Every year my girlfriends and I have our 'Spa Day' at a local Spa. Some of us get massages, or facials or hair styles, but all of us get a pedicure together. This has become a marvelous day of renewal for us, mostly as a chance to slow down and share news after a hectic holiday season and long winter. Our dead skin is exfoliated, our outsides are polished, primped and prettified, and our spririts are refreshed with the joys of relationship.
Esther went through many similar beauty treatments as she was prepared for more than a year to meet the king. We can imagine she had some kind of special diet, exercise regime, perfumes, oils and makeup so that she would be her best, most beautiful self when she was finally allowed to stand before her king. And her beauty, inside and out, saved the Jewish people in Babylon.
Our Heavenly Father also wants us to undergo preparations before we stand before him. However, he is not interested in our shiny hair or polished toes. "People look at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." ~Samuel 16:7. He wants us to prepare ourselves to meet Him by becoming more like Christ : ..."because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." ~Romans 5:3-5. Our days on earth should be spent pursuing the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:21-23).
And although there is nothing wrong with looking your best, we know that these bodies will someday perish, while our Spirits will be with the Lord for Eternity! Let us remember that "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." ~Proverbs 31:30.
An Easter Dramatic Reading
ALL: Unbearable Sadness!
#1: The women watched
#2: Unbearable sadness!
#1: Their Lord, their teacher, their Savior dying on a cross
#2: Unbearable sadness!
#1: His body hastily laid in a tomb.
#2: Such sadness!
#1: After the Sabbath, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb, crying.
ALL: Unspeakable Fear!
#2: There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
#1: Unspeakable Fear!
#2: His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.
#1: Unspeakable Fear!
#2: The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
#1: Such Fear!
#2: The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
All: Unbounded Joy!
#1: He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead.”
#2: Unbounded Joy!
#1: So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
#2: Unbounded Joy!
#1: Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
#2: Such Joy!
#1: When the disciples were together, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
#2: Such Unbounded Joy!
#1: Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Written by Jennifer Fefel Jahromi from the four Gospel accounts of Resurrection Day for Hereford United Methodist Church, April 2014.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
~2 Corinthians 5:17
When our first child was born, it was immediately apparent that we had changed – and I don’t mean just scars and stretch marks. We had become parents. Our whole outlook on life had changed. We no longer lived just for ourselves. Now, we desperately longed to live long enough to see him grow, graduate, get married, have children of his own. We would have to continually recognize and meet his needs, first for diaper changes, later for homework help and spiritual guidance. We would have to rearrange our entire lives around our new status as parents – no more late night parties, no more spur of the moment vacations, much less time with friends, much more emphasis on earning a living to support our growing family. The birth of our child was thrilling, awe-inspiring…and scary, exhausting, humbling and frustrating. Frankly, in those first years as a new parent, I felt like a total failure more often than not. But eventually, with time and practice (as our next child arrived) I came to relax in my persona of parent. It isn’t always a romantic fairy-tale, but I feel pretty good about the job we’ve done, and totally confident that God can take it from where we left off, or fix or heal anything we mess up.
Becoming a Christian is a lot like becoming a parent. In an instant, you become a new creation, and leave behind the old to begin again with the new. And just like parenthood, the walk with Christ is thrilling and awesome…but it can be frustrating, exhausting and scary, too. When I was born again, my life changed just as much as when I became a parent. There were certain shows and movies I just couldn’t stand to watch anymore. There were a few friends I had to give up, just like we gave up the late night parties before. Some things from the old life were simply no longer compatible with the new life. The constant conflict with worldly ways was as frustrating as constantly tending to a child’s needs. But like parenthood, as a Christian it is important to keep looking forward to the future promise. Just as we know our kids will grow up just fine even if we aren’t the perfect parents, we know that ultimately, in Christ, we will reach the goal of Heaven, even if we escape Hell still smelling like smoke. Not that we shouldn’t strive to improve. We should, and God’s grace and the Holy Spirit are always close by to lead us to become more holy. But like parenthood, being a Christian is a life-long process. You don’t stop being a parent when your kids turn 18, and you don’t stop being a Christian when Christmas and Easter pass. Through the good times and bad, you keep going because you must. You can’t turn back, because the old has passed away. You are a new creation! So say goodbye to the caterpillar of your old life and unfold into the beautiful butterfly that is your new life in Christ.
Love. It's all you need. It's what the world needs now. So many songs, so many poems dedicated to it. And so much about it in the Bible. But do we really understand what it is?
Here's a little check-list. If you were searching for the perfect friend, or the perfect spouse for yourself or your kids, this is what you'd look for:
□ never jealous,
□ not boastful,
□ not conceited
□ not rude.
□ not selfish
□ not quick tempered.
□ doesn’t keep a record of hurts
□ finds no joy in injustice,
□ rejoices in the truth
□ always supportive,
□ always loyal,
□ always hopeful,
□ always trusting
□ never gives up on you
I suppose that the 50% divorce rate is evidence that not many of us really find someone like that. Perhaps more convicting is the realization that not many of us are ourselves like that. I was married with kids before I really started to grasp what an incredibly tall order LOVE really is (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). At work or school where the stakes are high, it might be easier to keep ourselves in check. And perhaps in the grocery store or checkout line we could aspire to be our best selves and let someone go ahead of us, hold the door or share a few kind words. At home with the ones we know best, it gets more challenging. Persistent frustrations, long held patterns and a sense that we have 'a right' to air our feelings can lead to some pretty 'un-lovely' words and deeds. Then, of course, there are the people we feel we deserve to not love: mean people, bullies, enemies, criminals, people at war with our country or our beliefs. Our world tells us it's ok not to love those people, and it's ok to demand that others respect you and treat you right.
But that's where Jesus reveals how AMAZING his kind of love really is: love your enemies (Matthew 5:44); ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse (Romans 12:14); turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39); if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well (Matthew 5:40); be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another (Ephesians 4:2); if anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35). Pretty radical, huh? Nothing in our human experience would cause us to naturally behave this way. And that is exactly Jesus' point: the world will know you are different because you act so radically different by loving where others hate and serving where others demand to be served.
And that kind of love is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit within you. If you want to experience transformation in your life, if you want to be more loving than you think is possible, if you want to be more forgiving than you can imagine, if you want to be truly content, then what you need is Jesus. By accepting Jesus' sacrifice as payment for your sin, buy giving yourself over to Jesus as Lord of your life, you will begin a great adventure of transformation, molding and shaping you to be more like Jesus, and Jesus is the embodiment of love (1 John 4:8).