Ideas for Easter Reading

As Easter approaches, I wanted to point you in the direction of a couple of good books I read last month.

The first is Liz Curtis Higgs’ “The Women of Easter”. Before reading this, I thought Martha’s sister and Mary Magdalene were probably the same person. I didn’t realise there was a place called Magdala, and that’s why Mary was called Magdalene – because of where she was from. You might learn other things from this too, but what I liked most about it was its freshness. Some parts would bring a laugh and others had me shedding tears. If you’ve been a Christian a number of years, think how many times you must have heard the Easter story, yet Liz tells it as it is – a living reality. That’s special.

Another recommendation would be Michael Card’s “A Fragile Stone”. This isn’t 100% Easter. It’s actually about Peter from his first meeting with Jesus onwards, but chapters 9-11 cover those last hours before Jesus’ crucifixion. I had never thought so deeply about how that night must have impacted Peter. Michael did a fantastic job with this book and if I knew of any others he’d written about Biblical characters, I would want to read them.

Are there any Lent/Easter books or Email devotionals you’ve enjoyed?

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A Time of Remembering

This weekend is special to me. I can stand with other Christians as the Bible is read in the open-air, as we remember Jesus and His journey to the cross, but even more important, I can remember that I’m His. It’s personal. When Jesus asks us to be ‘In remembrance of Him’, I believe He would want our hearts to dwell on His presence – the tremendous privilege of being able to spend time with Him.

Isn’t that why He did it? So that impure, unclean people like me, so unworthy and unfit to be seen by a pure and holy God, could come to Him and find our rest? Come to Him as we are and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing He took the punishment for our unloveliness so we wouldn’t have to?

Because Jesus took that punishment, God can look at us. We don’t have to cower away, but can linger in the presence of the heavenly King – our Father the King! Once, Jesus couldn’t rely on His friends to stay with Him for even one hour; now His true worshippers can sing about resting in His presence, not rushing away.

Jesus went to the cross despite Peter, James and John failing to stay with Him. He didn’t need heavy-eyed humans in order to do God’s will, but we need Him – always, and His work on the cross has made a way, the only way, for us to get to know God. We could resist; sadly many do, or we could lean in to what He has for us. Saying yes to Jesus, trusting Him fully with our lives – it takes a simple, childlike faith to do that.

And when we have the faith to say yes, Lord, You died on my behalf, then we have something to look forward to! Like the child of a millionaire, you or I become an heir: An inheritor of God’s promises and a co-heir with Jesus, who’s unashamedly our Brother. We belong! We have a place in God’s family, but that’s not the end; not the happy ever-after. Instead, it’s a new beginning! It’s not just a metaphor when Christians talk about being baptised into Christ’s death, and being buried with Him when we go underwater. Asking God’s forgiveness and undergoing baptism is a burial of the old self, and the start of life as a new creation. Now every day, we can count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.

I heard a story of when King George was still on the throne. Some children stood expectantly with a man and his dog. The man barked a command; it was always the same. “Rex? Die for the king!” The dog threw himself to the ground. However much the children poked and prodded, there was no sign of life. But as soon as the owner clicked his fingers, Rex sprang to his feet! We can count ourselves dead to sin. We can die for our King! And when He snaps His fingers, when He calls on us, we can be ready for complete obedience.

Obeying God wouldn’t be possible without getting to know Him, and the way to get to know Him was opened for us that dark day when Jesus laid down His life on a cross.

* * *

Thanks to Bonnie Gray, whose 7 OneWordLent prompts inspired this post, and to Rex the dog of course.

The Blessing of Easter

I was inspired by this week’s Tuesday at Ten prompt: BLESSED.

Bereft, He prayed at Gethsemane – His soul overwhelmed with sorrow. “If it’s possible, take this from Me!” but the choice had already been made; He knew it would happen when the time came.

Lamb-like, He was led away – His friends deserting Him. From the house of the high priest, He looked straight at the one who denied all knowledge of Him.

Ethereal, He confessed to being the Son of Man who would sit at the right hand of God. Robes were torn and His death decreed.

Suffering, He was spat upon. Cruelly they blindfolded Him and asked who struck the blow. They bloodied His head with a crown of thorns.

Selfless, He thought of others in His darkest hours – telling the women to weep for themselves; entrusting His mother to John’s care; forgiving a common criminal.

Easter and the sun was rising. An angel rolled away the stone. There lay the tomb, open for all to see, but He was not there; He had risen!

Deliverer, He went to His disciples. Gave the oil of gladness instead of a spirit of despair. Suddenly they weren’t locked away in fear; there was hope and newness. “My Lord and my God!” one cried, as Jesus stood before His eyes, and the one who denied – he dived from the boat and swam to shore. He was completely known, and completely restored.

This Jesus – do you love Him? Then follow Him.

Him and Us

We’re just the clay; You’re the One who fashions it.

We just live in time; You hold it in Your hand.

To us, things don’t make sense; You understand all things.

To us, our circumstances loom large; You see the bigger picture.

To us, the precious is something to cling to; You ask for our willingness to let go.

To us, letting go means surrendering control; to You, letting go is a compliment.

To us, letting go means trusting; You are completely trustworthy.

To us, letting go means denying ourselves; You want us to look beyond ourselves.

To us, our future is unfathomable; You know every moment in our eternity.

To us, eternity is an open door; You opened the Way for us to go through it.

To us who go through the door, the end is a new beginning.

To Him who burst out of the tomb, His end brought a new beginning – for Him, and for us.

Thank You, Jesus.

Link

I don’t think Jill over at Compassion Family will be snoozing after her Christmas dinner; she’ll have eyes glued to her computer-screen, because she’s asked all of her readers to list the top 10 posts from our blogs for her to read over the holidays!  How do you choose?  In my case, I chose my favourite from each month (although to make it 10, we have to miss out a couple).

 

Very occasionally, something on the news grabs me and I get all political, like in January with my post about the European Court.

 

In March I was thinking about Easter, and the importance of not just hearing the Easter story but acting on it.

 

25 April every year is World Malaria Day.  2013 saw me advocating for Compassion and having some fun pretending to be a mosquito.

 

On 10 April, the Welsh Outpouring began in Cwmbran, and having wanted to get there for about a month, in May I went to one of the meetings.

 

In July, I thought back a few years to 2005.  I told you about George who inspired me and the album he’s released.

 

There was a moment in August, during the worship-time at church, when I was reminded that Jesus prays for me.

 

September was Compassion Blog Month.  I love to blog for Compassion, so Blog Month 2013 was a great privilege.  I think I enjoyed writing my ‘Story behind the child’ posts the most, but as I have to pick one, I’ll pick Allan (because that’s my dad’s name).

 

October was a busy month of blogging with my first-ever 31-Days series – 31 Days of Song.  I always really appreciate when you leave your comments to encourage me and others.  The song with the most was Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Fingerprints of God”.

 

Sue has been a wonderful asset to my blog with her new ideas, and she’s introduced me to the Daily Post.  In November I used one of their prompts to say what I’d cure and why.

 

And in the run-up to Christmas this month, I’ve focused on some of the characters in the Christmas story, like yesterday’s post about Joseph.

 

So there you have it:  My top 10.  I hope you enjoy them, either for the first time or all over again, and thank you for reading.  If you’re a blogger, what are your top 10 posts from this year?

Festive?

Today’s Daily Post made me think.  If you were the supreme ruler of the universe, describe in detail a festival that would be celebrated in your honour.

Of course, I don’t seek to be the supreme ruler of the universe, but what if I was?  What if I showed such great courage that I was commemorated even after my death, with festivals the day I was born and the day I died?  Say I died out at sea.  The festival the day of my death would be a little solemn.  Sarah’s Day.  Shops would close, and people would decorate their houses with blue material, little stick-on shellfish or starfish and lots of paper boats.  People would eat dark chocolate boats and drink black coffee in boat-shaped mugs, to remember the bitter suffering I went through.  They would march through the streets to brass bands, singing and speaking about my death, but strangely, there would be no misery on their faces:  Because although solemn, it would at the same time be celebrating my legacy.

But as the years passed, new generations would come along – generations who hadn’t been influenced by my leadership.  They would sweeten their coffee drinks and mix the dark chocolate with milk or white; maybe throw in some raisins or marshmallows.  Shops and workplaces would stay open, with others spending the day in their lavishly-decorated houses.  Of those who did line the streets to march, even fewer would know the words to the songs by heart.  “Sarah’s Day?  Who was she anyway?  We’ll just call it Sea Day.”

* * *

Does this remind you of anything?  I heard somewhere that Good Friday was originally God’s Friday, commemorating the suffering the Son of God went through for us, but how many will listen now as Christians take to the streets each year to give the world a reminder?  Some even sound their horns, impatiently herding us to one side so they can leave the supermarket car-park.  If you were the supreme ruler of the universe, is that how you’d want to be remembered?

A-Z: Fail

Day 6 of the A-Z challenge, and I want to tell you about last week, when I had one of those could-do-better moments.

This was such an unusual conversation to have with a taxi-driver!  I get in the taxi to go to the gym, we’re driving along and he says:  “My mother doesn’t like Good Friday because of the Christian connotations, and I’ll admit I’m a lot happier after midday.  It’s all a bit glum around midday.”

I hadn’t travelled often with this driver, so my first thought was:  I want him to know I’m a Christian; my second was:  I want him to know we can enjoy ourselves.  Please don’t misunderstand me; I do have times when I think about what Jesus went through on the cross, and I’m deeply sorry that He suffered all that pain, but His work is finished.  That death on the cross bought our freedom!  So what are we doing, if what the world associates with Jesus’ death is a crowd of people standing around looking miserable?  So I tell about the bacon and egg that morning and the walk to the joint service with other churches afterwards.  He seemed surprised at the thought of a cooked breakfast at church, and thought he heard us singing as he sat in his taxi earlier.

Then, he changes the subject.  He talks about this new Bible series that’s being filmed and, he says, “Satan looks a lot like Obama.”

I’m thinking:  Oh no!  Someone who isn’t a Christian would be really confused as to why anyone would link Obama with Satan.  I’d better explain.  “Well, some of the things he advocates, like abortion – that’s not very Christian is it?”

“Well, I don’t know,” comes the reply.  “Did Jesus have an opinion on abortion?”  As we’re talking, all these thoughts go through my mind.  I realise I don’t know anything about this man’s situation.  This could be very personal to him; he might have a partner at home who’s thinking of aborting their child.  I remember too the book I read by an ex abortion clinic director, who’s now very strongly pro-life.  In “Unplanned”, Abby writes about herself in the abortion industry.  She was a Christian who genuinely believed a foetus was just tissue and didn’t feel any pain.  Through all her years at the clinic and all her promotions, she’d never had to see an actual abortion, but when she did, it changed her mind completely.

So I’m sitting next to this taxi-driver, I’ve said:  “Abortion – that’s not very Christian is it”, I know there are Christians who would openly disagree with that statement, and I have to give an answer.  Did Jesus have an opinion on abortion?

“Well, He thought life was precious, so I don’t suppose He’d want life to be ended, would He really?” was the best I could do.  It told him that abortion was wrong, but did I say anything about Jesus’ readiness to forgive any of the wrongs we do?  No; the words just didn’t come.  Sadly, this was a time when I had to pray afterwards:  “Lord, please fill in the gaps where I’ve failed.”  I hope that taxi-driver did hear about Jesus’ forgiveness as we celebrated Easter last weekend.

None of us is absolutely perfect in what we say, but I think Jarrod Cooper has it right:  “The ones who try and fail are the ones who get out there” – that really encouraged me, ‘cos maybe we won’t always get it right, but I think God is pleased with us for trying.

A-Z: Easter Garden

Day 5 of the A-Z challenge, and a poem written a few years ago, when the weather was a bit different from the bitter-cold Easter we had last weekend.

Easter Garden

The cockerel crowing in the middle of the day;

Unusual – yet it reminded me

There was one who denied, and the Saviour kept on loving –

Restored this man, so he could follow Him.

I went on listening, and the birds in the sky

Took my thoughts back to an early morning:

The one who betrayed was filled with remorse, and hung himself;

Perhaps he felt it a burden – having to put things right.

The horse neighing, from further away –

A strong animal, which brought to mind

The powerful soldiers, and all their mockery:

Were any of their hearts touched by the One who hung on that cross?

The tiny lavender-plants, only recently purchased;

Frail – yet their frailty reminded me

God chose the foolish things of the world; His followers are despised and belittled,

But we have One who loves and accepts us.

Relaxing in the garden, I rested my head on my arms;

I felt the wood of that garden table, and I was reminded

Of my Saviour’s body, crucified on a tree

So that I could have life in all its fullness.

And as the sun shone brightly in the sky,

I remembered Jesus – the Son of God –

The Son of Righteousness; He has risen not merely from the tomb,

But also in the hearts of all who will believe in Him.

Finished Work and an Empty Tomb

12:06 am and I’m having a feast – of Easter egg.  I start my Easter egg-eating a couple of days early, as I don’t like hot cross buns.  Some traditions can be fun!  Don’t invent them for yourself if they’re not.  “Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1.

Anyway, back to Easter eggs.  I unwrap my egg, take out that first big piece of chocolate (doesn’t it smell so good?) and suddenly where the chocolate was, there’s emptiness.  I heard someone talk earlier this week about how when you crack open an Easter egg there’s nothing inside, and it reminded me of the empty tomb – the tomb where once Jesus’ body had been.  An angel rolled away the stone that first Easter Day – for us, not for Him.  In His new, resurrected body, Jesus could come to His followers through locked doors.  He could have broken out of that tomb with the stone still at the entrance, but Peter, John and the women couldn’t have gone in.  They saw the sheet His body was wrapped in as just an empty shell, and the burial cloth from His head folded in such a way as to say:  “It is finished.”

Remember the cross this weekend.  Remember the work that Jesus has finished.  God loved and wanted to be with us so much that He sent Jesus to do everything needed to make us acceptable to Him.  And when you crack an Easter egg to see the hollow inside that first piece of chocolate reveals, remember the empty tomb – Jesus, alive again … and have a happy Easter.