Resurrection Matters

People don’t call me with good news. They rarely call when their marriage is going great or when they get a promotion. I never get the phone call, “My life is just so great, I had to tell someone.”

When my phone rings, someone is in trouble. It’s the nature of ministry.

And if you survive in ministry, you develop a certain knack for it. There are skills that you can learn; but more than that, what you believe about the gospel you preach is regularly tested in the laboratory of real life. And for me, this is where the Resurrection makes the most difference.

Christians talk a lot about eternity and living forever, but to be honest, most of us think we will handle heaven when we get there. The real challenge is how to get to next Thursday. And this is where the Resurrection matters.

God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus has conquered death and every expression of death. This means that no matter what happens to us, no matter what we do, God can still pull something good out of our messes. There is never a moment when I will say to someone, “I’m sorry. I just don’t think Jesus can help you.”

• I believe Jesus can take a messed up childhood and redeem it to form a compassionate adult.

• I believe Jesus can take a dying marriage and call it back to a life of passion and love.

• I believe Jesus can take all of the mistakes you have made and work them into a story so powerful that people who hear it will want to know if Jesus can do something with their lives.

Yes, I am optimistic, but I am not optimistic because I think our world is getting better.
I am hopeful about the future because I am confident in Jesus. He conquered death. He can handle anything you and I bring to Him.

Yesterday in the sermon, I told a story about going to a baseball game with my boys. When the score got out of hand, I wanted to go. For me, the game was over.

“But Dad,” the twins insisted, “It ain’t over -over.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with someone and heard them say, “It’s over.” And I will answer, “It ain’t over-over.”

This coming Sunday is Easter. It’s the Sunday we celebrate the day everything changed. Jesus defeated death on death’s own terms, and we shout to a broken world, “Hey, it ain’t over-over.”

Just Say “Hi”

Randy was the ladies’ man of my fraternity. There wasn’t any girl any time anywhere that Randy couldn’t start a conversation with. Ever the eager student —I was in college after all—I asked Randy to tell me the secret of meeting girls. You know what his answer was? “Say, ‘Hi.””

What? “Hi” is the great pick up line? Yep, he assured me, it’s as easy as saying “Hi.” I thought there was some magic phrase such as, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” But Randy assured me there was no magic formula. Just say, “Hi.”

One of the chief symptoms of our broken world is how lonely people are. This loneliness affects every segment of our population—senior adults, young adults, middle-aged men and women, students. No one is immune. For all of the communication tools we have, most people are lonely.

That’s why the church has to recover the Biblical image of the family. In the early church, it wasn’t unusual for a new Christian to lose their family when converting to Christ. That’s why it was so important that the believing community see itself as brothers and sisters to the new believer. Sometimes, the church was the only family the believer had.

And you know, not that much has changed. The breakdown of families in our culture means we have children who need fathers and mothers. We have students who need older brothers and sisters. There are senior adults who need children and grandchildren to spoil. All of us need brothers and sisters. So our Heavenly Father makes sure we have plenty of them.

And we know who they are. They sit close to us in church. They walk past us in the halls. We stand in line together for coffee. But how can we get to know them? Follow Randy’s advice; just say, “Hi.” Yeah, it really is that easy.

Invite them to coffee. Ask about their families, work, school, tattoo, nose ring, hat, laptop, phone, favorite team, movie, software, store, vacation spot, restaurant, music, or artist. There’s no end to the topics you can talk about.

And it all starts with “Hi.” I know, people come in all shapes and sizes, but underneath, people are still people. For all of our differences, we all have the same basic needs. We need to be loved, to be missed when we are not there. We need someone to know our names and our story. We need someone to say, “Hi.”

Peter and Judas

Last Tuesday night at Kairos, I talked about the betrayals of Peter and Judas. Their stories are remarkably similar, although we remember Peter very differently from Judas. For some reason, Judas is seen as evil while Peter is seen as well, clumsy in his cowardice.

But let’s face it. Both men betrayed Jesus. Both men let Jesus down. If you press me, I can make the case that Peter’s betrayal of Jesus is actually worse than that of Judas. Peter bragged he would never leave Jesus. He was closer to Jesus than Judas was and his betrayal must have hurt worse.

So, why do we think of them in such different ways? One reason: Judas gave up.

While both men let down Jesus, when Peter realized what he had done he went back to Galilee. He went to the place where Jesus had found him the first time.

Maybe Peter knew—just knew—that Jesus would somehow find him. Maybe Peter remembered the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Maybe he remembered the time he had walked on the water to Jesus, and then started to sink. Jesus came to him then. Peter knew Jesus would come find him. He had been underwater before. Jesus had found him then. Jesus would find him now.

Judas tried to give the money back. He threw the money back at the religious leaders and shouted his unforgettable confession. “I have betrayed innocent blood.” Judas, in realizing what he’d done, was actually closer to the truth in that moment than any of the other disciples.

But Judas ran away. He didn’t go to Jesus. He didn’t trust Jesus would love him, even in this moment. He gave into the despair.

Despair is the sin of believing that things are so bad that not even God can do anything with this mess. Judas didn’t believe Jesus could change anything. He ended up taking his own life.

But what if Judas had made another choice? What if he had run from the religious leaders to find Jesus? No, it wouldn’t have changed anything for Jesus. He still would have been crucified. The enemies of Jesus had what they wanted.

But things might have been different for Judas. If he had been able to find Jesus, Jesus would have forgiven him. I firmly believe that. I believe Jesus loved Judas just like He loved all of the rest.

Does it shock you to think that Jesus would have forgiven Judas? That Jesus loved Judas? It might. I know there are people surprised Jesus loves me.

But what if Judas hadn’t given in to the despair? What would be different? What would be different in your life if you don’t give into the despair? If you just keep believing, like Peter, that somehow Jesus will find me? If you just don’t give up and give God a chance to do something with the mess you have made?

Remember, the only difference between Peter and Judas is that Judas gave up. What about you?

Getting Past My Past

“Hey, aren’t you the person who…?”

You wince as you prepare for the inevitable. You know what’s coming. Somehow, this person has found out about the worst moment in your life.

A moment of humiliation, a prank gone bad, a choice that didn’t turn out well – all of us have had those embarrassing moments. Most of the time, we grow up and find the ability to laugh those things off.

Sometimes, however, the moment is so horrific it literally defines our lives. From that moment when we were abused, betrayed, were cowardly and weak—or even mean—whatever that moment was when hell erupted on us, we became frozen. We live the rest of our lives trying to get past or over that moment.

And sometimes, we just can’t get over it. This is when the resurrection makes a real difference in our lives.

I’ve told you before that one of the mind-blowing realities of the Risen Christ is that He is not bound by space and time. He is in our present; He is waiting for us in the future, and He’s still in our past.

What does that mean for you? It means Jesus is still at the moment where you think your life was destroyed. What happened that moment cannot defeat Him; He is the conqueror of death and every experience of death. Jesus is the conqueror of that moment. Jesus doesn’t want you to be afraid of it anymore.

So, He will take you back—but He will go with you back to that moment and let you take it apart, dealing with it piece by piece. Some of the pieces need to be confessed to and forgiven by Christ. Other pieces need to be named and forgiven by you. Piece by piece, Jesus will forgive, release and heal.

You will do all of that in His presence—in prayer and tears, in laughter and joy—and the pain will be melted in the healing. Anger is released into forgiveness. And freedom comes.

This is what it means to live “in Christ.” Everything we are, have done – everything about us – is in Jesus. His life is our life. Our life is His. This is the reason Paul wrote, “to live is Christ. . .”

Jesus is alive. We don’t have to be afraid anymore. We aren’t afraid of what the future will bring. We aren’t afraid of how the past may try to enslave us. We are forgiven. We are free. Jesus is alive.