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?

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.

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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.”

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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!

Grief, Daffodils, and the Resurrection

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

The daffodils blooming in my front yard have a sweet history, a special significance. Before being transplanted to my Texas home, these bulbs spent a quarter of a century buried in the earth in my parents’ backyard about 250 miles away in Louisiana. Then two years ago, my parents’ failing health necessitated a move. We had to sell the house that had been their home for almost 50 years.

Although it wasn’t the right time of year to transplant bulbs, I couldn’t leave them behind – at least not all of them. I dug up a few dozen daffodil and iris bulbs, tucked them into a brown paper bag, and stored them in a cool, dry place. That fall, I planted them in the ground in my own flower beds and waited. They didn’t bloom the first spring, but the green leaves pushed out of the ground and grew tall, showing signs of life, and promising more to come.

This spring, the sunny spring flowers that adorned my mother’s garden for so long now brighten my own front walk. And God is using the daffodils’ presence to comfort me in my grief. My father passed away a few months ago and my mother suffers from the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. Although Mom’s body is living out her last days in a memory care facility, we really lost her a while ago.

I miss them both. But my parents loved the Lord and had placed their faith in Christ for eternal salvation. I know my father is with Jesus now and I know my mother’s eternal future is secure. And because I also have placed my faith and truth in Jesus, I will see them again. Like the burial of the bulbs was the prelude to new life, my parents’ death will also yield to life.

Jesus made this eternal life possible through His own death, burial, and resurrection. In fact, any of us who put our trust in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross will receive forgiveness for our sins and new spiritual life in place of spiritual death, eternal separation from God.

The yellow daffodils in my yard also remind me that Easter is near. Easter celebrates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. These precious truths comprise the Gospel – the eternal, life-giving good news for all people of all time. The apostle Paul summarized the good news of the Gospel this way:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross paid the debt our sin deserves, providing our forgiveness (1 Corinthians 5:12). The miraculous resurrection of Jesus makes resurrection possible for all who belong to Him (Romans 8:11).

The next time you see a daffodil remember God’s eternal provision. Burial bursts forth in resurrection. Eternal life overcomes the temporary sting of death.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep…For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive.   1 Corinthians 15:20, 22 NASB

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Grief, Daffodils, and the Resurrection – insight from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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: How has the certainty of life after death impacted your life?

Beautiful Scars

by Julie Zine Coleman

There is more to bearing children than labor. One Easter Sunday, the women of my family sat on the porch commiserating with my daughter-in-law, whose profile was quickly growing as her due date neared. “Your body will never be the same,” warned one of the girls. A truer statement was never said.

I remember taking a good look in the mirror after having my first child. It was a shocking dose of reality. Aside from the discouraging baby weight, the most apparent change was the stretch marks. I knew they would fade, but they would never completely disappear. At the time I mourned their presence. But I feel differently now. Thirty-five years after becoming a mom, I regard them as a permanent memorial to the great gift of bearing my children.

Someday, on the other side of death, we will enjoy perfect bodies. I don’t know about you, but I am counting on being thin in eternity. I am also counting on good knees, excellent eyesight, and no more bad hair days. But I do wonder if God’s idea of perfect and mine coincide.

What will our resurrected bodies be like? We can glean a little about them from what we are told of Jesus after his resurrection. His appearance was apparently altered. People didn’t recognize him right away for the most part. Mary Magdalene thought him to be a gardener, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus, even after conversing with him at great length, had no clue who he was. From a boat in Galilee, even after hearing him call to them, the disciples failed to recognize it was the Lord.

Then there is the ability he had to appear and disappear. Luke tells us Jesus suddenly “appeared among the disciples,” apparently going through the walls or shut door to be there. For this reason they thought he might be a ghost, but he assured them he was alive and well: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have,” he told them (Luke 24:39 NASB). Jesus also ate on several occasions, giving further credence to this.

We know one other thing about Jesus’ resurrected body: he retained the marks from his crucifixion ordeal.

Thomas missed the first appearance of Christ in the hours following his resurrection. The disciples had tried to convince him the impossible had happened. “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe,” he stubbornly informed them (John 20:25 NASB).

Eight days later, Jesus gave him the chance to do just that. “Reach here with your finger, Thomas, and see my hands; and reach here your hand and put it into my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing!” he told him (John 20:27 NASB).

The suffering was over, the ordeal at an end. Jesus had risen from the dead and was living,  breathing, and healthy once more. But the scars remained.

Beautiful scars.

In Revelation 5, John reports seeing Jesus standing at the throne, making ready to open the book. He describes him looking like a lamb that has been slain. Someday we will get a chance to see his scars for ourselves. They will remain a visible reminder for all eternity of what was inflicted on him for our sake. We will forever glory in what they mean: because of the terrible suffering they memorialize, we were healed.

I’m glad they will never go away. For they truly are beautiful scars.

“He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by his scourging we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 NASB

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

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