Week One: Jesus Risen, Jesus Alive!

The family planned a large birthday celebration for Rose.  Extended family members were traveling from all over the country to be there on her special day.  Rose Fulton, my great-grandmother, was turning 100, and that was indeed something to celebrate.  In the days leading up to the planned celebration, however, Rose passed away.  While her passing made everyone sad, the family had a party anyway – celebrating her life, instead of her birthday. 

My nephew, Jacob, my brother Robin’s only son, was 17 when he died following an accident in the home.  The family gathered in the ICU at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.  When the difficult decision was made to withdraw the medications that were barely sustaining his life, Jacob Hadley Fulton quickly passed away.    Jacob left behind grief, devastation and loss, as he was dearly loved.  This loss has been borne and felt by the family for the 20 years since his death.  

A long life triumphantly lived by Rose.  A young life tragically cut short in Jacob.  The family gathers to celebrate one life, and the family gathers to mourn the loss of the other. 

My family is not unique in experiencing such peaks and valleys.  Life is unpredictable, and nothing and no one should be taken for granted.  Each day that we wake up in the morning is indeed a gift, and it is one to be celebrated.  Life deals out surprises, and they can sometimes be unwelcome and devastating.  One need only turn on the evening news to see many examples of tragedies both man-made and nature-induced.  And yet… Hope remains.

Jesus, the Son of God, was betrayed and denied by his friends, and He suffered an excruciating death upon the cross.  Jesus paid the ultimate price in order to redeem all of us to God. 

While one can rarely prepare for tragic events, we can adopt an attitude of expectation and thankfulness with respect to God’s presence and the daily blessings that surround us.  If you want to measure how much the people in your life bless you, consider life in their absence.  Who or what do you take for granted that, if taken from you, would greatly disrupt your life? 

As the Scriptures that follow illustrate, Jesus can appear to us in unexpected places and in ways that, because of our own filters, we do not recognize him.   Enjoy the blessings in your life while you have them.  Celebrate each day, and the people in it, as a gift from God.  Look for the Lord with expectation in the people and world around you.  And when you see the Lord at work, praise God, and celebrate the steadfastness of His love! 

Kent Fulton

Weekly Prayer

Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.


Day One: 

DAILY — PRAYING SCRIPTURE:

Often in life we are surprised by events that we have no business being surprised by.  Why are we startled when our family and friends do what they say they are going to do?  Is this because we are frequently disappointed by such statements of intent?   When we pray, do we pray with the expectation that God hears our prayers?   Use these verses as a prayer to help you remember that God is steadfast and his grace and love are unwavering. 

Matthew 28:1-10 – Lord, help me to remember that you keep your Word.  Like the two Mary’s, I go about my business expecting nothing has changed and that the disappointments of the world will extend to all things, even to the death of Jesus.  I remember how Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb, expecting to find the body of Jesus. They were startled by a violent earthquake and the divine appearance of an angel of the Lord coming down from heaven, who rolled back the stone covering the entrance to the tomb and pronounced the resurrection of Jesus – He Has Risen - “just as He said.”  As the angel of the Lord encouraged the women, help me not to be afraid of the magnificence of the Lord and the fulfillment of His promises.  Enable and equip me to share with others - as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were to share with the disciples – that He Is Risen and that He is coming! While the disciples were to be told that Jesus would meet them in Galilee, I know the women were in for yet another unexpected surprise.  As they ran to tell the disciples, filled with joy, they encountered the risen Lord himself!  Help me, Lord, to always be looking for You, even when – and perhaps especially when – I am about your business and work of the Kingdom, as the two Mary’s were.  Lord, help me to be ever watchful, fully expecting the fulfillment of your promises – Jesus risen, alive! Amen. 

Ask yourself — When have you lived your life in a way that denies the truth of God’s promises?  When in your life have you been startled by the obvious manifestation of God’s power either in your life or the life of others?  Do you look for God not only in the unexpected places, but also in the places where his work is being done?  Where might you see God in your life today? 

Prayer: Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life and to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross and to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.


Day Two:

Have you ever had an “out of context” experience, where you encounter someone you know in an unexpected place, outside the environment in which you have come to know them, and either don’t immediately recognize the individual or do not recall their name?  Do you always look for the gardener in the garden, when you should always be looking for Jesus – no matter where you find yourself?

John 20:11-18 -- Lord, like Mary, I can find myself weeping at my circumstances, crying outside the tomb.  When, in my grief, I look into the tomb, I find myself confused by two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body should be.  When the angels ask me why I am crying, I can only see the obvious absence of Jesus, not its implications - “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put Him.” I turn around to see Jesus standing there, yet do not recognize Him because I do not expect see Him alive again.  This person I assume to be the gardener also asks me, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”  Thinking the man has carried the body of Jesus away, I beg him to tell me where he has put Jesus and offer to retrieve his body.  Only when Jesus says my name do I recognize Him for who He is -  my Lord.  Though I want only to hug Him and never let go, He asks me to go to his brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  I go to the disciples with the good news: “I have seen the Lord!”  Amen.

Ask Yourself — When you have lost a loved one to death, what was the most obvious pain of this loss? Their absence from your life?  How can you also see the implications of this loss?  Do you see your own mortality?  Do you see how precious of a gift your life really is?  Do you see the importance of your daily walk with Jesus, given that you’re not promised a tomorrow?  Given that life is a precious gift, what steps can you take to improve your own life and the lives of those that you encounter?

Prayer: Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.


Day Three:

Life can be overwhelming at times, especially when events do not meet our expectations.  We naturally rely upon our own understanding of how the world works and set our expectations accordingly, and it is our own understanding that has in turn failed us.  Yet, if we were to only listen, God is always pointing us in the right direction; it is His will, not our will, that matters.   When we stop looking for answers based on our own understanding, and. Instead, lean onto and trust God’s Word, we will finally find our peace and the answers we seek. 

Luke 24:13-35 -- Lord, as I read about two friends walking along a dusty road on a journey to a village called Emmaus, I think about how distracted and upset they must have been, talking with each other about everything that had happened since Jesus’ death. As they’re walking and mourning their Messiah’s death, Jesus comes up and walks along with them, but both fail to recognize Him.  As Jesus questions them, their failure to recognize brings a rebuke from Him, saying “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  As they approached Emmaus, the two friends invited Jesus, still unrecognized, to dine with them. When He was at the table with them and took bread, giving thanks, their eyes were opened. They recognized Jesus, and He disappeared from their sight.  They quickly made their way back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven what had happened and how they finally recognized Jesus. Amen.

Ask Yourself:  What mannerisms do you have that are unique to you? Jesus was revealed to the two sojourners to Emmaus by the way He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it.  Consider how Jesus is revealed to you by the world around you, through friends, family, or even strangers?  What makes the presence of our Lord obvious to you?  Are you attentive enough to notice?

Prayer: Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.


Day Four: 

It is sometimes easy to forget that but for the crucifixion of Jesus, we would not be reconciled to God because of our sin.   We would face rejection by God because of the blemish of our sin, and we would be a people without hope.  God loved us so much, however, that through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross, God was able to reconcile us to Him; He made peace through the sacrifice of his Son.  Jesus conquered death, and made it possible for each of us to do likewise. 

Colossians 1:18-20 – Lord, help me to remember that by your will, Jesus is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything He might be preeminent.  God you have taught me that You were pleased to have all of your fullness dwell in your Son, Jesus, and through Him to reconcile all things to you, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Amen.

Ask Yourself:  Are you satisfied with your faith walk?  When you reflect on the sin in your life, both public and private, how often do you consider that Jesus bore that sin on the cross and washed it away with his blood?  If the sin in your life is difficult to rid yourself of, what value are you effectively placing on Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf?  While perfection in this life is not possible, do you feel that you are making decisions and taking steps that move you closer to the life that Jesus calls you to live?

Prayer: Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.


Day Five: 

God has tried in many ways and through many people to convey not only His perfect will for our lives, but also the unwavering nature of His abiding love. Yet, as the Old Testament recounts over and over again, God’s people have been less than receptive to these messages.  Finally, God sent his beloved Son to us so that there would be no misunderstanding about His will, His love, and the path to our reconciliation with Him.   While some may continue to reject God through the gift of free will, there can no longer be any doubt about His love for us, and Jesus’ place in His kingdom. 

Hebrews 1:1-6 -- In the past, God, You spoke to my ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but most recently, You have spoken to me through your Son, whom You appointed heir of all things, and through whom, God, You also made the universe.  I know that the Son is the radiance of your glory, God, and the exact representation of your being, sustaining all things by your powerful word. After Jesus provided purification for my sins, He sat down at your right hand in heaven.  By his atoning sacrifice, I know that Jesus became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to that of the angels.  For to which of the angels did you ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”?  Or again, “I will be his Father, and He will be my Son”?  When You brought your firstborn into the world, You indeed said, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Amen.

Ask Yourself: Where do you place Jesus in your priorities for life.  Does He come before family? Before career?  And, where does God place Jesus? At His Right Hand – the place of greatest Honor – as Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being!   What changes do you need to make in your life in order to give Jesus the priority that He not only deserves, but that God Himself has given Him?

Prayer: Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.


Day Six: 

Door to door evangelists and street preachers can make even believers uncomfortable at times.  Yet, you have to admire their enthusiasm for the Lord!  On the other hand, immersing ourselves exclusively in church attendance and Bible study can cut us off from opportunities to share God’s love with others.  Clearly, there is a balance to be achieved that allows for both our individual growth as a believer and our being the salt and light that helps bring God’s love into the lives of others.  

I John 1:1-7 -- Lord God, that which was from the beginning, which I have heard, which I have seen with my eyes, which I have looked at and my hands have touched—this I proclaim to my brothers and sisters concerning the Word of life.  Through your Son the life appeared; I have seen it and testify to it to the world, and I proclaim the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to me through the Son.  I proclaim, dear Lord. what I have seen and heard, so that the fellowship can be shared with others.  And my fellowship as brothers and sisters is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  I pray this and do this in order to make my joy complete.  This is the message I have heard from God and declare to everyone I meet: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.  If I claim to have fellowship with You, God, and yet walk in the darkness, I lie and do not live out the truth. Amen.

Ask Yourself: If you have heard, seen, and touched the Word of Life as represented by Jesus Christ, how can you share that with others?  Is the good news of Jesus Christ something intended solely for personal reflection?  Or do you spend too much time reflecting on the Word of God and not enough sharing it either by word or service?  Do you walk in the darkness if you do not share through word or service God’s remarkable love with others? 

Prayer: Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.


Day Seven:

Prayer: Dear God, You continue to surprise me in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, even though You have never hidden your will for my life or your steadfast love from me.  I pray for spiritual discernment.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your will for my life.  Open my eyes, Lord, to your presence that is all around me.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the magnitude of your reconciling love that did not even spare your Son, Jesus, on the cross.  Open my eyes, Lord, to the gift that my life represents.  Enable, equip, encourage, and empower me to live out the life that you would have me to live.  Amen.

Consider where God may have been present in your life and you mistook Him for something or someone ordinary.  Consider taking what Reuben Job called a “parable walk” – in which you “take a walk without an agenda and see what God is personally telling you through the shape of a tree, a cloud, a dog, an ant, a bird, someone’s face, a window, a color, a fragrance, a touch, a sound.”  Open your heart, mind and eyes to God’s providence and love; it is indeed all around you!  Most importantly, share that love with others, so that all may enjoy God’s love and grace made manifest through His son Jesus Christ.  Jesus risen, alive!

 

Catherine HortonComment