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Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

I hope you were able to celebrate the true meaning of Easter today. We love the Easter bunny (especially the chocolate kind), egg hunts, jelly beans, family dinners and baskets filled with goodies…but Easter isn’t really about those things.

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Pastor Don McGarvey, Troy Mills Christian Church

Easter is about our risen Savior Jesus Christ who was crucified, buried, and raised to new life. My husband preached a great sermon this morning (yes – I’m biased) on the Odds of Easter.

He related the story of Dylan McWilliams who, in three separate incidents in three separate years, survived a rattlesnake bite, a bear attack and a shark attack. Some math geek somewhere figured the odds of all three incidents happening to one man is 893.35 quadrillion to one. In case you don’t know, a quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeroes….it looks like 1,000,000,000,000,000.

By comparison, The odds of being struck by lightning is 1 in 5,000; the odds of being bitten by a venomous snake in the U.S. is estimated at 1 in 37,500; attacked by a shark, 1 in 11.5 million and attacked by a bear, 1 in 2.1 million. Some say Dylan was a very unlucky guy. If I believed in luck (I don’t), I’d say Dylan was a very LUCKY guy.  He told a British reporter that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But compare Dylan’s adventure to the odds of Easter. The Old Testament is full of prophecies concerning Jesus…his crucifixion (Isaiah 53:6, 10), his scourging (Isaiah 50:6), the piercing of his hands and feet (Psalm 22:16); the piercing of his side (Zechariah 12:10), the disfigurement of his appearance (Isaiah 52:14); that none of his bones were broken (Exodus 12:46), his burial place (Isaiah 53:9) and his resurrection (Psalm 30:3). The odds that all eight of these prophecies would be fulfilled by one man in the course of three days are 1 in 10 to the 17th power…100,000,000,000,000,000. Unlucky? No – supernatural.

There are 48 prophecies concerning Jesus’ life in the Old Testament – and the odds of all 48 prophecies being fulfilled by one man, Jesus, are 1 in 10 to the 157th power. Too many zeroes for me to type out. A 1 followed by 157 zeroes!

e52ac01a-3514-4f75-b4b6-e5aca107a96bJesus, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, betrayed by his Judas, unjustly tried in a bogus court, scourged and crucified, buried in a borrowed tomb, but raised to life on Easter Sunday morning. He wasn’t a good man. He was God in flesh, sent to take our sins upon himself so that we would not have to bear them. It wasn’t luck or lack of luck. It was love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

 

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The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter can be spent in a frenzy of activity, scrambling to buy jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, baking hams and pies, scrubbing bathrooms, and laying perfect dinner tables.

Or maybe this day was spent in reflection, contemplating the hours the disciples mourned their rabbi, their Messiah, hiding in fear for their lives after watching an innocent Jesus crucified by the Roman soldiers.

Holy Saturday. Black Saturday. Joyous Saturday. The day of despair, hopeless, fearful, wondering “now what?” It is easy for us to skip over the importance of this day. We know the story. We know what’s ahead. Sunday’s coming. Easter will bring new life, our resurrected Savior.

But the disciples didn’t know. They heard what Jesus told of this time but how do you really prepare yourself for this day? Do you hope? Do you hide? Do you leave? Do you stay?

Did they trust? Did they believe the One who poured Himself out, teaching, praying, healing?

Maybe your life is currently sitting on a Black Saturday. Your dream seems dead. You’re fearful, hopeless, despairing. You grieve and hide, questioning “now what?”

Do you trust? Do you believe the One who poured Himself out for you? Stand firm and know – Your Easter is on the horizon.

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:18-19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.”

‭‭John‬ ‭16:20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

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Have you ever considered what you would do if you knew you only had one day to live? Would you celebrate all the blessings in your life with those you love? Would you call people to ask forgiveness for any offense or hurt from the past? Would you care what people thought of you? Would you eat your favorite meal? Would you take a hot air balloon ride or zip line adventure or sky dive? Would you sit peacefully waiting for the end to come?

One of my favorite songwriters is Ben Rector. He recorded a song called “Like the World is Going to End,” addressing some of these questions.

If we found out that the world 
was gonna end on Tuesday morning
What would everybody do
It’s funny how the thought of that 
can make something real important
And a lot of things pretty worthless too

The lyrics are poignant, the tune is catchy, but the thoughts I’ve had since first listening to it a few years ago have stayed with me. Read the lyrics of the final chorus:

‘Cause I’d be dancin’ like a fool
I’d eat ice cream every mornin’
I’d call up everyone I loved
And drive them out to California
And we’d say the things 
that we’ve been scared to death to say till then
Now that I think about it
Maybe we should always live like the world is gonna end

Today is Maundy Thursday. It signifies the last 24 hours of the life of Jesus. What did He do?  No big meal – just wine and bread.  No apologizing for wrongs done – He had no sin. No selfish adventures – he served and prayed and forgave. He ate one last meal – with those He loved but knew would abandon Him and the one person He knew would betray Him.

Bob_Goff_Maundy_Thursday

On Maundy Thursday Jesus knew He was headed to a painful, gruesome death. He knew He would be abandoned by friends and forsaken by His Father, yet He chose it anyway. He chose US anyway. Maundy Thursday – our opportunity to receive what Jesus offered on his last day. My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee provided this graphic to help visualize all that Jesus did for us BEFORE the cross. On his last night. At his last meal. With his betrayer.

On His Last Night

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Trail through woodsMy top 10 list of things to do this time of year:

10) Clean out my closet. I’m so tired of sweaters. Though I could wear boots year-round, I am looking forward to wearing sandals, or at least no socks! Now is a great time to sort through those clothes and shoes you didn’t wear over the long winter and donate to Salvation Army. Or make a little extra money by using Stuff Etc. Beware though – your consignment items need to be in very, very good condition to be accepted.

9) Trying a new restaurant. I enjoy going to new places any time of year, but there is something about spring that gives me extra bravery to try a different cuisine. I’m still waiting to try good Thai or Indian food. I do have someone who’s willing to go with me, so I just need to set the date.

8) Clean my windows. I actually enjoy cleaning my house windows, inside and out, when the weather is nice, and I can open everything up. Feels like a fresh start.

7) Move the furniture around. Another fresh start. Just don’t do it right before going to bed because you may end up stubbing your toes on the couch in the middle of the night. “Who moved that there?” I have some new furniture than only fits a certain way in my living room, so I’m going to have be extra creative this year.

6) Re-connecting with friends. The winter was treacherous. Lots of ice and snow kept most of us inside unless we absolutely had to go out. But now that that yucky stuff is gone, time to make some coffee dates with friends I haven’t seen since late fall. I may not be drinking caffeine, but most coffee shops offer herbal alternatives. And scones.

 

5) Fresh music playlist. I’ve listened to the same playlist all winter so time to change it up. Spotify makes it very easy to find whatever I want to listen to and create a playlist that I can access any time. Made a Lenten worship one the other day and loving it.EFY_2015_1

4) Running. I do not run in the winter. I’m old enough that recovery from a fall on ice or snow would be long and arduous, but come spring time, I’m ready to hit the trails again. I upload my C25K app (again) and start fresh with Day 1. Doesn’t take too long to get back into the swing of it. “You don’t need to go fast, you just need to go.”

3) Baseball is back. Cubs fan. That is all.

2) Long walks outside. I walk every day. If the weather is lousy, I walk during my lunch hour within my block-long office building or I hit the downtown sky walk system. If I include a parking deck or two, I can get three miles in over the hour. But once spring weather comes in, I love walking outside. The new playlist in my earbuds, my comfy boots or shoes, an occasionally muddy spot, blue skies, gentle (or blustery) breezes…recharges my battery and lifts my moody. Every time.

1) Easter. I don’t decorate in pastels, and bunnies, and eggs. Well, truthfully, I don’t decorate in much of anything, but for me Easter isn’t about all of that. Easter is THE holiday in my life. I take this time of year to reflect on the magnitude of this great thing – Christ Jesus gave His life on a brutal cross to take my sin so I could have eternity with Him in heaven. Easter isn’t just about the cross – it’s also about the tomb. He died for us, yet He rose again, victorious over sin and darkness. That is why Easter is so important…why it’s number one on my list.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

He Is Risen

Happy Spring! Happy Easter!

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I may have taken on more than I should. Lent is traditionally a time to let go of some things so you have more time to spend meditating or thinking about the final days leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Normally I pick something  hard to let go of…and that is certainly the case this year. I have decided to fast caffeine until Easter. That’s 46 days if you’re counting. I am. And I just took a pill for the headache that has already started.

No_Caffeine

But not only have I decided to give up caffeine, I have taken on a few other disciplines. I’m participating in a 40-day Bible study with other women from our church on the Final Days of Jesus. It’s basically a daily endeavor incorporating prayer, praise, Scripture study, reflection and sabbath. I’ve also decided to send out a encouraging card to someone every day…40 cards. And, of course, I said I’d blog every day. My normal routine continues so the plates are spinning but I’m not looking for a medal for “Greatest Christian Woman Ever.” I just want to explore some new ways of experiencing Lent – both with new people and with renewed focus on Jesus.

While many decorate their homes with bunnies and eggs, most Christians contemplate Easter’s true message – the love our Savior Jesus had for each of us…so much love He sacrificed Himself to save us from the wages of our sin. Good Friday is the day of Christ’s death but Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God!

And this is the last you’ll hear of my caffeine fast.

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12

 

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Holidays are more than dates on a calendar. They are usually markers on a memory timeline and most families have at least one tradition for each major holiday. With Easter Sunday less than a week away, you have time to create a new memory, a special new tradition, to mark this very unique holiday.

Some families research and observe some or all of Holy Week, the eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. You can google any one of the days of the week and find the unique observances surrounding each one. For instance, did you know that the Wednesday of Holy Week is often called “Spy Wednesday?” This day is observed by many Eastern Orthodox believers as the day Jesus was visiting Simon at his home in Bethany. While there, Mary anointed Jesus’ head and feet with costly perfume. Jesus’ disciples were indignant at the waste of money. Tradition says this was when Judas Iscariot decided to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:1-10).

Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. The word “maundy” is Latin and refers to the part of the evening when Jesus’ washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). The night concludes with a meal, which provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist or Last Supper (Luke 22:7-23).

Good Friday always seemed a misnomer to me. It is the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary (Matthew 27). In many areas of the world it is a legal holiday, including 12 U.S. states. Why is it called “good?” There are disagreements about the exact meaning, but many believe the “good” simply meant “pious” or “holy.”

Johnny Hart, Good Friday 2

Most Protestants don’t observe it, but Catholics often refer to the next day of the week as “Black Saturday.” There are unique traditions for both western and eastern Christian religions for this day.

Of course, the celebrations abound on Easter, beginning with sunrise services in many churches. New clothes, egg hunts, baskets filled with gifts and candy, joyful hymns declaring Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead! (Matthew 28:1-15)

What a great season to start a new tradition in your family. Observe a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service in a different church than what you are used to…Give Easter baskets to a women’s shelter or orphanage…send Easter cards to servicemen and women…Read the scriptural accounts of Holy Week to your kids, celebrating each day as Jesus may have…Have a foot-washing service with your small group…Participate in communion on Thursday night.

Enjoy this spring time holiday as you never have before ~ create something fresh and new or resurrect a family tradition from your own past. Either way, make a memory to last a lifetime.

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I like sweets. I don’t think I’m addicted to them but I really, really like them. I have a candy dish on my desk at work which contains a variety of hard candies. I find myself sucking on a butterscotch or cinnamon candy disk a couple of times a day…probably more from habit than need. I also like my friend Ellie’s desserts. Recently she made this awesome Snickers peanut butter brownie cake that was amazing…and I’m pretty sure I ate most of it. So for Lent I’m choosing to give up white sugar (and products) and candy.  I’m not Catholic and I don’t have any affiliation with a denomination which observes fasting as part of their Lenten practices. But I am fasting for the next 40 days. But one day into my fast, I’m feeling a little bit guilty. No – I didn’t cheat. No midnight candy binges. No intense cravings for chocolate. But how much of a sacrifice am I really making? And what is the point?

Fasting for Lent

Traditionally the purpose of Lent is a time of preparation.  Through prayer, penance, repentance, alms giving, atonement and self-denial, a believer prepares himself for the observance of Holy Week and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.

There is really nothing theologically that I disagree with in regards to preparing myself for the greatest day on any Christian’s calendar. Instead of the over-indulgence of the Christmas season, the pre-Easter season of Lent concentrates on self-denial, giving up for 40 days what I may feel is important or essential to my life.

I’ve never really spent much time pondering all the ramifications but this year I felt led to “give up” something. The more I think about this, the more silly I find it. I seriously believe that white sugar and candy are essential?

Honestly, I probably chose as I did because it was very doable and not very tough.  I could have chosen coffee but egads! That would have really hurt. I could have chosen meat (like my Catholic elementary school friends had to) but, you know, I really like meat. And though I enjoy fish and eggs, 40 days is a long time without a hamburger, or spaghetti, or chicken enchiladas.

I’m so thankful Jesus was willing to sacrifice the really tough stuff – HIS LIFE – for me. Makes my choices seem pretty silly in comparison. While I turn my nose up to cupcakes, fudge, cookies and Dove chocolates, Jesus turned himself over to crowds who jeer him, guards who beat him and soldiers/politicians who nail His hands and feet to a cross and kill him. Jesus chose death so that I could choose to fast candy. I’m pathetic.

So one day into my fast I’ve made a decision. I’m going to keep my commitment but I’m also going to spend more time with the other aspects of Lent – the prayer, alms giving, and repentance parts. It’s the very least I can do.

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