{re}fresh

Tag: Resurrection

Measured by God

by juste buzas

Worship
by spaceamobea
Flickr.com_1515437636_ce7442adf1_CC BY-ND 2.0

“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

Early one morning, while on my knees in prayer, I asked the Lord to expand me.  I prayed that He would broaden my capacity to hold Him…to know Him.  I asked for increase in my ability to minister His love and life to others.

In response to my heartfelt cry, God answered, “Let me measure you, My daughter.”

I lifted my arms.  In the Spirit, I saw a cloak arranged and placed upon my shoulders.  I saw a tailor’s measuring tape placed and stretched.  I doubted and dropped my arms. Read the rest of this entry »

God Isn’t into Nostalgia

by Mike McKinniss

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“Nostalgia Gums” by Effie Yang under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I am, sadly, beginning to encroach upon the age in which nostalgia becomes a real and powerful state of being. That is to say, my hindsight, far from being 20/20, is actually getting worse. I no longer see the rough edges of my youth, only soft and blissfully blurry lines. What’s worse, I don’t think I’d want the corrective lenses necessary to spot the warts of yesteryear.

And like my father before me, and his father before him, I’m prone to decrying the present in favor of the past. If only today could be more like yesterday, I lament. Where did we go wrong? Oh, God! Bring back yesterday!

But in my nostalgic folly, I’ve forgotten two important things.

One: Every age has its problems and n0thing has ever been perfect.

Two: God is not interested in turning back the clock. He moves ever forward.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Lord is a restorer. He redeems the lost. It is a great theme of the biblical story—perhaps the theme—that something pristine has been lost on this earth and the Creator has been relentlessly working to restore it.

But when God restores, he does not simply return things to the way they once were, but he resurrects to greater glory than had ever before been.

Consider, for example, the resurrected Jesus. Prior to his death, we are given no indication that his bodily existence was anything unlike our own. He ate and slept and rejoiced and wept. He was sinless, of course, and the Holy Spirit settled on him at his baptism. But he was completely human, like you and me. Prior to his death, Jesus’ body was very much like our own.

But upon his resurrection, Jesus was restored by God. He was dead, his life lost, yet God the Father acted on his behalf to give him back what had been lost on the cross. But God does not simply give back what is lost.  Jesus’ body is given back to him better than ever.

The gospels, in their tellings of the story, give odd hints at the difference between Jesus’ life pre-crucifixion and his resurrected body. Jesus is unrecognizable to people who had known him for years (Luke 24:13-35; John 20:11-18). He somehow appears physically behind locked doors (John 20:19). Somehow, in bizarre ways, the resurrected Jesus is not like the first edition.

Paul reflects on this resurrection reality more fully in several places. One such place—in fact his greatest treatise on the resurrection—is in 1 Corinthians 15. There he writes of the resurrection body the Lord restored to Jesus and will also one day give to all the faithful,

So it is with the resurrection of the dead: Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:42-44).

Do you long for something lost? Do you pine for a time things seemed perfect? Here’s some good news: The Lord is a restorer. What’s more, he’s not satisfied with simply turning back the clock. He’s interested in a resurrection beyond anything we’d ever thought to ask or even imagine.

The Empty Suitcase

by Dawn Aldrich

 Sharing stories gives voice to the silent ones locked deep within another soul. When we step aside and let the Holy Spirit use our words to unlock those stories, we bring God’s encouragement, healing, vision, and transformation that can change a life, a family, a community, the world. 

My friend, Lynne, has a story to tell: 

Somehow I did not expect God to touch my heart so deeply “at just another Easter service,” but  he did.

When Pastor Wes spoke of the empty tomb, I expected to hear that old familiar story. But, God surprised me. Oh, the story never changes, but my perspective transformed on Easter Sunday. In the reading of Jesus’ resurrection story, Pastor Wes pointed out that the stone was rolled away to let us see Jesus was gone, but also to let us in to see the real miracle.  Yes, Jesus’ body was gone (raised from the dead) leaving the tomb obviously empty, but continuing, he reminded us that all sin was gone.  Sin did not hold Jesus in the grave.  Halleluiah!  And because of His sacrifice all of our sins are not only forgiven, but gone.  The tomb is open.  All sin is gone.

I know you are asking…so what does this have to do with the title, The Empty Suitcase?  Well, I realized that I have been carrying around a suitcase packed full of my sins.  Over the years it has gotten heavier and heavier and heavier.

baggage

Oh, certainly I have sought and received God’s forgiveness, but then I repacked my suitcase with those same sins; all covered by the blood of Jesus and ready for my trip to heaven.   I thought they were all secure in the suitcase, but it was as if they were seeping out to remind me of my failures.  Making me feel unworthy of God’s love or anyone’s acceptance.

Then God said, “Open up the suitcase, Lynne.”  And in my mind I did just that and guess what I found? It was empty!

suitcase

The true reality of forgiven sin took my breath away.  My sins are gone.  No more.  So why do I allow them to tear me apart with guilt and shame?  After pondering this revelation, I closed that suitcase and kicked it to the cellar.  I have no use for it anymore.  Once forgiven, my sin and yours disappears – gone.  Will I remember my sins?  Oh yes, but rather than feeling guilt and shame,  my heart is filled with love and thanksgiving to my Lord Jesus Christ for his great grace and sacrifice.

I hope you are not carrying around a heavy, sin-packed,  seeping suitcase.  I pray that you know the fullness of forgiven sin and the reality of the empty tomb {and an empty suitcase}.

Blessings,

Lynne

About Lynne Bowen: Lynne is a generous friend, devoted mother, grandmother and  follower of Christ living in New England. She loves teaching young and old alike about God’s saving graces. She enjoys playing piano and solving jigsaw puzzles.

Out With The Old, In With The New

by Rob Dunne

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Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24

Two years ago, my wife Kellie and I planted a few sunflower seeds in the front of our condo. Thinking I was going to work up a sweat digging into the ground, I was disappointed to learn that they only required an inch or two of soil to grow. Adding fertilizer in the early stages provided them with strong roots. Blazing sunlight that would ordinarily scorch a flower was just right for the appropriately named sunflowers. Daily watering also nourished the flowers and allowed them to grow tall. The death of the seed allowed the flower to come to life.

Like growing sunflowers, things in God’s economy occur in stages. In Genesis, God interacts with a man named Abram. He tells Abram to leave his family and travel to a land that He will show him. Over several years, God reveals His plans to Abram. Ultimately, God changes his name from Abram to Abraham. God then discloses that Abraham will be the father of many nations. The life and death of Jesus Christ ultimately fulfilled this promise.

Every person ever born bears the mark of original sin committed by Adam and Eve. Jesus, however, was conceived by the Holy Spirit. As a result, He was born free from that original sin. He lived a perfect, sinless life and fulfilled all of the requirements of the Jewish law. Jesus took the punishment for our sins and shed His blood to cover them. He was buried in a tomb and raised to new life. Like a sunflower seed, His death and resurrection transformed Jesus into new creation.

If our heart’s desire is to become more like Jesus, we must die to our former selves. Who we once were is symbolically buried. The Word of God fertilizes the soil of our hearts, giving us strong roots. The light of God’s love causes darkness to flee and nourishes our souls. Jesus the living water sustains us and helps us grow tall in our faith. These things bring incredible transformation to our lives.

Father, I thank you that you love us too much to leave us alone. Your heart’s desire is to mold and shape us into the image of your Son Jesus. Take away the fear of dying to self and give us a glimpse of the men and women you know we will become. As a loving gardener, remove the weeds in our lives and feed us with the wisdom of your Word. Like a sunflower, help us to stand tall in our faith so that the world will see all of the amazing things you have done in and through us. Amen.

The Eighth Day

by Mike McKinniss

In John’s account of the resurrection, he is very clear about just when Jesus emerged from the grave.  “On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark” (Jn 20:1a).  In case the reader did not catch it, the point is reiterated later in the chapter.  “In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews” (v. 19a).

Why is it so important to John to be sure we know that Jesus was raised on a Sunday?

The clue is in the opening words of the gospel: “In the beginning…”  This is the most famous opening line to any piece of literature and it launches two epic tales.  The first is the creation account in Genesis, in which the Creator dives into a whirlwind of activity ordering the cosmos, separating light and dark, sky and water, earth and sea, and filling those environments with the creatures that ought to govern them.  In that inaugural narrative, the author marks the very dawn of time.

Here, at the threshold of another epochal era, John gives his readers a scintillating hint at the story he’s about to tell.  The story of Jesus is also a creation story.  Throughout John’s account, then, he highlights a series of events–seven of them (wink, wink)–as signs of the Creator’s activity working through the hands of Jesus.  Water is turned to wine (Jn 2:1-11); a crippled man rises to walk (Jn 5:1-18); Lazarus is raised from the tomb (Jn 11:1-45).

Now John describes one final creative act and he emphasizes its significance by telling his audience the day on which it happened.  Jesus was raised on the first day, or rather, the eighth day.  This event, John says, marks a new creation.  A fresh set of seven days has begun with this empty grave.

And so it has been with every sunrise since that inaugural Sunday.  Side by side with the old ways of death and disease and brokenness has marched, steadily though quietly, a second reality of light and life, of healing and wholeness.  Although this new more glorious creation is often drowned out by the cacophony of the old bent world, it is no less real and certainly no less powerful.

When you awake tomorrow, remember this: you have opened your eyes in a new creation.  The old is washed away; the new has come.  Look for it and you’ll see it.

To learn more about Mike, please visit our Contributor’s page.

What Would You Pray?

by Dawn Aldrich

Gethsemane“…he looked toward heaven and prayed…” John 17:1

There’s no turning back the clock. Your time on earth is running short and you know it. You’ve said all your good-byes. What would you pray for? 

Not knowing for sure what lies beyond life’s veil drives us to hold on as long as possible to the only life we know and the people we love most. Pain sometimes pushes the dying to wish for relief but sadness always accompanies their departure. 

Jesus knew life from both sides-heaven and earth-life with Creator Father and life with the created and he loved both. In his last hours Jesus retreated with his  twelve disciples to a quiet spot in Gethsemane asking his closest friends, Peter, James and John to accompany him while he prayed. 

Like us, he feared his inevitable death-the agonizing sacrifice on Calvary’s cross-begging Father God for another way. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…”(Luke 22:42). Yet, being God’s Son, he continued “yet not my will, but yours be done.” 

After Jesus gathers strength by the ministering angel, his prayer shifts:

Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to those you have given him

This is Jesus’ purpose: to freely offer all humanity eternal life.

And what is eternal life? “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

God’s greater purpose, to redeem His Creation and set His kingdom right was Jesus’ sole purpose for living and dying. Faced with the hardest choice of his ministry, Jesus chose the Father’s will for the sake of humanity-that we would know the Creator Father like he knew Him. 

For those of us who know the saving grace of Jesus, who know the Father like Jesus does, shouldn’t our daily prayer be that of Jesus’ dying prayer? Shouldn’t we pray that those we love and invest our lives come to know the only true God and his Son, Jesus because of how we live?

And when we find ourselves ready, at the end of our days we too may finish our prayer like Jesus: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).

Dear Jesus,

How we thank you today for your sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. Because of your unselfish love, we are able to call God our Abba, our heavenly Father and truly know Him like you do. Thank you.  May we, too, love others-those you’ve entrusted to our care-like you love us. May we glorify our Father God in our daily lives and in so doing, shine your light into their darkness and draw them to you that they may know eternal life. Amen.

(To learn more about Dawn or visit her personal blog, please visit our Contributors page).

Faith’s Vindication

by Mike McKinniss

emptytomb[1]Let those who desire my vindication shout for joy and be glad, and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant” (Psalm 35:27, NRSV).

There are probably a few crazies out there, who, like me, fixate on words.  My more outgoing friends are fascinated by the interrelations between other people–how one personality interacts with another and another and another, creating intricate webs of fluid society.

Interesting, no doubt.  My excitement, however, is aroused at the conversations between words on a page.  I find inexplicable pleasure from a well crafted sentence.  (It took me days to get over Steinbeck’s opening sentence in Travels with Charley: “When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch.”)

Although a word, like a person, is most fully a word in community, it needn’t be in relationship to be admired.  Ogle supermodels, if you like; I have been caught obsessing over a single word striking a pose on a plain white sheet: the balance or imbalance of the ascenders and descenders (the upward climb of the d and the downward fall of the p), the feel of the word in my mouth, its etymological back story, and most of all the latent range of meanings and the infinite conceptual possibilities they present.

The current case study in my psychosis is vindication.  The word has occupied my brain and infiltrated my regular vocabulary for the better part of half a decade now.  What is it?  Put simply, vindication is the state of having been proven correct.  It is the rightful overturning of a guilty verdict.  Some confuse vindication with victory against long odds.  True vindication requires, actually, failure.  And then it requires a third party to elevate the defeated to triumph.  In short, vindication is resurrection.

The summation of Jesus’ life and message may be found in Mark 1:15.  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news!”  Everything Jesus said and did every day was intended to demonstrate, to prove, the truth of this proclamation.  The glorious kingdom of God, in which the entirety of creation would be reconciled and restored to its hijacked glory, was taking shape right before the throngs who came to hear and see what this Galilean was doing.  The Creator was making all things new, and it was all happening, according to Jesus’ declarations, in and through himself.

Others had made similar declarations around the same time that Jesus had.  In each of the generations preceding and following Jesus, men had risen to announce that the Lord was working through them to restore the people of God.  Yet each of their lives ended violently as tragic proof that they were not, in fact, God’s chosen vessels of restoration.  Everyone knew: The Lord’s agents of redemption do not die in the attempt.

So it was, it seemed, at Jesus’ crucifixion.  It did not have to be written.  An interpreter did not have to stand at the foot of the cross to inform the people.  The Jews of Jerusalem knew what Jesus’ death meant.  However wonderful his words, however miraculous his deeds, however the extent of his compassion, the crucifixion announced the failure of Jesus’ proposed program for redeeming creation.

Indeed, this would have been the lesson to learn from the life of Jesus for all time had the Creator not intervened, for the resurrection is God’s final stamp of approval on all that Jesus had said and done.  The empty tomb is the Lord’s affirmation of Jesus’ project.  This is God saying to all the world, “This is precisely how the world is remade.  This is exactly how I have intended to make all things right.”  Moreover, the resurrection is the vindication of Jesus’ faith in his Father.

It’s a beautiful word, vindication.  This Easter, I am happy it is a vital part of God’s vocabulary, as the Lord’s vocal response to a life of faith.  And if the printed word is unbalanced, with no descenders, it is altogether proper, since vindication always concludes with elevation and since vindication, by definition, is always the last word.

(To learn more about Mike, please visit our Contributors page).

Eternity with the Bridegroom

by Rob Dunne

BrideofChrist“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

A few years ago, I attended a debate between an apologist and an atheist. Due to my bias, it is difficult to say who won. One of the things that stood out for me was the atheist’s lack of hope. For him, death signified the end of existence. Our bodies are placed in a wooden box that is lowered into the ground where worms and time destroy what was once our earthly habitation. How sad.

Similarly, the Sadducees of Jesus’ day did not believe in life after death, either. Rather, they believed that when the body ceased to exist, the flame of the spirit was extinguished also. In Matthew 22:31-33, Jesus confronted their belief system saying, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” This glorious statement confirms that there is life after death and that we will spend eternity with God.

In John 17, Jesus informs us that He came to give us eternal life. What does that mean exactly? In verse 3, He says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Eternity is a level of intimacy with God that we cannot comprehend. As a newly married man, I know that I am barely scratching the surface when it comes to knowing and understanding my wife. That being said, I know so much more about her now than I did when we first started dating. Each of us, however, brings different levels of brokenness to the relationship that interferes with our ability to know everything about one another.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the Bridegroom and His followers as the Bride of Christ. Some day in the not too distant future, there will be a wedding between the two. That day will usher in the establishment of the most beautiful and intimate relationship the world has ever experienced.

In a few weeks, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus that made eternity possible for us. During your quiet time, ask Jesus to begin revealing Himself to you as the Bridegroom who died so that His bride might live forever. I guarantee He will give you a foretaste of the intimacy that awaits us in eternity.

(To learn more about Rob Dunne, please visit our Contributors Page)

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