Easter is a reminder that we serve a risen savior!  Without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no reason to hope and there is no call to serve—and every single person in the Family of God is called to the mission of God!  Yet all too often, we wander—choosing our own path—consequently, we miss the opportunity to experience God’s presence and receive God’s blessing.

During this Pentecost season, I will post a weekly devotional to guide us on a journey with our risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Each Sunday I will post a new meditation, Scripture, and a set of challenge questions.  I am doing this with some people in my church-family and I invite you, my readers, to join us by posting your own questions, experiences, and prayers.

Meditation

Today the Church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Easter is at once both a deeply personal and necessarily communal experience. Robert Webber offers the following insight about the Paradox of the Easter message.

Easter is the source event of all the events of the Christian year. It is like the neck of the hourglass. Every event of the Christian year flows into Easter, even as all the events of the Christian year flow from Easter.

Evangelicals affirm that Easter day, like all the other saving events of the Christian year, is a factual and historical day. On Easter Sunday the two sides of the Easter event are to be affirmed. When Easter day is reduced only to a fact day, we intellectualize the event. If I focus only on the evidence of the resurrection fact, the reality of the resurrection in me is removed and the meaning of the resurrection spirituality becomes lost.

There is also a danger, however, in overinterpreting the resurrection event in me. We live in a highly self-focused world in which everything is interpreted in terms of what it can do for me. Greg Wilde, a friend of mine and a teacher at the Institute for Worship Studies, captured the concentration on self that has become a real problem for the church and its emphasis on true spirituality in the following way:

In all past paradigms the self has been subordinated to systems—moral systems, social systems, political systems, even physical systems, like gravity and environmental conditions. In the last 30 years, however, or perhaps gradually since the second World War, for the first time the self has been cut loose to become supreme, sovereign, all-important, a system unto itself, no longer subordinate to any moral code but its own, no longer needing anybody outside the self, no longer needing to agree with anybody to receive validation, and even technology has advanced to the point where we no longer have to obey gravity, or stay above water or even stay on the planet! We can do anything and it has killed us.

While the resurrection is for me, it is not a self-focused event as in advertising that states, “It is all about me, you know!” Maintaining the paradox of both the Easter fact and faith is the key to Easter spirituality. Paul clearly provides the subjective guideline: “You have been raised with Christ…. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1, 3 NIV). So what does it mean to say that Christ has been factually risen from the dead and this same Christ is to be risen in me? What is the Easter message? The answer to this question must focus first on the Easter fact and then, and only then, on Easter spirituality.

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time : Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2004), 143–144.

Today, I challenge my church-Family to embrace this Easter Paradox of the personal yet corporate Gospel.

Scripture Reading

Old Testament

Psalm 16 (ESV)

A Miktam of David. 1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. 5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalms

Psalm 150 (ESV)

1 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! 3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

New Testament

1 Corinthians 15:12–20 (ESV)

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Gospel

John 20:1–8 (ESV)

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Challenge

  • Each day this week, examine your daily habits. How has the Spirit of Christ used the historical reality of the Easter message to change you?  Your actions?  Your values?  Your priorities?
  • How have you experienced the power of the Easter message—your own personal death and resurrection through Faith?  A Healing?  A freedom from guilt?
  • Do people see the Easter message in your eyes? Has the image of a living-Christ in you helped transform the people around you?  The Lost?  Your family?  The Church? If not, ask yourself, why not?
  1. Week 1 Devotional
  2. Week 2 Devotional
  3. Week 3 Devotional
  4. Week 4 Devotional
  5. Week 5 Devotional

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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