God Chose the Thorns

by Shadia Hrichi

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t expect?

My best friend loves to cook, and her kitchen is filled with every gadget known to man. While I like to bake, my kitchen tools are basic. I have silverware, a few large metal spatulas and spoons, a set of knives, etc. It wasn’t about finances; I simply didn’t know I was missing anything.

One year, my friend bought me a rubber spatula and an egg separator. I looked at the rubber spatula and quickly pictured it as the perfect tool for spreading frosting! As for the egg separator, I had no clue what it was or why she bought it for me. The pitiful look on my face prompted my dear friend to explain its purpose. As it turns out, this tool was exactly what I didn’t know I needed most.

Valentine’s Day is that sweet time of year we expect our special someone to show his or her love with chocolate, flowers, or perhaps even diamonds. Why? Because at one time, someone decided these symbolize love, and the association has stuck ever since.

But what if you discovered there is Someone who chose to express His great love for you, not with flowers but with thorns?

Why thorns? The answer goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Something happened when mankind rebelled against God: “Cursed is the ground because of you…It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Genesis 3:17-18 NIV).

Even worse, the relationship between God and man was severed, and mankind was banished from the garden altogether. But because of God’s boundless love for us, God had a plan to restore that relationship even before time began. His gift did not reflect our preconceived ideas of what love should look like. God’s gift to the world did not come in a brightly-wrapped package tied with a pretty red bow. We expected flowers, and when we didn’t get them, we reciprocated with betrayal, blood, and thorns.

“And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head” (Matthew 27:28-29 ESV).

Praise God that His gift of love does not conform to what our sinful nature seeks, but rather to what He knows our hearts needed the most: His grace and forgiveness. God sent His Son Jesus, who “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13 ESV).

We expected flowers, but God showed His great love for us with thorns, and I, for one, am eternally grateful.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: What do God’s forgiveness and grace mean to you?

A “Cross” tic   Look at Calvary

by Cherrilynn Bisbano

“IT IS FINISHED!” Jesus cried when He hung on the cross.

“Mom what does this mean?” Michael, my then 10-year-old son asked as he pressed his cross between his fingers.

“Great question, I actually taught on the cross for a ladies event.”

“I bet it was an acrostic.” Michael giggles.

“Yes, it was.” I shared the acrostic with my son and now I desire to share it with you.

Please quiet yourself and allow God to speak to you through His Word about the

C.R.O.S.S.

C- Cancelled the Written Code

R- Redeemed Us

O- Obedience

S- Sufficient Sacrifice

S- Separated No More

C CANCELLED THE WRITTEN CODE

The written code is the Law and/or 10 Commandments. “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” Romans 7:6 (ESV).

R REDEEMED US

Redeem means to purchase back something that had been lost, by the payment of a ransom. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Galatians 3:13 (ESV).

O OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8 (ESV).

S SUFFICIENT SACRIFICE OF CHRIST

“You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:8-10 (ESV)

S SEPARATED NO MORE FROM GOD

Separated means apart from, without. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (ESV)

My son and I read the verses and prayed. We thanked Jesus for his obedience and praised God for the Holy Spirit living in us.

“I’ll never forget what Jesus did at the cross, Mom.” Michael said as he kissed his now favorite necklace.

Oh, the love that was expressed at the cross.  I will never fully comprehend it until I see my Savior face to face.  My desire is that every man experience the joy of knowing Jesus.

The Cross is a crossroad for every man.  You have to make a choice when you encounter the cross. If Jesus is calling you today, accept what Jesus did for you; do not spit in his face and walk away like some of the Roman soldiers. 

So, you already know Jesus; that is wonderful. Let the Holy Spirit refresh you as you bathe your mind in these Scriptures. May you be drawn ever so close to Christ.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Cherrilynn Bisbano is an award-winning writer and speaker. As a certified Christian Life Coach Minister, and Ordained Minister, she aims to share the love of Christ wherever God leads. Cherrilynn is a speaker with Women Speakers. She contributes to the Blue Ridge Writers blog, is published in four compilations books, and her book Shine Don’t Whine released in 2020. Cherrilynn served in the military for twenty years, earning the John Levitow Military leadership award. She lives with her 19-year-old son Michael, Jr., and her husband of 22 years, Michael. She fondly calls them her M&M’s.

Join the conversation: What does the cross mean to you?

Why was Mary’s Gift so precious to Jesus?

by Shadia Hrichi

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Have you ever lingered over a Scripture, trying to imagine what it would have been like to be there? One of the darkest hours in all of human history was the night of Jesus’ arrest. Picture the scene with me:

On a moonlit night at the garden of Gethsemane many years ago, blood, sweat, and tears poured forth from Jesus’ body as He prayed – but something else penetrated the veil of darkness that night: the sweet aroma of Mary’s perfume. . .

In Old Testament times, only two objects were placed behind the heavy curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Temple: the ark of the covenant and the golden altar of incense (Exodus 40:5, Hebrews 9:4). The incense was burned only once a year on the Day of Atonement. This is when the nation would present a fragrant offering with their sacrifice, seeking God’s forgiveness for their sins.

In Mark 14, we read about Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary entered the room where Jesus was having dinner with his disciples. Breaking her alabaster jar of very expensive perfume and all cultural norms, Mary lovingly emptied the contents. She anointed Jesus’s head with the fragrant oil.

Mary’s act was far more than a kind gesture of respect and adoration. The gift was equivalent to a whole year’s salary and possibly tied to her hope for marriage—her hope for a future. It was often saved for a young woman’s wedding day when she would pour it on her husband as an act of devotion.

Mary gave Jesus the most precious thing she owned—with no hope of any return in this life. Yet only One noticed the value of her extravagant gift: Jesus. Where the disciples saw a fool, Jesus saw a worshiper. What the disciples called waste, Jesus received as a gift. Jesus saw Mary’s heart. He saw Behind the Seen. Jesus was so taken by her selfless act that He declared her actions would be proclaimed for all eternity (Mark 14:1-9).

The story doesn’t end there. Days later, Jesus fell to his knees as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. We cannot even imagine the torment of His soul knowing what awaited Him. Perhaps the fragrance of Mary’s sweet perfume lingered in the air around Him as He awaited His accusers. Hours later, Jesus is crucified … His blood, sweat, and tears intermingled with the faint aroma of Mary’s perfume.

The King, the Christ of God, who is the Sacrificial Lamb, had been anointed and then crowned with thorns as He presented His own life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. At the moment of His death, the Temple curtain that veiled the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom; the barrier separating us from a holy God was removed forever. The One Who loves us so deeply was willing to pay for us with His Own Blood.

“ . . .Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2 ESV).

One sacrifice paid it all. Have you received God’s extravagant gift? He is Jesus, Christ the King, the Son of God.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: Are there scents that bring something from your past to mind?

Resurrection Victory

by Julie Zine Coleman

O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:55, 57 NASB
 
Once only inhabited by a small Japanese civilian community of sulfur miners and sugar farmers, the island of Iwo Jima became a stronghold of pivotal importance in World War II. As the war progressed, Japan evacuated its citizens from the island and prepared for the inevitable Allied forces invasion. A huge number of bunkers, hidden artillery, and an amazing eleven miles of tunnels were in place by 1944. Twenty-one thousand soldiers were at the ready when Allied forces began firing on Iwo Jima.
 
On the fourth day of the battle, the first objective was captured: Mount Suribachi. Five marines and a Navy corpsman were photographed raising the American flag at its summit. That moment is now immortalized in the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA.
 
Once the high ground was secure, the invasion slowly moved northward. Very heavy fighting continued as Allied forces eventually took the airfields and remainder of the island. The Japanese fighters considered surrender dishonorable and most tenaciously fought to the death. A month into the invasion, 300 Japanese soldiers launched a last-ditch effort counterattack. The casualties were heavy on both sides, but the next day, the island was officially declared secured by the Allies.

Even so, over 3,000 Japanese troops remained in the island’s maze of caves and tunnels. More American lives were lost as they worked their way through the tunnel system routing those Japanese that refused to surrender. The battle may have been won, but the enemy continued to fight, determined to take as many with them in their demise as possible.

Yesterday on Easter Sunday we celebrated the greatest victory the world has ever witnessed. The Son of God, after three days in the grave, rose from the dead. No longer are we under condemnation for our sin. It was dealt with, paid for, and cast from us as far as the east is from the west. The victory is already ours because Christ has already won. “When you were dead in your transgressions,” Paul wrote, “He made you alive together with Him . . . having canceled out the certificate of debt . . . having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15 NASB). Sin no longer holds us slave in its power.
 
The enemy has also been soundly defeated. Satan’s future final demise is already recorded in the Bible, when he is cast into the lake of fire to suffer torment for eternity (Revelation 20:10). The war is over.
 
Yet while victory has been recorded with indelible ink, the skirmishes still go on. While we were given new life at our salvation, we still struggle against our old sinful nature which relentlessly demands satisfaction, and we fight the enemy ever-tempting us to sin. As Paul wrote the Galatians, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17 NASB) The war may be over, but the fighting continues on.
 
These skirmishes are a part of the life God expects us to live. In fact, He carefully equips His soldiers to fight the good fight. Satan may have lost the war, but he is deadly serious about taking as many down with him as possible before the last nail is driven into his coffin. So we have been issued a belt of truth (a great thing when you are up against the Father of Lies!), a breastplate of righteousness, and shoes bearing the gospel message in which to stand firm. Our shield is one of faith, which can deflect every fiery dart of doubt and accusation the enemy can launch at us. Our head is protected by the helmet of our salvation. And last but not least, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, contains all the knowledge we need to win each skirmish, which mostly, after all, takes place in the mind.
 
We may even lose some of these skirmishes, especially when we attempt to fight in our own strength. But it is important to remember in those moments of depressing defeat: the war’s victor has already been determined. The Good Guy won. Our hope is not in the circumstances of this world. It is in the future God has prepared for us, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4 NASB). Nothing that happens to us on earth will impact the surety of our salvation. The battle belongs to the Lord.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What has been the most meaningful to you this Easter Sunday?

You Just Can’t Keep This Good News to Yourself

by Kathy Howard

“He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” Mark 16:6 ESV

When I was a child, our church always held a sunrise service on Easter. When it was still dark, Mom dressed me in my frilly new dress and Mary Janes. Then we traveled the two blocks to church to sit in metal folding chairs in the parking lot. I can still feel the cold metal on the back of my bare legs and see my white shoes and short lacy socks hovering above the asphalt. The rows of chairs faced east so we could watch the sun rise as we worshipped. Thus, the name “Sunrise Service…”

One hymn in particular stands out in my memory. As the sun began to make its appearance, we sang the first short verse of “Low in the Grave He Lay” so somberly it sounded like a death dirge. Low in the grave He lay – Jesus my Savior. Waiting the coming day – Jesus my Lord… Then we hit the chorus with vigor and joy: Up from the grave He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes!

Even as a young girl, in that song I sensed the flow of the grief of the crucifixion into the joy of the resurrection. Grief and loss surprised by the miraculous. This is what the women who followed Jesus experienced more than two thousand Easters ago.

The women had been waiting since Friday evening to go to Jesus. The Law prevented them from anointing His body on the Sabbath, so they were forced to wait. But when the sun set on Saturday evening, they purchased the needed spices. They were prepared. Then, as soon as it was possible, as the sun lifted above the eastern horizon on Sunday morning, the women walked to the tomb.

Grief shrouded that journey. Perhaps their legs even felt heavy with loss. They believed their hope for salvation lay dead. But the tomb was open. And the angel’s announcement offered an end to their mourning. “And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him’” (Mark 16:6 ESV).

The joy of Easter pushed out the grief of Good Friday. After the women recovered from the shock, they carried this Good News to the disciples. He has risen! This glorious declaration, first spoken by an angel on that first Easter Sunday, is still joyfully proclaimed by believers today. He has risen! He has risen indeed!

Without the resurrection, the Gospel is not complete. The resurrection of Jesus proves that His death was sufficient to provide forgiveness of sins. The resurrection proves that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be. The resurrection defeated sin and death and assures us that one day His followers will also rise to spend eternity with Christ.

What will you do with the news of Christ’s resurrection? Will you reject the hope of an eternity with Jesus? Or, will you receive it joyfully and share this life-changing truth with others?

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Kathy Howard now has a passion for God’s Word that’s contagious. With more than 30 years of experience, Kathy has taught the Bible in dozens of states, internationally, and in a wide range of venues including multi-church conferences and large online events. Kathy, who has a Masters of Religious Education from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, is a devotional and Bible study author. She also writes for multiple online magazines and devotional sites. Kathy and her husband live near family in the Dallas/Ft Worth. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and two accidental dogs.

Kathy provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy’s new 40-day devotional book, Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark, is available now!

Join the conversation: Have you had a chance to share the good news lately?

We are Barabbas

by Michele McCarthy

But they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!” Luke 23:18 NASB

Have you noticed there are no insignificant words in the Bible? Events, places, names, and instructions may at times seem simple, but upon a closer look, word plays and word meanings weave layers and layers of God’s truth into every single term.

As Resurrection Sunday approaches, let’s look to Jesus’ day before Passover. It was tradition that Pilate release a prisoner to the Jews on that day. After Jesus was sent back and forth from Pontius Pilot to Herod and back again, Pilot came outside to discuss the fate of Jesus and another prisoner with the crowd. All was not quiet on the home front. Upheaval and unrest stirred in the streets.

The crowd had a choice to make. Who would be spared? Barabbas or Jesus? Murderer or Healer? Rebel or Restorer? Evil or Good? Sinful man or Savior?

Pilot knew Jesus was innocent, but he was more concerned about himself than the truth. He expected the crowd to vote for the release of Jesus, anticipating being able to wash the ordeal from his hands. But belligerent, raging voices roared for the death of Jesus, the slaughter of innocent blood, incited by their religious leaders.

Thundering voices demanded life for Barabbas. They were unwittingly trading eternal life with Jesus for a criminal. The multitudes couldn’t see past the moment, the frenzy, the peer pressure.

For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few that find it.” Matthew 7:14 (NASB)

Barabbas was being held for committing murder during an insurrection. Jesus, whom the crowd wanted crucified, had been arrested under false pretenses. The name Barabbas is the Aramaic for Yeshua Bar Abba, meaning son of the father or forefathers. The name Jesus is the Hebrew for the Lord is Salvation.

Our reality is that… Barabbas is us. We are the sons of our earthly father (Adam). All of us are sinners or lawbreakers. Each of us deserved death, and were held captive until we were set free by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus. The masses chose the son of the father over the son of God.

Yet even in His imprisonment, Jesus saved.

Jesus would die so someone else could live. It was a final, beautiful gift before His death on the cross. His life for Barabbas. The significance of the name Barabbas reveals God’s plan from the beginning of time. We, the sons of the father were to be set free by the Son of God. God blew His breath into the lungs of Adam, the first father, bringing to life the one God made in His image. Jesus gave His last breath to bring all of us to life.

The layers of meaning were lost in the throng of ridicule and mockery that were so loud ears couldn’t hear and so clouded eyes couldn’t see. Such a paradox. A crowd demanding the death of the Savior they so desperately needed, and seeking release for the son of the father. They had no clue they’d painted the picture of redemption.

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand here after” (John 13:7 NASB)

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

michele mccarthy

About the author: Michele McCarthy is married and a mom to two sons and Gigi to five adorable grandchildren. She is a Texas Christian University graduate with a degree in Education. She attended Lifestyle Christianity University in Watauga, Texas. Michele is a co-founder of LWT (Living Write Texas), a Christian writing group for women. She loves reading, painting, all things witty, and hot fudge sundaes.

In Michele’s new book Aunt Ida Clare, Rosalina is not quite sure what to think of their new babysitter. Aunt Ida is quite the sight. Rosalina’s Daddy calls her flamboyant. Aunt Ida Clare shares the purpose behind speaking life-giving words to an unsuspecting brother and sister. She is positively the best thing to happen to these impressionable children.

Join the conversation: Do you relate to Barabbas?

That Settles It

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11 ESV

I like to call them mild sugar cravings. And yet, there I go. Shooting out of the car, across the kitchen, and diving for the pantry. I need chocolate, ya’ll. I’m like a treat-seeking missile. That bag of chocolate chips in there? Target acquired. Locked on. Give me a minute and those things are gone.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but my mild sugar cravings have been known to choose my Sunday School class for me. Anyone else ranking classes according to donuts?

“She’s a good teacher and all, but she only serves glazed. And one Sunday she ran out.”

“Linda’s class? Somebody brings those chocolate-covered, custard-filled Long Johns.”

It’s not really my fault. It’s very hard to make a prudent decision when there’s a Long John involved. Did I mention the custard filling? Custard!

Okay, it might be a little bit my fault. Mild sugar craving meets kids’ Christmas stockings. That’s when I start to question myself. Because my kids have been out of the house for several years. But I found a chocolate snowman. He’s got to be from at least four Christmases ago, but that little guy is mine.

That should be a reminder to me that my “mild cravings” are out of control and it’s time to corral the sugar intake. If the snowman has lost his wrapper, and I just pick the fuzz down off him and eat him anyway, that pretty much settles it: I have a problem.

I’m so glad that on an eternal scale, Jesus settled the biggest issues. We never have to wonder about His love for us. It’s big and beautiful and intense. Eternally more intense than anything I can choco-crave. He proved his immense, unconditional, unshakable love when He died on the cross to make it possible for us to have a right and tight relationship with Him. But then He went all out to prove His power to save. The same power that saves us from sin raised Him from the dead. That? Oh my.

That really settles everything.

How glorious—a risen, living Savior! One who gives us life! “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV).

I love the way the question is posed in this paraphrase: “It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, He’ll do the same thing in you that He did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself?” (MSG).

Because Jesus is alive, we’ve been made spiritually alive in Him. It’s one of so many reasons I love celebrating His resurrection. The Easter season reminds us that Jesus settled it. All. In one Earth-rocking event. I will celebrate Resurrection Sunday with intensity—with absolutely everything I’ve got—until Jesus comes again and beyond.

Back on the sugar craving side of things, I would like to point out here at the end, that my enthusiasm to celebrate the season has nothing to do with chocolate bunnies. But still, you will NOT want to put those little guys in my pantry.

TWEETABLE
That Settles It – Thoughts on Easter from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What thought thrills you the most this Easter Sunday?

The Meeting Place

by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell

He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary, who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza…and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” Luke 8:1-3 NASB

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be born a woman in a Middle Eastern country like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran. I’ve seen interviews of women in these places who are striving for political change, for simple basic rights like the ability to walk down the street without a man.

Over the last few years, as the plight of these women has become more visible to us in the United States, I have come to appreciate how radical Jesus must have appeared to the people of this region. Although Islam was not yet a religion, the culture was patriarchal. Women were not allowed a formal education, and they were not allowed to study the Scriptures. In fact, a first-century rabbi, Eliezer, wrote “Rather should the word of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman.”

Women sat apart from the men in the synagogue and were only allowed into an outer court of the Temple. In their daily prayers, men thanked God that they were not a woman. In society, women were viewed as second-class citizens when it came to political and social power. Their testimony in court was not legal or even considered valid.

Jesus not only associated with tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, and Gentiles; He treated women with respect and compassion. The fact that Jesus included women in His entourage was scandalous.

On the most important day of history, He charged Mary Magdalene to go back to the male disciples with the most important message of all time. He was risen.

Peter and John had been in the tomb and seen the empty linen wrappings. But it was only after they left that Jesus revealed Himself to Mary. She threw herself into His arms in pure joy. “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17 NIV).

I don’t believe Jesus trusted Mary more than the men, or that He was making some  political statement by first giving the Good News to a woman. As I look at Jesus’ interactions with each disciple on that first Easter, I see that Jesus met each person where they would best receive the news. He knew each one’s heart and knew what he or she needed.

What amazes me is that He gave Mary equal status by appearing to her, as well as to the men. He knew how radical this would be to the people of this region, so he made it clear that this was not a mistake—by appearing to Mary first. And when he did, it was in a way that would meet her greatest need. He spoke tenderly, gently revealing His identity with His voice so as not to startle her, calling her name as He had done so many times before. He could have appeared on a cloud coming from the sky or walking to her from the tomb in blazing light, but instead he chose quiet tenderness.

In whatever way you need to see Jesus this Easter, He desires to meet you there. He loves you and esteems you no matter who you are—male or female, sinner or saint. He is calling your name and saying to you, “I am alive, go and tell the others that I am here.”

TWEETABLE
The Meeting Place – insight from @CheriCowell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Cheri CowellAbout the author: Cheri Cowell is a contributor to When God Calls the Heart to Love. To learn more about Cheri visit www.CheriCowell.com.

Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart, Brian Bird and Michelle Cox explore the love-filled moments from the fictional early 1900s town of Hope Valley. Stories of romantic love, as well as love between families, neighbors, and friends, will touch your heart and encourage your soul to recognize the potential of love in your life.

Join the conversation: How has Jesus been personal in the way He has met you?

The Aroma of Christ

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson

It was a grim scene.

Travel back in time with me as we watch Joseph and Nicodemus take the body of Jesus from the cross that fateful Friday afternoon. It must have taken valuable time to convince Pilate to let them have Him before sundown, but they managed. Nicodemus carried seventy-five pounds of myrrh and spices with them to prepare the body. It was an offering worthy of a king—a dead king.

Imagine the tears they shed, as they silently and gently lowered his broken body to the ground. Evidence of the abuse He had suffered at the hands of his accusers rendered Him almost unrecognizable, covered with blood and filth, swollen from wounds and intense suffering. Still they loved Him so much.

Time was running out before the Sabbath began. They didn’t have time to prepare His body like they wanted—like He deserved. But at least there was an unused tomb in the garden close by. They took Him there and did what they could with hands of love.

They tried to cover the stench of death with herbs and linen, but can you imagine the odor inside that dark, cramped tomb? The sickly-sweet smell of myrrh combined with the overwhelming stench of blood and torture must have seeped into their noses, hair and clothing. When they left, they brought the odor of despair with them as they gathered with the others to observe an empty Sabbath.

Move ahead to Sunday morning, that Resurrection day. Mary Magdalene has breathlessly returned with the news that someone has stolen Jesus’ body. As the disciples race to the tomb, a part of them must dread what they’ll find. But John enters that resting place of the dead to discover that Jesus’ body isn’t the only thing missing.

They see the empty grave clothes and spices, but the air is decidedly different. In a place so recently redolent with the stink of death, there is only the aroma of life.

Jesus led the way to triumph over sin and death. He replaced our odor of death with an aroma of life. Now it’s up to us to follow Him, and lead others to join us in that same walk of victory.

“Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NASB

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Carrying with Us the Aroma of Christ – insight from @EdieMelson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Edie-MelsonAbout the author:  Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, whether she’s addressing parents, military families, readers of fiction, or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker, she’s encouraged and challenged Edie Melson soul careaudiences across the country and around the world. Connect with her further at www.EdieMelson.com and on Facebook and Twitter

Edie’s latest book, Soul Care When You’re Weary, offers a solution to our busy lives and struggle for peace. Sensory involvement deepens our relationship with God and gives rest to our souls. Through thoughtful devotional readings and prayers, tap into your creative side. Warning! This book may become dog-eared and stained. Draw in it. Experiment with your creative passions. Learn the healing power of play. Allow God’s power to flow through opportunities for creative expression.

Join the conversation: What part of the resurrection story has struck you during this Easter season?

Easters Past

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Recently, I came across some old photos from long ago Easters. It was a bit like opening a time capsule. The black and white images captured me, my younger brother, and my parents as we looked on Easter Sunday. Circa 1960’s. Mom dressed me in frilly dresses, lacy socks, and patent leather shoes. In one photo, I even sport an Easter bonnet. In two, we posed in front of Dad’s Ford Fairlane. In the photos, my parents were about the age my grown children are now.

Memories  I hadn’t thought about in many years rushed to the surface. For instance, in a few of the pics, young Kathy held an elaborate Easter basket. Mom purchased that basket from a charity that operated in our home town. Adults, who had lost their sight, made elaborate baskets decorated with tulle, ribbon, and lace. Mom had taken me there and let me pick out the one I liked best. I loved that fancy basket!

Then I thought about the egg hunts at my maternal grandmother’s house. Aunts, uncles, and cousins from out-of-town gathered for the holiday. The highlight for the kids was always the Easter afternoon hunt in my grandmother’s backyard. Grandma didn’t hide eggs, she hid candy. And that was better! What kid really cares about boiled eggs anyway?

I even found a few Easter Sunday photos taken at our church. When I was young, our church always held a sunrise service on Easter with a pancake breakfast afterward. We sat in rows of cold, metal folding chairs in the small parking lot facing east. As the sun crept above the horizon we sang the old Easter hymns I still love. Songs with words like:

“Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph ‘or His foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose… He arose… hallelujah, Christ arose!”

And…

“He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!”

Then, about the time I felt thoroughly frozen, we all moved to the warmth of the fellowship hall to feast on sausage and pancakes with plenty of butter and sweet syrup.

Times have really changed. I don’t see many Easter bonnets anymore. I don’t hear much about sunrise services. Some of our Easter traditions have changed, and we sing different songs. But the glorious truths we celebrate on Easter have not changed.

Jesus’ sacrifice is still the only one we need for our sins. Jesus still lives today. He is still Lord over all. He still reigns now and for all eternity.

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Remembering Easters Past – thoughts from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.   1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV

Let us celebrate these eternal truths this Easter.

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Find out more about how to treat others with grace in Kathy Howard’s Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing.Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Do you have favorite memories of Easters past? Please share!