A Picture of Easter

Our friend Joel Warne of Wellspring Life Resources is sharing an Easter reflection here today. Larry and I have been grateful beneficiaries of and ministry partners with Wellspring Life Resources for over twenty years. When I was a young wife and mom, Joel’s book Soul Craving was a most influential resource in helping me know Jesus more intimately and tangibly. Wellspring offers a range of spiritual renewal services for both leaders and lay people across the country including live events, small group resources and counseling. Their ministry calls our hungry hearts toward a more rich and transforming daily experience of God.  We’re very thankful Joel shared this poignant and true message of hope with our readers for Easter 2020.


The comedian George Carlin once quipped that he was so shocked by what he found the day he entered this world that he couldn’t speak for two years!

Ha! It is a shocking world, especially during these remarkable days when ominous forces seem active overtime to rock things precious to us.

Ancient faiths around the world right now are urging hope, optimism and courage to act toward a positive future as the most healing and authentic responses to the uncertainties we all face.

At this Easter time of year Christian churches view this hope through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth’s story. It embodies the cyclical human journey from happiness and plenty, through unexpected loss and despair, toward the possibility of new and surprising resurrections.

May I offer a picture of Easter?

Our granddaughter was born at home by way of a pool birth. Our daughter and son-in-law are modern parents so invited their other girls, ages six and eight, to be in on the experience. The 8-year old reflected and concluded, “No, I’ll listen at the door.” The six-year old, who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up and loves all things biological declared, “I’m there!”

Everything went great. Downstairs we got word after the birth that both baby and mom were healthy and happy. We were still congratulating ourselves when an alarm came from the room—the baby’s breathing rate had suddenly soared dangerously high. After laying peacefully with our daughter in the warm birthing pool our new granddaughter had been given into the arms of an assistant while her mother transferred to a bed. Separated from mom, the baby’s breathing rate rocketed into hazardous territory.

An anxious half hour later came relieving news that the baby was ok. The midwife had done something wise and beautiful. To bring our new granddaughter’s breathing back to a safe level she placed her naked body skin-to-skin on her mom’s chest. Slowly, the baby’s breathing entered the rhythm of her loving mother. Lying there, in intimate caring contact with her mom, our granddaughter relaxed into a serene calm.

Let me offer you that picture—the image of the threatened, vulnerable child held skin-to-skin at the breast of the loving parent. The protective embrace, the child snuggling into its natural home, the restoring shared rhythm.

This is the invitation of Easter.

Lots of us are breathing fast these days. Heart rates are high too. There is a feeling of vulnerability as our ordinary supports and controls prove less and less certain. Easter is about leaning in, skin-to-skin, with a loving Parent. It’s a decision of the will—repeated again and again—to entrust things into a caring embrace.

What can we entrust?

  • Our fears and uncertainties: Fear is a failure of imagination. It chases itself in a closed loop, a hamster wheel circle. Easter-trust releases our fears and uncertainties into the reality of a bigger story and opens our world to an invasion of help and provision from the outside.
  • Our preferences and fantasies: An ancient wisdom wisely counsels, “Be with God in what is.” That is, make peace with your real life with all its pluses and minuses. Stop kicking against it. Relax trustingly into your real situation today. This makes space for Easter’s renewing force to surprise you with unanticipated solutions.
  • Our losses: physical and financial, plans and dreams, even precious lost loved ones. At the heart of Easter is the idea of Resurrection, the conviction that in each painful dying is buried a hidden kernel of life ready to unexpectedly grow up again, often in new forms more profound and fruitful than the original. It’s hard to release our painful losses, yet we are not releasing them into a dark abyss, but into loving and powerful Hands that return them to us in a new form—as personal healing and rich new possibilities.

Certain narratives have been given us to provide our hearts and minds a framework that resonates and works in a world like ours, in times like these.

The Easter story is a narrative supreme.

Easter is about leaning in, skin-to-skin, with a loving Parent. It’s a decision of the will—repeated again and again—to entrust things into a caring embrace.

If we can find courage to relax our losses, fears and preferences into a caring Hand more capable than ours we discover the Easter surprise—new life invades tombs! Into every painful death, collapse, calamity or puzzling defeat, God has preceded us with an Easter resurrection, poised and ready, full of relief, keen to be born.

Copyright 2020, Joel Warne, WellSpring Life Resources
Permission to forward, post or reprint is given by the author.
WellRefreshed.com


For more than 35 years Joel has led leader and lay retreats, workshops, and groups around the theme of ordinary people moving toward a more intimate daily experience of God. As a spiritual director and co-founder of WellSpring Life Resources, Joel has written and published spiritual formation curricula used across the country.

Joel is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN. His special love for Christian ministry leaders is expressed through pastor and leader retreats that both comfort and challenge leaders in their call. His many years in the corporate world before co-founding WellSpring in 1999 with his wife, Gerri, a Temperament Therapist, give him lots of insight into the challenges and joys of ordinary people in their journey with God.

Let’s Go ALL IN for an explosion of faith! #10,000Laborers

If I said you can play at a role in 
helping someone encounter 
a saving relationship with Jesus Christ 
THIS WEEKEND 
would you feel apathetic, scared, doubtful or excited?
I want you invite you to join me in jumping out of a comfort zone. Maybe you’re like me — a Christian with a passion to help others know the saving truth BUT not particularly comfortable with overtly “evangelical” conversations.  Does it surprise you that I’m not comfortable explaining the Gospel to someone who doesn’t know it or hasn’t accepted it yet? After all, I’m executive director of a Christian ministry that reaches people all over the world. Sure, my life’s passion and work involves helping people experience more intimate personal relationship with the Savior, but I am not (underscore NOT) an evangelist! Yes, I have even written books and blogs about disciple making. But that rarely involves overt presentation of the Gospel message with someone who doesn’t already follow Jesus. Nonetheless, I’ve jumped into an opportunity of a lifetime recently and I don’t want you to find out about it later and wish that you could have come along (because, trust me, a lot of you reading this right now will be hearing about it later and will truly regret that you missed out)!
A few months ago, I was presented with an opportunity to go on a local mission trip in July 2014 sharing the Gospel with people in the Twin Cities and to do so as part of a team as large as 10,000 laborers!  So I started attending monthly prayer, equipping and sharing experiences that are an empowering privilege — connecting me with Christ-loving people who want to lovingly share Jesus with people of the Twin Cities who are lost, broken and without hope.
From the faith perspective, I have to tell you that this is one of the more challenging but exciting things I’ve done in a long time. I’ve already been out on a couple of practice runs with Time to Revivie and I’m being stretched and encouraged in ways that are very satisfying and God-honoring.  Just last weekend I spent some time in a hospital coffee shop and met a young dating couple who were visiting their grandpa who was in his last hours/days with brain cancer.  My team asked permission to pray for them and they accepted with awe and tears in their eyes. After we encouraged them and shared the Gospel, they thanked us profusely and went back upstairs empowered to read the Psalms and sing hymns with their loved ones.  
So with a training recap coming up this Friday night and Saturday morning, there’s a fire down in my soul to share this really great opportunity with you. I am praying that you will take a hard look at what you have going on this weekend and consider whether God maybe leading you to participate in a few hours that could not only change your life but, more importantly, change someone else’s life for eternity!
There’s a FREE equipping session Friday night then Saturday morning involves worship, prayer, training review and practice within a small team!  You get paired up with two or three other people from churches all around the Twin Cities for an opportunity to pray for others and encourage them to go ALL IN with Jesus.  Even if you can only attend one session (Friday/Saturday), give it a go!  Larry and I will be watching out for friends and would love to see you there!  
And the beauty is that you can jump into the fun fray of this at any point (no prior experiences necessary). Adults, kids, grandparents…it’s multi-generational!
To learn more about the Revive Twin Cities experience or learn about what Time to Revive is doing in other cities around the country (soon to be near you), visit their website at http://www.revivetwincities.org 
#10,000Laborers
#ALLin
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As I post this right now, I’m praying that God grabs hold of your heart and time — spurs you into the adventure with us.  If you’re still on the fence or just want to ask me more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at lisa@walkrightin.org.  I would just LOVE to see you at Grace Church this weekend.

Prayerfully Pondering Life, Loss & Newtown

In the past few days (particularly in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT), I have found it helpful to chew on these quotes and verses about life and loss.  I pray that it may be helpful to you also as you take your own heart and mind to the feet of Jesus for comfort, strength and wisdom.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.”  From How Does Jesus Come to Newtown? by Pastor John Piper. 

“We were talking about the shooting and how it is devastating. They reminded me of all the babies America kills daily in women’s wombs, yet we do not mourn over that.”  From my friend Nathan Haugen. 

 “The life that we live falls short of the life God gave us.”  From Tis More Blessed to Receive 12.16.12 by Pastor Dan Johnson.

***


Romans 3:23

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 


John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 14:1

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

John 1:12

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Matthew 19:14

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

1 John 4:12

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 Peter 3:13-14

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.

Luke 2:10-11

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”


***

I am empowered and comforted to FEAR NOT! No matter what circumstances surround us, God stands in authority and is the suffering Sovereign.

Hebrews 4:15-16

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Back to Basics

Reading Jesus’ teaching about the fruitful vine has always been a helpful way for me to start a new year:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:1-5

Periodic, intentional and aggressive “pruning” is always important because it serves to keep us firmly rooted in and thriving in our Vine. But getting back to the basics of life and faith are especially critical when confronted with things like crisis, chaos, discouragement or fear. Since that’s how Larry and I are starting 2012 — at times, overwhelmed and fearful — we’ve been re-anchoring on some of Jesus’ foundational teachings:
  • Abide in the Vine
  • Love others
  • Have faith like a child

These aren’t resolutions. These are a matter of survival and the way to thrive. And that’s not our theory. That’s God’s Divine promise.

NOTE: Due to a very full January calendar for our family and ministry, I am trimming my Blogging schedule for the next several weeks. I don’t like it. Writing is my passion and I have a lot of ideas about things to share soon. So even as I pray that the Lord keeps this quiet season short, I am praying that He is using the fresh start of a new year for each one of us — to train us toward the most critical things and shape us according to God’s heart. 

Mission Disentangled

We have all experienced moments, seasons and degress of discontentment, have we not? It’s not difficult to get caught up in the daily grip of busy schedules, a sense of insufficiency, or a longing to feel more appreciated, more rested, more financially secure. I remember times when I believed I would be happier if only my kids were better behaved, if my spouse or friend was a better communicator, if I could lose more weight, if I had a more satisfying career or was more talented, if I could make a more signficant difference in helping improve the lives of others, and if my family was safe from encounters with things like cancer, disability or accidents.

Along the way I have discovered that God’s expectations are even higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-10) yet He never makes impossible demands of me (Ephesians 4:11-13, Hebrews 13:20-21). Somewhere between trying to measure up and growing up in my relationship with Christ, God keeps reminding me His power is made perfect in my weakness through two invaluable tools — His Word and in His Holy Spirit alive in me.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This truth is the same for me as it is for you. Do you believe this to your core?

Reality Check: Sometimes life gets hard — sometimes REALLY hard. And, without God, I will never be sufficiently equipped to live it well. That’s why I appreciate the perspective and insight these verses bring.

2 TIMOTHY 2:3-4 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Consider these facts for yourself:

Fact #1 — God is my Creator. Jesus is my Savior. The Holy Spirit is my empowerer. (Hebrews 11:6)

Fact #2 — To be disentangled, I must embrace God, myself and others in view of mercy. (Romans 12:1-5)

Fact #3 — Keeping focused on my relationship with Christ influences my ways of thinking, my attitudes and my behavior. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Fact #4 — Recognizing God’s sufficiency, sovereignty and indwelling releases me and mobilizes me for a life of freedom! (John 7:37-39)

The Word of God is our Divine weaponry in the enemy’s battle for our minds. Whenever we have questions or doubts about who God is or who we are in relation to Him, that’s where we must go to re-align with the truth. It’s in growing that kind of personal relationship with God our Father and in fixing our perspectives about life on His perspectives about life that we develop passion for our mission. And, because the Holy Spirit dwells in those of us who are in personal relationship with God, God energizes us for things that please Him. That’s a powerful combination! That’s an arsenal where I can anchor my life, satisfaction and freedom!

Clues for me that I am becoming re-entangled with the world are: self-indulging, taking on too much, feeling stuck in shame, becoming critical. What does it look like in your life when you become “entangled in civilian affairs”?

As we disentangle our focus from things of the world, we find freedom in a life with Christ that fills our aching souls and honors our holy God.

ALMIGHTY GOD, You are my Commanding Officer and I want to participate in Your mission. Please strengthen me in heart, mind and body to fully engage in my relationship with You and to increasingly share Your perspectives about sin, suffering and stuff! Please make my aspirations HOLY. Mobilize me, by the power of Your Holy Spirit in me, to do the things that delight You and to serve others on behalf of the spiritual freedom I have available to me through You. AMEN

Merry Christmas!

Fear & GLORY

—by Luke Hinrichs

Everything rests, then,
on whether you,

with spongy heart
and openmouthed meekness,

hear with aching ears
the heaven-sent announcement;

and whether you act,
taking it in like food,

making way for
your own nourishment.

Imagine yourself, then,
one of the shaken shepherds—

“Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news

of great joy that will be
for all the people.

For unto you is born
this day in the city of David….”