Generous Lives  

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read:
Philippians 4:14-16 – Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.
 

Reflect:
Paul was quite clear that he had learned to be content in whatever his present situation was due to his reliance on the Lord. That did not mean that he desired to be poor and destitute. Still, everyone needs a little help from friends now and then. And there is nothing wrong with admitting that.
 
The Philippians had helped Paul by supplying him with some money, and perhaps some food and clothing, on more than one occasion. That did not go unnoticed, and Paul did not pretend that he didn’t need the help, or that he would have been just fine without it. Paul admitted that it was kind and helpful of the Philippians to send their gifts to him.
 
Paul was not above being bold in his comments and openly admits that the Philippian church had done a better job of supporting him than other congregations had done. Paul affirms that this action was helpful and encouraging to him. For Paul, generosity was clearly a part of the whole Jesus package. Living generous lives shows that we “get it” when it comes to the gospel. In response to God’s amazing grace, we give too! And Paul dearly wanted everyone to under­stand this—because getting Jesus right is the most important thing in the whole universe.
 
Living generous lives blesses others but it also blesses us more than we really know. Next time you have opportunity to be generous, try to do so and see what a blessing it can be.
 
Pray:
Lord Jesus you gave yourself completely for our sake. Help us to catch the vision of giving and to lead generous lives of self-giving always. In your name, Amen.

Christianity Began With An Event

Authored by Mary Lucas
 
Read:  1 Corinthians 15: 3-8, 12-19
 

Reflect: 
Sadly, many people have walked away from Christianity, or the next generation in a family may not believe as prior generations did.  Perhaps this is because of the false assumption regarding the foundation of Christianity. And that is that the Bible is the foundation of our faith.  Therefore, if you can undermine the authority of any book or passage then that must mean the Bible is false and also Christianity is false. But the foundation of our faith is not “It is written!” It is “Something happened!”  Christianity began when a person, Jesus Christ died on a cross and then overcame death, rising again.  We believe in the resurrection not just because the Bible says it is true but because eyewitnesses like James and Thomas and Paul say it’s true. 
 
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve.  After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.  Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him…. But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.”
 
Christianity did not begin with a book but by an event – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And if that didn’t happen then our faith is useless.  Our authority is in a person not a book.  Jesus said to his disciples: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth”.  Matthew 28:18
 
Those who walk away from the faith need to know that they are not walking away from a book but they are walking away from an event and more importantly they are walking away from a person.  I need to remember this as well…to point people not to the Bible but to Jesus.  I need to remember as I read the Bible to see how it points to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  Some passages (like the prophecies and psalms) clearly predict who Christ is and what he will do. Other passages prepare God’s people to understand the grace God must provide to redeem them. Still other passages show how our actions and status are a result of God’s grace towards us in giving His son to die for us.  His grace towards us precedes, enables, and motivates our efforts toward holiness. In other words, what we are to do is always a result of who we are in Christ.  Also, as you read the Bible ask yourself, “what does this passage reflect about the nature of God who provides redemption?” Or “what does this passage reflect about the nature of humanity that requires redemption?”  Just keep looking to see how it all points to Jesus.
 
Following Jesus will always make your life better and make you better at life!

Cost 

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Mark 14:3-9.
Vs. 3 – While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Reflect:
When the woman broke the jar of expensive perfume the judgement on her actions began immediately. Surely the money spent on the jar of perfume for Jesus could have helped people in need. Would this not have been better spent on helping the poor? But Jesus was the one whom the woman was called to bless at that time. She followed God’s leading in her that day. Jesus acknowledged it was an appropriate action as well.
 
Have you or your family ever received a generous gift? Our family has on a number of occasions. The hard part for me was to accept them graciously. My own sense of pride often got in the way of acceptance. In the end however, those gifts came in times of financial need for us, and they were more appreciated than I could ever say. The people giving us those gifts felt led to give and didn’t do it out of guilt or duty. They did it because they loved our family and knew that God had blessed them to be a blessing to others.
 
We know that the cost of ­discipleship—following Jesus—involves relying on God and following his calling in our lives. The people who blessed our family were doing just that. The woman in today’s story gave extravagantly to Jesus with no thought about her own needs or agenda. She simply did what she was called to do.
 
Sometimes we are called to do things that may seem different or out of place, however if we truly understand that we are being called to do so, just do it. That may cost us a bit of pride, but the outcome will be a blessing to others and a building block in our faith.
 
The call to be generous and bless others is to trust Jesus and to live with a generous spirit. It is always rewarding.
 
Pray:
Father, allow us to hear your call and to follow wherever you may lead, no matter the cost. Amen.

He Has Risen, Just As He Said

Authored by Martha Dodd
 
Read:  Matthew 28: 1-20
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. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him.  Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’  Vs 5-10
 

Reflect:
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is one of the most highly attested events in history.  The evidence of the empty tomb, the many eyewitness reports from both individuals and groups, some as large as 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15:3-7), the transformed lives of Jesus’ followers and the rapid growth of the church – all point to the truth of the resurrection.

It is one thing to know in our heads that the Jesus rose from the dead, but how does this change our lives? 
 
As one person has noted, people commonly accept as historical fact that human beings walked on the moon just over 50 years ago.    And yet, this knowledge has made little or no impact on how people lead their daily lives.
 
So, if we believe that Jesus’ resurrection from the grave actually happened, what does this mean for how we live our lives?   In what ways has Jesus’ resurrection shone light, quelled fears or directed hope into your life and circumstances…in years past or in this past year, or today?
 
The angel told the women at the tomb that first Easter morning that Jesus had risen, “just as he said.” As they waited in the dark, between Friday and Sunday, did they remember Jesus’ words?   What truth has Jesus given you to hold on to in the dark?   The women discovered it was only in the presence of the risen Jesus, that their fears were silenced. And like them, it is only as we first ‘come and see’ and encounter our risen Lord Jesus as we abide in Him, that we then have something to ‘go and tell’ others. 

Pray:
Lord, thank you that Jesus shared in our humanity so that by His death, He might break the power of 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.  And thank you that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, You have given us new birth into a living hope. 
 
Please enable me to know and experience the power of Christ’s resurrection in my thoughts, words, and actions.  Thank you that You will always be with me to the very end of the age, helping me to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks me to give the reason for the hope that I have.  (Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 Peter 1:3; Philippians 3:10, Matthew 28:20, 1 Peter 3:15)
 
1 Corinthians 15: 55-58
‘Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.

Rich Man – Poor Man 

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Luke 16:19-31.
Vs. 19-21 – “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
 

Reflect:
Of all the indignities that I saw while serving in Relief and Development for our denomination was to see the extremely poor not just being marginalised but to be ignored by the leaders in their own country. I remember seeing beggars pushed off the side of a street and out of sight by police. Moments later a caravan of luxury cars drove by as the country president returned to his office nearby. This parable that Jesus told came to m y mind as I watched the beggars slowly make their way back to the side of the streets.
 
Jesus had sympathy for the poor and often rebuked rich people who were selfish and did nothing for the poor. In Jesus’ parable, the poor man Lazarus who died was carried by angels to Abraham’s side in heaven, and the rich man was sent to hell, where he was in torment.
 
The rich man had lived for his own pleasure and had ignored the message of Moses and the Prophets. Lazarus had had no comfort in life, but in death he received the blessings of life with God in heaven.
 
Many of the hymns of the American black slaves in the southern states were messages of hope and ultimate vindication by Almighty God for the injustices they endured as slaves. One of their spiritual songs speaks of God as the “Rock of my soul” in “the bosom of Abraham”— an expression referring to “Abraham’s side.”
In Jesus’ parable, the rich man’s sin was not that he was rich; it was that he refused to care for a person in need. His stony heart ignored the call to share food with the hungry and to provide shelter and clothing for people in need (Isaiah 58:7).
I pray that I will never be so blind that I do not see the pain and suffering of others. The truth is that the majority of us who live in Canada live in an affluence that we seldom recognize.

Pray:
Our heavenly Father, instill in me your heart of compassion and lead me to do some good with the earthly treasures you have given me. In the name of the One who has compassion on us, Amen.

He Has Risen!

GOOD FRIDAY
 
Authored by Lou Geense
  
Read: Luke 24:1-12.
Vs. 5-6 – “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!

Reflect:
Can you imagine being one of the disciples that came to the tomb prepared to place perfumes on the body of Jesus only to find he was not in the tomb. I have to admit that my pragmatic side would begin to look for logical conclusions. Furthermore, as much as I want to be a person of faith, I would most likely have been standing with Thomas John 20:26-28.
 
It is clear from the record of resurrection morning that confusion ruled the hearts and minds of the disciples. Mary believed the body had been stolen, the other disciples still had not understood that Jesus must rise from the dead. It is Jesus and the angels that bring clarity, calm and peace to the disciple’s hearts. The angels caused the women to draw on their memory and remember Jesus’ words that he would be crucified and on the third day rise again (vs. 7-8). In John’s account Jesus calls Mary by name and in her distraught state she recognizes Jesus (Jn. 20:16).
 
In the midst of confusion and chaos Jesus reigns with truth and certainty, even today. In the midst of our present chaos and confusion Jesus is still the one to whom we should run for clarity, certainty and hope.
 
The resurrection of Jesus is the most awe-inspiring event in the history of the world. It’s not just that Jesus came back from the dead; Elisha had raised a dead boy to life, and Jesus himself had raised several people. The unique thing about Jesus’ resurrection is that it is permanent—Jesus is still alive! Jesus overcame death forever! That means he reigns forever!
 
Because of Jesus, death no ­longer has the finality it once had. Jesus demonstrated his power over death so that we can have real hope that he will conquer our death as well. Like Jesus, many of his followers will die. But, because of Jesus, all who follow him will one day be raised back to life. Resurrection Sunday will one day be resurrection day for all who believe! Amen!
 
Pray:
Lord Jesus thank you for your truth, your clarity and your sure and very real hope. We praise you for your sacrifice on our behalf. Father thank you for your plan of salvation. Thank you for the truth & promise of your resurrection. Halleluiah and Amen!

Resurrection

Authored by Mary Lucas
 
Read:  Matthew 28: 1-7
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  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. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’”
 

Reflect:
In 1963 a young girl by the name of Addie Mae Collins was killed when the church she was in was bombed in a terrorist attack.   In 1998, the Collins family requested that Addie Mae’s body be exhumed and moved to another cemetery. But her body was not in the spot where it was presumed to be – the body was missing. There were lots of suggestions about what happened to the body of Addie Mae but no one suggested she had been resurrected to walk the earth again. Why? Because by itself, an empty grave does not a resurrection make.
 
The empty tomb by itself is not evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.  The question is if, after he died, did he appear to anyone?  Dead people normally don’t do that! Jesus appeared to many people after his death.
 
I heard that if all the individuals whom Jesus appeared to after he died were cross examined for 15 minutes each it would take from breakfast Monday until dinner on Friday to get through them all. After listening to 129 straight hours of eyewitness testimony I think no one could walk away unconvinced of the resurrection!  Some of these individuals were the disciples who were hiding in fear one day and then boldly proclaiming Jesus as risen.  Eleven of the twelve disciples were eventually martyred for their faith.  No one would be willing to die for a lie!  They had truly seen Jesus alive and knew for certain that he was the Son of God!
 
But why is the resurrection so important?  This became real to me several years ago.  Patti H. was a good family friend and very special to me because she looked after my twin sons in the hospital after they were born.  She was a lovely Christian woman, married to Sandy (another wonderful person) and they had four children. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a young age.  I prayed that God would heal her and I believed He would.  I couldn’t understand why He would take such a wonderful person early in her life.  In 2015 Patti died just before Christmas.  I remember being angry with God.  “Why didn’t You heal her?” I asked.  “Why?”  It was then that I heard God’s voice say to me “I did heal her”.  I then realized that He had answered my prayer.  She was fully healed.  Because of the resurrection!
 
As Christians, we no longer have to fear death, because we have an incredible hope – the hope that one day we will be with God forever. It’s not a “hope so” hope, it’s a “know so” hope.  If Jesus was raised, Pattie will be raised.  And I will be someday too.  Then I will see them both. 
 
In John 11: 25-26 Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.”

A Real Kind Of Hero 

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Mark 15:1-20.
Vs.  –  19 – 20 – Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Reflect:
As Jesus stands before the religious leaders and the Roman governor, the authority and power of God himself is on trial. And at the end of this trial God in Jesus Christ stands condemned of being useless as the kind of hero that the world wants him to be. The world wants tangible, personalised benefits and freedoms.
 
The world laughs at Jesus. The Romans think Jesus is the one who needs a hero to save him. The world thinks the “weapons” of Jesus—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness—are a joke with no lasting value for a life that’s here today, gone tomorrow.
 
But here’s something that the world has missed.  Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and the Roman soldiers all missed it: Jesus’ power might not always seem as grand and glorious as the ­powers of this world, but the joke is on them. Pilate felt sorry for Jesus, thinking he was no real threat to the Roman Empire. But Jesus felt the same way about him. Jesus didn’t threaten the Roman Empire because it was no real threat to Jesus. Nor were the religious leaders. Nor was the crowd. Nor was the cross. Nor is cancer. Nor are your ­finances. Nor are broken relationships. Nor are any of the pains and troubles we face in this world, not even the Corona Virus 19. If Jesus doesn’t seem to get as anxious as we do about our problems, it’s only because he knows they don’t win in the end.
 
The crucifixion and the resurrection are the ultimate power for all mankind, and it is the free gift of Jesus to us at the ultimate cost of sacrifice. This Hero sacrificed himself in order to save humanity.
 
Pray:
Dear Jesus, you’re not the one the world wants. But you are the one we need. Thank you for going through all that suffering and mockery to save us—to save me. Amen.

But I Have Prayed For You 

Authored by Martha Dodd
 
Read:   Luke 22:32, Hebrews 7:24-25
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. 

Reflect:
The Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu is built on a hillside on the eastern slope of Mount Zion in Jerusalem.  This Church commemorates Peter’s denial of Jesus.  According to tradition, the church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu (Latin for “cock crow”), is built over the ruins of the house of Caiaphas, the high priest in Jerusalem at the time.  We are told in Scripture that it was at the house of the high priest where Jesus was condemned to death by the chief priests and elders, before being handed over to Pilate in the early hours of that Friday morning. 

Beside the Church, excavations have brought to light a stepped street which in ancient times would have led from Mount Zion down to the Kidron Valley.  It is possible that these stone steps were in use at the time of Christ, and if so, on the evening of his arrest, Jesus may have been led up this way, bound and under heavy guard, to the house of the High Priest where the Sanhedrin would assemble for a trial.

As I stood at the base of these steps several years ago, I wondered what would have been going through Peter’s mind that night as he climbed the steps, his heart pounding through his chest, following at a distance right up into the courtyard of the high priest where he warmed himself by a fire.  When he was questioned about his relationship with Jesus, Peter distanced himself even further, and denied three times knowing him.   At that moment, a rooster began to crow.  “Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61-62) 
 
As he broke down and wept over his own failure, could Peter remember something else Jesus had said to him in the upper room just hours earlier?…before the mention of denial and a rooster crowing?  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32) 
 
Peter may have thought it was all over, but where was Jesus?  The One, who is over all creation, was heading for the cross where he would suffer and experience the agony of being forsaken by God as he took upon himself the sin of us all.  For God made Jesus who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)  
 
Jesus told Peter that he was praying for him, that his faith would not fail. Three decades after this night, the lowest point in Peter’s life, he wrote: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10) The only reason Peter could write this was because he had experienced the truth of it in his own life.  His faith may have been bruised for a time, but empowered in the Holy Spirit, he turned back, strengthened others in the faith and encouraged them to follow “in Jesus’ steps.” (1 Peter 2:21) 
 
There may have been times in our lives when because of failure or denial or following Jesus at distance, we have felt defeated or disqualified…as if it’s all over.   But thank God that “Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  Jesus is praying for you, that your faith may not fail and He will make you strong, firm, and steadfast.  
 
Prayer:
And the Lord who loves me, reminds me in Romans 8:33-34
 
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” 
 
Spend some time in prayer, offering gratitude to the God of all grace for demonstrating His unfailing love to us in that while we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us, and that He always lives to intercede for us. 
 
Ask the Lord to bring to mind someone you know who needs strengthening in their faith today?  Pray for them. 

Wounded Hearts 

Authored by Lou Geense

Read: Is. 53:1-6; John 20:19-20. 
Is.53:5 – But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 

Reflect:
There is a story behind every scar that we have. I have quite a few: several knee surgeries, a couple of shoulder surgeries, lots of stitch marks from cuts and of course recently a heart surgery and a pacemaker; all have helped to bring an enjoyable, healthy life. Perhaps a scar reminds you of an accident, and you’re thankful for the recovery you have experienced. Some scars are emotional and psychological, often much more devastating than the physical ones, reminding us of deep hurts inflicted by others.

Real community allows us to share the stories of our scars, when it is appropriate.  As we do that, we can show our gratitude, humility, and our need for community. A drawback to popular social media platforms today is that people often portray their life as a bed of roses. It’s easy to share news about vacations, happy family gatherings, and celebrations. But true fellowship allows our bonds to grow deep and that often happens when our scars are exposed in sharing our personal stories with others.
Today we see Jesus in one of his post-resurrection visits to his disciples. And when “he showed them his hands and side,” his followers were overjoyed as they recognized the Lord.

What a story his wounds tell! He was not like a superhero we see on TV, who easily accomplished great feats. Rather, as we see in Isaiah 53, Christ’s victory came through deep personal sacrifice. We are also reminded of our sins and our transgressions. When we embrace these two realities—Jesus’ wounds and our need—we find healing. Indeed, “by his wounds we are healed”!

Pray:
Lord thank you bringing healing to all our scars. Allow us to forgive those who have hurt us so they also may know the power and freedom of forgiveness and ultimately your healing touch. Amen.