The Day After Easter

 

The Day After Easter

Here it is, the day after Easter and I find myself going back to the tomb and looking in. This is what I think… the stone that sealed the tomb was rolled away not for Jesus to get out but for us to look in! And Mary (like me) is one of those that looked inside and contemplated the emptiness and struggled with doubt and unbelief.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (John 20:16)

I love this! Jesus called Mary by her name! She hears him. She knows his voice. She sees him. She immediately recognizes Jesus. Jesus speaks to her unbelief and Mary believes. I think it is good to look inside the empty tomb over and over again. Whenever I doubt that God loves me, I look inside the empty tomb. Whenever I doubt that I can trust God no matter what, I look inside that empty tomb. And when I don’t believe, I pray to God to help my unbelief while asking Him to forgive me for doubting Him. 

 

Easter flower art

The Art of Journaling

Psalm 19:6

For years I’ve tried to keep up with a habit of writing in a journal. I’ve been successful with a journal in a hit-or-miss sort of way. I have a few journals stacked neatly on my desk and I have yet to finish one. I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as each journal has a specific purpose. But possibly that is the problem. I have too many journals.

For example, one journal is to write thoughts from the day, or comment about a Bible passage, and sometimes I write prayers such as, “A prayer for more grace,” which I posted on this blog.  There is also the creative journal for the times when I am inspired to create … to sketch and paint. I jot a few notes about the sketch or watercolor painting just to keep the memory fresh. I want to remember what inspired me to draw or paint at that moment.  I also use Evernote to save a collection of quotes from authors and favorite bloggers.

In January of this year, I began a quest to read a Psalm or a portion of Psalm every day. To keep me on track and consistent with this daily reading plan, I turned to The Songs of Jesus ~ A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Tim and Kathy Keller.

Reading through the Psalms for 26 days has informed consistency of keeping a journal.  Actually, reading the Psalms has transformed the way I journal. The Psalms are not just a matchless primer of teaching but a medicine chest for the heart. [1] Psalms is a prayerbook that has every emotion known to man and gives us the freedom to pray those same words, with those same emotions, back to God.

Reading Psalms is teaching me how to pray. What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God. [2] This is pure grace, that God tells us how we can speak to him and have fellowship with him. [3]

The Psalms fire our imaginations into new realms yet guide them to the God who actually exists. The Psalms have encouraged and inspired the way I make art. There is a reason and purpose to make something beautiful.

I may have discovered the art of journaling by reading through the Psalms. This journal is beginning to resemble a story … my story. I see my story, my life, woven into the words of the Psalmist. I find that amazing and truthfully, frightening. It is a journal of joy, sorrow, worship, repentance, hope, frustration … peace and assurance that God will keep me as the apple of [his] eye and hide me in the shadow of [his] wings. (Psalm 17:8)

What about you? Have you read through the Psalms or do you enjoy keeping a journal?

sunflower

[1] The Songs of Jesus by Tim and Kathy Keller; Introduction, {viii} | [2] | Ibid. page {ix} | [3]  Psalms:The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“I Would Take a Bullet For Her”

Brotherly love.jpg

Trenton’s wisdom is deep for such a young boy.  In describing his love for Lindsay, his sister, Trenton shared, “I would take a bullet for her.”  As he regained his composure after getting choked up, he added “She’s my best friend.  I would do anything for her.  My life would be nothing without her.”  These are not trite statements they emanate from his heart.

Lindsay has spinal muscular atrophy yet from her motorized chair she beams when she describes her older brother.  His example of love if followed would change the world!  Watch their story at https://youtu.be/9PM6uX4yGp4 and make sure to have Kleenex handy!

Brotherly love 1

MEDITATION ON 1 THESSALONIANS 4:9

1 Thessalonians 4:9—About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.

Jesus took a bullet for us in large spikes and wooden beams.  This ultimate sacrifice was God’s greatest lesson on love.  Before dying, Jesus’ daily sacrifice painted what brotherly love looks like.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  If we are not periodically moved by His monumental devotion we are surely bewitched by the wrong things.

I would take a bullet for you.  My life was purchased by the blood of my Savior.  His love is what founds, fuels, and fires my ability to care.  Therefore it would be an honor to lay down my life as a brother for you.  It is an honor to serve you.  I identify with Paul, “I have become its servant [the church], according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known” (Colossians 1:25).

Brotherly and sisterly love is the stuff of champions.   When you model love, you leave a stamp on lives that no soap can wash away.  Never tire of doing the simple acts of service to help others.  “I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints” (Philemon 4,5).  Thanks for making a difference and for your willingness to take the bullet.  [1]

INSPIRATION FROM DOUG POLLOCK

Love is a commitment you make to act in someone else’s best interest.  True love can only be known by the actions that it prompts.—Doug Pollock in God Space

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[1] ©2015 Daniel York  ARR.  Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause.  If you would like to receive these devotionals go to http://www.firstcause.org and click on the “GET THE LATEST REVERATION FROM DANIEL YORK” box.  Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Children’s Ministry: To Be Wonderstruck

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Children are an important part of the church and have an essential place in the covenant community. In the book, Heirs of the Covenant, Susan Hunt explains that our relationship with God is personal and individual, but when that relationship is established, we are immediately in community with others who are in relationship with Him. … In other words, children and adults are in community together. “Covenant is a promise that stretches from Genesis to Revelation: I will be your God, you will be my people, I will live among you.” Children’s ministry is centered in the grace-relationship that God offers to us through Christ.

Stop to consider how many children come to church and the limited number of hours we have with them each week. We have a grand responsibility to shepherd each child towards Jesus. As a child truly begins to believe he or she is God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ, there is no stopping them from doing the good things God planned for them long ago.

IMG_3580In children’s ministry, our purpose is to partner with families in building a spiritual foundation that will lead a child to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. A nursery or children’s ministry does not simply plead for volunteers. Rather, a church teaches God’s people the wondrous reality that we are adopted in Christ and empowered by His grace to reflect the Gospel in a vibrant covenant life. We point kids to Christ and away from themselves. We talk about our sin, our brokenness, Jesus’ love and the beauty of the cross. When a child’s confidence and identity is secure in Christ, they will begin to wonder and discover who God has created them to be.

“As they begin to comprehend the marvelous sovereignty of God, they begin thinking integratively. All of their thoughts about faith and life begin to coalesce around the person of Jesus. A biblical worldview starts to take shape. … Our knowledge of God’s character and His promise determines our view of our lives and the world.” (Susan Hunt)

As leaders in children’s ministry we recognize each child’s unique personality that is created in the image of God. We celebrate the work of Christ in a child’s life in order to strengthen his or her relationship with God for a deeper faith, for them to ponder and to wonder about God’s amazing love for them.  We must continue to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done … that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:4-7).

A carefully orchestrated children’s ministry with a well thought out purpose and plan will not succeed without dedicated prayer … prayers for God to intervene, for Jesus’ love to rescue, and for the Holy Spirit to make a new heart … for kids to be wonder-struck.

IMG_3570The photos were taken while working with a children’s ministry in Monterrey, MX. The best time ever! Confia en Dios! 

Laugh at the Days to Come

Psalm 27:13

I want to laugh at the days to come. My prayer for this month is for laughter to fill our hearts and to believe that God is good and his plans for us are good. It is tempting to associate the good life with something physical, yet when the physical breaks, it’s hard to see the good in that.

I pray to remain confident of God’s goodness, even if I don’t get the things I have my heart set on. I admit being guilty of having a wrong assumption that because God is good he will give me the things I want. By God’s grace, he is freeing me from a limited and small understanding of what is good so I can experience the huge and satisfying good that he has planned for us.

This is God’s goodness to us today … he filled our hearts with laughter. He replaced our tears with smiles and refreshed our countenance with joy. By faith and hope, I believe that we shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! (Psalm 27:13) We will laugh at the days to come.

laugh at days to come

One of my greatest joys in this world is to sing with all my heart songs of our faith, of the Mighty Work and Victory of Jesus Christ for broken people. I especially like to do so in the face of all the suffering, pain, death, diagnoses, weakness, confusion, darkness and so, through faith, to lift up my heart to Him-who-is-my-Hope and laugh at the days to come. —Jason T. Dorsey, Lead Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

The Lord is my Joy by Nathan Partain

The Lord is my Joy, the Lord is my joy
When all that I have is lost, I find
The Lord is my Joy.

The Lord is my strength, the Lord is my strength,
When I am too weak to go on, I find
The Lord is my strength.

My all in all is he, My healing King
My Master tends to me, for him, my soul shall sing.

The Lord is my rock, the Lord is my rock,
When all I have faith in fails, I find
The Lord is my rock.

The Lord is my delight, the Lord is my delight,
Above all the joys of life, I find
The Lord is my delight.

My all in all is he, my breath, my song.
In him I have everything; to him, my soul belongs.

I wait, and wait upon you, To come for me in rescue.
Give strength, my heart is failing, yet still, my lips will praise you.

And with his wings he covers me, he keeps his watch when I’m asleep,
I offer all my thoughts and dreams, I give my savior everything.

You who gave your only son, I dare not doubt your steadfast love.
Come, I beg you take my life, if am yours then all is right.

My all in all is he, my dearest friend.
I put my trust in him; on him, my soul depends.

Psalm 46:11

We Are Kept: A Prayer for Easter Sunday

Easter

Dear God,

We are adopted by you into your forever grace and our lives are forever changed because you rescued us once and for all through your son, Jesus … yet you continue to rescue us again and again by making a way for us to escape and to break free from strongholds that want to devour and destroy the peace and joy that comes with being a child of the King.

How thankful I am that you are my heavenly father. How thankful I am to be named a child of God. You are so gracious and so very generous with lavishing your love upon your children. You love us unconditionally, inviting us to sit with you around your banquet table. We come filthy and wearing dirty clothes; and you wash the dirt from our feet and dress us in clean and pure garments of righteousness. You serve us bread that is broken by you and we eat of it until we are full and we drink of the living water you pour into our cup until it overflows.

I am reminded that our children are comforted by the unconditional love we give them. They are kept. We will never let go of them. How much more awesome it is to thank you, gracious God for never letting your children go … we are kept.

With a humble heart I praise and pray.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

“Because of your resurrection, we’re neither afraid to die, or to live; we’re not hapless vagabonds on earth, we’re hope-filled children of God. We’re no longer enslaved to our sins; we’re now wrapped in your righteousness.” ― Scotty Smith

“The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”  ― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

“Getting found almost always means being lost for a while … Easter says that love is more powerful than death, bigger than the dark, bigger than cancer, bigger even than airport security lines.” ― Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” ― Mary Oliver

Easter post 2015

By His Wounds: A Prayer for Good Friday

Good Friday

Dear Lord Jesus,

Where do we begin to offer our gratitude, love, and praise in response to what you did for us on the cross? We refer to today as, Good Friday yet we cannot fully fathom nor comprehend the immense goodness of your love for us.

You cry out for God to forgive us as God forsakes you. The vast goodness of this day is that we are fully forgiven because you were fully forsaken. Open our hearts to see you as Savior, to believe quickly…receiving your grace and a living hope just as you promised the robber hanging on a criminal’s cross next to you.

You came to rescue us, to give us life by giving up yours. “It is finished”, was your cry. The old has passed away and the new has come. In you do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness, deliver me and rescue me for you are my hope, my trust.

Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

In your holy and powerful name, I praise and pray.

Amen.

I’ve never understood why people call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.” What was good about it? It looks like a tragedy to me. You’re right, up to a point: If all we had to celebrate was that final Friday when Jesus was put to death, there certainly wouldn’t be anything good about it. In that case, the term “Good Friday” would be a mockery. Instead, that final Friday would be the greatest tragedy in the history of the human race. Satan would have won, and any hope the human race might have had for the future would be ended.

But that Friday was not the end! Two days later, the tomb was empty, and Jesus was alive! And that’s why we can call it “Good Friday” … because on a day that first seemed tragic, something incredibly good happened … Christ gave his life for our salvation. [1]

Many of us, as we learn to know Christ in his sufferings, can only begin to have the moral imagination, the faith, to truly recognize that it was our sins that caused his death and necessitated the utter and absolute separation from his Father. Those of us who have been brought to the end of ourselves through life’s difficulties, personal failure and providential discipline can appropriate, by faith and repentance, the full measure of Christ’s redeeming grace. [2]

Still & quiet & bow slow & see Him now…
By His love — you are held,
By His mercy — you are washed clean,
By His relentless grace — you are saved.
And by His wounds — you are healed. [3]

DSC_0971[1] Billy Graham | [2] Adrienne Shore | [3] Ann VosKamp