“Now we know that if this earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, and earthly house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (II Corinthians 5:1-5)
Ah, camping out…what a delight! If you were to think back to your favorite tent camping experience what would it be? What would you list as your favorite memory? The smell of a wood fire wafting in the air… the sound of a gentle breeze blowing through the trees…the smoky taste of bacon frying in a campfire skillet… the occasionally glimpse of a deer or even a bear darting through the trees? There sure are a lot of great things about camping out! Probably why we keep coming back right?
But those of you who have ever been tent camping before – you also realize there are a lot of challenges too! And even though camping out can be loads of fun you also pretty quickly discover that tent camping is probably not something you want to do for the rest of your life. Or at least every day for the rest of your life.
You see, along with all those great moments of camping come the difficult ones too! Like the mosquitos that always manage to find their way in the tent or like that little river running through your supposedly waterproof tent or like that constant “I need a shower” kind of feeling. I much as I hate to admit it, I always thought that the best thing about tent camping was that you get to go home and sleep in your own bed! After about a week of smelly socks and eating burned hot dogs home never looked so good!
I wonder if we couldn’t supply some of that same imagery to this earthly tent that we live in! Actually, we don’t have to imagine it – God’s Word makes the comparison for us! This earthly body that we live in is, just like a tent. And make no mistake it is a great dwelling place! We get to eat and sleep, love and laugh, build friendships and loving relationships, and on top of it all, we get to take in all the wonders of God’s spectacular creation.
But there are times when we realize that this earthly tent that we live isn’t the end all either. It’s not meant to be our permanent dwelling place. Not because there was something wrong with God’s original creation! God’s original creation was perfect! Remember? God looked at all he had made and said – It is very good! But all that changed when sin came into the world. Sin that not only affected our first parents but affects us too and, on a daily basis.
These hands that God has meant for me to serve and honor him I realize can be quickly become self-serving too! And how often I can selfishly disregard the other tents that God put in this world with me. This body that I’m supposed to regard as God’s temple – the dwelling place that God lives by His Spirit I often mistreat and act as though it’s my own personal play house. And that youthful exuberant energy that God gave me when I was young, how quickly that can fade away, and all because of sin. Yes, I’d love to think that this earthly tent could last forever but the longer I’m in it the more I’m glad that it really is not.
Thankfully, our God has given us another dwelling place! A dwelling place not built with human hands. No, this dwelling place, our dwelling place in heaven, was built with someone else’s hands. The hands of our loving Savior Jesus.
And what did Jesus do with those hands? Well first he used them! He used them to live that perfect life that we were supposed to live but didn’t! And then he used them to pay price for my sinful actions! Just think – Jesus hands were pierced for us! And he allowed that earthly tent that he came in (the only one that was perfect by the way) to be destroyed so that you and I would never have to taste corruption. So that we could live on forever in that permanent dwelling that he’s prepared for us in heaven.
No wonder Paul said – “we groan!” Literally yearn for a taste of what God has prepared for us! And with good reason! In heaven God says we will be clothed with a new dwelling place! No more sinful struggles against the old self. No more sadness or pain, no more blame! Rather we will be fully clothed with that perfect life that God gives us through Jesus!
Camping out? It can be fun for awhile. But there’s only one place we can be truly at home! As Jesus said – I go there to prepare a place for you… May that be the home that we look forward to this day and every day! And may it also be the reason we make the most of this life as well!
The Old Testament prophet Job, living long before Jesus entrance into this world once wrote,
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;”(Job 19:25-26)
Do you ever wish that you could have been there on that first Easter morning? Wouldn’t it have been exciting to look at that rolled-away tomb? Wouldn’t it have been neat to look inside and see Jesus grave clothes, all folded up and laying neatly in a pile? And then, to hear the angel say, “He is not here, he is risen just as he said.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have seen Easter with our own eyes?
But then, we think of what we know about those eyewitnesses. They were there and they were still perplexed. All the signs of Jesus’ resurrection were readily apparent, and they still had trouble believing it. Even for those who were there, it still took a considerable amount of time for the good news to sink in. As Jesus said to those two Emmaus disciples, “Are you still so slow to understand?”
So what of us who live on either side of that great event? What of Job for example? Job lived long before Jesus was born. We’re not sure exactly when Job lived, but it’s possible that Job perhaps even lived before Moses. As an Old Testament believer, maybe he didn’t know all the details of the life and death of his Redeemer to come. Perhaps he didn’t even yet know that his Redeemer would be called ‘Jesus’ (which means Savior). But he did know about God’s promise to send a Savior. Apparently, Job also knew that Jesus would enable even him to live forever…in a bodily resurrection where he could see God with his own eyes.
If that’s true of an Old Testament believer who lived long before God’s promise of a Savior was fulfilled, how much more true shouldn’t that be for us who live on the completed side of Jesus resurrection? Because of the eyewitness accounts of God’s Word, our vision can be even clearer than what those first eyewitnesses saw! They could only see with physical eyes. Through the inspired Word of God, our eyes can be led to see the truth of Jesus bodily resurrection in all its awesome detail. And we are given the knowledge that what Jesus did, he did for us!
LORD, give me eyes to see! Give me eyes to see and believe your promises! Give me eyes to see so that, like Job, we too might know that our Redeemer lives!
Have you ever noticed those before and after pictures shown in popular magazines or on the T.V. info-commercials? Take Weight Watchers for example: on the left side you have the picture of the 300+ lb. man dressed in a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Not the most flattering photo. On the right side you have a picture of the same man but this time he’s 180 lbs. and dressed in a skimpy bathing suit. What a change! Or, how about that advertisement of the latest stain fighting formula? In the first picture, you have a garment that’s been stained with every stain imaginable: mud, wine, blueberry pie, or grape juice. What a mess! In the second picture however, that same garment is bright, clean & completely stain free!
Do you remember the “before Easter” picture of Jesus’ disciples? Before Easter the disciples often didn’t have a clue about Jesus’ saving mission. Before Easter Peter rebuked Jesus when he talked about his suffering and death. Before Easter the disciples selfishly fought with one another and argued about who was the greatest. Before Easter the disciples were weighed down with every kind of fear and anxiety imaginable. Some even denied they knew Jesus, while others simply ran away.
But oh, what a different picture we see after Easter! The results were pretty dramatic. No more hiding, no more denying, no more running away. The disciples now were willing to witness openly in Jerusalem, and even continued to witness under the threat of punishment and death. Even more, impetuous
Peter who once denied his Lord now boldly stood before crowds of people saying, “God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!” Now, even threats of punishment and jail did not deter the disciples from telling the world the good news. Now, even when threatened, they confidently proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men.” So full and complete was their Easter joy that nothing would stop them from making Christ known to whomever would listen.
If you were to post a before and after Easter picture of Jesus in your life, how would the two compare? Would you be able to see the difference? Would we still be living as if Easter never happened and Jesus was still in the grave? OR – like those disciples, would we discover that there really is such a thing as Easter joy! Would we discover that the Easter message really has made a difference in our lives?
Does this picture seem a little too optimistic? Oh sure, there might still be those times when our outward circumstances may be challenging. But then again we remember what God said through the apostle Paul; he tells us, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!” And even though there may be those times that we feel alone and abandoned, we have Jesus own promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Even though we may still feel fear we hear Jesus saying to us, “Don’t keep being afraid!” Why? “Because in my house are many mansions, and I go there to prepare a place for you, that you may be where I am!”
Bottom line, we know what that after picture of Easter looks like but unlike some of those before and after pictures that we see in advertising, the after picture of Easter isn’t a retouched photo. We’re never going to have to say, “It worked for them but not for me” because the after Easter picture that Jesus brought about did not depend on us. Instead, it depends on the finished work of the one who has already risen victorious from the grave! As the early Christians used to say – He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
On Saturday, March 28, we held our Easter for Kids program based on the “Jesus Rises From the Dead” program published by Northwestern Publishing House. We had so many volunteers help put this program together behind the scenes and on the day, that it seemed like the whole morning went smoothly! I had fun, and I think the children had fun, too!
First, we opened with a short devotion led by Pastor Schmidt. He talked about how the stores often had things in bright pastel colors, like Easter eggs and baskets and chicks, but the real story of Easter was all about Jesus and how he died to save us from our sins.
After the devotion, we had a small skit where the stone that covered Jesus’ tomb told us all about what happened on the day Jesus was resurrected since the stone was there (and we were not). Some of the children were very excited to get to play a part as one of the mourning women and the angel in the skit.
Next the children made some yummy snacks! I wish my photos had turned out better, so you will just have to take my word for it on how scrumptious they were. The snacks reinforced the empty tomb we had just been talking about. The children sprinkled sugar on a triangle of crescent roll dough, then wrapped it around a marshmallow. Later, after baking, the marshmallow had disappeared! The “tomb” was empty! After the rolls were done baking, we also enjoyed some cupcakes with half a chocolate-covered marshmallow egg on top (another empty tomb!), and some lovely fruits and vegetables provided by one of our members.
The children had fun making bright, colorful crafts, too. Compasses, door hangers, etched bookmarks, and more all reminded them that Jesus loves us and guides us on our paths!
After the crafts, we sent the children in to the Lesson Station with one of our adult volunteers. We learned a song to help reinforce the lesson, and talked about how sad it was that Jesus was arrested and crucified. We read the story about how he was buried and then came back to life and why that was a happy event: he died so we could live with him forever in Heaven! The children did a wonderful job identifying the sad and happy events in the story and the reason why those things happened. As one of our children likes to say, “It made my heart smile!”
After the lesson, we sent the children outside to play games. While we did have a couple of Bible-themed games, the one they seemed to enjoy the most was the egg relay. The children had to balance a plastic egg on a spoon, run it the length of the playground, and put it in the egg carton. Some of the children were very careful, and others just zoomed right across the yard. It was highly entertaining to watch! We even had a couple of children join us from the neighboring community near the end of the games, which was just lovely. They stayed to join us for the closing devotion as well.
Finally, we sent them in for songs and the closing devotion. We had such a wonderful time watching the children learn about Jesus and the wonderful things he did for us! If you ever have the opportunity to serve in one of our Vacation Bible School outreach programs, please take the time to do so.
I also want to give a big, giant thank you to all the wonderful people who put so much time and energy into making this a great program for our kids, as well as to the people who donated items to make it such a great day for them as well. We couldn’t have done it without you! Finally, I also want to give a thank you to Thrivent, who gave us a financial donation to purchase some of the things we needed for this and the next VBS program. Praise God for providing what we needed, not just the physical things, but also the lessons we learned, and the open hearts of the volunteers and the children to receive them!