The Paradox of Grace

Easter Service- “The Paradox of Grace”
--from March 31st  --
Day 1 written by Kadie Keslar; Day 2 & 3 written by Michael and Katie Brittenham

Day 1

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-23

Consider how the resurrection of Jesus Christ strengthens the foundation of your faith. Reflect on moments when the reality of His resurrection has provided assurance and hope in your life. How does knowing that Christ conquered death impact the way you live and believe?

 In 1 Corinthians 15:12-23, Paul addresses a crucial aspect of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He underscores that if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is empty, incomplete of substance. Without the resurrection, we would lack a solid foundation upon which to anchor our beliefs.
The resurrection serves as the backbone of Christianity, validating Jesus' claims and proving His identity as the Son of God. It is the cornerstone upon which our faith rests, providing assurance of salvation and eternal life. Without it, our faith would be little more than wishful thinking, lacking substance and significance.
Yet, in Christ's resurrection, we find the backbone of our hope. His victory over death demonstrates God's power to overcome sin and conquer the grave. Through His resurrection, we are offered forgiveness, redemption, and the promise of new life.
As we reflect on the significance of Christ's resurrection, let's acknowledge its central role in shaping our faith. Let's embrace the truth that because Christ lives, we too can live with confidence and assurance, knowing that our faith is grounded in the reality of His triumph over death.

Day 2

Read Matthew 27:15-20
We are Barabbas.  You may say, “I’m not a criminal,” but in Romans 3:23, it says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are guilty just like Barabbas.  We learn in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin are death.  We deserve death just like Barabbas.  Pilate gave the crowd what they wanted when he freed Barabbas.  The crowd did not free us, but Jesus, Himself.  Jesus took our punishment.  Jesus’ death freed us from spiritual death.  Just like Barabbas, we have been freed from death.  Now, will we accept that freedom and live for him?  The Bible doesn’t say what Barabbas did after Jesus died in his place.

What will you do after Jesus died in your place?

 How does this inform your prayers for today?

Day 3

Read Matthew 27:20-26 and Acts 19:21-41

If you have ever been to a large concert, sporting event, or even a theme park, you are all too familiar with the “press of the crowd”.  That feeling of being surrounded by a sea of humanity moving one way and to do anything else would mean injury or death.  Years ago, I was in New York getting on the subway after a Yankees game.  If you were in that crowd you were getting on the subway, there was no question about it.  There were no other options.  I wonder if there were any people in the crowd that day before Pilate who didn’t plan to be there, weren’t really sure why they were there, but were caught up in the situation, nonetheless.  The scene in Matthew 27 reminds me that on an individual level people can be logical, rational, and sane.  If you put those same people into a crowd, it becomes emotional, temperamental, and irrational.  The difference I see is whether you are being controlled by your head or your heart.  A similar scene plays out in Ephesus, and frankly seems to follow Paul around, when the silversmiths of the city cause a riot.  There is clearly no appealing to reason for emotion rules the day as the crowd chants for two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”.  This feels a lot like what we see happening in recent years.  The caution for all of us is to not get caught up in the emotion of the situation, to use God’s word as a lens to both view both people and circumstances, and to exercise caution when throwing our lot in with the crowd.  There is no better example to me of the old adage, “Just because everyone is doing it…” 

How many of your strongly held opinions are formed by the popular views of those around you?

Are we called to flow with the crowd, or push against it?

Day 4

Read Proverbs 3:1-12

Recently, we have been reading through Proverbs in our nightly devotions at home.  I remember first getting interested in Proverbs and loving the way the different parts are written.  Some of the book is just one liners that roll out great like a catchy t-shirt or bumper sticker.  Some of it, especially the beginning parts, are very artistic and are just good reading.  In those parts, wisdom is personified as a person that is telling a story, or even introducing herself to the reader.  Wisdom is also portrayed as a parent pleading with her children to pay attention to her and get to know her.  When I was 16 and reading these parts, they were really neat to see.  When I got into my adult years, they were neat to unfold as well.  But now that I am a parent and am reading these outloud to my kids, they have a whole new level of meaning and impact.  I truly want the best for my kids, but the “best” is being defined in a whole new way when I read chapters like these.  For years, I prayed with my kids and asked for wisdom for Jenna and I as we raised them, because I wanted them to hear us ask for wisdom from God.  Lately, I have changed that prayer and now ask every single day for wisdom for Jenna and I, but that they also get wisdom.

What is the difference and danger of being wise in your own eyes as opposed to what the writer is suggesting here?

Where do you struggle with trusting in the Lord with your whole heart?

What does it look like to acknowledge God in all your ways in this area?

How does this become part of your prayer today?

Day 5

Read John 21:15-19

Have you ever sat with someone that it was really awkward to be in the room with?  Maybe there was a past with them or you had messed up really bad and that was making the present situation a bit awkward?  You can almost feel it in this passage.  In verse 15, that sentence is sooooo long.  Not in words, but in feelings.  “When they had finished breakfast…”  This exchange would have served the company and atmosphere of that breakfast so much better before they ate.  But all the way through the preparation and all the way through the eating, Peter sat with Jesus in the awkward space of undealt with sin…of betrayal.  Betrayal of a friend.  Betrayal of a leader that put so much effort and trust into him.  Maybe I am stretching a bit here, adding too much, but surely Peter didn’t enjoy a single bite.  As everyone else laughed and were ecstatic about the reunion, I imagine Peter never lifted his head, barely eating, and barely choking down each bite.  
Then, as everyone leans back with full bellies and laughter, I see Jesus slowly staring at Peter and trying to get him to meet his gaze, much like he did before that trial, before Peter denied he knew him those three times. Then came the words.  But he called him Simon.  He had already called him Peter before, but now he was back to calling him Simon.  That had to sting.  All three times. 
But things were different now.  Jesus had risen from the dead and this was a resurrected Jesus, who spent three days in the tomb, talking to Simon or Peter who denied he knew Jesus three times, being asked if he really loved Jesus…three times. It was almost as if Jesus was leading Peter through a reversal of what just unfolded.  Then He ended it with the call for Peter to just “Follow me.”  Man!  I love this story and I need this picture for my life everyday!
What else do you notice in this story that seems to add more detail to it?
What are you supposed to take away from this story?
How is this story different after the resurrection than it was before?
How can this be part of your prayer today?

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