I Often Don’t Like Easter Services

I often don’t like Easter services.

I don’t. I like parts of the service—usually. But I often come away less than satisfied.

The Easter story is packed with lessons:

The prophecies of Passover fulfilled
“Not my will but Yours”
Peter denying Christ
Christ bearing the punishment for our sins
By Christ’s stripes we are healed
The crushing of Satan’s head
Light in our deepest darkness
The defeat of death and the grave
Eternal hope
And so on, and so on, and …

It must be rather difficult for preachers to decide what to focus on. Most usually choose a topic that will speak to those who rarely attend church. (I think that’s a great idea.) And for those who want to break the story into meditation-size pieces, many churches offer several services the week preceding Easter Sunday. (Another great idea.)

But if I was the one planning the Resurrection Sunday service …

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The Divine Finisher

You may remember me sharing that my word for this year (2017) is listen. So in February I asked the Lord what topic He wanted me to cover and felt impressed to study how He has modeled parenting for us. That’s been my theme the past several weeks. I figured who else can show us how to manage difficult children?

But this is an exhaustive topic. That’s actually good. Right?

Does not our heavenly Father continually entice us, make us thirsty, cause us to seek after Him, make us hungry to learn more, go deeper, grow wiser?

So in an attempt to wrap up this topic—leaving so many rich thoughts un-delved—I’d like to look at the idea that this Father does more than teach us how to parent …

He is the divine Parent.

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Now What?

It was another Help, Lord! moment.

One of my children had just blindsided me with another, never-before-used, boundary-challenging technique. Dumbfounded, frustrated, and weary, I asked my heavenly Father, “Now what do I do with THIS?”

I once considered writing a book titled Now What? because it was a question I asked on a regular basis. Too frequently I felt thrown off kilter. The misbehaviors I faced—almost daily—required the wisdom of an experienced professional. I frequently felt like Tim Conway, in the Carol Burnett Show episode years ago, when he jabbed himself in the forehead with Novocain. But I knew I had to formulate some sort of immediate response to the inconceivable situation, so I typically used anger to fight through the stupor.

In one of those crying-out-to-the-Lord moments, I told Him, even if there are books out there to help me, I don’t have time to read them. And even if I read them all, they still wouldn’t have prepared me for this new issue. I needed divine insight, and I needed it right now.

Have you heard that phrase, “What would Jesus do?” Asking this question actually helped me. Jesus said anyone who had seen him, had seen the Father (John 14:9). I figured no professional insight could begin to compare to the wisdom of Father God. So if I took a good look at the way Jesus handled “out-of-the-blue” behaviors, I might get some clues about my current situation.

• Because He was confident in His identity, no surprise attack ever threatened Him.

• Because He never felt threatened, He could remain in control, think clearly, and respond appropriately.

• He used Scripture to guide His responses.

• Even when lied to, lied about, misunderstood, misrepresented, belittled, betrayed, crushed, and crucified, He remained confident Father God’s purposes would be accomplished.

• He was therefore free to patiently instruct, guide, provide for, heal, forgive, encourage, beckon, comfort, and even die for a fickle, unreliable, self-centered, wayward bunch of children.

When “what thens” fly in our face, it’s time to return to the most basic truths. We are God’s and He’s the One calling the shots.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1, NIV).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3, NASB).

The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,” (Is 14:24, NASB).

Time and time again, God took me back to the basic—yet earth-shifting—truth that He loved me. He delighted in me. My identity was based on who He declared I was an eternity ago, not on what my children did a moment ago. As long as I took regular time to remember this, I would find myself at peace and able to parent the tough stuff from a place of confidence.

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I’ve talked with many moms the past several years. I’ve heard stories of horrendous misbehaviors. But you know what? I rarely hear anything new. Crazy lying. Stealing. Feces smearing. Destruction of property (even brand-newly decorated rooms). Explosive episodes. Sexual acting out. Drug usage. Alcoholism. Debt-incurring financial choices. The list goes on and on.

No matter how horrible, none of these behaviors can ever change who God is. None change who we are. None threaten God. They don’t need to threaten us either. None steal God’s peace, or joy, or love, or decision to lay down His life. None thwart His eternal plans.

So, what then? Then is when we sit down, breathe belly-deep, and wait. Wait until the dust that clouds our thinking settles. Wait until we remember how deeply we’re loved. Wait until we’re confident in who God is, what He’s able to do. Wait until we have an answer from God.

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV).

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NASB).

Jesus: The Perpetual Gift

How could it be past Christmas day and I’ve not yet mentioned Jesus—the greatest gift of all? But then, how can I even begin to describe Him?

Yet it’s Jesus alone who carried me through the turmoil of raising SAFE* children.

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When a friend—a married man—got to know my daughter a little too well, I implored the Lion of Judah to devour that man. However when I looked in Scripture at the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, I discovered the Lion is actually the Lamb—the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:1-6). He’s who made salvation possible, not just for me, but for this man as well. The Lion who is the Lamb, offers mercy to every human—hideously naughty or sugary nice.

When my only perfect child took a giant step into the abyss, and my world seemed dark, I discovered the Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16). You know what? That Star not only shows up in the morning after the long dark night, that star is actually the first to appear in the sky at the beginning of night and is visible all night long. Hope, even when it appears small, never abandons us.

When my children seemed to turn against me, I sunk deep into Immanuel, God with me (Matthew 1:23). I sheltered under the shadow of His wing (Psalm 91). He was the no-man’s-land that placed Himself between me and my enemies. But He also reminded me that though I had a very real and angry enemy, it was not my kids (Ephesians 6:12).

When others misjudged me, He reminded me that He Himself was my vindication (Psalm 17:2). And you know what, He handled all the judges just fine. Most who thought they could do better than we did, at some point had one of our children living with them. Each one came back later to say they now understood our decisions. None of them allowed our children to live in their homes longer than a few months.

When I messed up—over and over and over—He reminded me that He was my salvation (Psalm 18:2).

When I fell far short of meeting my children’s deepest needs, He assured me that He is the Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5).

  • Lion of the Tribe of Judah
  • Lamb Who was Slain
  • Bright Morning Star
  • Immanuel
  • Shelter
  • Vindication
  • Savior
  • Father to the Fatherless

‘Tis true, Jesus is the most exquisite gift we treasure each Christmas: wrapped in babe-like innocence, cooing the purest peace, shining with inextinguishable love, assuring eternal hope, and reigniting the joy of our salvation. But He’s also the sacrificial Lamb: a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He enters our struggles and becomes, in Himself, the fulfillment of our every need.

He’s the never-ending gift for today, tomorrow, and every tomorrow that follows. Even when it feels like crucifixion Friday or deep-in-the-grave Saturday …

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In the year to come, I encourage you to frequently make time to grasp the snow-globe of this good news and give it a little shake. Take just a few moments to gaze at the truths encased in the God-made-flesh scene, and remind yourself that God is always present and mighty to save.

*Step/Adoptive/Foster/Every other nonbiological