Two Minute Warming—Easter

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

How important is Easter? It’s this significant: a dead Jesus accomplishes nothing, helps no one, can fulfill zero promises.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (1 Corinthians 15:14).”

History is littered with people, whose accomplishments benefit our generation—from enemies defeated, to laws enacted, to cures found. The actions and words of long gone people continue to inform us, to motivate us, to strengthen us in our causes.

But, Jesus’ actions and words surpass inspiration, go beyond this generation, transcend this life.

Indeed, if He had only died on a cross, Jesus’ death would count for nothing. Everyone dies.

Jesus’ resurrection informs His death, that He accomplished what He set out to do. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Romans 4:25).”

Through His righteous death, Christ won the forgiveness of our sins. Through His victorious resurrection, by grace through faith in Him we are declared not guilty before the Father.

On this Easter, we cry Alleluia! because “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20).”

Now alive, the Lord Jesus is able to fulfill His promises. Having ascended to heaven, He has power to help us.

Most important of all He promised is our own resurrection from the dead. While we love everything the Lord does for us, death is the one enemy none of us can keep away.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die (John 11:25-26).”

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).”

Jesus said, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:40).”

Jesus said, “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 (John 3:16).”

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

While jogging during Holy Week, I saw this affixed to a home’s fence. It’s perfect for Easter and for these challenging days.

Two Minute Warming—Good Friday

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

I heard it, then: “Hurricane Katrina is God’s punishment on New Orleans, because it is a godless city.”

I’ve heard it, now: “The coronavirus is God’s punishment on the USA, because we have turned our back on God.”

I said it, myself, when my son got sick, which led to his death: “This happened, because I am such a terrible sinner.”

I said it to my pastor. He gently corrected me. He led me to Jesus.

To Good Friday.

From the cross, Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished (John 19:30).” His words can also be translated: “The goal has been reached,” and “It has been accomplished.”

What goal had Jesus reached in His being wounded? What had been accomplished through His bruises? What had He finished through the chastisement He suffered?

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

The stripes on Jesus’ flesh were the physical sign of the spiritual fact: by His wounds, He healed us.

Our healing is finished. Christ paid for the sins of the world. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. … God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:19 & 21).”

When terrible events occur in the world and in your life—hurricanes, this coronavirus, untimely death—you know these things are not God’s punishment, for He punished Jesus in our place.

When you fall short of what you should do, you can trust that the Lord will not zap you for it.

When you turn to Him in faith, He will always greet you with love and mercy, because the punishment for sin was accomplished in the death of Jesus.

Since Jesus has finished the job, why do we still suffer in so many ways? The Lord continues to allow these things as discipline for us, to teach us that we are weak so that we lean on His strength, and to keep us in faith so that we always realize this generation is dying and only His death conquers death.

We focus on Christ’s death and resurrection, looking forward to our own resurrection from the dead and the Paradise of the new creation, which will have no end.

Two Minute Warming—Maundy Thursday

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, as He had His disciples gathered for His final Passover—which He ordained to be the communing in His body and blood for them and for us—He gave them the mandate (from which Maundy is derived): “A new command I give you: Love one another (John 13:34).”

He didn’t end there. The Lord never commands us to do anything He won’t, or doesn’t, first do. He continued, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

As I have loved you.

How do we know how to love? We look at the Lord. We read the Holy Bible, seeing from the first chapter how the Lord loved by creating all things.

We keep reading. Soon, we see the first sin and how when the Lord confronted Adam, and Adam sassed Him to His face, the Lord did not kill him. Rather, the Lord continued to love him. He promised the Savior.

Look at Peter, who, before Jesus was betrayed, had sworn his allegiance to Jesus, then, after Jesus was arrested, denied even knowing Jesus. When Jesus was resurrected and went to His disciples, how did He treat Peter? Did He berate him? Condemn him? Expel him? No, He loved Peter. He commended Peter to do the work for which He called him to be an apostle.

Look at yourself. Examine your life. Your thoughts about others. Your words against others. Your actions that have hurt others.

Look at the times you have failed to love others in the manner you want and expect them to love you.

Now, look at your faith in Jesus Christ. You believe in Him, that He walked to the cross for the joy set before Him—to save you and all—scorning its shame, and now sits at the right hand of His Father (Hebrews 12:2).

Why do you believe in Him for your forgiveness? Trust Him for your salvation? Love Him for giving you eternal life?

Here’s why: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).”

The love of God the Father, through the actions and accomplishments of His Son Jesus, delivered to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, is what fills us.

The love of Jesus Christ fills you.

From His love, you love.

Two Minute Warming—Palm Sunday

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

Donkeys are beasts of burden. They exist to serve, not to be served.

Kings don’t ride donkeys. Conquering heroes don’t ride donkeys. Messiahs don’t ride donkeys.

Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11)? As He paraded through Jerusalem, the people certainly lauded Him as a king. Those who’d heard of His miracles—feeding thousands from so little, giving sight to the blind, even raising the dead—viewed Him as a conquering hero. Indeed, they were bent on placing Him into the office of messiah, the one who would get those stinking Romans off their backs and out of their land.

He was a messiah, of course—The Anointed One—but He would not simply be a burger king to satisfy their daily hunger, or an army commander to defeat their temporal enemy.

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem that He might serve these people, and all people, as the ultimate beast of burden.

Riding a donkey was emblematic of the Lord’s humility. Come Thursday, one of His own would betray Him into the hands of the Roman authorities. Though His arrest would be unjust, He would not argue. Though His trials before Pilate and Herod would be unjust, He would not put up a defense. Though His crucifixion would be unjust, He forgave the very ones who executed Him.

Kings don’t ride donkeys. Kings don’t die on crosses. Not according to our way of thinking. But our ways are not God’s ways.

Not on that Friday did anyone hail Jesus as the conquering hero. On that day, He was nothing more than an uncommon criminal. Crucified between two real thugs. Mocked. Shamed. Humiliated.

This coming Friday, we will hail Jesus as The Conquering Hero. We hail Him, today, as our King. We acknowledge Him every day as the Messiah He was and is, for He took all our beastly sins into His flesh. He carried our every burden. And, in His death, He put them all to death.

This Palm Sunday, we are blessed to cry Hosanna! knowing why Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He did it for us.

He did it for you.

To carry your every burden.

So that, through His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, He could daily and always make good on His promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”

Two Minute Warming—Matthew 6:9

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

The most common way we pray is to address the Lord, often as Father, petitioning Him at the end in the name of Jesus Christ.

When the Lord Jesus taught us to pray (the Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13), He taught us to address God as Father, but He neglected the part about making our petitions in His name.

Or did He?

As wonderful a thing as there is for us to know about Jesus Christ is that He is our brother in the flesh. He became one of us. On our level. Like us in every way—including being tested and tempted—yet without ever sinning (Hebrews 4:15).

Yes, from out of eternity, He is our Creator (John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16). And, by His Good Friday death and Easter resurrection, He is our Savior. And having ascended to heaven He sends His Holy Spirit to us that we might believe in Him and have our every prayer heard and answered according to what is best.

Yet, for as lofty as He is—true God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit—He is as down to earth as we are—true man, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius, crucified, died, and buried—our brother in all that we mortals are.

Through faith in His atoning sacrifice, He brings us into the eternal family. As sons and daughters of God, we are privileged to call Him Father—spiritual siblings of God the Son, our brother Jesus.

So, what about the Lord’s Prayer? Why don’t we pray it in Jesus’ name? Ah, but we do!

The answer is in the word our.

As with our typical prayers, we do not conclude the Lord’s Prayer in Jesus’ name. We begin it in His name. When He teaches us to pray “Our Father in heaven,” He unites us to Himself. His prayer is our prayer is His prayer.

When we pray, He sits at the right hand of our Father speaking for us (Matthew 10:32).

When we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” the Lord Jesus speaks similarly, “Father, this is your child praying to you—one for whom I died.”

He died for you. He lives for you. He sits at the right hand of the Father for you!

Write your story

During these days of lockdown, many of you have time on your hands. After you have cleaned every corner of your home and worn out your TV remote from binge-watching, how might you spend your time and use it well?

Write your story!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My mother died in 1986, at sixty-two. Her death came suddenly. The many stories she could have written were left to the memories of those of us who knew her.

My father died ten years ago. He was eighty-three. When he was eighty, his second wife, Louise, wisely encouraged him to write his story, and to write letters to each of his kids. Dad went to work.

The morning of Dad’s funeral, Louise gathered us kids. She was holding envelopes. As she handed one to each of us, she told us how Dad had written his story and had a letter for each of us. On this day of great loss, we also enjoyed great gain. Dad’s letter is precious to me.

Dad wrote in long hand. In 2018, I typed his autobiography into my computer. I published here——on March 17, 2018, when he would have turned ninety-one.

The pages my father wrote.

Last year, I published my life story. As I gave books to family and friends, one person after another said, “I should write a book. I’ve had quite a life. I have a lot of stories to tell.” My response was, “It was my therapist who got me writing. He said that even if I never published a book, my grandchildren would benefit from my having written down what I was experiencing.”

That was 2013. I began to write. I kept typing.

In 2015, I began a blog. I used it to tell my story.

In 2016, I had enough written that I started thinking about a book. I went back to the beginning of my life and wrote.

2018 brought a resolution to my health issues such that I found a way to write the conclusion to the longest chapter of my life. I still had no idea whether I would be able to get my memoir published, but I was determined to get it ready for printing. I retained the sense that if no one but my grandchildren read it, that made it valuable to have written.

As I searched online regarding publishers, I learned about self-publishing, that it cost nothing, and that I could issue both a printed version and an ebook.

In February 2019, I completed the job that had at one time seemed an impossibility. In March 2020, I am days away from publishing my second book. And I’ve already begun writing numbers three and four.

It doesn’t matter how you write—in long hand or into a computer—it only matters that you do it.

To aid your writing, dig out your photo albums. As you turn the pages—unable to squelch both wide grins and tears—you will dig up memories that you thought were lost.

When you reach the final pages of your albums, go back to the front. The photos will help you tell your story. The words will flow.

If you are not able to write, who might do it for you? Even if you can’t be in the same place, with computers and cell phones we can connect so easily. Perhaps, your child also has time and can type as you talk.

Don’t worry about writing well. Your grammar and punctuation need not be school-quality. My dad’s sure wasn’t. To decipher some words, I had to use the context to figure them out. And I had to fill in areas to make sense of some stories.

Because my father wrote, all of the succeeding generations of his family will benefit.

Because I wrote and published my story, more than my family are benefitting. My blog and book have led many folks to contact me—people I’ve been able to help. Not only have they received needed insights and assistance, I’ve gained by having meaningful work.

As you write, you’ll love reliving the meaningful parts of your life. Don’t fear the tough parts, and don’t keep from writing those, too. They are a vital part of your life’s story. (But don’t tell secrets that are best kept untold. You want to help, not hurt. And you’re not out to unload old grudges.)

Just think of it all—the people who formed you, the events which built you, the times that make up the whole of you. What a story you have to tell!

Having written, long after you’re gone your family will love you for writing your story!

Two Minute Warming—Psalm 121

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

My first parish was two congregations in northeast Iowa, both on the Mississippi. We lived in Guttenberg, a town that is two miles long and a half mile wide. From our house, everywhere I looked I saw surrounding bluffs.

I learned Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes to the hills.” The psalm’s opening was perfect for this place! And it only got better. Soon, I found myself reciting the psalm to members who were heading into surgery.

He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” I encouraged these, who were about to undergo anesthesia, that they could rest assured that the Lord would be on guard, that He never sleeps, that, come what may, He always looks out for their well being.

This is your Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God, who so cares for you that He was born of a woman just as you were. He did it so that He could unite Himself with you in your every trouble, so that He could take everything wrong into His flesh—including all of the wrongs of thought, word, and deed that you perform against God and humans and this creation—putting it all to death through His righteous death on the cross.

Before dying, the Lord Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished.” He reached the goal for which He was born.

You can trust Him because He rose from the dead, demonstrating He has power over death and every evil. Now, having ascended to heaven, “The Lord watches over you.” Now, “He who watches over you … will neither slumber nor sleep.” He is always on the job for you.

And, come what may for you, “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.