Easter Everyday The reality of Easter extends beyond the holiday

The reality of Easter goes well beyond the day of the holiday.

The power of the resurrection of Jesus to change things is not limited to the Sunday following the full moon which falls on or after the spring equinox (March 21st).

Easter can be meaningful everyday.

And for a follower of Jesus, Easter must be relied upon at all times!

What Is Easter?

Easter is a day on which people all around the world celebrate something miraculous — the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!

The Gospels, in the Bible’s New Testament, reveal to us that Jesus was falsely accused of being a threat to Rome and was sentenced to death.  The method of execution was to be being hanged on a cross.

And this is what happened to Jesus — he was hanged on a cross on a Friday before Passover and he died while hanging there.  His dead body was removed from the cross and placed in a tomb that belonged to someone else.

On the third day (Friday being the first day, Saturday the second, and Sunday the third), Jesus was resurrected from the dead by power of God!  Despite there being a large stone rolled in front of the tomb and a security detail being in place, Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found!

The first people to bear witness to this amazing fact were women: Mary Magdalene (who, by the way, was NOT a prostitute!), Mary the mother of James, and Salome.

In short order the resurrected Jesus revealed himself more personally to Mary Magdalene, who was then told to tell the other disciples that he was risen.

Over the next few days Jesus appeared to many of his followers, whom Paul numbers at over 500 (1 Corinthians 15.6-8).

In other words, Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!

Why Does Easter Matter?

So what?  What does it matter that some guy who lived thousands of years ago died and was risen from the dead on the third day?

  • Easter demonstrates the power of God.  Never before and never since has a person been resurrected.  Sure, people have been resuscitated.  In fact, thanks to modern medical practices, this is a somewhat common occurrence.  But people who have been resuscitated will die again.  Resurrection is different.  A person who has been resurrected will never die again.  They will live forever.  For this feat to be accomplished, God had to act in a way that was unprecedented.  And he did.  And in so doing he showed his great power to the world!
  • Easter is a preview of things to come.  The writers of the New Testament, especially Paul, had in mind a concept that is almost totally foreign to us today — the general resurrection of the dead (see especially 1 Corinthians 15.12-57).  The general picture looks something like this: when Jesus returns, after some important events happen, all the dead will be resurrected bodily.  That means that they will come back to life but in a resurrectted body, which is imperishable (1 Corinthians 15.42).  Frankly, this image of how things will unfold is not at all like what most of us are accustomed to.  It appears to me that many of us believe in a folk theology that seems to say that when we die we become disembodied angelic beings floating about on clouds while playing heavenly music.  This isn’t a biblical idea!  Instead, Easter is a preview of things to come, namely that we all will be raised bodily at the end!  And, friends, this is good news!  Because the body that we will be given can’t suffer pain and won’t age or decay!
  • Easter assures us that things can change.  Any of us who have lived for a while know how hard it is to change things in our lives.  Behaviors, patterns of thinking, spending habits, how much we eat and exercise, etc., etc. all feel impossible to change.  But is there anything more unchangeable than the permanence of death?  And the permanence of death is exactly what God changed through the resurrection of Jesus!  Therefore, by extension, what is there that the power of God can’t change?  Nothing!  God can turn the most intractable situation around.  He can help the most stubborn person become better.  And God can change our futures as well!  Easter proves that there is nothing which is impossible with God!
  • Easter can help us be set free from fear.  Death is the thing that many of us fear the most, well that or speaking in public!  But in all reality, death is scary.  What happens when we die?  How will it feel?  Will there be pain involved?  How will our loved ones respond?  Will they be taken care of?  Will we have a thousand regrets and million things left undone when we die?  The resurrection of Jesus can help assuage some of these fears.  Death isn’t something to fear anymore, it’s simply a transition to being with God forever.  And not just being with him, but having imperishable bodies that are like Jesus’ resurrected body (Philippians 3.21).  Easter can help us be prepared for death and to face it with confidence!

How Do We Rely on Easter Everyday?

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Think about it.  If we never, ever think about the fact that Jesus was resurrected from the dead (except for on the day of Easter), how can it have an impact on our lives?  So during our times of meditation or our quiet times, let’s reflect on Easter.  Let’s remember that by the power of God Jesus defeated death.  And let’s remember that God has given us that same power through the Holy Spirit as well.
  2. Practice it.  We need to find ways to put ourselves in positions that require the power of God that he demonstrated on Easter.  What would some of these positions be?  Seeking out diverse Christian community.  Getting to know our neighbors.  Being willing to put the interests of others before our own, even if we don’t think they deserve it.  Going way out of our comfort zones.  Advocating for justice.  Etc.
  3. Share it.  I mean this in two ways: 1) We need to share the reality of Easter within Christian community; and 2) We need to share the reality of Easter with those who might be far from God in one way or another.  How?  First, by experiencing the power of Easter in front of one another.  This is scary of course!  We might look weird after all.  Second, by encouraging one another to experience the power of Easter themselves.  And third, by listening to one another and then praying for God to demonstrate his power in the areas that we’ve just listened to.

 

What do you think?  How can we make the reality of Easter matter everyday?  Let me know in the comments below!

Cure for Fear What's the solution to our fear problem?

Is there anything more debilitating than fear?  I don’t think there is.  And, friends, we need to find a cure for fear and fast!

Fear can stop us in our tracks physically, causing us to freeze up like a deer in the headlights.  Fear can cause us to loop into unhelpful cycles of thinking and feeling that keep us from reaching our potentials.  And fear can kill us spiritually by preventing us from fully accepting the love of God.

And perhaps most importantly, fear can prevent us from obeying the Greatest Commandment(s) (to love God and others) and the Great Commission (making disciples) by causing us to discount and judge people before we ever get to know them.

So what’s the answer?  What’s the cure for fear?

The Causes of Fear

Before we can talk about a cure for fear, we have to wrap our minds around the things that cause us fear in the first place.  What’s so scary out there?

A recent blog on Psychology Today’s website highlights the five fears that we all have.  Here they are:

  1. Extinction – This is the fear of death an it’s like a program that runs in the background of our minds.  When we get a little too close to something that could possibly cause us to die, this fear alerts us.  Most of us have a pretty reasonable threshold.  While it’s true that there’s a chance (however small) that germs on a door handle could kill us, most of us don’t run away from door handles kicking and screaming!  Others of us have a much lower threshold for this kind of fear.  We fear almost everything that could potentially harm us, including people (and especially people different than us whom we have a hard time understanding and identifying with).
  2. Mutilation – This is the fear of serious but not deadly bodily harm.  Here’s a great example: when my wife was young, her brother broke his arm while riding his bike.  Since this caused her great fear, she put off learning to ride a bike until she was in her 30s!  This fear of mutilation can immobilize us altogether because there’s always something or someone that could harm us, especially when we are surrounded by places, things, and people that are new and different.
  3. Loss of Autonomy – This fear rests on the natural human desire to be in control.  And the loss of autonomy here could be physical (such as becoming paralyzed) or non-physical (such as being demoted from a position with freedoms at work to one without them).  This fear can cause us to be defensive and very selective about what we do and who we surround ourselves with.  We begin to view everything and everyone as a threat to our freedoms, and more so if we are unfamiliar with them.
  4. Separation – This is the fear that we’ll lose contact with the people and things (but especially people) that we love.  We’re scared that they’ll die and we’ll be left alone.  We’re afraid that they’ll find out our deepest, darkest secrets and hate us for them.  We’re afraid that they’ll find people who are better than us and leave us for them.  This can cause us to try too hard to keep the people and things we love, turning us into Scrooges.  Or, rather sadly, this fear can cause us to prematurely push everyone and everything away so that we are the ones who control the separation and it doesn’t come as a surprise.  And, this fear can cause us to shelter people whom we love from others because we don’t want them to get hurt (which can be especially true with regard to our children and spouses).
  5. Ego-death – Lastly is the fear of shame and humiliation.  This is the fear that who we are on the inside, in the most secret place, will be snuffed out through the bullying of others, our own self doubts and depression, or the guilt and pain that we carry into our present from the past.  We’re scared that we’ll lose who we are, our identity.  Maybe we’ll get subsumed into someone else.  Maybe will get squashed.  Maybe we’ll be found out.  Pick your poison, the result is the same — this fear can cause us to become shells of who we’re meant to be!

And these fears trip us up in any number of ways.  I’ve written about a few of those ways before, so I won’t do so here.  But suffice it to say that fear can really put a hamper on our ability to live well, to be meaningful people to others, and to follow Jesus well in the real world.  We need a cure for fear!

cure for fear

by: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images; accessed at LATimes.com

A Cure for Fear

At his last National Prayer Breakfast, on February 4, 2016, President Barack Obama talked about how damaging fear can be and said this:

Fear does funny things. Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different. Or lead us to try to get some sinister other under control. Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.  [SOURCE]

President Obama, like him or leave him, made a great point here.  Fear can cause us to do things we wouldn’t do otherwise.  Think about the types of fears we listed above.  Each one of them can lead us to hurt ourselves or others.  Each one of them cause us to distance ourselves from the “sinister other,” to quote the President.

The President’s words are self-evident.  All we have to do is look into our own lives and analyze, even briefly, some of the choices we’ve made.  Many times those choices have been heavily influenced by fear and as a result we and others were likely hurt.

And this need for a cure for fear is evident in our public discourse as well.  Think back to a little while ago when the Syrian refugee crisis first hit the news.  A little boy drowned as his family tried to escape their war-torn country and all of our hearts were ripped in two.

Then a little while after that fear took over.

Paris was attacked by a terror group and then San Bernadino, CA a short time after that.  The fear that these two terror attacks created made us lose our minds in the United States!  Our broken hearts over the little Syrian boy who drowned became dark with fear-induced hate, causing us to say all sorts of crazy and untrue things about the Syrian refugees.  I mean, just look at some of the comments on this post of mine on Facebook and judge for yourself!  The fearful hate is palpable.

Fear causes us all kinds of problems, including saying and doing hateful things to the very people God may be calling us to be and share the good news with!

We need a cure for fear!

I like how the President ended his quote above: “Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.”  While I agree in principle with him, I will quibble just a bit.  Here’s how I would say it:

Jesus and the ways of Jesus are the best cure for ear. While faith, generally speaking, is a good cure for fear.

What we need now, especially those of us who follow Jesus, is to emulate Jesus and his ways.  If we want a cure for fear, we have it!  It’s called love.  And not the love that we think we should share and to whom we think we should share it.  No!

It’s the love that Jesus had, a love that extended to the most vulnerable and to the privileged.  It’ the love that, as Paul puts it in Philippians 2, always puts the interest of the other before our own.

The cure for fear is Jesus and his ways.  And Jesus and his ways are best encapsulated by one word: LOVE.  1 John 4.18 says this:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Love and fear are like oil and water, they just don’t mix well.

But let’s be honest for a second — we all still have fear and our fears cause us harm and move us to harm others.  This is a continual problem for us all.  Fear is something that will be with us until we shuffle off this mortal coil.

So what do we do?

Well, since we’ll always need the cure for fear, namely love as expressed by Jesus, then we’ll always need to reapply this cure for fear by constantly re-exposing ourselves to Jesus and his gospel.  I talk some more about this need for persistent exposure to the gospel in this the New Wine Podcast #016; give it a listen!

 

What do you think?  How big of a deal is fear?  And what’s the cure for fear?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

Fear: 5 Ways It Trips Us Up How trusting God can trump our trepidations

Fear is a strong.  There aren’t many things that can motivate us more.

Sadly, advertisers and news organizations know this.  They present products and news to us in ways that play to our fears, manipulating us to behave and believe in the ways they want us to.

But there is another way brothers and sisters!  It’s not an easy way and I certainly haven’t totally figured it out.  But fear can be trumped by trust for the follower of Jesus.

Trust > Fear

5 Ways Fear Trips Us Up

But despite this truth — that trust is greater than fear — our fears can really get in the way of us following Jesus well in the real world.  I’m sure there are dozens of ways this can play itself out, but below I’ve listed 5 that I experience or readily see in places I frequent.

  1. Fear can block love — 1 John 4.18 says that “perfect love drives out fear.”  But the flipside of this aphorism is true too, namely that in the absence of love, fear thrives.  In a recent post of mine on Facebook (and on this blog) this has really come to light for me.  (In the next few lines I’m going to make some assumptions, I apologize in advance.)  In my opinion, due to the highly vitriolic and unhelpful ways in which certain corners of the print, broadcast, and internet media have reported on the Syrian refugee crisis, many Americans are exhibiting lots of signs of irrational fears about Syrian refugees.  These fears create an environment in which people call the people running for their lives from the violent conflict in Syria all kinds of horrible things.  In some instances Americans have very directly wished death on these refugees.  But I wonder how things would have been different had we all started with love instead?  Would we have been as apt to listen to erroneous and one-side reports about this refugee crises?  Would we have been as willing to name-call and demonize the refugees and those who are seeking to show them compassion?
  2. Fear can feed our biases — There’s a funny song from a musical called Avenue Q called “Everybody’s A Little Bit Racist” (consider this your content warning!).  And while it’s very likely true that we’re all a little bit racist, perhaps the gentler way of saying the same thing is that we all make decisions in our lives based on explicit and implicit biases.  This is very often a good thing.  Biases can be benign and can be based on past experience, thus creating shortcuts for our thinking in the present.  However, if left unchecked, our biases can also create great amounts of tension, hatred, and even out-right racism in our lives.  And when we add fear to the mix, this concoction becomes even more volatile!
  3. Fear can prevent us from serving — Service is central for a follower of Jesus.  In fact, Jesus himself said that he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10.45).  And those of us who follow him are to imitate him (Philippians 2.5), including his desire to serve.  However, fear can block us from serving others.  We can worry and become anxious that those we serve are somehow a threat to us, even when there’s no evidence to support these feelings.  And sometimes it can escalate even further, with our fears convincing us that certain people don’t deserve our service for one reason or another.  Check this out though: in Luke 1.74 the priest Zechariah sings a prophetic song about the impact that Jesus was going to have — through Jesus, God has “enabled us to serve him without fear.”  As crazy as it might sound with our human ears and sensibilities, serving others as God leads is worth whatever risks may be involved.  Obeying God should trump all things for a follower of Jesus, including (and especially) our fears!
  4. Fear causes us to become slaves — When we are in the grips of real fear, there’s not much else that we can do except focus on that fear.  Here’s a silly example, that I’m using with permission, to highlight this idea — my wife’s fear of bugs and spiders.  When she sees one, especially if it’s a cricket or a spider, all the rest of the world starts to melt away.  She locks in on that creepy crawly and forgets all about everything else (including that 5am is not a good time to shout bloody murder!).  I’m convinced that our fears can do the same thing to us as followers of Jesus.  If we are fearful of people who live on the other side of town, for example, then we can become a slave to this fear, allowing it to dominate our thinking and our actions.  So instead of loving all people and incarnating the good news of Jesus and his kingdom among them, we look down on them, judge them, and avoid them at all costs.  This is not how things should be for us as followers of Jesus!  Here’s how Paul put it in Romans 8.15: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.””  In other words, our ability to call on God as sons and daughters of the Most High can and should destroy all our debilitating fears that threaten to enslave us!
  5. Fear can prevent us from sharing the gospel — In Philippians 1.14 Paul writes the following: “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”  What he is getting at is that the example of how God was using him while he was in prison was inspirational to others, even allowing them proclaim the gospel without fear.  Unfortunately, we don’t always look to examples like Paul’s and we allow fear to prevent us from sharing and embodying the good news among our friends, families, and neighbors.  And this isn’t just some minor thing that we can put off until later.  No!  Being bearers of the good news is our central calling as followers of Jesus!  In Matthew 28 Jesus told his disciples that they were to make disciples of all people and that same Great Commission applies to us today!  Brothers and sisters, we mustn’t let our fears prevent us from fulfilling our purpose as followers of Jesus!  Instead, we must trust God, looking to inspirational examples as needed and allowing him to push our fear away with his love.

So what’s the solution to all of this fear?  We must begin with love, keep our biases in check, serve others no matter what, not allow ourselves to be enslaved, and proclaim the good news.

But how?

Trust Jesus.  Simple to write; difficult to live!

Trust > Fear

 

What do you think?  What are some other ways that fear trips us up as followers of Jesus?  How can we combat our fears?