Hope is Alive

Hope is Alive

We call today “Good Friday” but over 2000 years ago it was anything but good.  The disciples of Jesus’ whole world had been turned upside down in one day. Confusion, womenatcrossDisbelief, Fear, Heartbreak and Shock were just a few of the emotions they were feeling. Rabbi, healer, miracle worker, they believed Jesus was The Messiah! The band of friends had just celebrated Passover together. It couldn’t possibly be real – it didn’t make sense – but they watched with their own eyes as the soldiers nailed Him to a cross like a vile criminal!

Some of the men and women, faithful followers of Jesus, gathered together trying to grasp the situation and others were in hiding. It was now the Sabbath and there was nothing they could do. How could everything go wrong in such a short time? He hadn’t done anything to deserve what happened. The disciples had put all their hope in Him and now it seemed gone.

While  Jesus hung on the cross He forgave the repentant thief, showing us that it is never to late to ask for forgiveness until our last breath.  On Passover HE provided the one and only perfect, holy and final sacrifice. His last cry  “It is finished” was not a cry of defeat but of victory.  The Temple curtain kept everyone and everything away from the holiness of God.  When the massive curtain tore in half it showed the access we now have to come before a Holy God through Jesus’s own blood sacrifice.

Jesus’ body had been quickly laid in a borrowed tomb just before Sabbath began. Early the next morning a few women gathered to go to the tomb and properly prepare His body for burial as was tradition.  They wondered how they would move the stone sealing the grave and if the soldiers would give them grief.  jesustombBut as they approached the burial site they were shocked to see the stone had already been rolled away….

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead…..                                          Matt 28:5-7

Jesus is alive! He soon after met with them, ate with them and explained the Scriptures about Himself. Christians around the world celebrate Easter because our hope is not based on earthly wishful thinking but assurance from God. Jesus’ sacrifice provides forgiveness and restoration in our relationship with The Father. His resurrection offers us power and victory for everyday.

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Tragedy can strike quickly and indiscriminately and it may seem hopeless. We are left reeling to try and make sense of the circumstances and figure out the next steps. That’s how the disciples felt on Good Friday.  Right now our daily lives are disrupted, loved ones are distanced and many people have died.  But Our Hope is Alive!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.        John 3:16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.         Heb 4:15-16

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,      Heb 6:19

 

                           We are loved.  We have help. We have hope. We can have peace.

 

Because He Lives

God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus,

He came to love, heal and forgive

He lived and died to buy my pardon

An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow

Because He lives  all fear is gone

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living just because He lives!

Saturday – When Everything Was Wrong

Saturday – When Everything Was Wrong

The whole world had been turned upside down in one day. Confusion, Disbelief, Fear, Heartbreak, Shock… were just a few of the emotions the disciples were feeling. What had gone wrong?  Jesus was their friend. Rabbi, healer, miracle worker, they had believed He was Messiah! Some of the men and women, faithful followers of Jesus, gathered together while others were in hiding. It was the Sabbath and there was nothing they could do.

Friday sin was as black as could be. Jesus had been beaten, battered and nailed to a cross. The same crowd that had welcomed Him with praise now jeered, mocked and spit on Him. Jesus had done nothing to deserve this.

They had just celebrated Passover together! Jesus washed their feet and talked about being servants of one another. He talked about a “new Covenant” and His blood shed for jesus3crossesus…such odd sayings! He wanted us to pray together but we were so tired we fell asleep.  Judas betrayed our Lord! He was one of us, we trusted him, how could he? Peter wept bitterly because he watched Jesus as He was beaten and even denied knowing Him, just as Jesus had predicted. It couldn’t possibly be real – but they had watched with their own eyes as the soldiers nailed Him to a cross like a vile criminal! All their hopes and dreams in Jesus Messiah were destroyed. It was Saturday and everything was wrong.

Joseph, a righteous member of the Council, had taken Jesus’ body and laid it in his own womenattombtomb just before Sabbath began. Saturday was the blackest, saddest, most hopeless day.  Early the next morning a few women, who had loved Jesus dearly, gathered to go to the tomb and properly prepare His body for burial as was tradition.  There had been no time the night before and it was the least they could do. They wondered how they would move the stone sealing the grave and if the soldiers would give them grief.  But as they approached the burial site they were shocked to see the stone had already been rolled away….

tombstone
He is not here!

An angel up on the tombstone  – said He has risen just as He said                                                               Quickly now, go tell His disciples – that Jesus Christ is no longer dead! 

But then came Sunday!

We celebrate Easter because Jesus conquered sin and death, that is victory! He arose from the grave by HIS OWN ALMIGHTY POWER because HE IS LORD GOD!  Saturday was full of hopeless despair but instead we cry out with Joy-He is risen!  When the angels announced Jesus’ birth they announced “do not be afraid” and when Jesus met Mary at the tomb, He said, “do not be afraid”.

What does that mean for us my friends?  Jesus conquered the grave – if we have accepted Him as LORD and Savior – we have no fear of death. We’ve been given the promise of eternal life with Him. No matter what trials or circumstances we face – we can draw on His power knowing that nothing is impossible with God. When all seems hopeless – look to Jesus and He will turn your sorrow into Joy!

 

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Easter Song

Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing – that you can be born again!                                 

Hear the bells ringing they’re singing- Christ is risen from the dead!                                   

Joy to the world, He is risen, hallelujah – HALLELUJAH!

 

 

 

Joy of the Shepherds

Joy of the Shepherds

adventjoyJoy and happiness are both emotions where a person has feelings of contentment or satisfaction. But both of these feelings differ from one another.  Happiness is an emotion in which feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure. Happiness is caused by earthly experiences and material objects and is often expressed by outward elation. It is often temporary and based on outward circumstances.

Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion or feeling spiritually connected to a god or people. It is caused by spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude and thankfulness. Joy is felt as inward peace and contentment.  It is lasting and based on inward circumstances.  ( definitions from Diffen website)

For the past month we have been hearing and singing about Joy. The familiar passage in the book of Luke chapter 2 tells us that ordinary shepherds experienced the most incredibly terrifying experience that somehow turned into great joy.

shepherdangels28 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God …….16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.shepherd17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,…     20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.   Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)

 During the time of Jesus, shepherds in general were near the bottom of the social status.  They were ceremonially, physically and spiritually unclean. Only during King David’s reign did they enjoy a higher recognition. Even though sheep were needed for sacrifices, food and clothing, it was a dirty job. They couldn’t leave the fields to attend the Tabernacle or participate in many of the feasts. So why did the birth announcement of the long awaited Messiah come first to a group of poor Shepherds?

birth-of-jesus-1150128__340The shepherds anxiously went to find this newborn King as the angels had instructed. They were not afraid to approach Him small and in such humble circumstances. Baby Jesus was the One who would shepherd our souls as David had written in Psalm 23.  “Do not be afraid” the angels proclaimed, “this is good news for all people”.  Messiah had come! They saw the glory of the Lord but could not understand that this child would one day be the final sacrificial Lamb for all our sin.

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.        John 3:16-17 (NLT)

The rich and powerful were not looking for Messiah and liked things the way they were. Most of us are like shepherds, ordinary working folks. They didn’t get cleaned up or go to the Temple first….they came just as they were. We too can experience a deep, personal and lasting inward peace and contentment in our soul by approaching a holy God because of what Jesus did for us. Come to Him just as you are and find His JOY.

 

 

 Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her King:

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

 

 PS – If anyone has any questions or comments, email me and I would love to get back to you personally. I wish you all a happy, healthy and joyful New Year!

 

 

 

Patches of Color Along the Way

Patches of Color Along the Way

Fall in New England

I love fall in New England. Autumn brings a change in the air; warm days and cooler WOLFall_113nights.  The treasures of harvest time bring feelings of excitement and gratefulness.  And most loved of all is the wave of color that surrounds us as summer comes to an end. Locals and people from all over the world come to New England to see the colorful countryside and enjoy the fruits of harvest.  We call them “Leaf-peepers”.

Driving along the highway last weekend I admired the color beginning to burst forth. I noted that it was most prominent in the valleys. I even saw a few beaver dams and I thought how wonderful nature was and how people that drove this way every day probably didn’t even notice.

Missing Out

In the past few years I have intentionally tried to take notice of and enjoy all the little things. Every day we pass by the wonders of nature without really seeing.  We miss the sights and sounds  and smells all around us…..why? We are too busy, too glued to electronics, too tired trying to multi-task…and we are missing out on joy and LIFE!  In Psalm 92:4  we read:

O Lord, you have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.                                                           IMG_6478

We can enjoy the beauty of the autumn colors while walking or driving or even when stuck in traffic . Look for graceful deer and funny looking turkeys. Stop to watch the squirrels as they do a balancing act on the wires above.  No matter how bad the day or whatever the season we can choose to see and enjoy God’s beauty. By using our eyes we can lift our heads out of the mundane and refresh our souls.

Lately our social media has been filled with disaster, tragedy and lots of violence. Watching and reading all of this “stuff” continually can be really heart breaking and depressing.  It’s not healthy to constantly dwell on the negative, even if it is true.

Think on these things

The Bible gives us guidelines on how to think about circumstances to lift our spirits.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.   Phil. 4:8-9 ESV                             

By watching nature of any kind we can learn life lessons.  The birds and animals know what to do for each season.  They focus on the one task before them, whether it is gathering food, fixing a borough or tending to their young.    mamaduck2

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Matt. 6:25-26 ESV

Choose JOY

Obviously, animals don’t have bills to pay or any agenda for the day. But we can choose what we see, how we think and how we react. To restore joy in everyday life take time to “stop and smell the roses”… “gaze at the passing clouds”…  “look up in wonder at the starry night sky” and look for the “patches of color” that are along the way.

 

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