A Matter of Life and Death

Life or Death
Originally Posted on 04/22/2011

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen”
Luke 24:5

A few months ago, my husband came home, arms full of roses—deep red, fragrance so rich.  They were the most beautiful flowers I’d ever been given.

This bouquet from my husband greeted me throughout the day for two weeks, perfect in their vase.  I’d stop my chores and my rushing to literally stop and smell the roses.  But, of course then came wilting and fading and falling petals.  As a girl, I had collected up rose petals over time and filled a glass cup with them, like homemade potpourri with scents of summer and memories dear.  So, I once again gathered up the petals to keep them as a reminder of my gift.

Last week, I peeked into my jar of keepsake roses to enjoy them just for a moment and instead of dried and faded flowers still filled with aroma, I found instead mold grown over.  Into the trash they went.

Sometimes there are things we hold onto so dearly that are truly dead.  We try and try to revive and preserve; we linger over things past.  Have you held onto the habits and comforts of the past when Christ has called you to lay them down and move on?  He has asked you to sacrifice and instead you clutch it to your chest, not willing to give it up.  So, you cling to the old and fail to receive the new “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! ” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).

At the tomb on the morning of Christ’s resurrection, women brought spices for anointing.  Instead of the expected, they faced the unexpected—the stone rolled away, the body gone, two angels in clothes gleaming like lightning, asking a question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, He has risen” (Luke 24:5)

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Surely there are times we do this, too.  We look for our Living Savior among the graves.  Sometimes our faith is more cemetery than empty tomb.

Chris Tiegreen wrote:

We read the Bible as a historical document rather than as a living Word. We follow Jesus as our example rather than listening to Him as our living Lord.  We take our cues from our denominational traditions rather than from the Spirit of life.  In other words, we turn our faith toward dead things rather than toward the Living One.

Has this been you?  Has faith been dulled and the joy of your salvation replaced by compulsory duty and passionless motions—doing Christianity rather than living with Christ?

Or, are you instead staring at a tomb of a different sort, but still there is death?  A relationship broken.  A marriage over.  A child turned prodigal.  A ministry struggling.  A passion now cold.  A vision gone dark.  A hope proved impossible.  A lack of direction and not knowing where to go.  A season of waiting, waiting, waiting, always waiting.

There is some mourning to be done, some grieving over what is lost and dead in our lives.  Some letting go and laying down.  And there may be tears; that’s expected.   Yet, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

With morning, comes resurrection and abundant new life, and we rejoice for He is “making everything new” (Revelation 21:5, NIV).  This Savior whose sacrifice we remember on Good Friday by eating the bread, drinking the cup—this Savior declared victory over death and the grave.  Power over His tomb.  Power over the places we mourn and grieve.

“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NIV).

and

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14, NIV).

What would this rising look like for us?  What can He resurrect in us this year?  Over what can He give us victory?

I pray this new life for you. 

That His Word will be living and active, changing your heart, altering your perspective.
For renewed passion, vision, excitement, and ministry impact.
For restoration of relationships.
For the return of hope.
For weeping to end and joy to fill you.
For your eyes to be opened wide to God’s presence, His character, His goodness.
~Amen~

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 04/07/2012

Hiding the Word:

Last night, our family sat at the Good Friday service at church.  We sang hymns about the cross. We read Isaiah 52-53.  My girls nailed papers with their sins written on them to a wooden cross in the front of the church sanctuary with the help of their Daddy and their grandparents.

We remembered the cross and the sacrifice Jesus made there.

Afterward, when we had arrived home, stripped off our jackets and plopped down our belongings, we glanced at our five caterpillars in a cup.  In our short absence, two of them had climbed to the top and tipped themselves upside down.

It’s time.  They know exactly when to spin the silk and form the chrysalis, just as they will know when to emerge as butterflies.

We are waiting with expectation now.  We know the end of their story and it doesn’t stop with upside down caterpillars or bugs entombed in the cocoon of their own design.  New life is the beginning that starts with the end.

In the same way, knowing as we do that Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb, we celebrate Good Friday with hopeful expectation–because Sunday is coming.  His resurrection day is near.

Jesus’ close friends and family, however, hadn’t understood His messages to them.  They didn’t fully expect His death.  They didn’t look forward with hopeful anticipation for His resurrection.  They got it all wrong.

Don’t we get it all wrong so much of the time?  Don’t we expect God to act a certain way, and when He doesn’t, we lose hope?  We grow weary and depressed, perhaps even angry.

We look at circumstances and we pronounce death over them.  We think surely this is over.  Surely nothing can be done.

Jesus defied all of our plans and expectations through His death and resurrection, providing the perfect way of salvation for the entirety of mankind.  He continues to do that today.  When He declares that the time is at hand, He can speak life into every circumstance and situation, and His plan is perfect.

Our verse for the week:

“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Corinthians 15:55-56).

You can listen to Matt Maher’s song, Christ is Risen, by clicking on this link or viewing the video from the blog:  http://youtu.be/IExdrZGQVeI

Weekend Rerun:

Surprise!
Originally posted July 27, 2011

All day long people were singing at her.  Smiling and singing.  They tickled her belly, kissed her cheek, hugged her, and said two magic words that she didn’t even understand, “Happy Birthday!”

At first, my now-two-year-old reacted to all this attention with nothing more than a puzzled expression.  By the afternoon of her second birthday, she smiled a sweetly confused grin when we scooped her up for birthday hugs and kisses.  After dinner, she enjoyed the visit from her grandparents, but it wasn’t until I brought out the birthday cupcakes and we sang to her that she really began to understand that this special day was about her.

As soon as I lit the candle, she knew what to do.  She started blowing at the air while I still stood across the room with her birthday cupcake in my hands.  And then after she was covered in icing and Mickey Mouse-shaped sprinkles, I brought out wrapped presents and gift bags.

Her face said it all.  “For me?”  She unwrapped each gift and immediately played with it, read the book, put the puzzle pieces in place, and fed the baby doll.

My little one had been surprised by joy.

How I love that age when the simple fact of a birthday is enough to bring laughter and excitement.  My older daughters now anticipate their big days all year long.  Within a week of turning six, my eldest began telling people she was, “Almost seven.”  I’ve heard all their big plans for birthday parties (despite being told that we’re skipping this year), and yet they plan anyway.

But for my baby girl, there was no anticipation.  She had no idea we were planning for her joy.  She was oblivious to me stashing presents in the closet.  She had no clue I wrapped them during her nap the day before the big day.  She did know that I made cupcakes (she has a sixth sense for finding cupcakes), but she didn’t see me decorate them or pop two candles onto the top of the one just for her.

During those final days before her birthday, her sisters and I were the excited ones.  We looked forward to showering her with special treats and signs of love, even more because we knew she wouldn’t be expecting it.

Matthew 7:11 says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

When we’re feeling broken, just emptied out or filled with fear . . . when we look ahead to an uncertain future, not even knowing what tomorrow will look like for us . . . when we’ve been attacked into the ground, pounded on by trials and Satan and circumstances and one bad event after another . . .

. . . then we remember that God is at work in invisible ways, even when we cannot see His hand, His activity, or His plans.  He gives us the good gifts of salvation, His Holy Spirit, His peace, yes.  But even more, He pours out on us surprises of joy, presents of grace in the unexpected places, an oasis in the midst of our wilderness, and a shooting star of hope across a midnight black expanse of our future.

Angela Thomas in her book Do You Know Who I Am? wrote:

“there is always a hidden work of God.  When you think that God is distant or that maybe God has turned against you, I want you to remember that in the unseen God is plotting for your joy.  He is planning the redemption of your brokenness.”  Angela Thomas

Does it tickle you to think of God in heaven wrapping presents for you, sending down cupcakes with sprinkles just for you–when you least expect it and on a day that seems so ordinary or worse, filled with despair?

That’s what He did for Mary Magdalene, sitting at the tomb of her dead Savior, weeping for the loss of Him and the seeming loss of all He had promised.  In her sorrow, she had traveled to the tomb while it was still dark.  Perhaps she couldn’t sleep, so throwing back her blankets she had simply gotten up and started walking to the place of His burial.

But the stone was gone.  The tomb empty.  She called for the disciples and they searched through scraps of linen for any answer to the mystery of the missing Savior.

There was despair and confusion and hurt.  There was anger and defensiveness about grave robbers and defilers. It was a day that had started out bad enough and was quickly getting worse by the second.

Mary didn’t see Jesus “plotting for her joy.”  He had been at work in the hidden places, descending into hell and snatching the keys of death out of Satan’s hands.  He had risen on that third day and exited the tomb already, but she hadn’t seen any of that.

While God planned her surprise, she: “stood outside the tomb crying” (John 20:11).

It’s not until she sees Jesus herself—not even then, not even when she talks with Him, but only when He calls her by name—that she realizes the victory before her, the amazing miracle of resurrection.

The angels asked her why she was crying.  Jesus Himself asked the reason for her tears.  She cried because the brokenness was all she knew and the evidence of loss and grief was overbearingly present.  An empty tomb, grave clothes in a pile, Savior’s body gone.  That’s what she saw.

Isn’t that what we sometimes see, too?  We see here and now.  Bills due.  Relationships broken.  Uncertainty about the next day and the next.  Unanswered questions.  Danger for our kids.  Loss and mourning.  Difficult ministry.

We see the grave.

God sees the resurrection.

He’s your Father who loves you, who knows how to give you good gifts and is wrapping presents for you, rejoicing “over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17), and working “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”” (Rom. 8:28).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King