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The Hope of Spring

I am ready for Spring and I know I am not the only one!  Honestly, I am a four seasons kind of guy. I love them all in their time and place but Spring always holds some special things.

Easter

Spring Break

Opening Day of Baseball

Warmer temperatures that replaced winter snows

Renewed life in flowers, plants, and trees

Hunting morels (hopefully finding morels)

Fresh green grass and the first mow

Preparation and planting of the garden

A return to outdoor campfires

I could probably go on with other things but the main idea is new beginnings, renewed life, and hope. Some of the things in our garden will come back after appearing to be dead all winter while other things have to be replanted every year.  For baseball fans, maybe this is the year your team will make the playoffs.  Spring brings the anticipation of life and hope from the cold of winter.

We have a greater hope that comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was crucified during the Jewish Passover.  But even more astounding is the Scripture passage from Ezekiel 14 that would have been read on the Sabbath following Passover and the death of Jesus.

1The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophecy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

I want you to picture yourself as one of Jesus’ followers on the third day after he died.  On the Passover Sabbath, you heard the Ezekiel passage read as it is always read on this particular Sabbath.  But now it is the third day and you start hearing rumors that Jesus is alive!  Could it be true, just like in Ezekiel, has life been breathed back into the bones and body of Jesus? Our hope and joy in life come from a much stronger and much deeper place than we can even imagine.  The same power that restored the body of Jesus is the same power that is alive in all of us who have accepted Jesus Christ and who now follow him as a disciple.  I pray that this brings you great hope, encouragement, and peace.

This is where a new hope and a renewed life come from.  Spring is for me, a pale reflection of the real hope found in the resurrection of Christ.  Dry bones being made alive!

Life is hard

This hope is real

Live in hope!

 

Walking With Jesus

I have been thinking quite a bit about the kind of person other people see when they encounter me.

What kind of impression do I give off?

Do others leave an encounter with me feeling better or worse?

I think those are valid questions we all should ask ourselves.  I have a college student who had an encounter with a person at work.  This person was unhappy, belligerent and rude but upon leaving the store felt the need to say “God bless you” to my student.  An encounter like that can leave a sour taste in your mouth, especially if you feel like they would have considered themselves a believer in Christ, yet the actions didn’t line up with the words spoken.

What do your words and actions say about who you are?

1 John 2:1-6  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

I like those words at the end, whoever says he abides in Jesus ought to walk in the same way in which Jesus walked.  I don’t think it gets any more simple than that.

Picture this: You are one of a handful of disciples following a particular rabbi in 30 AD.  You walk everywhere your rabbi walks, trying to be as close to him as you can.  So close, in fact, the dust from his sandals is all over the front of your feet and your cloak.  The reason you walk so close to him is to hear everything he says.  You try to imitate his gait, his speech pattern, you try to think and reason the way he thinks and reasons.  Because your ultimate goal is to walk with God just like your rabbi walks with God.  So you don’t want to miss anything he says… ever.  You eat when he eats and you sleep when he sleeps, trying to imitate everything he does.  Those were the marks of a good disciple.  It is no wonder John says if we know His teachings (commands) we know Him.  And whoever abides in Jesus will walk in the same way he walked.

On Mt. Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the region where Jesus taught his disciples for three years. They would often gather around Jesus just like we are gathered around Marty as he gives us an overview of the region.

 

Climbing down Mt. Arbel. Following the path that our leader took was crucial at so many points on our trip. Every day we walked the same paths and roads Jesus and his disciples would have traveled!

Gandhi is reported to have said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone said “I think Jesus was in my life today” because they met you? I think that’s what we are called to be, a disciple in whom others would see the qualities of Jesus.

Make this your prayer this week, Father, help us learn to walk as Jesus walked.

Life Is Precious

Two weeks ago my wife and I was in a truck accident. In the last week, I have lost one college friend to an accident and another friend of mine lost his mom in an accident.  This has a way of making a person reflect on the preciousness of life.

All human life has value

I feel the need to say that, not because we would devalue the life of others. I say it because we often devalue our own life. Let me explain…

How many times in our Christian walk have we said something similar to “I am so unworthy of His love” or “I am such a wretched person.”  Now, before I say anything else, we needed the blood of Christ.  It is part of God’s redemption for his creation.  Not to be misunderstood, we have all sinned against God.  But there is a big difference between the idea that we have all sinned and the idea that we have no worth.  Scripture tells us differently.

To begin with, I want to go to Genesis 1:31 “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

Six times during the creation account God pronounces his creation as good but it is after the creation of male and female that God looks at all he has created and calls it very good.  I believe this important because before it is recorded that man and woman did, produced, or accomplished anything God says it isn’t just good, it’s fantastic! Yet, sadly, we don’t see ourselves the way God sees us.  But if this isn’t enough for you to see you do have value and worth in God’s eyes, let’s look at another passage of Scripture.

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;  The Hebrew word for treasured possession is se.gul.lah.  I have been told that in the Old Testament, people would give a treasured possession to the other party with whom they have made a covenant.  It could be a covenant between any two people that they would exchange a treasured possession, and not necessarily something of monetary value although it could be if desired.

Jill’s wedding rings, her mom’s wedding rings, matching silver rings from 2016 Israel/Turkey trip, Gold and Silver Father’s Day rings, silver ring from Arizona mission trip, silver dollar from my Aunt and Uncle Christmas 1971

Above are some of our treasured possessions…  some of them aren’t worth much in actual value but they are things that we value.  What are your treasured possessions?

More importantly, the Creator of the Universe who owns everything that exists views you as his se.gul.lah, you are God’s treasured possessions!  It’s right there in the text.  If God loved us enough to send his Jesus then why on earth do we devalue ourselves?  It is time to place a higher value on life, your’s and mine.  It’s time to change the way we talk about ourselves, we do have value and worth

When you come to those moments where you feel worthless, a failure, or that you have let God down, remember you are a treasured possession.  

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