Ashes to Fire – Clinging to Jesus

We went on a walk yesterday, which was the day after Easter, and along the side of the road was an empty plastic egg.  The candy it  once held was long gone and the empty egg discarded.  The celebration, the large crowds in the pew, new Easter dresses and the bright splashes of pastels quickly fade away as well.  There’s a story in the Bible that tells how Mary in all her excitement of recognizing the risen Jesus was hugging him or touching him, to the point that Jesus told her to not cling to him.  Are we clinging to Jesus?  Will we hold on to the reality that Jesus really is alive and with us?  Earlier Mary was in a frenzy because she thought someone had taken her Jesus away.  She believed his body had been stolen, and now that she had found him, she was not going to let him go.  Are we clinging to the Resurrected Jesus?  Or could it be that all that is left are the trappings, the once a year remembering, the empty shell of Easter…if we cling to anything at all? 

What are you feeling and experiencing in the days after Easter?  What did you learn or experience that you can take with you in the days and weeks after Easter?

April 26, 2011 at 4:45 am 1 comment

Ashes to Fire: A King, A Savior

A Palm Branch for Palm Sunday

Waving of palms!

Palm branches are raised and waved, and then the branches are laid to the ground to create a path worthy of reigning royalty.  Jesus rides in to cheers, applause, and shouts that He is a king.  The first clue that something is missing is that instead of riding in on a white stallion, He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt.  It won’t be long until the scene turns to darkness and a lonely cross where instead of shouts of praise there are hurled insults; instead of waving of palm branches there are pounding of nails.  There is a crown!  But instead of gold and jewels there are thorns and torn flesh.  Jesus is our King for sure, but He is also our Savior.  Instead of sin there is forgiveness.   Instead of sorrow there is joy.  Instead of death there is life.  Instead of a grave there is Resurrection.  May you experience this King and Savior today.

April 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm 1 comment

Ashes to Fire – Resurrection Eliminates Smell of Death

You could see their fingers begin to pinch their noses as the stone was rolled to the side.  I am sure there were heads shaking in disbelief, and yet there was enough curiosity that people waited around to see what happened.  We don’t know exactly how much time there was for the smell to waft through the crowd, but enough time for Jesus to talk to his father and the smell of death to get around.  Scanning those gathered you would have seen people give that startled jerk when Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”   Their eyes got big, and jaws would have dropped when they saw movement inside the opening of the tomb.  There probably was an audible gasp as Lazarus emerged, and strangely the smell of death was no longer around.  Lazarus was alive!  Resurrection power won out over death, as it would again 3 days after Christ’s death on the cross.  (see John 11)

I wonder how many people missed this miracle of resurrection power because they did not want to experience the smell of death?  How many thought that Jesus was crazy for wanting to open up the tomb?   It is important for us to remember that resurrection only takes place where there is death.  If we want to see resurrection power we will have to go to those places where the smell of death hangs around.  The kind of death caused by sin, injustice, bitterness, unforgiveness, violence and all the other stuff we plug our noses to.  Go into the neighborhoods and hang out with people who are experiencing death because of those things, and it will be there we will hear the shout of Jesus.  We will hear him because that is where He is…right where the smell of death is, because He is The Resurrection that eliminates the smell and death itself.

April 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment

Ashes to Fire: Sacrifice of Praise and Prayer

Last night I reflected on a prayer by John Wesley that said, O Lamb of God, in this evening sacrifice of praise and prayer, I offer you a contrite heart.  Give me grace, throughout my whole life,  in every thought, and word, and work to imitate your meekness and humility, through Christ, my Lord, I pray.  Amen.  As I read that prayer, and then the second or third time finally was praying that prayer, the phrase sacrifice of  praise and prayer kept hanging me up.  Wesley offered up a contrite heart.  A contrite heart is a heart of remorse for sins one has committed.   It comes from the Latin and means ground to pieces.  Crushed by guilt would be another way of describing a contrite heart.  Does that describe my heart?  Does it describe yours?  There needs to be times in our lives that we recognize that in the presence of Christ we come up short, or more accurately…come up sinful!  We don’t want to hear that do we? (See 1 John 1).  It may be that what we need to first offer up as a sacrifice is our pride.  Here is the good news; the prayer asks for grace.  Give me grace!  Christ answered that prayer by his own sacrifice.

March 30, 2011 at 6:40 am Leave a comment

Where do I go?

"Tower of Refuge"Have you ever felt like running away and hiding?  When we feel threatened and weak the feeling of flight rather than fight often takes over.  The picture of someone hiding out is a strong one, and conjures up images of confined dark places with someone cowering in fear in the shadows.  The Psalmist provides a description of hiding out that is in sharp contrast to the one just mentioned.  Psalm 61:3 says, For you are my refuge, my strong tower.  The place of refuge or hiding in the bible is one that provides perspective and grand views.   The place we are to go when threatened and feeling weak is to a tower, or a rock that provides a view (see Psalm 61:2).  High in the tower we are able to look around at the landscape and see the possibilities and the perspective that God has on any circumstances that have caused us to seek a safe place.  What was once thought to be scary and dangerous, may really be something quite small and less than menacing when seen from the heights of a tower, especially one built and inhabited by God.  So where do I go?  I go to the rock of my salvation; I go to God himself, my protector and my shelter.

March 22, 2011 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

Ashes to Fire – Blessings

Today’s prayer begins, O Lord, I thank you for all your daily blessings… Maybe it’s the human condition or due to the amount of bad news that is at our fingertips and before our eyes every day that causes us to dwell on the negative around us, in others, and yes, even within us (sorry for the long sentence).  We are called daily to recognize blessing.  It is a blessing that God is mighty, that he calls us his own possesion and that there is a rest for us…for me (see Psalm 50:1-2, Deuteronomy 9:29, Hebrews 4:9-11).  When we read the story of Nicodemus and his encounter with Jesus in John 3 we think that Nicodemus was blessed to have met Jesus even if it was in the dark of night.  But remember later on it is Nicodemus who is taking Jesus down off of the cross.  I wonder if Nicodemus thought that was a blessing?  It will only be after the resurrection that Nicodemus realizes the blessing it was to care for Jesus at the cross.  Lord, may I recongnize the blessing of being with you in dark times and in your presence at the foot of your cross.  I long for resurrection!

March 17, 2011 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

Ashes to Fire – Week One

Lord God, send the Holy Spirit to be the guide of all my ways and the sanctifier of my soul and body.  Save, defend, and build me  up in your love, through Christ Jesus my Lord.  John Wesley’s prayer remains the needed cry of today…send the Holy Spirit.  My heart yearns to be led by the Holy Spirit.  During this Lenten season of looking forward to the cross and Christ’s resurrection there remains the need for the cross and resurrection to be a part of today.  May my soul and body be set apart, cleansed, and empowered for this day.  It is easy for my mind to race and worry in an attempt to conquer what lies ahead, when this moment and this day is right here and is what needs to be cared for.  May I daily be refreshed and filled by the Holy Spirit.

March 16, 2011 at 7:50 am Leave a comment

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