Category Archives: Easter

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday… Why Bother?

Maundy Thursday 2Growing up in the Catholic Church I’m sure we attended on some of the days that are special according to the church calendar but I don’t recall. Then in my late teens I surrender my life to Christ Jesus and was part of an independent Christian Church that didn’t observe such days except for Easter and Christmas.

Fast forward three decades and for the last few years I’ve pastored a church that does participate in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services; and I’ve come to appreciate them very much.

Enduring a power outage gives you a new appreciation for electricity and all the comforts that come with it. And not surprisingly, the longer our gap of no power lasts, the greater our appreciation for it grows.

New depths of disappointment tend to be followed by new heights of joy.

In a similar way, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday develop in us a greater appreciation for Easter. They are opportunities for us to experience and contemplate some of what the disciples must have experienced with Jesus during His final hours …

  • Their excitement of gathering together for the Passover Meal, wondering if Jesus was about to take the throne and restore Israel to a state of independence…
  • Their uncertainty when Jesus led them to the garden to pray …
  • Their shock when Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested like a common criminal…
  • Their disbelief and utter horror as their teacher, the one they’d left everything to follow, was being tortured and nailed to a cross…

But then Sunday comes and with it the empty grave! How can we begin to describe the powerful emotions that must have swept over them with all that was going on?

Making time to participate in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services helps to develop in us an even greater appreciation for Easter and the hope that was born again when Jesus conquered death!

Find some services at a church near you or locate some resources online to reflect on what took place so many years ago. And then celebrate Easter like never before!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Easter, Good Friday, Jesus, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Reckless Abandon

What would you attempt if you knew you wouldn’t get hurt or injured?

  • Skydive from 10,000 feet
  • Race a sports car at 200 mph
  • Bungee jump off a bridge
  • Strap on a hang-glider and leap off a tall cliff
  • Step inside a metal cage and get lowered into shark infested water
  • Climb Mt Everest or Kilimanjaro
  • Walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls

Reckless_Abandon_470X270Would you attempt them if you knew you’d be safe?

What if Jesus’ resurrection was meant to give us confidence not only to face death head on but to face life head on?

When Jesus was arrested all of his disciples ran, after a brief sword incident involving Peter, because they were genuinely afraid for their lives.

According to historians there were at least 18 Messiah wannabe’s around the time of Jesus. The book of Acts tells us about two of them. One of those men is Judas the Galilean. (Acts 5:37) The historian Josephus tells us that this Judas of Galilee founded the Zealots – the group of Jews who believed in physical rebellion against the Romans. He and 2000 of his followers were crucified.

The crosses were all left standing in the Galilean countryside because the Romans wanted to send a message. Jesus grew up in Galilee as did some of his disciples. They would have seen those crosses. They knew what the Romans did to the followers of men claiming to be Messiah.

They had every right to be afraid for their lives. But when they discovered the empty tomb and were visited by the resurrected Jesus all of that changed.

Jesus killed death! There was nothing left to fear!

It’s one thing to trust in Jesus’ resurrection so that we can face death with confidence and peace. It’s a whole different matter to trust in Jesus’ resurrection so that we can face life with confidence and peace.

That’s what we see happening in the lives of the disciples and the early church. Because of their trust in Jesus’ resurrection, and defeat of death, they lived with a reckless abandon.

  • They sold their possessions to help those in need.
  • They openly shared about Jesus even when it brought persecution.
  • And they crossed cultural and social boundaries to do so.

Sociologist Rodney Stark argues that one of the primary reasons for the spread of Jesus’ movement was the way his followers responded to sick people.

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius around AD 165, an epidemic of what may have been smallpox killed somewhere between a third and a fourth of the population, including Marcus Aurelius himself. A little less than a century later came a second epidemic, in which at its height five thousand people were reported dying daily in the city of Rome alone.

Historians tell us that the Greeks and Romans tossed their sick loved ones out into the street to die and avoided burying the dead all in an attempt to escape death. Historians also tell us that the followers of Jesus remembered what He taught about caring for the needs of others, even strangers, and they tended to the sick, even though it cost many of them their lives.

What if Jesus’ resurrection was meant to give us confidence not only to face death head on but to face life head on?

What would it look like to love and forgive and pray for and meet the needs of others, even our enemies?

What would it look like for us to live with such reckless abandon?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Courage, Easter, Faith, Forgiveness, influence with the world, Jesus, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality, Resurrection, Serving

Resurrection day plus one… now what?

Yesterday we celebrated Easter, the day set aside to recognize the resurrection of Jesus. But now what?

Late yesterday afternoon Susan and I hid eighty-some eggs around the outside of our house. Then we watched our kids – the four still at home – hunt for them.

One of the things that I found fascinating is that when they saw an egg they would often hurry to get it and rush right past another egg without noticing it.

I think we do that same thing with the resurrection.

We hurry to celebrate the reality that Jesus’ victory over death brings us hope for life beyond the grave. But in the rush we miss the reality that it also brings us hope for life before the grave.

Several decades ago the catch phrase for evangelism was: “If you die tonight do you know if you’d go to heaven or hell?”

I believe this was asked with good intentions but I also believe it warped the message of the Gospel.

The disciples journeyed with Jesus and learned to trust Him with every aspect of how to do life differently here and now, which eventually led to trusting Him with death.

We jump with people to trusting Jesus with death and then try to back them up to trust Him with how to do life here and now; which tends to be a hard sell.

Making the resurrection all about securing new life for us beyond the grave is sort of like having doctors and hospitals only to help secure our safe passage into death.

Doctors and hospitals exist to help improve, maintain or restore a certain quality of life. And Jesus’ resurrection secures for us the opportunity to do life here and now in a completely different way.

In what is refered to as the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, Jesus taught what it looks like to bring God’s kingdom influence to the world by living the resurrection life here and now. Here are just a few things He taught.

  • Don’t wear your righteousness only on the outside, like the Pharisees, but live with a changed heart as you embrace righteousness from the core of your being.
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
  • Forgive others just as God has forgiven us.
  • Don’t worry about tomorrow or what you don’t have but seek first the kingdom of God.

Does this describe how we’re doing life?

To celebrate the resurrection on Sunday with our voices but then deny the resurrection every other day of the week with our actions makes a mockery of God.

Will we proclaim Jesus’ resurrection by how we live today?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Authenticity, Christianity, Easter, Forgiveness, Heaven, Hope, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Resurrection

B.C. on Easter

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Filed under Christianity, Easter, Jesus

Jesus had other options

It’s impossible to know all that the disciples experienced following Jesus’ death, but surely it involved confusion, doubt, anger, shock, disbelief, grief, hopelessness…

Among all the rush of emotions and thoughts, perhaps some of them considered the possibility that Jesus had other options.

From Alan T Dale’s Portrait of Jesus

The Zealots believed that a physical, violent revolt was needed. Surely if they stand up to the Romans, God will come in power to deliver them. Jesus could have taken up arms with the Zealots.

The chief priests controlled the temple. They walked a tightrope of collaborating with the Romans without getting close enough to upset other Jews. Jesus could have gone along to get along and used the temple as a teaching platform.

The Essenes withdrew to the countryside to start over in their own communities. Jesus could have done this and had quite a following out where it was safe and quiet.

Pilate ruled the region on behalf of Caesar. Jesus could have cut a deal with Pilate and worked from within the system to make some changes. Imagine Jesus being connected with influencing the Roman Empire from the inside.

God had already done many miracles through Jesus. All Jesus had to do was call for a legion of angels to come take up the battle. Perhaps one more dazzling miracle is what was needed.

All of these are options, but Jesus chooses none of them.

In the garden, alone and deserted, Jesus says, “I know what I must do. I will not fight. I will not run. I will not deal. I will not dazzle. I will die. I will die. Not my will Father but Your will be done.”

Jesus knows that rebels always die so He dies on a cross in place of the rebels, men like Barabbas. Jesus goes to the cross and literally saves Barabbas’ life.

Jesus knows that with a word from Him the crowds will attack. Many of the Roman soldiers were just boys from nearby Syria working for the Roman government. So Jesus will not say that word. He goes to the cross and Roman soldiers live.

Jesus knows that if He flees to the wilderness, His disciples will be gathered and executed. That happened to every other wannabe Messiah, and His disciples are scared to death. He dies and they are saved.

Jesus knows that any kind of uprising will bring the wrath of Rome and Jerusalem will be destroyed. So He dies to save Jerusalem.

Jesus dies for all these people who hate Him. And from this one act of sacrificial love the world is forever changed.

But they don’t understand. They don’t grasp that this is part of a bigger plan. When Jesus is arrested and crucified, all their hopes die with Him. For this moment… all seems lost.

Jesus had other options, but He chose to give His life.

“No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as my Father commanded me to do.” ~ John 10:18 (CEV)

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Courage, Easter, God, Jesus, Love of God, Sacrifice, Suffering, Surrender

All about love

Jesus came to make available to all of mankind a new covenant relationship with God. After celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples Jesus let Himself be betrayed by a friend and gave Himself up to be arrested. Why?

In spite of our reluctance and resistance, the essence and novelty of the new covenant is that the very law of God’s being is love. Pagan philosophers like Plato and Aristotle had arrived through human reasoning at the existence of God, speaking of him in vague, impersonal terms as the Uncaused Cause and the Immovable Mover.

The prophets of Israel had revealed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a more intimate and passionate manner.

But only Jesus revealed that God is a Father of incomparable tenderness, that if we take all the goodness, wisdom, and compassion of the best mothers and fathers who have ever  lived, they would only be a faint shadow of the love and mercy in the heart of the redeeming God.
~ Brennan Manning in The Signature of Jesus

Only love can begin to explain why Jesus would surrender Himself to go through being tortured and crucified for our sins.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8 (NASB)

As we prepare to celebrate Easter may we be overwhelmed by the love of God!

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Compassion, Easter, God, Jesus, Love of God

What would happen?

You and I live in a culture where we gather in stadiums and around televisions for hours at a time to watch guys run around a field with a pigskin ball in their hands as they try to cross a white line.

We express enthusiasm, emotion, and affection for football and other sports, and it begs the question, what would happen in our culture if the church prayed with such passion? What would happen if Jesus dominated our affections more than the superficial trivialities that garner our attention? What would happen if we spent hours before God praying on behalf of the church, the lost, and the poor around the world?

Of course, your Radical Experiment does not have to start in a stadium. It can start in your living room or prayer closet. Anyplace can be the place you begin to connect the practice of prayer with the purpose of God in the world.
~ Excerpted from Radical by David Platt

He’s right you know. We spend a boatload of time and energy and resources on things that are only temporary.

One day we will all stand before our Maker. Imagine Him asking:

“How could you spend all that time on games and stuff that turned to dust when men, women and children all over the world were lost and needing to know me?”

I don’t offer that to make you feel guilty but as a gut-check. Are we paying attention to what matters most?

Beyond arenas and games, there are even good things that can distract us from the more important work of praying for those who don’t know Jesus.

I read the David Platt quote yesterday morning as I was gearing up for a big week of activities surrounding Easter. With three messages to prepare, three services to plan, and a fourth service to participate in I was already feeling some pressure.

These are good activities surrounding what is arguably one of the most important days for all followers of Jesus. I want to do a good job and that’s one of the reasons they hired me.

But even preparing for our church activities should take a back seat to praying for those all around the world who do not yet know the grace and truth of God made real and available through Jesus!

What would happen if we spent hours before God praying on behalf of the church, the lost, and the poor around the world?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Church, Compassion, Determination, Easter, God, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Jesus, Loving others, Prayer, Priorities

I’m sick and tired of the hype about new Easter ideas!

I’m all for new thoughts and ideas. They usually help to stimulate my slow-moving and limited brain cells. So I subscribe to various ministry newsletters.

Most of the articles come from men and women seasoned with plenty of ministry experience. And most usually have some nugget of wisdom or insight to offer.

But I’m sick and tired of the hype of new Easter ideas! 

We are still weeks away from Easter but here is a list of the articles that have already come across my computer screen:

  • 16 Tips for Better Easter Impact
  • 6 Preaching and Teaching Tips for Easter
  • 11 Keys to an Explosive Easter Service
  • Easter Challenge to Pastors
  • 40 Easter Outreach Ideas
  • 4 Ways to Keep Easter Guests Coming Back
  • 12 Ways to Make Sure Easter Guests Don’t Come Back (A creative way to express what we should avoid doing)
  • 8 Vital Elements of an Easter Sermon
  • Church Will Give Away $1000 on Easter

If you add all of these magical numbers together they equal: 1 nauseated pastor!

What do you suppose the disciples of Jesus were doing after His death but before that first Easter morning?

Mourning: They were grief-stricken over the death of Jesus. They felt lost.

Examining: How did this happen? Did we miss something? How did we get here?

Praying: “Dear God, do something!”

What if we approached Easter this same way? What if we used this season of Lent to really get ready for Easter?

Mourning: Are we grief-stricken that our sins and the sins of the world led Jesus to be crucified?

Examining: What am I doing with my life? What are my real priorities? Am I putting God first?

Praying: “Dear God, do something! And let it begin with me!”

The only way for the world to experience the effects of a risen Savior is for me to first experience the effects of a risen Savior!

“Lord, stir my heart and quicken my spirit. Draw me closer to You and awaken me to live in the reality of a risen Savior. Transform my head, my heart and my hands as I give myself to love broken people in a fallen world!”

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Easter, Good Friday, Grief, influence with the world, intimacy with the Lord, Lent, Loving God, Loving others, Morphing, Prayer, Priorities, Reflection, Revival, Sin

Dance your shoes off!

 

Happy Easter!

 

Susan came across this video a week ago on a friends Facebook page and it has become her new favorite song! Enjoy it with us as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and the new life He make’s possible – right here, right now! Be sure to watch it to the very end for a special message!

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Filed under Easter, Encouragement, Glory of God, Jesus, Love of God

Why didn’t Jesus warn them?

“The disciples weren’t sure what was happening next, why should you be?”

That’s what I asked those who joined us last week for our Maundy Thursday Service to celebrate and remember the Last Supper – the Passover meal that Jesus shared with His disciples just before being arrested. We used no bulletin; no list of what was coming next.

We read Scripture with the advantage of hindsight but forget that the disciples were living it out moment-by-moment. Details that are crystal clear to us were not so obvious to them. I think that’s why they were so shocked at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

Sure they grew up hearing the prophecies of old about how the Messiah must suffer and die. Sure they spent three years doing life with Jesus and heard Him speak of His impending death – on more than one occasion. And yet they were caught off guard!

John does admit that there was more that Jesus did than what we have recorded (John 20:30). Maybe He did pull them aside and lay it all out for them with something like:

“Listen guys – I’m going to be arrested, run through a mock trial, tortured beyond recognition and then crucified. But don’t sweat it because three days later I will rise from the dead just like you saw happen with Lazarus. So go with the flow because it all turns out OK in the end.”

Is it possible? Sure! Is it likely? No! Why didn’t Jesus warn them? Why didn’t He make it easier to understand so that they wouldn’t get so distraught? In a word…

…FAITH!

He was growing their faith! If they’d known everything that was going to happen, that everything was going to be alright, they wouldn’t have been stretched and grown in their trust of God. Not knowing where circumstances are headed and still trusting God to be in control requires faith.

Jesus was preparing to unleash them on the world to carry out His kingdom agenda. They were going to be used by God to spread the good news of His grace and truth; and that would require great faith.

So what circumstance of life is God using right now in your life to grow your faith?

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Filed under Easter, Faith, Jesus, Suffering, Trusting God