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Reflections: Easter is coming

31 Mar

IBelong2theMaster_1Tim2_6

The thought that I have been rescued by a purchase has been one of the most intriguing I have ever encountered.  The thought that anyone would love enough to give their life for another is mind-blowing.   Even more mind-blowing to think I am one of those purchased through the sacrifice of another.

One of the most amazing historical quotes which I know can be found in John 15:12-15.   It goes as follows:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command. 

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. 

This quote can be expanded easily to include interesting observations and reflections both before and after the section above.  But to be real, I am afraid that if I did that, the post would be too long.  So for now, let’s just focus on the section above and the fact that the annual celebration of Easter is quickly coming.  

This is a rare year where the Jewish Passover, and both the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Christian churches are all celebrating miracles at the same time.  And in reality, all of the celebrations are for one event in history: 

From a Jewish perspective, it is the miracle of God passing-over the houses of the Hebrew people captive in Egypt, who believed God’s command and covered their doorway with the blood of a sacrificed pure lamb.   That event fore-shadowed the event and person – Jeshua Messiah – fully God, yet at the same time equally fully man. 

Foretold again in Isaiah 53, where many read to learn of the suffering Messiah.  The Christian churches are celebrating the reality that Jesus of Nazareth volunteered to give up his life to pay my and your penalty for our wrong-doings and wrong choices.  As we all know: No one is perfect.   But God, He became the once for all sacrificial lamb.

Just reflect on that for a moment or two.  Then go back and re-read that quote.  Spoiler alert:  Death is NOT the end of this story.  Three days later – as promised – and prophesied hundreds of years before –  Jesus rose again to new life.  His body was raised, Jesus conquered death.  Once taken on – earthly human flesh remained – and will forever be a reminder to all – that he came to earth.  To live a perfect life, to die to redeem me.  To redeem you.

So “redeem” – How is it defined?  Do you know?  Basically the meaning of the word is to releaseGrant freedom on payment of a price.  Deliverance by a costly method.  When used of God it does not suggest that he paid a price to anyone but rather that his divine and perfect mercy required his almighty power and justice to reach down and involve the greatest possible depth of suffering.

Thus, as we see in the Exodus example, God paid a very high price for the freedom of the Hebrews from the bondage of slavery.  And we see again, in the death of Messiah – Jesus the Christ, that we are delivered from the bondage of sin and death – death as eternal separation from God.   For most of us, the more familiar term would be that a ransom was paid to free us.  A ransom of great cost to the one who made the sacrifice.  So what do we do about that reality?  What next?  Ransomed….bought freedom with a price….Now what?

Not merely so we can live a new life.  Though that is incredible in its possibilities, but so that we can be FREE.  Free from any and all bondage to weakness and unhealthy choices.   Someday, we too will have glorified bodies and will live in a place of no shame, no tears, no shortfalls, no failures.  Someday, each one of us will answer for choices made by us as we journey through life on this earth. No blame, no games.  Just face to face with pure, Holy and rightful justice.  Forever decided by one sacrifice and one decision for each of us – by each one of us.

But until then, we are commanded and appointed to bear fruit.  Fruit that will last.  Eternally.  Forever showing the benefits and sharing the good news of Jesus to set us free.   To share and bear fruit to make disciples.  Disciples, (followers), who make other followers.  To continue and uphold all we were given – freely – as a gift.  No effort of ours.  No shopping for this gift.  It is freely given of God.  The only thing we bring is our faults.  Our shame.  Our guilt.  Our short-comings.  Our choice.

And in exchange, he paid ransom for our freedom — forever.  A straight forward transaction.  We need not check out minds at the door, but instead, perhaps for the first time — fully engage in all that is possible with a new life.

So when you think about Easter, and you wonder what is so special about this holiday …know this:  It is not the name.  It is not the time of year.  It is not the celebration of spring.  Or simply even new life.  It is the celebration of FREEDOM. Of possibilities for wholeness and integrity and health and a life reconciled with God – now, daily, and forever.  Mind-blowing.  Awesome.  Love.  Love.  Love that lays down His life so that we may live with him – forever.  That is the God who loves us each and gave himself for us.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.img_2710

With all eternity there will still not be enough ways to show God my gratitude for his gift.

Reflections on Christian Living – Been a while

7 Apr

Reflection on Christian Living – Been a while.

I’ve been living in a waiting room for many weeks.    Are there ever circumstances in your life you would like to change?  Things you know God can change.  Concerns you hope He will change; yet it appears on the surface as if nothing is happening.  Ever been there?

Some call it a desert experience.  I don’t call it that because for me, it is more like a closet, or waiting room or hallway experience.  In the hallway you see doors, but none has opened yet.  In the waiting room, you expect to be “called into” or “called back to” the professional person’s private space or examination room, but the wait is hours beyond your assigned appointment.  So you sit.  Or maybe it is the ER or urgent clinic and you didn’t even expect to be there, so you sit.  In the closet, you are simply cut-off from socialization and “normal” routine life.

Desk & Chair

The waiting chair

That is what this last 6 months have been like for me.  I find waiting can be a productive time.  A time to: grow closer to my God; get intimate with Jesus.  A time of increased prayer.  A time of increased Bible study and learning  where and how to apply truths that pop out at me during these times.  Truths it seems that I am unable or unwilling to notice when I’m bustling with life activities, duties, responsibilities, tasks.

Tough times?  You betcha.  Challenging days?  Oh yeah.  Frustrating?  Yes – at times;  I wanted it to end – sooner.    There has been a lot of illness for me and for my loved ones during these last months. There have been many pajama days in these weeks. Walking day-to-day with joy and hope is sometimes a stretch; I have to be honest.  Some solitude, isolation, and some new friendships built slowly, privately, and hopefully steadily.

My take away:  Slowing down, whether voluntarily or involuntarily due to circumstance outside our control is not a bad thing.  It is a good thing.  It helps us to filter out.  It helps purge the unnecessary from life in order to focus on the important.  It removes unnecessary “urgent” tasks from our life.

Response:  Thank you Lord for this waiting time.   I would not have asked for it, but I am grateful that you allowed all these circumstances into my life to prepare me for something wonderful.  Something only You can teach me; something I need now or will need in the future.  Thank you, in Jesus’ Holy name, Amen.      God you are awesome.

 

 

Reflections on Christian Living – Special Practices – Gratitude

11 Nov

Reflections on Christian Living – Gratitude – Special Practices

There are several special practices or seasonal disciplines which I undertake to spur on and encourage Christian growth, to become more Christ-like and to change-up my walk a bit in order to keep me from becoming complacent in a daily journey with Jesus.

One of these practices is currently underway. I know some friends who either call it a 30 day gratitude challenge.  Some start on November 1st.  Some start 30 days before Thanksgiving.

Art_Photo_November

I don’t have a name for what I do, but most of my seasonal practices are actually 40 days long.  I try not to miss a day, but I am not legalistic about it, as is not about that.  These practices are an act of worship.  They are done not instead of my daily practices, but alongside them.

For 40 days before Thanksgiving I begin a gratitude journal.  Often,  I publish a summary on Facebook of what I am most grateful for on any given day during this season of reflection.  We are so blessed in so many ways and simply take most things for granted.  (I’m as guilty of this as the next person).

I would encourage anyone to do this.  I recently read that you can re-program your mind toward positivity by simply thinking of 3 things a day you are grateful for, and do that practice for 21 days.  I’m a slower learner, I need the shock therapy to my heart –  40 days gives me that gift.

What I have learned over the several years of doing this seasonal practice 40 days before Thanksgiving is that my entire daily attitude shifts over the course of those days.  Yes, I am usually grateful year around, but I’m the first to admit, there are simply times I fall far short in that category, and slip into what my mom would call “pity parties”.  I say that not as an excuse, but a confession.  I need more gratitude in my life.  I need more AWARENESS in my life.  I need to praise God more often for wonderful blessings – most particularly for His mercy and grace.  Since November has some challenging anniversary dates – and at least one blessed anniversary date in it, this practice helps me to gain perspective.

In the early days, I am not alert to specific items for which I am grateful.  Those first few days are often the “discipline” part.  I do it because I know it is the right thing for me to do.  I watch, i observe life – not just my life – but life in general.  I observe the life of others, of loved ones, of those going through hard times, and those who appear to have all their blessings like ducks in a row.

As the 40 days continue, I find myself increasingly aware of the blessings in my life – even when some of those blessings are trials.  I find myself so aware some days, that there is a list of multiple items in my journal which could be listed as today’s gratitude.  If I post on FB, I pick just one to share with others.   And I happily enjoy the blessings gained of my friends posting what they are grateful to have or experience in their life.

As I near the end of the 40 days and come to Thanksgiving as the day after the seasonal practice ends, I find that the day is wonderful.  Not in the sense of the traditional holiday, big meal, and all the “stuff” or a house overflowing with extended family or friends.  Those things are rare for us.  It is a wonderful day because I realize how different my attitude and heart have become as I look back over this year’s 40 day gratitude journal.

If you have never done this, or haven’t started yet this year, it is not too late.  Start to practice the presence of gratitude and as my mother used to sing “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”.

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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