Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 8 comments

Since my last post was on the crucifixion, I couldn't leave you there without talking about the resurrection! Enjoy another look at a previous post about the God who brings life to the dead!



Many years ago, my husband Bob purchased a little cyclamen plant for me from a local grocery store.  Although the survival rate for my outdoor plants is much higher than indoor plants (which explains why there were none), prior experience had taught me that cyclamen and Michigan weather did not mix well.  Perhaps because there was only one to dote on, I was able to nurture my little indoor plant and enjoyed many seasons of its vibrant fuchsia blossoms. 

At least, that is, until my cat destroyed it.  

Utterly.

Totally. 

Completely.

Destroyed.

I walked into my sun room (literally the only room in the house that gets any sun) and my heart sunk.  My beautiful little plant was reduced to a pot of soil with leaves and dirt strewn everywhere. With the culprit nowhere in sight (I must note that he did go on to live a long life and die of natural causes), I grabbed my broom and dustpan and got to work, mourning the loss of my poor little plant.

Although I've always been quite organized, somehow I never got around to dumping out the remainder of soil in the pot.  I'm sure being in a room we rarely used for most of the year had something to do with it - out of sight, out of mind.  

That is until one day, when something caught my eye.  

Signs of life!

My poor, brutalized, neglected, left-for-dead plant had some life in it after all!  

There was a leaf...

and then two...

then three...


And then a bud...

and another bud...

and another!

This was truly the little plant that could!  Fast forward a few years, and my resurrected plant was once again thriving and enjoying the longest life a houseplant in my home has ever experienced.  Then in May 2012 Bob and I went on our fifth trip to do mission work in Kenya  and left our youngest son (24 at the time) to house sit while we were gone.  We kept our instructions to a minimum:  

Keep the house standing

Mow the lawn

Keep the plant alive.

Well, I'm pleased to announce that the house was still standing when we returned. As for my plant, we came home to this:


My heart sunk.  Evidently three weeks of 90 degree heat and no water has an adverse effect on plants - who knew?  Ugh!

Since this was the second time my plant had been "killed,"  I was sure this was it. Still, given its history, I held out hope and resumed watering my pot of dirt.

Once again, it was a long process, but over time a little leaf appeared, and then another...

Nine months later, and just look at it now - a spot of brightness in this dreary span between winter and spring!



Imagine the despair those who loved Jesus felt when they witnessed Him beaten, crucified and pierced. They had believed in Him.  They gave up everything for Him. All their faith was in Him, and now He was gone.  It was over.  Their hopes for the future destroyed.

Utterly.

Totally. 

Completely.

Destroyed.

Now what would they do?


Maybe you feel that way too.  

Maybe you're dealing with the death of someone near and dear to you.

Maybe you're facing your own mortality.

Maybe your health has deteriorated to the point where they say there's no hope.

Maybe your dreams have been crushed. 

Maybe you feel like all the hopes for your future have been dashed.

Remember what the disciples learned over 2,000 years ago.   We belong to the ... God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  ~ Romans 4:17b

Nothing is more insurmountable than death, yet God displayed His power over death when He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day.  If death is not insurmountable for God, do you think your issue is?

Like the disciples, we tend to look at our situation based on our own understanding and reasoning.  But what difference would it make in our lives if we instead focused on God, His power and His love for us, the depth of which He displayed when He sacrificed His Son on our behalf?  

What if we trusted in His plan and His timing rather than our own?  God is not finished with your story, not by a long shot.  Why not stop striving to make things happen on your own schedule, resume claiming the promises God made to you, and watch and see what He has in store!

Father, Thank you for the sacrifice of your Son so that those who believe can spend eternity with you; an eternity that begins the day we accept Him as our Lord and Savior!  Help us to stop living like those who have no hope and instead remember we belong to the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into being that were not.  



Lisa


I've been known to link up with: Soli Deo Gloria, Inspire Me Monday, Titus 2sdays, Tell Me a Story, Teach Me Tuesdays, Courtship Connection, Into the Beautiful, Tell His Story, Word-Filled Wednesday, Winsome Wednesday, Simply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Monday's Musings, Monday Montras, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors



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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 2 comments

Have you ever noticed that even though the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) all chronicle the life of Jesus, the events included or omitted can vary, as can the order in which they're presented? 

One thing that I've learned from many years of reading the Bible is that EVERYTHING was done the way it was for a reason. There's meaning in everything; sometimes it just takes some digging discover what it is. It helps our understanding if we remember the Bible was written by specific people in a certain time and place. In other words, context matters. If we take a closer look we'll discover many of the New Testament writers were influenced by the Romans who lived among them.  

In a previous post we saw how the book of Revelation was structured like something the original audience, familiar with the practices of Rome, would understand - the Roman emperor's advent. (This is when he declares himself to be god.) We find the same thing happening in the book of Mark, which was written as a letter to Rome. It is believed that Mark mentions Alexander and Rufus as sons of Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21) because they were members of the church in RomeThe book of Mark is patterned after the process of the emperor's coronation. (This is when he declares himself to be the king of the world.)  

Mark deliberately did this because the Romans didn’t value people who were weak or who didn’t fight, they valued strength.  The order of events in Mark differs from those in the other gospels because he wants the Romans to see Jesus’ walk to the cross as His coronation.  This letter was written close to the time of Nero’s coronation, so the readers would’ve been familiar with the process. 

Nine steps to the Caesar’s coronation/Jesus crucifixion

#1.  The entire Praetorian guard assembles in the Praetorium.

#1. “The soldiers led Jesus away into the Praetorium and called together the whole company of soldiers.”  ~ Mark 15:16



#2.  A purple robe is placed on his shoulders and a wreath (Greek word “stephanos” meaning a crown you earn) placed on his head.  

#2.  “They put a purple robe on Him, then . . . a crown of thorns.” Mark 15:17
      


#3.  Caesar is acclaimed by the Praetorians; they call out “Hail Caesar.”

#3.  Jesus is acclaimed by the Praetorians: “Hail, king of the Jews.” Mark 15:18



#4.  There is a procession through the city.  Caesar leads the sacrificial bull, carrying the instrument of death (usually an axe).

#4.  Jesus, who was the sacrifice, was in a procession through the city, carrying the instrument of death (the cross). Mark 15:20-21



#5.  They proceed to the highest hill, Capitaline Hill (Capital means “head.”)

#5.  They proceeded to the hill called Golgotha (the place of the skull) Mark 15:22



#6.  Wine is offered to Caesar, but he refuses it, pouring it out.

#6.  “They offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” Mark 15:23
(This is only found in Mark’s gospel, probably because while unimportant to the other audiences, it was essential to Mark’s parallel to a coronation)



#7.  The sacrifice is made at the bottom of the hill.

#7.  The sacrifice is made.  “They crucified him.” Mark 15:24



#8.  The next two men in rank are elevated.  With one on Caesar’s right and one on his left, they proceed up the hill.

#8.  “They crucified two robbers with Him, one on his right and one on his left.” Mark 15:27  Jesus’ next in rank were the lowest of the low. 



#9.  The people and the gods publicly acclaim Caesar. (There was a total eclipse of the sun at the time of Nero’s coronation.  He probably had prior knowledge of this, but to the people, this would’ve been a sign of acceptance from the gods.)

#9.  The people and God publicly acclaim Jesus.  “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.” ~ Mark 15:38  

“Surely this man was the Son of God!” ~ Mark 15:39  
When the Roman declares Jesus is God, he’s declaring this is a coronation. 


Mark wanted the recipients to understand that Jesus wasn’t defeated; He was victorious!

There were three criteria that an area had to meet to hold a crucifixion. (1) It had to be by a main gate to the city, (2) near a busy street and (3) by a “cursed” place.  There are two sites in Jerusalem that are possible locations of Jesus’ crucifixion because they both meet these three criteria.  In both cases, the cursed place is an abandoned quarry.  These quarries were abandoned because all the good rock had been removed.  The inferior rock that was left was prone to crack.  

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” ~ Psalm 118:24  

Why do we rejoice?  Look back a couple verses.  

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;” ~ Psalm 118:22

This is the day the abandoned stone (Jesus) became the head.    


Lisa
                                                        


*This post is based on a lecture from Ray VanderLaan that I heard many years ago. You can find more of Ray's teachings here.


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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 12 comments

During the days of the Roman occupation of Israel, there was a rabbi debating with a Roman soldier over whose people were superior. The soldier pointed out the great temples, works of art and architecture of the Romans and also their technological advances as evidence they were the greater society.

The rabbi in turn insisted that the Jews were better because of their moral basis.  He felt the fact that they loved their enemies as well as their neighbors made them the superior people.  

The soldier asked the rabbi if he considered himself to be the soldier’s enemy.  

When the rabbi replied in the affirmative, the soldier then asked the rabbi if he’d give him his land.  The rabbi said yes, even though the soldier was his enemy, he’d give him his land.  

Next the soldier asked the rabbi if he’d give him his money.  Again the rabbi replied yes, he would give him his money.  Finally the soldier asked the rabbi if he’d give him his coat.  Much to the soldier's surprise, this time the rabbi said, "No."  

Puzzled, the soldier questioned him as to why he would give his land and his money, and yet would not give his coat.  The rabbi replied, “Well, I have a coat.” You see, it was easy for the rabbi to say he’d give his property and his money because he didn’t have either.  The Romans were in control of the land and had already taken both.*  

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. ~ Matthew 26:14-15


We read this passage in church a few weeks ago, and the pastor explained that thrity pieces of silver was not much money back then; it was the price of a slave. Judas sold out Jesus for a paltry sum. 

When the pastor asked the congregation if we would deny Jesus for a million dollars, I thought of the story at the beginning of this post. It’s easy for me to say I wouldn't deny Jesus for a million dollars because the odds are I'll never find myself in that situation. 

The sad truth is, we don't need a million dollars (or even thirty pieces of silver for that matter) to deny Jesus because we often do it for free. 

Think about it. Have you ever:

- heard someone use His name as a profanity yet didn't come to His defense?

- felt Him prompting you to say or do something but ignored His voice?

- failed to come to the defense of another believer?

- acted like you didn't know Him?

- saw or learned of someone in need but did not act?

"whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." ~ Matthew 25:40

If we're critical of Judas, this means we also must be critical of ourselves. I'm sure Judas could justify his actions in his own mind just like we can. Perhaps he was one of the people who expected the Messiah to bring military victory and thought by putting Jesus in this situation it would force Him to act. Who wouldn't want someone who can miraculously feed multitudes and raise the dead heading up their army? 

I have to admit there have been many times I wanted God to act in accordance with my agenda. Thankfully, God's grace and my repentance make me far more like Peter than like Judas. Even after Peter denied Him three times, Jesus gave him the opportunity to affirm Him three times. (John 21:15-17) In the same way, Jesus allows us to return to Him even after we have willfully denied Him.

How will you affirm Him today?

Jesus, I can't begin to fathom the price You paid for my salvation, but I'm so thankful that You did. I'm grateful that You are a God far beyond my comprehension, for You wouldn't be much of a god if You were someone who fit my understanding. In Your grace, You always accept me back with open arms regardless of how many times I fall or wander (or run) away. Please continue to remind me of this truth in the times I fall short.
Lisa


*This story came from the teaching of Ray Vander Laan.


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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 13 comments

This week I had the blessing of spending a day with Dude, Bubba and their Momma at Frederik Meijer Gardens. When we arrived, I thought that the rest of greater Grand Rapids had the same idea! Of course, with it being one of the first days near 60 degrees + sunshine + spring break, in hindsight the crowd makes perfect sense.


Fortunately the line moved quickly and once we had our tickets the people dispersed into the sprawling building and 132 acres of outdoor gardens.  We easily made our way to the nation's largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition, "Butterflies are Blooming." 


Bubba still takes two naps a day (and grandma hopes this continues for a while) so Momma was thinking maybe he'd fall asleep in the stroller (yeah, right!) When I saw "Moose" came into the Garden's with us, my first thought was, "This may not end well." You see, this is the Moose, the one we must sleep with, and losing him would be a bad, bad thing. And Moose has a tendency to get misplaced. All.The.Time.

While the boys liked seeing the butterflies, they LOVED the children's garden, which was full of fascinating things like sculptures, a treehouse, puppets, costumes, a maze and best of all a giant sandbox! Mamma was hoping we could skip the sandbox but with Dude's keen sense of observation, it did not go undetected. I'm glad we went in because the boys loved it, especially the "construction equipment."


After several hours, we were ready to conclude our stay with a quick visit to see "The American Horse," a 24 foot tall statue inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.

That's when we noticed that Moose was missing. 

I had been monitoring his whereabouts, but somewhere along the way we lost track of him. It was decided that Momma would continue to make her way with the boys to see the horse while Grandma started back-tracking, searching for Moose.

As I scanned my surroundings, I was reminded of something I had just taught in Kansas. (The one who always learns the most when I teach is ME!) 


I quickly realized I hadn't asked God for help, which unfortunately seems to be my default. "Apart from me, you can do nothing." ~ John 15:5 This should not be a hard concept to understand; God means exactly what He says. Yet I've been recognizing more and more how often I just do things without consulting God first. So, I asked for His help as I scanned the trail and the sandbox looking for a little Moose in a great big garden.


I almost walked right by him. He blended in with his surroundings, not because of his dirt-colored complexion but because he was resting in a pile of puppets. I had scanned the interior of the log cabin and almost walked out, but suddenly I was prompted to look behind the puppet theater and there he was! I wonder if I would've walked right by him if I hadn't asked for God's help. 

This just goes to show that able and willing help us with everything - even little things like Moose - we just have to ask.

What do you need to ask God to help you with today?


Father, please help change my default to You! May I seek your wisdom as easily as I breathe, always mindful that apart from You, I can do nothing.

* I'm off to my first session with a personal trainer this morning, so if there's never another post here, you'll know why :)

Lisa


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