Three reasons you think you shouldn’t serve in your church’s kids ministry

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Whether your church calls it family ministry, children’s ministry, kids ministry… whatever it’s called, here are three reasons people often give for why they shouldn’t serve in a ministry that involves children. I propose these three reasons are exactly why you should sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.

Because You Aren’t a Kid Person

I hear this a lot. As a kids ministry leader at my church, I often hear people say they aren’t kid people. That’s why they don’t serve in kids ministry. And to a point there’s good reasoning there.

Not everyone is suited for holding babies, singing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers, and teaching elementary students to discern Jesus from the Bible lesson. In fact, there are some really good reasons a person should have no contact with kids in church. But just because you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when kids are around, and you don’t talk to babies like you’re in a cartoon, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation.

In fact, if you are quick to say, “I’m not a kid person,” you should sign up to serve in kids ministry. Let God take that aversion you have to kids and the chaos they may make you feel, and use it to lower yourself and listen to Jesus say, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

If you’re not a kid person, you don’t have to be the lead teacher or the one who guides the toddlers in a game of follow the leader. But get on the ground next to a kid playing with the Noah’s ark play set. Let God use those kids to show you how much he loves and accepts you as you are, and is leading you to grow up to be like Jesus.

Because You Work With Kids All Day Long

A reason many give for not serving in a ministry to children is that they work with kids every day during the week. They don’t want to work with kids at church too.

Teachers, daycare workers, preschool aides… you all are the pros! Your church’s kids ministry needs you to help them learn how to manage a classroom. We need your skills!

In Exodus 35, when Moses called the people of Israel to build the tabernacle as God instructed, he called for people with different skills to use their abilities not just for their own homes, but for the house God was having them build.

Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded… All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair… ‘See the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Juday; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…” Exodus 35:10, 26, 30-31

Jesus is building his church. And one way he does that is by calling people with different abilities in the church to serve one another using those skills. There’s an ability needed to guide a group of kids to listen and learn together. If you have that skill, sign up this Sunday to serve in your church’s ministry to the next generation. Build Jesus’ kingdom with your classroom management talents.

Because You’re Retired

In 2017, John Piper spoke to a group of college students at Grand Canyon University. The title of his speech, “Better to Lose Your Life Than Waste It.”

Towards the end of his message, Piper responds to Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem in Acts 20:22, as a fictional American trying to talk some sense into the elderly apostle:

But Paul, you’re getting old. How ’bout a little cottage on the Aegean Sea? You’ve already done more in your ministry than most people could do in five lifetimes. It’s time to rest. Let the last twenty years of your life be travel and golf, shuffleboard and putzing around the garage and digging in the garden. Let Timothy have a chance. He’s young. Don’t go to Jerusalem. Agabus the prophet has told you, they are going to bind your hands and feet and hand you over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). And whatever you do, don’t go to Rome. And get out of your head the crazy plan of going to Spain at your age. You could get yourself killed. It isn’t American! It’s not the American Dream of ‘the sunset years.

The point of Piper’s message is old age in Jesus’ church isn’t a reason for sitting back and relaxing while younger folks do the work of the ministry. And it isn’t just John Piper preaching this message. In the Bible the psalmist pleads with God to give him a ministry even when he’s old, “So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:18)

And in Joshua 14:6-15, when 85 year old Caleb finally enters the land God promised Israel, he tells Joshua, “And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”

Not every person of retirement age can get down on the ground with toddlers, but if you’re a retiree and you can enter a church building, this Sunday you should sign up to serve the next generation of parents and children in your church.

It’s FUN!

Ok, that’s four, and it’s not a reason people give for not wanting to serve in a ministry to children. But I think it’s a reason many of us serious folks might unconsciously use as a reason we avoid kids ministry.

I tend to be too serious. In fact, it’s a prayer of mine this year that I will laugh more. I know that’s pathetic, but its true. Serving in kids ministry has caused me to laugh and have fun even while the hard things of life happen around us.

Proverbs 31 speaks of the woman who is clothed with strength and dignity. She opens her mouth and teaches others with kindness and wisdom. And she laughs at the time to come.

When you lower yourself to sit criss-cross and sing Jesus Loves Me with toddlers; when you learn to teach Jesus to a child, you will grow in strength and dignity and you’ll find yourself having the best kind of fun. You’ll laugh with a pure heart and it will be good!

I pray this stirs your heart. I pray if you’re not a kid person, and if you’re a teacher person or a retired person, you will turn your reasons for not serving the children and parents in your church into the reasons you sign up to serve them on Sunday.

Words, walls, and the winning way of Jesus

In the days after the November 3rd election, I scrolled through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, reading posts from people with crosses, fish symbols and scripture references in their taglines, that left me grieved.

They used words like, “go to hell,” held up their Bibles, guns, favored-candidate’s flag, and accused other Christians on social media of being “baby-killers” and “lost” because they pledged to pray for a pro-choice democrat if elected. In response I tweeted this question:

“Christian, if you’re cutting people off, calling them names, mocking and slandering them, how exactly are you loving your enemies?”

But simply sub-tweeting a pained reply to what I read on social media isn’t going to make the difference I long to see.

One of the writers I follow on Twitter, recently said:

It’s easier to write a book about a subject than to live the subject in a low, slow, & consistent way. If we think we’ll make a bigger difference in the world thru publishing our message than by simply living our message, God will (hopefully tenderly, softly, kindly) correct us.” – @lorewilbert

Social media and the internet make it easy for anyone to write anything. But as Lore points out, living the words we publish in a, “…low, slow & consistent way,” is the real world-changer. The incarnation of our words is a demonstration of power. To persuade a group of people to like what you say or repeat what you say is a kind of power. But to take the words you say and live them out changes lives.

It was easy for me to post my subtweet response on Facebook. It will be much harder, and much more an evidence of the power of Christ in me when I love the people who post such things, the same way Christ has loved me.

I’m convicted that Christians are called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), do good to them (Luke 6:27), pray for them (Matthew 5:44), go above and beyond to show them unearned kindness (Matthew 5:40-42) give to them (Romans 12:10), speak words of grace (Collosians 4:6) and truth with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:14-16).

It feels weird to say it, but my “enemies” are people who use mean words on social media to demonize people they don’t agree with. Living out what I wrote, “low and slow” means praying for those people. Taking actual time out of my day to move my lips and complain to God, not social media, seeking mercy on their behalf just as I have been shown great mercy from Jesus. And if possible, meeting with them personally to humbly listen and share the truth and grace of Jesus.

Jesus is clear. The way he has prescribed and empowered us to follow him is from a humble, gentle, yet bold posture. A posture that doesn’t use words to tear people down or prop yourself up. The way commanded to us is a way of wisdom, self-control and gracious speech. But, is there a time for Christians to mock or use name calling?

In the Bible, Jesus called the religious leaders who tied heavy burdens on their followers and used them for financial gain a, “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23).

In the Bible, Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:27) in an ancient showdown.

These examples make us stand up and cheer! We latch on easily to the person with the wittiest comebacks and sharpest jabs. We hear meek Jesus put those Pharisees on blast, and Elijah drop the mic on the prophets of Baal, and we arm ourselves Biblical support for mocking and name calling.

I doubt that any of us can, with a pure heart, call another people group a degrading name, or make fun of another religion’s gods, in a way that fulfills Christ’s commission to make disciples. But even if there are times when such shocking words are spoken with humility and boldness, these biblical examples don’t prescribe a mode of operation for Christians.

If our mode of operation as Christians turns from the humble, bold way of Jesus, to the in-your-face, mocking, proud, name-calling way of the culture and wayward leaders, I fear we will offend our neighbors and enemies and wall ourselves in tight from all opposing views so well, we will lose the chance to win them to Christ.

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. – Proverbs 18:19

For the Challies

Yesterday while scrolling through Twitter I read the heartbreaking news from Tim Challies about the loss of his son.

Along with many other bloggers today who have been encouraged by Tim, I am praying for Tim and his family.

Father, hear our cries for the Challies. Surround them. Hold them close. Send your people to weep and walk with them. Be near Lord Jesus.

“Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalm‬ ‭28:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What’s your hope?

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Despair. That’s the word that comes to mind when I hear the news stories of late.

This morning, while I was getting ready to go to church, my husband sat at the kitchen table shaking his head. The news story about the two L.A. police officers, shot while they sat in their police car was on his news feed. “This is just disgusting! What is the world coming to!” he moaned.

My husband doesn’t yet hope in Jesus. I’ll spend my life praying, believing and living so that one day he will. Today, it was apparent to me, knowing where your hope lies is so important.

I asked my husband, “What’s your hope?” He struggled to voice a solution he thought might fix the problem of violence against police officers and the rhetoric he sees playing out in the public that makes it seem he’s the bad guy for being a police officer. His hope is that someone will someday fix this societal problem of violence and hate. He sees the bad guys, and hopes someone will stop them. The question that looms is, who’s going to fix the problem of evil?

What is my hope? A politician? Philanthropy? More police? Stricter laws? A different governmental system? Who’s going to fix this mess we’re all in?

When I voiced my hope to my husband this morning I got a bit of what the apostles got in Acts 4 when the leaders around them were, “…greatly annoyed because they were… proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2). My husband wasn’t greatly annoyed. But he was a little annoyed. “I don’t buy it!” he quipped. “I don’t think Christ is going to change these thugs’ and make them good people.” He couldn’t believe that Christ could make life-giving good people out of murders. And I get it. I don’t want Christ to make them life-giving good people. I tend to want Christ to just destroy them! I have a Jonah problem. But that’s another blog.

What my husband was annoyed at is my hope that the resurrected Jesus I believe in, who can’t be seen and touched, can make any difference in the world. And that’s just it. I believe he does, and is and will.

Right now, he’s in me and many others, moving us with his heart of perfect love and justice to self-sacrificially love others, forgive, stand up for the truth, for those who are oppressed, extending our lives and the good news that this Jesus we love is the only one who really can make all things new.

It’s good for us to use the systems we have to do as much good as we can, but ultimately, it is only Jesus who can take a dead, evil-infested heart, and make it alive with love and truth.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Christians- get close. Stop idolizing and breaking others. Start serving them.

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On May 27th,  the New York Times published the 100,000 names of people who died from Coronavirus.  If you scroll down the screen of the online piece, you’ll see the images of humans scattered sparsley at first, then densly as time moves forward. Next to many of these human icons you’ll read the name, age and something specific about that person- their occupation, hobby or passion.  The response intended from such a piece is sobriety and grief. Maybe if you read the names you’ll stop living with this intoxicated view that everything is fine. Maybe you’ll even feel sad that so many have lost their lives to this disease. When I first read the article I remember feeling sober and sad. But I also had questions. What would we do if we knew the 100,000? What if we knew the wrong they’ve done? Would we honor them like Jesus honors the undeserving? Would we do the vulnerable work of discipleship?

In my work as a nurse, and before that as a nurse’s aide, I’ve cared for people whose family members disowned them. Some had been abusive. Some were addicts. Some had abandoned their children. I’m sure my patients over the years have done many grievous things. My tending to their needs in times of illness, debility or injury is not dictated by how these people lived their lives. Yes it is my job, but also, I believe my work exemplifies the way God made us to live- to love and serve one another. Even when we know the evil the other has done. As a nurse, this way of loving isn’t passive or sugar-coated. It requires the broken to do things that hurt so they can get better, and at times it compels me to ask patients facing their mortality what their hope is.

Today, I read a heartbreaking story from David French about his friend and former client, Mike Adams.  Mr. French’s eulogy is titled: A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for our Nation. America today—broken people, breaking each other.  I was disturbed, convicted and saddened by what I read. Mr. French’s friend had said provocative things. And people sought his ruin in response. I don’t know if someone loved Mr. Adams enough to get close and express concern about things he said.  As a people with screens in our faces, we don’t get face to face with others, see their sins and deal with them in an effort to bring wholeness. We do what Mr. French said. We break each other.

Undoubtedly there were many Mike Adams among the hundreds of thousands who’ve died of Covid-19. When the masses die we, as a culture, lament. But when among the masses one is exposed for some evil thing he or she said or did, we crush them. Jesus is not like this. And his people should not be like this either.

There is a distinct difference between our tendency to swoon over people and then destroy those same people on social media from a safe distance, and Jesus. Jesus doesn’t swoon, he knows what’s in people. He knows the evil that lurks in us all. But that knowing doesn’t lead him to destroy. Jesus, knowing what’s in us, deals with us, on a personal level. He lowers himself. He serves, even his betrayers, washing their feet (see John 13). We don’t naturally do this. The virtue of vulnerable love that exposes wickedness and offers redemption and reconciliation, is distinctly Christlike.

I expect humans to devour each other. But as Christians, vulnerable love should distinguish us from the rest of humanity. We should display a tangible foreignness in how we engage people, whether we know the wrong they’ve done or not. Not that we won’t be guilty of swooning and stabbing people, we will. I have. But we should be a people turning from idolizing and impaling others with our words. Increasingly, we should be a people noted for honoring and serving others, not because they’re good, but because Christ is good.

We have been sacrificially and scandalously served and loved by the God who knew our wickedness before we performed it. Therefore, as Christians, we should exhibit a kind of sobriety about humanity that knows the evil we’re all capable of. And with that sobriety we should bravely engage our fellow man with an other-wordly love.

There are a lot of shoulds in this blog. I don’t like shoulds. I want to be motivated by love, not rules. But just like a good parent, there is a need to remind a child what he should be doing, because we love him. I am as guilty as any of looking at the masses with sentimentality or with slander on my tongue. All these shoulds are aimed at me first. It’s hard to love like Jesus. It’s vulnerable. But it’s what I’m called to do. And it is love, that motivates me to do it.

The masses are dying around us, but get close Christian, close enough to love your enemy with your hands, like Jesus did with Judas. Get close enough to have a gracious conversation over coffee with your neighbor about what you heard your him say, like Jesus did with the woman at the well. Get low with the marginalized and despised, like Jesus did with lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes.  Don’t engage others this way because they’re kind or good. But because the Spirit of the Lord Jesus is upon us and he is immeasurably kind and good.

Christian, you are in ministry

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Tomorrow, people all over the U.S. will go to a local church. I have an opinion about what most of us going to church tomorrow think doing ministry means. I’d guess if you asked the average church attender, who among them is doing the work of the ministry, I bet they’d point to the pastor, the elders, the worship team, the children’s ministry leaders and teachers, and the student ministry leaders. I’d guess very few would say, “Me. I am doing the work of the ministry.” But that is exactly who the Bible says is to be doing the work of the ministry.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-12

I serve as the kids ministry director at my church.  This isn’t the first time I’ve served in kids ministry in church. But this is the first time I’ve ever been on staff with a church and the first time I’ve submitted myself to learning to lead others well for the kingdom’s sake. This year I’ve come to realize what the mindset about ministry is among those of us who go to church and serve in some capacity on a team in our churches. The prevailing thought seems to be something like, “I serve at my church. But the pastor and the kids ministry director and the worship leader… the staff are ‘in ministry’.”

I have a theory about the connection between the lack of passion among church members about their role as Christians in the church, at home, at work and in their neighborhoods. I believe the lack of zeal among us is at least in part because we think of ministry as something that the church staff or pastor or missionaries do. We don’t think of ministry as what the nurse, the pool guy, the college student who works at Dairy Queen and the stay-at-home mom does.

I believe the thought that ministry is something pastors or missionaries, not average everyday church members do, creates a task-oriented service mindset. Without “the saints” being equipped and having a passion and conviction within themselves that they are called to ministry, volunteerism and service teams in churches will lack passion and gospel growth.

I’m in a great local church. There’s a healthy mantra among the staff and leaders in my church that says, “We don’t use people to build the church. We use the church to build people.”  We believe the heavy lifting is on our knees, asking God to move on hearts, save our friends, and fill us with joy in serving one another. But I’ve noticed in myself and in other volunteers in the church, when feel burned-out or run-down in serving, it can almost always be traced back to what motivates us to serve. If we see serving at church as a good thing to do, as sort of a holy task we add to our weekly to-do list, we run out of steam. When we drag our busy lives along with us and add church on at the end (or beginning) of a busy week, serving in any capacity on a Sunday feels like a tax.

But when we see our lives in light of the gospel; when we see our lives as not our own; when we see our lives as being for, “…the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ,” a fire of love drives our service.

The Bible lays out the case that every Christian is in ministry. Each one of us makes up a, “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). As a side note, I wonder if a lot of the drive behind women in some Christian circles striving to be honored as pastors comes out of a lack of belief that every Christian (male or female) is in ministry. But I digress.

So what is, “the work of the ministry”? We certainly aren’t all to quit our day jobs and start vocational roles as pastors, teachers or missionaries. So what does it mean to be in ministry for those not in full-time vocations of teaching or preaching or leading in the church?  I’m sure it means more, but I see at least three things it means. To do the work of the ministry is to:

  1. Build up other people in the local church so they can become more like Jesus. Ephesians 4 says that Christ gave pastors and teachers to the church to equip us to do the work of the ministry so that we would grow mature in Christ. Jesus calls us shift workers, artists, plumbers, students and parents to ministry so that the other people in our local church will grow up! We help each other grow. The work of the ministry isn’t philanthropic or volunteer work in general. Ministry is how one Christian serves another person in the local church to help them become more like Jesus.
  2. Be ambassadors for Christ to the those in our neighborhoods and work, outside the church. An ambassador is a representative of one country stationed in another. Christian, we are ministers and ambassadors of Jesus’ kingdom as God works through us to bring the hope of the gospel to those who do not believe (2 Corinthians 5:14, 20). That is ministry every Christian is called to. We represent Christ to the world. And that leads to the last thing I see doing the work of the ministry means.
  3. Serve Christ with my whole life. For eternity we will be talking about the riches of the grace Christ has poured on us, bringing us into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5-7). We give nothing- no services, no sacrifice- that is not first given to us in Jesus. And so to do the work of the ministry is to give myself with zeal daily to his service. Whatever I do, whether it be at my local church on Sunday morning, or on Tuesday evening with my kids doing homework, or on Saturday with my husband cleaning the house, or any other thing I do all week… my life is not my own.  Christ died for me so I would stop living for myself and start living for him, as I was made to (2 Corinthians 5:15).

All of life for the Christian is ministry. And when we see our lives that way, serving in some capacity on a Sunday will be one way we are doing the work of the ministry, building others in the church up to make them more like Jesus.

Why I stopped listening to Matt Chandler and started listening to my pastor, Jason Vance

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“Who’s Jason Vance?” you may ask. Nobody famous. And that’s the whole point. He’s the young church-planting pastor of my local church.

A few years ago my small church closed. My pastor retired, went into a teaching ministry role and moved to Oregon. That sent me and my two sons into about three years of having no local church. I tried. Every Sunday I set out to services at a different church, hoping to find the one that fit for us. As the weeks went on, and nothing seemed to be a good fit, John Piper, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, Ray Ortlund and other famous pastors’ fed me with good teaching online without requiring me to leave my house. And I found it harder and harder to even want to find a local church.

But when trouble came, I couldn’t lean on online preachers. I needed a local group of Christians I could get to know and who would get to know me so we could bear one another’s burdens. I eventually found a good church where I now serve as a kids ministry leader, and am part of a small group of people I would never have formed friendships with if it were not for this local church. But I noticed something in the first months at my church: I was comparing my pastor’s preaching and my church’s liturgy to what I had been listening and watching online for the past three years.

I’m not sure exactly when it hit me, but somewhere between my pastor preaching and prayers with a neighbor I was convicted that if I wanted to love my church and be part of what God is doing through her, I had to stop comparing her to famous churches and pastors or some ideal version of church I had in my head.

I am not saying it’s wrong to be a famous pastor or large church or even to listen to online sermons or teachings from well-known Christian leaders. But I am saying I think there’s a correlation between the obsession we Americans have with independence, fame, wealth and size and our disconnection from the unknown local pastor, church and Jesus’ call to love one another as he has loved us.  Actually, its not even just us Americans. The early church in Corinth had the same problem. And Paul chastised them.

“…for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.” 1 Corinthians 3:3-5

In sharing all this with my pastor the other day he said something that really summed up the whole reason I stopped listening to Matt Chandler and started listening to my pastor, Jason Vance.  He said something like, “You can’t face conflict and use the gospel with an idea.” That’s all you have when you only listen to Christian leaders online or in books- an idea. But in the local church you have people that are going to fail you, and you’re going to fail them. In the local church you’ll have to use the gospel face to face.

I see loved ones and friends who prefer a church they can walk in and out of without connecting with anyone; or a podcast-ed sermon from a famous pastor; or even time alone with their Bible in silence over investing themselves in the lives of the broken people in their local church.  I was once one of them.  For many, past church hurt keeps them from connecting and submitting to a local church.  For others, it’s the problems we see in the culture in local churches that turn us off. The thing is, the very reason many of us have shrunk back from the local church is the reason we need to press into her.

The place where sin has caused damage is the place where we need to call each other out in love, seeking wholeness and restoration (Galatians 6:1). The place where we’re offended with one another is where we’re called to forgive (Ephesians 4:32). The place where we don’t agree is where we’re called to voice our concerns, pray and submit to leaders. The place where the burdens are great is the place we’re supposed help each other carry the load (Galatians 6;2). The place where it hurts is where Jesus has called us to take up our cross and follow him. We won’t have to bear a cross if we insulate our lives from one another.

As someone once pointed out, all those “one anothers” we read in the Bible are the local church. You can’t “one another” with a podcast or a book.

It’s too easy to be in agreement with the ideas of Christianity and not actually live them out. When you hear a compelling message from Matt Chandler online you can, “Amen!” all you want, but unless you’re having to forgive and be forgiven in a face-to-face relationship with broken people like you, you’re just an idea-lover. Jesus wants us to be people-lovers like him. He laid down his life, not for an idea, but for hypocrites, and humbled sinners, rich and poor, healthy and disabled, religious and rebellious. Jesus laid his life down for the church. And we’re to lay down our lives for one another.

 

 

 

 

Evidence of the Resurrection

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On Easter Sunday an unbelieving loved one sat with me in church while the gospel was heralded and the very doubts and questions he has were exposed. This of course has created some interesting conversations in the last couple days. Questions about evidence. He wants evidence of the resurrection.

I know there are smarter people than me who have done the research and present compelling evidence for the resurrection. But as I’ve been praying about my loved one’s questions and seeking wisdom from the scriptures, the most obvious evidence is right here. Me.

In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus is about to ascend to the Father and he doesn’t say, “I’ve left you all this evidence of my death and resurrection. Now go. Convince everyone with this evidence.” No. He says, “I’m sending you! You are the evidence I’m alive. Now go make disciples in my power. I am not dead. I am with you.”

Christian, you and I are the evidence Jesus has left on earth that testifies to the reality of his resurrection. If Jesus wasn’t alive we would have no power to love like he loves. We would have no power to repent and take up our cross and follow him. We would have no power to make disciples. Jesus is with us. One day we will see him face to face, but until then, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives that is the greatest evidence that he is alive.

When I spoke with my loved one the other day as he expressed his doubts, I said, “Look at me. Look at my life. Am I a credible witness to you that there is a power at work in me to love and live like Jesus?” This puts me in a position of dependence on the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t mean look at me because my life is perfect. It means, “Lord, I’m yours. For your name’s sake, lead me in ways that testify to my loved ones that you really are alive.” It’s saying, “Jesus you said you were with me always. Be with me and be the evidence in my life and in the church that testifies to my loved ones, you’re alive!”

Paul did this. Three times in the New Testament he tells the churches he’s writing to, “Look at me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17). It’s a bold move to call people’s attention to your life as evidence that Christ is alive. But it’s what Jesus sent us out to be. We are his people, alive in the Spirit, because he is alive. He is with us everyday empowering us to be witnesses that he is alive!

Revive your heart for Easter: Look to seeds and plants

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I’m not an apologist. I don’t know all the arguments for the evidence that the resurrection of Christ really happened. But I do know what happens to a seed when you push it into the earth.

Throughout the Bible the image of seeds, trees and plants are used to describe the life of a person in the family of God. In the gospels, Jesus uses the example of a grain of wheat being planted in the dirt as the metaphor for what must happen to all who believe in him (John 12:24). And in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses planting a seed in the ground as evidence that the resurrection is real.

Dead People Don’t Get Up, But Seeds Do

As a nurse I’ve been around dead people. To see one of them get up and walk, fully alive would be crazy. It just doesn’t happen. Growing up hearing the story of the resurrection of Christ, the thought that Jesus, fully dead, got up and walked out of a sealed tomb has become familiar. The story of this impossible, universe-shaking event has become as common to me as watching spring plants bloom every March. Christ’s resurrection doesn’t shake me like it would if one of my dead patients got up and walked home fully well.

I have to pray and intentionally approach the story of the resurrection of Christ with a desire to be awakened by it. I want to feel the wonder of the scandal of the resurrection of Christ. I want to respond with the joy and awe fitting for such an event.

One way I am helped in responding to the story of the resurrection of Christ, is by reading what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15. Here Paul defends the reality of the resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of all who believe in him. He uses the imagery of a grain of wheat, dying in the ground and being raised to its new plant life, to help the skeptical and doubting people at the church in Corinth.

Most of us don’t notice the everyday occurrence of seeds becoming plants. The last time we were probably in awe of the miraculous transformation of a seed into a plant was in elementary school when we learn about the parts of a seed and how it germinates. But this very elementary lesson God uses as a message all around us teaching us the reality of resurrection life.

Jesus died. He died a brutal death. And it’s absolutely impossible for a dead man like Jesus to regain a beating heart, breathing lungs, a functioning brain and ambulating body. But in God’s economy it’s no more impossible than a seed in the ground breaking apart, “dying” and then sprouting through the soil into it’s glorious new body.

The resurrection of Jesus is the miraculous first germination of the new man. The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of the new creation. The resurrected Jesus is the new body all our planted lives of faith in Christ will become. The resurrected Jesus is the new man we who believe in him are becoming. Though we die daily, we will live forever as the new planting of the Lord we were always meant to be.

We weren’t meant to be seeds only. Just like Jesus wasn’t meant to die only. We’re meant to be Holy-Spirit-fruit-bearing trees of the Lord.

So, dear one, next time you look outside and see all the things that live because a seed once “died” in the soil, think of Jesus and your future. One day you and I are going to blossom in the new life that is ours in Christ.  Because he is alive, we will live too.

Response: Take time to meditate on what Christ has done for you and the reality of the resurrection by reading John 19-21 and 1 Corinthians 15. Then go outside. Look at all the life that has popped up out of the ground from seeds that died in the dirt. Pray that the Holy Spirit would increase your joy and hope in believing in the resurrection of Christ and your future resurrection.

Church

backlight backlit countryside dusk
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You are not a well-oiled machine.
You’re a body
with heart disease
weak in the limbs
and dim in the eyes.

You’re forgetful,
and yet
time
and time again
you look to the One
who loves you with his life.

You lift your head,
revive your heart,
strengthen your limp arms
and take another step with your bad knees.

Your face lights up at his words.

You’re getting stronger.
Your heart is enduring.
Your eyes are fixed on Jesus.
And every time you start to sink
down
into
the
mire,
You cry, “Save me!”
and he rescues you
time
and time again.

And he will keep rescuing you
until you see him
and then
you’ll laugh
and leap
and shine with strength.