Saturday, April 7, 2012

Take the Confident Hope Easter Challenge!

(Read through to get the full story or scroll down to read the Confident Hope Easter Challenge—in bold—to find out how YOU can participate!)
If Hallmark can do it, so can I.  Create a new holiday, that is. 
I declare the Monday after Easter “Redemption Day”.
We celebrate Jesus’ birth.  We celebrate His death and resurrection.  But, we don’t celebrate His second coming—the day when He will make all things new.  The day when it is finally finished.
I know…it hasn’t happened yet!  But, we have got to keep our eyes on the prize.  We need to offer up to God a sacrifice of praise for what He is going to do.  In these days, thousands of years past the promise of Jesus’ return, we need a way to sustain our hope.  To declare it.  To celebrate it.  While we are waiting.  Expectantly.
Last year at Easter, I posted a story about my daughters’ first experience shopping on the internet.  After counting what was in their piggy banks and giving a lesson on the cost of shipping, we let them give it a try.  Each chose a toy and placed their order.  Three long days passed before the package arrived.  Each day waiting saw breathless little girls inquiring, “Is it here yet?  Is it here yet?”  When it finally came, what joy ensued!  We tore open the box in anticipation.  But, what we found inside was disappointing.  Only one toy came.  And, inside the box was a packing slip which read “partial shipment.”  The first waiting period had been so hard.  How could Mary Claire wait another day to receive her toy?  It wasn’t easy.  She got very discouraged.  Why hadn’t hers come, too?  But, her toy did, indeed come.  In the end, receiving the toy made her forget about the pain of the waiting.
I like to think of Easter as a partial shipment.  “Blasphemy,” you may say.  I don’t want to diminish Easter’s power or import at all.  For a Christian, it is simply the happiest day we celebrate—so far…   Jesus deserves our worship for what He has done!  But, I think we are often tempted to see Easter as the end of the story.  It’s not.  Scripture says so. 
Maybe that is because of these three words: “It is finished.” 
Undeniably, these are three of the most comforting words ever uttered.  As Jesus breathed His last breath on the cross, He declared this truth: I have finished what I came to do. 
What did He mean, though?  What exactly did He come to earth the first time to do?
It is worth a second thought because this phrase is actually uttered two more times in Scripture in the book of Revelation.  I didn’t know that until I studied it recently.  And, putting all three together really helps to shed light on God’s entire plan of redemption. 
If we look at all three “It is finished”(or “It is done”) phrases, we can see a quick outline of God’s plan for redemption.  And we can quit wondering why, if Easter is such a big deal, are we still living in a world full of bad things?  If I am free and forgiven, why do I still sin and suffer the consequences of sin?  If Jesus conquered death, why do people still die?  Why is there still so much pain here?  This is confusing—even for Christians—if we don’t know the rest of the story.
So let’s look at it ALL this year.  Let’s use our wide angle lens to see God’s bigger story.
“It is finished.” #1—John 19:30 “When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’  With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Jesus uttered these words on the cross as He died.  The great work of payment for sin—for everyone and for all time—was completed.  God’s work of mercy was complete.  And, when Jesus rose from the dead, we knew everything He said was true.  He was not just some crazy man who claimed to be God.  He was God.  And, He chose this seemingly crooked way to make our paths straight.  He chose it because there was no other way.  Who has the final word on sin and death?  Jesus does.  The cross and the resurrection say so.
“It is done.” #2—Revelation 16:16-18.  “So they assembled them at the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.  Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the sanctuary from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’  There were flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder.  And a severe earthquake occurred like no other since man has been on the earth—so great was the quake.”
This time, the voice uttering the phrase is God Himself, seated on the throne.  This time, the phrase announces the final execution of God’s judgment before Christ’s second coming.  When this part of John’s prophetic vision comes to pass, God’s work of judgment on the earth, the way it is now, will be complete.
Why would this be good news?  Because there needs to be a consequence for the evil that has caused so much pain for God’s people.  Because a holy God will not contend with rebellion and sin forever.  Because His balance of mercy and judgment is perfect.  We cannot know the right time or the right balance, and so God has warned us to leave the vengeance to Him.  But, come it will.  And, we will be glad.  We need rescue.  Without judgment, Christ’s work on the cross was unnecessary—in vain.
A friend recently told me he likes to think of God’s mercy and judgment this way: “God would not refuse health care to people just because they are not insured.”  But, that’s not the way the Bible says it works.  That might sound nice on the outside, but that line of thinking results in this conclusion: Jesus didn’t need to die.  And, God won’t punish sin.  Not only is that not how it is…If we think of it for a bit, we realize that isn’t really what we want.  We want mercy.  Sure.  But, we also want justice.  In perfect balance.  As only God can execute.
“It is done.” #3—Revelation 21:5-7.  “Then the One seated on the throne said, ‘Look!  I am making everything new.’ He also said, ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’  And He said to me, ‘It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life.  The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.’”
Again, this is uttered by God Himself, from the throne.  And, when this happens, my dear friends, God’s work of redemption—of people and of the earth—of all He created—will be complete.  Everything—and I do mean everything—that God allowed to cause us pain will be redeemed.  Bought back.  The curse will be removed.  And, God will restore all things to their former glory.  But better!
Better, you say?  Yes!  Many people have inquired, “Why would God have created a world with the potential for sin?”  Great question.  Maybe, just maybe, because after we are redeemed from sin, we will have a deeper appreciation for all God has done for us.  Maybe it will increase our capacity to worship Him, to have intimacy with Him.  Maybe it will increase our joy.  Maybe we will remember that from which we have been saved, and we will forever rejoice in the place God has restored with the people God has restored.  Suddenly, Heaven sounds more dynamic and interesting, doesn’t it?  Maybe the fact that we don’t think of it this way steals the hope we could have.  Maybe Satan wants it that way. 
Well, nice try, Satan.  You don’t have the wool pulled over my eyes anymore.   Does anyone else want to truly SEE?  Does anyone else believe that knowing the end of the story (and not just stopping in the middle) will help us to live more fully and more purposefully in the present?
This is my personal challenge to you:  Please join me in celebrating “Redemption Day”.
On Monday, when you are feeling deflated after your Easter celebration is over…when you are cleaning that massive pile of dishes in the sink, washing the stains out of the smocked Easter clothes, and finding half-chewed jelly beans under your couch cushions…will you choose to re-focus your attention on the “shipment” that is still coming?
I will be honest.  I don’t really know what “Redemption Day” should look like.  I don’t even think this way naturally.  So, how do I go about celebrating concepts and events I haven’t yet experienced?  I have been fleshing this out over the last few years.  As I have learned new truth, I have had to find ways to express it.  Change the words I use to describe things.  Change my habits.  Add in new methods of celebrating what I know is true. 
“Redemption Day” is my next personal challenge.  Will you make it YOUR personal challenge, too?
I am not even sure what I will do to celebrate.  I have some ideas.  But, I am kind of hoping you will help me figure this out…
I know you are creative.  I have learned lots of new ways to tangibly celebrate Christian Easter (beyond the chocolate bunnies and eggs) because of people just like you.  Now, we hide an empty egg (for the empty tomb) and give the big prize to the one who finds it.  We make resurrection eggs that help tell the Biblical story of Easter with things kids can touch and feel.  We bake resurrection rolls that turn out hollow on the inside.  And, just this week, a friend of mine posted a picture of a craft she and her kids made: an Easter basket with the word “forgiven” on it.  The eggs inside were decorated and labeled by the kids with things for which they have been forgiven (hitting my brother, disobeying, and--my personal favorite—coloring on the floor!).  Great ideas, all. 
With that said, I know if we put our heads together we can DO THIS.  We can create tangible ways to recognize the next part of the story and to teach it to our kids. 
What will YOU do?  I am sure you will come up with ways—big or small—corporate or private—of celebrating what God has promised to us.
Do something—anything—to celebrate “Redemption Day”.  Then, email me at aconfidenthope@gmail.com and let me know what you did.
We will be celebrating together in spirit on Sunday.  Christ is risen! 
Then, with confident hope, join me in rejoicing on Monday.  Christ will come again!
Blessings,
Sarah

2 comments:

Nikki said...

I love the way you have explained this. I agree that we ae are waiting for a shipment. A joyful prize only possible because of what happened at Easter.
Thanks for the reminder.

Sarah Moran said...

Thanks, Nikki! Will you celebrate with me tomorrow? Will you send me your ideas? :) Sarah