another drink. He’s giving comfort to that old woman whose husband of many years recently died from a horrific battle with cancer. He’s working in the messy lives of everyday people who give their time, energy, and talent serving you and your church.

Don’t get distracted by the past. Jesus isn’t there.

He’s alive.

He’ll be in the pew next to you at church on Sunday.

Will you see him?



Monday Picks ~ 3-20-2017

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

3 Mistakes to Avoid this EasterDan Reiland
For far too many church leaders, Easter is secretly a great disappointment every year. Not because of the attendance, that’s usually very strong, but because so few visitors return the following Sunday…

3 Mistakes to Avoid:

1) Designing your Easter service primarily for Christians
2) Emphasizing the wrong numbers
3) Comparing your church to others

We try, but we can’t…

Rejoice! We worship a God we can’t control
Aaron Armstrong
worship And that’s good news for us because a safe god, a safe Jesus, isn’t one worth our time. A safe god is one we can control, usually by trying to make it happy in some way. And a god we can control isn’t a true god at all, but an idol.

This little article popped out at me because today is my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary. He was 19, she was 17. My wife and I were barely 21 when we married. There are certainly challenges, but there are also many blessings to marrying young. Number three is my favorite. There is much more he could’ve written about that one…

3 Reasons I’m Grateful to Have Married Young
Michael Kelley
I read this week that the average age of marriage is now close to 30 years old. We, as a society, are delaying marriage. And while some of the reasons why are legitimate, I for one would offer a counterpoint to those arguments, for there are some great things in our own experience about having married at a young age. Here are three of them…


What I Learned This Easter

“Learned” might be too strong. It’s probably more accurate to say that I’m learning these things. But the truth is, I already knew them. I mean, if the questions were on a test I would get the right answer.

But I’m beginning to sense the truth of these things in a new way…deep in my soul.

This Easter has been an interesting one. First of all, my mom went into the hospital on Thursday morning. There were some problems with her most recent blood work which indicated a kidney problem. The good news is that it was an infection that was treatable with antibiotics. She came home Saturday and was able to attend the Easter service at church and our family gathering at my house on Sunday afternoon.

I mention her hospitalization because it gave a little more urgency to the discussion we’ve been having with my parents about selling their home and moving into some sort of “assisted living” arrangement. You see, my mom is really pretty healthy and active. She’s 81 years old and takes care of my 84 year old father. I don’t want to go into great detail here, but suffice it to say that he has great difficulty doing much of anything anymore. He requires assistance for the most mundane and intimate of tasks. This is frustrating to him and he becomes depressed because he senses this need increasing on an almost daily basis. My mother willingly and devotedly provides the care he needs, but she is also beginning to sense her limitations. When she went to the hospital for a couple of days, and my sisters and I attempted to fill in for her, it served to highlight the need for other assistance.

What I’m learning is that we all need “assisted living.”

There’s no such thing as unassisted living.

I’ve always known this to be true, and would’ve gotten the right answer on the test. But I’m beginning to know it in ways that I still have trouble describing.

You may think of yourself as independent.

You’re not.

Neither am I.

The other thing that is happening in me is that death is becoming more of a reality. This is happening for a couple of reasons. One is that I’m getting to the point in my life where, even if I live several years longer than the average lifespan for an American male (which I have every intention of doing), the number of years remaining represent a time span which I have no trouble comprehending. When you’re 20 years old the idea of living another 60-70 years seems like all the time in the world. You simply can’t grasp it. However, at age 62 the idea of living another 20-30 years is very “grasp-able.” My parents are 81 & 84. We’ve been discussing the needs they will have in the coming years. The time seems downright immediate.

The other reason death is becoming more of a reality is that I have acquaintances who are dealing right now with the thing that, in all likelihood, will cause their death. They know it and they can see it coming. They are younger than me. Much younger, in fact. One is a good friend of my daughter’s. You can talk about average lifespans all you want, but the averages don’t really mean anything. The fact is that death does not discriminate. Young or old, believer or unbeliever, black or white. It’s the one thing we all hold in common. We can all unite around this one fact: death is our common enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26)

But here’s where Easter comes in. Death may be the enemy, but he is beaten. This is the assurance Christ gives. I’ve known this to be true since my earliest days growing up in church. To be honest, my faith in this has swung wildly over the years from strong, to non-existent, to shaky. But I would’ve always gotten the right answer on the test.

This Easter, it’s finally starting to become a truth deep in my soul.

I still hate death. It ruins everybody’s life. It sucks. (I never use that term, but I use it now. That’s how much I hate death!)

Death is the enemy, but its days are numbered.

That’s what this Easter is teaching me.


Easter Sunday #HolyWeek

John 20:11-18
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

 Seven Stanzas at Easter
John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Revelation 5:5

My Weekend Picks for 3-25-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

12 Ways to Make Sure Easter Guests Don’t Come Back
Paul Steinbrueck
article_images/4.16.EasterGuestsDontBack_672014289.jpg“This Sunday is Easter, and when you look around your church, you’re going to get that uncomfortable feeling that comes from being around all kinds of people you haven’t seen in a while, or perhaps never before. You know, the slackers who only show up at church twice a year…

They’re going to take your favorite pew, sit and stand at the wrong times during the service, and double your wait in the coffee line after the service.

You don’t want to have to put up with those distractions and inconveniences week in and week out, so here are 12 ways to ensure those people don’t come back the week after Easter…”

I appreciated this excellent little reflection on The Lord’s Supper and Christ’s sacrifice…

Costly ReconciliationDarryl Dash
I recently attended a seminar on conflict and reconciliation. I don’t think of myself as someone who’s embroiled in a lot of conflict, but I’ve had my share. I’m human, and I’m in church leadership. That means that I’ll occasionally offend and be offended.

I heard stories about conflict gone wrong, and the cost to set things right again. Some stories were ugly. Some conflicts have sent ripples across the globe, and have caused unimaginable hurt.

When the hurt is real, reconciliation is costly. Even when it’s costly, it’s often not complete.

But then there’s Jesus.”

This is a lovely piece of writing…

The Kiss That Heals the WorldTrevin Wax
sad boy
“Maybe, in this simple act of compassion, we find a clue to the story of our world, a story that kids instinctively know must be true.

Her stooping down says, “You need me to come to you.”

His stretching out his hand says, “I’m hurt and need to be healed.”

Her kiss says, “Love will heal the world.”

His response says, “Because you love me, I am whole again.”

In this exchange we see a small taste of the healing that God offers to the world. The Creator God looks down on the people He has made, sees them in distress, and offers His kiss of love.”

Some powerful thoughts in this piece about New Life Church’s Good Friday service…

Easter Is Coming…But Not Yet (Why Holy Week Matters)
Glenn Packiam
https://mysteryoffaithblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/holyweek.jpgEaster is coming. 

We tell ourselves this on days when morning breaks with news of another massacre. We remind ourselves of this when the darkness is heavy and fear grips us by the throat.

Easter is coming. We feel the ache in our bones, the yearning for resurrection, for the world to be renewed, and for all to be set right.

Yet it is tempting to rush ahead to resurrection.

My bishop in the Anglican Church of North America, Ken Ross, wrote to the clergy under his care earlier this week on the importance of Holy Week:

I am praying that this week is not about recollection, but about participation in these holy mysteries. This week has such value — there are no shortcuts to the resurrection: we have to go through the cross.

We have to ‘go through the cross’.

This is why Holy Week matters. Holy Week is a chance for us to enter the Jesus Story in all its fullness.”

Ask the “hard” questions…
Source: Pearls Before Swine



As we approach what is traditionally referred to as Holy Week, I think I’m going to suspend the #GodQuestions devotionals. Instead, I want to try to, in my imagination, relive the final week of Christ’s life.

I’ve always been intrigued with how this week played out. Even though scripture is notoriously straightforward in its style, I can’t help but think that this week is filled with drama, emotions, politics and violence. It staggers the imagination.

I plan to post an image each day and a passage of scripture that tells of that day in Jesus’ life. It’s a little tricky to know for sure exactly what happened each day, but I’m going to go with a chronology that seems to work with all four gospels to the best of my understanding.

I don’t plan to offer any commentary on these passages but if there is another quote or poem that seems appropriate and helpful I may add that as well.

I’m asking you join me in this little devotional exercise as we walk through, day by day, the final week of Christ’s life on earth.