The season of Lent is here. Easter comes early this year. Because of our mild winter we are seeing tender shoots peeking up through the ground. There is no snow on the ground to protect the new vegetation. I feel like saying to them, “Wait, wait, it's not time yet.” Such is our journey through Lent. It's not time yet, but Easter will come and with it the resurrection of our Lord.
In our Lenten study with it's focus on resurrection, we have looked at biblical accounts of resurrection in the Old Testament. We considered the story of the dry bones in Ezekiel. God lead Ezekiel to a valley filled with dry bones and ordered Ezekiel to prophesy over them, and God brought them back to life. (Ezekiel 37: 2b - 6) Because that resurrection was of a group of people rather than an individual, it probably indicated the restoration of the nation of Israel.
There are other accounts of resurrection in the Old Testament. Elijah restored the life of son of the widow of Zarepheth. (1 Kings: 17 - 23) And Elisha raised the son of the Shunnamite woman. ( 2 Kings 4: 32 - 35)
As we move into the New Testament we see Jesus as the agent of Resurrection. He raised Jairus' daughter (Mark 5: 40 - 42) and the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7: 11- 15) He also raised Lazarus after he was dead four days. (John 11) At the hour of Jesus? death, the bodies of many holy people were raised to life. (Matthew 27: 51 - 53) These resurrections foreshadow Jesus? coming resurrection. They provide proof that Jesus had death under his control. The difference between these resurrections and the resurrection of Jesus and the saints on the Last Day was that these people later died. And Jesus is alive! And we who are his followers will be raised to live with him for eternity! That's what Easter is all about.
1 Corinthians 13 NIV
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels,
but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor
and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy,
it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
A family friend whose daughter is battling mental illness has written these poignant words about intercessory prayer:
"I have set watchmen on your walls O Jerusalem. They shall never hold their peace day or night.You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth." Isaiah 62: 6,7
This Scripture speaks about the importance of intercessors for the Kingdom of God. The role of intercessory prayer in bringing God's Kingdom to this earth is vital. Sometimes, the establishing of His Kingdom comes one life at a time, one person at a time. Then each one manifests that Kingdom to others and they continue to pray for God's Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. This Scripture is interesting to me because the intercessors are watchmen on the wall.
They have been put there by God Himself. The walls of the city protect the city. The watchmen are to "watch" or "look out" for anyone who would be coming to attack the city. So, to be an intercessors means that we are also keenly aware of opposition from the enemy. We know from experience, that the bringing of God's Kingdom can and will be met with great opposition from the enemy of our souls! Matthew 11:12 talks about the Kingdom of heaven suffering violence and the violent taking it by force. The clashing of the the kingdoms - God's and the kingdoms of this world is a violent one and yet God says, "give yourselves no rest until".....you see Him establish that Kingdom as the praise of the earth.
I am so grateful for all of you as you watch with me on the wall.
This touched me because of the severity of her problem yet the strength she sees in the prayers of us, the “Watchmen” on the wall.
Let us be encouraged to continue in prayer. You might also add this family friend and her daughter to your personal prayer list. There is room on the wall for us all to be watchmen and pray!
Well, it’s that time of year again. New Year’s Resolutions. Earnest intentions to change the way we live. Honest pledges to begin to do things differently.
And there’s help! You can’t turn on TV or surf the net without seeing ads for gym memberships or the newest diet or a pill that will rejuvenate you. It’s time to get in shape.
If our great grandparents could only see us now. They might think our whole exercise fixation is just plain silly. Back then they had to work for a living. There wasn’t time or energy to do what it takes to get six pack abs. They didn’t go to Weight Watchers. They never had to lose ten or twenty pounds. They controlled their weight by hard work.
Still, we do want to get in shape so we will have a better life -- so we will be healthy and fit. Our work usually isn’t as demanding as it was in the old days. Instead, we place hope in the ads that make a lot of promises about the easy way to control our weight. Yea, right. There is no easy way.
I was reminded of this shortly after Christmas dinner. We did a pot-luck this year, with everybody bringing something good. After eating the turkey and ham, after the mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, after the pasta salad and the cranberry salad, after the squash and the green bean casserole, after the gooseberry pie and the chocolate cheese cake, I knew I had made some wrong choices.
Often, it is the influence of the world and our secular culture that shape us into ways that are not in God’s plan for us. Often, it is the influence of our best friends and family that shape us into people that do not reflect God’s way. Often, it is the unexpected events in our lives that get the best of us, and shape us in a different direction. Often, it is our deliberate choices that shape us into a sinful path.
New Year’s isn’t just the time for making resolutions about getting physically in shape. There is our whole spiritual dimension that probably needs a tune-up even more than our bodies. Most of us do tend to get a little out of shape in our relationship to God. In the worst case we become real spiritual slackers. We no longer feel the hands of God shaping our lives. We no longer live so following Jesus has high priority in our lives. The result ain’t pretty!
But listen, church -- there is real hope. (And I didn’t get this from a junk mail flyer, but from the Bible!) God is always there, willing to reshape, remake, renew us. God is always there to help us become people who are whole, useful, and beautiful.