April 28, 2017

A Matter of Discipleship -- Bruce Atchison

Easter is over for another year and our thoughts now turn to celebrating Mother's Day. But this doesn't mean that we should ignore what happened between Christ's Resurrection and his ascension.

A careful study of the scriptures shows that our Lord was busy during those forty days. We have the resurrection sighting reports, first from the women at the tomb and later by the disciples.

Of special significance to us is that Jesus explained to two disciples on the road to Ammaus regarding how the Old Testament foretold all that befell him. Many believers, including myself, missed the fact that those ancient scriptures spoke of him.

Here's another misapprehension we believers tend to have. Poor Thomas has been maligned for millennia as being a doubter. I feel that Christ's resurrection seemed too good to be true to him. After all, death is final and nobody in history up to that point had raised himself or herself from the grave as Christ did. All other instances of people returning from the dead were acts of God and they perished later.

Furthermore, Jesus had a lot of teaching to do during his post-resurrection time on earth. All through his earthly ministry, these twelve slow learners had fixed in their minds the notion of a temporal kingdom where they'd be ruling over an independent and sovereign Israel. Christ had to pound into their thick skulls that his kingdom was, and still is, a spiritual kingdom. And until he returns in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the gospel, it will stay a spiritual kingdom.

And what of the story of how Christ gave Peter three opportunities to say that he loved him? The dear man felt shattered because he had denied knowing Jesus three times. From his decision to go back to fishing, he apparently thought he was  inadequate to proclaim the kingdom of heaven. Jesus granted him restoration and brought him back into fellowship with him. Our Lord could have chastised peter and his friends for disobeying his command to spread the gospel throughout the world but he magnanimously pardoned them all.

Fortunately for future disciples, including us, Christ's apostles obeyed his command to wait at Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came on them. During that time, they devoted themselves to prayer. We don't have transcripts of those petitions but I'm sure they asked for the Lord's will to be done in and through them.

Discipleship is thee crucial counsel I lacked when I gave my life to Christ in 1969. It's why I wrote my How I Was Razed memoir. Newborn believers need the mentoring by older saints so they won't go astray. Since I had no one to guide me, I ended up in an aberrant house church. My memoir shows how God providentially led me to the truth about himself and his true character.

April 26, 2017

From "Hosanna" to "He is Risen" by Marnie Pohlmann

Easter, the Christian celebration from "Hosanna" to "He is risen. He is risen indeed," has been over for more than a week now.

For some, the Easter period began with Lent, a time of sacrifice and contemplation about what Jesus' sacrifice means to us. This tradition is an opportunity for us to examine ourselves and our need of a Saviour. Did you give up something for Lent and use the time to examine your life and your relationship with God?

After Lent comes Holy Week. I read an Easter blog at www.biblegateway.com in which the writer used passages from the Gospels to explain the events leading through this week to the resurrection we celebrate.

Sunday - The triumphal entry, celebrating Jesus as the Messiah, come to save the people. “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!”

Monday/Tuesday - Jesus challenged the money changers and taught Scripture at the Temple.

Wednesday - Judas is tempted and chose to reject Jesus' way by conspiring to force his own version of the future.

Thursday - Jesus and the disciples gathered for the Passover Meal, now known as the last supper. Jesus washed feet like a servant would. Jesus declared Himself the bread and the blood. Jesus and the disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray together, but Jesus prayed alone through struggles to submission.

Friday - Betrayal, accusation, abandonment, judgment, “Crucify him,” death among thieves, “It is finished,” earthquake, burial.

Saturday - Silence and fear.

Sunday - The resurrection. New life. “He is risen. He is risen indeed!”

And Easter is complete.
We go back to work, or school, or our families. We continue to gather at church services once a week to sing worship songs.

As I looked at this week of events, I realized that if I missed contemplating my relationship with God through the time of Lent, or wished to continue that self-examination, here was another opportunity. I could take the events of each Holy Week day to ask questions about my own walk with Christ.

Sunday – Celebrating Jesus as King.
Am I following God to enjoy the good life of celebrations or am I a follower on the good days AND the bad days? Am I a Sunday-only Christian or is Christianity my way of life?

Monday/Tuesday – Money changers. Teaching at the Temple.
What does where I spend my money say about me? Does it show I am committed to God or that I am swayed by other things? These things may not be bad in themselves, and may be different for each person, but what are my priorities?
Am I learning and practicing what Scripture tells me? Am I gathering with other believers to ask questions, discuss Scripture, and test my beliefs?

Wednesday – Conspiracy.
Do I know God or am I making God be who I want Him to be, taking the parts I want but rejecting the parts of God I am uncomfortable with? Am I following God or asking God to follow me in my desires? Do I make decisions first then ask for blessing and forgiveness, rather than trusting God to guide my life?

Thursday – Passover Feast.
Am I gathering with other believers? Am I serving them and serving with them, or only expecting them to serve me?
Do I pray intimately with them or do I fall asleep?
Do I take my own struggles to God and submit to His way?

Friday – Betrayal, accusation, abandonment, judgment, death.
When troubles come, do I stand true - even in times that hurt? Am I willing to suffer pain, abandonment, and rejection to follow God through to the end of this life?

Saturday – Silence and fear.
Do I trust God in the silence or do I hide in fear? Do I wait in anticipation for His promises to be fulfilled in His time?

Sunday – He is risen!
Am I living in this physical time as though eternity and the Kingdom of God are at hand? What do I really believe about the resurrection? 

Without restored life, I remain lost. Christ's death and resurrection for our salvation has been accomplished, but our own part in the Kingdom of God is not finished. Christ is risen! How do we answer these questions presented by the events of Holy Week?

Am I a Palm Sunday “Hosanna” Christian?
Am I a “Crucify him” Christian, depending on who I am with?
Do I believe only to the point of the crucifixion death?
Am I believer in “He is risen. He is risen indeed” and do I live like I believe this?

Easter, the Christian celebration from "Hosanna" to "He is risen. He is risen indeed," has been over for more than a week now. Will the choices I make in response to this Christian season continue in my life as a testimony to the redemption given by the living God?

*photos courtesy of Pixabay.com, CCO Licence

Marnie Pohlmann writes from the beautiful northern town of Taylor, BC. Read how she responds to the risen Saviour on her blog, Phosphorescent.

April 25, 2017

So We Can Live! By Vickie Stam

"But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed." NLT
         Isaiah 53:5

He is Risen!

When I think of Easter's past, I'm reminded that the death and resurrection of Jesus didn't always mean what it means to me today.

As a child it was all about the Easter bunny sneaking into our home and sneaking back out without any telltale sign of him. Not a single hair or set of footprints was left behind. 

I longed to catch a glimpse of the furry critter, see how tall he really was. Did he wear a suit like Santa? Why didn't he need any helpers? Oh... the questions. But I could never keep my eyes open long enough to have those answers revealed to me. 

In the morning the only evidence of the mysterious bunny - was chocolate. I believed that the bunny had indeed brought me that delicious gift, the one that I was ever so happy to devour. Talk about faith! My mother told me that the Easter bunny had brought the treats for me. And I believed her. Faith like a child.  

Back then it was customary for my mother to buy my sisters and I new clothes in honour of Easter. That special day always called for a new dress, shoes and white knee socks. It was an exciting time. "You have to look your best in church. Dress up for the Lord." She always said. It was the golden rule in our house, even though my parents didn't attend church.    

During those years I could hardly wait for the Easter bunny to arrive. As for the clothes, my mother would often pick out something to match one of my sisters. It seemed to be a dreadful obsession on her part to have us look like the twins we weren't. With only 16 months between us she always managed to find something that matched even if they weren't the same colour.  

Yes, my family had Easter traditions that I grew to love. Jesus and the Easter bunny shared that special day when I was growing up and it didn't seem wrong. I looked forward to it every year because that's what I knew. 

In Sunday school I had learned that Jesus died on the cross and rose again. I wasn't sure what that really meant to me back then or how much I really understood. Like the Easter bunny's story, I was full of questions. Why would God want his son to die? Why are there bad people in the world? Did God make bad people? Even so, believing in God was easy. Once again - faith like a child. My Sunday school teacher taught me to love Jesus with all of my heart. And I did. 

When I was a teenager, I stopped attending church. If only I could have seen the smile on Satan's face, the delight in his eyes when my focus shifted away from God. I had unknowingly opened the door for something bad to creep in. And evil slithered in. Satan tried to destroy my faith in Jesus. He tried to overshadow my life with doubt. 

At the age of eighteen, I got married. My world instantly changed. I became a housewife and a year later, a mother. In the midst of some of life's hardest challenges I found myself drawn to the bible in search of answers. I had fallen away from God yet that childlike faith I once had was suddenly tugging at my heart.          

In my troubles I had convinced myself that I deserved what was happening to me. I was certain that God was punishing me for the things that I'd done wrong. I felt as if God had abandoned me.

For sure, it had to be my lot in life. I questioned God. I was angry with God. Still, I would pull out my bible, sit in my favourite chair and silently read. Search the pages and yes - pray inside my head. 

Psalm 3:3-4 
    "But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the      One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain."  

In my longing for answers I was drawn to his word.  

When my burdens feel far too heavy for me to carry I try and imagine knowing the pain and strife that lies down the road - the things that I will face both near and far. I'm thankful that I do not know. But, Jesus knew he would die by crucifixion. He spoke about the death he would suffer. That's so hard for me to imagine. 

So many things stand out for me at Easter. The one thing that is clear to me is that Jesus died and rose again but there's another one -- 

Mark 16:7 reads, "Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died." NLT

Even though Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus never abandoned him. ( "including Peter" ) I love this verse because it reminds me that Jesus will never abandon me. 

His word answers so many questions, offers peace, love, joy and most of all hope. 

"All of us, like sheep have strayed away. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all." NLT
       Isaiah 53:6

As a child Easter meant, chocolate and Jesus. Today Easter is about understanding and believing that Jesus died and rose again - - so we can live.




April 22, 2017

Never To Be The Same! by Alan Anderson

Every so often I open up a bit to people. In this post I believe I am talking to myself more than anyone else. Perhaps that is healthy. Anyway, here goes. I hope readers find some meaning in the following words. They remind me I am in constant need of the grace of God. Nothing else will do!

My wife and I are on a spiritual journey these days. It is indeed a time of conscience examination and growth. The Christian life is never boring, that’s for sure! A whole new chapter of our God story is opening up. We are transitioning from our “Baptist” roots to orthodoxy. To us, it is new and maturing. This is not criticism. It is moving forward to us.

“When the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, He brought a new and powerful experience of God’s presence and power in their lives. They were never the same again. The experience of God in their lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit was powerful and personal.”—Father Anthony M. Coniaris, Introducing The Orthodox Church, 1982, p. 65.

Lent, Easter, Pentecost is all about Jesus. Then again, what part of the year isn’t? It is He who loved us before the foundation of the world. The One who forgives sinners, like me. Jesus, the One who cared for the welfare of his mother, His apostles and the world, even as He hung on the cross. Our lives are all about Him! Our lives can never be the same again!

The whole Lent to Pentecost season reminds me of how complacent I can be. It reminds me that I am prone to sin. It also reminds me God still loves me. He has not forgotten me even when I may think He has. The season embraces me with the love that will not let me go. It is humbling!

For me, to write is an expression of the life I have because of Jesus, the One who paid the price of my sin. He is a reason for when I write of experiences of suffering I make no effort to hide how painful suffering may be. Without the suffering of Jesus no one would appreciate or embrace the wonder of freedom, salvation or grace. Joy would lack its enthusiasm for there would be nothing to contrast it with. Joy would just be a word.

Oh Father who gave His Son! Oh cross that made joy come to life! Oh Jesus, the Son, who gave the cross significance! Oh pain conquered through His willing sacrifice! Oh Holy spirit, through whom we have never been the same! May we forever be thankful! May joy shine from our faces!

Now and forever we will never be the same! Now and forever I will never be the same!

Questions or comments welcome dear readers!

Blog: ScarredJoy@wordpress.com

April 21, 2017

A Broken Hallelujah .... by Jocelyn Faire

A Broken Hallelujah


2. reduced to fragments; fragmented.
3. ruptured; torn; fractured.
4. not functioning properly; out of working order.

Twelve Years ago for my 50th birthday my son and his to be fiancee sang a song for me ... Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. The forty or so birthday celebrants listened in amazement at the gifted guitarist and the strong female voice and the beauty of the words. A week and a half later this same song was sung on a missions trip in a Mexican orphanage at chapel time. That time I had goosebumps on my arms, the crowd was hushed, the electricity was palpable in the air and the audience of a hundred Spanish children and adults joined in with the Hallelujahs.
And ten days later these two singers and his sister were in a car accident that transported them to heaven.

So what does Easter mean to me? It means that even though the world is full of brokenness, the resurrection message is one of HOPE. I have not arrived to where I'd like to be in the journey, but I do not grieve (or live) as those without hope. (1 Thess 4:13)
Hope is searching for signs of spring on a cold April day. Hope is continuing to paint Easter eggs. Hope is staying in touch with a drug addict in Australia. Hope is making soup. Hope types words of comfort. Hope sings a song, says a prayer. And hope needs bolstering on a regular basis. For me, hope (as I think I've blogged before) is Hold On Perspective Eternal. Hope has eyes to see the bigger picture.
Hope is a choice
Hope has given me my voice
to question to doubt, to scream to shout
Hope has been in the midst
as a spark
as a river
a cause to shiver
Hope behind, hope before
Hope surrounds as it opens and shuts the door
The taste of hope
And I want more
More of the source
more of truth
more of the grace it has given.
I want Hope on this earth
And a taste of Heaven.

The resurrection of Easter means that which was broken by death, now moves towards wholeness. It means that I will hear that Hallelujah song again, and in heaven it will not be a broken Hallelujah. It means that while I am on this planet I and many others continue to live with loss. I will always wonder where would my son, my daughter be if they were still alive. Would I be a grandmother for their children? But the hope means that I can also put the pause on this line of questioning in order to see the beauty that has subsequently come into my life. It means that as I share with others in grief, I have hope to share. We may live in a broken world, but the presence of God is everywhere. It is the beauty of the sunset, it is the cry of a newborn baby, it is a flower budding, it is a wedding ring. We have been promised that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is the power that works in us. In Ephesians 1, Paul's prayer is that we could see the utter extravagance of God's work in us who trust him, the endless energy and boundless strength. And oh how I need both the energy and the strength. The cross was a once and done deal, I wish it were that simple to say I have hope, to say I don't grieve ... I am a work in progress, I practice hope daily.

Wholeness: noun the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole; unity. The state of being unbroken or undamaged.
Hope helps me move to wholeness as my Hallelujahs become less broken.

Here's a link to the Hallelujah song: there are many versions of this song, in the first the introduction is a bit long, but it's my favorite.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8AWFf7EAc4 Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSgsW9GLerA Alexander Burke's -a bit more theatrical

Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking out of My Head? Grief as an Out of Body Experience

April 20, 2017

I Wonder ... Did They Know? by Joylene M. Bailey

There were ten minutes left in an episode of a favourite TV series, when I was hit with the knowledge that this was the final episode. It became clear that things were shaping in such a way that my favourite character – the protagonist - was leaving the story, and the show.

In dismay, I sat up straighter and put my hands on my head.

I didn’t know!! I didn’t know!!
If I’d known this was the very last episode, I would have prepared myself! 
But I didn’t know.

And now there were only 10 minutes left.

I spent those last 10 minutes sadly drinking in EVERY THING. Every last encounter with a friend, the quick but knowing glance over at her love interest, the last words spoken to coworkers, the glint of a tear in her eye as she drove off…

They had all been through so much, facing everyday life, unexpected crises, and learning curves that came along. Together. They had grown close, understood each other’s moods, knew what made each one tick. 

And now it was over.

I wanted to continue being a part of their lives. I wanted to go back and appreciate every little look, statement, scene, again.

But alas, it was over.

Odd though it may seem, I remembered that scenario as I was thinking of the disciples watching Jesus be taken up in a cloud. There, where Jesus had led them, on the mount called Olivet. 

I wonder … as they were walking to Olivet, did they know? Had they prepared themselves? Were they aware that this was the final episode of Jesus Christ with them on earth?

Luke 24:51 says that while He was blessing them, He parted from them.
While He was blessing them!

Wait! What?
This is it?!
I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t know!

These guys had been continuously together for three years. They were friends. Close friends.

They knew who could take a prank and who couldn’t. They knew who would instantly react in a situation, who would sit back and take it all in, and who would joke about it later. They knew to which one to turn, to make the money stretch a little further, and which one could help settle a heated argument between friends. 

And though the God parts of Him confused them sometimes, they knew Jesus the man.

They had all been through so much, facing everyday life, unexpected crises, and learning curves that came along. Together.
And just when they thought they had lost their dear Friend and Teacher, here He was in their midst again!

But then, He was really gone.

Acts 1:9-11
     And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. and as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

I wonder … were they dismayed, taken off guard, hoping to spend 10 more minutes with Him? 10 minutes to listen for the nuances in His voice, or feel the loving acceptance that His very presence brought? Hoping to catch just one more glimpse of Him, this dear, dear life-changing Friend?

Unlike my TV series, it wasn’t over, and the disciples knew it. 

Luke 24: 52 & 53 says that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising God.

Then came Pentecost when they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, this One whom their dear Friend had promised to send.

How they must have welcomed Him!

After spending three years with Jesus, the Christ, how they must have appreciated all of the gifts and characteristics that the Holy Spirit added to their lives.

This is the same Holy Spirit who adds to my life, because I believe in Jesus, the Christ. This One who goes with me through so much, helping me face everyday life, unexpected crises, and steep learning curves that come along. Together. 

This One who assures me I am not alone, that Jesus will never leave me. No, this protagonist is not leaving the show.

And I'm reminding myself to appreciate EVERY THING about that.

All above photos courtesy of pixabay.com

 Joylene writes from her home in Edmonton, where she lives with her Cowboy, Babe, and a cat named Calvin. Check out more of her writing at Scraps of Joy.