Reflections on the Resurrection

“There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said’” (Matthew 28:2, 5, 6).

Jesus has risen! “Where, O death, is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). The tomb is empty. Hope is alive! “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. So in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 22).

Jesus crucified is risen. Jesus, who like a lamb quietly went to his death, is enthroned at the right hand of God, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He who died in weakness rose from the grave, from death, in power. The power and mighty strength of God was “exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything” for the good of God’s people (Ephesians 1:19-22).

I come to the empty tomb of Christ. The graves which hold my parents and my grandson no longer instill hopelessness and fear within my heart. The grave which one day will hold my lifeless body is no longer fearful to me. Death’s strangling grip on my heart has been broken. 

Jesus Christ shared in our humanity “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). In Christ I am freed from the fear of death. For in Christ I am alive in God and live with the hope of the resurrection to eternal life. This hope is not a “what if”, an “I hope so, but I’m not sure.” This hope is hope for it is certain. “By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Corinthians 6:14).

Jesus is risen! He is at the right hand of God! Yes, we await the resurrection to come with hope and expectation. I am confident that now in spirit my parents and my grandson are not entombed as are their lifeless, spiritless, bodies. They are with Christ waiting for the resurrection to come. The apostle wrote of his expectation to be with Christ after death. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). 

The resurrection of Christ means resurrection life for us, not only in the future, but even now. Resurrection life is life lived in faith trusting the power, grace, and love of God and of Christ. Resurrection life is life lived in the hope of our eternal inheritance in Christ. Resurrection life is living with the joy of hope deeply planted in our hearts. Resurrection life is living faithfully before God. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3, 8, 9). “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

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Reflections on the Tomb

“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away” (Matthew 27:59-60).

The beauty of the grass, trees, and flowers, cannot hide what lies beneath the ground. The entombed lifeless bodies of people who loved and were loved. They once lived, worked, and played. Babies, children, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, the single, the married, all engulfed by the earth.

The grave cries out that death, the enemy of us all, is victorious. Yes, death is our enemy, the enemy of life (1 Corinthians 15:26).

I want to again experience my father’s hugs and hear his voice. To eat my mother’s pies, pot pie, and more, to hear her words of love, and her giggle, at least once more. I remember and miss my grandson sitting in my lap, curled up asleep in my arms. I wonder what he’d be now. The grave keeps them from me. The grave, its stark coldness, its mocking darkness, is death’s strangling grip on my heart.

Death feeds the grave. The grave feeds my fears. What is life if all it does is lead to the grave? “Death is the destiny of every man” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other” (Ecclesiastes 3:19).

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator, his lifeless body on a stone slab in the darkness of the tomb. Hope died as the big stone was rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb” (Matthew 28:1).

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Reflections on the Cross

“They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). And they crucified him” (Mark 15:22, 24).

God loves humankind with a love the depth, the cost, and the unselfishness of which I cannot fully grasp. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

It is said of Jesus Christ that he created all that was created. How do I put my mind around the Creator becoming the created? The Creator of all things, the Almighty One, lived in the weakness of the flesh. The power of all powers died seemingly powerless. We humans pursue power over others. I cannot comprehend such strength of love, such power, that is able to so completely sacrifice self. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).

Father and Son gave themselves freely for me, a sinner, ungodly, an enemy of God. Christ died that I might be forgiven and reconciled to God. Through the crucified Christ I am now a holy child of God, godly in His sight, and at peace with God. “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When the tragedies and struggles of life have struck those I love, I remember Christ on the cross. When suffering and death strike the innocent, especially those I love, I remember Christ on the cross. When tragedies, struggles, suffering, and death challenge my faith, cause me to struggle with doubt, and tempt me to turn from God, I remember Christ on the cross. Christ died on the cross. The Beloved of God died on the cross. I remember. Remembering I know God’s love has not forsaken the suffering and dying child of God. God’s love has not forsaken me. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Jesus Christ dying on the cross gives me hope. Hope gives me joy. “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have no received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11).

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A CHRISTMAS PRAYER–Lessons from Sully

Journey through the Shadowlands

6-24img_2572A baby in the manger. The Son of God come in the flesh. We ponder the wonder. We seek to understand his impact on our lives.

A baby born with leukemia. My grandson Sully. We ponder the wonder of his short life. We seek to understand his impact on our lives.

A couple years ago I was sitting at lunch with a group of St. Jude Children’s Hospital nurses. One of them had known Sully. She reflected on Sully’s life of fifteen months. “Sully always smiled. All the chemo and heavy duty meds, the suffering which he endured, yet he always smiled.”

As I remember Sully on this Christmas, I share with you the lessons with which Sully blessed this grandfather’s heart and life.

No matter how painful life may be, smile.

Do not grumble and complain. Cry, scream in pain, but then remember the Lord, remember the blessings of…

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Christmas Gifts for Your Children

Journey through the Shadowlands

PICT1295Children add something so special to this season. I have precious childhood memories of Christmas. How precious are the memories, even more so, of our own children and Christmas. Now the grandchildren. As I reflect on Christmases past and present, I wonder, do we attempt to buy our children’s happiness with gifts quickly forgotten? Do we fail to devote as much joy, expense, and effort in giving the gifts that last a lifetime? So here is my suggested list of gifts for parents to give to their children. A list for grandparents to give to their grandchildren. Give these gifts now and throughout the year. You do not need a check, cash, or plastic to buy them. You simply need all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength.

Gift one–LOVE! I know, this is obvious, or is it? Jesus said, “As I have loved you…

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The Outrageous Claim of Christmas

At the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, Solomon prayed, “Will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple” (1 Kings 8:27).

Yet there is this outrageous claim by the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. God, in the person of his Son, came in the flesh. The Creator of all things, the one whom “the heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain,” came into his creation as a human being. He was conceived in the womb of a woman. Jesus of Nazareth, born like any other human baby, grew, lived, and died. His disciples claimed Jesus was God, the Son of God, in the flesh! Jesus was God dwelling on earth!

The apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1-3, 14).

Max Lucado vividly captures the mystery, the awe, of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh. “The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.” (God Came Near, 1987, p. 25)

One writer expressed his struggle with the outrageousness of the claim of Christianity. “The virgin birth has never been a major stumbling block in my struggle with Christianity; it’s far less mind-boggling than the Power of all Creation stooping so low as to become one of us.” (, 12/4/2000)

C. S. Lewis calls the incarnation, God coming in the flesh, Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, the grand miracle. “The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him.” (“The Grand Miracle” in God in the Dock, 1997, p. 80)

The apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8).

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The Struggle for Joy in Our Hearts

Journey through the Shadowlands

christmas-treeChristmas is one of the most joyous times of the year. Yet Christmas brings a mixture of emotions. For Christmas evokes memories. Memories are a mixed bag of joy and sorrow. The joy can be tempered, if not overwhelmed, by the continuing pangs of grief, of family conflict, of illness, or some other struggle and tragedy of life. For many, Christmas is a time when they can relate to the words of the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament book of Lamentations“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me” (3:19-20).

With life falling apart around him, the prophet lamented. the weight of his emotional load did not lighten. Conditions for him did not improve. Yet he remembered something which gave him hope. Remembering he found strength with which to carry the weight of…

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