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Entries in Easter (5)

Wednesday
Apr172019

Hope for the Hurting at Easter

In this pre-Easter UPGRADE, Dawn acknowledges the pain of those who hurt during this celebratory season, but points back to the purpose, promise and power of the resurrection.

"My daddy died near Easter, years ago," Dawn says. "It was a deeply painful time for me, but also a time of great hope."

During those days I chose to breathe out the pain and breath in the presence of God. It's the only way I felt I could survive the great loss.

I remember sitting in church that Easter, weeping over Daddy's passing, but then weeping with joy as we celebrated the risen Savior. It was bittersweet on so many levels.

I've since thought about those I know who hurt during many holidays.

  • Those who lost their income at Christmas.
  • Those who lost their home to fire at Thanksgiving.
  • Those who recalled their family losses on Mother's Day and Father's Day.
  • Those who lost their health with a sudden "diagnosis" at any time of year when others are celebrating.

So much pain.

But the key words there are "lost" and "losses." Yes, losing people and things we love is painful, but the bigger picture for the Christian is the purpose, promise and power of the Lord's resurrection and how that can and should impact our lives.

1. The Purpose of the Resurrection

I have to admit, my first reaction to a friend who shared truth with me when my Daddy died was to want to choke her! "Just remember what Jesus did; we have victory over all those ugly emotions now," she said.

How insensitive, I thought.

But after I calmed down, I knew she was—at the root of truth—correct.

It was normal to grieve. I'd lost my dear daddy! But it was also right to take my raw emotions to Jesus—my risen Savior—who understood everything about me and my circumstances.

  • He came to reach out to us in our pain and separation from God.
  • He came to die for our sin and reconcile us to God.
  • He came to live a perfect life as an example of righteousness.
  • And in His resurrection, He came to conquer the effects of every evil, every false thing, every painful thing that would touch our lives.

The simple truth of Easter is—Jesus died, was buried and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But there was so much more in God's purpose for the resurrection.

  • The purpose of the resurrection was to show the immense power of God. He is absolutely sovereign over life and death. Only the awesome Creator of life can resurrect life after death.
  • The purpose of the resurrection was also to show us who Jesus claimed to be. Because He is truly the Son of God—the long-awaited Messiah—His resurrection authenticated His ministry and the "sign of Jonah" (Matthew 16:1-4). It proved He was God's "Holy One" who would never experience "corruption" (Psalm 16:10; Acts 13:32-37).
  • The purpose of the resurrection was to forgive us and set us free from every sin (Acts 13:38-39). He can only set us free because He actually did what He said He would do—rise from the dead (Acts 17:2-3; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34).

We can rest—even in times of frustration, confusion or pain—in God's great picture purpose for the resurrection of Christ.

2. The Promise of the Resurrection

The promise of the resurrection is that God would indeed reverse the ugliness of sin and death and give us victory over the grave—there remains no "sting" in death (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). He is indeed the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

The promise is that because He lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). He is "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Though we hurt when loved ones pass away, we can have confidence that we will once again see and recognize all our loved ones who have died in Christ.

Why? We will see Jesus, be raised from the dead and instantly be present with the Lord (Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:12-57). This togetherness is suggested by the events in the "rapture" of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

And we can believe that the God who loves us and is faithful is working for our good and His glory.

Any loss on earth is meant to be overshadowed by our Father's great lovingkindness now and in heaven.

3. The Power of the Resurrection

Because Jesus rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12), we get to experience the power of His resurrection.

We are to experience that power now, not just in eternity in heaven.

  • We will find power as we respond to God's grace. As we repent of our sins and confess them, embracing God's forgiveness and grace. (Ephesians 2:4-5; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • We will find power as we exchange the emptiness of "religion" for a dynamic relationship with the Lord through faith. (Romans 4:4-5; 11:6)
  • We will find power as we serve the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." This is true because it is God who gives us the "victory" through His Son (v. 57).
  • We will find power as we begin to embrace eternal priorities. (Matthew 6:33)
  • We will find power as we learn to die to our selfish desires and agendas. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • We will find power as we anticipate God working on our behalf in ways we cannot imagine, as we surrender to and trust Him. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • And we will find power as we remember God will give us new bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and make all things new (Isaiah 43:18-19; 65:17; Revelation 21:5; Ephesians 2:15; 4:24; Hebrews 8:13).

When I think only about the hurts in my life—the losses and pain—life is harder to endure. But when I think about the power of the resurrection, something within me stirs: HOPE!

The power of the resurrection is our hope in God who raised His Son to new life—the same God who desires to raise us and our loved ones in Christ to new life as well.

He is the same great God who will restore all that is broken and bless us with blessings beyond our imagination. (Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Corinthians 2:9)

That is the hope for the hurting at Easter.

Are you hurting today? How can a more intentional focus on the purpose, promise and power of Jesus' resurrection help you with your struggles?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts  and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic vector adapted, courtesy of MKencad at Lightstock.

Wednesday
Mar232016

Did the Angels Rejoice?

One of the most striking things I remember about our trip to Israel a few years ago was sitting outside the tomb that is alleged to be Jesus' burial place. I stared at the sign on the door of the tomb as I cried happy, grateful tears.

The words on the sign were spoken by an angel of the Lord on Jesus' resurrection day.

With the break of dawn on that wondrous day, the visitors to the tomb heard this incredible message:

"He is not here: for He is risen, as he said" (Matthew 28:5a, KJV).

It was a miracle! Jesus who was crucified on a Roman cross three days earlier and buried in a borrowed tomb ... was alive!

In all four of the Gospels we find a description of that Resurrection Day.

From Matthew's account (a modern translation):

"After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. suddenlty the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God's angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn't move.

"The angel spoke to the women: 'There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.

"'Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, "He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galille. You will see him there." That is the message.'

"The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples." (Matthew 28:1-7, MSG)

Evangelist Billy Graham once wrote* about that angel, God's messenger. Graham said the angel gave "the greatest, most glorious news that the human ear has ever heard—'He is not here; he has risen.'"

Can you imagine how the women's joy overflowed? As the angel instructed them, they hurried to tell the disciples (v. 8)

I've sometimes wondered if the angel messengers—and all the angels of heaven—were just as excited as the women at the tomb. I imagine their shouts of praise at the moment of Jesus' resurrection.

One of my very favorite bloggers, Tim Challies, captured this perfectly when he wrote about the cherubims' involvement with God's people since the beginning of time.**

To summarize Challies' post:

(1) The cherubim stood guard after Adam and Eve chose to sin and were cast from Eden. The angels' message was clear:  you cannot return here. The angels stood between God and man.

(I wonder if the cherubim watched with deep sadness as the first humans' relationship with God so dramatically changed.)

(2) The cherubim were "present" in the tabernacle too. They were over the Ark of the Covenant on the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:22), and figures of cherubs were embroidered into the curtain (Exodus 36:35) separating the Holy place from the Most Holy Place—a blood-covered veil.

In a sense, they were still "standing guard." Again, there was no mistaking their message:

God is holy; and you, dear people of God, are not.

(3) And then, when that veil tore in two at Jesus' crucifixion (Matthew 27:51), the cherubims' image on the curtain was shredded too, "demonstrating that it was no longer necessary to guard the way to God."

"... in that moment," Challies said, "I wonder if it was the cherubim who cheered the loudest."

Something about reading that just made me grin from ear to ear!

We see angels present at Jesus' resurrection. We aren't told what kind of holy angels they were—cherubim, seraphim or archangels—but their role at that time was to proclaim an important message. And it is that life-changing message that gives me hope every day, not just on the one day we celebrate Jesus' resurrection.

Today, there aren't any cherubim standing in our way. But, as Challies said, "if you pause and look closely you will see that there is still something, there is still SOMEONE, between God and man ... It is Jesus Christ...."

The resurrection is more than an event, more than theology. It's a Person—Jesus.

Our Lord said, "I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25; Romans 6:4-5). Jesus lived a holy life, died as a sacrifice for man's sin, and rose again to give those who repent and believe eternal life with Him in heaven (Mark 1:15b).

And we know when people respond to THAT message, all God's angels will rejoice! (Luke 15:10).

Do you know Him? Why not express your own message to the Lord today—a message of gratitude and praise.

If you don't know Him (and that's not the same as knowing "about" Him), here is one site that explains how you can trust Jesus today and rejoice with the angels.

Dawn Wilson, founder of Heart Choices Today and Upgrade with Dawn, is also on the board of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM) and is a contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

* Quote by Billy Graham, Peace with God: The Secret of Hapiness (Thomas Nelson, revised, paperback, 2000), p. 122.

** Tim Challies' blog, "The Cherubim Cheered the Loudest," 3-16-15.

 

Thursday
Apr022015

God's 'Amen' at Easter

In this Easter UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us to think about the "Amen" of the Resurrection.

Elyse Fitzpatrick, in her book, Found in Him,* wrote, "... the resurrection is God's 'Amen' to Christ's 'It is finished!'"

What a beautiful thought! Jesus accomplished our great salvation on the cross. Jesus paid it all! He satisfied the wrath of God as the propitiation for our sin (1 John 2:2). 

And then, we might say, at the resurrection God gave His stamp of approval on the finished work of His Son. Jesus finished all the Father asked Him to do, including becoming our sacrifice for sin (John 17:4; 19:30).

Fitzpatrick continued . . .

"But that's not all. The resurrection is also God's 'Amen' to OUR 'It is finished,' for I believe that when he died, I died, and when he rose, I arose; I believe that you have forgiven me and made me righteous and will raise me up on the last day."

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we stand in complete righteousness and holiness, no longer dead in our sins, but completely, eternally alive in Christ.

We are to consider ourselves "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). In God's eyes, we've already been to the grave. We've already died. And in Christ's resurrection, our loving Father has completely transformed us, our relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:1, 5).

"Rather than simply telling ourselves that we ought to do better, to resist temptation," Fitzpatrick said, "it is by remembering our union with Jesus on the cross that we are transformed: set at liberty to love righteousness and the God who has given it to us."

Paul thus encourages us:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

"We are invited," Fitzpatrick said, "to live our whole life under his benediction, his smile, his love."

Maybe that is why I am smiling so much this Easter.

I know I am living under the blessing of God, resting in His love. I'm so thankful for the cross. But my delight today is in the resurrection of Christ . . . and my new life in Him.

 Do you know the Savior, Jesus? Are you living the resurrected life in Christ?   

 Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

* Elyse Fitzpatrick, Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ (Crossway, 2013), Chapter 7.

Thursday
Apr172014

Celebrate Easter Every Day

I asked Debbie Harris to share a special pre-Easter* post with us, helping us to UPGRADE our Attitude about this special celebration by cultivating “an Easter heart.” She encourages us to enjoy Resurrection Day every day!

“Though Easter Sunday is possibly the largest attended Sunday of the year,” Debbie said, “did you ever wonder about the fact that if it were not for Easter, there would be no church service?"

What?

No church? And not just that … No choir? No Sunday school? No Bible studies? No Stewardship Desserts and potluck fellowships? Can you imagine that?

Debbie continues …

There would be no church service because there would be no faith. The theme of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is the foundational doctrine of our faith. Out of all the doctrines of the Christian faith, the resurrection may be the most important of them all, for if there were no resurrection, we would have no faith! 

“and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is in vain!” (I Corinthians 15:14)

Christ was raised indeed—there absolutely was a resurrection—and so we do have a faith and we do celebrate it every Easter.

But if Easter commemorates the resurrection and the resurrection commemorates our faith, we should actually be celebrating Easter every day! Yes, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is active in us every single day.

Why do we celebrate?

Let me personalize Ephesians 2:1-10 (from the NLT) to explain.

1. His resurrection gives us life!  

Once I was dead, doomed forever because of my many sins. I used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. I used to live that way, following the passions and desires of my evil nature. I was born with an evil nature, and I was under God's anger just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved me so very much, that even while I was dead because of my sins, he gave me life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that I have been saved!)

2. His resurrection gives us position! 

For He raised me from the dead along with Christ, and I am seated with Him in the heavenly realms—all because I am one with Christ Jesus.  And so God can always point to me as example of the incredible wealth of His favor and kindness toward me, as shown in all He has done for me through Christ Jesus.

3. His resurrection gives us the gift of salvation! 

God saved me by His special favor when I believed. And I can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things I have done, so I cannot boast about it. 

For I am God's masterpiece. He has created me anew in Christ Jesus, so that I can do the good things He planned for me long ago.”   

What fascinating truth, even more fascinating than what Easter means to most:  a new season bringing treasures of new life and spring flowers. The resurrection of Christ was the vehicle that gave the treasure of all treasures—new life, position and salvation to all who believe. 

Easter may come only once a year, but because of the resurrection we have reason to celebrate it every day!

How do you celebrate Easter (Resurrection Sunday) each spring? How can you be intentional in extending that celebration throughout the year?

Debbie Harris is married to the Men’s Pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church in southern California. She and Ben have six children and three grandchildren. She loves God, family, women and the Word. Debbie assists her husband in various ministries, disciples women and her highlight of the week is teaching a Precept class, where she has found the thrill of mining diligently through the Word contagious!

* Although this term is usually used, even in most churches, "Resurrection Day" or "Resurrection Sunday" are more accurate.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Prepare Your Heart and Home for Easter

Diane Dean knows the reason for this special spring season—Easter*, or Resurrection Day—is Jesus! She shares this Holiday UPGRADE in the hope it will help us focus our hearts on Him.

"I was at Walmart the other day picking up some Easter candy and craft projects for our grandchildren," Diane says, "And the checker said, 'Is it just me, or are all the holidays becoming more commercialized?'"

Commercialization of holidays is inevitable in a society that worships money and the things it can buy, but I (Dawn) think retailers are going overboard these days. There's always something new to draw our hearts away from the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday.

Diane continues ... 

My first thought was, "Are you just noticing?" It does seem there are very few occasions for which Hallmark doesn't have a card.  

Decorations are in the marketplace for all kinds of "special days." Some holidays are secular, but others are holy days. How easily we can get caught up in the marketing and 'stuff" and forget the glorious reasons to celebrate holy days!

When I taught Sunday school to grade school children, I would ask why we celebrate Christmas and Easter. Most often the answer was, "That is when Santa" or "the Easter bunny" comes. Upon pressing them, we would eventually get around to the correct answer. Most knew, but that wasn't what they thought of first. 

What do we think of first?

When we think of Easter, we should think of Jesus' sacrifice to bring us to God—to allow us to have a relationship with the Father.

1 Peter 3:18 (NIV) says, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit."

Good Friday and Easter are days that changed history forever. For those who believe the Bible, it was an event that ended the need for sacrifices and atonement for sins. Jesus died on the cross as our Savior, a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy—He was the promised Messiah. He paid for our sins with His blood and horrific death on the cross.

Luke 24:1-6a states our reason to celebrate Easter. Pretend you've never read this before, and sense the wonder of that first Easter morning:

"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.

"In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!"

Why is the death of Jesus different? He didn't stay in the grave!

On the first Easter morning, Jesus physically came back to life. Life, for those who have embraced Jesus as their Savior, has changed forever! This fact is unique to Christianity. The founders of other faiths are still in their graves.

No one loves the decorations, fun and family time of Easter more than I, but I find it necessary to bring myself mentally to a quiet place and reflect on His great sacrifice for me and that wonderful day when He was resurrected, assuring eternal life through faith in Him. In John 14:6, Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

John 3:16 signs show up in sports stadiums and arenas everywhere, but I wonder how many don't know what it says and take time to look it up. This verse, so familiar to most Christians, says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

What can we do to be more intentional—to make the emphasis of Easter a time of spiritual reflection?

1. Read the story of the crucifixion and resurrection as a family (from Luke 23 and 24:1-8).

2. Pray together with a spirit of thanksgiving for His unconditional love for us and the gift of our salvation.

3. As you bake Easter cookies or make decorations with your children or grandchildren, talk about why Easter is so important. It will make memories that can become a tradition for them.

II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Spring is a time of new life; we see it in nature. Let us remember to celebrate our new life in Him.

             He is risen indeed!

What are your special Easter traditions that prepare your heart or home to celebrate the resurrection of Christ?

Diane Dean is a ministry wife, mother, grandmother, Bible teacher, seminar and retreat speaker, and designer for Diane Dean Interiors, LLC. Her blog, Diane's Traditions, is a potpourri of information from her personal experience and she welcomes questions.

"The Empty Tomb" painting by Frank Ordaz, used with permission.

 * "Resurrection Day" or "Resurrection Sunday" is a more accurate term.