IN THE MIDST OF US

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John 20:19-25

Every day 35,000 children under the age of 5 die. They die because they do not have enough water, basic medical care, and food. Most of these children could be saved on any day with just a tiny portion of what we spend on the military, entertainment or pork barrels. What do we do in the face of such a grim statistic? 35,000 children? What we usually do is to tune out, to willfully distract ourselves to more pleasant information. After all, what can one person do? Easter is a source of hope, a means of confronting the evils of this world because Easter says that it is not all up to us.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Where have all of these disciples been? At the foot of the cross I find only Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James, Mary, mother of Jesus, his aunt and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. Peter has already denied him three times and run away. But, where are the others? Now they all gather (except Thomas) in an upper room. And they are “afraid.” The Romans want to know how the body was taken from a guarded tomb. The Jewish leaders wonder how this conspiracy will end. And now the news is brought from Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and Salome, that He is alive!

Reading this passage one has to ask the question, “What is Jesus wanting the believers to learn?” Certainly there is the lingering question in the minds of all the believers, “Is He really alive?” And his appearance will certainly dispel all doubt. But there is something more here then just removing their doubts.

The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

We often think of the Holy Spirit in terms of coming at Pentecost but here, Jesus is breathing on them and granting them the Spirit. Part of our reminder is that God is always present. Matthew has Jesus saying to the believer, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The issue is the “omnipresence” of God. Jesus has just come back from the dead and will now prepare for His ascension into heaven. They now remember His words, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” (John 14:18)

It is difficult for us to understand an omnipresent God. The Christ candle on the Advent wreath represents the omnipresence of God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Why? Because He is God. We want to treat God like we treat the Advent candles. When it is over, we box them up and put them away. But the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God. You may be waiting for Pentecost to come but the Father is still in our presence.

Prayer is not “going to God” for God is already here. We say we are “seeking God” but God has already found us. We say we want to “open ourselves to God” but the truth is we couldn’t keep God out if we tried. We say we are “becoming more spiritual” but we already have the spirit.

I went flying a kite was a friend a few weeks ago. We had two kites – one with two strings and one with one string. We discovered that the more weight that we put on the tails of the kites the higher they would fly. Isn’t that odd?
The more weight the higher they would fly. But I also discovered that I could control the kite with one string better than the kite with two strings. Now, it wasn’t designed that way. The two strings were supposed to give better control. But I was always getting them tangled. Always unable to operate two hands independently.

Maybe that is the way it should be with God. One line of control, allowing God to control our lives. We, like the disciples live in fear that God has forgotten about us. Somewhere we have boxed Him up and put Him away.
Understand, God is always with us.

House in Order

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Isaiah 38:1-5

Men who climb mountains are referred to as “Mountain Men.” It is estimated there are some 60,000 serious mountain climbers in the United States. But in the upper escutcheon of serious climbers is a small elite group, known as “hard men.” For them, climbing mountains and scaling sheer rock faces is a way of life. In many cases climbing is part of their whole commitment to life. Their ultimate experience is called free soloing. Climbing with no equipment and no safety ropes. John Baker is considered by many to be the best of the hard men. He has free soloed some of the most difficult rock faces in the United States with no ropes or any safety equipment of any kind. His skill has not come easily. It has been acquired through commitment, dedication, and training. His own wife says she cannot believe his dedication. When John isn’t climbing, he is often to be found in his California home hanging by his fingertips to strengthen his arms and hands.

Where are the hard men and women for Jesus? Where are those who will bring all of their energies to bear for the sake of Christ. As he walked to the screen door the mailman saw a small boy practicing the piano. The mailman tapped on the screen and asked, “Is your mom at home?” The boy never looked up from the piano, but said, “What do you think?”

Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah went to him and said, “Put your house in order because you are going to die.” PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER! In the Old Testament, to put your house in order was always a preparation for death. We still hear it used that way today, when the doctor comes in and says, “Get your affairs in order.” In the New Testament, to put our house in order was a spiritual quest.

How does one put his or her house/life in order? Joshua said to the people “…as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” For Joshua, to have your house in order was to put God first. Putting our lives in order must always begin with putting God first. If God isn’t first then the foundation isn’t strong. (Matt 7:24-27) “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Paul writes about leaders in the Church. Certainly to be a leader certain standards are to be set since that person would influence many of individuals. But there is a theme that emerges from all of these standards to be an overseer in the Church. They are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. What is that theme? Self Control!

Obedience! Judg 2:17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. 1 Sam 15:22 Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Self control is a big issue in scripture. The control of our desires and of our lives. Just because we feel like doing something doesn’t make it right. That is the beginning of wisdom and satisfaction.

“Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” Hezekiah is saying, “My house is in order.” And God says, “you are right.” “Go and tell Hezekiah, I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.”

The fifth commandment “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you,” implies that the benefit for being obedient to our parents is a long life. In scripture, especially the Old Testament, one of the rewards for faithfulness and obedience to God’s word, was longevity of life. Why should this surprise us? Research shows that people who are happy live longer than those who are not happy. Happy in our marriages. Happy having a pet. Or happy because of a prayer life with our Heavenly Father.

Hospitality: God’s Whisper

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Hebrews 13:1-3

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are mistreated as if you were suffering.

A stranger came to church, and the minister was pleased to see him come forward to sit in one of the empty seats. Afterwards he greeted the newcomer and said, “I’m glad you felt free to sit well forward, even though you are a visitor.” Well,” said the man, “I’m a bus driver, and I just wanted to see if I could learn how you can get everyone to the rear all the time.”

A university professor from Salt Lake City conducted an experiment at Christmas time a few years ago. He randomly selected six hundred names from telephone directories from several major cities and sent Christmas cards to each of them. His return address was included on the card and he received an amazing one hundred and seventeen responses from the six hundred cards sent to perfect strangers. One replied, “I just got out of the hospital, and how good it was to hear from a long-time, wonderful friend!” — Must have had amnesia! Another said, “We had difficulty at first remembering who you were, but after some thought, we remembered. Please give our love to your father. He is a wonderful man.” — What creative memories! One reply was unexpected: “It was really great to hear from you again. We will be in Salt Lake City this summer, and if you have a spare room, we would like to stay with you two or three days! — What else are real friends for?

It is no wonder that in 15 years of asking high school students throughout America whether, in an emergency situation, they would save their dog or a stranger first, most students answered that they would not save the stranger. “I love my dog, I don’t love the stranger,” they always say. The feeling of love has supplanted God or religious principle as the moral guide for young people. What is right has been redefined in terms of what an individual feels.

Today we teach our children not to speak to strangers. We don’t like making eye contact because we may be considered weird or odd or they may ask us for a favor. A young farm girl was out milking the family cow when a stranger approached the house and asked to speak with the girl’s mother. The girl called for her mother and yelled, “There’s a man here to see you.” The mother hollered back, “Haven’t I told you not to talk with strangers? Get in this house right now.” The girl shouted, “But Momma, this man says he’s with the census.” The mother then stepped onto the porch and said, “In that case, bring the cow in with you.”

In biblical times it was believed to be a sacred duty to receive, feed, lodge, and protect any traveler who might stop at one’s door. The stranger was treated as a guest, and men who had thus eaten together were bound to each other by the strongest ties of friendship, which descended to their heirs and was confirmed by mutual presents. Hospitality was a religious duty for the Greeks as well as for the Hebrews, who were enjoined by the law of Moses (Lev 19:34). The present practice of the Arabs is still similar to ancient Hebrew hospitality. A traveler may sit at the door of a perfect stranger and smoke his pipe until the master welcomes him with an evening meal, may tarry a limited number of days without inquiry as to his purposes, and may then depart with a simple “God be with you.”

Two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom–both young and old–surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ What was the rich man’s sin?

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. In the bible the “stranger” is someone who is outside our community. The stranger is someone unknown to us.
The stranger is someone different from us. The Old Testament often called them “aliens” because they were unlike us.

To “welcome” a stranger was to become friends. To no longer be a stranger meant to get to know the person and make them a friend. Fundamentally the person hasn’t changed – they may still be different or unlike us, but now we understand them. We become “friends” when we feel at home! To “welcome” someone who is a stranger doesn’t mean politeness or distant charity, but means to make them a part of the family. We are not talking about giving money, we are talking about a relationship.

Congregations often put “welcome” signs out without changing anything and then wonder why “strangers” don’t join. The issue isn’t tolerance as much as welcoming strangers as an act of affirmation prior to any judgment about them. Matthew suggest that Jesus identified himself with these strangers. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

Who are the strangers in our midst? Racial and ethnic minorities. Migrant workers. People with different sexual orientation. Persons of other faiths.
People of a different class. Jesus replied: “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

…he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers.
They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Power Of The Holy Spirit

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John 18:4-9

In his drama “The Trial of Jesus”, John Masefield has the centurion Longinus report to Pilate after the crucifixion of Jesus. Longinus had been the officer in charge of the execution, and after his official report, Pilate’s wife calls the centurion to come and tell her how the prisoner had died. Once the account is given, she asks, “Do you think he is dead?” Longinus answers, “No, Lady, I don’t.” “Then where is he?” asks Procula, to which Longinus replies, “Let loose in the world, Lady, where neither Roman nor Jew can stop his truth.”

The Christ we serve is alive and living in us! Kierkegaard was once asked what the greatest miracle in scripture was? The questioner was expecting to hear “walking on water”, healing the blind, etc. Kierkegaard’s response was, “That God loves us.”

Matt 28:20 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Dr. Paul Brand was speaking to a medical college in India on “Let your light so shine before men that they may behold your good works and glorify your Father.” In front of the lectern was an oil lamp with its cotton wick burning from the shallow dish of oil. As he preached, the lamp ran out of oil, the wick burned dry, and the smoke made him cough. He immediately used the opportunity. “Some of us here are like this wick,” he said. “We’re trying to shine for the glory of God, but we stink. That’s what happens when we use ourselves as the fuel of our witness rather than the Holy Spirit. Wicks can last indefinitely, burning brightly and without irritating smoke, if the fuel, the Holy Spirit, is in constant supply.”

When Jesus said, “I am he,” in the Biblical story, the Bible says they (Disciples) drew back and fell to the ground. None of the other evangelists (Matthew, Mark & Luke) mentions this very important circumstance. Our Lord chose to give them this proof of his infinite power, that the solders might know their power could not prevail against him if he chose to exert his might. Satan cannot defeat Christ. The world cannot destroy Christ. However, Christ can allow Himself (God) to die for the world. At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish. (Job 4:9) Thus by the blast of God they might have perished, and by the breath of his nostrils they might have been consumed.

Pentecostals refer to this passage as being “slain in the Holy Spirit.” When Peter is on the rooftop in Joppa, he is slain by the Holy Spirit. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. (Acts 10:10) Paul is slain by the Holy Spirit in the temple in Jerusalem. “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance….(Acts 22:17) Being slain in the Holy Spirit is when the power and presence of God is so great that it overwhelms the physical body. Moses had been in the presence of God so many times that his face began to glow.
Moses started wearing a veil over his face to protect the people. Being in the presence of God changed Moses physically.

Do not pray for more of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity and is not in pieces. God is one! Every child of God has all of Him, but does He have all of us?

A strange event occurred on September 17, 1997 in Bologna, Italy. Bob Dylan sang and played for Pope John Paul II. The occasion was a religious congress for young people. It was a chance for the 77-year-old pontiff to spend time with young people. When he spoke to the crowd of 20,000 the Pope referred to a classic Dylan song: “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The Pope said the answer was indeed blowing in the wind, the wind that is the breath and life of the Holy Spirt. He answered the query of another Dylan song, “How many roads must a man walk before he becomes a man?” The pope said, “I answer you, ‘One! There is only one road for man and it is Christ who said, ‘I am the life.”

Think of it – the very presence of God, living inside each one of us! God who is omnipresence (everywhere), omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) and eternal lives in us. You and I don’t understand how this is possible. And the reality is that we don’t have to fully understand it, to benefit.

The seed planted in us at our baptism does several things: The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. The Holy Spirit speaks to us. The Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation. Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed, or it can be harnessed. The energy in ten gallons of gasoline, for instance, can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can. Or it can be channeled through the engine of a car in a controlled burn and used to transport a person 350 miles. Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have lasting effect, staying power. The Holy Spirit works both ways. At Pentecost, he exploded on the scene; his presence was like “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3). Thousands were affected by one burst of God’s power, but he also works through the church through this institution, God began to tap the Holy Spirit’s power for the long haul. Through worship, fellowship, and service, Christians are provided with staying power.

If you have the Spirit without the Word, you blow up. If you have the Word without the Spirit, you dry up. If you have both the Word and the Spirit, you grow up.

Developing Healthy Boundaries

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Psalm 16:5-6

An exasperated mother sent her naughty son to his room to discipline him. He stormed up to his room and defiantly hid under the bed. When the boy’s father got home, he went up to check on his wayward son. He entered the room but did not see the little guy. He wandered around the room for a moment and then looked under the bed. When he looked under the bed, he saw a couple of eyes looking out from under the bed. Then he heard his son’s voice: “Hi, Daddy. Is Mommy trying to get you, too?”

At times one hesitates to reprove or admonish evil-doers, either because one seeks a more favorable moment or fears the rebuke might make them worse, and further, discourage weak brethren from seeking to lead a good and holy life, or turn them aside from the faith. In such circumstances forbearance is not prompted by selfish considerations but by well advised charity. What is reprehensible, however, is that while leading good lives themselves and abhorring those of wicked men, some, fearing to offend, shut their eyes to evil deeds instead of condemning them and pointing out their malice.

We find the old saying is true, “It is better to build boys than to repair men.” Boundaries define us! In the physical world, boundaries are easy to see. Fences, hedges, signage, manicured lawns, walls, alligators, etc. They all give the same message, “this is where my property begins and ends.”

In our spiritual lives, boundaries are just as real, but often harder to see.
However, your spiritual boundaries define your soul. (Prov 4:23) Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Thomas Paine wrote, “Character is much easier kept than recovered.” The whole reason that God gave the Ten Commandments was to help us establish our boundaries. Boundaries help us to distinguish our property so that we can take care of it. We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences. We need to keep things that will harm us outside. In short, boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out.

When God established the one boundary for Adam and Eve, it was for their good. When the Israelites re-entered the promised land, they were to eliminate certain nations of people and some they were to allow to be their slaves. The reason was to establish boundaries. The nations to be destroyed would influence the Israelites to worship other gods.

A young man sitting in my office, shared how his life was in ruin. Ever since he was a teen, he had been very promiscuous. Sex with so many that he couldn’t even remember some of their names, problems with drugs and he had even been arrested for D.U.I. We talked about his total disregard for boundaries. It was a home where no one went to Church. He said, “My parents never once said anything about sex or drugs.” The need for boundaries!

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Joyce Jones is a renowned concert organist and teacher at Baylor University. Several years ago she played the first full concert on the new pipe organ at the Crystal Cathedral in California, which cost over $1 million. At the age of sixteen she was a piano major at the University of Texas. A sprained wrist interrupted her promising career as a pianist. For six weeks she could not touch a keyboard. Not wanting to waste the time, she decided to learn to play organ pedals with her feet, and a new career was born. “God has a way,” she relates, “to get your attention and say, ‘Hey, I have something better for you to do.'”

Whatever our lot in life, build something on it. God has a master plan for our lives. Our spiritual journey is to find that plan for our lives.

Were You There When He Broke Bread?

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Mark 14:12-26

The world drinks to forget, the Christian drinks to remember. There was this tea-totaling mother who was very vocal from time to time about her theory that only grape juice — not wine — was served at the Last Supper. During one of these discussions her daughter said: “But mother, don’t you remember at Cana Jesus turned the water into wine?” The mother, eyes blazing, said, “Yes! And He NEVER should have done it either!”

When Paul writes to the Church at Corinth, Paul reminds them of the importance of the Lord’s Supper. For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Transubstantiation is the view held by the Roman Catholic church. The Council of Trent teaches that after the consecration the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, are contained “truly, really, and substantially in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist.” Consubstantiation in the Lutheran church insist that the body and blood of Christ are mysteriously and supernaturally united with the bread and wine, so that they are received. Symbolic is partaking of the supper and merely commemorates the sacrificial work of Christ, and its value to the participant consists only in the bestowal of a blessing

We do not take the Lord’s Supper because we are righteous and good, we take the Lord’s Supper because we are sinful. “Philip Haille wrote of the little village of Le Chambon in France, a town whose people, unlike others in France, hid their Jews from the Nazis. Haille went there, wondering what sort of courageous, ethical heroes could risk all to do such extraordinary good. He interviewed people in the village and was overwhelmed by their ‘ordinariness’. They weren’t heroes or smart, discerning people. Haille decided the one factor that united them was their attendance, Sunday after Sunday, at their little church, where they heard the sermons of Pastor Trochme. Over time, they became by habit people who just knew what to do and did it. When it came time for them to be courageous, the day the Nazis came to town, they quietly did what was right. One old woman, who faked a heart attack when the Nazis came to search her house, later said, ‘Pastor always taught us that there comes a time in every life when a person is asked to do something for Jesus. When our time came, we knew what to do.'” The habits of the heart are there when they are most needed.

I heard a story recently, supposedly true, about the new pastor at the church. After the first worship service, the pastor heard rumblings that he had not done “communion” the right way. Puzzled at this, he studied his worship books, but came away with the conviction that he had used the proper order. He next asked an officer of the church. The officer told him, “Yes”, he had done it the “wrong way”. “What am I doing wrong?” he asked. “Well,” replied the man, “the previous pastor (who had been at this church for many years) always touched the radiator before serving the cup. You don’t touch the radiator.” Only half enlightened, the pastor called his predecessor, who said, “Yes, I touched the radiator before serving the cup. I did it to get rid of static electricity. The members were complaining of sparks on their lips.” In the breaking of bread and the drinking of this cup we touch God.

Were You There When He Rose Up From The Dead?

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Mark 16:1-8

“An old man and a little boy were out fishing on a pier in Florida late in the day. They’d been talking about all the important things in life – why the rain falls, why the leaves turn golden in the fall. Later in the day, they’re putting their bait and their tackle up, and the little boy looks up in the old man’s face and asks: `Does anybody ever see God?’ (The old man looked out across the darkening horizon, his eyes filled with mist, and said, `Son, it’s where I hardly see anything else’.”)

No matter how often we have heard the Easter story, we need to hear it again. As one person said: “To the child it is wondrous because it is so new; to the grandparents it is wondrous because it is so old.” We always remind people to prepare themselves for Heaven because they can’t take their possessions with them. There once was a man who wanted to take his gold to Heaven with him. So, he had it put into suitcases and placed in the attic above his bed. Months after his death his wife found the suitcases still in the attic and said to herself, “I knew he should have put these in the basement.”

I have changed my viewpoint, there are some things that we can take to Heaven with us. Our children are the one possession we can take to Heaven. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a powerful force in our faith and in our lives. Miracles are important in our lives, but none more important than the resurrection. When Vickie was dying in the hospital, it was the certainty of the resurrection that held my sanity and peacefulness together. To hold no promise of life after death makes facing death frightening and peace less. The thought of dying only to come back as a cow or some other animal, really doesn’t seem to satisfy the soul. But the thought of awaking from death to find ourselves in Heaven with God brings fulfillment and makes this life worth living.

I remember as a boy living on a farm. One year we had a problem with snakes. My dad and older brother killed the snakes and hung them on the fence. But I wasn’t allowed to go check out the snakes because as everyone knows, a snake won’t die until the sun goes down. But when the sun went down, they were dead.

In death, the body and the soul are separated. When God created humanity from the dust of the ground that body was merely a shell without life and without value. It is when God breathed life into the dust that it lived and had value. In death, the body and the breath of God (our soul) are separated. In the resurrection the soul and a new body are joined.

What happens to us after we die is addressed in resolving the issue of the resurrection. In the Old Testament we have four resurrections occurring.
The Widow Zephathah’s son died and Elijah by the power of God restores life to his lifeless body. The body and the soul are separated. But by the grace of God they are reunited in a healing. Shunammite’s son was raised by Elisha. A valley that is filled with dry bones of a large army is raised to life by Ezekiel’s hand. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

When we move into the New Testament we find three resurrections occurring before Jesus’ resurrection and two following. The Widow of Nain’s son is given life by Christ. Jairus’ daughter comes back to life. Lazarus, even after several days of death, is restored to life.

Following Jesus’ resurrection, the miracles continue. The graves outside Jerusalem break open and the dead walk into the city. Eutychus falls asleep in a third story window and falls to his death and Paul bring him back to life.

What the caterpillar calls the end, God calls a butterfly. There came an ever so slight knock on the bedroom door. It was one of the kids who had gotten sick in the night. I glanced at the clock and it was 2:45 A.M. “Dad, I need help!” I quickly learned that Jonathan was sick. He had vomited twice — once on the floor and once in the bathroom. After helping him, I cleaned up everything and went back to bed. That evening my son was the opposite of his usually active, independent, loud, at times even boisterous, self. I didn’t want him to be sick, but I did enjoy the dependence and the closeness. We forget how vulnerable a teenager really is. When Jonathan is healthy, he will often push me away because he has more important things to do.

So often I do the same with my heavenly Father! When things are going well, I “push him away” because I’m busy with “important” tasks. But when things don’t go well, I run back to God, acknowledging my need and dependence.
And like my child, who had come to me during the night, I can go to God any time. My heavenly Father wants me to come to him when I need him. But even more, he wants me to seek him on the good days as well as the bad.
I know deep down that He is the real Source of my strength each and every day.

Donald Barnhouse was widowed at a young age. The death of his wife left him and a six-year-old daughter in the home. He had real difficulty working through his own grief, but the hardest part was to comfort and explain the death to his daughter. He later recalled that all of his education and theological training left him at a loss. One day he and the little girl were standing on a busy corner at a downtown intersection waiting for a light to change. Suddenly a very large truck sped by the corner, briefly blocking out the sun and frightening the little girl. To comfort her, Dr. Barnhouse picked her up, and in a moment, the wisdom of God broke through and he was able to explain to his daughter: “When you saw the truck pass it scared you, but let me ask you, had you rather be struck by the truck or the shadow of the truck?”
She replied, “Of course, the shadow.” He went on to explain that when “your mother died, she was only hit by the shadow of death because Jesus was hit by the truck (death).”

The Psalmist reminds us that God is with us even though we walk through the valley of the “shadow” of death. All that death can do, it did to Christ. Our Lord felt the chill of it. He died alone. But He did for us what we are not able to do for our loved ones, He explored the basements of death to the very bottom, and came back to tell us to be of good cheer.

He has risen! He is not here. Said the angel. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter. He is alive. He is alive! HE IS ALIVE!