Raised from the Ashes: Easter Sunday

Raised from the Ashes: Easter Sunday

 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love;”

Zephaniah 3:17

Read Zephaniah 3:14-20


empty tomb Christ is risen

What is the one thing in your life you wish you could do, but don’t know how you will ever be able? Think about it for a minute. Nothing is impossible with God; Easter Sunday proved that statement. The resurrection of Jesus should not have happened, but it did. He was dead, completely dead. Satan had won, or so it appeared.

But, there was always one thing Satan hadn’t counted on. God, by virtue of who He is, cannot die…completely. All Satan could do was kill the flesh of Jesus, His incarnate person. But, because Jesus is also God, He had the power to raise himself from the dead (John 10:18). And, when we believe in Christ and die to ourselves, we too are raised in that victory.

On Easter Sunday, we not only celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, we celebrate the victory we have in Jesus; victory over temptation and sin, and yes, even victory over death. If we live for Christ, then we will die with Him, and if we die with Him, we will live forever with Him.

So what is it that you wish you could do in this life, but don’t think you can? Jesus is your victory over all obstacles. If what you desire is what God desires for you…He will do it. You need only live surrendered to His will, seeking His will for your life, and believe.

Jesus’ cross and resurrection was not only the greatest act of love, it was a gift, a gift of victory and power. St. Paul reminds us that we can know Jesus in the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10). But, you must not forget that you will often come to know that resurrection power through fellowship in His sufferings. Things won’t always be good. Things won’t always work out the way you want or think they should.

However, if you live completely surrendered to His will, you will always have victory. Jesus is your warrior. He never stops fighting for you. He rejoices over you, and renews you in His love. Today, celebrate the greatest gift, the gift of eternal life won by His victory over the grave. His victory has raised you from the ashes!

Grace & Peace for a Holy Week,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Lent – Good Friday

“14 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me.”

Psalm 40:14

Read Psalm 40


Holy Week By Pastor Brad msc-1

The Goodness of Death

Is there anything more certain than death? It feels so certain because it comes to all people with no respect of person; young and old, rich and poor…no one escapes. Yet, such certainty is unfounded. 1983 years ago today (as best calendars can determine), death met its match. On that Good Friday, the hope of the world hung dying on a Roman Cross, and after six hours it appeared death had won. After hours of agony and untold torture, Jesus gave up his life, and surrendered to death.

However, we know the rest of the story. Death for Jesus was not final – but it was real. We have now come to the last two days of our 40-day journey through Lent. And while we know the rest of the story of Jesus, we must not rush to the cross too soon. Today is a day to consider death; a subject we admittedly try to avoid, but we must not.

Can Death Be Meant for Good?

Good Friday is a time for each of us to consider our own death, for it will come, and quite often far too soon. Today is a day we especially hear the line of the Lord’s Prayer, “…and deliver us from evil.” When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and death entered our world, Satan meant it for evil, but God has turned it for our good. If you’ve recently lost a loved one to death (I recently lost my father to death), you may not hear my words about it today as meant for good; yet, that is what God has done.

It is good that God allows death, for it is in death that we are born to real life. To live in this world, as we know it now, would be reality and eternal death. His mercy comes to us by putting an end to our sufferings in this world, as those who through faith in Jesus Christ enter an eternal life, never to die again, never to be sick again, never to experience pain and suffering again. But, none of this would be true were it not for the death of Jesus on that Good Friday so long ago.

On that good day, for those who will believe, death changed from an eternal state, to a process of transformation. We see that process now, from only one side of the window. St. Paul says, For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Knowing that death is God’s plan to deliver us from evil, we can pray with the Psalmist, “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me.” In order to be raised, we must first fall…but do not fear, God is faithful to raise us from the ashes.

 

Grace & Peace for a Holy Week,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Holy Week – Thursday

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:5

Read John 1:1-13


Holy Week By Pastor Brad msc-1

A Night of Shadows

(From my Tenebrae Service Homily)

As we gather tonight in the shadows, we hear the words of scripture and we let our hearts and minds meditate on what it might have been like for Jesus and his disciples that Maundy Thursday night so, long ago. Everything they believed in and had spent three years learning to build, seemed destroyed in a matter of moments.

Of course we know it was not destroyed. Rather, it was changing…changing from an earthly, regional ministry of proclaiming the gospel, (which itself had to give way to death, in order to be raised up) into a life transforming ministry that would sweep the world for all of time to come. That change was only three days away, but must have seemed like forever as they scattered into the shadows in fear.

But, that night, the night on which Jesus was betrayed and arrested, there was only shadows…shadows of betrayal, agony, accusation, and death.

Tonight as we remember, let us contemplate the shadows that may be looming over our own lives. Perhaps some of you tonight have been living in the shadows. The shadows may be many; pain, disappointment, fear, broken relationships, perhaps even the shadow of death. Tonight, let us remember that no shadow can exist for long in the light of Christ’s presence.

It only seems as if the shadows have overcome us, but in John 1 we are reminded that, In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomea it.” (John 1:4-5)

John goes on to speak about our fellowship with this great light in his first epistle. He says it is the message he heard from Jesus himself, and he is now declaring it to those who read his letter, and he declares it to us tonight.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John: 5-7)

We Must Choose to See the Light

John tells us we have a choice tonight. We can choose to walk in the darkness that inevitably falls upon us in this fallen world…or, we can choose to see a light that pierces the darkness. By faith we can claim the light of Christ and know that that light will shine in ever increasing measure in our lives as it dispels all darkness, until one day, one day we find ourselves in the light of his everlasting glory for all eternity. But, until that day comes, the choice is ours.

Tonight let us choose Light, even though we shall leave this room in a little while in darkness. And, just as the darkness didn’t last forever in the lives of the disciples, so too it will not last forever in our lives. We must choose to look for the light. I assure you…it is there. It is here.

There is however, one shadow in which we must forever stand. We stand in it because it’s shadow covers the known world, it’s inescapable. It’s the shadow of the Cross of Jesus Christ. God has shone his glorious uncreated light down upon the cross that all would see it and have hope.

It is in that shadow, the shadow of Calvary we come tonight in this service to bring all our others shadows, all our darkness and despair, all our sin and shame, and we sacrifice them to His Cross.

And, it is in that shadow that the blood of Calvary still flows, and the tide of that flow will raise us from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Week,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Holy Week Wednesday

13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

John 13:13-14

Read John 13:1-17


Holy Week By Pastor Brad msc-1

Smelly Feet

When you really love someone, you can put up with a lot of things – including smelly feet. I remember the first time I watched some people wash each others feet in church. I was probably about six years old or so. I remember thinking how weird it was. Why would they do such a thing? Then, as I grew older (a young teen), and observed such services, I remember thinking, “Oh no. What if they want to wash my feet? My feet stink really bad!”

I used to play outdoors barefoot a lot when I was young. I know how dirty my feet used to get, especially if I went a few days without washing them (Hey, I was just a kid, lol). I can imagine how dirty the disciple’s feet were that night; they didn’t have the benefit of socks and shoes. Washing your own feet was a custom in the middle east of Jesus’ day, as a person entered a home. If the home was one of a wealthy family, they often had a slave to wash the feet of their guests. It really was a slave’s job. So, why would Jesus, the Lord of life, wash His disciple’s feet? Because He was teaching them to love someone is to serve them.

True Love isn’t Bound By Anything

True love isn’t bound by smelly feet or dirty hygiene. Jesus used the best example of a menial service no one would want to do, in order to show His disciples how much he loved them. And, if He being their Lord, could stoop to such a lowly service, they must do the same. In verse seven, Jesus told them they wouldn’t understand what He was doing until afterward. He meant after he had risen and sent the Holy Spirit to infill them; now, two thousand years later, we should understand.

Many of us will gather this week in Holy Week services, and some of us will be asked to wash the feet of another. If you’ve never done it, it is a very powerful feeling of servitude toward a brother or sister in Christ. Imagine what it would mean to wash the feet of someone you don’t even know, perhaps a person off the street?

Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit. We should understand how important this kind of loving service is. Foot washing isn’t supposed to be about only performing a ritual for each other after we’ve all made sure to clean our own smelly feet before we get to church. (We do, don’t we?). Foot washing is a metaphor to inspire us to love and serve others in Jesus’ name, to be willing to go out and touch the “smelly feet” of the world around us. When we stoop that low, He raises us from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Week,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Holy Week Tuesday

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:18

Read 1 Cor. 18-31


Holy Week By Pastor Brad msc-1

The Daily Cross

As we journey through Holy Week, we are drawing ever nearer the source of our power as believers. The cross of Christ was not only the instrument of Jesus’ death; it is the instrument of His saving grace. All salvation comes through death. Each day, as we read the scriptures of Holy Week, we see Jesus facing His impending death on the cross. Each day, we too want to face the reality of our own cross, so when Friday comes we too may be crucified with Christ.

About now you may be thinking you already faced your cross when you were “saved”. Yes, it is to be saved, in a moment of time, by placing our faith in Jesus and His cross. Yet, it remains for us to see that salvation is so much more than a past event in our life; it is a present and future deliverance as well. The English word, “saved” or “salvation” is best translated from the original Greek as “deliverance”. Scripture speaks to salvation in three tenses; past, present, and future. We are saved, we will be saved, and we are being saved (ex. Titus 3:4-5, 1 Cor. 1:18, Rom. 13:11).

From what are we delivered, still being delivered, and will be delivered? The trials and tribulations of this world. Just because we’re saved, (have placed our faith in Jesus), we’re not free from temptation and hard times. That’s why it’s important we hear what St. Paul is saying to those who believe in Christ…the cross is the power of God to deliver us, and oh how we need that deliverance!

The Daily Cross of Holy Week

Each day, as you rise to serve Christ and others in this world, remember that Jesus calls you to “take up your cross” (Matt. 16:24). Each day of Holy Week, as we see Jesus facing the horror of the cross, if we listen to the scriptures, we will also see Jesus gaining strength to take up the cross.

As we move ever nearer the cross, God will bring to our hearts and minds the things to which we must yet die. Today there is more of me to surrender, and from which to be delivered. And, tomorrow there will be even more. We must see the cross as more than a past event in our lives, but something we face every day. Paul went on to describe it to the Corinthians like this:

“…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor. 4:10-11)

If we wish to live with Christ in the next life, we must die with Him in this life, and not just once, but daily. To those who are being saved, the Cross IS the power of God…the power to raise us from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Week,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Raised from the Ashes: Holy Week Monday

17 And he taught, and said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Mark 11:17

Read Mark 11:12-25


Holy Week By Pastor Brad msc-1

Is Your Temple Clean?

When I was younger, and was beginning to study the meaning of scripture, I was curious as to why Jesus waited so long to clear out the Temple. Why did He do it at the beginning of His last week before the cross? Surely Jesus had seen the money changers and merchants buying and selling in the Temple for years. Then, I learned what a cataclysmic event the clearing of the Temple really was.

Many leaders of Israel wanted to kill Jesus for some time, but couldn’t find the right opportunity. Had He done something as bold and riotous as the clearing of the Temple earlier in his ministry, no doubt they would have accelerated their plan to stop him. The clearing of the Temple was the, “last straw so to speak”. The leaders couldn’t tolerate Jesus anymore. If He could change the way the Temple worked, He could change everything.

The True Temple

In many ways, the Temple is a metaphor for us. Jesus knew the Temple building itself would soon be destroyed, never to be rebuilt. Going forward the real Temple of the Holy Spirit would be the human heart. Everything Jesus did was to save humanity, to redeem and sanctify us. Clearing the Temple at the beginning of Holy Week was a strong statement about everything He was about to do that week. Jesus would soon show us the real, “House of Prayer” is in our hearts as he agonized in Garden of Gethsemane.

As we begin Holy Week together let’s ask of ourselves, “Is our Temple clean?” Our Lenten journey has been about re-centering our lives on Christ through prayer, fasting, and works of mercy. But, just as Israel’s worship of God in the Temple had lost its true meaning, so too our Temple can be voided without a proper cleansing of our hearts. Our prayer, fasting, and works can be to no avail if our hearts are not cleansed along the way.

The Psalmist has a prayer for us to begin our Holy Week. Won’t you pray it today and allow The Father’s House to be swept clean and made ready to be raised from the ashes?

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
in your great compassion blot out my offenses…(to pray the psalm, click here)

Grace & Peace for a Holy Week,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

 

Raised from the Ashes: Holy Week – Palm Sunday

9 Lift up your heads, O gates; lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in. 10 “Who is he, this King of glory?”

“The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”

Psalm 24:9-10

Read Psalm 24


Holy Week By Pastor Brad msc-1

Who Is Your King?

For most of history, the vast majority of people have been subjects of a sovereign. There were of course experiments with democracy (the rule of the people) in ancient Greece, but Kings and Queens have ruled over nations for most of time, until the modern era. Even Oligarchies proved to be sovereign over the people. Scripture teaches a deep truth in the metaphor of a sovereign over his subjects.

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the day Jesus entered Jerusalem to begin the last week of His life before His crucifixion. On that day, it seemed the people were ready for a new sovereign. They hailed Jesus as King by waving palm branches and shouting praises. They believed his coming marked the end of Roman sovereignty over God’s people. But, they weren’t ready to sacrifice their own wills.

Palm Sunday teaches us to ask the question, “Who is our King?” Jesus was not to be the King of Rome, but rather, the King of Glory. His glory is from His divinity, and His reign is everlasting. Had he been only the King of Rome, His reign would have been temporary. However, the reign of King Jesus is eternal, and His sovereignty reaches across all borders.

The question to each of us today is, “Is Jesus our King?” Do we want a King who reigns from on high, although in this world His reign isn’t always seen? Americans have a particularly difficult time with the concept of a sovereign. We are predisposed to a manifest destiny. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for the freedom given to us in America. However, as loyal subjects of King Jesus, our freedom is contained within the boundaries of His righteousness, not our own wills.

Freedom in Christ

As long as I remain in Christ, I am free within unbounded boarders to discover His will for my life, and it’s a good and loving will. But, when I bow my will to my own desires, I am bound to my own self; I have made myself sovereign. The journey of Lent each year reminds us of our own limitations; it reminds us that we are but dust. However, if in remembering our own limits, we recognize Jesus as King, and bend to His will, then we have entered the realm of glory. It is then we can shout, “Hosanna to the King”, and really mean it. It is then we can realize we have been raised from the ashes.

Grace & Peace for a Holy Week,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6