Sunday, April 24, 2011

"He is not here; he has risen!"

Today is, as the song says, marks the greatest day in history. 3 days prior, everyone thought that death had won, and Jesus Christ was not who he said he was. Then Sunday came, and he had risen from his tomb, conquering death, and our sins, forever. The salvation of all mankind rests upon the resurrection that happened so many years ago, but still stands today as the foundation of our faith.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly, two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he is risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" Then they remembered his words.  -Luke 24:1-8

I was a bit surprised as I sat in church today to hear the preacher quickly skim over the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. He then headed to Luke 15 and spent the rest of the sermon speaking about the "heavenly meaning behind the earthly stories" of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. I love that our preacher, Brian, went away from the usual story that most people (even if they only come to church on Easter) have heard that yes, Jesus was crucified; yes, Jesus was buried for 3 days; yes, Jesus rose again like he said he would. But the message today answered the question why Jesus died on the cross and rose again. He did that to save us! Because we are the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the rebellious son who need saving! And Jesus gave his life so that we could be found and saved.
"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15:10
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3: 16-17

I am ever amazed at the mercy and grace of God who chose to do these things so that we could be with him in heaven someday, even though we have done nothing to deserve it.

Brent and I were blessed to spend Easter dinner with some members of our church family today. It's such a cool thing to sit around a crowded table with people you've known for only a short time, and discuss openly how God is working and guiding us in our lives as we celebrate his Resurrection (and also to let them know that there are civilized people from Oklahoma, even if people forget that we're a state and that there are people out there! ;)We are thankful to our friends for opening up their home to us today!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Friday, but Sunday's a' comin'.

Today is Good Friday.
Brent and I attended a "tenebrae" service at our church tonight, which literally means "darkness." Quite appropriate for the event that occured over 2,000 years ago, when Jesus Christ laid down his life for our sins on the Cross. The quiet service was a much-needed reminder of that sacrifice. In addition, I am posting a story below that someone sent to me today, which more clearly portrays God's sacrifice than anything else I've read. Read with a box of tissues, if you are willing. I hesitate to post it, simply because it really is sad, but I think we all need the reminder.

The Train Sacrifice
There was a bridge spanning a large river. Most of the day, the bridge sat with its length running up and down the river parallel with the banks, allowing ships to pass thru freely. Twice a day, a train would come along and the bridge was turned sideways across the river, allowing the train to cross.
A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place for the trains to cross. One evening the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come. The train approaching was a passenger train with many people aboard. When the train was within a prescribed distance, he stepped up to the controls and turned the bridge into position. To his horror, the locking control was not working. If the bridge was not locked in position, the train would jump the track and crash into the river below.

The switchman hurried across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a control lever, which he could operate manually to lock the bridge in place. He would have to hold the lever back firmly, with all his strength, as the train crossed. He could hear the rumble of the train, and he took hold of the lever and pulled backward with all his might, locking the bridge into place. He kept applying the pressure to keep the mechanism locked. Many lives depended on his strength. Then, from the direction of his control shack across the bridge, the switchman heard a sound that made his blood run cold.

"Daddy, where are you?"

His four-year-old son was crossing the bridge to look for him.

His first impulse was to cry out to the child, " Run! Run!" But the train was too close. The tiny legs would never make it across the bridge in time. In the same instant, he almost left the lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety. But he realized that he could not get back to the lever in time for the train to pass safely. Either the people on the train or his little son would have to die. It took a moment to make his decision.

The train sped safely and swiftly on its way. No one on board was even aware of the tiny broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the onrushing train. Nor were they aware of the sobbing man, still clinging tightly to the locking lever long after the train had passed. Neither did they see him walking home more slowly than he had ever walked before, to tell his wife how they had lost their only son.

As we comprehend what this experience must have meant to this man and how it affected him, we begin to realize what our Father in Heaven must have had to endure when He sacrificed His Son (the most innocent man ever) - to bridge the gap between us and eternal life. Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His Son was crucified? And how it must affect Him when we speed along thru life with little thought or appreciation for His sacrifice.

 I also heard this clip on the radio today, which has an incredibly uplifting message about the hope we have because Jesus died and then rose from the dead. While describing the events that happened on Good Friday as Jesus was on trial and put to death, the pastor repeats the line "it's Friday, but Sunday's a' comin'." and "they didn't know it then, but Sunday's a' comin'." What an amazing God and Savior we have that endured the pain of this day and was put to death, but rose again 3 days later. God conquered death and has forgiven our sins. Give this a listen to (especially if you need positive pick-me-up after the above story!) but ignore the cheesy video. Just listen to the powerful words.

I can't wait to celebrate the Resurrection on Sunday!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

A mighty fine April Fool's joke.

Last week was the beginning of another new month. I am having a hard time believing that it is already April! Not that I am complaining. Brent and I have been married for 9 months today, living in Maryland for almost 8 months, and I'm less than 2 months away from summer break. Now, if only the right April weather would come to stay!

To ring in the new month, I pulled a pretty good joke on my kiddos at school. To be honest, I didn't really think I would pull it over on them too well because I thought they would be expecting it. They're some pretty smart cookies, ya know! Here's how it went down:

My kids had a science fair project due this Monday, April 4. (Remember we are on Friday morning, April 1). I had one student bring her project in early that Friday, so I thought I would use this to my advantage. I had both 3rd grade classes come into my room (our routine when doing presentations) and had them get seated and quiet. I then announced that it was time to begin their science fair presentations. Their jaws dropped and then the protests began . . . "but the paper says they're due on Monday!" . . . "I don't have mine today!" . . . to each protest I politely but sternly disagreed, saying that it was very clear that they were due today and that late projects would be penalized. I then called on the one girl who had her project and she picked up her poster and began walking to the front of the room, protests from the kids still a' flyin.

I kept a straight face until one of my girls started crying.

"Oops, joke's over!" I thought to myself, and began to smile at the class, without saying a word. After a few seconds, one student finally caught on. "Mrs. McLaughlin! This is an April Fool's joke! She's joking, guys!" The other students began laughing, the tears dried up, and I gave myself a mental pat on the back for successfully pulling one over on my students.

One of the other teachers was speaking to one of my boys (one of the tough, cool guys, I might add) in the hallway later in the day. "I heard Mrs. McLaughlin got you guys pretty good this morning!" The boy's response: "Nah, I knew she was joking the whole time. I was just pretending to be surprised."

Yeah, right. ;)

Happy April!