So Good, I Think I’ll Keep It to Myself (My Redeemer Lives 7:4)

When you live in a large family, you hide your chocolate.

You hide your Doritos, your raspberries, your Oreos, and maybe even your steak too, but you definitely hide your chocolate, because it matters most.

What do you love enough to hide…mostly from your children, maybe from your roommate, maybe from your labradoodle? What do you tuck away because it’s so good you really want to save it for yourself?

Sometimes I wonder if the Gospel is just so good, that we tend toward the same line of thinking.

It’s so good, we think we might just save it for ourselves.

I’m not saying that we are consciously thinking, “Self, don’t share the Gospel,” but I wonder how much of the devil’s tiny mind tricks play on our subconscious. There are probably many and various things keeping us from sharing Truth in Love with our neighbor, but maybe there’s even a tiny, tiny piece of us deep down that wonders if we share it, whether there will be enough. Will the grace run out? Will the specialness that God sees me with run out? And the more transparent questions —

What if I take it and do it wrong? What if I mess up the Gospel?

Will I run out of all that is good in me, if I open myself up to another person?

In Mark 16:5-8 we find out that the women who went to take spices to Jesus’ tomb might have had similar feelings

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

They were afraid. Fear does crazy things to us. We aren’t going to tackle the concept of fear today; instead, we’re going to look at how God treats fear, where He is in all our questions and our concerns of “not enough,” and try to move past holding all the good stuff close to us and instead spreading it out like wildfire.

Do you think the Gospel writer Mark put Mark 16:8 in there to shame the women, to let them know how they had failed? I don’t see that in keeping with the rest of the book and the honor brought to these women by sharing their stories of that first Easter morning at the empty tomb. Rather, the Holy Spirit decides what details are penned through the personalities and the particular witness of each Gospel writer.

What does 2 Peter 1:16-21 teach us about every word written in pages of those Gospel books and the rest of God’s Word?

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Word is God’s, first and foremost. Notice 2 Peter 1:19 above again:

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…

That Word is a Lamp in dark places.

Those dark places are sometimes someone else’s, but they are also our own.

Christ’s resurrection shines light into the darkness of our hearts and sees that we also have fear. I think that at least part of the reason God shares the full story with us of these women hiding the Gospel, keeping their mouths closed, trembling in shock, is because He wants us to know that He knows.

He knows our lack. He knows the Gospel can be intimidating at times—so big, so awesome that we don’t quite know what to do with it.

He knows that resurrection is intimately connected to death and that can make it uncomfortable.

He knows that we wonder about failing ourselves, our loved ones, our world.

He knows that sometimes things seem so far from restoration that we think it’s maybe not even worth trying.

He knows that sometimes the night seems longer than it should be and sometimes the plan seems confusing and not what we expected.

He knows that we are waiting and we have questions.

He knows we need to eat, sleep, and breathe Hope from sun up to sun down and we simply cannot live without it.

He knows that we are made to witness, but we need one another as witnesses, for strength, for perseverance, for insight, and for confidence.

He knows each of us. He died and rose for each of us.
That fact alone makes it uncontainable.

Just like the women at the tomb, we eventually find our fears and our concerns filled with faith. Sit quiet for just a moment and read Mark 16:6. Breathe in and breathe out the words to yourself aloud.

And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.

This is resurrection, my friend. This is the Word at work in you. Let it ease into your pores and bring new life to your soul.

He is risen.

That’s all you need share. Those three words. Next time your friend shares a struggle, take their hand and tell them, “He is risen. He rises. That’s Who He is. He takes dead things, decaying things, and brings life.” The next time you see something joyous, say it — “He is risen. He rises. That’s Who He is. He brings all the life, everywhere He goes.” Pray it over one another when the resurrection is hard to see and when the resurrection comes and transforms hearts and lives.

We will rise with Him, when He comes back for us.

One day, not too far and not too long away, we’ll say, “He is risen!” to His beautiful, glorious, uncontainable face. We will have hands to touch Him, heads to lean against Him, and mouths to let out peals of laughter with Him. Won’t that be the day? Oh, my.

In the meantime…He is risen is our anthem. He is risen is our banner. He is risen is our war cry. He is risen is our cheer.

Don’t stop looking for resurrection now, friends. When you see it, simply say —

He is risen, just like He said.

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Don’t miss a bonus final study post next Monday! There will be a special surprise and an announcement to reveal the I Love My Shepherd Fall Online Study.

 

 

Today we celebrate the Resurrection! Tomorrow we Rest in the Resurrection. What special thing can you do to remember the Resurrection today or this weekend with family and friends? I know we just had Easter, but what if we surprised the world with a little Easter everyday? 😉

How Many Witnesses Do You Need? (My Redeemer Lives 7:3)

When we were homeschooling, our entire family read Case for Christ for Kids.

Then we read Case for a Creator for Kids and Case for Faith for Kids. It’s fair to say that I now believe that if there is a kid’s book about something, it’s generally my preferred read over an adult book.

I love reading. I even love reading dense theological texts, long and detailed articles about how the nervous system works, thick stacks of data regarding community needs. Sometimes, though, you need plain speaking and simple explanation.

The thing I liked most about the Case for Christ for Kids (and the adult version) was the emphasis on eyewitnesses and what that means for the Gospel.

Even if we had little to no historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God would still be God and salvation in Christ alone would not change. Our faith would not have to exist in a vacuum. These books opened my eyes, by helping me open the Scriptures to discover for myself just how much eye-witnessing went on after Jesus’ resurrection. There wasn’t one disciple involved, or two, or twelve.

There were hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection reality of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the study today isn’t to convince you of that reality. Lee Strobel and many others are available to help you open the Scriptures for that. Rather, today we’ll focus on something different—the Resurrection is intimately connected to witnesses and witnessing.

This changes everything about the place of faith in our life. Faith isn’t just personal and individual. It was meant for sharing. Faith, by its nature and connection to the Resurrection, is something we experience and communicate about together, as the people of God.

To convince you of the community orientation of the Gospel message, in our post-resurrection reality, read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and note, circle, or underline just how many witnesses you can find:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

This passage strikes me as fun for math people. It maps out as an upside-down pyramid of witnesses, with Cephas, also known as Peter on the bottom, the twelve disciples standing on his shoulders with their own witness experiences, and then 500 (yes, did you catch that…500!) witnesses of the Resurrected Jesus. Next came James, then more apostles/disciples, and lastly Paul had a supernatural Resurrected Jesus sighting during his conversation experience on the Road to Damascus, just in case we thought it had to happen a certain way. It doesn’t. Again, God is God and He bears witness, even when it may or may not fit into our should-look-like-this understanding.

Just how many witnesses does the world need?

We see quickly in the next segment of 1 Corinthians 15 the work of the church witnessing to one another, and that is where you come in, my friend.

Please read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 below. Consider, what hope is at stake here for the people, for the church?

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

Paul writes this while many of the original witnesses to Christ were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). A testimony of 500+ strong and they still needed to be reminded to hold on to the hope that Jesus did in fact walk out of that tomb. That hope makes their lives New. We are not people to be pitied. We have hope when things look hopeless. We have Life when there only seems to be decay. We have forgiveness, when every thing we touch feels a little bit dirty.

Christ lives. Christ is risen. This hope stands strong with us for life today and for a greater life tomorrow. Who has witnessed to you in your life? Who has shone that Hope in and Life in and Newness in when you needed it?

Who would miss the message of “He is Risen” without your witness? God works despite our failures, but He uses our witness when we don’t even know. I am positive that all 500 of those brothers and sisters in Christ did not understand that their witness would be written down for you and I to read 2000 years later, to encourage us and give us strength for this day and bright hope for tomorrow.

I don’t know how many witnesses someone needs to believe, but I want to be one of them. May the Holy Spirit work in and through us today in ways we can’t even begin to understand to bring the witness of Hope to whoever He puts in our path.

500, 600, 7,000, 3 million…and you.

 

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Meant to Be Told (My Redeemer Lives 7:2)

My children make me so happy and so incredibly frustrated at times.

I believe they would say the same of me.

The worst is when I have to repeat myself four or five times in order to accomplish the smallest task:

“Can you set the table?”

“The table…did you set it?”

“We are going to eat soon, so we need plates on the table.”

“Would you like to eat food? How about you set the table?”

“THE TABLE NEEDS TO BE SET OR WE WILL ALL GO HUNGRY AND OUR BONES WILL WASTE AWAY TO NOTHINGNESS AND IT WON’T BE MY FAULT!”

Yes, I have questionable mom moments.

I have found that the best thing to do when I can’t get their attention is to ask them to look me in the eyes.

“Yes, hi, dear child. I am right here. Where are my eyes? Look at my eyes. Please go set the table.”

Voilà! Mission accomplished. Why I feel the need to turn into a banshee first never ceases to amaze me. The Old Adam Mom will always be with me, I suppose. But there’s grace for that.

In today’s reading from Acts 3, Peter has figured this life problem out. Please read Acts 3:1-5 first, to see God’s Spirit in action in a small way, before we go on to hear the rest of the story and see God’s Spirit burst out in a big way:

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

I wonder if this gentleman had ever had someone truly look at him.

How often, do we long for someone to truly look at us? To know us and our pain, our heartache, our insight, our beauty?

I would propose that this is the first witness Peter and John offer to the man who was lame…

They looked.

As you walk around today, look.

Make eye contact with someone you may not usually make eye contact with, in weird situations, places, and spaces. People in our world are desperate for someone to see them, so much so that most of our natural response would be to look down, to shelter our eyes from someone’s gaze. It’s intimidating for someone to really see you, because we so often just don’t.

Continue reading Acts 3:6-10 and see the Spirit move again:

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter was honest. We all have something to give, and that doesn’t always look like money or tangible things. A little bit of time, attention, and a great big message of hope is fiercer though, longer lasting, and always available. The language of Acts 3:7 is especially touching. God’s resurrection power, through the Holy Spirit heals. Acts 3:7 also tells us that it provides strength. I think this is vital for a broader understanding of healing, so that we don’t end up deeply disappointed when healing doesn’t happen in the way we would like it. Otherwise, we read stories like this in the Bible and equate the absence of a visual miracle to the faithlessness of God.

God is faithful and He brings healing and strength in many, many ways. Sometimes He gives us physical strength, sometimes emotional, sometimes strength poured through relationships, and sometimes only spiritual, clinging tightly to the Truth we know and pressing on. The witness of these various strengths speak to God’s work in our lives. His glory shines freakishly bright when we lay our stuff out there, and let people recognize us, really see where our Hope comes from when all is laid bare.

Ready for more witness, more glory, more resurrection? Finish reading the account of our now leaping friend in Acts 3:11-16:

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.  

People ran to hear Hope, and Peter was not going to miss the opportunity to shine the witness of Who Jesus Christ was for all people and His strength poured out for each and every one of them.

Really looking at one another—that is the work of the Spirit.

Giving Hope in Christ—that is the work of the Spirit.

Strength in the cross and empty tomb of Christ Jesus our Lord—that is the work of the Spirit.

Hallelujah. He is risen indeed. We are witnesses of His glory.

PS – My poor children have a hard time getting my attention on the first try as well. I tune out with my book, at my computer, on my phone, daydreaming, whatever. Here’s to children who have grace for their mamas too!

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