Zombie Jesus

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The Gospel of Matthew ends on a spectacular note. Actually, the entire final chapter is an exclamation mark celebrating the greatest victory in Jesus’s life and challenging us with a glorious future.

The setting is right after Jesus’s death. The Roman government was relieved because the guy who had sparked so much civil unrest was no longer their problem. The Pharisees were ecstatic, because their competition had been eliminated.

The disciples were terrified and confused because this was not at all how they visualized things working out.

Here is chapter 28:

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen. Come, see where His body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and He is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there. Remember what I have told you.”
The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to Him, grasped His feet, and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’s disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.
Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him – but some of them doubted!
Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
I’m Back
In one moment, everything changed. This was the ultimate happy ending, the original buzzer-beater. Everyone knew Jesus was dead. They saw the Roman soldiers execute Him, and Roman soldiers were professionals at killing people.

But now, He’s alive. He’s popping up in random places, scaring the heck out of His already jittery disciples, and saying, “I’m back.” For some reason I always imagine an Austrian accent.

The Romans and the Pharisees are left scrambling, while the disciples are out of their minds with joy. A few of Jesus’s followers needed some convincing because like many of us, they were more prone to believe bad news than good news.

Really? Jesus must have thought. I come back from the dead and My friends don’t even recognize Me. Lame.
But Jesus was back, just as He had promised.

And speaking of zombie apocalypses – which we weren’t, but my brain works like that – you could call Jesus the ultimate zombie. He was killed, then He came back from the dead, and now He’s coming for you.

Okay – some of you would do well to discover a sense of humor. You’ll live longer.

Here’s the deal. If Jesus just died and that was it, there’s nothing remarkable about that. People die all the time – even good people. It’s part of being human. Lots of people have even given their lives for their beliefs. We remember them as martyrs, and their legacy inspires us, and sometimes we get a day off work in their honor, but that is about it.

But if it’s true Jesus rose from the dead, then that changes everything. That means He conquered the final enemy: death. That means everything He claimed about Himself is true. He isn’t just human. He is God. He is the answer to mankind’s problems. He is the Savior.
The Pharisees figured this out quicker than many of us. Whether they actually thought He came back to life or not, we don’t know. I suspect some of them did, but they couldn’t process it. They couldn’t adjust their thinking. They didn’t want a bigger perspective. They didn’t want to mess with the status quo. They knew what would happen if rumor got out that He was back. It would undermine their entire way of life. The religious authorities would no longer be the way to God; Jesus would be the way to God. Sinners would no longer be excluded from salvation; they would be prime candidates for salvation. People would no longer strive to follow impossible laws; they would follow Jesus, whose yoke was easy and whose burden was light, and they would live in the wide open spaces of grace.

So they lied. And they bribed the Roman guards to spread the lie. And they promised to protect the guards whom they had bribed. Yes, it was messy, but it was better than accepting that the laws of the universe had been upended because God Himself, the Maker of the laws, had been in their midst but they didn’t recognize Him.

I don’t mean to criticize sincere people, but a lot of good people go to great lengths to avoid the conclusion that Jesus is God. They can accept that He was a good man – even a great man. They lament the fact that such a nice guy died for what He believed. “It’s sad. People are so awful to each other sometimes.” They wish He could have continued His career as an enlightened spiritual teacher. They hold up His teachings on love and justice as an ideal for humanity to pursue. And they feel bad, and they put on a long face, and they go back to their lives and their problems with the same limited perspective as everyone around them.

But Jesus didn’t just die. He rose from the dead.

That’s what a God would do, because an eternal, infinite God can’t be killed – at least not permanently – by His creation. The resurrection proves that everything He said was true. It gives us all hope that we can live in victory in this life. It proves that life continues after our time on earth is over.

The Gospel is good news because of the resurrection. The gospel isn’t just that Jesus died for our sins. That’s the first half. The second half is that Jesus rose again, proving once and for all that sin and death were conquered and we can have eternal life.
Watch the CNN interview of Judah Smith about Jesus Is…

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Your Turn
Who do you believe Jesus is? The Savior? A great Teacher? Someone you can’t quite figure out what to do with?

Stepfamily Rewards #Blended

Luke 4:18 tells us that he was sent to proclaim good news to the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus came to turn spiritual outsiders into insiders. All of us—you and me—were outsiders until his grace found us and made us his sons and daughters. One response of embracing this good news is humble gratitude.

 

 

When gratitude takes root in stepfamily members it can result in insiders (biological family members) making the powerful choice to embrace outsiders (stepfamily members). For example, when stepparents and stepchildren emulate Christ and invite one another in, something powerful happens. The uncomfortable outsider finds belonging, jealous and hardened hearts soften, selfishness dissipates in the face of sacrifice and love, and God is made central in that home. This is a profound reward every blended family would relish. But there’s more.

 

 

Healthy stepfamilies can experience many rewards including some of the following:

 

 

 

 

  • High quality marriages. Couples can create mutually satisfying, intimate, God-honoring marriages within stepfamilies.

 

 

  • A new marital heritage to celebrate. For children of divorce a healthy marital relationship can counteract the negative and destructive patterns of marriage they witnessed in their parent’s divorce.

 

 

  • Healthier kids. A loving, well-functioning stepfamily over time can negate many of the detrimental psychological impacts of divorce on children.

 

 

  • Shared respect and care between stepparents and stepchildren. Children, once empty due to the abandonment of a parent, can bloom under the loving care of a stepparent.

 

 

  • Experienced love, extended grace. When stepfamily members extend love and grace to one another and “bring the outsider in” they are emulating God’s grace to them. In so doing, children are blessed, hurts are healed, and the family is redeemed to God’s glory.

 

 

 

 

This is good news!

 

The Lord’s Spirit

has come to me,

because he has chosen me

to tell the good news

to the poor.

The Lord has sent me

to announce freedom

for prisoners,

to give sight to the blind,

to free everyone

who suffers

Reflections on Dad #AnchorMEN #FathersDay

Reflections on Dad  
Reflections on Dad
by Erin Mohring

Meet Erin Mohring

Meet Erin Mohring

I’m going to be honest: it’s not easy to get my boys to “reflect” on something. Reflecting requires quiet, stillness, uninterrupted thought… yeah, three boys under the age of eight don’t do much of those things!

With Father’s Day approaching, though, I knew it was important to help them spend some time thinking about the man they call Daddy and just why they love him so much.

We say I love you and go about our days, but the people we love are worth more reflection than just a few simple words. And this is even more significant to me as we raise boys.

They have an amazing, godly father who they love to the moon and back, but I want them to know just exactly what is so special about him, what they can admire and what can inspire them to be men of godly character, and the things that make him the the dad God had in mind for them from the beginning.

If you have boys, you probably know the answers that come first when a boy talks about what he loves about his dad…

“He is the best wrestler!” – Big J, age 8

“I love my daddy because he plays video games with me and I love him.” – Caleb, age 4

“He brings home candy from the hospital for me!” – Little J, age 5

“I love that my dad takes me to the park.” – Joshua, age 10

Sure, these things don’t necessarily require a lot of thought, but you know what they do show me? Boys that know their dads love them because they take the time to do fun things with them and think of them when they aren’t at home.

When my boys gave answers like these, I used to get frustrated because they weren’t really appreciating my husband for his best qualities. But to them, these are the important things. The things that make them feel loved and cherished by their fathers, just as the father does in the sweet book, I Love You All the Same.

As siblings can do, the little ones in this book want to be the best at the same things, but the sweet dad takes the time to share the unique things about each child that makes him love them all the same.

Good dads notice, appreciate, and help foster and connect over the special qualities and interests each child possesses, whether it be music, sports, games, or food!

Some of the deeper things I see my boys appreciate in their daddy aren’t mentioned when I ask them what they love most about him, but are noticed in the way they interact on a daily basis. After my husband had been running for about a year, our oldest asked if he could start running on the treadmill. He always wanted to know how many miles Daddy ran that day and would keep track of his own miles in a notebook. My son might not ever answer that he admires the way his father made his health a priority, but it has definitely been reflected in the way he lives!

Our five-year-old wasn’t sure what I meant when I asked what he admired about Daddy, so I gave him a few examples. After a little while, he came back to me and said, “I want to be smart and hard-working like Daddy when I grow up.” As he is just finishing up his kindergarten year and aiming for his dream to be a veterinarian some day, I love that he sees the value in education and diligence in the example my husband has set for our boys. And I’m hoping some of his diligence wears off on me, too!

And the very best? Seeing my boys pray with and for their dad.

The strongest man is one who knows his strength lies in God, and I love knowing my boys see this relationship with Jesus in my husband. Because of him, they know what a godly man looks like and they have a model of faith to build upon of their own faith.

In a culture that often belittles and ridicules the role of dad, I want my boys to think often of the characteristics that make their dad a godly man, an inspiration in their life, the one they love and are blessed to call Daddy. Let’s help them reflect on these things this Father’s Day and throughout the year!

Your Turn

What are some of your kids’ favorite reflections on dad? We’d love to hear what has come out of your little one’s mouth!

Helping Kids Caught in the Middle #Blended

To understand the behavior of children in stepfamilies (including adult stepchildren), you must understand loyalty and the natural tug-of-war it creates.

 

 

Cameron’s mom has been asking him for a month whether he wants to spend the majority of his summer vacation at his dad’s house or with his mom and stepdad, but she can’t seem to get a definite answer out of him. He talks in circles about where he’d like to be but won’t give her an answer. She’s growing impatient with him.

 

 

Loyalty refers to our devotion and attachment to the people we love. It refers to where we choose to put our allegiances. In stepfamilies, people generally place their first loyalty with their biological family members. Cameron feels caught between his biological parents and wants to spend his summer vacation with both of them. But to choose one means he can’t be with the other; it also it means jeopardizing the feelings of one parent should he choose to be with the other. For Cameron, choosing is a no-win tug-of-war.

 

 

Feelings associated with the loyalty tug-of-war often include feeling protective or defensive of one parent while spending time with the other, guilty for enjoying a stepparent knowing their biological parent feels left out, or sorrowful when embracing a new family means letting go of a deceased parent.

 

 

If a spirit of fear, that is, believing that loving one person will hurt another, places children in the tug-of-war, a spirit of love will take them out of many of their loyalty battles. Fear in adults dishonors the attachments of children, love honors them. Fear strives to keep children emotionally near for personal benefit (often an act of aggression toward an ex-spouse); love confidently gives them permission to love others knowing that they have enough love to go around. Fear pulls harder on the tug-of-war rope while love releases it. This is how you help your children find relief from the tug-of-war.

 

 

Biological Parents:

 

 

 

 

  • Give your children permission to like, respect, and love the many different members of their stepfamily. A mom might say, “I’m so glad you enjoyed your time with your dad and stepmom this weekend. I think that’s great.”

 

 

  • Ex-spouses should act civil toward one another. Criticism of the other parent, court battles, sarcasm, and an uncooperative spirit implicitly asks children to choose which parent they prefer or agree with.

 

 

 

 

Stepparents & Grandparents:

 

 

 

 

  • Don’t try to “replace” biological parents (living or deceased). The more you try to force your way in, the more resistant children tend to become.

 

 

  • Grandparents: affirm the new couple and family. Showing partiality to the original family signals to grandchildren that they should remain loyal to the previous family and not open themselves to the stepfamily.

Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Dear friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,

 

“I am the one to take revenge

and pay them back.”

 

The Scriptures also say,

 

“If your enemies are hungry,

give them something to eat.

And if they are thirsty,

give them something

to drink.

This will be the same

as piling burning coals

on their heads.”

 

Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

 

Step-by-Step Stepparenting #Blended

Stepparenting can be tough. Stepparents frequently report feeling confused about their role, displaced from their spouse when the stepchild is around, helpless to change the situation, and guilty because they know that God is expecting them to love their stepchildren, even though they sometimes don’t.

 

 

Finding an effective stepparent role is a challenge—you must persevere to find success. Here are some practical tips for the journey.

 

 

Relationship Building Tips for Stepparents

 

 

 

 

  • Play! Having fun is a great way to connect.

 

 

  • Track with them. Know what activities a child is engaged in and enter that world. Take them to practice, ask about an activity, and take interest in their interests.

 

 

  • Share your talents, skills, and hobbies.

 

 

  • Communicate your commitment. Let the child know you value and want a relationship with them.

 

 

  • Share the Lord and your walk. Shared spirituality can facilitate connection and a sense of family identity, but don’t be preachy. Instead share with humility your faith journey so they will experience you as a safe person.

 

 

  • The cardinal rule for stepparent-stepchild relationships is this: Let the children set the pace for their relationship with you. For example, if your stepchildren are open to physical affection from you, don’t leave them disappointed. If they remain aloof and cautious, respect their boundaries. As time brings you together, slowly increase your personal involvement and affections.

 

 

  • It’s important that stepparents not consider themselves failures if they do not form deep emotional bonds with every child. The length of time required to move into this role depends on multiple factors, most of which are beyond the stepparent’s control. Enjoy the relationship you have now and trust that investments made over time will increase affection and respect.

 

 

 

 

Do’s and Don’s for Stepparents

 

 

 

 

  • Early on biological parents must pass power to stepparents so that children understand that stepparents are not acting on their own authority

 

 

  • Parents and stepparents negotiate rulestogether behind closed doors and seek unity in leading the family. The biological parent then communicates the rules to the children with the stepparent’s support.

 

 

  • Stepfamilies, where both parents bring children to the stepfamily, still negotiate rules together, but each takes the lead role with their own children.

 

 

  • Over time as emotional bonds with stepchildren deepen, stepparents can become more authoritative and shows of affection can become more common.

 

 

  • Don&’t be harsh or punish in a way inconsistent with the biological parent. This tends to polarize parents and create marital discord.

 

 

  • Do focus on relationship building with each child. This is your long-term strength as a parent-figure.

Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.

 

Protecting Your Stepfamily Marriage #Blended

God’s design for the family begins with marriage laying the foundation for the home.  But stepfamilies are at a disadvantage when they begin because the couple isn’t the foundation. Because parent-child relationships predate the new marriage and are bonded by blood, history, and family identity, the marital relationship is often a secondary relationship in the home instead of the foundational one. Unless your marriage becomes primary, you will continue to experience distress and instability in your home.

 

 

The process of establishing the couple as the foundation relationship of the home can feel like a win-lose situation for biological parents and children. It’s not. It’s a matter of significance.  Not that a spouse matters more than children, but rather that the marriage matters more to the stability of the home, than do children.

 

 

Children will never suffer neglect because their biological parent makes a strong commitment to their spouse, the stepparent. Couples in biological families where the marriage preceded children naturally sit “in the front seat” with one another yet still make plenty of sacrifices on behalf of their children. Even still the couple maintains their first-love commitment to one another.

 

 

A similar balance is healthy in stepfamilies.

 

 

Tips:

 

 

 

 

  • Set a regular date night and keep it. Prioritizing time for one another helps children see the importance you place on your relationship.

 

 

  • Support your spouse’s parental role with your children. Back them up and insist that your children treat them with respect.

 

 

  • Biological parents: spend regular one-on-one time with your kids and remain involved in their activities. This reinforces that they haven”t “lost” you and paradoxically makes acceptance of your marriage easier. This is the both/and balance.

 

 

  • Stepparents should insist out loud that the biological parent spend time with their children. This communicates that you are not in competition with the kids.

 

 

  • When children show signs of stress or anxiety as you “move your spouse into the front seat of your heart”, be sympathetic, but don’t let guilt put distance in your marriage.

 

 

  • When children challenge the role of the stepparent, respond firmly and with compassion. “You’re just changing the rule because she wants you to,” is a common complaint. Acknowledge the child’s confusion and move forward. “You’re right. Things are different now that Linda and I parent together. And if I were you, I’d be upset about this, too. But this is the new rule and I’m in agreement with it, so please abide by it. Let’s go.”

One day, Sarah noticed Hagar’s son Ishmael playing,and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that Egyptian slave woman and her son! I don’t want him to inherit anything. It should all go to my son.”

Abraham was worried about Ishmael.

 

How to cook a step family #Blended

 

Whether you realize it or not, you have a set of assumptions about how to cook your stepfamily. By that, I mean your approach to how your stepfamily “ought” to come together.  Brenda was cooking her family with a blender.

 

 

“It happened again the other night,” she began. “My 14 year-old son, Braden, walked in the living room and started asking me to help him with his math homework when his stepfather, Tim, who is much better at math than me, was sitting right there. Braden never asks Tim for help with anything. It makes me so frustrated. I told him he had to ask Tim for help.”

 

 

Obviously Brenda’s goal is to help her son connect with his stepfather. Her method of cooking is to force them together, much like what a blender does to the various ingredients, by pushing Braden to ask Tim for help. There is nothing wrong with Brenda’s goal, but there is something misguided about using a blender to force the ingredients together.

 

 

This “blender” cooking method attempts to force people to love each other, rather than allowing them responsibility to apply Christ’s command to love one another—in a gradual manner that is tolerable for them.

 

 

That’s the problem with many common cooking styles used by adults in stepfamilies: they tend to create pressure which inadvertently builds walls between the various “ingredients.” Food processor parents chop up one another’s history when they demand that stepchildren call their stepparent “daddy” or “mommy.”Microwave parents avoid labels like “stepfamily’ because they don’t want to be any different than biological families while pressure cooker parents insist that family members celebrate the holiday in the exact same manner.

 

 

Smart stepfamilies understand that relationships take time and that the forcing action of “blending” creates resistance, not connection. As the video suggests, they cook with a crock-pot. For example, if we could rewind Brenda’s run-in with her son, a crock-pot mentality might have calmed her anxiety and reminded her that since right now her son feels most safe with her, she should respond to his dilemma.  Over time, that might change as Braden shares more of himself with Tim and their relationship matures.  Asking his stepfather for help at that time will more comfortably flow from their bond.  Until then, Brenda should be patient with her son, not push too hard, and keep reminding herself that they aren’t finished cooking yet.

But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you.