What would the conversation look like? The amazement. The confusion. He had been dead…as a door nail. What’s a door nail by the way?…ok I digress. The look of shock, the spirit of disbelief in his sister’s eyes. They had been there when he had breathed his last. They had mourned his passing. The sting of death still lingered in their hearts and minds like the peeling blister on a sunburn. This emotional roller coaster had just careened into the station though their stomachs and emotions still lingered somewhere behind them on the track.
It had been four days since he had died. Four long and agonizing days. How his sisters had wept bitterly. How little they had slept…was this all a dream? Could this really be happening? What goes on in the spiritual realm when someone dies? What did Lazarus go through in those four days of death? Did he see a great light? Did he have an out of body experience? Was he in heaven? Oh how little we know about the life to come.
Sitting at the table with a deadman, what must his sisters have wanted to ask. “Did you see any family there?” “Did you meet Yahweh?” “What was it like?” Idle curiosity must have played a factor in this postmortem interval family reunion. After four days in the tomb, in his final resting place, he was hungry. Sitting at the table with nourishment (evidence and a source of all preservation of life) of water and food Lazarus, who was now reanimated. He longed to soak up his sister’s presence once more. They lingered together. Isn’t it interesting how we miss the company of those we love when we have been far from them? Death, though only separated by this thin membrane of a veil, had separated these loved ones from each other…now it had been torn with the authority of Jesus’ words; “Lazarus, come forth!”
What did Lazarus experience at this call? Not only did his deceased bones reanimate, but with it organs, blood circulation and brain function reignited as well. The impossible became possible. The very breath of life exhaled and inhaled into dormant unusable lungs of a corpse.
What could he tell his family of such an experience? What did this deadman have to say? Jesus, the life bringer, had raised him from the dead…he had kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil…he was completely and totally devoid of life. Lazarus had experienced the mystery of the great beyond and his sisters would undoubtedly hang on his every word in his retelling…wouldn’t you? We read of stories of children and adults who have experienced something when they had “died” and were then resuscitated. We are truly a curious creation aren’t we? We want to know what is next. What comes after this life. Some ask if there really is something after this life. I doubt Lazarus would have had any other doubts about the existence of the hereafter.
Do you have doubts? We all do from time to time. Perhaps Jesus needs to breathe some life into our doubting hearts. Perhaps we need Him to call us forth from our caves or tombs of doubt. I often find myself like Thomas longing to physically touch his nail wrecked hands and feet. I long for the tangible frequently when faith has pushed off from the docks of reality and the “real world”. Please tell me I am not the only one? Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying I disbelieve, but I am saying that I often find myself on those docks of belief watching faith ship off without me aboard. I long yearn to be aboard but something has stopped me. In a very real sense I am the deadman in need of being resurrected. My faith needs resurrecting daily. Don’t think ill of me…it’s a principle of momentum.
Momentum has a way of pushing and driving something forward…if I stop, momentum stops. In application of this principle, if I stop my prayer life, if I hit the pause button on my devotion life (my quiet times with the Lord), if I halt my daily conversations with The Father…I have lost momentum, and in this loss I am once again a deadman. I am once again in need of reanimation. I need to be called forth. Am I alone in this? Please tell me I am not. I doubt I am. I think you may relate to me. This is my confession of a deadman…Jesus, call me forth again!
You have all probably seen this project already on Pintrest, and I’m in no way claiming that it’s mine…because it’s not, but I would like to incorporate a teachable lesson to accompany it. Please find the elements of this project accompanied by scripture passages below free for you to use if you so choose to do so. This teachable craft can be used for youth programs, women’s ministries, senior adult ministry or even at home with your family.
Elements & Scripture Discussion:
1. The Potting Saucer –
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth – Genesis 1:1
the saucer for this Easter craft represents (at least to me) the world in which we live. God created it and we live in a location and placed that was formed by His hands. We are blessed to live in such a world and should take care of this world as best we can. Genesis 2:5 – “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” God still wants us to take care of this world that He has entrusted us with.
2. The Potting Soil –
The potting soil represents you, me and all of creation.
“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
God created this world for us and He desires to have fellowship with us. He longs for us to love Him in return and so in this Easter story we recognize that we too play a part in the crucifixion and the resurrection. Jesus came to die for us because we really and truly matter to Him. He created us and this Easter story is about our salvation through Christ Jesus.
3. The Gardening Rocks
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” -Romans 3:23
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” -Romans 5:12
The gardening rocks represent sin in this world. It weighs us down and keeps us bound in our slavery to it. We cannot save ourselves from its weight, nor can we do enough good works to receive eternal life. We need help. We are all fallen, each one of us and because of this Jesus came to set us free and to remove the weight of sin from our lives.
4. The Three Crosses
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” -Philippians 2:8
The Cross of Jesus is suffering and death. But it was suffering and death for a purpose. Jesus died so that the sins of every person on earth could be forgiven and also that we could be restored in our fellowship with God. Without the cross and Jesus’ suffering we are still hopelessly lost. We must look to the cross and Christ on the cross for our source of salvation.
The bindings of the cross pieces represent (to me) the lashings that Jesus received prior to his crucifixion. It should also represent for us the truth that we (sinful man) put Him there. We bound Him to that cross, but He willingly went in place of us.
A.W. Tozer: “The old cross is a symbol of death. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again in newness of life. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It always stands at the far side of the cross.“
5. The Tomb and the Large Rock
Both the tomb and the large stone (it could be white to represent life or another color) represent Christ’s resurrection. I’m sure it’s obvious to us all, but it also represents the fact that sin & death could not hold the Son of God! We can find peace, assurance and hope in this empty tomb!
“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” John 19:41
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” “3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.” John 20:1-10
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” John 11:25
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14
6) The Grass seed or sprouts (Plant the grass seed before you place the rocks)
The grass seed will grow during the Easter season which will serve to remind us of the eternal life/ new life that Christ brings to us.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3
Each of these verses talks about the new life that only Jesus Christ offers to us. New life is a free gift to us all if we accept it and believe in Christ and His love for us.
As we watch this “new life” grow during the season of Easter, may it continue to serve as a remind of God’s love for us and of our deep desire to grow in our faith. We shouldn’t stop learning about this relationship. We have also been given the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us and instruct us in this new life! “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26 The Holy Spirit will show us areas of our lives that we need to still surrender to God and He will continue to work within us, helping us along the way.
This new life isn’t only about getting into heaven, it is also about living that eternal life right here on earth so that others might see Christ through us. When we embrace this new life, we become Christ’s representatives (Light) into the world (which is still lost in darkness). Be God’s light to others as you bloom and grow!
***Disclaimer: Again I didn’t invent this craft, I simply adapted it and provided a simple yet effective method for teaching this amazing story of love that God has for all of us! I am sure you can tweak this and make it your own in order to fit the demographic you wish to do this teaching craft with. This lesson play is free to use as you see fit! To God be the Glory!****
“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Pastor Fred Phelps Sr. is dying. Over the course of many years now the Westboro Baptist church has been at the forefront of many controversial public protests. You might remember them for their many anti-gay signs and their now infamous quotes like “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Thank God for 9/11”! (Link: http://nypost.com/2014/03/16/westboro-baptist-pastor-in-hospice-care/)
I’m not here to slam Pastor Fred. He’s already taken a lot of heat and his “church” has even been labeled a hate group. I will say however that I seriously doubt Jesus would have ever stepped foot in the doors of a church like this…okay maybe He would have to confront them perhaps…I digress. But I’m not here to judge them on their merits or lack there of. I’m not even here to condemn this pastor.
I wonder what it would be like to go to the hospice facility that Pastor Fred is now located at and hold signs not of hate and condemnation, but signs of love and concern? I’m not saying we should do this but it certainly would be interesting to see the response. Another thought that came to mind when hearing about his impending death – every person should face death with human decency and dignity including Pastor Phelps.
At the end of the day if we stoop to the level of outrage and hate like these protests conducted by the Westboro baptist church, we in essence are no better. I’m not implying that we’re better than they are, don’t get me wrong, I’m just suggesting that instead of celebrating his soon to be passing, let’s pray for Pastor Fred and others like him in our world.
This world is already too full of hate, too full of extremist fundamentals (and to be fair on the other side of things extreme leftist liberals as well)…this world is already too full of condemnation as well. We don’t need to fall into these ranks as well. Jesus once said; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.“
2 reasons to love our enemies and pray for them:
1) It frees us of hate
This section is hard for me. I personally want to retaliate when someone wrongs me, I want to inflict the same kind of pain on any person who dares do me wrong…but I shouldn’t because it only empties bitterness into my heart. They say you become what you think about most often, and if I allow this thought of hurting my enemies and vengeance inside me then I am no better a person than they are. When we open our hearts, as Jesus suggested, to love we catch a glimpse of the divine original purpose for all of humanity. If I love that person, if I love Pastor Fred despite his actions, I free myself of a kind of hate that destroys hearts and lives.
Does this mean that justice isn’t pursued or sought out? Of course not, but remember that God is the judge and ultimately every person will have to stand before Him, so be careful that we have sorted out our own hearts and motives for wanting such justice on others.
When we are freed from hatred, we can learn to love more…and this leads to being like Christ in our pursuit and His workings of Holiness.
2) It opens up opportunities for our enemy to find salvation
What takes place when we extend grace to those who have spurned us and done us wrong? One it really messes with their heads (not our purpose of course) but two, it hopefully causes them to want to change! Obviously not every one of our enemies will change because we loved them, I don’t want to sell you a pipe dream here, but God can and still does perform miracles does He not? Enemies still need salvation too, and perhaps someone to show them what real authentic love looks like.
I want to pray for Pastor Fred Phelps Sr, and for His church. I know that hate is our natural response to others who show hate, but if we’re to be like Christ, no matter how hard it may be for us, we ought to show love as our response. Shining dark into dark will only make things darker, but if we shine the light of Christ into that absence of light, lives can be redeemed and drastically changed!
Pastor Fred, I pray for the remaining hours of life that you have here on earth. You have a Father in heaven who loves you and wants you to love Him back in return. May His grace, peace and especially love find its place in your heart. To the members of the Westboro Baptist church I say, love opens doors that hate never will. Repent, seek grace and forgiveness and know that other Christ-followers are praying for you with the love of Christ. We also pray that you will once again see what God is truly saying to you and that you seek to bring peace and grace into the doors of your church.
-Sincerely in Christ.
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” ― G.K. Chesterton
It’s a new television show…but it’s something more than that. Something deep within us longs for just a few more minutes with our loved ones who have passed away. We wish within our hearts that they could see what we’ve become or that they could see how much our children have grown. Life conceivably has a beginning and an end, but in this new television show on ABC, “Resurrection” is happening all over the small town of Arcadia. It is a mystery as to why this is happening, but those who are “coming back” seem to possess intimate knowledge and even DNA coo-berating their identities.
How we wish such a miracle could take place here on earth. Most of us would dream of a scenario where we could once again hold a loved one that we’ve lost and to spend more quality time with them. The ABC producers of “Resurrection” certainly hope that we become transfixed to this concept and keep coming back for more.
Can television shows truly sell us hope? Are YOU in need of hope today?
Jesus knew a lot about life. He lived and He died, but He was also resurrected on the third day. During His ministry He even resurrected one of His friends, Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus holds the keys to Eternal life for all of us and this should give us authentic hope in our lives today!
TRUTH – We all possess eternal souls. We have been created by God himself who formed us in His image, and a part of Him is within us, which is eternal. These earthly bodies will one day wear out because they are temporal. We will one day face death…BUT the expiration of this human existence is not the end of our eternal existence. Life will go on. The real question is what destination will we choose? You see if we want to experience eternity with God and with those who followed Him and have gone on before us, we have to choose Him in the here and now! John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
If we choose to follow and love the Creator of Heaven and Earth, we will experience a resurrection beyond what television or even movies can give us. Real resurrection will happen and we should find hope in the fact that death of the physical body is NOT the end.
Check it out – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16) It won’t be some horror show, or television script, this will be for real. I don’t know about you, but I want to experience this resurrection and new life with Christ in Heaven as well!
I love supernatural shows, and “Resurrection” looks quite interesting to me. Perhaps it might get some of its viewers to consider how precious life is and also to consider how very real Eternity will be for all of us.
(My review is strictly my opinion and not the opinion of any television network or affiliation)
In a court room before a judge the famous man stands in an orange prison jumpsuit. Cameras flash and pop as the piranhas of the “entertainment” business catch their daily scoop which will be read and seen by millions across the world. The man looks disheveled, unshaven and in his eyes appears to look like a cornered animal. The judge asks him if he has anything to say and for a few moments it looks as if he might remain silent as this moment of great embarrassment seems to linger on for what seems like hours. Finally he coughs and clears his throat and then admits his guilt, “please, don’t send me to jail, I’m an addict and I am so sorry… It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth, my finger on the trigger and I like the taste of gun metal.”
These words weren’t spoken by Justin Bieber in his recent court appearance in Miami, nor were they the words of troubled actor turned director Shia Labeouf.
These were the words of famous current A-lister Actor Robert Downey Jr in 1999 when we was sentenced to jail. He could have easily died from his addiction like Actor Philip Seymor Hoffman did this past weekend (which is horribly sad in and of itself!).
His life was in ruins and he knew it. He was fighting to stay out of jail but worse he had demons of addiction attempting to break down the doors.
Justin Bieber hasn’t risen yet to the raucous, embarrassing spectacle that was Charlie Sheen, but honestly, the never ending slew of one-liner jokes and national punch lines aren’t helping. The 19 year old, who is still two years away from being a legal adult (drinking age in the US) is seemingly the butt of every joke. I cannot begin to imagine the stress that he is under night in and night out to perform at the level his fans around the world are used to seeing.
Some might remember me slamming Miley Cyrus for her actions in recent months, and I am certainly not condoning or excusing Bieber for his drunken drag racing incident recently or his near fist-a-cuffs with a reporter…these actions are inexcusable. But what I am suggesting is that if people like Bieber are going to survive the next five years of their lives then the carrion culture who places such stars on pedestals and then lights the pedestal on fire needs to end. I’ve slammed production companies and talent scouts who prey on young families of would be television stardom before, but I can’t stress it enough that the parents of out-of-control stars need to step up and set their child straight.
The pressures must be immense at these levels, I can’t even begin to imagine…but we the public also have a role to play in this. Sometimes I think we’re like circling vultures who are avidly watching a hurting/dying animal below. We’re just waiting for the shine to wear off and for the dying animal to keel over. We’re so blood thirsty at times for the next juicy tidbit of gossip all the while we have celebrity death pool picks online to guess which star is going to self-destruct next.
Call me a naive fool, but I can’t help but think that our ever increasing fascination with stardom is killing people. It’s easy to tell or listen to the next Justin Bieber joke (I’m guilty of this, I admit it)…he’s an easy target, but I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy too. He’s become the next Michael Jackson of ridicule and idiocy.
As a Christ-follower I see people like Bieber and many others and I see pain. I see that despite all of the accolades and fame these are people who have lost or are losing their true identity to a world-wide marketing image of what they should be. We can continue to rail against clothing designers (big fortune 500 names) who have forced or fired models because they want them thinner, but we forget that the same kind of image market drives teen stars and celebrities. We forget that these are people too, not just objects of our hopes for the next big movie block buster or platinum album.
I’m just sick of watching these actors and musicians self-destruct while we watch hungrily from our self-made Roman Coliseums also known as our living rooms. If God made everyone of us in His image, this means he loves every single person on this planet. He loves the super star and He loves the common person just the same. Life is precious, and I’m tired of seeing it devalued day after day coupled with the plight of addictions and worldly pressures.
I pray for people like Justin Bieber…seriously I do. I pray for people like Miley Cyrus, and Lindsey Lohan, and Shia Labeouf…and so many more just like them. I pray answers may be found for each of them. That they never lose their true identities in the midst of public spectacles and courting fame. Most importantly I pray for Salvation and Restoration in their lives by the One living source of all Hope, Glory, Peace, Love and Healing – Jesus Christ Himself!
I’m tired of reading about the latest teen sensation or child-turned-adult-actor who has committed suicide or died of a supposed overdose.
Give em a brake, pray for them, and perhaps something amazing will take place because of it.
You know those hypothetical conversations? Those moments when you imagine what you would say, how you would feel, and how you might interact? I imagine myself having the distinct honor of interviewing Nelson Mandela, Madiba himself. Yesterday he passed away at the age of 95. Twenty seven of those years he lived in prison because of his stand against apartheid.
I imagine myself being able to sit down with this great and humble man and just taking in his presence. You know how that is? When you are in the room with a person who is famous and you just don’t have the right words to express how much they have meant to you, how they have impacted your life, and you are better for having known just a little bit about them…yeah that’s the emotion I have as I enter the room where Nelson Mandela is sitting. He looks out the window as I find my seat. Light catches his irises and there is a deep sense of knowing, a deep sense of wisdom. I’m not placing Madiba on a pedestal here, I just have a deep respect for this man who brokered freedom for the majority of South Africa. He had his flaws, the ANC party certainly wasn’t above death threats and bombings, but the man, not the party sits before me.
I have some notes scribbled down on a small spiraled note book in my hand. I have to clear my throat in order to work up the strength to ask my first round of questions. I feel immensely intimidated. Despite his humility, I feel as if I am unworthy to have this opportunity to talk with him. How does one act in the presence of greatness? Again, one who has endured so much and accomplished much more, how does one find the adequate words to speak to such a person? He smiles a reassuring smile, one that encourages me and without words says “It is alright, I understand.”
In my mind we have a conversation, he is gentle and soft spoken, yet behind his words he is as strong as a lion in the veld. We laugh together as the tension breaks…and I shed some tears in his re-telling of history. In my mind this interview reshapes my understanding of South Africa. In my mind my childhood as a missionary kid in South Africa is altered. I didn’t fathom the severity of apartheid rule until just now…I knew it to be horrific and wrong as a child yet never understood its severity.
But now as unity is prayed for, as we all mourn in Madiba’s passing…a great man has passed from the shadow of this earth and in his wake we are left hoping that tomorrow will be better because of his impact on our yesterdays. Sleep well Madiba, I pray one day to be able to sit down with you in Eternity and finally have that interview that I have rehearsed in my mind. Words cannot express how deeply you have impacted me, nor the vacancy your passing has left in the lives of South Africa and others around the world.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” ― Nelson Mandela
In just a few days another installment of Marvel’s Thor will hit theaters (Thor 2 The Dark World) . It will undoubtedly be #1 at the box office over the weekend. This time Thor returns to Earth to help save mankind from an evil force not of this earth. It will be an action packed movie with lots of special effects, some romance and the underlined theme that the World is in need of a savior. I find it interesting that Thor is the son of a god (Odin). Thor comes to Earth to save mankind from evil and death. To me there is a deep underlining parallel here to Christ.
Last year the Avengers was a world wide success and financial money maker. The entire Marvel franchise is well over a Billion dollar industry. Why has their movies received such international success and acclaim? Naturally people of all ages enjoy a good action film, but beyond that I believe there is this underlining innate longing to be saved and to have find a savior from life’s worries, fears and heartaches. Every person on earth can most likely relate to such a longing. There is something remarkably missing in our hearts that cannot be rectified from the inside alone. We need an external force to save us.
Jesus came to this earth seeking to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Why did He come? Because we could not, in our own power and strength, save ourselves from the trappings of sin and death. We needed an external force to grasp us by the hand and pull us to safety. Since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, we have lived with sin in our world. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and we are in dire need of one who can save us from certain death. This is why, I believe, we respond so passionately to superhero movies like Thor(2) and others before it. We crave saving. We long for deliverance. We look around us in our world and we see evil and hatred, sickness and death, and we pray for those life ending threats to end. We turn on the news and witness another violent shooting in a mall or another systematic genocide taking place on this planet and we wish such stories would end. We long for a savior to come and save us!
This life isn’t easy, sin is still very present and real, hatred and sickness at times still prevails; and yet there is hope. The hope of the world entered earth some two thousand years ago and with Him, brought deliverance, salvation and the promise of new life for all who sought after Him. God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ still says to us today “I am the way the truth and the LIFE, no one comes to the Father except through me .” (John 14:6)
We are all in need of a Savior. Though we enjoy a good flick about Superheroes now and then, we can recognize that we have already been saved and that new life can start today with our love and devotion towards God and His image reflected towards those around us.